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.

Getty
Show Hide image

Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

0800 7318496