When is a Smear Not a Smear?

There has been an ongoing rumbling about the Audit Commission’s Jenny Watson being smeared as an incompetent who milked the taxpayer by one of Eric Pickles’ SpAds in a briefing to Sam Coates of the Times, which he then obediently reprinted.

Figures have been plucked out of thin air to suggest that the Department of Local Government had spent “thousands” on legal advice because of the case, though Guido was confident enough to bet the editor of Political Scrapbook £50 that the figure was closer to zero. Labour are pushing the story around, though it’s hardly up there with Damian McBride. What it comes down to is that Jenny Watson did milk the taxpayer. The truth cannot be a smear…

UPDATE: Paul Richards, author of Be Your Own Spin Doctor tweets piously that taxpayer funded SpAds “are not employed to slag people off in anonymous briefings to hacks.” Totally different to the time when he as a taxpayer funded SpAd ghost wrote an article in the Guardian slagging Guido off as a “vicious nihilist”…

Balls' SpAd Outed Alan Johnson's "Personal Reasons"

Alan Johnson’s suspected affair with a civil servant was widely rumoured around Westminster, it was the reason that people believed that he had not run for leader. The story was never stood up by the papers.

This evening Guido sources are pointing the finger at Alex Belardinelli, Special Adviser to Ed Balls, as the person who has been making inquiries into Alan Johnson’s private life. Shadow Cabinet sources say they believe the Sunday Times has the story and Ed Miliband himself believes that Ed Balls’ people have had a hand in the story getting out. Balls chose his moment well, a series of gaffes by Alan Johnson had left him politically weakened.  Yet still Miliband rewarded him with the prize he craved…

UPDATE 22 Jan : Lots of people in the comments saying this story is proven duff by the Mail’s story about the wife and the copper. Don’t be so sure – they’re not mutually exclusive stories…

Rohan is on a Roll

One of the biggest nights in the propeller-headed wonks calendar is The Prospect magazine’sThink Tank of the Year Awards. David Sainsbury’s new plaything, the Institute of Government, took away the big prize leaving many on the right feeling a little put out as they thought they’d had a pretty good year when it came to influencing the policy agenda.

The judging panel was somewhat slanted to the left: Ben Rogers from IPPR and Demos; Kishwer Falkner the Liberal Democrat peer; David Goodhart Prospect’s editor; the FT’s James Crabtree and for balance from Downing Street, Rohan Silva.

Hardly the most balanced of panels, but made worse by the fact that Silva didn’t bother showing up to meetings at which the awards were actually judged. In the right-wing think-tank world, where one would expect Conservative Downing Street policy advisors would be tight in with, there are some who were ticked off with him for not holding up the side. Rohan just seems to make friends wherever he goes…

Brothers in Arms

Late yesterday evening by Piccadilly tube station a smug looking sharp suited man and a scruffy looking bald chap in shorts and a  red cycling jacket, made ready to head their separate ways.

Donning his red cap the slightly dishevelled looking chap unlocked his bike, before laughing and sharing a joke with his Underground bound companion. They then hugged like brothers in arms.

With the look on their smiling faces, Guido would love to know what it was Steve Hilton and  Rohan Silva were plotting over drinks last night…

Coalition Civil Service Con Continues

The culture of political special advisors was developed under Maggie, and boomed under Labour. Dave promised to cut the numbers of partisan aide-de-camps paid for by the taxpayer. The LibDems went even further and pledged in their manifesto to take SpAd’s off the public payroll and make parties pay for them out their own funds. However despite these “cast iron” promises the coalition have found a loophole – simply make former party staffers Civil Servants. Guido has been looking at this dishonest tactic for a couple of days now and the list of staffers who have been suddenly “neutralised” is absurd:

While Dave and Nick might promise smaller government and a new politics, they are using backdoor methods to get their yes-men into Whitehall and Downing Street.

Rohan's Silicon Silliness on the Roundabouts of Life

Later today the PM will deliver a speech in East London on the growth of high tech enterprises. Dave will laud the colony of groovy start-up internet companies in EC1 that runs from Clerkenwell to Shoreditch bordering on Whitechapel.

Ahead of this speech Rohan Silva, the Downing Street SpAd who used to work for Osborne in opposition, but now cleaves to Steve Hilton, had a meeting with BT bigwigs last month that ended with BT ‘bemused’ by his requests. Rohan asked BT to Wi-Fi up all of Shoreditch for free to make ‘Silicon Roundabout’ a great place to live and work – coincidentally Rohan lives in East London.

BT pointed out that they generally preferred to make their living by charging for their services. Likewise Rohan’s request for BT to move its research function to the Olympic Park as part of the Olympic legacy met with a polite refusal – BT are very happy with their R & D base in Ipswich. The whole meeting became embarrassing says an insider.

Civil servants at the Treasury and at the Department for Business who work for Vince Cable despair. Rohan was not fondly remembered as a junior official at the Treasury, Guido’s co-conspirator in Whitehall claims

“He and Steve Hilton are worse than Ed Balls and Gordon at their worst – announcement driven activity without even a basic grip on economics… Thank god Jeremy Heywood is still there and able to act as a voice of sanity.”

Ben Brogan, usually more than sympathetic to Downing Street sources, has suggested that Rohan is a Malcolm Tucker wannabee –

… coming closest to acting the part of the bullying, foul mouthed, crazed control freak in The Thick of It, played with such zest by Peter Capaldi… It’s early days, but already tales are coming in of moments of rudeness, self-aggrandisement, mindless cruelty, ministerial notices cancelled at short notice.

Rohan has certainly come a long way from when Guido first met a shy, awkward, besuited, slightly out of place character at a Soho (London) loft party for what was the then hot British internet start-up that went on to become the $800 million Bebo social network. Rohan seems to have forgotten a key piece of advice in life: Be nice to people you meet on your way up in life, because…

Bruiser Brown's Boy Stays

Yesterday’s man and old time bruiser Nick Brown may be facing the rest of his career on the backbenchers, but that doesn’t mean he won’t still have a finger in the pie. His Special Advisor Gary Follis, former spinner for Alliance and Leicester and Amicus, is ultra-loyal and was the fixer’s fixer right up until the election. Out of government, Brown had to share his SpAd, and he’s been on loan to the Shadow Leader of the House – Rosie Winterton. It seems Follis will keep his job under the new Chief Whip and Brown’s old way of doing things looks set to continue…

Miliband's Staffers

Polly Billington – Gatekeeper and PR. Former BBC presenter and SpAd at the Department for Enviroment and Climate Change. (1)

Sadiq Khan – Campaign Manager. Controversial expenses fiddling MP for Tooting.

Lucy Powell – Chief of Staff. Failed PPC. (2)

Katie Myler – Spokesman. Former SpAd to Jacqui Smith, and the daughter News of the Screws editor Colin Myler. (3)

Stewart Wood – Head of Comms. Former Brown Bunker Bod and very close to Ed. (4)

Kenny Young – Press Officer. “Calamity Kenny” just about says it all. (5)

Rachel Kinnock – Events. Keeping it in the family. (6)

Greg Beales – Speechwriter. Highly rated boyfriend of spokesgirl Katie Myler. (7)

Ayesha Hazarika – Speechwriter. Stand up comic and Harman SpAd. (8)

James Morris – Polling and Message. Ally of Democrat and Brown pollster Stan Greenberg.

Alex Smith – Messaging and New Media, though doing diary work too. Editor of LabourList. (9)

Anna Yearly – Bag carrier. (10)

Nirmalee Wanduragala – Researcher. Former SpAd to Rosie Winterton and Fabian. (11)

Calum O’Byrne Mulligan – Researcher. Friends accuse him of being “Stalinist”. (12)

Calamity Kenny's Latest Comedy Moment

An update on calamity Kenny hits the inbox from a Scottish co-conspirator:

You may like to know that Kenny today led Ed Milliband through the turnstiles at the Scottish Parliament. However, oor Kenny led Ed to the wrong turnstile that only allows people to enter rather than exit. Cue a good 30 seconds or so of Ed looking like a cock trying to get through an immovable door. A far cry from Kenny’s door holding days of glory with Mr Brown.

Malcolm Tucker he ain’t…

Calamity Kenny Spinning for Ed Miliband

In a quick update to the Labour Political Advisers list, Guido was most amused to hear that omnishambolic press officer Kenny Young has managed to keep his job. If you reward the slavish loyalty of greased-up party hacks who come up through the youth ranks with cosy press office jobs, you may find they don’t exactly have the talents required for such a high-pressure environment. Kenny is about as loyal as they come, a co-conspirator reports that he openly told people he styled his hair on Gordon Brown’s while chairman of Labour Students. So loyal he was assigned to be Gordon’s political press officer for the election campaign. Which went well.

First there was the infamous door opening for his hero Gordon, which the Tories quickly turned into an attack poster:

If that wasn’t bad enough in late April young Kenny was accompanying the Prime Minister on a trip to Rochdale. What could possible go wrong? Well any experienced press officer would have checked that their boss’s microphone was switched off after an event. Kenny was inside Mrs Duffy’s house as part of that hugely successful contingent of Brown staffers begging her to come outside after the apology.

Instead of firing this inept and useless spinner he’s got a new job. He’s now Ed Milband’s Head of Press… what could possibly go wrong?

UPDATE : Punters give Ed a 25% chance of becoming Labour leader versus a 62% chance for his brother David. No odds available on Kenny’s chances one day.

Not So Special Now

It’s not just former ministers and Labour MPs who are having to get used to life in the slow lane. Spare a moment for all those poor former Special Advisers. But don’t feel too bad, those that haven’t disappeared off to make their fortunes still have a job on the taxpayer. Labour now have almost all of the Short Money haul that used to be divided up between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats. They lose the “special” title though.

Like he did with the SpAds, Guido is putting together a list of all the Labour “Political Advisers” as they are now known. Not everyone here is necessarily on Short Money and many will be working on leadership bids or could be part-time for other reasons.  The two dozen or so PAds cost taxpayers the best part of £2 million. Plenty of old faces have stuck around though.

Most amusing is Harman’s office where her staff basically consists of two economic wonks (Duncan Weldon and Stuart Hudson,) and a comedian (Ayesha Hazarika). Pretty much sums up where Labour are right now.

The list (it is as they say “in beta”) can be found here. Corrections, amendments and additions to guido.fawkes@order-order.com.

Worth Its Weight In Gold

Given the Chief Secretary of the Treasury is himself somewhat lacking in financial expertise, you would think he would select his Special Advisor carefully for their financial prowess. Instead he has thrown yet another lifeline to a friend. Like he did with Willie Rennie in the Scotland Office, Danny Alexander has made another failed LibDem MP, Julia Goldsworthy, his SpAd. If the public wanted these people to stay in Westminster they would have voted for them.

Given her boss is in charge of reining in public spending it’s hardly reassuring to know a woman who spent over a grand of taxpayers’ money on a rocking chair is whispering advice in his ear.

Initially the position is unpaid since Goldsworthy had, with a lack of foresight, just taken a £30,000 MP’s resettlement grant which kind of disqualifies her from taking an immediate government salary. Though with her spending habits that can’t last long…

Willie Free

There were raised eye-brows when former LibDem MP Willie Rennie was appointed as the Special Advisor to the Scotland Office just days after being rejected at the ballot box by the voters of Dunfermline. To his credit he did not ask for a salary as a SpAd, the parliamentary resettlement payment was quite enough. A close ally of Danny Alexander, it seems now his old boss has moved up the ministerial ladder the first SpAd is set to quit. He will be replaced by Ming’s old ginger speech-writer Euan Roddin.

Willie claims he wants to return to Scotland as he is separated from his family while in London. Coincidentally candidates are being picked for next year’s Scottish Parliament elections right about now…

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.

Coulson and the SpAd Pay

There will be some disappointment on the left as the news emerges that despite all the hype, their hate figure Andy Coulson is in fact earning less than the Prime Minister. But on £140k only just – £2000 a year less.  More than Nick Clegg though.

As Director of Government Communications Coulson is the best paid of Dave’s team but overall the Special Advisers are costing the taxpayer £1.9 million per year less than the last government. Despite this Tom Watson was trying to start the attacks just now in the House, moaning that Parliament hadn’t been told first. This is despite the list being published as a written ministerial statement:

Note Steve Hilton’s rather large pay gap with his rival.

Musical SpAds

A few re-jigs of the SpAd list after the weekend’s little upsets. With Danny Alexander moving, perhaps temporarily, to the Treasury, MP-turned-Special Advisor Willie Rennie keeps his job now becoming Michael Moore’s bag carrier in the Scotland Office. Alexander’s other SpAd, Alison Suttie, Clegg’s former Deputy Chief of Staff, appears to be out on her ear though as her old boss will no longer have time to mess about with Clegg in the Cabinet Office.

It could all change back though, the bookies reckon there is a 40% chance Laws will be back by Christmas

Susie Squire Slips in to Spinning at the DWP for IDS

Guido is particularly pleased to add Susie Squire (pictured here briefing a senior political journalist) to the list of SpAds, bag carriers and wonks going over to government. She joins Philippa Stroud working at the DWP for Iain Duncan-Smith.  Formerly at the Taxpayers’ Alliance she will now be part of the team exorcising / reforming the welfare system.

Additions to the list include Richard Parr who follows Andrew Mitchell to DfID, Poppy Mitchell-Rose who goes with Osborne to the Treasury.  Honor Fishburn, daughter of Dudley Fishburn the former Tory MP for Kensington and Chelsea, goes to Downing Street to do Andy Coulson’s bidding and Cameron’s speech writing team of Ameet Gill and Claire Foges follow him from CCHQ to become the PM’s speech writing team.

There are still a few more names left to be confirmed…

The Final Special Advisers List*

Guido’s list of the assorted SpAds, bag carriers and spinners is pretty much complete. He has yet to sub-categorise it into naughty and nice though. Thank you to all those who helped out with the tip-offs. One newspaper editor told Guido they had printed it off for reference in his newsroom. Guido has kept their mobile numbers to himself…

*Almost complete, subject to revision, not legally binding, do not swallow whole.

More LibDems Added to the SpAd List


The list includes a few more LibDem names, forinstance Giles Wilkes is tipped to move from the Centre Forum think tank to Vince Cable’s office.

Guido has had a few complaints that people on the list are not strictly speaking Special Advisers. Guido is using the term loosely, basically the people on this list are political appointments of various kinds doing the bag carrying for Ministers, some are not your usual wonky, spinning, greasy pole-climbing SpAds – clearly Sir Peter Ricketts heading up the National Security Council for Hague is not a teenage bag carrier.  Nic Boles for example is an MP but glides in out of the Cabinet Office helping the Implentation Unit in some unspecified and presumably unpaid way.  One way or another they’re on Guido’s list…

More SpAd's

Further to the first list of special advisers earlier here are a few more:

Andrew Mitchell – Philippa Buckley. Guido never reveals sources, but someone got in touch who is very proud of his little girl!

Eric Pickles – Sheridan Westlake (who many thought would never leave CCHQ alive) and Giles Kenningham.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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