Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Bill Jacobs in the House

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Bill Jacobs in the House

Article excerpt

Byline: By Bill Jacobs

The opposition by Newcastle MP Nick Brown, former Chief Whip of the Labour Party in opposition government, to top-up tuition fees for university students has caused intense speculation at Westminster.

The 53-year-old is adamant he is neither running a campaign against Tony Blair and he is not acting as a proxy for his namesake Gordon, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a bid to take over 10 Downing Street.

Mr Newcastle Brown has revealed he hasn't spoken to the Prime Minister since he was sacked from Labour's front bench after 19 years on June 18 last year.

He said: "We had a perfectly friendly conversation. I wished him well and we shook hands."

Asked if he counted his fingers afterwards, the Newcastle East and Wallsend MP said: "For the record they're all still there." He revealed in 1983 Mr Blair, Gordon and him "used to knock around together, we were friends". After being sacked in what many Labour MPs consider to be a cull of Gordon's allies, he was asked if he still regarded the Prime Minister as a mate.

He said: "We are colleagues. I once thought I knew him. I'm now not sure I did. I think he has become detached from the rest of us. Maybe office changes people."

However, Mr Brown's denial of running an organised campaign against the Prime Minister had been undermined by the sheer efficiency of the operation to persuade Labour back-benchers to oppose top-up fees bringing about Mr Blair's first defeat on a major policy issue since he was elected to the landslide office in 1997.

Cynics in the Commons detect the practised hand of one of the finest Chief Whips of recent years.

TYNE Bridge MP Dave Clelland found himself in an unusual position yesterday in supporting a Tory motion on post office closures.

He was intending to speak opposing the programme of shutting small outlets even though the wording of the debate had been drafted by the Conservative high command.

The former Labour Whip said: "I don't agree with every word in the motion but I do agree with much of it.

"However, I shan't be voting with the Tories in view of the number of post offices they closed under policies in government. …

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