OPINION: The Big Question - Would you consider taking Alastair Campbell's job at Downing Street?

In the wake of news that the Prime Minister's press secretary is to

stand down in June, there has been plenty of speculation as to possible

successors



DAVID CRACKNELL



Sunday Telegraph



'If you mean 'would I like to run the country without having to go to

the hassle of being elected?', then I have to say it's tempting. But

although I'm a hack, I don't think I'm cynical enough to inherit

Campbell's famous Burnley FC coffee mug. I can't stomach the idea of

being a propagandist. I couldn't bring myself to say that things were

getting better in hospitals and schools if they blatantly weren't. And

don't believe Alastair is going anywhere after the election: he'll still

be pulling the strings, including those of his successor. I think I'll

stay a poacher rather than gamekeeper because although we have a low

reputation with the public, I think we journalists do a valuable job in

spotting the porkies told by politicians.'



STEVE FISHWICK



Diabetes UK



'Prime ministers' press secretaries make enemies by the hour and

Campbell works a 90-hour week. I admire him, but also have pity for what

he must have sacrificed to fulfill this thankless role: a higher salary,

quality time with family and even his own public identity. He is 'a

Number 10 insider' or 'sources close to the Prime Minister'. Stepping

into the foreground as 'Alastair Campbell, skilled media operator' is a

cardinal sin. So, where credit is due the press secretary gets none, but

where blame is to be apportioned, he gets plenty ... remember the

Women's Institute? The job is enough to drive anyone to drink - luckily

Alastair became teetotal years ago.'



MARK ADAMS



Foresight Communications



'Definitely. It must be the best job in the industry, with influence,

power and responsibility. As I know from my time as a Downing Street

civil servant, it is as much about keeping things out of the papers as

getting them in. Anyone taking on the role for two or three years is

guaranteed an action-packed time defusing scandals, intrigue and crises,

as much as getting messages across. Anyone taking it on for longer than

three years risks insanity - the best press secretaries move on before

they burn out. The challenge for Alastair's successor depends on what

happens to Alastair. If he lurks in the shadows and remains the Prime

Minister's main source of advice, the new press secretary risks being

ignored by the PM and press alike.'



ALEX CHALLONER



Golin/Harris Ludgate



'Under Campbell this role is out of control. Previous incumbents did not

purposely seek to create a centre of influence at Downing Street that,

in effect, has overshadowed the work of government departments,

parliament and on occasion the Prime Minister himself. Spin and

presentation have become more dominant than policy and substance and the

general sense of cynicism surrounding politics has increased. The next

press secretary should adopt a lower public profile that allows

ministers to take centre stage and give the public opportunity to judge

them by their actions and not fly-by-night news headlines. Despite any

personal criticism people may have had of Margaret Thatcher, they give

her grudging respect for sticking to her message in difficult times

whatever the newspapers were saying on a daily basis. As the old saying

goes: 'Ministers decide and advisers just advise'.'



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