Chime claims it will get over Hill

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The Independent Online

Chime Communications has been contacting its clients to prepare them for the likely departure of one of its most senior executives, Dave Hill, who is expected to replace Alastair Campbell as Tony Blair's press secretary.

Well-placed sources say it is a "99 per cent done deal" that Mr Hill will go to No 10 to replace Mr Cambell, who has said he will step down once the Hutton inquiry into the suicide of weapons expert David Kelly concludes in the autumn.

Mr Hill is a former press secretary of the Labour Party who quit after the 1997 election. He joined a small PR firm, Keith McDowell Associates, which was bought by Chime three years ago in a move aimed at bringing left-wing credentials to a company founded by Tory peer Lord Bell, once nicknamed "Mrs Thatcher's favourite PR man".

Mr Hill now runs the political arm of Good Relations, one of the two main PR agencies in the Chime empire. There he has brought his strong connections with the Labour movement to bear, winning clients as diverse as Nirex, the nuclear waste disposal group, and Tesco, the supermarket giant.

Lord Bell has been careful to keep Good Relations at arm's length from his own Bell Pottinger PR operation because of the divergent political attitudes.

However, he has been involved in contacting clients to reassure them that Mr Hill's departure will not harm Good Relations' influence in Westminster. "We have stacks of other people who are well connected with Labour," he told The Independent on Sunday. "Clients don't fire you over this sort of thing. We have been talking to everybody."

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