Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) comms chief Kamal Ahmed is leaving after chairman Trevor Phillips resisted his advice to face the press, it has been claimed.
Ahmed quit this week as director of communications, following the walkout of six members of the commission's 16-strong ruling body, amid widespread criticism of Phillips' management style and calls for his resignation.
Ahmed is to return to journalism as City editor of The Sunday Telegraph.
Roger Alton, The Independent editor who was formerly Ahmed's editor at The Observer and remains a close friend, told PRWeek: 'Trevor Phillips needs to come out and talk more - I know Kamal wanted him to do that. I don't know why that was thwarted. He needs to come out and talk about things.'
Ahmed declined to comment on this, but an EHRC insider backed up Alton's version of events. 'He (Phillips) has been silent for months. That is incredibly difficult,' said the source. 'How do you close down the story?'
Phillips is also understood to be unhappy about responding to the agenda set by critics and is waiting to announce the EHRC's autumn development plan.
Phillips has faced criticism for his handling of the crisis at the EHRC after reports claimed he told colleagues people were trying to oust him because he was black.
University of Westminster visiting professor of PR Trevor Morris said: 'If Phillips is determined to stay, he needs to lay out his case. He needs to find a sympathetic newspaper ... and use that as a platform to come back.'
HOW I SEE IT
- Trevor Morris, Visiting professor of PR, University of Westminster
There seems to be a new person resigning every day. In PR terms, one after another like that is very difficult to handle. Phillips has to address the financial issues at the EHRC and his own business, Equate. There needs to be thought on that before going out to speak to the press. In terms of policy and direction, he's got good media support, but people are now starting to question that.
- Sara Render, Co-founder, Kinross + Render
I would focus on making sure the programmes were balanced appropriately between the needs of different groups. The EHRC will have bigger problems down the line if it is seen to mind about some forms of discrimination more than others. I would also work on taking the issue of Phillips' personal management style and popularity out of the equation. Part of this would involve raising the profile of other key personnel from across a range of backgrounds, genders and ethnic groups.
- Lucian Hudson, Former FCO comms director
The EHRC is a brilliant concept considering the social policy challenges Britain faces in this area. All organisations face growing pains, and the EHRC has no alternative but to work through them. There are very strong positive messages that are not getting out.
17 - Months Ahmed has been at EHRC
£70m - EHRC's annual budget
500 - Number of EHRC staff
6 - Commissioners have quit this year