'Puny and insignificant' press officers in Government

Focus on Whitehall - Further war of words, as barbs aimed at 'subordinate' departmental press officers.

Boulton: Sky news political editor
Boulton: Sky news political editor

Departmental press officers have been branded 'puny and insignificant' and in the shadow of special advisers.

RELATED ARTICLE: Journalists slam PM's press briefings

Sky News' political editor Adam Boulton told the Lords committee that press officers had been weakened by Alastair Campbell's attempt to 'create a politicised executive operation across government'. He said one way this had been achieved was by replacing the directors of comms, who were not deemed to be 'broadly sympathetic towards the project'.

Boulton added: 'Departmental press officers are much more puny and insignificant than they once were and special advisers working with ministers from a partisan position fulfil that.'

ITV's Tom Bradby described Ministry of Defence director of news James Shelley as 'a very bright man', but Boulton argued that there is no-one with the stature of Mike Granatt, former head of the Government and Information Communications Service. 'They feel subordinate to the political web above them,' he said.

In a second evidence session, The Times health editor Nigel Hawkes said his relationship with the Department of Health press office was 'not particularly good'. He criticised the DH for 'trailing' stories to journalists who will 'make a favourable view of it'.

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