Meet Rishi Sunak’s new mouthpiece: ITV’s UK mother-of-two news chief Amber de Botton
Rishi Sunak has hired ITV news chief Amber de Botton as his director of communications, Downing Street confirmed today, in a move likely to anger his arch rival Boris Johnson.
It comes just months after her team won an award for their explosive series of Partygate stories that arguably helped bring about the demise of Mr Johnson’s premiership.
The ousted PM’s team also saw ITV as the main outlet for ex-special adviser Dominic Cummings’ extremely damaging leaks, and considered Ms De Botton’s colleagues, particularly political editor Robert Peston, as among his harshest critics.
Mr Peston revealed Ms De Botton’s new job on Twitter on Saturday, saying the mother-of-two was a ‘brilliant news editor and journalist’ who will leave a ‘huge hole at ITV News.’
Mr Sunak appointed the broadcaster’s former national editor Allegra Stratton as his director of strategic communications in 2020 when he was chancellor, before she was poached a few months later to become Mr Johnson’s spokeswoman for televised briefings during the early days of the Covid pandemic.
Ms De Botton was one of the top names reportedly being considered for the role after an advert was published in July 2020.
The successful applicant was to be an ‘experienced broadcaster’ expected to field questions from political reporters on behalf of the government – for which they would earn a lucrative six-figure salary.
Ms De Botton did not publicly express an interest in the position before it was given to Ms Stratton.
It would later be her colleagues at ITV who obtained a video of Ms Stratton joking about a ‘fictional party’ at a mock press conference days after an allegedly rule-breaching Christmas party at No 10. She resigned a day later.
They then ran a series of hugely damaging Partygate exposes, proving a thorn in the side of Team Boris.
Rishi Sunak has hired ITV’s UK news chief Amber de Botton (pictured) as his director of communications
ITV’s political editor Robert Peston said Ms De Botton was a ‘brilliant news editor and journalist’ who will leave a ‘huge hole at ITV News’
Ms De Botton’s team (pictured together) won an award for their explosive series of Partygate exposes that arguably helped bring about the demise of Mr Johnson’s premiership
ITV’s Partygate expose won ‘story of the year’ at The Drum awards (Pictured: Ms De Botton with her team)
Ms De Botton, a Durham University graduate, also received high praise today from Beth Rigby, political editor at Sky News, where she previously worked as Deputy Head of Politics.
Ms Rigby wrote: ‘She’s a seriously talented news editor & political operator, now heading to No 10 to direct PM’s communications strategy. They mean business.’
Unlike an impartial civil servant, as a special adviser Ms De Botton will be able to give political advice to ministers, defend the Government’s actions and criticise opposition parties.
She will have a lot on her plate as Mr Sunak attempts to see Britain through the cost-of-living crisis and a looming winter of discontent, as the country is hit by soaring energy bills, inflation and a wave of strikes from NHS workers, railway staff, posties and more.
Mr Sunak also has the unenviable task of restoring a sense of unity to a divided Conservative Party.
The former chancellor is still viewed by many Boris fans as a traitor after he sensationally quit from his post in the wake of the Chris Pincher scandal – sparking a wave of resignations which ended Mr Johnson’s reign.
The pair are said to have been feuding ever since, with attempts by Team Boris to persuade Mr Sunak to join forces in the latest Tory leadership race having been firmly rejected.
A head-to-head was all but guaranteed after Mr Johnson won the support of 100 MPs, meaning he could have put his name forward for the top job.
However he bowed out as he did not believe it was ‘the right time’ for his political comeback, spurred on by fears he would be unable to win the support of a majority of his own MPs.
While Ms De Botton’s team proved a headache for Mr Johnson, she has also poked fun at Mr Sunak in the past.
In March 2021, she mocked a now infamous press photo which showed the then-chancellor holding his red ‘budget box’ atop a flight of stairs inside No.11 Downing Street.
His Treasury team were bizarrely gathered one behind the other down the staircase, while all looking up at the camera.
In March 2021, Ms De Botton mocked a now infamous press photo which showed Mr Sunak, who was chancellor at the time, holding his red ‘budget box’ atop a flight of stairs inside No.11 Downing Street (tweet pictured).
Rishi Sunak stood at the top of the staircase of No11 alongside his ministerial team in the bizarre photocall last year
The photo, which was released just moments before his speech in Parliament, was a marked change to his official photo line up from last year
Many believed the photo was designed to hide the obvious height difference between a 5ft5 Mr Sunak and the other ministers, which had been on full display in a more traditional line-up photo the year before.
Poking fun at the photocall, Ms De Botton shared a meme on Twitter which showed the baby from The Labyrinth, starring David Bowie, staring down the film’s iconic set of moving staircases.
However it was edited to look as though the baby was looking down at Mr Sunak and his Treasury team, mocking the photo’s perceived dystopian feel, which led Twitter users at the time to compare it ‘something out of a horror film’.