Rishi Sunak appoints former aide to George Osborne to advise on policy

Rishi Sunak - PA
Rishi Sunak - PA

A former key strategist to George Osborne who helped the Tories win an unexpected election victory in 2015 has been hired to advise Rishi Sunak on policy.

Eleanor Shawcross, a highly respected former senior aide to Mr Osborne when he was chancellor, is now advising Mr Sunak on policy issues as part of his leadership campaign.

The appointment makes Ms Shawcross a probable candidate to head up Mr Sunak’s Downing Street policy unit if the former Chancellor is elected prime minister in early September.

Ms Shawcross, who is married to Tory peer Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise, the chief executive of the Next high street clothing chain, is understood to have been drafted in in recent weeks.

A source in Mr Sunak’s team confirmed that the “super-smart” Ms Shawcross was now “helping out on policy stuff” for Mr Sunak.

The scope of the role is limited by the fact that Mr Sunak’s policy platform was limited by the manifesto he had signed off on in 2019 when Boris Johnson led the Tories.

A second source said she was coordinating policy formulation for Mr Sunak and having meetings with MPs who are feeding in ideas on particular areas. “We already have a manifesto - so it is tweaks and changes,” the source said.

The appointment will lead to speculation that Ms Shawcross could be closely involved in drawing up the Conservatives’ manifesto for the next general election, expected in May 2024.

A Sunak campaign source said it was too early to decide whether Ms Shawcross would have any further role if Mr Sunak gets the keys to Number 10. “We are working hour by hour,” the source said.

Ms Shawcross goes by the name of Eleanor Shawcross Wolfson on her LinkedIn profile. Her profile on the Government website describes her as a “public policy specialist”.

She is steeped in Conservative politics, working as special adviser and then deputy chief of staff to Mr Osborne when he was chancellor of the exchequer, from May 2010 to July 2016.

This meant she was a key adviser in the months leading up to the June 2016 European Union referendum.

Before that she had been special adviser to Mr Osborne when he was the shadow chancellor from 2007 to the general election in May 2010.

More recently she was a part-time non executive director at the Department for Work and Pensions from June 2020 to May this year.

She also served as chief of staff at the same department when Theresa May was Prime Minister from Dec 2018 to Dec 2019.