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Wednesday, 17 October, 2001, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
Aide's memo 'stupid and wrong' - Blair
Jo Moore
Calls continue to mount for Ms Moore to quit
Tony Blair has denounced as "horrible, stupid and wrong" spin doctor Jo Moore's memo urging colleagues to bury bad news in the fallout from the US terror attacks.

But the prime minister told the House of Commons that a single error should not cost Ms Moore her career.


I know it was very early on but I feel that [Jo Moore's] position is untenable

Anonymous civil servant
Responding to a challenge from Conservative MP Peter Luff during prime minister's questions Mr Blair said: "I do not defend in any shape or form what she said, which was horrible and wrong and stupid.

"I do however defend the decision that to sack someone and end their career was too heavy a penalty.

"That was the decision that was taken, I support it and I regard the matter as closed."

Colleague unhappy

But the issue looks set to rumble on as a growing number of voices call for Ms Moore, adviser to Transport Secretary Stephen Byers, to go - despite the fact she has now apologised.

An anonymous civil servant said on Wednesday that staff at the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, would find it hard to work with her.

Mr Byers has so far kept Ms Moore in her post with the backing of Mr Blair and both men will hope that the matter will eventually run its course.

But her colleague told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I really feel her approach was out of all context.

"I know it was very early on but I feel that her position is untenable.

"She should do the right thing and accept that that sort of manipulation is not acceptable to the general public."

'Sickening'

He added that Ms Moore's civil service colleagues would not have behaved in the way she had.

Meanwhile 25 Conservative MPs have tabled a Commons' motion urging Mr Byers to sack Ms Moore forthwith for her "sickening behaviour".

The motion "notes with dismay the unethical behaviour" of Ms Moore and goes on to agree with Charlie Whelan, who once was Chancellor Gordon Brown's spin doctor, that her action was "sickening".

Ms Moore's comments were made in an e-mail sent after the World Trade Center towers had been attacked, but before the towers collapsed.

Belated apology

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Ms Moore said: "I want to again sincerely apologise for the huge offence I have caused by sending this e-mail...

"I fully understand people's disgust at what I wrote. It is something I wish I'd never done and indeed find it difficult to believe I did.

"It's something I'll have to live with for the rest of my life. I can't take it back - no matter how much I wish - this terrible error of judgement."

Ms Moore had previously apologised in a statement and her decision to face the cameras was seen as an attempt to draw a line under the affair.

Earlier on Mr Byers was asked by the BBC whether he was relying on the advice of somebody whose judgement was faulty.

He said Ms Moore had made only one error of judgement and had been warned about her future conduct. "She is certainly staying with me as my special adviser," he added.

Theresa May, shadow transport secretary
May says Byers prefers spin to delivery
Veteran Labour backbencher Tam Dalyell said the failure to sack Ms Moore raised questions about Tony Blair's own integrity.

Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa May said Mr Byers' refusal to dismiss Ms Moore "revealed his preference for spin and presentation over action and delivery".

"It remains our view that Stephen Byers as Secretary of State is responsible for the conduct of his special advisors and that he, and Jo Moore, should both resign."

The Conservatives have also called on the transport secretary to resign over his decision to put Railtrack into administration.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Special adviser Jo Moore
"I want to again sincerely apologise for the huge offence I have caused"
Theresa May MP, Shadow Transport Secretary
"It has taken Jo Moore a entire week to make this apology"
See also:

17 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Why sorry may not be enough
12 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Byers backs terror memo adviser
15 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Byers let off the hook?
15 Oct 01 | Business
Railtrack: What happens now?
12 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Profile: Stephen Byers
17 Oct 01 | Talking Point
Spin doctor: is an apology enough?
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