Image above: Guto Harri; photograph from Twitter
Guto Harri tells The Chiswick Calendar his experience working with Chiswick’s lifeboat crew will help him in new job as Boris Johnson’s Director of Communications
Guto Harri, former BBC journalist and Chiswick resident, has been appointed Director of Communications for Boris Johnson.
He’s one of the ‘grown ups’ being parachuted in to get a grip on Number 10 this week after five advisers dramatically left Downing St, as the number of letters from Tory MPs announcing they have no confidence in their leader rises to the mid 40s reportedly (the magic number being 54 to spark a leadership contest) and Dominic Cummings promises more damaging revelations.
Guto is no stranger to managing high stakes crises and big personalities. He’s worked with Boris before, when he was Mayor of London, and he helped Rupert Murdoch to rebuild the reputation of NewsUK after the phone hacking scandal. He is on the board of Hawthorn, which offers ‘corporate reputation and leadership’ services.
Images above: Guto Harri’s Tweets showing him with Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It) and Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London
“Stay calm, keep perspective”
Guto announced on Twitter on Sunday that he was taking the job, with a picture of himself with actor Peter Capaldi, who played the vituperative Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It, saying:
‘Having taken advice from a distinguished predecessor, I’m delighted to confirm that I have accepted the role of Director of Comms for @BorisJohnson.’
When he is not engaging in power politics he is a volunteer lifeboatman with the Chiswick crew and he told The Chiswick Calendar his experience with the RNLI will help him get a handle on Boris’s current crisis.
“It’s an enormous privilege and a very big challenge. Fortunately my wonderful colleagues at RNLI Chiswick have taught me over many years to focus on the task in front of you, stay calm, keep perspective and co-operate and communicate properly with your colleagues.
“A more experienced, competent and professional team in No.10 will hopefully allow the Prime Minister and his cabinet to concentrate on the issues that really matter – delivering what they promised to the British people.”
Images above: Guto Harri as RNLI lifeboatman; Chiswick lifeboat
Remainer who said Johnson as prime minister would be “divisive”
Johnson’s allies have been using the word ‘grown-up’ to describe the new team in Downing Street, with Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay as the new chief of staff. Guto used the word himself when he spoke to the Guardian.
The Guardian’s Deputy political editor Rowena Mason writes:
‘Harri’s appointment was for the main part welcomed by Tory MPs despite his having backed remain in the EU referendum, with two senior Brexit-supporting MPs saying it was “very positive” and a return at long last to “sensible” appointments.
‘One said it would hopefully provide more stability after the era of Cummings and the subsequent era of aides close to the prime minister’s wife.’
Guto has spoken out in support of Boris Johnson several times over the past few weeks in media interviews, saying to LBC’s Nick Ferrari:
“Are we really so prissy a piece of cake being brought into a meeting is considered sickening?
“… we’re losing our sense of perspective”
and saying he would not describe Boris Johnson as a ‘party animal’. But he has also said in the past that he thought Johnson would be a very “divisive” prime minister.
Dominic Cummings’ reaction to Guto Harries’ appointment was this:
“Message from No10: ‘So our new boss is a pro-Remain lobbyist who’s said the PM is ‘sexually incontinent’, ‘hugely divisive’, ‘destructive’, ‘dragging the country down’, & picked ‘wrong side’ in referendum’ GREAT.”
Guto’s response was swift and equally to the point, referring to an article he wrote in 2020 in which he described Cummings as:
“powerful unelected official cultivating a high profile, disagreeing with the prime minister, undermining the cabinet, picking on special advisers, hiring weirdos who can’t survive a week in public life and providing us all with a detailed running commentary of how wonderful this is all meant to be”.
He starts his first week in the job just as historian and former newspaper editor Max Hastings publishes an excoriating piece on Boris Johnson in the Times. Headlined ‘Has this experiment in celebrity government given us the most disreputable leader in history?’ Hastings argues the prime minister’s ‘systematic deceit and frivolity have undermined our democracy at home and shamed our nation abroad’.
That’s some reputation management job.
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