Off the record and in the comments here CCHQ insiders say “everyone does it”. That is not a defence, that is an admission of guilt.
The Centre for Open Politics has been digging into Spelman’s expenses and discovered that, according to the register, Cawte was not being paid by CCHQ even though he was working at Millbank in the Party Chairman’s office (shaded in blue on the timeline graphic above). After two days of stonewalling by Cawte, CCHQ gave Guido an official response to his questions:
“Simon Cawte has previously declared to the House of Commons Registrar that he is paid for by Conservative Party funds. Whilst this declaration was made in January 2008 it has come to our attention that the declaration should have been made by August 2007. This was an administrative oversight and the registrar has been informed accordingly.”
Guido will be back later next week for a few days, than he is off to the West of Ireland for a week. Not sure what to do that week – shall we have a blog holiday or shall we try having guest bloggers? Should the inmates be allowed to take over the asylum? Can you entertain yourselves? Do you feel you can entertain 10,000 to 20,000+ political junkies every day for a week?
Guido will be back full of vim for September and is planning on making it to the Conservative Party conference at the end of the month, where he is due to be speaking on the fringe, subverting the conference media centre* and drinking the bar dry. No reasonable invitation refused.
*The Tory press office ASBO’d Guido for that hacking of the press list lark. Guido had to promise to behave (in writing) before they would only now allow him back on the Lobby list (no haven’t actually joined the Lobby, am better than that). So fear and loathing in Birmingham it is…
The chopper in question was G-ELTE (pictured). Dave apparently went to stay with his father-in-law for the night. Plenty of room to land a chopper on the estate…
This is undoubtedly the work of Andy Coulson, when he moved in to CCHQ in May 2007 Guido welcomed it, predicting he would “bowl bodyline. Coulson is a player, not a gentlemen, he could be their Larwood, they have far too many Jardines already.”
Guido suspects this will signal a much needed change in the tone of Tory propaganda. Trying, as Osborne recently did, to frame Gordon Brown as a leftie won’t work. The approach to Gordon has to chime in with the truth that people instinctively sense. He is an unpleasant, difficult to work with, psychologically flawed, malevolent, grudge-bearing control freak. These aspects of his character are even more of a negative than his tax and spend, big government, micro-managing policies. Going with this grain of truth will resonate popularly.
In January this year Guido advocated (Finishing the Project : Making 2008 Dangerous for Brown) this full-frontal personal assault on Brown because
policy detail was irrelevant, what mattered was character, because Gordon Brown is a deeply flawed personality. Those flaws inform his tactics and political outlook. To defeat Gordon Brown his opponents should focus on him personally, something that Steve Hilton and CCHQ (prior to the arrival of Andy Coulson) were reluctant to do. Now, with the election put off for two years, 2008 should be about irreversibly breaking Brown’s reputation once and for all.
The Letwin / Gove / Willets policy based approach of 2006-07 was all very well for winning over columnists on the broadsheets, but the Coulson effect reaches the voters. Destroying the reputation of Gordon was easy once they tried – because he had a false reputation. Now the public knows him and his flaws they hate him, as the polls now show.
UPDATE : Labour are whinging that it is “character assassination“.
*Brownies as in “he is telling a Brownie” are a form of words which is a statistical or legalistic misrepresentation of the truth involving selectivity or occasionally outright mendacity. It was Fraser Nelson who coined the phrase “Brownie”. It was Andy Coulson who hired Fraser to write a column for the News of the Screws.
No press releases followed. Weeks go by. Is it a conspiracy of silence, has Caroline Spelman exacted revenge? Is it a competence issue? This kind of thing never happens to Iain Dale…
UPDATE : Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome says he has been cut out as well. We’re not talking about the guff sent to supporters, we’re talking about the media releases. If it is deliberate, it is pretty short-sighted.