Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Obama Saw my Sister's Beaver

My sister lives near Saffron Walden, on the Stansted flightpath. Seeing as I have nothing better to do (being stranded at Leicester station) I thought I would share with you a text message I received from her this afternoon...


I should perhaps explain that her house is called Beaver Lodge... And she comes from Essex. Isn't it a good job she made no mention of Bush?

I'll just get my coat.

When Shall We Three Meet Again?

It is not often that it is worth mentioning 10 minute rule bills but it is worth highlighting that the proposer and first two sponsors of today's bill (proposing that council tax relief be renamed 'council tax rebate') were Joan Ryan, Siobhan McDonagh and David Cairns.  When was the last time these three MPs collaborated in a project?  And what will be the next time? Readers may care to speculate...

The Daley Dozen: Tuesday

1. Max Atkinson reads between Gordon's lines on Jacqui Smith and discovers some linguistic contortions.
2. Cicero's Songs on the growing threat from Russia.
3. English Eclectic on planning for a Labour defeat.
4. LibDem blogger Mark Reckons Derek Draper is damaging the Blogosphere.
5. Wrinkled Weasel says we should be comfortable with our diverse sexualities.
6. Luke Akehurst gives his views on the way forward on MPs' expenses.
7. Paul Waugh has the story on the Eric Pickles drinks party.
8. Michael White is sanguine about punch ups in the H of C - as well he might be.
9. Steve Richards on MP expenses and a fourth choice Home Secretary.
10. Jonathan Isaby on why the right are better dressed than the left.
11. Jo Christie-Smith likes her politics by candlelight.
12. Jane Merrick fears a media clampdown in the Commons.

PS I'm speaking in Leicester tonight, so this is one I prepared earlier :)

Proof Positive That MPs' Travel Rules Must Change

I have spent too many hours of my life in the last two days defending the fact that MPs need allowances to do their job properly. I keep being told on phone ins that they're 'all at it'. I've been very careful to be as non partisan in all of this as I can, because as sure as eggs is eggs, the press will soon finger a Tory MP for something.

And so it has come to pass. Today's Evening Standard reveals that Kensington & Chelsea MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind has claimed £2,500 for flights between London and Edinburgh (where he has a home) in the last twelve months. That's at least 25 flights or one every fortnight - for an MP with a London constituency! Sir Malcolm's defence will no doubt be that he has done nothing wrong and he has obeyed the rules at all times, and the tragedy is, that according to the letter of the rules, he would be right.

If this isn't the starkest indication yet that the rules stink, I just don't know what is. By that logic, Sir Eldon Griffiths, who became known as the Member for Orange County Central, could have claimed for his regular flights to his home in California.

The chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life has now brought forward his enquiry into MPs' expenses and it will now report before the election, thus neatly scuppering Gordon Brown's delaying tactics.

If I were David Cameron I would pre-empt this report and announce a new system which all Tory MPs would have to adhere to pending the conclusions of the Standards Committee. And if he can agree with Nick Clegg, so much the better.

I have absolutely no doubt that some MPs reading this, both Tory and Labour, will think it is disgraceful that I am highlighting this. Well I have a message for them. Feel free to go and defend this on the nation's airwaves. Because I can't, and I won't.

UPDATE Wed 10am: Sir Malcolm Rifkind has left a comment, which I reproduce here...

Iain Dale is a splendid blogger. On this occasion he ius confused and has got his facts wrong

1. I do not make 25 trips from London to my home in Scotland. My wife and I live in London while Parliament is sitting. We only go to our home in Scotland when Parliament is in recess. This is about 5 or 6 times a year.

2. I do not receive a penny (nor should I) of public funds on either my home in London or my home in Scotland.

3. I am reimbursed for my travel expenses. This is a taxable benefit on which I pay full tax to the Inland Revenue

Comment is free but facts are sacred
Malcolm Rifkind MP

I should just point out that I calculated the 25 flights on the basis of an Easyjet flight at £100 each. Admittedly that may have been on the low side.

The G20 Pro Capitalism Demo

Tomorrow morning at 11am there will be a demonstration outside the Bank of England ... in favour of capitalism. Details can be found on this Facebook Group.


I hope the link works. I'm on a train to Leicester so can't do a hyperlink from my Blackberry.

Nicky Campbell & Guido Make Their Peace

Apparently Guido had a dust-up with Nicky Campbell on 5 Live Breakfast this morning. I didn't hear it, and sadly the programme isn't available on iPlayer (despite the subsequent phone-in being freely available). I'm told the conversation went like this...

NICKY CAMPBELL: And now let's talk to the right wing blogger, Guido Fawkes.
GUIDO: It's nice to be on the left wing BBC.
NICKY CAMPBELL: Well, it's the first time we've had a fascist on the programme...
GUIDO: Take that back.

Campbell then issued a perfunctory apology before issuing a more fulsome one at the end of the interview. I'm told it was one of those 'I can't believe what I just heard' moments. The Guardian writes it up HERE.

Guido, to his credit, is dismissing the whole thing as a storm in a teacup and has made clear he accepts Campbell's apology.

For what it's worth, I have always found Nicky Campbell to be a hard but very fair interviewer. I have to say that I always get a little more nervous before going on with him that I do most other interviewers. That isn't because I perceive that he is left wing - it's because he usually asks the one question you would rather he didn't. That's why he's a good interviewer.

PS Is it possible that Guido could do just one media appearance without causing some sort of controversy? Maybe that's where I'm going wrong...

Europe Minister: I Haven't Read the Lisbon Treaty

Quite incredible. My old university sparring partner, Caroline Flint, the Europe Minister, has admitted not having read the Lisbon Treaty. Quite a gaffe for someone in her position, I'd have thought. Still, it betrays a refreshing honesty, as her Tory Shadow has already pointed out, betraying a little, and perfectly understandable Schadenfreude. Mark Francois just issued this missive...

It's wonderfully honest of the Minister for Europe to admit that she hasn't actually read the renamed EU Constitution. It's not every day that someone will admit they haven't read the most important document for their job. Her astonishing admission does leave some questions. How does she know if the Treaty's good for Britain if she hasn't read it? How could she lecture the Irish that they'd only rejected the Lisbon Treaty because they didn't understand it? If Ms Flint had taken the time to read the whole Treaty, as I have, she might then know that it is substantially almost identical to the EU Constitution we were promised a referendum on and that it means a major transfer of power from Britain to the EU. The right thing to do would be to let the British people have the chance to read it and decide for themselves whether they want it – as Labour pledged at the last general election.

Here's the Article on Jacqui Smith LabourList Didn't Want You to See

Yesterday, I took Derek Draper to task for failing to publish on LabourList a single article on the hot political story of the day - Jacqui Smith's expenses. I made the point that it was impossible to imagine ConservativeHome not covering a similar story on the Tory side. Draper hit back and posted THIS piece, pointing out that they had included links to Mirror and Guardian articles in their lunchtime email. He also said...
None of our posters or readers have posted anything today on the subject or on the specifics of the Jacqui Smith case, if they we'd have had no hesitation in publishing them.
This turned out to be untrue. Two minutes after Draper published his post, Labour Party member and blogger Shamik Das submitted an article on Jacqui Smith to Derek Draper and his deputy, Tom Miller.

His email was sent at 16.05, but as of 7.30am this morning - more than 15 hours later - it strangely hasn't appeared. Shamik isn't a happy boy, and has emailed me to ask if I'd be interested in publishing it. Delighted to oblige.

The lurid revelations over the weekend about the Home Secretary's latest expenses bungle raise serious questions not just about her or even the Government but of the political class as a whole.

Trust in our elected politicians has never been lower, nor anger at their indiscretions greater. It's one thing to make genuine mistakes during the good times; quite another to actively be "on the fiddle" - as many people will see it - during the worst economic downturn this nation's ever seen.

A poll in this morning's Telegraph confirms the level of public distrust in our elected representatives: more than three-fifths (61 per cent) of those polled are less trustful of MPs than they were before the current expenses row blew up and nearly half (46 per cent) of respondents believe the system of allowances for second homes is wrong in principle and should be scrapped.

The greatest indicator of public loathing, however, is the two-thirds who think MPs' salaries and expenses to be too generous by half - a proportion bound to increase when next a poll is published following the announcement this afternoon of a 2.33 per cent rise in their basic wage to a staggering £64,766, though the freeze on Ministerial pay will most certainly be welcomed.

And it isn't just the perceived financial impropriety that so appals taxpayers as the fact that many MPs simply do not believe what they are doing to be wrong. So out of touch with their constituents are they - especially in these recessionary times - that they actually believe the taxpayer should pick up the tab for bath plugs or pay-per-view films.

For the Home Secretary to state that she inadvertently signed off the expenses claim for Raw Meat 3 and By Special Request - not to mention two, yes two screenings of Ocean's Thirteen - simply will not wash. This is the modern-day Home Secretary of the United Kingdom we're talking about, not some Colonial satrap in 19th-century India; it would be nice to think she'd have the common sense to check line-by-line the contents of what she's signing for.

We're forever being told that politicians aren't in it for the money, that they genuinely care about what they're doing and believe what they're doing to be right, and while the vast majority of MPs undoubtedly go into politics for all the right reasons, forsaking greater financial remuneration in the private sector, it is the alarming ease with which they forget where they've come from and how their constituents live that is the most depressing aspect of this sorry affair.

Cover-ups add to the degree of public anger, with many callers to phone-in shows and the like outraged by the attempts of certain MPs to suppress these embarrassing facts, be they bawdy backbenchers getting down and dirty in Commons work rooms or Tory blue-rinsers billing the taxpayer for their childcare; as so often in the past it's the botched concealment of damning evidence as much as the offence itself which lead to our rulers' downfalls.

The sight of MPs going to court to prevent newspapers from revealing the truth is contemptible, lowering them to the level of washed-up celebrities and diminishing not only themselves but the their offices.

Journalists often receive a kicking for the sensationalist, hypocritical nature of some of their reporting, yet it is they the public must thank for exposing these scandals, and with the government now mired in sleaze from top to bottom, bearing all the hallmarks of the dog days of the Major administration, it is the Fourth Estate who now stand head and shoulders above the establishment as the guardians of probity and propriety.

I might disagree with a few lines of that, but it's well written and deserved to be published on its own merits. Perhaps Mr Draper might like to explain why he felt it was unworthy of publication.

He may well say that he and his deputy haven't been at their computers since 4pm yesterday and that if Shamik had had a bit more patience, they'd have published it in their own time. If so, it rather reinforces the point I made about LabourList when it first started - that Derek Draper severely underestimated the time it would take up.

UPDATE: Shamik tells me that although the LL post was timed at 4.03pm, it didn't appear until much later - well after he sent his email - which, incidentally, has still not been replied to. Indeed. LL hasn't been updated now for 19 hours.

Despairing Liberal has made the point that I have not commented on the Eric Pickles drinks party. Indeed not. I wasn't there. Unlike Tim Montgomerie, who has indeed addressed it HERE on ConservativeHome.

Similarly, he complains I haven't commented on the Boris programme on Channel 4 last night. Indeed not. I haven't seen it. I'm not taking the Arsene Wenger defence, but do people really want me to comment on a programme I haven't seen? However, I have Sky plussed it, and will no doubt comment on it when I have seen it - which won't now be until next week as I am in Cardiff for three days from tomorrow.

UPDATE 2.35pm: Delighted to report that Shamik's article has now been published by LabourList. A mere 21 hours after he submitted it. All's well that ends well, then.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Daley Dozen: Monday

1. Manchester CF writes up the Draper v Redwood discussion on 5 Live.
2. Tom Harris says voters should decide on an MP's performance.
3. Letters from a Tory worries about a certain political psychotherapist.
4. Alastair Campbell finds Kevin Rudd's approach to interviews refreshing.
5. Nick Robinson says Jacqui Smith thought she was out of the woods.
6. Jonathan Isaby talks to Don Porter, outgoing Tory Convention Chairman.
7. Max Atkinson on Alan Yentob's lost oratory.
8. That's News on the way to fix MPs' expenses.
9. Kevin Maguire sounds the death knell for Jacqui Smith.
10. Con Coughlin says Gordon Brown will not be pleased by an interview in the NYT with Angela Merkel.
11. Guido urges you to look at how much your MP has claimed in expenses.
12. Tory Diary on the Tory MP who doesn't employ any staff.

The Most Embarrassing Moments in Politics

The Mandate Blog, in honour of Jacqui Smith has compiled a list of Top 7 Embarrassing Moments in Politics. They are...

1. Neil Kinnock falling in the sea.
2. John Redwood & the Welsh anthem
3. Al & Tipper Gore's Convention kiss
4. William Hague's 14 pints boast
5. Peter Costello's embarrassing singing
6. Peter Lilley's little list
7. Tony Blair sweating at the Labour conference

I suspect it would be easy to get this list to 50 fairly quickly... Over to you.

HSBC: The Listening Bank?

I got a call from HSBC this morning. This is how the conversation went.

HSBC: I just need to check your postcode.
ME: No you doubt.
HSBC: It's for security.
ME: I don't have an account with you.
HSBC: Well, it's for security, sir.
ME: But I don't have an account with you. Why would you need to speak to me unless you are trying to sell me something?
HSBC: It's for security, sir.
ME: Can I have your postcode please?
HSBC: We don't give out that information.
ME: [bangs head on desk] Exactly.
HSBC: I need your postcode, sir.
ME: Are you completely deranged?
HSBC: If you'd just give me your postcode, sir.
ME: Do you play the robot in Star Wars 4? Listen to this very carefully. I am not giving you my postcode. Why don't you do something innovative, and if you want to tell me something, write me a letter.
HSBC: Well, I need your postcode, sir.
ME: Click.

I want to emigrate.

Why the Expenses Issue Needs to be Addressed Now

I was going to write this post twenty minutes ago, but thought I had better calm down. I had just spent nearly an hour doing a phone-in programme with BBC Radio Wales. I have never experienced an angrier group of people in any programme I have taken part in. Every single caller thought politicians were thieving, lying scum, and there was nothing I or anyone could say which would have persuaded them otherwise. I chuntered on about there being bad apples in any profession, but they all thought that every single politician had their snouts in the trough.

The other London based pundit was Sean O'Grady, economics editor of The Independent. He played to the audience and essentially agreed that they were all at it, and they all enjoyed 20 weeks holiday a year and hardly worked the rest of the time. I'm afraid I lost my temper. O'Grady used to work for the Liberal Democrats. He knows full well that the overwhelming majority of MPs put the hours in and when Parliament isn't sitting, they're to be found doing constituency work. He even seemed to suggest that they shouldn't be allowed to employ their own staff or have any second home allowance at all.

In all the interviews I have done over the last 24 hours on this, I have tried to be balanced and non partisan. This is not a party political issue, but it strikes at the very core of why many good people just won't go into politics nowadays. They just don't want to be tarred with the same brush of contempt which was so apparent in this phone in.

I almost feel as if I should be paid danger money for having the temerity to defend politics as a profession. It's a pretty thankless task at the moment - and it isn't made any easier by journalists like Sean O'Grady playing to the crowds. It happened last night too where I had to correct Stephen Nolan on 5 Live who had blithely stated as a matter of fact that MPs don't have to pay capital gains tax on their second homes. 'They're exempt', he said. When I challenged him on it he had the good grace to apologise.

But the trouble is, everyone believes this kind of thing, because they think it is entirely plausible that MPs are indeed exempt (I hope to God I was right!).

Politicians need to wake up and understand the level of contempt felt for them out there beyond London. Some of the younger politicians understand this very well. And they know that urgent reform is needed. This reform cannot wait until after the election. It needs to be discussed and introduced almost immediately. But the trouble is, while we have the existing Speaker and the existing roadblocks to reform in the House of Commons administration system, it just won't happen. Gordon Brown has neatly finessed the expenses issue by asking the Committee on Standards in Public Life to combine a report on expenses with one on second jobs. Because of work underway the inquiry won't even start until the autumn, and, guess what, it won't report until after the election. That is simply not on. Don't the 200 new MPs who may be elected in 2010 deserve to know what their terms of employment will be in advance?

Someone needs to grab this issue by the the throat. If Gordon Brown won't do it, perhaps David Cameron and Nick Clegg ought to have that long awaited conversation and come up with a joint solution.

And one final thing. Several producers of the programmes I have been on have been shocked at the reluctance of MPs to go on the air and defend their profession, or give their views on the system of expenses. "My colleagues would lynch me," one Labour MP told 5 Live. Doesn't that just about say it all?

UPDATE: In an unfortunate double entendre, bearing in mind the subject matter, Nick Clegg has just declared: "It's all getting out of hand." Exactly.

April Issue of Total Politics Out Now

The new issue of Total Politics is out this week, with some fabulous features, interviews and reporting. Here are a few of them...

Iain Dale In Conversation with Ken Livingstone
Interview with Andy Burnham
Interview with Angus Robertson MP (SNP)
Interview with Ieuan Wyn Jones AM (Plaid)
Budget Q&A with John McFall, Jeff Randall, Greg Hands & Jeremy Browne
Donal Blaney on the perils of political libel
James McGrath on life after Boris
Robert Waller on East Anglian marginal seats
Debate: Do political academics live in the real world?
Is the Church of England still the Tory Party at prayer?
The 150th anniversary of Big Ben
If I Were PM: Maxine Peake from Shameless

You can read the free of charge E-Zine HERE or the text versions of all the articles HERE.

A 12 issue subscription to Total Politics costs £35 (27% discount) and you can buy one HERE.

You can buy a print version of the magazine at any branch of W H Smith, or selected branches of Waterstone's and Borders.

Where Labour People Come Together?

I just paid my first visit to LabourList in several weeks, in the expectation that they might be discussing the Jacqui Smith porn issue. After all, it's a site where "Labour people come together", so I thought the topic might at least get an airing. I should have known better. Draper is happy to go on a 5 Live phone in this morning to talk about it yet censors it from his site. Oh dear.

Hutton Haunts Labour

When you are a Labour Prime Minister you know you are in trouble when someone like Will Hutton turns on you. On 5 Live Breakfast today, Hutton described the regulation of banks over the last ten years as a "disaster" and pinned the blame for that regulation firmly on Gordon Brown.

He also maintained that Scottish taxpayers should be incredibly grateful to their English counterparts, who had saved their country from bankruptcy. He said it was a major national embarrassment for Scotland that their two biggest banks and now their biggest building society had gone bankrupt.

The biggest embarrassment for Scotland is that it was a Scot - Gordon Brown - who presided over the whole debacle.

Funny how the name Hutton is one which haunted Blair and is now doing the same to Gordon Brown.

Jacqui Smith Should Discipline Jackoff Smith

The Jacqui Smith story is still raging this morning, with virtually all the newspaper front pages leading on it. She says "it's business as usual", which, some would say, is half the trouble.

Let me ask you this. If an employee of yours embarrassed you in this way and had previously done something similar (her husband wrote to their local newspaper saying what a brilliant MP Ms Smith was, without actually revealing himself as being married to her!), wouldn't you at the very least put them on a written warning? Bit difficult when it is your hubby, I suppose.

This is not a resigning issue - the 'crime' is far less serious than what she is accused of on her 'second home', but if this story continues its current momentum and she becomes a figure of derision, then the inevitable will surely come to pass. Jacqui Smith should be thankful Parliament is about to go into recess and we are all about to concentrate on the G20. At least, I think we are.

Nick Cohen Against the World

This is a video from last week's Orwell Prize debate, featuring a rant from Nick Cohen against the judges, Peter Hitchens, Peter Oborne and just about everyone else. It made a lot of people shift very uncomfortably in their seats.

Parish Notice: Should I Re-allow Anonymous Comments?

For the last four months I have had a system of comment registration, which means that anonymous commenters are not able to comment. In general it has worked well, with the threads being rather more coherent and calm than previously. There have been marginally fewer comments, but the level of debate seems to be higher.

However, I have been getting quite a few emails from people who previously commented regularly who no longer do so because they are either not willing to register an account with Google or are government employees worried about their identity being somehow compromised. I said HERE that I would give this experiment time to see what happened, and it has now been four months. Part of me thinks that if someone can't be bothered to register even an anonymous account, why should I bend over backwards to accommodate them. However, this blog has become a community and I want it to be as open as possible. So I am minded to open up the comments again for a trial period, but I thought I'd do a quick poll to see what you all think.

Click HERE to take part.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Daley (Half Dozen): Sunday

1. Shane Greer has visa problems. Of the 'entry' kind, not the credit card...
2. Wrinkled Weasel wonders whether post Hannan if bloggers can set the news agenda.
3. Tory Bear asks what a Minister has to do to lose a job.
4. Subrosa on the fall of the Dunfermline Building Society. Could there be a political scandal in the making?
5. Stumbling & Mumbling is another lefty who is rather annoyed at my Orwell Prize shortlisting.
6. John Redwood on the why Derek Draper can't be debated with (and the Dunfermline).

My UKIP 'Hidden Agenda'

So, Stuart Wheeler has been summarily shown the door by the Conservative Party. Good. Actions have consequences, as Mr Wheeler (as he will now forever remain!) must have known. No responsible political party could have allowed one of its donors to give a large amount of money to a rival political party and turned a blind eye.

But apparently, I have a hidden agenda in all of this. It seems I called for him to be expelled so I could help UKIP survive. Obvious, innit. Well, that's what a site called Political Gossip reckons...
We understand that Iain Dale is callling for Stuart Wheeler to be 'kicked out' of the Tory Party for his 'treason'. Mmmmmm. Iain Dale knows full well that all this is likely to achieve, is the driving of Mr Wheeler into the hands of UKIP - the Leader of which is a 'close friend' of Iain Dale. After all, we were all confused in this office at Mr Dale's effusive comments towards Nigel Farage - but we understand that a few meals and drinks together have placed these 2 individuals at a different 'operating level'. According to a Nigel Farage critic, 'Nigel was never fussy about the company he kept'.
Hilarious. Yes, Nigel Farage is a really close friend of mine. So close that I have met him all of, let me see, yes, three times. And on none of the occasions did either of us have a meal or a drink. I'm sure that we'll put that right soon though. Cos we're bosom buddies, don'tcha know.

A few days ago someone quite well known texted me saying: "I read the papers and read about this person with my name, who is a complete stranger to me." With the reaction to my shortlisting for the Orwell Prize and this sort of thing, I am beginning to know how they feel.

UPDATE 21.40: it gets more hilarious by the minute. Come crackpot anti-Farage UKIP website reports this...
Iain Dale would seem to have more than a reasonable interest in the well being of Farage. Could the stridency of Iain Dale's dismissal of Stuart Wheeler be founded on Jealousy or spite? Clearly Iain Dale seeks to damage The Tories in the long run and is seeking to push Stuart Wheeler into the arms of Farage - I would presume that foolish as Stuart Wheeler may be with his petty cash he is not as dumb as Iain Dale would wish him to be to comply with his underhand behaviour.

I think I need to lie down. Just wait till they read my GQ profile of Farage, which is out next week. That should really set the conspiracy theorists away with the fairies.

BBC News Channel @ 7pm, 5Live at 10pm on MPs' Expenses

I'll be on Sky News at 5.30pm in a discussion with ... Polly Toynbee on MPs' expenses.

I'm now also doing the BBC News Channel at 7pm too.

And then later on the Stephen Nolan Show on 5 Live at 10pm with Dr Ian Gibson and Martin Bell discussing the same subject.

And the Radio Kent Breakfast Show tomorrow morning.

Is that enough of me?

UPDATE: I'm afraid those expecting a barney between Polly and me on Sky News were disappointed. However, I did see red when she called Stuart Wheeler "sleazy". I made the point that if journalists like her throw around baseless allegations, is it any wonder that politics gets a bad name. I then said that she should be glad that people like him show philanthropy (even if he's donating his money to causes I disapprove of!), as long as they don't expect anything in return. Sadly, the interviewer did not allow Polly a comeback. Don't think she was pleased.

Jade Goody Will Pay £1.8 million Inheritance Tax

I was listening to the latest edition of Donal Blaney's 15 minute Blogtalk Radio podcast this lunchtime (as you do). He made the very good point that Jade Good's case illustrates perfectly the case against Inheritance Tax. Jade did what any good parent would do and made every effort to provide for her children after she had gone. She built up a £4 million legacy. Except it isn't £4 million at all. Despite the fact that she paid her taxes along the way, the government will now claim a 40% share of her estate, leaving her kids with £2.2 million. OK, so that's far more than most kids would ever have, and nothing can replace the loss of a parent, but why should Jade be taxed twice?

Donal called our Prime Minister "Gordon the Grave Robber". I wouldn't quite go that far, but I know what he means.

Home Sex at Home Sec's

I suppose if I was being naughty I could say that the fact that Jacqui Smith's husband needed to "entertain himself" by watching pornographic moves, adds weight to the argument that she spends more nights in her rented one bedroom London residence than she does at her second home in her constituency. After all, what's a boy to do...

The thing is. While entertaining Rosie Palm and her five daughters, Richard Timney hasn't, in theory, done anything wrong. The rules allow MPs not just to claim for mortgage interest on a second home, but also to furnish it and pay for "services". These include Cable TV and Sky. Perhaps individual PPV films don't qualify, but in the rules there is nothing to stop film and sport packages being claimed for, as well as news channels.

From 1 April even these rules are being replaced with some vacuous policy which takes all responsibility away from the Fees Office and puts it entirely on the shoulders of MPs. Even if the Fees Office advises them that a claim is acceptable, it is left to MPs to decide "how this would look if it appeared in a newspaper". Incredible. This can only make matters worse and give the Mail on Sunday even more fun at politicians' expense.

But if you think this episode is embarrassing, just wait until July, when the expenses of all MPs are revealed, down to the very last detail. Sky is reporting today that Jacqui Smith claimed for an 88p bathplug. Of course she did. The rules allow her to. They also allow for lightbulbs to be claimed for, doormats, knives and forks, and indeed anything else which a second home requires.

I take the view that MPs from outside London should indeed be allowed to claim for a second home. But they should only be allowed to claim for mortgage interest, rates and utility bills, and possibly a one off initial relocation cost of, say £5k. The rest of the furnishing and upkeep of that home is down to them. If you want a TV, you pay for it. If you want to have cable TV you pay for it. If you want a bathplug, or any other kind of plug, you pay for it.

Sound fair?

UPDATE: Headline hattip to Davidodavido

Wheeler: Dale is Right - I Love Publicity

Well that was a bit of a shock. Jon Sopel, on the Politics Show, just quoted by blogpost last night on Stuart Wheeler, during an interview with him. This is how the exchange went...

JON SOPEL: What do you say then to other charge that this is about vanity on the part of Stuart Wheeler. A Conservative blogger, Iain Dale described you today as a menace. ‘He needs a regular fix of publicity. Wheeler is a walking advertisement for the benefit of state funding of political parties, to which I am opposed’.
STUART WHEELER: Well I’m opposed to it as well but whether it’s a vanity or not, you’d better ask my daughters, they’re rather inclined to agree with him about that but actually, I mind like hell about it… (interjection)
JON SOPEL: So you are a bit vain about it?
STUART WHEELER: I think anyone who enjoys coming on a show with you, you probably are a bit vain about being on the show yourself.

Tim Montgomerie has now agreed with me that Wheeler should be thrown out of the Party. Read his reasons HERE.

Where is John Mann?

Isn't it strange that we have heard nothing in recent weeks from that scourge of political sleaze, John Mann MP. He's the rent-a-quote who the media wheelout whenever there is an example of a Tory in trouble. Strangely, he's been silent on Jacqui Smith, Tony McNulty, Nigel Griffiths and now Harry Cohen. Has he lost his voice?

There is, ofcourse, another explanation. Many Labour MPs are furious at his antics. They think his agenda has caused problems forallof them. Perhaps they have persuaded theLabour whips to silence him.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Daley Dozen: Saturday

1. Alistair Cooke on the Blue Blog recalls the 1979 Vote of No Confidence.
2. Welsh Ramblings on the fallout for Leighton Andrews AM from the Aneuringlyndwr blog farrago.
3. PoliticalBetting analyses the latest ICM poll, showing a 13% Tory lead.
4. Chicken Yoghurt makes a dick of himself for the second time this week. He so hates me.
5. Liberal Burblings on James Landale's fight against cancer and his views on Jade Goody.
6. Alex Foster of LibDem Voice announces his engagement. Many congratters.
7. A Very Public Sociologist pschoanalyses Derek Draper.
8. Archbishop Cranmer bemoans the departure of the Bishop of Rochester.
9. Tom Harris dares to take issue with Simon Heffer.
10. Quaequam becomes the second LibDem blogger to jump to Eric Pickles' defence.
11. Douglas Carswell on how The Plan has become a bestseller.
12. Dan Hannan on why Gordon Brown has a point on the Act of Settlement.

Nigel Griffiths Screwed For a Second Time

A High Court Judge has today ruled that the News of the World is quite within its rights to publish further details of the sexual antics of former Labour Minister and best friend of Gordon Brown, Nigel Griffiths. This comes a few days after the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner ruled that he would not open an investigation into Griffiths' conduct. LabourHome says...

At the moment it seems that Gordon Brown is just letting these cases drift. As a result our reputation for sleaze is growing fast. This will cost us dear at the next election.

And the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards still needs to grow a pair...

Guido also throws in his twopenny worth.

Hurricane Hazel: And I Don't Mean the Chipmunk!

When I started watching this video I thought it was a spoof. It's not. It's from the Canadian Rick Mercer Report and profiles the mayor of Mississauga, Hazel McCallion. She's been mayor for 31 years, is 88 years old and at the last election got 91% of the vote. Watch it to the end!

Saving the Dunfermline (And Gordon's Face)

You could hardly think of a more embarrassing thing for Gordon Brown on the eve of the G20 than for his local building society to go under. But that's what has happened to the Dunfermline Building Society. From the BBC report HERE, it seems clear that the regulators, yet again, had taken their collective eyes off the ball. Yet more evidence that a single regulator is what is needed? And it's called the Bank of England.

Inevitably, the government is going to sink more money into rescuing the Dunfermline Building Society, and thereby saving Gordon Brown's face.

The worry thing is this. If it's the Dunfermline today, which one might next, because you can bet your bottom dollar it won't be the last.

Stuart Wheeler Deserves to be Expelled

The News of the World is reporting that Stuart Wheeler has written a cheque for £100,000 to UKIP. ConservativeHome is reporting this as a defection. It is not. Wheeler says he will vote Tory in the local elections and in the General Election. All he's actually doing is what he said he would do in September last year, as I reported HERE.

But the man is a menace. He needs a regular fix of publicity, as I said HERE. Wheeler is a walking advertisement for the benefits of state funding of political parties (to which I am opposed). He delights in popping up on the Today programme and spreading his unique brand of political mischief. he can't help himself. The media lap it up and revel in describing him as a major Tory donor, on the basis that nearly a decade ago he gave the party £5 million.

Tim Montgomerie describes it all as "disappointing news". I do not. It was inevitable, but the Party should now act to ensure he does no more damage in the future.

Stuart Wheeler could not complain if he was now expelled from the Party. He has, after all, committed an act of gross disloyalty - and it's not a first offence. You can't have people like him recommending people to vote for another party on 4 June, and then proceed to welcome him back on the 5th. If I now wrote a blogpost urging Tories to vote UKIP, do you have any doubt that I would be expelled? And I'd deserve to be.

Stuart Wheeler has had his three strikes. Now he should be kicked out.

Obama to Meet Cameron

Remember that preposterous New Statesman article last week, penned by a Washington leader of the Alastair Campbell fan club student, which made the assertion that the Conservative Party was considered a joke in Washington?
When we discuss the Conservatives’ policies here in Washington, DC, we are often reduced to laughter.

Well, she's got her comeuppance now. The Tories are considered such a "joke" that President Obama has requested to meet David Cameron during his visit to Britain next week. Toby Harnden has the details.

TONIGHT: BBC Parliament Replays the 1979 Vote of No Confidence

A Press Release from BBC Parliament which I thought you all might be interested in relating to programmes on BBC Parliament tonight...

In 1979, 28 March was one of the most dramatic nights in Westminster history. James Callaghan's Labour Government lost a confidence motion by one vote and was forced to call an early General Election that would sweep Margaret Thatcher to power. BBC Parliament is marking the 30th anniversary of that night with a special evening of programmes, The Night The Government Fell.

At 6pm, A Parliamentary Coup tells the story of what happened that night, with testimony from former Downing Street insiders, ministers and party managers about the increasingly frantic attempts to secure the vote for Labour. In five years as a minority Government, Labour had struck deals with various smaller parties in order to survive but, by March 1979, after a winter of industrial strife, their luck was running out. Even on the day of the vote, it looked too close to call. It was only as the night wore on that it became clear that two key abstentions – and the absence of a gravely ill MP – would cost them the vote.

Immediately following the Commons debate, Tonight (the predecessor of Newsnight) was broadcast live from Westminster on BBC One. This episode can be seen at 6.45pm. Presenters Robin Day and Donald MacCormick interviewed Michael Foot, Lord Carrington, John Pardoe, Francis Pym and Lord Diamond on the dramatic events in the Commons and the fall of the Government. Newspaper journalists Peregrine Worsthorne and John Cole were also interviewed.
At 7.50pm, Turning Points – The 1979 Election explains how failure to secure devolution for Scotland lost Labour the support of the Scottish National Party in the run-up to the vote of no confidence. George Cunningham, a Labour MP at the time, discusses the context of the historic vote in this televised lecture.

At 8.15pm, BBC Parliament presents highlights of the 1979 No Confidence Debate in the House of Commons. Among the notable speakers featured were Prime Minister James Callaghan, Leader Of The Opposition Margaret Thatcher, Liberal leader David Steel and Labour's Michael Foot.

At 11.25pm, viewers can see Prime Minister's Broadcast 1979. The evening after the Commons defeat, James Callaghan broadcast to the country. In a seven-minute address, he defended the Government's record and announced a General Election.

The Night The Government Fell also features highlights of news coverage and other archive programmes from the time.

Listen to the Voices by Inigo Byrne

Every now and then you stumble across a song which sends a shiver up your spine. Have a listen. It's called LISTEN TO THE VOICES and it's sung by Inigo Byrne. But it's not on iTunes. Aaaaagh!

Apparently it's from an album by him released in 2005 called MY WORLD. Anyone know where I can get it? It's unavailable at all my regular sources.

The John Pienaar Weekly Podcast

Each week, John Pienaar from 5 Live does a weekly podcast. This week I was his guest. We reviewed the week in politics. You can listen to the 13 minute podcast HERE, and subscribe to it HERE. John also has a new Facebook page HERE.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Daley Dozen: Friday

1. Guido Fawkes on why John Prescott "gets it" and Sir Michael White doesn't.
2. Liam Murray doesn't believe that blogging is snapping at the heels of tradition journalism.
3. Norfolk Coast on John Prescott's insult to Norfolk.
4. Nick Robinson on Gordon Brown's Chile reception.
5. Welsh Ramblings wants an apology from BBC Wales. It's related to a Peter Hain backed attack blog.
6. Ben Duckworth on Party Lines wonders what will replace political parties.
7. John Prescott is impressed with Hannan's video, if not the contents.
8. Mandate lists their top 7 political books. Why 7?!
9. Danny Finkelstein lists his top 10 eligible Catholics.
10. The unnaturally good looking LibDem blogger Rob Fenwick defends Eric Pickles.
11. Sadie aims a few choice swear words in the direction of Labour List.
12. Richard Spring MP on what he told his constituency AGM tonight.

Brown Embarrassed by the Chilean PM

From the Press Association...

Gordon Brown was left embarrassed tonight after a political ally inadvertently echoed the Tory attack on his stewardship of the economy. Chile President Michelle Bachelet said her Government had been able to introduce a significant fiscal stimulus because it had "saved in the good times". Although the comments came as she praised the Prime Minister's leadership, it sounded uncomfortably like David Cameron's charge that he did not "fix the roof while the sun was shining".

"I would say that because of our decision during the good times, we decided to save same of the money for the bad times," Ms Bachelet said at a joint press conference in Santiago. "And I would say that policy today is producing results. So when we develop our fiscal stimulus plan we could make one that is 2.8% of GDP."

Ms Bachelet went on to point out that the UK had managed to introduce a stimulus of more than 2% of GDP. However, Mr Brown felt he needed to respond by insisting that the International Monetary Fund believed Britain was better prepared than most countries for the downturn.
The episode was the latest difficulty to beset Mr Brown's tour ahead of next week's G20 summit in London, which was on its fourth and final leg.

A keynote speech to the European parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday was overshadowed by a suggestion from Bank of England Governor Mervyn King that the UK may not be able to afford a further fiscal stimulus.

Then, as Mr Brown arrived in New York, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek laid into Barack Obama's fiscal stimulus package and financial bailout plans as "the way to hell". In Brazil yesterday, Mr Brown's call for a 100 US billion dollar package to help revive international trade was upstaged when his host President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, launched an excoriating attack on the "white, blue eyed people" who had caused the economic crisis.

Crisis? What crisis? George Osborne said...

The President of Chile is right to point out, as we have done, that countries that put aside money in the good years are the ones that can afford to spend that money now without adding recklessly to national debt. Gordon Brown is getting lessons from the Latin Americans about sound public finances. You couldn't make it up. It is because under Labour, Britain suffers the national embarrassment of having the biggest budget deficit by far of any G20 country.
Not going well for Gordon, is it?

UPDATE: Strangely this wasn't covered on the BBC Ten O'Clock News. Perhaps someone should get a clip of the press conference and send it to Dan Hannan so he can put it on Youtube!

Why Not Clobber the Rich? Says Blackburn Labour

Blackburn Labour is a blog that is becoming quite popular in Labour circles. They emailed me earlier asking if a blogpost they have published on How Labour Needs to Regain Trust could be included in today's Daley Dozen. I have just read it, but think it merits a blogpost on here all to itself. The post, written by Dr Asif Strange, contains a number of corkers. Let's start with this one...
I was heartened to hear that Labour are contemplating a new 45% tax rate for those earning over £150,000. You could argue that this is 'old' Labour - but it's what many Labour supporters wished was done earlier. Boris Johnson, London Mayor, at once stated we shouldn't clobber the rich. Why the hell not?

Er, because all the public services which the poorer members of our society rely on could not be funded. It was Lincoln who once said that you don't make the poor rich by making the rich poor. I thought the politics of envy was supposed to have disappeared with the advent of New Labour. It was Mandelson who said he had no problem with people getting filthy rich. Without rich people, there is no philanthropy. Let's move on...
I would like to have seen Labour do more to tackle the issue of debt head on. Many people are asking why the economy needs to run on borrowed money in the first place. Why can't we as a country aspire to live within our means? No interest payments, no debt and no bailiffs. Sounds like heaven, no? Why can't we balance our budgets? Surely it's better to run a VW Golf (that you own) than to borrow beyond your means for a Bentley? Especially if it's going to be repossessed!

Hear hear! This guy could be a Thatcherite in the making. The trouble is, he appears to be talking about individual debt, but doesn't make the connection that his own government is indeed borrowing beyond its means for a Bentley. He concludes...
Where mistakes have been made, let us hold our hands up, learn and move on. If it means saying sorry, we must do it. Not the Cameron way, but in the true way. This may go a long way in winning back the trust of the people.

So he agrees with David Cameron that the Prime Minister should say sorry. Sadly, the man is incapable to realising he did anything wrong.

In some ways, Dr Strange can see quite clearly what is wrong with his Party and in his heart of hearts clearly understands that it is impossible for them to win back the trust of the public, which expected so much of them in 1997. His diagnosis, though, is incoherent.

Parliament Supports Earth Hour ... By Leaving All PCs on Over Weekend

Great news that parliament is supporting Earth Hour on Saturday evening, by urging all staff to turn off non essential lights. Good stuff. Get that carbon footprint down! Oh, er, hang on, what's this? An email to all parliamentary staff this afternoon. What does it say? Oh...

Left hand, right hand, anyone?

Emily Matlis And Me: Reunited At Last

Later on I am going to be driving to the Tiffin Girls School in Kingston upon Thames to take part in a BBC Schools Question Time. Also on the panel is local LibDem MP Ed Davey, Labour MEP Robert Evans, David Aaronovitch and BBC Economics Editor Stephanie Flanders. Nicely balanced panel, eh?

Playing David Dimbleby will be the lovely Emily Maitlis, who I met last year when she hosted the BBC's local election night coverage at City Hall.

The Schools Question Time is a great initiative. They way this has been organised has been very impressive and I am looking forward to it very much. I'm not sure it's fair having Ed Davey though. He was on the real Question Time last night so he will have had practice!

Fern Britton Should Sue ITV Over Sex Discrimination

I am sure readers were as devastated as I was to learn that Fern Britton was leaving THIS MORNING. Not that I ever watch it, natch. However, I have always had a bit of a soft spot for Fern. I think she is a genuinely talented presenter with a wicked sense of humour. She was also one of the few celebs able to hold their own on a QUESTION TIME panel.

One things bemuses me, though. According to newspaper reports she is paid £15k an episode to present MR & MRS, whereas Philip Schofield trousers three times that amount. Isn't that a clear case of sex discrimination? After all, they co-present the programme - neither is more integral than the other.

Why doesn't she sue ITV?

An Email to Damian McBride

This is a copy of an email I have just sent to Damian McBride, the Prime Minister's Head of Strategy. On the Daily Politics yesterday, Guido Fawkes made an allegation that McBride had given Derek Draper his marching orders on how to trash my reputation as a blogger, and in particular how he should smear me over the Carol Thatcher golliwog remarks. This wasn't the first time I had heard the allegation made. Indeed, the last time, I was told that Tom Watson was in on it too. This would not be a surprise as they both sit in the same office, and they act as the PM's political hit squad.

I intend now to submit an FOI on this subject as I regard it as a hugely serious breach of McBride's role as a civil servant - paid for by the taxpayer, if indeed it is true. Several people have warned me off doing this. "Let it lie," they say. One lobby correspondent advised me: "Don't get on the wrong side of McBride".

I'm afraid they 'misunderestimate' me.

But I will say this. I hope Guido's allegations are wrong and that Damian McBride can truthfully tell me that he gave no such advice to Draper either by email or verbally. But if these emails do exist, they will come to light through an FOI request. Someone else said to me that they will just delete the emails, if they exist. I reminded that person that to do so would constitute a criminal offence. It's the kind of thing a certain Richard Nixon got into rather a lot of trouble for.

UPDATE: Guido has submitted an FOI request. In the absence of a reply from DM, I have followed suit...

Dear Damian,
This is a Subject Access Request made under the provisions of the Data Protection Act (1998).
Please provide me with copies of all emails, letters or other documents referring to either myself or my publication, “Iain Dale’s Diary”. In particular, but not exclusively, the analysis provided by you to Derek Draper and LabourList.org on the afternoon of Friday 13, February 2009.
I have copied this to the Cabinet Office Freedom of Information Unit. If you require payment of a fee please advise by return.
I should remind you that it would be a criminal offence to destroy the information requested. Please confirm receipt of this email.
Kind regards

Will Gordon Come to Regret Saying This?

"I haven't been going round the
world talking to leaders in every country
simply to say we are having a communique."
Gordon Brown

Why doesn't he just raise expectations a bit more? Let us remember that the G20 consists of four hours 35 minutes of talks, where each leader gets 14 minutes to say something.

You'd have thought that instead of jetting round South America and meeting Brazilian football players of yesteryear, Brown might be better employed spending time with a cold towel wrapped around his forehead planning the summit.

McAvoy's Revenge on Dawn Butler's Committee

Remember THIS story from a couple of days ago about Labour whip Dawn Butler contriving to lose four votes in the Education & Skills Standing Committee? And the minister of the Committee Sion Simon was one of the MPs who didn't turn up, leading to the government losing a whole clause? There have been consequences.

Labour Deputy Chief Whip Tommy McAvoy was incandescent at what took place, and has now got his revenge on Butler and the Committee by forcing it to sit until 4am last night, and again today.

He's not one to get on the wrong side of, our Tommy.

Why is Tom Harris Proud of His Voting Record?

Something's been troubling me. Gnawing away. On Tuesday, Tom Harris wrote a blogpost about intending to vote against his Party on a three line whip for the first time ever. It was over the issue of gay hatred. As it happens, I agree with his stance. However, his argument is not the reason for my disquiet. It was his opening paragraph...
Since being elected in 2001, I have never, until today, voted against my party on a three-line whip. That is something I’m extremely proud of.

Just think about that. He's saying 'my party, right or wrong'. And for the first time in eight years, he's decided to break with that belief. Why he should be proud of behaving in a robot like fashion for nearly four years is something I find difficult to comprehend. A party system inevitably requires whipping, and I make no bones about that - and politicians must recognise that they are elected under a party label, but for an MP to be proud of never having voted against the party line is something to be remarked upon. It is even more bizarre when I know Tom to be someone who does indeed have a mind of his own.

So why is he proud of this? I have to say that if I had been an MP for nearly eight years and had only ever voted for the party line I wouldn't feel proud. I'd feel slightly ashamed.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Left Wing Blogger Will Give Up If I Win Orwell Prize

My shortlisting for the Orwell Prize has caused apoplexy in some quarters of the left. Justin McKeating, who masquerades as Tim Ireland's 'mini me', has repeated his pledge to give up blogging if I win. I'd love to think this was a promise rather than a meaningless threat, but we know how good the left are at keeping their promises.

The Daley Dozen: Thursday

1. John Pienaar has a shiny new Facebook page which you can contribute to.
2. Mandate announces Mark Pack is defecting from the Liberal Democrats. Rob Fenwick explains why the LibDems will miss him.
3. Jury Team on destroying the natural order of political parties.
4. Paul Waugh on the fallout between the Chancellor and the Governor.
5. Kerron Cross isn't impressed by the Draper/Guido TV appearance.
6. Speech expert Max Atkinson analyses the Hannan speech.
7. Donal Blaney wants to see much more of Derek Draper on our TV screens.
8. Red Box has some astonishing details on the G20 summit. Four hours 35 mins at a cost of £20 m!
9. Croydonian on the smartest trade union leaders.
10. Dizzy on the parliamentary worm.
11. Andrew Sparrow analyses why Dan Hannan has become an internet sensation.
12. Boulton & Co on how Harriet Harman nearly wet herself over an Alan Duncan joke about Gordon Brown's nuts. At least, I think that's what it was about...

Hannan & Draper on Channel 4 News

For those of you who missed the Channel 4 News report earlier of Dan Hannan's internet hit, here is the film report and then a discussion between Dan Hannan and that well known internet guru, Derek Draper.

If you were a Labour voter watching that, I wonder if your reaction was the same as mine. I suspect it was. And I bet you can guess what it was, too.

UPDATE: PM had a report too. Click HERE and scroll in 39 minutes.

The Stench of Decay Gets Stronger Each Day

A reader writes...

I was told last week at a private dinner by a prominent Shadow Cabinet Minister, that recently, at the end of a routine meeting at the department that he shadows, one of the junior ministers said to him: 'You might as well come and see where your office will be' and he took him around and showed it to him! Following your piece about Dawn Butler, it does seem that parts of the Labour Party have thrown in the towel.


Gordon With Hindsight

This is an excerpt from Gordon Brown's first budget speech in 1997. It makes rather interesting reading in retrospect...

The Chancellor is first and foremost the guardian of the people's money. But during the 1990s the national debt has doubled. This year alone the taxpayer will pay out 25 billion in interest payments on debt, more than we spend on schools. Public finances must be sustainable over the long term. If they are not then it is the poor, the elderly, and those on fixed incomes who depend on public services that will suffer most. So, as with our approach to monetary policy, so in fiscal policy: we will now establish clear rules, a new discipline, openness, and accountability.

My first rule - the golden rule - ensures that over the economic cycle the Government will borrow only to invest and that current spending will be met from taxation. My second rule is that, as a proportion of national income, public debt will be held at a prudent and stable level over the economic cycle. And to implement these rules, I am announcing today a five year deficit reduction plan.

Together, these rules and this plan will ensure a historic break from the short-termism and expediency that have characterised the recent fiscal policies of our country. As with our monetary policy, our fiscal policy will be all the more credible for being open and accountable.
Any Budget seeking to achieve high and stable levels of growth and employment must be guided by the true state of the public finances, but also by a clear assessment of the state of the economy. And to that I will now turn.

We have seen a rapid growth of consumer spending, of nearly 4 per cent over the last year. With the prospect of further windfalls' from the building societies, consumer spending is likely to remain strong. There has been a sharp rise of 7 to 11% in house prices, with even higher rises in the South East.

The growth of average earnings has accelerated to 4.5% a year. The rate of broad money growth has been, around 10% for a year. These increases in consumer spending, earnings, and money supply are continuing even as industrial production and manufacturing output have been recovering only slowly.

It is essential that consumer spending is underpinned by investment and industrial growth. Britain cannot afford a recurrence of the all too familiar pattern of previous recoveries: accelerating consumer spending and borrowing side by side with skills shortages, capacity constraints, increased imports and rising inflation.

Already there are warning signs that this pattern could be repeated. In similar circumstances some of my predecessors have ignored these signs while others have deluded themselves into believing that growth, however unbalanced, was evidence of their success. I will not ignore the warning signs and I will not repeat past mistakes.
I have this image of Gordon Brown arriving back from his trip to the sunny climes of South America telling the waiting media: "Crisis? What crisis?"

George Eustice Joins Portland PR

David Singleton reports in PR Week that former Cameron press chief George Eustice is leaving his job as External Relations Manager for the Conservative Party to join Portland PR, the outfit run by former Downing Street spin chief Tim Allan. It's another sign that PR and lobbying companies are desperately trying to beef up their Tory credentials. It's a great shame the Tories have lost George, as his role in building coalitions was an important one, and it is difficult to see who could replace him.

Someone said to me recently that if Danny Finkelstein, Tim Montgomerie and I set up a Tory oriented lobbying company we'd be very wealthy people within a very short time. Maybe. I doubt whether any of us could look ourselves in the mirror again, though. :)

The Draper/Guido Video (If You Can Bear It)

Here's the 5 minute spat between Derek Draper and Guido on the Daily Politics. Dear. Oh. Dear. Hardly enhanced the reputation of political blogging, did it? If I were a viewer who had never looked at a political blog before I certainly wouldn't be rushing to my computer now. As my colleague at Total Politics has just said: "It was like two little kids arguing in the playground."

UPDATE: What I should have said when I wrote this before rushing out for lunch, is that I am grateful to Guido for defending my honour!

Radio 4's 'PM' to Cover the Dan Hannan Story

The PM Programme on Radio 4 will be covering the Dan Hannan video. Isn't it fab that the MSM is catching up with it a mere 48 hours after the event?

UPDATE: Channel 4 News is also covering it. I'm doing a short interview with them later.

Matthew Norman has written a fabulous attack on Brown in today's Independent. Here's its conclusion...
If Gordon, ever-more remotely marooned on his fantasy island of vast global influence and unfettered domestic command, backs down and muffles the stimulus hunting cry next week, it will leave him looking, to borrow from the resignation of yet another embittered former Chancellor, in office but not in power. If he doesn't – if he ploughs on with the demand for even more colossal spending and debt – he will be at war with the Bank of England, and at DefCon Two with his next-door neighbour.

There is no obvious way out of this one. He has been on his electoral death bed for ages, of course, ever since that definitive week in October 2007 when he cluck-cluck-clucked his way out of going to the country. But this may well be seen as the week he ran out of appeals for clemency, because the only quantative easing available to him now appears to involve the child-proof lid on that bottle of Downing Street strychnine.

Guido v Draper on the Daily Politics at Noon

Guido will be debating with Derek Draper on the Daily Politics at noon. I imagine if Draper has seen Guido's latest blogpost, he will be fizzing with anger. It appears Guido has been doing some investigative reporting, live from Berkeley, California...

McNulty To be Investigated by Standards Commissioner

I came in for a bit of flack on Sunday for not laying in to Tony McNulty with all gun blazing. I well remembered the howls from Labour and LibDem supporters when Caroline Spelman first encountered her problems. I took the same stance then, again receiving a lot of criticism for doing so. But I have no regrets.

There is a key difference between the Spelman and McNulty cases. Spelman voluntarily submitted herself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, but McNulty has not.

I think Tony McNulty's biggest problem is that although he may be within the letter of the law, he has admitted he used the "second home" predominantly as an office. That's not what it is there for.

Whatever the outcome of this, one things has become crystal clear. The second home allowance in its current form is dead. Whatever new rules come into being should be ready for implementaton in May 2010. New MPs need to know the situation before the election.

To all those non Conservatives who took such great delight in Caroline Spelman's troubles, are you going to show the same degree of delight in McNulty's troubles? No, thought not. Hypocrites.

EXCLUSIVE: Dawn Butler Does It Again! Labour Loses Key Committee Votes

There has been chaos this morning at the Education & Skills Standing Committee. The job of the government whip on the committee is to ensure there are enough Labour MPs there to form a quorum and then to win any vote. Sadly, the Labour whip on this committee was derelict in her duty. The hapless Dawn Butler failed to ensure enough Labour MPs were there and as a consequence, the Tories and LibDems combined together to win four different votes, removing a whole clause from the Bill.

Remember, it was Dawn Butler who was at the centre of a little skirmish a couple of months ago when she claimed a personal endorsement from Barack Obama. Well, in terms of whipping, it's clear that No She Can't.

I guess it's another sign of the gradual decay of this administration when its own MPs can't be bothered to turn up for a committee and the whip is completely useless at her job.

But the big question is: what is the chief whip, Nick Brown, going to do about it? In other times, he would have summarily sacked her. But no doubt the sisterhood, in the form of Harriet Harman, will come to her rescue.

I suppose if Brown did sack her she could always run off to one of her two homes - both located nine miles from Westminster, and one paid for by you, the taxpaper.

UPDATE: This just gets better and better. One of the Labour MPs who turned up late was none other than the Minister who defines the word 'hapless', none other than Sion Simon. And I hear that the Deputy Chief Whip (who Chris Mullin calls the 'Lance Corporal') Tommy McAvoy has been up to the Committee Corridor to deliver an interview without coffee to Simon and Butler. Apparently, it wasn't pretty.

Hannan Makes the MSM ... In America

Fox News's Neil Kavuto interviews Dan Hannan about his Youtube video and his views on the current crisis. I wonder when a British TV broadcaster might get around to doing the same. 330,000 views and counting.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

So Proud to be Shortlisted for the Orwell Prize

I'm listening to a rant by Nick Cohen at the Orwell Prize shortlist debate. He's accusing Gordon Brown of sacking Martin Bright of the New Statesman. Is saying the Orwell Prize has been demeaned by the fact that Bright isn't on the journalism shortlist but Peter Oborne and Peter Hitchens is. Hitchens is responding and has made the point that Nick Cohen is ... er ... pissed. It's all kicking off!!!

Anyway, this blogpost was intended to report the delightful fact that the judges have felt it necessary to include me in the final shortlist of six blogs. The others are...

People's Republic of Mortimer

Andrew Sparrow


Three Thousand Versts of Lonliness

Paul Mason

Sitting in the audience waiting for the shortlist to be announced by the panel chairman Jean Seaton was a very peculiar experience. Having convinced myself that I wouldn't be on the shortlist I found myself curiously eager to hear my name announced. I have never actually won an award for anything (many of you will not be surprised) in my life, so far as I can remember. To even be shortlisted for this award is an honour I find difficult to compute. My only regret is that Tom Harris and Hopi Sen didn't make the cut. They should have.

The Daley Dozen: Wednesday

1. Wrinkled Weasel on how the BBC 'legitimises' truth.
2. The Taxpayer's Alliance finds that dinosaurs are still alive and well in the trade union movement.
3. Burning our Money on why the Treasury needs to be purged.
4. Bethan Jenkins thinks the government's social networking database is 'Big Brother gone mad'.
5. Spectator Coffee House says Harman has laid bare Labour's election strategy.
6. Gerri Peev has a right old go at Keith Vaz: "Celebrities stick to him like vaseline".
7. Puffbox reports on the blogging Ambassadors at the FCO.
8. Max Atkinson on why Gordon should stop stealing other people's lines.
9. Douglas Carswell is no longer alone in the Westminster swamp.
10. Dan Hannan on how the internet has broken the monopoly of the political reporter.
11. PoliticalBetting suggests Cameron should take on Harriet.
12. Tory Diary on Dan Hannan's triumph.
... more later, hopefully.

At 11.30pm I will be doing the Sky News Paper Review with Kate Hoey.

The Lesson of Dan Hannan's Speech

Dan Hannan's demolition of Gordon Brown speech is the single most watched video on YouTube today. And all without a single mention of it in the mainstream media. Think about that. And when someone tells you that the internet has little influence on politics, cite it as an example.

Second's Out: Slugger Campbell v Hit Man Maguire

There's nothing I like seeing more than when lefties fall out. Especially when it is Kevin Maguire and Alastair Campbell. Campbell has just ripped into Maguire on his blog. Here's a taster...

I've never fully understood quite why Mirror hack Kevin Maguire feels so bitter, but boy does he? I know he still goes on about some Bill Clinton article he drafted which I am supposed to have given to The Sun.

I've never had the heart to tell him his draft was so badly written I wouldn't have shown it to the President's driver, let alone the President. Then I suspect he knows that Gordon might have consulted me when some of Kevin's friends were suggesting him for a job in Number 10 or the Labour Party, and I did what I always do - said what I thought.

And most recently, I fear the non appearance of his occasional column in my guest edited New Statesman might have not got down well. But again, was I going to put his weekly dose of not terribly well informed gossip ahead of my splendid interview with Alex Ferguson, my other's half's excellent read on education or TB's interesting piece on God?

Ladies, ladies.

Former Kent Tory MP Dies

The former Tory MP for Gravesham, Tim Brinton, has died at the age of 79. The former ITN news journalist and newscaster was elected in 1979 and stood down in 1987, when he was succeeded by Jacques Arnold. Prior to that he had served on Kent County Council.

After leaving the House of Commons, he ran a broadcasting consultancy and chaired a Health Authority.

PMQs: Labour MPs Desert Harriet?

A Tory MP emails me...

I thought I would just mention a point about PMQs which may not have been apparent on television. Usually, there are plenty of Labour MPs jumping up and down trying to catch the Speaker’s eye. The Parliamentary convention is that the Speaker will select questioners by alternating from Government and Opposition sides of the chamber (sometimes, names on the Order Paper, sometimes ‘free hits’). However, today there were so few Labour MPs standing up that the Speaker called three opposition MPs in a row. He then called Tony Lloyd who had his name on the Order Paper to be called later. By this time, the Labour whips were scuttling round the chamber to get volunteers to stand up and John McFall got called (to his obvious frustration) and asked a horribly unprepared question.

It was an embarrassing display from the Parliamentary Labour Party.

I didn't see PMQs today as I was interviewing Cherie Blair (and very enjoyable it was too), so I am relying on my readers to tell me what happened. Go for it!

Ve Vould Like to Know Who Your Friendz Are, Bitteschoen

Shane Greer writes...
News that Labour intend to set up yet another government database will hardly be of surprise to anyone. But if the latest database isn’t surprising, it is nevertheless deeply worrying. According to Labour, the government needs to know who our friends are on Facebook, and they need to know which friends we converse with. Of course, while they’re at it they’d quite like to know what our browsing habits are (which one assumes means you should think twice before joining Facebook groups that might cast more suspicion upon you than you are already subject to thanks to the very existence of this latest big brother proposal).

Outrageous. Is there no aspect of our personal lives which is safe from interference from government?