Craig Oliver to replace Andy Coulson

BBC man is surprise successor to Coulson as Downing Street’s director of communications.

Craig Oliver, currently head of English at BBC Global News, will replace Andy Coulson as Downing Street's new director of communications.

Oliver, who was previously editor of the BBC's News at Ten and News at Six, will take up the post shortly for the same salary as Coulson. He was reportedly approached by the former News of the World editor last week.

According to Nick Robinson, the BBC's political editor, Oliver had no previous political involvement, although he notes his interest in David Cameron's early remodelling of the Conservative Party. Robinson offers an insider's account of the negotiations on his blog:

Coulson persuaded Oliver to meet the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, Ed Llewelyn to discuss what the job might entail. That meeting led to others – a weekend trip to George Osborne's West London home and then onto Chequers to meet David Cameron himself. They liked what they saw and heard. After a meeting with Nick Clegg this morning the decision was sealed.

Oliver said: "I'm delighted to be joining David Cameron and his team at such an exciting and challenging time. My background is broadcasting, but I know that newpapers play a crucial role and I look forward to talking with them."

He is one of few journalists to have worked at the BBC, Channel 4, Five and ITV. Yet his appointment will take many by surprise, given that his experience is heavily weighted towards broadcasting. Krishnan Gury-Murthy, a newsreader at Channel 4, where Craig previously worked as a programme editor, said on Twitter: "Craig Oliver, former #c4news programme editor, intriguing choice . . . clever, shrewd and knows everyone in TV (but maybe not many in print)."

It's also possible that it is a strategic choice: the BBC could be seen as an area of weakness, and the Murdoch group papers are already onside.

Cameron says he is "very pleased" with the appointment: "Craig has formidable experience as a broadcast journalist. He will do an excellent job in explaining and communicating the government's programme."

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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What do Labour's lost voters make of the Labour leadership candidates?

What does Newsnight's focus group make of the Labour leadership candidates?

Tonight on Newsnight, an IpsosMori focus group of former Labour voters talks about the four Labour leadership candidates. What did they make of the four candidates?

On Andy Burnham:

“He’s the old guard, with Yvette Cooper”

“It’s the same message they were trying to portray right up to the election”​

“I thought that he acknowledged the fact that they didn’t say sorry during the time of the election, and how can you expect people to vote for you when you’re not actually acknowledging that you were part of the problem”​

“Strongish leader, and at least he’s acknowledging and saying let’s move on from here as opposed to wishy washy”

“I was surprised how long he’d been in politics if he was talking about Tony Blair years – he doesn’t look old enough”

On Jeremy Corbyn:

"“He’s the older guy with the grey hair who’s got all the policies straight out of the sixties and is a bit of a hippy as well is what he comes across as” 

“I agree with most of what he said, I must admit, but I don’t think as a country we can afford his principles”

“He was just going to be the opposite of Conservatives, but there might be policies on the Conservative side that, y’know, might be good policies”

“I’ve heard in the paper he’s the favourite to win the Labour leadership. Well, if that was him, then I won’t be voting for Labour, put it that way”

“I think he’s a very good politician but he’s unelectable as a Prime Minister”

On Yvette Cooper

“She sounds quite positive doesn’t she – for families and their everyday issues”

“Bedroom tax, working tax credits, mainly mum things as well”

“We had Margaret Thatcher obviously years ago, and then I’ve always thought about it being a man, I wanted a man, thinking they were stronger…  she was very strong and decisive as well”

“She was very clear – more so than the other guy [Burnham]”

“I think she’s trying to play down her economics background to sort of distance herself from her husband… I think she’s dumbing herself down”

On Liz Kendall

“None of it came from the heart”

“She just sounds like someone’s told her to say something, it’s not coming from the heart, she needs passion”

“Rather than saying what she’s going to do, she’s attacking”

“She reminded me of a headteacher when she was standing there, and she was quite boring. She just didn’t seem to have any sort of personality, and you can’t imagine her being a leader of a party”

“With Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham there’s a lot of rhetoric but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of direction behind what they’re saying. There seems to be a lot of words but no action.”

And, finally, a piece of advice for all four candidates, should they win the leadership election:

“Get down on your hands and knees and start praying”

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.