The art of spinning: From PR to Parliament

In a political era in which spinning has been developed into a fine art, it helps to have a background in public relations. Meg Carter identifies the true professionals

Monday 08 January 2007 01:00


Shadow Minister for Europe / Tory MP for Altrincham and Sale West

Graham Brady is a former public affairs director of Waterfront Partnership.He has also worked at PR company Shandwick. In 1997, aged 30, he became the youngest Conservative MP at that time. Brady first became active in the Tory Party when, at 16, he joined a campaign to save local grammar schools. From 2001 to 2003 he was Shadow Minister for Schools.


Leader of the Opposition / Tory MP for Witney

Cameron was Carlton TV's spin doctor during the 1990s when he spent seven years working alongside Carlton chair Michael Green as head of corporate communications.

Green described Cameron as "board material". Journalists who dealt with him begged to differ. Former BBC business editor Jeff Randall said he wouldn't trust Cameron "with my daughter's pocket money".


Tory MP for mid-Bedfordshire

Dorries, educated at Halewood Grange Comprehensive, Liverpool, worked in nursing and then business before becoming an MP.

Just before she won her seat in May 2005, she was a special adviser to Oliver Letwin, then Shadow Chancellor, where her duties included managing his media relations. Although a self-declared "rebel", Dorries cited Jesus as her hero in a survey. She is a former director of BUPA.


Shadow Paymaster General / Tory MP for Rayleigh

Francois's first job after an MA in war studies at King's College, London, was as a management trainee at Lloyds Bank. Within a year, he was working as a public affairs consultant - first for Market Access International and thenhis own business, Francois Associates.

He entered Parliament six years ago following unsuccessful attempts to win Kensington & Chelsea and Huntingdon.


Shadow Secretary of State for Defence / Lib Dem MP for Devon North

Nick Harvey cut his PR teeth at Profile PR and Dewe Rogerson, where he worked from 1986 to 1991.

The one-time president of Middlesex Poly's students' union then went on to be the Lib Dems' chair of campaigns and communications for the 1997 General Election.

A supporter of Charles Kennedy's leadership bid, he was duly rewarded with a front-bench position.


Shadow Minister for Transport & Industry / Tory MP for Wealden

Hendry has had a long career in the Conservative Party. He served as a whip under Iain Duncan Smith before becoming a junior education spokesman in 2002; as parliamentary under secretary to Gillian Shephard and William Hague; and was briefly head of Hague's staff in Opposition.

Before entering politics, he worked as a PR consultant to Burson-Marsteller and Ogilvy & Mather PR.


Tory MP for Arundel and South Downs

Nick Herbert is a self-professed campaigner for rural life. Born in 1963, he read law and land economy at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Before entering politics, he was director of political affairs for the British Field Sports Society, and helped set up what is now the Countryside Alliance. Herbert launched a "No" campaign against the euro, and is a co-founder and former director of the independent think-tank Reform.


Tory MP for Mid Worcestershire

A former adviser at Bell Pottinger Communications - part of Chime Communications, chaired by Lord Bell - Peter Luff previously worked at PR companies Lowe Bell and Good Relations.

He was elected to the House of Commons in 1992.

He served as a parliamentary secretary to junior ministers, including Ann Widdecombe, until the Conservative defeat in 1997.


Labour MP for Slough

A former primary school teacher who admits she has "a voice that children can hear at the other end of a playground", Fiona Mactaggart once worked as a press officer for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

The daughter of Glasgow property millionaire Sir Ian Mactaggart, she was parliamentary private secretary to MP Chris Smith from December 199 to April 2001.


Lib Dem MP for Winchester

Former PR man Mark Oaten's fall from grace has been spectacular.

The 42-year-old MP - who as a 22-year-old member of the SDP became one of the country's youngest councillors in 1986 - portrayed himself as a family man until revelations in the News of the World that he visited rent boys over a six-month period in 2004 and 2005. Since then he has rarely been out of the news - often talking with his wife about efforts to save their marriage.

He was a PR consultant at Shandwick from 1988-1992, and then joined Westminster Communications.



Ulster Unionist peer Lord Laird of Artigarvan is a former bank official, bank inspector and computer programmer. He then entered public relations as a humble consultant in 1973.

From 1976 to 2005 he was chairman of John Laird Public Relations. Today, Lord Laird is visiting professor of public relations at the University of Ulster.


Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington

On 5 September 2006, Sion Simon was joint co-ordinator of a letter signed by 17 Labour backbenchers calling for Tony Blair to resign. He is also co-architect of a fiendish online spoof of David Cameron's "webcameron" blog.

The Oxford University graduate first worked as a senior manager at Guinness - which included a brief stint in public relations - before becoming a journalist and working for the Daily Telegraph, News of the World and The Spectator as an associate editor. From 1990 to 1993, Simon worked as a research assistant to George Robertson MP. He was elected to Parliament in June 2001.

According to theyworkforyou. com's analysis of Simon's voting record, he is very strongly for foundation hospitals; the Iraq war; and equal rights for homosexuals. According to Boris Johnson, writing in June 2001, he is: " A radiant vision of grinning New Labour complacency."


Tory MP for Wantage and Didcot

Ed Vaizey was a barrister for several years before becoming part-owner and manager of a PR company. Almost as soon as he joined the Tory Party, Vaizey found favour with senior front-benchers. The son of life peer Lord Vaizey of Greenwich and Marina Vaizey, an art historian, 38-year-old Ed Vaizey has been described as "the youngest ever Tory grandee". In 2004 he became chief speech writer for the then Leader of the Opposition, Michael Howard.



Tim Bell is chairman of Chime Communications, the holding company for the UK's leading PR group, Bell Pottinger, which includes PR firms including Bell Pottinger and Good Relations; and advertising agency VCCP.

He has been involved in Conservative advertising campaigns for the past 25 years and ran hugely successful election campaigns for Lady Thatcher when she was Prime Minister. One of the Conservative Party's most successful strategists.



The chief executive of PR group Huntsworth plc, the holding company behind financial and corporate communications businesses Citigate Dewe Rogerson and Capital Communications; and PR firms Grayling, Harrison Cowley and The Red Consultancy. Better known as Peter Selwyn Gummer, he has spent his whole career in media, having started as a journalist. He founded PR company Shandwick in 1974 and saw it through public listing in 1984 before selling it to Interpublic in 1998.


Liberal Democrat

Alan Watson, a former BBC general trainee, became a reporter on The Money Programme, then the programme's presenter. He also presented Panorama before moving into PR.

He was a director and chief executive of Charles Barker City in the early Eighties before joining Sterling Public Relations as deputy chair.

Lord Watson chaired Burson-Marsteller UK until 2004 and is now chairman of Burson-Marsteller Europe. He is also chairman of corporate communications consultancy agency CTN.


Lib Dem MEP for South West England and Gibraltar

Graham Watson was the first Lib Dem to be elected to the European Parliament. From 1983 to 1987 he was Head of the Private Office for the then Liberal Party leader, Sir David Steel. He then worked for HSBC in London and Hong Kong before becoming an MP. According to a Friends of the Earth analysis of vote-watching on the Lib Dem Torridge and West Devon website, Watson is the "greenest" MEP in the South-west.


Lib Dem spokesman for Culture, Media and Sport

A former company secretary and legal adviser at Kingfisher plc, Lord Clement-Jones then became director of Political Context, a public affairs consultancy specialising in social and environmental issues for clients including BAE. He is chairman of leading law firm Dibb Lupton Alsop's government relations practice, DLA Upstream. Lord Clement-Jones tabled a private member's bill to ban tobacco advertising in 2002.


Leader of the Lib Dem peers

Lord McNally is vice-chair of PR firm Weber Shandwick and a former head of public affairs at Hill & Knowlton.

In the 1970s, he was political adviser to James Callaghan as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and as Prime Minister. He was public affairs adviser to GEC from 1983 to 1984.

In February 2001, Lord McNally spoke out in the Lords against US rap star Eminem who, he said, incited drug use in children.


Lord Chancellor

Lord Falconer is a former deputy chair of PR firm Citigate Westminster and one-time joint managing director of Westminster Communications Group.

He has carved out a long career in publishing and public relations since he got a job as a research assistant and journalist for the Labour Party back in the late Sixties.

Lord Falconer was communications adviser to the Leader of the Opposition and Labour Party in the general elections of 1987, 1992 and 1997.


Lib Dem spokesman for the Treasury

Lord Newby was Charles Kennedy's chief of staff from 1999 to 2006. According to Charles Kennedy: A Tragic Flaw, by Greg Hurst, he was one of a handful of senior Lib Dems told about Kennedy's plans to go public on his battle with the bottle back in July 2003. But the press conference was cancelled, and those in the know kept quiet.

He began as an administration trainee for Customs and Excise before holding a series of advisory, then staff, positions with the SDP in the Seventies and Eighties, culminating in a position on the party's executive. During the Nineties, he moved into business, and was the corporate affairs director of Rosehaugh plc as well as a director at Matrix Communications Consultancy.

He snubbed Menzies Campbell in the Lib Dem leadership contest last year by suggesting he would "find the marathon hard going" and that Chris Huhne was "best placed to take on [David] Cameron".


Liberal Democrat

The former Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for North Cornwall is a former public affairs director of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Paul Tyler worked as managing director of the Cornwall Courier Newspaper Group in the late Seventies, then was chief executive and then chair of PR company Good Relations' public affairs division.

He has also led a long-running campaign highlighting the dangerous side-effects for humans of sheep-dipping.

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