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Steve Hilton
February 2009

Between David Cameron's election as leader and his hoped-for entry into 10 Downing Street, Steve Hilton will have cost the Conservative party at least a million pounds. Despite vast debts, the Tories are reported to be paying their chief strategist an unprecedented £270,000-a- year salary. Yet, apart from having helped to make Cameron leader, Hilton has no other notable political successes to his name. In the disastrous 1997 and 2005 general election campaigns, Michael Portillo's two failed leadership bids, and Steve Norris's two doomed efforts to become London mayor, Hilton has been there, not always in charge, but always on the losing side. So why does Cameron have such faith in him?

Hilton is what Cameron is always (wrongly) accused of being, a brilliant PR man. The son of Hungarian parents who escaped to the West, he won a scholarship to Christ's Hospital, then a place at Oxford. In the post-Thatcher era, Hilton became an acolyte - first of Chris Patten, then of Maurice Saatchi. If Hilton has political opinions, they are theirs. He has a self-consciously languid dinner-party manner on the Patten model, allied to strenuously up-to-date technocracy in the Saatchi manner. No policy prescriptions result from this combination, other than a resentment of party activists and a trite enthusiasm for novelty and success. Hilton concluded that these virtues were to be found wherever the loathed Tory grassroots were not.

Like Portillo, Hilton adopted the Blairites' conceit of styling themselves as modernisers. For the Tories, this meant above all three things: Euroscepticism must be reserved for private consumption; socially progressive attitudes must be paraded at every opportunity; and a healthy respect for Blair's electoral success must be transformed into the dogma that Blairism had actually worked in government.

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Patrick Benson
February 1st, 2009
12:02 AM
It's a cute critique of Steve, but not from a witness - from someone that hasn't registered Mr Hilton's preposterous authority to make unilateral whimsical decisions on media spending, campaigns and announcements. Cameron's most glaring fault is the total absence of contrarians in his fold. Nobody challenges Hilton's wild guesses. Coulson sort of does, but isn't a political operative, and wastes far too much time on irrelevant newspaper coverage. The others are Friends of Dave who agree with pretty much anything. To be taken seriously, there should be a stringent system of internal accountability with robust non-hierarchical intellectual argument outside of social history references to Dave.

January 31st, 2009
12:01 PM
Additional gutlessness: the belated fawning on Cameron in the final paragraph, entirely at odds with the rest of the piece. Pipsqueak stuff.

Simon Harley
January 31st, 2009
9:01 AM
Unless you were born with that name Floating Voter, I'd think twice about calling anyone a coward.

G. Marshall
January 30th, 2009
1:01 PM
I have to agree with the previous commenters - an anonymous article pushing these sort of personal, virulent views, doesn't encourage any confidence in its credibility. We should at least be able to weight the personal prejudices of the author against their very individual message. I'm surprised you were prepared to publish it.

Floating Voter
January 30th, 2009
10:01 AM
Hmm, anonymous hatchet-job. Coward. If you really think this then stand up and be counted.

Matthew Cain
January 29th, 2009
2:01 PM
I'm a Labour party member and met Steve Hilton a few times whilst working at ippr. Aside from being likeable, I always respected his brilliant mind, imagination and commitment to his principles. This article is anonymous so I can only conclude that the author is gutless as well as being nasty, vindictive and lacking in political nous.

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