Beware the ides of May…

By: Andrew Gladstone-Heighton

Policy Leader

Wednesday 14 June 2017


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Here’s a cautionary tale.

Theresa May’s former chief of staff, Nick Timothy, resigned over the weekend after demands from the Conservative party members. Along with his colleague Fiona Hill, Nick was seen as the co-architect of the (first) 2017 General Election. They initially worked together at the Home Office, and became Theresa May’s special advisers during this time.

A politics graduate, Nick Timothy was seen as a provincial Conservative. After his time at the home office he became a Director at the New Schools Network, an interest group aimed at supporting people setting up free schools in the English state sector. Following David Cameron’s resignation, Timothy and Hill were brought in to run Theresa May’s leadership campaign. Following her premiership, Timothy followed May into number 10, having great power and influence over the decision and policy making process.

During his time as Chief of Staff, Timothy was responsible for setting out policies such as combating mental illness and setting up grammar schools. Being grammar school educated himself, Timothy was keen to extol the virtues of this kind of education and his connection to the New Schools Network would have been advantageous to the rolling out of this policy.

The grammar schools policy proved to be a sticking point for the party, and first bought Timothy to wider attention outside of the Westminster bubble.

It’s also here that the seeds of his downfall may have been sown.

Timothy and Hill were key players in running the recent election campaign, especially in writing the manifesto. Given the result, they put themselves firmly in the crosshairs of those who were looking for heads to roll. Over the weekend after the election, the ultimatum was issued: Theresa May was to fire her advisors or face a leadership challenge herself.

So ultimately Timothy and Hill were given swords on which they were to fall.

In his resignation letter, Timothy sets out that he ‘took responsibility for my part in this election campaign, which was the oversight of our policy programme’, and that he ‘took responsibility for the content of the whole manifesto’. In doing so, he may have saved his former boss - at least for the time being.

As for his legacy? The policy to reintroduce selective schools is still a Conservative manifesto commitment, but as recent events have shown, this may not survive to become policy.

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