Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Knives Are out for Hellawell, Man with a Mission Impossible

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Knives Are out for Hellawell, Man with a Mission Impossible

Article excerpt


THE KNIVES came out for Keith Hellawell today as Whitehall officials claimed he was secretly writing a tell-all memoir on his time in Government.

The suggestion that he is planning a book was coupled with a strong hint that his motives in staging such a dramatically-timed walkout might not be as pure as he portrayed them in his BBC interview today.

"As I understand it, he is writing a book and you can guess what it will be about," said one civil servant.

"You might conclude that today's events are connected with that."

If it is true that Mr Hellawell is prepared to reveal his insiders' knowledge of the Government, he could expect to command a six-figure advance from publishers and the same again in serialisation rights. By burning his bridges with New Labour in such a sensationalist manner, he will have ensured maximum interest from literary agents and publishers.

It emerged that Mr Hellawell was so far out of the loop at the Home Office that he had only met David Blunkett once in the past year. At that meeting last October, according to official Government spokesmen, he endorsed the Home Secretary's plan to reclassify cannabis - the same proposal he now says prompted him to stand down.

"We have a civil service minute of that conversation so he can hardly deny it," said a spokesman. Mr Hellawell held three meetings with the junior minister responsible for drugs policy, Bob Ainsworth, most recently in May.

Not once had he expressed concern about the cannabis policy, the spokesman said.

Home Office officials accused Mr Hellawell of breaking an agreement to keep his resignation confidential until August. They said it was the drugs adviser himself who demanded the secrecy pact when he tendered his resignation in June, and that today's events came as a complete surprise.

"Keith Hellawell asked that nothing should be announced until his notice ran out in August. The Home Secretary honoured this to the letter, so it shows pretty bad faith for him to break the agreement without notice. It implies that he wanted maximum publicity. …

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