All the presidential men and women

3rd October 1997 at 01:00
Some of Labour's movers and shakers will not be seen on the conference platform.

The presidential style of the Blair government means the chosen few in the Number 10 Policy Unit have an influence that can only be curbed by ministers, who these days are not always consulted before decisions are made.

Chief among the president's nine men and two women is David Miliband, 32, the researcher Tony Blair relied on for policy co-ordination before the election. Education is among his current responsibilities, and he sees much of the policy paperwork that circulates among senior officials at the Department for Education and Employment.

However, according to Derek Draper, the former aide to Peter Mandelson who has written a book about Blair's first l00 days, while Mr Miliband is highly regarded for his "intellectual dexterity", he is not part of the inner circle around Blair.

The real power-brokers are Mr Mandelson, minister without portfolio and also without a seat on Labour's ruling executive, Alastair Campbell, head of the Prime Minister's press office, and Philip Gould, the originator of the strategy of testing policy ideas on innocent members of focus groups.

The major revelation from Mr Draper about Mr Miliband is that he came up with the idea that heads be awarded honours or, as he is said to have cleverly put it, "Sirs for sirs".

Mr Draper notes, alas, that the following session on long-term problems produced only a great deal of waffle on public policy.

It is in the area of public policy that Mr Miliband - son of the late Marxist philosopher Ralph Miliband - has made his name. He worked at the Institute for Public Policy Research, Labour's think tank in opposition, moving on to take on the job of secretary to the Social Justice Commission.

The methods considered by the commission may prove useful to the new unit in Number 10 that is to concentrate on policies designed to tackle social exclusion.

In the first week of the new Government, Mr Miliband was part of the team of five drafting the education White Paper, working closely with Stephen Byers, the standards minister, Professor Michael Barber and Conor Ryan, David Blunkett's political adviser.

So far, there is no evidence that Mr Miliband intends to emulate the policy unit's strategy under the Tories when Norman Blackwell, his predecessor as director, virtually set up an education department in exile.

The lack of strife may have much to do with the quality of advisers Mr Blunkett employs. The presence of Michael Barber as head of the standards and effectiveness unit within the DFEE means there is a senior official with political clout.

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