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Howard hits back at support for Hicks.

Byline: Rob Merrick

A BITTER spat has broken out between a former Conservative leader and an ex-Canadian prime minister over the takeover of Liverpool Football Club.

The war of words - between lifelong Liverpool fan Michael Howard and Quebec-born Brian Mulroney - follows the ousting of Tom Hicks and George Gillett by the owners of the Boston Red Sox.

It began when Mr Mulroney spoke out against what he called the unfair character assassination of Hicks, whom he described as a long-time friend and business colleague.

In a letter to The Times newspaper, the former prime minister wrote: "What I witnessed first hand in London, and what transpired in the time leading up to it, decisively crossed the line from decency to outrageousness. "The facts are incontrovertible - a profitable and highly-valuable asset, one that the owners had helped to improve through considerable investment and a series of transactions, was sold at a bargain basement price. Board members in lucrative and prestigious positions turned on the owners, whose interests they were supposed to protect, and did it in an environment akin to a witch-hunt."

Insisting history would be kind on Hicks'' record at Anfield, Mr Mulroney added: "I suspect there will be much reflection and comment on how such a travesty could have occurred in England, the birthplace of fundamental justice."

This version of events was too much for Mr Howard, whose love affair with Liverpool FC began when he twice stood for parliament in Liverpool in 1966 and 1970.

The man who was Tory leader until his 2005 general election defeat visits Anfield whenever possible and once appeared in a reality TV show, in which he taught dancer Wayne Sleep about the club''s history.

In a biting response, Mr Howard - now Lord Howard of Lympne - castigated Mr Mulroney for failing to mention that Hicks, and George Gillett broke promises made when they bought the club.

And he condemned their "despicable attempt" to try to block the club''s sale in breach of an agreement to allow the independent members of the board to make that decision.

Lord Howard wrote: "I do not know Hicks or Gillett. Nor do I know the new owners of the club. But I am a lifelong Liverpool fan and was as keen as all other fans to see the back of Hicks and Gillett.

"Instead of denigrating British justice and fair play, Mr Mulroney would be well advised to inquire rather more closely into the conduct and standards of those whose company he keeps."

The pounds 300m sale of the Anfield club to New England Sports Ventures (NESV) finally went ahead on October 15, after a week of bitter court battles on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:1CQUE
Date:Nov 18, 2010
Words:457
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