The gloves are off. Not only are the LibDems planning on moving the writ today for the Eastleigh by-election, but they have also fired the first real shots of the campaign. Sadly for them, those shots were firmly into their own feet. By using his taxpayer-funded Cabinet Office email address to launch Nick Clegg’s by-election campaign last night, LibDem SpAd James McGrory has found himself in hot water on the first day of this very short campaign. Needless to say the partisan attack has gone down rather badly with his coalition partners. Backbench Tory MP Andrew Bridgen scores an easy goal this morning:
Dear Mr Heywood,
I am writing to ask you to investigate a breach of the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers by James McGrory.
The Code of Conduct for Special Advisers, last updated on June 2010, states:
‘You must not act in a way that is determined by party political considerations, or use official resources for party political purposes’
But in an email from his Cabinet Office account on Wednesday 6 February, Mr McGrory contacted journalists to brief a speech to be delivered by Nick Clegg on Thursday 7 February.
The email was saturated with party political content, centred around the upcoming Eastleigh by-election. Most troubling of all was a series of source quotes, stating:
“This is Nick firing the starting pistol on the Eastleigh by-election.
“It’s a speech that sets out the distinctive approach of the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government when it comes to tax.
“This is going to be a very keenly contested by-election and Nick is eager to remind the voters of Eastleigh, as well as the rest of the country, that the Liberal Democrats are cutting taxes for those on low and middle incomes.”
The email went on to offer up Nick Clegg and Simon Hughes for interviews around the Eastleigh campaign.
Given its political nature, Mr McGrory’s email therefore appears to be a clear breach of the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers.
I also note that the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers states that those who hold the post must resign it if they wish to campaign in a by-election.
“if they wish to take part in a General, European or by-election campaign, or to help in a party headquarters or research unit during such a campaign, they must first resign their appointment. If they wish their appointment to carry on during a campaign, they may continue to give assistance to their Minister as before, but they must be careful not to take any active part in the campaign. They should not, for example, take part in public meetings or accompany their Minister to party political engagements which are related to the Election campaign”
Upon the conclusion of your investigation, I would therefore be grateful if you could update me as to whether it would be appropriate for Mr McGrory to resign his position.
Andrew Bridgen MP
Activate Sherlock Heywood…