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Tuesday, 26 February, 2002, 01:42 GMT
Tables turned by spin doctors
Tory ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with members of the Yes, Minister cast
The "Yes, Minister" relationship has changed
The changing relationship between ministers and civil servants could be at the root of Labour's current spin row, according to commentators.

BBC political editor Andrew Marr argues that the old relationship between the lifelong servant of the state - like Sir Humphrey Appleby in the TV comedy Yes, Minister - and the elected politician was easy to understand.

But under New Labour, there is a class of committed special advisers, or spin doctors, coming between the civil servants and ministers, he says.

We should reverse forever the arrangements whereby political appointees... can command civil servants and give instructions to civil servants

David Davis
Tory Party chairman
The number of special advisers has more than doubled to 81 under Labour at a cost of 4.4m to the public purse, compared with 1.8m in 1997.

Twenty-six special advisers work directly for the prime minister, while the rest work to other departments.

Tony Blair has given authority over civil servants to his media boss Alastair Campbell and his chief of staff Jonathan Powell.

But the government has been under increased pressure to reassess the role of special advisers since Jo Moore, spin doctor to Transport Secretary Stephen Byers, suggested 11 September was a good day to bury "bad news".

There have been calls for new legislation to tighten the rules governing the political appointees working for government ministers.

The Cabinet Office says proposals for a statutory code of conduct for special advisers will be included in a consultation paper on Civil Service reform to be launched later this year.

But senior Labour backbenchers say it must set out clear demarcation lines between spin doctors and officials.

Commanding role

MPs are investigating the role of the unelected special advisers and the Opposition is proposing a new civil service act.

Tory party chairman David Davies said: "We should reverse forever the arrangements whereby political appointees, like Alastair Campbell and Jonathan Powell, can command civil servants and give instructions to civil servants.

"That should only be capable of being done by ministers or senior civil servants," he added.

See also:

25 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Byers under pressure to resign
16 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Pressure grows for spin doctor curbs
18 Dec 01 | UK Politics
No open field for special advisers
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