Labour advisers in talks with public affairs agencies

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 aides to cabinet ministers have been in recent contact with lobbying firms. Special advisers to skills secretary John Denham and to Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward have both had discussions about moving in to public affairs, according to well-placed industry sources.

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 also heading for a heavy defeat at the next general election.

One public affairs industry insider said the two Labour aides in question wanted to escape as soon as possible. The source said: "They're thinking "I'll 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 general election defeat, Labour advisers' movements could also be affected a cabinet reshuffle expected to place in the next few days and a spate of recent resignations.

In particular, public affairs agencies are keeping tabs on the movements of Hazel Blears' well-regarded special adviser Paul Richards. 

One senior public affairs source said 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 organization, but many of the best special advisers left Government with Tony Blair and many of Gordon's people have proven hopeless when faced with a real job for the first time. Most of the machine politician types that surround Gordon Brown will struggle to get any job outside the Labour party or a trade union.'

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

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