NEWS ANALYSIS: A new-look comms team for Brown

The botched handling of a possible autumn election has prompted the Prime Minister to bolster his PR operation. As the changes take shape, David Singleton examines the formation, tactics and key players.

Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown

The Number 10 media operation is bec­oming stronger by the day. New faces are joining the fold as the Prime Minister acknowledges that it was a mistake to rely on a handful of former stalwarts from the Treasury. After a troubled start with the election that never was, phase two of the Brown premiership is now very much under way.

At the centre of the new order is a man who, in a matter of a few weeks, has risen from political obscurity to bec­ome one of Brown's most powerful lieutenants.

PODCAST: Former Blair adviser Chris McShane discusses Brown's media operation

Stephen Carter is responsible for sharpening decision-making across government, putting in place a proper diary system and imposing more structure on the Prime Minister's chaotic 16-hour days.

The former Brunswick CEO is also charged with improving the strategic planning of comms and last week made a number of hires to help achieve this, including ad man David Muir and Which? comms chief Nick Stace.

American Jennifer Moses, a former MD of Goldman Sachs and ex-director of raunchy lingerie firm Agent Provocateur, had been lined up to add to the comms firepower. But as PRWeek went to press, Downing Street insiders said her appointment had yet to be confirmed. Brown is also poised to hire at least two digital comms specialists to strengthen the Government's new media capability.

The new recruits will slot into the system alongside Brown's existing media handlers. Ex-Treasury officials Damian McBride and Mike Ellam will continue to have responsibility for day-to-day press relations, which are seen to be working well.

But journalists who want to know the real intentions of the Government still have to consult a parallel lobby briefing system, say political editors. Ed Balls, Ed Miliband and Douglas Alexander may now all be in the Cabinet with their own departments to run but they rem­ain among Brown's key courtiers.

Stephen Carter
Chief of strategy and principal adviser
Brown's newly installed media supremo at Number 10. The former Brunswick CEO was brought in earlier this year to improve the strategic planning of communications. In negotiating the new job as Brown's chief strategist, he achieved instant clout and is now busy building his empire. Sources say he has already brought a non-tribal but ruthless edge to the inner sanctum.

Sue Nye
Director of government relations
A veteran of New Labour, Nye has long played the gatekeeper role for Brown, deciding who
has access to him. A crucial sounding board and dispenser of advice from policy to media relations and choice of attire.

Jeremy Heywood
Permanent secretary
Workaholic civil servant Heywood was promoted to a key role as part of the New Year shake-up. The former Morgan Stanley man shares an office with Carter and is responsible for all aspects of policy. Key reports include Dan Corry, head of the Downing Street policy unit.

Damian McBride
Special adviser on press
Former VAT press officer who Brown trained to be an effective spinner. While Ellam is the face of official civil service briefing, McBride operates in the shadows, briefing key journalists. He is well known for texting furious messages to hacks.

Mike Ellam
Director of communications
A long-serving Treasury official, Ellam is the antithesis of a Labour spinner - and Brown's most visible manifestation of his pledge
to bury the Blair era of spin. Ellam acts as the PM's official spokesman, conducting twice-daily lobby briefings on the record. Lobby journalists say his hands were shaking the first time he briefed them.

David Muir
Director of political strategy
Set to join Brown Central in the next few weeks, Muir is regarded as one of Martin Sorrell's
right- hand men at WPP. He could be Brown's answer to Tory strategy guru Steve Hilton. It remains to be seen how he will work with Spencer Livermore.

Spencer Livermore
Director of political strategy
One of Brown's longest-serving advisers. Often cited as the most influential gay person in British politics, Livermore's value to the PM lies in his firm grasp of public opinion. However, he has had his nose put out of joint after suffering an effective demotion with the appointments of Carter and Muir.

Downing Street Press Office
Responds to the bulk of enquiries from journalists, organises interviews for the PM and press attendance at events. Headed up by chief press officer Emily Hands, who also briefs the lobby when Ellam is unavailable.

Strategic Comms Unit
Headed by Martin Sheehan, the unit handles longer-term comms, including scheduling government announcements. It is also responsible for the Govern-ment's Annual Report. Has close contact with depart-mental press offices.

2 x digital specialists
Brown is aiming to hire at least two digital comms specialists. Tory leader David Cameron set the trend last year by launching his ‘WebCameron' blog.

Nick Stace
Special adviser on strategic comms
Stace quit last week as comms director at Which?. He will help to devise a long-term comms strategy in the run-up to the next election. Recently told PRWeek: ‘Gordon Brown doesn't want yes men around him.'

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