In the Westminster Village the battle between the FT’s education correspondent and Gove has been providing much amusement. As is the way nowadays the battle has gone all handbags-at-dawn and spilled over onto Twitter:
I have just spoken to the head of the Tory party press office. I am told that the defamation is going to stop.—
Chris Cook (@xtophercook) September 22, 2011
Chris Cook, himself a former CCHQ political adviser on education to David Willets and now the FT’s education correspondent, alleges that the SpAds around Gove are using their private email accounts to conduct government business off the record and away from prying FoIs. They say they are required to do this by the Code of Conduct for SpAds which requires them to
not use official resources for party political activity
Cook argues that private emails should be subject to FoIs and has got a barrister to support his position (with substantial caveats rendering it unlikely). This unsurprisingly hasn’t been jumped on by Labour because it is unrealistic and Guido would be FoIing, from 2 years back, EdBalls@Labour.org.uk in the blinky of an eye.
Cook has complained to CCHQ, the Cabinet Office, the DfE and Downing Street that the counter-attack is disproportionate and he has been defamed. The FT is apparently going to complain in writing on his behalf that the big boys have been horrid to him. Cook further claims that Gove’s SpAds should be fired for making ad hominem attacks on him in contravention of their Code of Conduct which explicitly prohibits
the preparation or dissemination of inappropriate material or personal attacks… Any special adviser ever found to be disseminating inappropriate material will automatically be dismissed by their appointing Minister.
As far as Guido can tell there is no evidence that Gove’s SpAds have made any personal attacks on him. The Twitter account is run by CCHQ not the DfE…