BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Friends of the Earth reacts to PM aide's BP move

Friends of the Earth last week launched an opportunistic PR push

aimed at bagging publicity from the appointment of BP's high-profile new

communications director.



One of the most senior advisers in Downing Street, Anji Hunter left her

post as Tony Blair's director of government relations last week and is

to take three months gardening leave before starting at BP in

February.



Within minutes of the announcement, FoE's comms team spotted the

implications of a closer link than ever being forged between an oil

giant and the heart of the Government.



Media co-ordinator Ian Wilmore and his three-strong press relations team

were discussing tactics to 'piggyback' on the story when a call came in

from the Press Association asking for FoE's opinion. The comment

featured in most of the next day's papers.



The broadcast element followed the next day when on the basis of the PA

copy, Radio 4's Today requested a spokesman for its important 7-8am

slot. FoE put up Tony Juniper, its former policy director, now director

designate.



He is set to take over running of the campaigning organisation in 2003,

upon the retirement of high-profile figurehead Charles Secrett.



Wilmore said: 'The key message for us was that there is nothing wrong in

principle with people going from the government's employ to that of the

private sector, but given the Government's recent poor green

credentials, it was a worry to see someone so important from Number 10

go into an organisation that had made great strides in awareness of

environmental issues.'



Hunter takes up the newly created comms director post to oversee issues

such as web development and internal communications. She will also take

charge of sponsorship, corporate brand management and major publications

including the annual report. The post incorporates parts of the role

filled by James Fair until his retirement last year.



BP sources were this week keen to clarify that her remit will not

include media relations, which will remain with vice-president and head

of media Roddy Kennedy. She also misses out on control of the company

investor relations strategy, which resides with head of IR Greg Coleman.

All three will report to group vice-president for corporate comms, Mark

Ware.



Hunter is known as one of Blair's closest aides, having worked full-time

for him since he became Labour leader in 1994. The pair have known each

other since school and have remained close friends ever since.



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