Saturday, June 30, 2007
This morning I have been attending a briefing session with expert speakers on Rwanda, a country I admit I know very little about apart from the genocide. We heard from the Rwandan ambassador, a representative from VSO, who are supporting the trip, Janice Booth, author of the Bradt Guide to Rwanda and finally Mary Blewitt, a Rwandan who told us about the genocide and how 60 members of her family were killed.
I'm only going for 5 days to make the films but hope to get round the 20 social action projects round the country. Naturally, I will be blogging the trip, which I hope you will be interested in. It's 16 years since I was one of the first British people to go to Beirut after John McCarthy's release. I feel the same sense of anticipation about this trip to Rwanda that I felt then.
If any of you have been to Rwanda do feel free to pass on any information or travel tips.
If you have questions you think I should include in the survey, feel free to suggest them in the comments.
Friday, June 29, 2007
British police have a "crystal clear" picture of the man who drove the bomb-rigged silver Mercedes outside a London nightclub, and officials tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com he bears "a close resemblance" to a man arrested by police in connection with another bomb plot but released for lack of evidence. Officials say the suspect had been taken into custody in connection with the case of al Qaeda operative Dhiren Barot, who was convicted of orchestrating a vehicle bomb plot involving targets in London, New York, Newark, N.J. and Washington, D.C.
Officials say a surveillance camera caught the suspect "staggering from the Mercedes" shortly after parking it outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub. U.S. and British law enforcement officials tell ABC News it is increasingly clear Friday's bomb plot in London involves multliple vehicles, and is described by a senior official as a "terror plot involving lslamic extremists." The silver Mercedes sedan discovered early Friday morning outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub in Piccadilly Circus appears to have been stolen in early June and was spotted in the last two days, first in Scotland and then in Birmingham, England, according to law enforcement officials.
I've just watched the BBC Ten O'Clock News and didn't hear anything about the crystal clear picture or the 'close resemblance' to another bomb suspect. The BBC News site reports at 10.35pm...
CCTV footage from Haymarket is also being examined and police are believed
to be making some progress towards getting an image of the driver.
The BBC is not reporting the 'crystal clear' picsm because they haven't double-sourced it. I don't blame them for that necessarily, but it does seem odd that if the Police do indeed have crystal clear images they are not putting them on TV. But then again, maybe not!
In addition, the following appointments have also been made today:Ming Campbell is spluttering that they are not full members of the government, they are merely advising. No doubt the same will be said about Shirley Williams' advisory role on nuclear proliferation, should she decide to accept it. But these positions are clearly important ones. But by endorsing these advisory positions, Ming Campbell has horrified LibDems in LibDem/Conservative marginal seats. They believe that it will reinforce and already existing impression that the LibDems are in Labour's pockets. Take the Norfolk Blogger's reaction for example. He has bravely spoken out...
- Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington QPM to be the Prime Minister's Senior Adviser on International Security Issues.
- Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC to advise the Secretary of State for Justice on aspects of constitutional reform.
- Joan Ryan MP to be Special Representative to Cyprus.
- Baroness Neuberger will work with the Prime Minister, the Government and the voluntary sector to champion volunteering.
I am at a loss as to what the Liberal Democrats or the country gains from having two Lib Dem peers act as advisers to Gordon Brown. collusion. Does anyone in their right mind believe that Baroness Neuberger or Lord Lester will hold sway or influence Gordon brown in their advisory capacity ? Will it further the cause of Liberal Democracy ? Or will it allow the Liberal Democrats to be labelled as Gordon Brown's Poodles? As far as I am concerned, anyone who wants to work with the Labour government whilst the Labour Party has a majority should resign their party membership and join the Labour Party. Alternatively they should be stripped of their membership.There are enough grassroots campaigners working their socks off on the ground without these peers undermining everything the party campaigners are trying to do by allowing the Lib Dems to be seen as working with Labour.This is a gift for the Tories and a major gaffe by the Lib Dems. Wake up Ming to what is going on!
Strong stuff. Not a mention of this on LibDem Voice of course. I've also trawled through the LibDem blogs Aggregated site and apart from Norfolk Blogger not a single other LibDem blog has thought this worthy of comment. That's why Norfolk Blogger is establishing himself as the one LibDem blog worth reading most days. He's prepared to say what the others might be thinking but daren't talk about.
Tom's last post was on Tuesday. Did it sound the last post for his blog? I do hope not. Sure, if you;re a whip you can't say whaty you are able to as a backbencher, but at least the rest of us can have some fun encouraging you to!
UPDATE: Quick quiz: Which Labour MP promised NEVER to return to government. Answer? Yes, you guessed right - Tom Watson. Guido has the gory details HERE.
Having spent the early part of the week making the Lib Dems chase their tails, Gordon Brown's clunking fist was aimed at the Tories yesterday. Last week David Cameron was in two minds about a wide-ranging reshuffle. His instinct is not to do so but there will be many voices whispering in his ear that he needs to freshen his team with new talent.
There are two schools of thought advising Cameron. Some believe he should adopt the principle of 'marking the man' and make his appointments having considered who they will be shadowing. Others think 'playing the ball' is more important and the best people should be appointed regardless of their opponents. Cameron is determined to pick his team based on who he wants rather than who he thinks should be sacked. William Hague and George Osborne will relish their new opponents. Jacqui Smith as Home Secretary will provide a different kind of challenge for David Davis. Having seen off four Home Secretaries, he is likely to kill her with kindness. None of these three big beasts need stand by their phones. The same is sadly not true for Francis Maude, the party chairman. Cameron sources are anxious to point out that Maude has done a great job but are now moving into election mode and want a different type of 'front man', or in this case woman. The hot money is now on Caroline Spelman, with Andrew Mitchell an outside bet. Maude will be devastated not to see his work through and is unlikely to take the news well. A source at party HQ told me yesterday: "If they do shift him, it shows they have lost their nerve." There may be trouble ahead.
Chris Grayling may return to being shadow leader of the House. As Cameron's licensed attack dog, he would like nothing better than to rip apart the gaffe-prone Harriet Harman every week. Alternatively, he would be an ideal shadow for the new Health Secretary Alan Johnson. Liam Fox is not popular with the Cameroons but sacking him would be more trouble than it's worth. The last thing Cameron needs is another battle with the Right. Oliver Heald and Theresa May are said to be on Death Row. Neither has done anything wrong but rarely hit the headlines. Heald is a safe pair of hands but expect the impressive Dominic Grieve to replace him. Peter Ainsworth has made little impact at environment and could be replaced by Alan Duncan. David Willetts looks sure to depart from education. In the new split department, Michael Gove would be ideal to shadow Ed Balls, while everyone will wait to see if Cameron is brave enough to promote Boris Johnson to the shadow Cabinet to take on the new skills and universities portfolio. This has two
disadvantages. Boris's promotion would overshadow everything else and mean yet
another Old Etonian in the shadow Cabinet. One of the others would surely have
to make way.
Cameron would love to promote more women but has few to choose from. Julie Kirkbride ought to be a shoo-in and Maria Miller, from the new intake is expected to get a job. Jeremy Hunt, Ed Vaizey, Nick Herbert, Grant Shapps and Shailesh Vara are others from 2005 who have impressed Cameron. In the timing and extent of this reshuffle, it is vital that Cameron avoids the whiff of panic. The Tories will have a bumpy ride over the next few weeks as Brown buffets them with initiatives. Normal politics won't resume until autumn but by then Cameron's new team needs to have bedded down.
Aged just 41, Mr Miliband is a more substantial figure on his first day inClass.
office than his predecessor, Margaret Beckett, was throughout her tenure.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
I'll be putting my head on the block on a Tory reshuffle tomorrow. I have another article in the Telegraph (this time in the news pages) on this subject.
The Whips Office need to stop their hamfisted attempt to frustrate the work
of the Cornerstone Group of Tory MPs. The circle around the leader needs
to be more open and friendlier.
I wonder if he would quantify what he means by "stop their hamfisted attempt to frustrate the work of the Cornerstone Group of Tory MPs." I think we should be told, if only so we can congratulate the Whips Office for their sterling work!
*skaz is an old Essex term meaning 'butcher's hook' which is a cockney term for 'look' :)
There will be no Liberal Democrats in Brown’s Government. But I have no objection to and indeed welcome an initiative which results in Liberal Democrats acting in an independent advisory capacity or participating in an independent commission or investigations which make independent recommendations on policy to the Government. The conditions for taking part which must be satisfied are thatGood, glad that's clear then.
participation is not token, there is a proper remit which allows for independent
analysis and conclusions, and that there is a reasonable prospect of their advice being accepted and their conclusions being implemented.
Minister for the North of England and Deputy Chief Whip (Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household): The Rt Hon Nick Brown MP
Minister for the North West: The Rt Hon Beverly Hughes MP
Minister for Yorkshire and the Humber: Caroline Flint MP
Minister for the Olympics and for London: The Rt Hon Tessa Jowell MP
Minister for the South West: Ben Bradshaw MP
Minister for the East Midlands: Gillian Merron MP
Minister for the West Midlands: Liam Byrne MP
Minister for the East of England: Barbara Follett MP
UPDATE: It appears Tessa Jowell will be covering the South East too. I am sure you are as relieved as I am.
Thankfully there are no signs yet of anyone following Mr Davies across the floor into the arms of the socialist hordes. Let's hope it stays that way.
If I were being unkind I might point out that in his time as Defence Secretary Des Browne has shown himself unfit to hold down one Cabinet job, let alone two.
Kay Burley: So Liam Fox, Gordon Brown has named defective Tory Shaun
Woodward in his Cabinet
Liam Fox: I think you meant defector, rather than defective, but your
words, not mine...
UPDATE: Rumour is that Inspector Yates is doing the questioning himself.
UPDATE: Ruth Kelly has gone to Transport. The nation's train passengers will be sleeping more easily tonight. What a crass appointment.
UPDATE: 11.53 Sky reporting that ED Balls may be at DTI, not Schools as previously reported
UPDATE: 12.04 John Hutton confirmed at DTI
UPDATE: 12.09 Baroness Ashton new Leader of the House of Lords. Never heard of her.
UPDATE: 12.18 Jack Straw confirmed as Justice Secretary
UPDATE 12.19 Adam Boulton speculating that Tessa Jowell will be Olympics Minister. I suspect this will be outside the Cabinet.
UPDATE 13.05 No promotion for Yvette Cooper. Andy Burnham to be Chief Secretary. Ed Miliband to join Cabinet at Cabinet Office. Geoff Hoon to be Chief Whip.
UPDATE: 13.12 Bloody hell. Shaun Woodward in the Cabinet! Who'd have thought it.
Prime Minister: Gordon Brown
Deputy Prime Minister: None
Chancellor: Alistair Darling
Home Secretary: Jacqui Smith
Foreign Secretary: David Miliband
Education: Ed Balls
Higher Education: John Denham
Health: Alan Johnson
Transport: Ruth Kelly
Trade & Industry: John Hutton
Attorney General: Baroness Scotland
Communities & Local Government: Hazel Blears
Chairman of the Labour Party: Harriet Harman
Chief Whip: Geoff Hoon
Environment: Hilary Benn
Justice: Jack Straw
Work & Pensions & Wales: Peter Hain
Leader of the House of Commons: Harriet Harman
DCMS: James Purnell
Northern Ireland: Shaun Woodward
Leader of the Lords: Baroness Ashton
International Development: Douglas Alexander
Defence: Des Browne
Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Andy Burnham
Social Exclusion & Cabinet Office: Ed Miliband
This all reminds me of her comments in 1980, just before the formation of the SDP, when she said: "A centre party would have no roots, no principle and no values." Rather like Shirley Williams, then.
Amazing what a sniff of power can do, isn't it?
Adam Boulton is speculating that former LibDem MP Alex Carlisle will be the new Attorney General. With Shirley Williams' appointment as a government adviser it is safe to say that Ming Campbell's authority is completely shot to pieces.
Incidentally, glad to see at least one of predictions coming true, with Sir Alan Sugar being given a role. I must admit that when I wrote the story I was in two minds whether to actually press SEND.
UPDATE: My hopes are dashed. The Home Secretary is to be Jackie Smith and not the chipmunk. This is a massive promotion for Jackie Smith. She's never struck me as being completely on top of her brief when she appears on TV.
I would only leave my job for one other - editor of the Daily Mail. I would
love to show that a popular newspaper doesn't have to do the evil damage that
the Mail does.
So here's a challenge to Paul Dacre. Let Polly edit the paper for a day. I'm sure we'd all enjoy the fallout.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
With all the focus today on the technicalities of the handover of power, a
fellow blogger has dropped me a line to point out that a quirk of today's events
has seen Gordon Brown apparently retaining his job as Chancellor as well as
Prime Minister. One of his first acts on returning from the Palace, according to
the afternoon lobby briefing, was to appoint Tony Blair 'Steward of the Chiltern
Hundreds' - the constitutional device for an MP to resign their seat. However,
the token appointment is traditionally one for the Treasury, and the press
notice from his old office therefore stated: "The Chancellor of the Exchequer
has this day appointed the Right Honourable Anthony Charles Lynton Blair to be
Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern." (Source).
So it seems until he appoints Alistair Darling to the role tomorrow,
Gordon Brown is still technically Chancellor. Even more interesting, as in his
budget speech this year he began with a joke: 'I am told that in the past two
centuries only one Chancellor before now has delivered 11 Budgets, and then a
12th. That was when Mr. Gladstone combined the positions of Chancellor and Prime
Minister, something no one should ever contemplate doing again'. So - the
Brown government is not yet a day old, and we already have his first U-turn!
I am dumbstruck. Andrew Neil will be furious. The Daily Politics was ordered off the air at 12.32 in the middle of the Prime Minister's valedictory statement at the end of PMQs in order for the BBC to start its Wimbedon coverage - an astonishing decision which ought to have sever reverberations... Heads should roll over this decision at the BBC. By the way, it is now 12.37 and while Adam Boulton picks over the entrails of the last half an hour, BBC 2 viewers are watching two female tennis players called Czink and Ivanovic hit the ball from baseline to baseline. If it had been Federer v Nadal you could possibly understand the decision, but not for these two. And meanwhile, Andrew Neil is self combusting.
The BBC has released a statement (no doubt after about 63 drafts) which puts it down to a cock-up. That's the not the way Daily Politics insiders see it. My belief that Andrew Neil would be self combusting seems to go for the rest of the Daily Politics team. They are fizzing.
Originally, the programme was due to come off the air at 12.35. This was changed to 12.34 after BBC Presentation demanded it. A Daily Politics insider tells me that it's all down to Peter Horrocks, Head of TV News at the BBC. They reckon that 'Presentation' would not have dared do this without direct orders from Horrocks. He, it is thought, wanted them off air before the News 24 special programme started. 'Presentation' were only too keen to go along with this as they were keen to start their BBC2 Wimbledon coverage on time. Horrocks tonight rubbished this. He told me: "[It's] complete nonsense. Why on earth would the Head of TV News have the slightest interest in ending the politics coverage to go to tennis?
The Daily Politics team was further enraged to see trailers for Rome and other programmes being put out before Sue Barker came on the screen to babble on about the afternoon's tennis. One said: "It's a disgrace. It's the first time a Prime Minister has had a standing ovation since Lloyd George announced the end of the First World War and terrestrial public service TV wasn't there to cover it."
The same Daily Politics insider says that in retrospect they wish they had defied 'Presentation' and refused to hand back. It would have then been up to 'Presentation' to grab the network feed. I'm pretty sure that if Andrew Neil had had more than thirty seconds to consider what was happening he would have done just that.
Helen Boaden has written THIS on the BBC Editors' blog. She says it was a cock up rather than a conspiracy but that's not the way the Daily Politics people see it. When I contacted Peter Horrocks tonight and he told me:
Yes, I had been involved in previously agreeing the off air/on air time of 12.35 when we intended to switch from BBC2 to BBC1. We had assumed, as is invariably the case, that PMQs would be well over by that time. It wasn't. We didn't change plans quickly enough. We should have. Bad mistake which no one would have wanted. We have apologised to viewers."
That's fine as far as it goes, but I know the Daily Politics feel that someone, somewhere is undermining them. I think they need a group hug from someone on high.
Heads should roll over this decision at the BBC. By the way, it is now 12.37 and while Adam Boulton picks over the entrails of the last half an hour, BBC 2 viewers are watching two female tennis players called Czink and Ivanovic hit the ball from baseline to baseline. If it had been Federer v Nadal you could possibly understand the decision, but not for these two.
And meanwhile, Andrew Neil is self combusting.
I for one wish Tony Blair well in his new job. At least he won't have that awful period of 'nothingness' which has afflicted most Prime Ministers when they leave office. Whatever the differences we may have politically he does have some unqiue achievements to his name over the last ten years and he has been a formidable leader of the Labour Party. But he has led a party which is glad to be rid of him. They know not what they have done.
UPDATE: The Reverend Ian Paisley has just asked a very moving question to Tony Blair at the end of PMQs. He expressed the hope that he could do for the Middle East what he did for Northern Ireland. When it comes up on Hansard I will post it here.
There's more to come - as I know.
Another Labour source said he had been advised to...
Watch the TV on Tuesday, but Thursday will be better.So who is the MP that is being talked about? Well, I have a shortlist of one.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Davies was still voting with the Party last night at 5.48pm last night AGAINST Gordon Brown's Finance Bill. Rather strange behaviour for a man who has just written a letter indicating he thinks Gordon Brown is Britain's saviour.
His last speech in Parliament (last week's European debate) was in retrospect quite cryptic:
Mr. Quentin Davies (Grantham and Stamford) (Con): We all know people who haveIndeed. Most of the Tory MPs I spoke to spoke more in sorrew than anger. No one felt there was much mileage in this and that Davies would feel very uncomfortable on the Labour benches. He has the air of a grandee and is quite right wing on some social issues. There was also a feeling that he hasn't been 'handled' very well. Quentin Davies always like to feel at the centre of things. Although he wasn't part of the Davis campaign team he was a regular provider of information and was 'stroked' to make him feel part of it. Many a time I can remember being in DD's office and Mr Davies's head would pop round the door wanting a minute with David. Unfortunately under the Cameron regime he seems to have been ignored an felt unloved. If he wasn't on the whips' list of potential defectors he ought to have been, and handled accordingly.
identity crises of one kind or another. They do not really know what sort of
people they want to be, what their values are, or what sort of life they want to
lead. Such people are among our friends and relations.
A lobby journalist also told me an interesting tale. When he was a young reporter in the 1990s he encountered Quentin Davies in the lobby. He appraoched him for a quote. Davies looked him up and down and asked if here a full member of the lobby. "No, I'm not," replied the journalist. "I thought not," said Davies as he walked off in disdain. People remember things like that.
I have just received the press release from Simon Chapman, chairman of Grantham & Stamford Conservatives...
I heard this news from Quentin Davies with enormous surprise and disappointment. He has let down his constituents and his local party members very badly, and displayed great ill-judgement. David Cameron has launched the most substantial and heavyweight policy review that the Conservative Party has had for generations. As Quentin Davies well knows, that is due to report this summer. Under David Cameron’s leadership the Conservative Party will show that it alone can solve the deep-seated challenges facing Britain in the 21st century, so many of which have been directly caused by the control freakery and incompetence of Gordon Brown. I have no doubt that under David’s leadership the Party will go on to win the next election whenever it is called.
I am astonished to hear about Quentin Davies’s new-found admiration for Gordon Brown, which has not been at all evident before this afternoon. If he is as straightforward and devoted to his constituents as he protests, no doubt he will resign and fight a by-election, so that that the people can decide. Until then, Quentin will have the same lack of democratic mandate that his new leader does.”
Well I think Mr Chapman can whistle for a by-election.
UPDATE: And no mention of Mr Davies on the Labour Party website. Stranger and stranger, said Alice.
UPDATE 5.47: The first anyone knew of this defection came at 2.30 when various political editors were summoned to Gordon Brown's office. They were told they would be getting an interview but Brown's people would not be drawn on the subject. All the pol eds thought they would be interviewing the Great Clunking Fist himself. It wasn't until they turned up at Brown's office (Brown was off in a meeting with Wee Dougie Alexander) that they were told what was going on.
UPDATE 6.11: Ben Brogan has this...
His defection has been in the works for a couple of months, and was the result of a series of one-to-one conversations with Mr Brown. The two had bumped into each other in the Commons one day, and Mr Davies had mentioned a book he had read that might interest the Chancellor, who promptly invited him round for a chat. He is now full of praise for Mr Brown's intellect and his integrity. But his key points are these: "I haven't done any deals at all, this is entirely a matter of conviction. I don't want to be in the new government. I'm joining as a backbencher. As for the Lords, I voted for a 100 per cent elected upper house and never wanted to be outside the Commons. I will seek re-election, but not in my constituency."
What a coward. He didn't even have the guts to tell David Cameron in person. Not someone you'd want to go into the jungle with.
26 JUNE 2007
"a leader I have always greatly admired, who I believe is entirely straightforward, and who has a towering record, and a clear vision for the future of our country which I fully share."
16 MARCH 2005
"the Chancellor has been losing control… His projections… have been consistently wrong. He has been wrong about both revenues and expenditure… The Chancellor took risks… he is imprudent… a great worry… very worrying… he simply wanted to win the next election—if he can… it does not matter what happens afterwards… the Chancellor went in for an orgy of self-congratulation… deceiving other people… complacency… he is not prudent and responsible, and not a person to be entrusted with the management of anybody's finances, let alone the country's finances… unattractive and frankly problematic… an absolutely devastating misjudgement and mistake—the destruction of our pensions system… We have not had a word of apology from the Chancellor… He was just incredibly imprudent… extraordinarily incompetent… extraordinarily naïve… desperately complacent… As a result of that self-congratulation and complacency, the Chancellor is becoming so cut off that he is beginning to underestimate the intelligence of the electorate… I trust and believe that something nasty will happen to the Chancellor in electoral terms before too long. He will have no one but himself to blame.
Quentin Davies MP, HC Debs, 16 Mar 2005: Column 309-318
Oh dear, oh dear. Quentin Davies has defected to the Labour Party. He has certainly been semi-detached from the Party for some time and is someone who has always thought that his talents have never been recognised by the Conservative leadership. Despite being thought to be on the left of the Party he supported Iain Duncan Smith in 2001 and flirted very much with David Davis in 2005. IDS made him Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, but David Trimble thought he was bonkers and refused to have meetings with him. I guess that like Peter Temple-Morris, he views this as his only way into the House of Lords. What a disloyal s***. Or possibly he will be Gordon Brown's Northern Ireland Secretary in a Government of all the talents - if that is the case it shows just how few talents Brown has available to him.
Right, that's the denunciation out of the way, now to a bit of slightly more dispassionate analysis. Is this a blow to the Conservative Party? Yes. Is this a triumph for Gordon Brown? Yes. Will it have any long term effects? Probably not. Defections are always embarrassing for the party which a politician has left and this one will be no different. There will be many people who rubbish Quentin Davies over the next few days and there will be many Labour MPs trumpeting his defection from the rooftops. We'd do if it were happening the other way round. And you know, it's entirely possible that there will be a defection the other way before very long, so let's hope Labour MPs do not go overboard on the rooftops.
By the way, can I just say how nice it was to See Quentin Davies at the Conservative History Group last week. In the light of today's events he truly is Conservative history.
UPDATE: Phil Woolas has just described this as the most significant defection since 1945. No danger of overstating the case there then...
I'm not going to comment on every single poll that is released, but I though it worth mentioning this one as it proved my point!
"The snake soup was terrific but I am not sure I could eat cockerels'
testicles every day" - Lord Patten reminisces on his days as governor of Hong Kong.
"I love money. I'm so grateful that I don't have to look at the price of one cheese against another, but I still shop like a poverty-stricken peasant" - Joanna Lumley.
"I suppose it must be my general wonderfulness. I can't think of any other reason" - Historian Lady Antonia Fraser when asked why she appears in the thank-you list of Tina Brown's new book about Diana, Princess of Wales.
"Lustful, spotty students are willing to learn a great deal from nubile young teachers - but nothing that appears on the school syllabus" - Playwright and commentator Keith Waterhouse on the great education debate.
"I had never heard of the Arctic Monkeys. Were they an animal act?" - Commentator Petronella Wyatt reports on an uncomfortable visit to Glastonbury.
"Is there any truth in the rumour that when he leaves office Tony Blair is going to convert to Labour?" - Philip Moran, of London, in a letter to The Guardian.
"It looked like he had been rolling around in a vat of carrot juice" - An unnamed delegate at the NHS Confederation conference on David Cameron's "somewhat radio-active shade of make-up".
"Finishing a novel by Salman Rushdie is a lot like climbing Everest or walking on the moon - the province of a select few, an elite band made of different stuff to us mere mortals" - Best-selling writer and TV arts pundit Tony Parsons.
On the contrary, he's done some excellent work exposing the charade behind the case of the girl who has taken her school to court over their decision to forbid her to wear a 'chastity ring'. I must admit I always felt there was something a bit fishy about this case but couldn't quite put my finger on what. Well if you're interested, click HERE for the full story - and it's a story which the national press seem to have missed, despite devoting acres of space to the girl's story.
On a wider point, many journalists accuse us bloggers of being frustrated journalists. Perhaps I might return the compliment and pose the question as to whether many political journalists are merely frustrated politicians? Discuss.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Just prior to seeing him I had been discussing his prospects of returning to government in the Brown reshuffle with a couple of lobby journalists. None of us could come up with a reason why Gordon Brown would reward a man who has spent the last few months dissing him. And yet all of us felt that it was a distinct possibility.
It's a funny old world.
I have been allotted the first of the last questions to Tony Blair at PMQ's
on Wednesday... Now the obvious questions that come to mind are:Does the PM
think "The trial of Tony Blair" is going to become reality?or Will the PM become
the next Governor of Texas?Somehow I don't think the PM would want to answer
that! So, I though I'd ask you to suggest questions to be put to our esteemed
outgoing PM! If you have a burning question, send it to me, you never know, it
might be put to the PM!
Harriet flippin Harman. Don't get me started! She was my 6th preference all the way - and there on merit! Backtracking one day into the job - any wonder why Brown chose to downgrade her position. Liability.
Another left-leaning political adademic said this...
Her performance on the Today programme was fairly lamentable and she has already started denying she said various things
If Harriet Harman can be elected leader of the Labour Party, then the
political world defies analysis…
‘When the troops do finally come home, which we all hope will be as soon as possible, there will need to be an inquiry and I think that we also need to look at the circumstances in which we went in but at the planning and preparation for the aftermath as well, and we will need to learn lessons from that.’ (Harriet Harman, Deputy Leadership hustings, Fabian Society, 16 May
And on the need for an apology:
Jeremy Paxman: “Do you think the Party should say sorry for what happened?”
Jon Cruddas: “I do actually, as part of a general reconciliation with the British people over what has been a disaster in Iraq.”
Harriet Harman: [interrupts] “Yup, I agree with that.”
(BBC TV, Newsnight, 29 May 2007)
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Harman wins deputy leader contest
Labour must have soul, says Brown
Focus on the party, says Prescott
Blair 'made plans to axe Brown'
EU treaty good for UK, says Blair
Attorney general to leave office
Blair talks with Pope in Vatican
Lord Falconer gets his own troupe of morris dancers
Surprise win What message does Labour deputy result send Gordon Brown?
Legal departure Lord Goldsmith's exit means another top table change
How to be an ex-PM £300,000 a year, faith foundations, lectures - what is next for Blair?
Gordon Brown's plan for a 'better Britain'
Brown becomes Labour leader
Harman wins deputy contest
Focus on party, says Prescott
In depth: The Blair Years
Who's who: Cabinet
Tributes at Blair's last Cabinet
Brown defends broad Cabinet
Sarwar plans to stand down as MP
Prescott accountant jailed again
Polls close in Labour deputy race
Brown pledge to cut state control
Cherie to challenge smoking ban
Lib Dem anger over Brown 'tricks'
US 'wants Blair' for Mid-East job
Brown: New broom or business as usual... the interview
EU treaty good for UK, says Blair
Brown pledge to cut state control
Brown offered Ashdown Cabinet job
Patients and staff give their opinion on the NHS under Blair
Obviously you expect media organisations to increase the coverage of a party when they have a
I don't actually think this is an example of pro Labour bias, but it certainly gives ammunition to those who will. Are there really no other political stories around at the moment?
Next time he appears on television and thinks about kicking the Conservative Party in the balls he should remember this. It was the Conservative Party that made him, not other way around. The least he owes it is some semblance of loyalty.
What gets me is that he castigates Cameron for following the very agenda which he himself espoused and alleges that Cameron is now about to abandon the progressive politics he has followed for the last 18 months. Did he not listen to Cameron's speech last Monday?
Portillo seems to be harbouring a real hatred for William Hague. Just look back at his articles and he can never bring himself to say anything good about him. I suppose it may be because Hague got the leadership in 1997 when Portillo thought it was his by right. Trouble was, he lost his seat.
I don't pretend to understand the psychology of Michael Portillo. All I know is that he has been disloyal to the last four Conservative leaders. It was too much to hope that his loyalty to this one would be any different.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
A bit of food for thought there! But in the words of Corporal Jones, 'Don't Panic'!!! Unless you;re a LibDem, of course... :)
UPDATE: Rawnsley really understands Blair, who did not emerge from these two hour very well. If you missed this, make sure you catch the second part on Monday.
Prime Minister: Gordon Brown
Deputy Prime Minister: Alan Johnson
Chancellor: Alistair Darling
Home Secretary: John Denham
Foreign Secretary: Jack Straw
Education: Alan Johnson
Health: David Miliband
Transport: Stephen Timms
Trade & Industry: Ed Balls
Attorney General: Baroness Scotland
Communities & Local Government: Hazel Blears
Chairman of the Labour Party: Peter Hain
Chief Whip: Nick Brown
Environment: Hilary Benn
Justice: Liam Byrne
Work & Pensions: John Hutton
Leader of the House of Commons: Harriet Harman
DCMS: James Purnell
Northern Ireland: Geoff Hoon
Leader of the Lords: Neil Kinnock
International Development: Caroline Flint
Defence: Douglas Alexander
Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Yvette Cooper
Social Exclusion & Cabinet Office: Jacqui Smith
This is just the latest example of Brown trying to prove he is something which we all know he isn't. This is a very dangerous trait in a politician. And it is a trait which will end in tears. Sir Ming Campbell has learned that the hard way. He acceded to his spin doctors' wishes and ended up indulging in ludicrous stunts aimed at making the LibDem leader young and energetic and was rightly pilloried for it. And it is still going on. Ming has worn glasses for years. He doesn't any more - in public, at any rate. There are countless other examples.
Ming Campbell and Gordon Brown will both live to regret trying to be something they are not. The public will always, in the end, see through it and punish them accordingly. That is why it is so vital that David Cameron never falls into this trap and 'keeps it real'.
In this presidency conclusion, however, the European Union – as represented by the European Council – is seeking to dictate to the member states what it shall (and shall not) include in a treaty (the text of which it has defined), effectively barring it from discussing anything else. If the member states accept this, they are effectively conceding that they are subordinate to the European Union, thereby acknowledging that the Union is the supreme power.This would represent a fundamental change in the relationship between the member states and the European Union, one not brought about by treaty, but by an informal de facto arrangement emanating from the European Council- setting an extremely dangerous precedent.Thus, Gordon Brown's first challenge on becoming prime minister is not only to address the detail of the so-called "mandate", but to re-assert his right, as leader of a sovereign, independent nation, to decide on the terms of a treaty which will cede "competences" to the Union. He and his fellow heads of state and govenment, acting on mandate from their respective peoples, alone have the power to decide this.It is wholly unacceptable, he should tell the Union, that as a treaty organisation subordinate to the member states, it should attempt to usurp the power that belongs exclusively to the member states. In short, Gordon Brown's first task is to tell the European Union
who is boss.
Ben Brogan, who has been at the summit the whole time writes...
Meanwhile it will be up to Mr Brown to persuade us why this new treaty should not be put to a referendum. Yes, it secures us against the Charter (the key amendment says "for the avoidance of doubt, nothing in the Charter creates justiciable rights applicable to the UK"), but it also creates a permanent president of the Council of Ministers, a new EU foreign minister (although we can't call him that) and - crucially - cedes sovereignty in at least 52 other areas. According to the euro-wonks among us, that's more than Nice or Maastricht.ConservativeHome reckons this outcome presents David Cameron with a unique opportunity and that he - not William Hague - should be at the forefront of a referndum campaign...
David Cameron, who has recently experienced some difficulties in his relationship with large sections of his grassroots, should seize this opportunity to reassert his leadership and regain some much-needed affection. He needs to adopt the attitude of The Sun and The Mail on this agenda. Today's Sun describes the proposed loss of British vetoes on "energy, agriculture and fisheries, transport, culture, tourism and even immigration policy" as a "shabby surrender of British power." The Mail's Ben Brogan notes that British powers are being lost in fifty-two areas. 52! This is not a time for William Hague to be (however ably) leading the Conservative attack on this
"shabby surrender". Forget Michael Portillo's advice that this issue will only encourage the Tory party's "wild-eyed" Eurosceptics. This is a great opportunity for Mr Cameron to champion the vast majority of British people who have had enough of the relentless drive towards a European superstate and the way the EU's politicians
ignore referendum results.
James Forsyth highlights a weakness in Labour's anti-referndum argument on the Spectator blog...
Margaret Beckett has been dismissing calls for a referendum by arguing that Britain is not a country that "governs by referendum" which begs the question as to why she was happy to run in 2005 on a manifesto that explicitly stated, “We will put it to the British people in a referendum”.James might have also mentioned the Welsh, Scottish and North East referendums. Once the genie is out of the bottle... And if you really need proof as to why this so-called 'treaty' is a constitution by any other name, Open Europe have done the spadework HERE.
My view, for what it is worth, is that this is a massive tranfer of power and sovereignty to Brussels and ought to be resisted at all costs. I am glad the Conservative Party is remaining staunch n the need for a referendum. But this also provides a challenge for David Cameron. I agree with ConservativeHome's analysis that he ought to put himself at the front of a campaign for a referendum, but I want to emphasise the word FOR. Too many times the Conservative Party has been AGAINST things related to Europe without explaining what the alternative would be. It has appeared self interested, ideological and narrow. Even if the country agreed with must of what it was saying, the Party was stuck in a negative rut.
While campaigning FOR a referendum David Cameron must start to articulate what sort of Europe he wants to see and what kind of relationship this country should have with it. If he manages to do that, he'll reap the political rewards.
Your efforts to create a government of all the talents haven't got off to a good start, have they? To be honest, like many others, I am not sure that you were very serious anyway. But congratulations for causing such chaos among our mutual friends in the Liberal Democrats. Not a very nice thing to do to Ming, though, was it? But I see what you were playing at. What you want is that nice Nick Clegg to take over and appeal to southern Conservative voters. A bit transparent, though, wasn't it? Anyway, let's get to the point. If you really do want to create a government of all the talents, you could do worse than this lot... or perhaps a lot better!
Prime Minister: Gordon Brown
Deputy Prime Minister: David Cameron
Chancellor: Ken Clarke
Home Secretary: David Davis
Foreign Secretary: Sir Menzies Campbell
Education: Lord Adonis
Health: Nick Clegg
Transport: The Chipmunk
Trade & Industry: George Osborne
Attorney General: Dominic Grieve
Local Government: Chris Huhne
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster: William Hague
Chief Whip: Peter Kilfoyle
Environment: David Miliband
Justice: John Denham
Work & Pensions: David Laws
Leader of the House of Commons: Jack Straw
DCMS: Boris Johnson
Northern Ireland: David Trimble
Leader of the Lords: Baroness Shephard of Northwold
International Development: Hilary Benn
Defence: Alan Johnson
Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Ed Balls
There are 10 Labour, 9 Conservative and 5 LibDems here. Obviously I have been a tad naughty with a few of them, but frankly, this lineup is going to be an improvement on whatever you come up with, isn't it?!
Gordon Brown's Cabinet of All the Talents
My predicted Gordon Brown Cabinet
My predicted David Cameron Shadow Cabinet
My predicted Ming Campbell Line-up
And finally, If I were David Cameron...
So do check back regularly. There should be plenty to chew on. In the meantime, Michael White did something similar yesterday HERE. My predictions will not be quite so outlandish as his, though!
As we talk, people are constantly buzzing in and out. At one point, he tells his own Miss Moneypenny: "Get me D1, D2, D3 briefings on reactions to a terrorist attack." To an aide, he shouts: "Call X - he'll be at MI5," then tells us: "You didn't hear that. I know lots of spooks." The first occasion we meet DD, as he is known by his team, is on the morning of the terrorist attacks on London, and information is coming in all the time. Mr Davis admits that he likes a crisis. "Big occasions bring out the best in me," he says. "Life is a test, a thing you throw yourself at."
Anyway, enough of that. In the first part of today's interview DD talks about how William Hague and he have been deputed to reassure the Right...
He then makes clear he thinks that then private equity sector is undertaxed...
The man who stood for the Right against Mr Cameron in the leadership contest now wants to keep the two sides together. "William Hague and I are the guarantors," he says. "If we think things are OK, most Tories will probably think they're OK, it is useful having William and I sitting either side of David." The Conservative leader's task until now has, Mr Davis says, been "decontamination, detox, all the phrases I hate. But he has to establish the right to be listened to. In doing that there are risks with your own base. You can be misunderstood, we are trying to explain the project to the grassroots."
Some activists, he admits, are grumpy. "You've inevitably got a group on the traditional Right of the party who are edgy. We all get green ink letters but if you meet the Tory party in the country you will find they're astoundingly normal. Frankly, they want to win. It doesn't matter that they're not trendy and they don't live in Notting Hill." He says the Conservative Party made its choice between two suitors during the leadership contest. "How much did Cameron beat me by? Let me remind you of that embarrassing fact: 66 to 32. If we had the poll tomorrow it would be the same. Of course there's nervousness. The honeymoon has switched to Brown and you can't have two simultaneous honeymoons, it doesn't work."The marriage,
he insists, is solid. Right-wing traditionalists "are a strand but they're a minority strand. I don't think they've been ignored too much ... David's got the formula that will win us the next election".
The social mobility tsar also has his eye on the super-rich. "The cliché is David Beckham. No one argues or grumbles about his salary, his value is very visible. But private equity is harder," he says. The "peculiar tax regime" - under which some private equity millionaires pay only 10 per cent tax - should, in his view, be reconsidered. He thinks the Tory grassroots would be in favour. "My hunch on the ground is that they would agree this is a tax break too far. They care about fairness ... You need a morally stable society which is why it is important to look at their worth and to sit up when some of their own people are saying this is not right."
Too many politicians are "goggled-eyed" about wealth, he says. "I am not a great enthusiast for cuddling up to the rich ...Labour used to be for the many not the few, and that is what the Tories now are."
And the interview concludes with some reflections which might surprise some people. And before anyone asks, the gay friend he refers to below isn't me!
He agrees that "general well-being" is as important as GDP. "The Right-wingers
who don't care about flexibility at work have got to recognise that we've got a
big unused resource if women are tied up and not able to meet their full
He is socially liberal. "People think I'm traditional but I gave away a gay friend at his civil partnership ceremony the other day. In a perfect world everybody would understand absolutely what I stand for."His environmentalism is old-fashioned. "I'm not into windmills but I live in a house sitting by a pond in 17 acres of ground with 1,000 trees and hares and partridge and pheasants. It's my bit of England. If you came there you'd see what I really think about green issues. I love the countryside but I don't need to talk about it."
Although he does not wear Converse trainers like the youthful Cameroons, he says: "I can run faster than any of them." He was going tieless when Dave was still at school. "I hate the heat." But, unlike his younger colleagues, he feels uncomfortable with touchy feely politics. "I'm much more private than most politicians. I think if you want to be a political leader now you have to be more willing to open yourself up."
Does he think the right man won the Tory leadership? "Yes," he replies without hesitating. As the Conservatives' "guarantor" he thinks he has the perfect job. "You can scare yourself to death - whether in business, politics or climbing mountains - by being over-reflective about what went wrong. If the rope stops you before you hit the ground you walk away and you have another go."
Friday, June 22, 2007
If I were a Labour MP I would view this courting of known political opponents with complete horror. The only message it sends out is that he has a very low opinion of most of his colleagues in the House of Commons. Lord Stevens doesn't have a socialist bone in his body so I am not surprised he too has rebuffed Brown. But the news tonight that Lord Goldsmith will be standing down next week (he was unlikely to survive anyway) opens up yet another place round the Cabinet table. Let's look at how many new people are likely to join the Cabinet table next Thursday.
Home Secretary: John Reid - Going
Foreign Secretary: Margaret Beckett - Possibly going
DEFRA: David Miliband - Promotion
Attorney General - Lord Goldsmith - Going
Justice - Lord Falconer - Almost certainly going
Health - Patricia Hewitt - Almost certainly going
Education - Alan Johnson - Staying put
Trade - Alistair Darling - Promotion
Chief Secretary - Stephen Timms - Promotion
Communities - Ruth Kelly - Unclear
DFID - Hilary Benn - Promotion
Leader of the House - Jack Straw - Promotion
Labour Party Chairman - Hazel Blears - Move
Duchy of Lancaster - Hilary Armstrong - Going
Leader of the Lords - Baroness Amost - Probably Going
Work & Pensions - John Hutton - Unclear
Defence - Des Browne - Probably Going
Chief Whip - Jacqui Smith - Promotion
Wales & N Ireland - Peter Hain - Looks to be at risk
DCMS - TessaJowell
Transport - Douglas Alexander - Promotion
The clear message here is that there will be very few people staying put in their current jobs, which may ironically save Ruth Kelly and Des Browne. Altogether there are likely to be at least eight new members of the Cabinet. Tomorrow I will be looking at the likely runners and riders.
Mr Dale, Re your housing article in the Sunday Telegraph. What about the
English countryside? You can't allow free market completely, surely? I
sometimes think we will concrete over as much as Prescott.
Now, firstly, I have never written an article for the Sunday Telegraph, and secondly, I have never written an article on housing for anyone. I can only think he is confusing me with someone else. But who? Over to you, dear reader.
In his seemingly never ending quest to prove that he has a distinct lack of talent among his own benches, Gordon Brown is, I can reveal, seriously considering offering Sir Alan Sugar a job in his government. He would be made a Peer and either join Brown's Cabinet or made Skills Czar.
Obviously this proves that Brown wants nothing to do with a culture of celebrity, doesn't it? Yup, no spin at all.
UPDATE: I have just re-read this and it does read a little bit like a spoof. It really isn't. I am assured this really is on the cards!
Cameron hates reshuffles, believing that moving people every year creates disharmony, instability and bad policy. His priority in responding to Brown's team will be to put round pegs in round holes. Cameron's instinct is not to radically alter the look of his team, but only to make changes that are forced by Brown's appointments. Cameron knows, though, that some surprises from Brown might force him to be more radical than he is inclined to be.
William Hague, David Davis and George Osborne will all stay put. In Hague's and Davis's case, any attempt to move them could have dire consequences. Hague loves his current job and has no desire to take on the shadow chancellorship or the party chairmanship. Davis has been the shadow cabinet's most effective media performer at Home Affairs and would not take kindly to being moved.
The only top job where there could be a move is the party chairmanship. After only two years, Francis Maude is the longest-serving chairman since Lord Thorneycroft. He has acted as a lightning rod for Cameron and his internal party reforms are coming to fruition.
Whether he is moved largely depends on whether Cameron wants a chairman who will look after the party organisation, or a rottweiler who will spend most of his time attacking Labour. There is much speculation that Chris Grayling is being groomed for the role. If Maude is dispatched, he would be justified in feeling aggrieved. A lot of what he has done at Conservative HQ is below the radar and only starting to emerge after some serious long-term planning.
Last month there was much speculation that Liam Fox was destined for the chop. He was felt by people around Cameron to have under-performed in his defence portfolio. But the reaction from the party's grassroots to an article in the Sunday Telegraph, predicting his demise, together with an upswing in his attitude, seems to have saved the day.
Another unresolved area is what to do about the Ministry of Justice. Many think David Davis should continue to shadow both Home Affairs and the new ministry, but it is important to reflect the structure of government, and I would expect Cameron to make an overdue promotion and ask shadow attorney general Dominic Grieve to take on the role.
Brown is expected to beef up the Department of Trade and Industry, giving it the digital switchover from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and much of the Department for Education's employment brief. This should keep Ed Balls busy, but it might not be enough to satisfy Alan Duncan's craving for a top job. Duncan is becoming one of the party's star performers on TV and he rightly feels better use should be made of him.
There is much speculation about the future of David Willetts. It would be cruel to sack him for doing his leader's bidding, but the hot rumour of the week is that he will be moved rather than fired, and be replaced by Michael Gove. This would make sense if Brown keeps Alan Johnson at education. Willetts performs best when he has an opponent who does not have attack-dog tendencies, and Johnson most certainly does.
Many Conservatives believe that if the party is serious about preparing for government, Cameron should bring in a few greybeards with experience. I'm told they will be disappointed. Cameron believes the only way to fight Brown's Cabinet of new faces is to freshen up his own team with some young, energetic members of the class of 2005. Gove is one, Ed Vaizey might be another and Maria Miller could be the third.
Whoever Cameron promotes, it is his intention to avoid further reshuffles before the election unless events dictate otherwise. This will be his team for government.