Clinton magic: could Blair make the same splash?

Democrat to advise Labour
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The Independent Online
One of President Clinton's closest aides is set to come to Britain to advise Tony Blair's election team as Labour looks to see what lessons it can learn from the successful Democrat campaign.

George Stephanopolous, 35, who was a key figure in it, is keen to help the Blair camp and is said to be ready to offer his services in the run- up to the British election.

His arrival in Britain would be the latest example of the close co-operation between the Democratic and Labour parties. Some Labour aides have recently been seeking guidance across the Atlantic. "One or two of them were over in Washington every two or three weeks sucking our strategy out of us," a senior White House aide said yesterday. Visitors to the US have included Jonathan Powell, Mr Blair's chief of staff who has been meeting Mark Penn, President Clinton's chief pollster, among others. A spokesman for Mr Blair said he would "welcome any support Mr Stephanopolous gave", but the import of American tactics and a such a key operator will cause unease in some sections of the Labour Party.

Though the senior White House source thought it unlikely that Mr Stephanopolous, a former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, would be a full-time member of the Labour team, he said he was likely to advise them. "He might spend a week or so in London giving them the benefit of his wisdom," said the aide.

Polls showed that many of the issues that helped Mr Clinton to win - medical care, social issues, education - would be highly relevant to Labour in next year's election.

The relationship between Washington and Walworth Road has been developing for five years. Philip Gould, 46, a close associate of Mr Blair, went to Little Rock to advise Mr Clinton's first presidential campaign four years ago.

He learnt that the Conservatives, fresh from their victory over Labour, were advising George Bush on how to conduct a "tax bombshell" campaign. So he crossed the Atlantic to share the lessons of how not to respond with members of Mr Clinton's team, including Mr Stephanopolous.