Sir Cover-Up, Sir Craig and the Curious Case of His Memoirs

The rules for a former Special Adviser wanting to write a book on their time in government are very clear: Sir Jeremy Heywood must give his personal approval. As the Code of Conduct for SpAds states: “The permission of the Cabinet Secretary must be sought before publishing, or entering into a contractual commitment to publish such memoirs”. Sir Craig Oliver’s memoirs, then, must have secured Heywood’s approval before the book deal was signed. Yet a year-long Freedom of Information campaign raises questions as to whether the rules were followed…

Sir Craig’s book is full of privileged information. It discusses the contents of a phone call between David Cameron and Barack Obama (pages 62-63). It discusses the contents of various Cabinet meetings (pages 95-96, pages 376-379). It discusses the contents of a meeting between Obama and the Cabinet (pages 196-197). Now, it has consistently been government policy, championed by Heywood, not to release details of conversations between the PM and US Presidents, or to release details of Cabinet discussions. A co-conspirator tested this by sending a very specific FoI request seeking the exact same information published in Sir Craig’s book. The Cabinet Office refused to disclose it on grounds of “prejudicing relations between the UK and any other State” and protecting Cabinet privacy.

So the Cabinet Office is on record that releasing this specific information could prejudice relations with the US. Why, then, was Sir Craig allowed to publish it?

Guido’s co-conspirator has spent the last year trying to find out. On 3 November 2016, in response to another FoI request, the Cabinet Office said Sir Craig “followed the process for publishing personal memoirs as set out in the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers”. In other words, nothing to see here.

Yet eight months later, in response to an internal review of the FoI response, on 27 July 2017 the Cabinet Office was forced to admit it “does not hold any recorded information to show there was a discussion prior to Mr Oliver signing a contract with a publisher”.

Hang on a minute. If there is no record in the Cabinet Office of any discussion prior to Sir Craig signing his book deal, how can he have possibly “followed the process” which requires “the permission of the Cabinet Secretary” before “entering into a contractual commitment”Uh oh…

The Cabinet Office say Sir Craig did submit his manuscript before publication, meaning Heywood could have prevented the release of restricted information but chose not to do so. This all raises several questions. First, Sir Craig could be in big trouble if the rules on securing permission before signing a book deal were not followed, as the Cabinet Office appeared to admit. Indeed the government has seized the profits of books which breached the rules before – an outcome which definitely wouldn’t be hilarious. Secondly, if Heywood did sign the book off prior to publication, why did he sanction the release of privileged information that the Cabinet Office says “prejudices relations” between the UK and US? It is hard to see how Sir Craig and Sir Cover-Up can both have kept to the rules. This could unleash some demons…

mdi-timer 16 October 2017 @ 11:39 16 Oct 2017 @ 11:39 mdi-comment Comments
Policy Exchange Pinch SpAd to Head Relaunch

Guido hears Gavin Williamson’s SpAd Rupert Oldham-Reid is departing to become Policy Exchange’s new director of research and strategy. PX is relaunching its domestic policy work after spending the last couple of years focusing on extremism, counter-terrorism and foreign policy. Oldham-Reid has been with the Chief Whip for the past year, before which he was a wonk at the Charity Commission and Centre for Social Justice. There is obviously a policy vacuum on the centre-right at the moment, it has often been said that Theresa May doesn’t have a think tank and the ideas currently exciting voters are coming from the left. Polling today revealing widespread public support for mass nationalisation shows the work that needs to be done. PX is talking up its relationship with Theresa May, whether she is bold enough to embrace new vote-winning policies is another question…

mdi-timer 29 September 2017 @ 15:32 29 Sep 2017 @ 15:32 mdi-comment Comments
SpAd Movements: Gove Hires Vote Leaver

Guido hears Michael Gove has signed up Vote Leave alumnus James Starkie as his new media SpAd. Starkie was a soldier of the referendum, he ran regional press for the Leave campaign before joining Portland to work on their Brexit unit. He replaces Lee Cain who has gone to Number 10. Starkie is a true believer, good to see a new SpAd appointed who actually voted Leave…

Send any updates here

mdi-timer 27 September 2017 @ 12:01 27 Sep 2017 @ 12:01 mdi-comment Comments
Hammond Hires Sky’s Giles Winn

Guido understands Philip Hammond has hired Sky News’ Giles Winn as his new media SpAd in the Treasury. He will be working alongside his former Sky colleague Poppy Trowbridge. Winn was the editor of Murnaghan and then in charge of interviews at Sky – it’s another example of the government mopping up experienced broadcast veterans from the Sunday shows. He also knows pretty much every Tory MP and Lobby hack since he’s booked most of them for interviews, which can only help. Winn had been set to join PR outfit Pagefield so it’s a bit of a coup for the Treasury to steal him away. This morning’s reports of a Brexit victory for the Chancellor may have been exaggerated, no arguments that this is a Winn for Hammond…

mdi-timer 15 August 2017 @ 15:33 15 Aug 2017 @ 15:33 mdi-comment Comments
Stewart Jackson Tapped For Davis Job

Guido hears ousted MP Stewart Jackson is in talks to become David Davis’ chief of staff in the Brexit department. Davis is yet to replace his departed spinner James Chapman, an arch-Remainer who has nonetheless left former colleagues perplexed at his relentless determination to damage the government. Several Tory aides have been approached for the job at DExEU. The Brexit Secretary is believed to want a fully on board chief of staff to fulfil a wider ranging role, rather than a reluctant media SpAd misfit. Guido understands talks have been held with Jackson, DD’s PPS before he lost his seat at the election, potentially taking the job. Stewart is as sound as they come, a true believer. His appointment would calm the nerves of Brexiters and focus minds among civil servants at DExEU. Something which needs to happen as soon as possible…

mdi-timer 7 July 2017 @ 00:12 7 Jul 2017 @ 00:12 mdi-comment Comments
Number 10 Chaos: May Has 8 Fewer SpAds Than Pre-Election

There is chaos in Downing Street: no hierarchy, little communication, humiliation at the hands of the DUP and an embarrassing exodus of top-ranking staff. Number 10 policy chief John Godfrey, one of May’s more senior aides, is the latest to quit.

The full list of Number 10 advisers who have left or are on their way out: Fiona Hill, Nick Timothy, John Godfrey, Katie Perrior, Lizzie Loudon, Chris Brannigan, Will Tanner, Alex Burghart, Neil O’Brien and Chris Hopkins. By Guido’s count May has just 22 SpAds in Downing Street, eight fewer than before the election…

Get in touch with any updates to our SpAd list…

mdi-timer 21 June 2017 @ 13:21 21 Jun 2017 @ 13:21 mdi-comment Comments
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