Some of the biggest names in the public affairs industry have signed up to a new group set up to provide unofficial comms advice to the Conservative Party.
PRWeek revealed last week that Conservatives in Communications is being led by Lord Guy Black, executive director of the Telegraph Media Group and a former Tory comms director under Michael Howard's leadership (prweek.com/uk, 5 August).
The group was quietly launched last month with a private drinks reception on the terrace of former Fleishman-Hillard regional president Kevin Bell's riverside penthouse flat.
Plans for the group were drawn up by Lionel Zetter, the well-connected lobbyist and former CIPR president. Others on board include Hanover MD Charles Lewington; Citigate Public Policy MD Simon Nayyar; G4S Cash Solutions comms director Mike Love; advertisers' body ISBA public affairs director Ian Twinn; and PRCA chief executive Francis Ingham.
In the late 1980s, Labour set up a shadow comms group, made up principally of senior media figures giving their services voluntarily, and the Liberal Democrats have Lib Dems in PR. But the Conservative Party has lacked an equivalent grouping.
It is envisaged that Conservatives in Communications will help the party with focus groups, messaging and policy development. There is no fundraising involved and no membership fee for the new group.
Zetter said: 'The idea is to offer support to CCHQ (Conservative Campaign Headquarters) and various campaigns such as mayoral campaigns to develop policy and means of communicating with key stakeholders - should they need assistance.'
He added: 'It is a collection of individuals who support the party in any event offering to provide more structured support if required. CCHQ is aware of our existence, but has not asked us for help to date.'
Lewington commented: 'Its primary function is to network and share information among ourselves. There are some brilliant marketeers and PR practitioners who want to see a majority Conservative government in 2015, and we'd like the group to be seen as a resource for the party to call on if it so wishes.'