Lib Dems take up lobbying roles

Lobbying firms are bolstering their Liberal Democrat links as the party sheds 20 posts in its Cowley Street headquarters.

Lib Dem HQ at Cowley Street
Lib Dem HQ at Cowley Street

Politics International has pounced for Lib Dem senior foreign affairs adviser Ben Jones, while Bell Pottinger Public Affairs has appointed the party's senior public services policy adviser Stephen Lotinga.

Lib Dem insiders said further aides were on the verge of signing up with public affairs agencies as a result of severe cuts to the Lib Dem policy and press teams.

Last month, the party started a redundancy process to reduce the number of staff at its HQ by more than 20 positions, with the policy and research unit and the press office bearing the brunt of the cuts. It follows confirmation that the party will not be receiving 'short money' that is usually allocated to opposition parties.

With a number of well-regarded Lib Dem operators suddenly thrust into the jobs market, Bell Pottinger was first to pounce. The agency announced last week that it had secured the signature of Lotinga, the party's senior adviser on public services and health since May 2009. Previously, Lotinga was the party's adviser on culture, media and sport. He joins the agency as an account director.

'Stephen brings with him a first-hand insight into today's Liberal Democrats, as well as expertise in key policy areas,' said Bell Pottinger Public Affairs chairman Peter Bingle.

In addition, PRWeek can reveal that Politics International has snared Jones - days before the agency, part of the Interel Group, undertakes a major relaunch.

Jones moves into lobbying from his role as senior adviser for foreign affairs and defence, which he has held since 2007. Previously, he was director of comms for the Lib Dems in Europe and served as chief press officer for Britain in Europe.

He is the second major hire in recent weeks for Politics International, after the agency swooped for Graham Hook, assistant director in the Conservative Party's research department, earlier this year (PRWeek, 21 May).

The latest hire comes as the Hasgrove-owned agency prepares to change its name to Interel Consulting UK. The change is due to take effect next week.

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