As Tory MPs nickname their new Chief Whip “Fifty Shades”, backbenchers have been speculating whether Andrew Mitchell would be taking his Special Adviser Philipa Buckley over from the Department for International Development. Mitchell and Buckley are said to have developed a strong professional relationship, greatly aided no doubt by the extensive international travel required in his previous brief. Since the reshuffle Buckley has apparently been introducing herself as Special Adviser to the Chief Whip, but caveating that she doesn’t think she will be staying long. Why might that be then?
The Coalition Agreement is frequently referred to as the government’s “sacred text”, if that is the case it is guilty of sacrilegious behaviour with Special Advisers. The document promised “We will put a limit on the number on Special Advisers”, the last government had 80 SpAds, yet according to figures released yesterday this government now has 81 up from 69 in the last 2 years since the election. The wage bill has risen some 30% as well…
Survival hopes post-reshuffle for Jeremy Hunt look even bleaker this morning with the news that he has lost yet another Special Adviser.
Lisa Hunter has been poached by Iain Duncan Smith to replace Susie Squire, who was promoted to head of press at CCHQ.
Clearly IDS is seen as a safer job prospect…
UPDATE: Another Hunt SpAd gets in touch to say Hunter was covering maternity leave.
Special Adviser to the Prime Minister Sean Worth is departing government to head up an investigation into better public services at Policy Exchange. It seems to be mid-term transfer season with lots of SpAds looking to move on and out. Worth was on secondment to fire-fight at health and Guido hears, like another recently departed member of Team Dave, he wants to be able to speak out more than he currently can about how to radically reform the public sector.
This is the second prominent hire for Policy Exchange from government – with No.10 policy wonk James O’Shaughnessy also joining their team. Traditionally seen as a bit of a SpAd school, Policy Exchange seems to becoming a rehab centre for them on the way out of government too…
Pic via Political Pictures
This snippet from Rachel Sylvester’s column, stuck behind the Times pay-wall, deserves a wider audience:
“At Westminster, Mr Balls can be overbearing. An attempt to oust Liam Byrne, the Blairite Work and Pensions Secretary, from the Shadow Cabinet, which was resisted by Mr Miliband, is blamed by some on the Shadow Chancellor’s bovver boys. “There’s a gang within the gang,” says an insider. “The punishment beatings are back.” One MP compares Mr Balls and his wife, Yvette Cooper, to the Borgias who just can’t help plotting.”
Belardinelli the bovver boy has a certain ring to it…
The LibDems are continuing to claim that they are untainted by BSkyB bid revelations this week. While it is true that Cable’s SpAd Giles Wilkes set the example of how Adam Smith should have been dealing with News Corp spinmeister Fred Michel, the email chains are still damning for the party. When Wilkes rejected a meeting it seems that Michel went to other LibDem spinners and found success with Jonny Oates, the former Bell Pottinger director turned Clegg SpAd, who as Guido reported yesterday was happy to help and brief. But he didn’t stop there…
Paul Marshall, the founder hedge fund Marshall Wace, is a LibDem donor. Crucially he’s also an adviser to Nick Clegg.
Here not only does Marshall acknowledge a meeting with James Murdoch to discuss the bid, he also gives further advice, in writing, for Fred Michel to pass on to his boss:
He recommends BSkyB beef up their PR team and goes so far as to recommend his friend and Brunswick chief Alan Parker. All of this is so that BSkyB can get the “easy win” that Marshall clearly supports adding: “I wish you luck. You have built a great business and it must be very frustrating to be penalised for your success.” It doesn’t sound like all the LibDems were at war with Murdoch…
Hunt’s SpAd has been resigned for apparently speaking to News Corp without Hunt’s permission, but it does not stop there. Section 4 of the Special Advisers code states:
“The responsibility for the management and conduct of special advisers, including discipline, rests with the Minister who made the appointment.”
That is also confirmed in section 3.3 of the Ministerial Code:
“All special advisers must uphold their responsibility to the Government as a whole, not just their appointing Minister. The responsibility for the management and conduct of special advisers, including discipline, rests with the Minister who made the appointment. Individual Ministers will be accountable to the Prime Minister, Parliament and the public for their actions and decisions in respect of their special advisers. It is, of course, also open to the Prime Minister to terminate employment by withdrawing his consent to an individual appointment.”
With Hunt up at 12.30, Guido is wondering how he’s going to try claim his SpAd was acting rogue when last night he said the contact was authorised?
UPDATE: Adam Smith says:
“While it was part of my role to keep News Corporation informed throughout the BskyB bid process, the content and extent of my contact was done without authorisation from the Secretary of State. I do not recognise all of what Fred Michel said, but nonetheless I appreciate that my activities at times went too far and have, taken together, created the perception that News Corporation had too close a relationship with the department, contrary to the clear requirements set out by Jeremy Hunt and the permanent secretary that this needed to be a fair and scrupulous process. Whilst I firmly believe that the process was in fact conducted scrupulously fairly, as a result of my activities it is only right for me to step down as special adviser to Jeremy Hunt.”
They have now admitted that there was wrong doing. The rules are very clear…
Adam Smith picture from Steve Back.
Well in his head at least…
Labour have spent all morning spinning the line that […]