Blair-style 'fixer' to be appointed as ratings plummet

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Indy Politics

A "fixer" is to be appointed by Gordon Brown in an effort to give renewed drive to his Downing Street operation.

The senior position, which is being likened to a company chief executive, would have the task of instilling fresh discipline into the Prime Minister's office. He or she would act as the senior point of contact between Mr Brown and Whitehall departments. The appointee would also liaise with senior Labour figures within the House of Commons and the party.

The intention would be to provide an early warning system for problems that could harm the Government, or he Prime Minister.

Mr Brown is said to have been close to despair over the disclosure of hidden donations that were made to the Labour Party through intermediaries.

The planned appointment is also an acknowledgement that Mr Brown relies too heavily on a handful of key lieutenants and finds it hard to delegate some decisions.

The front-runner for the job is understood to be Wilf Stevenson, the director of the Smith Institute think-tank, who is a close friend of the Prime Minister.

The holder of the post would, in effect, play the same role as Jonathan Powell did for Tony Blair throughout his 10 years in Downing Street.

The move follows a torrid two months for Gordon Brown. The polls first turned sour for him after senior Labour figures allowed speculation about an early election to run unchecked in the autumn.

The Government has been hit by a succession of further problems, including the crisis at Northern Rock, confusion over the number of foreign nationals working in Britain and the loss of confidential personal information. Some ministers believe, however, that the controversy over party donations has been the most damaging.