Downing Street has emphatically denied reports that Gordon Brown invited the GMTV presenter Fiona Phillips to become a full-time minister in the House of Lords. But sources confirmed that the Prime Minister did tentatively float the idea of using the skills of the £300,000-a-year presenter to put across the Labour message to disillusioned voters shortly before he took office.
Mr Brown suggested that Ms Phillips, a Labour enthusiast, could play a high-profile role presenting government policy in such areas as child poverty or public health.
He is said to have turned his attention to Ms Phillips when he was assembling his "government of all the talents" and had come to know the presenter well. He is, said No 10, a strong admirer of her ability to connect with viewers.
Ms Phillips appears to have politely turned down the offer, presumably preoccupied with a busy professional life.
Rumours circulating in Westminster that she was invited to take a seat in the House of Lords and become a health minister were dismissed last night as "nonsense" by government sources. It would have meant a massive cut in income – her ministerial salary would have been £81,000 plus expenses – and an early end to her television career. The presenter has, however, hinted at an ambition to become involved in politics and criticised public cynicism about politicians' motives.
She told The Independent last year: "I'd like to change people's perception of politics. Politics is what we live in. We vote politicians in to run the country for us. How people can say they are not interested and don't like politics is always a bit beyond me. I would love to do a big PR bit for the Government."
For all his rumoured sobriety and seriousness, Mr Brown appears to have a weak spot for celebrities. He was a guest on the GMTV sofa on the same day earlier this month when Heather Mills tearfully spoke of the collapse of her marriage to Sir Paul McCartney.
He is following the lead of his predecessor Tony Blair, who often opted for television appearances rather than submit himself to grillings on Radio 4's Today programme.
He also agreed to be interviewed on stage at last month's Labour Party conference by the broadcaster and journalist Mariella Frostrup, who is also a friend of his wife Sarah.
There are some in government circles who believe Mr Brown has blundered by appointing non-politicians to ministerial roles.
Lord Malloch-Brown, the former deputy secretary general of the United Nations and now a Foreign Office minister, has been the most controversial choice. The Prime Minister is reported to have said that he would not have appointed him that if he "had known it would cause such a fuss".Reuse content