FRONT PAGE: Brown irks columnists

Gordon Brown has caused a stir among the UK's political pundits by hiring a new adviser to target the "commentariat".

Brown: another new adviser
Brown: another new adviser

Downing Street confirmed the appointment of Paul Sinclair, a former special adviser to international development secretary Douglas Alexander.

Number Ten insiders said that Brown's strategy chief Stephen Carter wanted Sinclair to win over influential columnists, as well as the Scottish media.

Sinclair has already set up a series of meetings with leading commentators, including The Guardian's Polly Toynbee, ranked number one on PR guru Julia Hobsbawm's list of commentators who 'most influence politics and public opinion'.

But his appointment has divided the commentariat. BBC business editor Robert Peston said Sinclair would ‘find life incredibly difficult' in his new role.

‘This group of people is the hardest to influence, and most of them would regard it as appalling that someone was being paid to persuade us what to think,' he said. ‘I'm not going to talk to someone whose job it is to influence me.'

But The Times comment editor Daniel Finkelstein disagreed, finding Brown's latest appointment ‘a perfectly reasonable idea.'

‘Columnists absolutely can be swayed, provided the person proceeds through lucid arguments rather than rough trade efforts,' he said.

‘A lot of my time as an advisor at Tory HQ was spent trying to target the commentariat, explaining our strategy to commentators.'

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