What if Watson Was On To Something?

Today is the day that Tom Watson predicted Andy Coulson would resign. He was clearly woefully inaccurate, out by 96 hours, but then he also said it would be over by Christmas. In the same long rambling piece from a couple of weeks ago, Watson suggested that the same excellent source told him the Cameron was planning to go to the country in May. Needless to say most people dismissed the idea immediately, and they are highly likely to be right, however since Watson’s Coulson tip nearly came true, Guido has been thinking. The CCHQ research department has been restocked after being raided for SpAds, the press office has been boosted by the unexpected return of Henry Macrory and the digital team is beefing up. Are they on a war footing?

The LibDems would be obliterated by an early election and Miliband has not had enough time to settle into the role, so you can see the logic. The only problem being that Dave doesn’t want to obliterate the LibDems.

UPDATE: Eagle-eyed commenters notice that Political Betting suggested yesterday that Tom Watson’s source should be revisted. Guido hadn’t seen the piece, it was the jobs in CCHQ that got him thinking, but they do point out another factor – the Tories are certainly the only ones who could afford an election.

Quote of the Day

Tory high command briefs against Sayeeda Warsi…

“…you can’t put her on the radio. She’s just a disaster waiting to happen.”

"Progressive Nonsense" on Hilton's Policy Announcements Grid

Guido has been worrying for some time that the government is in thrall to left-wing progressive nonsense and drifting towards the soggy centre. Thankfully a document has turned up in the inbox that suggests otherwise – the Steve Hilton / Rohan Silva policy announcements grid. Whilst in opposition Steve, Rohan and the rest of the zen-men had their heads in the clouds with blue-sky thinking so much that they forgot to take one of their rather revealing policy strategy agendas out of the photocopier:

Standard Cameroon opposition fluff is all covered, along with key points to be addressed. “Progressive Conservatism” was top of the agenda with “Red-Tory” Philip Blond flavour of the month with the chattering classes, and clearly open to having his strings pulled:

CCHQ were so keen on pushing the Guardian-friendly “Progressive Conservatism” agenda that they even made a video:

Blond came up with the goods in PR terms over and over again with some ever so helpful mood-setting articles.

However there was one firm policy point on the grid to be pushed that really struck Guido:

Clearly this wasn’t a sincerely held all-encompassing broad policy, it was cynically designed to land blows on the Labour government in the pre-election air war, it was an effective ploy to spin how much the Tories were a changed ‘progressive’ party. Guido is reassured that even the likes of Steve Hilton thought it a load of nonsense…

+ + + Sky : Second Arrest Over Fire Extinguisher + + +

Sky is reporting that an 18 year-old man has been arrested after turning himself in this evening in connection with a fire extinguisher thrown from a roof during violent student demonstrations.

Do You Know the Tosser?

[vodpod id=Video.4917062&w=480&h=270&fv=]

Thanks to the generosity of Guido’s co-conspirators we can offer a second £1,000 reward for information leading the to the arrest and prosecution of the second extinguisher wielding yob now identified clearly by Sky News. You do not have to give your name.

Email Guido.Fawkes@Order-order.com

The Birrell Bandwagon Rolls On

He is wounded, but without a smoking gun Coulson isn’t going to be forced anywhere. However let us just say a few months into the new year a job offer he can’t refuse might arise and off he goes. Whenever Coulson leaves, and in whatever way; be it disgraced, or off back to News Corp., British Petroleum or a spin merchants at board level there will be one hell of a power vacuum in Number 10. There is no way that the control-freakish Steve Hilton isn’t going to want to fill the post with one of his own. One of the Zen Men so to speak…

Since months before the election the name of Ian Birrell has been floating around CCHQ and wider Tory-circles.  Since they sing from the same hymn sheet it seems likely that Hilton wants the Big Society enthusiast and former deputy-editor of the Indy inside Downing Street. Other than being a mate of Dave and Steve’s what is it about Birrell that is so desirable? Even ConservativeHome today calls for Birrell and three other people to be added to the No.10 machine, despite the Tories promising to cut the number of political advisers. Is something afoot? Birrell’s big-society, blue-sky, Cameroon credentials are not entirely to ConservativeHome’s taste…

UPDATE : Well connected source texts speculating that he could replace Ed Llewellyn, Dave’s chief-of-staff. Hmmm…

NUS Leadership Wanted DEMO-LITION

Guido was outside CCHQ on Millbank late yesterday afternoon to see the action for himself, the fires were burning, a couple of thousand demonstrators were there, the outnumbered police were struggling to regain control.

The crowd was mainly made up of middle-class students with a couple of hundred of youths clearly up for trouble, masked and tooled up. Many of the protagonists were wearing official NUS hi-vis tunics and had loud-hailers, they were not calling on students to disperse or refrain from violence, they were in the thick of it. Officially the NUS is condemning the violence to the media, but that line was not taken on the ground. NUS activists were revelling in the moment. Look at the video evidence and you can see many of the rioters are in official NUS garb.

We’ll hear the speeches from the NUS leaders and others deploring the violence, but the reality was that most of the NUS student members found this all thoroughly exciting. The air was rich with the smell of weed and adrenaline, the 2,000 or so protestors outside 30 Millbank cheered the most aggressive protestors and booed the police resisting them.

The NUS marketed this march as a “Demo-lition” and thousands of their members took them at their word by attempting to demolish the Tory HQ. Worse than the demolition of property was the threat to life – yobs who smashed their way on to the roof tossed from the top of the office block a fire extinguisher – which narrowly missed the police targeted below.

If that had hit a policeman or protester below their life would have been extinguished.

The NUS leadership deliberately chose to march students past CCHQ to rally nearby outside the Tate. Why?

Demonstrations of this size usually rally at Trafalgar Square or in Jubilee Gardens on the Southbank. Before yesterday the NUS leader Aaron Porter was telling students they needed to be not just on “the streets of London” but “inside the rooms where the deals will be made”. The protesters took him at his word and managed to get inside the governing party’s headquarters, the buck stops with Porter and he should accept ultimate responsibility for inciting this riot. His members could have killed a copper or one of their own yesterday…

UPDATE: Both Dizzy and Tory Bear think Aaron Porter is in trouble. LBC dip an oar in too.

Party Chairman Still Inside CCHQ

From: Sendorek, Alan

Date: 10 November 2010 16:33

Subject: Contact with journalists

It is vitally important, both for the quick dispersal of the crowd outside, and for the safety of people inside this building, that people do not contact journalists to give an account of what is going on. e.g. news reports that the Chairman is on site are extremely unhelpful. Any such leaks from CCHQ will be treated very seriously.

CCHQ To Civil Service

On Friday Guido noticed that Dave’s brand guru Anna-Maren Ashford had been quietly slipped onto the Civil Service payroll, but would have nothing to do with the PM’s image. No Siree.

Well it seems this trick has been spread amongst former CCHQers who couldn’t quite be found jobs in Downing Street or departmental political roles. In the States when a new regime comes in, they bring the civil service too, but that’s not officially how things are done over here. It seems the Cameroons been watching too much of the West Wing…

Strangely a lot of new civil servants do not appear on the grand organigram of government departments, late additions perhaps, but funny how Sam Freedman who was Michael Gove’s man until May is now a senior civil servant at the Department of Education; Jo Penn, formerly Teresa May’s advisor, moved from CCHQ to the Home Office in May, into a politically neutral role. Back in May Rishi Saha went from doing CCHQ’s new media stuff to doing Downing Street’s new media stuff. The official numbers of SpAd’s may have fallen, but the Civil Service count has risen…

Exclusive: Dave's Stylist Goes from CCHQ to the Civil Service

Before this May’s general election CCHQ’s Anna-Maren Ashford was the “Head of Brand Communications” and is credited with styling “Brand Dave”. The former advertising executive was brought in by Steve Hilton from Young & Rubicam to kick out the old Tory torch logo and bring in the huggable tree. The glossy 30 year-old made the right look right.

She successfully helped detoxify the Tories and turn them into the beautiful people…

Post-election she still answers to Hilton and is close to hand in the Cabinet Office should the smooth Brand Dave need further polishing – just nowadays it is at the taxpayers’ expense as a civil servant in Whitehall. Officially she works with the Behavioural Insights Strategy Team known universally across Whitehall as the “Nudge Unit”.

Dave controversially put his personal photographer, Andy Parsons, on the Civil Service payroll, the news that his image stylist has also become a civil servant will infuriate many who will question his priorities…

Manifesto Called for Housing Benefit Reform

CCHQ’s opposition research operation really should have spotted this and used it to rebut Labour’s demented attack on the Housing Benefit “final solution” (© Polly). LibDem blogger Peter Black highlights this manifesto commitment

‘Housing Benefit will be reformed so we do not subsidise people to live in private sector accommodation on rents working families couldn’t afford’

Eminently reasonable in policy terms, £20,000 a year in rent is of course way beyond what the majority of us can afford. The quote is taken from the Labour Party manifesto, written by one Ed Miliband…

James Purnell when he was at the DWP said he wanted to ensure “people on benefits do not end up getting subsidies for rents that those who work could never afford”. Last week Ed piously called on LibDems to block the implementation of a policy he advocated in the Labour Party manifesto, claiming, “That is not what they came into politics for. I hope they will vote with their consciences.”

The barefaced hypocrisy is breathtaking.

UPDATE : Tim Montgomerie scolds Guido for missing that the Tory Press Office tweeted the Miliband quote on Friday and Sayeeda used it later on Any Questions. Nevertheless Guido contends that if CCHQ had been on the ball it would have been deployed at PMQs which is where it was really needed.

Hague's Withdrawal Sends CCHQ Press Office Spinning

Guido learnt that William Hague had pulled out of an “in conversation” this lunch time with the Telegraph’s Peter Oborne. Quick off the mark the CCHQ spinners were suggesting that Guido had got his facts wrong and that the “in conversation” was with Gove, who has stepped in as a replacement. Complete and utter spin.

Before embarking on such sub-par spinning perhaps they should have checked page 84 of the official conference handbook, which has a rather prominent half-page advertisement:

3/10 for effort. See Coulson later…

'Red Ed' Has CCHQ Licking Lips

If as many expect Mili-D wins the MPs’ vote, splits the members vote with his brother, but Mili-E still wins overall because the union vote goes overwhelmingly to him, Guido gets the impression that the few remaining Tory strategists sitting in CCHQ won’t believe their luck. Kevin Maguire can see the danger, Mili-E will he says be “portrayed as the union’s man, lacking a mandate from the Parliamentary Labour Party”.  He will be “Red Ed” – the union baron’s preferred puppet…

Is the Labour Party actually going to reject Mili-D, the only candidate who is attempting to reach out to the centre and hasn’t given into the left, for his younger brother? “They’re skipping Hague and going straight to IDS, in tune with what the party members want, out of tune with what the voters want” says one CCHQ source. Polls show that Labour Party members themselves know Mili-D is more likely to beat Cameron, they still don’t care, emotionally they want a leader who tells them what they want to hear. Soon we will find out if Labour’s heart has ruled over its head…

CCHQ Spread the Love

Well here’s a unique solution to the growing rift between the Tory-right and the Cleggaroons. While it may be love at the top of the party, clearly this is not the case among the rank and file. Guido was just taking time to sort out his conference passes, (jury still out on whether to go to Labour’s,) when he was asked for his advice on how to make the Tory conference better:

Other than stop holding it in Birmingham and install more bars this year, he couldn’t really care, but the helpful suggestion of speed dating could not go without comment. Tory speed dating… Imagine the horror.

It was oft said that the old Young Conservatives was a marriage bureau, but have things really got so bad that the Party is considering officially organised bonding sessions? Membership is declining and unity might become an issue at the conference, but surely this is not the answer…

Should 'Cleggeron' Speak at Tory and LibDem Conferences?

Next month it will be decided, according to the Guardian, as to if Dave will speak at Nick’s party conference and vice-versa:

The issue is due to be discussed at a joint political cabinet at the end of July, when the two parties will also decide how to co-ordinate policy announcements at their respective conferences and how to sell the success of the joint government’s first few months.

Risky. Very, very risky. It could end in tears since the grassroots of both parties have fought viscerally for generations. A lot of booing won’t look good on telly…

Currently punters on specialist bookies Political Smarkets lean towards it happening, giving a 60% chance of Clegg addressing Tory conference and a 70% probability that Cameron will try to charm the sandalistas. Guido reckons they are asking for trouble…

iYes Minister

Guido understands that an announcement tomorrow will say that CCHQ digital media guru and former parliamentary candidate, Rishi Saha has been made a civil servant running a to-be-merged Downing Street and Cabinet Office online team as Deputy Director of Communications. Rishi, a close ally of Steve Hilton, was the coordinator of the Tory’s successful digital campaign and will continue his work online without his blue hat on. Rishi first came into the limelight with the “Pimp My Party” website.

Given that pre-election the Tories announced they would be cutting down on the number of political advisers and strategists they would have, shuffling them into the Civil Service seems a cheeky loophole, though Guido understands there isn’t a new job being created, he is replacing a civil servant who has come to the end of her contract. Interesting to note that Mark Flanagan, a Brown-era hire, brought in from the private sector by Stephen Carter, hasn’t been dumped but instead booted upstairs to a “strategic role”…

UPDATE: Saha’s closeness to the Cameron project should not be underestimated, which will make the jump to neutrality interesting. He was there from day one.

Quite literally.


Lib Dems Feeling Shorted

The very real effects of no longer receiving Short money are beginning to hit the LibDems. Twenty staffers whose salaries were all covered by it have been fired from their press and research teams, as well as from Nick Clegg’s office. There was some speculation that the Tories were keeping their staff for an extra few months just in-case the coalition went wrong though Guido understands that redundancies have started taking place in CCHQ.  Clearly the Liberal Democrats and the Tories are not expecting an election anytime soon.

Given the Short money is essentially a kitty divided up based on number of seats, because there is only one large party now to take the cash, Labour will be getting almost as much as Tories and the LibDems combined got in the last Parliament. No wonder so many former Labour SpAds are still loitering around while in opposition.

We're All In It Together

Guido has been chewing over the numbers. Given that a lowly CCHQ researcher or press officer would have been lucky to be on around £35,000, the jump to government for the lower rungs of the SpAd list has come with an extremely handsome pay-rise. Nearly 100% rise for those now touching £60-70k.

Though Coulson & Co. at the top have in some cases taken a pay cut, the coalition has brought some serious pay rises for others. Take the MPs in the Cabinet for example, they have had a 107% rise from their standard MPs salary. Backbenchers who are now Junior Ministers have had a 50% rise, even after Dave decreed that they would all have a 5% pay cut. All sharing the pain.

Cameron pre-power promised a cut down on SpAds. The New Dawn of Politics has managed to reduce the number from 78 to 68. There are still vacancies yet to be filled though. In this age of austerity some SpAds will be glancing over the list shocked that their rivals in other departments managed to negotiate more. Meanwhile the voting taxpayers will be looking at the whole get up with utter scorn.

What's On the DVD?

CCHQ staff were given a gift of a DVD at last night’s drinks reception in the Downing Street rose garden. The “Team for Change” box included a personalised letter from Dave and Guido hears the disk is behind the scenes banter and the stuff that didn’t quite make the WebCameron final edits. If one of those said staffers would care to share then please do get in touch

Thank You and Goodbye

As the sun shines, the scene of Dave’s first public date with his new love Nick will be the place to be this evening.  The PM is turning on the charm tonight in the Downing Street rose garden and throwing a soirée for the assorted CCHQ wonks, spinners and organisers that got him there.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Michael Crick on Safe Seats:

“In effect, new MPs are being elected day by day now, as, amid huge secrecy, small cabals of party bigwigs pick candidates for safe seats.”

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