This morning’s Telegraph calls him the party’s real deputy leader and there’s a useful profile of Steve Hilton in this morning’s Guardian although Patrick Wintour and Tania Branigan miss one of the most important features of the man who is undoubtedly the most important political influence on David Cameron.
That most important feature is Steve Hilton’s control freak tendency. ConservativeHome regularly hears from inside CCHQ about a project becoming stalled because it is still awaiting the green light from The Director of Strategy. Most Tory leaders have shared a low opinion of CCO/ CCHQ and David Cameron has already been burnt by CCHQ. The early problems with the A-list, the mishandled Mayoral process, the Bromley by-election operation and basic problems of membership management have only encouraged Steve Hilton in his belief that CCHQ requires micromanagement. Hilton and Francis Maude’s relationship has often been very strained as each competes to knock an often dysfunctional operation into shape. Francis Maude is fairly portrayed as an ultra-moderniser but even the Party Chairman has had to moderate Steve Hilton’s desires for greater central control of the candidate selection process.
The Guardian also fails to mention Steve Hilton’s controversial £23,000pcm remuneration package. We’ve never learnt if that was a temporary measure – as was said at the time – or if it continues.
What is certain about Steve Hilton is that no Tory adviser has ever enjoyed such influence on a party leader in modern times. It is also true that he has managed to combine his dominant role with being very well liked. People respect his creativity and his commitment. His drive to control David Cameron’s message and get CCHQ to perform as he wishes is entirely transparent and his colleagues have respect and affection for him. The danger is that his dominance is excluding other voices – but that’s a subject for another day.