Skip to main content

Spads and the city

To absolutely nobody's surprise, Theresa May's claim to govern by and for the common man has yet again been laid bare — by the unholy number of her former 'special advisers' flocking to the corporate lobbying fold, reveals SOLOMON HUGHES

WHEN Theresa May fell to Boris Johnson last July, her flock of special advisers (Spads) was released into the wild. A Cabinet Office “transparency report” released in March reveals that, while May tried to make backing the people who were “just about managing” her theme, her Spads uniformly flew into the service of consultancies serving big corporations.

Spads are the ministerial assistants who are paid as civil servants, but are “political” appointees hand-picked by ministers, so they are important figures in how the state is run.

Most Spads only have to seek approval from their department under the “Business Appointment Rules” for post-government jobs. They are exempted from having to apply to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, the already weak watchdog guarding the “revolving door” between government and business.

In March the Cabinet Office released a transparency report into their approvals for the end of 2019. They show that last October May’s former Europe adviser, Denzil Davidson, joined Peter Mandelson’s consultancy “Global Counsel” where he now “leads the financial-services practice and advises on engagement with the EU institutions.”

Global Counsel say that for a fee they will help clients “navigate the critical area between business, politics and policymaking” — they keep their client list confidential but are known to have worked for some big Russian financial interests.

EU transparency registers show some current Global Counsel clients, including Banco Santander and Indonesian industrial giant Asian Pulp and Paper.

Last December May’s other Europe adviser, Raoul Ruparel, joined accountants Deloitte where he is an adviser in their “global Brexit insights team” which helps clients “across a range of business lines on topics ranging from Brexit to trade policy.”

May could not solve the Brexit conundrum, but her former staff can now help Deloitte’s clients with it.

Giles Wilkes was May’s business and energy Spad and before that an adviser to Lib Dem Vince Cable. Last October Wilkes became a “specialist partner” at Flint Global, a firm set up by top UK civil servant Sir Simon Fraser to “provide advice at the point where government and business meet.”

Wilkes is joining another ex-May Spad, Ed de Minckwitz. Flint Global say Wilkes will give their clients “advice on UK political and policy matters related to industrial strategy, competition and regulatory concerns.” According to EU registers their clients include tech firms Facebook, Airbnb, Apple and gambling lobby the European Gaming and Betting Association.

Joe Moor was May’s Spad on “legislative affairs.” Last October he became a Director of Hanbury Strategy the “strategic advisory” firm founded by former David Cameron aide Ameet Gill. According to Hanbury they “operate at the nexus of business and politics” and help “corporates” reach “key policymakers.” Their current British clients include Amazon UK and Citibank.

Dylan Sharpe was May’s “head of broadcast.” Sharpe previously worked for the Sun and as Johnson’s press officer for his London mayoral campaign. Last November Sharpe became head of media relations for HS2: by hiring another key political insider, HS2 may be hoping to keep government support for their very expensive rail scheme .

May’s ex-Spads were all told that under the Business Appointment Rules they could not lobby the government for two years after they left public service. However, there is no mechanism to enforce this rule.

May’s premiership was marked by claims to “govern for everyone and fight the injustice of being born poor,” but her closest advisers largely left government to work for consultancies that want to lobby government on behalf of Big Tech, Big Finance and big corporations.


We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.

Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 3,787
We need:£ 14,213
28 Days remaining
Donate today