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June 13, 2024

Amber de Botton joins The Guardian as communications chief

ACOBA says appointment of de Botton after she left Downing Street is low risk but sets lobbying restrictions.

By Charlotte Tobitt

Rishi Sunak’s former director of communications Amber de Botton is joining Guardian Media Group.

De Botton will be chief communications officer for the national newspaper publisher and will sit on its executive committee, reporting to editor-in-chief Katharine Viner and chief executive Anna Bateson.

De Botton led communications for Sunak’s administration for less than a year, between October 2022 and September 2023.

She said last year the role had been “an honour and a privilege” but she had “decided it is the right time to move on”. She also thanked Sunak “for his support and his leadership”.

Before that she was head of UK news at ITV News where towards the end of her tenure she was part of the team shortlisted for Press Gazette’s British Journalism Awards for its Partygate coverage.

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De Botton said in a statement: “I have long-admired The Guardian’s agenda-setting journalism. The group has a powerful role internationally in the future of news media. I am excited to have the opportunity to promote stories that change lives, laws and legacies.”

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De Botton has also been head of politics at ITV News, deputy head of politics at Sky News and political editor at Politics Home publisher Total Politics.

Update: De Botton has agreed not to contact the Government in her new role or take part in any lobbying activity from The Guardian for two years after the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) found that her “influence and network of contacts in government” means she may have information of interest to any employer in media and communications.

“Particularly, as she seeks to take up a role that operates in its wider comms and strategy – which could be construed as seeking to influence the UK government on behalf of GMG,” ACOBA said.

“This would be contrary to the lobbying ban which applies to all former senior civil servants for two years on leaving office.”

Mitigating factors include that de Botton has already been out of No 10 for eight months, that she is returning to a media career she already held for more than 15 years, and that her Downing Street role was primarily centred on external communications about information ready to be placed in the public domain rather than sensitive information.

ACOBA provides advice on the next business appointments of senior civil servants when they leave their roles.

The public body, which is independent from the Government, noted that de Botton had “regular contact” with journalists from across the industry including at The Guardian, and including “semi-regular” meetings with Guardian political editor Pippa Crerar, during her time in No 10.

However, it said, she had no contact with GMG’s corporate management and was not involved in any “policy, regulatory or commercial decisions” relating to the publisher or its competitors.

ACOBA said: “The Cabinet Office told the Committee that whilst it is possible for a No.10 Director of Communications to favour one media outlet over another, there is no evidence she did. Further, her contact with GMG… was limited to speaking to the Guardian about messaging coming from No.10 – not in relation to decisions on the operation of the GMG or its publications.

“As such, the Committee considered the risk that this role could reasonably be perceived as a reward for decisions or actions in office is low.”

GMG has confirmed it will ensure de Botton has “no direct engagement” with the Government. Any contact initiated by the Government is permitted, however.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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