A senior press officer from the Treasury is set to replace Charlie
Whelan after Chancellor Gordon Brown’s decision to ditch the politically
sensitive role of spin doctor. An announcement was imminent as PR Week
went to press.
Sources close to the Chancellor’s office have indicated that the new
press spokesman will come from the ranks of the civil service and will
not be a politically affiliated special adviser like Whelan.
Fiona Hamilton and Helen Etheridge - both senior press officers in the
Treasury - are the two names believed to be in the frame. Both refused
to say anything other than that an announcement would be made soon.
The appointee would work with the Chancellor’s remaining special adviser
Ed Balls but would stick to the more prosaic role of handling media
enquiries rather than rubbishing political opponents.
The move to hire from within the Treasury press office would be seen as
a tacit signal that the Chancellor is keen to mollify both the civil
service and party leaders by installing a career press officer rather
than a flamboyant spin doctor.
’The last thing Gordon wants is for a Whelan Mark II,’ said one
’He knows the replacement will be under the full scrutiny of the press
so it would be more advisable to hire someone with a lower profile.’
For this reason lobbying consultants who have close links to New Labour
have been ruled out as the person would immediately attract the
unwelcome attention of the press.
A government information officer would be the preferred choice of party
leaders intent on keeping the agenda fixed firmly on policy rather than
Appointing a civil servant would also be a morale boost for the
Government Information and Communication Service, which has seen 11 of
its most senior information heads leave their posts since Labour’s