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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 18:46 GMT
Moore's the worry
Jo Moore
Jo Moore: Her departure seemingly inevitable
Nyta Mann

Predictions are always hazardous in politics but it was difficult to find a single person in government or across Whitehall who did not fully expect Jo Moore to leave her post.

The activities of a special adviser can encompass any of several job descriptions.

A few are high-powered policy wonks; some little more than spin doctors - into which category Ms Moore falls. Still others act as their bosses' protectors in the Whitehall jungle.

But Ms Moore had signally failed in a key requirement of them all: being a low-profile figure who remains in the shadows.

It is unprecedented for a special adviser to be the focus of a single, let alone two, Commons debates.

However it was not these which were the likely death knell on her Whitehall career, however.

Formidable coalition says she should go

It was the fact that as soon as she tried even a comparatively gentle return into doing what she had done - manipulate information that had a bearing on Stephen Byers - day in, day out at work in the Department for Local Government, Transport and Regions, it was a bone fide news story.

Stephen Byers: Out and about on Monday - but not taking part in the debate
A formidable array of voices was assembled in coalition against her remaining in post.

For months the Tories wanted her to go - as did the Liberal Democrats.

More importantly Alastair Campbell, the prime minister's chief propagandist, was understood to be as keen for her to go. He might well have had his way following her Twin Towers email had Mr Byers not got to Tony Blair to defend her first.

Tony Wright, chairman of the influential Commons public administration committee, believed her actions to be "inconsistent with any notion of public service".

Jonathan Baume, head of senior civil servants' trade union the First Division Association, said four months ago she should "step aside and let the professionals get on with it".

Father of the House Tam Dalyell consistently said he wanted her out.

Bye-bye, Byers?

Her special adviser colleagues are less than keen on even talking about her: normally voluble ministerial aides refuse, even privately, to defend her.

In short, no one beyond Mr Byers wanted her to stay. And even he declined to make it to the Commons debate prompted by her activities.

But then he's had his own problems to worry about. If and when Ms Moore departed he knew he would no longer have her lightning conductor services.

The furore set in motion when she hit the "send" button on her infamous message to colleagues instructing them that 11 September was now a "good day to bury bad news" has already corroded his own position.

So Mr Byers can be forgiven for moving on from worrying about the defence of his faithful special adviser, to concern about his own fate.

Perhaps the final irony of the Jo Moore saga is that having become the bad news herself, the timing of her departure is being scrutinised for its spin credentials.

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