By CivilServiceWorld

10 Apr 2009

Special advisers occupy a twilight zone between elected politicians and the formal structures of the civil service. In a special report, we profile these ‘spads’ – the group Clare Short called “the people who live in the dark."


Lance Price, a special adviser to Tony Blair during his first Parliament, is clear that the relationship between special advisers – or ‘spads’ – and civil servants is not always an easy one.

“Some civil servants might feel that the fact that ministers want to talk to their special advisers before they make decisions on certain key issues might frustrate their role and slow their job down,” he says. But however much individual civil servants resent special advisers’ presence and power at the heart of departments, ministers see them as invaluable allies and sources of advice and expertise. Spads are here to stay – and civil servants have, over the years, learned to work with them.

Below, we present profiles of the 60-odd spads currently operating within government. We hope these will be useful to civil servants working with them – both within their own department, and when dealing with minister’s offices in other departments. Given spads’ influence, it is perhaps surprising that this is – we believe – the first ever full, public list of special adviser profiles. On the other hand, perhaps this absence is explained by their aversion to publicity; an aversion that remains despite the gradual formalisation of spads’ role.

That formalisation has been a long time coming: you could make a strong case that Henry VIII’s adviser Thomas Cromwell was a forerunner of the modern-day spad. And it was more than 40 years ago, in 1964, that prime minister Harold Wilson decided that advisers should have specific roles and job titles. “Previously, prime ministers had had individual advisers whom they brought in,” explains Professor George Jones of the London School of Economics’ Department of Government. “So did individual ministers – they had friends, cronies, colleagues – but there was no system to it.”

Modern day Spads

By Margaret Thatcher’s time, spads were edging into the limelight: the clash between her spad Alan Walters and chancellor Nigel Lawson, which resulted in both men resigning, contributed to the prime minister’s downfall a year later. The root cause of the clash lay in the ambiguity over spads’ role and status, which has often made their interactions with democratically-elected politicians and formal civil service structures more complex – and, sometimes, more challenging. Since then, those challenges have grown still further as spads have become more integrated into the process of developing and enacting policy.

“In those days it was a very different role,” recalls John Whittingdale, one of Thatcher’s special advisers and now a Tory MP. “There was usually only one political adviser in the department. You did work very closely with the civil service, but there was no question that you were separate from the civil service.”

Since then, the boundaries have become less clear; the list of the prime minister’s close advisers includes both the special advisers profiled here, and individuals such as Michael Ellam, Gordon Brown’s spokesman and director of communications, who is a civil servant.

By the time Tony Blair came to power in 1997, bringing with him extremely powerful spads such as Alastair Campbell, many politicians and civil servants were becoming concerned about the rising numbers – and growing influence – of special advisers.

Rules and regulations

During Blair’s first Parliament, spads were asked to follow the rules set out in a ‘Model Contract for Special Advisers’ – but as Price recalls, the contract’s provisions weren’t strictly policed. “I was given the copy of it and you knew what it was, but there was never a session where you sat down and went through it with someone,” he explains. “It was obvious to me from the way in which Downing Street was operating at the time that it was a guideline rather than strict rules.”

Soon, pressure grew for the creation of a more formal set of rules governing spads’ roles and powers. Under the chairmanship of Lord Neill of Bladen, advisory body the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) called in its sixth report for the introduction of a code of conduct for special advisers – and in 2001, the Cabinet Office published such a code.

Since then, spads’ powers as set out in the code have waxed and waned. In 2003 the code was altered to state that special advisers could pass on their minister’s instructions to officials – but the CSPL became concerned that the change had granted spads excessive powers to give orders to civil servants, and later that year the word “instructions” was deleted.

Further changes were made in 2005, when spads became permitted to “give assistance [to ministers] on any aspect of departmental business.” This broadened the boundaries constraining spads’ work, as previously they were only permitted to give advice. The 2005 code also introduced a list setting out what spads may and may not do. Nowadays, special advisers are considered to be “temporary civil servants” whose work “adds a political dimension to the advice and assistance available to ministers”, and their existence does relieve civil servants of some of the pressures to risk their impartiality by getting too closely involved in political calculations.

The role of Spads

Thanks to this last point, many observers of government defend the use of special advisers as key players in departments’ work. “There is a view out there that all special advisers have deeply politicised Whitehall, but I just don’t buy that at all,” says Guy Lodge, a senior researcher for think-tank the Institute of Public Policy Research. “As long as the special adviser is aware that they’re there to perform a political role and that there are things that they can’t do in terms of guiding and instructing the civil service machine, then that’s fine. Equally, the civil service needs to respect the special advisers and accept that they have an important contribution to make.”

Relations between civil servants and special advisers have not been eased by the high salaries earned by some spads; wages can top £100,000, well beyond the pay rates of many senior civil servants. But Matthew Taylor, the former special adviser who led Tony Blair’s policy unit and now heads up the Royal Society of Arts, argues that spads’ pay simply reflects their value in the market. “If they haven’t had a well paid job before, then they won’t be particularly well paid as a special adviser,” he says.

Taylor adds that high pay levels help to compensate spads for levels of job insecurity that equal their ministerial masters’. “Their future doesn’t depend on their competence,” he notes. “If their boss gets sacked, then they lose their job.” And Jonathan Baume, general secretary of the FDA, points out that special advisers’ pay is also linked to their minister’s role: “More senior cabinet ministers can often get higher pay for their people than a less influential cabinet minister.”

Despite the introduction of the code, some politicians still have concerns over spads’ accountability and the growth in their numbers since the 1980s. “Things have changed a great deal since Margaret Thatcher’s government,” says Whittingdale. “There are many more political appointments within Whitehall, and in some areas you have political appointees giving instructions to the civil servants, which I don’t think is desirable.”

Politics and the civil service

Allegations that many spads have overstepped the mark, breaking the code by using public resources for partisan ends or running political campaigns from government offices – particularly during the Labour Party’s 2007 deputy leadership elections – continue to raise hackles within Whitehall and among politicians. A recent decline in the numbers of spads hasn’t altered Whittingdale’s view that there should be a “strict limit” on their numbers. “As soon as you get more than a small number, there is a danger that they start to replace the civil service and to politicise the civil service,” he argues.

Such arguments have led the CSPL to recommend that new spads be trained on the regulations govering their role – and while Price is sceptical, he does accept that past spads were given little guidance.

“I don’t think there would be much point sending them off on a training course: I’m not sure what that would achieve,” he says. “Still, there ought to be a very clear explanation of the boundaries to what they can and can’t do in that job. When I started, I was just thrown in at the deep end, and it was up to me really to find out what the rules were and work out how I could work within them.”

Despite the establishment of set contracts and a code of conduct, special advisers still perform a slightly ill-defined and amorphous role that irritates both elements of the formal government structures, and opposition politicians. Yet because their posts enable ministers to bring trustworthy allies into the heart of government, providing political advice and helping ministers to get a grip on the sometimes-sticky levers of power, it is likely that any future government will want to bring in their own coterie of spads.

It’s easy politically when you are in opposition to bang the political drum, and the Tories have made a lot of this,” says the IPPR’s Lodge. “But they have to be careful with that, because they’ll want special advisers when they come into power. They’ll take a whole host in there.”

What’s more, despite the doubts and criticisms, there are plenty of politicians and civil servants around who recognise that spads can play a useful part in the work of government. Paul Flynn, a Labour public administration committee member who’s well known for his independence and readiness to criticise the government, says that his committee concluded that special advisers “have made a worthwhile contribution.” When the committee examined the role of spads, he recalls, it found that “many people, including senior civil servants, say that they’re useful.” Spads may not always be popular, he concludes, but  they’re often useful: “There were some quite generous tributes to the work that they’ve done.”
Note

We updated repeated this research in 2011 - to see the findings please click here

This report was compiled by Bernadette Reynolds, Matt Ross, Ruth Keeling and Matt O’Toole. We have used a narrow definition of spads – other lists may include people who are full civil servants, and whose careers are not tied as tightly to the fortunes of their ministers. Although spads are paid from public funds, many are very reluctant to release details of their roles or careers. So our information has been collated from a variety of sources: if you can add to our information or believe that we’ve made a mistake, please email matt.ross@ dods.co.uk.

 

PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE

Special Advisers

Dan Corry
An economist in the 1980s. Corry served as a special adviser to Margaret Beckett and then Peter Mandelson at the Department for Trade & Industry, then to Stephen Byers during his much-criticised 2001-2 stint as Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions. Byers was badly damaged by his political adviser Jo Moore’s suggestion that the department “bury” bad news by releasing it on 9/11, and Corry also came under fire for allegedly asking Labour officials to check whether Paddington rail-crash campaigners had  links to the Conservatives. Corry was director of Labour-leaning think-tank the New Local  Government Network from 2002 to 2005 but re-entered government in 2005, succeeding  Gavin Kelly as Ruth Kelly’s special adviser at the then-Department for Education & Skills. In 2006 he became chair of Gordon Brown’s Council of Economic Advisers, moving with him to Downing Street a year later to take his current role as head of the policy unit.

Justin Forsyth
On his October 2008 appointment as an adviser on political press issues, commentators welcomed Forsyth as a nice guy to follow the tough approach of Damian McBride – although they also questioned whether the latter’s long-term strategy role had really taken him out of the picture. Previously, Forsyth had spent four years as Downing Street’s adviser on international development; before that he was with Oxfam for 13 years, latterly as campaigns and policy director.

Gavin Kelly
The low-profile deputy chief of staff to the prime minister is a specialist on schools policy, having served as an adviser to Ruth Kelly during her stint as education secretary. He moved to the Treasury in the wake of the 2005 election to succeed Ed Balls – who had been elected to Parliament – as Brown’s special adviser, and then followed the new prime minister to Downing Street in June 2007.

David Muir
A marketing man, David Muir has worked for Ogilvy and WPP – latterly as director of WPP’s The Channel, its media and research arm – and published bestselling book, The Business of Brands. Muir is a longstanding Labour supporter: a friend of John Smith’s daughter, he is on the advisory board of the John Smith Trust. Equally importantly, he’s a blogger and a keen user of social networking sites, hired as director of political strategy to improve the prime minister’s communications across new and old media platforms.

Sue Nye
Sue Nye began her Westminster career as a typist for prime minister Jim Callaghan, before becoming diary secretary for subsequent Labour leaders Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock. She has been close to Gordon Brown for many years, and her friendship with Tony Blair’s adviser Anji Hunter ensured that a line of communication always remained open between the two rivals. Currently Gordon’s director of government relations – a role combining diary and gatekeeping work – Nye is married to Gavyn Davies, the former BBC chairman who resigned after the Hutton inquiry.

CABINET OFFICE

LIAM BYRNE, CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER AND MINISTER FOR CABINET OFFICE

Special Adviser

Tony Danker
Entered government as Cabinet Office minister Liam Byrne’s special adviser after the October 2008 reshuffle. Prior to this he was director of communications at management consultancy McKinsey, where he also spent time as a senior consultant.

TESSA JOWELL, MINISTER FOR THE OLYMPICS

Special Adviser

Mandy Telford/Robert Philpot
Mandy Telford is on maternity leave, and her role is currently being covered by Robert Philpot. Telford is a former National Union of Students president, and a ‘dignity at work’ co-ordinator with the manufacturing union Amicus. Philpot previously worked as director of Progress, the Labour reformists’ think-tank.

CHIEF WHIP (COMMONS)

NICK BROWN, CHIEF WHIP

Special Advisers

Gary Follis
Gary Follis became special adviser to Nick Brown on Brown’s reappointment as government chief whip in October 2008. Follis previously served as head of public affairs at high street bank Alliance & Leicester, and at manufacturing union Amicus. Until 2006, he was also a Labour councillor in Lambeth.

Luke Sullivan
Sullivan has been a special adviser since Nick Brown became government chief whip for the second time in October 2008.

CHIEF WHIP (LORDS)

LORD BASSAM OF BRIGHTON, LORDS CHIEF WHIP

Special Adviser

Ben Coffman
Ben Coffman’s role is to assist the government’s chief whip in getting legislation through the House of Lords. He previously worked as a policy adviser at Labour Party HQ, a parliamentary adviser in the South African parliament, a parliamentary and research officer for a trade union, and a researcher for two MPs.

DEPARTMENT FOR BUSINESS, ENTERPRISE AND REGULATORY REFORM

LORD MANDELSON, SECRETARY OF STATE

Special Advisers

Geoffrey Norris
A veteran adviser on business issues, Geoffrey Norris has been a member of the Number 10 policy directorate since 1997; he holds the economy and business brief. Norris has managed to span the divide within Labour: before joining BERR he was Gordon Brown’s special policy adviser for trade & industry, following a stint as industry policy adviser to Tony Blair.

Patrick Loughran
Before his role as adviser to Lord Mandelson, Patrick Loughran was a special adviser to Gordon Brown, answering parliamentary questions. He was also special adviser to Ian McCartney, minister without a portfolio, between 2003 and 2004.

DEPARTMENT FOR CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES

ED BALLS, SECRETARY OF STATE

Special Advisers

Francine Bates
Francine Bates OBE was formerly chief executive of Contact a Family, the UK charity for families with disabled children, and a board member of the Every Disabled Child Matters campaign.

Alex Belardinelli
Belardinelli first worked for an MP and, subsequently, an MEP, handling press and running campaigns in Westminster, the European Parliament and in their constituencies. In September 2005 he became a press and parliamentary officer with the Child Poverty Action Group, adding a level of expertise in youth issues to his partisan political credentials.

DEPARTMENT FOR COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT

HAZEL BLEARS, SECRETARY OF STATE

Special Advisers

Andy Bagnall
Before becoming a special adviser, Andy Bagnall worked for the Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation (TULO): the group of 15 trade unions that affiliates to the Labour Party. He also spent a period as chief whip of Croydon Council, and worked as an organiser for the party.

Paul Richards
Having joined Labour in 1986, five years later Richards took a research job with the party; he has also spent spells working for various London councils, the Association of County Councils, the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, and regeneration agency English Partnerships. An unashamed master of the dark arts, Richards is the author of Be Your Own Spin Doctor. His first spad role was for Patricia Hewitt at the Department for Health, followed by a period at the Cabinet Office before he moved to work for Blears.

DEPARTMENT FOR CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT

ANDY BURNHAM, SECRETARY OF STATE

Special Advisers

Jennifer Gerber
A former director of Progress, the Labour reformists’ think-tank, Gerber has also worked as a press officer for the Labour Party and as the political director of Labour Friends of Israel. She first worked for Andy Burnham as his Commons researcher, and now advises him on the creative industries, tourism and licensing as well as wider media and political liaison.

Phil French
An executive from the world of sports, Phil French worked as director of public policy at the Premier League, then as chief executive at Supporters Direct, the social enterprise that backs community-based soccer. While there he met Andy Burnham, the organisation’s chair, who recruited him as an adviser on sport and gambling. His brief covers liaison on the Olympics, the National Lottery, and access to sport; recently he was heavenly involved in the scheme to provide free swimming across the UK.

DEPARTMENT FOR ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE

ED MILIBAND, SECRETARY OF STATE

Special Advisers

Polly Billington
A well-known radio reporter who used to work on the Today Programme, Polly Billington became a special adviser to Ed Miliband in 2007, when he was working on party policy and election strategy in the Cabinet Office. She has since moved with him to DECC, where she concentrates on media planning and liaison work.

Tom Restrick
A former Labour Party activist, Restrick worked for Tony Blair when the party was in opposition but retrained as a barrister in the 1990s. Once qualified, his clients included the Labour Party – but he also did voluntary work providing free legal advice to people on low incomes. Restrick was first named as a spad in 2003, working for Alistair Darling at the Department for Transport, before joining Ed Miliband at the Cabinet Office in 2007 and following him to DECC last year.

DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

HILARY BENN, SECRETARY OF STATE

Special Advisers

Beatrice Stern
A graduate of the University of Manchester, where she studied politics and modern history, Stern joined the government in 2003 as Hilary Benn’s special adviser at the Department for International Development (DfID) before moving with him to Defra. She was previously media officer at the Institute for Public Policy Research, where she co-authored reports on the justice system and e-government.

Wesley Ball
Wesley Ball previously worked for Lambeth Council and for the Labour Party before becoming an adviser.

DEPARTMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

DOUGLAS ALEXANDER, SECRETARY OF STATE

Special Adviser

Richard Darlington
A former union press man, Darlington has done media work for the National Union of Students, the Institute for Public Policy Research, the Transport and General Workers’ Union and the Trades Union Congress. He moved to the press office at the Department of Trade & Industry, before being taken on as a spad by Ruth Kelly during her time as education secretary. Most recently, he worked as communications director for the government-funded education initiative Creative Partnerships; he was recruited by Alexander in January 2009.

DEPARTMENT FOR INNOVATION, UNIVERSITIES AND SKILLS

JOHN DENHAM, SECRETARY OF STATE

Special Advisers

Josie Cluer
With a background in consultancy, Josie Cluer has been employed by Avail Consulting and Matrix Research and Consultancy. She has known Denham for years, having worked for him when he was chairman of the home affairs select committee. Her recruitment as a spad came in August 2007, after a spell on the Real Work project for the Howard League for Penal Reform.

Ann Rossiter
Joining the Westminster village as a researcher with the BBC Political Research Unit, Rossiter moved on to work for MPs John Denham and Glenda Jackson. Her experience as a political insider helped her to a director’s post at “reputation management” company Fishburn Hedges, followed by a stint – first as director of research, then as director – at think-tank the Social Market Foundation. She was recruited by her old boss Denham late last year.

DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT

GEOFF HOON, SECRETARY OF STATE

Special Advisers

David Leam
Previously a spad for Ruth Kelly during her time at the Department for Transport, Leam has also worked for the Transport and General Workers Union, and for think tank the Social Market Foundation. He also has experience as an adviser at the Communities and Local Government department.

Claire MacAleese
MacAleese worked in events and corporate relations for the Labour Party from 2002 until 2005, when she became head of external affairs for the defence and transport company Finmeccanica. She was recruited by Geoff Hoon, the former defence secretary, in November 2008.

DEPARTMENT FOR WORK AND PENSIONS

JAMES PURNELL, SECRETARY OF STATE

Special Advisers

Blair McDougall
A Labour Party member since the age of 15, McDougall was the chair of Labour Students and used to work for Labour MP Jim Murphy before moving to advise Labour Party chair Ian McCartney in 2004. In 2006 he went with McCartney to the Foreign Office, where he worked on communications and human rights issues, and on McCartney’s departure in 2007 he moved to the gambling brief in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Ian Bundred
According to one academic study, Iain Bundred initially viewed politics as “a fun game to play during [his] spare time”. While at the London School of Economics he edited the student union magazine, and in 2003 became Labour Students’ national secretary. But he went on to become a respected Labour communications expert, sent to Scotland during the 2007 election and the 2008 Glasgow East by-election. He joined DWP as a special adviser in November 2008, covering Lisa Tremble’s maternity leave on a beat including press work and pensions issues.

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

ALAN JOHNSON, SECRETARY OF STATE

Special Advisers

Mario Dunn
A longtime Johnson ally, Dunn worked for his minister at two now-defunct departments – Education & Skills, and Trade & Industry – before following him to the DH. The appointments follow a 20-year career in policy, media and political roles, including stretches as political adviser to blue chip companies and media management work in the public sector (see also box, p12.)

Clare Montagu
Montagu has also followed Johnson ever since his time as Secretary of State for Education & Skills. However, she has a very different background: she ran a SureStart programme on a deprived estate in the East London borough of Barking and Dagenham, and was an adviser on social policy to Tony Blair in the Number 10 Policy Unit.

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE

DAVID MILIBAND, FOREIGN SECRETARY

Special Advisers

Madlin Sadler
The daughter of Labour MP Barry Sheerman, former lobbyist Madlin Sadler used to work for the Ford Motor Company as director for UK governmental affairs. She began work for David Miliband in February 2006, when he was still Minister of State for Communities and Local Government; that May, Sadler moved with Miliband when he became environment secretary, and subsequently when he became foreign secretary in June 2007. She works in a job-share with Sarah Schaefer.

Sarah Schaefer
A media professional and a former director of the Foreign Policy Centre’s Europe programme, Schaefer joined Miliband in July 2006, during his stint as environment secretary. Although she was initially standing in for Madlin Sadler during her maternity leave, Schaefer now job-shares the role with Sadler and has since moved with Miliband to the Foreign Office.

CAROLINE FLINT, MINISTER FOR EUROPE

Special Adviser

Claire McCarthy
A charity professional, McCarthy worked for the Brain Injury Association before joining the Howard League for Penal Reform as a policy officer in 2001 to 2004. A spell at Transport for London followed. She first worked as a spad for Peter Hain, supporting him during his time as Northern Ireland and Wales secretary before taking the Europe brief on Flint’s appointment last October.

HOME OFFICE

JACQUI SMITH, HOME SECRETARY

Special Advisers

Katie Myler
The daughter of News of the World editor Colin Myler, Katie is a TV news and entertainment specialist. She worked as a producer and news editor at GMTV breakfast before taking a role as the show’s New York correspondent in 2004, then moving to the Westminster beat – where she met Smith.

Andrew Lappin
A comparative veteran among spads, Lappin advised Mo Mowlam, then Minister of the Cabinet Office, back in 1999. He has also worked as a spad for Alan Milburn, then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, before taking the post with Jacqui Smith.

HOUSE OF COMMONS AND LORD PRIVY SEAL

HARRIET HARMAN QC, LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS AND MINISTER FOR WOMEN AND EQUALITY

Special Advisers

Ayesha Hazarika
A former special adviser to Patricia Hewitt in her role as Trade & Industry Secretary, Hazarika holds the women and equality brief in Harman’s office. Uniquely among spads, she is also an accomplished comedian with credits at the Edinburgh festival, BBC2, ITV and Radio 4.

Anna Healy
For 15 years, Healy worked as a parliamentary press officer and strategist for the Labour Party. In February 2000, she landed a job as press and strategic communications co-ordinator at Carlton TV, where David Cameron was director of corporate affairs. She now works the parliamentary beat for Harman.

HM TREASURY

ALISTAIR DARLING, CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER

Special Advisers

Catherine MacLeod
Before joining the Treasury’s Special Advisers’ Office, MacLeod was the UK political editor of Scottish newspaper the Herald. She has also worked as a freelance journalist in Westminster, including spells for Grampian TV and the BBC.

Sam White
A longtime but low-profile adviser to Alistair Darling, White also served as the chancellor’s special adviser during his stints as Secretary of State for Trade & Industry and for Transport. He moved to the Treasury with his boss at the beginning of the Brown premiership in June 2007.

YVETTE COOPER, CHIEF SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY

Special Adviser

Will Macdonald
Will McDonald served as Yvette Cooper’s special adviser during her stint as Minister of State for Housing in the Communities & Local Government department, moving with her to the Treasury in October 2008.

STEPHEN TIMMS, FINANCE SECRETARY

Special Adviser

Graham Dale
A longstanding ally of Timms, Dale is motivated by his Christian beliefs. Born into a Brethren family in Scotland, he studied theology at London Bible College before becoming a Christian youth worker, then a church minister. After a stretch working for Timms, he became the director of the Christian Socialist Movement – a position that allowed him to build connections with its powerful Labour members, who include Tony Blair, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and Commons speaker Michael Martin. In 2004 he became head of policy and public affairs at the Christian development agency World Vision UK, returning to work for Timms at the Department for Trade & Industry – and now the Treasury.

HOUSE OF LORDS AND LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL

BARONESS ROYAL OF BLAISDON, LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS

Special Advisers

Philip Bassett
A widely experienced journalist and spad, Bassett used to cover the labour and industry beats for the Financial Times, the BBC and the Times. He joined Downing Street in 1997 as a special adviser to Tony Blair, and has spent long periods working in backroom strategy – including stretches heading up the Number 10 Research and Information Unit, and working as a spad for Charlie Falconer during his time as Lord Chancellor. Bassett is married to Baroness Symons, the former FDA general secretary and government minister.

Jonathan Pearse
A longstanding parliamentary player, Pearse took a job working for Tony Blair in January 1995. After the ’97 election Blair brought him into government, making him the prime minister’s political assistant and, from 2006, assistant political secretary to the prime minister. Pearce moved to the Lords brief on Gordon Brown’s accession to the leadership in June 2007.

MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

JOHN HUTTON, SECRETARY OF STATE

Special Advisers

John Williams
After working for the Labour Party during the 1997 election, John Williams spent four years as executive director of localism think-tank the New Local Government Network, leaving in 2002 to become director of public services at the CBI. He moved into government in 2005, becoming special adviser to the then-Cabinet Office minister John Hutton, whom he has since followed to the Departments for Work & Pensions and for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform – and, in October 2008, to the Ministry of Defence.

Alaina Macdonald
Less is known about Williams’ colleague, Alaina Macdonald, who also served as special adviser to Hutton’s predecessor as defence secretary, Des Browne.

MINISTRY OF JUSTICE

JACK STRAW, SECRETARY OF STATE AND LORD CHANCELLOR

Special Advisers

Mark Davies
Straw’s special adviser for the last four years, Davies is a former journalist who worked in the parliamentary lobby, and was news and features editor at the Liverpool Echo. He was also a political reporter at BBC News Online and news editor at CNN before he became special adviser to Baroness Amos in her role as Leader of the House of Lords in 2004. He moved to work for Jack Straw at the Foreign Office the following year, replacing Teesside schoolfriend Ed Owen, and has followed him to the MoJ.

Declan McHugh
McHugh was previously deputy chief executive of the Hansard Society, and director of its Parliament and government programme. His work included research into the nature and extent of public engagement in politics as well as constitutional reform, and led to his appointment as Jack Straw’s special adviser in 2006. McHugh earlier worked as parliamentary researcher for Dari Taylor MP after completing a PhD on Manchester’s Labour movement in 2007.

SCOTLAND OFFICE

JIM MURPHY, SECRETARY OF STATE

Special Advisers

Tom Greatrex
An adviser for the past two years, Greatrex was previously director of corporate affairs at the Scottish online and telephone health service, NHS 24. He has also been the head of policy and public affairs at East Dunbartonshire Council, and worked for the GMB trade union in London. Between 1997 and 2000 he was a special adviser to Nick Brown in the Government Whips’ Office and at the now-abolished Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

John McTernan
McTernan has a glittering background as director of political operations for prime minister Tony Blair – a role that he combined with work for the high-powered, left-leaning international group the Progressive Governance Network, and advisory work for progressive parties around the world. On Gordon Brown’s takeover in 2007 he moved to become an adviser on defence, and now covers welfare, culture, the economy, defence and communications for Murphy.

NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE

SHAUN WOODWARD, SECRETARY OF STATE

Special Advisers

Sebastian Dance
A public affairs professional, Dance is experienced in working for public information campaigns: he used to work for Digital UK, which oversees the switch from analogue to digital broadcasting, and for the Engineering and Technology Board.

Oonagh Blackman
Blackman advises Shaun Woodward on political and communication strategies. She was previously the political editor of the Daily Mirror, where she worked for 11 years in roles including deputy political editor, Whitehall editor and special projects editor.

WALES OFFICE

PAUL MURPHY, SECRETARY OF STATE

Special Advisers

Andrew Bold
Born in Newport in 1960, Bold wrote his doctoral thesis on the Welsh Development Agency. A Welsh Labour Party research officer in the early ‘90s, he became the country’s Labour assistant general secretary (policy) before joining Welsh first minister Alun Michael as a special adviser in 1999. In February 2000 Michael was ousted in favour of Rhodri Morgan, and in June Bold moved to the Wales Office to replace Professor Hywel Francis as Paul Murphy’s adviser.

Anthony Hunt
After undertaking a law degree and working in the US for educational projects and the Democrats, Hunt joined the Welsh Assembly Government’s Labour policy team in 2001. In 2002 he was recruited by Paul Murphy to manage his constituency office and communications; Murphy was appointed Secretary of State for Wales in January 2008, and a year later Hunt joined him there as a special adviser concentrating on press and communications.

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