More pressure on Michael Gove's advisers over use of Twitter smear tactics against civil servants

 

Labour is demanding a new investigation into the use of smear tactics involving Education Secretary Michael Gove’s Department for Education on a social networking site.

The latest example emerged at the weekend after allegations that Dominic Cummings, special adviser to Mr Gove, and James Frayne, former director of communications at the DfE, had intimidated a civil servant - who was subsequently given a £25,000 pay-out.

A grievance procedure cleared members of Mr Gove’s team of any wrongdoing but said that the civil servant had been subjected to conduct “perceived as intimidating”.

Following the revelations, a tweet appeared on the @toryeducation Twitter account, claiming the civil servant had brought a “standard shakedown legal case against the DfE”.  The tweet referred to the civil servant as a woman for the first time - “shakedown” is defined in the dictionary as “extortion, as by blackmail or threats of violence”.

Stephen Twigg, Labour’s education spokesman, has now written to Chris Wormauld, Permanent Secretary at the DfE, asking him to investigate who was responsible for updating the @toryeducaton account.

“That (the use of the word ‘shakedown;) is a very serious allegation - of extortion - against someone who I understand is still working at the Department,” he said.

Mr Twigg has also asked Mr Wormauld to confirm who had taken responsibility for the pay-out  and that Mr Gove was not informed of the case.  This follows Mr Gove telling the Commons education select committee he had no knowledge of allegations of special advisers acting “inappropriately” to civil servants.

This is the second time the @toryeducation site has been the centre of controversy.  A week ago there were claims that special advisers had used it to rubbish opponents of Mr Gove and journalists.  In addition, it briefed against former Children’s Minister Tim Loughton as a “lazy incompetent narcissist” after he had claimed an “Upstairs, Downstairs” relationship existed between ministers and civil servants.

The DfE has said that - if any evidence is presented to it of special advisers breaching their code (which forbids the use of smear tactics) - it will take appropriate action.  So far, though, it added, none had been presented.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'