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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 September, 2003, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
No 10 press shake-up unveiled
David Hill
David Hill will not enjoy the same powers granted to Alastair Campbell
Downing Street has shaken-up the way it deals with the media - with Alastair Campbell's replacement wielding much less power.

The changes follow the recommendations of an independent review group, which says there has been a "three-way breakdown in trust between government and politicians, the media and the general public".

It comes as former Labour press officer David Hill is confirmed as Tony Blair's new communications director in place of Mr Campbell.

The public now expects and believes the worst of politicians and government
Independent Review Group

Mr Hill will not have the same powers over civil servants as his predecessor and will instead head the "political aspects" of Downing Street's media strategy.

A new senior official spokesman for the prime minister will be appointed to handle the civil service parts of links with journalists, said Downing Street.

The new spokesman will be deputy to a new permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office.

At present, there are two official spokesmen - Godric Smith and Tom Kelly, although Mr Smith has said he is to leave the role.

As the review of communications continues, Mr Blair has asked the review group to consider whether Downing Street spokesman should give White House-style media briefings on live television.

Matthew Taylor

Downing Street also announced a range of changes to the backroom policy team.

Geoff Mulgan, head of the strategy unit and a founder of the Demos think-tank is to be new Downing Street head of policy.

Andrew Adonis, former head of the policy unity, is to be the Prime Minister's senior political adviser on education, public services and constitutional reform.

Matthew Taylor, formerly of Institute of Public Policy Research, will join the policy directorate on secondment to lead responsibility for policy planning for the next parliament.

Jo Gibbons, a former Labour party press officer joins Sally Morgan's team looking after events and visits. Pat McFadden is the new director of political operations.


Downing Street sources say the shake-up in the way the communications team works is not a response to the departure of Alastair Campbell or the Hutton inquiry.

They say it is the result of a review of government communications led by the newspaper executive Bob Phillis, which has been accepted in full.

Only under Labour could they spin the end of spin, which is what we have had today
David Willetts
Conservative frontbencher

The review group says research and other evidence suggests the way the media have responded to a more proactive government communications strategy has led to a culture of claim and counter claim.

"This adversarial relationship between government and the media has resulted in all information being mistrusted when it is believed to have come from 'political' sources," says its report.

"The public now expects and believes the worst of politicians and government, even where there is strong objective evidence in favour of the government's position."

A culture change from politicians, civil servants and the media is needed to restore trust, it argues.

Special advisers

The review came after the controversy over Jo Moore, the transport special adviser who suggested 11 September 2001 was a good day to bury bad news.

The group says that episode showed there was potential for confusion between the roles of impartial civil servants and political appointed special advisers.

Among the group's other findings are:

  • More emphasis should be put on local and regional communications to re-engage the public
  • Civil servants can present and defend government policies but explaining ministers' underlying political thinking is the preserve of special advisers
  • Communications at Number 10 are under-resourced

The changes are partly designed to convince a sceptical public that media relations are now being played free of spin.

The new permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office will "focus on a strategic approach to communications across government", says Number 10.

Mr Phillis' review group has so far only produced an interim report.

The prime minister wants it to take account of any recommendations which arise out of the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly.

And he is asking it "to reflect further on its view that the media too has a responsibility for balancing the need to ensure that the adversarial relationship does not become a barrier to public understanding of government and politics".


Conservative shadow cabinet minister David Willetts hoped the changes would cut the government's obsession with spin.

But he told BBC News 24: "My fear is that spin so fundamental to the way Tony Blair conducts his politics and to the style of the government...

"Only under Labour could they spin the end of spin, which is what we have had today."

Liberal Democrat frontbencher Simon Hughes said the changes were in the right direction.

It was clearly best for an impartial civil servant to be in charge of government communications, argued Mr Hughes, but ministers had also to take responsibility for giving the public the truth.

Jonathan Baume, general secretary of the First Division Association of senior civil servants the announcement would help restore trust.

"That is important not just for the prime minister and the government but also for British politics as a whole."

The BBC's Mark Mardell
"Dave Hill will have more modest powers"

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