New press chief is picked for No 10

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The Independent Online
DONALD MACINTYRE

Jonathan Haslam, a 43-year-old career official in the Government Information Service, has been appointed the Prime Minister's chief press secretary in place of Christopher Meyer, who is to become the new Ambassador in Bonn.

Mr Meyer, 51, an urbane Russian expert with a wide range of Foreign Office experience, has secured one of the most important embassy postings after two years in the job as Mr Major's top spokesman.

Mr Haslam worked loyally for Mr Major as deputy to both Mr Meyer and his predecessor, Gus O'Donnell, who now holds a senior post in the Treasury. He is currently head of information at the Ministry of Agriculture.

Mr Meyer has managed to combine robustness and subtlety in his treatment of political journalists. But he has been scrupulous in resisting the many pressures in his job to become drawn into party political conflict.

The announcement of his appointment to the embassy in Bonn is one of a series of changes to key postings in Europe-related jobs in the Foreign Service. Michael Jay, the senior official for EU affairs in London, is to become ambassador in Paris and both men are likely to be in their posts until well after the next general election.

Whitehall sources said last night that Mr Haslam has been promoted to grade 3 in the Civil Service and given a two-year appointment - though that does not impose any obligation on Tony Blair, the Labour leader, to retain him if he wins the next election.

There is widespread speculation that Mr Blair would make a political appointment by putting Alastair Campbell, his current press secretary, into the job.

Mr Meyer said he had "many regrets" about leaving Number 10 and a job which had been "hugely enjoyable and very stimulating", adding: "You cannot enjoy this job unless you enjoy the cut and thrust.

"What people forget is that working at Downing Street for the Prime Minister is one of the highest honours a civil servant can have."

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