Civil servants and MPs turn against absent spin doctor

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Indy Politics

The speculation surrounding the future of Jo Moore, Stephen Byers' special adviser, increased last night after she failed to turn up for his Commons statement.

Whitehall sources have said that civil servants would be reluctant to work with her if she did resume her role at the Department of Transport.

Mr Byers dismissed Tory calls for her resignation yesterday, claiming "proper disciplinary procedures" had been applied after her e-mail on 11 September urged colleagues to release bad news under the cover of the US atrocities.

Ms Moore has not been at work since news of her e-mail was given in The Independent on 9 October. A spokesman for the department said: "She is not at work. I don't know when she will be returning."

The Prime Minister will be confronted tomorrow by angry Labour MPs. Andrew Mackinlay, the MP for Thurrock and a member of the party's Parliamentary Committee, is determined the raise the issue.

Mr Mackinlay's intent was underlined yesterday when he tabled 14 Parliamentary questions concerning Ms Moore's conduct, including asking Mr Byers to detail his involvement in the departure of Alun Evans, a senior civil servant, from his post as director of communications at the department.

At least one Whitehall official is understood to have registered his refusal to work with the special adviser. "Before 11 September, civil servants were fed up with the way she was working. But now the problem will be a lot worse. She has lost all credibility," the source said.

Senior civil servants have complained to the leader of their union, the First Division Association, that Ms Moore has attempted to "politicise" civil servants during her time as a special adviser to Mr Byers, both in his current post as Transport Secretary and in his previous job as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

In the Commons yesterday, Andrew Mackay, Tory MP for Bracknell, claimed that Mr Byers had "brought public and political life into disrepute by refusing to sack Jo Moore".

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