Tony Blair's first day: Young academic given key role of developing policy for leader: Donald Macintyre looks at the fresh talent hired to help Labour's advance

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR, the new Labour leader, has appointed David Miliband, a 30- year-old academic with an outstanding record, to be in charge of policy within his private office.

The hiring of Mr Miliband, research fellow at the left-of-centre Institute for Public Policy Research, is one of several key changes to the Leader's Office to be finalised between now and the autumn. Party sources emphasised last night that the staffing of his office would blend a mixture of 'change and continuity'.

Mr Miliband went to school at Haverstock comprehensive in north London, and took a first in Philosphy, Politics and Economics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He took a Master's Degree in Political Economy and Public Policy as a Kennedy scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is Secretary of the Social Justice Commission, charged with the key task of proposing reforms of welfare policy. His appointment is further evidence of the youth of some of the key people around Mr Blair.

Mr Miliband, son of the distinguished socialist intellectual and writer Ralph Miliband, is a regular footballer and cricketer and a governor of Carlton Primary School in London. His brother, Ed, already works for Harriet Harman, shadow Chief Secretary. His appointment will also strengthen the links between Mr Blair's office and the Social Justice Commission, which will be crucial in the drafting of tax and benefits policy in the run-up to the next election.

Mr Miliband will be one of four key figures around whom Mr Blair's private office will be built. Senior Labour sources stressed last night that Mr Blair abhorred 'cliques' and the private office would combine professionalism with 'openness' to the party at large.

The other three key figures are Anji Hunter, Mr Blair's long-standing personal assistant, and a friend since Mr Blair was at Oxford, who will be in charge of the day-to-day running of Mr Blair's personal office. Murray Elder, the former general secretary of the Labour Party until John Smith brought him to London as his chief of staff, will remain in the leader's office with primary responsibility for liaison with the national party organisation.

The fourth figure will be responsible for press relations; no decision has yet been taken on the appointment or whether it will be a figure from outside the present structure. But sources emphasised yesterday that whoever filled the post would not prejudice the role of David Hill, the party's chief media spokesperson.

Staffing in other parts of the office remains to be decided. Among possible candidates to join his office are Tim Allan, a young Cambridge graduate and former Blair researcher who returned from ITV's A Week in Politics to work as Mr Blair's press officer during the leadership campaign.

Another potential entrant could be Peter Hyman, a capable young researcher who was seconded to the Blair campaign from the office of Donald Dewar, shadow Secretary of State for Social Security.