John McTernan

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For the Australian actor, see John McTernan (actor).
McTernan speaking at Policy Exchange, November 2014

John McTernan (born 1959) is a British Labour Party political adviser, political strategist and commentator.

He was Prime Minister Tony Blair's Director of Political Operations from 2005 to 2007. He was the director of communications for the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, from September 2011 to June 2013.[1] He was Chief of Staff to the 2014–2015 leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Jim Murphy, who resigned after the Labour Party lost all but one seat in Scotland, including Murphy's, in the 2015 general election.

Early life[edit]

McTernan was born in London and grew up in Edinburgh, attending Firrhill High School. McTernan attended the University of Edinburgh, where he studied English.[2]


He was Political Secretary/Director of Political Operations at 10 Downing Street for Tony Blair[3] from 2005 to 2007, where he provided political management and support for the development of the government's political strategy .In 2007 McTernan was seconded to the Scottish Labour Party to run its campaign for the May 2007 Scottish Parliament election.[4][5][6] In 2007 he worked on the November 2007 Australian Labor Party federal election campaign.[3] From 2007 to 2008 he was Special Adviser to Des Browne, Secretary of State for Scotland and Secretary of State for Defence.[7] He was special adviser to Jim Murphy MP, the Secretary of State for Scotland from 2008 until May 2010.[citation needed] From June 2010 to October 2011 he was a columnist at The Scotsman.[citation needed] From February 2011 to October 2011 he was Thinker in Residence at the Government of South Australia.[8] In September 2011, he was appointed as communications director to the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard.[9] In January 2015, he was appointed Chief of Staff to Jim Murphy, Scottish Labour Leader ahead of the 2015 general election, and oversaw media and policy in this role.[citation needed]

Cash for Honours[edit]

During the 2006–07 police investigation into the Cash for Honours political scandal surrounding the Labour Party, John McTernan was twice questioned, under caution, by the Metropolitan Police.[4][5][10] No criminal charges were ever brought against McTernan or any other individuals involved.

Racist Scotland email[edit]

In January 2008, while he was employed as a special adviser to the Secretary of State for Scotland, it emerged that in 2002 McTernan had branded Scotland as being "narrow" and "racist" during the period he worked for the Scottish Arts Council. In an email to the then Labour MSP Karen Gillon, who was about to make a trip to Sweden, McTernan wrote “If you’ve not been to Sweden before, I think you’ll really like it – it’s the country Scotland would be if it wasn’t narrow, Presbyterian, racist etc. etc. Social democracy in action.”[11] The email was obtained by the The Sunday Times (London) under freedom of information legislation.[12][13]

Australian government media adviser[edit]

During 2012–13, while McTernan was director of communications to the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, a political scandal erupted over his employment. Accusations were made that Gillard had not attempted to find a suitable Australian candidate for the director of communications post, but had flouted Australia's visa process to employ John McTernan, a British citizen, on a 457 visa – a foreign workers scheme which is designed for employers who cannot find local candidates to fill jobs.[14] When a reporter from Australia's ABC News asked McTernan if he was working in Australia on a 457 Visa, he replied "hardly fucking relevant".[15][16]


  1. ^ Totaro, Paola (6 May 2012). "Julia's master of spin". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  2. ^ "John McTernan 'could succeed Alistair Darling'". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). 8 December 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "John McTernan". London. The Guardian. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  4. ^ a b "Honours probe quiz for No 10 aide". BBC News Scotland. 24 January 2007.
  5. ^ a b "Blair aide sent to stem SNP tide". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). 16 January 2007.
  6. ^ "Now Holyrood election chief quizzed in peerages inquiry". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). 24 January 2007.
  7. ^ Swanson, Ian (8 December 2014). "John McTernan tipped for Alistair Darling seat bid". Edinburgh Evening News. Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  8. ^ "Who is John McTernan". Adelaide Thinkers in Residence. Retrieved 25 August 2015. 
  9. ^ Stratton, Allegra (28 September 2011). "Allegra Stratton's conference diary: Ed and Ed learn tough lessons from Blair and Brown". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  10. ^ "Now Holyrood election chief quizzed in peerages inquiry". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). 24 January 2007.
  11. ^ "Des Browne aide: Scotland is narrow, Presbyterian and racist". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). 20 January 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  12. ^ "Labour aide brands Scotland as racist". The Australian (Sydney). 20 January 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  13. ^ "Row over insulting email". The Herald (Glasgow). 19 January 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  14. ^ Grattan, Michelle (30 May 2012). "457 visa worker in PM office". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  15. ^ "No trace of 457 evidence found". The Australian (Sydney). 3 August 2013. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  16. ^ "Coalition takes aim at Gillard staffer on 457 visa". ABC News. 5 March 2013.

External links[edit]