Silva’s Annual Email Boner

It’s Budget Day and while even the Beeb’s news site is struggling to keep up with the server load, I find myself in something of an ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’ mood… so I thought I’d top of my recent run of posts on the Tories and all thing web 2.0 by cast around for a bit more info on young Rohan Silva, Gideon George Osborne’s economic advisor and – according to this Grauniad piece on Osborne’s inheritance tax announcement at last year’s Tory conference, an ‘Ex-Treasury ‘Golden Boy’.

Quite how ‘golden’ Silva actually is remains to be seen as, six months on, Osborne’s ‘big idea’ on inheritance tax and non-Doms is already looking a lot like living on a very brief past ‘glory’ after he – and his team – turned out to be such an effective bunch of ‘heavyweights’ on Northern Rock that Vince Cable became the MSM’s favourite ‘go-to guy’ whenever a bit of credible opposition commentary was required to the extent that it became difficult to visualise Cable without imagining a ‘Mini-Me’ version of Osborne sticking out his jacket pocket after the fashion of the Spitting Image Owen/Steel puppet combo.

Golden may be his reputation as an economist – he appears to have studied at the LSE, interned with a Labour MP, Nigel Griffiths and worked a stint at the Treasury before hooking up with Peevish George – jeebus, but don’t his whiny voice grate on you? – but the paucity of on-line trace material on Silva casts him firmly in the mold of a total n00b when it comes to understanding and commenting on t’internet.

Put simply, there is next to bugger all about the guy – not even – it appears – the almost ubiquitous Facebook or MySpace profile you’d expect from someone employed by the Tories supposed ‘Mr Web 2.0’, although what I did manage to track down is quite interesting, like this two year old find by Recess Monkey:

George Osborne is obviously too busy counting his inheritance to write a response to today’s budget, so has requested that one of his minions send out the following e-mail, asking others to contribute:

As in previous years, the Shadow Chancellor is seeking expert views and analysis of the Budget announcement. We would very much welcome your views both during, and after, the Budget.

In order to feed in your comments, please email them to this address (rohan_silva@hotmail.com) or call or text 07966478586.

These views will be used to help formulate our response to the Budget, and may also be cited by Conservative front bench spokesmen and women. However, if you would prefer your comments not to be disseminated more widely, please let us know when you submit your comments.

Obviously any comments you submit during the Budget announcement will be based only on Brown’s speech; a fuller analysis can usually only take place after reading relevant sections of the Budget report. However, please don’t hesitate to send over any thoughts during the speech itself – they will be treated very much as a first impression of the Budget, but will be extremely helpful nonetheless.

If you have any questions, or require further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

I look forward to receiving your comments on Wednesday.

Kind regards,

Rohan

Rohan Silva
Economic Adviser
Office of the Shadow Chancellor
020 7219 1236

So what you’re saying here, Rohan, is that your ‘heavyweight’ boss and his ‘golden’ team of advisers can’t even manage to put up a response the Budget without having shill, by e-mail, for material from other people – although, interestingly, if you read Osborne’s contribution to the Budget debate to which this e-mail relates, it looks very much as if the only new material Silva’s email might have elicited was this ‘economic gem’:

The Chancellor should at least tell Labour councillors what he is up to. This weekend, after the Budget speech, the leader of the Labour group on Lambeth council wrote to a Mr. Patrick McLoughlin of Kennington Park Road, London. A copy of the letter has mysteriously fallen into my hands. It comes with a glossy leaflet—it is interesting that the Prime Minister’s picture does not appear on such leaflets any more. Under the heading “What will Labour do?” it states:

“We will:

Press the Government to provide more help for pensioners to pay their council tax bills.”

No doubt the leaflets are being pulped as we speak. Labour says one thing in the Chamber and another thing outside.

The more observant among you might note that there’s a major difference between a Labour councillor promising to press a Labour government for more help for pensioners – a perfectly reasonable thing to do – and a claim that the government will provide such help, which the councillor doesn’t make and which they would be in no position to promise without such a claim being authorised by party HQ.

And the moral of this story is..?

Nothing more than that councillors fighting local elections under local conditions may easily disagree with a policy of their national party, in or out of government, which doesn’t suit local conditions – in short ‘Bears DO shit in the woods”.

That said, its not that much of return on an e-mail shill and just about everything Osborne put in that speech either referenced points raised by other MPs or came straight from the MSM and/or a a think-tank or two.

For all that Osborne puts up any ‘expert views and analysis’ he might just as easily have read out loud the content of the FT’s analysis from the day after the actual speech and added ‘me too’ at the end of it.

After this first mention in dispatches, Silva had to wait a little under 12 months or so before turning up on the public radar, this time having been copied in to emails, which were leaked to Channel 4, which showed that 18 months after becoming Shadow Chancellor, Osborne still hadn’t to got to grips with the demands of preventing his front bench colleagues from writing cheques he wouldn’t be able to cash while in search of cheap headline:

From: HANCOCK, Matthew [Osbournes’ chief of staff]

Sent: 25 February 2007 09:45:35

To: OSBORNE, George; Rohan Silva; HANCOCK, Matthew; HARRISON, Rupert; SILVA, Rohan
Subject: Re: Labour in opposition – controlling spending commitments

We do have a system of sorts – which we are improving…. [Labour] will always be able to put together a dodgy dossier of ‘commitments’ – which will include all sorts of things like housing. And I doubt they will stop including it in their briefing to broadcasters when George is on. We need to be in a position to rebut.

Twelve months ago they had ‘a system of sorts’ which they claimed to be improving – C4 were reporting at the time that Osborne was insisting that any statements committing a future Tory government to any new or increased expenditure would have to be cleared through him.

So, a year or so on, has Osborne’s system actually improved any further?

A Conservative administration would increase health spending by up to an extra £28 billion a year, a leading moderniser has told The Times. Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Health Secretary, gave a long-term commitment that under the Tories health spending will rise to take up an extra 2 per cent of GDP.

“I think we are bound to have rising real-terms health expenditure,” he said. “That means that health expenditure is going to be a rising proportion of total public expenditure.”

It is the most explicit pledge to increase spending on the NHS since David Cameron became Tory leader and take the party into territory beyond current Labour commitments. But Mr Lansley said that funding such increases would require cuts elsewhere in public services if the Conservatives were to meet their tax pledges.

So was this announcement, which drew a fair amount of flak from with Tory ranks, approved by Osborne or not?

Its impossible to say as Osborne’s thoughts are not incorporated into the article in question, although it does note that:

George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, has based his economic strategy on the Tories reducing, over time, government spending as a proportion of national wealth. Mr Lansley’s pledge means that a Tory government would have to find billions of pounds of cuts from other areas such as education, the police, transport and defence.

…which could be construed as suggesting otherwise.

Oh, and Silva’s contribution to this email exchange:

From: Rohan Silva [Osbourne aid]

Sent: 25 February 2007 00:04
To: OSBORNE, George; HANCOCK, Matthew; HARRISON, Rupert; SILVA, Rohan
Subject: Labour in opposition – controlling spending commitments

[Gordon Brown primarily relied on the force of his personality as well as leaks, threats, counter-briefings and pre-emptive policy announcements to maintain spending discipline amongst colleagues.]

You may not be too keen on some of the methods, but its fair to say that as Chancellor, Brown did actually have a grip on things that Osborne appears still to lack.

And that’s about it – Rohan seems to average one appearance on the public radar about every 12 months, and this seem to be it for this year, so I guess we’ll next be seeing him sometime in the spring of 2009 for his next annual e-mail boner.

  • ex-Treasury Civil Servant

    I worked with Rohan Silva in the Treasury. I used to work for Partnerships UK. We were constantly amazed that he’d got into the Treasury (which is pretty elitist). We were irritated that we had wound up with him because he was entirely unqualified even for the lacky-level job he did. A “golden boy”? He was renowned for being quite thick.

    I’m amazed to find he is now an ‘economic adviser’ – I don’t think he even has an A-level in economics. He did something poxy somewhere.

  • ex-Treasury Civil Servant

    Oh, and I think he went to the LSE for a master’s degree. I thought he went somewhere a bit humbler for his degree? Lancaster is stuck in my mind. Maybe Birmingham?

  • Andrew L

    What!? I knew Rohan well at the Treasury – in fact, I used to worked with him for 12 months or so.

    He came in through the Fast Stream – the graduate recuitment scheme for the most high-flying of the year’s intake (only 500 or so out of 20000 applicants get in, and of them, only around 10 make it into the Treasury – about 0.05% of all applicants).

    All in all, he’s a class act. Bright, sound – and a good bloke.

  • Internet Wizz

    I met Rohan at Harvard Business School last summer, at a week-long seminar on the impact of the internet on policymaking.

    http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/ipg/Participants

    He was really switched on, really sharp, and totally committed to making a difference.

    Shame on you for picking on him.

  • Okay – let’s get some perspective here.

    1. Of the first two commenters, one posted from home and gave an e-mail address which includes their real name, the other gave and anonymous hotmail account and posted from an IP address traceable to the House of Commons/Portcullis House.

    I won’t say which is which, I’ll just leave you all to draw your own conclusions.

    2.As for Rohan’s seminar trip, all I can say is that if he thinks he can get away with this kind of absurd sub-Rovian shilling then he obviously wasn’t paying as much attention has he should have done.

  • ex-Treasury Civil Servant

    I bumped into a mutual friend and can confirm he doesn’t have an economics qualification.

    And from this e-mailing he seems to be self-evidently not switched on 😉

    Happy to help.

    p.s. If they are sending him to these things, is Rohan Silva the new Sam Roake?

  • ex-Treasury Civil Servant

    Also:

    http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/ipg/Schedule

    a) If “Internet Wizz” went to the conference, first of all, they’re American (is their IP address?).

    b) Second, they’re on that list and probably have a website. Why so embarassed to tell us their name?

    I’ve withheld my name, but I don’t pretend to be an internet guru 🙂

    Finally, for a person who went to the conference, they seem hazy about what it actually was:

    c) The symposium is self-evidently not on “policymaking”. It’s an academic symposium on conceiving of the internet as a public good. http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/ipg/The_meaning_of_IPG

    d) Week-long? “The symposium will be held on the Harvard Business School campus in Boston, MA, USA, on July 30-31, 2007.”

    My theory is that, before leaving for work, Silva decided to flag up his presence at this conference to dispel his n00b credentials from another IP address. I bet he asked for a week in Boston for the symposium, but it only lasted two days, and he probably only realised when he got there that it was irrelevant to his job. Is Silva busily maintaining the pretense about what this conference was for, and how long it was in case someone notices?

  • Tory Parliamentary Researcher

    “Silvs” is the single most complained-about parliamentary researcher in the whole of the Tory Commons. Not least of all by women in the Parliamentary party. I find him sleazy and lecherous and always get the impression that he is mentally undressing you.

    His referring to himself as an ‘economic adviser’ is laughable, especially as he is *not allowed* to do any economic policy and they find uses for him doing odds and ends. Far from claiming credit for the IHT policy, I doubt Silva was allowed near a calculator.

    He was given “credit” before the launch for the “Tosser” campaign, and he did the “research” for the Cameron rape speech.

    http://www.ministryoftruth.me.uk/2007/11/13/hes-a-wobber-and-a/

    He’s bloody typical of the vacuous moderniser tendency in the Party. He loves Barack Obama (he was reported in the press as being “bursting with excitement” after attending one of Obama’s speeches). Forget the merits of Obama: how can an adviser to the Tory Shadow Chancellor enthuse so much about an explicitly socialist campaign?

  • another former HMT civil servant

    Interesting…

    I didn’t know Rohan well enough at HMT to offer a detailed view on his academic capability or personal credentials. But he was definitely fast stream – so he’s not thick.

    There were a few mutterings when he left to join the Tories – suggestions that he put ambition above political principle (having formerly done time with a Labour MP) or the competitive challenge of promotion at the Treasury. But that’s not necessarily something to be ashamed of (promotion is tough – that’s why we’re all ex-Treasury civil servants) and we should be charitable enough to believe that he is committed (like a shrinking number of truly apolitical civil servants) to advancing good ideas – rather than Tory ideas or Labour ideas.

    However he seems to be a bit light on ideas himself – this blog link looks like it might be his and it’s empty: http://www.policyunplugged.net/rohan_silva/blog