Ruth Kelly's team is lacking a vital asset

I have to admit to laughing out loud when I saw a job ad in my Sunday paper this week. The Department for Education and Skills is looking for a director of communications.

The ad said the DfES is looking for someone to deliver strategic communications that are 'coherent and of the highest standards'. It is a pity that the department has not applied these qualities to its current crisis concerning allegations of known paedophiles becoming teachers.

Significantly the ad asks for someone with the credibility to 'influence ministers', something that Ruth Kelly desperately needs right now.

As soon as the sex offender story broke, her comms department should have had all the alarm bells ringing because nothing excites the British media more than paedophiles. But it took a whole week for the DfES to come up with the idea that politicians should not be taking decisions on individual cases - and just as long to work out that the Tories must have made decisions on sex offenders when they were in office.

Eventually it was 10 Downing Street that suggested looking back at the past 30 years as they moved heaven and earth to save Kelly and, more importantly for Tony Blair, his education policy.

Despite Kelly's lack of communication skills, the PM's determination to drive his new education bill through will probably save her skin.

I remember when a young Kelly was brought in to help the 'economic team' during the 1997 general election campaign. The then Guardian journalist was considered a good economist who lacked an understanding of the media.

By the next general election though she had found herself a safe seat and was the first 'Blair Babe' to be promoted to a top job in the Cabinet.

At the Treasury all she had to do was parrot the line provided by the best press office in Whitehall, so she couldn't go wrong. But now she is seriously struggling.

It is significant too that Kelly has little support among backbench MPs.

This is not just because she is delivering Blair's unpopular education agenda, but because of some of her well-documented fervent religious beliefs.

By the time the DfES finds its new communications chief, Kelly may not even be there any more. It transpires that the job has actually been vacant for weeks, showing that the DfES is just as slow sorting out the most important job in the department as it is dealing with a critical media issue.

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