Public Affairs: Aides eye public affairs jobs

Top-level special advisers already in talks with lobbying firms.

Several Labour special advisers have held talks with public affairs agencies in the run-up to this week's European and local elections.

PRWeek has learned that at least two cabinet-level aides have been in recent contact with lobbying firms. Skills secretary John Denham's ex-special adviser Josie Cluer is believed to be considering a move into public affairs, having recently stopped working for Denham. One of Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward's aides is also poised to move into public affairs, industry sources said.

As PRWeek went to press, Labour was bracing itself for a crushing defeat in this week's European and local elections. Increasing numbers of Labour figures also believe the party is heading for a drubbing at the next general election.

One public affairs industry insider said those aides who had already spoken to lobbying firms wanted to escape as soon as possible. The source said: 'They're thinking "I'm not going to have a job in a year's time - I might as well get out now".'

Apart from the prospect of a crushing defeat at the polls, Labour advisers' movements could also be affected by a cabinet reshuffle expected to take place in the next few days.

In particular, public affairs agencies are keeping tabs on the movements of Hazel Blears' well-regarded special adviser Paul Richards. It is thought that Blears could be ousted in the imminent cabinet reshuffle.

One senior public affairs source claimed there was now little demand for any Labour aides: 'Let's be honest, if you want to make hires in this market, you want blue people rather than red people.'

But another agency boss said there was still a market for the best operators. He said: 'In terms of their job prospects, I think it's all about skills, not contacts. We will still look at good Labour ex- special advisers, but they would have to demonstrate talent and hard work, not just be one of these political comfort blanket types.

'Some Labour special advisers are brilliant individuals who would be an asset to any organisation, but many of the best ones left Government with Tony Blair and many of Gordon Brown's people have proven hopeless when faced with a real job for the first time. Most of the machine politician types surrounding Brown will struggle to get any job outside the Labour Party or a trade union.'

Few Labour special advisers have made the leap into public affairs in recent years. Those who have include former John Prescott aide Mick Halloran, now at Citigate Dewe Rogerson Public Policy, and former Tessa Jowell aide Nick Bent, who helped set up the agency now known as TLG. Both made the move in late 2007.

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