Gordon Brown’s former spin doctor becomes Highlands councillor

Charlie Whelan at the SECC in Glasgow on the night of the 1999 Scottish Parliament elections. The former New Labour spindoctor is now a community councillor
Charlie Whelan at the SECC in Glasgow on the night of the 1999 Scottish Parliament elections. The former New Labour spindoctor is now a community councillor
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WHEN HE was Gordon Brown’s spin doctor, Charlie Whelan was known for his mastery of the dark arts and habit of briefing journalists – pint in hand – from the Red Lion pub in Westminster.

Now the 500 villagers of Dulnain Bridge, Speyside, are about to find out whether Mr Whelan will adopt a similar approach when he joins his local community council.

Mr Whelan agreed to join the Dulnain Bridge Community Council when a plea for more members was issued.

It is a move that will see an in-tray more used to dealing with Labour’s big beasts fill up with politics of a distinctly pump variety.

Dealing with dog-fouling, cracked pavements and littering in Dulnain Bridge may not have the headline grabbing appeal of Mr Brown’s feud with Tony Blair.

Even so, Mr Whelan yesterday said he was looking forward to the challenges of his new post in the Highland village, which has been his home for the last 15-years.

“I am quite happy to serve the local community,” said Mr Whelan as he took a break from training his dog beneath the snow-capped peaks of the Cairngorms.

A lifetime in Labour politics has not prevented Mr Whelan from enjoying the country sports on offer in the Highlands, pursuits that he intends to speak up for on the community council.

“I’m active in fishing and hunting, so I’m interested in supporting country sports,” he said.

There were also reassuring words for locals who might be alarmed by the thought of a firebrand political figure noising up the local political scene.

“I didn’t stand because I am bringing revolutionary politics to Dulnain Bridge,” he said.

There was also optimism that his new role would expose him to a more grown-up kind of politics than he is used to.

“They will probably talk more sense in the community council than they do at Westminster,” Mr Whelan said.

“By and large everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, which is about protecting the local community.”

Some locals, however, may be bracing themselves for some controversy.

Mr Whelan has been writing a trenchant column for the local newspaper the Strathspey Herald.

Among his targets have been local landowners, who chop down trees, and salmon net fishers.

Last night, fellow community councillor Ewan Cameron was hopeful that Mr Whelan’s connections could make a difference locally.

“He will have some advantages, no doubt,” said Mr Cameron. “He probably still has some good contacts at Westminster.”