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 Tory torch logo and bring in the huggable tree. The glossy 30 year-old made the right look right.

She successfully helped detoxify the Tories and turn them into the beautiful people…

Post-election she still answers to Hilton and is close to hand in the Cabinet Office should the smooth Brand Dave need further polishing – just nowadays it is at the taxpayers’ expense as a civil servant in Whitehall. Officially she works with the Behavioural Insights Strategy Team known universally across Whitehall as the “Nudge Unit”.

Dave controversially put his personal photographer, Andy Parsons, on the Civil Service payroll, the news that his image stylist has also become a civil servant will infuriate many who will question his priorities…

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 of this speech Rohan Silva, the Downing Street SpAd who used to work for Osborne in opposition, but now cleaves to Steve Hilton, had a meeting with BT bigwigs last month that ended with BT ‘bemused’ by his requests. Rohan asked BT to Wi-Fi up all of Shoreditch for free to make ‘Silicon Roundabout’ a great place to live and work – coincidentally Rohan lives in East London.

BT pointed out that they generally preferred to make their living by charging for their services. Likewise Rohan’s request for BT to move its research function to the Olympic Park as part of the Olympic legacy met with a polite refusal – BT are very happy with their R & D base in Ipswich. The whole meeting became embarrassing says an insider.

Civil servants at the Treasury and at the Department for Business who work for Vince Cable despair. Rohan was not fondly remembered as a junior official at the Treasury, Guido’s co-conspirator in Whitehall claims

“He and Steve Hilton are worse than Ed Balls and Gordon at their worst – announcement driven activity without even a basic grip on economics… Thank god Jeremy Heywood is still there and able to act as a voice of sanity.”

Ben Brogan, usually more than sympathetic to Downing Street sources, has suggested that Rohan is a Malcolm Tucker wannabee –

… coming closest to acting the part of the bullying, foul mouthed, crazed control freak in The Thick of It, played with such zest by Peter Capaldi… It’s early days, but already tales are coming in of moments of rudeness, self-aggrandisement, mindless cruelty, ministerial notices cancelled at short notice.

Rohan has certainly come a long way from when Guido first met a shy, awkward, besuited, slightly out of place character at a Soho (London) loft party for what was the then hot British internet start-up that went on to become the $800 million Bebo social network. Rohan seems to have forgotten a key piece of advice in life: Be nice to people you meet on your way up in life, because…

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 time special advisers’ gifts and hospitality has been made public. We’re going to get it published quarterly. Steve Hilton got the champagne, which was banned from Tory Conference by Andy Coulson…

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.” Eton and Oxford educated Vejjajiva is a contemporary of both Cameron and Boris, although the Mail played a straight bat others were quick to notice Dave’s old school chum’s atrocious human right record and willingness to employ emergency powers at the drop of a hat. The little matter of a coup d’etat against a democratically elected government and the shooting by snipers of dozens of peace protesters in May. Strangely there was nothing in print though…

Guido understands that at a number of Sunday papers were ready to question how appropriate it is for Cameron to be kissing under the mistletoe and sharing turkey with such a controversal figure, even if they did know each from school, but the Downing Street machine had other ideas. Andy Coulson and Henry Macrory deployed the security line to put off at least one Mirror hack from filing their piece. Apparently, despite the news of the visit already appearing in print, the PM and his family would be at risk if the Sundays picked it up. Yes, of course, that’s why they didn’t want the story running. An heir to Blair indeed…

Look With Your Eyes Not With Your Hands

Something is just a little bit too convenient about this photo of Beaker the Leaker:

Guido does find it rather amusing that in order to avoid being accused of “announcing to the press before announcing to the House” the government seems to have just accidentally happened to get photographed reading the chosen headline figure.

Dave got caught flashing photographers a document as well. Instead of briefing the press the new method seems to be to simply flash briefings to photographers so hacks know what to write about thus softening the blow. Despite the half a million jobs figure being the official forecast for months, every single newspaper splashed it this morning…

Could this be a plausibly deniable job well done? Though questions still remain about why the Telegraph had the entire Defence Review before it was announced yesterday…

“Scud Stud” Fires Hilton’s Rocket

When the Big Society (B.S.) came up on Question Time last night it was greeted by the audience and the panel with an above average level of scepticism. However there was one surprising defender of the the B.S. dream. Step forward former BBC man in Baghdad, Rageh Omaar…

“One thing that David Cameron can’t be accused of in pursuit of this idea of a Big Society is inconsistency, you know, he said it before when he came to the leadership of the Conservative Party, right the way through the election... The idea of a Big Society although it hasn’t quite found it’s mojo yet in finding out what it actually mean, I think it does tap into an enormously important area in which politicians need to define a public role and the role that citizens can play in it.”

He went on to advocate British responses to international crisis as a good example and sung the praises of Help for Heroes before concluding that citizens need a sense of empowerment. The B.S. defined far more articulately than many a Tory MP….

However it wasn’t all good news for Dave from the “scud-stud”. He fired a rocket at Andy Coulson in no uncertain terms. Giving reference to Downing Street insiders and calling for the guilty spinner’s head on a plate he said:

“I think it’s a time bomb for David Cameron if nothing else, him and Andy Coulson have got to have a very very honest heart to heart chat about exactly what did go on because I know for a fact that the Channel Four dispatches program is going to be the first of many other investigations, it’s crossed the Atlantic, there’s been a huge amount of new evidence turned up in the New York Times of all places… I suspect David Cameron and his team around him are wondering how much people give a damn about this out in the country, that this is just a Westminster hot-house kind of story but I think it will come back to affect the reputation of the government and of David Cameron unless something is done about it soon.”

Interesting to note then that Rageh and Steve Hilton were sitting outside Bank restaurant in Birmingham having lunch on Tuesday afternoon during Tory Conference. What were they talking about in preparation for his appearance? Along with his dinner with tipped-Coulson-replacement Ian Birrell, a cynical man might suggest that Hilton was on manoeuvres against his governmental nemesis…

Birrell Curries Favour

Having kept an extremely low profile for the conference, Andy Coulson was finally seen with a smile on his face at the News International party on Tuesday night. At home with his old Murdoch comrades, one co-conspirator described him as looking like a lost schoolboy reunited with his family. But how long will the smiles last? Coulson’s inter-governmental nemesis Steve Hilton seems to be winning the No.10 power struggle at the moment, with Cameron’s conference speech rehashing back Hilton’s “Big Society” message. While Coulson was keeping his head down after Peter Oborne’s Dispatches blunt hatchet job, Steve was spotted having a quiet curry with the former Deputy Editor of the Indy Ian Birrell…

Birrell who was called on to sharpen up Cameron’s speeches in the election campaign is of the Hilton blue-sky persuasion and Guido can’t think what he might have been discussing. If Coulson were to be forced out by a smoking gun, a huge power vacuum would be created in government and there is no way Hilton wouldn’t want one of his own to fill it…

Brown Bunker Debunked, Labour’s Lying Liars

Steve Richards’s inside look at the Brown Bunker on Radio4 this morning proved what Guido was saying all along about the Prime Mentalist. It also proved what many suspected about the likes of Peter Mandelson, Ed Balls, Harriet Harman, Jack Straw, Douglas Alexander, Alan Johnson, and the Milibands . Always publicly loyal, always on message, always defending the dear leader. Always lying through their teeth…

Funny we didn’t hear Deborah Mattinson say No.10 “was an incredibly unhappy place to be” at the time. “Almost everybody in it was incredibly unhappy, and I think ultimately Gordon has to take responsibility for that, for the fact that he didn’t sort it out.” How come the staffers remained silent about the PM stuck “between rage and despair”. Alan Johnson managed to keep it quiet while in office that “You just heard every day of blood on the walls. No one could be around in politics in a senior position and not know that there were big problems over at Number 10.” There was only one place to find the truth in those dark days…

Coulson’s Five A Day

What is it with Downing Street Heads of Communication? First we had Campbell’s cringe-worthy porno writing career and now Coulson’s getting his kit off. The high pressure atmosphere of a tabloid newsroom is often cited for various misdemeanours concerning […]

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GPW Hotly Tipped for Post-Coulson Downing Street

Alastair Campbell once said you have eleven days to kill a story or you’re toast. The sustained effort to keep the Coulson story going might just be enough to push it over that mythical cut off point. The Indy’s Ian […]

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Piggies Catch Prezza Porkies

In giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Yates of the Yard has thrown a spanner into the Labour spin machine as it tries to keep the Coulson story going.  John Prescott has made a  song and dance of […]

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No Vacancy on Downing Street

Officially there is no vacancy. Officially Andy Coulson has the full support of the PM and the government machine. Officially he isn’t going anywhere. Unofficially last night was quite the flurry of activity.

He may not be going anywhere just […]

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Quote of the Day

Adam Boulton says David Cameron campaigned as a neo-Thatcherite…

“The manifesto programme, with its sell-off of social housing, clampdown on public sector strikes, EU in/out referendum and benefit cuts, represents a much more traditional, neo-Thatcherite conservatism than that offered by Cameron Mk 1…”

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