From Portland to Pagefield: More industry professionals standing for election

Some of Britain's best-known PR agencies, such as Portland, Pagefield, Nexus, Newington, Munro & Forster, Hill & Knowlton, Hanover, and Grayling, have a personal interest in the general election, with current and former colleagues standing as parliamentary candidates.

Clockwise, from bottom right: John Ferry, Louise Calland, James Newhall, Gurjit Bains, Ryan Henson, Paul Holmes, Alex Davies-Jones, Rob Butler, Alicia Kearns, Gareth Lloyd-Johnson
Clockwise, from bottom right: John Ferry, Louise Calland, James Newhall, Gurjit Bains, Ryan Henson, Paul Holmes, Alex Davies-Jones, Rob Butler, Alicia Kearns, Gareth Lloyd-Johnson

PRWeek has identified ten new PR and public affairs professionals who are standing in the general election, adding to the 11 it revealed earlier this month and taking the overall comms contingent to 21.

Mountain to climb

Some have got a harder job than others.

Former Grayling account manager James Newhall, who is standing for the Tories in Tottenham, would have to overturn a 35,000 majority to remove the sitting MP - Labour’s David Lammy.

John Ferry, who is fighting the seat of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale for the Lib Dems, will be hoping to improve on his performance at the 2017 general election, when he stood in  the same constituency and finished fourth with less than 2,000 votes.

But Lib Dem candidate Gareth Lloyd-Johnson has the biggest challenge, with his party getting barely 900 votes in Bury North, where he is standing, in 2017.


Meanwhile, one of the candidates featured in PRWeek earlier this month has already fallen out of the race.

Guy Kiddey was replaced as the Liberal Democrat candidate for High Peak, Derbyshire, last week. He was removed after showing support for a fellow Lib Dem candidate who had stood down to avoid a split vote that would benefit the Conservatives.

Realistic prospect of winning

Several candidates who remain in the race for parliament appear to have a fighting chance.

Ryan Henson, who is the Conservative candidate for Bedford - a constituency where Labour won the seat from the Tories in 2017 by less than 800 votes.

A number of candidates are standing in safe seats where victory seems theirs to lose.

One such candidate is Alicia Kearns, who is standing for the Conservatives in Rutland & Melton, where they had a majority of around 23,000 in 2017. Kearns previously contested Mitcham & Morden in 2017, finishing a distant second to Labour’s Siobhain McDonagh.

And Labour candidate Alex Davies-Jones is standing in Pontypridd, where her party had a 12,000 majority at the last election.

While Aylesbury, where Conservative hopeful Rob Butler is standing, is a Tory seat with a 15,000 majority.

Conservative candidate Paul Holmes will be hoping it will be third time lucky after being a runner up at Mitcham & Morden in 2015 and Southampton Test in 2017.

Holmes is among the likeliest to win this time around, having been selected as the Conservative candidate in Eastleigh, a Tory seat that had a 14,000 majority at the last general election.

Sole survivor

Of the 38 candidates that PRWeek profiled during the 2015 and 2017 general elections, just one - Luke Pollard, ex-director, Field Consulting - succeeded in their quest to become an MP. He won Plymouth, Sutton & Devonport for Labour in 2017, with a 16.6 per cent swing.

While it remains to be seen whether any of the 20 comms professionals standing this time around will be successful, the omens look good for at least some of them.

Here are some of the latest comms contenders in the general election:

Rob Butler - Conservative candidate for Aylesbury

A former TV reporter and presenter turned comms and corporate affairs advisor, running Butler Corporate Communications and Media, and a specialist partner at Pagefield.

Alicia Kearns - Conservative candidate for Rutland & Melton

A behavioural change consultant, whose specialties include counter disinformation and strategic comms, she has worked at Munro & Forster, Grayling, and strategic comms agency Global Influence.

John Ferry - Lib Dem candidate for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale

Director of Greyfriar Communications, a media and PR agency that Ferry, a former financial journalist, established in 2010.

Alex Davies-Jones - Labour candidate for Pontypridd

Works as a community engagement manager for Welsh Water, where she has been part of the comms team since 2015.

Paul Holmes - Conservative candidate for Eastleigh

Works as head of public affairs at Britain’s largest housing association, Clarion Housing Group. Was a special adviser for former education secretary Damian Hinds, ministers Damian Green and Patrick McLoughlin, and has worked at Portland Communications.

Gareth Lloyd-Johnson - Lib Dem candidate for Bury North

A campaigns officer at the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors, he has also worked for Lib Dem MPs such as John Leech, John Pugh, Greg Mulholland, and Layla Moran.

Gurjit Bains - Conservative candidate for Walsall South

An account manager at Newington Communications, who has previously worked for Priti Patel as a parliamentary researcher.

James Newhall - Conservative candidate for Tottenham

A former account manager on the public affairs team at Grayling, he has worked as the senior comms adviser to government minister John Pembrose MP since last May.

Ryan Henson - Conservative candidate for Bedford

Taking a break from his post as senior political advisor, CAFOD, to campaign in the general election. His past roles have included working for MPs Stephen Crabb and David Burrowes.

Louise Calland - Conservative candidate for Hemsworth

A government affairs manager at Novartis, and former senior director at Hanover Communications. she has also worked at Hill & Knowlton and Nexus Communications.

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