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. If you are hoping Matthew to return by the side of a vindicated Hain, forget it. It seems that it is getting very messy for the Tango man…

Working for Peter Hain is going to be something you would rather not have on your CV, so it can’t be easy for Matthew. Let this be a warning to all uppity snotty SpAds…

Des Browne’s Scottish SpAd Says Scots,”Narrow, Presbyterian, Racist”

John McTernan, the mastermind of the Labour Party’s historic defeat in Scotland wrote to a Labour MSP describing Scotland as “narrow, Presbyterian, racist”.

Seems largely accurate, but unwise a thing to say if you are a Catholic working for a narrow Presbyterian boss. Actually his immediate boss is Des Browne, not Gordon. Des is a Catholic as well. Guido finds the left / right, Catholic / proddie class dynamic beyond him in Scottish politics. Is there some kind of dissent brewing? Browne was said to be irritated with Gordon not so long. Are they plotting some kind of Catholic emancipation?

Opaque SpAds and Researchers

Classic example of pig ignorant behaviour from an uppity Hain staffer cited by Rosa Prince*. If SpAds and assistants only realised that even a hostile questioner deserves answers rather than evasions, they might actually serve their masters and their public paymasters better.

If Konrad Caulkett had not infuriated Guido with his patronising half-truths, the pursuit of the truth about the Smith Institute might not have been undertaken. (Konrad condescended to tell Guido that “more than six” meetings had been held by the Sith in Downing Street, it turned out to be nearly 200 meetings). Hain’s SpAd Joe Carberry similarly succeeded in incensing Guido. Months of hounding of his master later he might reflect that perhaps it was not the best way to handle a legitimate inquiry.

I wonder if in their minds they fantasise that they are mini-Alastair Campbell types. Yesterday when Guido was waiting to go into the Today studio, he was listening to a smug youth (who he surmised was School’s Minister Jim Knight’s SpAd) on the phone fending off journos. After Knight had finished his piece on air the SpAd smirkingly asked “What do you think?” “Knight? I think he is a c**t” Guido replied. Perplexed SpAd exits the green room.

After a decade in government even politician’s bag carriers get a little above themselves. Not wise to be so uppity now they are on their way down…

*Guido was right Rosa.

Official Complaint About Ministry for Incompetence’s SpAds

Peter Hain’s DWP employs numerous Special Advisers who are paid for by the taxpayer and barred from doing party political work. SpAds are Civil Servants and must abide by specific rules laid out in a code. Yesterday the SpAds sent out a press release headlined

TORIES AIM TO DESTROY FINAL SALARY PENSION SCHEMES

The press release includes the line “don’t ever vote Tory”. Guido is no expert, but he suspects that may breach the code’s requirement that They should act in a way which upholds the political impartiality of civil servants”.

The Taxpayers Alliance keeps a hawkish eye on government waste and has made an official complaint to Sir Leigh Lewis, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Work and Pensions about the behaviour of his department’s SpAds campaigning on the public payroll for the Labour Party. Are the DWP SpAds going to blame it like their boss does on incompetence or amnesia?

Hat-tip : Taxpayers Alliance

What No SpAd List? Cock-Up or Conspiracy?

Is there some reason why an up-to-date list of SpAds post-Blair has still to be produced?

Guido needs to have a handy list of targets, is this tardiness government incompetence, cover-up or what? What is Konrad Caulkett’s exact role?

Hain Loses Another SpAd

Hain can’t seem to hold a SpAd down since Phil Taylor’s departure. Robert Philpot has gone back to Progress. Who are Hain’s SpAds nowadays? Why did Philpot leave so soon? Hain could get a Basher Davis type reputation for staff turnover at this rate…

Sith’s Konrad Rewarded with Downing Street Job

Guido can reveal that Konrad Caulkett, the former Smith Institute “charity worker” who was responsible for organising the nearly two hundred events at 11 Downing Street which proved so controversial that the Charity Commissioners launched a statutory investigation into the affair, has become a Downing Street Special Adviser.

The Smith Institute, a charity widely seen as a front for Gordon Brown, who seemed to be the only beneficiary of the charity, acted as an integral part of his long campaign to become PM. By law it was supposedly a non-partisan, non-political organisation, yet it hosted a how to beat Cameron event to which the Conservatives formally objected.

Wilf Stevenson, the director of the institute claimed, somewhat implausibly, that there was no direct link to Gordon Brown. Guido revealed that Sarah Brown got Konrad Caulkett the job at the Smith Institute. Despite Konrad being at the centre of allegations that the Smith Institute broke the law, Sarah Brown has once again stepped in to help him get a job, this time as her SpAd. So despite him being suspected of various breaches of the Charity laws, despite denials of links to Gordon, he has been brought onto the No. 10 payroll. Downing Street sleaze clearly didn’t end with Blair.

See also Sith attempt to cover-up use of No. 11, Mrs Brown recruits Konrad as the Sith apprentice, The back story to the Sith’s Konrad, The public charity which refuses to talk to the public, Non-political charity does policy at No. 11, Sith’s Konrad paid by charity to campaign for Balls’ election, The Charity Commission announcement, The Sith and the Statesman.

Shop-a-SpAd : Gus O’Donnell Warns “No Ifs, No Buts”

Guido has been in touch with the Cabinet Office, and a few cocky SpAds should watch their step – you know who you are – the boss of the civil service seems to agree:

Gus O’Donnell has reiterated the ground rules for civil servants, including special advisers, on their conduct during the subsequent election campaign.

This note also provides guidance to ministers in relation to the requirements of the Ministerial Code.

Ministers
During the leadership/deputy leadership election campaign, ministers remain in charge of their departments. Government business continues as normal.

All costs associated with the leadership/deputy leadership campaign – travel, accommodation, printing and so on – should be met by the individuals or the Party not the taxpayer.

Under the terms of the Ministerial Code, ministers must not use government resources for party political purposes. They must uphold the political impartiality of the civil service and not ask civil servants to act in any way which would conflict with the Civil Service Code.

So off the office computer, desist from using the taxpayers’ Blackberry and take your leave. Guido is being sent more and more examples day-after-day that show SpAds breaking the rules.

Ethics and Propriety for Beginners

Howls of outrage and denial from some on the public payroll about Guido’s denunciation of those who want to fight the internal political battles of the Labour party at the taxpayers’ expense. The anonymous blog that is produced out of Tom Watson’s office even tried a bit of mockery mixed in with a quote from the Special Advisors’ Code of Conduct. The clause that cheating SpAds (when caught) hope to use to get them off the hook states that “if, with the approval of their Minister, they wish to assist with other party political matters such as a leadership campaign, they may do so while on paid or unpaid leave or at times which do not interfere with their normal duties, for example, out of office hours.”

On leave or out of office hours with their minister’s approval. That excludes, by definition, being sat at your desk all day toiling endlessly to get the candidate elected, shooting off emails to all and sundry and running up the national debt on the phone for hours. The whole purpose of the restriction was to prevent the situation we have now. Dozens, and Guido means dozens, of SpAds doing little else but plot and conspire to further the private interests of party candidates in an internal party election. They are not acting to further the political interests of the government minister, the job the taxpayer pays them to do, they are acting to further the interests of the private individual climbing the greasy pole.

That is not appropriate activity for civil servants, which is what SpAds are, and that is the reason why the Code of Conduct exists. Clause 7 in the model contract for Special Advisers states bluntly:

Special Advisers should not use official resources for Party political activity. They are employed to serve the objectives of the Government and the Department in which they work. It is this which justifies their being paid from public funds and being able to use public resources, and explains why their participation in party politics is carefully limited.

So when Blair McDougall emails all and sundry from his FCO email account on behalf of the Benn4Labour campaign he is doing precisely what the Code was established to prevent. He is not paid to run party political campaigns using official resources, he is a paid public servant who is supposed to advise the government on relevant political matters.
Everyone in Westminster knows that all the SpAds of ministers campaigning for the Number 2 position are doing little else but organise their minister’s campaign. Just as everyone in Westminster knew that peerages were for sale. Guido could be accused of being naïve, but he is appalled by sleazy SpAds who think nothing of diverting public money to private ends. If a single-mum did a bit of cleaning-work on the side and claimed benefits at the same time, the government advertises warnings that it will bring criminal charges, “no if, no buts”. Likewise, if a Special Adviser does a bit of work on the side for a minister while claiming public money, they should be fired and the expenses repaid, no if, no buts.

Shop-a-SpAd : Gotcha! Team Benn SpAd Bang to Rights

Guido has got his hands on a private campaign briefing prepared a few days ago for supporters of Hilary Benn’s campaign for the deputy leadership. It details how popular Benn is polling with activists (pdf version here) and how they should use this information to pressurise their MPs to nominate Benn. The Benn campaign desperately needs 44 nominations to get him beyond the hat-in-ring stage.

The author of this document is Blair McDougall, he is Ian McCartney’s Special Adviser (SpAds). Ian is Hilary Benn’s campaign manager and a minister at the FCO. SpAds are not allowed to campaign under the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers at the taxpayers expense for their masters in internal party matters. In fact they are supposed to take unpaid leave – see the recent example of Peter Hain’s ex-SpAd Phil Taylor.

Since Guido has started on his mission to catch SpAds cheating the taxpayer and breaking the ministerial code, some have quite properly taken leave. Guido has just spoken with McDougall about the briefing. He didn’t claim, nor can he retrospectively pretend, that he was working on his own time. The document was prepared on his desk computer at the FCO, sent from his email address at the FCO, during office hours. Pressed by Guido that this was a breach of the Code he refused to answer, invited to deny that he had produced the document at the taxpayer’s expense, he declined to deny it. How does this differ from benefit fraud?

Looks like a job for the Cabinet Secretary…

Call the national Shop-a-SpAd hotline on 0709 284 0531.

Shop-a-SpAd : Maguire Grasses Blears’ SpAd

Hazel Blears’ taxpayer-funded aide is working a little too hard on the motorbiker’s campaign says the Mirror’s Kevin Maguire.

Fresh from flogging campaign T-shirts from a sweatshop, her SpAd Paul Richards is working on her leadership campaign on the taxpayer’s time.

Maguire suggested he improperly emailed him about a political issue on his government computer, Richards replied: “I will check with the Propriety and Ethics Team of the Cabinet Office. But I’m sure this is legitimate activity for a special adviser.”

No if, no buts, it isn’t.

H4L : SpAd Split Looks Permanent

Hain was recently overheard saying “Phil needs to grow up”…

Looks like the decline and fall of Phil Taylor is permanent.

Meantime Hain is scaremongering on the campaign trail that the Tories could be back in government in Wales. Now this Thursday is going to be bad for Labour, but not that bad…

Where’s Batesy?

Has anyone seen John Reid’s attack dog, Steve Bates, lately? He wasn’t seen in the Westminster Arms today. Maybe he is deep in discussion with Simon Wren?
Wonder why?

Reid “Deplores Leaks”

Guido wonders how John Reid’s media advisers managed to keep a straight face issuing that statement yesterday. Perhaps the police looking into the source of the leak should start here?

Hain SpAd’s Unpaid Leave Becomes Unemployment

Peter Hain’s former Special Adviser, Phil Taylor, who resigned or took unpaid leave from Hain’s office (the story changes) to ‘run’ the perma-tanned boy-racer’s deputy leadership campaign has quit the campaign.

Taylor and Hain parted company last week due ‘irreconcilable differences’. Hain didn’t agree with Taylor’s advice which contradicted the advice of the individual actually employed to run the campaign, Steve Morgan. Taylor had a tantrum, threatened to leave, Hain suggested he do so forthwith. Hain showed little loyalty or gratitude – given that presumably Phil Taylor sacrificed any pay-off as a SpAd when he volunteered to work on Hain’s campaign for free?

Taylor is currently looking for work, although without any success.

New SpAds Please

Robert Philpot, director of Progress and editor of their magazine has just been appointed as the new SpAd to Peter Hain, replacing the departed cheating Phil Taylor.

All his hard work turning an admirably Blairite organisation into a Hain journal has clearly paid off. It was the articles like this from Peter Hain – which Guido would not be surprised to discover was ghosted by or had some input from Philpot himself, that got him the job

Shame he won’t be able to play any part in the boss’s campaign now he’s in a politically restricted, taxpayer-paid post…

Oh What a Tangled SpAd

Cheating Phil Taylor, Peter Hain’s SpAd, campaigned for his boss at the taxpayer’s expense and against the rules. He told Guido last Thursday that he had already told the permanent secretary he was resigning*, he even had the audacity to explain that this noble sacrifice would cost him his SpAd termination payment.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner:

“We have no plans to write off existing student debt.”

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