O2 signs up former Downing Street aide Theo Bertram for top lobbying post

Mobile phone firm 02 has recruited an ex-aide to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to become its top UK lobbyist, as current public affairs chief Steve Bartholomew moves to a new role.

Bolstering team: O2
Bolstering team: O2

Former Downing Street special adviser Theo Bertram has been ushered in as acting head of public affairs for O2 UK on a six-month contract, PRWeek has learned.

Bertram will stand in for Bartholomew as he is seconded to the new role of business manager for Telefonica Europe CEO Matthew Key. Telefonica is O2’s parent firm.

Bertram was until recently head of the research and information unit at Number 10. He was the lead adviser to the PM in preparations for Prime Minister’s Question Time and also had a key role in helping Brown prepare for the 2010 election TV debates, playing Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg in private rehearsals. The role of Tory leader David Cameron was played by Blair's former press secretary Alastair Campbell.

Before working in Downing Street, Bertram was a comms manager for the Labour Party and also worked as an aide to Parmjit Dhanda, the former Labour MP for Gloucester who lost his seat in the recent election.

Glenn Manoff, director of comms and sustainability at 02, confirmed the appointment: ‘For the past four years Theo has worked at the highest levels of government as a special adviser to prime ministers Blair and Brown. He brings his rich experience, insight and energy during a time when we’re juggling a number of crucial public policy issues.’

Bertram was recruited for the Downing Street research and information unit by Blair. He survived the transition to Brown and flourished under the new regime.

He is one of only a handful of former Labour special advisers to secure PR jobs in the weeks since the general election.

The few Labour special advisers to move into PR in recent weeks have taken posts in the voluntary sector. Claire McCarthy, former aide to Peter Hain, is now director of public affairs at the charity 4Children, and Mark Davies, former aide to Jack Straw, is director of comms at mental health charity Rethink. Other Labour aides are currently working on Labour leadership campaigns.

Of those special advisers previously based in Downing Street, Gordon Brown's press handlers Mick Dugher and John Woodcock have both become MPs, while Justin Forsyth, one of the former PM's top comms strategists, is the new chief executive of Save the Children UK.

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