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THE weekend's newspapers and airwaves were fixated on last week's Cabinet reshuffle in Britain and what it meant about the relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The situation had been made incendiary enough by Mr Blair's move to make Alan Milburn the front man of the Labour Party's next general election campaign in place of Mr Brown and the Party chairman Ian MacCartney. But fuel was added to the flames by revelations in a new book, Off Whitehall, by Derek Scott who was Mr Blair's chief economic adviser in opposition and government for nearly ten years. In his book Mr Scott characterises the Chancellor as “obstructive and deceitful” but his most telling and worrying revelation is that in 1998 and in some subsequent years the obstructiveness went as far as refusing to tell the Prime Minister what was in the Budget. The nature of the relationship between Chancellor and Prime Minister naturally varies according to the chemistry between the individuals concerned but it would be unprecedented for the head of Government not to be consulted and informed about the broad sweep of budget proposals for which he or she is ultimately responsible and on which the success of the administration depends. If Mr Scott's story is true it does not show either minister in a good light, neither Mr Brown for his failure to cooperate nor Mr Blair for allowing him to get away with it. Last week's humbling of Ian McCartney was a lesser matter, although inevitable. He is said to have the respect of the unions but as chairman of the party during an election he also needs to be a communicator and he has been disbarred from fulfilling that role effectively by his impenetrable Glaswegian accent.
By RAY FLEMING