Simon Lewis: Risk averse and unflappable – the man who rescued the Royals
Wednesday 17 June 2009
Simon Lewis already has experience of rescuing one badly tarnished national brand. Now he faces a momentous task in repeating the feat.
Mr Lewis, 50, counselled the Royal Family on restoring its reputation after its ham-fisted response to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997 led to public fury and stirrings of republicanism.
Mr Lewis, who has said Lord Mandelson is the politician he "most respects", will arrive in Number 10 at the end of next month, with little more than nine months to go until the most likely general election date.
With Gordon Brown plumbing historic depths of unpopularity, the suave public relations expert will have his work cut out in making the voters tune in to the Prime Minister. By coincidence, his younger brother, Will, is the editor of the Daily Telegraph, whose disclosures about MPs' extravagant expenses have contributed to the collapse in Labour support.
Mr Lewis, an Oxford graduate, already has one spell in politics under his belt as the youthful head of public relations for the Social Democratic Party before it merged with the Liberal Party.
Otherwise, he has spent much of his career in corporate PR, including senior posts at the NatWest Group and Warburg Bank before joining British Gas as director of corporate affairs.
While at Centrica, the supply arm of British Gas, he was seconded to Buckingham Palace as the Queen's first communications secretary the year after Diana's death. He was widely credited with helping repair the Royal Family's image.
Most recently, Mr Lewis, who is renowned for his unflappable manner in the public relations industry, worked as head of communications for Vodafone.
His Labour contacts are impeccable (although as a civil servant he could be recruited to speak for an incoming Tory administration). His wife, Claire, with whom he has three children, is the daughter of a former Labour MP and became a friend of Cherie Blair through their charity work.
Mr Lewis will also be charged with spearheading Mr Brown's media strategy, as well as giving twice-daily briefings to lobby journalists.
A report during his time at British Gas suggested he was not comfortable dealing with reporters, describing him as risk averse. One observer of his corporate style told PR Week: "He doesn't like to wing it. He likes to be very well briefed on an issue and consider every word."
Mr Lewis replaces the respected career civil servant Mike Ellam, who will return to a senior post at the Treasury after two years as Mr Brown's spokesman.
Downing Street said: "Simon Lewis is a very experienced public relations professional with a very strong track record working in both the public and private sectors."
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