+ + + 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. The Mail on Sunday reported the row yesterday without naming James McGrory as the leaker…

Cameron hit the roof and his staff got in Scotland Yard to trace the leak. McGrory’s study looks out over the Rose Garden and his phone made three calls to the Mirror just before they put a call in to Downing Street for a comment. On the day that Clegg announces that he is going to spend half a million on seven new LibDem SpAds across Whitehall, he should probably start thinking about an eighth…

Musical SpAds

With a Cabinet reshuffle comes the flurry of promotions, and then come the SpAd wars. Media advisor Hayden Allen is the only one of Fox’s SpAds to survive the resignation and will be staying at MoD. Fox’s three SpAds has been cut to two…

Policy wonk Sian Jones has gone with Hammond, and there was talk of Paul Stephenson, Hammond’s media SpAd going across too, but he has gone back to his old opposition boss – Andrew Lansley. Justine Greening at Transport is hiring…

Exclusive: Ed Blocking Twigg's PAd Choice

Guido’s eyes and ears in Norman Shaw South report that there is a bit of a ding-dong going on between newly appointment Education shadow Stephen Twigg and the leadership. Twigg, who has reversed Labour’s policy against free-schools, is trying to have fellow Blairite and Lambeth councillor Alex Bigham installed as his, short-money funded, “Senior” Political Advisor. Guido called Alex who confirmed he has not yet been appointed and he couldn’t get off the phone quick enough. Sources point to some comments made during the leadership campaign about Ed, as well as some unease about having another Blairite “right-winger” in the team. Guido would recommended Ed develops a thicker skin…

UPDATE: Bigham denies the rift and expects to be appointed soon. Sensible…

Reshuffle Feather Ruffle

So far we know that Ann McKechin, John Healey, John Denham and Shaun Woodward are out. Ivan Lewis thoroughly deserves his new job sitting in Easyjet departure lounges begging for meetings with international players having been demoted to Shadow DFID brief. Angela Eagle replaces Benn as Shadow Leader of the House. Burnham has been given his old health brief back. Chuka looks favourite to replace Denham in Business and Rachel Reeves to replace Eagle. Thirsty Stephen Twigg has also been promoted to Shadow Education and Michael Dugher is going somewhere.  There is talk of up to six 2010 intakers getting a job.

However it’s not just the uninspiring MPs that are playing musical chairs this morning, the Special Advisers are also sweating it out, waiting to see if they will weaned off of the short-money teet. John Healey’s spinner Ian Parker isn’t very happy, he took to Twitter in the wee hours to lash out at his colleagues:

Solidarity!

Fox Asks For Best Man Probe

What is it with big beasts of the Tory right and controversal trips with their advisers? The issue of Adam Werritty has been circling Liam Fox for months, after it emerged the unvetted and unemployed best-man of the Defence Secretary was swanning around Westminster with House of Commons business cards that said he was Fox’s “personal adviser”. Fox previously denied he was involved in any MOD activity, yet now it emerges his former flatmate came on an official MOD trip to Sri Lanka.

In that classic trick, Fox has triggered an inquiry himself, finally seeing how fishy this all looks. You would have thought after Hague got the taxpayer to pick up the bill for his trip to Afghanistan with Christopher Myers that the Tories would be a little more careful about this sort of thing. Where Hague spent an extra weekend in Bahrain with his adviser, Fox is only thought to have attended “private events” in Sri Lanka with Werritty. All werry odd…

FT v Gove Sparks Twitter Flame War

In the Westminster Village the battle between the FT’s education correspondent and Gove has been providing much amusement. As is the way nowadays the battle has gone all handbags-at-dawn and spilled over onto Twitter:

http://twitter.com/#!/toryeducation/status/116532280637407233

Chris Cook, himself a former CCHQ political adviser on education to David Willets and now the FT’s education correspondent, alleges that the SpAds around Gove are using their private email accounts to conduct government business off the record and away from prying FoIs. They say they are required to do this by the Code of Conduct for SpAds which requires them to

not use official resources for party political activity

Cook argues that private emails should be subject to FoIs and has got a barrister to support his position (with substantial caveats rendering it unlikely). This unsurprisingly hasn’t been jumped on by Labour because it is unrealistic and Guido would be FoIing, from 2 years back, EdBalls@Labour.org.uk in the blinky of an eye.

Cook has complained to CCHQ, the Cabinet Office, the DfE and Downing Street that the counter-attack is disproportionate and he has been defamed. The FT is apparently going to complain in writing on his behalf that the big boys have been horrid to him. Cook further claims that Gove’s SpAds should be fired for making ad hominem attacks on him in contravention of their Code of Conduct which explicitly prohibits

the preparation or dissemination of inappropriate material or personal attacks… Any special adviser ever found to be disseminating inappropriate material will automatically be dismissed by their appointing Minister.

As far as Guido can tell there is no evidence that Gove’s SpAds have made any personal attacks on him. The Twitter account is run by CCHQ not the DfE…

Tories Come After Labour Leaker

Last week Guido outed Labour’s mole in the Department of Education who was leaking to his old boss Ed Balls. Well the Tories are coming after Matt Gillespie, who now spins for John Denham the Shadow Business Secretary. Backbencher Chris Skidmore is flying a kite a little writing to Sir David Bell, the DofE Permanent Secretary, but it’s awkward none the less:

He’s also going after Denham’s office:

You never know what might fall out of the tree. A protege of Ed Balls and his Muttley like SpAd Alex Belardinelli, who knows what else Gillespie was up to…

Google's Latest Cameroon Loyalist

It came as surprise when PR Week broke the news on Friday that Tim Chatwin was leaving his Downing Street strategic comms role:

“…Tim is an absolute bolt out of the blue. He’s an uber-loyalist – I always thought he’d be last man standing.”

What is less surprising is where he is heading – Google. 

Back in July the Sunday Times’s FoIs revealed that senior Downing Street officials have had over twenty meetings with Google since the election. Accusations of preferential treatment were thrown around when Hilton, whose wife is a Google VP, did not declare all of his meetings with the group. This is especially murky given that Google are lobbying hard for changes to UK copyright law. Now they have poached a key cog in Cameroon machine. It’s all rather too cosy for Guido’s liking. A long spell in the cooler is surely a necessity before the Chatwin hits sunny California…

UPDATE: Policy wonk James O’Shaughnessy is also said to be off. Though that one has done the rounds many times…

Labour Still Picking Up The Bill

When Labour launched their defence procurement review back in December last year, they announced their “Review Team” which included:

“Bill Thomas, former Senior Vice President and General Manager (EMEA) for Hewlett-Packard Company.”

Like with Michael Dugher yesterday, it’s the not the immediate past job that raises eyebrows…

Hewlett Packard bought our old friends EDS in 2008 and Bill Thomas was Senior Vice President EMEA when Micahel Dugher joined the company as their top UK lobbyist in 2006. Now Dugher is leading the same review into defence procurement, which is set to take into consideration:

  • How can we achieve Value for Money for all programmes?
  • How can we prevent scope creep and programme delay?
  • How can we ensure future delivery of equipment programmes are to time and on budget? 

Given Bill Thomas has been brought in for his expertise in the field, let’s have a little look at his track record in regard to delays and budgets. In 2006 RAF servicemen didn’t get paid for six weeks after EDS botched the implementation of new software. The £456 million Child Support Agency system, built by EDS, had “five hundred faults in the three years after it went live”. The Agency ended up manually inputting 36,900 cases as a result of an EDS IT failure. In 2003, Bill himself took full responsibility for a Revenues and Customs IT disaster that shafted the Inland Revenue. It is widely considered to be the worst government IT cock-up ever. EDS had to pay-out £70 million in compensation for the mess, but negotiated further government work before paying up. Guido could go on, but you get the picture…

When profiled by the Telegraph in 2007, Thomas said “if things go well it’s not interesting” and he certainly made that his motto. Guido can see very little reason Bill Thomas has anything to do with trying to coordinate successful procurement. Other than being Michael Dugher’s mate, obviously…

See Also: Ed’s PPS and MoD Lobbying Links and Dugher’s Defence.

Ed's PPS and MoD Lobbying Links Dugher Denies Defence Meetings Dodgy

Barnsley MP Michael Dugher was chosen to be Ed’s PPS for a reason. It quickly became clear Chuka Umunna was way out of his depth in the role, so who better to replace him than a man who knows the party inside out and has worked in Downing Street, the MoD and various other government departments? However it’s not just Ed who has spotted Dugher’s talents in the past…

Though he ended up as Gordon’s Moussa Ibrahim at the end of the last government, between his days as Geoff Hoon’s Special Adviser at the MoD (2002-’05) and becoming Gordon’s last spinner in October 2008, Dugher took time out in the private sector, becoming Head of UK Public Affairs for global data giants EDS. He left the MoD just before the 2005 election and went to EDS in 2006, via a role in the Leaders of the House’s office overseeing Privy Council matters.

When Dugher took the role of EDS’s top UK lobbyist, the company said he bought a ‘wealth of experience from his under-standing of the parliamentary process’. However that’s not all he had to offer. A rather interesting FoI shows that EDS’s public affairs team, headed up by Dugher, lobbied MoD officials and Ministers some thirty-three times between 2006 and 2007. Crucially Dugher was meeting with Lord Drayson, who was in charge of procurement of equipment and support.

The relationship built up between the MoD and EDS paid off handsomely for the latter. In government Labour paid EDS a total of £4.2 billion for IT during their years in government. Including £2.3 billion for the troubled Defence Information Infrastructure contract which was signed when Dugher was still Hoon’s SpAd. The MoD paid EDS a further £570 million during the period Dugher worked for them. All very cosy. 

Surely there are rules against this sort of thing, Guido hears you ask. Well yes there are:

‘Under the terms of their contract, special advisers are required to submit an application to the head of their former Department for any new appointment or employment they wish to take up during the two year period after their last day of paid service.” 

Guido spoke to Dugher last night who claimed that the move was cleared by the Cabinet Office. However this clearance was only in relation to his last role working for the Leader of the House/Privy Council. Dugher says that the both the Cabinet Office and EDS were well aware of the move and possible conflicts of interest. However, the MoD tell Guido:

“We do not hold any data to confirm that Mr Michael Dugher has submitted an application to the MoD under “The Business Appointment Rules for Civil Servants” for permission to seek an appointment with EDS as a lobbyist. The requirement for Michael Dugher to notify the department of his intention to commence employment with EDS under Business Appointment Rules only applies for two years after his last day in service and therefore this requirement ceased from 2007’

Though he cleared it with the Cabinet Office, Dugher was back lobbying the MoD within two years of leaving as a SpAd, which doesn’t look so good. This is often the way with the giant revolving door of government and Guido only raises this all for one particular reason. Dugher is currently in charge of Labour’s own long-overdue defence procurement review. We all know how badly Labour’s spending on MoD contracts went. Dugher certainly has some inside knowledge of what went wrong…

Hilton's Half-Decent Idea

Steve Hilton is coming under all sorts of fire for some mad blue-sky ideas he may or may not have thrown around in Downing Street. The FT are running with the fact that he suggested cutting maternity leave, job centres and pondered why the PM had to obey the law. Though the article is somewhat weakened by the concession that “the shaven-headed policy guru’s friends admit that three-quarters of his ideas fail to get off the drawing board – to the relief of colleagues.”

There is all sorts of speculation flying around about who leaked it, the knives seem to be out for  Hilton again, and this article looks suspiciously like the revenge of Sir Humphrey. The theory that this was Steve himself flying a kite can’t be discounted though. Amongst the bait, upon which the opposition have dutifully bit, there was a gem though:

“When Mr Hilton was looking at ways to cut the deficit, he suggested replacing hundreds of government press officers with a single person in each department who would convey all necessary information via a blog.”

Guido thinks this is a fantastic idea. Imagine all those efficiency savings. If three-quarters of Hilton’s ideas go in the bin, this one, along with his Eurosceptic conversion should be the last to go…

Rohan's Raise Riles Rivals

While yesterday’s twelve hour naval gaze dominated Westminster, Downing Street thought it would be a good idea to sneak out the Special Advisers pay list. Due to the government pay freeze announced when the Coalition was formed, not much has changed from last year. Except for one lucky boy…

Eyebrows have been raised across Whitehall that Rohan Silva, über-Hiltonite and No. 10’s blue-sky thinker, got a nine grand bump, when all the other SpAds were politely informed by letter that there would be no pay-rise this year.

“It can’t be performance related” said a colleague…

Talking Balls

Dastardly Balls and his Muttley-like SpAd Alex Bernardelli have been cock-a-hoop all day proclaiming that the experts at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development were backing his calls for a slower pace to the cuts:

Blinky Balls“This is a very significant intervention.

[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

John Curtice on fiscal policy:

“Attitudes to taxation and spending are basically counter-cyclical. If a government comes in and tries to reduce spending and taxation, after a while people will get worried about the state of public services. If a government increases taxation and public spending, after a while they’ll get concerned about increasing taxation…. In as much as there are lots of ideologues out there who think the state should be this proportion of GDP, they’re all wrong. Because the public’s view is counter-cyclical to the recent experience. It’s basically impossible to satisfy the public.”

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