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Andy Coulson's replacement has been appointed

By Jonathan Isaby

Picture 16 I've been saying to anyone who asked me since Andy Coulson's resignation that his replacement as Director of Comunications as Downing Street would most likley be someone few people have ever heard of and certainly not one of the bookies' frontrunners.

And so it came to pass when it was announced this afternoon through a press release from Downing Street that the new Director of Communications at Number 10 will be... Craig Oliver, currently Controller of BBC Global News.

His biography was released as follows:

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.

David Cameron said on his appointment:

"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, who will be employed as a special adviser on a salary of £140,000, added:

"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."

5.15pm update:

Nick Robinson of the, er, BBC, has more of the inside story on his appointment:

I am one of those shocked and yet not altogether surprised by Craig Oliver's switch from being poacher to becoming gamekeeper. 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.

Perhaps that was what Andy Coulson remembered when he was forced to resign from his job. Last week Coulson stunned Oliver by phoning to say that he was his natural successor. The call came at an awkward time - Oliver had only just been involved in announcing painful and controversial cuts at the BBC World Service in his current job as Controller of English at BBC Global News.

Coulson persuaded Oliver to meet the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, Ed Llewelyn to discuss what the job might entail. That meeting led to others - a weekend trip to George Osborne's West London home and then onto Chequers to meet David Cameron himself. They liked what they saw and heard. After a meeting with Nick Clegg this morning the decision was sealed.

The Tories hope that Oliver, like Coulson, will help craft messages that can be clearly understood, will lead and manage a team bringing together not just civil servants and party propagandists but staff from two rival parties and will be privately forceful but publicly discreet.

Unlike Coulson he offers no links to or first hand knowledge of the press and is no Essex Boy but, like him and unlike many on Team Cameron, he went to a comprehensive and has never been a member of or involved in any political party.

5.30pm update:

Nick Watt of the Guardian writes that there will be other organisational changes as a result of the appointment:

The appointment of Oliver will herald a series of changes in the Downing Street communications team in which:

  • Gabby Bertin, Cameron's longstanding aide, will take a greater role in briefing the press. Bertin will report to Oliver, who will be in overall command and will be a political special adviser.
  • Steve Field, the prime minister's spokesman who is a high-flying Treasury career civil servant, will have an enhanced role. It is expected that Field, who had not been attending some of the prime minister's morning meetings, will have greater access.


> Last week's ToryDiary: What print journalists, broadcasters, commentators and bloggers want from Andy Coulson's successor


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