Profile: Grand schemer - Jonathan Haslam, director of group communications, Jarvis

Jarvis's jovial director of group comms Jonathan Haslam is a man on a mission during PRWeek's hour-long interview, racing through as many name-checks as humanly possible.

But unlike most name-droppers Haslam, 52, doesn't pull out the really big guns that are at his disposal after six years working within the corridors of power at Number 10, including a year as press secretary for former PM John Major.

There are no mentions of the political, business and cultural luminaries that have crossed his path. Instead he offers the names of an endless stream of colleagues operating just below the media's eyeline, painting a picture of a natural networker.

His habit reveals a man more excited by coming into contact with respected professionals than celebrity. Of his decision to join Jarvis, as it continues to battle a reputational nightmare and debts of more than £200m, Haslam simply says: 'It is a gritty time, but where else would I have met the likes of (chief restructuring officer) Eric Simonsen, Paul Baines and Ben Mingay from (corporate adviser) Hawkpoint, (Gazelle Corporate Finance's) Peter Collini and Alex Musson...'

It is his passion for connections that has driven him through an 18-year career in government communications.

Haslam speaks of his arrival at the Department of Trade and Industry in 1982 in tones of awe that you imagine might have faded long ago.

'On day one I was talking to (former Tory Cabinet minister) John McGregor,' he exclaims. 'It's the starstruck nature I have. I was born in Stockport, but here I was in the middle of it all.'

Haslam's father, who received an OBE and was Postmaster for the South-East District after leaving school at 14, was a 'great achiever. The idea of Dad not working or not being an achiever is foreign'. His brother, too, who he describes as 'immensely older' at 58, has set an example of achievement as chief executive of Standard Chartered Bank China.

'Beating under this calm exterior is a moderately ambitious schemer,' he says with a smile that betrays understatement.

BBC London assistant editor Fergus Sheppard, who has maintained contact with him since his days at Number 10, says Haslam's approachable style masks an astute business acumen and the calibre of people with whom he deals.

'He wouldn't have lasted the way he has at the centre of government if he wasn't tough,' says Sheppard, adding that networking runs through Haslam's veins and he takes the old-fashioned approach to cultivating relationships.

'He is from the traditional breed of comms directors who don't get in the way - unlike Alastair Campbell, for example, who became the story.

He would be aghast at that process,' he says.

Haslam has been able to exercise his competitive streak in an annual golf match between Whitehall workers and lobbyists that he set up in 1991 with Sun political editor Trevor Kavanagh.

His eyes light up as golf is discussed, although he admits that a lack of practice has seen his handicap blowout from a best of 12 since leaving public service. 'Unfortunately we are all so competitive that we harbour resentment for 364 days of the year,' says Haslam, adding wryly that the lobbyists misplaced the winners' cup after a rare victory a few years ago.

Professionally, Haslam is driven by a desire to tackle fresh challenges and learn new briefs, he says, adding that the six years he spent at the London Metal Exchange were 'too long'.

But don't expect him to repeat the mistake at Jarvis. After being shortlisted for the role of Prince Charles's chief PR adviser, he joined chairman and formal Tory London mayoral candidate Steve Norris at Jarvis.

He admits that even if the support services group manages to survive its ongoing woes - it is in the midst of selling non-core assets and restructuring its debt - a different senior team will take the helm. 'I need challenging jobs that get you out of bed with a spring in your step. This horse has plenty of life in it yet,' he says with a grin.

No doubt he has plenty of friends in the industry willing to offer him advice when the time comes.

RESUME

1986 Chief press officer, Department of Employment

1989 Deputy director of information, Home Office

1991 Deputy press secretary to the Prime Minister

1995 Director of comms, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

1996 Press secretary to the Prime Minister

1997 Director of comms, Department for Education and Employment

1997 Director of corporate affairs, London Metal Exchange

2003 Director of group comms, Jarvis

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