Queen’s ex-PR man working to improve PM Brown’s image

June 17th, 2009 - 5:25 pm ICT by ANI  

Gordon Brown London, June 17 (ANI): Simon Lewis, the silky-smooth public ­relations chief who was drafted in to improve the Queen’s image as her communications secretary after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, is to take on a similar role for Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Lewis will take over as the No 10 director of communications next month.

The 50-year-oldwill replace Michael Ellam, a longstanding Brown aide, who will return to a senior role at the Treasury.

Ellam had hoped to serve as communications director for just one year after he accompanied Brown to No 10 from the Treasury in 2007. Under pressure, he agreed to serve two years.

Ellam made the announcement on Tuesday.

“Simon Lewis is a very experienced public relations professional with a very strong track-record working in both the public and private sectors,” Ellam said.

The appointment of Lewis, who served as the Queen’s communications secretary between 1998 and 2000, marks the latest overhaul of Downing Street by Brown.

Lewis’s new role comes as Lord Mandelson conducts an informal review of the No 10 media operation.

The business secretary identified two weaknesses: the civil service side struggles to offer adequate political protection for the prime minister, while the political side has in the past gone too far in the other direction and been overly partisan.

The appointment of Lewis has been in gestation for months. But Mandelson, who knows him well, will hope he will address the weaknesses.

Like Ellam, he will be a civil servant and will not brief on Brown’s behalf on party matters.

As the Queen’s former press secretary, Lewis will be familiar with the workings of Whitehall. His track record in business (he was group director of corporate affairs at Vodafone until early this year) means he will be able to offer advice as Brown attempts to draw up a compelling narrative about how the government will lead Britain out of the recession.

Brown will be sorry to see Ellam go, as Westminster journalists respect him.

Unlike some members of the Brown team, who can be aggressive, Ellam is straightforward in his briefings. He is no pushover and can be firm when he believes journalists have been inaccurate.

As a senior career Treasury civil servant, Ellam also played a big role in explaining the intricacies of the government’s response to the recession to less economically literate journalists. (ANI)

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