A new Prime Minister means a new team in Downing Street – and Theresa May has emptied the whole place of Cameron’s aides. Therefore, we’re all going to have to get to know a whole new operation in order to better understand the new Government.
There’s a limited amount of information available so far, but here’s a brief introduction to the six names that have been announced:
Nick Timothy: Joint Chief of Staff
Thanks in part to his ConservativeHome column, Timothy is the best known of May’s advisers thus far. We’ve republished a series of his insights and views this week, and Andrew Gimson’s profile of him this morning offers the best summary:
“Timothy was born and brought up in Birmingham, and represents a proudly provincial conservatism, in which the condition of the striving classes, and of the industries on which they depend, matter a hundred times more than the City of London, whose prosperity can be so important to metropolitan Tories. His hero is Joe Chamberlain, a self-made man who in the 1870s transformed the government of Birmingham before bursting as a Radical onto the national stage.”
Expect him to think calmly, decide carefully and then act radically.
Fiona Hill: Joint Chief of Staff
Like Timothy, Hill – formerly Cunningham – served as part of May’s trusted inner circle during her years at the Home Office. A sharp operator with a sharp brain (and, occasionally, a sharp tongue) she is absolutely loyal to the new Prime Minister.
That loyalty was the cause of her (temporary) downfall in 2014, when she left the Home Office after publishing a private letter from May to Gove as part of a bitter briefing war between the two camps.
Now she is back, and will it seems serve as the yin to Timothy’s yang, in a Downing Street operation unusually headed by Joint Chiefs of Staff rather than by one boss. Some observers fear that the sharing of the role will lead to conflict and confusion, but it’s important to remembers that the two have worked closely together before. Hill’s primary focus in the Home Office was on communications, while Timothy’s was on policy, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a similar general division of responsibilities – but each has some expertise across both fields, and they both know that the two are inextricably linked when developing and maintaining a strategy.
John Godfrey: Director of Policy
May’s new policy chief is the least well-known member of the new team, despite a prominent career in his chosen field. A Scot, he spent his earliest years in Austria before returning to his home country. He was educated at Lochaber High School, where it’s reported that “he jousted in debates with an older boy, Charles Kennedy” (the school would later produce another prominent Liberal Democrat: Danny Alexander).
He later studied at Oriel College, Oxford, serving as President of the University Conservative Association during Trinity term 1983 – succeeding Richard Fuller, now MP for Bedford, and preceding Jonathan Lord, now MP for Woking.
By the late 1980s he had joined the Home Office, working as a Special Adviser first to John Patten, Minister of State, and then to Douglas Hurd, the Home Secretary. He therefore has experience of Government from the inside. While there, he took the opportunity to warn of the growing danger to the Union – describing his own focus on the topic as “perhaps…excessively tedious”.
After leaving Whitehall for the world of merchant banking, he had a first-hand view of that danger in action as he witnessed the Conservative Party’s troubles in Scotland. He fought Glasgow Maryhill in 1992, and was the candidate in the 1995 by-election rout in Perth and Kinross. The latter was a bruising experience, starting with Nicholas Fairbairn, whose death sparked the by-election, deriding Godfrey as “an unelectable party clone”, and ending with the SNP taking the seat from the Conservatives, while Labour leapfrogged into second place. It was a foreshadowing of the coming change in Scottish politics – further underscoring May’s comments about the Union on Monday.
Since 1995, he focused on his career in communications in the City, culminating in a nine year stretch at Legal & General. There he built a reputation as a likeable and effective communicator, who gave the insurer sizeable clout in Whitehall through well-planned interventions. In short, he may not be a household name, but he is set to be a key figure in the new administration – and comes equipped with an expert knowledge of Government and its policy-making process.
Katie Perrior: Director of Communications
Downing Street’s new comms director has performed a similar role for Theresa May before – as a CCHQ staffer, she advised her when she served as Party Chairman in the early 2000s. She also later worked for David Davis during his time as Shadow Home Secretary, before setting up her own PR consultancy, iNHouse. Perrior and her business partner, Jo Tanner, won a contract to run the communications for Boris Johnson’s 2008 London mayoral campaign, and more recently established HerSay, a directory providing female experts to broadcasters. When the leadership race began, she was brought in by May to lead media relations for her campaign.
Perrior is well-connected to the lobby through her day job and socially: regular Conservative Party Conference attendees may recognise her as part of the team running The London Lounge, a conference facility which has been known to conclude with a karaoke party attended by MPs, SpAds and journalists.
A former Bexley councillor, she was appointed last year to the board of the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, the body overseeing the construction of the flagship Garden City development.
Lizzie Loudon: Press Secretary
The new Prime Minister’s spokeswoman is another experienced political adviser. Loudon stepped up from being a DWP press officer to become media SpAd to Iain Duncan Smith in 2013, serving in his team through some high profile battles until his resignation earlier this year. At that point she joined the Vote Leave comms team, playing a key role in co-ordinating the appearances, interviews and speeches of several of the key ministers in the campaign. She now returns to Government as the voice of the Prime Minister.
Liz Sanderson: Head of Features
Sanderson left the Mail on Sunday in 2014 to replace Hill as media SpAd to the then-Home Secretary, and has worked with May ever since. She is a former feature writer herself, who was sufficiently trusted to reveal the news of May’s diabetes in 2013, and it seems her role will be to oversee set-piece media appearances which flesh out the public knowledge of the Prime Minister’s personality.