PR boss Katie Perrior is Theresa May's top spin doctor
The job once held by Alastair Campbell usually goes to a former journalist.
Theresa May has broken with recent traditions by appointing a non-journalist as her first director of communications.
The new prime minister has handed the top Number 10 spin doctor role to iNHouse Communications boss Katie Perrior.
Perrior was one of a clutch of special adviser appointments confirmed by Number 10 on Thursday evening.
May has named her former special advisers Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy as a joint chiefs of staff, and she has appointed Liz Sanderson as head of features and Lizzie Loudon as press secretary.
May has also brought in John Godfrey as her policy director. A largely unknown quantity in Westminster, Godfrey has spent the last eight years as corporate affairs director at Legal & General.
But it was Perrior’s appointment to the communications director job that came as a surprise to many of the lobby journalists who will now deal with her. Eyebrows were raised because Perrior does not have a background in journalism, as has been the case with previous occupants of the post such as Craig Oliver, Andy Coulson and Alastair Campbell.
Rather, Perrior started her career as a media adviser at Conservative HQ and went on to help run the PR for Boris Johnson's successful 2008 mayoral campaign.
More recently, Perrior ran the media operation for May's short-lived Tory leadership campaign.
She may not have been a journalist, but Perrior is known to be a media-savvy operator with excellent political antennae and a straight-talking, no-nonsense approach. As such, she is expected to make a success of the Number 10 job.
The columnist and former Observer political editor Gaby Hinsliff said that Perrior’s appointment was significant for two reasons.
Firstly because “she's really smart”, said Hinsliff. And secondly because Perrior has worked for both May and Johnson and “both trust her”.
Former Labour adviser and Total Politics columnist Ayesha Hazarika also gave Perrior the thumbs up, calling her a "top woman". Hazarika has recently appeared as a TV news pundit alongside Perrior.
Perrior set up iNHouse in 2006 with fellow Tory staffer Jo Tanner. The agency has grown steadily since 2006 and signed up Daily Mail political reporter Kirsty Walker in 2012.
Earlier this year, in a Times Red Box podcast, Perrior gave an indication of how she might like her new boss to come across when she declared that the public were fed up of politicians talking in pre-scripted soundbites.
“They don’t want spun out stuff any more. They want people to talk from the heart,” she said.
Also in the April 2016 broadcast, Perrior showed that she at least has one thing in common with the man she is replacing in Number 10.
David Cameron’s communications director Craig Oliver is known to have been confident of a Remain verdict in the EU referendum – and the former BBC man was briefing journalists that this would be the case right up until the bitter end.
Similarly, Perrior predicted that Remain would triumph – with a whopping 58.7% of the vote.
A version of this article first appeared on Public Affairs News.
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