As far as I know he wasn’t on any of the bookmakers’ lists of contenders for new head of communications at Downing Street. It’s BBC executive Craig Oliver. I had never heard of him before but then I work in a more newspaper-centric world.
A colleague who has spent time with Oliver suggests that he has a rather “corporate” air, an impression confirmed by one of his former colleagues. “He was a hard guy to warm to,” says that person.
Meanwhile those who thought Cameron needed someone with an earthy Coulson-esque background (James Kirkup makes a compelling counter-case) will note that his new press chief attended a Scottish comprehensive.
I am also told that Oliver’s father Ian, former chief constable of the Grampian force, was out in Helmand only recently advising the Afghan police on how to modernise/reform.
Oliver does not belong to the Tory party – or any other apparently – and the initial call from Downing St apparently took him by surprise. Nick Robinson at the BBC has lots of details about how he was persuaded to take the job.
Robinson is among those who had thought his colleague was relatively apolitical:
Hard though this may be to believe I had no inkling of his political views in all the years I worked with him. What I do remember is how interested and intrigued he was by David Cameron’s early efforts to re-shape the Conservative Party. Whilst others were scathing about that trip with the huskies or the “hug a hoodie” speech Craig thought they mattered as more than mere spin.
The Prime Minister has appointed Craig Oliver, currently Controller of BBC Global News, as the Director of Communications at 10 Downing Street.
The Prime Minister said:
“I am very pleased that Craig Oliver is to become the new Director of Communications at 10 Downing Street. Craig has formidable experience as a broadcast journalist. He will do an excellent job in explaining and communicating the Government’s programme.”
Craig Oliver said:
“I’m delighted to be joining David Cameron and his team at such an exciting and challenging time.
“It’s difficult to leave the BBC after a fascinating few years – but this is an opportunity I can’t turn down.”
Notes for Editors:
Craig Oliver is 41 and has been the Controller, BBC Global News since June 2010. Before that he was Editor of BBC News at Ten and BBC News at Six , Britain’s two most-watched news programmes, increasing ratings and winning numerous awards. From 2002-2006 he was the Head of Output at ITV News, responsible for overseeing ITV’s Lunchtime News, Evening News and News at Ten. Prior to that he was Output Editor at Channel Four News and at ITV News. Craig Oliver was the BBC’s General Election Editor in 2010, responsible for planning campaign coverage and running the Election Results programme (up to and including the handover of power). He was also Editor of ITV’s 2005 General Election programme.Craig Oliver studied at St Andrews University, having gone to a Scottish comprehensive school. He is married to BBC News presenter Joanna Gosling, and they have three young daughters.
Craig Oliver will be employed as a special adviser.