Civil servants in the Home Office, even the senior ones, always felt a little nervous when walking towards Theresa May’s office. It wasn’t so much the meeting with the Home Secretary that they dreaded as the characters who lurked in the room directly outside hers. One senior official describes a typical scene: Fiona Hill, one of May’s special advisers, ‘sitting back, getting ready to go out with her stockinged feet on the desk, giving a civil servant an absolute rollicking’. May’s two other special advisers, Nick Timothy and Stephen Parkinson, were also forces to be reckoned with. Now, it seems, this team is being reassembled — to help her run Britain.
All three have taken a break from government in the past couple of years. Hill was forced to resign after a scandal in which a confidential cabinet memo concerning Michael Gove was leaked. Parkinson, well regarded throughout Whitehall, became a key figure in Vote Leave; that he left such a good job to join the campaign was taken as a sign of his personal commitment to Brexit. Timothy, right, went on to run the New Schools Network, a charity that supports Gove’s free schools project.
Given how slow May is to make new friends — and the trust she places in her old ones — her advisers might soon have more influence over the shape and direction of British government than any single cabinet member. One former colleague has said they may be as important to her as George Osborne, William Hague and Ed Llewellyn, the Downing Street chief of staff, were to David Cameron. One country-running quartet would replace another: except, in May’s case, she is the only one who was elected.
Theresa May’s new Cabinet
Listen to Isabel Hardman, Fraser Nelson, James Forsyth and Colleen Graffy discuss the PM’s new appointments:
Timothy and Hill, it’s said, didn’t just work as media advisers.