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. Well now Guido has seen a chain of emails between nervous political advisers looking to Balls’ bruiser Alex Belardinelli for direction on how to clean up his mess. Bear in mind that Belardinelli and Balls have spent the morning denying that this was a cock up or anything other than part of their grand master plan:

From: “BELARDINELLI, Alex”
Date: 27 March 2012 09:42:32 GMT+01:00
Subject: Re: Fwd: Nats in 50p

Truth is there was a screw up somewhere along the way last night and it wasn’t clear what SNP had called a vote on or how, so we abstained on their vote.

Line is: we voted against whole Budget package which obviously includes 50p (first vote at 10pm), and we will seek to amend and vote on the Finance Bill on 50p, plus other issues of concern like the changes to allowances for pensioners (granny tax). There’s not much more we can say beyond that.

Other advisers “hope it will be ignored” after “trying to find out what went wrong”. They even share Guido’s coverage of events. The whole email chain can be found here.

Who would have thought that someone trained  in the dark arts by firstly Tom Watson and then Balls would say one thing in public and something very different in private…

SpAd Who’s Who

Guido is enjoying BBC reporter Giles Dilnot’s favourite new game, which is basically pointing a camera behind the cameras. Ever wondered what some blog favourites looked like?

[vodpod id=Video.16245219&w=425&h=350&fv=quality%3Dhigh%26allowFullScreen%3Dtrue%26playlist%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fplaylists.bbc.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fuk-politics-17433458A%2Fplaylist.sxml%26config%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.co.uk%2Fplayer%2Femp%2F2_0_29%2Fconfig%2Fdefault.xml%26config_settings_autoPlay%3Dtrue%26uxHighlightColour%3D0xff0000%26enable3G%3Dtrue%26config_settings_showPopoutButton%3Dfalse%26config_plugin_fmtjLiveStats_pageType%3Deav1%26config_plugin_fmtjLiveStats_edition%3DDomestic%26domId%3Demp-17433458-35663%26fmtjDocURI%3D%2Fnews%2Fuk-politics-17433458%26config_settings_showUpdatedInFooter%3Dtrue%26embedReferer%3D%26config_settings_showShareButton%3Dtrue%26embedPageUrl%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fuk-politics-17433458%26holdingImage%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fnews.bbcimg.co.uk%2Fmedia%2Fimages%2F59169000%2Fjpg%2F_59169481_jex_1354425_de27-1.jpg%26config_plugin_fmtjLiveStats_pageType%3Deav6%26config_settings_autoPlay%3Dfalse%26config_settings_showFooter%3Dtrue%26config_settings_showPopoutButton%3Dfalse%26config_settings_showPopoutCta%3Dfalse%26config_settings_addReferrerToPlaylistRequest%3Dtrue%26]

Has anyone else noticed Balls SpAd Alex Belardinelli is actually morphing into his boss?

Vince’s SpAd Jumps to Davey

Vince’s SpAd Katie Waring has abandoned her post at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to go work for Ed Davey at Energy. According to Tom Newton Dunn, she claims that she is moving to “broaden” her skills, but it’s certainly on the face of it a self-imposed demotion in terms of government rankings and significance. Unless of course she sees the writing on the wall, and the fact that Davey has much more going for him than the one time Sage. Waring is the former smarter and more attractive other-half of Clegg spinner James McGrory. Guido wonders what the pillow talk was about Vince’s future…

Deckchair Movements

This morning’s Today appearance was the first outing for Ed, apart from “Blackbusters”, since Dec 29. Despite the SNP pushing Labour into fourth place yesterday in terms of party profile, the new plan to keep Ed below the surface, only to be deployed at key strategic moments, is being stuck to. Labour sources compare it to the role that Osborne played in opposition. As Ed surfaces today, it’s worth looking at some of the tweaks being made below the waterline.

Former ITV chief Charles Allen, who recommended hiring Tim Livesey for the job of Ed’s Chief of Staff, is still trying to streamline the Labour operation in readiness for the arrival of six new Executive Directors. The jobs are currently being advertised, but word is they are filling up fast. Current press spinner Bob Roberts is likely to be going to Labour HQ, most probably in the Comms Director role. All agree that this is a promotion, though Guido wonders why you would want your main spinner based in a different office from your leader? Greg Beales is said to be mulling over whether to take the Policy and Rebuttal role that Guido mentioned yesterday, though apparently he is wary of leaving his master’s side. Though Labour HQ will be moving closer to parliament, a big shift away from the Leader of the Opposition’s suite is still happening.

While some people talk of a “refocus” for him, other speculate that Tom Baldwin is the loser of this reorganisation. One source even suggested Tom had lost a up to a third of his responsibilities, leaving him only with weekly key messages and strategic lines to take.

Lower down the ranks, the extraordinarily high turnover of demoralised political advisers leaving for jobs outside politics is rather telling…

UPDATE: Well we know what Tom’s first line was this morning:

Questions Mount Up for Andy “Bung” Burnham

Oh this just keeps getting better and better. Labour sources get in touch to point out that Kevin Lee has recently, and very quietly, been appointed Andy Burnham’s Political Adviser. That’s right, a man with business interests in health is crafting lines for Labour like “NHS not for sale”. Almost vintage Labour irony… 

As one insider dryly observed: “Burnham gives well paid job without interview to mate who he owes £20,000”. Does that smell odd to anyone else? So Andy…

  • Where was the job advertised?
  • How many people were interviewed for it?
  • Why was the job given to Mr Lee?
  • What assurances were sought regarding Mr Lee’s private interests in the NHS?
  • Why has Mr Lee not declared that he owes you £21,000 in the Register of Members’ Staff Interests?
  • When are you going to pay your adviser back the £21,000 you owe him?

Answers on a inappropriate business card…

Clegg SpAd James McGrory Accused of Leaking Cam Kids Story

A good rule of thumb when feeding negative stories to the press about a Prime Minister, whose administration you work in, is not to do it from the office phone. A mighty row has blown up in Downing Street after a leak hunt has found the Deputy Prime Minister’s spokesman up to his neck in it after giving the Mirror a story about the Cameron and Osborne children playing in the Rose Garden.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

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