Bad Al seems to be having trouble remembering which stories he made up and which were true…
You know how it is, you’re arranging a photo op for the Deputy PM and you accidentally take him to a dogging site. We’ve all done it. Well, no, but former LibDem press officer Ben Rathe did:
“It was the Liberal Democrat Conference 2013, and my role back then was planning all of the visits that Nick Clegg was doing over the course of the 5 days in Glasgow. This included finding somewhere suitable to announce a new 5p charge on plastic bags.
I picked out a lovely nature reserve just south of Glasgow called Cathkin Marsh, which allowed us to tell the story of how discarded carrier bags murder cute, furry animals, damage the environment and ruin picturesque landscapes.
Now, as part of arranging any visit for Nick, who at that time was obviously DPM, you had to recce the site with his Metropolitan Police protection team. As we were in Scotland, we were also accompanied by some officers from Police Scotland, who opened my eyes to a startling fact.
‘Interesting place for a visit’ said one officer after the recce, which had mainly involved walking around a marshland on a wooden boardwalk.
I, thinking he meant they usually take politicians to schools, factories or nursing homes, launched into an explanation about why we’d chosen this location, the environmental impact discarded bags can have etc etc. I was swiftly cut off.
‘No, I mean because of what the locals use it for’ he said.
Now, ‘what the locals use it for’ is never a good sentence to hear, because usually ‘the locals’ are never using ‘it’ for anything good. I didn’t want to ask what he meant, mainly because I knew what he was going to say if I did, but felt that I had to.
So I did. And then came the reply I had both expected and dreaded.
‘Oh, it’s a dogging site.’
A dogging site. I’d arranged for the Deputy Prime Minister to visit a dogging site…
I’d just about accepted that I had to come clean when my phone rang and James Holt, a Number 10 Special Adviser told me that the policy had been leaked and that we’d need to bring the visit forward to the next morning.
Decision made then. There was no way we could find an alternate location in that time, and the announcement needed a visit for the pictures. So I made the very brave (or very stupid) decision and told James that would be fine.
So the next morning came, and off went the Deputy Prime Minister and Lord President of the Council on his morning visit. To a dogging site.”
Read the whole story on Rathe’s blog here. Armando Iannucci eat your heart out.
Nadine Dorries has grilled the PM about Guido’s revelation that a pro-EU letter supposedly from FTSE 100 bosses, due to appear in tomorrow’s papers, was actually drafted by a Downing Street civil servant. Cameron said Chris Hopkins wrote the letter with his authorisation:
“He’s a civil servant working in No.10 and his authority comes from me, and he’s doing an excellent job… the government’s view is that we should Remain in a reformed European Union and the civil service is able to support the government in that role”
Your taxed euros hard at work getting pro-Remain front pages…
Guido has got hold of a draft letter sent to FTSE 100 bosses by Downing Street business adviser Chris Hopkins yesterday, soliciting support for Dave’s deal. It was due to appear in tomorrow’s Times, but you can read it on Guido today:
From: Chris Hopkins
Sent: 21 February 2016
We run businesses representing every sector and region of the United Kingdom. Together we employ hundreds of thousands of people across the country.
Following the Prime Minister’s renegotiation, we believe that Britain is better off staying in a reformed European Union. He has secured a commitment from the EU to reduce the burden of regulation, deepen the single market and to sign off crucial international trade deals.
Businesses like ours need unrestricted access to the European market of 500 million people in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs. We believe that leaving the EU would deter investment and threaten jobs. It would put the economy at risk.
We believe Britain will be stronger, safer and better off remaining a member of the European Union.
Give me a call if you have any issues.
The letter was sent around yesterday, after the new rules limiting what Leave ministers are allowed to do with public resources came into effect. No.10 are unsportingly using the taxpayer-funded civil service machine to campaign for Remain, within the rules…
This tweet from EyeSpy suddenly makes a lot more sense – Damian McBride has been hired to be Emily Thornberry’s spin doctor. On the day of her resignation, McBride told the BBC she should’ve lied about the meaning of her flag tweet. News of the move was slipped out at 5:50pm on Friday night, the old tricks are the best…
A good day for the LibDems to quietly slip out their report into why they were wiped out last May. So, who was to blame? The public of course:
“the weak public understanding of our party and political opinions meant that our move into government was not well understood”
And the media, obviously:
“media system that did not wish to demonstrate that the first peace-time coalition at Westminster could deliver stable government worsened the experience”
Though to be fair, the LibDem report is considerably more candid than Labour’s whitewash. Tuition fees was top of the list:
“critical disjunction between what we had published on the front page of our 2010 manifesto… namely, the abolition of tuition fees”
Intriguingly, they all ended up having blazing rows with each other:
“Some of the most problematic staff relationships came with overzealous party committee members, who took their frustration with the structure out on staff members”
No one was in charge, despite hiring expensive South African strategist Ryan Coetzee:
“lack of a single, professional campaign director responsible for taking strategic decisions about all aspects of campaigning”
They were seen as Tory patsies:
“we unwittingly manoeuvred ourselves into a position of appearing content to be willing appendages to our coalition partners”
Remarkably, due to “dwindling finances”
“no polling activities of note were undertaken at all during the first years of Coalition”
And morale was, well…
“these factors combined to lead to a daily reality for the party of public rejection, falling internal morale, and consistent electoral destruction”
Despite all this they bizarrely conclude:
“the political plight of the party could have been far worse”
8:00pm: No.10 briefing to Lobby: “I would say the going is tough, this could be a long night. Some real outstanding issues to resolve, it’s not clear how we’re going to do that.”
8:20pm: BBC reports No.10 source: “impasse… we thought there might be talk of bridges but still big gaps”, “talks pushed back”
5:29am: Times reports No.10 downbeat: “problems across the board”
7:50am: No.10 briefing to Lobby: “It’s hard going. Some signs of progress but nothing yet agreed and still a lot to do.”
8:15am: Amber Rudd is sent on Today: “The deal is out of reach at the moment”
10:52am: No.10 brief the Lobby: “We may have a deal today, we may not. We may have Cabinet today, we may not. Tusk has told us he’s prepared to go into Sunday”
As the President of Lithuania said yesterday: “Everybody will have his own drama, then we will agree…”
Yesterday Britain Stronger in Europe sent out a press release describing a new Institute of Economic Affairs report on the EU as a “work of fiction”. Quite a hostage to fortune…
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