Newsnight producer to be Defence Secretary's aide

Defence Secretary Des Browne has appointed Ailana MacDonald, a producer on the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme Newsnight, to be his special adviser on communications, PRWeek can reveal.

Browne: made Defence Secretary in May
Browne: made Defence Secretary in May
MacDonald takes up the position next Monday (5 June), a spokeswoman confirmed. She has worked on Newsnight for the past four years, prior to which she produced ITV’s Jonathan Dimbleby programme. She will work alongside the Secretary of State’s special adviser on policy, Matt Cavanagh.

Browne last week sought to manage expectations over the timing of the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq. In a speech to the Royal United Services Institute for Defence, he said: ‘We should resist talk of cutting and running, and any temptation to impose artificial deadlines.’

He added: ‘I will not sell short the work that has been done so far, nor will I tarnish or devalue the sacrifices of the British and Coalition troops, and the thousands of Iraqis who have died defending the people of the new Iraq and their right to freedom and self determination.’

Browne’s appointment as Defence Secretary in last month’s Cabinet reshuffle capped a rapid rise for the Kilmarnock and Loudon MP, whose public profile lags behind his current status.

Elected to parliament in 1997, he has served as parliamentary secretary to the Northern Ireland office, work and pensions minister and immigration minister. He entered the Cabinet last year as chief secretary to the Treasury, where Cavanagh also served, as one of the Chancellor’s ‘Council of Economic Advisers’.

Previous defence secretary John Reid has taken special adviser Steve Bates with him to the Home Office. Reid’s other key aide at the MoD, the former Politics International senior consultant Joshua Arnold-Forster, has not followed Reid. Regarded as a defence expert, he is understood to be considering his options.

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