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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It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.