Brown appoints City PR man as chief strategist

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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown has tried to sharpen up his Downing Street operation after a trouble-hit three months by appointing the head of a public relations company as his new chief strategist.

Stephen Carter, the 43-year-old chief executive of the Brunswick communications group and former head of the media regulator Ofcom, will become the Prime Minister's chief of strategy and principal adviser on a salary of 137,000. He will head the political operation in No 10 and Mr Brown's team of 18 special advisers.

The appointment follows criticism that the Prime Minister lacked enough heavyweight advisers to help him cope with the crises that engulfed him last autumn. They included the loss of personal data on 25 million people, the crisis at Northern Rock and the revelations about Labour's secret donations.

Ministers have also grumbled about logjams in the government machine because many decisions have to be cleared by Mr Brown personally rather than by his advisers. They will also hope that Mr Carter will help Mr Brown to avoid elephant traps and be strong enough to persuade him to change course before mistakes are made.

His appointment is a tacit admission by Mr Brown that he needs to learn lessons from the disastrous period in which his political honeymoon came to a sudden end after he scrapped plans for a November general election.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said Mr Carter would not assume the role played by Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's communications director, or Jonathan Powell, his chief of staff, as he would not enjoy the powers they had to give orders to politically neutral civil servants.

Mr Carter is not a Labour member but will rejoin the party. He was a member until he joined Ofcom in 2003. He will attend cabinet meetings as an observer and be in charge of political strategy, communications, research and the No 10 policy unit. Although not a close ally of Mr Brown, the Prime Minister knew his new recruit "by reputation" and the two men had met several times. Mr Brown is a friend of Alan Parker, the founder of Brunswick. "I am delighted Stephen Carter has accepted my invitation to join the Downing Street team as we build our programme and pursue an ambitious legislative programme," said Mr Brown.

"He has an enviable track record, and will bring considerable qualities and experience to the work of government."

Mr Carter said: "It is an honour to be asked to work with the Prime Minister and the Downing Street team, and I will do my utmost to make a difference to effective government."

Brown allies denied that Mr Carter would be a glorified spin doctor, saying his job would be to hone the Government's political strategy and sharpen its message. But the Tories dubbed him the new "king of spin". Caroline Spelman, the Tory chairman, said: "He should be hiring staff to deliver on his promises, not another spin doctor to put more gloss on the failings of his Government."

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