Campbell gives ministers campaign orders

Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's press secretary, has ordered ministers to break out of their ivory towers in Whitehall and launch Labour's campaign for the next general election immediately.

Mr Campbell reflected Mr Blair's concern that overworked ministers have become too bogged down with their departmental briefs and told them to devote more time to promoting the Government's achievements. The Downing Street press secretary issued the edict when he addressed a meeting at the Cabinet Office of the special advisers who act as political aides to ministers, and asked them to relay the message to their bosses.

Some of Mr Campbell's ideas could be controversial. For example, he urged ministers to stop referring to the "current" and "previous" government in media interviews and speeches. Instead, he said, ministers should use the phrases "with Labour" and "under the Tories" respectively. He added that they should accuse the Conservatives of "making a mess" of issues and argue that Labour was now "putting things right".

Although Mr Campbell is one of Mr Blair's closest aides and was stating his views, some Labour MPs believe he wields too much power and claim that a non-elected official should not give orders to ministers. His suggestions could upset some civil servants, who are determined to maintain the traditional neutrality in statements issued by Whitehall departments.

"There is too much civil-service speak," one government source said yesterday. "We are not saying it is the job of civil servants to claim the credit for a Labour government; that is for ministers to do. But ministers receive masses of briefing material from their civil servants and they should give it a more political edge. Language is absolutely crucial."

Mr Campbell's move will be seen as a clear signal that Mr Blair intends to call a general election in a year's time. "We know that elections are not won or lost during a three-week campaign but in the 12 months beforehand," the source said.

At the meeting, Mr Campbell paid a back-handed compliment to the rival spin doctors employed by the Conservative Party, saying: "They are getting their act together." He said it was often easier for the Opposition to set the media than the Government. The source added: "In opposition, you don't do anything, you just say things. It is easy to agree a strategy and stick to it. In government, ministers get bogged down and you need a lot of co-ordination between departments."

Mr Campbell urged ministers to spend more time setting out what Mr Blair calls "the big picture" - the Government's overall strategy. He encouraged ministers to make speeches about the Government's achievements rather than those of their own departments.

"Too many ministers are keeping their heads down; they should raise their sights and speak politically," said one Labour source.

There is also growing pressure from Labour MPs for ministers to "sell" the Government's policies in order to win back disenchanted voters in the party's traditional heartlands. Backbench leaders say that ministers have been reluctant to portray measures such as the national minimum wage and working families' tax credit as "redistributing wealth" because Mr Blair does not want to alienate middle-class voters.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back