PROFILE: Eileen Wise, Conservative Central Office; Tories make a Wise decision

Eileen Wise prepares to see the Tories through the run-up to the election

Eileen Wise prepares to see the Tories through the run-up to the


As you read this, Eileen Wise - head of news at the Conservative Party -

will be slap bang in the middle of one of the busiest weeks in her life.

And things are unlikely to slow down much until after next year’s

general election.

Wise, 38, has been in the job less than six months. She is managing a

steadily expanding press office, expected to number 50 by spring next

year, and representing a party facing more bad news than good.

So how is she coping? Wise will not comment as it is against party

policy for PR staff to give interviews. However people who know her

believe she is flourishing so far.

But looking back, it seems the recently divorced wife of PR hard man

Brian Basham has never been one to take things easy.. A true darling of

the media, Wise’s career has taken her from entertainment PR with Disney

and The Entertainment Channel in the early 1980s, to national journalism

in the second half of that decade. She has freelanced for Hello!, the

Daily Mail and Media Week and spent a period as deputy diary editor for

the now defunct Today.

The 1990s saw her return to PR, executing the launch of Robert Maxwell’s

European and undertaking personal PR for Andrew Lloyd Webber at the

Really Useful Group.

Wise moved into television, researching documentaries for LWT and the

BBC, before entering the cut-throat arena of party politics.

Some were surprised when Wise took the job at Central Office. Although

she is the daughter of a true blue farmer and chairman of South Suffolk

Conservative Party selection committee, people who’ve worked with Wise

don’t recall her being a party political animal.

It is likely that her interest in politics was sharpened by her 10-year

marriage to Basham - a familiar face during party conference season.

Her time in journalism also brought her into contact with senior

political journalists. These included Charles Lewington, former

political editor at the Sunday Express and Conservative Party director

of communications since January.

Even so there are indications that Wise took some persuading by

Lewington before she took the job. ‘I’d be very surprised if she took it

first off,’ says Andrew Douglas-Jones knowingly, her friend and former

colleague at Disney. He adds: ‘She’s a woman who has to be sure.’

It seems that Lewington was looking for someone with sound knowledge of

the media and PR, rather than partisan credentials and Wise fitted the

bill. After all this is a woman whose contact book needs its own wheels.

Ian Watson editor-in-chief at Richbell NewMedia and former launch editor

of the European thinks she is ideally suited to the position: ‘Eileen

demonstrated during the launch that she is very efficient under fire.

She’s brave and always optimistic.’

Anyone who comes into contact with Wise quickly realises she is also

outstandingly thorough and hard working. ‘She’s exceptionally dedicated

and follows this through in her social life. There’s no line drawn

between work and play,’ says Douglas-Jones.

Ex-husband Basham agrees: ‘She’s absolutely characterised by throwing

herself into her work. He adds candidly: ‘She threw herself into the

divorce proceedings as well.’

An intriguing couple. Wise with her true-blue blood and Basham a strong

republican and often labelled as a ‘champagne socialist’. Were political

differences the reason behind the failure of the 10-year marriage?

Basham, with whom Wise is now on good terms, laughs mischievously: ‘We

were totally incompatible. We went to a marriage guidance counsellor and

after 10 minutes he suggested we get divorced.’

Despite sharing the tabloid experience of her political PR

contemporaries like Lewington and Tony Blair’s press secretary Alastair

Campbell, Wise doesn’t come across as the aggressive doctor of ‘spin’

portrayed by last week’s Panorama.

On the contrary, her former colleagues describe her demeanour as warm,

genuine and amiable. One hopes she can maintain this good humour as her

party prepares for its toughest, and probably most vicious, election

campaign for at least 20 years.


1987 Deputy diary editor, Today

1990 Press officer, launch of the European

1991 PR manager, Really Useful Group

1995 Reasearcher, Crime Monthly

1996 Head of news, Conservative Central Office

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