Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister’s chief press secretary,
defended himself against charges of politicising the Government
information service last Tuesday when giving evidence to the
Parliamentary Committee on Public Administration.
Campbell recognised that, as a political appointee with a contractual
right to operate in a political context, he was at risk of damaging the
trademark impartiality of the information service.
But he said: ’I have never seen a substantive piece of evidence for
I do not have any power independent of the Prime Minister. I do
understand the grey areas and my instinct is to err on the side of
He drew a distinction between his attacking role when in opposition and
his rebuttal role since the general election: ’I will be reactive, not
proactive in terms of party politics. What I do not say is: ’here are
ten reasons why you shouldn’t vote for William Hague’.’
He added that he did not brief journalists on issues relating to the
Parliamentary Labour Party or the Party’s National Executive
Campbell was speaking at an investigation on reforms to the information
service and press lobby briefing system. His appearance follows evidence
given last week by Cabinet Secretary Richard Wilson, who broadly
defended Campbell’s role and a fortnight previously by Margaret
Thatcher’s former press secretary, Sir Bernard Ingham, who accused
Campbell of destroying the impartiality of the service.
- Giving evidence at the hearing alongside Campbell, Mike Granatt, head
of the Government Information and Communication Service, recognised that
morale within the GICS is low.
’People feel bruised, it would be inhuman not to feel that way. There is
a perception of some jobs not being available to them. It gives the
message that their future may lie elsewhere, which I don’t think is
He said measures were being taken to boost morale, including training
and monitoring that jobs are tendered competitively. ’Morale is probably
recovering,’ he said.