There are two important points about my former BBC colleague Craig Oliver being made Director of Communications for David Cameron: what he is, and what he is not. What he is, is a very experienced and sharp broadcasting producer, editor and manager – the first TV editor to be appointed to lead the UK government’s communications. He’s likely to understand the 24 hour news cycle better than anyone from print, the importance of pictures and images, and those intangible elements of news. Having worked at ITN and the BBC he has a grasp of a popular and a serious news agenda, domestic and international media, and shaping clear narratives. He is a calm, measured, highly proficient technocrat.
What he is not, is a print person – and that will be resented by the print-dominated political lobby who may seek to undermine him. He is not a big macho personality in the mould of some previous holders of the office and he is less likely to encourage a bullying or intimidating approach to managing news media. He may have to get used to backroom deals in spite of being fundamentally a straight dealer and to mixing in new senior circles – media as well as political.
His appointment marks a departure in background, tone and approach to the role. But he will have his work cut out – beyond the normal demands of the job – to make himself felt. I wish him much luck.
(By the way, with Craig alongside David Cameron, Nick Robinson, the BBC’s Political Editor, a former Young Conservative, former BBC correspondent Guto Harri managing communications for Boris Johnson, and more…. the claims of the Conservative Party that the BBC is only staffed with “lefties” is starting to look rather hollow…)