Jonathan Powell

First Downing Street Chief Of Staff visits Peace Centre

December 16, 2014 | Nick Taylor

The man who became the first Downing Street Chief of Staff as part of Tony Blair’s Government and was chief British negotiator as part of the Northern Ireland peace process, visited the Peace Centre today (Tuesday 16 December 2014).

Jonathan served as the first Downing Street Chief of Staff, under Tony Blair from 1995 to 2007. He was the only senior adviser to last the whole period of Blair’s leadership.

During this period Powell was also the chief British negotiator on Northern Ireland.

He now runs a charity, Inter Mediate, which works on armed conflicts around the world.  Inter Mediate aims to advance conflict resolution and reconciliation through dialogue and mediation with the aim of achieving lasting settlement to violent and complex conflicts.

Wherever possible Inter Mediate draws on and leverages the resources of larger organisations – governments and international institutions that spend billions of dollars annually to deal with the effects of conflict from peacekeeping to humanitarian intervention. Their aim is to increase the effectiveness of some of that spending.

Find out more about Inter Mediate by clicking here

Shortly after his election as Leader of the Labour Party, Tony Blair asked Powell to become his Chief of Staff. After Labour’s election victory in 1997, Powell was given the new official role of Downing Street Chief of Staff, a new position with the power to issue orders to civil servants, which was unprecedented for a political appointee.

In the early years of the Blair Government, one of Powell’s most crucial jobs was his role in the Northern Ireland peace talks that 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 that western governments hold talks with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, just as the British government negotiated with the Provisional IRA in order to bring about a peace deal in Northern Ireland. His suggestion was publicly rejected by the British Foreign Office. His book Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland details the negotiations which finally led to the agreement which brought back power-sharing devolved government to Northern Ireland.

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.”

Powell was a banker at Morgan Stanley from 2008-9. In 2011 he founded the charity Inter Mediate with Martin Griffiths to work on armed conflicts around the world. Since 2013 he has also been a member of the Board of Save the Children International.

He has just published a new book and is heading to the University of Liverpool in the evening to speak about it:

Talking to Terrorists: How to End Armed Conflicts, The Bodley Head, 2014, ISBN 9781847922298.