Saturday, June 30, 2007

Britain Must be Ready for Further Attacks

The new CRITICAL terror alert implies that further attacks are expected. Whether this is as a result of new intelligence or an informed guess is not clear. I have to say that I'd prefer to be at home in Tunbridge Wells this weekend than in London. I'm just off to the BBC to do News 24's paper review and then tomorrow I am going to Wembley to the Diana concert. I suppose the BBC and Wembley are both possible terror targets, but whatever one's reservations are, if we change our way of life, we let them win, don't we? The continuing terror threat will be with us for years to come. Nothing we do now will make it go away. But what we must do is protect our way of life and we do that best by ensuring that we do not give in to those who want to impose new authoritarian measures on us. All politicians will want to do everything possible to protect our citizens, but their freedoms can only be further infringed if it is 100 per cent certain that such measures are wholly necessary to prevent further terror attacks.

Having Seen Gordon Brown's Statement on Terror...

...I know how she feels...

Preparing for Rwanda

In less than three weeks I am going to Rwanda to make a film on the social action projects being organised by Shadow International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell. He is taking a group of 45 people (including 8 MPs) to volunteer for two weeks helping on social action projects throughout the country.

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.

Blog Readers Survey

I've just signed up for Survey Monkey and am compiling a survey for my blog readers to fill in - demographics, political views, what you like/dislike about this blog, what you'd like to see more of/less of.

If you have questions you think I should include in the survey, feel free to suggest them in the comments.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Levy & Turner To Be Charged

The Daily Mail is reporting that Lord Levy and Ruth Turner WILL face charges in the Cash for Honours inquiry.

ABC News Blog Says Police Have 'Crystal Clear' Pics of Bomb Suspect

A couple of hours ago, this was posted on the ABC News blog by Brian Ross and Richard Esposito ...

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 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!

Come Here Said the Spider to the Fly

A week sure is a long time in LibDem politics. On Tuesday it was revealed that Gordon Brown wanted to offer several Liberal Democrat Peers including Lord Lester and Baroness Julia Neuberger roles in his administration. Ming Campbell, the LibDem leader, said it was out of the question. Today, these two have not just accepted advisory roles, they are listed on the Number Ten website on the government appointments page...
In addition, the following appointments have also been made today:
- 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.
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...
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.

Will Tom Watson's Blog Rest in Peace Again?

Another Labour blog bites the dust. Tom Watson MP has, surprise surprise, rejoined the government. Since his unfortunate resignation last year he has become a prolific blogger, but going back to the Whips' Office will mean that he has to zip it. Being put back on the lowestr rung of the ladder - Assistant Government Whip - is a pretty poor reward for doing his Master's bidding and launching tha abortive coup against Tony Blair last September. The least he could have expected was a PUSS post in a department.

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.

Cameron's Reshuffle Must Avoid the Whiff of Panic

I have another column in this morning's Daily Telegraph looking at a Cameron reshuffle of his front bench team. This time it was for the news pages and I speculate on who might leave the Shadow Cabinet as well as join it. One line which was subbed out was that Chris Grayling was still in the running for the Party Chairmanship. An article on the same page by Political Editor George Jones reckons that two Old Etonians, Hugo Swire and Oliver Letwin, are set for the chop. I discounted Swire in my article as he is one of Cameron's best friends and all Party leaders are entitled to at least one friendly face round the Cabinet table. He has made one mistake on museum charges but it would be ruthless indeed to sack him merely for that. It would also be seen as odd to get rid of his Head of Policy just as many of the policy groups are about to report. The trouble with Oliver Letwin is that he is more of an intellectual than a politician. Anyway, here's my article...

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.

Margaret Beckett Summed Up

A great line in the Financial Times editorial on 'Brown's Team of Some of the Talents'...

Aged just 41, Mr Miliband is a more substantial figure on his first day in
office than his predecessor, Margaret Beckett, was throughout her tenure.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

David Cameron Visits Ealing Southall

Well, the Ealing Southall by-election is already underway. David Cameron was there this afternoon. I'm told that a group of around 5 Labour activists hung around outside the station waiting for Cameron and as the group of Conservatives got bigger and bigger they ran away. They left about 5 mins before Cameron arrived. The final straw was when one of the local reporters (innocently) asked if they had now joined the Conservatives. They were pretty annoyed.

Grant Shapps, the MP for Welwyn & Hatfield is in charge of the Tory campaign and he has already introduced a new way of campaigning. He's launched a new website today where party activists can register to help with by-elections, which you can visit HERE. It's calling Campaign Together. The aim is to do what the LibDems do and bus in hundreds of activists from all round the country for the whole by-election campaign. It's a welcome and professional move by the professional party. They've already got several hundred people signed up, all of whom have committed to give at least a week a year to campaign for the party in parliamentary or local council by-elections. You can sign up HERE.

The Cabinet Guessing Game: How Did I Do?

So, how did I do in my guess at Gordon's Cabinet. My original guesses can be seen HERE. I got 17 right, or 18 of you include Yvette Cooper. The only direct hits i Had (ie. the right people in the right job were Gordon Brown (difficult one, that) Hilary Benn, Baroness Scotland, Hazel Blears, Harriet Harman, Alistair Darling and James Purnell - 8 out of 22 - not too bad a strike rate.

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.

How to Frustrate Cornerstone: Lesson No 94

Tim Montgomerie and Matthew D'Ancona are having an exchange of views on their take on how David Cameron should take on Gordon Brown. It's definitely worth a skaz* HERE. One thing which Tim wrote mystified me a little...
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' :)

Greenery in Whitehall

Is the Department of Innovations, Universities and Skills the greenest department in Whitehall. If you click on its website HERE, you'll get your answer.

Ming Says Yes to Shirley Who Says Yes to Gordon

Ming Campbell has given his permission to Shirley Williams to act as an adviser to Gordon Brown's government. The decision was necessary as Ming is on Question Time tonight (with Michael Howard, poor Yvette Cooper and Piers Morgan) and he knew he would be asked about it. He's put out this statesment to the Question Time production team.
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 that
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.
Good, glad that's clear then.

Brown: The South East Doesn't Matter

Gordon Brown announced a list of regional ministers this afternoon (HERE). Strangely he omitted to give the South East a minister. Living in Kent, can I just say how grateful I am.

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.

Quentin Gets the Removal Men In

Quentin Davies is apparently losing no time in escaping from the Tory MPs fourth floor office suites in Portcullis House. A pile of removal crates have been dumped outside his office. Many Tory secretaries and staffers are very upset at the prospect of losing Davies's secretary from their floor - she is apparently one of the most charming and glamorous secretaries in Parliament. There is much speculation about how she would find a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party staffers… I am sure Kerron Cross will look after her.

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.

Des Browne: A Square Peg in Two Round Holes

I'm picking up severe rumblings from sources in the MoD about Des Browne keeping his job as Defence Secretary AND being appointed Secretary of State for Scotland. We're engaged in two armed conflicts abroad, neither of which are going well, and yet Browne is also supposed to have time to run Scotland. Ah, some will say, but that won't take much time because of all the devolved powers to the Scottish Parliament. So what they are saying is that it's a non job. If so, why not abolish it? Alternatively Gordon Brown could have created a Department for Devolution and included the Northern Ireland and Wales jobs within it.

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.

'Defective' Tory Joins Brown's Cabinet

Tory Turncoat Shaun Woodward has been named Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in Gordon Brown's Ministry of all the Talents. Astonishing. Brilliant moment on Sky just now...
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...

Tories Choose By Election Candidate

The Conservatives have now chosen their candidate for the Ealing Southall by election this lunchtime. He is Tony Lit, MD of Sunrise Radio. He will be in Ealing this afternoon campaigning with David Cameron. I also have news of a new website being launched relating to by-election campaigning. More on that later.

Breaking News: Blair Questioned Again Over Cash for Peerages

On his first day as a 'free man' Tony Blair has been questioned for a third time in the Cash for Peerages inquiry. The question is - was it under caution? When the Police wanted to question him under caution in January he let it be known to them that he would resign. The Police backed off. Maybe it's now payback time.

UPDATE: Rumour is that Inspector Yates is doing the questioning himself.

The Cabinet Starts to Take Shape

No big surprises yet in Gordon Brown's Cabinet appointments, but a huge number of women seem to be leaving the Cabinet. Expect most of the new entrants to be female.

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

Has Shirley Williams Eaten Her Words? (Again)

I've just been reminded that on Question Time last week Shirley Williams said there was no chance Gordon Brown would offer her a job "because I'm a woman". When Dimbleby reminded her she'd been a Labour Cabinet Minister she responded that Gordon Brown was "no Harold Wilson or Jim Callaghan". Well that's a relief, I suppose.

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?

Will it be Basher Versus the Chipmunk?

This reshuffle has been a bit boring so far, but it might liven up in the next few minutes. It seems that either Hazel Blears or Jackie Smith will get the Home Office. I can only speculate that David Davis is salivating at the thought.

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.

Polly Toynbee Wants to Be Editor of the Daily Mail

Yes, folks, it's true. This is from this week's Press Gazette...
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.

An Ode to the Prime Minister of People's Hearts

Rachel North has been moved to write a song about Tony Blair...
Goodbye Tony Blair.
Though I never met you at all
You had the nouce to save yourself
While those around you fall.
The sleaze it swilled around you
But it never touched your toes.
Through it all you held your nerve
And smiled through hammer-blows.
And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a showman on the stage
Always knowing who play to
Always facing down the rage.
And I would like to still believe you
Like I did ten years ago.
Your candle may have burned out
But you went on with the show.
'Prime Minister' was tough
The toughest role you ever played.
Washington created a superstar.
Blood was the price we paid.
Even as the thousands died
And the press all hounded you
All the spinning had to say
Was you 'believed' in what you do.
Goodbye Tony Blair
From the people that you served.
You were someone less than promised
But perhaps all that we deserved

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Shirley Williams in Brown Reshuffle?

A mole in the Commons has just told me he has seen Shirley Williams go into Gordon Brown's office. What can it mean?

The First Lord of the Treasury's First and Last Act

Nigel Fletcher has an interesting blogpost...
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!

EXCLUSIVE: The Fallout from the Daily Politics Debacle

I've now had the inside story of what happened the the Daily Politics this lunchtime, when they were taken off the air and missed Blair's final remarks in the Commons and the standing ovation. In THIS post I said...
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.

Bookies Close Betting on Another Defection

William Hill have closed their betting on another Conservative MP defecting to the Labour Party following a flurry of bets for the 5/1 they were offering for a Tory MP to break ranks within a year. "Every bet we accepted was for another Conservative MP to cross the floor and gambles such as these are rarely wrong - we fully expect an announcement in the next few days," said Hill’s spokesman. Would you ever bet against a bookie?

Gordon's First 100 Days on 18 Doughty Street Tonight at 8pm

Tonight at 8pm we're starting a new show called the Doughty News Hour on 18 Doughty Street. We'll be looking at Gordon Brown's First 100 Days with former Downing Street Press Secretary Jonathan Haslam and Brown biographer Francis Beckett among others. Click HERE for more details. We're aiming for a Newsnight level of discussion, but an elongated version. Hope some of you might tune in!

Frenzied Rumours In Advance of the Reshuffle

The lobby is in a state of frenzy. Mad rumours doing the rounds. Tory MP about to defect to LibDems. Chris Patten to be Foreign Secretary. Off to do an interview on the World Service with Guido... Back with more in a bit!

Hazel Blears Calls it As She Sees It

Simon Mayo: Hazel Blears, were you surprised to hear that Harriet Harman said she hadn't said the Government shoul apologise for Iraq?

Hazel Blears: Well, she said what she said she said...

Just wanted to clear that one up for you.

BBC Cuts Away from Blair to Screen Unknown Tennis Players

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. So they missed Blair talking about his fear of the House of Commons and they missed Blair getting a standing ovation from BOTH sides of the House of Commons. Well done to David Cameron for encouraging Tory MPs to join Labour MPs in a standing ovation. He was right to do so.

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.

Wishing Tony Blair Bon Voyage

It seems very likely that Tony Blair will be confirmed as the Group of Four's Middle East Envoy later on today or tomorrow. We should ignore the deep irony of the man who invaded Iraq being an envoy for peace in the Middle East. In my opinion, it is a role in which is uniquely qualified to succeed. Anyone who brought peace to Northern Ireland has to be a candidate for such a post. He may have done it by some means with which I vehemently disagreed, but few can argue with the end result. In addition, whoever holds this post has to have the confidence of the United States President and the Israeli government, and we know he has good relations with the Jordanians and Syrians.

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.

Is Another Tory MP About to Jump Ship?

Speaking at a Fabian reception last night Ed Balls was crowing about the Quentin Davies reception. He ended his remarks with the chilling words...
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.

Another Day Another Poll

Just before I go to bed I leave you with the welcome news that the LibDems are down to 12% in the latest YouGov poll. The Tories remain on 37% while Labour has gained at the expense of the LibDems to reach 36%.

Alan Duncan Wins the Newsnight Battle with Quentin Davies

Do watch last night's NEWSNIGHT in which Jeremy Paxman hosted a discussion between Quentin Davies and Alan Duncan. It's at the start of the programme and lasts about 18 minutes. Paxman didn't even interrupt and just watched them carving each other up. Davies came across poorly, while Alan Duncan kept getting fits of the giggles. Despite the giggles, Duncan remained calm and collected while Davies whined. On this performance the Labour Party are welcome to Davies, even though he hasn't got a socialist bone in his body.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Blamerbell Takes Off His Briefs

Matt Wardman brings me the sad news that Blamerbellbriefs is to cease blogging. Ciaran Jenkins' blog has become the most widely read blog in Wales, but he's been snaffled up by BBC Wales and doesn't feel he can continue blogging. Ciaran made a film for 18 Doughty Street a few months ago and is a very talented journalist. I wish him well.

The Strange Defection of Quentin Davies: Part 94

I have just spent an hour or two at the House of Commons. A few pointers on Quentin Davies...

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 have
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.
Indeed. 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.

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.

Quentin Davies Then and Now

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

Tory Turncoat Joins Labour

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...

Useless Fact of the Day: No 94

Did you know that if you are gay and get hitched in a civil partnership you can't get an annulment because of non-consummation? Just thought I'd share that with you.

New Poll Shows Five Point Tory Lead, But So What?

Today's Independent Communicate Research poll demonstrates what I have been saying - that the polls will be all over the place for the next few months. It shows an increased Tory lead to 5 points, compared to the Ipsos Mori poll over the weekend which showed a 3 point Labour lead. The only thing consistent in all polls at the moment is a worsening position for the Liberal Democrats.

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!

Quotes of Yesterday

"An ex-Prime Minister is rather an unusual fish in politics" - Sir John Major.
"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.

In Praise of the Ministry of Truth

The Ministry of Truth is a site which specialises in forensic examinations of particular topics. The author of the blog has taken me to task on a number of occasions so he might expect me to trash his site.

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.

Fraser Nelson MP Has a Certain Ring to It

I've just read THIS excellent blog by Fraser Nelson on what David Cameron should have said to John Humphrys on the Today programme yesterday about social mobility. I agree with every word. However, the thought did strike me that if Fraser thinks he could do the job better, shouldn't he emulate Michael Gove and turn gamekeeper? Fraser would make a tremendous Tory MP. Go for it!

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

Will Charles Clarke be Rehabilitated?

I saw Charles Clarke this afternoon sauntering through Portcullis House looking as if he hadn't a care in the world. He seems to have lost a lot of weight and looked very relaxed in his light blue casual trousers. I suppose he may well look very relaxed as I'm reliably informed that since his sacking in last year's reshuffle Clarke has only spoken once in the Commons (on 29 March on an Urgent Question on the restructuring of the Home Office) and has asked no questions.

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.

What Should David Burrowes Ask Tony Blair?

Well here's a Facebook first. Tory MP David Burrowes has sent a message to his Facebook friends asking their advice on what he should ask Tony Blair at PMQs on Wednesday. He is first in the ballot. Here's his message...

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!

The last message I had from David was asking advice on what to call his newly born baby! Sometimes there should be self-imposed limits to internet interaction! Although I'm a fine one to talk...

Let's Start Harriet-Watch

All day I have been receiving emails from Labour supporters utterly bereft at the election of Harriet Harman. Luckily for Harriet I have been rather busy attending to other matters, but there are a lot of unhappy people out there. One Labour contact emailed me this...
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...

If Harriet Harman can be elected leader of the Labour Party, then the
political world defies analysis…

Her performance on the Today programme was fairly lamentable and she has already started denying she said various things to get her elected over the last few weeks. Just to start us off on Harriet-Watch, this is what she said on the need for an inquiry into Iraq...

‘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)

An Early Election?

Many people are already talking about an early general election. On the basis of Brown's speech yesterday they may well be right. If he hits the ground running with all sorts of eyecatching initatives which catch the Tories on the hop then I can quite see the benefits to Brown of going to the country as early as this autumn. He will want his own mandate and if he thinks he will win an election he may well call one. If his first 100 days are a success look out for an election at the end of October. All this puts a real onus on the Conservatives to hit back with a vengeance. They need to become far more hard hitting in some of their tactics. We're not dealing with Bambi any more. We've got Thumper to contend with.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sir Trevor McDoughnut Does Satire

Is anyone watching Trevor McDonald's News Knight programme? Funniest thing I have seen on TV for ages. I never thought he had it in him. Now, do you think that is enough to get an invite onto the next edition? Thought not. Must perfect my crawling technique.

Labour Profit From Blanket Media Coverage

On the BBC Politics page at the moment there are 31 stories which talk about the Labour Party. There are only 8 which relate to other political stories. So when you wonder why Labour are doing quite well in a MORI poll, you should take this sort of thing into account. And in case you think I am making it up, here they are...

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 leadership election change of leader, but I do think this is a bit OTT. I have had loads of press releases from the Tories and LibDems over the last two days, but not a single one of their announcements have made it onto BBC News Online so far as I can see.

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?

Who Are The Two Politicians This Man Hates Most?

1. Harriet Harman
2. Gordon Brown
Harriet Harman was Frank Field's boss at the Department of Social Security from 1997-98. Gordon Brown made his life as Welfare Reform Minister a misery. I wonder how he's feeling tonight? Just a thought.

Exterminate! Exterminate!

From today's Sunday Telegraph TV listings.

BBC3, 8pm,
'Doctor Who: Part one of two. A new prime minister begins a reign of terror'.

What do they know, that we don't?

Why I Tire of Portillo's Bitterness

Several people have asked for my views on Michael Portillo after his odious column in the Sunday Times today. I can do no better than point you towards THIS post from last year. It ends with these words...
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.

I Spoke too Soon

Gordon has just blown it. Ignore the post below. He has announced that Harriet Harman will be the Chairman of the Labour Party, and even better, that Douglas Alexander will be the General Election cooordinator. Let's hope he can do in the whole country what he did for Scotland.

A Stormer of a Speech from Gordon Brown

Listening the Gordon Brown's speech I have to say that there was, well, something prime-ministerial about it. Much as I don't like to admit it, I wonder if he genuinely is acquiring that 'presence' that comes with the position. This afternoon he looked different. He looked smart. He sounded eloquent. At times he sounded inspirational. A lot of it was the same sort of generalistic mumbo-jumbo we have come to expect, but at times he raised his game. Now is not the time to judge Gordon Brown - we can do that in a few months time. But if the Conservatives didn't know they had a fight on before, they certainly do today - Harriet Harman, or no Harriet Harman.

Harriet Harman: Thank you, Thank you, Thank you

My cup runneth over. Harriet Harman has been elected Labour Party Deputy Leader. I do so hope Gordon Brown makes her Deputy Prime Minister. The sight of her ditching all the left wing positions she adopted during the last few weeks will be a joy to behold. It is, it has to be said, quite a remarkable political comeback from the woman who was sacked from Tony Blair's cabinet after a very short time for being completely incompetent. I do so look forward to her deputising for Gordon Brown at PMQs!

Sky News had a bit of egg on their faces this afternoon. They had been reporting for an hour that Alan Johnson had won and then just a few minutes before the result announcement their sources told them it was Harriet Harman. I don't know how News 24 were calling it but that's the peril of trying to get the story first, I suppose.
UPDATE: A reader alerts me to the fact that the Telegraph has had an Dewey moment HERE. I wonder how long the story will stay there.

A Welcome Present for Gordon Brown

On Wednesday, Tony Blair's last day in office and Gordon Brown's first, the Big Book of New Labour Sleaze will be published by Harriman House. It's about half as big again as the Little Book of New Labour Sleaze which was published just over a year ago. You can order a copy of the Big Book from Politico's for £8.49 HERE or from Amazon for £9.99 HERE.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Poll Has Bad News for LibDems and Tories

An Observer poll tomorrow will show a three point Labour lead. Labour has gone up to 39% while Conservative support has fallen to 36%. The Labour gains are at the expense of the LibDems who srop three points to 15%. Forty per cent believe Brown would make the best PM, compared to only 22% for David Cameron. Only 28% thought he was performing adequately, lower than Tony Blair on 33%. However, Cameron's net satisfaction rating of -5% was still better than Mr Blair's -27%. Sir Menzies Campbell's rating was -25%.

A bit of food for thought there! But in the words of Corporal Jones, 'Don't Panic'!!! Unless you;re a LibDem, of course... :)

Rawnsley on Blair on Channel 4

If you're not watching Andrew Rawnsley's account of the Blair years on Channel 4, switch it on. Now. And that's an order. It's compelling.

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.

Who Will Gordon Pick?

Well, here's my prediction for Gordon Brown's first Cabinet. We'll soon know how accurate my guesses are.

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

Why Politicians Need to 'Keep it Real'

Like most people I haven't quite worked out the truth behind Gordon's overtures to the LibDems. Matthew Parris goes through the various motivations in his Times column today. Whatever the truth of it, one particular thought has struck me. This is yet further proof of Gordon Brown trying to be something he is patently not. Brown is one of the most party political and tribal men in politics today. In normal circumstances he would stab himself in the eye before wanting Tories or LibDems in his government.

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'.

Why David Cameron Must Campaign FOR a Referendum and not AGAINST Europe

Never one to undersell a story, EU Referendum's Richard North reckons that the result of the EU Summit is a coup d'etat in the making. His evidence is complicated but compelling. He concludes...
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.

Gordon Brown's Ministry of All the Talents

Dear Gordon,

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?!

Yours Ever,


Fantasy Politics Day on Iain Dale's Diary

Today is Fantasy Politics Day on Iain Dale's Diary. Over the course of the day you'll be getting the following

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!

DD: The Right Need Not be Worried

Alice Thomson and Rachel Sylvester have an interview with David Davis in the Telegraph today. It was slightly less eventful than the last time they interviewed him - on the morning of 7 July 2005. I was his chief of staff at the time and had to constantly interrupt the interview with news of the tube bombings. As it dawned on us what was happening the interview was put on hold while DD swung into action. Alice and Rachel stayed in the room to observe what was going on. They wrote...

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...

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".

He then makes clear he thinks that then private equity sector is undertaxed...

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."

Gordon Saves Britain! Or Does He?

Dizzy has a simply cynical brilliant analysis of the media handling of the EU summit. He reckons that Gordon Brown has been spinning like a top. Surely not. Read it HERE. If you have never read Dizzy before, do yourself a favour and put him on your Favourites list. He's on top form at the moment.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Another Rebuff for Gordon Brown

I should like to make it clear that I too would turn down a position in Gordon Brown's government. Just in case he was about to ask... The way he's going, it's only a matter of time!

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.

Not Me, Guv

Today I received a letter from Mr Clarke of Nottingham. It read...
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.

Any Just Cause or Impediment....

EXCLUSIVE: Brown to Sugar - You're Hired!

Having dismissed the Paddy Ashdown rumour out of hand on Tuesday and therefore not written about it, I'm not about to make that same mistake again, so here's the latest totally unbelievable Brown Cabinet rumour doing the rounds...

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!

Join the 'Readers of Iain Dale's Diary' Facebook Group

There is now a READERS OF IAIN DALE'S DIARY on Facebook HERE. If you have a Facebook account, do join the group. And if you haven't got a Facebook account yet, what are you waiting for?!

Telegraph Column: Cameron's Reshuffle

By this time next week Gordon Brown will have restructured Whitehall and formed his first Cabinet. David Cameron will then rejig his team once he knows who his opponents are. Brown's reshuffle is likely to be radical, with almost half the existing Blair Cabinet expected to retire gracefully or be kicked out of Number 10 screaming.

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.
Click HERE to read the Telegraph readers' reaction to my article.

Ben Brogan in Brussels

Ben Brogan is writing a brilliant, almost hour by hour, account of the Brussels summit HERE.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Military and the Media

This is a little film David Heathfield made for 18 Doughty Street on how journalists embed themselves with the military and war stories can now be covered by citizen journalists.