Charles Lewington, Hanover: Playing Number 10's game

Clients that appeal to the coalition aims of growth, reform and deregulation will find favour.

Accusing Cabinet colleagues of lying or comparing them to Goebbels makes for good copy. But corporate clients can waste a lot of effort focusing on political manoeuvring during election campaigns, while almost unnoticed a new Number 10 engine room has been created to drive the coalition's agenda.

Prime Minister David Cameron began his administration by adopting the role of chairman rather than chief executive. In a rejection of Labour's approach, he set the strategy and delegated execution to departments. But ambitious public service reforms, combined with the pressures of maintaining coalition unity, have highlighted the shortcomings of this approach. A self-imposed cap on special advisers has meant a lack of monitoring capacity and has seen political capital expended on side issues.

But the coalition's problems do not stem from personal animus at the centre. In place of the corrosive Blair-Brown relationship, Number 10, the Treasury, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Cabinet Office enjoy fairly cordial dealings, reflecting the personalities of senior advisers such as Steve Hilton and Jonny Oates.

Nonetheless, the structure was insufficiently joined up to act as a corporate centre. Cameron has tried to fix this to create a model common across Government business.

Having bolstered strategy, comms and policy teams, the PM now has the apparatus to be an executive chairman ensuring the coalition meets its policy pledges. In the new set-up Jeremy Heywood effectively assumes a chief operating officer role as the senior civil servant in Government. While Ed Llewellyn runs the PM's office, Heywood has influence across domestic policy as the the PM's troubleshooter.

A challenge in producing our Downing Street analysis (go to has been defining the political power structure. Hilton retains unrivalled influence, with Polly Mackenzie mirroring his role for the Liberal Democrats. Director of policy Paul Kirby's role will become clearer, while the jury is out on director of comms Craig Oliver. With 11 Liberal Democrat advisers, some Conservatives mutter that Number 10 has been too generous. Deputy Conservative Party chairman Michael Fallon MP and Edward Timpson, who attend daily strategy meetings, play a crucial role in ensuring the PM doesn't drift too far from his MPs.

It is clear that the honeymoon with the civil service is over. Complaints focus on its intransigence, capability and numbers. Hilton led the attack on attempts to block coalition plans. The redesigned policy function is intended to overcome barriers and ensure coalition commitments are met.

A grumble of corporate clients has been the lack of a (legendary special adviser) 'Geoffrey Norris figure', so companies should welcome the addition of policy specialists when growth is central to the Government's agenda. The new faces are a mix of experienced external figures, such as ex-Lehman Brothers analyst Tim Luke and Patrick Rock, a former adviser to Michael Howard MP, and civil servants.

Number 10 has sought a partnership model with initiatives, such as StartUp Britain, to harness the private sector to deliver policy goals. This will continue but it's clear Number 10 is playing a greater policy role. Special advisers are routinely called in, and savvy ones are seeking cover by flagging potentially controversial proposals.

Businesses that succeed in this environment will be the ones that bring innovative thinking that advances the coalition agenda on growth, reform and decentralisation.


If you had 15 minutes with Cameron or Clegg, who would you choose?

Nick Clegg. I'd tell him that a minute he spends criticising the Conservatives is a minute he could spend making the case for the coalition's economic policy.

Which bodies have emerged best from the public sector cuts debate?

I admire public sector organisations that have saved money through innovative back office efficiencies, rather than front-line services cuts.

How has public affairs changed since the advent of the coalition?

The speed with which the coalition has moved to tackle the deficit has been awesome. It has meant public affairs advisers have had to move quickly too.

Charles Lewington is Managing Director of Hanover

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