Profile: The most powerful gay man in British politics
Spencer Livermore is one of the least-recognised names on the PinkNews.co.uk Top 50, but he wields a level of influence most politicians could only dream of.
As Director of Political Strategy at Number 10, he is planning the next election and the direction of the government and the Labour party next week, next month and next year.
He speaks to Gordon Brown several times a day, and no-one is more trusted to give advice and analysis.
Only 32, Livermore lives the dream of many a West Wing addict. He contributes to speech writing for Mr Brown and he is one of his closest advisers, and with the departure of key personnel Ed Miliband and Ed Balls to greater things, he is one of the longest-standing.
Let’s put it this way – he attends Cabinet meetings, and unlike the rest of the people round the table, he has easy access to the Prime Minister.
His low profile is in keeping with his approach to political strategy, but lazy comparisons with that other ultra-powerful gay New Labour figure, Peter Mandelson, are wide of the mark.
The current EU Commissioner for Trade was closeted for most of his career, until outed on live television by Times columnist and former MP Matthew Parris.
Livermore, from a different generation of gay men, has been out and proud his whole professional career.
On first meeting his demeanour and manner would never indicate his sexuality but his always-immaculate appearance might lead you to think otherwise.
A tall, besuited and perpetually discreet presence at the odd Stonewall event or gay networking evening, he has been heard to remark that he is not the gay representative in No 10.
However, he clearly has a hand when gay issues or requests from the gay community come to the attention of the Prime Minister – an ‘area of special knowledge’ rather than his own cause.
Livermore has no desire to become an MP or a Cabinet minister. This is partly because he is not at heart a politician, though he is tribally Labour, but mostly because he knows he has far more power where he is now – at the side of the Prime Minister.
Working with MPs on a daily basis also appears to have retarded his earlier consideration of a career in front line politics.
He is “licensed to speak” as they say, yet chooses not to – there could be two reasons for this – the first is the correct assumption that the less people say the more influence they actually have.
The other is that in contrast to many special advisers, or SpAds as they are called, who are keen to get their name in the paper, Livermore seems equally keen to keep his out.
He does not see it as his job to speak to the press – probably because he is too busy speaking to the PM.
Livermore has worked for Gordon Brown for nearly ten years, and much of his attitude towards politics has been moulded by this close relationship.
Accusations that the Prime Minister is less than keen on gay rights do not seem to have much traction when this decade of close co-operation and mutual admiration is taken into account.
Livermore and his boyfriend were recent supper guests at the Prime Minister’s country home, Chequers, along with the Chancellor and his wife.
Whenever the issue of Brown’s perceived coolness towards gay rights is raised with Livermore, he replies that he would never work for someone who has a problem with his sexuality, says one friend.
His boyfriend, Seb Dance, recently took up a post as a special adviser to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Shaun Woodward and previously worked in public affairs for Digital UK.
They met at Labour party conference, but those close to them both describe the relationship as a love match. They are eagerly buying furniture for a new flat they have bought in Canada Water.
The couple recently took a two-week holiday, so clearly Livermore is not a political obsessive of the type so often seen in the corridors of power that has to feed his addiction to information – in fact he does not even own a Blackberry.
All very different from that most heterosexual of Prime Ministerial advisers, Alistair Campbell, who seemed surgically attached to his pager and mobile.
That being said, Livermore is rumoured to have something of Campbell’s attack-dog sensibility at times.
The Mail on Sunday recently gave Livermore the dubious honour of publishing the first news story about him.
While it is clear he was closely involved with the election that never happened, friends describe the idea that he was “reduced to tears after the Prime Minister exploded in rage, blaming him for the on-off autumn Election fiasco” as fantasy.
Some Westminster watchers also detected a note of old-fashioned homophobia in the tone of the Mail on Sunday article. In any case, following a profile in gay magazine GT Livermore is more prominent than he was at the Treasury.
He is described by colleagues as a very private person who seems to have no ambitions to follow former Brown aides such as Ed Miliband, Ian Austin and Douglas Alexander into the House.
Livermore was born 12th June 1975 in Slough but later moved to Wickford in Essex.
His sister is a nurse and he has recently become an uncle for the first time. His mother works in the NHS, and his father for a music publishing company.
He was educated at a local comprehensive then took his A-levels at a sixth form college in Basildon.
Livermore was the first person at his college to apply for Oxbridge and one of only a handful in his year to go to university at all.
He fed his interest in economics and politics at the London School of Economics, while taking advantage of the opportunities the capital affords by working part time for the Institute for Public and Policy Research.
It was here that Livermore made connections with the actual movers and shakers in New Labour.
During his years at LSE, which coincided with the slow, drawn-out death of the Major government, Livermore became interested in politics and put aside his ambition to become a civil servant.
“The future was there for the bright young things such as Spencer,” one old New Labour hand commented.
He became active in the party in 1994, and by the 1997 election, less than a year since graduating from LSE, he was working for the Labour Party’s Economic Secretariat.
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In 1998 he was a Special Adviser at the Treasury and his close relationship with the Prime Minister began.
Brown, the arch-strategist, asked his young apprentice to take up the post of Head of Research for the 2001 election campaign, when Labour held on to all but a handful of seats.
For Livermore’s key role in this triumph, he was appointed Special Adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. By 2005, he was Gordon Brown’s most senior adviser and in charge of strategy.
There is no doubt that Livermore would have been in government whatever route he took.
Like most of Brown’s camp, he appears more relaxed now they are finally in No 10, and there no one banging on the walls.
Downing St insiders attribute Brown’s strong showing early in his premiership to Livermore’s ‘strategic genius’ but will he end up being blamed if it all goes wrong?
He was deeply involved with the u-turn over a November election, though one of the advantages of relative anonymity is that, in public at least, rising Cabinet stars such as Ed Balls are taking much of the blame.
The end of a third term is when things normally start to get very rocky for a government – and it will be up to Livermore to provide the Prime Minister with the strategies needed to navigate the inevitable storms ahead.