The origins and history of the special adviser, with particular reference to the 1964-70 Wilson Administrations
Special advisers are temporary civil servants, of party political alignment, appointed on a basis of individual ministerial patronage. Particularly since 1997, there has been much interest in their activities. This work sets out to provide a historical perspective on the subject, which is currently lacking. The long-term background to the instigation of the special adviser and the circumstances in which this innovation took place will be discussed. The central focus of this work is upon the period 1964-70, during which, it will be argued, special advisers, as they are now conceived, were first used. Full consideration is given to the subjects of who special advisers were, what they did and why, as well as how they functioned. Their official positions, in terms of matters such as job titles, pay, access to information and rules governing their conduct, will be investigated. Also of importance will be an understanding of their relations with each other, career civil servants and ministers. All of these themes will be extrapolated beyond the period in which special advisers were first used, through to the present day. Most importantly, an explanation of the collective significance of special advisers will be attempted. A core thesis, that they are best understood in terms of their relations with their employing ministers, will be proposed, along with a number of possible alternative interpretations. Primary material, including memoirs, diaries, personal and institutional papers, Public Record Office files and interviews, will form the most important basis for this work. Much of this will be examined for the first time in the context of the special adviser. Secondary sources will also be drawn upon. It is concluded that special advisers were a complex phenomenon and no single interpretation fits them entirely. Nevertheless, the relationship with the employing minister was, at times, extremely important.