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
This means the Central Office press team will be left without a
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
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
He was the Tories’ operations manager for the general election after
being poached from his BBC radio job as deputy editor of the Today
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.