PM accused of 'cronyism' over No 10 job for Birt

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Tony Blair was charged with "cronyism" on Friday when his appointment of the former BBC director general, Lord Birt, as a personal strategic adviser provoked criticism from opposition MPs.

Conservatives and Liberal Democrats expressed unease at the appointment of the peer, which was revealed by The Independent, asking why the crossbencher had been asked to serve in Downing Street.

Lord Birt, who will not be paid but will have a desk at Number 10, was given the job after impressing the Prime Minister with his as yet unpublished work on the Government's 10-year crime plan.

He will work in the team, led by Geoff Mulgan, also director of the Performance and Innovation Unit, which will be responsible for "blue skies thinking" to shake up the Civil Service and ensure delivery of Labour's policy objectives.

Andrew Lansley, the Tory Cabinet Office spokesman, said: "John Birt does not exactly have a good track record of advising the Government.

"He worked as a crime adviser for one day a week for the Home Secretary and was sacked after that – after not offering any advice. Now Tony Blair, looking after his cronies as ever, has appointed Lord Birt as his personal strategic adviser. For a Prime Minister who does not readily listen to advice of others, clearly Lord Birt is the right man in the right job," Mr Lansley said.

Paul Tyler, the Liberal Democrat Cabinet Office spokesman, said: "It's all too cosy. Was John Birt already interested in a Number 10 position while he was at the BBC? If so, would that have affected his judgement on sensitive political issues?"