Politics is Broken – Theresa May’s former chief of staff breaks her silence
Greenock born, Fiona McLeod Hill, is reputed to have provided Theresa May with the reply to Nicola Sturgeon request seeking permission for another Scottish independence referendum, “Now is not the time” .
She and her colleague, Nick Timothy) were sacked by Theresa May in the summer of 2017.
The demand for their heads had been placed on her by Tory high command as a condition of her remaining in office following the 2017 general election debacle at the insistence of Tory “high heed-yins” after the 2017 General Election.
She has kept her counsel until recently when she sounded off big time about the rapid decline in the politics of the so-called United Kingdom.
Meantime Fiona and Nick were rewarded by Theresa May in her honours list each gaining a prestigious CBE in reward for their silence.
I wrote an article on Fiona and Nick which is included below. It provides damming evidence of the political corruption of the Westminster parliament and those who are caught up in the financial rip-off of Scotland which has been and still is, ongoing.
The full report is well worth a read and is to be found here:
Special Advisers – SPAD’s
SPAD’s were created by “New labour” at the start of their period in government in 1997. There was a great furore at the time.
The press and public believed the new posts to be entirely political and that apart from that the posts simply duplicated the duties of many thousands of Civil Servants already in place.
Blair argued differently and with his huge majority in parliament he forced through legislation creating the new “political beast”.
He did, however, commit to keeping the numbers of SPAD’s to an absolute minimum and said only Ministers of State would be allowed a SPAD in support and that all appointments would be authorized by himself.
The appointment of SPAD’s (unelected and very often useless) now cost the taxpayer around £12 million each year and rising.
SPAD’s are classed as “temporary civil servants” and add a political dimension to advice and assistance available to ministers while reinforcing the political impartiality of the permanent Civil Service by distinguishing the source of political advice and support.
They are supposed to observe the Civil Service “Code of Conduct” in the discharge of their duties. But they don’t.
In return for this commitment, all expenditure incurred (salaries, transport, expenses, etc.) in their employment is paid for by the central government.
The Rise and Fall of a Wee Glasgow SPAD – The Fiona Hill Story
Fiona McLeod Hill was born (1973). Unlike many behind-the-scenes wielders of power in Westminster (and indeed many journalistic interns), Hill does not hail from a privileged background.
Born in an insalubrious area of Greenock, she later attended St Stephen’s RC Secondary in Port Glasgow, before making her way into newspapers.
So what lies behind her meteoric rise? How did she blaze a trail from the bowels of The Scotsman building through the ranks of the Conservative Party press operation to become Theresa May’s, right-hand woman?
It is a fascinating story of hard work, ambition, the kind of confidence that cares not a whit for other people’s opinions, and not a little intrigue.
Along the way, she embarked on a relationship with a former MI6 officer, engaged in several public spats and helped shape May’s wardrobe.
But her career trajectory has not been entirely straightforward and her refusal to give an inch has occasionally cost her dear.
Hill’s journalism career didn’t really start to take off until she joined Sky TV – a fertile breeding ground for SpAds – where she started to become interested in politics and ended up on the news desk.
While there, she met and married executive producer Tim Cunningham, now head of branded content at Princess Productions, holding their reception in upmarket Wentworth Golf Club in Surrey.
For the duration of the marriage, she used his name, going back to her maiden name after her divorce. (Dani Garavelli)
Fiona At The Home Office
Fiona joined the Conservative Party press office in 2006, before spending a period at the British Chamber of Commerce.
She returned to work for the Conservatives and from 2010-2014, she worked alongside Theresa May in the Home Office as a SPAD.
Hill’s loyalty to May and to Hill’s then-lover, diplomat and counter-terrorism officer Charles Farr, lay at the heart of a bust-up in June 2014.
It began when the then education secretary Michael Gove briefed Times journalists that it was the failure of the Home Office to tackle the problem of radicalization that had led to terrorism plots in so-called Trojan Horse schools in Birmingham.
In his briefing, Gove singled out Farr for criticism. In revenge, Hill posted a private letter from May to Gove on the Home Office website.
In the letter, May accused his department of failing to act when concerns about the Birmingham schools were brought to its attention in 2010.
Furious the public fall-out had overshadowed the Queen’s Speech, Cameron demanded an apology from Gove but insisted Hill resign.
Outside Government but Inside Politics
From the Home Office, Hill went to the right-wing think tank, the Centre for Social Justice, founded by Iain Duncan Smith, where, as associate director, she continued her work on modern slavery.
She produced a report in which she suggested legislation alone was not enough to tackle the problem and pushed for more cooperation between police, borders and immigration officials across Europe.
Later, she sparked another controversy by joining, without seeking permission from her former department, the high profile lobby group Lexington Communications (in 2015), which represents a host of blue-chip companies with an interest in government policy
Tougher rules demanding SPAD’s apply for permission from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) had been amended by the Cabinet Office before the election to exclude all but the most senior advisers.
But SPAD’s are still required to seek permission from the permanent secretary before taking any new job within two years of leaving Whitehall.
Such permission often comes with conditions that prevent former SPAD’S from lobbying government or using privileged information to help their new employers.
Hill’s failure to obey the rule angered campaigners who complained of a lack of transparency.
But her time away from the Conservative Party was, in any case, to be short-lived.
When May announced her leadership bid, Hill took time out to help with the campaign, reaping the benefits after May’s victory when Hill was appointed SPAD. joint chief of staff alongside SPAD Nick Timothy at a salary of £140,000 each.
Britain’s new Prime Minister entered Downing Street pledging herself to be a unionist.
Theresa May confirmed her commitment to the UK as she praised the record of her predecessor David Cameron.
Speaking minutes after he left Number 10, she said: “From the introduction of same-sex-marriage to taking people on low wages out of income tax altogether, David Cameron has led a One Nation government and it is in that spirit that I also plan to lead.
Because not everybody knows this but the full title of my party is the Conservative and Unionist Party and that word unionist is very important to me.
It means we believe in the Union, the precious, precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — but it means something else that is just as important.
It means we believe in a union not just between the nations of the UK but between all of our citizens — every one of us — whoever we are and wherever we’re from.” (The Belfast Newsletter)
Nick Timothy – Strategist
New prime minister Theresa May’s top SPAD’s include the Brummie son of a steelworker who thinks politicians can learn valuable lessons from the relegation of Aston Villa.
His name is Nick Timothy, an ex-grammar school pupil at King Edwards VI Aston.
He helped manage Mrs. May’s campaign to become Conservative leader, and now he has joined her as joint chief of staff in 10 Downing Street.
Political commentators say that he has “great sway over her political agenda” and believes the Tories must be a party not of the rich, but of working people. (The Mirror)
Formidable “Fi and Nick”
According to Westminster insiders, surviving the Home Office is a mark of Theresa May’s steel.
MP Frank Field says: “Nobody survives at the Home Office as Theresa May has, unharmed. That in itself is exceptional.”
Field attributes a significant part of this feat to the team around the Prime Minister, particularly her current SPAD’s, joint chiefs of staff, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy.
‘Fi and Nick’ as they are known, have worked with May since her days in the Home Office and are said to be key to shaping her vision for the country.
One insider says “they deliver for May on her own terms” and another adds that she has licensed them to fight her battles for her. So who is this pair — and how far does their influence stretch? (Belfast Courier)
The Knives Are Out For Fiona
It is difficult, according to those who work closely with Downing Street, to overestimate Hill’s closeness to and influence over the prime minister – a degree of access matched only by Nick Timothy, with whom she shares the role of SPAD, chief of staff at Number 10. Her loyalty to the prime minister is absolute.
But loyalty can have its flip side. The adjectives most commonly applied to Hill by those who work with her are “pugilistic”, “ferocious”, control freak even “terrifying yet her high standing with the Prime Minister is unquestionable
Home Office minister Ben Wallace, who has known Hill since before she worked in government, says some of the reporting about Hill is unfair. “Chiefs of staff are supposed to be loyal and defensive of the people they work for.
They wouldn’t be any good at it if they weren’t. She’s come up through the ranks, she’s worked hard at it and … she is determined. There are people venting their criticism of No 10 through the staff that work there, and I think that’s not a very grown up way of doing business.”
With May as loyal to her aide as Hill is to the PM, few think the release of her texts puts her position in any jeopardy.
And yet, in a business where the number one rule for aides is to stay out of the news, Hill’s texts have shone an unwelcome light on the messy business of day-to-day governing.
With an enormous fight looming over Brexit, they also reveal an operation that is rather nervier than the PM and Hill would like it to appear.
Hill is thought to have been behind May’s confrontational stance over Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a referendum and her “Now is not the time” message. (The Guardian)
The Knives Are Out For Theresa May
Theresa May’s Tory pals are sharpening their knives and will turn on her if she fails to deliver a hefty majority next week.
Conservative candidates are grumbling privately that the PM has cost them votes with her stuttering performances and disastrous attacks on older people’s incomes.
One said: “People are getting to know Theresa May in this campaign and the truth is, quite a few don’t much like what they see.
Since our manifesto was launched it has got tighter and tighter.
We’re still going to win but if she does not deliver the big majority she promised she is going to come under pressure to resign.” (The Mirror)
The 2017 General Election – It All Goes Wrong
Within a few days of announcing the general election, three of May’s team – director of communications SPAD, Katie Perrior, press secretary SPAD, Lizzie Louden, and SPAD, Hayden Allen – resigned.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson SPAD, Helen Bower, had left in December 2016 following reports of bad feeling in the team.
Undeterred. Hill plugged on and took responsibility for keeping May from the press and public, which is said to have been her undoing.
A tactic not great for democracy, but subsequent events suggest that from the Hill’s point of view it was a shrewd political move.
May was accused of hiding when she held a rally for 200 supporters in a hut in Banchory in Aberdeenshire where there was no phone signal last month.
Shortly afterwards, the press ran a story suggesting that – after seeing the itinerary for her visit – she shouted at Hill to “stop cutting [her] time on the doorstep”. “I am a doorstep campaigner and from now on I want to spend proper time knocking on doors and seeing people,” she is supposed to have said.
The risk of allowing May to engage, however, was perfectly demonstrated the following day when the Tory leader, now being tailed by a Sky TV crew, knocked without success on the doors of a row of empty houses, and was snubbed by the only resident who appeared.
From then Hill tried to control events, barring reporters from campaign events, refusing to take questions she hadn’t pre-approved and – on one occasion – freaking out when she saw a pen in someone’s hand.
“The thing is though – in their own terms it was a good strategy,” says one seasoned political commentator. “Theresa May was well ahead, and it was clear she didn’t have a great rapport with the press or with ordinary people, so what was to be gained by putting her in situations that could backfire.”
According to reports, Hill irritated the Scottish Conservatives in particular.
They complained of her excessive “interference” and of being told not to run a campaign too detached from the one run from London.
Nevertheless, their leader Ruth Davidson chose to ignore the demand, to achieve a considerable increase in the number of Scottish MPs.
This result was crucial in mitigating the loss of seats south of the border and appeared to question key elements of Tory election strategy.
But, as her boss was seeking a bigger mandate for her Brexit plans, and the Tories looked to be heading for a landslide, Hill’s loyalty to May was unwavering, and her influence on the Prime Minister undiminished.
The general election saw the return of the Conservatives as a minority government, with their majority now being dependent on the Democratic Unionist Party, leading to widespread calls within the party Fiona Hill to be sacked. within days, and in the face of the growing backlash, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy resigned.
In the Hands of the DUP
British Prime Minister Theresa May struck a deal, with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to prop up the Conservative government which had been stripped of its majority in a disastrous election.
The result demolished May’s political authority, and she lost her two top aides, sacrificed in a bid to save their leader from being toppled by a furious Conservative Party.
The moves buy May a temporary reprieve. But the ballot-box humiliation has seriously and possibly mortally wounded her leadership just as Britain is about to begin complex exit talks with the European Union.
May’s office said Saturday that the Democratic Unionist Party, which has 10 seats in Parliament, had agreed to a “confidence and supply” arrangement with the government.
That means the DUP will back the government on key votes, but it’s not a coalition government or a broader pact. Downing St. said the Cabinet will discuss the agreement on Monday.
The announcement came after May lost Downing Street, SPAD’s, chiefs of staff Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who resigned Saturday.
In a resignation statement on the Conservative Home website, Timothy conceded that the campaign had failed to communicate “Theresa’s positive plan for the future,” and had missed signs of surging support for the opposition Labour Party.
Some senior Tories made the removal of Hill and Timothy a condition for continuing to support May, who vowed to remain prime minister. (A.P.)
10 Jun 2017:
May announced that Gavin Barwell a former housing minister who lost his seat in Thursday’s election would be her new SPAD, chief of staff. She said Barwell would help her “reflect on the election and why it did not deliver the result I hoped for.”
Conservative legislator Nigel Evans there needed to be changes in the way the government functioned in the wake of the campaign. He said. “Our manifesto was full of fear and the Labour Party’s manifesto was full of promises.”
May called the early election, in the hope of increasing her majority and strengthening Britain’s hand in exit talks with the EU. Instead, her failure means the government must now take a more flexible approach to the divorce.
The election appears to have been, among other things, a rejection of the vague but harshly worded prospectus for Brexit for which Mrs. May sought a mandate.”
Downing Street has said that the most senior Cabinet members including Treasury chief Philip Hammond, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, and Home Secretary Amber Rudd will keep their jobs, but she is expected to shuffle the lower ranks of ministers.
The arrangement with the DUP makes some Conservatives uneasy. The DUP is a socially conservative pro-British Protestant group that opposes abortion and same-sex marriage and once appointed an environment minister who believes human-driven climate change is a myth.
It was founded in the 1970s by the late firebrand preacher Ian Paisley, and in the 1980s was a key player in the “Save Ulster from Sodomy” campaign, which unsuccessfully fought against the legalization of gay sex. (AP)
12 Jun 2017:
Theresa May has endured one humiliation after another since the general election, as the party makes her the target of all its anger and contempt.
Her tone-deaf statement outside Downing Street on Friday in which she failed to acknowledge Conservatives who had lost their seats forced backbench MPs to order her to call the cameras back to record her apology.
Her cabinet colleagues told May that her closest advisers SPAD’s, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who had behaved high-handedly towards ministers, had to go and they were dispatched without ceremony.
Then yesterday, alone and friendless in Downing Street, the prime minister faced the deepest humiliation of all as she invited her arch-nemesis, Michael Gove, to return to the cabinet as environment secretary. (The Irish Times)
12 Jun 2017:
SPAD’s, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy divided the four lobes of Theresa May’s brain between them. Every thought that the PM had originated with these little-known key aides. Now they have gone, we do indeed have a zombie prime minister.
13 Jun 2017:
Divisive SPAD’s who quit after running Theresa May’s disastrous election campaign are in line for payouts of around £35,000 each.
Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who were the Prime Minister’s joint chiefs of staff, resigned amid intense Tory criticism in the wake of the snap election that cost the Conservatives their Commons majority.
The aides, appointed to the roles by Mrs. May when she succeeded David Cameron, were earning a salary of £140,000 as of December last year.
Under government rules, they are entitled to severance pay equivalent to three months’ pay. The part Mr. Timothy and Ms. Hill played in the general election has been severely criticized by disgruntled Tories. (The Scotsman)
10 Jun 2017:
Theresa May’s closest advisers, SPAD’s, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, resigned after a disastrous election result that ended with the Conservative party losing their majority.
The two were joint chiefs of staff in Downing Street before heading up Theresa May’s campaign in the snap General Election and came under fire today for being involved in some of the campaign’s biggest mistakes, according to reports.
In a statement on the Conservative Home website, Timothy said he had resigned yesterday. A Tory spokesperson confirmed Hill had also quit.
Nick Timothy called the result a “huge disappointment”, and blamed the loss of Tory MPs on “an unexpected surge in support for Labour” due to division in the country.
He said “ironically, the Prime Minister is the one political leader who understands this division, and who has been working to address it since she became Prime Minister last July.
The Conservative election campaign, however, failed to get this and Theresa’s positive plan for the future across.”
Timothy helped draft the Tory manifesto. Its failures, including the so-called dementia tax, have been cited as the turning point in the campaign.
He said: “I take responsibility for my part in this election campaign, which was the oversight of our policy programme.
In particular, I regret the decision not to include in the manifesto a ceiling as well as a floor in our proposal to help meet the increasing cost of social care.”
He continued “It’s been a pleasure to serve in government, and a pleasure to work with such an excellent Prime Minister,” I have no doubt at all that Theresa May will continue to serve and work hard as Prime Minister – and do it brilliantly.”
Hill was reportedly involved in internal rows, including one with Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland. The atmosphere in the Conservative Campaign HQ was said to have turned toxic.
In the firing line Previously, the pair known as “Nick and Fi” was criticized for holding too much power and being too close to May.
But Katie Perrior, former Downing Street director of communications, (who resigned days before the start of the campaign) criticized their “rude, abusive, childish behavior.”
For two people who have never achieved elected office, I was staggered at the disrespect they showed on a daily basis.
I never hated them. I felt sorry for them and how they measured success by how many enemies they had clocked up,” Perrior said.
Tory backbench MP Sarah Wollaston said May needed to abandon her “small inner circle of mostly unelected and discredited special advisers”.