THAT Treasury note: How we saw it and why it matters

'I'm afraid there is no money', writes Liam Byrne. Credit: ITV News West Country Exclusive

So we have finally seen the famous letter left by Labour's Chief Secretary to the Treasury to his successor - with its despairing message "there is no money left". After several months of negotiation, I finally persuaded the Yeovil MP David Laws - the man who received it - to show me the actual note. And as well as showing Liam Byrne's rather spidery handwriting, it also reveals that the words were actually slightly different - and if anything starker: "I'm afraid there is no money".He then adds, to soften the blow: 'Kind regards and good luck.'

The other interesting point is the date - a month BEFORE the General Election, implying that Labour wasn't at all confident of winning (presumably he didn't write the letter to himself). And of course no-one could have foreseen that the next Chief Secretary would have been a Lib Dem - David Laws (who lasted just 17 days because of an expenses row). Mr Laws blurted out the existence of the note at a press conference, but has never shown it to anyone before now - including the Number 10 spin doctors.

The genie is now out of the bottle at an embarrassing time for Labour, as it tries to reposition itself on the economy ahead of Wednesday's spending review - caused in part by the continuing impact of the enormous burden of debt hanging over the economy.

Quite why the note has lain in Mr Laws' desk at home in Yeovil is a bit of mystery. He initially failed to foresee the impact his comments would have, and has lately been "too busy" to go and fetch it. The twitter storm that has followed our report shows how toxic these few words, hastily scrawled in the Treasury more than three years ago, still are.

Watch Bob Constantine's full report here.