Conservatives reshuffle press pack

Lines of command within the Conservative Party’s press team have been redrawn following the sudden departure of Francis Halewood, director of communications at Conservative Central Office.

Lines of command within the Conservative Party’s press team have

been redrawn following the sudden departure of Francis Halewood,

director of communications at Conservative Central Office.



Party leaders have decided not to replace Halewood, who quit last

Friday.



This means the Central Office press team will be left without a

chief.



Its two most senior staff, head of news Alex Aiken and director of

political operations Andrew Cooper, will report to vice-chairman of the

party responsible for communications Alan Duncan. Aiken handles the

day-to-day running of the press team. Cooper will work on long-term

policy presentation.



William Hague’s new press secretary Gregor Mackay, who starts next week,

will also report to Duncan. Although both men advise Hague, Mackay will

handle most briefings with journalists.



Reports claim Halewood’s departure followed disagreements between the

Party press team and Hague’s office over PR advice to the leader. These

centred on Hague’s controversial decision to criticise Labour’s response

to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.



Halewood was made acting head of the press team in May on a three-month

contract. His departure comes just two weeks before the Tory Party

conference.



He was the Tories’ operations manager for the general election after

being poached from his BBC radio job as deputy editor of the Today

programme.



Charles Lewington, Halewood’s predecessor and former political editor of

the Sunday Express, resigned shortly after the Conservatives’ defeat in

the May election. Lewington held the job for a year and a half.



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