Politics: Spinning away: the man with no name

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The Independent Online
Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's chief press secretary, went on the record for the first time yesterday to launch reforms of the Whitehall press briefing machine, but announced that he would be remaining anonymous.

The Mountfield Report, which has been accepted by the Prime Minister, says that no names of officials should be reported. The Government wants Mr Campbell to be referred to as "the Prime Minister's official spokesman".

Other Downing Street press spokesmen should be referred to as "an official Downing Street source", said the report.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said it would not be like the White House where briefings were televised. "It would be wrong to blow up an unelected official as a figure ... who I am is less important than the fact that I am the spokesman of the Prime Minister," he said.

He took the precaution of turning up to brief lobby journalists with a tape recorder and a microphone for the first time. A senior Guardian journalist, on seeing the microphone, said: "I don't broadcast except for money." A BBC correspondent asked: "does this mean you will never again say `bollocks'?"

The Prime Minister's official spokesman replied that all his comments would be on the record apart from occasional expletives.

The changes are being introduced to avoid a repeat of the confusion over "spin doctor" briefing about policy on Britain's entry to the single currency.

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