4 Jun 2015

No 10’s media machine tightens its grip

George Osborne will speak on the economic task ahead today, just as the OECD suggests he might consider easing off. Don’t expect that to be the tone of his remarks though.

The government is determined to stick to campaign commitments and make as much progress on them as early as possible, deeply conscious of the small majority and the perils of getting into a rhythm of close votes, lost votes and lost business.

To that end, the No 10 media machine is now trying to grip the rest of Whitehall with eye-watering firmness.

Ministers have been told not to announce anything without the agreement of the centre – the grid supremo is being boosted by two extra special advisers and the communications chief, Craig Oliver, has an added political role underlining how his word is the PM’s.

Ministers have been told not to so much as think of writing an opinion piece for a newspaper without the agreement of No 10.

An old and regular attempt to demand that all ministerial lunches, coffees, dinners with journalists are cleared with No 10 has been revived.

It’s all a far cry from the 2010 Manifesto, the Steve Hilton-inspired “Invitation to Join the Government.” More, you might say, an “Invitation to P*** Off and let No 10 Get On With It.”

Tory MPs have been warned of three line whips on Thursday nights from now to the summer recess. Even “gold slips,” permitted absence for senior Cabinet figures, have been withdrawn.

No 10 believes the reputation of this government could hang on its ability to make the most of this moment.

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