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…

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.

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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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