Profile: Lance Price, The Labour Party - A political Rottweiler with a Labour of love - Lifelong Labour supporter Lance Price eschews spin in his latest press role

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 current affairs.

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

current affairs.



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

political PR.



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

newspapers.



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

relations.



’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.





HIGHLIGHTS



1989



Political correspondent, BBC



1998



Press officer, No 10 Downing Street



2000



Director of communications, the Labour Party.



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