Warning to Cameron as Tory advisers take Downing Street comms jobs

Downing Street insiders have urged David Cameron not to jettison long-serving comms staff, as the new Prime Minister attempts to find desks in Number 10 for his trusted lieutenants.

Press scrum: Cameron faces the media
Press scrum: Cameron faces the media

Cameron was still putting the final touches to his Downing Street shake-up as PRWeek went to press, with many senior figures yet to be accounted for. A senior Downing Street source said: ‘The political team are still in the process of bottoming out roles across Number 10.'

It is understood that Tory communications director Andy Coulson will assume the Downing Street director of communications role, with strategy director Steve Hilton in line for the vacant director of political strategy post.
 
Senior comms roles will also be given to the party's head of press Henry Macrory and head of broadcasting Michael Salter.

To deal with the political press pack, Cameron's press secretary Gabby Bertin takes on a role as the PM's political spokesperson - working opposite Steve Field, the Treasury communications director and civil servant who has been made the PM's interim official spokesman. Tory press officers Caroline Preston and Alan Sendorek have also been offered jobs in the Downing Street press office.
 
Cameron's close aide Ed Llewellyn is expected to become the new PM's chief of staff, while Cameron has also promised his highly-regarded head of operations Liz Sugg a key role in Number 10. Other senior Conservative Party advisers such as James O'Shaughnessy and Tim Chatwin will take policy focused-roles in Number 10.

Moving in the opposite direction, a number of key special advisers responsible for communications have now departed Downing Street. They include director of political strategy David Muir, director of strategic comms Justin Forsyth, senior strategic comms adviser Richard Lloyd and the PM's political spokesperson Iain Bundred.
 
But it is not just special advisers that have followed Gordon Brown out of the door of Number 10 in recent days. On the civil service side, the PM's official spokesperson Simon Lewis left Downing Street last week, while head of events and visits Helen Etheridge walked out this week.

Yet many officials remain in top communications posts. They include head of news and PM's deputy spokeswoman Vickie Sheriff, strategic and digital communications director Mark Flanagan and chief strategic comms planner Paul Brown.
 
Seasoned Downing Street comms operators - mindful of the internal warfare that dogged Number 10 under Gordon Brown's premiership - said it was crucial for Cameron to keep such figures as these onside.
 
One Downing Street insider said of Paul Brown, who oversees the news grid: ‘He's one of the most important people in the whole building. He's got incredible experience and unbelievable antennae. If they have any sense they will both keep his position and enhance it with better support, because he is a key asset to the entire operation of the government.'
 
Cameron was also advised that such figures would help him to avoid the mistakes of the Gordon Brown era, when the PM's political operatives often pursued short-term headlines at the expense of long-term strategy.

‘The Number 10 communications operation works best when the people guiding strategy are divorced from the day-to-day pressures,' said the source. ‘Under Damian [McBride] they placed tending to the lobby over everything. As a result, there was no overall message.'

Another Number 10 comms source was optimistic that Cameron would not make any rash decisions: ‘Like the rest of the Downing Street staff, the Number 10 comms team is looking forward to a new start after a nasty and brutish era under Brown. From a professional point of view, apart from veterans of Blair's team like Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson, none of Brown's comms staff were particularly impressive - and Brown himself was hardly an inspiring boss.'
 
Meanwhile, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has been pushing for Liberal Democrat comms staff inside Downing Street.
 
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: ‘We hope to make an announcement about key Downing Street roles in due course.'
 

No 10 comms changes

IN

Andy Coulson to be director of comms

Steve Hilton to be director of political strategy

Steve Field to be PM's official spokesperson

Gabby Bertin to be PM's political spokesperson
 
OUT

Director of political strategy David Muir

Director of strategic comms Justin Forsyth

Senior strategic comms adviser Richard Lloyd

PM's official spokesperson Simon Lewis

PM's political spokesperson Iain Bundred

Head of events and visits Helen Etheridge

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