Belfast Telegraph

Here’s one saving, David: sack the special advisers

By Christina Patterson

As the sunshine boy at Downing Street wrenches his smooth features into an expression of Churchillian gravitas and tells us that it's all so awful we might as well commit mass hara-kiri, there's one man who looks remarkably cheerful.

Alastair Campbell is everywhere. In the weeks leading up to the election, he was a talking torso on telly all the time. You feel that if he could have wrestled each voter into the polling booth to persuade them to put their cross in the right place, he would have. But he couldn't — and they didn't.

Even this doesn't seem to have wiped the smile off that more-famous-for-sneering face. For if the people have proved more stupid than feared, at least they're good for something. They're good for flogging books.

A Government falls, a dream collapses, a ‘project; lies if not in ruins then in a state where it looks pretty far from electable, but life goes on. And now that they've lost it, we're allowed to know the truth about how New Labour muscled its way to power. And it sure ain't pretty. It wasn't that pretty before, actually.

But the bullies have gone. The grown-ups are in charge. They don't have policy meetings with nude cabinet ministers in the bath. And if they can't employ the naughty step for their foul-mouthed feral predecessors, they can adopt an air of preternatural patience.

It's the same tone you find in the new Prime Minister's Questions. It's the tone you find in the programme for government, too. A politer Britain, presumably. A calmer Britain. The calm, it has to be said, wavers a little as the happy couple go on to add to their myriad vows one of “era-changing, convention-challenging, radical reform”. And, indeed, in their desire to “build a new economy from the rubble of the old”.

I'd quite like to win a Nobel Prize, cure cancer and marry Barack Obama, but my mother always taught me to cut my suit according to my cloth.

But the overall theme is clear. “We both want” we're told “a Britain where our political system is looked at with admiration, not anger”.

But there will be pain. Pain for everyone.

And transparency. Lots of transparency. “We will,” we're told, “extend transparency to every area of public life”. We will, in other words, make sure that public sector workers who aren't sacked are pilloried for their salaries.

There is, however, one employee of the British Government whose salary has not yet been revealed. His name is Andy Coulson.

His job title is director of communications at Downing Street. His previous job title was editor of the News of the World.

Poor Andy has had some rotten luck. While he was at the News of the World (NoW), trying, no doubt, to persuade his colleagues to ditch the sex-scandals in favour of essays on fiscal stimulus and the future of the euro, they, it turned out, were employing private investigators to hack into the voicemail messages of the Royal household.

The former showbiz correspondent was so shocked he resigned the moment he heard about it. Luckily, the hoodie-hugging Tory leader believes in “giving people a second chance”. And if poor Andy was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at least his contacts book was still intact. By the third day of the Labour Party conference, the NoW’s stablemate The Sun had come out for the Tories.

Coulson's salary on recruitment was widely reported to be “in the region of” £475,000. When I asked Downing Street for a firm figure, they refused to give it.

The salaries of “special advisers” would, they told me slightly untransparently, be announced “soon”. When Coulson's salary is publicly announced, it will, no doubt, be lower.

But since the Government wants our recommendations for cuts, here's one to kick off with: sack Andy Coulson.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph