In Depth

How much are Boris Johnson’s top advisors paid?

Top-earning Downing Street Spads including Dominic Cummings named in new government report

Boris Johnson has increased the number of taxpayer-funded special advisers at Downing Street by almost 20% compared with his predecessor, the Cabinet Office has revealed.

Special advisers, known as Spads, are temporary civil servants who - unlike permanent civil servants - are political appointees and are loyal to the governing party and its ministers.

The current roster of Spads earn as much as £140,000 each, according to a newly released government report - and has increased from a total of 99 full-time-equivalent employees under Theresa May to 108. 

Johnson’s personal advisory team has also grown, with 44 members of staff now in place compared with May’s 37, reports The Guardian.

Here are the top earners:

Lee Cain - £140,000 to £145,000

Johnson’s director of communications was previously a journalist at the Daily Mirror, and once dressed up as a large chicken to heckle Tory politicians including former PM David Cameron on camera.

Cain went on to work for the Vote Leave campaign, spearheaded by Johnson and Dominic Cummings, during the 2016 referendum, and was Johnson’s press aide at the Foreign Office and during his Conservative Party leadership campaign.

Sir Ed Lister - £140,000 to £145,000

Chief strategic adviser Lister is the former chairman of Homes England, a public body that funds new affordable housing in England, and previously worked with Johnson when he was London mayor, reports ITV News.

Lister also served as a non-executive director at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) from April 2017 until July 2019, according to his gov.uk page.

Munira Mirza - £140,000 to £145,000

Mirza is the director of the No. 10 policy unit and co-authored the Tories’ 2019 election manifesto. She previously worked as Johnson’s deputy mayor for education and culture.

According to another former London mayor, Ken Livingstone, Mirza used to be a “loony lefty” and is reported to have been a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, a small Trotskyist group that dissolved in 1997.

Nikki Da Costa - £125,000 to £129,000

The director of legislative affairs is currently on maternity leave, but was reported to be the legal adviser behind the prorogation of Parliament in September.

Da Costa previously worked as the senior legislative aide to May’s office, reports PR Week.

David Frost - £125,000 to £129,999

Frost is Johnson’s Europe advisor, and previously served as a Spad to the prime minister when he was foreign secretary.

Formerly a career diplomat and civil servant, Frost has also worked as HM ambassador to Denmark, EU director in the FCO, and director for Europe and international trade at the Department for Business.

Dominic Cummings - £95,000 to £99,999

Cummings was credited with delivering the winning Brexit campaign in 2016, and was also behind Johnson’s recent “stonking” election victory.

The unelected advisor was famously described by former prime minister David Cameron as a “career psychopath”, while Nick Clegg said he had “anger management problems”. 

Robert Oxley - £85,000 to £89,999

Johnson’s press secretary and former Vote Leave staffer, Oxley was left red-faced during the election campaign after being caught saying “for fuck’s sake” to a journalist live on ITV’s Good Morning Britain in response to a request for an interview with the Tory leader. Johnson eventually escaped by hiding inside an industrial fridge.

Oxley previously worked as head of corporate communications for online food delivery company Deliveroo, and for James Starkie, a former advisor to Michael Gove and Dominic Raab.

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