Black Humour at the MoD

The joke doing the rounds in MoD circles is “we now have what we didn’t have in 2003: a valid reason to invade Iraq.”

With the defence budget slashed, they don’t have much else.

SPEAKER WATCH: Every Little Helps

An exceptionally well-placed source whispers to Guido that the Speaker has tried, perhaps successfully, to broker a meeting between Julian Lewis with Dame Joan Ruddock to help him seek Labour support for his bid for Defence Select Committee Chairmanship. Also, Bercow called Lewis in Defence Questions yesterday, despite  him not being on the Order Paper – just as he did at last week’s PMQs. It would appear the neutral Speaker of the House is doing his utmost to help out his old chum and campaign manager.

Labour Defence Select Committee Hustings Read Out
Stewart ‘Burns’, Simpson ‘Attacks PM’, Lewis ‘Edges It’

It was a Tory invasion of the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting last night, as the candidates for Chairman of the Defence Select Committee unveiled their cross party battle plans. The verdict of the room was that Julian Lewis, Bob Stewart and Keith Simpson did well with their opening speeches, where Crispin Blunt and Tobias Elwood were “fairly poor”. Things got interesting in the questions stages though with Rory Stewart ‘crashing and burning’.

When asked by Thomas Docherty how many questions each of the candidates had tabled in the House about defence, a tetchy Stewart attacked ‘Tom’ for previous ding dongs the pair have had, before claiming he preferred to make “long speeches on foreign policy instead of asking questions”. The room did not like that.

Keith Simpson went on to attack the Prime Minister on Syria, suggesting that just because Libya had worked there was no reason to presume another intervention would hold the same level of success. This pitch for lefty votes is some what undermined by Simpson’s behaviour at the time of the vote last year when he was revealed by Guido to be the anonymous “Government source” who made front page news raging that “No. 10 and the Foreign Office think Ed Miliband is a f**king ***t and a copper-bottomed s***”. 

The verdict from Labour? “Consensus is Julian Lewis 1, followed by Bob, then Keith.” The vote is tomorrow after PMQs.

Latest MoD Figures: 604 Spinners

Always keen to help, this morning Guido pointed out the vast  numbers of communications staff employed by the MoD, should Philip Hammond be looking around for something to “streamline”. Guido quoted the 2009/10 figures which showed 697 spin staff, though MoD sources are keen to stress that only 23 are based at Whitehall and many of the rest have other jobs. This afternoon they have coughed the latest figures:

“As of 31 March 2012 the total number of military and civilian MOD personnel spending at least 50% of their time on communications related activities was 604. This figure is on course to drop again to 515 by 2015.”

Going in the right direction, slowly. 

Hammond Surfaces to Defend MoD Bureaucracy

Phillip Hammond popped up for a passive aggressive performance on the Today programme:

“We can look for efficiency savings which everyone should be seeking all the time. If we need to go beyond our efficiency savings, we would need to have a discussion over how and where these would be achieved.”

It sounds like defence secretary would make sure that conversation happened in public. He might not want to cut more troops, but there are still savings to be made. The MoD has 400 press officers and communications staff, for example. There is a battalion of cuts there Mr Hammond.

UPDATE According to data obtained by Think Defence

The latest figures for the numbers involved in specialist communications roles are for financial year 2009-10 and were produced in support of a Cabinet Office led exercise to capture such information across Government. They are as follows:

MOD/armed forces Trading funds Non-departmental public bodies
Press officers 112 8 1
Internal communications officers 52 8 0
External communications officers 365 26 0
Communications strategy officers 67 2.5 0
Other 101 7 3

Presumably these numbers have been reduced over the last three years.697 spin-doctors of one kind or another is 600 too many…

See latest update: Latest MoD Figures: 604 Spinners

Fingers Pointed at Hammond for Cuts Confusion

It’s no surprise that the MOD was missing from George Osborne’s ‘nice list’ of departments behaving themselves over further cuts. Nor was it surprising to hear the Chancellor pouring water on this morning’s Telegraph story about IDS offering to serve up more cuts in order to protect Hammond’s department. Further cuts aren’t going to happen; not least in part due to the LibDems, especially in an election year. Guido is told any discussion has not happened recently. IDS may have enjoyed the Telegraph’s “not for the first time, Mr Duncan Smith has shown the way” leader, but it seems that is a far as it’s going to go. Fingers are being pointed at Hammond this morning for stirring things up. With this Telegraph leak,  suddenly last week’s manoeuvres speculation does not look quite so ridiculous…

See also: Daft Draft Hammond Plan

U-Turn Number 41

Last week a government source said in reference to Afghan interpreters: “What sort of message would it send if these people were bundled into the back of a Chinook and flown out of the country? It would say we don’t think there’s a future.” Phillip Hammond said on the record that he believed “Afghanistan has a future”. This morning the government announced that former Afghan interpreters will be granted asylum after all. At least the welcome u-turn came quick enough to avoid Joanna Lumley getting involved… 

Long Arms in the MoD

deal

Employees from arms dealers and defence firms that have recently signed huge government contracts are currently working at the MoD. Guido has learned that BAE Systems and Rolls Royce, who have been awarded billions of pounds worth of MoD contracts over the last few months, have five employees inside the department. The MoD is also employing a staffer from Babcock, who were awarded a £65 million contract in December. The full list of MoD employees on secondment from private firms that have recently signed multi-million pound contracts with the department is below:

  • 3 BAE Systems employees- £1.2 billion contract signed in December
  • 2 Rolls Royce employees – £1 billion contract signed in June
  • 1 Babcock employee – £65 million contract in December
  • 1 Carillion employee – £45 million deal last year
  • 1 Lend Lease employee – £17 million deal in June
  • 1 GVA employee- appointed to identify contractors for Deepcut relocation in July

Intriguingly, the MoD is refusing to disclose the employers of a further ten staff members currently working in the department. It wouldn’t be the MoD without a cosy relationship between ministers, taxpayers’ cash and private defence interests…

Boulter Wades In Again: Werritty Loved First Class Travel

Harvey Boulter isn’t the most reliable of witnesses but he raises some intriguing points. He just did an interview with the BBC that could only be described as a hand-grenade. He described Fox’s version of events around their meeting in […]

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Fox: MoD Initial Findings

“A grey area”…[…]

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Ed’s PPS and MoD Lobbying Links
Dugher Denies Defence Meetings Dodgy

Barnsley MP Michael Dugher was chosen to be Ed’s PPS for a reason. It quickly became clear Chuka Umunna was way out of his depth in the role, so who better to replace him than a man who knows the […]

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When Dave Liked The Generals Talking

As the Prime Minister tried to slap down his turbulent generals with a well rehearsed, off-the-cuff, “you do the fighting and I’ll do the talking”, Guido was trying to remember when he last heard Dave in such a combative mood. […]

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Quote of the Day

Liz Kendall is asked by Tom Newton Dunn if she would ever ban the Sun from one of her press conferences:

“If you stripped naked and ran in front of me, Tom, I might have second thoughts about it, but apart from that, no.”

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