Clegg SpAd McGrory Reported For Partisan Eastleigh Blunder

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.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Bridgen MP

Activate Sherlock Heywood…

Tory Whips: Eastleigh “Will Not Be A Shoe In”

Guido has seen exchanges between the Government whips office and Tory MPs that would imply they are not expecting the Eastleigh writ to be moved for many months. Michael Fabricant, who seems to be in charge of the by-election again, reminds colleagues that the LibDems have three months to fire the starting gun. His background notes on the seat confirms that the Tory candidate will be Maria Hutchings, though he is rather gloomy about her prospects “although many constituents in Eastleigh will understandably feel that they have been let down badly by their Lib-Dem MP, this will not be a shoe-in [sic] for us.” Somewhat of an understatement…

UPDATE:

Tory Joy at Prospect of Olly Grender For Eastleigh

Word reaches Guido that former lobbyist turned Clegg Downing Street spinner Olly Grender is being discussed as the LibDem nomination for the Eastleigh by-election. She’s got competition though from Dr Tim Leunig, formerly the chief economist at the liberal wonk-shop CentreForum, and now at the DfE, who is also said to be eyeing up the seat. Interestingly Olly was very quick to graciously mop up when yesterday’s news came through:

News of Grender’s quest for power has been greeted with exultant joy by Tories. One source says “she upset a lot of people when she was in Downing Street.” Apparently SpAds are “dusting down their dossiers” on her. The prospect of revenge is already tasting sweet.

UPDATE: Olly denies she is interested:

Then again, we’ve had a lot of fun with Olly’s denials before…

Silence From Tory Eastleigh ‘Candidate’

All quiet on the Eastleigh front for the 2010 PPC turned “Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman for Eastleigh” Maria Hutchins. Despite her seat being the top of the news agenda, she hasn’t said a word about it all day. Not even a tweet.

Could it be that Maria won’t be the candidate again…

UPDATE: A Tory spokesperson has confirmed to Guido that they have yet to officially choose a candidate.

UKIP Hammer LibDems Across Britain

Not quite the Croydon Spring Lee Jasper promised as Labour held all three seats in last night’s by-election, but the main talking point is UKIP coming second in both Middlesbrough and Rotherham. Joyce Thacker isn’t the only reason voters are flocking to Farage’s party. The LibDems were decimated, losing their deposit in Croydon North and Rotherham, in fact coming eighth there. When the Monster Raving Loony Party beat David Owen’s SDP he folded up the party…

Labour Haemorrhaging Votes to UKIP in Rotherham

Outside of the Leveson bubble there are some actual, real, political events also going on today. Perhaps most interestingly the by-election in Rotherham. Labour’s nerves are reaching a crescendo, and not just due to the prospect of the Homeland candidate splitting the left-wing vote. This morning Peter Watt warns that the party are losing votes to UKIP by the bucket full:

“UKIP will take votes from Labour as well as the Tories in Rotherham today…the assumption that UKIP is just a threat to the Tories is dangerous and the fact that the Rotherham foster-carers were former Labour voters is not really a surprise. The quicker we wake up to the fact that most voters are not like people who attend Labour party meetings the better.  Some of them even read the Daily Mail.”

While Harry Wallop notes in the Telegraph:

“Today, Rotherham goes to the polls in a parliamentary by-election. That all the talk is about Ukip rather than Labour, which has provided the town’s MP since 1933, is a remarkable turn of events…Despite the momentum, Ukip is still small, with a mere 19,000 members – the equivalent of just a few tables of pub drinkers in each constituency. But these sums appear to hold little truck in Rotherham, where the lack of jobs and prospects are the main concerns.”

UKIP’s price in Rotherham has come in to 8/1Guido reckons that Labour are still going to take their ‘safe seat’, but numbers are going to be very, very interesting…

Labour Orders Whole HQ to Rotherham

The pressure on Labour’s struggling Rotherham campaign has clearly not let up. Orders went out yesterday evening for HQ staff to completely decamp to the seat:

Where possible I want as many staff from our London head office to try and help in Rotherham. Given the distance, we are asking people to go up Wednesday, stay the night and be ready to get the vote out on Thursday.

Guido has a feeling that both the bookies and Labour are being over-cautious after the Bradford blindsiding, but the feedback on the ground can hardly be very positive if a broke party are pulling out every stop to try and retain what should be a very safe seat. All together now R-E-S-P-E-C-T…

Ross Kemp on Gangs: The Blairites

Join Ross Kemp as he travels to the mean streets of South London to meet ringleader of a notorious and radical gang known as ‘The Blairites’. Steve Reed is the name that strikes fear into the hearts of London residents, when he ran his extortion racket in Lambeth, nicknamed ‘The Council’, gang crime soared to record levels. Now he wants to expand his operation further south, taking on arch-rival Lee the Croy Don’ Jasper, fighting for control. Kemp hasn’t come face-to-face to such a dangerous figure since the last time he spoke to his ex-wife…

Panic on the Streets of Rotherham
Under Siege Candidate Pulls Out of BBC Hustings

Following Guido’s revelation earlier that Labour are diverting resources north to shore up their struggling Rotherham campaign, it now appears the wheels are really coming off. BBC Sheffield is reporting that their candidate has pulled out of tonight’s hustings.

Their […]

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Labour Panicking About Rotherham
HQ Diverting Resources North

Labour insiders are getting nervous about Rotherham after this weekend’s Labour council omnishambles. With Respect’s Yvonne Ridley now at 5/1, Labour HQ are […]

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Express Yourself! Odds on Lee Jasper Win Shortening

Labour are getting sweaty palms in Croydon North. Ed was down there yesterday, Chuka’s there today and constituents have already had to endure the likes of David Lammy, Sadiq Khan and Diane Abbott.

With a 16,481 majority this should be […]

+ READ MORE +

Breaking: LibDems Lose Deposit in Corby
UKIP Come Third as Labour Take Seat

In without a doubt the most amusing news of an otherwise dull by-election results day, the LibDems came fourteen votes short of keeping their deposit in Corby. The humiliation was complete after two recounts and heated discussions between the LibDems, […]

+ READ MORE +



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