Philip Gould (Tom Stoddart Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
LONDON (AP) - Philip Gould, a key strategist in the Labour Party revival which brought Tony Blair to power in 1997, has died of cancer at age 61, his family said Monday.
Gould, who had cancer of the esophagus, died Sunday at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.
He was Labour's strategy and polling adviser for the general elections between 1987 and Blair's last run in 2005, helping to revitalize the party after 18 years out of power.
Blair paid tribute to Gould as an "indispensable" part of the team which won three general elections.
"He was my guide and mentor, a wise head, a brilliant mind, and a total rock when a storm was raging," Blair said.
Gould, on being told he had three months to live after his cancer came back for a third time, had called the news liberating.
"You know, this period of death is astonishing," he said in an interview with The Guardian newspaper in September. "The moment you enter the death phase it is a different place. It's more intense, more extraordinary, much more powerful."
He said he used the remaining time to resolve issues in his 26-year marriage to Gail Rebuck, a highly successful publishing executive, after becoming uncomfortable over time about the disparity between their financial status. He said he also felt there was a constant conflict between his work in politics and his family life.
"It was only when I got my diagnosis that I realized how much she loved me," he said.
"From the moment I resolved and reconciled things with Gail the fear went," he added. "I don't feel I've got any fear now. I think acceptance is the key. If you accept death, fear disappears."
Gould worked closely with Blair and his successor, Gordon Brown, as part of the "New Labour" inner circle. He remembered them as "almost one person" generating a "huge, huge sense of energy" as leaders of the New Labour movement, and said the rift that later developed between t he two after Blair won the top job bedeviled Labour governments for years.
Gould had formed a polling and strategy organization, Philip Gould Associates, in 1985, and was recruited to help in Labour's losing election campaign in 1987 under the party's then-leader, Neil Kinnock.
He championed the use of focus groups of voters to test policy ideas, helping shape and refine Blair's populist message and alerting him to moments of political peril.
"His focus groups, far from being an exercise in PR, were a way of making sure that the kind of people he felt Labour forgot in the wilderness years had a direct voice to the top of politics," senior Blair aide Alastair Campbell said Monday.
Gould was appointed to the House of Lords in 2004, taking the title Gould of Brookwood. His loyalty to Labour never wavered.
"I was born under a Labour government. And I am determined to die under a Labour government," Gould told the BBC, adding: "Obviously they'll have to get a move on."
Gould is survived by his wife and their two daughters. Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.
Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press