Nick Clegg's director of strategy Richard Reeves has revealed he is leaving his post. Reeves, who has been in his role for two years, is moving to Washington DC to raise his two children with his American wife.
Bell Pottinger Public Affairs director Steve Lotinga, who spent five years working for the Lib Dems, said that Reeves’ departure will be ‘keenly felt’ by Clegg’s team, adding that there ‘isn't an obvious replacement’.
However, Lotinga added: ‘Not everything he's done has turned to gold and "Alarm Clock Britain" seems to be sinking without trace, but he did add some serious intellectual firepower that will be sorely missed.'
Lansons deputy head of public affairs Chris Bose added that the loss of Reeves comes at a crucial time for Clegg. ‘The need for the Lib Dems to leave their mark on Coalition policies is now particularly pressing, with the Government's plans to allow the state to monitor more internet traffic.’ Bose added that Reeves would have had a central role in responding to the plans.
Westminster Advisers MD Dominic Church said he understands that Reeves’ reasons are ‘pretty genuine’, and suggestions that he is jumping ship because times are tough are ‘nonsense’.
‘However,’ added Church, ‘I do think it's a bit of a blow for Clegg, as Reeves is hugely intelligent and has had excellent top-level strategy experience in previous roles before working for Clegg. Therefore, he would be difficult to replace.’
Church said that he ‘would not be surprised’ if former Centreforum director Julian Astle – currently covering for senior Clegg adviser Polly MacKenzie who is on maternity leave - would get a more permanent role, post-Reeves.
Another source suggested that MacKenzie herself would be a ‘natural replacement’ but is not expected to return from maternity leave for some time, having just had her baby.
Elsewhere, MoD speechwriter Greg Simpson has been suggested as a good replacement for Reeves' speechwriting skills. One source said: ‘He's sharp as a knife, has a first-class brain and understands how Whitehall works. This is crucial for Clegg when he's increasingly in combat with the Tories, who have a pile of institutional experience of government, and the Civil Service, which obviously knows its onions a bit as well.'
Simpson has formerly worked as head of policy and research for the Lib Dems for four years after working as Charles Kennedy’s speechwriter when he was leader.