News this week that former Labour party communications chief David
Hill - now a director of Bell Pottinger Good Relations - is to return to
the fold for the next campaign, should come as no surprise. Hill is
unlikely to be the last of the 1997 talent returning to Millbank.
The lunching of useful party contacts has begun in earnest as former
staff jockey for position in the new Millbank hierarchy. The public
affairs industry will be the richer for it, as election campaigning is
as near the tough end of PR as it gets.
The changes at party HQ represent general secretary Margaret MacDonagh
putting her imprimatur on the team she wants to run the media centre
when it really matters: in the heat of an election battle likely to be
nasty, negative and long. Hence close Mandelson associate and former BBC
political reporter Lance Price’s move over from the Downing Street press
office as director of communications for the party.
The victim in this process is outgoing communications head Phil Murphy,
considered ’too nice’ for running elections, although consoled by a plum
job as a special adviser to Blair on long-term media strategy. It will
be interesting to see how long he stays in that post, since an
increasing amount of the important media traffic will be driven through
Millbank as the election nears.