Senior Tories look for exit as Francis Maude compiles special adviser list

'If you're not on Francis Maude's list, it's time to think about your exit strategy'.

Shadow cabinet office minister: Francis Maude
Shadow cabinet office minister: Francis Maude

Scores of Conservative Party aides are poised to move into PR and public affairs as the party draws up a shortlist for special adviser posts in a new government.

This week PRWeek can reveal campaign director for the London region Peter Bellini is quitting Conservative Central Office (CCO) for a role in Edelman's public affairs practice. He will leave later this month after five years working for the Tories.

Bellini is the first significant departure from CCO in months, but more are expected to follow in his footsteps as David Cameron's plans for staffing Whitehall and Downing Street emerge.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has drawn up a provisional list of aides who are assured special adviser jobs, according to Tory insiders. Maude developed the list after holding detailed discussions with every member of the shadow cabinet, asking them each to name just one adviser they would like to take into government.

The list has only been circulated among a handful of senior Tories. According to one insider with knowledge of the plans: 'If you're not on Maude's list, then perhaps it's time to start thinking about your exit strategy.'

Traditionally, cabinet ministers have had two special advisers each, but the Conservatives are planning just one special adviser per cabinet minister, with a separate pool of special advisers based in Downing Street.

Ministerial special advisers would focus on policy, while only those based in Downing Street would be authorised to deal with the media. The Tory plan would reduce the overall number of special advisers in government.

However, the Conservative s are keen not to give the impression they are taking an election victory for granted.

A Conservative Party spokesman insisted no decisions had been made about special adviser posts.

RECENT TORY PR MOVES

- Tim Collins Bell Pottinger appointed the former Tory shadow cabinet member as MD of its public affairs practice in October

- Michael Portillo Tory heavyweight Portillo joined Portland PR in September on its new 'advisory council'

- Chris Heaton-Harris Fleishman-Hillard signed up the former MEP and current parliamentary candidate for Daventry in July.

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