Home Office's Toker to drive anti-terrorism PR

LONDON - The government has created a senior communicator role to champion its controversial counter-terrorism plans.

Home Office head of news John Toker is to become director of counter-terrorism communications, working from the Cabinet Office.

Toker steered government comms through the 7 July London bombings, just 18 months into his first civil service role. His adept handling of the attacks is believed to have helped him secure the appointment.

He assumes the role next week as the Government ploughs ahead with legislation. Proposals in the Counter-Terrorism Bill, published this week, have been met with fierce opposition from civil liberty groups, which claim the measures will alienate young Muslims and aggravate community tensions. Under the proposals, suspects could be held for up to 90 days without charge.

Cabinet Office head of news John Bretherton said: "After the London bombs we needed a position dedicated to counter-terrorism."

Reporting to permanent secretary for government comms Howell James, Toker will liaise closely with Tony Blair's security adviser, permanent secretary for security and intelligence Sir Richard Mottram.

"The Cabinet Office is the best placed government department to co-ordinate a comms strategy for counter-terrorism," said James.

Toker joined the Home Office in January 2004 under then secretary of state David Blunkett. He was previously an ITN producer. The Home Office is recruiting for Toker's replacement.

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