Meet the Partygate hacker hired as Rishi’s new communications chief

Colleagues described Amber de Botton as a “talented politician” and a “brilliant news editor” (LinkedIn)

It’s a surprising move, some might argue, for Rishi Sunak to hire a woman who once mocked her height on Twitter as her new hotshot communication guru.

But I guess this is the price the new Prime Minister has to pay to stick the knife into his old, arch-rival boss Boris Johnson, as well as being a highly regarded news hacker at ITV, his new head of the press Amber de Botton. is also among the award-winning team that helped unmask Johnson’s Partygate antics and ultimately open doors to number 10 (after a brief interlude lost to Liz Truss, of course).

De Botton, a political science graduate and mother of two, was announced as Sunak’s new communications director over the weekend, in a move that is likely to anger Johnson and is widely considered a sign that Sunak, known for his brash campaign video, is serious about communication in its new era in n. 10.

But it’s not just De Botton’s Partygate exposure that gets her the job. She is widely regarded as a smart and serious hiring, with former colleagues describing her as a “talented politician” and a “brilliant news editor” during her stints at ITV and Sky News.

She was reportedly considered for the role first. According to insiders, she was among the top names proposed for the role no. 10 when Downing Street posted an ad to replace Allegra Stratton – whose Downing Street career de Botton helped collapse – in July 2020. De Botton never publicly expressed an interest in the role at the time

She is expected to be paid over £ 100,000 in her new role at Number 10, with former Downing Street communications chiefs being paid £ 80,000 to £ 144,999.

Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty bought a special dog collar

Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty purchased a special “poppy” dog collar for their Labrador Nova (Simon Walker / No10 Downing Street)

So what is his background and what does his hiring for number 10 mean?

Here’s what we know so far about the new PM spokesperson.

A political science graduate with a nose for tough news

De Botton graduated with a degree in history and politics from Durham University in 2007 and quickly embarked on a powerful career in the media, according to LinkedIn.

De Botton studied history and politics at Durham University (Reuters)

De Botton studied history and politics at Durham University (Reuters)

Her resume includes spells in Sky News, Total Politics, and ITV News, mostly in politics, but her new Downing Street gig won’t be her first time on the communications side: she reportedly worked as a press officer for Greater. London Authority for eight months of the year following graduation.

The mother of two was deputy head of politics at Sky News for five years until 2017, but it’s her time on ITV News – as head of politics, then head of UK news – that really cemented her reputation. as one of the best broadcast news hacks.

ITV political editor Robert Peston celebrated her appointment on Sunday, calling her a “brilliant editor and journalist” who would leave a “huge hole in ITV News.” Another former Sky colleague, political editor Beth Rigby, endorsed Peston’s remarks over the weekend.

“She is a very talented news editor and political worker who now heads to number 10 to direct PM’s communications strategy,” said Rigby. “They mean business.”

Maternity and memes

“TV news, antics and children.” This is how de Botton describes himself on her private Instagram page.

Little is known about de Botton’s personal life, but Johnson’s wife, Carrie Johnson, is, curiously, among his 600 followers.

Did the two put aside their differences with Partygate and bond with their similarities as busy working moms in the political spotlight? Woman’s Hour host Emma Barnett is also another high-profile follower.

On LinkedIn, de Botton describes his skills as “breaking news, media relations, government relations, corporate communications, team management and press” and his Twitter bio simply includes his job title on ITV news. , along with a profile picture and a black and white cover photo.

His feed is mostly retweets about other news hacks and their political scoops, but it does provide some insight into his personality and sense of humor.

In May 2021, he posted a selfie of his Covid vaccine card, where his surname is accidentally spelled as “Bottom”. A few months earlier, in March 2021, she was seen teasing a now iconic shot by then Chancellor Sunak holding her red budget box at the top of the Downing Street stairs in what some consider an attempt to hide her difference. tall from other ministers and make him seem more powerful.

The meme de Botton shared set the image of Sunak along with the image of a child on a series of escalators from the 1986 film The Labyrinth, starring David Bowie, giving it a dystopian, horror-like vibe.

It’s still unclear whether the No 10 bosses will ask her to remove the image from her Twitter feed when the job begins, but Sunak has at least commented on her own height (only 5 feet 6 inches, making him the lowest PM since Winston Churchill) in the past. “I’m incredibly grateful that 18 years ago you chose to give up your high heels and give the short guy with a backpack a chance,” he once said of how he met his his wife.

The next Allegra Stratton – or a new beginning?

Dominic Cummings leaks about events at number 10 and Partygate’s damaging expositions, including Alegra Stratton joking about a “fictional party” – these are just a few of the bombshell stories de Botton has been credited with as part of her. role in ITV News over the past few years, some of which have won awards for their role in helping spark the end of Johnson’s premiership.

Many say it’s no wonder, then, that Sunak was so excited to welcome de Botton to his team as he attempts to restore faith in politics and right the wrongs of the Johnson era.

Former Prime Minister spokesperson Allegra Stratton stepped down after a video surfaced where she joked about a Downing Street party (Jonathan Brady / PA)

Former Prime Minister spokesperson Allegra Stratton stepped down after a video surfaced where she joked about a Downing Street party (Jonathan Brady / PA)

The poaching of journalists for the role of the press at no. 10 is nothing new. Johnson’s former communications chief Guto Harri was a former BBC reporter and had a habit of making up the story, with commentators asking if he was in danger of becoming the next Anthony Scaramucci after describing Johnson as “not a clown. total”.

Before him, Stratton – a former ITV reporter like de Botton and, interestingly, godmother to Sunak’s children – also ended up attracting headlines for all the wrong reasons, resigning from the role after a clip in which she laughed at “cheese and wine”. Downing Street Nights was revealed by – you guessed it – de Botton’s team.

Former Foreign Office Special Adviser Adam Jones briefly took over the role under Truss, and Johnson’s former Foreign Office Press Secretary Simon McGee was lined up to share the role with Jones until Truss resigned.

Now it’s up to de Botton to take the communications baton.

Let’s hope his Downing Street record stays somewhat cleaner than Stratton’s and that he avoids putting himself in the center of any story – or his future successor (another ITV hack?) Might have a scoop.

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