OPINION: Brown’s image-makers are fit to govern

What better way to show you have more substance than style than to hide your face behind an autocue at your ‘leadership launch’?

The glitch in Gordon Brown’s event last Friday may have given the media a laugh, but it probably worked in his favour. It distanced him further from the Blair era.

Good comms people should indeed check out a TV camera view before any media event, and it does seem surprising this didn’t happen last Friday. But who should we blame for this?

Although special adviser Damian McBride now does the job I used to do – as Brown’s principal spokesman – his official role is head of the Treasury press office. And because the launch was a ‘political’ event, McBride could not actually be involved here. He even had to take a day’s holiday just to be there. Bonkers I know, but the civil service rules are like that.

McBride also, sensibly, manages to keep a much lower profile than me. I’m told however that he is every bit as ruthless as Alastair Campbell, and works similarly tirelessly to protect his boss.

There is little doubt that McBride will follow Brown into Number 10, and as a former civil
servant turned special advisor there is no problem in him replacing Tom Kelly as the prime minister’s official spokesman.

Sue Nye, the chancellor’s political secretary, is another key player. She can be seen at Gordon Brown’s side most of the time and won’t be far behind when he walks into Number 10 on 27 June. Sue has plenty of experience having already worked for three Labour leaders: Callaghan, Foot and Kinnock. She was – and still is – very close to Blair’s former gatekeeper Anji Hunter (now at BP) who learned her trade from Nye.

One person who won’t have an official job in Number 10, but who will have huge PR influence on the role is Sarah Brown. As the former head of a PR company – Hobsbawm Macaulay – she will lend invaluable advice to her husband. Sarah is certainly no Cherie Blair. Changing her name to Brown on marriage was, I’m sure, a deliberate act to show just that. She was also the first person tell me that she thought Tony Blair was manoeuvring to become a future Labour leader, showing she also has considerable political nous.

Given his macho image, it’s surprising then that the two most important people advising Brown on the media will be women but then again, given the task ahead in winning the female vote, this may not be such a bad idea.
charlie.whelan@haymarket.com

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