Tories hire former Labour member Baverstock for PR

The Conservative Party has hired former Labour Party member Paul Baverstock in a bid to revamp its image.

Bell Pottinger Communications' chief operating officer was this week confirmed as the Tories' first director of strategic communications, and insisted he was confident about turning around the fortunes of both the Party and its leader Ian Duncan Smith.

He said: 'I wouldn't have taken on the job if I wasn't optimistic.'

Baverstock brings the unusual experience for a senior Tory manager of having been a Labour party member, for two years until 1997.

He told PRWeek he was first attracted then disillusioned by New Labour and switched allegiance to the Tories, becoming a party member and standing unsuccessfully as a candidate in Huddersfield at the 2001 general election.

Baverstock was seen as a rising star in ex-Baroness Thatcher aide Lord Bell's Chime Communications empire. He had served as managing director of its public affairs operation before his promotion to the group role in April 2001.

Prior to joining Chime in 1999, the ex-management consultant served as CEO of archetypal New Labour lobbyist LLM, and is credited with turning around the firm's reputation after the lobbygate scandal of 1998.

The party's existing head of news and media, former Times journalist Nick Wood, will report to Baverstock when he takes up his post early in the new year.

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