INTERNATIONAL NEWS: Downing Street denies Times claim that spin isin at No. 10

LONDON: Prime Minister Tony Blair's press office has objected to

the tone of an article in UK paper The Times that described a media

training program organized by Downing Street.

Jill Sherman, the paper's Whitehall editor, reported last week that

Alastair Campbell, director of strategy and communication, is setting up

a "school of spin" in Downing Street "to train officials in media


According to a memo obtained by the paper, the training will bring press

officers throughout various government offices into temporary positions

at No. 10. They will be assigned mentors and given a chance to

experience PR life at the highest political echelon.

But the article states that the program is part of a strategy to groom

liaisons in other government departments, and to bring new talent to No


"It is clear Mr. Campbell wants something in return: a beefed-up

spinning team to take on Sunday newspaper journalists," the article


A Downing Street spokesperson confirmed that the program will be taking

place once Parliament comes back from its summer recess. But she said

that there is nothing unusual in the program, and that similar training

had been run by prior administrations.

"Talk about spin - the story itself is spin," she told PRWeek. "This has

been done in the past with the previous governments. We are just

reviving the idea." She said a slow news cycle has meant this story was

"completely overwritten. But hopefully it will encourage lots of people

to apply." Sherman declined to comment.

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