Queen's new spin doctor will get a minimum wage of pounds 190,000

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The Independent Online
THE MAN in charge of changing the fat cat image of British Gas executives will become the Queen's "spin doctor" this week - on an annual salary of pounds 190,000.

Simon Lewis, whose appointment has caused a deep split in royal circles, will earn pounds 70,000 from the taxpayer via the Civil List, with Centrica - British Gas's supply arm - making up the difference. He will keep his car and chauffeur, courtesy of Centrica, although the fate of his bonus - worth pounds 40,000 last year - was unclear yesterday.

The pay packet of pounds 190,000, significantly higher than previously suggested, will net Mr Lewis more than double the salary of the country's leading spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, chief spokesman for Tony Blair.

There was instant criticism from some politicians yesterday. Lynne Jones, Labour MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, said: "In the week of the minimum wage I do not think this is good PR. It does not augur well if a spin doctor takes that kind of salary and then tries to project the 'people's monarchy'."

A Conservative MP said: "He is stiff, humourless, over-promoted and charmless. His salary puts a high price on the value of PR and far too low a price on the monarchy itself."

Mr Lewis's appointment on secondment from Centrica, where he was director of corporate affairs, was approved by the Queen last week after an internal palace battle. Opponents said he was too close to New Labour, for which his wife has raised money, and that the Queen should have been given a greater choice from which to select a crucial member of staff.

Because of the fierce lobbying against Mr Lewis, his title has been downgraded from communications director to communications secretary and he will have no role in promoting St James's Palace.

However, the appointment is a remarkable coup for the 39-year-old PR specialist, who won the crucial backing of Lord Camoys, the Lord Chamberlain. He will report to the Queen's private secretary, currently Sir Robert Fellowes.

Mr Lewis will be one of the country's most high-profile PR figures. Buckingham Palace plans to make him a very visible spokesman. The decision to appoint a public relations chief was taken after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.