Both APCO UK managing director Darren Murphy and Genzyme government affairs director Steve Bates are being considered for roles at Number Ten, according to insiders.
Murphy previously worked as a special adviser to former PM Tony Blair, while Bates spent many years as an aide to former home secretary John Reid
A diary item in the New Statesman last week claimed that both men were ‘knocking on the door of Number Ten’. The piece was penned by Daily Mirror associate editor Kevin Maguire, who is known to have strong links to members of Gordon Brown’s inner circle.
PRWeek understands that Downing Street is not looking for a direct replacement for McBride, but could hire new comms staff in a fresh push to get the Government’s economic messages across in the wake of this week’s Budget.
Sources close Downing Street were not aware of any formal approaches being made to either Murphy or Bates, but one senior source said: ‘Both of them are impressive people, although they’re probably a different league to Damian McBride. The question is whether they would serve.’
The source added: ‘They are both experienced operators, what is interesting is that to some extent they - or their former bosses - have been have been victims of some of the leakings and briefings that went on under McBride’s watch.’
However, Murphy said he was not planning to return to Downing Street. He said: ‘I’m very flattered but I spent two years working for Tony Blair. It was one of the best experiences of my life but I don’t expect to repeat it.’
Meanwhile, Bates, once known to journalists as Reid’s ‘attack dog’, said he was staying put at biotechnology company Genzyme. Asked whether he was knocking at the door of Downing Street, he responded: ‘I’m not. I’m very happily employed doing other things.’
Writing in this week’s New Statesman, Maguire said: ‘McNasty’s rapid No 10 exit will be followed by the arrival of one or more replacements. The word is that knocking on the door of No 10 are John Reid’s one-time mouthpiece Stephen Bates and Alan Milburn’s echo Darren Murphy. Neither is popular with those still spinning, but Peter Mandelson, who has a say in these things, considers both sufficiently New Labour for the right-wing slot.’