Public First picks up Vote Leave ground campaign chief from Stonehaven

Written by Rod Muir on 7 August 2018 in News

Nick Varley swaps one fast- growing outfit for another.

Stonehaven managing consultant Nick Varley has jumped ship to join rival start-up agency Public First.

Varley joins Public First as a director in the six-strong campaigns and communications team. The agency was set up in 2016 by former Portland and Westbourne consultant James Frayne and former Number 10 education adviser Rachel Wolf and has grown quickly since then.

Varley joined Stonehaven in January 2017 having been head of ground campaigns for Vote Leave and previously a campaign consultant At CTF Partners, the “polling and market research” company run by political strategists Mark Fullbrook and Lynton Crosby.

Stonehaven was set up in 2014 by Peter Lyburn, formerly a senior strategist at Lynton Crosby’s CTF Partners firm. Top hires for the firm include Caroline Preston, former head of broadcasting for David Cameron at Number 10, and Ben Thornton, who was previously a partner at Portland.

Both Stonehaven and Public First are increasingly taking work from the established players in public affairs - even though they claim to shun traditional lobbying. As a result both firms were recently identified by PAN as ‘disruptors” who are shaking up the old order in public affairs.

In the past two years Public First has made a number of hires including top Whitehall media operator Gabriel Milland and last week it announced a partnership with leading Washington D.C.-based agency FP1 Strategies.

Commenting on the latest appointment, Frayne said: “From likely tax rises to pay for NHS spending, to the final Brexit agreement, to a new trade deal with the US, there are vast new challenges facing businesses. While some firms will continue to rely on backroom lobbying, others are seeing that policy change comes from mobilising the public. Nick strengthens a team that is designed to influence and mobilise public opinion on a major scale.”

Varley said in a statement: “My entire career has been focused on influencing and motivating public opinion, to improve corporate reputations and win elections, so I'm delighted to join an agency who specialise in this approach.

“It's clear to me from speaking to chief executives and directors of communications from multiple sectors that traditional agencies' tactical approach to public affairs and lobbying is rightly losing their confidence. At Public First I'm going to help even more businesses understand that the public voice is the most important voice in determining what politicians do.”

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