FCO Says Hague/Myers Relationship Professional

A spokesman for William Hague said: “Any suggestion that the Foreign Secretary’s relationship with Chris Myers is anything other than a purely professional one is wholly inaccurate and unfounded.”

Interestingly worded. Note there is no denial that they shared a hotel room.

Exclusive : Hague Shared Night in Hotel Bedroom with SpAd

Guido has ascertained confirmation that for at least one night during the general election campaign the Foreign Secretary shared a hotel room with his then driver Christopher Myers, whom he has now appointed as his Special Adviser on the Civil Service payroll. Other campaign staffers stayed in separate more modest hotels and sources suggest that this was not a one off instance. Guido believes it to be the case that it would be usual for the bill for the room – which was settled by Hague personally – to be reimbursed via the Conservative Party’s election campaign expenses. One witness told Guido that the room sharing couple’s body language at breakfast was eye opening.

It is surely inappropriate for someone of William Hague’s status to be sharing a night in a hotel room with his driver – you only have to consider how absurd it would be if his driver were female to see it is completely bizarre even if there were two beds.  The appointment of Hague’s former driver to his private office is controversial because 25-year old Myers has no expertise for the job, no relevant experience and his only qualification for the position is his closeness to the Foreign Secretary.

Eyebrows were raised at CCHQ when William Littlejohn, Hague’s well connected and respected press officer for the last two years, was passed over in favour of Myers – who is currently in hiding from the press. Littlejohn was left effectively jobless after the election until Andy Coulson found him a job with Caroline Spelman. You couldn’t make it up…

Two national Sunday papers have the evidence but, despite journalists putting considerable resources into the story, their editors are reluctant to pursue it. Perhaps because in the words of the song,”no one knows what goes on behind closed doors”…

See also : Flashback: Hague’s Gay Special Adviser, Just Asking

Guardian Falls Foul of Scott Trust

Further to the post earlier about the Guardian taking tens of thousands of pounds from local councils in return for editorial guidance over their review of the “Future of Public Services” Guido got thinking. Is this shabby journalism really what was envisaged by the tax-evading CP Scott? The Scott Trust is in place to “secure the financial and editorial independence of the Guardian in perpetuity: as a quality national newspaper without party affiliation; remaining faithful to its liberal tradition; as a profit-seeking enterprise managed in an efficient and cost-effective manner.” All very noble.

Amongst the “essential qualities that Scott believed should form the character of a newspaper” are honesty, fairness and “a sense of duty to the reader and the community”. The Scott Trust’ role is to ensure that these values are upheld throughout Guardian Media Group.

So how does touting out control over a feature to the highest bidder really stack up with this?

Perhaps a complaint to the Scott Trust is in order…

The "Special" One

So Labour “oldies”, or election winners as they are also known, are not allowed to comment on the future direction of the party apparently. Unless of course they are Alan Johnson. But was his description of David Miliband as “special” really the best choice of phrase?

Well Guido chuckled anyway…

Guardian Surrenders Editorial Control for £15k

The withdrawal of public sector job advertising was always going hurt The Guardian, but it looks as if they are finding new craftier ways of propping up their bloated business model on the public purse. Wendy Miller, the rather grandly named Public Sector Manager, has been emailing local councils and asking them to cough up £15,000 to “sponsor” a Guardian supplement entitled “The Future of Public Services”:

Given the clamp down on public sector lobbying, Guido should think the Guardian got their cash as councils look for new ways to promote their interests,  but why are they still encouraging public money to be wasted on promotion and council aggrandisement? The fact that they are willing to surrender editorial direction for money some what weakens their “look at the culture of public services in the context of a general election and the current financial situation.” While their columnists bleat at the evil cuts, the management side are still scrambling for the taxpayer teat.

Quote of the Day

Iain Martin writes of Labour:

“A party ready to take difficult choices wouldn’t tell the only people with recent experience of winning to “shut up”, would it?”

Labour Lords a'Leaping

As much as the candidates may try to spin it, it is clear the old guard still have the ability to upset the leadership apple-cart. Guido, like most people, wasn’t really paying much attention to the squabbles of the weekend after Mandy dipped an oar in. To summarise, it seems the Dark Lord made a supportive comment about Miliband D, who promptly said “woah there, back off with the endorsements”. Miliband E took offence, and a man who knows all about winning, Lord Kinnock came to his defence. As ever Lord Prescott got angry.

All fascinating stuff that kept the news channels occupied over the long weekend. The Labour Party is really covering itself in glory with this fascinating, in depth, internal discussion about it’s future. News is starting to emerge of Blair’s criticisms of Brown in his book published tomorrow. How convenient for the rest of the country that the Labour Party go into meltdown about the past, the war, the lies and the spin the day the ballot papers go out…

Perfect timing our Tone.

Rich & Mark's Monday Morning View

Flashback: Hague's Gay Special Adviser

This is not the first time that William Hague’s choice of Special Adviser has raised questions. Back in December 1995, when Hague was a Minister in the Welsh Office, eyebrows were raised about the appointment of another young Special Adviser with no experience of policy in relation to Wales. Although in the case of Barnaby Towns he at least had some policy development expertise having worked in a Westminster think-tank.

Even so, the appointment of a young, openly gay, relatively unknown figure led to pointed questions being asked by the opposition in the House:

Ministerial Adviser
Mr. Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what were the requirements for candidates for the recent appointment for a political adviser to the Secretary of State; what factors determined whether this post was advertised; and if he will list the previous experience, the current pay and length of contract of the successful candidate.

Mr. Hague: With the approval of the Prime Minister and after interviewing a number of candidates I appointed Mr. Barnaby Towns personally as my special adviser. His salary has been negotiated individually and in relation to previous earnings and is confidential. It is on a salary spine of 34 points ranging from £19,503 to £67,609; appointments are non-pensionable and the salary reflects this.

The appointments of special advisers terminate in the circumstances set out in the model appointment letter for special advisers. A copy is in the Library of the House.

Barnaby Towns had certain similarities to Christopher Myers, though in many ways Towns was better qualified for a SpAd’s job than 25 year old Myers. Myers has a second class History degree from Durham University, the Foreign Office press release announcing his appointment describes him as “a lawyer”. If you imagine this might somehow qualify him to assist with treaty negotiations or in matters of international law sadly this is not so. He is not a qualified solicitor nor does he have any experience having only just completed a law course.

Considering that the prestige of the Foreign Office attracts the cream of Britain’s graduates his appointment does seem a strange choice given that Hague could have chosen a foreign policy specialist from CCHQ or the staff of a think-tank. To instead hire an inexperienced, poorly qualified young man over and above more qualified candidates does raise the question: what special talent, unseen by the rest of us, does Mr Myers possess?

The existence of the government car pool rather makes Mr Myer’s experience as Hague’s driver during the election campaign redundant…

Quote of the Day

Mike Deaver said…

“News is entertainment.”

Saturday Seven Up

7upGuido thought the MPs were coming back this coming week, but turns out it’s not until the 6th. Traffic was up though this week with a certain rumour being queried. 65,455 readers who viewed 301,356 pages over the last seven days. Here are those seven most popular stories (in order of popularity) that you might have missed:

You’re either in front of Guido, or you are behind…

Labour MP: Members Too Thick To Vote

Who was it that said Labour MPs were patronising and nannying? Lisa Nandy, the uninspiring member for Wigan, is complaining that the system for electing the new leader is too confusing for the members to understand:

“I am picking up a disconcerting level of confusion amongst party members about when they vote or how the system works. The preference system that the Labour Party uses has its advantages, but it also makes it hard for people to understand the eventual result.”

Guido has oft thought there must be certain intellectual cut off point for members of the Labour Party, but he didn’t realise it was quite that low. So Ms. Nandy will be voting against AV then?

Breaking: Tory Minister Comes Out

An announcement at 4pm on Friday afternoon often means only one thing – a Sunday newspaper is on to you. Tory Justice Minister Crispin Blunt has just released a statement confirming he is leaving his wife because he is gay:

“Crispin Blunt wishes to make it known that he has separated from his wife Victoria. He decided to come to terms with his homosexuality and explained the position to his family. The consequence is this separation.   There is no third party involvement, but this is difficult for his immediate and wider family and he hopes for understanding and support for them.”

The MP for Reigate has crossed Andy Coulson in recent weeks with his off message speeches about prisons, but as of now it is unknown why the sudden decision to out himself. Could this be the first of a few such announcements from the Government benches this weekend?

Developing…

Quote of the Day

Comedian Frankie Boyle said:

“Charles Kennedy has denied rumours he was going to defect and join Labour. I say cut the man some slack, we all talk shit when we’re pissed. Labour have said he’s welcome to cross the floor at any time. I’d suggest specifying he do it before lunch else he’ll scuff his knees up something rotten.”

Friday Caption Contest (Hush Hush Hague Edition)

Have You Seen This Man?

Back in June when David Cameron’s helicopter was diverted in Afghanistan, officials described it as a routine precaution. News this morning has emerged though that the PM was in a lot more danger than originally thought. Military chiefs are urging a comprehensive review of the Prime Minister’s security. It is believed they are seeking this man in connection to the attempt to shoot down the chopper:

Yeah, ok, it’s the last Friday of silly season…

Balls Admits Defeat

So it seems Balls’s campaign to be leader is officially over. Plan B, to get the Shadow Chancellorship, kicked in this morning at Bloomberg. As refreshing as it was to finally hear a leadership candidate talk about the economy, Balls’s pitch for the number two job was way off the mark. With David Miliband hinting that Labour must start to accept some home truths and not fight everything the coalition has done, and the fact that he is sticking to Labour’s “halve the deficit in four years plan” why would he appoint Balls, who is still stuck in denial, as his money man? If he does make the job, his half-baked theories are going to be ripped to shreds in and outside the Party…

The speech itself was hard-hitting, there is no denying that Balls is the man to lay punches, however inaccurate, on the Coalition. Much hay was made of the fact that he correctly predicted Osborne would raise VAT, a fact he only knew because Labour would have had to do the same had they won. As Pete Hoskin points out blatant lies were also told:

Balls says that “George Osborne … is planning to go £40 billion further and faster this year than even Alistair Darling’s plans,” I’m sure he must mean “over this Parliament,” not “this year”. Because that’s the truth.

One bit of confusion that always tickles Guido is how Balls claims that the last recession was the biggest economic crisis of the last hundred years, yet constantly warns that the Coalition plans will take us back to the 1930s depression. A mere seventy to eighty years ago – which was the worst crisis Ed?

For those wondering, a co-conspirator was able to put a crowd sourced question from readers at last night’s Q&A with Balls. Asking whether his friendship with Damian McBride revealed a lack of judgement that rendered him unsuitable for high office, and when was the last time he had any form of communication with his old pal, Balls dodged the first bit but admitted he still talks on the phone to Damian. He was quick to add in an unofficial capacity and he wasn’t taking advice from him. Probably a wise move…

Question to Balls

Guido is off to watch the death throes of Ed Balls’s leadership campaign over at Clifford Chance where he is doing a Q&A at 18:30 with Steve Richards. Tomorrow morning he is also giving  a speech at Bloomberg at 08:30. Both will have questions from the floor so you never know Guido, or an audience ally, might just get the chance to make Blinky squirm at one of the events.

What would you ask?

Questions in the comments please…

Damian's Giant Step

All that talk of Gordon earlier tempted Guido to check in on another old friend. Apparently old Damian McBride has been promoted from picking up litter and is now allowed to teach “Citizenship” at Finchley Catholic High School for Boys. With a straight face.

Balls may have turned him down for media advice on his leadership bid but it seems Damian just can’t let go of his old allies. A brief flick through Giant Steps, the school’s newsletter authored by the man himself, shows an article about Chris Bryant.

Hardly a “Giant Step” forward for someone who was once handling classified information, drafting speeches delivered to Kings and Presidents and rewriting G20 communiques. Now he gets to write headlines such “Finchley’s Chefs Turn Up The Heat”. Ah penance…

Pointless Access

This morning’s Telegraph splash about “cash for access” is a little over-hyped. These conference 30-second-hand-shake gigs are nothing new and something both major parties have been guilty of for years. Party funding is a mess and throwing rocks in either direction is a waste of time without a comprehensive overhaul of the whole system.[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Alan Sugar on Jeremy Corbyn:

“It’s clear you alluded to students refunds to get votes from young impressionable people. You are a cheat and should resign.”

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