Cover 9781785906312

Take a sneak peek into the life of a Special Adviser: read Peter's exclusive blog for the Biteback website here!

Shadowy geniuses whispering, Rasputin-like, into the ears of our elected politicians under a cloak of secrecy, or a crucial but undervalued cog in the machinery of government? … Or just a rag-tag band of weirdos and misfits?

Despite the acres of speculation devoted to special advisers from Alastair Campbell to Dominic Cummings, their role is much misunderstood. Who are the people Piers Morgan once called ‘these miserable little creatures’ and just how much influence do they have?

Peter Cardwell served as SpAd to four Cabinet ministers, acting as media adviser, political fixer, troubleshooter and occasional wardrobe consultant. In this candid, compelling and frequently hilarious insider account, he reveals what the job really involves, from dealing with counter-terror emergencies in Cobra to explaining to the Justice Secretary what a dental dam is, to having your inside leg measured in a government office.

Packed with advice on navigating the perks and pitfalls of the job, The Secret Life of Special Advisers will inform and entertain anyone who has ever wondered what these mysterious figures really do all day.


“This is a cracking read by a great writer. And an insight into what really happens behind those doors us reporters rarely get to nip through.”

Chris Mason, BBC political editor

“A rare, fascinating and funny look at life in the corridors of power. This book will teach you how Westminster really works – as well as how it fails.”

Isabel Hardman, author of Why We Get the Wrong Politicians and Spectator assistant editor

“It’s the book we have long needed. Peter Cardwell takes us into the mysterious world of the political aides at the heart of Whitehall – the shadowy fixers who oil relations between ministers, mandarins and the media. Some special advisers are more powerful than many Cabinet ministers; many are much cannier operators. Cardwell’s book fizzes with stories and humour from his experience as an adviser to four different ministers and his years as a Westminster journalist with BBC Newsnight, ITV and Sky.”

Michael Crick

“Peter allows you to peep behind the curtain of a much caricatured but little understood part of our political universe. With the structures of government in flux, it’s a timely look at how some of the key relationships in Westminster work, and how they sometimes misfire.”

Laura Kuenssberg, BBC presenter and former political editor
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  • Paperback, 304 pages
  • ISBN: 9781785907395
  • 14 June 2022
  • £10.99
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  • eBook
  • ISBN: 9781785906329
  • 27 October 2020
  • £5.99
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