Friday, March 21, 2008

Tony Blair Faith Foundation?

Friday, 21 March 2008
Exclusive: senior official leaves Brown to work for Blair

By James Macintyre

The Prime Minister's Appointments Secretary is to leave Downing Street tomorrow in order to become Director of Policy for the new Faith Foundation being set up by Tony Blair, political and religious sources have told The Independent tonight. William Chapman, who has helped draw up lists for appointing Bishops and other figures to the House of Lords for eight and a half years, is the latest senior figure to become part of an “exodus” of officials leaving Number 10 under Brown. A downcast Downing Street was not set to announce this departure until tomorrow or next week.

Church of England sources say that Chapman today sent an “operational note” to Bishops and Deans with whom he works, announcing that he would be leaving his job “as from tomorrow”.

Meanwhile political sources confirm that Chapman will become Policy Director at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation which will be run by Blair’s former aide Ruth Turner, who was caught up in the cash for questions saga.

This resignation follows that of Spencer Livermore, the director of political strategy at Number 10 who has worked with Brown for 10 years, and now is jumping ship to join the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi and Fallon (SSF). It also comes after the departure of Tom Scholar, the Downing Street chief of staff, who has left to return to the Treasury. Those moves followed the arrival of Stephen Carter, the former head of Ofcom, who became head of strategy at Number 10 in January.

Chapman’s departure is, I'm told, “unrelated” to the arrival of Carter, who is said to have “ruffled feathers” since his arrival at Number 10; and in his note yesterday, Chapman emphasised that he will continue to advise the Prime Minister on ecclesiastical affairs.

Nonetheless, the fact that such an experienced civil servant is leaving to work for Brown’s predecessor will be seen as a blow to the Prime Minister – and a considerable coup for Blair.

Chapman has been a civil servant since 1976, serving as private secretary to several ministers and speech writers to Cabinet Ministers before becoming Private Secretary at the Home Office and then eventually to the Prime Minister between 1991 to 1994. He has served as Appointments Secretary to Number 10, and Ecclesiastical Secretary to the Lord Chancellor since 1999, two years after Blair took office.

The former prime minister, who is the international envoy to the Middle East, is in the process of setting up his Faith Foundation to be launched later this year. As part of his time on this he will teach a series of seminars at Yale on "faith and globalisation". The foundation will work with Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. For that, Chapman is likely to be an asset, and a loss to Downing Street, which has so far kept ominously quiet about the move.
The Tony Blair Faith Foundation

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation will launch in 2008. In the meantime, to keep up to date with Tony Blair’s activities, please go to the front page of www.tonyblairoffice.org.