The rising SpAd population isn't in itself a bad thing for Britain
By Peter Hoskin
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My apologies to Paul for copying, with two extra words, the headline from his earlier post. It's just that another census was released today — the quarterly (or quarterly-ish) headcount of the government's Special Advisers — and it too highlights a rising population. The number of SpAds has increased from 66 in the first of these lists, from June 2010, to 72 last July, to 79 now. They must be breeding.
But, like the headline says, this isn't in itself a bad thing. There was a time once, in the Coalition Agreement, when David Cameron and Nick Clegg talked in terms of population control for special advisers; but this was misguided. The grim excesses of the Gordon Brown years — the smears and the briefings — were not necessarily an argument against SpAds themselves, but against bad SpAds.
So the debate ought to be more about quality than quanitity — but it's still encouraging that the government appears to be shedding its artificial aversion to SpAds. That said, some ministers appear to be shedding it more quickly than others. The number of special advisers attached to Nick Clegg has risen from four in July 2010 to 14 now, and all because the Deputy Prime Minister felt under-represented across Whitehall. Now how's that for population growth?