Further to Guido’s exposing of Hague’s snake:
It’s like something out of Monty Python…
When Guido heard that William Hague had stuffed a 20-foot anaconda in the Foreign Office, he just had to find out how much the taxpayer was being billed. The answer is an eye-watering £10,000. But what followed was perhaps the greatest FOI response of all time:
“‘Albert’ the anaconda was allegedly presented by a Bishop, in what is now Guyana, to the Colonial Secretary in the 19th century – exact names and dates are unknown. However, he appears in a photo from circa 1892, which means he has been in the FCO for at least 120 years. As a gift to the FCO, Albert is therefore regarded as an FCO asset. As such, the FCO is obliged to maintain its assets, and the work on ‘Albert’ was essential maintenance. It is believed that ‘Albert’ was first re-stuffed in the 1960s or 1970s, but there are no records of how much it cost on that occasion. Certainly no significant maintenance has been carried out on him in the last 40-50 years. ‘Albert’ was never housed in a glass case, as is commonly believed. In moving him from his suspended position in the Ansell Library (a separate Library area to the old Home Office Library referenced above) to facilitate planned refurbishment to the area it was observed he was in poor condition. A decision was taken to use this opportunity to carry out a refurbishment to ‘Albert’ including a safety check on the suspension fittings. The cost of the conservation and restoration work on ‘Albert’ was £10,000. The work was undertaken by the Conservation Team at the Natural History Museum, over a 5-week period, from 21 May to 26 June 2012. As nothing was known about previous work done on ‘Albert’, the conversation team at the NHM needed to use x-ray CT scanning, which is a costly procedure that required extensive data processing and a specialist to do the analysis. Also, the level of detailed, delicate work in the restoration involved an intensive amount of care and attention from highly trained staff.”
Austerity, what austerity?
The Guidogram round-up of the week is going out shortly.
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After various rows at the Home Office and UK Border Agency Dame Helen Ghosh departed the Civil Service for the National Trust. In a great scoop by the Standard, it seems she’s been letting off some steam with her new found freedom:
“Women are being frozen out of an “Old Etonian clique” around David Cameron, one of Whitehall’s most senior figures has explosively claimed. Dame Helen Ghosh said the Prime Minister surrounded himself with a male-dominated “network of friends”, including members of the notorious Bullingdon Club at Oxford University, that was “difficult” for women politicians to penetrate.”
Nothing to do with the fact that she was blocked from promotion to the most senior level of the civil service, pipped to the post by Sir Bob Kerslake of course. Revenge is better served subtly…
“No 10 conceded that Mr Cameron may have confronted one of the Tory rebels, Andrew Bingham, the MP for High Peak, at a drinks reception in Downing Street the previous evening about his support for the rebel amendment.”
Apparently the “this is not a sixth-form debating society” line is one of Dave’s favourites for admonishing unruly rebels. The 53 would agree: the EU and it’s budget matters to their voters.
On Wednesday both the Mail and Telegraph splashed with the story of Energy Minister John Hayes declaring “enough is enough” over wind farms. The Mail’s report was labelled as an exclusive and their political editor James Chapman noted in his piece that Hayes’ remarks came from a private interview. Yet mysteriously the Telegraph had the same story with quotations in its first edition. How come?
It seems the Telegraph got sight of Chapman’s raw, unsubbed copy – Hayes had only spoken to him. Mail sources point out that their version said:
‘Even if a minority of what’s in the system is built we are going to reach our 2020 target,’ he said. ‘I’m saying enough is enough.’
The quote is mysteriously longer in the Telegraph version:
‘If you look at what has been built, what has consent and what is in the planning system, much of it will not get through and will be rejected. Even if a minority of what’s in the system is built we are going to reach our 2020 target,’ Mr Hayes said. ‘I’m saying enough is enough.’
One disgruntled Mail hack points out that “It’s common practice in the lobby to get wind of things and seek to do a spoiler or cobble something together with source quotes but to actually barefacedly steal the copy and use the quotes as your own is unprecedented in my experience.”
So what happened? Did the Telegraph’s Political Editor Robert Winnett find a copy of Chapman’s story on a Commons printer? Nope. Guido understands that Chapman did print out his story but took it home in his briefcase.
Did a Telegraph spy at the Mail leak the story to Winnett? Possibly. Mail HQ is now in a state of high security. Or was the Telegraph tipped off by veteran eco-sceptic Christopher Booker, who wrote a feature linked to the Hayes story in Wednesday’s Mail? Booker, though a long-time columnist for the Telegraph, is surely too experienced a hack to hand an exclusive to the Mail’s arch rival in that way.
Some argue that Winnett is in breach of the first rule of the Lobby – by shamelessly lifting the story he has breached his “duty to the Lobby as a whole, in that he should do nothing to prejudice the communal life of the Lobby..” and should be thrown out. Angry phone-calls were exchanged between executives at both papers yesterday with Ben Brogan – the former Mail man and now Telegraph deputy editor – being accused of “theft”. Brogan is said to be claiming it was “serendipity” and is not taking Guido’s calls this morning…
“Over the past 5 years the Office of Tony Blair has had a small number of voluntary interns gaining work experience in the organisation. The vast majority came to us at their request, unadvertised, for voluntary work. Of those, a number have since become full-time paid employees with us. We have also always acted on legal advice in respect of any intern.
Nonetheless from now on, if we do have interns for an extended period, i.e. around 3 months, we will pay them the National Minimum Wage.”
Credit should also be given to Graduate Fog, who first uncovered Tony’s minimum wage hypocrisy. HMRC sniffing around might also have had something to do with it…
Guido would hardly have thought £250,000-a-year* Justine Thornton would have needed the money, but Millionaire Miliband’s wife has landed a cushy new job nonetheless.
Justine has just been named on a roster of lawyers providing taxpayer-funded work for the Labour-controlled Welsh government.
She must have passed the interview with flying colours…
*Guido sources say that someone of her experience and seniority at her chambers would be on £500,000. She doesn’t work full-time so we have halved her estimated income. Leveson famed Robert Jay heads her chambers.
UPDATE: Milipeople are grumpy about this. According to a Labour spokesman:
“This is a nasty little story which the Conservative Party has attempted to spread around for almost a week. It is both desperate and beneath contempt. Justine Thornton is a specialist environmental lawyer who was appointed in her own right in open competition. To suggest she got this work for any other reasons is an insult not only to her but to every working woman across the UK. What century are these people living in?”