Second deal for Blair ally

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The Independent Online
One of Tony Blair's closest media allies has won a second government contract.

Two weeks ago, the Independent on Sunday reported that Philip Gould, a member of Mr Blair's inner circle and a key member of his election-winning team, had secured a pounds 30,000 contract from the Foreign Office. Mr Gould, who is also a close ally of Peter Mandelson, Minister Without Portfolio, is in charge of the Labour Party's internal polling.

The second contract, also worth around pounds 30,000, is to advise ministers on public views of the state and image of the National Health Service. Mr Gould was awarded both the Department of Health and Foreign Office contracts after tender contests with other polling organisations.

In the Foreign Office deal, through his small, new agency, Gould, Greenberg, Carville, NOP he has been asked to survey public attitudes towards the EU in readiness for Mr Blair succeeding to the EU Presidency next month. Mr Gould runs the firm with Stan Greenberg and James Carville, two US political analysts who also helped the Blair election campaign.

They formed the firm after the election. It is a quarter-owned by each of the three, with the other quarter belonging to NOP, the polling firm owned by MAI, the media group chaired by another Labour adviser, Lord Hollick.

While pounds 30,000 may not seem much for a consultancy contract, his rivals point out it would constitute a decent-sized order in the polling business. "That sort of money can buy 12 focus groups," one said.

Mr Gould's success, coupled with his links to senior Labour figures and his blurring of the roles of spin doctor and pollster, are provoking disquiet in Whitehall. Civil servants are not used to having to deal with someone like Mr Gould who has direct access to ministers and can talk to them on equal terms.