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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Key Blair Adviser Steps Down

Aired August 29, 2003 - 19:17   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A storm is raging in Britain.
One of Prime Minister Tony Blair's most powerful advisers is stepping down, an apparent casualty in the controversy in the British government's statement in the days leading up to the Iraq war.

Alastair Campbell, the government's director of communications, is leaving office.

To find out why now, we turn to CNN's Robin Oakley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Out of Downing Street goes the man they've called the real deputy prime minister.

Tony Blair's communications director, Alastair Campbell played a crucial role in Labour's two thumping election victories in 1997 and 2001. He's been Blair's cheerleader, adviser and soul mate.

But as he used to tell others, when the spin-doctor becomes the story, it's time to go.

Alastair Campbell has been at the heart of claims the government sexed up its dossier on Saddam Hussein's weapons. He'd become the central figure in the government's fight over the dossier with the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Mr. Angry of the Blair team.

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL, DEPARTING BLAIR AIDE: When allegations are made, when lies are broadcast, when, as that letter shows, there is not a shred of evidence to substantiate the allegation, they should apologize and we can move on.

OAKLEY: After grilling Campbell, a committee of lawmakers cleared him of doctoring the dossier on a majority vote.

And, like Tony Blair, he's had to face the Hutton inquiry into the death of weapons scientist Dr. David Kelly.

Campbell says that in early April he and Mr. Blair agreed he would resign this summer. Now is the time, he says, to see more of his family after a nine-year ride on the political roller coaster.

(on camera) Alastair Campbell won't walk out of Tony Blair's life. He remains a friend and will become an unofficial adviser. But in politics, no one's irreplaceable. And already, Tony Blair is talking of a new style media strategy and a Campbell successor, the former Labour Party communications chief, David Hill.

Robin Oakley, CNN, Downing Street, London.

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