At long last Britain is to be free of the influence of Steve Hilton. He is going to America to become a visiting scholar at Stanford University in California.
The Oxford-educated son of Hungarian immigrants, who worked out of Downing Street, has been the unconventional, slightly crazed, policy guru to David Cameron. He is closely associated with Policy Exchange which is also known as the Notting Hill Set. He created the concept of the ‘Big Society’ and set up the government’s Behavioural Insights Team. This unit devised psychological techniques to influence and change public behaviour.
He is a disciple of several modern thinkers including Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of ‘The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable’ and Richard H. Thaler who co-wrote ‘Nudge: improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness’.
His most ludicrous project was the attempt to use tax-payers money to create a Happiness Index. Its frightening origins could be found in the May 2010 Coalition Agreement:
“Our Government will be a much smarter one, shunning the bureaucratic levers of the past and finding intelligent ways to encourage, support and enable people to make better choices for themselves.”
Despite the Prime Minister’s frantic efforts to keep him Hilton’s clashes with all those around him, and more especially with several senior civil servants, culminating in his statement that “we should ignore EU rules”, led to him throwing his toys around for one last time and announcing his decision to leave.
Steve Hilton has always been the main clue to the intellectual weakness of the Prime Minister and his worrying liberal tenancies. Whenever the PM has been under pressure (eg. NHS reforms) there would appear a speech on some completely unrelated matter so diverting the media’s attention. This was Hilton at work.
There is a view that the Prime Minister will not survive this Parliament (scheduled to go to May 2015) because there will be a Conservative backbench revolt against him. It is noticeable that Dr. Liam Fox is beginning to stir again. One senior political journalist believes that Owen Paterson, MP for North Shropshire and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, is being groomed to succeed him.
David Cameron will be weakened by the departure of Steve Hilton and perhaps Downing Street might regain some normality. It is ironic that the man who dreamed of the Happiness Index made his only contribution to the UK by leaving it.