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…

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.

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…

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”…

Balls' SpAd Outed Alan Johnson's "Personal Reasons"

Alan Johnson’s suspected affair with a civil servant was widely rumoured around Westminster, it was the reason that people believed that he had not run for leader. The story was never stood up by the papers.

This evening Guido sources are pointing the finger at Alex Belardinelli, Special Adviser to Ed Balls, as the person who has been making inquiries into Alan Johnson’s private life. Shadow Cabinet sources say they believe the Sunday Times has the story and Ed Miliband himself believes that Ed Balls’ people have had a hand in the story getting out. Balls chose his moment well, a series of gaffes by Alan Johnson had left him politically weakened.  Yet still Miliband rewarded him with the prize he craved…

UPDATE 22 Jan : Lots of people in the comments saying this story is proven duff by the Mail’s story about the wife and the copper. Don’t be so sure – they’re not mutually exclusive stories…

Rohan is on a Roll

One of the biggest nights in the propeller-headed wonks calendar is The Prospect magazine’sThink Tank of the Year Awards. David Sainsbury’s new plaything, the Institute of Government, took away the big prize leaving many on the right feeling a little put out as they thought they’d had a pretty good year when it came to influencing the policy agenda.

The judging panel was somewhat slanted to the left: Ben Rogers from IPPR and Demos; Kishwer Falkner the Liberal Democrat peer; David Goodhart Prospect’s editor; the FT’s James Crabtree and for balance from Downing Street, Rohan Silva.

Hardly the most balanced of panels, but made worse by the fact that Silva didn’t bother showing up to meetings at which the awards were actually judged. In the right-wing think-tank world, where one would expect Conservative Downing Street policy advisors would be tight in with, there are some who were ticked off with him for not holding up the side. Rohan just seems to make friends wherever he goes…

Brothers in Arms

Late yesterday evening by Piccadilly tube station a smug looking sharp suited man and a scruffy looking bald chap in shorts and a  red cycling jacket, made ready to head their separate ways.

Donning his red cap the slightly dishevelled looking chap unlocked his bike, before laughing and sharing a joke with his Underground bound companion. They then hugged like brothers in arms.

With the look on their smiling faces, Guido would love to know what it was Steve Hilton and  Rohan Silva were plotting over drinks last night…

Coalition Civil Service Con Continues

The culture of political special advisors was developed under Maggie, and boomed under Labour. Dave promised to cut the numbers of partisan aide-de-camps paid for by the taxpayer. The LibDems went even further and pledged in their manifesto to take SpAd’s off the public payroll and make parties pay for them out their own funds. However despite these “cast iron” promises the coalition have found a loophole – simply make former party staffers Civil Servants. Guido has been looking at this dishonest tactic for a couple of days now and the list of staffers who have been suddenly “neutralised” is absurd:

While Dave and Nick might promise smaller government and a new politics, they are using backdoor methods to get their yes-men into Whitehall and Downing Street.

Rohan's Silicon Silliness on the Roundabouts of Life

Later today the PM will deliver a speech in East London on the growth of high tech enterprises. Dave will laud the colony of groovy start-up internet companies in EC1 that runs from Clerkenwell to Shoreditch bordering on Whitechapel.

Ahead of this speech Rohan Silva, the Downing Street SpAd who used to work for Osborne in opposition, but now cleaves to Steve Hilton, had a meeting with BT bigwigs last month that ended with BT ‘bemused’ by his requests.[…]

+ READ MORE +

Bruiser Brown's Boy Stays

Yesterday’s man and old time bruiser Nick Brown may be facing the rest of his career on the backbenchers, but that doesn’t mean he won’t still have a finger in the pie. His Special Advisor Gary Follis, former spinner for Alliance and Leicester and Amicus, is ultra-loyal and was the fixer’s fixer right up until the election.[…]

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Miliband's Staffers

Polly Billington – Gatekeeper and PR. Former BBC presenter and SpAd at the Department for Enviroment and Climate Change. (1)

Sadiq Khan – Campaign Manager. Controversial expenses fiddling MP for Tooting.

Lucy Powell – Chief of Staff. Failed PPC. (2)

Katie Myler – Spokesman.[…]

+ READ MORE +

Calamity Kenny's Latest Comedy Moment

An update on calamity Kenny hits the inbox from a Scottish co-conspirator:

You may like to know that Kenny today led Ed Milliband through the turnstiles at the Scottish Parliament. However, oor Kenny led Ed to the wrong turnstile that only allows people to enter rather than exit.

[…]

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Calamity Kenny Spinning for Ed Miliband

In a quick update to the Labour Political Advisers list, Guido was most amused to hear that omnishambolic press officer Kenny Young has managed to keep his job. If you reward the slavish loyalty of greased-up party hacks who come up through the youth ranks with cosy press office jobs, you may find they don’t exactly have the talents required for such a high-pressure environment.[…]

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Not So Special Now

It’s not just former ministers and Labour MPs who are having to get used to life in the slow lane. Spare a moment for all those poor former Special Advisers. But don’t feel too bad, those that haven’t disappeared off to make their fortunes still have a job on the taxpayer.[…]

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Worth Its Weight In Gold

Given the Chief Secretary of the Treasury is himself somewhat lacking in financial expertise, you would think he would select his Special Advisor carefully for their financial prowess. Instead he has thrown yet another lifeline to a friend. Like he did with Willie Rennie in the Scotland Office, Danny Alexander has made another failed LibDem MP, Julia Goldsworthy, his SpAd.[…]

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Willie Free

There were raised eye-brows when former LibDem MP Willie Rennie was appointed as the Special Advisor to the Scotland Office just days after being rejected at the ballot box by the voters of Dunfermline. To his credit he did not ask for a salary as a SpAd, the parliamentary resettlement payment was quite enough.[…]

+ READ MORE +



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