While most children were watching cartoons after school or playing
football in the park, the young Lance Price could be found reading
newspapers and watching the Six O’Clock News. In his home town of East
Grinstead - a largely Tory area - Price must have stood out among his
class peers as the only ardent Labour supporter with a passion for
From schoolboy to university student to BBC journalist, Price’s devotion
to both politics and journalism remained unwavering.
He spent his student days at Heartford College, Oxford, studying
philosophy, politics and economics, supporting the Labour Party when he
could and working at the Birmingham Evening Mail during his summer
holidays. The BBC soon spotted Price’s potential and offered him a place
on its much sought-after graduate-training scheme. With Price’s flair
for public affairs, he was destined to become a political correspondent
and, after a stint as a broadcast journalist in Northern Ireland and
then defence correspondent, he landed in Westminster.
His years as a BBC political correspondent, hounding politicians and
party press officers, earned him a reputation for having a terrier-like
persistence. According to Whitehall veteran Romola Christopherson,
former deputy prime ministerial press secretary and director of
information for the DHSS, Price was known for his ’Rottweiler
tendencies’. ’He was very assertive and persistent as a journalist, but
then the better ones always are,’ she says.
After 18 years with the BBC, and more than ten of those years as a
political correspondent, Price crossed the line into the world of
Following approaches from Downing Street, he decided to join Blair’s New
Labour as a No 10 press officer.
Price says that it was only a matter of time before he became actively
involved in the Government process.
’Part of me wanted to stop talking about what other people are doing and
actually play a part in what I regard as a very important process.’
Despite criticism at the time, Price maintains he kept his political
leanings separate from his job at the BBC. ’It’s naive of people to
expect that journalists who take a keen interest in what’s going on
around them don’t have personal views of their own,’ he says. ’You just
leave those views at home and make sure in your coverage that there’s
nothing that portrays your politics.’ This was not always an easy task
for Price, especially, he recalls, when covering Margaret Thatcher’s
resignation: ’I was the first journalist in Downing Street when she
resigned. I remember that conflicting feeling when my heart wanted to
celebrate, but my head had to do a professional reporting job.’
Now, two years after joining Downing Street, Price has moved to Millbank
as the Labour Party’s director of communications, in place of Phil
Murphy, a fellow Heartford College graduate.
The Independent’s political editor, Andy Grice, who has known Price
since the mid-1980s, says: ’Lance understands the demands and needs of
I think his move to Millbank will strengthen it at a critical time.’
Christopherson agrees Price is right for the job. ’His aggressive
qualities probably make him well suited for the martial arts show at
Millbank,’ she says.
If there’s one message Price wants to get over about his new role, it’s
that being director of Labour Party communications does not in any way
involve ’spin’. In fact, he says it’s not even PR, it’s more press
’There’s some very short-sighted, shallow journalism by people who have
no idea what ’spin’ means - it’s just become a vogue phrase to use,’ he
says. ’If it means manipulation, then there’s very little of that,
almost all the work we do is very straight - our job is to tell people
what the Labour Party is up to.’
Heading a team of five press officers, Price is fulfilling one of the
most important jobs in the party - particularly with the next election
on the horizon. And time is a luxury he can no longer afford. We have
just 20 minutes for the interview, a slot Price has also set aside for
eating lunch. It therefore comes as no surprise that hobbies and a life
outside of work have taken a backseat. Living with his partner in
Brighton at the weekends and London weekdays, Price says he enjoys
cycling, swimming, hiking and the theatre, but rarely has the time. It’s
easy to see why he has been drafted in to the Labour Party’s
headquarters at such a crucial time. He believes in what the party
stands for and is prepared to fight for its reputation.
If anyone can fend off critics, persuade Labour supporters to vote and
communicate the party’s message, then Price would appear to be the man
to do it.
Political correspondent, BBC
Press officer, No 10 Downing Street
Director of communications, the Labour Party.