The BBC reminded us today that Labour calls Special Advisers (like McBride) Spads.
A few years ago we were told that Spads stood in railway speak for “Signals passed at danger.”
Is this connection intentional?


  1. mikestallard
    April 15, 2009

    No, I don’t think it is; but it is seriously true!
    Look at the train wreck!

  2. Shaun Pilkington
    April 15, 2009

    Neither spad is a *good* thing and both speak of inherent dangers being undertaken.

  3. alan jutson
    April 15, 2009

    I think they have not thought about it.
    Duplicity (of words) I mean
    What is wrong with calling them what they are, a number of words come to mind.
    Spad was not one.

  4. Demetrius
    April 15, 2009

    Call them what you will, they have turned government into a media charade, and the cabinet into a bad comedy turn. Like King Phillip III of Spain, the Prime Minister has been burned by his own servants, and his budget has gone out of control. And like the King, the legacy is going to be very expensive for us all.

  5. David T Breaker
    April 15, 2009

    I was thinking the same thing.

    David T Breaker

  6. Brian Tomkinson
    April 15, 2009

    The BBC report that Sir Gus O’Donnell said that McBride was “no longer employed as a special adviser” and had “not received severance pay”. This wording is very specific and intriguing. McBride may no longer be employed as a special adviser but is he still a paid civil servant? McBride is said to have resigned, why then should there be any mention of severance pay which is normally paid when employees are dismissed? If he resigned or is still employed he wouldn’t be entitled to severance pay. Have we got the full facts here?

    1. Mr C
      April 15, 2009


      “McBride may no longer be employed as a special adviser but is he still a paid civil servant?”

      Good point, Mr Tomkinson. Too many weasel words ; I fear we are not being given the full facts. What Sir Gus O’Donnell needs to confirm, clearly and without equivocation, is whether McBride has left the Civil Service (i.e public employment) and when.

      Why so many ‘SPADs’ anyway? We didn’t vote for them, we voted for politicians. Surely if a minister isn’t capable of mastering his or her brief then surely they shouldn’t be minister in the first place.

      1. BrianSJ
        April 16, 2009

        Well said about SPADS. The only argument for having SPADS (and the Spectator view that many more are needed) is incompetence in MPs and Ministers. If that really is the problem, then SPADS is not the solution.

  7. James Strachan
    April 16, 2009

    When the railways got very worried about SPAD’s, they invented TPWS (Train Protection Warning System) to reduce the risk.

    Do we see any equivalent move in Downing Street ?

    I won’t hold my breath.

  8. Reuben
    April 16, 2009

    Now that is hilarious. Seriously, you must have great dinner party conversation.

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