Special advisers (UK government)

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A special adviser works in a supporting role to the British government. With media, political or policy expertise, their duty is to assist and advise government ministers.


Special advisers are paid by central government and are styled as so-called "temporary civil servants" appointed under Article 3 of the Civil Service Order in Council 1995.[1] They contrast with "permanent" civil servants in the respect that they are political appointees whose loyalties are claimed by the governing party and often particular ministers with whom they have a close relationship. For this reason, advisers may resign when a general election is called to campaign on behalf of their party.[2] Special advisers have sometimes been criticised for engaging in advocacy while still on the government payroll or switching directly between lobbying roles and the special adviser role.[3]

Code of conduct

Advisers are governed by a code of conduct which goes some way to defining their role and delineates relations with the permanent civil service, contact with the media and relationship with the governing party, inter alia:

The rules for their appointment, and status in relation to ministers, are set out in the Ministerial Code.

Former special advisers

Some former special advisers, such as Ed Balls, James Purnell, Ed Miliband and David Miliband, go on to become Members of Parliament or, like Lady Vadera, are given a peerage in order that they may take up a ministerial post. A large number have also gone on to accept lucrative jobs in the private sector. Other famous special advisers include former Director of Communications and Strategy Alastair Campbell and Jo Moore, who was embroiled in scandal while working as adviser to the Secretary of State Transport, Local Government and the Regions Stephen Byers.

Number and cost of special advisers

There is no legal limit on the number of special advisers, although the current total is less than it was under Tony Blair. The government had previously accepted calls, made in 2000 by the Neill Committee on Standards in Public Life, for such a legal cap. By 2002, however, the government had altered its position, saying in response to the Wicks Committee report on standards in public life that "the Government does not believe that the issue of special advisers can be considered as a numerical issue. The issue is about being transparent about accountability, roles and responsibilities and numbers".[5] At the last full reporting the government had 68 such personnel in its employment, 18 of whom worked in 10 Downing Street.[6] Special advisers may be paid up to £142,668. Before his resignation Andy Coulson was the highest paid special adviser with a salary of £140,000.[7] The total cost of special advisers in 2006–07 was £5.9 million.[6]

Recent special advisers

Cameron ministry (May 2010)

Office of the Prime Minister

Special Adviser Role
Edward Llewellyn Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister
Kate Fall Deputy Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister
Oliver Dowden Deputy Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister
Andrew Cooper Director of Strategy to the Prime Minister
Craig Oliver Director of Communications to the Prime Minister
Clare Foges Chief Speech-writer
Gabby Bertin Press Secretary
Liz Sugg Head of Operations and Events
Andrew Dunlop Adviser on Scotland
Rohan Silva Senior Adviser on Policy
Ameet Gill Head of Strategic Communications
Michael Salter Adviser on Broadcasting
Ramsay Jones Adviser on Scotland
Alan Sendorek Press Officer
Shaun Bailey Adviser on Youth and Crime
Laura Trott Adviser on Women
Isabel Spearman Personal assistant to the Wife of the Prime Minister (Samantha Cameron)
Alex Dawson Policy Researcher

Former special advisers to David Cameron:

Special Adviser Role
Andy Coulson Director of Communications to the Prime Minister resigned in 2011, later convicted in News International phone hacking scandal replaced by Craig Oliver
Steve Hilton Adviser on Strategy left in 2012 for Stanford University
Henry Macrory Adviser on Press left in 2011 to join CCHQ as deputy political director
James O'Shaughnessy Director of Policy left in 2011 to join Portland Communications and Policy Exchange
Tim Chatwin Head of Strategic Communications left in 2011 to join Google replaced by Ameet Gill
Gavin Lockhart-Mirams Adviser on Policy Left in 2011 to set up Crest Advisory
Peter Campbell Researcher and Briefer for Questions to the Prime Minister left in 2011
Sean Worth Adviser on Policy left in 2012 to join Policy Exchange
Patrick Rock Adviser on Policy left in 2014 after arrest

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

Special Adviser Role
Jonny Oates Chief of Staff to the Deputy Prime Minister
Joanne Foster Deputy Chief of Staff to the Deputy Prime Minister
Ryan Coetzee Director of Strategy replaced Richard Reeves
Neil Sherlock Director of Government Relations to the Deputy PM
James McGrory Advisor on Press
Julian Astle Adviser on Policy
Olly Grender Director of Communications to the Deputy PM replaced Lena Pietsch
Sean Kemp
Tim Colbourne
Monica Allen Special Adviser

Other Cabinet Ministers

First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Second Lord to the Treasury

Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice

  • David Hass
  • Kathryn Laing

Secretary of State for the Home Department

  • Fiona Cunningham (resigned June 2014)[10]
  • Nick Timothy

Secretary of State for Defence

Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

  • Emily Walch
  • Giles Wilkes

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

  • Phillipa Stroud
  • Lizzie Loudon

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

  • Chris Nicholson
  • Katie Waring

Secretary of State for Education

  • Dominic Cummings (Announced resignation in October 2013)[11]
  • Henry de Zoete

Chief Whip (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury)

  • Ben Williams

The Cabinet Office released a full list of special advisers as of 10 June 2010 but because of subsequent ministerial resignations and appointments this is already out of date

Brown Ministry (June 2007 – May 2010)

Office of the Prime Minister

  • Dan Corry – Head of Policy Unit
  • Gavin Kelly – Deputy Chief of Staff
  • David Muir – Director of Political Strategy
  • Sue Nye – Director of Government Relations
  • Spencer Livermore – Director of Strategy
  • Justin Forsyth – adviser to the Prime Minister on political press issues
  • Joe Irvin – Political Secretary to the Prime Minister

Other ministers

Gordon Brown released a full list of special advisers as of 22 November 2007.

In fiction

Fiction set within the Westminster village frequently includes characters that are special advisers, such as Frank Weisel in Yes Minister and Glen Cullen in The Thick of It at the ministerial level, and figures like Malcolm Tucker (also of The Thick of It) seen operating at the apex of power, often overriding or manipulating Prime Ministers and other world leaders.

See also


  1. "Civil Service Order in Council 1995" (PDF). Civil Service Commissioners. Retrieved 2008-03-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Special advisors". Red Star Research. Archived from the original on 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2008-03-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Adviser's move to lobby firm attacked". The Telegraph. London. 12 June 2002. Retrieved 2010-03-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Code of Conduct for Special Advisers". Cabinet Office. Archived from the original on 11 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Oonagh Gay. "Special advisers" (PDF). House of Commons Library Parliament and Constitution Centre. Retrieved 2010-12-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 Numbers and Cost of Special Advisers, written statement by Gordon Brown, 22 Nov 2007 : Column 147WS, Hansard
  7. "Written Ministerial Statement on Special Adviser numbers from Cabinet Office, 10 Jun 2010". Cabinetoffice.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 2010-11-10. Retrieved 2012-12-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "George Osborne hires thinktank chief who said the Tories had to win the North". Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-12-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "George Osborne loses his gatekeeper as love blossoms". Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-12-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Toby Helm, Daniel Boffey, Warwick Mansell (7 June 2014). "Furious Cameron slaps down Gove and May over 'Islamic extremism' row". The Observer. Retrieved 8 June 2014. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Garner, Richard and Cusick, J (Oct 2013). "Michael Gove's controversial adviser Dominic Cummings 'quits to open new free school'", The Independent, 7 October 2013. Accessed 26 June 2014

External links