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Wednesday 2nd May 2012 | 09:00
Exclusive by David Singleton
Tony Blair has signed up a new communications director as he prepares to “re-engage” in the UK .
Mr Blair has recruited Rachel Grant, communications director at the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta), to be his top communications adviser.
Ms Grant is expected to join the Office of Tony Blair later this month. The job entails overseeing the former prime minister’s personal PR and managing communications around his extensive lobbying operations.
A former Downing Street press officer and Whitehall head of news, Ms Grant effectively replaces Matthew Doyle, who resigned earlier this year from his post of political director.
In the new role, she will help Mr Blair boost his UK profile, following critical media coverage around his overseas lobbying activities.
The former prime minister has faced heavy scrutiny over Tony Blair Associates, his consultancy providing guidance for foreign governments.
A source close to Mr Blair said he was now keen to do more in the UK .
“He wants to re-engage in the UK ,” said the source. “He has things to say and he thinks it’s the right time.
"The question is how he re-enters the UK scene without re-entering domestic politics and interfering with the Labour Party. He wants to intervene where he can add value to political debate, but it will be above party politics.”
A spokesman for Mr Blair confirmed that Ms Grant had been appointed as communications director, adding that she was not in post yet.
The Nesta communications director previously worked in Number 10 as a senior press officer, going on to be head of news at the Department for Work and Pensions, and then at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Prior to joining Nesta, Ms Grant was head of communications at the UK Film Council.
Insiders said it made sense for Mr Blair to turn to Nesta to find a trusted successor to Mr Doyle. The body was set up under Mr Blair’s premiership to promote innovation in the UK , financed by a £250 million endowment from the UK National Lottery.
Nesta chief executive Geoff Mulgan is a key New Labour figure, having set up the think-tank Demos and served as head of policy in Blair’s office in Number 10.
This story appears in full in the latest issue of Public Affairs News, the monthly magazine for UK and EU public affairs professionals, published by Dods.
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