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[23 DEC 98]  GEOFFREY ROBINSON MP NEWS
Robinson Follows Mandelson

Geoffrey Robinson, MP for Coventry North WestCoventry North West MP Geoffrey Robinson today quit as Paymaster General just hours after Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Mandelson.

The two were caught in a controversy after it was revealed that Robinson had made a loan of 373,000 to his younger colleague to buy a London house two years ago.

Mandelson’s department, the DTI, was investigating alleged irregularities in Mr Robinson's business affairs, but Mandelson did not declare the loan.

In his resignation letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Robinson, who has represented his constituency since 1976, said that after enduring 12 months of "a highly charged political campaign" he had reached the point where it was right to go.

Cllr Margaret Lancaster, Coventry City CouncilHis constituency agent Margaret Lancaster said:

"I am very, very upset, as is the whole of the constituency, but it is typical of Geoffrey that he would put the party first.

"It is now a year since the attacks started and it must affect him. Anyone would be worn down by such consistent attacks and it is all unsubstantiated. It was a loan between friends – if it wasn’t relevant two years ago, why is it now?

"I am certain Geoffrey will remain as an MP. He is a fine constituency member and has always fought for Coventry."

In his letter of resignation to Prime Minister, Mandelson said:

"Dear Tony,

I can scarcely believe I am writing this letter to you. As well as being one of my closest friends you are a close colleague whose leadership and political qualities I value beyond all others.

"As you have, I have reflected overnight on the situation concerning the loan I took from Geoffrey Robinson and I have decided to resign from the Government.

"As I said publicly yesterday, I do not believe that I have done anything wrong or improper. But I should not, with all candour, have entered into the arrangement.

"I should, having done so, told you and other colleagues whose advice I value. And I should have told my Permanent Secretary on learning of the inquiry into Geoffrey Robinson, although I had entirely stood aside from this.

"I am sorry about this situation. But we came to power promising to uphold the highest possible standards in public life. We have not just to do so, but we must be seen to do so.

"Therefore with huge regret I wish to resign. I am very proud of the role I played in helping you and previous leaders of the Labour Party to make our party electable and to win our historic victory last May.

"I am proud of the trust you placed in me both at the Cabinet office and at the DTI. In just 18 months you have helped to transform this country and the Government has made huge progress delivering on our manifesto and its programme of modernisation.

"I will always be a loyal Labour man and I am not prepared to see the party and the Government suffer the kind of attack this issue has provoked."

The Prime Minister paid a glowing tribute to Mandelson, the man widely seen as the power behind the Labour throne.

He said:

"Dear Peter,

You will know better than anyone the feelings with which I write to you. You and I have been personal friends and the closest of political colleagues.

"It is no exaggeration to say that without your support and advice we would never have built New Labour.

"It was typical of you, when we spoke last night, that your thought was for the reputation of the Labour Party and the Government and that you believed that since there had been a misjudgment on your part, then, as you said to me 'we can't be like the last lot' and that what we are trying to achieve for the country is more important than any individual.

"But I also want you to know that you have my profound thanks for all you have done and my belief that, in the future, you will achieve much, much more with us.

Yours ever, Tony"
    

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CWN / Politics / MPs / Geoffrey Robinson / 22 Dec 98

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