Government comms veteran brought out of retirement to steady ship at MoD

Government comms heavyweight Simon Wren has been called out of retirement to lead comms at the Ministry of Defence until a permanent replacement for Carl Newns is appointed, PRWeek has learned.

Simon Wren has twenty years experience in senior government comms roles
Simon Wren has twenty years experience in senior government comms roles

Wren was director of comms at the MoD for more than a year from 2011 and was previously its director of news in the noughties.

But he returns to a comms department in turmoil after it was censured this week in an official review into whether the MoD had blacklisted media outlet Declassified UK.

The MoD’s former director of comms, Carl Newns, left last month after five years in post to take a job in the Cabinet Office, ahead of the publication of the review.

The review stated that, while an official policy of blacklisting did not exist, members of the comms team “acted as if” there was such a policy after they misinterpreted comments by Newns, who stated that they “should not waste any time” on Declassified UK and instead direct the media outlet to submit a Freedom of Information Request.

Newns told the review his comment was “not meant to imply that the website should be blacklisted, nor that the principle of blacklisting was in any way acceptable”.

Steady the ship

Wren, a former regular in PRWeek's list of the most senior people in public sector comms, has been brought in on an interim basis until a permanent replacement for Newns can be found.

He has two decades’ experience in some of the most senior comms roles in the biggest government departments, including the MoD, Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). He has worked in the Civil Service for nearly 40 years.

His longest stint as a director of comms was at the Home Office, where he held the top job for more than five years until he was succeeded by Andy Tighe.

His most recent central government comms job was as interim director of comms at the FCO, which he left two years ago to take up a role with West Midlands Combined Authority.

It is not clear whether he is on secondment in order to take up the interim role at the MoD.

In a post about his appointment on LinkedIn, Wren said: “Anyway, so much for retirement. Going back home [to the] Ministry of Defence for a few months as interim director of defence communications while they sort out a permanent solution.”

Wren urged former colleagues to apply for the role, adding: “It’s just the most fantastic job but also the most incredible challenge, so I would encourage all my friends and colleagues who think they’re up to it to apply. You won’t regret it.”

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