Saturday, March 31, 2007
Whatever sympathy I might have for gunboat diplomacy is somewhat diminished by thinking that had they done just that it might well have triggered something far more dangerous. Remember August 1914, anyone?
My match report can be read HERE on my West Ham Blog for those who are interested - Dizzy has his take on the afternoon HERE - and I deny absolutely all his allegations about my accent. Mike Rouse had never been to a football match before and he has written it up on his blog HERE. He seemed surprised that I became boisterous. Funny, I always thought I was like that at work...
After the match I went for a meal at an excellent Mexican Restaurant in Islington called Desperado's (a reader informs me this used to be Granita!) with my fellow Hammer Jo Phillips. Jo used to be my broadcasting agent and was the producer of 5 Live's much missed Sunday Service, which I occasionally used to co-present with Fi Glover and Charlie Whelan. She's a good mate and it was good to catch up on her news. She now works for Bob Geldof's Ten Alps Broadcasting.
FYI: I'm doing the papers on News 24 at 11.45pm tonight, and I'll be on Radio 5's Worricker Programme from 10am till 1pm tomorrow.
Firstly, I am not, and have never pretended to be, an 'independent' observer of news events. I have always made my political allegiances quite clear and anyone reads this blog reads it through the prism of me being an active Conservative supporter. That does not blind me to the failings of my party, but it does mean that I don't feel it necessary to always highlight them. There are plenty of other people on left of centre blogs that do that. Regular readers will know, however, that I do not hesitate to criticise on issues I feel strongly about (c.f Quentin Davies on the Incumbency allowance).
Secondly, I am not a news journalist and this is not a News Blog. It is primarily a vehicle for me to comment and spark a debate. I do not write about every development that takes place in politics, or every issue that comes up. I do not spend every waking hour writing this blog. I spent less than an hour a day on it, generally. I write about things which are of interest to me and on which I have something to say.
Thirdly, several people have said it was hypocritical of me to criticise Stephen Timms HERE while not criticising David Cameron. Of course, if you read the story you will see that I wasn't having a go at Stephen Timms at all - I was questioning why London for Business were not more upfront that they were a 'front organisation' for the Labour Party.
Readers may like to note this comment from Rob Fenwick, the editor of LibDem Voice HERE where he says...
I have to say (I also said this on Norfolk Blogger’s blog this
morning) I agree with Iain on this. We’re party political bloggers, not
impartial news agencies.
Finally, I did actually comment on the Cameron issue in a Comment thread. I said that I deplore anything which has the slightest hint of cash for access and I was glad that David Cameron had issued an immediate apology - something which several Labour MPs have failed to do in similar circumstances.
This single decision, the ultimate stealth tax, turned Britain's pensions system from being oneof the best in the world to one of the worst. It also hit the poorest in society the most - as Brown was warned at the time it would. What kind of Chancellor ignores that kind of advice?
Margaret Beckett gives David 'Milibland' some advice today. She says he would be offering himself up as a human sacrifice if he stood against Gordon Brown. Rather like herself when she stood against Tony Blair in 1994 then.
As he reads the papers over his Weetabix this morning Miliband could be forgiven if he felt that Gordon Brown's reputation was unravelling before his very eyes.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Bearing in mind the profile on environmental issues and pensions Peter Ainsworth and Philip Hammond ought to be far higher.
Anyone know how much a Lexis Nexis subscription costs?
UPDATE: A reader has done a similar job with Lexis Nexis for mentions over the last three months to reflect the method used by Stephen Tall.
1. David Davis 1197
2. George Osborne 853
3. William Hague 562
4. Liam Fox 378
5. Chris Grayling 311
6. Andrew Lansley 269
7. Hugo Swire 206
8. Caroline Spelman 178
9. Peter Ainsworth 171
10. David Willetts 154
11. Philip Hammond 139
12. Cheryl Gillan 139
13. Theresa May 133
14. David Mundell 129
15. Alan Duncan 128
16. Francis Maude 124
17. Oliver Heald 105
18. Oliver Letwin 94
19. Lord Strathclyde 65
20. Andrew Mitchell 57
21. David Lidington 53
22. Theresa Villiers 28
And if you want to see Karl Rove rapping... click HERE.
Of course the big question is how long John Reid will stay in his job. He thinks he's going to be the long term National Security supremo. My prediction is that his tenure in the job will last a matter of weeks.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Two years ago, Mark Oaten - then a rising star in the Liberal Democrats - told a leading Conservative that his party's generation was hungry for power and would go out and seek it. He had just published The Orange Book with his political soulmate David Laws, and was taken aback by the opprobrium from Left-of-centre Liberal Democrats. It was at that point that some of the Orange Bookers started to think long term; several found the prospect of 20 years on the Lib Dem benches a pretty soul-destroying prospect and their policy positions on many issues - tax, welfare reform and public services - were not poles apart from those adopted by liberal Conservatives.
Oaten came very close to defecting to the Conservatives in the autumn of 2005. As Lib Dem home affairs spokesman he was frustrated by the party's opposition to his tougher approach on crime, and, in particular, terrorism: but the Tories were choosing a leader and Oaten's bargaining position was weak, so he stayed put. David Cameron nearly claimed his first scalp two months into his leadership. Rumours had been swirling around Westminster of an imminent Lib Dem defection. I wrote on my blog that David Laws was about to jump ship. It was then that I received a phone call from someone close to the Cameron set who asked if I could tone it down a little as things were "at a delicate stage".
If Laws is to be believed, George Osborne's attempt to lure him across - then, or later - was less a political seduction than a "wham bam, thank you ma'am". Laws has been telling Tory MPs this week that Osborne asked abruptly, without any political foreplay, whether he wanted to defect or not. He was so taken aback that he spluttered "not".
In a GMTV interview at the weekend, Osborne confirmed that he had held discussions with Laws and was also talking to Labour MPs. The first rule of political defections is that you not only keep any discussions secret from your own side, you don't talk about them on television either. Afterwards, Osborne knew he had made a mistake, but the damage had been done.
The Tories and Lib Dems are becoming allies of convenience on issues where they have common ground. Nick Clegg, the Lib Dems Home Affairs Spokesman and leader-in-waiting, has been astonished at how similar his views are to those of David Davis, whom he had previously regarded as a hardline Right-winger. Cameron confidante Ed Vaizey has been deputed to cosy up to the Lib Dems. His recent trip to the Arctic Circle with Nick Clegg may not have resulted in a defection, but eight hours a night in an igloo can hardly have failed to bring them closer.
The Cameron inner circle ought to remember the Second World War maxim: careless Talk Costs Lives," except they should replace the "lives" with "defections".
UPDATE: More councillors defect to Tories HERE.
Actually, from the excerpt that was shown he put in a rather good performance. Doing a programme like that is full of risks with few rewards. To come out of it unscathed is a major victory. I suppose my only questions is: why on earth did he do it in the first place? Are is advisers really so desparate to show his human side that they put him in situations where he could easily fail? Whatever the reason, it's to his credit that he didn't.
And I think that is the first time I have said anything nice about Gordon Brown on this blog!
CORRECTION: Castle Point Tory MP Bob Spink also voted for the Allowance.
This vote showed Labour MPs at their worst, but all credit to the two Labour MPs who voted against - Kelvin Hopkins & Lynne Jones.
It may seem like cutting off their noses to spite their faces but I hope those Tory MPs who voted against this outrageous abuse of taxpayers' money will refuse to take their allowance. It would send a real signal that things will be different under a Cameron government. A further signal would be for David Cameron to announce that this decision will be reversed as soon as we come to power.
Read the full debate HERE.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
It was interesting to see Home Office Minister Tony McNulty there. We had a chat about our mutual love ... for West Ham and I ribbed him about sitting 30 feet above me in the Directors' Box. He assured me he has a season ticket.
I asked him what on earth he was doing at the event and he said he was representing the family firm as his brother is fitting the roof to David Cameron's new house. And there was me mulling over a defection...
Business Brunch with Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Tuesday 3 April 10-11.30am
Olswang London, 90 High Holborn, London WC1V 6XX
Shouldn't organisations like 'London in Business' have to be more upfront about their political connections? And if Olswang are hosting the event, why is
Click on the image to enlarge it.
All in all, it's quite a thought-provoking piece, which will not go down well with the political lobby, but he does make an important point about their sometimes incestuous relationships with politicians.
There is, however, a BUT. Guido writes what he likes and is beholden to no one apart from himself. Most political bloggers do not fall into that category. Most of us have some degree of party affiliation or party allegiance which inevitably makes us more prone to expose shenanigans in parties other than our own.
I make no bones about the fact that I am highly unlikely to turn over one of my friends on this blog, but, having said that, I have certainly been known to be critical of people I count as friends. The Patrick Mercer episode is a recent example. So while political journalists certainly pull their punches to avoid being blacklisted by the likes of Mandelson and Campbell, it would be wrong to say that bloggers don't act in a similar manner from time to time. The difference is that for most bloggers it's down to personal friendships rather than a 'you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours' relationship which exists between a lobby hack and a politician.
Theresa May, the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, today called on MPs to reject a proposed £10,000 “communications allowance”.
“Of course MPs have a duty to communicate with their constituents. But we
also have a duty to spend our constituents’ taxes wisely. With modern means
of communication, we can communicate with our constituents without spending
great sums of taxpayers’ money. These days, MPs don’t just rely on post
and the press, but on websites, email, blogs, text messages, and social
networking services like Facebook. The real risk of these proposals is that the money will be used for political marketing, and therefore give an
unfair advantage to incumbent MPs. I’m sure the sceptical public don’t
want more of their taxes spent on MPs’ spin funds.”
I shall be examining the voting lists on this measure very carefully.
The first 'story' is about Health Secretary Patrica Hewitt forgetting Jack McConnell's name. This appeared on this blog on Monday. The second 'story' says that 7,000 people have watched Guido's video of Gordon Brown picking his nose. They couldn't even get the decimal point right - it's actually 70,000. The fourth 'story' concerns Hazel Blears' email mistakes - nothing new, just a rehash of what has appeared on several blogs. So, three stories out of five which could have been written in about ten minutes flat. FACT: The Whip employs two people who cost The Sun well north of £100,000 a year in salaries. Couldn't they just use a blog aggregator and get an intern to write it?
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
"David, you're the only one who can be trusted to be the heir to my beloved
Tony. Only you will see through his marvellous works. If I can be of any help,
any help whatsoever, you know you can count on me..."
My panel was split on what David Cameron's response should be. Mine consisted of two words, the second one of which was 'off'.
I'm told that one possible defector last year was put off by the ham-fisted approach of his interlocutor, which far from being a slow, gently seduction took the form of a blunt question: "Well, are you going to defect?" Needless to say, the answer was negative. Unbelievable.
UPDATE: LibDem Voice is getting very excited about a Tory defection to the LibDems in Tunbridge Wells. No, it's not the Tory MP Greg Clark - it's a.... wait for it .... a parish councillor. See HERE.
You'd have thought this might be self evident, but not content with sending personal letters and glossy brochures to House of Commons researchers and secretaries of Labour MPs, my little Chipmunk is now sending them to Tories as well. Two people in Keith Simpson's office have received them today together with this heartwarming message from Hazel...
"I know from experience how important you are. You are the unsung heros of our
movement and I want to thank you for the work you do... Now, give me your vote and make sure your bloody boss votes for me too..."
OK, OK, I made the last sentence up.
The report makes the following recommendations...
* A system to entrench a process of collective Cabinet government. This will require a new and strengthened Ministerial Code, covering the required procedures for approval of policies by Cabinet
* To give the new Ministerial Code authority it must be approved by a Parliamentary resolution
* The responsibility for monitoring the Code should be taken out of the hands of the Prime Minister and placed in the hands of a body with powers comparable to those of the National Audit Office, reporting to a Parliamentary Committee
* The Committee on Standards in Public Life to establish a code of conduct for government publications and advertising campaigns
* Decisions to go to war or to commit troops to areas of conflict should require Parliamentary approval. Decisions on war making should no longer rest solely on the unfettered use of the Royal Prerogative by the Prime Minister
* Treaties with financial, legal or territorial implications for the United Kingdom or its citizens should require Parliamentary approval before ratification and should no longer involve the use of the Royal Prerogative
What we got last night was what I expected, and the reason why I decided not to play any part in it. It is was unbalanced, at times hysterical and at others verging on the ridiculous. If you were already predisposed to disliking Cameron you would have loved it, as it confirmed your worst prejudices. If you are a Cameron supporter you would have hated it. If you were an undecided voter it would have left you feeling cheated, not having been told much that would have helped you enhance your understanding of the man who wants to be our Prime Minister.
The basic attack on Cameron centred around his alleged 'toffness' and that there are 13 Old Etonians on the Tory front bench. He was also attacked for having changed his mind on some issues and his change of language. Big deal. I suspect everyone has changed their minds on several political issues over the last ten years. I know I have. That's politics. Time moves on, the country moves on and politicians must move on. Those that don't move on with the country are destined never to run it. But moving on does not mean abandoning your basic core principles, and Hitchens' biggest failure in the programme was his inability to prove that Cameron had done any such thing.
Hitchens reckoned that having a windmill on your house and speaking out against a windfarm in your constituency were incompatible and proved Cameron doesn't believe anything at all. The two stances are perfectly compatible and Hitchens knows it. There were plenty of other similar examples.Cameron's success is that he understands that the country is a different place to the one Peter Hitchens thinks it is. Hitchens harks after a moalistic, socially conservative country which Britain ceased to be in about 1965. Cameron wants to build on Britain as it is today.
As a polemic programme this was well put together, well written and presented in an engaging manner. But for all that it was profoundly unconvincing.
UPDATE: Further reviews of the programme from SKIPPER and ANDREW IAN DODGE.
ALERT: 9pm on Channel 4 on Thursday - MUMMY'S WAR, a programme by Carol Thatcher on her visit to Argentina and the Falklands.
However, I'm sad to report that all is not trundling totally according to plan for the chipmunk. More and more Labour members are reported to be bemused by how Hazel Blears has managed to get their email addresses. Kerron Cross blogged about this yesterday and LabourHome is also covering the subject. People are putting two and two together and assuming that she must be getting the lists through her role as Labour chairman, something she has consistently denied she would do. I suspect the answer is that she has some very ingenious staffers who are compiling email addresses from many sources and spamming them. There's no law against it, but it may make as many enemies as it does friends.
Monday, March 26, 2007
UPDATE: SNP Angus Robertson tells me: "Jack McConnell is the invisible man of Scottish politics, hiding away from debating with Alex Salmond. And nobody knows who he is at Westminster either. The fact that Labour Ministers in London don’t even know the First Minister’s name makes a mockery of his partnership claims. The reality is that London Labour says jump, and Mr McConnell asks how high."
Game over... except for THIS interview with McConnell where he admits the SNP may win the May election. Not a good day for him really, is it?
1) Who authorised Bona Mugabe’s visa?
2) Who pays Bona’s tuition fees?
3) What liaison has there been with the UK authorities in relation to Bona’s personal safety and protection?
4) Has any taxpayers’ money been spent?
5) What consideration has the Government given to extending the travel ban to include all members of Robert Mugabe’s family?
We look forward to some quick answers.
Not, of course, that this has anything to do with the LibDems at all. No, Sirree. Never let it be said. Whiter than white. Yellower than yellow [enough - ed].
Tory MP Tim Yeo has surely been the victim of a cruel practical joke. Yeo, a
former environment minister, is well known for his campaign against climate
change. He wants domestic flights to be scrapped and his website boasts of his
commitment to the planet. Yet what do we find in the latest Bentley magazine?
Somebody calling themselves Tim Yeo, MP for South Suffolk, has been test driving
the Bentley Continental Flying Spur. He sinks into the warm embrace of its
leather seats and takes it on a golfing jolly. The Bentley does about 16mpg and
has carbon emissions that rival those of a jumbo jet. Surely the real Tim Yeo
would have mentioned this?
I assume Mr Yeo will be donating his fat fee from Bentley to erasing his carbon footprint. What gets me though is why Bentley think that getting Tim Yeo to test drivce one of their cars would encoruage anyone to buy one!
And while I'm at it, I'll pay tribute to John Major for starting the whole process and also Tony Blair for seeing it through. Blair has done many things throughout the last few years in Northern Ireland which not only stuck in my throat, but I suspect his too. But there is little doubt that we wouldn't have got to where we are today if he hadn't done them.
Hurst begins the book by relating the 'events of last January' as we shall call them. He does it in a non-judgemental way and an air of inevitability permeates every page. He asserts that Kennedy took a long time to realise the game was up, much longer than his advisers. There was an air of the Fuehrerbunker about Cowley Street, where few people could bring themselves to tell the leader the awful truth - that his days were numbered.
Hurst makes Kennedy's early parliamentary career sound a greal more interesting that it actually was - I say that as a compliment. He's also quite stark in his analysis of his character traits and flaws during that period, which gives a sense of a gradual car crash which is takes quite a few years to happen.
The one thing which Greg Hurst possibly fails to do is to apportion blame for the fact that Kennedy's drink problem was allowed to go on for so long with no one at the top of the party prepared to address it. Perhaps this is understandable in that Kennedy was genuinely liked, even by his political opponents in the LibDems. Telling someone they have an alcohol problem is akin to telling them that their wife is cheating on them - not something one does with alacrity.
All in all, this is one of the better written and stylish biographies I have read in recent years. It treats the reader like an adult and avoids hyperbole. I have no hesitation in recommending you to buy the book HERE.
So, Jackie, give us Gordon any day. Any man who has the bad sense to make Geoff Hoon one of his campaign cheerleaders has to be good news for the Tories.