Amber De Botton enters Downing Street after five years at ITV News, having joined as head of politics in 2017. Her previous roles include deputy head of politics at Sky News and political editor at Total Politics.
She takes a special adviser role in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s administration, which offers her freedom to advise on political strategy, rather than being an impartial civil servant.
The No. 10 comms director has varied between a political and Civil Service position in recent years. Jack Doyle, who held the position until February 2022, did so as a special adviser, with a political element to the role. His predecessor, James Slack, was a civil servant. Like Doyle, Lee Cain – the comms chief before Slack – held the role on a political basis.
In her short tenure as Prime Minister, Liz Truss split the role, with Simon McGee taking a Civil Service position and Adam Jones overseeing the political side of the operation.
It's not the first time Sunak has hired an ITV journalist in a senior comms position. In 2020, former ITV News national editor Allegra Stratton was appointed director of strategic communications to the Chancellor when Sunak held that role. Stratton later became spokesperson for then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s televised press briefings.
Fellow journalists and broadcasters have spoken positively about de Botton and her prospects as comms director at No. 10.
ITV News presenter Romilly Weeks tweeted that the appointment is a “shrewd move” by Sunak, calling de Botton “a great operator with brilliant instincts and one of the best bosses I’ve ever had”.
Many years ago @amberdebotton got me into TV news @skynews. It was a huge loss to Sky’s political unit when she joined ITV News. She’s a seriously talented news editor & political operator, now heading to No 10 to direct PM’s communications strategy. They mean business. https://t.co/IGFoOxBrs2— Beth Rigby (@BethRigby) October 29, 2022
However, some PR industry figures have questioned the idea that an accomplished journalist will necessarily have the skills to succeed in a senior comms role:
In other news, I have asked my electrician mate to service the boiler because it’s all pretty similar skills: Rishi Sunak hires ITV's Amber de Botton as communications chief https://t.co/zU0Zu48UzS— Steve Shepperson-Smith (@SteveShepSmith) October 29, 2022
All of this and three more points:— Sarah Waddington CBE (@Mrs_Wadds) October 30, 2022
1) journalism skills aren’t the same as stakeholder engagement skills
2) this obsession with media relations always ends badly (ask the NHS)
3) the inter-relationships between political journalists and them and gov is extremely unhealthy https://t.co/tdnImD8Axy
De Botton did have a short stint in comms earlier in her career. According to her LinkedIn profile, she worked as a press officer at the Greater London Authority for eight months from 2007 to 2008.