Monday, May 31, 2010
1. Mark Pack accepts advice from the Daily Telegraph.
2. Anders Hanson has risen from the blog grave.
3. Alastair Campbell accuses ConDems of having a sense of humour failure.
4. Jerry Hayes thinks the Telegraph should have an expenses amnesty. Is that a pig I see flying?
5. Tom Harris blames Gordon Brown for the coalition.
6. Lynne Featherstone on some good news from Malawi.
Partner means one of a couple, whether of the same sex or of the opposite sex (the other being a Member) who although not married to each other or civil partners are living together and treat each other as spouses.
The clue is in the final five words. And that, ladies and gentlemen is why it ought to be difficult for the Standards Commissioner to do anything other than clear David Laws. Neither he nor Jamie Lundie thought of the other, or treated the other, as a spouse.
Unfortunately it won't do him much good as the word is that David wants to quit politics altogether.
Politics really has come to a parlous state when most people will treat this eventuality with a massive shrug of the shoulders and say 'so what'. The court of public opinion has already found David Laws guilty, and in the end that's what matters nowadays. All politicians are guilty as charged, no matter how trumped up the charges might be.
And that ladies and gentlement is part of the reason why many people - me among them - want nothing more to do with national elected politics.
From 1pm we'll be asking if David Cameron's honeymoon has been brought to a premature end and whether the Laws experience has revealed cracks in the coalition.
From 2pm we're talking to two newbie MPs, Gavin Barwell and Heidi Alexander, about their first few weeks in the House of Commons.
And from 3pm we'll be asking if the radical muslim university lecturer Nakir Zaik should be allowed into the country to preach his so-called messages of hate.
And at 3.30 we're talking to Rich Martell who set up a saucy student dating site which got 4 million hits in its first month, but it was closed down by his university and he was fined £300 for bringing the university into disrepute. Have you had a good or bad experience using a dating site?
To take part in the programme call 0845 60 60 973, text 84850, email email@example.com or tweet @iaindale
To listen to the programme we're on 97.3fm in London, DAB, Sky 0124 or you can stream through the www.lbc.co.uk website.
What is the point of being part of a double header interview if there isn't at least some discussion? Why close down an interview just when it is getting interesting? OK, it was near the end of the programme and they probably had two other items to get through, but I just feel that the listener is short-changed when this happens.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
But Westminster insiders doubted whether Mr Boothby's ministerial career could survive this latest revelation. Only last year the Telegramm revealed Mr Boothy's April milk bill was paid four days late. Conservative blogger Tim Dale described his situation as "tenuous" and predicted that the coalition might collapse. But Libdem blogger Stephen Pack thought it probable that Mr Booth could survive the revelations. "He's made a minor error of judgement which is certainly no worse than Tory and Labour MPs. At least he hasn't moved in with his boyfriend though, so things are looking up."
Danny Alexander is 94.
The lastest edition of the Seven Days Show is now online.
This week we discuss David Law, his resignation, and what it means for the coalition; the recent appointments to the Lords; the election of Graham Brady MP to the 1922 committee; and of course what I would sing if I ever represented us in the Eurovision song contest. As usual a smattering of smut and good fun throughout the show. Thanks to all of you who have stuck by us!To listen to the podcast click HERE, or you can also subscribe to the show in the Tory Radio section in the podcast area of Itunes.
Hasn't Ed Miliband got any principles? Not according to his leadership campaign website...
UPDATE: I see that Ed Miliband's webmaster has now removed the "Ed's principles" headline rather than actually add a list of principles! Hilarious!
As you may know I have been presenting the odd programme on LBC. This weekend they're letting me loose on the airwaves every day for three hours. I hope you'll tune in if you have a spare minute.
Sunday 4-7pm (in for James Max)
Monday 1-4pm (in for Jeni Barnett)
You can listen in London on 97.3fm, on DAB, Sky Channel 0124 or it's streamed live at lbc.co.uk. And if you want to phone in you can do so on 0845 6060973, text 84850 email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A short extract from my MoS column...
David Laws is hardly the only gay in the Westminster Village. But he is perhaps the only one who thought his relationship could escape the glare of media scrutiny.
This rather quaint belief might have been reasonable had he not been thrust into the public limelight as a Cabinet Minister. After all, a backbench Lib Dem MP in a gay relationship is almost considered par for the course.
But through his stellar performance as Chief Secretary to the Treasury during the first three weeks of the coalition, Laws made himself a target.
Firstly, he made public the private note left on his desk by his predecessor, Liam Byrne, which said: ‘I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left.’
And secondly, he pulled out of Question Time last week after Labour refused to withdraw Alastair Campbell as its spokesman on the programme.
This accusation may be way off beam, but it wouldn’t at all surprise me if somebody’s tricks department had tipped off The Daily Telegraph about the nature of his relationship with James Lundie and it was that which provoked them to trawl through their expenses files again.
Now, when I say 'somebody'... Conspiracy theory, or?
I know I will now get slagged off for banging on about homosexuality. But isn't it strange that the very same people who criticise me for talking about it, are the very same ones who think David Laws should have been open about it. It's a bit like pro abortion people being against the death penalty or pro death penalty people being pro life.
Oh God, what have I just started...
Saturday, May 29, 2010
When Ken Livingstone came into the studio to trail his programme he said he couldn't understand why Laws would keep quiet about his sexuality "in this day and age". I understand only too well. I did the same thing for a number of years and only 'came out' (I hate that expression) to family and friends when I was 40. No one can understand how difficult it is, telling your parents that the person they thought they knew is actually someone else. Sort of. Everyone told me: "They will already know, you'll see". No, I replied. I know my parents. And I was right. They hadn't got a clue.
I will never forget that day, even though on many occasions I have wanted to. I'm glad I did it, but I know it was a tremendous shock to my mother and we have never discussed it since. So when David Laws explains why he wanted to keep everything private I understand only too well. The only reason was because he didn't want to hurt those closest to him, especially his mother. That's the thing about us gayers, we'll do anything to avoid hurting our mothers :).
Furthermore, those who accuse Laws of exploiting the taxpayer would do well to remember that he clearly didn't gain from the rental arrangement he had. He paid £950 pcm for renting a room in Kennington. I know this is a bargain as I looked to do exactly the same thing in Kennington last year but decided I couldn't afford it. If he had moved into a one bedroom flat the taxpayer would have been paying far more. If Laws was seeking to maximise his income he would have either designated his Somerset home as his second home and claimed for the mortgage on that, or he would have bought a property in London and claimed for that. He didn't, and yet he's being mercilessly slagged off.
What we have done here is create a system where MPs are now, on average, claiming far more than they used to before.
A lot will be written about the definition of the word 'partner' and whether David Laws has broken the spirit, if not the letter, of the 2006 regulations. It may well be that he will be forced from office because of it if the Standards Commissioners decides against him. If that is the case we all need to take a long hard look at what has been done in our name to our political system. When fundamentally good and decent people like David Laws are drummed out of office we all need to sit up, take notice and ask how we have let it come to this.
And spare a thought for James Lundie. He never asked for this. His anguish will be as great, if not greater, than that of his partner.
Friday, May 28, 2010
The Telegraph has revealed tonight that he has claimed £40,000 in expenses over eight years to rent a room from someone who turns out to be his lover.
The first thing to say is that there appears to have been no financial gain. Renting at £950 per month is not extortionate by any means in central London. And if he had moved out into his own place it would no ddoubt have been far more.
I suspect part of, if not all, the reason Laws didn't fess up to this arrangement before was because he did not want to 'out' his relationship. Many of us have suspected for some time that David is gay, but if he didn't want to come out, that was his business. He and his partner didn't even tell their friends. I know exactly why he did this. I did it myself for a very long time.
The Telegraph hasn't outed him, but he has courageously decided to be completely open about the circumstances of his relationship and rental arrangements.
Sir Alastair Graham has been first out of the traps calling for his head. I used to have respect for his views, but no longer. He hangs around Westminster like a bad smell.
I hope David Laws survives this, partly because I do not believe he has a dishonest bone in his body, but also because the Coalition needs him. He has been hugely impressive over the last few weeks. But of course there will be questions about his future. It will be a test for him as to whether he can survive the pressure, but I truly hope he does.
If you want to air your views on LBC tomorrow morning between 7 and 10 you can call me on 0745 6060973 or email email@example.com.
UPDATE: This is David Laws' statement in full...
I’ve been involved in a relationship with James Lundie since around 2001 - about two years after first moving in with him. Our relationship has been unknown to both family and friends throughout that time.
I claimed back the costs of sharing a home in Kennington with James from 2001 to June 2007.
In June 2007 James bought a new home in London and I continued to claim back my share of the costs.
I extended the mortgage on my Somerset property - for which I do not claim any allowances or expenses - to help James purchase the new property.
In 2006 the Green Book rules were changed to prohibit payments to partners.
At no point did I consider myself to be in breach of the rules which in 2009 defined partner as ‘one of a couple … who although not married to each-other or civil partners are living together and treat each-other as spouses.’
Although we were living together we did not treat each other as spouses - for example we do not share bank accounts and indeed have separate social lives.
However, I now accept that this was open to interpretation and will immediately pay back the costs of the rent and other housing costs I claimed from the time the rules changed until August 2009.
James and I are intensely private people. We made the decision to keep our relationship private and believed that was our right. Clearly that cannot now remain the case.
My motivation throughout has not been to maximise profit but to simply protect our privacy and my wish not to reveal my sexuality.
However, I regret this situation deeply, accept that I should not have claimed my expenses in this way and apologise fully.
I have also referred myself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.
1. Guy the Mac on electoral fraud in Birmingham.
2. One Nation Tory likes Tom Harris but has lost respect for me.
3. Paul Goodman, like me, loves David Laws.
4. Matthew Hancock MP describes his week in the Commons.
5. Harry's Place asks what's the point of Sunny Hundal?
6. Wikio has its top 100 blogs for May.
7. Phil Cowley on a unique electoral event.
8. Liberal England reports that Phil Woolas may yet lose his seat.
9. Biteback Publishing on the new Wayne Rooney biog by John Sweeney and a book on making speeches by John Shosky.
10. Subrosa wonders if Question Time has had its day.
11. Craig Murray says it is Baroness Scotland who should be in jail.
12. John Redwood on cuts.
10. Tom Harris thinks there is no need for a delayed electoral verdict if a candidate dies.
...and last but not least, the old thumper himself, Lord Prescott.
There is a real Lavender List element to today's announcement with Gordon Brown rewarding his most loyal party and advisry apparatchiks with gongs. They include the Smith Institute's Wilf Stevenson, Sue Nye, Dianne Hayter, Anna Healy (aka Mrs Jon Cruddas) and Roy Kennedy.
Strangely enough there is no peerage for Peter Watt. I am gobsmacked. Almost as gobsmacked as I was to see Ian Blair get a peerage.
On the Tory side I am pleased to see Margaret Eaton, Guy Black, Michael Howard, Shireen Ritchie and Angela Browning ennobled as I think they will all do a great job as working peers.
There is another interesting aspect to this list - and that is that it further enhances the Labour majority over the Conservatives in the House of Lords from 23 to 36. Before this list there were
211 Labour peers
188 Conservative peers
When these peers take their seats there will be
240 Labour peers
204 Conservative Peers
What this means is that there will almost certainly be a further list of working peers announced before too long. I can see no logic for the Labour Party continuing to have nearly 20% more peers than the main party in government.
But hopefully the next list will be the last one to be announced in this way and then we can move towards a properly elected chamber before the end of this parliament.
UPDATE: Just a thought. Isn't it wrong that there are no SNP or Plaid peers?
Thursday, May 27, 2010
And while I am on about it, I would love to know why Mark Flanagan has been retained as Director of Strategic Communications in Downing Street. I know Mark and like him. But he is a Labour supporter through and through. What on earth is he doing still there? I suspect he is as surprised as I am. I find it incredible that the Strategic Communications of a Conservative/LibDem government is in the hands of a man who has spent the last two years helping to prevent it from being elected. Bizarre.
Dedward are still the only two Labour leadership contenders to gather enough nominations to make it through the final stage. Ed Balls still needs another ten, while Andy Burnham must be wondering how he can get to 33. As for McDonnell and Abbott, it's virtually imposssible for them unless the Labour Party National Executive changes the rules. Again.
I imagine that Ed Balls will make it, purely because the Labour Party just couldn't stomach having a leadership battle between two members of family dynasty. Just imagine if the same thing had happened in the Tory Party. The press outcry - as well as the Labour outcry - would be immense.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
1. Iain Martin argues that it is the constitution which will cause trouble for David Cameron.
2. Paul Linford wants more women ... leadership candidates.
3. Fraser Nelson warns Michael Gove to guard against vested interests.
4. Douglas Carswell wants you to suggest what he should ask the PM at PMQs next week.
5. Former Tory MP Jerry Hayes has started blogging.
6. Lord Norton on an on form Earl Ferrers.
I am writing to offer my resignation in my role as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats.
It has been an honour to serve as the Deputy Leader of our party. However, in joining the cabinet I have taken on many new challenges and responsibilities and it is right that I focus wholeheartedly on the job in hand.
These are exciting times to be a Liberal Democrat, and despite all the challenges we face we have a real opportunity to change Britain for the better. There are great opportunities for the party alongside our working in coalition.
I wish my successor all the best in what is a rewarding and important role.
Do we take this at face value, or is there more to it?
Michael Portillo and Dianne Abbott will not be on the sofa on tomorrow's THIS WEEK. There is a new deadly duo. And you know what? Who are they?
David Davis and Hazel Blears. The Old Knuckle Duster v The Chipmunk.
It might just work...
Graham isn't the only Conservative MP who worked for me in the 1990s. The other one, a member of the new intake, worked in Politico's Coffee House while studying for her bar exams. Enough clues. Who is she then?
And also next week, I shall be interviewing him for my next IN CONVERSATION for Total Politics. I'm starting to think about what to ask him. If you have bright ideas for questions you think I should put to him, feel free to leave them in the comments.
Labour will have BIS, DCLG, Home Affairs, Science & Technology, Scottish Affairs, transport, Work & Pensions, Environmental Audit and the Public Accounts Committee. All the rest go to the Conservatives. (Education, Defence, Energy & Climate Change, DEFRA, Foreign Affairs, Health, Northern Ireland, Treasury, Welsh Affairs, Procedure, Public Administration).
This time, all MPs will elect the committee chairmen. The Foreign Affairs Committee chairmanship may well be hotly fought over with Sir John Stanley and Sir Malcolm Rifkind the front runners. It is thought that Patrick Mercer may challenge James Arbuthnot for the Defence Committee chairmanship.
Any other rumours of runners and riders, feel free to let me know.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
1. Crossfire wants to take the axeman to Paxman.
2. Mix Together reports on Sunny Hundal's latest flop.
3. Cicero's Songs on the strange death of the Labour Party.
4. Ben Brogan on why IPSA is driving MPs nuts.
5. Tory Bear on Stephen Pound, homophobia and leftist hypocrisy.
6. Guido explains why the gilt markets like the Change Coalition.
The twelve new MPs standing are Harriet Baldwin, Gavin Barwell, Angie Bray, Jackie Doyle Price, Charlie Elphicke, Lorraine Fulbrook, Rob Halfon, Andrea Leadsom, David Nuttall, Priti Patel, Mark Reckless and Alex Sherbrook.
The twelve old lags also standing are David Amess, Peter Bone, Peter Bottomley, Graham Brady, Julian Brazier, Philip Davies, James Gray, Bernard Jenkin, Laurence Robertson, Nicholas Soames, David Tredinnick, Andrew Turner and Charles Walker.
The election for chairman is between Graham Brady and Richard Ottaway.
For the two Vice Chairman positions, Peter Bottomley, Charles Walker, Nicholas Soames and John Whittingdale will fight it out.
For the secretaryship Chris Chope, Mark Pritchard and David Tredinnick will copmpete.
Brian Binley is the only nomination for Treasurer.
The election takes place tomorrow.
The fact of the matter is that the majority of 8-10 year olds will have indulged in some innocent pre-sexual horseplay of the 'you show me yours and I'll show you mine variety'. I know I did. And no doubt in some cases it maybe goes a little bit too far. Is that a reason for the participants to end up at the Old Bailey? I think not.
The other troubling aspect of this case was the quote from the eight year old girl, who told her mother: "They did sex with me". Doesn't this demonstrate what politicians across the spectrum have long talked about - that children are becoming 'sexualised' at a far too young age and our society is encouraging this. I'm not harking back to a halcyon golden age which never existed, but I wouldn't have had a clue what sex meant at the age of eight. Nowadays every eight year old is familiar with the word without necessarily understanding it.
Whatever one's view is on the details of this case I hope we can all agree that it is surely wrong for children of this age to be asked to appear at the Old Bailey.
It didn't take much research (via WHOIS) to establish that "Mike" is in fact Mike Raddie, the owner of the Democracy Village website. He is listed as "Network and Desktop Systems Manager" at ... wait for it ... the University of East London. When you ring his extension number it just rings and rings and rings. When I eventually managed to speak to someone they didn't know when he would be back. I'd have thought it doubtful that a Network Systems Manager would be allowed a holiday during term time, especially when finals are taking place.
So perhaps "Mike" might like to drop by again and explain his absence from his public sector workplace. His Democracy Village website indicates that he is taking part in a peace strike. Surely he doesn't expect this to wash with his employer?
I've just rung the University of East London for a comment. They're getting back to me.
UPDATE 4pm: The UEL have just emailed...
We note your concerns and want to assure you that UEL take personnel matters very seriously. Staff are entitled to pursue lawful activities of their choice outside of work hours. However, we expect all of our employees to fulfil work obligations during contracted hours. We are currently looking into this matter."
• the total number of abortions was 189,100, compared with 195,296 in 2008, a fall of 3.2%
• the age-standardised abortion rate was 17.5 per 1,000 resident women aged 15-44, compared with 18.2 in 2008
• the abortion rate was highest at 33 per 1,000, for women aged 19, 20 & 21, each lower than in 2008
• the under-16 abortion rate was 4.0 and the under-18 rate was 17.6 per 1,000 women, both lower than in 2008
• 94% of abortions were funded by the NHS; of these, over half (60%) took place in the independent sector under NHS contract
• 91% of abortions were carried out at under 13 weeks gestation; 75% were at under 10 weeks
• medical abortions accounted for 40% of the total
• 2,085 abortions (1%) were under ground E, risk that the child would be born handicapped
• in 2009, there were 6,643 abortions for non-residents carried out in hospitals and clinics in England and Wales (6,862 in 2008)
I suppose the good news, if you can call it that, is that the trend is down. But Britain still carries out more abortions per head of population than virtually any other European country. Whatever side of the pro-choice, pro-life debate you happen to be on, surely we can agree that these figures continue to horrify.
I am a defender of civil liberties. I want the laws repealed which ban spontaneous protests within a mile of the Palace of Westminster. People should have the right to protest about anything they want to. But their protests have to be within reason. Organising a march on Parliament is within reason. A semi-permanent tented site on a world heritage site is not within reason.
The leader of the camp left a comment on the blog last night. I'll print it in full here...
My name's Mike and I'm sending this from in my tent in Democracy Village, Parliament Square.
I have a job, infact have only been out of work for two weeks in my life. I'm not a hippy. I just know things are screwed up and have had enough. We all need to step back and realise what's important.
Last year I donated a kidney to my sister and this made me value my life a bit more. Part of this means thinking about the world as a whole. But action has to start small and local and this is why I'm here.
My main contribution thus far has been setting up the websites http://meltdown.uk.net and http://democracyvillage.org
These have now taken on a life of their own and I'm very proud of the work put into them. They were only my first and third websites I've setup. For those interested, I work for the public sector and my second website was for work.
Village life is great - we meet twice daily to discuss anything. Any decision is by consensus. This does take longer so for some areas, we break up into smaller groups. We've been successfully policing ourselves and have become self-sufficient. We are running workshops on various topics including how to setup renewable energy sources, how to deal with the police, citizen's journalism, early morning yoga as well as lots of language classes. Diversity with unity, deeds not words and this is what democracy looks like have become village mantras. My new friend Anna said yesterday that this was the best university in the world. There are no fees and all are welcome.
The 3 core reasons we all agree that we're here are war, economy and climate. My area of expertise has been of things economic.
I know for instance that 97% of the UK money supply is in the form of debt. Debt that under the current system has to be repaid. But this debt is created by private banks when you and I take out a loan / credit card / mortgage. The banks then have the audacity to charge interest on this newly created money. "The process by which banks create money is so simple, the mind is repelled." (J.K.Galbraith) Do you think there's a moral need to repay this fraudulently created money? There is no legal reason since the contract is void as there is no consideration on behalf of the lender. This is the defense Jerome Daly successfully used to avoid the bank foreclosing on his home in the 60s and nothing has changed apart from the bankers now have way more political power. It's time to wake up and realise the enemy is here across the road from our beautiful Democracy Village. Please come and chat anytime. With love and peace, Mike
Sorry, Mike but you undermine your case. All of the things you want to discuss are fine, but you don't have to do it in the middle of Parliament Square. If you want to protest about something, fine, do it, and then move on and have your discussions elsewhere. Like any normal person would. Oh, and Mike, I'd love to know what part of the public sector you "work" in and how come your employer is happy for you to be squatting on Parliament Square and not be at work. Because whatever part of the public sector it is ought to be drawn to the attention of David Laws...
There has also been much spluttering at the arrest this morning of Brian Hawes. His tent was searched and he obstructed the Police. What did he expect? A medal? The Police were entirely within their rights to search any tent on Parliament Square a matter of hours before the Queen was due to pass by. I'm not sure how any right thinking person could think otherwise.
The people on Parliament Square have created an eyesore. Their occupation of the area is now denying other people their right to use the Square. That is a civil liberty too.
UPDATE: Ben Brogan gives a typically trenchant perspective on this HERE.
UPDATE: And Adam Boulton joins the fray.
Monday, May 24, 2010
1. Ignacity suggests gelding Peter Bone MP.
2. Burning Our Money says £6 billion is a decent downpayment.
3. Ben Brogan on the Ministers who keep their cars.
4. Lobbydog interviews the Chief Whip about making the coalition work.
5. FT Westminster Blog highlights IPSA's latest act of idiocy.
6. Hopi Sen on Oona King.
I have learned tonight that the Mayor of London has written to the Speaker of the House of Commons informing him that legal action is to be taken tomorrow against the camp inhabitants. Boris has signed a mayoral directive this evening refusing the 'protesters'' request for retrospective authority to remain on the site. This directive gives GLA officers permission to apply to the High Court tomorrow to commence legal action against the protesters for 'illegal trespass'. If the court finds in favour of the GLA application the GLA will then have the power to seek to remove the 'protesters'.
Boris Johnson is at the same time making clear that while he believes in the right of freedom of expression and the entitlement to demonstrate he also has a duty to safeguard an area which is a World Heritage Site and a top tourist attraction. He has been considering what to do for some time, but when the protesters started digging up the turf and peeing against the statues, the Mayor decided enough was enough.
If the law was clear, I have little doubt that action would have been taken before now. Clearly the Mayor's office hoped that this would be one of those three day wonder encampments and the people concerned would move on. They haven't, so action needs to be taken.
So, all eyes on the High Court over the next few days.
Have a listen HERE.
Deborah Mattinson had a unique perspective on the New Labour project. As Britain’s leading political pollster, she has been monitoring public opinion since the mid-1980s, and helped transform Labour into Europe’s greatest election-winning machine of the modern era. Most recently as chief pollster to Gordon Brown as Prime Minister, she has been on the frontline of electoral politics, consistently representing the voter’s side of the story to the politicians. Sometimes, she has encountered scepticism - a belligerent John Smith made an unappreciative witness to one of Deborah’s focus groups - and she has often had to convey unwelcome results - telling a grumpy Gordon Brown he needed to spruce up his appearance cannot have been easy.
With a stellar cast, including Neil Kinnock, Peter Mandelson, John Smith, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, Talking to A Brick Wall reviews the New Labour years from the voter’s point of view. It tracks the ups and downs of the Blair/Brown era as seen from beyond Westminster, showing how closely political reputation correlates with voter connection. It profiles the swing voter, shows the importance of women’s votes, and what gives a politician popular appeal, and maps the voters’ views through the 2010 campaign and its immediate aftermath, showing how the electorate has been left out of political decision making and revealing the public’s recipe for rehabilitating the Labour Party and rebuilding trust in democracy.
A champion of democratic renewal through citizen engagement, Deborah Mattinson believes that we must move to new grown up partnership politics if democracy is to thrive.
Deborah Mattinson advised Labour through the 1980s and the birth of New Labour. She then worked closely with Gordon Brown as he prepared to become PM, and after ‘transition’. She has a unique perspective on the New Labour years through the eyes of the voter. She began her career in advertising, working at McCann Erickson, then Ayer Barker. She left to set up Gould Mattinson with Labour strategist, Philip Gould, in 1985. Deborah co-founded Opinion Leader Research, now the UK’s top research and engagement consultancy, in 1992. She is currently forming a new company with the aim of bringing the public’s perspective to the debating table, connecting decision makers in business and government more closely with the national mood.
The book is published by Biteback on 28 June in hardback, priced £19.99.
You can pre-order the book HERE.
Between the Lines
I Agree With Nick
Rambles & Rants
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 2,200 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.
I'm sure that like me, you cherish our right to protest. But like me you also believe people should obey the law. And also like me, you will no doubt believe that those who have the power to enforce the law should do so.
Tomorrow, the State Opening of Parliament takes place. It will be a magnet for the many tourists who visit the Capital. They will line the route to watch the Queen as she proceeds from Buckingham Palace through Parliament Square.
And what faces her when she gets to Parliament Square? A mini hippy camp. Over the last few years a few tents have been allowed to go up on the edge of Parliament Square. But in recent weeks the whole of the grass of Parliament Square has been taken over by people who don't seem to be there to protest about anything in particular. They even drape the statue of Winston Churchill with their banners.
The whole Square is an embarrassment to our city and our nation.
What I don't understand is why you and the Metropolitan Police have done nothing to enforce the law. If you or I launched a one man protest in Parliament Sqaure or Whitehall we'd be swiftly moved on under anti terrorism laws. Why is the law different for these people who now inhabit the Square? I don't happen to agree with the anti terrorism laws, but there are other byelaws which are being blatantly transgressed too. You know that and so do I.
I'm all for a quiet life and am well aware that the people now residing (and that's the right word) in Parliament Square would not go quietly. But a line has to be drawn, and you should draw it now.
Like most people I am embarassed whenever I pass the site, and yet I should feel proud of a Square that is home to the Houses of Parliament, the Supreme Court, Westminster Abbey together with many historical statues.
Please do something about it. The time for action is long overdue
I'm sure it seemed very clever at the time.
Forget the detail of this, the important thing is the signal it sends. The culture of profligacy which has bedevilled our system of government is over. Every public servant must now account for every pound of taxpayers' money they spend in a way they have never had to before. And about time too.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
The lastest edition of the Seven Days Show is now online.
In this week's episode (number 25) we talk about David Camerons decision to change the 1922 committee; the new manifesto from the coalition; whether Cameron is like Blair; could there be any poisoned chalices for Ministers and the already unpopular IPSA. As well as me giving Jonathan some grammatical advice and how to sound less northern.
When Gordon Brown came to power, what did we get? So much rain that half the country was flooded.
And when David Cameron became Prime Minister, what did we get?
Two weeks of sunshine.
When Cameron said 'Let sunshine win the day', he wasn't kidding, was he?*
*Just watch those lefty trolls go to work in the comments, now!
1. Malcolm Redfellow on the Nazi history of a North Norfolk cottage.
2. Trevor's Den on the surly six leadership candidates.
3. Epolitix on the constituents from hell.
4. Ed Staite on the future of investigative journalism.
5. Tom Harris on when to tweet and when not to.
6. Stumbling & Mumbling on Ian Holloway and the Labour leadership.
7. John Redwood has some suggestions for Nick Clegg.
8. Bob Piper has a good old rant at Janet Street Porter. And why not.
9. Norfolk Blogger is unimpressed by the two Eds.
10. Tory Soapbox on the case for anonymity.
11. Peter Kenyon on patronage and the Labour leadership contest.
And finally, something very sad.
Ellee Seymour pays tribute to Mutley the Dog, an excellent blogger who sadly died on Friday. Tributes can be made HERE.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
* HIPS abolished
* Government Office for London abolished
* Standards Board for England abolished
* Norwich unitary abolished
A very good week's work for Mr Secretary Pickles. More next week please.
EDWARD DAVEY MP: MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS, CONSUMER AND POSTAL AFFAIRS
Postal affairs (Royal Mail and Post Office Limited), employment relations (including ACAS), consumer policy and consumer affairs, competition policy, corporate governance, company law (including Companies House), social enterprise, Insolvency Service (including company investigations), general oversight of Shareholder Executive and its portfolios, coordination of European business, Export Credit Guarantee Department, trade policy.
So the LibDems will be responsible for privatising the post office. Hmmm. I think if I had been Vince I'd have palmed that particular hot potato off onto one of my Tory colleagues...
Becoming Secretary of State for International Development is indeed a weighty responsibility. You and I have both seen for ourselves the difference that well spent aid can make to the lives of some of the world’s poorest people.
I too am deeply dismayed by the conviction of Mr Monjeza and Mr Chimbalanga.
The government of Malawi has signed up to international treaties on human rights. Malawi’s constitution explicitly prohibits discrimination against any of its citizens. I – and the British government – strongly believe that human rights must apply to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And respect for human rights is one of the key principles underlining the UK’s diplomatic and aid partnership with Malawi.
But we should beware appeals for us to make aid a political weapon. Malawi is a desperately poor country, where about 40% of the people live on less than 34p a day. Britain’s aid plays a vital role in reducing this poverty.
We must not let down the people of Malawi. Rest assured, we, and our major international partners, will make urgent representations to the government of Malawi to review its laws to ensure it meets its commitments to human rights.
And this conviction will remain firmly in our minds when we negotiate the way we deliver our aid in future.
Andrew Mitchell MP
Secretary of State for International Development
Friday, May 21, 2010
1. Vicky Ford reports from Strasburg.
2. Tom Watson on the art of letter writing.
3. Jim Pickard on how the Labour Gen Sec is trying to curb the unions.
4. SNP Tactical Voting on Gary McKinnon and the Scottish Tories.
5. Douglas Carswell on how someone stole his idea and has suffered the consequences.
6. Burning our Money on the Coalition's words and deeds.
* he would like to present the BBC's general election night coverage in future
* the truth behind THAT picture in Private Eye
* defends the election night boat
* why he's been so tough on Vince Cable
I talked to Andrew in his office in the Spectator building. Just as I arrived, it was announced Gordon Brown was resigning. I thought he may well want to postpone, but he was very keen to do the interview. I hope you enjoy it.
Here's an extract, but you can read the full interview HERE, or by buying the magazine!
ID: I read that you were tutored by Vince Cable at university.
AN: Only briefly, in my final year when I was doing political economy and political science at the University of Glasgow. Vince arrived from Oxford to do his PhD at the department of political economy and he did handle some of the tutorials that I had to go to.
Does that explain your aggressive nature when interviewing him? You're the only interviewer that's ever actually properly questioned him. Everyone else regards him as a God.
He wasn't the most exciting of tutors, I have to admit. He was very Labour in those days. He went on to become a Labour councillor in Glasgow. I thought it was time, since the Liberals were playing for the big time, to treat them seriously and treat them the way we do everybody else. And none more so than Vince Cable who so often had been treated by the media not as a politician seeking power but as a pundit. No one ever asked Vince: "Why are you arguing that?" They always said: "What do you think of that?" We treated him like a journalist and that helped his stature to grow. So I decided it was time to treat him as a politician seeking power like any other. All of the media has been culpable in treating him too much like an impartial pundit. When he's treated in the same way as we would treat Alistair Darling or George Osborne, I do think you see a different Vince Cable.
How would you characterise your interview style?
Some have said it's aggressive. I don't think it's aggressive so much as desperately trying to get them to answer the question. The questions I ask are quite straightforward. They're not long-winded and most of them can be answered with a yes or no. Sometimes people criticise me for being rude or interrupting too much.
When you have a particular politician on the programme and you've interviewed them before, do you change your interview style because you know what you're going to get?
Yes. You try to cut them off at the pass. By now you know what the stock answers are going to be to difficult questions so you try to frame the question in a way that allows for that. I have to say it still doesn't result in getting very clear answers. It's really frustrating to try and get clear answers from politicians. I came close to losing it with Douglas Alexander. The idea that Peter Hain and Ed Balls were not sending a massive neon sign saying: "Look, if you can beat a Tory by voting Lib Dem, do that." For him to come on to the programme and deny they were saying that was, for me, a low point of honesty in the campaign.
Particularly in an interview like that, are there any points where you feel you have to slightly pull your punches because you're on the BBC?
You cannot, unless it is demonstrably true, say: "Why are you lying to me?" That's probably unacceptable for the BBC. In the Alexander case, by the technical letter of the law of what they had said, in a sense he was right. But we all knew, in a grown-up world, what they were really saying. To accuse someone of lying is a pretty big step. But I have no doubt that Mr Alexander knew that day he was being less than honest with me, which is not the important thing. But he was being less than honest with the viewers. Viewers were as angry as I was with him.
Yours is about the only programme now on television where somebody is questioned for more than ten minutes. Is it because TV people think viewers have the attention span of a flea?
Correct. It baffles me why Straight Talk isn't run on BBC2 rather than just on the news channel. We think we're now dealing with the MTV generation, the generation that's been brought up on the two-and-a-half minute pop video. Everything on TV has to have pace and constant movement and constant changes. And of course that's true if you're talking about something where you want to get a mega audience. But if you want something that gets a decent audience and a serious discourse, I still think there's an audience for that. There are so many platforms that the BBC has now. And it's cheap television too.
Even with your fee.
[Laughs] Even with my fee it's still pretty cheap television.
Which of the three programmes do you get most out of?
This Week is fun. It has to be different because we come off the back of the network news and then an hour of Question Time, which means we've had an hour-and-a-half of traditional mainstream current affairs. John Lloyd from the Financial Times complains that This Week is too cheeky and irreverent and gets politicians to do silly things. But after 90 minutes of current affairs, you can't then give people another hour of mainstream current affairs. You have to think of a different way of doing it and that's what we've tried to do. The Daily Politics is the one that I enjoy most because it's straightforward politics. We've imported some of the irreverence and humour from This Week into the Daily Politics and that's just happened over time.
Do you think that sometimes on This Week, the production team have their meeting and think how can we top having Timmy Mallett on?
When you're trying to get different names onto a show, a different kind of person who isn't a mainstream politician, then sometimes you get the wrong person. She didn't appear in the end, but I don't think Lady Sovereign was our finest hour.
Do you ever wonder why politicians take it in interviews when you or John Humphrys or Paxman are having a real go at them? They never hit back, do they?
No. I do sometimes wonder. I try not to do this but if you ask them a question and they've barely got two words out before you've interrupted them, I sometimes wonder why they're not tougher on that. Cameron did it within the month of becoming Conservative leader and then he seemed to drop it.
How on earth do you fit in all the things that you do - all the TV stuff, The Spectator, God knows what else? You must be the most brilliant time manager in history.
Brilliant may be too strong a word but I'm good at time management and I run my own diary. I tell my PA what's in my diary, not the other way round. I book all the appointments myself and I carve it out.
It's a good job being your PA then.
Actually don't mock it, it is. Compared to working for a chief exec of a big company, it is. Because I do all my own letters.
Whenever I've emailed you, you've answered it within about three minutes. Peter Mandelson's the same.
Is that right? I haven't got Peter Mandelson's email address. If I had, I would try it out. I put together a portfolio of work after leaving the Sunday Times in 1995 so I've got used to doing it over 15 years. The other thing is I'm single. I haven't got a family to worry about. I haven't got a family to give quality time to. I haven't got a wife who's sitting at home nursign her ire saying: "Where is he? He's not home, yet again."
Do you regret that?
Yes, I do regret it. But you can't have everything, and one of the minuses is not having children and not having had a wife. The plus is that I'm in control of my diary and all the time is for me. It's quite a selfish existence.
Did you actually make a decision?
No, it just happened. If this had been even 10, certainly 15 years ago, I'd have said I would have got married and had a family life. But that's just how it is. I didn't set out not to have a family. It's just the way it's been. That's why I've always taken more interest in my godchildren because if you haven't got children and you are very fond of kids... I get on well with kids. I'm invariably the one that gets handed the baby to quieten it down. This weekend I'm off to Dubai for a board meeting and some other meetings with a magazine company out there. If I was a family man, that would be more of a diffi cult thing. My partner would be saying: "Come on, do you have to go to Dubai now? We've not seen you for four weeks." Whereas the only person that cares is my housekeeper and she's pretty glad to see the back of me. Sadly the dog doesn't get to see me at all because he's in France.
What have you brought to The Spectator?
We've brought it into the 21st century for a start. It's now a well-run business and a proper business. I inherited something that was already on the way to becoming a better business because Conrad Black had begun to do that. It's now an independent, stand-alone company. Of course we share the same owners as the Telegraph. But this is a magazine company now in its own right which is looking to grow and is a magazine that makes profi ts and that protects its independence. I lear nt a long while ago at The Economist, from Alastair Burnett, that if you make money you are independent. And with Fraser [Nelson], we've modernised it and made it very much part of the centreright debate.
Can you say what happened with Matthew d'Ancona?
No. I mean Matthew was doing a lot of other things and had a lot of other things to do. Editors are like football managers. Here today, gone tomorrow. As a former editor myself, I know what it's like.
Moving on to the election, do you think it was a good thing that the whole campaign was dominated by the debates?
In retrospect, no. The debates turned out not to have the seminal infl uence we thought they had. The whole campaign built up to them, and then came down from them, build up to the next, then down, up, down. And sometimes the campaign went dead other than for the debates.
But they are here to stay. How do you think they should be reformed for next time?
They have to free them up more. They've got to be freer. The anchorman has to have a role. Not to assert himself or herself too much but they have to have more power to do a follow-up question, or to ask for clarification, or say: "I'm sorry Mrs Smith didn't ask about that, she asked about this. Could you answer the question?"
I haven't seen the BBC coverage because I was presenting LBC's programme but there's been a lot of comment about your BBC boat on election night...
Well, it wasn't my boat.
You know what I mean.
I wish it was my boat.
Did it work?
I think it worked. David [Dimbleby] was anchoring the television centre coverage from 10pm to at least 6am, so you needed a bit of light and shade. The people who've criticised this have mainly been newspapers that have an anti-BBC agenda in the first place. So any excuse to give them a kicking. Also, the same newspapers who complained we had some celebrities on the boat are the papers that live by celebrities. The Daily Mail has endless celebrities everyday.
Do we need to hear Bruce Forsyth's thoughts on politics during election night though?
First of all you need a break. It cannot all be relentless "here's another result". The people on television themselves need a bit of a break, even just for three or four minutes, because the BBC doesn't have commercial breaks. Just a chance to draw breath and say: "Right, while Andrew is interviewing Bruce Forsyth, what are we doing next?" Of course the papers all concentrated on Bruce Forsyth and Joan Collins. Let's not forget that on that night we also had the first interview with Alastair Campbell. We had Simon Schama and David Starkey. I interviewed Andrew Rawnsley, the editor of the Financial Times Lionel Barber, Will Hutton on the situation in the markets and, at ten past five, Lord Ashcroft. It's interesting the papers have said: "Oh, we don't want to hear from all these celebrity non-entities and so on." The fact is we had an enormous mix of people.
Would you like to be the main presenter on the BBC's election night coverage next time?
Well that's categoric. I thought you might duck that one.
I'd love to do it. I don't think it's going to happen but I'd love that. The first time I did television was as Alastair Burnett's researcher in the February 1974 election which he anchored. If you see the opening shot, because they did an aerial shot when Alastair comes out, you see a young freshfaced lad sitting a few feet sunken behind him. That was me. My job was to write little notes and pass them up to him about Newcastle Central coming up, the Labour candidate's called Pickup and he's a lorry driver. I always liked the way Alastair did that. And yeah, I'd always love to do that but I feel that there are many more [people] ahead of me.
Does your nickname of 'Brillo' annoy you?
It's in with the woodwork now. It's just, to complain about that, what was it that Enoch Powell said? It would be like a sailor who complains about the sea.
How much do you hate Private Eye?
I don't hate Private Eye. Sometimes when you are in it you think: "Oh I wish they hadn't said that." Then you're not in it and you think: "Oh, don't I matter anymore?" The one thing that they get completely wrong is the picture of me and 'Pamella Bordes'. Except it's not Miss Bordes.
It never has been Miss Bordes. That was a picture of a woman from New York that I was going out with in 1995. She worked at Fox and she is an Afro-American. She's not Asian, she's not Indian, she's not British. The picture was taken as we came off the beach in Barbados by [British photographer] Terry O'Neill. It's been presented now as if a) it's Miss Bordes and b) that we were in some kind of nightclub and I'm there in this stupid shirt in a nightclub. It was a beach we'd come off hence the baseball cap and the beachwear. And this woman, this lovely, lovely... I've not seen or heard from her for 15 years - she's no idea she's the most famous face in Private Eye. But it's not Miss Bordes. Anyone slightly looking at her would see these are the features of an Afro-Caribbean lady. But sometimes these public schoolboys are not very good.
That is about half the interview. You can read the full version HERE.
Welcome to your new job. As you know, it's a very important one and a job in which a Secretary of State constantly has to make decisions about priorities and funding. British aid is hugely important to many developing countries and it is right that we should be at the forefront of helping these nations to become more democratic and more prosperous. But we should not be afraid of using the fact that we give aid to persuade certain countries to improve their records on human rights. I would not go so far as to suggest you adopt what Robin Cook would have called an "ethical foreign policy" because you would be riding for a fall. We live in a world of 'realpolitik' where we have to deal with people we would rather not. We don't live in an ideal world. But that also means that we don't have to give money to regimes which have intolerable moral outlooks, and use these to punish their own people.
Just as we reward nations who are making obvious progress to a more democratic way of conducting their government, shouldn't we also punish countries who repress their own people for their moral outlook?
As an example, Britain gives more than £100 million a year to Malawi. And yet today we see that a gay couple has been sentenced to 14 years hard labour just for being gay and being in a gay relationship. Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20 were arrested in December 2009 after holding an engagement ceremony. Malawi is a deeply unprogressive state where religious leaders equate same-sex liaisons with Satanism. The harsh sentence given to these two gay men is more than given to some murderers and rapists and is clearly designed as a deterrent.
I am not naive enough to think that because of this one case, you would stop all aid to Malawi. That would affect perfectly innocent people in an adverse way. But I do think that representations to the Malwai government should be made, and they should be warned that unless they change their ways on these issues, future aid would be jeopardised.
This week I signed up a potentially massive book for my company Biteback Publishing. Anthony Seldon has chronicled both the Major and Blair premierships in books published by Simon & Schuster. He's now going to do the same with Gordon Brown's premiership in a book called BROWN AT TEN, which will be published in late September. It is our lead title for the autumn and we have high hopes for it. Some idiot on Twitter thinks that because I am publishing it it must be an 'attack book'. Clearly he hasn't read any of Anthony Seldon's books in the past. Professional historians don't do 'attack'. It will be as near as possible to an official history of the Brown premiership.
You can preorder the book HERE.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
1. A Lanson Boy on the pros and cons of state funded primaries.
2. Mark Pack on whether the internet made a difference in the election.
3. Capitalists@Work on the middle class milch cow.
4. J Arthur MacNumpty analyses Annabel Goldie's reshuffle.
5. Party Lines reveals the winner of the Orwell Blog Prize.
6. Norman Tebbit on the 1922 putsch.
7. Tom Harris wants a post mortem on Labour's disastrous election campaign.
8. Rory Stewart on his first days in parliament.
9. Mr Eugenides issues an apology to Ed Balls.
10. Dizzy has a practical dilemma.
11. LibDem Voice takes issue with James Macintyre.
12. Mrs Dizzy is thwarted in her attempt to recycle more.
Because of the way the Procedure Committee structured this, Sir Alan could not have stood for his current position, as that has to go to a Labour Party representative, so he has decided to retire from a presiding role altogether. It's a shame the system was decided in this manner as his experience could have been put to very good use.
Nigel Evans is already on the Chairman's Panel and would certainly bring some colour and flamboyance to the role if he's elected. He's popular on all sides of the House and I think would be a very good choice. I've always thought he would look good in tights...
I am also told, but cannot yet confirm, that Roger Gale and Edward Leigh are both considering running.
To keep the 1922 Committee as is 118
That's a far larger majority than I would have thought. It appears that the new intake voted the way the leadership wanted.
I wonder what implications this has for the election for the chairmanship of the 1922 Committee next week.
UPDATE: Just had a text from an MP saying "The 2010 Committee was formed today - initial membership 118..."
Not good. Not good at all.
Matthew’s little helper
Dale has come to live at my London flat. Dale (I christened him) is a robot vacuum cleaner about the size of a very large dinner plate, who looks like a grounded flying saucer. At the press of his button he departs his battery-charging docking station and noses around the floor, dusting and sucking up dirt. He can handle rugs and chair legs; whenever he bumps into anything he reverses and goes off in another direction. After about an hour, when he knows his batteries are getting low, he returns without assistance to the docking station, to recharge. Dale isn’t very powerful, but he’s persistent, and (to judge from his filter compartment, which I empty regularly) he’s gradually getting everything up.
Sometimes I feel rather lonely in my big flat. But with Dale scurrying around and busying himself, I now feel I have a little friend. I hope he likes it here, and doesn’t ask to be taken back to the household appliances department at Peter Jones.
Now I could be reading too much into this, but...
So what, you may say. They deserve it. Well, up to a point maybe, but there is such a thing as natural justice, and there is such a thing as cutting off your nose to spite your face. Just mention the acronym IPSA to an MP or a member of an MP's staff and you can see their faces turn crimson within a few seconds. And it is easy to see why. They see a quango feathering its own nest and delighting in forcing MPs to wear hairshirts. They a quango stuffed with people who earn far more than MPs. They see an authority recruiting 3 press officers. This week, through a headhunter, it is recruiting a Marketing Manager at a salary of £85,000. Er, to market what, exactly? And at a salary of £20k more than the people it is supposed to regulate. Outrageous.
IPSA is only allowing MPs to claim 85% of the phone costs of their constituency offices or their mobile phones, or their staff's mobile phones on the basis that 15% of calls are either political or personal. MPs have to fund the difference themselves. As a consequence many MPs are now not contactable outside office hours through their staff as they have all had to give up their phones. Does that provide a better service to the public? Of course it doesn't. When one MP complained about it and ask if IPSA staff had to fund 15% of their mobile phones they were told, with a completely straight face, that IPSA staff did not make personal calls.
One new MP I know has been told that they will have to fund their constituency office out of her own pocket for the time being as systems are not in place to pay for it directly. This MP is not rich and wonders how on earth they will manage.
Yesterday, dozens of Conservative MPs met with seniro honchos from IPSA to voice their concerns. The meeting, I am told, rapidly degenerated into a slanging match. IPSA were told that they understood nothing about Parliament. It got so rowdy that it almost got to the stage where Police had to be called.
As a result, Labour whips decided to cancel their own planned meeting later on in the day, for fear that it might get out of hand.
What a state of affairs. Within 9 months of being formed IPSA has developed a reputation for incompetence worse than the original House of Commons Fees Office. And that takes some doing.
Some MPs are even talking of forcing a debate on IPSA with a vote on reducing its funding.
And they would have right on their side.
UPDATE: Tom Harris explains the pitfalls of the new claims system.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I've never thought of DM as a potential candidate for new Tory MP Tracey Crouch's old job as Public Affairs Director of Aviva, but you never can tell!
The trouble with this suggested change is that MPs are being asked to make up their minds very quickly on quite a fundamental change. My suspicion is that they will not react well, and will probably veto it. Unfortunately that will mask whatever the arguments in favour of the change might have been.
The devil in me wonders what the new Minister of State for Decentalisation, Greg Clark, makes of it. He's also my local MP.
PS I'll be on LBC tonight with Petrie Hosken from 8-9 as part of her parliamentary panel, alongside LibDem MP Tom Brake and Labour MP Andrew Slaughter.
Yesterday we heard that Chloe Smith, Brooks Newmark, Philip Dunne, Michael Fabricant and Angela Watkinson had been appointed junior whips. And then in the evening came the news that James Brokenshire, who last week had been told he would not be in the government, is to be a junior Home Office Minister after all. And quite right too.
There are still quite a few Lords appointments to be made, along with the announcement of several peerages across the parties.
Obviously when one is dealing with two parties these things are bound to take longer, but I hope the full list can be released before too long.