Department for Education hires James Frayne as comms chief

The Department for Education has concluded its trawl for a new director of comms with the appointment of former Taxpayers' Alliance campaign director James Frayne.

New boss: James Frayne will lead comms at Department for Education
New boss: James Frayne will lead comms at Department for Education

The news was announced internally to staff in Education Secretary Michael Gove’s department this morning, with Frayne due to start the new role at the end of March.
 
The previous incumbent, Caroline Wright, quit the post last year, having taken voluntary redundancy, and is now setting up her own PR agency.
 
Frayne is currently a partner at lobbying and issue management consultancy Westbourne, which he joined in May 2010.
 
Westbourne was set up in May 2009 by former Portland lobbyist James Bethell, in conjunction with YouGov founder Stephan Shakespeare. Bethell is a well-known Tory operator who was on party leader David Cameron’s ‘A-list’ of Tory election candidates in 2006.

Before joining Westbourne, Frayne held roles at Portland, the heavy-hitting lobbying and PR firm set up by Tony Blair’s former deputy comms director Tim Allan, and at the TPA.
 
Frayne confirmed he would start the new role at the end of March. With many Whitehall comms operators facing redundancy, the appointment of an outsider to a key comms role will raise eyebrows. One seasoned insider said: ‘I can’t remember when an outsider last got a big Whitehall job, especially in a context when loads of GCS types are being sacked.’
 
But colleagues of Frayne said the appointment was a coup for the DfE.

In a statement, Bethell said of his colleague: ‘James is one of London’s best-kept secrets, a strategic thinker of immense insight who prefers to keep a low profile. I cannot think of anyone better qualified to add clarity and energy to the DfE’s communication and I expect we will hearing a lot more about him.’
 
Steve Morris, managing partner of Portland and former director of comms at Defra, also backed the appointment. He said: ‘James is a great communicator and will bring a wealth of experience into government, not only from consultancy but from campaigns and the corporate world. The DfE is lucky to have him, as is the wider government comms network.’
 
In the new role, Frayne will report to Sue Higgins, director general, finance and corporate services, at the DfE.

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