Public Affairs: WS struck by Akehurst exit

Agency's public affairs team reeling from second resignation.

Weber Shandwick's public affairs team has been hit by the second senior resignation in recent weeks, with long-serving director Luke Akehurst set to join the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre.

PRWeek revealed last month that the agency's head of public affairs and corporate comms Joann Robertson was quitting the agency for a senior role at Ketchum Pleon.

This week it emerged that Akehurst was due to take up the post of campaigns director at BICOM, headed up by former Labour MP Lorna Fitzsimons.

Akehurst joined WS back in 2000, having previously been a consultant at GJW Government Relations. His main clients operate in defence and local government. He is also well known in Labour Party circles as a blogger and activist on the right of the party, whose support for Ed Miliband in the Labour leadership contest took many observers by surprise. Akehurst was elected to Labour's ruling National Executive Committee in 2010.

His resignation threatens to leave WS lacking in public affairs firepower. Following Robertson's announcement, the agency is recruiting a head of public affairs - but it is not known whether WS will now look to appoint an additional lobbyist.

Remaining senior public affairs operators include corporate and public affairs chairman Jon McLeod, public affairs vice-chair Tara Hamilton-Miller and director Joe Phelan, who joined from Bell Pottinger Public Affairs last year. Former Insight Public Affairs account director Chris West is currently freelancing for the agency.

In early 2010, WS' respected corporate and public affairs MD Michael Prescott, previously political editor at The Sunday Times, quit to become group director of comms at BT.

In an email to colleagues announcing Akehurst's departure, McLeod wrote: 'Luke has been a fantastic colleague. He originally joined GJW way back in the mists of time and went through successive mergers to end up in Weber Shandwick Public Affairs. Throughout, he has been a loyal, politically engaged and entertaining colleague. Legendary blogger, NEC member, and the man who knows every sinew of the Labour Party.'

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