Bad Al seems to be having trouble remembering which stories he made up and which were true…
You know how it is, you’re arranging a photo op for the Deputy PM and you accidentally take him to a dogging site. We’ve all done it. Well, no, but former LibDem press officer Ben Rathe did:
“It was the Liberal Democrat Conference 2013, and my role back then was planning all of the visits that Nick Clegg was doing over the course of the 5 days in Glasgow. This included finding somewhere suitable to announce a new 5p charge on plastic bags.
I picked out a lovely nature reserve just south of Glasgow called Cathkin Marsh, which allowed us to tell the story of how discarded carrier bags murder cute, furry animals, damage the environment and ruin picturesque landscapes.
Now, as part of arranging any visit for Nick, who at that time was obviously DPM, you had to recce the site with his Metropolitan Police protection team. As we were in Scotland, we were also accompanied by some officers from Police Scotland, who opened my eyes to a startling fact.
‘Interesting place for a visit’ said one officer after the recce, which had mainly involved walking around a marshland on a wooden boardwalk.
I, thinking he meant they usually take politicians to schools, factories or nursing homes, launched into an explanation about why we’d chosen this location, the environmental impact discarded bags can have etc etc. I was swiftly cut off.
‘No, I mean because of what the locals use it for’ he said.
Now, ‘what the locals use it for’ is never a good sentence to hear, because usually ‘the locals’ are never using ‘it’ for anything good. I didn’t want to ask what he meant, mainly because I knew what he was going to say if I did, but felt that I had to.
So I did. And then came the reply I had both expected and dreaded.
‘Oh, it’s a dogging site.’
A dogging site. I’d arranged for the Deputy Prime Minister to visit a dogging site…
I’d just about accepted that I had to come clean when my phone rang and James Holt, a Number 10 Special Adviser told me that the policy had been leaked and that we’d need to bring the visit forward to the next morning.
Decision made then. There was no way we could find an alternate location in that time, and the announcement needed a visit for the pictures. So I made the very brave (or very stupid) decision and told James that would be fine.
So the next morning came, and off went the Deputy Prime Minister and Lord President of the Council on his morning visit. To a dogging site.”
Read the whole story on Rathe’s blog here. Armando Iannucci eat your heart out.
Nadine Dorries has grilled the PM about Guido’s revelation that a pro-EU letter supposedly from FTSE 100 bosses, due to appear in tomorrow’s papers, was actually drafted by a Downing Street civil servant. Cameron said Chris Hopkins wrote the letter with his authorisation:
“He’s a civil servant working in No.10 and his authority comes from me, and he’s doing an excellent job… the government’s view is that we should Remain in a reformed European Union and the civil service is able to support the government in that role”
Your taxed euros hard at work getting pro-Remain front pages…
Guido has got hold of a draft letter sent to FTSE 100 bosses by Downing Street business adviser Chris Hopkins yesterday, soliciting support for Dave’s deal. It was due to appear in tomorrow’s Times, but you can read it on Guido today:
From: Chris Hopkins
Sent: 21 February 2016
We run businesses representing every sector and region of the United Kingdom. Together we employ hundreds of thousands of people across the country.
Following the Prime Minister’s renegotiation, we believe that Britain is better off staying in a reformed European Union. He has secured a commitment from the EU to reduce the burden of regulation, deepen the single market and to sign off crucial international trade deals.
Businesses like ours need unrestricted access to the European market of 500 million people in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs. We believe that leaving the EU would deter investment and threaten jobs. It would put the economy at risk.
We believe Britain will be stronger, safer and better off remaining a member of the European Union.
Give me a call if you have any issues.
The letter was sent around yesterday, after the new rules limiting what Leave ministers are allowed to do with public resources came into effect. No.10 are unsportingly using the taxpayer-funded civil service machine to campaign for Remain, within the rules…
This tweet from EyeSpy suddenly makes a lot more sense – Damian McBride has been hired to be Emily Thornberry’s spin doctor. On the day of her resignation, McBride told the BBC she should’ve lied about the meaning of her flag tweet. News of the move was slipped out at 5:50pm on Friday night, the old tricks are the best…
A good day for the LibDems to quietly slip out their report into why they were wiped out last May. So, who was to blame? The public of course:
“the weak public understanding of our party and political opinions meant that our move into government was not well understood”
And the media, obviously:
“media system that did not wish to demonstrate that the first peace-time coalition at Westminster could deliver stable government worsened the experience”
Though to be fair, the LibDem report is considerably more candid than Labour’s whitewash. Tuition fees was top of the list:
“critical disjunction between what we had published on the front page of our 2010 manifesto… namely, the abolition of tuition fees”
Intriguingly, they all ended up having blazing rows with each other:
“Some of the most problematic staff relationships came with overzealous party committee members, who took their frustration with the structure out on staff members”
No one was in charge, despite hiring expensive South African strategist Ryan Coetzee:
“lack of a single, professional campaign director responsible for taking strategic decisions about all aspects of campaigning”
They were seen as Tory patsies:
“we unwittingly manoeuvred ourselves into a position of appearing content to be willing appendages to our coalition partners”
Remarkably, due to “dwindling finances”
“no polling activities of note were undertaken at all during the first years of Coalition”
And morale was, well…
“these factors combined to lead to a daily reality for the party of public rejection, falling internal morale, and consistent electoral destruction”
Despite all this they bizarrely conclude:
“the political plight of the party could have been far worse”
8:00pm: No.10 briefing to Lobby: “I would say the going is tough, this could be a long night. Some real outstanding issues to resolve, it’s not clear how we’re going to do that.”
8:20pm: BBC reports No.10 source: “impasse… we thought there might be talk of bridges but still big gaps”, “talks pushed back”
5:29am: Times reports No.10 downbeat: “problems across the board”
7:50am: No.10 briefing to Lobby: “It’s hard going. Some signs of progress but nothing yet agreed and still a lot to do.”
8:15am: Amber Rudd is sent on Today: “The deal is out of reach at the moment”
10:52am: No.10 brief the Lobby: “We may have a deal today, we may not. We may have Cabinet today, we may not. Tusk has told us he’s prepared to go into Sunday”
As the President of Lithuania said yesterday: “Everybody will have his own drama, then we will agree…”
Yesterday Britain Stronger in Europe sent out a press release describing a new Institute of Economic Affairs report on the EU as a “work of fiction”. Quite a hostage to fortune…
The BSE briefing claimed: “Matthew Elliott CEO of Vote Leave is a former Director of the IEA”. Er, no he isn’t. Elliott has never been a director of the IEA.
BSE then claimed the Elliott (non)link meant: “The Institute for Economic Affairs, Business for Britain and Vote Leave are a revolving door”. About as much as Stuart Rose and Marks and Spencer. Or, indeed, not, since Elliott was never at the IEA.
BSE have now privately apologised to the IEA for the error, they tell Guido: “We do regret any confusion caused”. Though they haven’t sent out a correction. They are instead waiting for journalists to call up before they tell them their briefing was, to coin a phrase, “a work of fiction”.
Downing Street have cleared the grid for the next two weeks so Cameron can sell his renegotiation deal to the public. Eurosceptic ministers are furious that he will have two weeks’ “free reign” to make the pro-EU case, while they remain gagged. Ministers who want to campaign to Leave are barred from doing so until the conclusion of the post-EU council Cabinet meeting, which will take place after February 19. This is from Cameron’s letter to ministers:
So in the 18 or so days between today and that Cabinet meeting, Cameron is free to defend his deal without opposition from Eurosceptic ministers. They are seething…
This is the new Tory attack poster on Sadiq Khan released this morning, ramming home the line that Labour’s mayoral candidate is “Corbyn’s man in City Hall”. Sadiq nominated Corbyn for leader and has since been attempting an unconvincing differentiation strategy. So he won’t be thrilled to see Ken Livingstone has just helpfully parroted the very same Tory attack line in the Standard.
In an article headlined “London needs to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s vision of a better city”, Ken tells voters that “Corbyn has the right economic policy” and “he is the last chance we’ve got to create a fairer world”. The former London mayor agrees with Zac – Sadiq is Corbyn’s man in City Hall. Good news for Khan is at least Ken isn’t backing his old mate George Galloway…
It appears our old friend Damian McBride couldn’t resist sticking the knife in to Ed Miliband’s shambolic media operation. McBride was happy to recount the following anecdote about a grim-faced Tom Baldwin, the ex-Times hack who became Ed’s press guru.
“Tom Baldwin was in a very dark mood at a party one night. I told him ‘Tom, what have you got coming up, what are you looking forward to?’ And he just stared at his shoes for 15 seconds. And then he walked out to have a cigarette as though I’d deliberately tried to say something to offend him. I just thought he’s clearly got no good answer to that question. If you’ve got no good answer to that, if you’ve got no plan to turn it around, you can’t survive in this. When Gordon got himself deep into that territory I always kept him out of the hole by saying, ‘the next speech will turn it around’ or ‘I’ve got this great stuff we can leak about the Tories. Ed Miliband got himself into a place where just to get himself some good press he’d just deal with the Guardian and Observer and all the exclusives were given to them. It was crazy, it was just so Tom could walk around and say ‘Oh we got a good splash in the Observer.’ Who cares?”
Jeremy Corbyn told the Today programme that he did not know which member of his team briefed the press that he intended to sack Hilary Benn: “I’m not sure where the briefing came from”. Seumas Milne is widely believed to be responsible for the first two anti-Benn briefings that appeared, in the Telegraph on Christmas Eve and in the Sindy three days later. Yet when rumours persisted on the Monday of the reshuffle that Benn was set for the chop, a furious Corbyn ironically tasked Milne with identifying the source. He reported back that it was John McDonnell’s office which was responsible. So Corbyn was spinning about the spin of his spinners this morning…
Just when you thought today couldn’t get any worse for John McDonnell, he decided to tweet out a video of his response to the Autumn Statement. Yet mysteriously, when he starts his section on China, the film oddly fades to black and then skips forward a couple of minutes. McDonnell’s team wiped his Little Red Book section from their official record. Forget Mao, that’s more Stalinist…
The PM’s official spokesman says his official car “momentarily touched” another vehicle while manoeuvring in Downing Street. “PM was not inside, no damage done”, they also deny it was a “car crash”. Never believe anything until it is officially denied…
There has been consternation in Labour circles and at the Guardian over Seumas Milne being allowed to work for Jeremy Corbyn while “on leave” from King’s Place. The bizarre arrangement suggests he still has his column waiting for him if and when things go south with Jezza. How was the curious deal allowed to go ahead?
Guido hears that the key factor was his very close personal relationship with Guardian editor Kath Viner. The couple have been close friends for years and Kath is known to have always loved his column. Though staff on the paper have been perplexed at why £340,000-a-year Viner, a relative moderate politically, is so enamoured with the handsome revolutionary firebrand. Kath – 44 years-old and unmarried – is such a close ally of Seumas that he even “canvassed on her behalf for several months” when she was campaigning for the editorship. Sources say he was drumming up support for her “night and day 24/7”, causing many raised eyebrows at the time. The Guardian and the Labour leadership are closer than they’ve ever been…
As ‘anarchist’ rioters (who want a bigger state) rampaged through London last week, setting a police car ablaze and blinding a horse with a firework, it’s worth asking what Team Corbyn think. Here is Seumas Milne speaking after the London riots. Guess what? He’s a fan.
“Riots do express fundamental social anger and that’s something that’s happened throughout history… Actually, I thought they were quite, you know, despite the way they were portrayed at the time, there was a lot of very political expressions, certainly in particular, in some areas in particular, certainly in East London but in other places as well, where people were expressing, in quite a strong class-orientated way, a hatred not only of the police but of the system… So, I mean, it wasn’t only negative, what happened in the riots. And I think that those people clearly are part of what, of the people that need to be organised and need to find a political expression and social organisation… But it’s also an opportunity. It’s a huge opportunity to channel that anger.”
There you have it: Labour’s new core vote strategy…