There’s been a lot of talk about SPADs recently – S.P.A.D. not spuds. To be honest, we’d all much prefer it to be about chips.
SPAD stands for special political advisors. They’re the political aides who help secretaries of state (the people who run government departments) make decisions. They give them facts, help on policy and generally … well, advise.
One key thing about SPADs is that they’re not civil servants. Civil servants are the apolitical people, who work in government no matter what politicians are in charge.
Peter Cardwell, who served as Robert Buckland’s aide in the Department of Justice until the Cabinet reshuffle, explained the job:
“They’re both a colleague and a friend to cabinet ministers, they’re members of the conservative party or the ruling party.”
The latest Cabinet reshuffle has led to a lot of talk about aides and their role with Sajid Javid now infamously resigning instead of taking the option to stay on and fire his aide.
Aides are agreed upon by the government and the secretary of state they work for. Or as Mr Cardwell put it: “Once the minister goes, they go too.”
He added: “What happens is if your minister is sacked, so are you. You’re instantly without a job, but also sometimes number 10 or the cabinet secretary themselves feel as though they want to make a change. That’s the game we get into and that’s the things are.”
Despite losing his job, he defends Mr Buckland’s decision to carry on, something he has been criticised for.
He said: “I think it was absolutely right for Robert to retain his post. He’s an excellent justice secretary and will continue to be so it’s entirely up to him and to Number 10.
“Robert indicated to me that he would be happy for me to stay on. Number 10 didn’t feel that way and that’s the way things work.”
The recent Cabinet reshuffle seems like an attempt by Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings, the chief advisor to the Prime Minister, to centralise power to Number 10.
Mr Cummings is widely thought of as the brains behind the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 Brexit referendum and, under his tenure in government, there have been some controversial decisions, including the proroguing of Parliament in the autumn.
However, Mr Cardwell says that reshuffles are just part of the political game: “There is a lot of movement. I’ve been a casualty of that, but that’s what you sign up for in the first place.”