In the News

SPADs under Liz Truss

Mike McCartney

6th September 2022

As well as monitoring the latest developments on the new Cabinet, look out for news on Liz Truss's inner circle

Recent PMs have increasingly sought the advice of non-elected, special advisers.

The practice was evident under Harold Wilson, but recent PMs have accelerated this trend by, for instance, consulting them on issues of major importance. Mrs Thatcher preferred taking input from her economic adviser, Sir Alan Walters, not her Chancellor, Nigel Lawson, on ERM entry. Jonathan Powell, Blair’s Chief of Staff, played a key role in the Good Friday negotiations.

Further, the size and scope of political offices has grown. Under Blair, the number of political appointees jumped from 8 to 28, and a plethora of new units were created, e.g. the delivery unit and the strategy unit. In particular, there has been an expansion of the media machinery. Blair created the Strategic Communication Unit, headed by a political appointee, Alastair Campbell, a man some dubbed ‘the real Deputy Prime Minister’. Brown also ploughed this furrow. In 2007 key advisers included Spender Livermore and Damian McBride. In the run up to the 2010 poll, for a variety of reasons these people had moved on, but unelected advisers continued to wield more power at the heart of the central executive territory than many Cabinet ministers. Justin Forsyth was DSC (Campbell’s job under Blair) and David Muir was director of political strategy. Interestingly the latter played the role of David Cameron when Brown rehearsed for the TV debates preceding the election!

Under Boris Johnson, the number of political appointees grew to over 100, with the most notorious being Dominic Cummings. According to the Daily Mail, Cummings was paid over £100,000 and the total cost to the taxpayer of his team weighed in at over £7 million.

Cummings was replaced by Dan Rosenfield, who was seen to be a safe pair of hands as his new Chief of Staff. Rosenfield departed last month in a wave of resignations triggered by partygate.

Rosenfield was then replaced by Stephen Barclay, the former Brexit secretary, as his new Chief of Staff.

The Guardian previews some of the people who may join the payroll under Truss. See here.

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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