PROFILE: Mike Granatt, Luther Pendragon - Strategic player who will say No, Minister

Mike Granatt is booking some private time to enjoy an academic approach

When Mike Granatt, who is about to leave Government communications after 25 years to join consultancy Luther Pendragon, is asked whether he bleeds public sector if cut, he throws his head back and laughs.

After a few seconds composure, however, the smile through his folk-singer beard quickly fades, the eyes focus and he delivers a no-nonsense response saying he hopes he 'bleeds realistic communications and bleeds like someone who understands and empathises with an organisation and the people in it'.

This response provides a good indicator of the way Granatt looks at his professional life.

He has a friendly manner, likes a laugh and finds PR exciting, fun and even 'terrifying, but in a good way', referring specifically to his time at the Metropolitan Police. But he also takes his role as a communicator extremely seriously, speaking at length about the importance of strategic communications and it being at the heart of any organisation. He adds that some people probably regard him as a 'workaholic', and that there have been the 'who are you? moments', when returning home.

There is also something obsessive about the way he sees the profession, revelling in the academic, nuts-and-bolts approach. When Granatt leaves Government at the end of next month, he plans to step up his academic work (he is currently a visiting professor at Westminster University).

He also plans to write a book about communication, which will fit with his role as a partner at Luther Pendragon, where he will work alongside founding partner George Pitcher, who this year also published his own book on PR.

Pitcher agrees that Granatt has both an affable and serious side to his nature, but goes further, saying that he uses these two sides as a powerful weapon.

'Woe betide anyone who underestimates Mike Granatt.

He speaks softly and carries a big stick. He's happy for people to assume that he's an affable, bearded bloke sat in the corner being part of the furniture, when in fact he's in a position of great control.'

Pitcher, a former journalist at The Observer, also reveals that Granatt 'may be the first civil servant ever to tell a Secretary of State to fuck off'.

'I know it's true because I was there,' says Pitcher, who believes this shows how far removed Granatt is from the Yes, Minister image of a civil servant.

When Granatt, who started as a trade and local press journalist before joining the civil service, looks back on his career in Government, he gets the most animated about his first PRO role, at the Home Office.

'I dealt with everything from policing to broadcasting, things that are part of everybody's life and are on the news pages of all papers in the UK', he says.

For someone so adept at juggling so many different issues, it was inevitable Granatt would move up through the ranks of civil service communications, taking senior PR roles at the Department of Energy, the Metropolitan Police, the Department of Environment, the Home Office and in 1997 head of the Government Information and Communications Service (GICS). He is also a fellow of the IPR, which gave him its top award, the Sir Stephen Tallents medal, last year, and is founding head of civil emergency body the Cabinet Office Civil Contingencies Secretariat.

For Granatt, the greatest upheaval for a departmental Government communicator is not a change of party but a change of Secretary of State. He described the change between Peter Walker and his successor Cecil Parkinson at the Department of Energy in the 1980s as the most pronounced, even more so than the handover to Labour in 1997.

He is also generous about Alastair Campbell, who he describes as being 'an extraordinarily good operator', despite having reservations about the level of power he was granted.

'New Labour's ideas were very close to ours in the sense that they saw communication as vital to Government,' he adds.

While Granatt prepares for private sector life, he is keen to add one last thought about the PR profession. 'Everybody in this line of work ought to spend at least two years working for Government - there's nothing like it.'

If only for the rare chance to swear at a Cabinet Minister and get away with it, this sounds like advice not to be ignored.

HIGHLIGHTS

1989: Director of Public Affairs and Internal Communication,

Metropolitan Police Service

1992: Director of Communication, Department of the Environment

1994: Director of Communication, Home Office

1997: Head of Profession Government Information and Communications

Service

2004: Partner, Luther Pendragon

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