Blair sends team for grooming

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The Independent Online

Political Correspondent

Members of the Shadow Cabinet and their advisers are being trained in the skills of government at management college to remedy their lack of experience of office.

A group including Donald Dewar, Labour chief whip, Harriet Harman, health spokeswoman, and Andrew Smith, shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, attended a "Management for Change" course at Templeton College, Oxford, during the Conservative party conference earlier this month. Other Labour frontbenchers are expected to attend the course in the next few days.

"Most of our people have not had experience of government so, while there is no complacency, it's a matter of professionalism to take advantage of this kind of training to prepare ourselves," said a party spokesman yesterday.

The courses have been arranged by Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's chief of staff and a former civil servant in the Foreign Office, who is charged with "paving the way for government".

The Shadow Cabinet members are also believed to have been addressed by retired permanent secretaries in seminars entitled "The Hardware and Software of the State: Whitehall under a Future Labour Government".

Last week Sir Nicholas Monck, the former permanent secretary at the Department of Employment, refused to comment on the suggestion that he was a member of a group of retired senior civil servants advising the Shadow Cabinet in confidential seminars.