Phil Reilly becomes Lib Dems’ Director of Communications

A familiar face heads back to Lib Dem HQ. Phil Reilly, the man who wrote Nick Clegg’s brilliant resignation speech which inspired 20,000 people to join the party, has been appointed interim Head of Communications following the departure of James Holt to pastures new. Phil has been working for Nick since then – including helping Nick with his new book which is coming out in September.

Since the election, he’s shared some funny stories on his blog, Blimey O’Reilly.

The most recent involves his old colleague Mr Holt, who had a bit of a brainwave at the Eastleigh by-election to get Nick Clegg out of the campaign HQ without being harassed by a throng of journalists. I wonder if Boris might consider using the same technique when he leaves home every day – although I doubt the same personnel would be as willing to help him.

The entrance to the building was an enormous roll-up, corrugated metal affair, like a huge garage door or the sort of thing you would use to protect a massive off license after hours. The press pack were all expecting the DPM to come out through the smaller front door, built into the roll-up wall, into an open car park, where they could pounce on him like jaguars on a gazelle. So, Holty arranged dozens of activists, some gripping placards and bright orange diamonds, inside the building facing the entrance, like infantry preparing to march into battle.

Behind the advanced guard was Nick Clegg flanked by dozens more activists and, rather conspicuously, a couple of the Metropolitan Police’s finest close protection officers.

On the count of three, the roll up wall was flung upwards and out charged the activists, Nick among them, cheering and chanting the campaign’s slogan ‘I like Mike’ (our candidate was Mike Thornton) over and over again as they pushed through the befuddled journalists and out towards the car at the other end of the car park.

Nick was safely escorted, through a crowd of cheering activists, to his car, and whisked away back to London. No reporter got close to him. As the crowd dispersed, a few bamboozled journalists were left standing in an increasingly empty car park wondering what on Earth had just happened and what they were supposed to tell their newsdesks.

Tim Farron said of Phil’s appointment:

I’ve known Phil for years and I am certain he will be absolutely brilliant. He has always worked well with people from all across the party and has brought energy and clarity to our message and media strategy – and a sense of humour too. I’m chuffed to have him back in HQ as part of my team as we lead the Lib Dem fight back in the months ahead. And if I start banging on about Milton Keynes in my speeches, you’ll all know why.


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  • Tony Dawson 14th Jul '16 - 2:42pm

    Without wishing to take anything away from Phil Reilly, it is a bit presumptuous to suggest that any single speech inspired an entire cohort of people to join the Party. I think there was something rather more powerful motivating many of the joiners. Like the fact that our Party had just suffered the most disastrous election campaign and results in history. A part of which might well be labelled as being due to failure of communications and messaging over a considerable period of time.

  • @Tony Dawson

    We had a lot of people come forwards in Liverpool after the election saying they joined because of Clegg’s speech.

  • I’ve always been a LD voter but did actually join after hearing Nick’s speech.

  • Simon Banks 16th Jul '16 - 8:33pm

    From comments I’ve had, the speech was a factor. But it crystallised a feeling that might well have led to membership anyway, a reaction to the devastating result which went, “I’m a Liberal. I have a duty to do something about this. Voting isn’t enough…” (though actually a minority didn’t vote Liberal Democrat in the general election, they were natural Lib Dems)…”so I’ll join the party.”

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