Tony Blair teachers spot sparks civil servant concern

Senior civil servants have expressed concern at Tony Blair’s decision to appear in a cinema ad promoting teaching as a profession.

Senior civil servants have expressed concern at Tony Blair’s

decision to appear in a cinema ad promoting teaching as a

profession.



Whitehall officials believe the Prime Minister may have broken the rules

banning party political advertising by appearing in Delaney Fletcher

Bozell’s work for the Government’s Teacher Training Agency (Campaign,

last week).



When the House of Commons returns from its summer break next week, the

Conservative Party is expected to challenge Blair over his cameo

appearance in which he joined sports and show-business celebrities

naming their favourite teachers.



Tories claim the ad breaches the rule that dictates: ’Image building,

whether explicit or implied, and whether of Government or minister, is

not acceptable.’



Privately, senior civil servants agree. ’I cannot see how it doesn’t

break the rules,’ said one. ’To spend pounds 1.5 million to promote the

Prime Minister as a celebrity is unprecedented. Is it really a proper

use of public money?’



He claimed officials were reluctant to challenge ministers following the

dismissal or departure of several senior press officers in Government

departments. ’The civil service is caught in the glare of the

headlines,’ he said. ’People are worried that the Government feels it

can do what it likes.’



Another Whitehall official involved in campaigns said: ’A lot of civil

servants are surprised by this.’



Blair’s aides dismissed the criticism and insisted no objections had

been raised. One said: ’The commercial does not promote the Prime

Minister; it is a positive campaign to raise the status of teaching as a

profession. There is nothing politically controversial about that.’