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Carville urges Blair to avoid a daily briefing

The patriarch of U.S. "spin doctors" in the Clinton era said on Thursday he would not advise the British government to answer calls for openness by holding a White House-style daily news briefing.

James Carville, a key adviser to President Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign, suggested Prime Minister Tony Blair's government might have to be more open about naming sources of information as a result of recent confusion over its policy toward the single European currency.But Carville said this did not necessarily mean Britain should adopt the U.S. system of a daily, on-the-record news briefing by a White House spokesman in front of radio microphones and television cameras.

"I don't know if I would wish that on my British cousins," Carville said of the White House press briefing. "That's a plague that we have to deal with," he told Reuters.

The days when a government official could call in a handful of journalists and expound on a subject for an hour, and later be quoted as "a government source," are probably coming to an end, Carville said.

"I think that what's going to happen in the UK is there is going to be greater demand for attribution," he said.

"As opposed to `a government source' you're going to start saying so-and-so of the Exchequer's Office. . . . People are going to demand to know who the source is."

The Blair government has continued an old tradition in London by holding twice-daily background briefings for political journalists, known as "lobby correspondents."

The journalists may use the information but not name the source, who is usually the prime minister's press secretary.

But following conflicting signals in the past week over the Labor government's attitude toward the single European currency, Blair's advisers are said to be considering making these lobby briefings "on the record," which would mean naming the official doing the talking.

The White House press secretary appears before reporters every day in televised session and is quoted by name.