When I said on Radio 5 Live last week that I thought Stephen
Byers's adviser Jo Moore would have to resign or be sacked it wasn't
long before Millbank went into overdrive. All of a sudden the studio of
Sunday Service was swamped with e-mails defending her. A particularly
nasty e-mail accused me of 'sour grapes' because in 1993 Jo Moore had
been appointed over me as head of the Labour Party press office. The
e-mailer recalled that it was Margaret Beckett who had interviewed me -
something even I had forgotten.
The fact is, I have always had every respect for Moore as one of the
most effective, hard-working and loyal press officers I've ever met. I
will never forget the first time I met her because she had the thickest
filofax I'd ever seen. I was impressed.
We were never the best of friends but I respected her because she was
one of the unsung heroes of Labour's long battle to become electable.
With all that experience she should know better than anyone that in her
game politicians come first and spin-doctors are expendable. Given that
just about every head of information in this Government has been sacked,
moved or retired, this should be obvious. I confess that I helped remove
one such person from the Treasury myself, but my battles were usually
with someone else.
It is well documented that I never quite saw eye-to-eye with Number 10.
Indeed Tony Blair seemed to spend more time trying to persuade Gordon
Brown to sack me than he did trying to persuade him that Britain should
join the euro. Brown and I decided it was time for me to leave long
before Mandelson's home loan was exposed and he was forced to quit. I
may not have liked it, but I was expendable.
The fact that Blair wrongly blamed me for the demise of his favourite
minister just meant I left in a blaze of glory. Quite simply, such was
the intensity of the 'war' between me and Number 10, my boss was being
damaged. But ironically my departure hasn't stopped Number 10 from
undermining the Chancellor at every opportunity.
If we thought my continuing presence in the Treasury would damage Brown,
that is nothing to the damage that Moore has caused to the Government.
The longer she stays the worse it gets, yet for some reason that has
baffled every hack I've talked to, Blair has failed to sack her.
Instead we've had Number 10 inventing a row with the BBC and poor old
Kate Adie to try to divert attention from the story. Now we've had the
biggest insult to our intelligence ever. Number 10 actually had the
nerve to brief hacks that Blair has instructed all special advisers to
stop spinning. He should tell his spin-doctor to stop spinning and sack
Jo Moore. That would at least undo a little of the damage her actions