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May 5, 2009 1:21 PM

The role of Newcastle East MP and Government Chief Whip Nick Brown in controversial plans to sell off a large stake in the Royal Mail is coming under scrutiny from Lib Dem opponents in his constituency.

Reports suggest that Mr Brown has advised the Prime Minister that it is unlikely that the part-privatisation proposals will get through a Commons vote, as more than a hundred Labour MPs look set to rebel when the plans are debated again.

However, Nick Brown's role in proceedings is attracting increasing speculation in the Westminster village, with more than one national newspaper reporting that he would privately be happy to see Lord Mandelson's proposed reforms torpedoed.

Councillor Greg Stone, his opponent in Newcastle East at the next General Election, said: "We all know Nick Brown is Gordon Brown's closest political ally, but there are increasing questions about whether Nick actually supports these controversial plans.

"It would be extraordinary for a Government Chief Whip to secretly want to see these plans fail, especially at a time when the whips are seemingly failing to maintain discipline and important votes, such as at last week's Gurkha debate, are being lost.

"The future of the Royal Mail is an important one to everyone who uses the service, and I know that many people in my constituency are concerned to know how the service will be safeguarded following Labour's support for the closure of many post offices in my constituency.

"I believe it is a matter of public interest to know precisely where Nick Brown stands on this issue. Is he in favour of this sell off or isn't he?"