OPINION: Editorial - Dangerous new toy for Labour

The publication of Lord Neill’s report specifically those parts relating to special advisers has once more brought to the surface the long-running struggle between Government information staff intent on preserving their impartiality and special advisers intent on selling and defending their party.

The publication of Lord Neill’s report specifically those parts

relating to special advisers has once more brought to the surface the

long-running struggle between Government information staff intent on

preserving their impartiality and special advisers intent on selling and

defending their party.



Neill has taken on board claims by senior government information staff

that they are often put under pressure by special advisers to act in a

party political way. His report suggests the onus should be on advisers

to refrain from asking Government staff to act in a way that would

threaten their impartiality. It is an unhappy coincidence that in a week

when Neill’s respected and impartial committee has recognised that

special advisers need a little reining in, the Government was revealed

to be busy developing a sophisticated intranet which has the potential

to become a highly effective opposition-bashing tool.



In the private sector intranets are used by large organisations to keep

their staff informed and on board. If the Government’s new system,

dubbed the Knowledge Network, is used in a similar way, it will be a

great asset to civil servants and special advisers alike. But taxpayers

should not be asked to pay for a tool used to promote the Labour party

and undermine the Tories.



Once the Knowledge Network is up and running, it is almost certain to

lead to further tussles between special advisers and civil servants.

Subjecting it to a healthy dose of independent scrutiny could help

settle any future arguments over its proper use.



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