Jon Ashworth: the Self-Loathing SpAd

Labour MP Jon Ashworth is all right on over at the Staggers today:

“When David Miliband announced his resignation as MP for South Shields, there was some suspicion that another so-called ‘London special advisor’ would be parachuted into this supposed rock solid northern Labour bastion. Ed Miliband’s One Nation Labour has genuinely made an effort to widen the pool of figures joining the PLP…”

Yes, shame on all these “London special advisers” parachuted into northern seats. Well said that man. That man being a former “London special adviser” (No.10 Deputy Political Secretary) “parachuted into the supposed rock solid northern Labour bastion” of Leicester for the 2011 by-election. Spun like a true Brown SpAd.

Bad SpAd Memory

Labour peer George Foulkes’ FOI revelation that Clegg has 15 SpAds beggars belief when you look at his media management this week. The eagle-eyed among Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidates never miss a chance to bash the Deputy PM, however. Step forward Redcar hopeful Anna Turley:

Anna seems to have forgotten that she herself was a SpAd not once, but twice. Not just any SpAd either, but a super important one. She specialised in “social exclusion” while working for Hilary Armstrong, and child poverty and equality under David Blunkett. Guido wonders how many community groups her wage could have gone to support…

Toby Helm's Twitter Spat With Gove SpAds

Huge handbags on Twitter this week between the Observer’s Toby Helm and the CCHQ @ToryEducation Twitter account. The Tory tweeter told Helm “You’re like Baldwin and Campbell – an activist, not a professional hack”, provoking paroxysms of rage from the Labour Party press office’s favourite broadsheet channel. Particularly after they called Helm a Labour stooge. This will apparently spill over into the paper this weekend when The Observer is going to allege that it is part of a scandalous McBride/Draper style dirty tricks operation. Guido understands that Helm reckons it could bring down Michael Gove…

Judge the robust exchange for yourself:

https://twitter.com/toryeducation/status/295633641202126849

https://twitter.com/toryeducation/status/295647362519539712

It is unclear to Guido whether or not the account is run officially or unofficially from CCHQ or by Gove’s SpAds, or what the exact rules about this would be. As is so often the way with Twitter, exchanges are strongly worded. SpAds are supposed to operate within civil service limitations.  A strongly worded written letter of admonishment to a SpAd from the permanent secretary may result. Not exactly enough to bring down the Secretary of State…

UPDATE: Looks like Toby has been down the bookies:

Patrick Rock – Dave's Quiet Bat Person

Another direct hit for Downing Street snapper Steve Back of Political Pictures. You will remember his handiwork involving Oliver Letwin, government papers and a park bin. His photos have let the Telegraph put a nice spanner into the Coalition Review, with Cameron’s fixer Patrick Rock getting snapped flashing embarrassing documents showing just how stage managed the whole relaunch is. The news getting out that “problematic areas” will lead to “unfavourable copy” for “broken pledges” is an unusual public cock up for the most powerful Cameron adviser most people have never heard of…

Rock and Dave go back to the Home Office under the progressive days of Michael Howard. The story goes that on the day John Smith died they went drinking in the Two Chairmen, where they “both agreed that Blair coming meant that we [Conservatives] would be f**ked.” Guido understands that Rock was behind the vetoing of  former Policy Exchange Director Neil O’Brien joining the No.10 team, resulting in O’Brien going to No.11 to work for Osborne instead. Rock has been working under the public radar in Downing Street since spring 2011 and after this nightmare, he will likely keep an even lower profile… 

SpAd Put Through the Mill-er

Accusations from the Tories that the Telegraph coordinated their Maria Miller expenses story to coincide with the gay marriage announcement yesterday went down very badly over at Buckingham Palace Road. Still smarting, they have thrown the ‘rules’ out of the window and published rather embarrassing communications between Miller’s people and the paper in the run up to the story coming out:

“The Telegraph has decided to disclose details of the private conversations amid widespread concern about the potential dangers of politicians being given a role in overseeing the regulation of the press. When a reporter approached Mrs Miller’s office last Thursday, her special adviser, Joanna Hindley, pointed out that the Editor of The Telegraph was involved in meetings with the Prime Minister and the Culture Secretary over implementing the recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson.

“Maria has obviously been having quite a lot of editors’ meetings around Leveson at the moment. So I am just going to kind of flag up that connection for you to think about,” said Miss Hindley. Miss Hindley also said the reporter should discuss the issue with “people a little higher up your organisation”.”

Not the best way to try to fight a negative story and particularly chilling in light of the fact Ofcom answers to the Culture Secretary – the exact chain of command that would control Leveson’s state backed press regulator. Eyebrows were raised about levels of experience after the Adam Smith mess at Culture when Miller hired Hindley back in September. She had been at Prince Charles’ Foundation as head of comms after a relatively junior role in the CCHQ press office. A pretty awkward situation…

Tory Minister Complained About Thea


The BBC’s Nick Robinson said he was taken by complete surprise when he learnt that his producer had been poached by the Chancellor George Osborne to beef up his dismal telly image. She was, Guido noted at the time, seen drinking with the Treasury team into the early hours at Tory party conference. Many Tories were rather surprised given that Thea Rogers worked for Labour in 2005.

Things might be a bit tense if Thea has to deal with Transport Minister Mike Penning, he once put in an official complaint about Rogers and former Labour cabinet minister James Purnell. The row even made it into Tory press releases

See also: Craig Oliver’s Late Night Lobby Briefing

More Than Windmills Spinning at DECC

Troubled times at the department for windmills and other omni-shambles. Guido hears that the hunt is on for a new Special Advisor for the DECC – a suspected nark for No.10 to keep an eye on Greg Barker and John Hayes. Despite his high-Toryism, Hayes is felt to be “wandering off reservation”. Ed Llewellyn is said to be particularly unhappy with the larger than life Minister after telling the Prime Minister that he “wouldn’t hear a peep” from Hayes just hours before last week’s wind-farm mess. Meanwhile one source says that “Barker’s lost in all this green deal crud”.

The LibDem SpAds – Chris Nicolson and Kate Waring – are said to not like the idea of a spy one little bit, and Guido understands they have kicked up a mighty fuss. What was that pre-election promise about cutting the number of advisers? 

New SpAd Appointments

Final Special Adviser appointments have been confirmed:

  • Health – Sam Talbot Rice.
  • BIS (for Fallon) – James Wild.
  • Justice – Will Gallagher
  • Home extra SpAd –  Stephen Parkinson.
  • Culture – Joanna Hindley
The full list is available here.

SpAd Movements – Glover Out of No.10

There was a big fanfare when Downing Street poached the Guardian’s Julian Glover to be chief speech-writer in October 2011. Comparisons with Sam Seaborne from the West Wing were flying around – though that may have been a bit premature – Glover has quietly left No.10 and is now the policy Special Adviser at the Department of Transport. After less than a year in the job, the man hired for his way with words to defend the coalition did not even get a conference speech under his belt.

Sources say he was keen to branch out to a more policy heavy role, but Guido is sceptical…

New Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin  has also hired Benjamin Mascall to do his media. Until recently Ben was fire-fighting on the education brief as a CCHQ press officer. McLoughlin old Whips Office adviser Chris White has gone over to Lansley as Leader of the House. Other appointments are still being cleared by No.10. 

Hunt Privatises His Circle

When Jeremy Hunt was appointed as Health Secretary it was seen as “up yours” to his countless enemies on the left and in media. After his car-crash encounter with Murdoch, many saw him as a wounded beast, and Leveson could well slaughter him. What with going on holiday in his first few weeks in the new job, it now appears as if the “up yours” attitude is here to stay.

The Guardian are sobbing over the fact that Hunt is set to appoint the gorgeous Christina Lineen as his Special Adviser. Who? Well that is the problem, Lineen is the Communications Director of Circle Health – the group that set to benefit from the NHS reforms and are currently running their first hospital. The fact that Lineen used to be a Lansley SpAd, before moving to the group two years ago, is being somewhat overlooked in the fuss. It’s a ballsy move though, and upsetting all the right people…

UPDATE: Guido can’t help but laugh at the fact that in all their anger the Guardian have forgotten to check what Ms. Lineen’s name is. It’s Christina not Christine.

Mitchell SpAd Transfer Mystery

As Tory MPs nickname their new Chief Whip “Fifty Shades”, backbenchers have been speculating whether Andrew Mitchell would be taking his Special Adviser Philipa Buckley over from the Department for International Development. Mitchell and Buckley are said to have developed a strong professional relationship, greatly aided no doubt by the extensive international travel required in his previous brief. Since the reshuffle Buckley has apparently been introducing herself as Special Adviser to the Chief Whip, but caveating that she doesn’t think she will be staying long. Why might that be then?

SpAd-flation Breaks Coalition Agreement

The Coalition Agreement is frequently referred to as the government’s “sacred text”, if that is the case it is guilty of sacrilegious behaviour with Special Advisers. The document promised “We will put a limit on the number on Special Advisers”, the last government had 80 SpAds, yet according to figures released yesterday this government now has 81 up from 69 in the last 2 years since the election. The wage bill has risen some 30% as well…

SpAd-U-Like

The new Special Adviser’s list, with updated pay, has been released this afternoon:

That public sector pay and recruitment freeze hasn’t quite been enforced all over Whitehall…

UPDATE: 

Musical SpAds: Hunt Loses Another Aide

Survival hopes post-reshuffle for Jeremy Hunt look even bleaker this morning with the news that he has lost yet another Special Adviser.

Lisa Hunter has been poached by Iain Duncan Smith to replace Susie Squire, who was promoted to head of press at CCHQ.

Clearly IDS is seen as a safer job prospect…

UPDATE: Another Hunt SpAd gets in touch to say Hunter was covering maternity leave.

Exclusive: No. 10 SpAd Sean Worth QuittingMoving to Policy Exchange Think Tank

Special Adviser to the Prime Minister Sean Worth is departing government to head up an investigation into better public services at Policy Exchange. It seems to be mid-term transfer season with lots of  SpAds looking to move on and out. Worth was on secondment to fire-fight at health and Guido hears, like another recently departed member of Team Dave, he wants to be able to speak out more than he currently can about how to radically reform the public sector.

This is the second prominent hire for Policy Exchange from government – with No.10 policy wonk James O’Shaughnessy also joining their teamTraditionally seen as a bit of a SpAd school, Policy Exchange seems to becoming a rehab centre for them on the way out of government too…

Pic via Political Pictures

UPDATE:

Balls Blamed for Byrne Putsch “The Punishment Beatings Are Back”

This snippet from Rachel Sylvester’s column, stuck behind the Times pay-wall, deserves a wider audience:

“At Westminster, Mr Balls can be overbearing. An attempt to oust Liam Byrne, the Blairite Work and Pensions Secretary, from the Shadow Cabinet, which was resisted by Mr Miliband, is blamed by some on the Shadow Chancellor’s bovver boys. “There’s a gang within the gang,” says an insider. “The punishment beatings are back.” One MP compares Mr Balls and his wife, Yvette Cooper, to the Borgias who just can’t help plotting.”

Belardinelli the bovver boy has a certain ring to it…

Clegg Adviser Helped Murdoch and Michel Seek “Easy Win”

The LibDems are continuing to claim that they are untainted by BSkyB bid revelations this week. While it is true that Cable’s SpAd Giles Wilkes set the example of how Adam Smith should have been dealing with News Corp spinmeister Fred Michel, the email chains are still damning for the party. When Wilkes rejected a meeting it seems that Michel went to other LibDem spinners and found success with Jonny Oates, the former Bell Pottinger director turned Clegg SpAd, who as Guido reported yesterday was happy to help and brief. But he didn’t stop there…

Paul Marshall, the founder hedge fund Marshall Wace, is a LibDem donor. Crucially he’s also an adviser to Nick Clegg.

Here not only does Marshall acknowledge a meeting with James Murdoch to discuss the bid, he also gives further advice, in writing, for Fred Michel to pass on to his boss:

He recommends BSkyB beef up their PR team and goes so far as to recommend his friend and Brunswick chief Alan Parker. All of this is so that BSkyB can get the “easy win” that Marshall clearly supports adding: “I wish you luck. You have built a great business and it must be very frustrating to be penalised for your success.” It doesn’t sound like all the LibDems were at war with Murdoch…

+ + + Hunt SpAd Adam Smith Quits + + +

Hunt’s SpAd has been resigned for apparently speaking to News Corp without Hunt’s permission, but it does not stop there. Section 4 of  the Special Advisers code states:

“The responsibility for the management and conduct of special advisers, including discipline, rests with the Minister who made the appointment.”

That is also confirmed in section 3.3 of the Ministerial Code:

“All special advisers must uphold their responsibility to the Government as a whole, not just their appointing Minister. The  responsibility for the management and conduct of special advisers, including discipline, rests with the Minister who made the appointment. Individual Ministers will be accountable to the Prime Minister, Parliament and the public for their actions and decisions in respect of their special advisers. It is, of course, also open to the Prime Minister to terminate employment by withdrawing his consent to an individual appointment.”

With Hunt up at 12.30, Guido is wondering how he’s going to try claim his SpAd was acting rogue when last night he said the contact was authorised?

UPDATE: Adam Smith says:

“While it was part of my role to keep News Corporation informed throughout the BskyB bid process, the content and extent of my contact was done without authorisation from the Secretary of State. I do not recognise all of what Fred Michel said, but nonetheless I appreciate that my activities at times went too far and have, taken together, created the perception that News Corporation had too close a relationship with the department, contrary to the clear requirements set out by Jeremy Hunt and the permanent secretary that this needed to be a fair and scrupulous process. Whilst I firmly believe that the process was in fact conducted scrupulously fairly, as a result of my activities it is only right for me to step down as special adviser to Jeremy Hunt.”

They have now admitted that there was wrong doing. The rules are very clear…

Adam Smith picture from Steve Back.

Balls’ Belardinelli Goes on Leak Rampage

Well in his head at least…

See also: EMAIL LEAK: Balls’ Spinner Admits “Screw Up” But Briefs Opposite

LEAK: Balls’ Spinner Admits “Screw Up” But Briefs Opposite

Labour have spent all morning spinning the line that last night’s vote on the 45p tax rate was not a vote on it and that their abstention was not a massive howler.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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