PROFILE: TIM ALLAN: Sky's the limit as Allan goes solo in PR world - Advising Tony Blair is just one of slick operator Tim Allan's CV highlights

Tim Allan lacks the hard-nosed characteristics often associated

with those who've been one of Prime Minister Tony Blair's special

advisers.



In fact, when the former spin doctor - he was deputy to Alastair

Campbell for four years - arrives, hot off his Vespa scooter, he

couldn't look less like a political bully. And he is strikingly young

for someone who has held some of the UK's most high-profile PR jobs.



His skills are praised by acknowledged PR maestro Peter Mandelson. The

former cabinet minister says: 'In my view, he's close to being a

near-perfect PR practitioner, with brains, skill and a steady nerve.



'He was great to work with and he also knew loyalty, which is sometimes

a scarce commodity in politics,' Mandelson adds.



At 31, Allan's career includes deputy to Campbell, producer of flagship

political programme A Week In Politics, and director of communications

for BSkyB. Now, with an MBA under his belt, he is set to leave his

current role as strategic planning manager at BSkyB and launch his own

PR firm, which opens for business next month.



According to Allan, his big break came as a researcher for the then

shadow home secretary Blair, who is a close 'friend of the family' and

has used their house in Italy for holidays.



After a year-and-a-half - and before Blair was elected Labour leader -

Allan moved on, taking a producing role at A Week in Politics where he

worked with current Observer political columnist Andrew Rawnsley.



When the then Labour leader John Smith died of a heart attack in May

1994, Blair became the favoured candidate to succeed him and Allan was

drafted back in to deal with the hundreds of press calls. 'He (Blair)

went very quickly from being a well-known person in political circles to

being a national figure with all the associated media attention but

still with a skeleton staff,' recalls Allan.



Campbell joined Allan as press secretary after Blair secured the

leadership and the two 'became good friends' through the remaining three

years of opposition before Blair was elected Prime Minister in the poll

landslide of 1997. They were, he says, 'a great team'. 'We got on very

well and I learnt an awful lot. There was an incredible team spirit, as

we were all fighting for the same goal.'



Allan's rare blunders are remembered. He once left a laptop containing

policy information on a bus - luckily it was returned before any dire

consequences came about.



Later, with Campbell away on holiday, he briefed the press that Tory

leader William Hague had flown his wife Ffion to Hong Kong on taxpayers'

money. It distracted attention from Robin Cook's foreign jolly with his

then secretary (now wife) Gaynor Regan. But it could not be proven.



The Sun's deputy political editor George Pascoe-Watson says Allan was

'never rude or offensive' to the press, in the manner of some political

PROs. 'He doesn't use a sledgehammer all the time - he's more

slick.'



This sentiment is echoed by many of the journalists who had dealings

with Allan while he was at Downing Street, including The Observer

political editor Kamal Ahmed, who says he would 'probably try and

schmooze you into submission rather than bully you. He wasn't a ranter

like Campbell.'



While Allan says his time in Tony Blair's press team was 'exhilarating',

he admits 'it was a job that you had to commit yourself to utterly. The

hours and pressure were unmatchable.' These days married - to former

Sunday Times deputy news editor Carey Scott - and with a baby daughter,

Allan has no intention of returning to Labour Party spin-doctoring.



He has instead set his sights on building up his as-yet-unnamed PR

business.



It launches with one substantial account: the financial, corporate and

public affairs briefs for his current employer.



Having taken a sabbatical from BSkyB to complete an MBA, Allan feels he

has enough experience in PA, finance and communications to provide

comprehensive advice to clients. He's got a team of five in place to

service the firm's inaugural client and says he will be pitching for new

business and recruiting staff soon, with a view to taking on more senior

partners later in the year. Although he gives no hints as to who this

could be, he is sorry to confirm that Campbell will not be on his target

list.



Throughout PR, there are many well-wishers for Allan's venture.

Surprisingly, they include Chime Communications chairman Lord Bell,

whose Bell Pottinger firm is the ten-year incumbent on the work handed

to Allan's start-up. If it upsets Bell, who will still advise BSkyB

managers, to lose such a major account, he hides it well: 'He's talented

and will be a great success.'



If Allan's first client is anything to go by, the agency will prove

itself a player in the City PR market.



HIGHLIGHTS



1994 - Deputy to Number 10 press secretary Alastair Campbell



1998 - Director of comms, BSkyB



2000 - Graduates with MBA from INSEAD



2001 - Founds his own consultancy.



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