Lord Jonathan Hill, the newly appointed EU financial services commissioner, is something of a political quiet man. His old friend and former colleague Lord Tim Bell calls Hill “one of those chaps who goes red in the face when he speaks”.
His new role will be seen as a significant boost for David Cameron’s plan to reform the UK’s relationship with the EU while maintaining a powerful driving force behind the union. For Hill, it might be an appointment he has agreed to but didn’t really want. When asked by Conservative Home earlier this year if he would welcome an EU commissioner role his reply in French: “non, non, non”, might have given the game away.
Hill is a Conservative peer and former education minister, educated first at Highgate school and then at Trinity College Cambridge. He entered politics in 1985 as a junior staffer in the Conservative research department before becoming special adviser to Ken Clarke first at the department of education, then at trade and finally in the department of health between 1986-89.
Hill spent a couple of years working with Lord Bell at Lowe Bell Communications, before returning to politics to work for John Major when he was Prime Minister. He set up Quiller Consultants in 1998 and was director there for a number of years, before heading back to Parliament as a minister in the department for education and finally as leader of the House of Lords.
“He’s a Conservative when it comes to economics,” Bell told City A.M. yesterday. “When I knew him he was all about the creation of wealth, free markets, low tax and deregulation - he was part of the Conservative party in the later Thatcher years.”
Bell sums Hill up as a “quiet and self effacing man… a peacemaker, not a confrontationist”, adding that he is a “chameleon, he’ll do the job you want him to do”.
According to one Conservative MP, Hill has the ear of the Prime Minister and was top pick for the job, although his credibility on economics is less clear cut. Instead, he has been hailed as a hardened dealmaker, a good man to have behind the scenes when the power of persuasion counts more than bluff and bluster in front of the cameras.
Hill listed his hobbies as reading, gardening and walking and said of his appointment yesterday: “There is much work to do… to ensure we have stable and well-regulated financial markets.”