Mandy the arech sniper

FROM his well-paid bolt hole in Europe's capital of excess, Peter Mandelson just can't resist the temptation to snipe at his arch enemy, the Chancellor Gordon Brown.

FROM his well-paid bolt hole in Europe's capital of excess, Peter Mandelson just can't resist the temptation to snipe at his arch enemy, the Chancellor Gordon Brown.

The two don't speak, which is hard surprising given that Mandy is the chief outrider for the New Labour project which the Chancellor is distancing himself almost daily.

Unlike Mr Mandelson and some of the other Labour aparatchiks Britain's new European Commissioner left behind when he headed for the Brussels high life, Mr Brown will have no truck with European federalism.

Indeed the Chancellor is fast emerging as the one senior member of the Government who will stand up against the Napoleonic vision some members states have for the EU.

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It was Mr Brown, insisting Britain meets five economic tests before entering the euro zone, who dented the sweeping ambitions of the Prime Minister who wanted to join the single currency to prove what a good European he is. Mr Brown, though styling himself a supporter of Europe, has done more for the "save the pound" brigade than any of the Tory and UKIP little Englanders.

He's resisted plans for tax harmonisation and last week lashed out at the European Commission for demanding a 35% rise in Euro-spending. He was speaking after talks in Brussels between EU finance ministers on the day the European Court of Auditors refused to sign off the EU accounts for the 10th year running.

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The books for 2003 show lax financial controls and reveal the Commission's failure to spend £150 billion which should have gone to help Europe's most deprived regions.

"A 35% increase is unrealistic and unacceptable," he declared. "I think it is ironic that the Commission wants such an increase when the accounts figures today show that it has not even managed to spend a substantial sum from the current budget. The Commission should put its own house in currency.

This week, safely installed in Brussels, Mr Mandelson warned the British government should not gloat over this country's strong economic performance relative to that of France and Germany – coded talk for "Shut up Brown." And in an interview with the leading French newspaper Le Monde, Mandy called for Britain to set a date for joining the euro.

That will only happen over the Chancellor's dead body – which could be as soon as next May. Don't be surprised if Mr Blair, fed up with his Chancellor's intransigence, uses the authority of a third election mandate to remove Gordon Brown from the Treasury and install in the office a person who shares his European vision.

KATHY Pollard is hoping it will be third time lucky after being selected to fight Suffolk South at the General Election.

Mrs Pollard, who lives in Capel St Mary, previously tried to unseat MP Tim Yeo in 1992 and 1997 – the last attempt being swamped by the surge in Labour's vote, pushing her into third place. At the 2001 election, the Lib Dems slipped even further behind Labour, but she thinks Labour are no-hopers in the seat based on Babergh district.

"This time it is quite clear that the Liberal Democrats are the challengers to the Conservatives," insists Mrs Pollard. In last year's Babergh council elections, the party gained 42% of the vote and 18 councillors – the largest group on the council. The Conservatives have 11, Independents 8 and Labour 6 – Labour came fourth."

To overturn Mr Yeo's 5,081 over Labour, Mrs Pollard needs a collapse in Labour's vote coupled with disaffected Tories switching either to her or the UK Independence Party.

Mrs Pollard, one of the party's candidates for the East of England constituency in June's European elections, formerly worked at BT's Research and Development Laboratories at Martlesham.

Married with two daughters, she has been a county councillor since 1987 and a member of the authority's ruling executive for five years. She will be seeking re-election in the Belstead Brook division in May next year – the probable date of the General Election – but ward changes mean Capel St Mary will be switched to East Bergholt.

COLCHESTER'S Lib Dem MP Bob Russell queued overnight in the Commons on Monday so that he could table the first Early Day Motions of the new parliamentary session. Subjects include removal of prescription charges from patients suffering with cystic fibrosis, wealth disparity in the UK, animal welfare, VAT and charities, independent museums and gift aid, and the restoration of the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment.

THE people of Ipswich may had a lucky escape – the Labour leadership's favoured candidate to succeed the late Jamie Cann has now declared "Wales is my nation."

Labour was so keen to bounce Jan Royall into the Ipswich vacancy when Mr Cann died three years ago that it originally ordered the local party to choose his successor before the funeral from a narrow short-list of three.

In the end, Labour's footsoldiers in Ipswich met the following day and refused to have any truck with the Brussels spin doctor who had worked for Neil Kinnock in the European Commission.

Much to the chagrin of Labour's national executive, they chose Suffolk County Council leader Chris Mole as their candidate, who won the subsequent by-election.

Ms Royall licked her wounds, failed to win the Labour nomination for Ogmore a couple of months later, and was rewarded for her loyalty to New Labour by being created a life peer.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, who has made her maiden speech in the House of Lords, takes her official title from the village of Blaisdon in the Forest of Dean, her home for 40 years. That may be on the wrong side of the border, but Baroness Royall is clear about her identity.

"Most of my family is Welsh and, having spent my life on the borders, Wales is my nation," she said. I bet she didn't tell that to Labour's party members in Ipswich.

"I am, however, married to an Englishman, two of our children support Wales, one supports England, and I am proud to be Welsh, British and European."

That's all right then.

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