Friday, October 7, 2011

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.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

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 party inside out and has worked in Downing Street, the MoD and various other government departments? However it’s not just Ed who has spotted Dugher’s talents in the past…

Though he ended up as Gordon’s Moussa Ibrahim at the end of the last government, between his days as Geoff Hoon’s Special Adviser at the MoD (2002-’05) and becoming Gordon’s last spinner in October 2008, Dugher took time out in the private sector, becoming Head of UK Public Affairs for global data giants EDS. He left the MoD just before the 2005 election and went to EDS in 2006, via a role in the Leaders of the House’s office overseeing Privy Council matters.

When Dugher took the role of EDS’s top UK lobbyist, the company said he bought a ‘wealth of experience from his under-standing of the parliamentary process’. However that’s not all he had to offer. A rather interesting FoI shows that EDS’s public affairs team, headed up by Dugher, lobbied MoD officials and Ministers some thirty-three times between 2006 and 2007. Crucially Dugher was meeting with Lord Drayson, who was in charge of procurement of equipment and support.

The relationship built up between the MoD and EDS paid off handsomely for the latter. In government Labour paid EDS a total of £4.2 billion for IT during their years in government. Including £2.3 billion for the troubled Defence Information Infrastructure contract which was signed when Dugher was still Hoon’s SpAd. The MoD paid EDS a further £570 million during the period Dugher worked for them. All very cosy. 

Surely there are rules against this sort of thing, Guido hears you ask. Well yes there are:

‘Under the terms of their contract, special advisers are required to submit an application to the head of their former Department for any new appointment or employment they wish to take up during the two year period after their last day of paid service.” 

Guido spoke to Dugher last night who claimed that the move was cleared by the Cabinet Office. However this clearance was only in relation to his last role working for the Leader of the House/Privy Council. Dugher says that the both the Cabinet Office and EDS were well aware of the move and possible conflicts of interest. However, the MoD tell Guido:

“We do not hold any data to confirm that Mr Michael Dugher has submitted an application to the MoD under “The Business Appointment Rules for Civil Servants” for permission to seek an appointment with EDS as a lobbyist. The requirement for Michael Dugher to notify the department of his intention to commence employment with EDS under Business Appointment Rules only applies for two years after his last day in service and therefore this requirement ceased from 2007’

Though he cleared it with the Cabinet Office, Dugher was back lobbying the MoD within two years of leaving as a SpAd, which doesn’t look so good. This is often the way with the giant revolving door of government and Guido only raises this all for one particular reason. Dugher is currently in charge of Labour’s own long-overdue defence procurement review. We all know how badly Labour’s spending on MoD contracts went. Dugher certainly has some inside knowledge of what went wrong…

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hilton’s Half-Decent Idea

Steve Hilton is coming under all sorts of fire for some mad blue-sky ideas he may or may not have thrown around in Downing Street. The FT are running with the fact that he suggested cutting maternity leave, job centres and pondered why the PM had to obey the law. Though the article is somewhat weakened by the concession that “the shaven-headed policy guru’s friends admit that three-quarters of his ideas fail to get off the drawing board – to the relief of colleagues.”

There is all sorts of speculation flying around about who leaked it, the knives seem to be out for  Hilton again, and this article looks suspiciously like the revenge of Sir Humphrey. The theory that this was Steve himself flying a kite can’t be discounted though. Amongst the bait, upon which the opposition have dutifully bit, there was a gem though:

“When Mr Hilton was looking at ways to cut the deficit, he suggested replacing hundreds of government press officers with a single person in each department who would convey all necessary information via a blog.”

Guido thinks this is a fantastic idea. Imagine all those efficiency savings. If three-quarters of Hilton’s ideas go in the bin, this one, along with his Eurosceptic conversion should be the last to go…

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rohan’s Raise Riles Rivals

While yesterday’s twelve hour naval gaze dominated Westminster, Downing Street thought it would be a good idea to sneak out the Special Advisers pay list. Due to the government pay freeze announced when the Coalition was formed, not much has changed from last year. Except for one lucky boy…

Eyebrows have been raised across Whitehall that Rohan Silva, über-Hiltonite and No. 10’s blue-sky thinker, got a nine grand bump, when all the other SpAds were politely informed by letter that there would be no pay-rise this year.

“It can’t be performance related” said a colleague…

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Talking Balls

Dastardly Balls and his Muttley-like SpAd Alex Bernardelli have been cock-a-hoop all day proclaiming that the experts at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development were backing his calls for a slower pace to the cuts:

Blinky Balls“This is a very significant intervention. Even the OECD, which has traditionally supported government economic policy and George Osborne’s deficit reduction plan, is now saying the Chancellor should consider changing course.”

But as ever it, turned out to be balls.

The Secretary General of the OECD just went on Sky News to say he hasn’t changed his mind at all. Quite the opposite in fact, and he went on to accuse the Shadow Chancellor of misinterpreting what he’d said:

 “No way was there any signal of a change in course. We are continuing to be supportive. We can now say it with an even greater conviction because we just put out our economic outlook yesterday…”

Balls says we should always “listen to the economists”. Did he hear the CBI say that under Labour that “the economy would be weaker because of the impact of a loss of confidence in the markets”? Or how about when the IMF said Osborne’s plan “greatly reduces the risk of a costly loss of confidence in public finances and supports a balanced recovery…” Or what about when Mervyn King, he’s surely an expert, said that the government’s policy “has to be something where a really significant reduction in the deficit, the elimination of a large part of the structural deficit, takes place over the lifetime of a parliament.” Did he miss the British Chambers of Commerce Chief Economist David Kern say he “supports the need for credible deficit cutting measures over the next few years and supports the government’s emphasis on spending cuts rather than tax increases”?

Sounds like someone’s got a bad case of selective hearing.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Anyone For A Spin?
Hiding Huhne Sends SpAd To Spin a Mess

The last thing that a Special Advisor wants to do is become the story, but that is exactly what cowardly Chris Huhne has tried to do with his SpAd Joel Kenrick. This weekend Huhne faced allegations from two papers, the Mail in Sunday and the Sunday Times that he cajoled another former political aide into accepting his penalty points for speeding to avoid losing his licence.

Before Huhne became an “eco-warrior” he used to, according to his wife, “drive like a maniac” in his gas-guzzling personal number plated 5 Series BMW.  The allegation dates back to 2003 and mysteriously appeared after a week of manoeuvres against his supposed political allies. Huhne spent the weekend hiding from the Sunday Times and Mail on Sunday and has not personally categorically denied the allegation. Why not?

Instead he sent his barely shaving SpAd out to be savaged by the hacks. Joel claimed his boss was “uncontactable” all Saturday, which is a little odd for a Secretary of State. This doesn’t quite add up either, not least because Huhne was briefing the Indy on a different story on Saturday afternoon. But hiding Huhne didn’t stop there. Why, if the allegation is “unfounded”, did Joel, presumably following orders, go on a naked fishing trip asking specifically which car it was and who the person pressurised was? If the allegation was untrue then what relevance would these questions have? Word around Westminster is that this is a repeat offence.

If Huhne knows the story is true but doesn’t think the papers have the evidence, yet, then he is playing a very dangerous game. This is a jailable offence.

Joel hasn’t got his strategy right today either. The latest quote is “These allegations have been made before and have been shown to be untrue”  A classic spinner’s trick  to make it sound like an old story. Guido isn’t sure when 24-hours became old. More importantly there is a very big difference between “unproven” and “untrue” Joel. Guido’s going Huhnting and he isn’t alone…


Seen Elsewhere

What We Learned From the Referendum | FT
Scottish Crisis Moves South | Nick Wood
English Democrats Accidentally Celebrate Yes Victory | Pink News
Union In Its Current Form is Dead | Janan Ganesh
Labour Could Be Split in Two | Sun
Ashcroft Poll: Why Scotland Voted No | Buzzfeed
Boris: Change Barnett Formula | Sun
Cameron is Back | Dan Hodges
What Happens Now | James Kirkup
Cairo of the North | Quentin Letts
Labour are the Biggest Losers | Phil Collins


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Diane Abbott on the Daily Politics:

“Labour MPs will unite behind Ed Miliband, once we find out what our policies are.”



It was only a tiny tiny collision.


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