CAMPAIGNS: WHAT THE MEDIA SAY - Campbell is in headlines once again

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

election victory.



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

at: www.echoResearch.com.



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