Blair spin doctor
McTernan was former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's director of political operations at 10 Downing Street from 2005-07. He provided political management and support for the development of the Labour government's political strategy. The Labour Party paid his salary.
Serial special adviser
In 2002 McTernan had already completed two terms as special adviser to New Labour:
- My view: John McTernan John McTernan has just finished his second period as a special adviser, working initially for Harriet Harman in the Department of Social Security, then as head of strategy for Scotland's former first minister, Henry McLeish.'It's an extremely rich experience,' he says. 'You get unparalleled access to government at the highest levels. If you like politics - and most of the people who become advisers are complete addicts - this is the ultimate job. It's like The West Wing, only you're in it instead of watching it.
- 'It's incredibly insecure, but so are the careers of senior politicians. There's not enough done by the civil service to support special advisers when they leave - you get three months' redundancy, that's all. You wouldn't do it if you were at all risk-averse.'(Jill Insley 'Spin doctors' The Observer Sunday March 31, 2002).
Blair's man in Scotland
McTernan was seconded to the Scottish Labour Party to run its campaign for the Scottish Parliament 2007 general election on 3 May, 2007.    He remained a special adviser in the Scotland Office until the 2010 general election, taking up a role as a columnist for The Scotsman newspaper in June 2010.
Australian 'Thinker in Residence'
McTernan worked on the 2007 Australian general election that brought the former Australian Labour Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to power.
In February 2011 he was appointed 'Thinker in Residence' for the Government of South Australia, working on health and education reform. He gave up this role when he became Julia Gillard's communications chief.  He resigned from this position after Gillard was ousted as PM and replaced by Kevin Rudd.
In January 2015 he was appointed Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy's new chief of staff. Its thought that his role will be to "take charge of Mr Murphy’s team at Holyrood and help shape Scottish Labour’s message as the party seeks to make up ground on the SNP” and “work alongside the party’s new deputy leader, Kezia Dugdale, and oversee Scottish Labour’s media and policy operations”.
In late 2006, it was reported that McTernan had been interviewed under police caution under Scotland Yard's ongoing cash for peerages inquiry. McTernan denied these reports.  However, he was questioned 'under caution' by police in January 2007. 
- Wikipedia, Cash for peerages
- John McTernan, LinkedIn, accessed 26 January 2015
- "Honours probe quiz for No 10 aide"
- BBC News Scotland, 24 January 2007; "Blair aide sent to stem SNP tide", The Scotsman, 16 January 2007
- "Now Holyrood election chief quizzed in peerages inquiry", The Scotsman, 24 January 2007
- Bonnie Malkin, Julia Gillard hires former Tony Blair strategist John McTernan, The Telegraph 04 Oct 2011, accessed 6 February 2011
- Jim Murphy shakes up Scottish Labour’s senior staff team Labour List, 9 January 2015, accessed 26 January 2015
- Police quiz Tory donors over cash for peerages The Times;PM's aide interviewed in peerage inquiry
- (SNP Welcome Downing Street's McTernan to Scotland http://5thnovember.blogspot.com/2007/01/snp-welcome-downing-streets-mcternan.html#c1168448187652221.]
- Mirror.co.uk, 23 January 2007