David Camerons former blue-sky thinker says the rise of populism is due to the super-richs inability to put themselves in the shoes of those less well off before accepting a free cab ride and becoming lost for words about his own wealth
Steve Hiltons office looks so typically San-Fran tech-startup that it could be the work of a situate decorator. Surfaces are matt white, the centrepiece is the kitchen, and there are various bins for different types of recycling. The only thing missing is Hilton.
He cant call to say hes operating 45 minutes late, because he doesnt own a smartphone. The CEO of Crowdpac trenched his five years ago. This presents another problem when he arrives, because he has to leave again in 15 minutes, having promised to attend an exhibition at his sons school. Would I mind coming too? We could do the interview in the back of an Uber?
Sure, I say, assuming hell call one. Doesnt he have an Uber account? He looks at me, bemused. I dont have a phone. So I call an Uber on my account, and we set off south together to Silicon Valley. We are an hours drive from the school, and a very long way from Downing Street.
In his old life, Hilton was David Camerons close friend, strategy director and blue-sky intellectual, godfather to his eldest son, Ivan, and so close that Michael Gove once observed: Its impossible to know where Steve objectives and David begins. Rumoured to have voted Green in 2005, he was the funky, liberal architect of Camerons detoxification programme, the acceptable face of the new Tories who dreamed up the Big Society and became famous for arriving at work barefoot in cycling shorts.
He also became famous for falling out with almost everyone in Whitehall, and in 2012 left for California and a new life with his wife, Rachel Whetstone, abruptly very much the second half of the power couple: Whetstone was then Googles director of communications and later moved to Uber; but she abruptly quit her job there this week. Hilton tells an illuminating story about his wife demonstrating an early prototype of Googles voice activation software. She spoke into a phone: OK Google, who is Steve Hilton? It replied: Steve Hilton is married to Rachel Whetstone.
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