Rohan is on a Roll

One of the biggest nights in the propeller-headed wonks calendar is The Prospect magazine’sThink Tank of the Year Awards. David Sainsbury’s new plaything, the Institute of Government, took away the big prize leaving many on the right feeling a little put out as they thought they’d had a pretty good year when it came to influencing the policy agenda.

The judging panel was somewhat slanted to the left: Ben Rogers from IPPR and Demos; Kishwer Falkner the Liberal Democrat peer; David Goodhart Prospect’s editor; the FT’s James Crabtree and for balance from Downing Street, Rohan Silva.

Hardly the most balanced of panels, but made worse by the fact that Silva didn’t bother showing up to meetings at which the awards were actually judged. In the right-wing think-tank world, where one would expect Conservative Downing Street policy advisors would be tight in with, there are some who were ticked off with him for not holding up the side. Rohan just seems to make friends wherever he goes…

Elementary Level Watson

It’s no surprise that Tom Watson has taken to opposition so well, surreally Guido even got to collect an award on behalf of the attack dog last week. However Watson’s out of the blue claim that Coulson is off imminently is nothing but traffic grabbing bluster. Of course Number 10 dismissed the claim as such almost instantly, but then it’s still another day that village gossip is once again full of chatter. Job offers have apparently come Coulson’s way…

Stories concerning the government and Dave in the last few weeks show Coulson hasn’t had his eye 100% on the ball, and that’s before the silent war in Downing Street is even considered. There may not be a smoking gun, but no doubt Hilton and his “zen men” are enjoying the constant drip drip drip. Expert punters don’t agree with Watson and it’s going to take more than a letter with an exaggerated claim to push Coulson over the edge…

Dave Says Phuket To Thai Break

Over the weekend the Prime Minister quietly cancelled his planned Christmas trip to Thailand. When the papers first got wind of the plan, Guido reported that Coulson had put the heavies on to try to stop the others asking the very obvious questions about the probity of such a trip given the, fellow Old Etonian, Thai PM’s less than exemplary human – rights record. You don’t see many fire extinguisher throwers surviving in Bangkok.

Other sources claim it was a lack of private beaches for security reasons, but with the number of vanity and money based stories floating around Dave in recent months Guido is surprised it took this long for Downing Street to have a re-think about where the PM should spend the upcoming “austerity Christmas”. Andy Coulson doesn’t seem to be burning on all four cylinders. Could there be some distraction taking up the time of the normally sharp headline seer?

Wonk War Manoeuvres

Guido’s Cameroon co-conspirator posits a theory for the celebratory back-slapping between Steve Hilton and Rohan Silva last night. Within Downing Street Rohan is (Guido kids you not) in charge of short term policy and James O’Shaughnessy is in charge of long term policy. There is no love lost between Hilton and O’Shaughnessy. Could the group hug last night be because, whispers Guido’s source, that Hilton has managed via some Machiavellian manoeuvres to arrange for O’Shaughnessy to be “promoted” sideways when he returns from paternity leave? Sideways as in “out-of-the-way”….

The Birrell Bandwagon Rolls On

He is wounded, but without a smoking gun Coulson isn’t going to be forced anywhere. However let us just say a few months into the new year a job offer he can’t refuse might arise and off he goes. Whenever Coulson leaves, and in whatever way; be it disgraced, or off back to News Corp., British Petroleum or a spin merchants at board level there will be one hell of a power vacuum in Number 10. There is no way that the control-freakish Steve Hilton isn’t going to want to fill the post with one of his own. One of the Zen Men so to speak…

Since months before the election the name of Ian Birrell has been floating around CCHQ and wider Tory-circles.  Since they sing from the same hymn sheet it seems likely that Hilton wants the Big Society enthusiast and former deputy-editor of the Indy inside Downing Street. Other than being a mate of Dave and Steve’s what is it about Birrell that is so desirable? Even ConservativeHome today calls for Birrell and three other people to be added to the No.10 machine, despite the Tories promising to cut the number of political advisers. Is something afoot? Birrell’s big-society, blue-sky, Cameroon credentials are not entirely to ConservativeHome’s taste…

UPDATE : Well connected source texts speculating that he could replace Ed Llewellyn, Dave’s chief-of-staff. Hmmm…

Coulson Could Learn a Thing or Two

Some advice from the best…

Coalition Civil Service Con Continues

The culture of political special advisors was developed under Maggie, and boomed under Labour. Dave promised to cut the numbers of partisan aide-de-camps paid for by the taxpayer. The LibDems went even further and pledged in their manifesto to take SpAd’s off the public payroll and make parties pay for them out their own funds. However despite these “cast iron” promises the coalition have found a loophole – simply make former party staffers Civil Servants. Guido has been looking at this dishonest tactic for a couple of days now and the list of staffers who have been suddenly “neutralised” is absurd:

While Dave and Nick might promise smaller government and a new politics, they are using backdoor methods to get their yes-men into Whitehall and Downing Street.

CCHQ To Civil Service

On Friday Guido noticed that Dave’s brand guru Anna-Maren Ashford had been quietly slipped onto the Civil Service payroll, but would have nothing to do with the PM’s image. No Siree.

Well it seems this trick has been spread amongst former CCHQers who couldn’t quite be found jobs in Downing Street or departmental political roles. In the States when a new regime comes in, they bring the civil service too, but that’s not officially how things are done over here. It seems the Cameroons been watching too much of the West Wing…

Strangely a lot of new civil servants do not appear on the grand organigram of government departments, late additions perhaps, but funny how Sam Freedman who was Michael Gove’s man until May is now a senior civil servant at the Department of Education; Jo Penn, formerly Teresa May’s advisor, moved from CCHQ to the Home Office in May, into a politically neutral role. Back in May Rishi Saha went from doing CCHQ’s new media stuff to doing Downing Street’s new media stuff. The official numbers of SpAd’s may have fallen, but the Civil Service count has risen…

Exclusive: Dave’s Stylist Goes from CCHQ to the Civil Service

Before this May’s general election CCHQ’s Anna-Maren Ashford was the “Head of Brand Communications” and is credited with styling “Brand Dave”. The former advertising executive was brought in by Steve Hilton from Young & Rubicam to kick out the old […]

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Rohan’s Silicon Silliness on the Roundabouts of Life

Later today the PM will deliver a speech in East London on the growth of high tech enterprises. Dave will laud the colony of groovy start-up internet companies in EC1 that runs from Clerkenwell to Shoreditch bordering on Whitechapel.

Ahead […]

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Which Ministers and SpAds Got the Handbags, iPads, iPods, Champagne Gifts…

True to promise today details of hospitality and gifts received by ministers and special advisers, ministerial meetings with external organisations and all overseas trips by ministers across government are published on the Cabinet Office website.

This is the first […]

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Coulson Thais Tongues

There was a quiet mention last Friday of Dave’s Christmas plans. Ephraim Hardcastle reported “friends of the Prime Minister say he plans to take his family to Thailand, where he will enjoy the hospitality of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.” […]

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