"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Monday, 13 July 2009

O'Donnell Backs Osborne

You probably remember this spat at the beginning of the month when George Osborne said that the Tories have twice been refused access to information since the beginning of the year:

At the time Gordon Brown said:
"The decision is a matter for the head of the Civil Service who makes all these decisions in this regard. I think some of our Conservative opponents have got to be careful about assuming they can make personal accusations which turn out to be wrong."
Mandelson stepped in and almost used the word 'lie' when he said: "Instead we have George Osborne choosing to play the man, not the ball, saying something about the Prime Minister personally which he knows to be untrue."

Sir Gus O'Donnell, Head of the Civil Service, was interviewed by Jon Sopel on yesterday's Politics Show and this is a verbatim transcript of the relevant section:

Sopel: George Osborne is insisting that the Tories wanted to see a database but have been denied that opportunity; he said they'd requested sight of the combined online information system at 2 meetings but were rejected. Is that true?
Gus O' Donnell: What we do in these discussions with the Opposition is the Prime Minister wrote a letter to the Leaders of the Opposition parties saying that these talks could take place from 1st January laying down the terms for those. That's standard process, that's been going on but what's clear about it and what I've said very clearly is that my discussions I am going to keep private. I do not tell the Prime Minister what's going on so I'm afraid, Jon, I'm not going to tell you either.
Sopel: Yes, but Lord Mandelson has said that decisions were taken by you on this.
God: I - I, in that sense, absolutely right [his head had dropped forward and his voice was muffled so the word faded away at the end - but I give him the benefit of the doubt]. I determine within the context of the Prime Minister's letter, I ensure that those discussions prepare the Civil Service to be ready for a change of administration. That's what we're doing but I make them absolutely private and I never feed back from those discussions to the Prime Minister so I'm not going to feedback to anybody else.
Sopel: No, no, no...I understand and I'm not asking for the contents of private meetings but I do want to clarify whether they are going to be given access to this online database.
God: Er, that's a decision we'll need to think about but...
Sopel: (interrupting) Whose decision is it?
God: There is a lot of information out there already and we will try as best we can to ensure that the Opposition are prepared and the Civil Service are prepared for whatever decision is made by the British electorate at the next election.
Sopel: You say 'we'. Who is 'we'?
God: The Civil Service, myself and my Permanent Secretary colleagues; they will all meet with their Shadow Ministers.
Sopel: Just to clarify: so that's not a decision for the Prime Minister or ministers, that is purely a Civil Service decision about access to ...
God: We work within the context of the letter that the Prime Minister sent to leaders of the Opposition which laid out the framework.

It seems clear, in any context: Brown & Mandelson were once again re-defining the truth to breaking point.


  1. I dread to think the money required to keep some of the dark secrets hidden after they get booted out. Even just the shredding machine bill will be huge.

  2. They probably shred as they go along these days. At least the internet provides a record of some sort.


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