By Ray Fleming

IT is quite remarkable how government practices that a party in opposition criticises strongly are so quickly adopted by that party when it gets into power itself. The curious case of William Hague and his special adviser has lifted the lid of the Whitehall Pandora's box of Spads that always needs only the lightest touch on its lock to spring open. Spads, of course, are special advisers who are appointed by ministers to balance the advice they are given by civil servants. The problems arise when their precise status and how they are being paid is unclear. By custom ministers are entitled to two such advisers and their names are published in official lists of ministerial staff.

But Christopher Myers, the third man in Mr Hague's close circle, was not shown in the lists although he was apparently on the government payroll before his resignation. The interest raised by the Hague case has led to revelations of many more Spads than were previously known about and also of Conservative party and MPs's employees who have been given civil service jobs in key Whitehall departments. In one example an educational expert who helped to develop Michael Gove's free schools policy in opposition is now a civil servant in the department implementing that policy although civil servants are required to be politically impartial at all times.

These may not seem big issues but they contribute to the general impression that this government rides roughshod over rules it does not like.


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