'Shrewd move' for Conservative Party as it appoints new comms chief

The Conservative Party has appointed Alex Wild, the former research director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, as its director of comms, PRWeek has learned.

Alex Wild, the new director of comms at the Conservative Party
Alex Wild, the new director of comms at the Conservative Party

A formal announcement has yet to be made, but PRWeek understands that Alex Wild will replace former Conservative Party director of comms Caroline Preston, who was promoted to deputy chief executive of the party earlier this year.

Wild, who graduated from the University of Leeds with a degree in international relations, will work alongside fellow alumnus Elliott Burton, who is the Conservatives' deputy director of comms.

'Energy and drive'

Wild's appontment may come as a surprise because he has little direct comms experience, other than a stint at Public First and several months as a Conservative Party press officer during the last general election.

But Lee Cain, former Downing Street comms director, told PRWeek: “It’s a really shrewd move to put him in that role. In that job you want somebody who’s very hungry and driven and can really take the fight to Labour from a political point of view, which I think is something that has probably been lacking a little bit in CCHQ.”

Cain added: "He will bring a lot of energy and a lot of drive. He's a natural creative story-driver and is well liked by the Lobby. He's been linked with that role for a while and I know Jack Doyle [director of comms at Downing Street] was very keen on him doing it.”

Wild, whom Cain described as "well-liked and very capable", is set to have a “key role at Number 10” and will act as a bridge between Downing Street and CCHQ.

There may have been more experienced people in the running for the role, but Cain said Wild will bring “hard work, dedication, and great instincts”, which are a “pretty formidable combination".

Katie Perrior, former No.10 comms chief under Theresa May and now chair of InHouse Communications, said: "This is a great appointment – Alex is respected and well-liked with fantastic connections across the party and the media. His experience working alongside the lobby will be invaluable in the months to come as the party gears up once again for a general election."

Giles Kenningham, a former Conservative Party director of comms and founder of Trafalgar Strategy, told PRWeek: “If you’ve been a spad, in a very different way it’s a similar job. To some extent you are reinforcing what the Government’s doing, but you are also very much setting out those political dividing lines.”

He echoed Cain’s views on Wild, describing him as “well thought of”, and commented that this is a “key moment” for the Conservatives “to ram home their competitive advantage over Labour, to get battle-hardened and campaign-ready”.

Wild’s new role comes weeks after he lost his job as a special advisor to Robert Buckland at the Ministry of Justice, when Buckland was replaced as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice by Dominic Raab in the September Cabinet reshuffle. Wild had held the role since March 2020.

Job description

The job description for the director of comms role, advertised this summer, described it as “an exciting opportunity to lead a talented, experienced team at the heart of the Conservative Party”.

The director of comms will “shape, plan, and implement the Party’s day-to-day and long-term political messaging and communications strategy”, and will “review, and where necessary refresh, the tools we use to clearly communicate our message”.

According to the description Wild will be “key to ensuring we build a strong team ensuring we are prepared for the next general election”.

Career path

Wild's links to the Conservative Party go back almost a decade, when he worked in the policy team on Boris Johnson’s 2012 campaign to be re-elected Mayor of London.

Wild took a job as a policy analyst at the TaxPayers' Alliance and stayed at the right-leaning pressure group for almost six years, rising to become research director.

In 2018 he left the TPA for a role as director at Public First, but lasted little more than a year before leaving to become a special adviser to Home Secretary Priti Patel. In what ended up being an eight-month stint in the role, he spent three months on secondment as a press officer for the Conservative Party during the 2019 general election campaign.

CCHQ was contacted but did not respond to a request for comment.

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