Nearly all the papers have run articles on Rachel Whetstone today. These pieces concentrate on the fact that she’s the partner of Steve Hilton, Cameron’s chief strategist, and that the Tories mention Google quite often. Frankly, this strikes me as a nothing story. The Tories are mentioning Google so much because it is the kind of modern, successful brand that they want to be associated with, not because Whetsone, who was Michael Howard’s political secretary and who used to be close for Cameron, works there. Also, considering how Google has become shorthand for so much of the technological change going on around us, it would be rather hard for a politician to talk about how the internet can change the way public services are delivered without ever mentioning the company.
But the focus on Whetstone shows how we as a society have not worked out where the lines are when it comes to politicians and advisers having partners who also have obtained senior, influential positions. Indeed, judging from the tone of the coverage in today’s papers it is hard to see how politicians and their advisors could avoid this kind of attack unless their partners gave up their jobs as soon as they reached a certain level of seniority — and that is clearly absurd. If we are not to see more good people decide that politics is not worth the candle, then the press is going to have to become more mature about when they bring peoples’ partners into the story.