Prime Minister



Kings and Prime Ministers

Various governments through the ages

Ÿ Without any formal system, Kings, Prime Ministers and individual Ministers brought in particular advisers. Such advisers were friends, cronies, colleagues.

Ÿ Until 1920, personal and political appointees were commonplace serving in the Prime Minister’s private office (Jones, 1978) .

Harold Wilson

Ÿ Labour government, 1964-1970

Ÿ Labour government, 1974-1976

Ÿ Formalised SpAd-specific roles and job titles (Wilson, 1976: p. 98) .

Ÿ Appointed as temporary civil servants, “experts” such as Thomas Balogh.

Ÿ The term “Special Adviser” (SpAd) commonly used for the first time in 1975.

Ÿ Ministers allowed to appoint SpAds on a regular basis.

Ÿ 38 SpAds in 1974, dropped to 24 in 1976.

James Callaghan

Labour government,


Ÿ Surrounded himself with shrewd academic advisers.

Ÿ Reduced number of SpAds from 29 to 24 (Knight, 1990: p. 105) .

Margaret Thatcher

Conservative government, 1979-1990

Ÿ Initially hostile to political advisers, as opposed to expert advisers (Burch, 1983) .

Ÿ 20 SpAds in the early days

John Major

Conservative government, 1990-1997

Ÿ 38 SpAds in 1997.

Tony Blair

New Labour administration, 1997-2007

Ÿ Between 70 and 84 SpAds during his office (70 in 1998; 82 in 2004).

Ÿ SpAds increased in numbers; greater influence over career civil servants; perceived privileged position as policy shapers.

Ÿ Two SpAds, Jonathan Powell and Alastair Campbell, were given executive powers over civil servants.

Gordon Brown

New Labour administration, 2007-2010

Ÿ 73 SpAds in 2008.

Ÿ 74 SpAds in 2010.

David Cameron

Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government, 2010-2016

Ÿ 98 SpAds in 2013.

Ÿ 103 SpAds in 2014/5 (increase was following the decision by the then Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, to expand his political operation).

Ÿ 92 SpAds in 2015 reduced to 83 (one SpAd in Downing Street and 11 from the key Whitehall departments).

Theresa May

Conservative government

Ÿ 2016-2017

Ÿ 88 SpAds in 2017.