Gunning for the Conservative Lifestyle

By Carmen Comment

Literary agent Ali Gunn has spent her entire career managing (if occasionally manipulating) the media, but it’s not often the interview glare is shined upon her. But now the Guardian’s Sarah Ebner meets the London-based uberagent to talk about her new role as an adviser to the Conservative Party. Almost a year ago, Gunn was asked to lend her expertise to the Tories after a mutual acquaintance set up a meeting between her and David Cameron‘s closest adviser, Steve Hilton. She is now an important part of Cameron’s coterie, working for the party “at least” one day a week. It has been said that her key responsibility is to persuade women to vote Tory, but Gunn says her remit is wider than that, explaining, “What I’m actually doing is looking, overall, at what we’re doing with all our people in all our areas. It’s much more about engaging the media and the electorate in our key personalities and our policies and not just about women. It never has been.”

But women’s issues are key in Gunn’s mind as she is “working on a big new campaign about equal pay … It’s a cause that’s very close to my heart,” she adds, having worked over the years for many organizations where, “not necessarily me, but other women were woefully underpaid. It all goes back to being a working mother as well. It is very hard to juggle your life and get childcare at the right times. What do you do in school holidays and at half-term? Your life is a constant negotiation.”

Ebner finds Gunn to something of a contradiction. She is articulate but appears hesitant; and while she is clearly tough, she appears worried about how she is going to come across during the interview – she has a crib sheet with her, and ponders each answer carefully. Although she has a reputation for negotiating the biggest possible deals for her clients, Gunn is charging the Tories far less than her usual rate. “Sometimes you have to do things because you really believe in them,” she says firmly, “not for the money.”