To quote @OwenBarder on Twitter yesterday morning: “Spare a thought for many Special Advisers today, caught in a horrible game of musical chairs”. Here are two:
1) The number of spads is very likely to increase to near 90.
Grant Shapps in his new role as Minister without Portfolio and Conservative Party Co-Chair will probably be able to appoint one or two spads; Chris Grayling’s promotion to Secretary of State for Justice will allow him to appoint two spads.
Normally, these changes wouldn’t increase overall numbers, as the old ministers’ spads would lose their jobs; however, since both Baroness Warsi and Ken Clarke will still be attending Cabinet, it seems highly likely that both will keep their spads.
Further, as David Laws is being brought back into government, it seems likely that Nick Clegg will push for him to be allowed to appoint a spad in Laws’ cross-departmental role.
2) This reshuffle will show whether spads under the Coalition are more like those under the previous Conservative or Labour governments.
Under the Conservative governments (1979-97), there were more spads who remained in the same departments and served multiple ministers over long periods of time. These represented relatively stable ‘expert’ spads who knew the brief, had connections, etc. and were able to assist incoming ministers. By contrast, Labour had a generally higher turnover of spads, meaning that when their minister left, they were more likely to leave the department (either to follow their minister or to leave government entirely).
One test of this will be whether Jonathan Caine remains a spad at the Northern Irish Office. He was a spad there for five years under John Major and he was brought back in 2010 to work for Owen Paterson. We will see if Theresa Villiers will become his fourth Secretary of State, if she’ll replace him for her own choice of spad, or if she’ll be allowed to do both—returning to the tradition of having two spads in the Northern Irish Office that characterised the Labour governments.