Sunday, April 30, 2006

Liam Fox Says Cameron Must Maintain "Broad Coalition"

Liam Fox today gave an interview to GMTV which was partly on his brief, but then veered onto Party strategy. I reprint the transcript below. He seems to be saying that David Cameron's priority must be to maintain a broad coalition within the Party and not to "tilt too much in one direction".

STEVE RICHARDS: It’s interesting isn’t it that that seems to be the case but as you have found in the past that a lot of defecting Labour people seem to be going over to the Lib Dems. And if these polls are right, and who knows they might all be wrong, but if they are right you are facing that same old problem that you’re not getting the disaffected support to your side.
LIAM FOX: Well we’ll see when the elections come this week what those results will bring and I dare say they’ll not bring good news for our beleaguered prime minister, and I think that he will have to take measures to try and stem the haemorrhaging Labour support. You're right though there are big questions for us as a party. We have made a start under David Cameron of trying to remove some of the negatives attached to the Conservative party but I think that there are a number of things that we have to remember. First of all that we avoid external coalitions in our politics by maintaining an internal coalition, and the Conservative party has long been a broad coalition and if the party is tilted too much in any one direction that makes us politically less stable and that makes us less attractive for the voters. And if you want to look to an example of where the party was at its best under a broad coalition you look at the Thatcher government when it came in 1979, a very broad coalition of the Conservative party, and we weakened that coalition at our own cost.
STEVE RICHARDS: And so you think that there is a risk of that happening, that tilting happening?
LIAM FOX: No I think that it simply has to be the fact that everyone in the caravan has to feel that they are part of the party and that they will get something out of that. And I think that we do have to deal with some of the issues that we haven’t dealt with in the past. On things like the environment. As you know I’m very keen on issues like mental health and domestic violence. We have seen this week a dreadful case in terms of domestic violence being over looked. We do have to have that social agenda which I think has been missing, alongside the tradition Conservative policies of wealth creation and of national security and of being tough of crime and so on. And its getting the balance right over the next few months that I think we need to do and I think that it is quite preposterous that people expect us to come out with detailed policy now. What I think is reasonable is for people to expect us to set out the intellectual architecture upon which our policy will be based and I think increasingly that is beginning to come forward.
STEVE RICHARDS: But what you are saying is that the balance isn’t in place yet?
LIAM FOX: No I think that this is a project that is still evolving and I think that David Cameron has made a very good start in that he set himself, as a politician in a mould that is of clearly very attractive to a lot of voters. He’s more popular now then the party is. The question now is can we repeat that exercise in showing to the electorate that the Conservative party is a broad coalition which deals with all those issues that the public is concerned about, on crime and discipline and so on, but that it is also able to bring into it this element of social agenda which I think has been missing. And if you look at issues, to go back to mental health. This is an issue that no party has been talking about in our country, a massive problem inflicting about one in three of our population with dreadful public services being provided to these people and we have to champion them. And I think that it is a great opportunity for the Conservative when the Labour party is frankly falling to bits having failed to deliver what it promised back in 1997.

Bill Clinton: The Final Days Video

This is a hilarious piss-take of Bill Clinton's final days in office - starring the man himself!

Blair Boxes Himself In Over Clarke Strategy

Tony Blair seems to have boxed himself in with regard to Charles Clarke's future. With the strategy of "Clarke buggered it up, so he's the best man to sort it out", it seems it would be impossible to move him in the reshuffle, already pencilled in for Monday week. So it's a clear choice. Either Clarke is sacked or he stays in situ. Unless of course he resigns before the reshuffle.

Former Downing Street Official Standing for the Greens

News of another New Labour rat abandoning ship. Former Downing Street Communications Director James Humphreys, who was a key lieutenant of Alastair Campbell, has not only ripped up his Labour Party membership card, he’s joined the Greens and is standing for the bearded ones in the Highbury East ward in Islington in Thursdays council elections. Amazingly, he stands a good chance of winning as the Greens were a mere hundred votes behind Labour in 2002. However, he’s not without some high profile opposition. Martine Oborne is putting up a feisty fight for the Conservatives. Who’s she? Why none other than the wife of recently-departed Spectator Political Editor Peter Oborne. Oborne is no mean political operator himself and with some extra time on his hands will no doubt seek to cause a bit of mischief in the last few days of the campaign.

Alan Duncan to Star in New Reality TV Show?

From my Independent on Sunday diary...

Whatever next. Just when you thought celebrity TV couldn’t get any lower I bring news to prove the opposite. Coming to a TV screen near you in early July is Celebrity Show Jumping. Even more astonishingly it’s not the product of some low grade digital TV channel, but BBC1. Yes, dear licence payer – it’s you that will be picking up Endemol’s hefty production bill. I can also exclusively reveal that the creators of this bizarre programme, Endemol, have invited Tory frontbencher Alan Duncan to take part. Hunky Dunky’s last foray into the world of reality TV was to go camping with recalcitrant teenagers. It met with mixed reviews and saw Duncan break down in tears at one point. Taking part in the programme would mean taking a week out of Parliament, something Duncan is rather wary of. Having seen the reaction of George Galloway’s constituents to his sojourn in the Big Brother House, who can blame him?

Tracey Temple's Risk & Reward

I've just started reading the Mail on Sunday. Tracey Temple does seem to be a little inconsistent in her view of what comprises 'risk'.

"I did hear a whisper that I had snogged John in the lift and that I had nuzzled his neck. I was very upset because it wasn't true. Even if we were having sex, we wouldn't have been stupid enough to do something like that. We're not stupid people."

OK fair enough. But contrast that with this little tale about sex in the DPM's Ministerial Office...

"We were very lucky we were never caught - as we never shut the [office] door. Sometimes it was behind the desk - but mainly we stood behind the open door. There were people working outside. It was quite risky."

No, not stupid at all then, Tracey.

John Prescott's Second Mistress: Identity Revealed

The Sunday Mirror has an 'exclusive' interview with John Prescott's second mistress. Click HERE. She's former Labour candidate Sarah Bissett-Scott. She says:

"I was totally bowled over by him. He did all the running but I loved him and I think he loved me too. Looking back I was totally foolish and very naive but he is a very charismatic and persuasive man. "It started at a Labour Party Conference but I want to stress he did all the running. There was a mutual attraction. Many women were flirting with him. People find it difficult to believe, but he is very charismatic and attractive. I was new to politics and he was so enthusiastic. He might be fat and ugly now, but when I knew him was a very attractive man. Naively I thought his wife lived in the North and he lived in London. I was very stupid. He led me to believe he was leading separate lives from his wife Pauline. But why pick on me? I assume there were many other lovers."

The Sunday Times carried a front page story about Prescott being a 'serial groper'. Tricia McDaid provides the evidence. Click HERE. She said:

“He just leapt on me at one party and his tongue was halfway down my throat. " Such was Prescott’s reputation, she said, that she resorted to wearing trouser suits to avoid his wandering hands in the lifts at his Westminster office. She added that she was too afraid to protest at the time for fear of losing her job. She added: "He started to kiss me. He pulled my dress out, looked down my top and said, ‘What have you got on under there, how come you can’t see anything?’. I was wearing a body stocking as opposed to a bra and knickers. It was so embarrassing for him to have done that in front of so many people... He was a boastful, arrogant, nasty pig. He just jumped on you when he felt like it at a party. He had no manners whatsoever. Several times I nearly slapped him in the face. Afterwards I worked as a political journalist for the Irish News. I remember him at a party at the Irish embassy. I was surrounded by people but he kissed me on the lips and started to put his tongue down my throat. I laid into him. I got quite aggressive and there was a scene. He accused me of being a Tory spy.”

So we now know of four women Prescott has either had an affair with or tried to. It makes one wonder how many more there are. I suspect it won't be long before we find out. Surely he can't survive this.

Don't Frighten the Horses

From my Independent on Sunday diary...

The pretty little Hampshire village of Bramdean is getting used to the implications of celebrities living in its midst. Only a few weeks ago the villagers spent their days scowling at the tabloid hacks who were chasing Bramdean resident Mark Oaten. Next weekend their other famous son, TV newsreader Alastair Stewart is having a party. A big one. It’s to celebrate his 25 years in journalism and anyone who’s anyone in TV hackery will be there. So confident is Al of attracting major league celebrities he tells guests on the very grand invitation card: “If you are intending to arrive by helicopter please let us know as we will need to clear the horses and sheep from the fields”. The ITV News Channel must have been paying a very handsome salary indeed. I’m beginning to understand why ITN closed it.

Prescott Very Unwise to go to the PCC

Before I start, just a quick advert for my Diary column in the Independent on Sunday - I hope you've all bought your copy today!

So John Prescott has, according to the Sunday newspapers, come out fighting. Possibly not the wisest word to use with regard to Prezza. He is threatening to take the Mail on Sunday to the Press Compaints Commission. I hardly think this would be his wisest course of action. I can't actually think what grounds he would have for doing so. He is said to be disputing some of what Tracey Temple says, but doesn't say what. Perhaps if he and his Department had offered her the advice and protection she had understandably sought, things might have turned out rather differently. I haven't read her account in the Mail on Sunday yet (I need to have my breakfast first!) but it appears she hasn't dished the dirt on what Prescott thinks of his Cabinet colleagues, as I had been told last night she was going to. I wonder if this has been saved up for the Daily Mail or even next week's Mail on Sunday. If Blair's reshuffle is going to happen on Monday week, it would be understandable if the MoS had held that particualr nugget over for a week. The big question now, is what does Tracey do next? Does she rake in a bit more money from the likes of Richard & Judy or Hello Magazine, or does she call it quits? Max Clifford was on SKy News earlier and clearly had no idea what the answer to that question was.No doubt he'll be encouraging her to go further to get another 20% commission.

The Sunday Times has a front page article from a former Labour Party worker alleging he sexually harrassed her on several occasions. She describes Prescott as a "serial groper". In some ways this sort of allegation can be more damaging than having an affair, especially in politically correct Labour Party circles. All the papers refer to rumours of other affairs but none of them name names. One paper mentions a "female junior minister" but that's as far as they go. At least three blogs have now named the minister in question, yet the national media, with all their financial resources, have backed off from doing so. I wonder for how much longer.

Who's Going to be in Gordon Brown's "Shadow" Cabinet?

The contents page of Parliamentary Monitor Magazine makes for interesting reading this month. It alerts the reader to an article tipping the likely runners and riders in Gordon Brown’s “Shadow Cabinet”. Do they know something we don’t?

Saturday, April 29, 2006

July 7 Victim Calls on Clarke to Resign

Remember I wrote about Rachel from North London who was involved in 7-7? Charles Clarke had insulted her father at Norwich cathedral. In the end Clarke apologised and agreed to meet Rachel. Her latest thoughts make very interesting reading. I highly recommend that you click HERE.

Mail on Sunday Revelations Will Force Prescott's Resignation

I understand that in tomorrow's Mail on Sunday Tracy Temple rates John Prescott's sexual performance and also reveals what he thinks of his Cabinet colleagues. You'll remember that David Blunkett resigned last time, not because of what he had done, but because he lost the support of colleagues after his thoughts about them appeared in Stephen Pollard's book. Prescott is toast. Expect his resignation tomorrow.

UPDATE: 22.20 From PA: In an extensive interview with the Mail on Sunday, Ms Temple claimed, among other things, that the couple had sex in his Whitehall office, that Prescott had sex with her immediately after taking her to the Iraq war memorial service and that they had sex in a hotel while his wife Pauline waited downstairs. She revealed she had kept a series of diaries, from which extracts were published in the paper. And she declared: "I don't regret having the affair. It wasn't aserious relationship. "There were moments when I thought to myself 'I shouldn't be doing this' but I didn't feel it was wrong.''

UPDATE: 22.30 Tracy Temple has recorded a video in which she looks rather less glamorous than the previous images we have seen of her on TV. To be honest she looks at the end of her teather. In the video she says "I was not responsible for this story. I've had to live with the lies and the misinformation that was actually written about me, causing damage to my reputation and possibly my future career. Therefore, as a result, I felt I needed to tell my side of the story and let people know the truth. But I never, ever thought that I would have had to do anything like this."

Blair Refuses to Rule Out Clarke's Departure

This is explosive stuff...

In an interview for the News of the World tomorrow Tony Blair will say there are "no excuses'' for the mistaken release of hundreds of foreign prisoners. He refused to guarantee Charles Clarke would survive the fall-out. He said that the future of the Home Secretary"depends on what happens'' as efforts continue to track down the criminals and trace any reoffending. Mr Blair said he had had no hesitation in refusing Mr Clarke's offer to resign over the affair because the Home Secretary had been trying to sort it out. But asked whether his view would change if one of those released committed a serious crime, he said: "I don't think I'm going to speculate. It depends on what happens, what the reasons are.'' Asked for his initial reaction to being told about the releases, Mr Blair said: "The reaction you'd expect - pretty angry about it". Asked if he had not hesitated to keep Mr Clarke in place, he said:"Yes, because my point is: in the time he's been Home Secretary has he been trying to sort it out? Actually he has.'' It was a "fair point'' to ask at what point a politician became responsible, he conceded. "But he has been acting on it. That's where I disagree with people who say he's ignored it. He hasn't.'' Hattip for graphic to Beau Bo D'Or

Public Opinion Moves Against Prescott, Clarke & Hewitt

A YouGov poll to be published in tomorrow's Sunday Times shows that public opinion has swung sharply against John Prescott. But the poll shows that the public are even keener for Charles Clarke and Patricia Hewitt to lose their jobs.

Over half (57%) of those surveyed by YouGov for the Sunday Times in the immediate wake of Labour's "Black Wednesday'' said the party was"sleazy and incompetent''. And Prime Minister Tony Blair's personal rating has slipped to its lowest level since he took over as its leader, with 64% saying he was doing badly and just 33% that he was doing well. On the eve of fresh revelations of Mr Prescott's infidelity 48% sayMr Blair should sack him, including nearly a quarter of Labour supporters, while 31% think he should be kept on. Earlier polls had suggested he had the public's backing to stay. However, some of that desire to see him quit could reflect opinions of his political abilities, with 52% agreeing he was "a buffoon who should never have made it to high office" . Just 9% thought he had done a good job as deputy PM. Even more people want to see the Home Secretary sacked over the release of foreign prisoners - 53% backing him for the axe and 21% wanting him to stay in post. A huge majority - 89% - said the issue showed "alarming incompetence'' with 72% dubbing the Government's overall performance on crime and immigration "generally incompetent". Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt - who was forced to abandon aspeech to nurses because of the volume of heckling and booing - is wanted out by 51% of voters, and supported by 19%. That reflects distrust of her claim the NHS had had its best ever year - 72% saying she was wrong to say that and only 7% agreeing. More than twice as many people (62%) believe the NHS is doing badly as doing well (30%). The poll also revealed signs that smaller parties may do well in Thursday's general election. All three main parties ratings are down on the last poll in March -Labour and the Tories each dropping three points to 32% and 35% and the Liberal Democrats down one at 18%. "Others'' were up from 8% to 15%.

The Real Reason Tony Blair Has Delayed His Reshuffle

Since November Tony Blair has had a free place at his Cabinet table. Every few weeks speculation has mounted that the long awaited reshuffle was about to take place. Each time nothing happened. We all thought it was due to problems with Gordon Brown. I suspect the real reason is that he just doesn't have the talent among his Ministers of State to promote to the top table. This is the full list of Ministers of State, the ones just below Cabinet rank.

Douglas Alexander (definite), Rosie Winterton (were it not for...), Yvette Cooper (too much of a Brown ally), Phil Woolas (erratic), Dawn Primarolo (thick), John Healey (boring but nice), Harriet Harman (thick and past failure), Kim Howells (rent a gob), Ian Pearson (no idea), Hazel Blears (unpopular with colleagues), Tony McNulty (hurt by current scandal), Elliot Morley (a permanent number two), Margaret Hodge (you have to be joking), Stephen Timms (boring and ugly), Stephen Ladyman (no idea), Jane Kennedy (no idea), David Hanson (boring), Adam Ingram (too old), Alun Michael (past failure), Malcolm Wicks (too old), Jacqui Smith (not up to it), Bill Rammell (no idea), Beverley Hughes (would have to be desperate), Richard Caborn (not up to it)

The only sure-fire promotion from that list is Douglas Alexander. My favourite little chipmunk Hazel Blears would certainly be a Blair loyalist, but apart from those two, there are very few in that list whose names stare out at you and shout "automatic promotion". The alternatives are to promote some of the Parlimantary Under Secretaries or even, wait for it, bring back some of the old hands. A sure sign that he was taking criticism on board would be to offer a Cabinet post to John Denham. The dearth of talent on the Labour benches is amply illustrated by the fact that the chief defender of Charles Clarke on our TV screens is the thinking man's court jester, Steve Pound. That, if nothing else, should demonstrate the trouble Clarke is really in. This illustrates yet another parallel between Blair's current predicament and the final years of Margaret Thatcher. She allowed the whips to handle all the junior promotions with the result that by 1989-90 she found all the Minister of State posts inhabited by non-Thatcherites. A similar fate has befallen Tony Blair in that although he has a reasonable sprinkling of allies among his juniors, it would be stretching it to say any of them had the talent to be in the Cabinet.

Another LibDem PPC Defects to the Tories

From today's Independent...

A Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate has defected to the Conservatives after David Cameron's decision to position his party to the centre ground and pitch for the green vote. Jeff Clarke, who fought Wirral West for the Liberal Democrats at the general election, said: "The arrival of David Cameron at the helm of the Tory party has precipitated a shift in the direction and political atmosphere within the party. Politics is suddenly dynamic and interesting again. Crucially, it now offers - arguably for the first time since 1997 - the only potentially achievable opportunity for 'regime change' at the next election. "That possibility would gather more credence if the joined-up forces of compassionate conservatism and genuine liberal democracy were to combine to ensure the departure of our current presidential, autocratic and authoritarian government." Mr Clarke is a barrister in Liverpool and a Liberal Democrat member of Chester City Council.

I am already bracing myself for the torrent of posts from LibDems explaining what a nonentity Mr Clarke is and how they had never heard of him. Welcome aboard, Jeff!

The Questions Dr Fox Might Ask Dr Reid

Something doesn't quite add up about this cannabis discovery at John Reid's house. The media seem to have completely swallowed Reid's explanation. I'm at somewhat of a loss to explain the total absence of any comment or questioning from either the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats so far. Here are some questions Dr Fox might consider posing...

1. How often do security sweeps take place at Dr Reid's home?
2. What kind of dogs are used?
3. How was the cannabis discovered? Did a dog discover it, or were they rifling through drawers?
4. If it had been there for "up to 20 years", why was it not discovered on previous sweeps?
5. If this amount of cannabis was discovered in the quarters of a serving soldier, what disciplinary procedure would then be put in place?

Dr Reid should be grateful that the media's attention is on Messers Prescott and Clarke today.

John Prescott: Wasting Police Time

From the Press Association...

Mr Prescott arrived at his Hull home shortly after 3.20pm today. He swept through the gates, which had already been opened, in a large black car with dark windows. After the gates had closed he walked the few yards to his frontdoor with a determined look on his face. The Deputy Prime Minister, who was wearing a grey suit with anopen-necked black shirt, said nothing to reporters waiting outsidehis large detached house. There was no sign of his wife, Pauline. Half an hour before Mr Prescott's arrival four police cars drew upoutside his home in the Sutton area of Hull and a number of officers got out. The handful of police officers lined the short stretch of roadleading up to the gates as Mr Prescott arrived.

Haven't this 'handful' of police officers got something better to do with their time? Like look for criminals to deport?

Conventional Wisdom Index: Week 6

So who's had a good week? Are their fortunes on the up or on the wane? My Conventional Wisdom Index seeks to track the fortunes of the major players in British politics. Next installment on Saturday...

Tony Blair
Pasting on all fronts for the second week. Actually, a double pasting this week
David Cameron
Evidence that the 'green' initiative is hitting home and strong performance in PMQs
Ming Campbell
Terrible error at PMQs overshadowed everything else
Gordon Brown
Where was Gordon? Staying well out of, that's where
Labour Party
I don't think we need intrude on private grief. Prescott, Clarke, Welsh Peerages, Kinnock's driving ban, Reid's pot...
Conservative Party
Poor poll score from ICM but the Party has avoided looking nasty in attacking Labour. Davis so far playing a blinder
Liberal Democrats
Good poll from ICM but disappointment in Moray and further revelations about their donor Michael Brown
George Bush
New press secretary may start to sharpen his image
Reputation of Politics
I'm sure there will come a time when an upward arrow can be used. Just not yet.

Birmingham To Pilot New Postal Vote Rules in 2007

There used to be a saying at election time in Northern Ireland - Vote Early and Vote Often. No longer. Indeed, so admired are election day procedures in the Province that Birmingham Conservatives announced today they would be adopting their postal vote system for next year's local elections. Council leader Mike Whitby said today...

"Following the problems this week, I am pleased to announce that Birmingham will pilot a Northern Ireland-style system in the local elections in 2007 which can offer the necessary safeguards to ensure our local elections are free, fair and clear of any illegal or corrupt practices. We have consistently argued that our postal vote system is open to abuse, and presents an invitation to cheat. It would seem that despite our best efforts, there are still those who wish to tarnish our democratic reputation yet further. It is vital that the police and the public remain vigilant to ensure that the results on the 4th May reflect the will of the people. The Conservative Party has already set a strong example by formally complaining to West Midlands Police about a suspiciously high number of postal vote applications and holding a series of emergency meetings this week with the police and top council officials.”

The Conservative Party has also launched a hotline to enable residents from across Birmingham to confidentially report any suspicious political activity and provide reassurance that their votes have not been stolen. The hotline number is 0121 275 6219.

The Politically Correct BBC: Example No 94

On News 24 just now the newsreader Maxine Mawhinney said: " an attack by Islamist, sorry, milititants..." I've heard before that BBC producers have been instructed to avoid using the term 'terrorist' and must use the less pejorative word 'militant' instead. Now we seem to have the proof.

New Labour Guide to the Good, Bad & Ugly

Charles Clarke Has Much in Common With Neville Chamberlain

From today's Times

Prescott Leaves His Constituents in the Hands of His...Er...Secretary

A sure sign of a politician who knows he's in deep do-do is when he cancels his constituency surgery. Constituents leaving John Prescott's monthly surgery this morning said they had been told he was not coming today. More than a dozen people turned up at the East Hull Labour Party offices where the Deputy Prime Minister holds his surgeries on the last Saturday of every month. Those leaving the building said their cases had been dealt with by a secretary. "Not that one,'' one elderly man quipped. Perhaps Mr Prescott's former PA Simon Buckby was lending a hand or even his former long-serving constituency aide Rosie Winterton was helping out an old friend in need. No, he's still busy selling out our country running Britain in Europe (or did he resign?) and she's far too busy caring for the nation's health, so perhaps "not that one" either. A notice in the window of the office, which has been there for sometime, explained how surgeries "may be cancelled at short notice due to monkey government business''.

Gordon Brown's Moment of Truth Is Approaching

In the year or so before they so brutally despatched Margaret Thatcher, Tory backbenchers were asking themselves one question: How best will I hold my seat at the next election? They concluded that the best answer to that question was to get rid of the woman who had won them three elections. Fifteen years on history is about to repeat itself. But there is one difference - Tony Blair has already announced he's going, but seems to be wanting to hang on to the bitter end. If, as I expect, John Prescott and Charles Clarke are both forced to resign within the next seven days, and Labour does badly in Thursday's local elections, Labour backbenchers will become even more restless than they have been already. Their thought process will be as follows: It won't be Tony Blair who has to defend the Labour record on the doorsteps, it'll be the poor bloody cannon-fodder like me. Therefore, the only way out of this is to set out on a fresh new path, and set out as soon as possible. But they have a problem. As far as I can see, it is almost impossible for them to ditch Tony Blair outright. They don't have the equivalent of the Tories' men in grey suits, and even if they did I suspect the Dear Leader would take no notice of them. So much will depend on Gordon Brown's willingness to go for the kill. So far he's been remarkably unwilling to do anything to undermine Tony Blair in public- it's all been by background whispers and media spin. Journalists reckon their relationship is going through one of its periodic rocky patches, with the two barely able to speak to each other. But consider this for a scenario: Things proceed as I have predicted over the last seven days and Tony Blair starts thinking about a wide ranging reshuffle. Gordon Brown decides to go for broke and tells Tony Blair that unless he publicly announces the date of his departure he can no longer continue to serve in his Government. What would the shakeout from that be? Gordon, your time for decision is rapidly approaching. You failed to deliver to your publisher a book called "Courage". Now's the time for you to display some. Otherwise you will end up being another Roy Jenkins or Michael Portillo - men who might well have got the top job if only thheir courage had not failed them at the last minute. Hat-tip to Beau Bo D'Or for graphic

What's Good for the Goose...

If a "tiny amount of cannabis" is found in the home of a serving soldier we all know the consequences will be pretty severe. Does the same apply to Defence Secretaries? Or will we be treated to the usual New Labour spin and double standards? Silly question really...

UPDATE: 11.53am Apparently the Police are taking no action and say that the cannabis resin could have been there for years and was in the "guest area" of the house. Can anyone in the military tell me what action would be taken against a Squaddie who found himself in the same situation?

UPDATE: 12.35pm Book Value makes a very interesting point on He says: "But hang on. A “standard sweep” is surely a regular procedure. So why would you conclude that if the drugs weren’t found on the previous sweep, they were “there before Mr Reid moved in”?"

Whatever Next: John Reid on Drugs!

Just when Blair thought it couldn't get worse, it has. Soft drugs have been found in John Reid's house. Anyone would think Gordon Brown was orchestrating all this like some James Bond baddie. Oh well, better carry on the doorknocking! Every single one is Tory so far - but admittedly I'm in Tunbridge Wells!

Prescott's Mistress Goes Crying all the Way to the Max Clifford Bank

John Prescott's worst nightmare has just come true. His former mistress Tracey Temple has signed up with Max Clifford. Expect some lurid revelations in tomorrow's tabloids. Of course she will be painted as a tart and a hussy in whichever of the papers don't buy her story.The only silver lining for Mr P is that she is now guaranteed to lose her job. Funny how the woman always loses in these situations isn't? Well, when I say 'loses', I obviously exclude the concept of 'losing money'.

Did Clarke's Junior Ministers Offer to Resign?

So far there has been little speculation over the future of the junior Home Office Ministers. There are three who could reasonably be expected to depart along with Charles Clarke, if indeed he does go in the end. Indeed, it would not be unreasonable to know if any of them have offered their resignations to Tony Blair before now. The three in question are Immigration Minister Tony McNulty (pic), Probation minister Fiona MacTaggart and Paul Goggins, who undertook Tony McNulty's role up until the last election. Cheeky chipmunk Hazel Blears looks as if she is safe. I don't like to stick the knife into Tony McNulty as he's a friend of mine, but being totally objective it's difficult to see how he could survive a Clarke resignation. Some had been tipping him for Cabinet promotion due to his combative style, but that looks a distant memory now.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Police Start To Turn on Charles Clarke

Charles Clarke doesn't have many friends in the Police. It would not surprise me if one or two of the chief constables opposed to his reorganistion plans took part in one or two judicious leaks to the Sundays. This has started already with this breakin story on the Press Association...

The failure to deport foreign prisoners has been blamed by policefor thwarting efforts to crack down on gun and drugs crime, an MP revealed tonight. E-mails sent to Tory Rob Wilson (pictured) by a senior officer complained thathis force got "no support'' from the Immigration Service in removing serious offenders from the country. And the MP joined the calls for Home Secretary Charles Clarke toquit - accusing him of presiding over a service in "meltdown'' and of failing to protect the public. The e-mails were sent by an officer involved with Operation Falcon in Reading - set up in the wake of the brutal murder of Mary-Ann Leneghan. Six men were today each given four life sentences for abducting and murdering the 16-year-old and attempted to kill her 18-year-old friend. Three were serving community sentences at the time of the killingand one was in the country illegally after outstaying permission to stay given when he arrived as a minor. One e-mail said: "Since Op Falcon began after the tragic murder ofMary Ann Leneghan in May 05 we have targeted men of violence who we believe have access to firearms, a huge number of these people have entered the country illegally and fund their lifestyle through criminal activity It continued: "We have a whole raft of people currently sentenced to terms of imprisonment who are illegal immigrants who we have asked the Immigration service to deport after sentence however Immigration will not track the sentence and invariably these people will bereleased and be back in Reading.' I estimate that the majority of drug related crime in Reading is committed by persons who have entered the country illegally. As Police we try to crack down but get no support from the immigration service, a massive immigration crackdown is required in Reading to remove these people to eradicate them from the Criminal fraternity.'' The officer said that the service "needs to work with us and not against us and remove people who are overstayers, entered the country through illegal means or commit crime. "I cannot emphasise enough the massive problem there is in Reading with illegal immigrants and the lack of removal by the immigration service.'' In another e-mail, Mr Wilson was told there was "a general reluctance'' for immigration officers to attend to anything other than failed asylum seekers "as this is the current government performance indicator''. The MP said the e-mails - coupled with the latest revelations from Mr Clarke - were evidence of a huge failure. "What today shows is that the immigration service is is in meltdown,'' he told the Press Association. "What we have now is a situation where evil criminals who should not be in the country, let alone our city, are involved in firearms, class A drugs, human trafficking; all the most sinister crimes you can think of. "And it is all because of appalling leadership from Charles Clarke and the Home Office and an immigration service that is underresourced, under staffed and pointing in the wrong direction. "There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the first job of any Home Secretary is to protect the public. "Charles Clarke has abjectly failed in his duty and therefore should go and go as soon as possible.'' Mr Wilson also revealed that an immigration service worker had told him there was an informal ban on dealing with prisoners. The claim came in a letter to the MP that claimed: Immigration Officers have been forbidden from going out on operations or to deal with immigration offenders arrested in police stations unless they are FASes (failed asylum seekers). "Personnel are under instruction not to get involved in assisting the police with offenders unless they are to pick up FASes. That was to meet priority targets of increasing the numbers offailed asylum seekers being deported, the letter said.

EXCLUSIVE: Birmingham Heads for Another Postal Vote Scandal

I have just received a leaked document showing a dramatic increase in postal vote applications right across Birmingham. I am told that the figures below are the % increases in postal vote applications in Birmingham in the three weeks before the deadline closed for the local elections. However, the more cautious part of me thinks it must be the figure compared to the number of postal votes at the last election. Whichever it is, the figures are very high and include the ward of the LibDem candidate who has been arrested (Nechells).

Lozells and East Handsworth 31.51 %
Springfield 27.54 %
Nechells 26.62 %
Bordesley Green 15.63 %
Sparkbrook 9.83 %
Average throughout Birmingham 11%

I wonder if our friendly West Midlands correspondent, Cllr Bob Piper (Lab), can shed any light on this.

What David Miliband Means by THINK LOCAL

Cribbed from the England Project...

Government minister David Miliband wants the electorate to ignore what's going on at Westminster and think local when it comes to voting in the council elections. I like to be helpful. Here are some local thoughts for you to think:

"Are any of the released murderers, rapists or child abusers in my local community?"

"I hope Prescott doesn't come round here to try and shag me."

Luiz Felipe Scolari Saves Charles Clarke!

How in Jesus' name did Tony Blair manage to get Luiz Felipe Scolari to withdraw his application for the England football manager's job at exactly the same time that Charles Clarke is in the brown stuff? You've got to admire it. A different way of burying bad news, but very effective!Naturally, Sky News have given up on Clarke and are concentrating on football! They broke off their interview with David Davis to bring us the news. When they returned to DD I was willing him to say "I bet you wish you had the other David Davies here!" For those who don't know their football, David Davies is the Executive Director of the Football Association. Bring on Martin O'Neill!

Charles Clarke Isn't Resigning

Some might think these guns ought to be facing the other way (metaphorically of course), but when he eventually gets round to making his long awaited statement Charles Clarke isn't going to resign. He will bombard the media with statistics on which of the freed prisoners are still at large or which are now facing immediate deportation. I understand from sources in the Home Office that of the 1023 people concerned, around 80 were convicted for serious offences like murder or rape. I also understand that there have been re-offences. It is the scale and seriousness of these which will determine the Home Secretary's fate. Our breath is baited.

UPDATE: 5.26 Nick Clegg on 5 Live is breaking the statement embargo and giving details before Charles Clarke has spoken. He'll live to regret that. The custom in these circumstances is for the Home Secretary's Private Office to fax the Conservatives & LibDems in advance so they can prepare their response. But they are not supposed to go public on it. I predict that's the last time Nick Clegg will get anything! He said there are 5 cases of serious re-offending which include drugs and violent GBH offences and an allegation of rape.

What's Going On With Charles Clarke?

Rumours are starting to swirl that the long awaited statement from Charles Clarke will consist of only two words. "I resign". I'm not so sure. From my time working for David Davis I know that Home Office statements are invariably an hour or two late. But you never know...

UPDATE: 5.15 He ain't gonna resign...

LibDem Candidate Arrested in Birmingham

From the Birmingham Evening Mail...

BIRMINGHAM'S Liberal Democrats today insisted their candidate would still stand in next week's local elections - despite his arrest in a postal vote fraud inquiry. But Labour Party leader Sir Albert Bore denounced the decision and called for Mohammed Khan, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Nechells, to stand down immediately. He said voters would be bewildered at being offered a candidate whose reputation was allegedly "in tatters". Coun Khan, aged 52, was arrested at Stechford police station last night on suspicion of postal vote fraud and released on police bail. The arrest comes a day after his 50-year-old wife, Naseem Akhtar, was also arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud the election process. Liberal Democrat leader Paul Tilsley said today the candidate would still stand in the May 4 election. Coun Tilsley said: "I am meeting Mr Khan today. The outcome of that will probably be that, if elected, which is quite possible, membership of the Liberal Democrat group would be suspended until the outcome of the police investigation is known. I take this issue very seriously. The police investigation is over two or three votes and any fraud is unacceptable - if found guilty Mr Khan will be immediately expelled from the party." Labour leader Sir Albert said voters would be confused over why Mr Khan was being allowed to stand as a candidate while facing a police investigation. And he called on the Liberal Democrats to remove him. "It is very unwise of the Liberal Democrats to allow him to continue in these circumstances," Sir Albert said. "The electorate in Nechells will be very concerned someone whose reputation appears to be in tatters is standing as a Lib Dem candidate. If I was a voter, I would be very concerned." But in a tit-for-tat exchange, the Liberal Democrats claimed that Labour's 2004 fraud involved thousands of forged ballots, whereas this latest probe surrounded a mere handful. It is claimed that Mr Khan, of Hob Moor Road, Bordesley Green, was using a second address, in nearby Ronald Road, to collect extra postal ballots. Police carried out searches at the two addresses where they found a quantity of postal vote forms. The allegations are strongly denied by Mr Khan, a travel agent who is making his third attempt to gain election to Birmingham City Council. He has refused to comment on the allegations, but his agent, Council-lor Shaukat Ali Khan (Lib Dem, Bordesley Green) issued a strenuous denial. He said: "It is all a misunderstanding and will be sorted out. I am 100 per cent confident there is no wrongdoing at all. It is just a publicity stunt to smear Mr Khan's reputation." Labour Party rivals claim they have a dossier of evidence linked to a third address to which votes are being diverted. Senior Labour Councillor Tahir Ali (Nechells) confirmed that a file was handed to police last night. Police were today investigating an alleged attack on a journalist working for the Mail's sister newspaper The Birmingham Post. The assault claims come after the reporter visted Mr Khan's address, in Hob Moor Road, on Wednesday night.

Pathetic LibDems Waste Police Time

Click HERE to see just how low the LibDems will stoop. They have made a formal complaint to the Police over a mistake which led to an underage candidate nominated by the Conservatives for next week's elections in Derby. The candidate had told local Tories she was over 21 and signed a form to that effect. Labour leader Chris Williamson added: "The Lib Dem reaction is completely over the top." They really ought to get a life. Yes, it was incompetent, but that's it. I'm sure a similar thing has happened to them in the past. Do they think the Police have got nothing better to do than investigate ridiculous things like this?

Memorial Service for Sir Anthony Beaumont Dark

There will be a memorial service for former Tory MP Sir Anthony Beaumont Dark, who died earlier this month. It will be held on Monday 8 May at 12 noon at Birmingham Cathedral in St Phillips Square. Please email darren dot mott AT conservatives dot com for tickets.

Martin Newland to Run for Parliament?

The Press Gazette reports today that former Daily Telegraph editor Martin Newland has applied to Conservative Central Office to join the Candidates List.

EXCLUSIVE: Labour & BNP Pull Out of Radio Debate. Why?

Eddie Nestor (pic) hosts a Sunday morning current affairs show on BBC Radio London. This Sunday his show was to have featured a debate between Labour & BNP politicians, but both have suddenly pulled out. There are rumours of a big row between Labour Party HQ and one of their councils and a big BNP related story that's about to break. Anyone care to shed any light on this?

Which Labour Politician Offered Peter Law a Peerage?

Mrs Peter Law alleges a very senior Labour figure offered her husband a Peerage as a quid pro quo for standing aside in Blaenau Gwent. She should now come clean and name him. Surely, though, there can be few people on the shortlist. Whoever it is has brought the whole process further into disrepute. An anonymous denmail from a Welsh Labour Party official isn't good enough. As Welsh Secretary, Peter Hain should now go on the record and issue a firm, on the record denial - otherwise people will go on being suspicious. Just a reminder that such an offer would be illegal under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925, which says: "If any person accepts, obtains or agrees to accept or obtain from any person, for himself or for any other person, or for any purpose, any gift, money or valuable consideration as an inducement or reward for procuring or assisting or endeavouring to procure the grant of a dignity or title of honour to any person or otherwise in connection with such a grant, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanour."It's undeniable that this is a valuable consideration. Thus, if true, the senior Labour politician - whoever it is - is liable to be prosecuted. I'm sure Inspector John Yates will be adding this to his growing workload.

Report Predicts Local Election Results

The Untangled Web has released its Guide to the 2006 Local Elections which includes a complete council-by-council set of predictions for next Thursday’s local elections.
This is the first full set of predictions for every council with elections next week and has been compiled using a combination of past and current voting trends together with information gathered from people on the ground. Key predictions include:

· Labour losing control of Bexley, Croydon, Hammersmith & Fulham and Merton to the Conservatives
· Labour losing Brent, Camden, Ealing, Haringey, Hounslow and Tower Hamlets to No Overall Control (NOC)
· The Conservatives losing Richmond to the LibDems and Redbridge to NOC
· The Conservatives taking control of Hillingdon from NOC
· The LibDems taking control of Southwark from NOC
· Labour losing control of Oldham to NOC
· The Conservatives losing control of Solihull to NOC
· Labour taking control of St Helens from NOC
· The LibDems taking control of Bristol from NOC
· Labour losing control of Derby to NOC
· The LibDems losing control of Milton Keynes to NOC
· The Conservatives to gain Basingstoke & Deane, Bassetlaw, Chorley, Colchester, Epping Forest, Hart, Mole Valley, Rugby, Shrewsbury & Atcham and Winchester from NOC
· The LibDems to gain Norwich and Woking from NOC
· Labour to gain Exeter from NOC
· Labour to lose Crawley and Newcastle-under-Lyme to NOC

The report is not all good news for David Cameron. It states that: "Unluckily for David Cameron, the Conservatives have to perform exceptionally well at this year’s local elections to deliver any genuine mood that the Conservatives are preparing for national government. This is because the period 1993 to 1996 was exceptionally bad as the deeply unpopular Conservative government was punished in local elections to the point of almost being wiped out. This allowed the Liberal Democrats to take hundreds of traditionally Conservative council seats, many of which they have held on to as they do not suffer from the anti-government protest vote. Add to that the fact that Cameron has staked so much of his reputation on building up Conservative support in cities and you have a situation where the Conservatives will only be seen to have succeeded if they get some really impressive gains that go beyond the usual expectations."

Hmmm. Some of these predictions look unlikely to me, but I admit I do not have my finger on the pulse of these local elections. What do you think?

Anti Sleaze Watchdog Damns Blair

Sir Alistair Graham, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, told MPs yesterday: "I am disappointed that this particular prime minister does not have a high sense of priorities on ethical issues." Has there ever been a more damning indictment of Tony Blair? Answers on a postcard please...

LibDem Donation: The Nightmare Gets Worse

This is what The Times is reporting this morning...

THE Liberal Democrats were embroiled in further controversy about their biggest donation last night when it emerged that four millionaires are threatening to sue the party unless it gives up the cash. Lawyers for Martin Edwards, the former Manchester United chairman, two Chinese tycoons and an American attorney have written to the party saying they believe that the money is theirs. The party, which has already spent the £2.4 million gift and has little money left, is understood to be fiercely disputing any suggestion that it may have acted in bad faith. Lawyers for senior Lib Dems are threatening to sue anyone who suggests otherwise. Michael Brown (pictured), the Majorca-based trader who passed the money to the Lib Dems, is stuck in a Spanish jail awaiting extradition to Britain accused of forging documents in a court case, which he strongly denies. HSBC is understood to have written to the millionaires saying that banking records show the donations emanated from overseas. Lawyers for Mr Edwards, the Chinese cosmetics moguls Kevin So and Yan Lucy Lu, and Robert William Mann, a retired Los Angeles lawyer, have asked the Lib Dems to return the cash. Their letter was sent to Sir Menzies Campbell, the party leader, Simon Hughes, the president, Lord Razzall, trade spokesman, Lord Rennard, chief executive, and David Griffiths, treasurer. A copy has gone to Mr Kennedy. HSBC says: The first two tranches totalling £250,000 come from money paid into an investment account by Univest, a US financial group; The largest tranche, £1.5 million, came four days after a similar sum was transferred to the London company from its Swiss parent 5th Avenue Partners GMBH. It is possible this sum can be traced back to Univest via another company connected with Mr Brown; The final £630,000 came by electronic transfer from Mr Mann’s investment account. Banking records seen by The Times indicate that Mr Kennedy’s flights were apparently paid from an account comprising investments made by Mr So and Ms Lu. The lawyers Goodman Derrick argue that the Lib Dems may be liable to repay Mr Brown’s donation. The Lib Dems are understood to have instructed Wragge & Co to respond on behalf of all the letter’s recipients. The lawyers warn that any suggestion of bad faith by the party is defamatory. Party lawyers are understood to consider that the demand for the money may be an attempt to embarrass the Lib Dems.

I should have thought that the very acceptance of the donation in the first place was embarrassment enough. Surely you only have to look at Michael Brown's picture to think to yourself. Hmmm. Better be careful here. But don't get me wrong. I wouldn't want to make any suggestion of bad faith! No. Sheer stupidity and momentary loss of perspective is quite sufficient. To read the full article click HERE. And finally, a message to all the LibDems who posted on this Blog when I broke this story last Friday and said it was a non story. Do you now still think it is a non story? And if so, why?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Who's the F**kwit?

Go to Google and type the word FUCKWIT into the box. Then click on I'm Feeling Lucky. Do it. It's hilarious.

Another Crisis Approaches for Charles Clarke

Guido reckons Clarke will resign tomorrow. Maybe this is the reason why. Just in from PA...

"More than a quarter of the 80 most serious offenders being sought by police are not registered on the Police National Computer, it was claimed tonight. BBC 2's Newsnight said ACPO had appealed for help from regional police forces to search their own databases for more than 20 of the mistakenly released foreign nationals who were not on the national system. They included one murderer and three sex offenders, including one rapist, the programme said, quoting "two very well-placed sources''. Home Office minister Hazel Blears was unable to say whether the offenders were registered on the national database or not. But she told Newsnight that every offender would have be registeredby the Prison Service. "It's important that we use every bit of information that we can to give the public the reassurance that they need,'' she added."

This gets more incredible by the hour.

Question Time Live Blog

QUESTION 1: Should Charles Clake be deported from the Home Office? Lord Falconer says it's been a terrible period for the Government. There hasn't been an adequate system in place. We didn't deal with it quickly enough. Charles Clarke is an honest, honourable position of real ability. He is the best one to sort it out. David Davis: I didn't think he should resign at first, but it then became clear that Clarke knew about it 10 months ago. Since then the rate of release has increased. The names were only given to the Police 2 days ago. A major failure. Carol Thatcher: Nice to be back here. Was here to see Maggie the Musical! Weak answer, ranted a bit. Ed Davey: Why didn't PM accept Clarke's resignation. Total incompetence. PM told the country he would hound out criminals from the UK. Great irony. What does it take to get a Minister to resign? Falconer says he accepts complete responsibility on behalf of the government. Clarke will deal with it effectively. He has driven change - much later than we would have wished. Oh perlease... Dimbleby asks about reoffending rates. Falconer says he has no idea. Says there will be a statement by the end of tomorrow. Steve Richards: Says Clarke shouldn't resign. Idiot. Says if there was a scalp the story would go away. I think not. Home Office is not working properly. Needs to be sorted out. THIS HAS BEEN A VERY STERILE DEBATE SO FAR. NO SPARK. NO CONTROVERSY. COME ON, DAVID - HIT OUT! David Davis starts to hit back. Very calm, very effective. Sweet voice of reason. Says the Home Secretary has to take responsibility. Falconer says the test on Clarke resigning should be what would produce the best result. Dimbleby says if there are serious cases of murder and rape among those freed should he resign. Falconer says he doesn't think he would. SHOWS HOW OUT OF TOUCH WITH REALITY THE MAN IS. So far every audience member has been against Clarke.

QUESTION 2: Is Patricia right to say the NHS has had its best ever year? IS IT JUST ME OR DOES ED DAVEY APPEAR TO BE A COMPLETE WUSS? Ed Davey basically says no. Steve Richards says it was a presentational error but there is something in the substance of what she said. Hewitt is losing the support of key NHS audiences which could spell big trouble for her. Falconer says Government must listen to nurses as they patently didn't believe Hewitt. Shows there is a lot more to do. SPOUTING VACUOUS NONSENSE. Heart specialist has a good go at Falconer over heart disease and says improvements have nothing to do with Labour. David Davis says Hewitt was silly. Says Tories acceopt need for greater expenditure on NHS but it needs reforming. Too much centralised bureaucracy. Have to find a way of getting power back locally to GPs, doctors and nurses. Real issue is what she has done is lost her ability to take with her NHS employees who she will need to carry through reforms. You won't take them with you by insulting them. I'M BORED...

QUESTION 3: What did Tracey Temple see in John Prescott? Carol Thatcher says power. Two Jags becomes Two Shags. Prescott will have to eat his remarks about Tory sleaze. Falconer says "I don't know". David Davis says it should remain private. Says it's none of his business and that's the way it's going to stay. Steve Richards says you judge a politician on what they do in their political life, not what they do in the bedroom. Says it's legitimate for Tories to challenge him on hypocrisy and it's interesting that they have chosen not do so. HERE'S ONE THAT HAS CHOSEN TO -ME! Audience member says that if he was in the armed services he would be dismissed for having an affair with a subordinate. Why is this different?

QUESTION 4: Does manufacturing matter? Steve Richards says Govt has never had a manufacturing strategy. It doesn't matter anymore. Ed Davey says there isn't a problem with manufacturing per se, but the government has not invested in skills and training. Charlie Falconer says manufacturing does indeed matter. WELL THAT'S ALRIGHT THEN. Government does all it can to try to promote manufacturing but we have to cope with globalisation. In some respects out laws provide less long term protection than other countries. That leas to others investing in this country rather than in Europe. David Davis says it's too late to save Ryton and incurs the wrath of the audience. Says we're losing jobs because our competitiveness is going down. Carol Thatcher quotes her mother and says you can't buck the market.

QUESTION 5: Did David Cameron's trip to Norway justify the CO2 emissions? DD says WWF arrnaged carbon offset because they wanted it to happen. Drew attention of the subject to a huge British audience. Yes, it was worth doing, yes we do take it seriously. Steve Richards said it worked as a photo op. Test is when their review reports. People on it who are committed environmentalists. Symbolism is all very qell but the decisions have to be made with other countries. Audience geek says Tories will never be re-elected because people remember Margaret Thatcher. GOOFY TOSSER. Falconer says Cameron obviously looks marvellous standing on a sledge with huskies but what is he going to do. READ HIS SPEECH, CHARLIE. Ed Davey talks about Ming's visit to Winterton (careful, Ed...) to talk about coastal erosion. Says we should tax this, tax that, tax the other. Yawn.

In one of the most explosive political weeks I can remember we just had one of the most boring Question Times in living memory. Maybe Andrew Neil will liven things up a little.

BBC News Forced to Apologise to Major for Currie Slur

BBC News at Ten were just forced to issue an on the air apology to Sir John Major. Earlier in the programme they had shown an interview with Labour old fart Lord (Donald) Anderson who said that what Prescott was doing was quite OK since John Major had had an affair while Prime Minister, so the Tories couldn't throw stones. Huw Edwards was forced to apologise, saying that the affair with Edwina Currie had not happened while he was PM.

Question Time: Live Blog Reminder

Just a reminder that I'llmbe blogging Question Time live from 10.30pm. Do join me and post your own comments as the programme progresses. Panellists are David Davis, Lord Falconer and Carol Thatcher, Ed Davey & Steve Richards. Should be an interesting programme.

New Labour Sleaze Allegation

Tricia Law, widow of Peter Law, the Independent MP for Blaenau Gwent, who died this week has given an interview to the BBC Wales Dragon's Eye programme. In it she alleges that Law was offered a Peerage by "a very high ranking Labour politician" if he would agree not to stand in the constituency as an Independent at the last election. Labour denies the allegation.

UPDATE: 10.45pm Cheryl Gillan, shadow Welsh secretary, said she would be writing toPrime Minister Tony Blair and Welsh Secretary Peter Hain for"further clarification''. She said: "I am very concerned that it appears a peerage wasoffered to Peter Law not to stand at the last general election. "I find it surprising that the Labour Party is already denyingthis when they cannot possibly have had a chance to fully investigate the claims in such a short space of time.''

UPDATE: 12.05am From James in the Comments Section: Whether it is sleazy or not is immaterial. The point is, it's illegal. From the Honours (Prevention of abuses) Act 1925"If any person accepts, obtains or agrees to accept or obtain from any person, for himself or for any other person, or for any purpose, any gift, money or valuable consideration as an inducement or reward for procuring or assisting or endeavouring to procure the grant of a dignity or title of honour to any person or otherwise in connection with such a grant, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanour."It's undeniable that this is a valuable consideration. Thus, if true, the senior Labour politician is up for a prosecution.

New England Coach is a Homophobic Bigot

The Football Association launched a very laudable campaign a few months ago to kick homophobia out of football. So committed to this campaign are they, that they are about to appoint a confirmed homophobic bigot as Sven's replacement. Step forward Mr Scolari. He is on the record as saying that if he found out one of his players was gay he'd immediately drop him. Well that's at least two England careers over then. I have no doubt Scolari is a great coach and has impeccable international credentials, but what on earth was wrong with Martin O'Neill? He'd have been superb.
New Season

Live Blogging of Question Time Tonight

Join me tonight for Question Time on the Blog. Panellists are David Davis, Lord Falconer and Carol Thatcher, Ed Davey & Steve Richards. Should be an interesting programme.

A Great Colemanballs from Sky News

A classic trailer on Sky News just now from Jeremy Thompson. He said: "Coming up, is the BNP racist? We ask Britain's most senior black politician".

And later tonight, we ask: Is the Pope a Catholic? We speak to Ann Widdecombe. Do bears s**t in the woods? We ask Yogi Bear. Does Tony Blair tell lies? We ask the whole country.

Ming Looking Rosy in Winterton This Morning

Delighted to see Ming Campbell visiting North Norfolk this morning. He was in Winterton to look at coastal erosion. Looking particularly rosy cheeked don't you think?

Prescott To Resign By the Weekend

Word on the street from the lobby is that Prescott will be gone by the weekend. Her Majesty's press are apparently pursuing interesting lines of inquiry... More later.

Free the House of Commons Duck, Bitch!

Much amusement in the Shadow Cabinet block this afternoon. Apparently a mother duck and her ducklings were waddling along the fence between the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge but one of them managed to penetrate the fence, but couldn't get back. Mother duck was quacking like mad, as was baby duckling. The intrepid females in David Davis's office rushed out to see what was going on and no doubt strated quacking too! By this time a crowd had gathered on the bridge and someone charmingly shouted out "Free the duck, you bitch"! It turns out that the ducks regularly breach Palace security, which provokes much quacking in the Serjeant at Arms Department. Each time they have to call the RSPB, who come and collect the ducks, put them in a box and take them God knows where. Orange sauce, anyone?

LibDems Run Scared of Cameron on the Environment

If ever proof were needed that the LibDems are unnerved by David Cameron's environmental initiatives, you just need to read Ming Campbell's comments in Norwich today. Click HERE. What on earth is he doing writing to David Cameron. In case the old boy hadn't noticed, Dave hasn't won the election yet. That Labour lot still have their fingertips on the steering wheel, even if they are in danger of driving off the road. I suspect that LibDem strategists will have been alarmed by the recent poll showing that Cameron's green initiative is hitting home with LibDem supporters.Ming has been visiting Winterton on Sea in Norfolk to look at coastal erosion. Not sure if a photo of him at the edge of a cliff is one he'll find particularly advantageous.

Just When Ruth Kelly Thought She Was Safe...

David Willetts has today written to Ruth Kelly asking whether she can guarantee all of the sex offenders, violent prisoners etc who haven't been deported have been placed on the relevant child protection lists. As the Home Office has lost track of them, the answer will presumably have to be "er, we don't know".

Here is the text of the letter to Ruth Kelly...

On Tuesday we learnt that 1023 foreign national prisoners were released without being screened to see whether they should be deported or monitored. That included 272 with drugs convictions, 114 violent offenders and 48 sex offenders, some of whom have committed offences against children. It is very worrying that the Home Office has not been able to deport or trace these individuals in the way that they should and has indicated it does not know the whereabouts of many of them. Those with serious convictions should have been placed on the sex offenders register, List 99 and/or the Protection of Children Register. Could you assure me that your Department has checked that the foreign offenders were placed on the sex offenders register, List 99 and/or the Protection of Children Register? Can you guarantee to parents that they are not working in schools or indeed with children in any way? After the problems earlier this year, parents do need clear answers on these important

And they need them soon.

How Much Did Tony Blair Donate to Cliff's Charity?

From Popbitch...

It must be almost all over for Tony Blair. Forget the NHS crisis, prisons debacle and his colleagues' affairs, now even aging pop stars are putting the boot in. Friends of Sir Cliff Richard are claiming that Sir Cliff was far from happy with Tony and Cherie borrowing his house in Barbados. The first time he lent them his home, the singer was apparently disappointed that they didn't offer to anything. When the Blairs asked again, Sir Cliff grudgingly said yes, but insisted on an arrangement where the PM would make an appropriate donation to Cliff's favourite charity. Some months later, the charity's accountants were asked about the payment. They confirmed a donation had been made as requested. But how much did the Blairs decide to pay? Cliff's friends are putting it about that the amount the PM thought was appropriate to rent a luxury villa in Barbados for over two weeks... was about the cost of a meal for two in a London restaurant.

So, they paid about £200 quid for a three week holiday. Obviously Cherie was writing the cheque.

Vote in Guido's Poll

Guido has an interesting Poll. Make sure you vote. It's good for your health.

Letters to the Telegraph

I'm not an avid reader of newspaper letters pages, but these three from the Telegraph today are priceless...

Sir, I note that five of the 900 missing prisoners were convicted of driving offences. I assume that all the forces of law and order will leave no stone unturned to find them.

Sir, Can I be the first to echo John Prescott's wish that he and Pauline be allowed to get on with their lives together? Alone. Forever.

Sir, I was wondering if your readers knew that on the first second, second minute, third hour on May 4 2006 it iwll be 01 02 03 04 05 06. At 23 minutes past 1 on May 4 2006 it will be 1 2 3 4 5 6. We will have to wait 1,000 years for this to happen again.


BBC Plays Catch-Up on the Clare Short Story

Delighted to see the BBC have caught up with the Clare Short-Jon Norton story. I wrote about it in mid January. Only four months behind the game then! The Daily Mail carried a photo story last week. The pair have written an article for this week's New Statesman confirming they are an 'item'. The best quote is from Norton: "The most upsetting thing is that the photograph made me look much balder than I thought I was". I know the feeling.

Prescott: What Does the Public Have a Right to Know

When it comes to sex scandals involving politicians, we should constantly ask ourselves why such things are of any relevance to the public. There are two questions which we need to ask, to determine whether such a scandal is of public relevance or not. Firstly, is there any whiff of hypocrisy on the part of the politician involved, and secondly, has the affair affected his or her ability to do their job? In John Prescott's case I would argue that he meets the criteria on both counts. The papers this morning have picked up on my Post yesterday about Prescott's 1996 speech to the Labour Conference, where he was hurling accusations at John Major about Tory sex scandals. The second point is more interesting. If a Minister has an affair with a civil servant, let alone one in their Private Office, it affects the management of the government department concerned. The affair, it seems, was an open secret in the Department and Prescott even took her to a ceremony commemorating the war dead accompanied also by his wife Pauline. If I was Mrs P, I would consider that to be the biggest insult of all. So in this case I feel public interest in the man who will now inevitably be known as Two Shags is entirely justified.

Another issue which has reared its head again is the role of the media. There are undoubtedly suspicions about the timing of this, as it diverted attention away from Charles Clarke's troubles. We'll never know whether this was coincidence or it was planned. Kevin Maguire on the Mirror has been remarkably coy (not something he's normally guilty of) on this in his various media interviews. Guido has already had a go at Nick Robinson for describing news of the affair as "a bombshell". The fact is, everyone in Westminster knew what Prescott was up to. As one of the Comments on Guido's site says: "I wasn't even the lowliest research assistant - I was an even lowlier intern, who'd been there about a week, when I heard the story." So yet again there has been a conspiracy of silence on the part of the Westminster Lobby, a conspiracy which was certianly not much in evidence during the Tory years. Some of you may remember the case of poor Hartley Booth who was forced to resign for sending his researcher a love poem - he hadn't even done the dirty deed! Yet everyone in Westminster knows of Prescott's affair with a fellow Minister who has rapidly shot up the greasy pole (if you'll pardon the expression) after receving his patronage, but do we read about that in our newspapers this morning? Do we hell. Do we read about the serial Ugandan exploits of another senior Cabinet Minister, which are known to even the most junior journalist in Westminster? No. There are some serious double standards here. If a Tory or a LibDem is fair game to the media on the grounds of hypocrisy or public interest then surely the same rules should apply to government ministers. The reason they do not is because any journalist who published such a story would immediately find that their sources within New Labour mysteriously evaporated. So they remain complicit in an unspoken conspiracy. It stinks.

The Law on Postal Votes Must be Rewritten

West Midlands Labour Councillor Bob Piper can contain his glee at the arrest of a LibDem Councillor's wife in Birmingham on electoral fraud charges. The truth is that all parties have people who will stretch the law, so we shouldn't be too sanctimonious about it. Birmingham Conservative Council leader Mike Whitby (pictured) probably sums it up best.

“The Conservative Party in Birmingham has been at the forefront of rooting out fraud and corruption that has blighted our local elections for years. We highlighted the need to look at the Northern Ireland system which can offer the necessary
safeguards to ensure our local elections are free, fair and clear of any illegal or corrupt practices. For two years we identified the frailty and the weaknesses of our postal vote system and how it had been appallingly abused by those wishing to cheat the people of our city. Even the Labour Leader on Birmingham City Council admitted that the changes to the postal vote system, that his government introduced, ‘looks and feels wrong”. We argued that our postal vote system is open to abuse, and presents an invitation to cheat. It would seem that despite our best efforts, there are still those who wish to tarnish our democratic reputation yet further. It is vital that the police and the public remain vigilant to ensure that the results on the 4th May reflect the will of the people. The Conservative Party have already set a strong example by formally complaining to West Midlands Police about a suspiciously high number of postal vote applications. I have also met with the Chief Executive and senior Conservative Party officials to discuss the implementation of a pilot scheme to combat this very problem and I look forward to setting the foundations for stronger democracy in Birmingham that will not only help prevent those who wish to cheat the chance to do so, but will repair our battered reputation.”

It seems that there are still huge problems about conducting elections in our second City. Labour's PPERA Act has a lot to answer for. We just didn't have this sort of problem before - well, certainly not on the scale of what's happened in Birmingham. The law on postal votes clearly needs to be completely re-written.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tune into 5 Live...

At 11.35pm when I will be discussing Mr Prescott's travails.

'Cos They Had a Bad Day...

I've got the Daniel Powter song 'Bad Day' as my mobile phone ring tone. This could be adopted by any number of left of centre politicians today. Can you recall a day when Labour and the LibDems have had such a terrible 24 hours? As Cilla would say, here's a quick reminder...

1. Charles Clarke and the (non) deported prisoners
2. Patricia Hewitt being heckled by nurses
3. Neil Kinnock getting six months...well, a 6 month driving ban
4. Ming Campbell's disaster at PMQs
5. More revelations in The Times about LibDem donor Michael Brown
6. LibDem Council candidate's wife arrested for postal vote fraud
7. John Prescott's affair with his diary secretary

Have I missed anything? I'm feeling quite faint...

Can Lightning Strike Twice?

I don't believe in lightning striking twice, but three or four years ago I went to see West Ham at Fulham. Paolo di Canio scored a last minute winner, and as I emerged from the ground I heard that Estelle Morris had resigned. I thought to myself, 'does it get much better than this? West Ham win away and a Cabinet Minister resigns!' Well tonight I'm off to watch the Hammers play Liverpool. I'm not holding my breath...!

Michael Brown: The Question Ming Campbell Must Answer

Things have been so exciting today that I have only just got round to looking at today's Times. I'm glad I did so. On page two there is a very interesting article on Michael Brown, the man who donated £2.4 million to the LibDem and has just been arrested on 53 charges of fraud. Click HERE to read the full article. Here are a few tasters from the article.

Mr Brown (pictured) is accused of forging documents involving purported trading of $1 billion (£560 million) on financial markets through his money management arm, 5th Avenue Partners Ltd.
If it is shown that the company was not “carrying on business” when the gift was accepted, the Lib Dems may have to surrender the donation, possibly forcing the party into bankruptcy. The alleged offences include claims of false accounting and forgery relating to the period last spring when the company was handing over large sums to the Lib Dems. In one charge, Mr Brown is accused of forging papers to show that he made $2 million (£1 million) profit from trades on May 5, general election day, when the Lib Dems were winning an unprecedented 62 seats. Mr Brown, an expatriate Scot, who was arrested at his home in Majorca, is also accused of lying to get a new British passport by pretending that he had accidentally put his own through a washing machine in Spain. Mr Brown transformed the electoral fortunes of the Lib Dems when he appeared from nowhere and agreed to fund them. He was barred by election law from giving a donation as an individual because he is not on the British electoral roll. Instead, the Lib Dems declared the gifts to the Electoral Commission, which polices donations, in the name of the newly created, London-based 5th Avenue Partners Ltd. The company also provided Charles Kennedy, as party leader, with £30,000 of free flights on a corporate jet during the campaign. By law, political donations may be accepted only from British companies that “carry on business”. If the commission suspects that 5th Avenue Partners Ltd was not trading when it financed the Lib Dems, it can ask prosecutors to investigate and confiscate the money. The Lib Dems would face ruin because they have already spent the gifts on election posters and advertising. The party lives on modest reserves.

Sir Ming Campbell said in the autumn that he would take more money from the controversial benefactor. Does he still stand by that? I hope those LibDems who pooh-poohed my speculation on Friday that the LibDems might be forced to hand the money back are now taking the possibility a lot more seriously.

Belinda Oaten Invites Us Into Her Gorgeous Home

For an ex-PR man, Mark Oaten is not very smart. His wife had said "I will not be giving any interviews", yet today's issue of Hello Magazine contains an interview with Belinda Oaten, which is obviously the first stage in the Oaten rehabilitation process. Bad mistake. A period of silence and hard work would have done far more than this sort of Mellor-esque interview. But seeing as she's gone public, here are a few selected quotes...

"It was a normal Saturday morning. I don't even know what the date was - I'm still too scared to look and find out just how much time has gone past. The evening before, Mark had come home in really good form,
delighted to have quit the LibDem leadership race. I was feeling upbeat because I thought 'Great, that's a huge pressure off and perhaps we can now look towards doing the other things in our life... I noticed two cars outside the house...Mark went out to look while I looked out of the window...He came back into the house. He looked very white and said 'I've got to talk to you'. I remember him explaining it to me in the utility room. 'It's over for me, it's finished, we're finished'. I couldn't grasp what he was saying. I remember hugging him and saying 'it's OK, we'll get through this' and then in a sort of autopilot sort of way carried on making eggy bread, which the girls always like on Saturdays. I felt totally numb. There was disbelief and horror. Then I began to think, God, this is actually something hugely bad. I felt like I'd been capitulated into a living nightmare. It wasn't until an hour later that a huge wall of pain hit and that's when I became this other person, screaming with rage and hurt... I could never have seen it coming...I always thought we were soulmates and we had a strong physical relationship... I threw my rings at him. I don't know where they are. I assume Mark's got them. I'd lost all respect for him... I think what he said in his statement that there was a flaw in his character was understated...It was more than an error of judgement...For weeks I'd ask him, literally every hour, are you going to do this again?...We've been doing quite intensive marriage therapy for the past two months...It was Mark's idea to go...As yet our minds aren't made up as to how it's going to go between us...The presure has been intolerable, I never intended to speak but I never realised just how much pressure my family would be put under. I am hoping that after this I will be able to get on with my life."

It was a long interview and these are very much edited "high"lights. She's obviously a very nice, caring woman who can't quite believe she's been put through this nightmare. If her husband wasn't in tears after reading the interview he should have been. Forget having put her through hell in the first place, encouraging her to do this interview was a terrible error.

Ming Campbell's Egg on Face Moment

Well, when Ming said it I did wonder if he had checked his facts. My friend at Guardian Unlimited has just secured this statement from the Home Office.

"We can confirm that the Nigerian prisoner mentioned by Sir Menzies Campbell at prime ministers questions, Wednesday 26th April, remains in detention at HMP Holme House."

Methinks an apology from Sir Ming might be in order. He really can't get the hang of PMQs, can he?

UPDATE: 3.15 I have just received the LibDems daily E-News bulletin. Strangely, although there are twelve stores, there's no mention of Ming Campbell at PMQs. I wonder why. Maybe they're holding it over until tomorrow.

UPDATE: 5pm Ming has issued a full apology. Credit to him.

Has Ming Campbell Fired the Exocet Which Will Finish Clarke?

I wonder how the lobby are following up Ming Campbell's point in PMQs about a Nigerian prisoner eligible for deportation was seen walking free from Stockton prison this morning. If it's true, God help Charles Clarke. If it isn't, God help Ming Campbell. I'm just off to break two habits of a lifetime. I'm going to buy the Daily M****r and while I'm at it I shall be picking up a copy of Hello Magazine so I see why Belinda Oaten has broken her pledge not to give an interview. From what I have read about it in the Daily Telegraph it's a decision she will come to regret. I may feel forced to share some of the details with you later.

When You're in a Hole...Bring back Dave the Chameleon!

Labour really should learn. When you're in a hole, stop digging...

If your Party was in deep trouble over releasing foreign prisoners into the community and you had a Party Political Broadcast, what would you do? Well, probably not show a new Dave The Chameleon film. But that's exactly what Labour will be doing tonight. And you can see it HERE. I would have thought a 3 minute piece to camera by the Home Secretary or the Prime Minister apologising might have been more politically beneficial. These people have lost touch with reality.

Charles Clarke's Statement Was an Admission of a Minister Not in Control

Charles Clarke's statement was a prime example of a condemned man who knows his fate. The shortness of the statement was a disgrace. It can't have been more than four minutes long. it contained no new information beyond that he had already given in his various media interviews. David Davis's response was superbly measured and forensic. He asked all the right questions but answer came there none. On past record we know that half the 1000 people released an not deported will have re-offended in some way. If any of these offences were serious, I'll say it again, Clarke's toast. The next 24 hours are going to fascinating.

Charles Clarke's Statement: Live Blog

No apology for not coming to the House yesterday. Starts by giving figures for people being released and not deported. Says immediate priority is to put it right. Interestingly, Blair has buggered off. Clarke is flanked by Straw and Hain, rather than his own junior Ministers Blears & McNulty. Gives figures about current cases being considered. House is very quiet. "I am confident we can build on this performance". Cue Tory laughter. He sounds like a robot. Going through the motions. And that's it!!! 4 minutes! David Davis says he has a broad degree of respect for Clarke. But it's first duty of Government to protect the public. Govt has failed. Hilary Armstrong shouts abuse. DD says yet another failure of Home Office incompetence. No excuse for Home Sec not knowing about it. Quotes HM Inspectorate report (see Post earlier today). Quotes NAO. In Sept Cherly Gillan asked how many foreign nationals awaiting deportation. Told info could only be got at disproportionate cost. In Nov Immigration Minister said all are being removed promptly. Stillno definitive figures. Says "to the best of his knowledge" - not good enough. Is he able to tell House how many have committeed further offences. Half probably have done so. How may have been released and who has been deported. How many killers, paedophiles, rapists, drug dealers are at large as a result of his policy failure. 288 releases over 8 months is a faster rate than 700 over 6 years. So rate faster after problem identified than before. A stark example of a Minister not in charge of his department. Home Sec a proud man. Yesterday I said he should not go. Like the PM in his admission earlier, we did not know all the facts. DD now says I'm sorry to say, the Home Sec's position is now untenable. Sterling performance by DD. Clarke says public safety first duty of any government. yes, there have been systemic failures. Failure of information. It must be corrected. Clarke apologises. Says he will produce information in the form DD requests when he has it in every respect. Final point: First duty of thos ein public life is to take responsibility but to take responsibility to improve the situation. I intend to put things right. End!

Prime Minister's Questions: Live Blog

Bernard Jenkin asks question about the World Bank. Stephen Pound asks planted question about police morale - doesn't even get a joke in. Finishes by asking PM to acknowledge role of Police in "making our communities safer". Laughter from Tory benches. Cameron asks a measured question asking PM to accept that measures taken after July were completely insufficient. Blair reads the first part of his answer. Said put £3million into solving it and extra staff. Says it's now solved. All foreign deportees now dealt with. Blair then tries to say it was happening before 1999. Figures only collected since 1999. Cameron says 288 prisoners released since July. Why did Home Secretary describe it as "very very few people"? Blair talks about extra resources again and said it took time to gt new system into place. Speaking very calmly. Says system is working properly since 1 April. Cameron says he hasn't answered question. Says Clarke was misleading. Attacks Calrke for systemic failure and misleading people about scale of problem. Says Clarke cannot give Home Office leadership it badly needs. Blair repeats point about system now working and 800 people have been sent back since October. Cameron said we learnt this morning we learnt Clarke offered to resign. Did PM know even after Govt told about systemic failure 288 prisoners were not deported. Blair again repeats point about having taken action. ignores Cameron's question about Clarke resigning. Cameron repeats: Did PM know or not. Blair says no, he didn't know the detail. Wrong to say Home Sec concealed the figures. Cameron says Blair should protect public, not his incompetent Ministers' backs. When Govt can't even deport foreign prisoners public is entitled to say enough is enough. Ming Campbell asks if PM feels any sense of embarrassment over incompetence and who dies he feel is responsible for it? Blair repeats his previous points. Seems to be hanging on the 1999 issue, ie insinuating that it happened under Tories too. Ming says if heads are to role shouldn't they not just be civil servants. Says this morning at Home House prison in Stockton a Nigerian prioner eleigble for deportation was seen to walk free into the community. How can the PM not ask for his resignation? Blair again falls beack to repeating his previous points. Looking very uncomfortable. Ignored the Nigerian prisoner point. Bob Wareing asks PM to meet families of armed forces who were killed in Iraq at a meeting at 12.30 today in Cttee Room 16 of the House of Commons. Blair says he yields to no one in his admiration for the armed forces. Ignores Wareing's invitation. David Amess asks what is the rationale to remove British Embassy from the Holy See? i think we'll leave it there, unless David Cameron comes back for another go. I'll cover Charles Clarke's statement and David Davis's reply at 12.30.