Labour attacks Department for Education for hiring 'political friends'

The shadow education secretary has hit out at Michael Gove for surrounding himself with 'political friends' following the latest comms hire at the Department for Education.

Gabriel Milland: starts at the DfE in September
Gabriel Milland: starts at the DfE in September

On 25 August, the department appointed former Daily Express political correspondent Gabriel Milland as head of news. He joins at the end of September from the right-leaning think-tank Policy Exchange – itself formerly chaired by Education Secretary Gove.

Milland’s appointment follows Gove’s former special adviser Elena Narozanski being brought back into the department as a civil service speechwriter, alongside director of comms James Frayne,  a former campaign director at the right-wing Taxpayers’ Alliance.

Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham told PRWeek: ’Michael Gove is desperately trying to regain control of his department by surrounding himself with political friends.

‘School building, the EMA replacement and academy funding are all in chaos. This is no way to run a department.’

Former director-general of the Government Information and Communication Service Mike Granatt called on the Commons public administration select committee to scrutinise the move. ‘During the Blair years, some Tory MPs complained loudly about "political" appointments and propaganda when ex-journalists from left-leaning papers such as the Daily Mirror won senior comms posts in Whitehall,’ said Granatt, now a partner at Luther Pendragon.   

But a DfE spokeswoman said: ‘There was a strong competition and the best candidate was appointed on merit. All civil servants have to comply with the Civil Service Code, which includes political impartiality.’

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