Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Daley (Half) Dozen: Thursday

1. Cranmer thinks the Bishop of Rochester has a political career ahead of him.
2. Wife in the North on her last 100 days.
3. Donal Blaney wants to cut taxes.
4. Daily Referendum reveals that the taxpayer forked out £50k for bloggers to attend the G20.
5. Iain Martin plots a cabinet coup.
6. Independence Home on the Farage era so far.

Vlog: Why Spending Has to be Cut

Sorry, no garish tie today. Will do better next time. Promise. More than 2,380 views for yesterday's video. Not bad, considering the PM's hilarious YouTube video has only got 5 times that. Maybe I should adopt that as a marketing slogan: Iain Dale - Five Times Less Popular than Gordon Brown! On second thoughts...

PS And yes, I didn't mean 'afford' at the end. No time for a retake...

Davis Questions The Need for Trident Upgrade

David Davis has written a piece for the Financial Times today in which he questions whether a future Conservative government should commit itself to a wholesale replacement of Trident. it was written as a wider piece on how a Tory government could reduce public spending. His logic is, on the face of it very sound. The threat we are under today does not require the same kind of independent nuclear deterrent which we needed in the Cold War. He argues...
We should also, as Conservatives, address some of our own sacred cows. There is no firmer advocate of nuclear deterrence than me, but even I have some difficulty seeing the justification for a wholesale upgrade of Trident. Our system was designed to maintain 100% retaliatory capacity after a full-scale Soviet nuclear onslaught. Now our likeliest nuclear adversary will be a much smaller, less sophisticated state. Should not the costs reflect that?

When the government announced it was to proceed with a full scale replacement of Trident I wrote that while I would probably support that, it would have been nice for there to have been a real public debate about it and whether it really fitted into our future defence needs. That's why I am glad that David Cameron has committed himself to a full Strategic Defence Review upon taking office. ConservativeHome reports that David Cameron did not dissent from David Davis's view at his press conference this morning.

I suspect that there may be some in the Conservative hierarchy who will not welcome this debate and view Trident as a sacred cow. I believe they are wrong. It may well be that we need it fully upgraded, but I'd prefer there to be a proper assessment of our defence needs for the next thirty years before committing ourselves to spending £20 billion.

What do others think?

Is Mandelson Giving Up on Brown?

I only ask, because Mandy's famous sense of optimism and verve seem to have deserted him in recent times...

• A dismal week. “It is indeed turning into a bit of a week - it never rains but it pours, it seems.” (Today Programme, BBC Radio 4, 30 April 2009).

• Praying for New Labour. “…Peter Mandelson took a break from abolishing capitalism to address the country's top 200 mandarins at the civil service training centre in Sunningdale. Towards the end of a private session marked by jokes about Ed Balls and a prayer for the survival of New Labour, he was asked how Whitehall should prepare for the eventuality of a Conservative government. His answer was unequivocal: those present had a duty to embrace the Tories as soon as possible and make the transition a success.” (Ben Brogan, The Daily Telegraph, 30 April 2009).

• Running the next election campaign. “Oh no, I’m a bit past that. There's a younger generation who have a different take on politics and how we communicate.” (The Times, 25 April 2009).

• Political career is coming to an end. Asked about his own ambitions after the election, Mandelson said: “It depends on the result…I think time has run out for me.” (The Times, 25 April 2009).

Well you came and you gave without taking
but I sent you away, oh Mandy
well you kissed me and stopped me from shaking
I need you today, oh Mandy

I'm standing on the edge of time
I Walked away when love was mine
Caught up in a world of uphill climbing
The tears are in my mind
And nothing is rhyming, oh Mandy

Well you came and you gave without taking
but I sent you away, oh Mandy
well you kissed me and stopped me from shaking
And I need you today, oh Mandy

Brown "Hating Being PM"

The early departure of Gordon Brown from office is now openly being discussed in Labour circles. Alex Hilton of LabourHome is reporting that a stalking horse candidate plans to challenge Gordon Brown. He doesn't name the MP concerned but I believe it to be Charles Clarke, whose patience has finally snapped. However, he may not need to man the barricades.

A very reputable Labour parliamentary source claims that "Gordon is hating being Prime Minister." He certainly wouldn't be the first PM to get the job only to find out that he didn't really like it. Harold Macmillan would fall into that category.

Labour MPs are increasingly coming to believe that if the European elections are terrible, Brown may well decide he's had enough and quit while he's, er, behind. I suspect this is a case of wishful thinking on their part, but who knows?

Brown in Humiliating Expenses Climbdown

It has been a week of humiliation for Gordon Brown. First the President of Pakistan refuse to see him. Then the Polish prime Minister told him his economic policy was rubbish. Then he was defeated in the House of Commons over the Gurkhas. And now today, the government has been forced into a climbdown on MPs expenses. Tory MPs have just been paged to say that there won't be any votes on expenses because the Government has accepted Sir George Young's amendment which seeks to refer everything to the Committee on Standards in Public Life. This was seen by the whips as the least worst option as they had advised the Prime Minister than any vote would be lost. At least there won't be any TV pictures of a government defeat.

Needless to say, Harriet Harman and Chris Bryant have been left on their own on the government front bench. No other Cabinet Minister can bring themselves to appear and defend the indefensible.

The stench of decay grows stronger by the day.

UPDATE: Liam Byrne has just appeared on the News Channel claiming that the climbdown is a tremendous endorsement of Gordon Brown's position. Unbelieveable.

On Second Thoughts...

I was watching Sky's coverage of the end to the British military presence in Iraq this morning. Whatever one's views of the conflict, it was an historic moment.

Then I thought, "Remind me, what is the Commons debating today? And whose idea was it to have a vote on expenses today? And didn't Number 10 know that today was the day of British troops withdrawal when they decided that MPs should spend the whole day talking about expenses?"

Makes you proud to be British.

Cision's Flawed Top 50 UK Blogs List

Cision have today released a league table of the Top 50 UK blogs from all sectors. While I am delighted to come in at number 2, I have to say the validity of this table is rather undermined by some very strange placings. I'll leave you to work out what they are. There are also some very notable absences. Chris Paul is at number 30 (I kid ye not), yet Tom Harris, LabourHome and Labour List aren't in the list at all. Where's LibDem Voice, Spectator Coffee House etc?

A good PR stunt by Cision, but that's all it is.

Will the LibDems Fire Their PPC for New Forest East?

Remember THIS story about how the News of the World tried to stitch up Tory MP Julian Lewis over the fact that his constituency home address was was kept private by arrangement with his local Electoral Registration Officer and police force? Well a couple of days ago he had an Adjournment debate in the House of Commons on the whole issue and laid out in very great detail how his Liberal Democrat PPC opponent, Terry Scriven, was behind the whole thing and had made his life hell. Do read the WHOLE DEBATE as it's a fascinating illustration of politics being dragged into the gutter by a man the LibDems feel happy to have as an official parliamentary candidate. Judge for yourself if you'd be happy to vote for such a man.

As an aside, Chris Bryant's wind-up was very entertaining.

I can be dispassionate on this issue as mine is the only constituency in the country in which both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have lost their deposits on the same occasion. I, too, increased my majority at the last election, and I am sure that that had nothing to do with anything on the internet— [ Laughter. ] It pays to advertise.

We can agree on many issues in this debate. First, the armed forces parliamentary scheme should not be taken lightly. It has provided an invaluable service for many hon. Members, including me, who would otherwise know very little of the armed forces, and we should thank Sir Neil Thorne. Secondly, the security of all hon. Members and their families and staff—we should not forget them—is a very serious matter. There have been very serious incidents in the past that the Liberal Democrats and other parties have had to face. That is a matter for the whole House.

In my own case, I had a stalker turn up outside my front door in London who had to be removed by the police. He rang me up and asked, “Is that Chris Bryant?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “I’m Malcolm, I’m outside.” I told him to go away. He said, “I’m very submissive.” I used an expletive and he said, “I’m not that submissive.” The police took him away. On a second occasion, someone was sent to prison for harassment, not because they were particularly aggressive towards me, but because they were making it impossible for me to do my job at my surgery.

All hon. Members will be aware of cases in their constituencies where they have had to deal with people who have mental health problems or who are fixated on them. It is incumbent on the whole political community to work together to ensure that such situations do not infect the body politic.

He's right. So what, I ask, do the LibDems intend to do about their candidate, Terry Scriven? They should deselect him.

Taxi for Jacqui Smith?

Conservative MP David Ruffley has just released figures which show that spending by the Home Office on taxis has risen by 3300% since Labour came to power. David Ruffley says..

My new figures show that over Labour’s eleven years there has been a thirty-three fold increase in Home Office expenditure on taxis – from £30,000 in 1997-98 to £1,045,671 in 2008-09. Over the last eleven years, the Home Office has spent over £5.6 million on taxi fares.

In the last 12 months to March 2009 alone the Home Office has increased its expenditure on taxi fares by 16%. From £900,000 in 2007/08 to £1,045,671 in 2008/09. With the country in recession this is utterly disgraceful. Home Office Ministers have obviously lost control of their budgets and are incapable of getting money to the policing frontline where it matters.

I am struggling to understand why Home Office Ministers are not clamping down on what they spend on taxis. Surely as new technology allows for meetings to be held over the internet or by conference call – less money should be spent on taxis, not more.

Taxi for Ms Smith anyone?

The Strange Antics of Jon Cruddas

In yesterday's Times there was an article suggesting that the Conservatives could unseat Jon Cruddas from his seemingly safe seat of Dagenham & Rainham. It's easy to see why. Cruddas has let the BNP support in the constituency mushroom. He's bleated about it but done bugger all to stem it. This week Jack Straw made a statement to the Commons announcing that a new prison would be built in the constituency on prime development land.

Surprisingly Jon Cruddas sat on his hands during the statement. MPs from all sides of the House were shocked that he did not even try to ask a question or two. It does make you wonder why he was not willing to even ask for a few brief details. In the end, it was neighbouring MP James Brokenshire, who put forward some questions and held the government to account. However, Cruddas found his voice after the debate when he phoned the local paper to say how upset he was. So maybe it was shock that made him sit on his hands in the chamber.

Or perhaps he was thinking about how, after the election, he will run as Harriet Harman's deputy and then stab her in the back and ascend to the leadership. He'd do better to concentrate on winning his seat first.

UK Banks Banning Iranian Customers?

I heard something interesting tonight while dining with friends. I haven't got the time today to follow this up, but a financial journalist might wish to do so. I was told that America banks are withdrawing all facilities from Iranian customers, and unilaterally closing their accounts with no prior consultation. But more to the point, British banks have started to do the same. One Iranian national, who has been a customer of the Royal Bank of Scotland for thirty years, was told his account was being closed. There was no explanation beyond him being told that it was now bank policy to withdraw all banking facilities from Iranian related accounts. This is, I am told, also happening in other UK banks. And it's being dictated by the US government - or so it is alleged.

I'll be interested to see if readers can shed any light on this development.

Bishop of Rochester: Don't Look to Bishops for Moral Lead

Yesterday I attended a round table lunch at the Centre for Policy Studies. To be honest, it was a little intimidating. There were about twenty people there including Maurice Saatchi, David Butler, Janet Daley, the Bishop of London, the Bishop of Rochester, Sir Samuel Brittan, Peter Kellner, Theresa May, Tessa Keswick, Sir John Egan, Stryker McGwire from Newsweek to name but a few. The subject under discussion was THE FUTURE OF CAPITALISM. It was a lively ninety minutes. I listened and said very little, apart from upbraiding Tory MP John Hayes for his dismissal of the virtues of liberal Conservatism. I was very impressed by the Bishop of Rochester. In fact, he came out with the quote of the lunch...

If you want a moral lead, don't look to the bishops. I certainly wouldn't.

I didn't dare press him further...

Ten New Blogs: Part 45

The Red Rag
Meccanopsis Cambrica - Plaid supporting Muslim
David Maclean - Tyneside journalist
Moscow Tory
Cicero's Voice
Thoughts of a Sheltered Scotsman
13th Spitfire - Right of centre blog
Case Against the BNP
A Labour Chanter - Scottish blog, anti Labour
Major Plonquer - Political satire

These blogs aren't necessarily newly created, but I haven't known about them before and they had not, until now, appeared in the TP Blog Directory.

Visit the Total Politics Blog Directory which contains more than 1,900 blogs. If you know of one which isn't there, please fill in the Submit a New Blog form on the left hand side of THIS page.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Daley Dozen: Wednesday

1. Vicky Ford is bitten by a dog. The dog lived.
2. Plato is understandably upset by the loss of three good friends.
3. Graeme Archer on the incoherance of the Conservatives.
4. Obsolete on how to effectively tackle the BNP.
5. Revolts on the Labour rebellion today.
6. reports on the panel session at the FPA yesterday with Guido and me.
7. Ben Brogan takes on the Tamils in Parliament Square.
8. Alastair Campbell spends the night with Eddie Izzard.
9. Cicero's Songs asks if Gordon Brown is Britain's Kim Campbell.
10. Martin Parsons writes an open letter to Alan Duncan.
11. Jon Craig gets a smacker from Joanna Lumley.
12. Charlie Elphicke on the Tory female candidates.

Shurley Shome Mishtake

Nadine is anxiously awaiting the Ministerial statement on the Gurkhas. I'm not sure what she means by THIS blogpost. Shurely Shome mishtake.

Vlog: Gordon's Credibility Is Shot to Pieces

To add your petition to the Downing Street petition calling on Gordon Brown to go click HERE.

Why Hasn't McBride's Commons Pass Been Revoked?

Graham Dines, the lobby correspondent of the East Anglian Daily Times, has just twittered this...

Why hasn't Damian McBride's lobby pass been confiscated?

Indeed so. Perhaps the Prime Minister's official spokesman might tell us. According to Toby Helm he has been seen in the company of some favoured lobby journalists today (no mention of whom, of course) and been doling out his new mobile number.

Jacqui Smith Must Make a Statement

It is absolutely vital that the Home Secretary pays the House of Commons the courtesy of a statement before the House rises at 7pm tonight. And it's she who must make the statement, not the her junior Minister, the hapless Phil Woolas.

The House should demand nothing less.

Government Defeated Over Gurkhas

The defeat today is a devastating one for a government with a majority of more than 60. It demonstrates the will of the House of Commons, that the Gurkhas deserve to be treated more equitably. I don't know how many Labour MPs rebelled, but well done to each and every one of them. And well done to the LibDems for tabling the motion.

What I find simply astonishing is that the BBC News Channel (as of 4.22pm) has yet to make a mention of this devastating blow to the Prime Minister's authority. Instead, they are carrying a live press conference phone in with the Assistant Director General of the World Health Organisation about Swine Flu. What very strange news values, especially when he hasn't actually said anything of interest.

UPDATE 4.24pm: They have now switched to the House of Commons where they have a live report with Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Joanna Lumley.

UPDATE 4.27pm: I look forward to the creation of Baroness Lumley of Fabulous!

Brown's Henchman Tries to Intimidate MPs Over Gurkha Vote

MPs are currently voting on the LibDem motion on giving the Gurkhas more residency rights in this country. Standing at the entrance to the Aye lobby is none other than Brown henchman Ian Austin, who is trying to intimidate Labour MPs from entering the Aye lobby and look menacing. What on earth does he think he is achieving? The Prime Minister's authority is shot on this issue and it is stupid to think that bully boy whipping tactics will alter anything. I'm told several Labour MPs have walked past him and openly laughed. Good on them.

Whose Words Are These?

I'm not going to tell you (yet) who is making this speech tonight on welfare reform. See if you can work it out...

Our welfare system must not allow anyone to withdraw from society as the consequence of forced withdrawal from the labour market. The voluntary sector will be able to play a hugely important role here: keeping people in touch with the world of work, providing skills training, bringing people together, and giving people inspiration and hope.

The next phase of public service reform must work to give people independence, not dependence, learning from schemes such as the expert patients programme which empowers patients to direct their own treatment of chronic conditions, or the Family Intervention Projects, which give chaotic, dysfunctional and anti-social families structure to their lives and social rules to live by, as the backstop before eviction.

Family Intervention Projects cost up to £15,000 per family, with a dedicated social work team getting the family up in the morning, ensuring everyone is washed and dressed, getting the kids to do their homework, and making sure they go to bed at a reasonable time. But the cost of not intervening in this intense way, with many agencies from probation, police, truancy officers and the NHS being involved, can be up to £350,000 per family.

These kinds of reforms empower the individual, and in doing so save the state money. There will need to be a new emphasis on better procurement: more local suppliers, more consideration for the environment, more value for money.

But reforms will focus on changing behaviour by demanding more responsibility from the individual, and rediscover the true purpose of the welfare state: getting people back on their feet when times got tough, never making worklessness a deliberate lifestyle choice.

No, not a right wing Conservative who believes in the power of the individual to shape their own destiny and rails against an overwheening state bureaucracy. The politician making this speech is none other than the lovely Hazel Blears. The speech is titled 'Community spirit in a cold climate', where she will spell out an unashamedly New Labour message on how the welfare system and public services should be reformed in a recession.

Translation: She is delivering a coded message and setting out a stall. Surely not.

PMQs: Clegg Shines and Puts Brown on the Ropes

Gordon Brown seemed to be in a very subdued mood at PMQs - almost contrite. David Cameron's two sections of questions were on Swine flu and the Gurkhas. The Prime Minister answered in a consensual way on Swine flu but seemed to be unwilling to take on board the constructive suggestions David Cameron made on the Gurkha issue. In fact, he seemed all over the place. As Nick Clegg said, he was evasive. Clegg must have been furious that Cameron stole his thunder on the Gurkhas, but he nevertheless put a good question to Brown. Brown, of course, decided to answer a different question and concluded by saying he would continue to do his duty by the Gurkhas. Clegg then went in for the kill and accused Brown of behaving shamefully. Labour MPs were said to be looking uncomfortable. Brown's final sentence to Clegg was "We will take the right answers" - an indication that he knew he was both nervous and on shaky ground. Cameron's questions and suggestions on how to solve the Gurkha issue were more substantial, but Clegg landed the political blow.

This was Nick Clegg's strongest performance yet at PMQs in his 16 months as LibDem leader. Despite being pre-empted by Cameron, he put Brown on the back foot.

Gordon Brown 5
David Cameron 6
Nick Clegg 7

UPDATE: Andrew Neil has just said that the Daily Politics has never had such an avalanche of emails after PMQs as today on the Gurkhas. Furthermore, every single one of them supported the Gurkhas. Every. Single. One.

UPDATE 12.35: Michael White has just twittered this: "The Speaker said: Statement from the Prime Minister on Afghanistan. But GB forgot and was walking out. Jeers. GB smiles." Oh dear.

I have just seen that Michael White scored is on the Gurkhas GB 4, DC 3, NC 2. Unbelievable. How out of touch can you be?

What David Cameron Should Do at PMQs

Guido is right in his advice to David Cameron on PMQs...
More people have now petitioned for Gordon to Go than voted for him in his constitutency. If a couple of thousand more people sign the petition before midday, Dave will be able to tell the Prime Mentalist at PMQs that the most popular petition on his own website is the one wanting rid of him. Hint to Dave’s PMQs preparation team: namecheck the petition at PMQs and it will go ballistic. Worth it just to wind up Gordon into smashing a computer screen with a flying Nokia.

Go on, David, you know you want to.

PS: This doesn't alter my general view about Number Ten petitions, as enunciated in my latest vlog rant HERE.

Happy 80th Birthday to Jeremy Thorpe

Last night, John and I attended an 80th birthday celebration for former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe at the National Liberal Club. It was quite a touching event, with speeches from Nick Clegg, Alan Beith and Nick Harvey among others. Why was I there? I got to know Jeremy and his wife Marion quite well about ten years ago when I published a book of his memories called IN MY OWN TIME. It was the first time he had gone into print since the events which led to his political downfall in 1979. Spending six months with him putting the book together was a fascinating experience as he was he key figure in my early political memories in the mid 1970s. Despite the debilitating effects of Parkinson's Disease, his mind has remained razor sharp and we had some fascinating political discussions. I hadn't seen him for a few years and had feared that his health would have deteriorated, but he was as sparky as ever, despite a very weak voice. Following the speeches last night Jeremy also made a short speech. It must have taken a tremendous effort on his part, but he was determined to get through, and he did.

For anyone much younger than me Jeremy Thorpe is a name which is only associated with one thing - the trial. But we should remember that for a decade he was considered to be Britain's most charismatic politician in an age of technocrats. He brought a campaigning verve to politics which few had bettered since.

Yes, in many ways he was a flawed politician, but in many ways he kept the Liberal flag flying against all the odds. His political career ended in the worst possible circumstances, yet he never embraced the bitterness which could so easily have dominated his long years of political exile. The Liberal Party itself was not kind to him. It's easy to understand why, but on a human level it was deeply unforgivable. Jeremy always felt his party would come calling for him once again, if only for wise advice. But those calls never came. The peerage he so desperately wanted eluded him.

Jeremy's life has been full of success and triumph, but it has also been filled with tragedy, self inflicted trauma and a desperate illness. It's been a pleasure to know him and Marion and share in some of their memories, even the more painful ones.

Ten New Blogs: Part 44

Tony Clarke - Former Labour MP for Northampton, but now an Independent
Tom Dexter - Conservative blog
Tory Rascal
Musings from Medway - Labour blog
Neo Conservative Hants
Frustrated Stay at Home Mum
Ariadne True - Maritime blog
Nottingham City Council LOLs - Attack blog against NCC
The Digger - Libertarian left blog
Working Class Tory

These blogs aren't necessarily newly created, but I haven't known about them before and they had not, until now, appeared in the TP Blog Directory.

Visit the Total Politics Blog Directory which contains more than 1,900 blogs. If you know of one which isn't there, please fill in the Submit a New Blog form on the left hand side of THIS page.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My GQ Interview With Nigel Farage

In the May issue of GQ Magazine I wrote a lengthy profile of UKIP leader Nigel Farage. Now that the issue is no longer on sale, I am posting it on the blog...

Being leader of a political party which stands a snowball’s chance in hell of ever achieving real power is not a very rewarding occupation. You need the patience of a saint, the hide of a wildebeest and the tenacity of a Duracell bunny. Luckily for his party, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party possesses all three, and if Oscars were awarded for optimism in the face of adversity, Nigel Farage would sweep the board.

In his two and a half years in the post, Farage has given UKIP a profile they had previously only attained during European election campaigns. He has aggressively courted the media and to some effect. He is the only recognizable face of a political party previously dominated by old fogies but now being dragged kicking and screaming into the new media age. Farage’s personal profile has engendered bitter jealousies from those who believe he is using UKIP for his own ends. His enemies accuse him of personal vanity and far worse. But he is unrepentant. He knows that any modern day politician’s success or failure is largely defined through the prism of the media.

So who is this man who his critics decry as a ‘Little Englander’ and his supporters believe could be the saviour of British sovereignty?

Nigel Farage was born 45 years ago in the village of Downe, near Sevenoaks in Kent, where he still lives. Down is famous as the birthplace of another famous man who rebelled against the conventional wisdom and believed in the survival of the fittest, Charles Darwin. But there, the similarities end. Farage is a chain smoking, hard drinking, pin-striped loving, Fedora wearing father of four with a German wife, and who bears an uncanny likeness to the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.

Farage went to the local prep school and then attended his father’s alma mater Dulwich College. He was in his element there. “I loved the tradition of it all,” he explains. “I couldn’t have been more involved in the life of the school if I had tried.” He was in the Army Cadet Force, the politics society, the cricket club, the rugby club – everything. He loved to challenge what he was taught and delighted in being argumentative, especially with the kind of teachers who he refers to as the ‘Bob Dylan set’. He had far more time for the more traditional schoolmasters who had had a good war and drifted into teaching. “I adored them and responded well to them,” he reflects. “They thought nothing of doing nets with you three nights a week. It was a vocation for them.” But even at school, he was obsessed by the issue of Europe according to his then classmate Nick Owen. “He chuntered on about Europe and everyone thought he was barking mad. He’s still chuntering on about Europe…” Owen recalls that even at school, the young Nigel Farage was into making money. “He ran a shoe shining business. He paid the juniors to clean shoes and then skimmed a commission off the top.”

Farage determined very early on that he did not want to go to university, a decision which caused anguish among his family. “It was the early 1980s. Exchange controls had been abolished. The City was exciting and it was where I wanted to be. It was partly lifestyle and partly because I wanted to earn serious money.” Farage Senior was a successful stockbroker, but Farage Junior decided it was the London Metal Exchange that had more appeal, and it neatly avoided the risk of being permanently in his father’s shadow. “I loved it, I was good at it and was good with clients. I knew within six months it was the lifestyle I would enjoy,” he recalls. His first employer was the aggressive Wall Street investment bank, Drexel Burnham Lambert, which collapsed in 1990. Farage recalls that the company motto was “no guts, no glory”, an epithet which might equally be applied to his own political career.

But at the age of 21, things started to go wrong for Farage. He was seriously injured after being run over by a car and spent four months in hospital. But worse was to come. Less than six months later he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of testicular cancer. “It was an horrendous experience,” he recounts. “There was an overwhelming feeling of it being so unfair. I hadn’t done any of the things I had wanted to do.” After the operation he was told by doctors that the cancer had spread to his stomach and lungs, with the clear implication that there was no hope of recovery. Two days later he had a Cat Scan and was given the all clear. “Those two days were like torture,” he says, his voice riven with emotion. For the next six months he had to go to London Bridge hospital twice a week for blood tests to see if, as he puts it, he was “allowed to leave the building or not.” He describes it as “psychologically worse” than having chemotherapy. But he emerged from the experience with a determination to seize the day, rather than worry about the future. It explains a lot. He’s known as one of life’s bon viveurs and is quite open about his love for – and over indulgence in - good wine and good food. “No one who’s been through what I went through could ever say that it is out of their mind totally. I’m very much a fatalist. Life’s for the living. You’ve got to follow your heart and I won’t pretend that didn’t shape my decision to leave business and enter politics.”

In his late teens Farage joined the local Tory Party but took no active part apart from delivering a few leaflets at election time. But over the course of the next few years Farage fell out of love with the Conservatives, firstly over the Anglo Irish Agreement but later over Europe. His split with the party came over Britain’s entry into the Exchange Rate Mechanism in October 1990. “That was the big moment,” he recalls. “I fulminated with rage against the economic idiocy and proceeded to bore everyone to death predicting disaster and gloom.” By chance he then saw a small advert in the London Evening Standard for a meeting held by the Campaign for an Independent Britain. He went along, and the rest is history. Within a year he had become a founding member of the Anti Federalist League which turned into UKIP in 1993. In early 1994 left his job to go self employed and set up his own business Farage Futures. This gave him the time to pursue a political career. He stood in various by-elections, at the 1994 European elections and the 1997 general election, but it was only in 1999 that he succeeded in getting elected to the European Parliament, after the government introduced proportional representation. Three years later, time constraints led to him closing down his business and concentrating on politics full time. Those who knew him well thought it was inevitable he would end up leading UKIP. “It was written in the stars,” says one ally. “Everyone knew Nigel could take the party to the next step; it was a matter of how long it would take the party to realise it.”

And in the autumn of 2006, his chance came when its somewhat charismatically-challenged leader Roger Knapman stood down. After a fairly bitter campaign, Farage emerged triumphant and immediately set out to transform UKIP into a major political force and enhance the fortunes of the Independence & Democracy Group in the European Parliament, which he now chairs.
In his thirty months in office, Farage has attempted to turn UKIP from a ramshackle, rather shambolic operation into an election fighting machine. He has been conscious that the Party has been easy to pigeonhole as predominantly male, old and of the ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ tendency. He’s recruited former EU whistleblower Marta Andreasson to be a candidate and attempted to ensure that some younger and female candidates appear on the ballot papers. Hehas also headhunted a professional campaign manager - ex Tory candidate and Adam Smith Institute policy wonk Kenneth Irvine - for the Euro elections and appointed an aficionado of the political blogosphere, Tim Worstall, as UKIP’s Head of Press. In January they opened a new campaign office in the heart of Westminster and have geared up for a real push with an eight strong campaign team. But the spectre of financial overstretch is constantly present. They face having to pay back a donation of more than £360,000 from Alan Bown, after it was found he wasn’t on the electoral roll. The dispute has been rumbling on for two years and is now awaiting an appeal date. If they do have to pay the money pack, the party faces financial ruin over an oversight not of its own making.

The European Elections on 4 June present Farage with the toughest challenge of his political career yet. In 2004, UKIP achieved a record 16% vote share (beating the LibDems into fourth place) and elected no fewer than 12 MEPs. This time it may be very different. Despite having a much more impressive line-up of candidates than five years ago, UKIP’s performance may well depend on how far they can attract two types of voters – those who wish a plague on all politicians from the three main parties and those Conservatives who feel so strongly about the European issue that they will continue to lend their vote to UKIP in European elections. This is a sizeable group, which continues to view David Cameron’s various Eurosceptic policy initiatives with increasing scepticism. It is this part of the electorate which may determine Nigel Farage’s fate.

Most political pundits think 2004 was a high watermark for UKIP and that they will be lucky to be left with enough MEPs to fill a telephone box in June. If that happens, Farage says he will walk the plank without having to be ordered to do so. “If we win fewer than ten seats, that’s a failure and I will resign,” he says with the refreshing candour which mainstream party politicians find so difficult to emulate. “Quite clearly, if we do badly, then I’ve tried my hardest, and that’s that. It will be time for someone else to do it.” By even talking that way in advance of the elections, a psychoanalyst might draw the conclusion that he’s had enough and may well quit anyway. There’s an air of resignation in his voice when he says, “I have tried to change the party, to modernize it, change the attitude and outlook,” but he knows also that the knives are out for him in his own party come what may. Even if they achieve a higher vote share and more MEPs than they currently have, there are plenty of people within UKIP who would gladly see the back of Farage.

Since he became leader he has been subjected to the most vicious character assassination imaginable. He has had death threats, his staff have been abused and threatened and journalists have received anonymous tipoffs about his drinking habits and alleged eye for the ladies. At times, his life has been made hell. Some of his colleagues are increasingly jealous of his high media profile and accuse him of operating a quasi autocracy and running roughshod over the party. Farage is unrepentant. “Some people have been a big disappointment – people I have given jobs to and when it doesn’t work out they behave badly. You just think, would I behave like that? God, I hope not.”

He readily admits that a good result on June 4th is a prerequisite for him carrying forward his own agenda. “I do need a mandate,” he says. “I will have the impetus to change it further.” But to do that he has a number of enemies to see off, both from within his own party and outside it, not least the British National Party. The BNP has tried, so far with little success, to infiltrate UKIP and take it over from the inside. They have a number of, what Farage calls, “useful idiots” who have adopted the tactics of the old Militant Tendency who tried to take over parts of the Labour Party in the 1980s. However unsuccessful they have been, Farage knows how bad it looks for the letters BNP and UKIP to appear in the same sentence. “The most damaging thing ever written about us was that we were the BNP in blazers,” he concedes, although he believes those days are behind them. When the BNP’s membership list was leaked recently, UKIP analysed it and found only two of their own members on it. The sighs of relief emanating from UKIP HQ were almost audible, but Farage is far from complacent.

“I wouldn’t compare myself to Cameron, but he tried to change the image of his party, to make it more acceptable to a broader range of people, and that’s the journey I’m on.” He cites the recruitment of an increasing number of ethnic minority members as evidence that the party is heading in the right direction. So, no longer the party of “fruitcakes and closet racists”, as David Cameron once memorably described them. “If we are successful in June, we’ll have a new slate of MEPs, they’ll be much younger, with a prominent woman, and we can go out into the media with a new image, without giving the impression that it’s just me doing it,” claims Farage. It’s hardly a ringing endorsement of his current colleagues, but he’s a realist.

Since Farage became leader of UKIP in the autumn of 2006, he has tried to turn the party away from being a single issue, anti European Union pressure group and convert it into a normal political party, with a policy on virtually everything. He tasked his deputy, David Campbell-Bannerman, with coming up with populist policies on public service reform. A belief in selective education is possibly the most eye-catching of the policies announced so far, but again, it plays into the perception that UKIP really does represent ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ rather than Mr & Mrs Average whose two kids go to the local comp.

UKIP’s success in June may well be determined by to what extent the electorate wants to punish the two main parties. Traditionally the LibDems have been the main recipient of the so-called ‘dustbin’ vote, but in the 1989 Euro elections it was the Greens who surged forward, with 15% of the vote. Indeed, Nigel Farage himself was a rather unlikely Green voter in that year. “I was still a Tory Party member,” he recalls, “and it was my first rebellion against the Conservative Party.” Election campaigns are all about momentum, the so-called ‘Big Mo’. Last time UKIP had the temporary boost of Robert Kilroy-Silk joining them and giving them a huge amount of extra publicity. “It was a risk worth taking at the time,” says Farage. “I still believe that.” It proved to be a mixed blessing in the end, but it’s difficult to see where that kind of boost will emerge from this time. Farage is relying on Eurosceptic Conservatives to lend him their vote again, but he’s also keen to point out that internet campaigning will recruit new supporters from all over the political spectrum.

“If we do badly in June, and that means curtains for me. It won’t just be UKIP that has a problem. It will be the whole anti EU movement that has a problem.” He believes there is a clear and present danger that UKIP might then indeed be taken over by the authoritarian right, rendering less of a political party and more of a narrow political sect. “It could set us back by over a decade,” he warns. It’s hardly a war cry, but it demonstrates what’s at stake both for him personally and the Eurosceptic movement in general on June 4th.

The Daley Dozen: Tuesday


1. Paul Waugh rejoices that Harriett's daft Equalities Bill will make it legal to sack Socialists.
2. Ben Brogan on Stephen Byers' telling condemnation of the 50% tax rate.
3. Capitalists@Work on Harriett's "red tape madness".
4. Tory Bear on a surprise new celebrity Tory convert.
5. Whipped Senseless thinks Tom Harris has lost the plot.
6. Richard Spring senses a death rattle.
7. Andy Grice describes Charles Clarke's latest attempt to kick Brown in the goolies.
8. Trixy welcomes the launch of IndependenceHome.
9. Next Left says it's all over for ID cards.
10. Harry Barnes says it's a good time to bury Stephen Byers.
11. Would you like to cc Jacqui Smith?
12. Eric Pickles reveals his top five websites. Not that I'm in the slightest offended. But next time, the doughnuts are on him...

And finally, check out my new DALEY RANT video about the pointlessness of Downing Street petitions... Eyes right.

Who Are These 60 Mad People?

In the interests of balance, for which I am famous, I feel I should point out to you that there is now a petition on the Number Ten Website calling on Gordon Brown to stay. Sadly, so far only 60 poor souls have felt the need to sign it.

As opposed to the 24,000 who want him to go.

Just as a point of information, these are some of the 60 supporters of our beloved Prime Minister. And they say Number Ten petitions are worthwhile...

# Andrew Neil
# Mr N.O. McMandate
# Ivor Broquen-Printer
# Mr. P. Iss-Off
# Mr S Meargate
# Dustin Mihands
# Gordon Smallcock
# Mrs Tricoteuse
# Prof L. Igate-Tosser
# Nick Robinson
# Asif Ali ZARDARI, President
# Sarah Brown
# Gordon pension robber Brown
# All your friends at the BBC
# A.S. Long-As-It's The Wright Thing
# Juan Ay-Jocque
# Billy Nomates
# I.T. Beganinamerica
# Simon Scrotum
# No More Return To Boom And BUST
# Karl Marx
# Dolly Draper
# Orson Carte
# Phil McHunt
# Imoff Tofrance
# Nucking Futter
# R Ving-Lhuun
# Mr Bunk Spubble (Labour supporter)
# it's oor oil
# Andrew Marr
# F*ck off back to Scotland
# Arthur Brown Penis
# Do you think you'll manage to get to 10 REAL signatures?
# Referee R.ndum and U. Ropevote
# Mr Barnett Dividend (Scottish Labour)
# Nicola O'Connor
# Wayne Kerr. Go Gordon your doing a grand job!
# Vaal Ewes
# Seymour Jocksin-Cabinet
# Betty Swallocks
# Rock Ing-Horse
# M. Outhbreather
# Hugh R. Slicker
# Ilick Windows
# Blair mayne UUPCON
# I Hate Broon
# Robert Barking-Roberts
# K Y Jelly
# Toenails Robinson
# Jacqui Five-Bellies
# google ho-tel
# Jim Hacker's Dangly Knackers
Hmm, so very few real ones then...

UPDATE: Tea With a Tory emails me to alert me to the fact that these 60 are not the same as were there this morning.

LabourHome are now turning on him too.

Brown's Nightmare Week Continues ... In Poland

Can it really get much worse for Gordon Brown. Having been snubbed by the Pakistani President yesterday, today it was the turn of the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, to deliver a bit of ritual humiliation to our revered leader. He told him in no uncertain terms that his country would not be following Brown's disastrous economic policy.
It is not for me to comment on other countries, but the Polish government at a time of financial crisis behaved with full responsibility in terms of its public funds and the budget deficit. After a few months you can say that our economic and financial policy has been accepted both at home and abroad. The government made the assumption that the best way to deal with the problem was not to increase public spending but the availability of public finance. Effective supervision of banks and sticking to the rules, not exaggerating with living on credit – these are the most certain ways to avoid [the consequences] of financial crisis.

Better not let Gordon get anywhere near the plane's cockpit on the way back to Heathrow.

More HERE.

I Have Upset the Mullahs

Just got this from an acquaintance who has recently returned from Tehran.

I got back last week from Iran... Anyway, I was doing my normal morning blog reading in my hotel room in Tehran, and tried to access your site, but was barred by the Islamic Republic's censorship firecurtain. Guido's site's on the blacklist too. Appleyard, Sullivan, and every British newspaper site, all fine by the way. What did you do??

Perhaps they don't, ahem, approve of my private life. No gayers in Iran you see (copyright Mahmoud Ahmendinijad 2003). Doesn't explain them banning Guido though. Although having said that.

Anyway, mustn't bang on about this too much, or Jacqui Smith will be getting ideas...

The Lives of Others - Civil Liberties Mashup

Many a true word spoken. Perhaps this will replace Downfall...

New Dawn for Women Journalists at The Times

Following its revelatory front page story this morning about the Conservative Party not having enough women in front line positions - conveniently ignoring the fact that its new President is one Emma Pidding - I can exclusively reveal that the editor of The Times has ordered his own lobby team to get their own act in order. "Our Westminster lobby journalists represent the unacceptable face of male dominance," he wrote in an apology to the Equalities Minister Harriett Harman. "I am taking immediate action to redress the balance of the sexes," he vowed.

New Times political editor Philipa Webster expressed her delight at the decision, while her deputy, Francesca Elliott heralded it as a "new dawn for women journalists." Chief Political Correspondent Samantha Coates, dressed in white Versace, said "it's time for the 'lezzer lobby' (copyright Paul Routledge 1997) to come out of the closet". And in a stinging attack on her male colleagues, Chief Political Commentatress Petra Riddell exclaimed: "I don't half look good in high heels, don't I?"

Meanwhile Alan Thompson and Richard Sylvester are 94.

Ten New Blogs: Part 43

Mark Pack - LibDem campaigning guru
Disobeying the Whip - Welsh libertarian Conservative
India Political Report
Frank Owen's Paintbrush - Labour blog
Small Creative Ideas With Big Results
Darren Stevens - Local government blog
State of the Nation - From the Social Liberalist Party
Cafe Babel - Europhile blog
The Rant - Neo con blog
Mark Moore - Right wing

These blogs aren't necessarily newly created, but I haven't known about them before and they had not, until now, appeared in the TP Blog Directory.

Visit the Total Politics Blog Directory which contains more than 1,900 blogs. If you know of one which isn't there, please fill in the Submit a New Blog form on the left hand side of THIS page.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Times Can't Tell Its Miliband From Its Elbow

Oh dear. A banner on the Times website this evening... Did you know it's the paper of record?

Why Should Jacqui Smith Know if I Watch Porn?

Could someone please explain to me why, in a non Police state, I shouldn't be able to look at perfectly legal websites without the authorities knowing I have done so? If I, like the Home Secretary's husband, want to look at Raw Meat 3, why should she be able to know that I have done so? It's not as if I am married to her, or anything, after all.

But even worse than that. She's going to have access to my emails and texts too. This is 1984 writ large. If you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear we are told. If I have done nothing wrong, I shouldn't, in a liberty loving democracy, have to prove my innocence.

Jacqui Smith has abandoned her idea for a giant database, but any retention of my personal data by the state beyond the bare minimum is totally unacceptable. How can it possibly be justified for the state to monitor the entire population?

That's what the Stasi did. We British must fight for our right to privacy and the presumption of innocence.

Falling Apart At The Seams

The Prime Minister has lost face twice this morning. First of all, the Pakistani president cancelled a press conference with Gordon Brown and then Brown is forced to withdraw his plans on MPs' second home allowances. It really is all falling apart at the seems, isn't it? So many echoes of the last months of Major.

UPDATE: Paul Waugh has more.

Twenty Firsts Meme

First Job
Mucking out my Dad’s pigs on a Saturday morning for 10p an hour

First Real Job
Researcher to Patrick Thompson MP 1985-7

First Role in Politics
Chairman of UEA Conservatives in 1981

First Car
An orange Ford Cortina Mk III, lovingly nicknamed the Big Jaffa. I wrote it off on my 20th birthday.

First Record
Long haired Lover from Liverpool by Jimmy Osmond. The shame lives with me still.

First Football Match
Cambridge Utd v Westham in a 1972 testimonial at the Abbey Stadium

First Concert
Darts at a free concert in Harlow in 1977

First Country Visited
France, on a day trip to Boulogne at the age of 7

First TV Appearance

Multi Coloured Swap Shop in 1978

First Political Speech
April 1982 during a debate on the Falklands at my university. It all started there...

First Girlfriend/Boyfriend
Rachel Elliott at Ashdon County Primary School. She had a runny nose.

First Encounter with a Famous Person
Cyril Fletcher from That's Life at a pantomime in the Arts Theatre Cambridge ca 1973

First Brush With Death
Hitting a Transit Van head on at 50 mph in the days before seatbelts. The long bonnet of my Cortina Mk III saved me - and my two sisters.

First House/Flat Owned
70 Howard Road, Walthamstow, in July 1988 - probably the worst time ever to buy a flat.

First Film Seen at a Cinema
Sound of Music at Saffron Walden Cinema, which is sadly no longer there.

First Time on the Radio
On the Radio One Breakfast Show with Mike Read in 1981 on Beat the Jock. I didn't.

First Politician I Met
Shirley Williams who spoke at my school in 1977

First Book I Remember Reading
The Secret of Spiggy Holes by Enid Blyton

First Visit to the London Palladium
1978, to see the reunion of Cliff & the Shadows!

First Election
1985 Norfolk County Council election, Catton Grove Ward. My finals were the next day. Had to be postponed after I suffered from shock having knocked a motorcyclist off his bike on polling day and breaking his leg. He was a Labour voter...

I now tag the following bloggers to do this meme... Dizzy, Tom Harris, Norfolk Blogger, Liberal England, Danny Finkelstein, Shane Greer, Hopi Sen, Paul Linford, Kerron Cross, Tory Bear. They should all then tag five bloggers.

Verdammt Nochmal!

Scary Mary has done me the honour of making a Downfall video about my lamentable failure to win the Orwell Prize. I particularly enjoyed the line about Nadine!

Stand Up If You Want Brown to Resign

This blog doesn't do Number Ten Petitions. But if it did, it would urge you to sign this one...


This was launched today on the Number Ten site. It's only got 870 signatures at the moment. Sign up and then spread the word.

UPDATE Mon 9.20am: The petition has so far reached 10,000 and was mentioned on the Today programme headlines this morning. If you haven't already done so, please sign it and forward details to your friends. If you have a blog, provide a link to the petition.

Health warning: The mention of one Number Ten petition on this blog should not imply any willingness to promote others!

GQ: Brown & Obama's Match Made in Hell

The June issue of GQ Magazine (on sale from next Thursday) contains an article by leading American media commentator Michael Wolff about the 'special' relationship between Britain and America, and the rapport - or lack thereof - between Barack Obama and Gordon Brown. According to Wolff, most people in America continue to regard Blair as the British prime minister and don't know who Brown is.

Of all the recent pairings of British prime ministers and American presidents, none is as strained as Gordon Brown and Barack Obama... His recent visit was an excruciating affair... Well, it may not have been the least successful visit ever to Washington by a foreign head of state, but it could be among the most ignominious... From a namerecognition point of view, he’s a nothing... Part of the problem is that at the Obama White House they're pretty sure that Brown is not a keeper. The new president is not going to lavish affection and attention on someone he doesn't know, or care about, or expect to be in office very long.
Cutting. But true.

Ten New Blogs: Part 42

The Cornish Democrat
Dick Cole - Leader of Mebyon Kernow
Cllr Tim - Labour councillor in Barnsley
Open Prism - Young right winger
Fleet Street Blues - Journalist Blog
Trac-a-Crat - Anti US Democrat blog
Sweet & Tender Hooligan - Left of centre Welsh blog
Steve Pitt's Blog - Wallasey LibDem
Blackburn Labour Party
The Average Man

These blogs aren't necessarily newly created, but I haven't known about them before and they had not, until now, appeared in the TP Blog Directory.

Visit the Total Politics Blog Directory which contains more than 1,900 blogs. If you know of one which isn't there, please fill in the Submit a New Blog form on the left hand side of THIS page.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Daley (Half) Dozen: Sunday

1. Keep Right Online has created a Dan Hannan Video Remix.
2. Archbishop Cranmer calls for my expulsion from the Conservative Party.
3. Neil Stockley on Back to the Future politics.
4. Jo Swinson on her experiences of being a female MP.
5. SNP Tactical Voting on a tawdry defection.
6. Tim Montgomerie draws 10 lessons from the Tory Spring Conference.

and for a bit of history...

7. Ian Visits on the arrival of Big Ben in 1858.

One in One Out for the LibDems

Chris Huhne's Labour opponent Dan Clarke today announced on LabourHome he is resigning and joining the LibDems.
I no longer believe the Labour Party is committed to realising the dreams of people like me. The Labour Party's actions and policies today seem to be aimed more towards gaining petty advantages over opponents than towards achieving the ideals of its supporters. Brown's leadership is becoming a depiction of politics for its own sake.

At the same time, the LibDem Candidate for Chelsea & Fulham Norsheen Bhatti defected to the Conservatives. She said...

The Conservatives are the only party to offer a clear and coherent vision to mend broken Britain. They have the policies that can change Britain and make a real difference to people's lives. I want to be part of that change. Under Nick Clegg's leadership the Liberal Democrats have been drifting into the wilderness and neglecting their supporters.

UPDATE: Richard Willis has news of a prominent Scottish Labour supporter who has defected to the Tories this weekend.

Cameron Shows the Way

This afternoon David Cameron is making what I think might be one of the most important speech of his leadership so far. it's a landmark speech in that it sends out a very clear signal about the direction a future Conservative government will take. In fact, it reminds me of a speech I heard Margaret Thatcher make in the autumn of 1978. It was that speech which inspired me to join the Conservative Party. At the time, I was a Liberal. But I watched the speech, realising that I agreed with every word she said. I suspect that many people reading this speech, or watching it, may feel the same. It says the things which need to be said, and demonstrates that he knows what needs to be done. If you want to read the whole speech, it will be on the Tory Party website soon. But here are the most important passages.

Over the next few years, we will have to take some incredibly tough decisions on taxation, spending, borrowing – things that really affect people’s lives. Getting through those difficult decisions will mean sticking together as a country – government and people. That relationship, just as any other, is strengthened by honesty; undermined by dishonesty.

Gordon Brown doesn’t understand how important this is. Despite the gravity of this debt crisis despite the serious consequences of not dealing with it he still can’t stop his politics of spin; smoke and mirrors; treating people as fools.

Remember, two years ago it was the election that never was. He told us he bottled it because he thought he was going to win. This time last year it was the 10p tax con.He taxed the poor for the sake of a headline, claimed that no-one lost out, and then spent billions of pounds compensating them.

Last week it was the U-turn on YouTube.

After telling us to wait for the independent enquiry on MPs’ expenses, he suddenly popped up to announce his own plan. And what was that great new plan? Paying MPs to turn up for their job. No receipts. No questions asked. More taxpayers’ money.Less accountability.

But the most cynical trick yet came in last week’s Budget. Everyone could see through what they were trying to do: “Don’t look at this vast hole in the public finances over there look at this pathetic piece of class war posturing over here.”

When I see Brown and Darling, I’m reminded of those people who come to your door; one pretends to read your gas meter, while the other robs your house. 50p income tax when you have a budget deficit of £175 billion? That’s not responsibility - it’s distraction burglary.

There’s no responsibility left in Labour. They’re already set to have the highest borrowing in the G20. And yet, unbelievably, this Government is planning to spend and borrow even more. They’ve just announced a spending increase - not a cut, but an increase - of £20 billion for next year. They’ve delayed the cuts until after the election. Now I wonder why that could be?

Last week, Labour had their chance to set out their alternative, to show how they would lead us out of this crisis and they completely blew it. And now, I just think people are completely sick of it. Sick of Labour’s cynicism; sick of their incompetence; sick of their irresponsibility...

...So it will fall to this Party to offer the responsible politics the country expects in this age of austerity. But it expects more from us than a hair shirt and a stern lecture...

...Does the age of austerity force us to abandon our ambitions? No. We are not here just to balance the books. There’s more to our mission than coming in like a bunch of flint-faced accountants and sorting out the finances. By the way, I want to make it clear I’ve got nothing against accountants.

The last time I talked about flint-faced accountants I got a letter from the wife of an accountant saying: “Dear David Cameron…my husband isn’t flint-faced – he’s actually very good looking.” The question is: how does government help achieve these wider aims in the age of austerity? And the answer is: by delivering more for less. That in turn means four big changes for government and the role of the state.

First, a return to traditional public spending control. Second, a new culture of thrift in government. Third, curing our big social problems, not just treating them. And fourth, imagination and innovation as we harness the opportunities of technology to transform the way public services are delivered...

...So the first, and most obvious part of delivering more for less is to deliver the ‘less.’ The days of easy money are over, and we have no option but to weed out spending that is not essential.
In opposition that means not making pledges you can’t keep – and we haven’t. It means not signing up to spending plans you can’t afford – and we didn’t.

We’ve made a good start by making sure we won’t arrive in government with a whole bunch of unaffordable commitments. We opposed the £12 billion Labour wasted on the VAT cut. We were against the fiscal stimulus. We said they should reduce their spending plans back in 2008. And now we’re saying they should abandon their irresponsible plan to increase spending in 2010.

Controlling public spending and delivering more for less must start right now. Not next year, not after the election – now. We’ve made it clear that a Conservative government would spend less than Labour.

We’re not frightened of their idiotic ritual chants about “cuts.”

Everybody knows that Labour’s Debt Crisis means public spending cuts. And instead of putting them off, Labour should be making them today. Here’s how they could start – by reversing those extensions of the state that do more harm than good and which Britain would be better off without.

So scrap the ID cards scheme. Cancel the ContactPoint database. And get rid of Regional Assemblies and all that useless regional bureaucracy. Those may be easy choices for Conservatives. But we’ll need to make hard choices too.

It is not easy, or popular, for governments to take money away from people. But when there are still millions of people in this country living in poverty, and when the age of austerity means we must focus on the real priorities can we honestly say it’s right for people earning over £50,000 a year to get state benefits in the form of tax credits?

With a Conservative government, tax credits will be there to help make society fairer, not the state bigger. And we must apply the same discipline throughout government. That means making sure that public sector pay and pensions reflect the realities of the economic situation.

Let me make it clear to everyone who works in the public sector: we will honour existing pay deals, including any three year pay deals. But many of them end next year.

And this is the deal we’ll be offering you then: We will help you by getting rid of the central direction and bureaucracy that undermines your professional autonomy and morale. And in exchange we will ask for your help in solving Labour’s Debt Crisis by keeping the cost of public sector pay only as high as the country can responsibly afford.

Ever since I became leader of this Party in 2005, people have been asking me to tell them, not in general terms but in specific detail what a new Conservative government would do on tax and spending in a Budget in 2010. George and I have resisted that pressure and I believe experience shows we’re right. Detailed plans or shadow budgets would become quickly out of date. But in the weeks and months ahead, the Shadow Cabinet will redouble its efforts to identify wasteful and unnecessary public spending.

Make no mistake: I am very clear about how much more work there is still to be done in order to identify significant future savings. We will carry out this work. We will do so responsibly. And in time, we will set out the hard choices that lie ahead...

...With a Conservative government, if ministers want to impress the boss, they’ll have to make their budgets smaller, not bigger. On my watch it will be simple: if you do more for less you get promoted if you do less for more, you get sacked. If we’d had this approach over the last twelve years, I don’t suppose there’d be a single Labour Minister left.

But this culture of thrift must apply to the civil service too. So we’ll impose a new fiduciary responsibility on senior civil servants – a contractual obligation to save the taxpayer money. And every government department needs a proper finance director.

Some of them today aren’t proper accountants – flint-faced or not. With such huge sums of public money at stake a Conservative government will make sure we have the professional financial controls the taxpayer has a right to expect...

...If a company is failing and new management comes in, transparency is the first thing they demand - opening up the books and seeing how every penny is spent. It’s going to be the same with us.

So today I can announce our ‘People’s Right to Know’ plan – a democratic check on wasteful spending. Every item of government spending over £25,000, nationally and locally, will have to be published online. If you want to see how it could work, look at the Missouri Accountability Portal. It will show you why transparency is such a powerful tool in controlling public spending...

...People have a right to know exactly how much they’re getting. So we’ll publish online all public sector salaries over £150,000. Let’s see which officials have been getting rich at the taxpayer’s expense - and whether they’re worth the money.

Today we’re publishing a list of some we already know about. Ed Richards at OfCom – he earns over £400,000 a year. In fact, if you took the top thirty salaries at Ofcom, the communications watchdog, you could provide the whole of Cheltenham with free broadband access.

And then there’s the British Waterways Board. The salaries of their top four employees – Robin Evans, Nigel Johnson, James Froomberg and Phillip Ridal – add up to £900,000. That’s thirty nurses.

In the age of austerity we’ve got to ask ourselves what we really value in the public sector: and I know what the answer is. It’s not the fat cats but the frontline workers...

...Fifteen years ago, I was in the Treasury as we had to deal with public finances that had got out of control; debt that had got too high. We had to put up taxes, and I hated it. But it was the right thing to do and that lesson has stayed with me. That’s why I’m a fiscal conservative.

That’s why, when it came to that big decision to oppose the VAT cut and the so-called fiscal stimulus, I didn’t consult a focus group or an opinion poll I just knew it was the right thing to do. And there’s something else.

I know that if we win the election, we’ll be judged a successful government if we deal with the debt crisis - and a failure if we don’t. Believe me, I get that.

I think people know by now that I want us to stand up for the poorest in Britain and to show that fiscal responsibility can go hand in hand with a social conscience. And they know I will stand up for the aspiring and the enterprising, kicked in the teeth by a Labour Party reverting to type.

We will show that social responsibility can go hand in hand with personal ambition. But what people also need to know is that I will stand up for responsibility and thrift.Those are values this country needs today.

Labour’s leaders say only they stand for fairness. Fairness? These Labour ministers, saddling future generations with debt? These Labour ministers, making our children pay the price of their incompetence? Their “fairness” is utterly phoney.

So let’s turn our anger into passion ad our passion into action to give Britain the leadership she needs. Yes if we win the election, we may not see the full fruits of our labours in the lifetime of our government. But if we stick together and tackle this crisis our children and grandchildren will thank us for what we did for them and for our country.

Now, I defy anyone to tell me that wasn't an impressive, inspiration and content-loaded speech.

So Who is the Betting Minister?

The Sunday Times has a story on its front page about a a government minister who stands to win a substantial sum of money after betting that Labour would lose the next election. Great story. Yet it represents much that is wrong with modern journalism. This sentence sums it up.
The minister, who asked not to be named, told friends earlier this month that he was set to win a “substantial” sum if Gordon Brown failed to secure an outright majority and was forced to form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. There is nothing in the ministerial code of conduct that prevents ministers betting against their own party at elections.

So the minister asked not to be named. I bet he did. But isn't it in the public interest for his name to be revealed? Wouldn't his ministerial colleagues like to know the name of the minister who might not be quite pulling his weight, as it's not in his financial interest to do so? The Sunday Times should have named him if they are 100% confident of the story.

Honouring Anzac Day

Anzac Day, today, commemorates Australian and New Zealand servicemen who sacrificed their lives for their countries and ours. Let's remember them and what they did in the cause of freedom.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Daley (Half) Dozen: Saturday

1. Brian Micklethwait lists the Libertarian bloggers.
2. Martin Bright argues that the Tories owe a duty of care to Christopher Galley.
3. Michael Heaver analyses Libertas's election prospects.
4. Max Atkinson on David Cameron's well crafted rhetoric.
5. Barnacle Bill suggests a Cameron led government of national unity.
6. Working Class Tory wants Philip Hammond to be Chancellor.

And finally, a message from my friend Jonathan Sheppard...

Think of me when you are tucking into your breakfast in bed on Sunday. I will be trudging (can’t call it running) round the London Marathon course, all to raise a bit of money for those great people at St. John Ambulance. Hopefully the fact that I will have their name all over my top means I may get a little special treatment when the blisters get too much!

Someone asked me when do you hit the wall? Well at my level of fitness after about 500 metres, and then it is pure mind over matter which gets me round the rest of the course. I suppose it is my own fault having yet again done no training whatsoever. Who really has time to do all that jogging over the Winter months. There are more important things in life!

Anyway - if you want to add to the pot, do visit here and give as little or as much as you want, as its all appreciated.

And for those who like to twitter , you will of course be able to get a few choice comments from me here.

I will not only have my Ipod keep me going, but my trusty blackberry - so do send messages of encouragement throughout the day!! - And if you happen to be at the event look out for number 45733. I’ll be all in black! The gun goes at 9:45, but I suspect I will have already done about 4 miles to get to the start… that’s my excuse anyway!

Best of luck Jonathan!

Nadine Calls in the Lawyers

Nadine Dorries has decided to sue over the Damian McBride emails. She has posted a slightly cryptic post on her blog which is headlined JUST FOR THE RECORD...
I have instructed and proceeded with legal action. Obviously, I am not going to say anything at all at this stage, other than that.

Think about the implications if this ever came to court. Think about who would be called as witnesses. And I am not just talking about the obvious.

Gordon Should Take His Own Debt Advice

DirectGov is a government run portal to government services. One of the pages on the site advises on debt issues. I wonder if the Prime Minister and Chancellor might take a gander at it today...

"If you're in debt and you are finding it hard to cope, it's important to deal with the problem straight away - the longer you ignore your debts, the worse the situation becomes."

"You may have little or nothing left to offer your non-priority creditors. You should still talk to them, explaining the situation; you may be able to tell them that you will pay them back at some point in the future - but don't make promises you can't keep."

All from DirectGov.

Looking Into Gordon's Future

March 2010: Gordon Brown returns triumphantly from a meeting with the IMF, clutching an IOU for £25 billion.

Another Good Idea From Douglas Carswell

Douglas Carswell has had another good idea. He wants to make each government department's budget subject to ratification by the relevant select committee. He explains why HERE...
Here's a simple idea. Require every Whitehall department - and each associated quango - to have it's budget annually ratified by the relevant House of Commons select committee. No approval, no money.

"You mean having those we elect, in the legislature, control government spending, like they do in other countries, and used to do here? You mean forcing officials to justify where the money goes?". Yes.

At present, forget all the theory about Parliament controlling the money; it's Whitehall officials that decide. Having the executive decide how much money the executive spends means they spend more money.

It might also give our MPs something useful to do.

It makes government departments doubly accountable and also enhances the role of select committees. Can anyone tell me why this is not a good idea?