Organisation: Number 10 Downing Street
Issue: Alastair Campbell steps down as PM's spokesman
Andrew Grice, himself once approached to be Tony Blair's official
spokesman, broke the story in The Independent (12/4) that Alastair
Campbell intends to step down after the next election to take a new post
as director of communications, similar to the American model favoured by
Tony Blair for a second term as PM.
Most newspapers acknowledged The Independent's scoop and the BBC
elevated the story above Blair's speech to a teachers' conference,
provoking the Downing Street retort: 'It is typical of the media's
obsession with process and personality.'
For the man widely acknowledged to be 'Blair's spin wizard' (Sunday
Express, 15/4), this was a typical double-edged compliment. Various
fingers pointed to Peter Mandelson as the most likely source of the
leak, especially as Campbell himself was fingered as the voice in
Blair's ear that had insisted that Mandelson had to go after the Hinduja
affair earlier this year.
Campbell's previous effort to step back from the frontline, giving up
the daily lobby briefing following the BBC's fly-on-the-wall documentary
about him, was judged to have made the information process less fun,
even for Campbell- haters.
His supporters, including The Sun's political editor, Trevor Kavanagh,
widely touted as having a direct line from Campbell on important issues,
were reported to regard him as 'irreplaceable'. Kavanagh himself denied
the special relationship, saying 'He's just as close to The Mirror or
the Daily Mail'. Others recalled how Campbell 'gave them little
information, wrong information or leaked information to rival
publications' (Kevin Maguire, The Observer, 15/4).
Campbell's purported role as strategic adviser across all government
departments led to speculation that he will take over managerial
responsibility for the Government Information and Communication Service
(GICS) from Mike Granatt, the only survivor following Labour's 'cull of
departmental heads of information' (The Guardian, 16/4) after the 1997
Sky political editor Adam Boulton saw the move as the beginning of a
further shake-up in the government's press relations structure,
particularly for major crises such as Kosovo, the petrol blockades and
the foot-and-mouth epidemic, where the Government, and by implication
Campbell, has been accused of a failure to manage its message.
Analysis and commentary by Echo Research. More information can be found