Nick Clegg has moved to strengthen his team in Whitehall with the appointment of Neil Sherlock, a KPMG partner in charge of public affairs, as his “director of government relations”.
Mr Sherlock is one of a new intake of Liberal Democrat special advisers – Spads in the jargon – who have been brought into government to ensure that Mr Clegg’s influence is felt across all areas of government policy.
The KPMG man is the ultimate Lib Dem insider. A former parliamentary candidate, he has written speeches and provided advice for a series of Lib Dem leaders (except Charles Kennedy, with whom he enjoyed frosty relations). His wife, Kate Parminter, is a Lib Dem peer in the Lords.
But Mr Sherlock’s appointment is already proving controversial, thanks to the fact he was one of several business figures who used to fund Nick Clegg’s office before he became party leader. Mr Sherlock paid up to £250 a month into Mr Clegg’s account to help fund an office worker.
There has also been speculation that Sherlock will be receiving a six-figure salary, reflecting the fact he is moving from a very lucrative City job, but that is not the case.
The FT understands the mild-mannered KPMG man – who once beat Boris Johnson to become president of the Oxford Union – will earn less than the £90,000 or so paid to Jonny Oates, Mr Clegg’s chief of staff.
So why is he doing it? In his words:
It’s incredibly exciting to be going to work for the deputy prime minister given the challenges facing the country and the party.
It is worth noting by the way that the coalition, which promised to cut the number of Spads, is now employing more than Gordon Brown did.