Theresa May’s former aide reveals ‘dysfunctional’ set-up at No 10 as PM relies on key adviser with ‘crazy ideas’

'We would sit there and hear Fiona come up with ideas that were, quite frankly, crazy - and we would say nothing'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Saturday 10 June 2017 09:40
Theresa May’s former aide reveals ‘dysfunctional’ set-up at No 10

A former aide to Theresa May has revealed how she oversees a “toxic” operation at No 10 and relies on an adviser with “crazy ideas”.

Katie Perrior lifted the lid on a “dysfunctional” team surrounding the Prime Minister who bombarded Cabinet ministers with rude text messages.

The former Downing Street director of communications, until two months ago, pointed the finger at Ms May’s powerful joint chiefs of staff – Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy.

Both were allowed by the Prime Minister to carry out “rude, childish behaviour”, while Ms Hill put forward “crazy ideas” that were not dismissed.

“It was pretty dysfunctional,” Ms Perrior said. “The atmosphere would be great if the chiefs of staff weren’t there – and terrible if the chiefs of staff were there.”

She recounted one early morning meeting, discussing the chances of winning last year’s Copeland by-election, when everyone else was encouraging the Tory candidate.

“Fiona Hill was at the back of the room, bellowing out ‘Why aren’t you doing more?’ ‘Why haven’t you done this?’ ‘Why haven’t you done that?’ Ms Perrior told BBC Radio Four's Today programme.

That was one of the “rare times” when the Prime Minister stood up to Ms Hill, but, she added: “Most of the time we would sit there and hear Fiona come up with ideas that were, quite frankly, crazy - and we would say nothing.”

Describing the atmosphere as “pretty toxic”, Ms Perrior added: “They only really know one way to operate – and that is to have enemies.”

The comments are the starkest revelations yet about Ms May’s extraordinary reliance on Ms Hill and Mr Timothy, who both worked for her for many years at the Home Office.

And they follow calls from some Conservative MPs for them to be sacked to show that the Prime Minister has learned the lessons from her election night battering.

Dr Sarah Wollaston, the chairwoman of the Commons health select committee, said: “I cannot see how the inner circle of special advisers can continue in post. Needs to be far more inclusive in future.”

And former minister Anna Soubry, asked on Channel 4 News, if the pair should be dismissed, replied simply: “Yes.”

Rumours circulated yesterday that David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, was also pressing for Ms Hill and Mr Timothy to go.

In an article for The Times, Ms Perrior set out the problems at No 10 in greater detail, saying they ran far deeper than a “whiff of arrogance”. She wrote: “The place bloody well stank.

“Great leaders lead by bringing people with them, not alienating them before having even digested breakfast.

“What I could never work out was whether Mrs May condoned their behaviour and turned a blind eye or didn’t understand how destructive they both were.

“For all the love of a hierarchy, the chiefs treated Cabinet members exactly the same - rude, abusive, childish behaviour.

“For two people who have never achieved elected office, I was staggered at the disrespect they showed on a daily basis.”

Ms Perrier said nothing appeared to have changed, on the evidence of Ms May’s speech outside No 10 yesterday which “ignored” her rejection by millions of voters. “We got more of the same,” she wrote.

In an interview, Ms May said “personnel changes” would be announced soon, a remark seen as a hint that she could be ready to sacrifice Ms Hill and Mr Timothy.

The two aides are not believed to have been in their usual place at her side in Downing Street last night.

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