Peter Gabriel went to Downing Street to hand in a petition to ban keeping monkeys as pets. Also on the agenda: “An interspecies internet that is open and available to non-humans.”
ITV’s scoop-getting political editor Robert Peston is annoying Tory spinners in more ways than one. When the other broadcasters film short interviews in Downing Street, they usually bring one camera with them to film the interviewee. Peston however insists on bringing two cameras, one to film the minister, the other to film himself. Apparently Pesto wants a camera on himself at all times so plenty of shots of him looking inquisitive can be edited into the package. This means double the number of camera crew, causing a headache for press officers. A senior government source reveals “he turns up with a f**king movie set”. Don’t disturb the creative process…
Pundits and political producers have complained since the election that Downing Street is refusing to put up ministers on television. Craig Oliver has an iron grip on broadcast appearances, implementing a “one minister a day” policy where a single, reliable minister reads out the lines to take on whatever issue. Our Minister Media Monitor charts ministerial broadcast appearances throughout the day, everyday.
From the Today programme to Newsnight, we monitor which ministers appeared answering questions in interviews. Note this will not include doorsteps, only scheduled appearances. Our league table ranks ministers by their number of appearances, showing who is the flavour of the month in No.10, and who has been kept away from the cameras. This resource empirically illustrates No.10’s strict broadcast grid, their reticence at sending ministers out to be held to account, and how this is being challenged by the referendum. Here is the spreadsheet with the data from February and here is the league table…
The referendum sees three Leave ministers make the top ten, with Chris Grayling by some way the most vocal. Philip Hammond is No.10’s flavour of the month to give the government’s line, followed by the ever-reliable Matt Hancock. Jeremy Hunt was under the spotlight over junior doctors and government spinners obviously think it is important to get as many women on screen as possible – Greening, Rudd and Soubry are high up the list. It is notable that there were just 53 ministerial broadcast appearances in February, and a considerable number of these by off-the-grid Outers not authorised by Craig Oliver. George Osborne is keeping away from the cameras, the submarine Chancellor appeared just twice in 29 days…
Taxpayer-funded civil servants have been authorised by David Cameron to use public resources to campaign for Remain. Will advisers and officials working for ministers who back Leave have the same freedom? They have tonight been issued a strict ban on their activities by the Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood.
Civil servants working in the departments of Grayling, Whitto, IDS etc have been barred from giving their ministers briefings supporting their position on the EU. They are banned from providing speech material, and will be denied access to government papers relating to the referendum. Special advisers working for Leave ministers are banned from supporting their boss’ position in office hours. They are also banned from using annual leave on campaign activity. Pro-Remain ministers are meanwhile allowed to use public resources to campaign.
Amusingly, Heywood writes that these restrictions mean:
“The principles of impartiality and the proper use of public resources continue to apply to all government communications activity, including activity related to the EU referendum.”
This is laughable – Downing Street civil servants like Chris Hopkins are authorised to use taxpayer-funded resources to campaign for Remain, yet civil servants and SpAds for Eurosceptic ministers who want to do the same thing for the Leave campaign are banned from doing so. This is the exact opposite of “the principles of impartiality and the proper use of public resources”. It’s “do as we say, not as we do…”
Last Thursday, before the EU council meeting, the Telegraph had a briefing that “more than 80 FTSE 100 firms” were about to support Dave’s deal and back Remain:
Yesterday, after the deal, the FT reported that only 50 FTSE bosses were going to sign the letter supporting Remain:
As Guido revealed, the stunt had been drafted and orchestrated by Downing Street civil servants, and was lined up to appear in today’s Times. Sure enough, here it is in this morning’s paper:
Yet just 36 FTSE 100 bosses have signed…
Five days ago, journalists were being briefed that No.10 and Remain had 80 FTSE bosses backing them. Since the EU council meeting and the deal, more than half no longer fancied giving their support. Just 36 names for the letter backing Dave’s deal is positively paltry…
Guido has got hold of a draft letter sent to FTSE 100 bosses by Downing Street business adviser Chris Hopkins yesterday, soliciting support for Dave’s deal. It was due to appear in tomorrow’s Times, but you can read it on Guido today:
From: Chris Hopkins
Sent: 21 February 2016
We run businesses representing every sector and region of the United Kingdom. Together we employ hundreds of thousands of people across the country.
Following the Prime Minister’s renegotiation, we believe that Britain is better off staying in a reformed European Union. He has secured a commitment from the EU to reduce the burden of regulation, deepen the single market and to sign off crucial international trade deals.
Businesses like ours need unrestricted access to the European market of 500 million people in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs. We believe that leaving the EU would deter investment and threaten jobs. It would put the economy at risk.
We believe Britain will be stronger, safer and better off remaining a member of the European Union.
Give me a call if you have any issues.
The letter was sent around yesterday, after the new rules limiting what Leave ministers are allowed to do with public resources came into effect. No.10 are unsportingly using the taxpayer-funded civil service machine to campaign for Remain, within the rules…
8:00pm: No.10 briefing to Lobby: “I would say the going is tough, this could be a long night. Some real outstanding issues to resolve, it’s not clear how we’re going to do that.”
8:20pm: BBC reports No.10 source: “impasse… we thought there might be talk of bridges but still big gaps”, “talks pushed back”
5:29am: Times reports No.10 downbeat: “problems across the board”
7:50am: No.10 briefing to Lobby: “It’s hard going. Some signs of progress but nothing yet agreed and still a lot to do.”
8:15am: Amber Rudd is sent on Today: “The deal is out of reach at the moment”
10:52am: No.10 brief the Lobby: “We may have a deal today, we may not. We may have Cabinet today, we may not. Tusk has told us he’s prepared to go into Sunday”
As the President of Lithuania said yesterday: “Everybody will have his own drama, then we will agree…”
Minister for Europe David Lidington has written to Tory MPs to tell them they are still planning on stitching up the EU Referendum, but it’s ok because they they will ‘work with them’ to do so:
16th June 2015