From “the Chad” to Downing Street

A former Midlands journalist, who began his career on a local weekly, has been named as the new official spokesman for the Prime Minister – an appointment described by one communications specialist as a “super-smart move.”

James Slack, who since 2015 has been the political editor on the Daily Mail, succeeds Helen Bower, who is moving from Downing Street to the Foreign Office, where she will take up a new role as Boris Johnson’s director of communications

Photo:  Creative Commons/Peter Richmond

Photo:  Creative Commons/Peter Richmond

James (pictured) started his career at the Mansfield Chad in the 1990s before moving on to the Nottingham Post. A former home affairs correspondent on the Daily Mail, he worked on the newspaper’s three-year campaign to stop Aspergers sufferer Gary McKinnon, who was accused of hacking into 97 US military and NASA computers, from being extradited to America.

His appointment as PMOS – the position once held by Sir Bernard Ingham and Alastair Campbell among others – had been widely expected. It was confirmed with an official statement on the Downing Street website.

James joins the team as a civil servant in charge of No 10’s Press Office and will be responsible for the twice-daily briefings with political journalists in the houses of Parliament.

Commenting on James’ appointment, Will Walden, public affairs managing director at Edelman and Boris Johnson’s former communications director, told PRWeek: "Slack’s appointment is a super-smart move by Number 10. He’s a good operator, he’s trusted by the lobby, and he’s no-nonsense. Inevitably his ex-colleagues will now expect more of an insight than they’ve been getting.

"If they’re wise, Number 10 will give him what he needs - unfettered access to the decision-making and greater autonomy in his dealings with the press."