Hannah Gardiner will take up the new role in July, after three and a half years at ACPO. The appointment is particularly notable as Labour and the Conservatives see law and order as the Lib Dems’ electoral weak spot.
Gardiner declined to comment on this, but told PRWeek: ‘The Liberal Democrats have struggled in the past to get the coverage they have deserved. We have held up our share of the vote but are not getting recognition from the media. We are at a critical juncture. The Liberal Democrats have committed themselves to professionalising their communications and I want to be part of that team.’
At ACPO, Gardiner handled issues including the 2005 G8 summit and the 7/7 bombings. She also recently returned from a stint in Portugal where she advised the local police on media management around the disappearance of Made-leine McCann.
Before ACPO, Gardiner was a senior press officer at the Home Office and head of media relations at HM Prison Service. The new job sees Gardiner return to her first employer, for whom she was a press officer in the late 1990s.
Gardiner replaces Mark Littlewood who left to freelance in March.
She will report to recently recruited director of policy and comms Jon Oates (PRWeek, 9 February) and will lead a team of 20.
Oates told PRWeek: ‘The media will focus on Cameron and Brown and we have to work twice as hard as the other parties to get the coverage.’
Gardiner will also work closely with leader Menzies Campbell’s press secretary Puja Darbari and the Lib Dem leader’s recently appointed senior spokesman Mark Webster (PRWeek, 27 April). ACPO is on the hunt for Gardiner’s replacement.