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Five things you should know about Steve Hilton

By Tim Montgomerie
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Steve Hilton is in the news again today. He apparently wants a bonfire of red tape to help get the economy motoring again. It seems a good moment to summarise what we know about the man who is David Cameron's most important adviser.

Before I start I should point you to the best profile of the man that's yet been written; David T Breaker's "traditionalist in disguise" blog of two months ago. And if you want Hilton in a nutshell I commend Paul Goodman's idea that he's Edmund Burke beamed into contemporary San Francisco.


Socially, he's not like most of the Downing Street crowd. And I'm not just referring to the t-shirts, bike and lack of shoes. Breaker: "The son of Hungarian immigrants fleeing the Soviet Union who met working at Heathrow, he's worked his way up through hard work, intelligence and endeavour."

He's constantly dissatisfied with what the government has achieved. Reports a few weeks back emphasised his disappointment at retreats on the NHS White Paper and the watering down of the public services white paper. He does think "everything should have changed by 2015" but it's perfectly possible he won't quit if he doesn't get all he wants. He/ the Coalition has, after all, achieved quite a lot already. It's much more likely he'll quit if Rohan Silva exits. Without his reforming comrade he'll find Downing Street a lonelier place.

He's not always easy to get on with. I can't say that it's been my experience but there are constant stories of loud tensions between him and other Tory insiders as he pushes people further and faster than they are comfortable. He sometimes despairs of George Osborne's tactical caution... of Ed Llewellyn for not being a more assertive chief of staff... of James O'Shaughnessy for insufficient policy radicalism... of Eric Pickles for not imposing directly-elected mayors on every council... of Jeremy Heywood and civil servants for finding reasons why things can't be done... of Andy Coulson for wanting to tabloidise too much policy... of Francis Maude when he was Party Chairman for resisting imposing things on grassroots members... of Hammond and Villiers for not backing Boris' island airport idea. In summary: Let's just say that he doesn't stay quiet when he's unhappy.

He's half über-moderniser... He was behind Cameronism's heavy emphasis on combating climate change, standing up to big business (before Charles Moore credited this to the Left), chocolate orange inspections, nudging, the happiness index and diversity of candidate selection. This über-modernisation took the party to the brink of defeat in the summer of 2007. Osborne and Coulson restored some balance.

but he's also half TradCon... He hates red tape and bureaucracy. He's Iain Duncan Smith's biggest ally on welfare reform and support of the family. He's a 'Plan Man' - embracing the radicalism localism of Carswell and Hannan. He's exhausted by EU and Whitehall bureaucracy and, yes, probably is now a Better Off Outer.

I don't go as far as David Breaker in believing that "like the ravens at the Tower of London, if he goes, the project will fall" but his departure would be a very big moment. Cameron doesn't quickly embrace people he doesn't know. It would be hard to replace the man who plays a vital role in pushing the PM out of his natural comfort zone. But if he stays it's important he's controlled. He was the man who didn't think the Big Society needed to be tested but he's not the only person who's responsible for that.


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