Royal PR guru takes Downing Street role

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The public relations guru who helped rescue the Royal Family's reputation after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales is to become Gordon Brown's new director of communications, Downing Street said today.

Simon Lewis will also conduct daily briefings of journalists as the Prime Minister's official spokesman and will join No 10 as a civil servant.

That means he will be bound by a strict code of impartiality in the fevered run-up to a general election.

Mr Lewis, who is expected to take up his post at the end of July after the Commons breaks up, replaces career civil servant Michael Ellam.

Mr Ellam will return to the Treasury to take up a senior post.

Mr Lewis joined Buckingham Palace as communications secretary in 1998, charged with drawing up a new PR strategy for the royals.

His appointment, on a two-year secondment from his employer Centrica, coincided with the row over the Queen's reaction to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Mr Lewis was previously director of communications at the old Social Democratic Party and worked for a string of City firms.

He also has Labour connections, is said to be on good terms with Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, and is the brother of Daily Telegraph editor William Lewis.

Mr Brown's current spokesman said today: "We can confirm that, subject to finalising detailed arrangements, Simon Lewis will be joining the Prime Minister's office as director of communications and Prime Minister's official spokesman in July, following my return to the Treasury.

"He will be a direct replacement for me, so he will come in as a civil servant."

The appointment has been approved by Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell.