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Jowell breaks ranks to criticise porn baron's Labour Party donation

LONDON - Culture secretary Tessa Jowell has broken ranks with cabinet minister colleagues and criticised the Labour Party's decision to accept a £100,000 donation from porn baron, and Express Newspapers owner, Richard Desmond.

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Jowell said his business "demeans and belittles women". She made her comments in the same week Desmond met Tony Blair in Downing Street -- for tea.

"I don't feel comfortable that the party accepts a donation from somebody who earns certainly part of his income from pornography," Jowell said.

Jowell, who heads the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, is the second high-profile female minister to criticise the donation from the publisher of titles such as Reader's Wives and Asian Babes, as well as the Daily and Sunday Express. Clare Short, international development secretary, has already come out on national television and said that she hates pornography.

Desmond is said to have offered the donation prior to his company, Northern & Shell, being given permission by the Department of Trade and Industry to take over Express Newspapers.

However, Jowell said that there was no connection between the deal being approved and the donation. "There is a very clear separation between Labour Party donations and government policy," she said.

There is continuing pressure on the Labour Party to return the donation, although Tony Blair himself has defended Desmond's business. However, he admitted to BBC interviewer Jeremy Paxman that he was not familiar with titles such as Horny Housewives, Posh Wives and Skinny & Wriggly.

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