Steve hilton

Mid-term blues or something more serious?

The argument in the Cameron circle about what the government needs to do to get back on course has been the story of this week. As I say in the political column, there’s a divide between those who think that this month’s events have been little more than a bit of mid-term blues, and those who worry that they have revealed serious, structural problems that needs addressing if they are not to cripple the government. At a meeting of Conservative Cabinet ministers on Wednesday lunchtime, this divide came clearly into sight. Sayeeda Warsi, the Tory chair, asked for a freer rein to attack the Liberal Democrats, complaining that the Tories

Reeves resignation is bad news for Clegg

The departure of his senior aide Richard Reeves is a major blow to Nick Clegg. Reeves, a relative newcomer to the Lib Dems, was far less focused on party structures than many of those in Clegg’s circle and instead concentrated on the party’s long term electoral prospects. Reeves’s view was that there was a space in British politics for a party that was classically liberal on economics and socially liberal on other matters. He wanted to turn the Lib Dems into a party that was as comfortable in government as in opposition. There will be those who want to read something political into Reeves’s departure. But based on conservations I

Hilton’s return hinges on Cameron’s radicalism

It is a sign of the influence that Steve Hilton has on the Cameron project that there have been more column inches devoted to his departure from Downing Street than there would be to most Cabinet resignations. But even after he heads to California in May, Hilton will still be part of the Cameron brains trust. He is already scheduled to work on the Prime Minister’s conference speech. Hilton has, I understand, been mulling the idea of taking a sabbatical since last summer. His decision to go ahead and take next year off seems to have been motivated by a variety of factors. But those closest to him stress that

After Hilton

Perhaps, the greatest testament to Steve Hilton’s influence in Downing Street is that everyone chuckles when you ask if anyone will replace him. His role in Number 10 as the senior adviser was one he had carved out for himself so that he could work on what he wanted to. It is deliberately designed not to fit on any ‘org chart’, the kind of document that the post-bureaucratic Hilton has little patience for. Hilton was for years caricatured as being not really right-wing. But, in reality, the opposite is true — he was, in some ways, the most right-wing man in Downing Street. Few matched him on subjects like 50p

Fraser Nelson

25 February 2009: They wish we all could be Californian: the new Tory

With the news that Steve Hilton is heading back to the West Coast, we’ve dug up this piece from 2009 by Fraser Nelson. He discusses the last time Hilton decamped to California and the culture changes he could bring back to the Tories in Westminster. Once every fortnight or so, David Cameron’s chief strategist lands at San Francisco airport and returns to his own version of Paradise. Steve Hilton has spent just six months living in this self-imposed exile — but his friends joke that, inside his head, he has always been in California. Look at it this way: this is the place on Earth which fuses everything the Cameroons most like in

Fraser Nelson

Steve Hilton to leave Downing St

The Prime Minister’s strategy chief is heading to California to teach for a one year sabbatical, we learn. But who takes a one-year sabbatical in the middle of what’s supposed to be a five-year fight to save Britain? He did this before in Opposition, and came back. But this time, I doubt he’ll be back. He’s joining Stanford University as a visiting scholar, presumably to spend more time with his wife Rachel Whetstone who is communications chief for Google. Hilton’s friends say that, in his head, he never quite came back from California — his aversion to shoes (and sometimes manners) has led to much mockery. But overall, he is

Uncivil service

Political cultures differ. In Iran, for example, hyperbole is expected in all political conversations. So slogans always call for ‘Death to the US’, and nothing less. In Britain, of course, the use of language is more even-tempered, but other rules apply. Blaming the civil service for failure is considered OK, but charging an individual official, even a Permanent Secretary, for the same is considered off-limits. If a minister were to try it, then he’d be accused of trying to pass the buck on towards defenceless officials. But, as Camilla Cavendish points out in today’s Times (£), failure is often also the fault of senior officials who, despite problems in the

Lansley stakes his claim on the post-2015 budget

Look slightly to the left, CoffeeHousers, and what you’ll see is the cover image to this week’s Christmas double issue of The Spectator — a brilliant send-up of Bruegel’s ‘The Hunters in the Snow’ by Peter Brookes. You’re now able to buy your own copy, but we thought we’d pull out an intriguing little snippet from James Forsyth’s interview with Andrew Lansley, by way of a taster. The Health Secretary, it seems, isn’t just determined to see health spending rise in real terms in this parliament, but beyond that too: ‘I ask him whether, despite the ramifications of the autumn statement, the NHS budget will still be immune from cuts.

Back to square one | 6 December 2011

Benedict Brogan has some bad news from the engine room of public service reform. ‘I’m told Downing Street is starting all over again on public service reform. Will Cavendish, one of the key people guiding policy in No10, has been put in charge and told to assemble a new team of officials that will put together what effectively is a response to the white paper. The last 18 months, according to those close to the debate, were a waste of time. We’ll have to see whether the principles Mr Cameron set out 10 months ago still apply.’ Those principles are that the ‘state will have to justify why should it

Improving the health of the nation

Britain’s future prosperity, we are frequently told, lies in scientific discovery, so it’s odd that David Cameron has not given a major speech on it as prime minister until now. He will talk later today about the need to deregulate pharmaceutical licensing to encourage private investment in public health. He views the life sciences sector as a vital source of future economic growth. The PM will announce four new initiatives. First, seriously ill patients will be granted access to new drug treatments before they have cleared clinical trials — this measure will accelerate the introduction of innovative new treatments, encouraging drug companies to boost their research and development spending in the hope of

Miliband’s opportunity in the economic debate

Political debate is going to be dominated by the economy between now and the autumn statement. Ed Miliband is trying to use this moment to persuade the public that the Coalition’s economic policies have failed. By contrast, the Tories want to highlight how much deeper trouble the country would be in if it did not have the confidence of the bond markets. The Tories hope that this ‘stay close to nurse for fear of something worse’ approach will eventually deliver an election victory for them in 2015, given how hard Labour is finding it to regain credibility on the economy. As Ben Brogan wrote the other day, this strategy worked

Cameron stamps on the SpAds

David Cameron summoned all Tory special advisers to Downing Street for a meeting this afternoon. He wanted, I understand, to warn them that too much of the coalition’s internal workings were being briefed out to journalists. He made it clear that he wants an end to process stories appearing in the papers.   Downing Street has been infuriated by recent reports of tensions between Steve Hilton, Cameron’s senior adviser, and George Osborne and is keen to stamp on anything that keeps this — rather misleading — story going. There are also worries about the party being seen as divided again, a return to the old Tory wars stories of the

Whitehall could use some Google thinking

Today’s New York Times has a fun piece about Google X, the secret lab where Google is working on its special projects. The ideas are, suitability, far out. They are, apparently, looking at connecting household appliances to the internet and creating a robot that could go to the office so you don’t have to. It would be tempting to laugh if not for what Google has already pulled off. Indeed, the NYT reports that Google’s driverless car might soon go into production. But in political terms what struck me about the article is that this is the culture that Steve Hilton embraces. Remember that when Hilton was working from California,

Exclusive: The BBC to apologise for wronging Tyrie

Here’s one for newswatchers: a lesser spotted on-air apology from the BBC. During the Conservative Party conference, you may remember, they purported to show footage of Steve Hilton taking Andrew Tyrie into a corner to persuade him of the government’s line. But they are about to publicly admit, during the 5pm bulletin on the BBC News Channel, that they misrepresented what actually happened — and they’re sorry about it. Peter Oborne detailed the misrepresentation in his column last week; drawing attention to the clarifying blog post that the BBC’s James Landale graciously wrote on the matter, two weeks ago. Anyway, here’s the text of the BBC’s apology: “Last month we

Europe’s new battlefield

The long flight from Australia should give David Cameron plenty time to think about Europe, and how it just won’t go away. He didn’t want this battle — not now, not ever. But in the Daily Telegraph today, the first in what will be a weekly column, I lay out the battlefield that awaits him on his return. First, this bailout is not the end. A trillion Euros needs to come from somewhere, and today the Chinese are being tapped up — God knows what we’ll agree to in return. But that doesn’t address what is, as Mervyn King has said, a solvency issue rather than a liquidity issue. And

Steve Hilton is still in the building…

I’m not sure I’m sure what this video, shown to the party conference waiting for David Cameron’s speech this afternoon, is actually about but it’s not the kind of thing you’d have seen in the Lady’s day. That is the point of it and it’s supposed, I suppose, to be posted on blogs and social media and so on to remind people that the Cameroons aren’t your daddy’s Tories. It’s probably a post-riots thing too. Or something. There was an appeal for aid to famine-struk East Africa too. Again, the point of this is to allow the Tories to move right in other areas.

Alex Massie

The Live Aid Tories

If one hype video was weird, the other shown to delegates in Manchester this afternoon (but designed to be seen on blogs and Facebook and so on) was good politics in the service of a good cause. Or, if you really must, vice versa. As Matt d’Ancona tweeted, the Cameroons aren’t just Maggie’s children, they’re  Live Aid kids as well…

The romance isn’t dead on Downing Street

Westminster, today, is all a-titter about an anecdote contained within this FT article about Steve Hilton. It is, it must be said, a good ‘un: “Mr Hilton’s crusade against employment legislation also saw him suggest that Mr Cameron just ignore European labour regulations on temporary workers, prompting an exasperated exchange with Jeremy Heywood, Downing Street’s permanent secretary. ‘Steve asked why the PM had to obey the law,’ said one Whitehall insider of a meeting in March to discuss the government’s growth strategy. ‘Jeremy had to explain that if David Cameron breaks the law he could be put in prison.'” From there on in, the article rattles through some of Hilton’s

Roadblocked to death?

You may doubt that Downing Street is doing much politics beyond the phone hacking saga at the moment — but it is. The coming week will see the launch of the long-awaited, much-delayed public services White Paper, which is intended to set the framework for more or less every service we receive from the state. You may remember that Cameron heralded it with an article for the Telegraph back in February. Then, he suggested that private and charitable providers would be as privileged as state ones, writing both that, “we will create a new presumption that public services should be open to a range of providers competing to offer a

Hague has been vindicated on the euro

The Foreign Secretary finds himself in the rather unique position today of trying to deal with the consequences of a crisis that he largely predicted. In May 1998, William Hague gave a speech warning that the single currency would lead to social unrest as governments tried to cope with one size fits all interest rates. It is a reminder of how much Hague was swimming against the tide of bien-pensant opinion that Michael Heseltine claimed this prediction was so extreme as to drive the Tories off the centre ground. But what is, perhaps, more interesting than Hague’s vindicated view that the euro, in a crisis, would be the ‘economic equivalent