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Last Updated: Friday, 24 October, 2003, 20:16 GMT 21:16 UK
The perfect man for the prince?

By Nick Higham
BBC media correspondent

Prince Charles and his private secretary Sir Michael Peat, not to mention the prince's companion Camilla Parker-Bowles, could hardly have made a more appropriate choice to be the new communications secretary at Clarence House.

In Paddy Harverson they have chosen a man with the perfect credentials for the job.

He has experience working with a globally-renowned British brand, which is at the constant epicentre of fierce tabloid interest and employs more than its fair share of rich, famous and egotistical individuals (not to mention a notoriously prickly top man).

He has survived and even flourished on a constant diet of bad news, media frenzies, misreporting and scandal.

Paddy Harverson
Harverson is used to working for a huge British institution
The similarities between Manchester United, the world's biggest and most successful football club, and the Royal Family, are uncanny.

Paddy Harverson's experience with Sir Alex Ferguson, David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand and the rest will stand him in very good stead.

The privately-educated Harverson, who took a degree in international relations at the London School of Economics before becoming a journalist, is universally agreed by sports correspondents to be unflappable, straightforward and a safe pair of hands.

He's also something of a pioneer. When he joined Man United three years ago he was its first communications director.

Before that he worked at the Financial Times, where in 1996 he became the paper's first sports correspondent, writing about the business world of sport.

Handling crises

His FT experience was part of his appeal for Manchester United, a publicly-quoted company which needed someone to look after not just press relations but an entire media strategy including links with supporters, internal staff communications, shareholder relations and public affairs, community and charity work (including links with the Prince's Trust).

In the event, much of his job involved handling crises like the "Beckham's Boot" incident, in which footwear was allegedly thrown during a dressing room row between Man Utd manager Alex Ferguson and his star player, Beckham's transfer to Real Madrid, the departure of chief executive Peter Kenyon to rival Chelsea and, most recently, the crisis over Rio Ferdinand's drugs test.

In some ways going to the palace will be the quiet time
Michael Crick
Journalist
No doubt it helped that the sports-mad Harverson has been a Man U fan since childhood.

Another fan, the journalist Michael Crick, author of a biography of Sir Alex Ferguson, says Harverson is "an inspired choice" for the Palace.

"You never have a quiet time at Old Trafford. In some ways going to the palace will be the quiet time. Being the PR man at Manchester United is the toughest PR job in the country," Crick told listeners to Radio 4's PM.

"The world of supercharged egos and backbiting he can expect to find at St James's Palace is one he's already familiar with at Old Trafford." Harverson's job at Clarence House (where Prince Charles is now based, having moved out of St James's Palace) is also a new post.

Pitfalls

Previously, media relations were handled by a press secretary and for a time by Mark Bolland, the assistant private secretary credited with turning round public perceptions of Camilla Parker-Bowles.

Prince Charles
Prince Charles wants to emphasise the work he does
And it won't be a quiet patch. Since he took over as the top "civil servant" in Prince Charles's household, Sir Michael Peat (an accountant rather than a PR man by training) has overseen a strategy designed to focus attention not on the prince's private life but on the work he does. No doubt Harverson will be expected to carry that on.

But his experience of the tabloids at Old Trafford means he'll be well aware of the pitfalls potentially awaiting him.

In particular he'll have to find a way to balance the desire of Princes William and Harry for a private life with the constant pressure from editors for more pictures and stories about the pair.

As news of his appointment was announced royal correspondents were on their way to a briefing on the princes' view of the latest royal scandal, the publication of personal letters to and from Princess Diana by her former butler, Paul Burrell.

Paddy Harverson will be under no illusions about the kind of job he has taken on. No doubt he's already realised he may get to spend a lot less time watching football.


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