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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Residents of the Gravesham constituency are 10 times closer to what Peter Hain scorns as the “Westminster elite” than are those of Linlithgow and East Falkirk  

Will no one stop the march of localism?

Jonathan Meades
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam