Daniel Korski

Nobody’s special

Nobody's special
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In The Times today, Danny Finkelstein defended the most hated profession in contemporary politics – the Special Advisers, or SpAds. Booo, hissss. The case against was (again) laid out by a number of former senior officials, with ex-Cabinet Secretary Andrew Turnbull telling a Lords committee recently that he did not like  SpAds rising to become Cabinet ministers by the time they were 38 “without touching the sides of real life”. Booo. Hisssss. Boooo.

But how many of the current Shadow Cabinet do you think have been SpAds in the past? Come on, what do you think? Half? A third? Out of the 28 members of the Shadow Cabinet, including David Cameron (who worked for Norman Lamont and Michael Howard) there are only four ex-SpAds. The others: Osborne, Clark and Willets. There are more lawyers and businesspeople in the Shadow Cabinet.  

Given the decade Labour has been in power and the youthfulness of the Shadow Cabinet, this number is perhaps understandable. But it is still surprisingly low.

How does that compare with the present Cabinet?  Jack Straw, Hillary Benn, Liam Byrne, Andy Burnam, Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, David Miliband, Andrew Adonis and Lady Vadera were all SpaDs. Some former Ministers, such as James Purnell, also worked as SpAds before they were elected to Parliament. So, double as many Labour ministers are ex-SpAds than the number of former aides likely to populate a first-term, pre-reshuffle Cameron cabinet. But even the Labour numbers are low.

So while you can argue about the worth, or otherwise, of SpAds all day long, there’s a risk of making a mountain out of this particular molehill.