Campbell to sharpen party's image

THE appointment of Alastair Campbell as Tony Blair's press secretary ends the process of filling the key posts in the Labour leader's new private office, writes Donald Macintyre.

Mr Campbell, 37, assistant editor and political commentator of Today, is one of Britain's most experienced political journalists and a close personal friend both of Mr Blair and the former Labour leader, Neil Kinnock. He is due to take up his appointment after the party conferences and would be Mr Blair's likely choice as the Downing Street Press Secretary if Labour wins the next election.

Mr Campbell, a lifelong Labour supporter and the former Daily Mirror political editor, said last night: 'There is a huge job to be done in putting Labour's case and persuading the public that the trust lost by the Tories can now be granted to Labour.'

Mr Campbell will join a senior team in Mr Blair's office which already includes David Miliband, formerly secretary of the left of centre Institute of Public Policy Research, and Murray Elder, John Smith's former chief of staff, who is responsible for liaison with the trade unions and the party in the country. David Hill, the party's senior media spokesman, will remain in his present post.

Mr Campbell's appointment underlines Mr Blair's determination to bring in new talent to sharpen the party's campaigning edge and refocus its image.

It comes less than a week after the announcement that the party's general secretary, Larry Whitty, is to be transferred to a new party European post to allow another figure to take charge of the national machine. Tom Sawyer, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Public Employees, has been much touted as a likely successor, but the field may well prove wide.

Mightier than the picket, page 25

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