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A guru’s diary

Will the real Steve Hilton please stand up? The Downing Street honcho offers a sneak peak at his wee

Warlord rule

Yo. Let me give you the word on what's going down. Been running the country remotely from the MacBook Pro. The warlord fronts the operation with a zeal and precision not witnessed since the Second World War, with the possible exception of Thatcher. We're on fire.

My own brand is in the ascendant, too. Job offers, often in seven figures, come from across the globe. Mitt Romney wanted me to prep him for the TV debates on the strength of locking it down for Dave's performance at the last general. Kennedy School are keen. The Saatchi door is propped open. It would be stating the obvious to say that Google has a post for me.

My cultivated shoeless mystique has all of Westminster grooving to my tune. My vision is run from No 10 itself. Ro and my other discipular sprites convert my genius mindflow into action lists.

For discipline, I deploy the occasional vile putdown to remind the civil servants and ministers who's calling the shots. My desk is not far from Dave's. A clear symbol of rank and proximity to the kinetic nucleus. One of Jeremy Heywood's more useful contributions.

Hands down

Brand Alert: "Fake Hand Dave" is a name I'm hearing too often. It needs crushing urgently.

It refers to a couple of weird hand gestures, which citizens will be aware of. First, open hands with spread upturned fingers - same as a baker would use to roll dough - and provides an obvious tell when he's faking engagement. It's got to go from PMQs, too. And also the "invisible teacup", where his right hand holds an invisible teacup over his upward-facing left palm. Bad, bad visuals. Focus groups know something isn't quite right. I've been watching Primary Colors and the Clinton tapes again. Got to get Dave to gel more naturally with the blue-collars. Voice coach Gordon Lennox has been scrambled, although I don't want to repeat the hissy fit Dave threw all those years ago in initial media training.

Dave diet

Muffin-top: predictably some of the papers have zoomed in on Dave's waistline. I have suggested a Californian macrobiotic regime. Dave reacts with that pissy smelt-a-drain look that he gives Ed Balls. If sorted, Nick would then be the tubby one - which reminds me, also need to get our leader running with Matt Roberts again. Nothing says alpha more than a warlord pounding tough terrain. Andrew Parsons obviously teed up for the shot, which we'll push out through the usual channels.

All hell broke loose in Afghan just before Christmas. Total Ministry of Defence (Hayden Allan got it in the neck) incompetence when we missed the Camp Bastion vanity run with soldiers for the cameras. Instead, we had John- Major-gardening-outfit and awkward body language in the mess. Threw me into a total rage. Waste of 36 hours.

Punch drunk

Alcohol wars: we're looking to use the Tory council bully model of parking control - where totally disproportionate fines extort millions from motorists for the slightest offences. Since nobody feels sorry for a drunk, injured moron, we're looking at summary justice with instant revenue-generation from fines and clinical services. Harrison and other Treasury clowns who think I'm just a spender will never have seen a windfall like it since the sell-off of the mobile frequencies.

Cooper running some numbers on it but I can tell you now that: NHS wins. Law and Order score. HMT will drown in cash. An all-round win. Ro actioning as I type. Mood-board assembly almost complete.

Battle begins

Here endeth the James O'Shaughnessy lesson. I went to considerable efforts to phase that DJ out of the inner circle. Now departed, he's taken up with Policy Exchange and career- rehab unit Portland, but of course he failed to follow proper procedure and someone must have tipped off the dozy civil service.

A falling-out with me doesn't end till a knockout, which of course is how I prepare Dave for PMQs. I am Mickey Goldmill to Dave's Rocky Balboa. Tommy B hates it, but then he'd do the same to me. Dave unleashes a fury of blows till Mili sways before slumping to the canvas. It's going to be hell.


Watched the train wreck that was Miliband's New Year comeback, AKA Milibomb. Someone in the office asked me what I'd have done to recover his fortunes. Obvious: they should have pulled the tapes on my events and asked themselves, "What would Hilton do? What questions would he plant?" etc. They have no feel for the street or clue about brand (re)construction. Mili needs to be out there getting down with the kidz. Set at Oxo Tower with a ridiculous backdrop of a lonely boat bobbing up and down in the Thames. Tommy doesn't have a clue.

The seven Ps

Just issued a memo for PMQ prep. Am shifting Dave from prizefighter role. Mindset change: God is a DJ. Dave is a DJ. Less aggression, more control. We pick his tunes and samples (my jokes). His job is to spin a 30-min set, leaving the House wanting more yet fuzzy with satisfaction. If he does that, we might score the ultimate coup: that Labour defector we've had our eye on finally agrees to cross the floor.


On a slight downer, Dave is likely to have to appear in front of the Celebrity Injured Feelings Inquiry and tell Lord Leveson, under oath, about his friendships with the various editors he sucked up to, which includes News Inter­national's arrangement to loan the unvetted Andy Coulson to the Tories. It's going to get very messy very quickly. I always said it was a massive error to bring him to No 10. My Twitter fans have heard it said many times: always blame Ed Llewellyn.

Bye-bye, baby

Anyway, I've nearly finished my Açai superfruits detox smoothie. Time to draft up some new orders including a couple of surprises in the reshuffle. More fine deletion than fine tuning.

*As told to @stevehiltonguru

This article first appeared in the 16 January 2012 issue of the New Statesman, The battle for Britain

Photo: Getty Images
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What's to be done about racial inequality?

David Cameron's words on equal opportunities are to be welcomed - now for some action, says Sunder Katwala.

David Cameron made the strongest, clearest and most high profile statement about ethnic inequalities and the need to tackle discrimination ever yet offered by a British Prime Minister in his leader’s speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
“Picture this. You’ve graduated with a good degree. You send out your CV far and wide. But you get rejection after rejection. What’s wrong? It’s not the qualifications or the previous experience. It’s just two words at the top: first name, surname. Do you know that in our country today: even if they have exactly the same qualifications, people with white-sounding names are nearly twice as likely to get call backs for jobs than people with ethnic-sounding names? … That, in 21st century Britain, is disgraceful. We can talk all we want about opportunity, but it’s meaningless unless people are really judged equally”, said Cameron.
While the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, this was a powerfully argued Prime Ministerial intervention – and a particularly well-timed one, for three reasons.

Firstly, the Prime Minister was able to root his case in an all-but-universally accepted appeal for equal opportunities. It will always prove more difficult in practice to put political energy and resources behind efforts to remedy discrimination against a minority of the population unless a convincing fairness case is made that values cherished across our whole society are at stake. Cameron’s argument, that any party which tells itself that it is the party of the ‘fair chance’ and ‘the equal shot’ must have a response when there is such clear evidence of discrimination, should prove persuasive to a Conservative Party that has not seen race inequalities as its natural territory. Cameron argued that the same principles should animate responses to discrimination when it comes to race, gender and social class. Put like that, wanting job interviews to be fair – by eradicating conscious and unconscious patterns of bias wherever possible – would strike most Britons as offering as clear a case of the values of fair play as wanting the best baker to win the Great British Bake-Off on television.
Secondly, Cameron’s intervention comes at a potential "tipping point" moment for fair opportunities across ethnic groups. Traditionally, ethnic discrimination has been discussed primarily through the lens of its impact on the most marginalised. Certainly, persistent gaps in the criminal justice system, mental health provision and unemployment rates remain stark for some minority groups. What has been less noticed is the emergence of a much more complex pattern of opportunity and disadvantage – not least as a consequence of significant ethnic minority progress.

Most strikingly of all, in educational outcomes, historic attainment gaps between ethnic minorities and their white British peers have disappeared over the last decade. In the aggregate, ethnic minorities get better GCSE results on average. Ethnic minority Britons are more likely, not less likely, to be university graduates than their fellow citizens. 

As a result of that progress, Cameron’s intervention comes at a moment of significant potential – but significant risk too. Britain’s ethnic minorities are the youngest and fastest-growing sections of British society. If that educational progress translates into economic success, it will make a significant contribution to the "Great British Take-Off" that the Prime Minister envisions. But if that does not happen, with educational convergence combined with current ‘ethnic penalties’ in employment and income persisting, then that potential could well curdle into frustration that the British promise of equal opportunities is not being kept.  Cameron also mirrored his own language in committing himself to both a ‘fight against extremism’ and a ‘fight against discrimination’: while those are distinct challenges and causes, actively pursuing both tracks simultaneously has the potential, at least, depolarise some debates about responses to extremism  - and so to help deepen the broad social coalitions we need for a more cohesive society too.

Thirdly, Cameron’s challenge could mark an important deepening in the political competition between the major parties on race issues. Many have been struck by the increase in political attention on the centre-right to race issues over the last five to ten years. The focus has been on the politics of representation. By increasing the number of non-white Conservative MPs from two to seventeen since 2005, Cameron has sent a powerful signal that Labour’s traditional claim to be ‘the party of ethnic minorities’ would now be contested. Cameron was again able to celebrate in Manchester several ways in which his Cabinet and Parliamentary benches demonstrate many successful journeys of migrant and minority integration in British society. That might perhaps help to ease the fears, about integration being impossible in an era of higher immigration, which the Home Secretary had articulated the previous day.

So symbolism can matter. But facial diversity is not enough. The politics of ethnic minority opportunity needs to be about more than visits to gurdwaras, diversity nights at the party conference fringes and unveiling statues of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square. Jeremy Corbyn’s first speech as Labour leader did include one brief celebratory reference to Britain’s ethnic diversity – “as I travelled the country during the leadership campaign it was wonderful to see the diversity of all the people in our country” – and to Labour bringing in more black, Asian and ethnic minority members - but it did not include any substantial content on discrimination. Tim Farron acknowledged during his leadership campaign that the Liberal Democrats have struggled to get to the starting-line on race and diversity at all. The opposition parties too will no doubt now be challenged to match not just the Prime Minister’s rhetorical commitment to challenging inequalities but also to propose how it could be done in practice.

Non-white Britons expect substance, not just symbolism from all of the parties on race inequalites.  Survation’s large survey of ethnic minority voters for British Future showed the Conservatives winning more ethnic minority support than ever before – but just 29 per cent of non-white respondents were confident that the Conservatives are committed to treating people of every ethnic background equally, while 54 per cent said this of Labour. Respondents were twice as likely to say that the Conservatives needto do more to reach out – and the Prime Minister would seem to be committed to showing that he has got that message.  Moreover, there is evidence that ethnic inclusion could be important in broadening a party’s appeal to other younger, urban and more liberal white voters too – which is why it made sense for this issue to form part of a broader attempt by David Cameron to colonise the broad centre of British politics in his Manchester speech.

But the case for caution is that there has been limited policy attention to ethnic inequalities under the last two governments. Restaurateur Iqbal Wahhab decided to give up his role chairing an ethnic minority taskforce for successive governments, unconvinced there was a political commitment to do much more than convene a talking shop. Lib Dem equalities minister Lynne Featherstone did push the CV discrimination issue – but many Conservatives were sceptical. Cameron’s new commitment may face similar challenges from those whose instinct is to worry that more attention to discrimination or bias in the jobs market will mean more red tape for business.

Labour had a separate race inequalities manifesto in 2015, outside of its main election manifesto, while the Conservative manifesto did not contain significant commitments to racial inequality. The mid-campaign launch in Croydon of a series of race equality pledges showed an increasing awareness of the growing importance of ethnic minority votes - though the fact that they all involved aiming for increases of 20 per cent by 2020 gave them a slightly back-of-the-envelope feel. 

Prime Ministerial commitments have an important agenda-setting function. A generation ago the Stephen Lawrence case opened the eyes of middle England to racist violence and police failures, particularly through the Daily Mail’s persistent challenging of those injustices. A Conservative Prime Minister’s words could similarly make a big difference in the mainstreaming of the issue of inequalities of opportunity. What action should follow words? Between now and next year’s party conference season, that must will now be the test for this Conservative government – and for their political opponents too. 

Sunder Katwala is director of British Future and former general secretary of the Fabian Society.