EDITORIAL: Tom Kelly must go after his conduct

Of all the staff involved in presentation at Downing Street, the sober and serious Tom Kelly seemed one of the least likely to fall victim to the sort of Jo Moore-esque scandal that is engulfing him as PRWeek goes to press.

The former Northern Ireland Office comms director was drafted in as one of the Prime Minister's two official spokesmen when Alastair Campbell stepped back from day-to-day lobby briefings three years ago. With all the trust of the political press but none of the baggage of being a long-serving Labour apparatchik, Kelly seemed like just the kind of person required to help usher in a new post-spin era.

Such an assessment now looks ludicrously optimistic, with news that, while briefing selected journalists, Kelly drew comparisons between the late Ministry of Defence weapons expert Dr David Kelly and the fictional fantasist Walter Mitty.

With his casual ability to smear his late namesake, Tom Kelly now appears as eager as any of the more malign spin doctors in Whitehall to brief off the record and in negative terms.

Briefing negatively is not in itself a crime. Indeed, in the rough trade of public life, forceful and robust comment is perfectly commonplace.

But Dr Kelly is dead, the judicial enquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death is in its early stages, and the PM's official spokesman is not a party hack or a hanger-on - he is a civil servant, an officer of the state. His behaviour is frankly shameful, and his squirming apology for intruding on the grief of the late scientist's family rang hollow. He must resign, and if he won't, he must be sacked.

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