Susie Rushton: Why political adviser is the coolest job in town

Notebook: Despite the existence of significant female aides in real life, in fiction the dedicated right-hand is usually a man


If there were any doubt that the role of the political aide had become one of the sexiest jobs of our time, Ryan Gosling has put paid to that in his latest film, The Ides of March, a George Clooney-directed thriller that explores backroom machinations on the campaign trail in America. Poised, slick in his suits and dashing, Gosling's ambitious young spin doctor is cleverer than the politician he works for, and makes the girls on the campaign bus swoon.

"You're a player," purrs a blonde intern, acted by the delectable Evan Rachel Wood. You'd think the guy was a rock star, not a political nerd looking for the next chance to fling mud at the opposing camp. The Ides of March isn't the first time we've seen the shadowy political adviser given such a glamorous makeover – just the most complete.

Over the past decade, shows like The West Wing and The Thick of It have conspired to show us the aide as complex, witty and extremely clever – but a bit crumpled, somewhat out of shape, not the type to pull a 20-year-old intern.

Despite the existence of significant female aides in real life (the infamous Jo Moore, Tony Blair's Anji Hunter), in fiction the dedicated right-hand is usually a man. In The Ides of March there is a telling scene where the Governor, played by Clooney, questions his aides about their love lives, giving a satisfied smile as they each profess to be "married to the campaign, sir!"

On screen, aides have become younger, cooler and smartened up. Off screen, too, they have become glamorous all the time, coded in this country as "Spads" and awarded up to £140,000 a year if they stay in Downing Street long enough to avoid the fate of Andy Coulson.

And for every less appealing aide – Alastair Campbell, let's say, or Karl Rove, a campaign adviser who was never afraid to get his hands dirty, even if it meant literally combing through the opposition's garbage – there's a Jon Favreau, the impossibly handsome 30-year-old presidential speechwriter who Barack Obama calls his "mind-reader". No wonder chancers like Adam Werritty would risk everything to style themselves as a political adviser, given a little luck and encouragement.

But is the rise of the unelected, unaccountable aide something we really should be celebrating? In this country, the role of the adviser was historically held by a civil servant – like Thatcher's Bernard Ingham. Lifer civil servants aren't sexy and tend to look old even when they're quite young, but neither do they (supposedly) hold party allegiances.

Today a constellation of Spads, freelance political consultants and "friends" revolves around our elected leaders. How thrilling and shadowy and amusingly cynical their lives must be! Expect Clooney's film – the best political thriller of the year, by the way – to inadvertently act as a great big advert for the next cohort of thrusting young aides.

Offer the cash, but forget the 'tache

What is that, on your upper lip? Is it the remains of your cappuccino? Is it bicycle grease? Oh, I see. It's a charity moustache. Of course it is: today is the day that thousands of men around the world will begin their sponsored sprouting of hair.

That it's all in a good cause – fighting prostate cancer, and other cancers that affect men – makes it honourable. And yet it bugs me. Can you imagine any woman doing the equivalent for charity – leaving her hair unbrushed for a month, say, or letting a charity monobrow grow between her eyes? And the ironic tone of the whole endeavour is unbearable. Growing a moustache does not make you as funny as Monty Python, as hip as Johnny Depp. "Movember" kids you otherwise.

Some men suit moustaches, but most do not. Maybe those in the latter category might take a long look in the mirror, have a shave, and give the money directly to charity instead? We'll call it No-Movember.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
An Italian policeman stands guard as migrants eat while waiting at the port of Lampedusa to board a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Authorities on the Italian island of Lampedusa struggled to cope with a huge influx of newly-arrived migrants as aid organisations warned the Libya crisis means thousands more could be on their way  

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
Illegal African migrants arrive at the port in the Tunisian town of Zarzis, some 50 kilometres west of the Libyan border after Tunisian fishermen rescued 82 African migrants off the coast of the town aboard a makeshift boat bound for the Italian island of Lampedusa  

Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

Andrew Grice
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own