Simon Carr:

The Sketch: Out of the loop? I smell a rat

Share
Related Topics

Liam "Blinky" Byrne is the nice, intelligent, likeable minister for the Cabinet Office. He has a thousand-dollar smile. But I'm sorry to have to say, when you open him up, you find a bag of rats in there. In a moment, we'll have to take them out and pet them.

He was giving evidence to Tony Wright's committee. Special advisers. There are 74 of them in Whitehall. They are the dark angels of ministers. When Tony Blair advised his young protégé to smile at his enemies and let others kill them [ Sic] – it was Spads who'd wield the knife. So it was a great pleasure to hear Blair's ex-adviser Lance Price make the Freudian slip "Gordon McBride".

Did Gordon know what McBride was up to, with the email smears? Gordon Prentice noted Lance Price had written this was "unlikely". "Why was it not 'inconceivable'?" Because, Lance said (and this surprised us all, I think), he himself had sat around in the evening or on long flights, talking about opposition sex lives with Tony Blair. Oh come on! Don't act shocked!

Richard Mottram was there. He'd been the departmental head when Jo Moore recommended using 9/11 as "a good day to bury bad news". Mottram was on the side of the good angels. It was unacceptable, he said, for taxpayer-funded advisers to be going round, "denigrating colleagues – or even political opponents".

Minister Byrne took out his rats and put them in our hands one by one.

* The code is working well in spirit and in practice. Transparent. Accountable. Clear.

* A "new code" has been distributed. All relevant people had signed a document saying they had read "and understood" it.

* Attempts to reform the system further would be an attack on the constitution.

Now wash your hands, they're covered in rat. Why do these people need a "new code" telling them not to behave like snakes? The old code was explicit on the point of issuing lies, smears and slander (forbidding it, just to be clear). "Automatic dismissal" is promised for infractions of the code. But it's written by legislators and interpreted by lawyers – it can mean anything the hell they want it to mean.

For instance, the Spad who issued the misleading stats on knife crime – against loud civil service protests – is still employed in Downing Street and answers to the PM. Meanwhile, Jacqui Smith was the one who apologised to the Commons. Huh? What?

Liam said everything had worked properly, transparently, accountably, but if it hadn't, he knew nothing about it. He wasn't, "in that managerial loop".

Too much rat, even for me. I've got to wash my own hands now.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeping / Admin

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's leading stem cell comp...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Project Manager

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Part-Time Receptionist (20 hours per week) req...

Recruitment Genius: Part Time Male Support Worker / Full Time Driver

£9464 - £12995 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will ne...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Sir Trevor Nunn's stance on diversity is dangerous

David Lister
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Have you called the homeless 'the people you step over when coming out of the opera'? Then you too could get a peerage from David Cameron!

Lee Williams
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future