Profile: Guto Harri goes from Boris Johnson to News International PR chief

Guto Harri Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Guto Harri at the London mayoral electoral declaration

Guto Harri has never been one to duck a difficult challenge.

The former BBC journalist has begun work as director of communications for Rupert Murdoch's embattled News International.

But if anyone is surprised that the man who masterminded London Mayor Boris Johnson's successful re-election campaign this month relishes the heat of battle, they need only take a closer look at his CV.

During his 18 years with the BBC, the Cardiff-born Welsh-speaker's assignments included covering the collapse of communism in East Germany, the bloody coup which overthrew Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu, and reporting from inside Iraq during the first Gulf War.

His time at the BBC also included stints as the the News Channel's chief political correspondent, North America business correspondent, and Rome correspondent

After leaving the corporation in 2007, he joined a public relations firm, and spent a brief stint - four days in fact - as adviser to Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the run-up to the controversial 2008 presidential election.

'Very decent people'

Not content there, he took on another tough assignment: selling the maverick former Conservative MP Boris Johnson to London.

Now, after many months of allegations surrounding phone hacking at some of Mr Murdoch's newspapers - which led to the closure of Britain's biggest seller, the News of the World - Mr Harri's new role with News International may appear to be his most difficult to date.

He told the Guardian newspaper: "I hope to combat some of the hysteria that is rife in British public life.

"Not every politician is corrupt, not every banker gets an enormous bonus and doesn't think they give a monkey's for anything, and not everyone who works at News International was involved in phone hacking," he said.

He added: "I know very good people who write for the Times and for The Sun and they are first class journalists and they are very decent people.

"One of the reasons why I am more than happy, I'm delighted to take the job, is that those people cannot be tarred with the same soggy brush as just a few people who were either involved in criminal activity, which is a matter for the courts, or you know, were seemingly out of control."

The 45-year-old Cardiff-born father-of-three is the son of Dr Harri Pritchard Jones, an author and retired psychiatrist, and Lenna, a former BBC Wales producer.

He studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford, where he was a contemporary of Boris Johnson's. Outside the pressure of work, he enjoys rowing, sailing, fishing and cooking.

Image caption Guto Harri worked alongside the likes of Sian Williams when he was a BBC journalist

He was thought at one time to have been in the running for the job of Prime Minister David Cameron's director of communications, when the post eventually went to Andy Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World.

Mr Coulson eventually resigned from his Downing Street role as the phone hacking row escalated.

Mr Harri told the Guardian that he accepted that moving directly from London's City Hall to News International could be seen in some quarters as further proof of the close ties between Mr Murdoch and senior Conservatives.

He added: "I'm totally reconciled that the move will be seen in the media as part of an irresistible geometrical pattern between the Conservatives and News International."

But he said he had never been a member of the Conservatives or any other political party.

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