Blair's spokesman appointed CBE

Speculation that Godric Smith, the Prime Minister's official spokesman, will be persuaded to stay on at Downing Street intensified last night after he was awarded a CBE.

Mr Smith, one of Tony Blair's most trusted aides, announced last March that he intended to step down after six years in the frontline of briefing journalists.

Following recent moves by Mr Blair to end government "spin", it is understood that Mr Smith is now "undecided" about leaving No 10.

If Mr Smith does decide to stay, he will be in line for a promotion to the new post of "senior official spokesman", which is to be created next year.

The post, recommended by a Phillis review of government communications, is almost certain to involve televised, White House-style media briefings in Britain for the first time.

Whoever wins the job will become a household name and likely to become highly attractive to the private sector once leaving Whitehall.

Having served as Alastair Campbell's deputy in Labour's first term, Mr Smith has shared the job of official spokesman with Tom Kelly since the 2001 general election.

Although government sources insist that the honour is not in any sense linked to decisions over Mr Smith's future, Mr Blair's move to award the CBE underlines just how highly he rates his spokesman.

Previous Downing Street spokesmen have been given honours in the past but only after leaving office.

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