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…

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tory MP Calls For Parties To Pick Up Regional Cabinet Bill

When Gordon Brown took his Cabinet away to Leeds for the day in 2009 the Tories were quick to pounce on his wasteful spending. Robert Goodwill, the then Shadow Minister for Leeds went on the attack:

“The cost of hosting them given the increased security is something that should be borne by Labour rather than by the taxpayer. I can understand them wanting to show their presence in Yorkshire for political reasons.”

And there was plenty of wider condemnation of the idea. The Taxpayers’ Alliance’s Mark Wallace, for it was he, said “These meetings are expensive and of dubious worth to areas that the Cabinet chooses to visit.” Yesterday David Cameron took his Cabinet away to Derby for the day.

Asking around, you can see why they look like a good idea. The Civil service like them because it gets those pesky ministers out out of the way so they can run the country for a couple of hours and the party machines love the fact they get some coverage and face-time in marginal seats, with all the transport and logistical costs paid for. The regional lobby even get spoonfed. As one former Labour SpAd put it to Guido:

“The whole comms side of government and regional offices get to rev their engines. Everyone wins except the taxpayer. I actually hoped the Tories would stop that bollocks, but no.”

Robert Goodwill MP is very quiet today.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Downing Street Struggles in the Thick of It

There is an air of chaos in Westminster today. Firstly Craig Oliver was all in a spin after being refused entry by Downing Street security, but that’s nothing on the mess that the capture of the SAS troops and our “diplomat” in the desert has caused. Hague, who has taken his eye off various balls recently, looks like he is being hung out to dry on this one. He will be before the House at three thirty, but not before a Whitehall source mouthed off to the BBC confirming he personally authorised the mission, despite little evidence our overtures were welcome. It’s almost as if No.10 has other matters on their plate…

The Prince Andrew story has gone nuclear, not least because an-as-of-yet-un-named SpAd briefed in Cardiff over the weekend that “one more story” and Andrew would be out. Cue a mass shaking of the branch by every hack. Another briefing, perhaps by the same chatty character, said “no tears would be shed” at Andrews departure. A long cry from the official line this morning that the Duke has the government’s full confidence. It’s times like this that real weak spots are being exposed and a bad day for Dave and co to go gallivanting up north for a gimmicky Cabinet Away Day. No wonder it’s open season on SpAds according to Ben Brogan

UPDATE: Mark Wallace notices that SpAd’s are even using Malcom Tucker’s favourite “omnishambles”. You could make it up…

Thursday, March 3, 2011

When is a Smear Not a Smear?

There has been an ongoing rumbling about the Audit Commission’s Jenny Watson being smeared as an incompetent who milked the taxpayer by one of Eric Pickles’ SpAds in a briefing to Sam Coates of the Times, which he then obediently reprinted.

Figures have been plucked out of thin air to suggest that the Department of Local Government had spent “thousands” on legal advice because of the case, though Guido was confident enough to bet the editor of Political Scrapbook £50 that the figure was closer to zero. Labour are pushing the story around, though it’s hardly up there with Damian McBride. What it comes down to is that Jenny Watson did milk the taxpayer. The truth cannot be a smear…

UPDATE: Paul Richards, author of Be Your Own Spin Doctor tweets piously that taxpayer funded SpAds “are not employed to slag people off in anonymous briefings to hacks.” Totally different to the time when he as a taxpayer funded SpAd ghost wrote an article in the Guardian slagging Guido off as a “vicious nihilist”…


Seen Elsewhere

Sunday Sport Style Guide | Popbitch
Tory MP’s Love of Astrology | BBC
No.10 Shouldn’t Get Excited at Growth Figures | Mark Wallace
Feminist Lobby Killing Meritocracy | Kathy Gyngell
David Ward is a C**t | Iain Dale
Britain Should Follow Kansas’s Tax Cutting | Jeremy Warner
Dave’s Chums Who Made Millions From Putin | Mail
Now Osborne Must Cut Taxes | Mail
Britain’s Recovery Outstrips the World | Times
Ruffley Could Be Suspended From Commons | Telegraph
Ruffley Loses Confidence of Constituency | Guardian


new-advert
Westbourne-Change-Opinion Guido-hot-button (1)


New Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has big ambitions in his first meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu today:

“I came to bring this conflict to an end.”



Flight Watch says:

Russia Today is a cauldron of bullsh*t. The only people that take it seriously are deluded conspiracy theorists. Other RT journos have resigned citing the same reasons.

It’s about as believable as Press TV, KCNA of North Korea or the Daily Mirror.


Tip off Guido
Web Guido's Archives

Subscribe me to:






RSS


AddThis Feed Button
Archive


Labels
Guido Reads