Blair rewards party workers with top jobs

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The Independent Online
Many of the key workers who helped Labour to victory have been rewarded with jobs in ministerial offices with most sought-after posts going to outsiders.

Nearly all the special advisers worked previously for the Labour Party or shadow ministers, according to an analysis by The Independent. Several have no previous expertise of the subject area of their department because they have followed their previous employer into a different department from the one which they shadowed.

The revelation comes as the row over the alleged politicisation of the Civil Service was seized on by John Major, leader of the Opposition, who told Radio 4's The World at One programme: "Mr Blair has been very enthusiastic in the scale of his appointments from the Labour Party into the Government machine. He's appointed far more people in under a month than we had over an 18-year period. I think it is a mistake. I think many people will be concerned that this is leading towards politicisation of the Civil Service."

However, the increase is relatively small. There are 35 appointments so far in the departments and about half a dozen further appointments are expected compared with 30 under the Tories. The biggest increase is in Downing Street where the number of political advisers has gone up from eight to 18 because Tony Blair has a much bigger policy unit than his predecessor.

Of the 35 departmental advisers, only three did not have some direct connection with the relevant minister or with the Labour Party during the run-up to the election. While some, such as Gordon Brown's and Margaret Beckett's teams, who are mostly economists, have considerable relevant knowledge, others - such as Kate Davies at transport, Joe McCrae at health and Andrew Lappin at the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster - all followed their minister even though they were shadowing a different department.

Most are relatively junior in their twenties or thirties, but a few more senior experts have been brought in such as Norman Warner, a former director of Kent social services, Michael Barber, a former professor of education at the London Institute of Education, and Murray Elder, a long-time Labour Party employee with considerable expertise on the constitution.

Equally, in the policy unit, four out of the ten appointments previously worked for Mr Blair, either when he was leader or when he shadowed home affairs or employment. There is little concern among senior civil servants about the increase in numbers of special advisers because they do not see it as reflecting any major change in policy. One source said: "We were very relieved that they decided not to institute a cabinet type system but have stuck with the existing one."