Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, close and influential advisers to Theresa May, are standing down. Senior Conservatives have been blaming them for the failure of the Tory election campaign, and calling for their resignation ever since the election result.
Tories have been demanding May to sack them this weekend, or face a leadership challenge; their departure is seen as part of May’s attempt to survive as Prime Minister.
Timothy and Hill are known for their fierce loyalty to May, having worked for her since she became Home Secretary in 2010, and at points before then. They have been blamed by Tory figures for weilding disproportionate influence over the Prime Minister and the election campaign, refusing to listen to advice.
By letting them go, May is attempting to show her party that she understands the criticism of her tight, narrowly-focused circle and how it negatively impacted the election campaign.
Timothy, who pushed for the “dementia tax” policy that undid the Tories’ manifesto, resigned from his role yesterday.
He writes of his decision in ConservativeHome:
“I take responsibility for my part in this election campaign, which was the oversight of our policy programme. In particular, I regret the decision not to include in the manifesto a ceiling as well as a floor in our proposal to help meet the increasing cost of social care . . .
“I take responsibility for the content of the whole manifesto, which I continue to believe is an honest and strong programme for government.”
In his piece, Timothy argues that the election outcome was a result of Labour’s unexpected surge, rather than Tory failings. He said their campaign, “failed to notice the surge in Labour support, because modern campaigning techniques require ever-narrower targeting of specific voters, and we were not talking to the people who decided to vote for Labour”.
Hill has given a less detailed statement on her departure:
“It’s been a pleasure to serve in government, and a pleasure to work with such an excellent Prime Minister. I have no doubt at all that Theresa May will continue to serve and work hard as Prime Minister – and do it brilliantly.”
The knives have been out for Hill and Timothy ever since the Tories lost their majority in the snap election. Katie Perrior, a former aide to the Prime Minister, claimed this morning on the BBC’s Today programme that they made the atmosphere in Downing Street “toxic”, and it was a “pretty dysfunctional” operation. She spoke of their bullying behaviour, and disrespect of others’ advice:
“We would go into an 8:30 meeting everyday in Theresa May’s office and the atmosphere would be great if the chiefs of staff were not there and terrible if the chiefs of staff were there . . . They only really know one way to operate and that is to have enemies.”
Another former press aide, Joey Jones, who worked with both advisers and was a Home Office spokesperson, has written on PoliticsHome about the “toxic dynamic” in Downing Street. He writes that Timothy and Hill “could be unacceptably aggressive” and had a “desire for total control”. He believes that “Theresa May without Nick and Fi will be a hollowed out figure” and should resign.