A couple of weeks ago shadow Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude complained about special advisers to Labour ministers using the civil service to create anti-Tory attacks.
Today he has written to Harriet Harman demanding an apology for an incident for which Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell found Labour to be in breach of the rules relating to civil service impartiality.
"We have had many assurances that taxpayer-funded government communications will not be used for party political purposes and that the Labour Party respects the impartiality of the Civil Service. However, despite these repeated assurances, we uncovered evidence that once again the Labour Party was using taxpayers’ money to subsidise their political campaigning; in a letter to Sir Gus O’Donnell on the 27th January we highlighted the hijack of the government’s ‘Backing Young Britain’ brand and campaign for the Labour Party website.
On receipt of our letter, the Cabinet Secretary investigated the circumstances, identified a breach of Civil Service rules and forced the Labour Party to substantially change its website: “references there have now been amended to make clear [Backing Young Britain] is a government initiative”:
You will note that the website no longer claims “Only Labour believes every young person deserves the opportunity to a fair chance in life” and that the public are no longer invited to “bid for one of the 10,000 new jobs for young people” through the Labour Party website.
There is growing concern in Whitehall about the improper use of government work and resources by the Labour Party in the run-up to the general election. This latest breach of Civil Service rules by the Labour Party is completely unacceptable, yet we have had no apology. As I have constantly stressed, impartiality is the cornerstone of our much-respected Civil Service and it is imperative that the Labour government recognises this.
I am writing today to ask you for an apology for the conduct of the Labour Party in this incident and moreover, for assurances that, as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, you will personally ensure that Labour do not further breach any Civil Service rules."