If Boris was hoping for a quieter day after yesterday’s drama, he was hopelessly misguided. Breakfastime brought two more resignations – Laura Trott as a Transport PPS and Will Quince the Children’s minister – taking the total of quitters up to 12. Awkwardly both happened while the new Chancellor was live on air. Nick Robinson enjoyed breaking the news…
Unfortunately for The Today Programme, neither resignee had the courtesy to go on the show and make the announcement live on air, given – thanks to Health Minister Maria Caulfield – we know the programme has been actively trying to stitch up on air resignations for maximum impact.
Late last night Caulfield received a message from a name some long-time co-conspirators might recognise: Tom Smithard. Smithard, a Today producer has been asking round ministers to see whether they’d be willing to announce their resignations live on the show.
Tweeting out the message screenshot Caulfield accused the BBC of playing “one big game”.
This is far from the first embarrassing communique from Smithard that Guido’s reported on. Back in 2015 Smithard was working for – unsurprisingly – LibDem HQ under the pompously titled job of “Parliamentary Campaigns & Intelligence Analyst”. During his time in the job he strangely emailed Lynton Crosby to ask whether – following his successful advice to the Tories about how to clobber the LibDems at the election – they’d be willing to “unlock some of the secrets of your targeting strategy, polling work, ground campaigning” – a request the LibDems admitted to Guido was somewhat naive. For now the Today programme will have to cope with watching resignation play out from the sidelines – not everyone can be TalkTV…
The LibDem’s Head of Strategic Research, Tom Smithard, has written to CTF, the firm run by Lynton Crosby, Mark Textor and Mark Fullbrook which was hired by the Conservatives at great expense to do their polling and give campaign advice. Guido has been passed Smithard’s strange request:
… As part of the Liberal Democrat general election review I’ve been asked look into how exactly the Conservatives managed to beat us in the marginals.
I appreciate there are some – maybe many – aspects to your work you wouldn’t necessarily want to detail to former opponents, however vanquished. However I was wondering if you or a member of your team would be willing to speak to me and unlock some of the secrets of your targeting strategy, polling work, ground campaigning etc. I’m sure we’d find whatever you had to say most instructive!
If you have any time to spare and are willing to talk me through some of your work I’d really appreciate it.
Guido asked the LibDems if they were perhaps being a bit naive? They admitted, on reflection, that they “expect the response will come in two words”.
An amused CTF insider suggests they should have asked Lord Ashcroft, who unlike CTF loves telling Labour and the Lib Dems what to do to win…
The LibDems lost thousands of pounds in deposits last week and are struggling to keep their headquarters going after losing the opposition “Short Money”. Mark Wallace began picking up on this yesterday, but it seems there is to be an absolute massacre of staff at Cowley Street. Partly out of blame for the dismal election results, and partly for financial reasons.
The whole campaigns department is facing redundancy, all thirty-two officers across the UK. They have been told that the Department is being cut back to only nine positions. Guido’s sandal-wearing source even confirmed that one of these Campaign Officers found out she was being sacked via Facebook as high command forgot to invite her to the redundancy meeting in London because she was on maternity leave. Very new media!
Elsewhere the Yes2AV backlash has begun, Andy May who was the grandly titled “National Manager of the Regional Staff ” has written a damning and must read report exposing the chaos of the campaign. A lot of blame is being shifted towards Tom Smithard, the loathed Field Operations coordinator. Guido has had dealings with Smithard before after he popped up doing dirty tricks for the LibDems in the general election campaign, and it’s not hard to see how he lost so many friends, so very quickly, during the campaign. Take his charming email style for example:
From: Tom Smithard
Sent: 27 April 2011 ██:██
Subject: Calling all attractive people
████ ████ requires your presence at Vauxhall Cross bus / tube station for a photo op at 9am sharp tomorrow morning. Should only take 20 minutes and then there’s a 344 bus direct to the office.
I get to decide who the attractive people are and you (just about) qualify. See you tomorrow?
PS can you let me know if you can make it.
Deputy Head, Field Ops
The words used to describe Tom to Guido are not publishable on a family blog, but lets just say they’re not “attractive”. While the rest of the Yes campaign work out what the hell they are going to do next, Smithard took great pleasure in rubbing salt into their wounds. He was not afraid to share his own good news, with his own special brand of charm:
From: Tom Smithard
Sent: 09 May 2011 ██:██
Subject: Re: Debrief and learning lessons of the Yes campaign
No matter the result I don’t think any one of you should regret your time at Yes. Many of you are early on in your careers; I just want to reassure you that the experience you gained in this short, sharp, single-issue and high-profile campaign will stand you in great stead for any future career you want to pursue in politics at whatever level.
I’m returning now to the Lib Dems, from where I was seconded, to become Political Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister. I mention this for two reasons: firstly, to prove that being associated with this campaign is not career-ending(!). Secondly and more importantly, because I know a lot of you will be searching for jobs in the political sphere in the near future.
Yes, that’s just the sort of feather-smoothing, polite, modest and humble help that Nick Clegg needs in Downing Street right now.
UPDATE: An outraged Sandalista emails demanding a correction: “She did not find out through facebook, a colleague informed her over the phone.” Much better.
This email has been forwarded to Guido’s inbox this morning. CCHQ have put their campaigners on alert to a potential Lib Dem line of attack:
From: Mackintosh, David
Sent: 05 February 2010 09:46
To: All Battleground Directors; All Campaign Directors; All Regional Directors; All Regional Press Officers
Subject: PPCs who are councillors
For your information – I have received a number of e-mails regarding Freedom of Information requests submitted to councils requesting information on our councillors’ expenses where the councillor is also our PPC. The requests come from Tom Smithard who is based at Lib Dem HQ in Cowley Street. He is using a Googlemail account to request these and is using his private address and mobile number (xx Bxxxxx Axxxxx, Cxxxxxxx, Surrey SMX XXX / 07xxx xxx xxx)
Please let me know if you know of any instances where this has happened. Thanks to everyone who has already alerted me.
Tom Smithard (pictured) is Cowley Street’s grandly titled Parliamentary Campaigns & Intelligence Analyst and it seems he has rattled the Tories. The holier than thou Liberals are attempting to drag candidates into the expenses scandal before they are even MPs. Doing it covertly through personal email addresses even though an FOI request is an FOI request wherever it comes from.
Cowley Street better hope CCHQ don’t retaliate with some FOI requests concerning their PPCs and intriguing leaflet printing financing.