Only the Young and Trusted Dine at Tony's

Article excerpt

THOSE who call Tony Blair "Bambi" might, one Opposition politician reflected last week, have underestimated the ability of the Labour leader to be ruthless. Within a week of easing Larry Whitty out of his job as the party's general secretary, Mr Blair has constructed a private office very much in his own image.

As befits a leader aged 41, the emphasis is on youth. No members of the team who will work closely with Mr Blair are in their fifties. Four are in their twenties. Oxford-educated Mr Blair has included a fair sprinkling of graduates from the country's older universities.

And, as one might expect from a master of presentation, the media side has not been ignored: Mr Blair will have no fewer than four press officers (although one, Peter Hyman, will also double as a policy researcher). They include Alastair Campbell, a high-profile journalist who has taken a sizeable pay cut to join the team.

"This is generational," said one source. "These are the people Tony has worked with." A frontbencher added: "The private office advises the leader so there is certainly no point trying to create a sort of rainbow coalition. What he wants is people he can trust."

The office staff are:

Alastair Campbell, aged 37, educated at Caius College, Cambridge, where he studied languages. Mr Campbell was a Mirror Group trainee journalist who graduated to become political editor of the Sunday and then the Daily Mirror. Brought up in Keighley, West Yorkshire, Mr Campbell is the son of a Scottish vet, and can play the bagpipes to prove it. Once known as one of Fleet Street's many formidable drinkers Mr Campbell is now teetotal. His departure from the Mirror last year took him to Today as a political commentator, giving him valuable experience of the Murdoch empire. He is also a freelance broadcaster. Duties: chief "spin doctor". Known as tough, self-confident and outspoken, he will take over the main day- to-day task of briefing political journalists.

Anji Hunter, aged 39, is the daughter of a rubber plantation boss and was born in Malaysia. Privately educated at St Leonard's - one of Scotland's best known girls' schools - she first met Mr Blair when he was at nearby Fettes. The two then crossed paths at Oxford where Ms Hunter attended a secretarial college. Later she went to Brighton Polytechnic where she gained a first-class honours degree. A mother of two teenage children, Ms Hunter is married to a landscape gardener and lives in Haywards Heath in East Sussex. She has worked with Mr Blair since 1984. Duties: head of private office. Will control access to the leader. Has a reputation for toughness, charm and loyalty to Mr Blair.

David Miliband, aged 30, educated at Oxford, was Secretary to the Commission on Social Justice and a fellow of the leftish Institute of Public Policy Research. He is the son of the late historian, Ralph Miliband. His brother is a researcher for Harriet Harman, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Duties: head of policy, will draw together new thinking. Said by one colleague to be "very bright and good at pulling things together. Quick on his feet - a good person for the television age".

Murray Elder, aged 44, educated at Edinburgh University. …