Back in November Guido wrote that he was “still waiting for the first fearless broadsheet political editor to detail to his readers, in a lengthy article” the tensions between Steve Hilton and Andy Coulson which run deep and throughout Whitehall. Roughly speaking with some exceptions, policy SpAds are mainly loyal to Hilton and press SpAds are loyal to Coulson.
Guido has been highlighting the spats between the two, which by and large go unreported, despite being well known to Lobby journalists with connections to the Tories. The reason you don’t get to read about them is that Hilton and Coulson are key sources for the lazier type of hack who fears that if they write about them, they won’t be privy to the briefings and titbits they hand out. It turns out that the first political editor to risk being frozen out is the Mail on Sunday’s Simon Walters. In a story about Andy Coulson offering to resign over the continuing phone-hacking saga he details some of the “SHAC Attacks“. The Mail story reports that Hilton and his Zen Men have been briefing against Coulson, who still enjoys the support and protection of Cameron and Osborne. Truth will out…
The Mail’s Black Dog reports:
The Prime Minister’s spin doctor Andy Coulson has banned No. 10 staff from
referring to Dave’s laughable ‘Happiness Index’. Essex boy Coulson thinks the initiative, dreamed up by Cameron’s ‘branding’ guru Steve Hilton, is ‘airy fairy b*******’. He insists it keeps its dreary official ‘general wellbeing’ tag – in the hope that it is forgotten as quickly as most of Tory hippy Hilton’s other gimmicks.
Guido is still waiting for the first fearless broadsheet political editor to detail to his readers, in a lengthy article, the SHAC Attacks. Currently they are just meekly gossiping about them in Westminster bars…
Guido hears it hasn’t been the happiest of weeks in Downing Street with the mother of all Hilton/Coulson rows taking place early this week after rehab-refugee Hilton* briefed the Sunday papers about big changes to how cigarettes are to be packaged and sold. Steve’s wacky brown paper-packaging ideas went way beyond what Lansley had planned and Coulson apparently wasn’t consulted on the headline front.
With tensions often boiling over are these “SHAC Attacks” going to be the new TB/GBs?
UPDATE : The non-reporting of SHAC Attacks by the gentlemen reporters of the Lobby is the latest example of them behaving exactly as Peter Oborne describes in his book the Triumph of the Political Class. The Lobby is quite simply the tame “client media” of the political class. They’re reluctant to write about the Hilton / Coulson clashes for fear of being frozen out from having stories spoon-fed to them. Just as they were reluctant to write about another Downing Street adviser until the day after he resigned.
*Hilton is a smoker.
When the Big Society (B.S.) came up on Question Time last night it was greeted by the audience and the panel with an above average level of scepticism. However there was one surprising defender of the the B.S. dream. Step forward former BBC man in Baghdad, Rageh Omaar…
“One thing that David Cameron can’t be accused of in pursuit of this idea of a Big Society is inconsistency, you know, he said it before when he came to the leadership of the Conservative Party, right the way through the election... The idea of a Big Society although it hasn’t quite found it’s mojo yet in finding out what it actually mean, I think it does tap into an enormously important area in which politicians need to define a public role and the role that citizens can play in it.”
He went on to advocate British responses to international crisis as a good example and sung the praises of Help for Heroes before concluding that citizens need a sense of empowerment. The B.S. defined far more articulately than many a Tory MP….
However it wasn’t all good news for Dave from the “scud-stud”. He fired a rocket at Andy Coulson in no uncertain terms. Giving reference to Downing Street insiders and calling for the guilty spinner’s head on a plate he said:
“I think it’s a time bomb for David Cameron if nothing else, him and Andy Coulson have got to have a very very honest heart to heart chat about exactly what did go on because I know for a fact that the Channel Four dispatches program is going to be the first of many other investigations, it’s crossed the Atlantic, there’s been a huge amount of new evidence turned up in the New York Times of all places… I suspect David Cameron and his team around him are wondering how much people give a damn about this out in the country, that this is just a Westminster hot-house kind of story but I think it will come back to affect the reputation of the government and of David Cameron unless something is done about it soon.”
Interesting to note then that Rageh and Steve Hilton were sitting outside Bank restaurant in Birmingham having lunch on Tuesday afternoon during Tory Conference. What were they talking about in preparation for his appearance? Along with his dinner with tipped-Coulson-replacement Ian Birrell, a cynical man might suggest that Hilton was on manoeuvres against his governmental nemesis…