Parliament and Politics: 'Spin student' takes top post

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TIM COLLINS, 28, is to become the youngest director of communications to be appointed by Conservative Party headquarters.

Mr Collins, who will succeed Shaun Woodward on Monday, was the Prime Minister's press 'spin doctor' for the general election campaign. With self-effacing wit, he described himself as a 'spin student', but showed a cool and an irrepressible optimism about the election result.

Mr Collins was an extended part of the 'brat pack' of young, energetic policy advisers and researchers brought into central office for the election campaign. The 'brat pack' was criticised by some old hands for inexperience, but that criticism was killed by John Major's election victory.

Mr Collins was a political adviser to Michael Howard, then Secretary of State for Employment, until being headhunted by the party to be put in charge of liaison with lobby correspondents in the run-up to the election.

Sir Norman Fowler, the party chairman, yesterday confirmed his intention to appoint a chief executive at Central Office in a move intended to sharpen up the party's management. Tim Smith, 45, the Tory MP for Beaconsfield, will take over from Lord Beaverbrook as party treasurer. Mr Smith, who will not have to resign his seat, will have to overcome a post-election deficit rumoured to be more than pounds 10m.

Andrew Lansley will remain as director of research. Sir John Lacey will be succeeded by Tony Garrett, his deputy, as head of the campaigning department from 1 August.