Jonathan Powell (born 1956) served as chief of staff to British Prime Minister Tony Blair from his election in 1997 until his resignation in 2007. The official Downing Street website described his job as having "direct responsibility for leading and co-ordinating operations across Number 10". Despite his low profile, he was arguably Mr Blair's closest political aide. On 7 December 2007, Morgan Stanley announced that Powell would be joining the bank as a full time Senior Managing Director of its investment banking division
The son of an Air Vice Marshal, Powell comes from a powerful family. His brother Lord Powell - formerly Sir Charles Powell - was foreign policy advisor to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Powell was educated at King's School Canterbury and subsequently studied history at Oxford University and the University of Pennsylvania, later working for the BBC and Granada TV before joining the Foreign Office in 1979.
Powell left the diplomatic service to work for Blair in 1995, while Blair was still Leader of the Opposition. After Labour's election victory in 1997, both Powell and Blair's high-profile Director of Communications, Alastair Campbell, took up the same jobs in Downing Street. Controversially, both were given powers to issue orders to civil servants - unprecedented for political appointees.
In the early years of the Blair administration, one of Powell's most crucial jobs was his role in the Northern Ireland peace talks which led to the Good Friday agreement. In March 2008, Powell called for tactics used successfully in Northern Ireland to be applied to the War on Terrorism. He suggested western governments hold talks with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, just as the British government negotiated with the Provisional Irish Republican Army in order to bring about a peace deal in Northern Ireland. His suggestion was publicly rejected by the British Foreign Office. He has written a book detailing the negotiations which finally led to the agreement which brought back power-sharing devolved government to Northern Ireland in 2007. Entitled Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, it was published in London by The Bodley Head, a division of Random House Publishers.
Powell continued to be both a key right-hand man for Blair throughout his time in office, as well as a trusted advisor on a wide range of policy issues. He was described by the Guardian as being "at the heart of all his (Blair's) key foreign policy initiatives." . It's believed he was questioned twice by police, the second time under caution, during the investigation into the Cash for Honours affair. While much of the rest of Blair's 'kitchen cabinet' - including Campbell - departed before Blair's resignation, Powell remained in Downing Street until June 2007.
Powell's role in the Blair Downing Street came under close scrutiny during the Hutton Inquiry, held following the death of Dr David Kelly in 2003. Powell gave evidence to the inquiry on Monday August 18, and described several crucial meetings he had attended, at which Dr Kelly had been discussed before his name appeared in the media. An email sent by Powell to the JIC chairman John Scarlett in September 2002 was also highlighted, as it appeared to suggest a dossier on the threat posed by Iraq be toughened. Many commentators criticised the style of government described by Powell as too informal, some dubbing it 'sofa government' as many meetings were held in relaxed surroundings, without proper notes being taken. The subsequent, and separate, Butler Report also emphasised these criticisms. Both the Hutton and Butler reports indicated Powell was very close to Blair.
Powell has four children - two daughters with his partner, Sarah Helm, and two sons from a previous marriage.
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