Stop the spin, PM orders special advisers

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair will try to head off growing calls for the resignation of Jo Moore by issuing strict new instructions to political advisers not to attempt to "spin" to the press.

The Prime Minister will come up against Labour MPs angry at Stephen Byers' special adviser when he meets his backbench parliamentary committee on Wednesday. MPs say Ms Moore should be sacked for an e-mail sent on 11 September, saying it was a "very good day" to bury bad news. MPs are also angry she tried to get government press officers to brief against the London Underground boss Bob Kiley.

But Mr Blair will move to defuse the controversy by issuing a message to all Whitehall departments that "spin is dead" in Labour's second term.

All special advisers, which are paid for by taxpayers, will be told to adhere to a new code of conduct forbidding them from compromising the political impartiality of civil servants.

Few at Westminster will take seriously claims that the Government has abandoned spin for good but officials point out that the number of special advisers has actually fallen from 74 to 63 since 7 June.

A senior Downing Street source said yesterday that the Government wanted to be judged in its second term on delivery of public services rather than presentation alone. The source said: "In the end you have got to be judged on what you actually deliver. Spin has been dead for some time anyway. Since 7 June, we have been anti-spin. A signal will go out this week that some of the things that they [special advisers] used to get up to are not appropriate and not necessary."

The controversy surrounding Ms Moore is not likely to subside easily, though, a fact underlined yesterday by Clare Short, the International Development Secretary.

Ms Short, speaking to The Independent on Sunday, said: "I hate all that spin stuff. I disapprove of it. It's so cynical. It upsets everyone and cynicism destroys politics." Ian Gibson, Labour MP for Norwich North, became the latest to demand Ms Moore's resignation. "Jo Moore must go because politics deserves better," he said.

The issue is certain to be raised today when Parliament begins its new session with a statement from Mr Byers on the future of Railtrack.

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