Monday, December 5, 2011

Questions Mount Up for Andy “Bung” Burnham

Oh this just keeps getting better and better. Labour sources get in touch to point out that Kevin Lee has recently, and very quietly, been appointed Andy Burnham’s Political Adviser. That’s right, a man with business interests in health is crafting lines for Labour like “NHS not for sale”. Almost vintage Labour irony… 

As one insider dryly observed: “Burnham gives well paid job without interview to mate who he owes £20,000″. Does that smell odd to anyone else? So Andy…

  • Where was the job advertised?
  • How many people were interviewed for it?
  • Why was the job given to Mr Lee?
  • What assurances were sought regarding Mr Lee’s private interests in the NHS?
  • Why has Mr Lee not declared that he owes you £21,000 in the Register of Members’ Staff Interests?
  • When are you going to pay your adviser back the £21,000 you owe him?

Answers on a inappropriate business card…

Monday, October 24, 2011

Clegg SpAd James McGrory Accused of Leaking Cam Kids Story

A good rule of thumb when feeding negative stories to the press about a Prime Minister, whose administration you work in, is not to do it from the office phone. A mighty row has blown up in Downing Street after a leak hunt has found the Deputy Prime Minister’s spokesman up to his neck in it after giving the Mirror a story about the Cameron and Osborne children playing in the Rose Garden. The Mail on Sunday reported the row yesterday without naming James McGrory as the leaker…

Cameron hit the roof and his staff got in Scotland Yard to trace the leak. McGrory’s study looks out over the Rose Garden and his phone made three calls to the Mirror just before they put a call in to Downing Street for a comment. On the day that Clegg announces that he is going to spend half a million on seven new LibDem SpAds across Whitehall, he should probably start thinking about an eighth…

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Musical SpAds

With a Cabinet reshuffle comes the flurry of promotions, and then come the SpAd wars. Media advisor Hayden Allen is the only one of Fox’s SpAds to survive the resignation and will be staying at MoD. Fox’s three SpAds has been cut to two…

Policy wonk Sian Jones has gone with Hammond, and there was talk of Paul Stephenson, Hammond’s media SpAd going across too, but he has gone back to his old opposition boss – Andrew Lansley. Justine Greening at Transport is hiring…

Monday, October 17, 2011

Exclusive: Ed Blocking Twigg’s PAd Choice

Guido’s eyes and ears in Norman Shaw South report that there is a bit of a ding-dong going on between newly appointment Education shadow Stephen Twigg and the leadership. Twigg, who has reversed Labour’s policy against free-schools, is trying to have fellow Blairite and Lambeth councillor Alex Bigham installed as his, short-money funded, “Senior” Political Advisor. Guido called Alex who confirmed he has not yet been appointed and he couldn’t get off the phone quick enough. Sources point to some comments made during the leadership campaign about Ed, as well as some unease about having another Blairite “right-winger” in the team. Guido would recommended Ed develops a thicker skin…

UPDATE: Bigham denies the rift and expects to be appointed soon. Sensible…

Friday, October 7, 2011

Reshuffle Feather Ruffle

So far we know that Ann McKechin, John Healey, John Denham and Shaun Woodward are out. Ivan Lewis thoroughly deserves his new job sitting in Easyjet departure lounges begging for meetings with international players having been demoted to Shadow DFID brief. Angela Eagle replaces Benn as Shadow Leader of the House. Burnham has been given his old health brief back. Chuka looks favourite to replace Denham in Business and Rachel Reeves to replace Eagle. Thirsty Stephen Twigg has also been promoted to Shadow Education and Michael Dugher is going somewhere.  There is talk of up to six 2010 intakers getting a job.

However it’s not just the uninspiring MPs that are playing musical chairs this morning, the Special Advisers are also sweating it out, waiting to see if they will weaned off of the short-money teet. John Healey’s spinner Ian Parker isn’t very happy, he took to Twitter in the wee hours to lash out at his colleagues:

Solidarity!

Fox Asks For Best Man Probe

What is it with big beasts of the Tory right and controversal trips with their advisers? The issue of Adam Werritty has been circling Liam Fox for months, after it emerged the unvetted and unemployed best-man of the Defence Secretary was swanning around Westminster with House of Commons business cards that said he was Fox’s “personal adviser”. Fox previously denied he was involved in any MOD activity, yet now it emerges his former flatmate came on an official MOD trip to Sri Lanka.

In that classic trick, Fox has triggered an inquiry himself, finally seeing how fishy this all looks. You would have thought after Hague got the taxpayer to pick up the bill for his trip to Afghanistan with Christopher Myers that the Tories would be a little more careful about this sort of thing. Where Hague spent an extra weekend in Bahrain with his adviser, Fox is only thought to have attended “private events” in Sri Lanka with Werritty. All werry odd…

Saturday, September 24, 2011

FT v Gove Sparks Twitter Flame War

In the Westminster Village the battle between the FT’s education correspondent and Gove has been providing much amusement. As is the way nowadays the battle has gone all handbags-at-dawn and spilled over onto Twitter:

Chris Cook, himself a former CCHQ political adviser on education to David Willets and now the FT’s education correspondent, alleges that the SpAds around Gove are using their private email accounts to conduct government business off the record and away from prying FoIs. They say they are required to do this by the Code of Conduct for SpAds which requires them to

not use official resources for party political activity

Cook argues that private emails should be subject to FoIs and has got a barrister to support his position (with substantial caveats rendering it unlikely). This unsurprisingly hasn’t been jumped on by Labour because it is unrealistic and Guido would be FoIing, from 2 years back, EdBalls@Labour.org.uk in the blinky of an eye.

Cook has complained to CCHQ, the Cabinet Office, the DfE and Downing Street that the counter-attack is disproportionate and he has been defamed. The FT is apparently going to complain in writing on his behalf that the big boys have been horrid to him. Cook further claims that Gove’s SpAds should be fired for making ad hominem attacks on him in contravention of their Code of Conduct which explicitly prohibits

the preparation or dissemination of inappropriate material or personal attacks… Any special adviser ever found to be disseminating inappropriate material will automatically be dismissed by their appointing Minister.

As far as Guido can tell there is no evidence that Gove’s SpAds have made any personal attacks on him. The Twitter account is run by CCHQ not the DfE…

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tories Come After Labour Leaker

Last week Guido outed Labour’s mole in the Department of Education who was leaking to his old boss Ed Balls. Well the Tories are coming after Matt Gillespie, who now spins for John Denham the Shadow Business Secretary. Backbencher Chris Skidmore is flying a kite a little writing to Sir David Bell, the DofE Permanent Secretary, but it’s awkward none the less:

He’s also going after Denham’s office:

You never know what might fall out of the tree. A protege of Ed Balls and his Muttley like SpAd Alex Belardinelli, who knows what else Gillespie was up to…

Monday, September 5, 2011

Google’s Latest Cameroon Loyalist

It came as surprise when PR Week broke the news on Friday that Tim Chatwin was leaving his Downing Street strategic comms role:

“…Tim is an absolute bolt out of the blue. He’s an uber-loyalist – I always thought he’d be last man standing.”

What is less surprising is where he is heading – Google. 

Back in July the Sunday Times’s FoIs revealed that senior Downing Street officials have had over twenty meetings with Google since the election. Accusations of preferential treatment were thrown around when Hilton, whose wife is a Google VP, did not declare all of his meetings with the group. This is especially murky given that Google are lobbying hard for changes to UK copyright law. Now they have poached a key cog in Cameroon machine. It’s all rather too cosy for Guido’s liking. A long spell in the cooler is surely a necessity before the Chatwin hits sunny California…

UPDATE: Policy wonk James O’Shaughnessy is also said to be off. Though that one has done the rounds many times…

Friday, September 2, 2011

Labour Still Picking Up The Bill

When Labour launched their defence procurement review back in December last year, they announced their “Review Team” which included:

“Bill Thomas, former Senior Vice President and General Manager (EMEA) for Hewlett-Packard Company.”

Like with Michael Dugher yesterday, it’s the not the immediate past job that raises eyebrows…

Hewlett Packard bought our old friends EDS in 2008 and Bill Thomas was Senior Vice President EMEA when Micahel Dugher joined the company as their top UK lobbyist in 2006. Now Dugher is leading the same review into defence procurement, which is set to take into consideration:

  • How can we achieve Value for Money for all programmes?
  • How can we prevent scope creep and programme delay?
  • How can we ensure future delivery of equipment programmes are to time and on budget? 

Given Bill Thomas has been brought in for his expertise in the field, let’s have a little look at his track record in regard to delays and budgets. In 2006 RAF servicemen didn’t get paid for six weeks after EDS botched the implementation of new software. The £456 million Child Support Agency system, built by EDS, had “five hundred faults in the three years after it went live”. The Agency ended up manually inputting 36,900 cases as a result of an EDS IT failure. In 2003, Bill himself took full responsibility for a Revenues and Customs IT disaster that shafted the Inland Revenue. It is widely considered to be the worst government IT cock-up ever. EDS had to pay-out £70 million in compensation for the mess, but negotiated further government work before paying up. Guido could go on, but you get the picture…

When profiled by the Telegraph in 2007, Thomas said “if things go well it’s not interesting” and he certainly made that his motto. Guido can see very little reason Bill Thomas has anything to do with trying to coordinate successful procurement. Other than being Michael Dugher’s mate, obviously…

See Also: Ed’s PPS and MoD Lobbying Links and Dugher’s Defence.


Seen Elsewhere

Apple’s Tim Cook: iGay | Techno Guido
Insurgent Parties Plunge Labour Into Crisis | Alex Wickham
Mind-Bending Politics of Drugs | Mark Wallace
PC Worries Prevent Police Protecting Young Girls | Jill Kirby
Miliband Should Win Rochester | Martin Kettle
Thatcher Minister Sir John Nott ‘Voted for UKIP’ | Times
Time to Listen to Drugs Experts | Guardian
Drug Laws Don’t Work | Times
Our Moral Duty to Cut Taxes | David Cameron
Greens Ahead of LibDems | Guardian
Channel 4 to Spoof UKIP Election Win | Guardian


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