The curious case of Michael Gove, Portland and the ever-revolving door

Written by David Singleton on 27 September 2017 in Diary

The top Tory Brexiteer has hired a special adviser from Portland. Again.

Has Michael Gove got a bit set in his ways when it comes to recruiting members of his entourage?

The environment secretary has just appointed a new special adviser, James Starkie, from the successful PR and lobbying firm Portland.

Before joining Portland as an associate director, Starkie was head of regional press for the Vote Leave campaign. In the new post, he will team up with Gove’s current special adviser Henry Cook, who was also previously an associate director at Portland.

The set-up is reminiscent of Gove’s days as education secretary, when he had Henry De Zoete as a special adviser and James Frayne as his department’s communications director.

Both De Zoete and Frayne – who is now a regular columnist for Total Politics – had previously worked at Portland.

Gove's hiring record suggests that he is a big fan of the leading lobbying firm. As does his lengthy June 2016 article for Portland about what Brexit would mean and his follow-up article for the agency in February 2017 outlining what a "clean, quick Brexit" would look like.

But the environment secretary is not the only cabinet minister to have shown an interest in the agency set up by Tony Blair’s former deputy communications chief Tim Allan.

The latest raid comes after work and pension secretary David Gauke recently snared Portland partner Idil Oyman to be his special adviser. And Brexit secretary David Davis brought in former Portland account executive Tim Smith as one of his special advisers.

For its part, Portland has been stealing staff from prime ministers for many years, most recently when it bagged two of Theresa May’s top team.




Picture credit: Press Association.



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