George Osborne has moved to strengthen his personal, political operation by hiring the political editor of the Daily Mail James Chapman as his director of communications.
This beefing up of his media team will be seen in Westminster as a statement of political intent by the Chancellor; it gives him a more formidable operation than any of the other likely contenders for the Tory leadership. I am told that Chapman will be handling communications for Osborne in his role as both Chancellor and First Secretary of State.
One of the reasons that Osborne was keen to hire a Fleet Street heavy hitter to be his director of communications, he’s never had one before, is that he is likely to take charge of the EU referendum campaign, should the government recommend an In vote following the renegotiation.
With Chapman and the former BBC political producer Thea Rogers working for him, Osborne has experts on both print and broadcast media on board. There will also be a press secretary joining the staff.
There will be particular satisfaction in Tory circles at Chapman’s hiring. Not only he is one of the most respected political journalists in Westminster but he’s also turned down previous job offers from them, rejecting the chance to become David Cameron’s press secretary back in 2013.
PS From Fraser – this is a coup for George Osborne, and offers an interesting insight into the state of UK newspapers. James Chapman is one one of the best journalists I’ve met; we entered the lobby about the same time and I’ve always been in awe of his taking on the most stressful job in political journalism and always acting if it were no big deal. He’s 38 and reached the top very quickly, propelled by his incredible ability. Once, someone of his talent would be thinking about becoming a newspaper editor. But now, with the industry in turmoil, people young enough for a major career change are jumping ship. Anyway, Fleet St’s loss is Osborne’s gain. He already has Neil O’Brien, formerly one of the think tank circuit’s brightest lights. A hell of a team, albeit one minus an economic adviser after the departure of Rupert Harrison. I hope his aides encourage his radicalism, which (where it existed) has been richly rewarded in the last few years.