Tim Loughton

Former education minister Tim Loughton has turned on his former boss Michael Gove, tabling written parliamentary questions designed to unseat his special adviser Dominic Cummings.

Controversial aide Cummings, who Scrapbook revealed on Friday was being hung out to dry by an exasperated 10 Downing Street, is a leading suspect for the “senior Department for Education source” who briefed the Spectator that Loughton was a “lazy incompetent narcissist”.

But with a former member of DfE staff receiving a £25,000 payout in the wake of a grievance procedure involving Cummings it looks like Loughton is going on the offensive, using parliamentary machinery to quiz the department:

(1) how many formal complaints his Department has received about the conduct of special advisers in his Department since May 2010 from (a) other members of staff, (b) officials from other departments and (c) members of the public;

(2) how many formal grievance procedures by staff have taken place in his Department in each of the last five years;

(3) how many grievance procedures by staff in his Department have resulted in payments to those staff in each of the last five years; and what the size of each such payment was.

Despite the sizeable payout, the media have been briefed that an internal investigation in the department “cleared” Cummings of wrongdoing. Loughton also tabled a second question probing the reporting procedures:

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what the procedure is for reporting (a) grievance procedures and (b) payoffs resulting from grievance procedures to his Department’s Education Board; and on which dates these matters were referred to in papers circulated to the Board or discussed at the Board.

This could get very messy indeed. The last thing any secretary of state wants on the backbenches is a former minister with an axe to grind.

Ironically, one of Loughton’s final duties as a minister was to fend off a forensic written question from Tom Watson on the topic of Michael Gove’s departmental mobile phone.

The gamekeeper has turned poacher.

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