Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blair Urged to Strip His Chief Spin Doctor of Whitehall Powers; COMMITTEE SAYS ALASTAIR CAMPBELL'S SWEEPING ROLE SHOULD BE OUTLAWED

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blair Urged to Strip His Chief Spin Doctor of Whitehall Powers; COMMITTEE SAYS ALASTAIR CAMPBELL'S SWEEPING ROLE SHOULD BE OUTLAWED

Article excerpt

Byline: BEN LEAPMAN

TONY BLAIR was today urged by a government committee to curb his chief spin doctor Alastair Campbell's powers over Whitehall civil servants.

The independent Committee for Standards in Public Life called for Mr Campbell to be stripped of powers to give instructions to civil servants outside No10. And, it said, he should be barred by law from disciplining or promoting any civil servants.

The committee, set up by the Government to counter sleaze, said he should only carry on in his powerful role with the approval of Parliament.

However, the proposals are likely to face stiff resistance from Mr Blair, not least on the grounds that they are unworkable. Mr Campbell's job title is Director of Communications and Strategy and co-ordination of Whitehall departments is central to his role.

The committee said the same restrictions should apply to another of Mr Blair's top aides, his chief of staff Jonathan Powell. The two men, among the highest-paid in Whitehall, are the only Government special advisers with powers to instruct civil servants.

While previous prime ministers have employed press spokesmen, Mr Blair has handed sweeping powers to Mr Campbell to steer the Government's strategy.

A former Daily Mirror political editor, Mr Campbell, 45, is a lifelong Labour supporter feared at Westminster for his combative style. Special advisers - political aides working directly for ministers - were introduced by Harold Wilson in 1974, but since Labour returned to power in 1997 their numbers have increased and their role has expanded.

Mr Campbell and Mr Powell each earn annual salaries of between u92,250 and u128,125, Downing Street has said.

Sir Nigel Wicks, chairman of the committee, said the proposed changes would strengthen "the fundamental principles of transparency, impartiality and accountability" at the heart of the Government. …

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