1. An Introduction to Steve Hilton
a. He is the son of Hungarian immigrants whose original surname was Hircsák who fled their home during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. They came to Britain, initially claiming asylum, and anglicised their name to Hilton. He won a scholarship to Christ’s Hospital School in Horsham before reading Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at New College, Oxford.
b. Hilton is married to Rachel Whetstone, a former aide (political secretary) to Michael Howard, who is now head of communications at Google. They live in the San Francisco Bay Area with their two sons, Ben and Sonny. The couple were godparents to David Cameron’s son Ivan, who died at age six.
c. After graduating from Oxford University with a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Hilton joined Conservative Central Office, as a researcher, where he came to know David Cameron and Rachel Whetstone, his future wife and Global VP of Public Affairs and Communications for Google.
d. He liaised with the party’s advertising firm, Saatchi and Saatchi, and was praised by Maurice Saatchi, who remarked, “No one reminds me as much of me when young as Steve.” During this time Hilton came up with the “New Labour, New Danger” demon eyes poster campaign for the Conservative’s pre-general election campaign in 1996, which won an award from the advertising industry’s Campaign magazine at the beginning of 1997.
e. Hilton went on to work for international advertising agencies Saatchi & Saatchi and M&C Saatchi, during which time he led campaigns for clients in the private and non-profit sectors, as well as numerous political campaigns around the world – including for President Boris Yeltsin in Russia’s first free elections.
f. Hilton started his own company, “Good Business”, a corporate responsibility consulting firm advising international and UK clients on ways to improve their impact on society. With his business partner Giles Gibbons, Steve also set up an award-winning London restaurant, The Good Cook, which aimed to showcase the ‘Good Business’ philosophy.
g. During this period, Steve spoke and broadcast internationally as an advocate of corporate responsibility, and wrote a book, Good Business – Your World Needs You, which set out the case for businesses to play a more direct and active role in advancing social progress.
h. Before the British General Election in 2010, Steve served as chief strategist for David Cameron throughout his five years as leader of the opposition and in his party leadership campaign. He is widely credited with developing the ideas associated with the modernisation of the British Conservative Party.
i. His responsibilities, in government focused on the development and implementation of domestic policy, with a particular emphasis on: the promotion of enterprise and economic growth; public service reform; family policy; decentralisation, and government transparency and accountability.
j. It has been reported that Hilton’s ‘blue sky thinking’ caused conflict within the civil service in Whitehall and according to The Economist, despite guiding the Party to electoral success Hilton “remains appallingly understood”.
k. Steve is co-founder and CEO of Crowdpac.com, a new Silicon Valley technology start-up that will make it easier for people to find and support political candidates that match their passions and beliefs. He is also a visiting professor at Stanford University, teaching classes on innovation in government, and new solutions to poverty in America.
2.January 2010; The campaign to discredit Steve Hilton, Cameron’s favourite moderniser?
a. Somebody has it in for Steve Hilton, the advertising wizard who packaged and marketed David Cameron. Somebody – almost certainly a colleague in the Conservative party – is intent on keeping him out of the team of advisers whom David Cameron is expected to take into Downing Street. The evidence of a conspiracy is the stream of revelations calculated to embarrass him at a critical moment in the political cycle. The main ones could only have come from Conservatives who think Mr Hilton has too much influence for the party’s good.
b. First there was the leak of five “Strategy Bulletins” he had circulated to Tory MPs between 16 October and 4 December, which turned up in The Times a week ago, and then found other outlets. They reveal Mr Hilton’s boyish enthusiasm for up-to-the-minute political ideas. “What does he think we do?” a furious Tory shadow minister demanded in The Mail on Sunday. “Does he think we sit on our hands waiting to read emails from a 10-year-old who has just discovered Conservatism, on a £200,000 salary, in some farmhouse, with a wife who works for Google? It’s crap. Steve Hilton has discovered Conservatism without any understanding of it. He has just bumped into it and said, ‘Hey, guys, it’s amazing!’.”
c. Mr Hilton was the brains behind the poster campaign launched across the country on Monday, with a giant picture of Mr Cameron alongside the slogan: “We can’t go on like this. I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS.” It was an invitation to vote for Mr Cameron and forget his party. That pronoun, “I” cut the shadow Chancellor George Osborne out of the picture, along with everyone else, and was sure to create wounded feelings. To add to the doubts, the Daily Mirror, which tailed Mr Hilton for two days to obtain pictures of him jumping red lights on his bike, also came up with evidence that Mr Cameron’s picture had been touched up to give him more hair and pouting lips. Questioned about this on the Today programme, Mr Cameron replied tetchily: “Look, I don’t produce the picture or the poster” – not very encouraging for the person who did.
d. Then there was the sudden, late appearance of a story that is actually more than a year old. On 1 October 2008, at the end of the Conservative conference in Birmingham, Mr Hilton had an altercation with a member of staff at New Street station as he was hurrying for a train and could not lay hands on his ticket. Allegedly, he called the official a “wanker”. He was arrested, but later de-arrested and served with a £80 penalty notice for disorder. It is not the fine that will have hurt Mr Hilton, but the humiliation of having the story all over the media in the very week when electioneering began in earnest.
e. Mr Hilton is not a politician but an advertising man who was a rising star at Saatchi & Saatchi, and who voted Green in 2001. The most familiar image of him is as the prototype for Stewart Pearson, the fictional, bald, casually dressed Tory spin doctor in Armando Iannucci’s The Thick of It, who regales staff with buzz phrases like, “knowledge is porridge”.
f. Friends say Mr Hilton, the son of a Hungarian immigrant who changed his name from Hircksac, is nothing like his fictional counterpart, yet he cycles to work in shorts, never wears a suit, is almost bald, and uses phrases such as “harnessing the insights of behavioural economics and social psychology can help you achieve your policy goals in a more effective and light touch way”.
g. He has more influence over David Cameron than most, if not all, MPs. His wife, Rachel Whetstone, was an adviser to Michael Howard before she became head of communications for Google. They recently bought a £1,050,000 house in Oxfordshire, seven miles from the Camerons’.
h. While some of the sniping at Hilton may be fired by jealousy, it has a political purpose, and the success or failure of his enemies will influence the party’s future. A few months ago, there was an attack on his strategy in the right-wing magazine, Standpoint. It was summarised as: “Euroscepticism must be reserved for private consumption; socially progressive attitudes paraded at every opportunity; and a healthy respect for Blair’s electoral success must be transformed into the dogma that Blairism worked.”
i. He is the guru who persuaded David Cameron to cycle to work, be seen without a tie, to be photographed in the Arctic, and come over as a policy-light, eco-friendly Tony Blair lookalike. This makes him anathema to Conservatives who want less image and more policy, less modernity and more banging of the traditional Tory drums.
k. Recently, Mr Hilton was reported to be embroiled in a row with Cameron’s head of policy, James O’Shaughnessy, over how much detail should be in the manifesto. This has opened up a battle over who will get jobs as special advisers in a Cameron government. This is a sensitive matter: the Tories have attacked Labour over their number of special advisers – about 70. The Tories will be open to a charge of hypocrisy unless they restrict the number of political advisers they employ at public expense. David Cameron owes so much to Mr Hilton that it seems impossible that his future could be in question, but if a paid adviser attracts bad publicity, he becomes dispensable. “Let’s imagineer the narrative,” the fictional Stewart Pearson has said. Just now, the narrative needs re-imagineering for Steve Hilton. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/is-there-a-campaign-to-discredit-camerons-favourite-moderniser-1862399.html
3. May 2010; Having largely detoxified the Conservative Party – Steve Hilton Outlines how open government will work
a. David Cameron’s, (Steve Hilton’s) letter to the nation 1 May 2010. Our contract between the Conservative Party and you by David Cameron
b. We go into the general election on 6 May 2010 with trust in politics and politicians at an all-time low. And I can understand why: the years of broken promises, the expenses scandal, the feeling that politicians have become too remote from the people – they’ve all taken their toll. That’s why I’m making this contract with you.
c. For too long, you’ve been lied to by politicians saying they can sort out all your problems. But it doesn’t work like that. Real change is not just about what the government does. Real change only comes when we understand that we are all in this together; that we all have a responsibility to help make our country better. This contract sets out my side of the bargain: the things I want to do to change Britain.
c. But it also makes clear that I cannot do it on my own. We will only get our economy moving, mend our broken society and reform our rotten political system if we all get involved, take responsibility, and work together. So this is our contract with you. I want you to read it and – if we win the election – use it to hold us to account. If we don’t deliver our side of the bargain, vote us out in five years’ time.
d. We will change politics: Our political system needs to change. Politicians must be made more accountable, and we must take power away from Westminster and put it in the hands of people – individuals, families and neighbourhoods. If you elect a Conservative government on 6 May, we will:
i. Give you the right to sack your MP, so you don’t have to wait for an election to get rid of politicians who are guilty of misconduct.
ii. Cut the number of MPs by ten per cent, and cut the subsidies and perks for politicians.
iii. Cut ministers’ pay by five per cent, and freeze it for five years.
iv. Give local communities the power to take charge of the local planning system and vote on excessive council tax rises.
v. Make government transparent, publishing every item of government spending over £25,000, all government contracts, and all local council spending over £500.
e. We will change the economy. Gordon Brown’s economic incompetence has doubled the national debt, given us record youth unemployment, and widened the gap between rich and poor. Unemployment is still rising, and this year we will spend more on debt interest than on schools. We need to get our economy moving. If you elect a Conservative government on 6 May, we will:
i. Cut wasteful government spending so we can stop Labour’s jobs tax, which would kill the recovery.
ii. Act now on the national debt, so we can keep mortgage rates lower for longer.
iii. Reduce emissions and build a greener economy, with thousands of new jobs in green industries and advanced manufacturing.
iv. Get Britain working by giving unemployed people support to get work, creating 400,000 new apprenticeships and training places over two years, and cutting benefits for those who refuse work.
v. Control immigration, reducing it to the levels of the 1990s – meaning tens of thousands a year, instead of the hundreds of thousands a year under Labour.
f. We will change society: We face big social problems in this country: family breakdown, educational failure, crime and deep poverty. Labour’s big government has failed; we will help build a Big Society where everyone plays their part in mending our broken society. If you elect a Conservative government on 6 May, we will:
i. Increase spending on health every year, while cutting waste in the NHS, so that more goes to nurses and doctors on the frontline, and make sure you get access to the cancer drugs you need.
ii. Support families, by giving married couples and civil partners a tax break, giving more people the right to request flexible working and helping young families with extra Sure Start health visitors.
iii. Raise standards in schools, by giving teachers the power to restore discipline and by giving parents, charities and voluntary groups the power to start new smaller schools.
iv. Increase the basic state pension, by relinking it to earnings, and protect the winter fuel allowance, free TV licences, free bus travel and other key benefits for older people.
v.Fight back against crime, cut paperwork to get police officers on the street, and make sure criminals serve the sentence given to them in court.
vi. Create National Citizen Service for every 16 year old, to help bring the country together.
4. July 2011; Leaks reveal coalition government conflict over David Cameron’s policy advisor Steve Hilton
a. Downing Street and Treasury aides have often been at odds since the autumn over how to boost economic growth after the deepest recession since the war, say senior Whitehall sources. The disclosure that Steve Hilton, the prime minister’s policy guru, proposed abolishing maternity leave was the most powerful example of the battles that have been playing out behind the scenes in Whitehall. “Steve Hilton comes up with lots of ideas – they do not all see the light of day,” said one senior figure who is familiar with Hilton. “Some of his ideas work and some do not.”
b. Tory sources blamed the Liberal Democrats for leaking Hilton’s thoughts, a view which took hold when Vince Cable dismissed his ideas on the airwaves at lunchtime. “That most definitely is not government policy,” the business secretary told Radio 4’s The World at One regarding Hilton’s proposal to abolish maternity rights. “Steve is a fine blue skies thinker but this is not part of what we are going to do. We are looking at labour legislation in general but it has got to be sensible and balanced and I think that particular proposal isn’t.”
c. The leaking of Hilton’s thoughts to the FT appeared to owe more to the investigative powers of the newspaper rather than to an operation by a particular faction in government. but the fact that a series of Whitehall figures felt free to speak in dismissive terms to the FT about Hilton’s ideas show that he has detractors at the heart of the government. A number of Lib Dems around Nick Clegg regard Hilton as a refreshing but somewhat wacky thinker. Furthermore, some figures in the Treasury believe that Hilton’s loose thinking was partly to blame for George Osborne’s failure to create a coherent and compelling message for the Tories’ election campaign.
d. There was much mirth among these groups when the FT reported that Hilton had suggested that maternity rights and all consumer rights legislation should be abolished to help revive the economy. Hilton even suggested that Britain should ignore EU labour rules on temporary workers, much to the annoyance of the No 10 permanent secretary, Jeremy Heywood. “Steve asked why the PM had to obey the law,” one Whitehall source told the FT of a meeting in March to discuss the government’s growth strategy. “Jeremy had to explain that if David Cameron breaks European Law he could be put in prison.” (new to me this one since the French, German’s etc pick and choose which laws they will accept or ignore as it suits their agenda).
e. Hilton also suggested that Whitehall could do its bit to cut the fiscal deficit by abolishing hundreds of central government press officers and replacing them with a single person in each department who would blog. He also said that Job centres should be closed and replaced instead by community groups. (Sir Jeremy Heywood alerted, warning lights switched on within the Civil service, enemy action counter action necessary).
f. One source who works close to Hilton said that many of David Cameron’s team were startled by his proposal in opposition to buy cloud bursting technology to provide more sunshine. Hilton’s fans rallied to his defence. One said: “Steve is brilliant. He has such a fresh and lively mind. He makes boring documents sparkle.” Another said it was important to understand the mindset of one of Cameron’s closest allies who has known the prime minister since their days together at Conservative Central Office in the late 1990s. “You have to realise that Steve is an impatient revolutionary. He really will be furious if, at the end of our five years in government, we have not completely transformed this country and freed people up to run their own lives.”
g. Hilton has been a central figure as No 10 and 11 have struggled since the autumn of 2010 to develop a coherent strategy for growth. There were reports earlier this week that Downing Street’s two neighbours and their aides were at odds over the government’s core economic strategy – the elimination of the structural deficit over the course of this parliament. This was wrong. But there have been tense discussions dating back to the spending review last autumn over how to stimulate growth.
h. Hilton has lined up in the modernisers’ corner as he lobbies for radical deregulation and a focus on innovative new industries. The Treasury welcomes many of Hilton’s ideas but is more cautious and does not want to lose sight of the importance of established industries. One Whitehall source spoke of “institutional differences” between Hilton’s team at No 10, which was instrumental in the prime minister’s “new economic dynamism” speech to the CBI last October, and the Treasury and the business department. They take what is described as a traditional and “quite corporatist view”. (power struggles between Steve Hilton and Danny Alexander, the de-facto chancellor)
i. Hilton prevailed in that speech when the prime minister warned that the traditional model of business, in which goods are shipped around the world, has been “blown apart”. He was instrumental in writing this into the speech: “There has been a surge in new, young, high-growth, highly innovative firms. It wasn’t long ago that Apple, Cisco and Google didn’t even exist – now each one has a market value of over $100bn … The impact this change is having on our economic landscape is unprecedented. In 1950, the average life of a company in the S&P index was 47 years. By 2020, it will fall to just 10 years.”
j. Treasury sources say there are no differences with No 10. They point out that in the budget in March, the chancellor announced an entrepreneurial investment scheme and tax break for entrepreneurs. “George thinks it is great that Steve agitates and pushes his ideas,” one source said. “Ideas are discussed and challenged in a process by people who all work very well together.” Despite praise for his ‘blue-skies’ thinking, the outspoken ideas man has detractors at heart of coalition government. (Osborne undermining Hilton’s efforts. Intent on gaining singular confidence of Cameron). http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2011/jul/28/steve-hilton-policies-coalition-split
5. March 2012; Farewell Steve Hilton, the PM’s most unconventional adviser
a. Downing Street have just announced that “Steve Hilton will be taking an unpaid academic sabbatical at Stanford University, starting this summer and returning next summer. With his wife and young family, Steve will be moving to California. He will join Stanford as a visiting scholar at the university’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), and will also be a visiting fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. He will spend his year on campus teaching, researching and writing, and will focus on innovation in government, public services and communities around the world”.
b. Downing Street won’t be the same when you head off to California. Gone will be the man who greeted President Obama in his socks and who walked the corridors of power in shorts and a T-shirt. Gone will be the person prepared not just to think the unthinkable but to challenge officials and ministers to explain why it couldn’t or shouldn’t be done – like scrapping maternity rights to make it cheaper for businesses to hire new workers, building a new airport on an island to the east of London or going to war with the EU to escape its bureaucratic rules. Gone will be the friend who calls the prime minister “Dave” and is willing to challenge him for not being clear enough nor impatient enough about how he wants to change the country.
c. When they get home Sir Jeremy Heywood, George Osborne, Danny Alexander et.al. will secretly raise a glass and hope that yours is a one-way ticket to the United States and not just a year’s sabbatical. They will tell their friends and families that you were not an easy man to get along with. They will whisper that they’ve heard that you were the man who told the Times that the health secretary should be “taken out and shot” for his failure to sell the NHS reforms. Your departure, will further increase the power of two men in this government – the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood and the Chancellor, party strategist and Dave’s other best political friend, George Osborne.
6. March 2012; Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s strategy director and closest confidante, to spend a year teaching at Stanford University in California
a. On 2 March 2012, Downing Street announced that Hilton would be a “visiting scholar” at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies for a year. His departure will leave a strategic hole in the heart of Downing Street but Hilton – who has a young family – is taking a sabbatical because his wife, who is a senior executive at Google, needs to be close to the company’s California headquarters. Hilton will take up a teaching job at Stanford University, focusing on innovation in government, and has promised to return to London in 2013 ahead of the run-in to the 2015 general election.
b. In a bid to show that his fundamental instincts have not changed Cameron will use a speech to party activists in London to say his vision of compassionate Conservatism, which Hilton helped develop, has not been dulled. But Hilton’s departure represents a blow to Cameron as he struggles to define his politics in the face of austerity, problems over the health bill and the more personal threat posed by his links to News International. Hilton’s skill has been to draw Cameron, instinctively a traditional Conservative, into a more unpredictable and modern figure.
c. Hilton himself believes he is leaving at the right time with the bulk of the party’s 2010 manifesto agenda gradually taking legislative shape. But he has been pondering his departure for many months, expressing frustration at the slowness of the government machine. A natural insurgent, he feels at times he has been banging his head against a benign brick wall of civil service complacency. His often impatient style lost him friends in the civil service, leading to hostile briefings suggesting his ideas were impractical. He himself became frustrated at the pace at which the civil service moves, the apparent deference to EU regulations and the feeling that the levers in Numbers 10 do not work. His last memo advocated severe cuts in the number of civil servants in the United Kingdom and further welfare cuts.
d. Although there was no great rupture, there was also a gradual disillusionment that Cameron in office has not proved as radical or risk-taking as he hoped. That sense of impatience led some to question whether Hilton return from California, especially since he finds the West Coast’s cultural distaste for rules matches his own attitude, dress sense and ability to make friends across political divides. He has taken leave before, in opposition, when he took six months off again to join his wife in California, spending much of the time on the phone to London to advise the Cameron election campaign, something that will be difficult to do in a rules-based government environment. Number 10 said he would not be replaced.
e. Modernisers such as Hilton feel they are still in the ascendancy inside Number 10 and the cabinet office, whilst the leading conservative think tanks such as Policy Exchange share Hilton’s instincts. But the pressure will now be on backroom figures such as Rohan Silva, in effect Hilton’s deputy and advocate of transparency government, his speech writer Julian Glover and the polling adviser Andrew Cooper, to keep the flame alive. There has been talk of Silva quitting as well.
f. Gaby Bertin, the press secretary, will also grow in influence, as will the cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood. The pressure on the public finances has already seen some of Hilton’s agenda pushed aside. His departure in particular will be seen as the final nail in the coffin of ‘big society’, an idea that Cameron and Hilton put at the centre of his opposition politics but that has disappointed in government. Similarly, the Treasury has been putting a remorseless pressure on the green agenda favoured by Hilton, a man who once voted Green.
g. His wife has been travelling California once a week every month, putting pressure on the family. In the formal announcement Number 10 said:” Steve Hilton will be taking an unpaid academic sabbatical at Stanford University, starting this summer and returning next summer. “With his wife and young family, Steve will be moving to California. He will join Stanford as a visiting scholar at the university’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), and will also be a visiting fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.
h. He will spend his year on campus teaching, researching and writing, and will focus on innovation in government, public services and communities around the world. “He will work with a wide range of centres and organisations across the university, including FSI’s Centre on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law and The Europe Centre; the Graduate School of Business’ Centre for Social Innovation; the Centre on Philanthropy and Civil Society; and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design.”
i. In his speech today Cameron will challenge claims that the economic crisis has led him to abandon compassionate Conservatism. He will say “People say Conservatives in government are taking tough action because they don’t care. But the opposite is true. We’re taking those decisions because we do care. “We care about the kind of country our children are going to grow up in; about not burdening them with debts that we are too timid to pay back. We care about giving people dignity in old age, which is why we’re making difficult decisions today – so we can afford our pensions system tomorrow. We care about keeping a health service that is truly there for all and free for all, which is why we’re prioritising prevention and not just treatment. He will argue:” True compassion isn’t wearing your heart on your sleeve – it’s rolling up those sleeves and taking the long-term decisions that will really change our country for the better.” http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/mar/02/david-cameron-steve-hilton-unpaid-leave
7. March 2012; David Cameron’s strategy chief Steve Hilton was a Tory moderniser
a. Steve Hilton’s decision to leave Downing Street and decamp to California’s Silicon Valley with his wife and young son says a lot about politics, some of which is deeply traditional and a lot of which is peculiar to the times in which David Cameron’s closest source of strategic wisdom – to Star Wars fans his Yoda – cut his teeth as a workaholic practitioner in an addictive trade. Politics has always been a rough old business in which reputations can be made or destroyed by unforeseen events, bad judgment and worse luck. No one could have predicted a sitting prime minister being linked to an elderly police mount loaned to a scandal-laden tabloid apparatchik, as happened to Cameron in “Horsegate” this week. Hilton could be forgiven for banging his head on a desk.
b. Yet it is par for the course once any government’s ever-briefer honeymoon with the voters – and events – is over. Unseen civil servants who run Whitehall’s private offices, as well as party appointees giving political advice such as Hilton, work gruelling hours, are there to shout and be shouted at when things go wrong, to share the adrenalin rush when their plans work. The pace wrecks nerves and livers, family life and marriages – and has long done so. Sheer physical stamina keeps the addicts afloat but most burn out sooner or later and need quieter jobs in which to recover. But nowadays the changing nature of communications technology makes the pressure that much greater, there is so much more that informed people are supposed to know from all quarters. It is the same for many professions, but government is conducted in the spotlight and nowadays that spotlight is never switched off by 24/7 TV, by the internet, Twitter and the rest.
c. Hilton, 42 last August, is deeply enmeshed in this world. His parents were refugees from the Soviet tanks which crushed the Hungarian revolt in 1956 (it is, alas, not true that the Hirckacs adopted the name Hilton because they spent their first British night in one). Hilton went on a scholarship to Christ’s Hospital school in Sussex and did the inevitable PPE degree at Oxford, as Cameron and much of today’s political class also did. The pair met in John Major’s HQ campaign team in 1992, bright young men with an eye to the main chance, who shared some of the credit when Major came from behind to beat Labour and seed the fateful myth that “It was the Sun Wot Won It”. Cameron became a Whitehall special adviser – alongside Hilton’s future wife, Rachel Whetstone – while Hilton set up his own Good Business consultancy, advising firms (Coke and McDonalds were among his clients) on corporate social responsibility. That alone must have marked his card among free market Tories, that and the refusal not only to wear a suit and tie, but often socks and trousers. Biker Hilton still prefers T-shirts and shorts, a suit remains the big occasion option. Many on the right argue that a firm’s social responsibility is to make profits, create jobs and pay taxes – leaving social goals to government.
d. When the Tories were defeated in the 1997 campaign by Tony Blair (Hilton shares some blame for the misjudged “demon eyes” poster) Hilton recoiled from William Hague’s doomed lurch to the right (and is rumoured to have voted Green). When Cameron succeeded Michael Howard in 2005 he saw that such “no such thing as society” talk had critically tarnished the Tory brand and that dramatic symbolic gestures of reform – hugging hoodies and huskies, learning to love the NHS, choosing HS1 over that third Heathrow runway – were need to “detox” the brand. Turning Etonian “Tory Boy” Cameron into middle class Dave was also a priority. The concept of the “big society” in which the state shrunk and private or voluntary groups grew to fill gaps is also laid at Hilton’s door as an over-arching election theme which few voters understood. With a recession under way it came to look like a posh word for cuts.
e. In any case such marketing language appalled traditional Tories who believe that softie Hiltonian policies simply drove disaffected voters into the arms of UKIP or their own armchairs and help explain why Cameron failed to win an overall majority and was forced into a coalition with the hated Lib Dems. The bad feeling lingers on in disputes over NHS reform, welfare, the AV referendum which Cameron conceded (but also squashed) and Lords reform. That underrates Hilton’s successes, which include the promise of a referendum on the Lisbon treaty and putting fashionable theories – Richard Thaler’s “nudge” is one – into a practical context. But he clashed with Andy Coulson, Cameron’s ill-chosen hotline to Essex voters and thus a counter-weight to the brainy immigrants’ son, also with civil servants and colleagues who resented his influence, his restless energy, so much greater than most, and his lack of the silkier diplomatic skills.
f. According to tonight’s No 10 statement Hilton is simply off to mighty Stanford University for a year’s intellectual refreshment, something he did before when his wife – as tall and willowy and Hilton is short and chunky – landed a senior post at Google, another of the IT treadmills which makes political life more demanding. It is a blow to Cameron and may signal disappointment that the sharp realities and constraints of coalition government two years in (Lib Dems and Thatcherites pulling the pragmatic Cameron in both directions) have finally dampened Hilton’s boundless enthusiasm. Then again, when Cameron speaks of the importance of a better work/life balance and non-material satisfactions he is articulating Hilton Speak which their author also believes. Hilton likes to see a bit of his son, Ben, and would probably like to see more of his wife too. If a wife’s career takes her across eight time zones to California then sometimes a husband has to compromise with his own and go too. The very thought is enough to get older Tory MPs spluttering into their gin this weekend – but it’s probably a factor and a very zeitgeisty one. Very Steve Hilton. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/mar/02/steve-hilton-big-society-guru
8. May 2012; David Cameron’s chief strategist begins sabbatical, calling for further reductions in welfare bill and Whitehall streamlining
a. Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s chief strategy adviser, has left Downing Street, calling for £25bn welfare cuts and claiming an inefficient Whitehall machine could be massively reduced in size, possibly more than halved. The prime minister’s closest adviser for more than five years is taking a year-long sabbatical in California where he plans to study how governance can be improved. Hilton has had a series of run-ins within Whitehall, frustrated at the slow pace of reform and impatient for more radical thinking, including from Cameron himself.
b. The Daily Telegraph reports that he has submitted a policy paper marking out a second phase of welfare reform that builds on the changes implemented by the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith. Hilton claims another £25bn can be cut on top of the £18bn identified through the 2010 spending review process. The chancellor, George Osborne, has already signalled that he believes another £10bn of welfare cuts will be necessary by 2016 if extra cuts are not to be demanded from other government departments.
c. Universal credit, the major reform being introduced by the government, has yet to be implemented, and there are nerves across Whitehall about how well it will work in practice. It is due to be implemented for new claimants from October 2013 with the transition completed in 2017. It is expected 500,000 people on current trends will be on universal credit by April 2014. The Telegraph sources claimed universal credit needed changing so there were clearer incentives for individuals to work longer hours.
d. It is not entirely clear what this proposal means in practice since universal credit has already been structured so that an individual receives more the longer they work. One of the reforms being examined is how housing benefit can be reformed so that young people are required to live with their parents if they have no work. In public, at a lecture to the Policy Exchange think tank last week, Duncan Smith refused to be drawn about the need for further welfare cuts, but he is not temperamentally opposed to fresh reforms and has already outlined plans to reform disability living allowance. At the same time he has said there are no easy targets.
e. Ministers have however been struck by the speed with which some people are disappearing from the welfare rolls as they are being brought in for work capability assessments by officials from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). The DWP announced this week that of the first 47,400 incapacity benefit claimants to be reassessed and found fit to work, 27% – 12,900 – had been on the benefit for more than 10 years. Eight per cent – 3,900 – had been on the benefit for more than 15 years.
f. The Liberal Democrats have already indicated that if there are to be further welfare cuts to be identified before the next election, the first victim should be middle-class welfare, especially the wealthy in receipt of cold weather payments or free bus travel. Hilton’s direct or indirect briefing will infuriate the Lib Dems as they try to focus attention on efforts to improve social mobility. The sabre-rattling about the inadequacy of the civil service comes as the FDA, the senior civil servants’ union, welcomes David Penman as its new general secretary. He has said: “The relentless onslaught of organisational change, the government’s austerity measures and the resulting attacks on jobs, pay and pensions mean this is an unsettling and difficult time for many public servants.” http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/may/16/cameron-adviser-steve-hilton-leaves
9. May 2012; Danny Alexander Leads attack on departing Steve Hilton
a. Steve Hilton’s parting shot as he left No 10, was to call for a slimmed down – some might say, an emaciated – civil service, and further welfare cuts. Mr Hilton was a long-standing adviser to the prime minister, at David Cameron’s side (apart from a brief spell in the States) in opposition and in government. But his latest advice has not been readily embraced by Mr Cameron’s Lib Dem partners in coalition. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander delivered a withering response at a lunch for political journalists on Thursday.
b. With Mr Hilton in mind, he said most people don’t fire off memos when they leave an employer, adding “on their last day, they usually bring in a cake”. Further indicating that Mr Hilton’s views were sticking in the throat a little, Mr Alexander talked about his own “talented and committed” civil servants in the Treasury. And for his audience’s consumption over lunch, he made it clear that no decisions had been taken on any further reductions in the welfare budget. Sources at the Department of Work and Pensions are sceptical about the capacity to make further deep cuts. For good measure, Lib Dem sources say they have also seen off Steve Hilton’s plans to make it easier for private sector employers to “hire and fire” workers.
c. But in the next few weeks, when a civil service White Paper is published, the coalition as a whole will have to decide how radical their reforms to the “Rolls Royce” service should be. Can it run more efficiently on less fuel, or does it need a more drastic redesign – something altogether more compact? With 434,000 staff, the civil service is the smallest it has been since the Second World War. That’s down from half a million when the coalition came to power.
d. Allies of Steve Hilton believe this still represents a bloated bureaucracy – a hundred times larger than the number of staff that ran the Raj. But it would be mistaken to think that the majority of civil servants are mandarins – hundreds of thousands of Sir Humphreys who are experts in alliteration, obfuscation, emollience and procrastination. Numbered amongst the civil service are nuclear scientists at DECC; agronomists at DEFRA; economists at the Treasury; and “frontline” staff in local job centres. Paul Eddington as Jim Hacker and Nigel Hawthorne as Sir Humphrey in Yes Minister Battles between ministers and their civil servants for supremacy is nothing new
e. Well there are fears in some circles that too few, rather than too many, are staying within the civil service; that “institutional memory” – and experience at how to pull the levers of power – is being lost. More than a quarter of the 3,700 senior civil servants who were employed at the time of the last election have been lost. In some departments more than a third of senior civil servants have moved on – including some of those at the Treasury who were involved in tackling the banking crisis. And – off the record – some senior civil servants are worried about the prospect of more rigorous “performance measurement” will have on the morale of the remaining staff.
f. Broadly speaking, there is an acceptance for the need to cut numbers and for pay restraint. This even applies, grudgingly, for pensions reform but there is scepticism bordering on resistance to appraising staff in a manner which is similar to the system used in big private sector consultancies. There, it is argued, it is easier to assess individual performance because it is more straightforward to measure a member of staff’s ability to generate new business or profits.
g. In the highly inter-connected world of Whitehall it is more difficult to judge who are the star performers, and who are seriously at risk of the sack. But clearly ministers do want a more robust way of deciding who should be candidates for the exit door as the civil service continues to shrink – albeit by a far smaller degree than Steve Hilton would like. Although there may be disputes over how to do this, ministers are also likely to want to bring in more leaders from the private sector and to put more civil servants on fixed-term contracts.
h. The controversy over the Budget has put the advice being given to the ministers under the spotlight. Reforms of this kind date back to the Thatcher era and were also championed by Tony Blair. But insiders say that so far, the transfusion of new blood hasn’t always lead to a healthier outcome. Some newcomers go native; others leave in frustration. But less reported is the resentment generated by having employees who carry out similar functions on very different incomes. And the tax arrangements for some civil servants who were brought in temporarily from the private sector have already led to an outcry and swift reform.
i. But the role of the civil service has really come into sharp focus since the post-budget “omnishambles” or to use the foul-mouthed term borrowed from BBC satire The Thick of It, which is in common parlance in Whitehall, “the clusterf**k”. Rows over tax changes affecting charitable donations, hot food (including, famously, pasties), pensioners and much more have pummelled the coalition. Some civil servants were blamed for not advising the government in advance of the potential pitfalls; others for putting forward potentially unpopular policies for ministerial approval. But civil servants aren’t the sole scapegoats for the shambles.
k. Danny Alexander warned ministers not to “get in to the habit” of blaming civil servants when things go wrong. That’s probably good advice as ministerial attacks on the mandarins and government leaks appear to rise in direct proportion. Backbench Conservative MPs and some ministers instead blame “communications” at the heart of government for the recent troubles. Some special advisers are seen as not “political” enough or, bluntly, not competent enough. Some also say there is no strong “vision” coming from the centre. It remains to be seen if Steve Hilton’s departure makes that perceived problem better or worse.
l. The coalition came to power determined to cut the number of special advisers, to give ministers their head, and to end the informal style of “sofa government” that was a hallmark of Tony Blair’s time in Downing Street. But behind all the headlines about the civil service or the omnishambles, you will find the number of political advisers is once again creeping up; that Mr Blair’s idea of a “delivery unit” in Downing Street is no longer mocked; that the centre is taking a closer interest in what the periphery gets up to. And that yes, No 10 does see the need to “get a grip”. And as part of that process, further – if limited – civil service reform is inevitable.
10. May 2012; Radical Civil Service Cuts ‘Not Remotely’ The Policy Of No.10, Insists Cabinet Secretary
a. The suggestion that the civil service could be cut by up to 90% is not the policy of the prime minister or “anyone else in Number 10”, the cabinet secretary has insisted. In what could be interpreted as a final swipe at David Cameron’s director of strategy Steve Hilton, who left Downing Street for California last week, Sir Jeremy Heywood said leaks to the press that suggested as much had “no authority whatsoever”. In the days leading up to Hilton’s departure stories appeared in the papers detailing proposals included in his final memo – claiming the government could make radical cuts to the Whitehall machine and slash a further £25bn from welfare. Hilton has taken a year-long sabbatical from government, and there continues to be intense speculation as to whether he’ll come back.
b. There are currently 434,000 civil servants in Whitehall, and Hilton is said to have suggested a trial run of slashing one department by 70% before cutting the total number of officials by 90%. Sir Jeremy told the Commons public administration committee on Thursday that this plan did not “remotely reflect the view” of the government and that Cameron and Clegg “totally share” his anger at the reports. “They are just as frustrated and angry as myself and Bob Kerslake [the head of the civil service] when that is put in the papers,” he said. He added: “There has clearly been briefings in the newspapers.” Asked where he thought the leaks came from he said: “I don’t know whether it’s definitely come from Steve Hilton.” He earlier observed: “The way Steve operates is to challenge, he is a very challenging person.”
c. Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander alluded to the incident at a recent lunch for journalists, when he noted most people did not make such controversial proposals when leaving a job. “On their last day, they usually bring in a cake,” he said. There have been widespread reports of tension between ministers and senior civil servants in recent months. The perception that mandarins were blocking radical reforms desired by Hilton is said to have persuaded him to quit government.
d. Acknowledging the tension Sir Jeremy said: “It is true some ministers and advisers have been frustrated. I know in some quarters there is frustration at the pace of change.” Sir Jeremy also insisted he had not been upset by the prime minister’s past attack on the civil service as the “enemies of enterprise”. The cabinet secretary said he thought those words had just been a “rhetorical flourish” although he admitted his colleagues were “a little surprised by it”. Comment in song: “Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hilton’..We are are the boys that will stop you’re little game?” http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/05/24/radical-civil-service-cuts-not-remotely-the-policy-of-no10_n_1541646.html
11. May 2012; David Cameron aides at war with Civil Service in battle of Downing Street
a. Relations between senior civil servants and Downing Street are at an all-time low, with both sides engaged in a bitter blame game over the Government’s recent political travails. One source yesterday described the atmosphere in Whitehall in the past month as “bloody”, with officials and politicians blaming each other for the failure to get the Government’s message across and clashes over plans for Civil Service reform.
b. On Wednesday, Ian Watmore, who was in charge of cutting costs across government departments, quit as Permanent Secretary at the Cabinet Office. Several Whitehall sources told The Independent he decided to leave after falling out with the Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude – with whom he had previously had a good relationship. “It would be fair to say that they used to get on well but things deteriorated in the last few months and Ian became more and more detached,” said one. “The top of government is not a pretty place at the moment.”
c. Another source of tension has been disputes between David Cameron’s combative head of strategy, Steve Hilton, and the Head of the Civil Service, Sir Bob Kerslake. Although he is leaving Downing Street at the end of this week, Mr Hilton has infuriated senior officials by departing in a blizzard of anonymous briefings. Sir Bob blames Mr Hilton for leaking details of a private meeting they held to discuss plans for Civil Service reform – due to be announced this summer.
d. Mr Hilton is said to have walked out of the meeting after seeing Sir Bob’s proposals, which were described as “the kind of thing you would expect from a second-rate human resources department”. Mr Hilton is also believed to have referred to Sir Bob as “Bungalow Bob” and suggested he was trying to protect under performing civil servants from reform. Sir Bob is said by his supporters to have described Mr Hilton’s suggestion of cutting the central Civil Service by 90 per cent and outsourcing most of its policy work to think tanks and the private sector as “nonsense”.
e. Mr Hilton was also accused of being unprofessional: turning up at the meeting in shorts and a T-shirt, clutching a plastic bag full of oranges. As the meeting went on, Mr Hilton is said to have started “inexpertly” peeling an orange, getting juice all over the “crotch of his brushed cotton shorts”. But Mr Hilton is not the only senior aide around Mr Cameron to have expressed anger at the performance of officials.
f. The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman, Gabby Bertin, has been heard to complain at the poor service press offices in Government departments are providing Number 10 in identifying and promoting eye-catching initiatives to help the Government. But this is dismissed by senior civil servants. They describe the political appointees in Downing Street as “flailing around” with no sense of clear strategy and being led by the latest shifts in polling.
g. The spats are beginning to filter through to wider Civil Service perceptions. Civil Service World magazine released details this week of a poll of almost 1,400 senior officials which suggested some now felt promotion was being increasing driven by political considerations. Asked if they believed that people have been appointed to jobs on the basis of their connections within, or experience with, the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats, 55 per cent of civil servants in the Cabinet Office answered Yes. Across Whitehall, civil servants also expressed fears about about being able to provide “impartial, honest and open advice to ministers”. Feeling blue? Tories who lost their ‘Sir Humphreys;
h. Michael Gove; The Education Secretary’s disagreements with his Permanent Secretary, Sir David Bell, saw the department lose its most senior civil servant last year. Mr Gove is said to have been unhappy about the support he was receiving from officials and about what he believed were leaks orchestrated by pro-Labour staff.
i. Francis Maude; Reported clashes between the Cabinet Office Minister and his Permanent Secretary, Ian Watmore, saw Mr Watmore quit only six months into the job. Mr Watmore – a former head of the FA – allegedly became “increasingly detached” after being undermined by the appointment of Sir Bob Kerslake as part-time Head of the Civil Service.
k. George Osborne; The Treasury lost the director of its international department, Nicholas Joicey, earlier this year – although this time it was the prospect of conflict rather than the real thing that led to Joicey leaving his post. The civil servant is married to the Labour shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Rachel Reeves, and he quit before his marital status caused him problems with his boss. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/david-cameron-aides-at-war-with-civil-service-in-battle-of-downing-street-7763943.html
12. October 2012; How Steve Hilton helped the PM find his mojo again
a. Days before David Cameron’s most important party conference speech in five years, Steve Hilton surprised more than one member of the Prime Minister’s circle by “dashing back” to California for 12 hours. Mr Cameron’s influential former policy chief and long-time Svengali had been in the UK for barely a few days to help with the premier’s speech when he boarded a plane again. “He needed to be back in the States for something to do with Rachel,” says a friend, referring to Rachel Whetstone, Hilton’s wife and a senior Google executive who had also criss-crossed the Atlantic last week. “It was literally for about 12 hours, and then he came back again.
b. He is extraordinary.” While in the UK, the couple even squeezed in two weddings – one was Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales’s marriage to Tony Blair’s former aide Kate Garvey, the other between Hilton’s former deputy Rohan Silva and Kate MacTiernan. Amid all this transatlantic travel and church-hopping, Hilton was helping to craft Cameron’s speech. After leaving Downing Street earlier this year, he was always going to come back for conference, and he will return well in time for the next election campaign. While most of the speech had been written by last weekend, there was still some fine-tuning, mainly in response to Ed Miliband’s “One Nation Labour”.
c. Hilton left Cameron’s side in May after the political version of “creative differences” over delivery and the Civil Service. This was getting the band back together. One friend says: “He flounced out because he was disappointed at David being too compliant. David became a mediator, not a force for the sort of change Steve believes in. It was clear that it wasn’t going to work with Steve being bad-tempered with civil servants and making himself unpopular, so that’s why he went. “Steve’s view is that he’ll help out if he can, but he has another life in the States. Of course, they go back a long way and were very close indeed, so, when he’s free, he’ll do it. But I think Steve also thinks it’s very difficult for them to win next time.”
d. The Prime Minister’s address in Birmingham didn’t, as the BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson, said, contain a “cor blimey moment”, as the Labour leader’s had. The “One Notion” riposte to Miliband’s “obsession” with borrowing more taxpayers’ money was effective. But the most memorable line was one that had Hilton’s fingerprints all over it: “I’m not here to defend privilege, I’m here to spread it.” It was the moment when Cameron appeared to tackle what insiders say has become one of his greatest problems: the lack of self-confidence that has crept over him this year. Ministers and aides have noticed a slump in the shoulders after unremitting bad headlines following the Budget. These have included his “LOL” text messages to Rebekah Brooks, revealed to the Leveson inquiry; Boris Johnson “owning” the Olympics in a way he never could; and the Andrew Mitchell “plebgate” saga. “He is in a funk, completely drained of confidence,” one minister said before the speech. And Hilton’s absence from No 10 has not helped.
e. Now Cameron was declaring to the Symphony Hall in Birmingham, and to the wider world, that he was no longer afraid to be posh. The man embarrassed by his Bullingdon Club past, who fought shy of wearing a morning suit in the run-up to last year’s royal wedding, declared: “To all those people who say: ‘He wants children to have the kind of education he had at his posh school,’ I say: ‘Yes, you’re absolutely right.’ I went to a great school and I want every child to have a great education.” Cameron’s closest political friends have spent years briefing journalists that he was always “true to himself” – yet this major aspect of his background was repeatedly played down.
f. Now he has publicly embraced it, as if to say: if Boris Johnson, another alumnus of Eton and the Bullingdon, can be popular, why can’t I? Of course, it is not Johnson’s schooling and university misadventures that make him popular. But Hilton, who is also on friendly terms with the London mayor, is thought to have developed the “spreading privilege” theme. It is exactly why Mitchell’s rant at Downing Street police officers came at such a disastrous time. One minister says the Mitchell affair made Cameron “the angriest I’ve ever seen him”, though he has in the past told friends he refuses to sack people on “hearsay”.
g. While Hilton was involved in sending drafts of the speech backwards and forwards by email in the run-up to conference, he wasn’t the “formative force” he has been in the past, according to friends. Yet, despite the cooling in their relationship, the Prime Minister could count on Hilton restoring his mojo. The personal sections, particularly that in which Cameron described how people often saw the “wheelchair, not the boy” when he was out with his disabled son, Ivan, were genuinely moving. But the overall result of Hilton’s input was a much harder, clearer speech; one that contained Conservative steel, appealing to the aspiring “strivers” who helped win elections for Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. One friend of the PM says: “People underestimate how important Steve is to David. He is the one who gave David the confidence to think he could become leader and go on to be PM. They think he was just a branding person, but, actually, his influence on David himself is huge. In a way he invented David Cameron.”
h. Another close acquaintance of Cameron says: “They are in the middle of a dilemma about modernity. It boils down to the fact that the PM has no beliefs. Pretty well the only aspect left of the modernising agenda is gay marriage.” The impression that the right of the party is still calling the tune remains: the only concrete policies of the week were new laws permitting householders to “bash a burglar” and employee ownership plans that will erode workers’ rights. The dire economic situation hangs over everything, with one cabinet minister describing it as “hell”.
i. Cameron may have restored some self-belief, but he returns to Westminster tomorrow with the same problems, including the Mitchell saga threatening to run into a fourth week. Downing Street is being blamed for allowing that row to continue. So a shake-up is quietly under way: Ed Llewellyn, Cameron’s chief of staff and one of his longest-serving aides, will focus solely on foreign affairs issues, while Oliver Dowden, a former member of the Conservative Research Department, will take over Llewellyn’s duties on the domestic front. There is also speculation about the future of the communications chief Craig Oliver after Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, was sent into the conference press centre to brief the media after Cameron’s speech.
k. Negotiations will start between the Tories and Lib Dems for the autumn statement on 5 December, which will coincide with the signing of a new coalition agreement between the two sides, to bind them close together until the 2015 election campaign starts. For some, that campaign has already started: the Tory chairman Grant Shapps’s general election countdown clock may read 935 days to go, but he has devised a tightly honed “40-40” strategy – focusing on defending the 40 most marginal Tory seats and winning the most achievable 40 target seats. Significantly, party chiefs concede that “10 to 12” of these seats – possibly including Vince Cable’s Twickenham – are currently held by the Tories’ coalition partners.
l. But will Cameron’s mission of “spreading privilege” help the Tories win that election outright? Bemoaning the fact that “we are in a very different world” because of economic turmoil, one Tory MP said: “Things are always going to be difficult, and the public aren’t going to be happy because they can’t afford two foreign holidays a year and they are worried about losing their jobs.” He’s surely right: they hardly feel like they’re on the receiving end of “privilege”.
13. January 2013; No 10 Downing Street powerless against Whitehall – bureaucracy is the master of the politician – Steve Hilton exposes the omnishambles that is Westminster
a. Hilton revealed to his students that the prime minister routinely left out of the loop as important policy changes are pushed through by “papershuffling” mandarins. Hilton, who was Cameron’s chief policy advisor but is currently on sabbatical, told students at Stanford University in California that the PM and his cabinet often find themselves powerless in the face of Whitehall bureaucracy and that they often learn of new policies only when they open the papers or listen to the radio.
b. “Very often you’ll wake up in the morning and hear on the radio or the news or see something in the newspapers about something the government is doing,” he explained. “And you think, well, hang on a second – it’s not just that we didn’t know it was happening, but we don’t even agree with it! The government can be doing things … and we don’t agree with it? How can that be?”
c. Hilton discovered that about 40 per cent of daily government business related to implementing EU regulations, and 30 per cent related to “random things – which were not anything to do with the coalition agreement”. He said he found it “pretty horrific” that only a third of government time is spent actually delivering on what they as a government have promised. Comment: “Did he actually think Yes Minister was fiction?” http://www.theweek.co.uk/politics/50962/has-steve-hilton-exposed-omnishambles-or-his-own-naivety
14. September 2013; Steve Hilton returns to help with Cameron’s conference speech
a. When Steve Hilton left Downing Street he regarded his friend David Cameron’s premiership as a disappointment. Hilton regarded Cameron as ‘reactive not transformative’. When he didn’t return at the end of his sabbatical, it was thought that was that. But for the last few days, Hilton has been back. When Cameron asked him to come and help on his conference speech, their old friendship kicked in and Hilton flew back from California. He was one of five people who hunkered down with Cameron at Chequers to work out how the Tory leader should respond to Miliband. With Hilton, Cameron and Michael Gove finishing each other’s sentences, it was like old times—a reminder of the energy of that 2005 leadership campaign. Though, Hilton will not be in Manchester this week. Hilton’s willingness to help out raises the intriguing possibility that he might be involved with the 2015 general election, after all. It is hard to see how Hilton’s impulsiveness would fit with the disciplined campaigns that Lynton Crosby likes to run. But the fact that Cameron asked Hilton to come back to help with this speech is a reminder that the Prime Minister thinks his old friend gives him something that nobody else can.
15. November 2013 Farewell to WebCameron, and the legacy of Steve Hilton
The Tories’ attempts to erase their own online history are wider than first thought. After ‘cleaning up’ their website by hiding pre-2010 speeches and announcements, The Guardian’s Alex Hern reveals that the WebCameron videos have been made private on YouTube: ‘Now it has emerged that every video on the Conservatives’ YouTube page that dates from before 2010 has been removed or marked as private. Videos such as Ask David Cameron: Shared ownership, EU referendum, PMQs are now marked as unavailable on YouTube. Others, such as Boris Johnson at the pre-election rally in Swindon, and David Cameron down on the farm, are now unlisted, ensuring that only users with a direct link can see them.’ As Hern points out, they are still on YouTube if you know how to find them, as well as being archived on the Tory website.
The demise of the WebCameron project says a lot about the fate of Steve Hilton’s modernization project. You may recall that Hilton, who was Cameron’s director of strategy until 2012, advocated ‘open source’ digital politics. Nearly all evidence of his work has been hidden or deleted by his own party. Hilton is unlikely to return to the Prime Minister’s side anytime soon to right these wrongs. Whispers around Westminster suggest that he’s enjoying life in California and looks on with frustration and dismay at how little Cameron is achieving in government. I’m sure that he’ll be even more dismayed that the Tories are now embarrassed by his efforts to detoxify their brand.
Comment; Nothing has been erased. The party has come to an agreement with Google, to hide their past websites from us. Just use a different search engine. http://tiny.cc/oonl6w
Good grief – they’re trying to wipe the entire history of Cameron’s (failed) modernisation project or the betrayal of the radicalism he and the Party Leadership once promised? The Tory’s must be absolutely bricking it about the General Election. Russell
Is there anything these dumb Tories can do adequately in the realm of politics? http://twitter.com/georgeigler George Igler
Rachel Whetstone probably asked Google to do as much as possible to protect young children from Deviationism on the Web. itdoesntaddup
So much for the so-called “Great Repeal Act” and Cameron’s promise to “sweep it all away” with which he lured us. He has turned out to be one of the biggest nannies of them all. A very slippery fellow.