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Thursday, 30 December, 1999, 11:44 GMT
Murdoch aide resigns from Tory panel

Irwin Stelzer is a close aide to media tycoon Rupert Murdoch

An eminent academic has withdrawn from a new Conservative advisory panel, complaining party "spin-doctors" had used him for propaganda purposes.

Irwin Stelzer, an aide of newspaper tycoon Rupert Murdoch, resigned from the 15-strong Council of Economic Advisers, which was intended to help with the Tories' economic policy.

But he resigned after accusing the Tories of putting "spin" on his appointment to make it appear there was a new relationship between the party and the media tycoon.

WIlliam Hague: Resignation a pity
His resignation is another embarrassment to the party in a week in which it has come in for criticism from senior Conservatives and at the end of a year which saw the defection of frontbencher Shaun Woodward to Labour and the resignation of Lord Archer from London's mayoral contest.

'Silly thing to do'

Dr Stelzer told the BBC: "I thought I'd been slightly used by them to imply that somehow Mr Murdoch's political position concerning the Tories had changed, so I thought it best to resign.

"This is part of a kind of desperation to make it seem as if the Tories are somehow more acceptable to Mr Murdoch, which seems to me a silly thing to do.

"They're better spending their time trying to devise policies that are acceptable to everybody."

Dr Stelzer is a senior fellow and director at the Hudson Institute, an American right-wing think-tank and also writes for The Sunday Times and is an honorary fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford.

On Wednesday, an article in the Financial Times quoted an aide to shadow chancellor Francis Maude as saying it was "encouraging" Dr Stelzer had agreed to join the group, given his closeness to Mr Murdoch.

The panel is due to advise on Francis Maude's economic policies
The aide was quoted as saying: "We're not claiming that Murdoch is back with us or anything of the kind.

"But it is encouraging that someone so close to Murdoch is happy to sit on our council."

'I was naive'

In an open letter to Mr Maude, Dr Stelzer said: "I can't speak for Mr Murdoch, although even a casual reading of The Sun would suggest that you and your colleagues are grasping at straws, an act not unknown to a drowning man.

"You asked me to serve with a non-partisan group of economists to advise on economic policy. Naively, I assumed it was my talents as an economist that you were seeking, rather than an opportunity for a misleading press `spin'.

"Now that your 'aides' have seen fit to tell the press that my participation encourages them to believe that Mr Murdoch is moving in the Tories' direction - a difficult feat, given that no such direction is discernible - it is clear that you were economical with the truth when you described the function of the panel, from which I hereby resign."

Conservative leader William Hague has attempted to brush off Dr Stelzer's resignation, saying it was a pity he had left the panel.

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See also:
30 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
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28 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
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