Shop-a-SpAd : Gotcha! Team Benn SpAd Bang to Rights

Guido has got his hands on a private campaign briefing prepared a few days ago for supporters of Hilary Benn’s campaign for the deputy leadership. It details how popular Benn is polling with activists (pdf version here) and how they should use this information to pressurise their MPs to nominate Benn. The Benn campaign desperately needs 44 nominations to get him beyond the hat-in-ring stage.

The author of this document is Blair McDougall, he is Ian McCartney’s Special Adviser (SpAds). Ian is Hilary Benn’s campaign manager and a minister at the FCO. SpAds are not allowed to campaign under the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers at the taxpayers expense for their masters in internal party matters. In fact they are supposed to take unpaid leave – see the recent example of Peter Hain’s ex-SpAd Phil Taylor.

Since Guido has started on his mission to catch SpAds cheating the taxpayer and breaking the ministerial code, some have quite properly taken leave. Guido has just spoken with McDougall about the briefing. He didn’t claim, nor can he retrospectively pretend, that he was working on his own time. The document was prepared on his desk computer at the FCO, sent from his email address at the FCO, during office hours. Pressed by Guido that this was a breach of the Code he refused to answer, invited to deny that he had produced the document at the taxpayer’s expense, he declined to deny it. How does this differ from benefit fraud?

Looks like a job for the Cabinet Secretary…

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Via the FT’s Jim Pickard: Seumas Milne’s idea for Labour election catchphrase:

“The Tories are the real extremists.”

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