How Gove’s spads broke the rules by attacking critics


by Sunny Hundal    
2:05 pm - February 3rd 2013

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A few years ago, Conservatives used to complain bitterly about ‘character assassination’ by Labour administrations, now they dismiss similar actions by their own as irrelevant.

The row started yesterday when blogger Guido Fawkes deliberately over-inflated a story to play down afterwards. As the Indy’s Jane Merrick pointed out, “@guidofawkes wrong to say Toby was going round saying this was going to bring down Gove. Raised expectations then rubbish story. Obvious”

The story in today’s Observer is quite significant for various reasons:

An anonymous Twitter account called @toryeducation is regularly used to attack critical stories about both Gove and his department. It is often abreast of imminent Tory policies, suggesting it is coming from close to the centre of government. However, it is also used to rubbish journalists and Labour politicians while promoting Gove’s policies and career. Issuing party political material and indulging in personal attacks are both clear breaches of the special advisers’ code and the civil service code.

In an unfortunate echo of the way the previous Labour government’s spin doctors smeared the weapons scientist David Kelly, the account has likened one respected reporter, the Financial Times’ education correspondent, Chris Cook, to Walter Mitty and suggested he was a “stalker”. It has also retweeted insinuations about his personal life.

1) These people are being paid by taxpayers, and their job is to troll and throw personal abuse at journalists and other politicians questioning Michael Gove’s activities.

2) These people are clearly part of the Conservative party, despite some attempts by Tory MPs to brush off the claims.

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3) It is a breach of the code of conduct

4) Advisors working for Michael Gove are clearly misleading journalists too.

Gove’s Spad Dominic Cummings tells the Observer editor in an email: “Am I supposed to take seriously anonymous accusations about anonymous Twitter accounts ridiculing journalists with too much time on their hands?” — but these people are anonymous at all. They are sanctioned by the Conservative Party and listed under their official accounts.

As Alex Andreou rightly said last night: “Essentially our own government is spamming us, at our expense. This, from the people who were going to clean up politics.”

Once again, the hypocrisy is breath-taking.

Labour’s Stephen Twigg has now written to Cabinet Secretary requesting an investigation into the conduct of two of Michael Gove’s Special Advisers following the Observer allegations.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Note how Sarah Vine gets involved.

Sarah Vine is married to Michael Gove.

Are the Tories the only ones who have done this? If so, then something should be done, if not then it’s a storm in a tea cup.

1) These people are being paid by taxpayers, and their job is to troll and throw personal abuse at journalists and other politicians questioning Michael Gove’s activities.

2) These people are clearly part of the Conservative party, despite some attempts by Tory MPs to brush off the claims.

3) It is a breach of the code of conduct

4) Advisors working for Michael Gove are clearly misleading journalists too.

— but these people are anonymous at all. They are sanctioned by the Conservative Party and listed under their official accounts.

Can we have some names please?

This looks like it belongs under the ‘shit no-one cares about’ umbrella.

Michael Gove is invariably held up as the Leader-in-Waiting by breathless people who insist that the Conservative Party is entirely other than it is or ever has been.

Gove has been very aggressively in favour of same-sex “marriage” at least since his days on The Moral Maze, a decade and more ago now, when the New Labour Government of the day was specifically and articulately ruling it out.

That was Gove’s only discernible point of dissent from New Labour. Even after he had been selected as the Conservative Party’s candidate for one of its safest seats, he was still using his Times column to express his schoolgirl crush on Tony Blair.

While heaping praise on the subsequently disgraced old Trotskyist Stephen Byers, on the erstwhile Trotskyist bookseller Alan Milburn, and on the SDP and Lib Dem veteran Andrew Adonis. All of whom he announced as a fact would have seats in a Cameron Cabinet.

As would indeed have happened in the extremely unlikely event of a Conservative overall majority in 2010. Gove now fills the position that Adonis would have done. From it, Gove is destroying Religious Education in state schools. But we are at least spared the direct influence of his psychotic views on foreign policy.

On coming down from Oxford, Gove was refused employment by the Conservative Research Department on the grounds that he was not traceably a Conservative, or even political at all. Instead, then, he became an employee of Rupert Murdoch, with whom he continues to have regular, off-the-record meetings.

Gove’s wafting first into Parliament and then into the Cabinet constitutes a worse assault on our sovereignty even than John Major’s appointment of Jonathan Aitken as Minister of Defence Procurement on the orders of the Saudi Royal Family. Aitken was at least an MP already, and his preferment was at least to a non-Cabinet post.

There is hardly the vocabulary to describe what would have befallen this Realm if Gove were to progress any further.

“Govey spad” does have something of the playground about it.

Christ, more and more of the comments on this place seem to be written in green ink.

Michael Gove is a real asset to his party – New Labour Conservatives.

His education policy is legendary – “If it ain’t broke, fuckin’ break it to hell.”


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