Tag Archives: phil reilly

On leaving the “best job in politics”

It is with a heavy heart that after nearly a decade working for the party in one form or another, I am finally moving on. I started as a press officer a few months into Nick Clegg’s leadership and since last summer I have had the privilege of serving as the party’s Director of Communications. In that time I have managed to clock up three General Elections, three referendums, three party leaders, four chief executives, 18 spring and autumn conferences, nine TV debate ‘spin rooms’, two crucial by-election victories, one Glee Club (I walked out and vowed never to return), one Daily Mail hatchet job, and snuck references to Milton Keynes (#cityofdreams) into two party leaders’ conference speeches. I even met my wife Thais at a Lib Dem conference.

The most memorable moment for me came a few minutes after the first ITV Leader’s Debate in April 2010. I was in the spin room at the Manchester Hilton when all the journalists in my eye line started rushing to the back of the room. I turned to see that Peter Mandelson had wafted in, with a swarm of cameras, Dictaphones and shorthand notebooks forming around him within seconds. I edged a little closer, in time to hear the opening words of his no doubt carefully crafted response: “Nick Clegg won”. The full sentence was “Nick Clegg won on style but Gordon Brown won on substance”, but when the Dark Lord of Spin acknowledges in any form at all that your guy won, you know you have stepped through the looking glass.

That night changed the course of our party’s fortunes, but it also changed my life. I had joined the press office of a party that hadn’t been in national government for decades, with no expectation that would be changing any time soon. A few short years later I would be working in 10 Downing Street. And five years on from that fateful night in Manchester, I would be sat at two in the morning in the smoky front room of Nick Clegg’s flat in south west Sheffield, as the scale of our 2015 collapse began to become apparent, helping him to write a resignation speech. 

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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.

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Ruwan Kodikara becomes Nick Clegg’s “Head of Media and Brand”

I have to say that “Head of Media and Brand” is a job title that makes me want to cry. A human being is not some corporate monolith that makes tins of soup or handbags.

PR Week has more information:

Kodikara, who is based in Number 10 and becomes a special adviser to Clegg, was previously a senior consultant at Quiller. Prior to that he was associate director at MHP Communications. Kodikara is also chairman of Kingston & Surbiton Liberal Democrats and treasurer of the body Lib Dems in Communications.

Kodikara has an impressive Liberal Democrat pedigree. Often unfairly, Nick’s inner circle is criticised for not having enough of a party pedigree. Matt Hanney cops this one most, but he was delivering Focus before he was out of nappies. Kodikara has a long association with the Liberal Democrats both at HQ and in Kingston.

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The Budget: the Liberal Democrat influence

Earlier today the Liberal Democrat Press Office’s Phil Reilly tweeted, “Income Tax cut – from the front page of the @libdems manifesto to the pockets of 25m taxpayers”.

Certainly better to pick from the front page than the back page, as announcing a barcode would have been lacking a little in interest (except, perhaps, to one of my former economics lecturers, who once tried to persuade us that the checksums on barcodes matched up with a warning from the Bible and predicted an imminent Second Coming).

That however wasn’t the only major policy was a distinct Liberal Democrat flavour to it. So too was the news about pensions. As Stephen Williams MP put it, “Proposals for a £140 flat rate pension, together with the Lib Dem commitment of restoring the earnings link, will ensure our pensioners get a fair deal”.

HM Treasury logoBoth of those announcements were unsurprising, but one decision that had been up in the air was over the Green Investment Bank and how much power it really would have. George Osborne’s previous strange absence from the debate was put to rest when he announced a series of pieces of good news on the Green Investment Bank: starting a year earlier, £2 billion more in funds and, crucially, it can borrow. As Paul Waugh put it “Big victory for Cable”, not to mention Chris Huhne and Nick Clegg, who had taken the lead in settling the internal debate over how much powers to give.

Amongst the details was success for the long-standing Liberal Democrat calls for water rates relief in the South West, though overall the details did not add up to a particularly green budget, Green Investment Bank aside. The IFS’s initial analysis is that, “The Chancellor also insisted that green taxes will rise as a proportion of total receipts. This remains the case on current Treasury forecasts, but by the narrowest of margins”. Some of the non-financial measures, such as the new standard for zero-carbon homes, give the Budget a greater overall green tinge than the pure financial numbers show. How deep that tinge is will depend on how measures such as the presumption in favour of sustainable development pan out when the details are settled.

Here’s the email from Nick Clegg to party supporters about the Budget:

Today the coalition government has announced a budget that will return the UK to sustainable and balanced economic growth and which puts helping Alarm Clock Britain at its heart.

We are increasing the income tax threshold by £630 to £8105; lifting hundreds of thousands of low income earners out of paying income tax and putting £126 back in the pockets of low and middle income earners. This is in addition to the last budget that took nearly a million of the lowest income earners out of tax and made millions of hard working individuals £200 better off. We are making a real difference in people’s lives – from the front page of our manifesto to people’s back pockets.

Alarm Clock Britain will be further helped by the measures we have taken to give motorists a fairer deal. We are shifting taxation away from the pumps and onto the broader shoulders of the oil companies instead – with fuel duty being cut and taxation on oil companies rising.

At the same time we are making the wealthy pay their fair share with increased measures to tackle tax avoidance, higher charges for non-doms and a special tax on private jets. This budget also places green growth front and centre – the Green Investment Bank will begin operation next year with £3bn of capitalisation, delivering an additional £18bn of investment in green infrastructure by 2014-15.

We were left a toxic economic legacy by Labour with a record deficit and debt. Under Ed Balls Labour have no answers and solutions to the mess they left. The difficult decisions we have taken in government have rebuilt confidence in Britain’s ability to pay its way, kept interest rates lower than they would otherwise have been, and have provided the stability that business and individuals need to invest in the UK’s economy.

There are no easy decisions in this budget. But we are delivering a budget which will mean that that those who can pay more will; and those who are working hard to make ends meet will get a helping hand. This budget is progressive, green, liberal and what our country needs at this time.

Earlier in the day Danny Alexander took to YouTube to talk about the Budget:

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Recent Comments

  • User Avatarsuzanne Fletcher 20th Aug - 6:47pm
    @George Potter. Yes it is long, but no way were we going to be the people to say that some bits did not matter !...
  • User AvatarGeorge Kendall 20th Aug - 6:39pm
    @Peter Martin Hi Peter, Thank you for your comments. For the sake of clarity, are you the same Peter Martin who commented last year on...
  • User AvatarMichael 1 20th Aug - 6:14pm
    @Mark Seaman The point about car manufacture is that it requires a large investment in a plant. So there tends to be one (or two)...
  • User AvatarGeorge Potter 20th Aug - 6:06pm
    With apologies to Suzanne and LD4SOS, my understanding is that their amendment is 3 pages long. In all my time in the party I have...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 20th Aug - 5:53pm
    @ Grahame Evans, Yours is a rather convoluted argument. Low interest rates and a lowish exchange rate are a sign of weakness in an economy...
  • User AvatarPeter Hayes 20th Aug - 5:24pm
    I agree with Martin, the summary is useful. If you read ConsevativeHome and LabourList BTL you see that our comments are relatively moderate! Labour has...