Election 2017: May’s Number 10 chiefs returned to government work after terror attacks

Unusual move was approved by civil service ethics chief, Cabinet Office confirms


By Richard Johnstone

07 Jun 2017

Fiona Hill (right) and Nick Timothy (centre) pictured following Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump on the White House colonnade during her visit to Washington DC. Picture credit: PA

The Cabinet Office has confirmed that Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, prime minister Theresa May’s two most senior advisors, were allowed to return to government work during the election campaign following the terrorism attacks in Manchester and London.


Buzzfeed News reported yesterday that Hill and Timothy, who have served as May’s co-chiefs of staff in Number 10 Downing Street since she became prime minister, were given permission by civil service ethics chief Sue Gray to return to government work.

A Cabinet Office spokesman has confirmed this to Civil Service World, but would not make any further comment on the length of time of their return.

Under civil service guidance, special advisors and other political appointees like Hill and Timothy are required to resign their appointments if they want to take part in political campaigning. Both have played a part in the Conservative election campaign, with Timothy drafting the party’s manifesto.

The guidance does state that it is possible that “the prime minister agrees exceptionally that a special adviser should remain in post during the election period”, but both Hill and Timothy had resigned from their roles at Number 10 before their re-appointment.

Following the terror attack at the Manchester Arena on 22 May, in which 22 and 116 were injured, and then the London Bridge attack on Saturday evening that killed seven people and injured 48, Hill and Timothy left the Conservative general election campaign to accompany May to emergency meetings including Cobra committee meetings Buzzfeed reported.

This temporary re-appointment as senior officials is unusual in the election campaign, with purdah rules governing the political impartiality of Whitehall in this period, but a Cabinet Office spokeswoman confirmed that Gray, as the director general of the Propriety and Ethics Team, gave permission for it to happen.

The civil service election guidance states that if there is no change of government following the election, a special adviser may be re-appointed. The prime minister’s approval would be required before any commitments could be made, and a fresh letter of appointment issued, including for any advisers who had stayed in post.

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