Lord Patten slags 'megaspads' and calls for a cull

Written by James Millar on 20 July 2017 in Diary

Former cabinet minister went spare at special advisers claiming they boss ministers and foster civil war within government

Former education secretary Lord Patten has claimed special advisers see it as their job to stir up trouble between government departments and called for a cull.

In a speech that seemed to have borrowed some of its imagery from a 1950s B-movie he referred to "the spad terror" that had taken hold in Westminster and warned of the proliferation of 'megaspads'. 

Special advisers are paid for by the public but unlike permanent civil servants they are appointed by parties and ministers and allowed to be partisan in their advice.

Lord Patten said the role of special adviser had become counterproductive as they no longer simply provided support to ministers and instead  they "see it as their job to promote internecine warfare between departments on too many occasions."

Referring to SpAds as "creatures in the undergrowth" he warned that it was a "constitutional affront" the way some ordered the ministers who are supposed to be their bosses about and took on powers for themselves. Some have suggested that is a veiled swipe at Prime Minister Theresa May's former joint chiefs-of-staff Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who stepped down in June after taking the blame for the Conservatives poor election result. Tales from Number 10 have circulated that the pair held too much sway over the PM insisting she stick to the 'strong and stable' script during the election campaign and even making her wear a pair of much criticised £1000 leather trousers for an interview last year.

Speaking in the House of Lords Lord Patten, who held a number of junior ministerial roles before joining John Major's cabinet as education secretary in 1992, claimed there was a role for "grown-up SpAds" but said there are too many and they often have too high opinion of themselves. He suggested that for every new special advisor appointed to the government two should be kicked out.



Picture credit: Rick Findler/PA Wire/PA Images

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