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.

Philip Hammond – Sian Jones

Theresa May – Nick Timothy and Fiona Cunningham

Oliver Letwin – Martha Varney

Liam Fox – Luke Coffey and Oliver Waghorn

William Hague – Denzil Davidson, Arminca Helic and Chloe Dalton. Seems Hague didn’t get the memo about only having two SpAds.

Caroline Spelman – Simon Cawte. Let’s hope this time his pay is all in order.

Sir George Young – Robert Riddell

Jeremy Hunt – Sue Beeby and Adam Smith

Perhaps if the government open sourced their information as promised they wouldn’t need so many advisers, weren’t we all invited to join the government?  Keep it coming.

Mad SpAd Jostling Climax

Despite promising to clamp down on the numbers, the list of new Special Advisers is steadily growing:

David Cameron
Chief of Staff: Ed Llewellyn, Deputy Chief of Staff: Kate Fall, Strategy Adviser: Steve Hilton. Policy Advisers: James O’Shaughnessy, Oliver Dowden, Tim Chatwin. Head of Strategic Comms: Mark Flanagan

No surprises here really except the retention of Mark Flanagan, a hangover from the old regime, who famously shot “that video” of Gordon smiling.

Nick Clegg
Special Advisers and media: Sean Kemp, Jonny Oates, Lena Pietsch and Chris Saunders

Oates was poached back by Clegg from Bell Pottinger. Very new politics. When blonde bombshell Lena Pietsch and Clegg don’t want the media to know what they are talking about they converse in German.

William Hague
Chief of Staff: Arminka Helic. National Security Adviser: Sir Peter Ricketts

Michael Gove
Special Adviser: Henry De Zoete

Gove’s SpAd was expected to be Dominic Cummings but the story goes that Coulson vetoed this. The reason it took Gove so long to be announced as Education Secretary was due to the fact he was in a locked battle. He told Couslon if he couldn’t have Cummings he wouldn’t take the job. Cummings told Gove not to be so daft, and left.

George Osborne
Special Advisers: Rupert Harrison, Eleanor Shawcross. Media: Ramesh Chhabra

As expected really. Eleanor Shawcross, a fellow St Paul’s alumnus and head-turner made the jump, but anyone know what happened to Rohan Silva?

Vince Cable
Special Adviser: Will de Peyer

The long-term Lib Dem treasury man was rewarded. Gone very quiet since election day.

Iain Duncan Smith
Special Adviser: Philippa Stroud

The voters of Sutton made it pretty clear that they didn’t want to send Stroud to Westminster. Without The Observer retracting their “gay-curing” story her appointment would not have been possible. A source in the DWP said “it’s common for newspapers to get a story wrong when their source is either wrong or lying, but it’s pretty worrying when a front-page story is based on a source that doesn’t exist.” Legal action is apparently ongoing.

Chris Huhne
Special Advisers: Duncan Brack & Joel Kenrick

A real left-wing grouping here. Despite his hippy tendencies Kenrick used to advise the CBI on climate change. Long term wonk Duncan Brack is most definately of the beards and sandal variety of Lib Dem.

Danny Alexander
Special Advisers: Willie Rennie and Alison Suttie

So nice of the Scotland Office to rescue the failed career of former Scottish MP Willie Rennie. He lost his seat at the beginning of the month but is back at the levers regardless.

David Laws
Special Adviser: Katie Waring

This is in no way a complete list but these things are very slow to be confirmed. Know more? What do you know about this lot? Drop Guido a line.

Jack Straw's Sweatshop

This just in* from a bit of Hansard that Carter-Ruck have not tried to injunct:

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many hours were worked by each special adviser in his Department in each week between 8 June 2009 to 3 July 2009.

Mr. Straw: As working for me as a Special Adviser is, I am told, pure pleasure and stress free, my Special Advisers work exceptionally long hours, often at weekends and late into the evening without complaint, and have not therefore felt the need which they otherwise might to complete timesheets to show that I was sweating their labour.

*Paddy from Grayling was the tipster co-conspirator.

Not Nihilistic, Realistic

Yesterday afternoon Guido put in a call to Paul Richards, Hazel Blear’s SpAd, after being tipped off that she was going to attack Guido in a speech later today to the Hansard Society. Guido also called the Hansard Society to arrange to attend the speech. He was told it was a closed meeting. The subject of the meeting, ironically, is political disengagement.

The pre-speech spin to the press is that corrosive cynicism, fueled by politically nihilistic blogs and a retreat from dispassionate reporting is endangering British political discourse and fueling growing political disengagement in Britain. She will say:

“We are witnessing a dangerous corrosion in our political culture… Perhaps because of the nature of the technology, there is a tendency for political blogs to have a ‘Samizdat’ style. The most popular blogs are rightwing, ranging from the considered Tory views of Iain Dale, to the vicious nihilism of Guido Fawkes. Perhaps this is simply anti-establishment. Blogs have only existed under a Labour government. Perhaps if there was a Tory government, all the leading blogs would be left-of-centre?

“But mostly, political blogs are written by people with disdain for the political system and politicians, who see their function as unearthing scandals, conspiracies and perceived hypocrisy.

“Until political blogging ‘adds value’ to our political culture, by allowing new voices, ideas and legitimate protest and challenge, and until the mainstream media reports politics in a calmer, more responsible manner, it will continue to fuel a culture of cynicism and despair.”

Paul Richards, Guido understands, wrote her speech. (Guido has written about him a few times.)

Anti-establishment and occasionally vicious Guido may be, but nihilistic? Never. Nihilists deny that an objective morality exists. Guido has a clear sense of morality – Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Blears really shouldn’t use words she doesn’t understand. Does Blears actually think that Guido rages against political corruption because he cares not for morality?

She is however correct to say that Guido has disdain for political corruption and seeks to unearth scandal and hypocrisy. Does Blears really think that is a bad thing?

Asking political bloggers to “add value” is to misunderstand the relationship between a free press and politicians. Take a memo Ms Blears, we are not here to “add value”, or do what politicians want, Guido has his own values and aims to hit back at political hypocrisy and lies. Politicians make laws, so they should be held to account, to a higher standard. The Nick Robinsons, Peter Riddells, Michael Whites and Steve Richardsons of the world don’t do investigative digging, they report back their impressions from their lunch meetings. They re-package and interpret spin from the party machines. That is how they “add value”. They are what Peter Oborne memorably described as the “client media”.

Guido has, without the platform of a newspaper or broadcaster backing him, achieved a position of influence for some reason. From nowhere this blog has become one of the most widely read political sources in Britain. It reaches a lot of people who were once disillusioned with and disinterested in politics, it is written (on a good day) in an accessible and entertaining way. Why does Hazel think this fuels political disengagement? The Labour Party would love to have a website that engaged as many people as this blog.

What has deservedly brought about disengagement from and cynicism towards politicians is spin, triangulation, focus group derived policies, positioning purely for partisan advantage, vacuous slogans and meaningless promises. Add in personal self enrichment from expense fiddles, petty corruption and barefaced lying to that toxicosis. Hazel has herself personally defended with repulsive sophistry everything from 45 minutes to mass destruction and cash for honours in her time. Who has really fueled corrosive political cynicism? Look in the mirror Hazel.

Leaked Labour Party Document Shows Quality of FCO Analysis

The Foreign Secretary’s SpAd, Madlin Sadler,* put together a briefing on today’s European Union Bill Third Reading for Labour MPs. Brushing aside the fact that the taxpayer should not be paying Madlin Sadler to produce Labour Party briefings in breach of the Code for SpAds, it makes an extraordinary claim:

“The Tories are isolated in Europe. Their position is the biggest foreign policy failure since the 1930s.”

So the Tory plan to pull out of the EPP factional grouping arrangements is worse than Suez, Vietnam or the Iraq War? This is the view of the Miliband’s personal Special Adviser? Obviously Madlin has a deep sense of historical perspective…

You can download the full briefing here, Guido has digitally disguised the source of the leak because it has a warning on every page stating:

PLP briefings are the property of the Labour party. They are confidential and are for the use of registered members only. Any publishing or dissemination of PLP political briefing is prohibited and may be unlawful.

With New Labour’s characteristic inability to distinguish between party and state they seem to fail to realise that a document produced by a civil servant, in office hours at the taxpayer’s expense should by rights not be the property of the Labour Party. So sue Guido…

*Madlin is the daughter of Blairite MP Barry Sheerman. Another no doubt meritocratic appointment from the people’s party.

UPDATE : Guido accepts that there is a loophole provision in the Code permitting SpAds to produce briefings for MPs on government policy. This is not a briefing on government policy, it is a crib sheet on Tory policy and positions intended to be used to attack the Conservative position in media interviews and in the chamber. This breaches the spirit and the letter of the Code. There is in any case no way a taxpayer funded document produced by civil servants can become the exclusive property of the PLP. These type of briefing documents should be produced by Labour HQ at their own expense, not the taxpayers expense. If the PLP would care to test this proposition in court Guido is more than ready.

Sad ex-SpAd Slacker

Matthew Burchell, Hain’s former special adviser, is finding the pace outside of the public sector a little bracing. A month after becoming unemployed he has yet to get round to writing his CV if this status update on Facebook is anything to go by.
[…] Read the rest

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