Number 10 confirmed this week that Lewis would replace Mike Ellam, who is returning to the Treasury. Lewis will start in July, having recently stepped down as Vodafone’s corporate comms chief. At Downing Street he will be responsible for conducting the twice-daily briefings for lobby journalists.
Huntsworth CEO Lord Chadlington – whom Lewis has cited as a formative influence – described his protégé as ‘an outstanding PR practitioner’ and ‘a remarkably good ambassador for the industry’.
British Airways’ director of comms Julia Simpson said: ‘Simon has integrity and will earn respect. He is an honest broker – just what is needed.’
Diageo corporate relations director Ian Wright said: ‘Simon is a person I regard as leader of the PR profession and Britain’s top corporate PR man. Brown has got the best man possible for the job.’
But Luther Pendragon partner Mike Granatt said it could be tough for Lewis: ‘One of the biggest challenges facing Simon will be breaking into Brown’s notoriously tight inner circle, and getting the machine to co-operate.’
Lewis will join as a civil servant. He is the brother of the Telegraph Media Group editor Will Lewis. He is also said to be a close acquaintance of Lord Mandelson.
Bell Pottinger Public Affairs chairman Peter Bingle said the Mandelson link was significant: ‘Although his job is to promote the PM, in reality what Lewis is doing is ensuring that the influence of Mandelson is at Number 10 in every single way.’
Lewis is expected to operate in a different manner to Ellam, a career civil servant who previously worked with Brown at the Treasury.
Bingle said: ‘Lewis is quite like Mandelson in terms of style. He is quite grand, he knows he is good, he is taken seriously by the media and he will give a degree of pomp to Number 10 press briefings.’
Writing on his blog, The Spectator political editor Fraser Nelson said of Ellam: ‘He has moved to make way for the latest poor soul paid to do up Brown’s image.’
The Times chief political correspondent Sam Coates said Ellam had been ‘extremely courteous and helpful through difficult times’.