Is someone out to knife Hill over his 'Jo Moore' moment?

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Indy Politics

Friends of David Hill, the Downing Street director of communications, said yesterday that the leak of an off-the-cuff remark to a newspaper was a "malicious" attempt to undermine him.

Friends of David Hill, the Downing Street director of communications, said yesterday that the leak of an off-the-cuff remark to a newspaper was a "malicious" attempt to undermine him.

Mr Hill stunned the heads of Whitehall press officers on Monday when he suggested that the disaster at Charles de Gaulle airport at the weekend could be used to Britain's advantage. He said the collapse of part of the roof, killing four, could allow press officers to "draw attention to the inadequacies of the French transport infrastructure".

He did not mention the London bid for the Olympics, but those who heard his remark said they assumed that is what he meant. It reminded some of the notorious remark by Jo Moore, the former aide to Stephen Byers, that 11 September was a "good day to bury bad news''.

Senior government officials said they suspected that someone in the Whitehall communications network had the "knife out''. "It was malicious," said a senior aide. Another official said: "David was quite taken aback by the fact that it was leaked. It was a joke, but it was a stupid thing to say." Mr Hill issued an apology yesterday to the victims' families. The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "David explained in his statement that it was a flippant comment, and that's where it's left." He added: "As David said, as anyone who knows him will recognise, the last thing David would want is to cause offence to anyone."

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