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Deputy prime minister hires PR chief

LONDON - The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has hired its first director of communications since its creation in May following a Government reorganisation.

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Ministry of Defence director of news Derek Plews is set to take up the top PR post at the Office on September 30.

He leaves the MoD after a year in the post, in which he effectively acted as number two to the director general of corporate communications Martin Howard.

The deputy PM's office -- created from the old Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions -- confirmed Plews' appointment, but declined to comment further on his role in the job.

An MoD spokesman said they are starting the recruitment process to replace Plews and denied his departure followed criticism over the MoD's media operation in Afghanistan.

According to a report in The Sunday Telegraph, Plews' departure stems from an order from No 10 Downing St director of communications Alastair Campbell to "radically shake-up" the MoD's PR division.

Campbell is reported to have demanded that news management be overseen by civil service professionals and take from the hands of military officers.

But Downing St this week denied all the allegations.

A spokesman said: "It's rubbish. We believe the MoD did an excellent job throughout Afghanistan.

"We routinely speak to other governmental departments, but the claim that Downing Street has ordered some sort of radical shake-up following criticism if the media operation in Afghanistan is not true."

The MoD also this week denied reports of a re-organisation in the department, adding it is yet to review its performance leading the Afghanistan media operation.

"We constantly evaluate our performance and strive to improve our operations.

"There hasn't been any re-organisation yet - we will look at Afghanistan in time to see if there are any lessons to be learnt, but we still have some troops on the ground there."

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