A shake-up of the prime minister’s Downing Street team has intensified fears on the Labour left that the party is losing touch with its core vote, as Gordon Brown brings in a fresh set of advisers drawn from media, advertising and banking.
Stephen Carter, his chief adviser, is viewed with suspicion by some on the left. The former head of Brunswick, the financial PR firm, and Ofcom, the media regulator, is hand-picking a team to help revive the Number 10 machine and to sharpen its communications work.
Labour MPs talk of Mr Carter being at the head of a “Lib Dem cell”. He was approached to stand as the Liberal Democrat candidate for London mayor, although he says it went no further than an exploratory phone call. He is a member of the Labour party.
Jennifer Moses – an American former Goldman Sachs banker who failed to notice when £1m ($1.98m) was stolen from her bank account – worked for a Lib Dem-oriented think-tank.
Ms Moses, hired this month to work on “special projects” in Downing Street, declined to join Labour. She is a member of the US Democratic party.
David Muir, an advertising executive, and Nick Stace from the consumer group Which?, have also been brought in to beef up the party’s communications efforts. Both are Labour members. Cabinet ministers say the new team is already getting a grip on a dysfunctional Number 10 machine.
But Mr Carter’s growing influence has raised concern. This month, when he explained to Labour workers what the new Downing Street team did, he neglected to mention Mr Brown’s existing team including Michael Ellam, his chief spokesman, and Damian McBride, his chief political press man.
“It was Stalinist – it was like they were being airbrushed out of the script,” says one party staffer. Mr Carter is exasperated by such talk. Colleagues say he was explaining the role of new staff, not elaborating on the existing set-up.
When Spencer Livermore, Mr Brown’s policy chief, left Downing Street this week, there was speculation the team of earnest Brownite Treasury officials who followed the former chancellor to Number 10 were being usurped by Mr Carter’s more ideologically flexible team. But Mr Livermore planned to leave anyway, Downing Street insiders say, after he was blamed by Mr Brown for the autumn “non-election” fiasco.
“There is no ideological split inside Number 10,” says one Carter ally. “We are adding people to the existing set-up and inevitably there is some shifting around. This isn’t a palace revolution.”
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