The political news at the moment is filled with stories of SpAds (Special Advisers, basically bag-carriers and assistants to government ministers) being kicked off candidate lists by the Conservatives. Specifically, one of Theresa May’s SpAds has been removed from the candidate list by CCHQ.
It has been interpreted as a Tory civil war, between Theresa May and Downing Street. But I think there’s something a little more sinister emerging here.
I may well get a threatening letter from Tory chairman Grant Shapps for saying this, but could these Special Advisers have been working campaigning for the Conservative Party, whilst their salaries have been paid by you and I, the taxpayers?
The SpAd in question, Nick Timothy, has said of his removal from the candidates list,
“In the interests of transparency, I should tell you that this week, on 10 December, I was informed that I have been suspended from the Candidates List. This, I was told, is because I did not participate in telephone canvassing during the Rochester by-election campaign. This decision cannot be valid because, as Theresa May’s Chief of Staff, I am bound by the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers, which is unambiguous when it says: ‘if [special advisers] wish to take part in a … by-election campaign, or to help in a party headquarters or research unit during such a campaign, they must first resign their appointment.’“
I’ve checked the code of conduct, and he’s correct.
The question that is raised by this is are we really to believe that Mr Timothy is the only person in this position? Have any other Special Advisers been removed from the candidates list for the same reason?
And, most importantly, are we to assume any SpAds selected to contest seats in next May’s election for the Conservative Party, broke the code of conduct and campaigned in the Rochester & Strood by-election in defiance of it?
It might seem like a minor issue, but you and I are paying these people’s salaries. There’s nothing wrong with that generally, but they are supposed to be government employees, not Conservative Party employees, else CCHQ should be paying for them. If the inferences of this accusation are taken forward, then it basically means that the Tories have been getting free campaigning paid for by public money.
In my submission, that is far more important than whether Downing Street likes Theresa May. I don’t expect CCHQ to come clean, but it is a question which has to be asked, for transparency’s sake. Do you have any answers, Mr Shapps?