Ever since 11 September, the Jo
Moore case has been in the news. The
big offence that she committed was to try to cover up some poor transport news
by using the big event to detract attention.
Jo thought that 11 September was “a good day to bury bad news”.
She sent the idea round in a memo on an email within minutes of hearing
the news from New York on 11 September. But the
civil service colleague at the time thought it downright immoral and though
everyone in the media agreed with him, he still got the sack for his reaction;
Martin Sixsmith replaced him. For
some reason in September 2001, all on the media and in parliament held this
ploy to be utterly immoral.
Jo Moore herself made an almost
tearful apology and she was supposed to have been forgiven by Stephen Byers,
the head of her department. But
on and on the story went. Was it
that the ploy was very immoral as all oddly seemed to agree?
Or was it that Jo, who is reasonably attractive with a slim figure,
just makes excellent copy for the daily papers?
In any case, the media were not to have another long running saga with
Jo (in the style of Princess Diana). The endless headlines destroyed her job
as a low profile “spin doctor”. This
pin up was almost intrinsically ephemeral.
On Monday 4 March the media had
the story that it was Blair rather than Byers that thought this one
“mistake” by Jo Moore should not have cost her job.
However, it did cost the forerunner of Martin Sixsmith his job as he
let all know in the Sunday Times of 3 March.
As so often in those affairs that are mainly made up of cant, the
denial of a relatively mild ploy led to Byers lying to the House of Commons
and also to the media on Dimbleby 3
March. Now the media have got it
into their heads that Byers is a liar, and they will consequently be
pressurising him from now on. On Dispatch
Box, BBC2, 8 March, the three resident journalists for the second week
agreed that the press in general are not likely to let up till Byers falls.
On Friday 1 March, the story
broke that the recently sacked Jo Moore had been a bully.
She was clearly not very sturdy in the job.
Jonathan Baume, general secretary of the Association of First Division
Civil Servants (FDA) has said she was a textbook case of a bully.
He gave a report to the Commons Public Administration Committee’s
inquiry into the relationship between civil servants and special advisers.
He said: “My perception is that Jo Moore was forceful and aggressive
to the point that she bullied and victimised civil servants both in the press
and related policy areas. Her behaviour was described to me as an almost textbook case
of bullying. She appeared to have
no grasp of the concept of the political impartiality of the Civil Service, or
if she did, she ignored it. It
was completely unacceptable.” But
none dared to complain as she was too close to Byers.
Instead they sought to escape, by moving to another department or
another job. He added: “I think
it is reasonable to point out that what we are seeing at DTI is not happening
across the rest of service.”
A speech was given on special
advisers by the retiring head of the Civil Service on 25 March.
Conservative leader, Duncan-Smith, attacked Mr Blair on Wednesday in
the House of Commons for “rolling out the red carpet” for Mr Byers just
minutes after he expressed “regret” for giving an apparently misleading
answer on his role in the affair. Mr
Blair retorted that Byers had made an “absolutely full statement” over the
affair. He had, in fact, made an
over-full statement, as he had said both that he did have a hand in the
dismissal of Sixsmith and that he didn’t.
One statement was to the House on 5 March and the other to Dimbleby
on ITV on which he was the guest on 3 March 2002.
Blair challenged Duncan-Smith over what he said were the real issues of
getting the rail system running after a botched Tory privatisation.
Byers won credit on the Labour backbenches for almost re-nationalising
the Railtrack part of the train system by placing it into administration.
Maybe Sixsmith was out to get
even with Jo for the dismissal of his forerunner. He seems to have caused all the latest ballyhoo by sending
out an email saying that no announcements should be made on the day of
Princess Margaret’s funeral. Sixsmith
denies leaking the email or briefing against Jo Moore, but he seems to have
done so nevertheless. It was
enough to put Jo back on the hook and this time she did not get off – but
Sixsmith also fell. Has the
hunting bill been revived to help Byers to make a getaway from the Jo Moore
scandal? Blair has been said to
use the issue to get support from the backbenchers before.
It has caused the greatest discontent on the backbenches since 1997.
The backbenchers did originally
back Byers for confiscating Railtrack without compensation, but the media
reported that there would be compensation after all on 27 March 2002.
That did not please the backbenchers though Gordon Brown was more
concerned with the relationship with the City.
That too does not please Old Labour.
They are also not pleased with Blair’s partnership with Bush for a
possible invasion of Iraq. On the
21 March, Alun Michels MP was pushing the latest anti-hunting bill through the
House of Commons in an attempt to revive his shattered career in the wake of
his fiasco in Wales. He warned
the House of Lords in his Commons speech that the bill could be pushed through
by the Commons if need be. Tony
Banks MP is all too keen to take on the Lords now he knows that he can win.
Yet the talk over the week up to the 22 March 2002 has been of
compromise. MPs seem to want to
avoid the drawn out conflict with the House of Lords.
This would take time from the avowed aim of the government which is to
sort out the social services like education and the National Heath Service
that the opposition also seem to hold as the top priorities in UK politics
The government appears ready to
accept a compromise deal where hunting is allowed to continue under licence
and in places where it is held to be effective, as in the Lake District.
But the Lords are far from backing down and they have been using the
media in the last few weeks and looking very confident.
There have been reports that the police hardly thought it a top
priority to enforce the law should it be passed.
It would not be too clear whether it was a foxhunt or just exercising
the dogs with artificial bate. In
any case there may be up to a million people connected to hunting, as
enthusiastic as football fans, and the police simply do not have the manpower
to handle such events. But this
has been countered by those who favour the ban as they hold that the police
already have been involved with the hunts and only need to do extend
their existing surveillance. The
League Against Cruel Sports will be
only too keen to encourage the police to do their duty.
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