4 Mar 2014

Patrick Rock – ‘the powerful adviser you’ve never heard of’

Patrick Rock has resigned as deputy head of David Cameron’s policy unit over allegations about child abuse images. Who is he and what is his background?


(Photo by Steve Back/REX)

Mr Rock has been dubbed “‘the most powerful prime ministerial adviser people have never heard of”, but he was at the centre of a media storm in January 2013 when he was photographed carrying an uncovered “restricted” document in Downing Street.

The document, about the coalition government’s mid-term review, discussed how ministers should present the findings, including targets that had been missed.

It argued the case for holding back the full audit of the government’s successes and failures to prevent “unhelpful stories” and “unfavourable copy”.

Relative obscurity

In the years leading up to the incident, Patrick Rock had led a life of relative obscurity, known in Westminster, but not much further afield. Unless you lived in Portsmouth.

Mr Rock had hoped to become a Conservative MP, unsuccessfully contesting Woolwich East in 1979 and Crewe and Nantwich in 1983 (the latter is now a Tory seat, but it took the death of Gwyneth Dunwoody to wrest it from Labour at a by-election in 2008).

The following year, with Margaret Thatcher enjoying a second term as prime minister, Mr Rock stood in a by-election in Portsmouth South, which had been a Tory seat since its creation in 1918.

He managed to lose it to the SDP’s Mike Hancock, who today serves as an independent MP for his home city.

Having coined the phrase “cows moo, dogs bark, Labour puts up taxes”, Mr Rock had to settle for a life in politics that was behind the scenes.

He and David Cameron worked as special advisers to former home secretary (and later Conservative leader) Michael Howard in the 1990s.

In 2002, he replaced Ed Llewellyn, who now works as David Cameron’s chief of staff and was at Eton with him, as an adviser to the then European commissioner and former Conservative party chairman, Chris Patten.

No. 10 adviser

Mr Rock returned to London in 2011, having been invited by Mr Cameron to become one of his special advisers.

He was made deputy head of the prime minister’s policy unit, with responsibility for home affairs, and was involved in the government’s crackdown on child abuse images on the web.

This resulted in Google, Microsoft and other companies agreeing in 2013 to set up filters to prevent these images from cropping up during searches.