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The BBC's Norman Smith
"The Cabinet Secretary has now cautioned Mr Campbell against using his position to make party political points"
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Saturday, 3 February, 2001, 18:34 GMT
Campbell rapped for 'Mickey' remark
Alastair Campbell
Campbell told not to attack with "bricks and bottles"
Alastair Campbell has faced fresh calls to step down after being warned about comments deriding Tory economic policy as an insult to Mickey Mouse.

The remark made at a political briefing broke civil service rules on impartiality governing the role of the Prime Minister's official spokesman.

It led to a reprimand by Cabinet Secretary Richard Wilson, who polices civil servants behaviour.

Sir Richard Wilson
Sir Richard Wilson: Reprimand for Campbell
But while warning Mr Campbell to watch his words, Sir Richard ignored the calls from opposition parties for the No 10 press spokesman to resign.

"I have reminded Alastair Campbell that it is particularly important to be careful as a general election draws closer and he has assured me that he understands this," he said.

Mr Campbell would leave his Downing Street post as soon as an election was called to allow him to play a full part in Labour's campaign, Sir Richard added.

The Cabinet Secretary was replying to a formal complaint from Tory MP Andrew Tyrie.

Labour MP Fraser Kemp thanked Mr Tyrie "for giving even greater public attention to the comparison between William Hague's economic policies and Mickey Mouse".

Called to account

However, Tories and Liberal Democrats insisted it was a serious breach and Mr Campbell should be brought to account.

Andrew Lansley, shadow cabinet office minister, said Mr Campbell was a repeat offender. "Sir Richard Wilson's reprimand will regrettably not suffice to stop Alastair Campbell using his position, paid for by the taxpayer, to pursue Labour's partisan objectives," he said.

"With the election in prospect, Alastair Campbell should be required to resign and work from Millbank Tower, paid for by the Labour Party.

"For him to remain a civil servant is an abuse of taxpayers' money and a threat to the impartiality of the civil service."

The Liberal Democrats said Mr Campbell's breach was symptomatic of the politicisation of the civil service that had occurred under Labour.

"A bruiser and a brilliant press officer"
Chief whip Paul Tyler has written to Sir Richard complaining that MPs' questions about Cabinet Office civil servants compiling costings of opposition parties' policies were being blocked.

"The suspicion is, of course, that the product of their studies will only be revealed in the context of a general election, by Labour Party spokespeople, free from the critical scrutiny of parliament," he wrote.

"What clearer example of the party political exploitation of civil servants could there be?"

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he added: "The Labour Government came in telling us they were going to be better than the Conservatives. "Now they seem to be slipping back into precisely the sort of mire the Conservatives were dragged into in the last days of the Major government."

As a civil servant appointed by Mr Blair, Mr Campbell can place government policy in a political context in a way career civil servants cannot.

However, Sir Richard has previously said that does not entitle him to attack the opposition with "bricks and bottles".

Downing Street declined to comment on Mr Campbell's remarks.

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