Number 10 prepares major revamp of comms team

Downing Street plans to raid powerful think-tanks and lobbying firms for fresh faces.

Downing Street is plotting a major shift in its team of top strategists by raiding powerful think-tanks and lobbying firms.

As Downing Street takes steps to relaunch the coalition this week, it is understood that discussions are continuing with a host of top Conservative strategists to reinvigorate the Government's struggling comms operation.

It is understood that Cameron's inner circle desperately wants to recapture the kind of 'common touch' previously brought by Andy Coulson.

A source close to Downing Street said: 'They're thinking they need to have a reorganisation, and play a comms reshuffle alongside a Cabinet reshuffle. They're saying to the special advisers "do you want to go the full course to the election, or quit now while your stocks are still high?"'

The Cabinet reshuffle is tipped to take place in early summer.

However, the source added that Downing Street will not be able to think about a reshuffle while its focus this week is on the Leveson Inquiry.

Quiller consultant Stephen Parkinson is one figure understood to have held discussions with Number 10. Before joining Quiller, Parkinson was national organiser of the victorious cross-party NO to AV campaign for the referendum in May 2011.

Discussions with other right-leaning campaigners, including the TaxPayers' Alliance's Matthew Elliott, are also ongoing. It is thought that talks are continuing with Elliott, another key figure in the NO to AV campaign, despite suggestions from some quarters that the Lib Dems have blocked the approach.

Boris Johnson's outgoing director of comms Guto Harri, who left City Hall on Tuesday, has also not ruled out a move to Downing Street.

However, it is widely expected that Harri will take the top comms role at News International.

NAMES IN THE FRAME

Tory sources suggest there have been talks between Cameron's team and BBC deputy political editor James Landale.

Tory Lord and Telegraph Group executive director Guy Black has denied any discussions with Number 10.

A mooted move for Portland partner George Pascoe-Watson is a non-starter, as he is tied in for a three-year earn-out deal.

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