Heseltine's date with dominance

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The Independent Online
NIC CICUTTI

Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister, is setting up a new electronic diary, controlled from his office, aimed at centralising information and announcements from all Government departments.

However, some of his ministerial colleagues are believed to be ready to hinder the move, due to start today, because they think it will lead to Mr Heseltine "cherry-picking" all the favourable publicity for himself.

This is already believed to have happened in August, when a favourable report on the state of the British economy was issued by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The Government's reaction to the report was fronted by Mr Heseltine, even though the Treasury had lined up its own ministers to discuss it with the media.

On his appointment as John Major's right-hand man, Mr Heseltine made it clear he was there to manage the Government's day-to-day affairs. Since July, he has required every minister to inform him in advance of media-related events they are organising. However, compiling the diary on paper has tended to be haphazard.

The new computer system, installed at a cost of pounds 80,000, links up every government department with Mr Heseltine's office. However, one official said: "If it looks like Michael Heseltine is taking over the presentational functions of their departments and leaving them with the bad news or things of no consequence, some people will be upset. It will then be easy for people to simply 'forget' to put things on the diary."

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman yesterday confirmed that a new computer diary would be on-line as from today.

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