Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Saturday With My Sisters

This afternoon I visited my sister Tracey (pic top left) at her home in the gloriously named East Sussex village of Upper Dicker. My other sister, Sheena (top right) had travelled down from Saffron Walden too with her partner Alan and my God-daughter Zoe. I don't see either of them very often at the moment which is far more my fault than theirs. I took Gio with me, which was a bit of a risk as he is not very good with children normally. Well, actually he hates them. I used to be known to my nieces as Uncle Herod. Well, if there is a dog equivalent of Herod, Gio is it. But he was on surprisingly good behaviour.

Now I'm back home I suppose I'd better get all the stuff prepared for Bournemouth. Hmmm. 3 fringe meeting speeches to write and God knows what else. Later.

Polls Aren't As Bad As They Seem...Are They?

On the face of it, the YouGov poll in the Telegraph this morning could not be more badly timed. For the first time in months Labour and the Conservatives are level pegging. David Cameron's seven point lead has evaporated. 54% of people say that they are unclear about what the Conservatives stand for. 60% say that Cameron talks the talk but wonder about the substance behind the image.

However, a Harris poll for the Financial Times shows that 35% think David Cameron would be a good Prime Minister, whereas only 17% say the same about Gordon Brown. Only 1 in 10 people believe that David Cameron thinks everything Margaret Thatcher did was good.

So what do we make of all that? The Telegraph believes that the rise in Labour support is almost entirely down to Tony Blair's stupendous speech on Tuesday. I hope they are right, because if they're not it is not good news to be level pegging with the government when they are in such a state of disarray.

I am not worried by the number of people who appear not to know what the Conservatives stand for. I suspect the figure would be similar for the other two parties. The better figure for Cameron is the one about Margaret Thatcher. As I wrote in the New Statesman this week, David Cameron has tried to change the image and the brand of the Conservative Party in his ten months in charge, and this statistic would seem to show that he is succeeding.

It is very important that the issue of substance over style is addressed and the party conference is the best time to do that. The substance is there, but some people aren't looking very hard for it. It's now time for David Cameron to ram it down their throats.

The polls in late October and November will be more of a guide than the current ones.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Why I Now Love Vodafone

If you read THIS story yesterday you may have been given the impression that I hate Vodafone. The title of the post WHY I HATE VODAFONE was the clue. Today my faith has been restored.

I managed to buy a P990i at Charing Cross Station and got it for free. This afternoon has been spent trying in vain to sync my old phone to the laptop. No luck, so I phoned Vodafone expecting to be put through to a typical 'Computer Says No' person. As luck would have it I got put through to Duane, who has spent more than an hour helping me sync my old phone and then transfer all the data onto the new one. For anyone else thinking of buying a P990i you will also have to speak to Duane as Sony have cocked up on the sync coding. I won't bore you with the details but Duane is going to be a very busy boy if this phone proves popular.

Vodafone need more Duanes.

Banned for Leaking

THIS is an interesting tale. A LibDem MSP has been banned from sittibg in the Scottish Parliament for leaking information to the press. Where will it all end? Just think what would happen if Westminster MPs were subject to the same rule. The place would be empty!

Politicians Must Change the Way They Behave

It is becoming more important than ever for politicians not only to be ethical, but to be seen to be ethical. Too often, the impression is given that a primary reason for going into politics is to get your snout in the trough. It's not like that for 99% of people but the 1% tarnish the others with their unacceptable behaviour.

Similarly, the way government behaves needs to change. David Cameron has today submitted some proposals to Ken Clarke's Democracy Task Force giving a clear indication of how a Cameron-led government would behave. He has asked for plans to be fleshed out on a series of policies...

* Reversing the trend towards Tony Blair’s Presidential-style "Department of the Prime Minister".
* Creating an independent mechanism to investigate breaches of the Ministerial Code.
* Introducing tighter caps on the number of paid and unpaid ministers and a statutory limit on the number of special advisers.
* Ending the practice of MPs setting their own salaries.
* Considering a reduction in the size of the House of Commons.
* Passing a Civil Service Act to re-establish and entrench the independence of the Civil Service.

I think this a really crucial area all politicians have to concern themselves with. At the last election I issued a ten point pledge of integrity - essentially a code of conduct by which the electorate could judge me. I felt I had to do that, not because anyone had criticised my own conduct in the past, but because people tarred all politicians with the same brush. I even had people in my own Party (particularly a couple of MPs) taking me to task over it. I'd like to think that wouldn't happen now.

The full document (PDF) can be downloaded HERE.

One Law for One Group...

The law in this country must apply to all its citizens, not just one group or another. For reasons we can all guess at the Police and CPS repeatedly shy away from prosecuting Muslim extremists who carry placards calling for the death of all jews or even worse slogans.

The latest example is Anjem Choudary who said anyone insulting Islam would be "subject to capital punishment".

I accept there is a legitimate debate to be had about where the boundaries of free speech should be drawn, but with the law as it stands such utterances are clear breaches of it.

Sooner or later a Christian is going to stand outside a Mosque carrying a similar banner. I think we can all guess what the reaction will be of both local muslims and the Police.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Article in This Week's New Statesman

I've written the Politics column in this week's edition of the New Statesman. They asked me to write about what David Cameron has achieved in his first year and what he has to do now. You can read it HERE. They headlined the article "When the best strategy is to do nothing". Not exactly what I was saying, but judge for yourselves! Here's a short extract...

Cameron knows what the right knows. If the price of getting the extra two million votes needed to win an election is to lose a few thousand "scorched earthers" on the right, it's a price he's only too happy to pay. So far, he's managed to keep the right on board despite trying its patience with his failure to deliver on withdrawing from the European People's Party and his criticism of Israel. The right-wing Cornerstone Group MPs have been tactically outplayed, and, having pledged their support to Cameron 12 months ago, they have nowhere else to go.

The revival is almost entirely down to Cameron himself. A cult of personality has been consciously engendered. He, not the party, is now the Conservative brand. He is a thoroughly modern man whose marketing persona aims at direct comparison with one man - Gordon Brown. The media perceive Cameron to be where the zeitgeist is. By comparison, Brown looks like a man of the past. And that's exactly the way the Cameroons want it.

Nick Boles is Going on a Summer Holiday...

Potential Tory mayoral candidate Nicholas Boles is taking a Routemaster bus to the Tory conference next week and is inviting people to join him on it and tell him their views of how the Conservatives can beat Ken Livingstone. He's made clear he's there to listen rather than give people the benefit of his own views. He says...

I am in the process of learning as much as I can about the real issues facing London and Londoners as I consider whether to run for the Conservative Party candidacy for Mayor. As part of my deliberations I am eager to hear your ideas about what it will take for a Conservative challenger for the London Mayoralty to defeat Ken Livingstone in 2008.

Well you can safely say that Mr Boles will be noticed. The bus will be parked outside the Trouville Hotel if you would like to have an upper deck experience with Mr B.

The Kind of PPB The Tory Party Should be Making

This isn't an official Tory PPB. But I like it.

Why I Hate Vodaphone

[rant] Today I realised why I hate companies like Vodafone. I have been waiting to upgrade my Sony Ericsson P910 phone to the new P990i since March. Every month I've been into a Vodafone shop asking when it will arrive. "Oh, we're expecting it in a couple of weeks," comes the standard reply. Anyway, I noticed that the Vodafone shop in The Strand had a big poster in the window so they're now available. This morning I trolled off down to Clerkenwell Road Vodafone to get one - new gadgets always put me in a good mood. Sadly the store had run out and so had a nearby one in Chancery Lane. But the good news was that the Upgrade would be free of charge - not bad for a £600 phone. The shop assistant told me that if I rang Vodafone they would send me one out through the post.

So I got back to the office, eventually got through to them and was told that, no, it wouldn't be free of charge, it would cost me £150. 'Er, but why was it nfree of charge in the shop, then?' I asked. 'Because you went to a shop Sir,' came the less than illuminating response. 'And why should that mean you can charge me £150?' I said. 'We operate on a different computer system'. Oh well that's alright then. Another satisfied customer. Not. I was then advised to go back to the shop if I didn't want to pay £150. Er, but they haven't actually got any of the wretched phones, I repeated.

Doesn't this experience illustrate just what is wrong with the customer service attitude of big retail companies. Their entire approach is driven by computer systems, which ignore common sense. If I could be bothered I would happily change - but mobile phone companies are like banks. They're all the same. They've adopted exactly the same approach to customer service as the nationalised industries used to have.

And I STILL WANT MY P990i! [/rant]

The Amazing Jane Horrocks

UPDATE 11.40am Steve Andreson, the producer of Question Time has just left a comment to say that Jane Horrocks will now not be a guest on the programme tonight. She was listed in the newspapers this morning so that's why I wrote the piece. But it's now rather redundant!

UPDATE 10.30pm Horrocks is now appearing on THIS WEEK. You couldn't make it up. UPDATE 11.30pm She's alongside Rory Bremner and Rupert Everett. So, let's get this right. A political programme with three celebrities as guests and not a single serious politician in sight. Just what we always wanted, eh?

Sonny Hundal wrote a piece for CommentIsFree recently attacking the BBC for turning current affairs programmes into light entertainment. Tonight the BBC takes this a stage further when actress Jane Horrocks (Bubble from Ab Fab) is a panellist on QUESTION TIME.

There's no reason why Horrocks shouldn't appear on the programme - she follows a long line of actors and comedians to do so. However, her invitation to appear comes the week before she stars in a new BBC political comedy/drama THE AMAZING MRS PRITCHARD.

I suspect she will actually prove to be a rather good guest, but it really has come to something when QUESTION TIME is used as a 'trailer' for a light entertainment programme.

PS I face a dilemma at 11.35 tonight. Do I. watch Andrew Neil rip the yellow stuff out of John Prescott's speech or do I watch the Channel 5 highligjhts of Palermo v West Ham. If you suspect my decision might depend on the results you would not be far wrong!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

David Miliband's Dodgy Figures

This morning on the Today programme, David Miliband was doing a scare-job on the audience over global warming. Unfortunately he surpassed himself. He said that "the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has nearly doubled since the industrial revolution, from 220 ppm then to 425 ppm today".

The real figures are 270 ppm 250 years ago, 381 now - in other words, an increase of 41%, not 100%. For proof see HERE and HERE. How long before we can read his Climate Change dodgy dossier?

PS For the avoidance of doubt, I am not denying global warming and climate change are vital issues we must address. But let's do it in a rational way and stick to the facts.

UPDATE: Ben Thomas from Greenpeace I suspect Milliband meant ‘CO2 equivalents’ – that’s the figure that includes methane and other much more potent greenhouse gases, which does stand at 425 ppmv.

Jane Ellison Wins Battersea Selection Contest

Jane Ellison won the Battersea Open primary selection tonight. She fought Pendle last time. Many congratulations to her. She had very stiff competition. The final four for these seat was one of the strongest for a long time. There were three recounts and Louise Bagshawe came a close second.

ConservativeHome Publishes Candidates Email

ConservativeHome has reported the contents of an email sent to close on 1,000 members of the National Convention, apparently in error. It shows the breakdown of men and women on the 'A' List and general Candidates List. It shows that the proportion of women applying to become candidates has remained static at 27% and that more than 500 people are awaiting their Parliamentary Assessment Boards. In addition, it demonstrates that if you're a man you only have an 11% chance of being on the 'A' List whereas if you're a woman you have a 43% chance.

You can look at this from two viewpoints. Either you believe that it is very wrong that men are being disciminated against so overtly, or you believe that the figures justifies the creation of the 'A' List and prove that there is still a very long way to go. I find myself agreeing with both views.

I find it profoundly disappointing that little progress appears to have been made towards the goal of a candidates list of broad parity between men and women. It's only at that point that the 'A' List will become redundant and it seems as though we are quite a way from achieving it. It re-emphasises the need for the Party to get out there and hunt down women who might consider applying to be candidates. Women2Win will have a vital role to play here. The Party really cannot sit and wait for women to volunteer themselves. It should have a taskforce whose sole reason for existence would be to identify women to be approached. For all I know, this may already be happening but the results are not readily apparent.

One or two people have criticised ConservativeHome for publishing this information. Sam Coates, the Deputy Editor, defends the decision to publish...

It was sent to almost a thousand people so would undoubtedly have got out at some point or other. Better for it to come out through a Conservative-supporting website than most of the newspapers. It would have been odd if we didn't cover it, considering our extensive coverage of everything else A-list/candidates related. I believe that the make-up of future Conservative MPs is something Party members should be aware of, don't you? This info would in some people's eyes justify the A-list to some extent.

On balance I think they were right to publish. ConservativeHome is not an adjunct of CCHQ and must guard its independence. But it has consistently taken the editorial line (one I agree with) that the Party should be transparent about the 'A' List.

Some believe that the site strays too far away from the 'party line' on occasion and is becoming an increasingly prickly thorn in the side of the party leadership. I sometimes find the site's tone a little too strident and editorially slanted to a particular agenda, but so what? It would be a strange political blog or website (and a very boring one) that didn't have an agenda. ConservativeHome is there to reflect what activists are thinking and that will always provide a certain amount of discomfort for the leadership. It is to Francis Maude's great credit that he continues to embrace the site and hasn't imposed a Fatwa on it. He must surely have been sorely tempted from time to time.

You can read the ConservativeHome report HERE.

On Blogging

Matthew Sinclair's post ON BLOGGING is well worth a visit. As is Devil's Kitchen on the same subject. Perhaps Richard North would like to climb back into his pram and pick his toys up before he does so.

Labour blogger Mike Ion has written on CommentIsFree about blogging too.

Lord Levy: Don't Worry, Be Happy

An interesting email I received late last night from a correspondent...

I've just got back from Manchester where (genuinely) I've been up for the day at work. Forgot the Bolshies were there. Walking through a place called Albert Square just after 7pm and who's standing by a taxi chatting but Lord Levy in a very wide pink tie with one hand on some chap's shoulder and the other gripping his elbow. They must have had the meter on the taxi running for ages and they were having a very animated discussion about something. I didn't recognise the other chap, he was a good head taller than Levy with much less hair and fuller figured (not fat, just more of him than Levy). Levy actually looked quite chipper whereas Mr X seemed v. disgruntled and worried. All I could catch of the conversation as I strolled past was Levy telling the other man "Don't worry; it'll all be all right; don't worry" but plainly Levy was in reassurance/persuasion mode.

Didn't recognise the other man - at a pinch he could have been the man on Fawkes' sweepstake card at box E1 (if Levy is box A3 and Prescott is box C1) but it isn't a good likeness (or photograph for that matter) - E1 is the least unlike this chap, rather than being a spitting image if you follow - but I might recognise him again. If anyone wants a free leaflet about the need to join the Venezuelan revolution, please shout.

UPDATE Wed 11am: My informant now believes the person he say to be Labour's former Head of High Value Fundraising, Nick Bowes. Now that really would be interesting, if true...

And tonight a leading political journalist called me to tell me that the media are in uproar in Manchester over being banned from an event tonight at the Palace Hotel at which Lord Levy and Tony Blair entertained leading Arabs. Wouldn't have been rich Arabs, would they? Bizarrely, Lauren Booth was at the event and stormed out protesting at Lord Levy's pro Jewish stance. Not a happy ship, is it?

Last night, BBC News didn't exactly have its finest hour when John Pienaar toured the conference with a cardboard cutout of Tony Blair and a grid for his departure on his back. Delegates were then asked to stick a red dot on the date at which they;d like to see the back of Blair. The first person to be invited to stick the dot on his back was his sister-in-law, the aforementioned Lauren Booth. But unless I missed it, John Pienaar didn't actually say who she was. Ah well. Can happen to anyone.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

First Programme In the Can, As They Say in TV Land

I recorded my first pre-recorded programme for 18 DoughtyStreet Talk TV today. The interview was with Rodney Hide, the leader of ACT (the New Zealand Liberal Party) and his deputy, Heather Roy. ACT split from the NZ Labour Party in the early 1990s to pursue their own brand of free market liberal economics under the leadership of Roger Douglas and the charismatic Richard Prebble.

It's a really good feeling to have got the first programme under my belt. I even managed to finish it bang on thirty minutes despite the fact we haven't got talkback set up yet. Tomorrow we've got another rehearsal for my nightly Vox Politix programme. It's astonshing how much you can learn from a rehearsal - especially on the technical side.

We're all very excited by how the reporters network is building. Paul Burgin from the Mars Hill blog and Rachel from North London have picked up their cameras and we're looking forward to their contributions.

Free Stringfellows Membership For All!

Just on my way home on the train having attended a Tory fundraising dinner. I always think to myself that anyone who puts their hand up at these occasions to ask a question should probably be disqualified from asking one. Peter Stringfellow (bless him) admirably proved my point tonight when he brought the house down with this little corker...

"David, the left has claimed the word aspiration for itself. We have got to claim the word incentive. What incentives are you going to offer the British electorate to help win the next General Erection?"

Cue arf arfing... Quick as a flash, David Cameron said: "Membership of your club should do the trick, Peter."

Seriously, David Cameron gave a superb speech with just the right mix of humour, substance and critique of the government.

PS I have never been to Stringfellows but I do remember going on a stag night to a similar establishment near Detroit Airport called The Landing Strip. I recall a young lady called Tracey who turned out to be from Rochdale.

It turned out to be quite an evening when we were stopped by the police on the Interstate back to Ann Arbor. Because I don't drink I was driving. All was well until the policeman shone his torch into the car and enquired rather forcefully as to why the bridegroom was tied up in chains. "Because he enjoys it, Officer," I volunteered cheerily. The evening descended from there... Happy days.

Always the Bridesmaids?

That little mix in the bottom left didn't do very well in Frank Luntz's focus group on Newsnight last night. Quite what people saw in John Reid that they didn't see in Johnson is anyone's guess. I suppose a certain sort of person likes John Reid's 'hard bastard' image, but I don't think that is enough to get him the top job in the long term. My money is still on Alan Johnson emerging as the main challenger to Brown, with Hain making the running for Deputy. As for Harriet Harman, well, you've got to laugh, haven't you?

Graphic courtesy of the new blog at Disillusioned & Bored. No idea who is behind it, but it started its first post a few days ago with the words I HATE IAIN DALE, so it can't be all bad.

Tony Blair Likens Brown to R A Butler By Mistake

I didn't see it but I understand Tony Blair gave a brilliant speech this afternoon. However, one passage which people may not have picked up on was when he described Gordon Brown as a "Great Servant of the State". Those of you who know your history will be aware that this is exactly hwo Harold Macmillan described RAB Butler - and it wasn't meant as a compliment. Of course, Rab Butler never got to be Prime Minister. I understand Cherie looked particularly pleased at that point.

Cherie Does it Again...

From today's Evening Standard. Alerted by Croydonian...

It was claimed that while Mr Brown was on his feet yesterday, Mrs Blair walked past the Communication Workers' Union stall and said with a wave of her arm: "This is all rubbish."
She was then said to have turned to two people near the stall and said: "Anyway, you lot should be supporting Alan Johnson". Mr Johnson, the Education Secretary, is being urged to stand against the Chancellor for the Labour leadership when Mr Blair stands down. The incident is alleged to have happened while Mrs Blair was walking through the conference exhibition hall only moments before she allegedly commented "well, that's a lie" on hearing Mr Brown on a TV monitor say he felt privileged to have worked with her husband. Downing Street deny both allegations and insist that Mrs Blair listened to the speech in a side room. A spokesman said of the alleged remarks: "This is clearly not true."

Obviously not true. No siree. Cherie just lurrrrvves Gordon. Oh yes.

Hattip for graphic to Theo Spark.

Des Names New Defence Body, Er, Des

As part of the government's Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS), it was decreed that the Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) and the Defence Logistics Organisation (DLO) - don't they just love acronyms - should merge.

I see from the the current edition of Jane's Defence Weekly that, from 1 April 2007, the merged organisation will be known as Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S). Even by the standards of NuLab, it seems a bit much that the Secretary of State should be naming part of his empire after himself!

The Reading Habits of Mr Matthew D'Ancona

I worry about Matt D'Ancona. The picture of him sitting at his Spectator Editor's desk in yesterday's Guardian shows a bookshelf bulging with left wing political biographies - Gaitskell, Mandelson, Blair, Callaghan, Tony Benn, Lance Price, Ramsay Macdonald. Not a single Tory tome in sight.

However, I suppose I should take consolation that my oft-remaindered tome of Blair quotations is also visible. Anyway, should Matt ever need a recommended Tory reading list he only needs to pop across the road from Number 56 to Number 18 Doughty Street. Our doors are always open!

Respect to Jeff Randall

Jeff Randall tells a story in the Guardian Media Diary of how two BBC producers once tried to stop him wearing Union Jack cufflinks, saying they were a symbol of the BNP. Randall told them exactly where he would like to stick the cufflinks. Respect.

Was LibDem Donation Permissable and Will Courts Force Them to Repay It?

The Times questions this morning whether the 2.4 million pound donation to the LibDems by convicted perjurer Michael Brown was permissable under Electoral Commission rules. Three of the four investors in 5th Avenue Partners were foreign, which raises the possibilty that the LibDems were in effect given a foreign donation. This is The Times's speculation, not mine.

These four investors, who include former Man United chairman Martin Edwards, believe it was their money which Brown donated and they want it back. However, the LibDems have spent the money and couldn't pay it back even if they felt morally obliged to - which they don't.

The next stage is for the four investors to launch a court action against the LibDems. Watch this space.

Bating Ruth Kelly: A Game For All The Family

I used to think that Ruth Kelly was one of the better Labour ministers - that is until she was promoted to the Cabinet. Since then she has proved to be one of the most hapless politicians in living memory. She reminds me of Jeremy Hanley who had been quite a successful Minister of State but when John Major promoted him to the Cabinet he was out of his depth.

Kelly's media appearances are always fun - not because she ever says anything of interest, but to see how much she can say and yet say so little, using as many vacuous New Labour soundbites as possible.

Her interview this morning with Nicky Campbell was a good example. After hearing it you would think Blair and Brown were bosom buddies and all was sweetness and light at the heart of New Labour. Campbell then said sweetly: "The texts and emails are flowing in from listeners as theu always do after an interview with Ruth Kelly." He left us to decide for ourselves why that might be. It's not difficult.

Monday, September 25, 2006

LibDem Donor Jailed for Two Years

From the Press Association...

The Liberal Democrats' biggest donor was jailed for two years today for what a judge branded "very deliberate and pointed" dishonesty. Flamboyant financier Michael Brown, 40, first gave false information in a affidavit and then tricked the authorities into giving him a new passport.

The Glaswegian bonds trader, whose ?2.4 million political gift last year helped the party to bankroll its general election campaign, was eventually tracked to Majorca earlier this year. Dozens of Spanish and UK detectives descended on the villa he shares with his wife Sharon in Esporlas, on the island's west coast, and arrested him as he celebrated his 40th birthday, London's Southwark Crown Court heard. A few hours after he was led away, guests had been due to arrive at a party he planned for himself. The goatee-bearded multi-millionaire, who also owns another villa on the island as well as a home in Dover Street, Mayfair, central London, pleaded guilty to one count of perjury and another of passport deception.

And The Ferrets Played On...

GORDON BROWN to TONY BLAIR: "I'll never believe another word you ever say to me."
CHERIE BLAIR on Gordon Brown's view of his relationship with Blair: "Well that's a lie."

Dispatches Special Tonight on Cash for Peerages

This evening at 8pm Channel 4 have a Dispatches Special on Loans for Peerages. I've been sent a brief extract of the transcript on the part of the programme which compares the voting records of Peers given a working peerage by Tony Blair...

TONY BLAIR‘These are not honours, they’re working peerages, reserved for party supporters, Conservative supporters, Labour supporters, Liberal Democrat supporters. In my view, it is absurd to say that if someone supports a political party financially – helps it pay its bills, run its election campaigns – that they should be debarred from being party supporters for those places reserved specifically for party supporters.’

COMMENTARY: We decided to put the Prime Minister’s claim to the test. Have the life peers that he has brought in done the work that he expected of them. We commissioned some research into Tony Blair’s working peers. ‘Let’s start off with Lord Levy; a busy man. So what’s his attendance record like? How did he do this last year? Well, out of 63 sessions, he attended 35 – just over half. Not bad. Then let’s look at his voting record for the same year – what was it like? There were 67 votes and he voted in only seven. That gives him a voting record of just under 10 per cent. I have to say, for a man with a job, not taking it too seriously. Now for working Peers who donated money to the Labour Party. Here’s Lord Paul. He runs a large steel conglomerate. Let’s see what his attendance figures are like for a year. Out of 63 sessions, he attended 57 times – 90 per cent attendance. ‘Let’s see what he’s done in his voting record. Well, there were 67 votes taken. He only voted 24 times. Only 36 per cent per cent of the time did he vote. But still, he appears as the Blairite ideal. ‘Lord Grabiner, a top QC, attendance record 2004-5, out of 65 sessions, attended three. Only 5 per cent of the time. And how does that work out with his voting record. Out of 67 votes taken, he voted once. Not a great working record.

Next we looked at the overall performance of labour donor peers. On average attended their place of work only 40 per cent of the time. And they have bothered to vote only 25 per cent of the time. They may have jobs not honours, but they often don’t apply themselves with honour to their jobs.

But life in the upper chamber can lead to a top job – sitting on an important committee or even as a minister. Lord DRAYSON donated more than £1m, including £500,000 in 2004, nine days after he was given a peerage. He is now a defence minister. Lord GOLDSMITH gave a comparably humble £6,000. He is the attorney general. Lord SAINSBURY – well, he’s thought to have given the party up to £12m. And he’s a science minister.

Tune in to Channel 4 at 8pm

Cherie Knifes Gordon

That'll teach me to pop out for a sandwich. Guido is reporting that Bloomberg is reporting that Cherie walked out of Gordon Brown's speech. Apparently she called him a liar. Always nice to get the conference off to a good start, isn't it?

Where's Lord Cashpoint When You Need Him?

The Sero Blog has a post on the state of Labour's finances HERE. Oh dear.

He quotes page 51 of the NEC’s Annual Report,

Furthermore the party has entered into discussions with its other lenders to re-schedule the repayment of loans amounting to £12.4 million.

Yes, I'll bet they have. Those would be the same loans which came as news to the Party's Treasurer, Mr Harriet Harman. I wonder if he's involved in the re-scheduling discussions. Or is that still under the bailiwick of Lord Cashpoint Levy. In the words of Lord Gnome, I think we should be told.

Are Some Blogs Becoming Part of the Media Establishment?

Richard North, who runs the excellent EU Referendum Blog with Helen Szamuely, doesn't like me very much. I'm learning to cope with that, but it doesn't stop me being nice about his blog. It's consistently informative and illuminating but Richard is annoyed that I didn't give it top billing in my Top Blogs list. In hindsight it probably should have been higher, but he seems to delight in detecting a conspiracy where there is none.

Today Richard has posted an interesting Blog entry HERE on how he thinks the mainstream media are cosying up 'established bloggers' and are shutting out the likes of er... Richard North. It's actually quite a thought provoking piece, although to describe Tim Montgomerie's ConservativeHome as "semi-approved" or me as a "safe pair of hands" is stretching anyone's credulity.

Sparks Are 'Dicked Around' by the BBC

Having seen Sparks perform their song DICK AROUND on Jonathan Ross on Friday Night (link HERE) I was astonished to get an email just now from someone who tells me that BBC banned the song from their breakfast show this morning, despite having Sparks in the studio. Bearing in mind some of the output which the BBC puts out in the early morning on Radio 1 and elsewhere quite what they were thinking of is anyone's guess. Who do they think listens to BBC London anyway? Ron and Russell Mael were quite clearly embarrassed but they were quite rightly insulted that they had been asked to get up at 6am and then not havge their song played. So what should have been an interesting discussion ended up as a 15 minute discussion on being banned.

Ron Mael mreacted angrily: "The BBC has offocially killed off our single, DICK AROUND, ostensibly through rather childish objections to the title, an innocent reference to the idle life. That a piece of music can be condemned purely by its title without the 'decision makers' even having the decency to oppen the CD case is a travesty and an insult to both os us as the creators of the music and to the listenersof the BBC."

Bearing in mind that Radio 1 and Six Music often play songs with lyrics glorifying knife and gun crime, it does make you wonder what the agenda is here. Sparks fans will no doubt remember the song NOW THAT I OWN THE BBC. If only...

To see what all the fuss is about you can watch the YouTube video HERE. Visit the SPARKS Website HERE.

LibDem Donor to be Sentenced Today

LibDem donor Michael Brown will be sentenced today having plead guilty to perjury and passport related offences. More when I get it...

Attention Conservative Bloggers

As you know, this year there will be a Bloggers Stand at the Conservative Party Conference, which will feature Tim Montgomerie from ConservativeHome, James Cleverly, Jonathan Sheppard from Tory Radio and myself. We'd like to involve other bloggers too, so if you are attending the conference and have a blog could you let me know by email or in the Comments please.


This early morning commuting into London again has taken a bit of getting used to. I had grown rather attached to getting up when I wanted to (which wasn't at 7am!). Today none of the car park ticket machines were working. Not unusual.

I was standing on the platform listening to my iPod (Gordon B would be proud of me) when a man approached me and asked how my new TV project was going. It turned out that he is a reader of this blog and also lives in my village.

I was quite taken aback to be honest. I'm not used to talking that early in the morning! Anyway, I thought that this deserved the invention of another term to add to the growing blogging dictionary. Blogspotting - identifying bloggers in public, especially on train platforms. And I assure you that my blogspotter was neither carrying a clipboard or wearing an anorak!

Gordon Brown Needs the Rampant Rabbit Effect

It has been a very strange morning so far. First of all I listened to a very uncomfortable Gordon Brown being interviewed on 5 Live. As I listened I kept thinking to myself: "This man is just not going to win". Brown just doesn't feel comfortable in his own skin. He keeps inserting little personal anecdotes into interviews to try to make him appear 'normal' (whatever 'normal' is nowadays).

Today we learned that he listens to his iPod while running in the gym. Not an image to conjure up over breakfast. Brown only really hit his stride when talking about foreign affairs. It was instructive that he was plainly taken aback by a 5 Live poll which showed 89 per cent didn't want him as PM.

He also won't be delighted if he watches Newsnight tonight. Frank Luntz has done another one of his focus groups which shows John Reid in a rather good light. I well remember the effect of a similar event a year ago when he single-handedly relaunched a flagging David Cameron leadership campaign. I hope his methodology has become a little more, er, robust.

Media reaction to Brown's speech will be more important than the reaction in the hall. If it bombs, the media will again develop a herd instinct, just as they did last year following David Davis's speech.

It won't be his delivery which fails Brown - it will be the content and lack of vision. Phrases like 'me tooism' are unlikely to have a rampant rabbit effect on the journalistic G-spots. The media are always waiting for the front runner to trip up. Believe me, I should know. Will it be today when they are granted their wish?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Know Thine Enemy

The Guardian has got a quiz HERE to find out how much we know about the man who won't will be our next Prime Minister. I'm rather proud ashamed to say I scored a maximum 9 out of 9. Geek. The results screen says...

You scored 9 out of a possible 9. You are well acquainted with Gordon and may or may not be anticipating his rise to the premiership with relish. Either way, you could probably turn out an adequate The Brown era: what will it bring? piece for several national newspapers.

Never. Hat tip for graphic Theo Spark

Darren Clarke, We Salute You

Darren Clarke's wife died of cancer several weeks ago. No one knew for sure if he would be able to play in the Ryder Cup. He did. Three games, three points. He played a major part in an historic third victory in a row. His wife Heather would be proud. What a great day three days of golf we've had. Some of the shots and puts today were simply unbelievable.

The Tale of the Rampant Rabbit

When I drive home from doing a newspaper review on News 24 I usually listen to Stephen Nolan's phone in programme on Radio 5 Live. Last night I tuned in at a quarter past midnight to be 'entertained' by a discussion about the merits of a rampant rabbit. I have to admit that I had never heard of such an implement but soon came to understand that it is, how shall I put it, something which enables ladies to (as the tabloids would say) pleasure themselves.

It was a strangely compelling 45 minutes in that I kept wanting to switch over to something else but didn't want to miss out on anything! There was a fantastic caller called Anne, who was obviously of fairly advanced years, who had me laughing out loud. She was obviously gagging to buy one but couldn't quite imagine herself walking into an Ann Summers shop. And then this morning, flicking through the Indy on Sunday I spotted an article on the same subject by Rowan Pelling, which you can read HERE. Well, you could if you were willing to fork out £60 to the Indy, which I am not. It's on Page 56 if you have the paper to hand.

The point I am coming to, in a Ronnie Corbett-esque manner, is this. Why is it now socially acceptable to discuss womens' masturbatory aids in polite circles, when if one were to have the same conversation about blow up dolls for men (and God alone knows what else) you would be hung drawn and quartered by the feminist lobby, which no doubt believes blow up dolls are demeaning to women. Well what about the poor bloody rabbits!!!

Imagine, you're a poor little fluffy bunny wandering around a nice country garden, and suddenly you look through the conservatory windows and spy the Mistress of the House.... [end this NOW -ed]

I'll just get my coat...

PS Guido is apparently on the same programme tonight. God alone knows what he will be talking about.

PS I was going to illustrate this piece with a picture of the offending item, but having done a Google image search it's given me quite a funny turn. Must go and lie down. Alone.

I Had That Alan Curbishley In The Back Of My Cab Once...

You know all those newspaper articles which sneer at blogs like this one for peddling unsubstantiated rumours, as if journalists wouldn't think of indulging in such practices? Next time anyone writes this, quote example back at them.

The sports pages of most national newspapers wouldn't exist without unsubstantiated rumours being printed. They're the lifeblood of so-called sports journalism. The broadsheets keep their consciences clean by reporting what the tabloids are saying - see The Observer's Tales from the Tabs column, which looks at possible football transfer rumours. But the Independent on Sunday has surpassed itself today. It reports...

Alan Curbishley will replace Martin Jol as Tottenham's manager next month

And who is the source for this exclusive nugget? A White Hart Lane insider? A friend of Alan Curbishley? No, the source is an unnamed North London Taxi Driver. You couldn't make it up.

George Walden is a Pub Bore

Former Tory MP George Walden was one of Britain's worst ever High Education Ministers. Since leaving Parliament he has earned a living writing pseudo-intellectual drivel about politics and culture. It's usually unreadable. I attended a discussion evening with him and his wife a couple of years ago, organised by Living Marxism. He was insufferable and spent the whole evening putting down his wife. In the Independent on Sunday diary there is a piece on his book The New Elites in which he slags off David Cameron for "being a posh man pretending to be common". Utter rubbish. But even if it were true, it's better than a pub bore pretending to be an intellectual.

EXCLUSIVE: Blair Meets Philip Anschutz at Freud Party

Mail on Sunday journalist Glen Owen seems to have missed the big story in his piece (HERE) today on the Matthew Freud party, attended by Tony Blair at the apparent insistence of Miss Rebekah Wade (scroll two stories down).

I can exclusively reveal that not only was Tony Blair there, but so was Philip Anschutz, the man behind the Casino at the Dome and on whose ranch the Deputy Prime Minister famously stayed.

I think we'd all like to know if the Prime Minister and Mr Anschutz actually met and if so what they said. I suppose I could ring Downing Street and ask the question, but it's the final day of the Ryder Cup and I'm sure there are some lobby journalists out there who are stuck for something to write about that doesn't involve Gordon Brown. So go to it guys. And please do remember where you got the story from...

Finns Threaten 18 Doughty Street Takeover

Or have I mistranslated THIS?

Kaksi brittien johtavaa konservatiivibloggaajaa Tim Montgomerie ja Iain Dale käynnistävät poliittisen netti-tv-kanavan nimeltä 18 Doughty St TV. 10.10. käynnistyvän kanavan sisällöntuottajina toimivat Montgomerien ja Dalen mukaan poliittisesti aktiiviset ihmiset, joilla on painavaa sanottavaa. He varustavat 100 ihmistä videonauhureilla, ja heidän toimittamastaan materiaalista koostetaan joka illalle 4 tuntia ohjelmaa.

Invitation to Form TORIES FOR MEACHER

Following my piece last week on Michael Meacher seeking to stand against Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership (see HERE), The Daily alerts me to the existence of a Michael Meacher blog. Please contain your excitement. It's titled MICHAEL MEACHER - LABOUR'S FUTURE. No, really, it is. Laugh, I nearly did what the lady in Little Britain does.

Here's Meacher's latest entry...

I have just heard, from what I regard as an unimpeachable source that Gordon Brown has told junior ministers that if they do not vote for him in the forthcoming leadership contest, they’ll be out. I must say, the machine politics doesn’t surprise me. But clearly Gordon is more worried about his vote than we thought!

Well blow me down. I feel another incontinence attack coming on. I think I can see huge advantages to the Conservatives if Michael Meacher carries on his campaign. Anyone likes to form Tories for Meacher?

Tony Blair's Ugly Rumours

On Wednesday I was told of a rumour relating to the Prime Minister which was so preposterous that I didn't really give it a second thought. Well, almost. I actually wrote a short blog entry about it but decided not to post it as it really was so outlandish. However, having seen the Mail on Sunday a couple of hours ago while I was at News 24, I'm no longer so sure. Read THIS story, especially this extract...

Before the party on Wednesday night - as his wife Cherie was flying to Rome to deliver a speech - Mr Blair joined Rebekah Wade, editor of The Sun and a close friend of [Matthew] Freud, for a cosy supper at Cecconi's restaurant in Mayfair. This location aroused suspicions because Freud, regarded as the best-connected man in London, is also a friend and PR adviser to Cecconi's owner Nick Jones, who founded the exclusive Soho House members' club. Ms Wade apparently persuaded Mr Blair to join her at the party at Freud's, which had the ostensible aim of promoting a new credit card which will fight Aids in Africa.

Now, put that together with Peter Dobbie's column later on in the paper (which is not yet online) and draw your own conclusions. Well I suppose it's one way to keep The Sun onside...

Sunday Round Up

I've got an article in The Observer today on why politicians should embrace blogging, which you can read HERE.

There's a big feature in The Independent on Tory Tribes HERE which includes pen portraits of Inner Circle Cameroons, A Listers, Z Listers, Black Listers, Gay Listers, Cameron Celebs, Conservative Commentators, Dave's Babes and Young Turks. The Indy also has a multi authored piece called The Cameroons are Coming HERE, as well as a Quiz dreamt up by Jo-Anne Nadler titled Are You a Closet Tory?

The Sunday Express has a front page story saying that David Cameron will commit to abolishing Inheritance Tax on the main family home. It's a non story because it is actually the Tax Commission which is thought to be proposing this, rather than the Party itself.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Esther McVey Will Make Wirral West a Tory Gain

I am absolutely elated to hear that Esther McVey has been reselected as Conservative candidate in Wirral West. She fought a good campaign there last time and it's good that she wants to do it again. Boundary changes are in her favour and there's little doubt in my mind that she's on her way to the Commons. Esther is a very shrewd businesswoman who made her name with GMTV. She's a born and bred Merseysider and extremely popular locally. Go get 'em girl.

The Prime Minister Resigns

More HERE.

Channel 4 News Reports on 18DoughtyStreet

Channel 4 News carried a report on the launch of 18DoughtyStreet yesterday lunchtime and Tim Montgomerie was interviewed by Krishan Guru Murthy. Sadly I was at home planning my first two weeks' programming! You can see the four minute report HERE. Krishnan's line of questioning demonstrates clearly why we need a channel like 18DoughtyStreet. They carried a much longer report on the 7pm bulletin but sadly it's not online. However, they did a good report on the rise of blogging last week which can be accessed HERE.

Guido believes that CCHQ is "concerned" by the advent of 18DoughtyStreet. Read why HERE. I doubt it very much. There may be some who see it as dangerous but Francis Maude understands more than most that new technology can reach parts of the electorate traditional politics cannot. [plug] Francis and I are speaking alongside Dame Ann Widdecombe at the Hansard Society fringe event on politics and technology at the Tory Conference [/plug]. I guess I'll find out what he thinks then. I'm sure Ann will say people ought to have better things to do than watch TV on their computers - unless of course we start the Widdy Channel. Oh God, let me take that thought back. Frightening!

PS I'm doing the papers on News 24 again tonight at 11.45pm

Should the Conservatives Be More Active in Northern Ireland?

It's been some time since the Conservative & Unionist Party did what it says on the tin. I remember the formation of local Conservative Parties in Northern Ireland caused a great deal of controversy in the 1980s and the national Party didn't quite know what to do. If it recognised them it risked alienating the Ulster Unionists. Of course, the support of the Ulster Unionists was crucial to John Major's precarious adminstration in the mid 1990s. The last decade has seen the Ulster Unionists gradually eclipsed by Ian Paisley's DUP to the point where the UUP is almost extinct. The defection of a leading UUP member, James Leslie, to the Conservatives this week is symptomatic of the decline of the UUP.

This morning Slugger O'Toole published a piece by Alex Kane on the dilemma now facing the Conservatives and David Cameron in Northern Ireland. You can read it HERE. He believes there is now a major opportunity for David Cameron in Northern Ireland now, but he needs to recognise it and grasp it. Of course the danger is that any growth in Conservative support risks diluting the Unionist vote and could hand several DUP seats to Sinn Fein. It's a tricky one and I don't pretend to know the answer. My gut instinct is that the Conservative Party should be seeking to expand its operations and influence in all parts of the country. We belong, after all, to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Conservatives website is HERE.

Paxman: Prince Charles 'Despairs' of Bush

Petronella Wyatt has a typical Petronella interview in the Mail today with Jeremy Paxman, who has a new book out on the royal family. As usual she issues a marriage proposal to him. Is there anyone that Petronella HASN'T proposed to?

But tucked away in a corner of the interview is this little snippet from Paxman on Prince Charles...

Paxman: "Of course he isn't allowed to have political views, but friends told me he finds the invasion of Iraq an utter mystery and despairs of Bush."
Petsy: "Gosh, Jezzer, if you don't mind me calling you that?' (there is a stangled groan), 'haven't you just outed him? - just as Matthew Parris outed Peter Mandelson...?'
Jezzer: "Oh God, have I?'

I'd have thought that would be quite a good news story in itself. Paxman outing Prince Charles, I mean, rather than the Prince of Wales having controversial views. As Tony Benn might not say, it's personalities that count, not ishoos.

How Hitchens can Emulate the Hefferlump

Things are looking up for David Cameron. In his Telegraph column today, Simon Heffer doesn't slag him off. OK, he doesn't mention him at all, but that in itself is progress. All DC needs now is for Peter Hitchens to emulate Heffer in tomorrow's Mail on Sunday, or at least avoid using his extremely tedious 'useless Tories' phrase, and DC's weekend will be complete. Ain't life grand?

Simon Heffer also achieves a notable first today - a column where I agree with every word he writes. I'm not sure if that is more worrying for him or me, but this piece in particular appealed to me, as I too am a car lover and Top Gear fan...

We all have to have some vices, and mine is Top Gear. It has long struck me as the last outpost of politically incorrect programming on mainstream TV. I love the jokes about inferior foreign cars, the cruel banter with members of the audience, the puerile rivalry among the presenters and, above all, the sheer joy of being environmentally unfriendly with high-speed, gas-guzzling motors. Yet it is the way in which Top Gear accepts risk as a normal part of life, and the two fingers it puts up to the national obsession with health and safety, that most endears it to me. I do hope the ghastly accident that befell Richard Hammond this week does not spell the end of this wonderful entertainment: but I rather fear, once the jobsworths have done their worst, that it will.

And I defy you to read THIS Jeremy Clarkson column in today's Sun without laughing out loud and getting misty eyed. Brilliant stuff.

Dizzy Makes Bid to be 18DoughtyStreet Station Controller

Oh Dear. Dizzy thinks he's a Fisker. HERE. Not sure what he'll make of my interviewing style...

PS Looking at the comments people seem to think I am slagging Dizzy off. Far from it. He is a giant among bloggers and I much enjoyed his defenestration of Mr Humphrys' interview.

Friday, September 22, 2006

All I Do Is Dick Around

Did you see SPARKS on Jonathan Ross just now? Fantastic. Here's the song they performed - a kind of ode to blogging! They then did This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us. Virtually everyone I know hates SPARKS. No accounting for taste. If SPARKS hadn't existed, there would have been no Pet Shop Boys, no Erasure.... hmmm, not making a very good case, am I? Still, I have something in common with Jeremy Vine. We both love SPARKS. I've seen them a couple of times live in London. Well worth it. No, really.

Osborne & Forsyth Need to Sing from the Same Hymn Sheet

Allister Heath writes in today's Spectator that there's a looming clash between George Osborne and Michael Forsyth over his interim Tax Commission report. Osborne is reportedly asking Forsyth to tone it down, as it apparently proposes £19 billion of tax cuts over a five year period. Read the full article HERE. Here's an extract...

Its 40 proposals include cutting the basic rate of income tax from 22 per cent to 20 per cent, slashing corporation tax from 30 per cent to 25 per cent (and eventually to 20 per cent) and scrapping the 10 per cent starting rate of income tax. The draft even calls for a cut in the top rate of tax as a longer-term aspiration. In a blow to Cameron, and contrary to media reports, the Commission won’t propose any countervailing new green taxes, nor does it address council tax reform.

The poor would pay significantly less tax, with the starting 10 per cent rate of income tax scrapped and hence no income tax payable on the first £7,185 of earnings. There would also be a revolutionary reform of inheritance and capital gains tax; the two levies would be merged. Primary homes would become totally exempt from inheritance tax while the rest of a deceased’s estate would be eligible only for a reformed capital gains tax. This would impose either a 20 per cent or a 40 per cent tax on gains on assets handed down; the rate would be reduced by a tenth every year so that no tax at all would be payable on assets held for a decade.

There would also be help for families with transferable personal allowances, for couples with a child under the age of five, making it less costly for one of the parents to stay at home. Currently parents earning £50,000–£60,000 are still eligible for family tax credits; the Commission wants to ensure that these taper off at a significantly lower rate. It also wants to scrap tax credits for film production and for research and development. Stamp duty on share transactions would be abolished; however, the Commission will not propose to undo Chancellor Gordon Brown’s destructive raid on pension funds.

Contrary to speculation, the plan doesn’t endorse a flat tax. In conversations with Forsyth, Osborne has made it clear that he is especially opposed to the Commission’s proposed reduction in the basic rate of tax. Osborne is concerned that it would be portrayed as helping the rich and the middle classes. Even more controversially, Osborne wants the Commission to consider a £1 billion employee national insurance contributions hike by extending the income range on which they are payable by £5,000.

Osborne and Cameron will have to tread carefully as the radicalism of the Forsyth Commission chimes perfectly with increased unease over tax among Tory backbenchers. Many who had reluctantly begun to accept the Cameroonian view that tax cuts are political suicide are now changing their minds again. Backbenchers have told me that a TaxPayers’ Alliance/ICM poll, splashed on the front page of the Sunday Times last month, created a stir by demonstrating a growing public appetite for tax cuts when sold the right way; they also report that their constituents are increasingly angry about the gross waste of taxpayers’ money that has become the hallmark of Brown’s public sector.

The sentence which leaps out at me from this is this: In conversations with Forsyth, Osborne has made it clear that he is especially opposed to the Commission’s proposed reduction in the basic rate of tax. Osborne is concerned that it would be portrayed as helping the rich and the middle classes.

Excuse me? How can a reduction in basic rate income tax be seen as helping the rich?! I respect Allister Heath but I simply cannot believe that George Osborne would have said that. And since when was it a crime to help the middle classes?

There is a lot of good stuff in what Michael Forsyth is proposing - some of it already adopted by the Liberal Democrats. We have to be brave in this area. No one is going to vote for a mushy status quo. We've got three years to sell a comprehensive package of tax and spending reform. We don't need all the detail now, but we do need to know that the Party leadership and its Tax Commission are united in its aims.

Cash for Peerages Inquiry Will Not Go Away

I suspect the majority of my readers do not subscribe to the New Statesman. Well you're missing out. Especially this week. Their political editor Martin Bright has a cracker of an article HERE.

If you were reading last Sundays papers you might have seen an article alleging that John Yates's Inquiry into Cash for Peerages was getting nowehere and was close to being abandoned. It looked like a bit of New Labour wishful thinking, and Martin Bright seems to agree. He's made a documentary for Channel 4 which will be broadcast on Monday at 8pm. Here's a short extract from his article...

"So were the loans designed to be hidden? Matt Carter, who was then Labour's general secretary, wrote to the lenders emphasising that the in terest rate on the loan "can be considered as a commercial rate of interest. Accordingly, the loan will not give rise to any reportable donation within the meaning of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act." This letter has been shown to the police. It may seem technical, but if the loans were not genuinely commercial, then the 2000 act was broken. Bairoliya told the programme: "I wouldn't say that they are commercial as I understand the term commercial. It's a bit like one of my friends is in difficulty and you wanted to help them out: you might give them a loan and not charge them the full rate." Asked what rate he would expect, Bairoliya said: "If someone did agree to give you a loan, they would expect to have a return which was in proportion to the risk they were taking. In this case they would judge the risk fairly high and they would require a margin of at least 4 or 5 per cent above base." By this calculation, Labour should have been charged between 8.75 and 9.75 per cent interest"...

"According to my Labour Party source, who is at the highest level of the party structure and perfectly placed to know, at least some of these loans were never intended to be paid back. According to this individual, they were never loans at all but purely and simply secret donations. And has my source told the police? You bet.

That last bit will send a shiver down the collective back of all three parties. Who is Bright's source? Well if it is who I think it is, Tony Blair should be a worried man. Very worried indeed.

I'm Going to be Nice to Ming...

Ming Campbell can go home to Edinburgh this weekend secure in the knowledge that his position as LibDem leaders is now relatively safe. This week has been an important one for him. Had it all gone wrong, he could today be facing a real crisis, but the LibDem conference in Brighton will probably go down as one of the most boring in living memory. Why? for the simple reason that they behaved themselves.

As far as I can remember there were no rebellions and Ming carried the day on the 50% tax proposal. His speech (which I have only seen excerpts from) was unremarkable, but competent. He's a leader who provokes respect from his party rather than a collective flowing of juices (a la Paddy Ashdown). That should be enough to see him through. The New Statesman poll today, which shows 82% of their readers believe the LibDems need a new leader is not to be taken seriously. For him to be in peril, a similar number of LibDems would need to think that too. And they don't. So Ming is here to stay. As a Conservative, that doesn't make me unhappy. That's not me being complacent - it's because I believe (and all the polls prove this) that up against David Cameron, Cameron wins. Someone said the other day that Cameron has the 'Zeitgeist'. The same cannot be said for Ming, however charitable I am feeling today.

Should BBC Current Affairs Entertain or Inform?

Sunny Hundal has a thoughtful piece HERE on CommentIsFree on whether BBC Current Affairs is now seeking to entertain rather than inform. The two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, but the tipping point was reached when they decided to have comedians on Question Time. This has led to other political programmes like This Week booking the likes of Shane McGowan to give us their views on the great issues of the day. This whole theme will make a great discussion for my new programme on 18DoughtyStreeet. Sunny, you just booked yourself on as a guest. But we want you to inform, not entertain!

Hoby's Road to Nowhere No 5

Click on image to enlarge Courtesy of Hoby

18DoughtyStreet Talk TV Channel Trailer

Visit the 18DoughtyStreet Blog HERE. Thanks for all the comments on the thread below. I'll be replying to them later. Hope you enjoy this trailer. And for all of those who seem to think the channel is going to be biased towards one particular political party, watch out for our two female co-presenters - neither of whom is a Conservative!

A Few Links...

Dan Sabbagh, Media Editor of The Times, writes HERE about the success of right of centre blogs and the launch of 18DoughtyStreet Talk TV. Matthew Parris has an excellent half hour Podcast HERE from the LibDem Conference. Channel 4 News Morning Reports carries a brief interview with yours truly about 18DoughtyStreet HERE.

New Political Internet TV Station To Be Launched


10th October will see the launch of Britain’s first political Internet TV Channel. 18DoughtyStreet Talk TV will broadcast for four hours a night, Mondays to Thursdays, from studios in London’s Bloomsbury with a mix of live and pre-recorded programmes. It aims to break the mould of current affairs television with a mix of opinionated and controversial programming.

In a groundbreaking initiative the station is building a network of 100 nationwide and worldwide citizen journalist reporters, each equipped with their own camcorder, which they can use to film reports for 18DoughtyStreet to broadcast.

At the heart of the station will be a website of blogs and daily votes. Comments left on the blogs will shape the content of the programmes. The daily votes will help determine which news stories headline every programme. Programme presenters will have access to the blogs during live programming, with the viewer seeing the blog next to the live streaming screen on their computers. All programmes will be available for download after livestreaming.

The channel’s founders believe that conventional political TV has let down its audience by dumbing down political debate to the lowest common denominator. It believes that no political party truly understands the electorate’s disappointment with the current state of politics. It aims to be an anti-establishment channel – championing rebel opinions in all of the mainstream parties and constantly questioning authority.

18DoughtyStreet has recruited two of Britain’s most successful bloggers to be the main
presenters – Tim Montgomerie of and Iain Dale, Britain’s best
known blogger.

Tim Montgomerie will present UP FRONT - a fair and opinionated news programme at
8pm every night - all based on the output of that day’s blogs.

VOX POLITIX WITH IAIN DALE will go out at 9pm. Dale will be joined by alternate
co-presenters Rena Valeh and Zoe-Ann Phillips as well as two sofa-guests. The show will
be a mix of news and discussion with the final half hour devoted to a thirty minute debate
on a news topic of the day.

Other programmes on the channel include...
• END OF THE DAY SHOW – Live one hour discussion show each night at 11pm – including a long preview of the following day’s newspapers
• ONE TO ONE – a 30 minute interview designed to restore the idea of serious discussion
• PARTY TALK – with Zoe Ann Phillips – a Monday night show previewing the week in politics
• BROUGHT TO BOOK – Iain Dale talks to guests from the world of political books
• SELL THE IMPOSSIBLE will task a panel of expert politicians and bloggers with the job of devising a strategy to sell controversial policies chosen by visitors to the station’s website.

There will also be specialist programmes – presented by anti-establishment campaign groups – that will spotlight the tax burden, the threat of terrorism and media bias.

The launch night of the channel will include an exclusive interview with Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Tim Montgomerie said:
“In twelve months political blogs have broken the monopoly enjoyed by the Westminster commentators but blogging is only the beginning of the new media revolution. Over the next few years internet entrepreneurs are set to storm the decaying fortresses of the mainstream media. They will offer a radical alternative to the BBC’s pretence of impartiality, its obsession with personalities and its unwillingness to commit serious amounts of time to the concerns of ordinary voters. Big businesses, self-important NGOs and timid political elites should also
start preparing their defences.”

Iain Dale said:
“This channel is all about politics for adults. It really will be by the people for the people. We’re not going to get stuck in the Westminster village. We’ll be talking about what’s really being discussed in the pubs and clubs, not what the metropolitan elite think ought to be discussed. We’ll be using our blogs to set our agenda, not focus groups. We believe that within the next twelve months people will start watching internet TV through their normal TV screens. Few people realise that every TV screen has a plug in the back to which a computer can be
connected. Within twelve months Tim’s blog and my blog have become two of the three most read political blogs in Britain. We aim to replicate that success with 18DoughtyStreet Talk TV.”

Editor’s Note
18DoughtyStreet Talk TV will broadcast from purpose built studios at 18 Doughty Street,
in London’s Bloomsbury. It will use the latest streaming technology to broadcast live programmes on the internet. All programmes will be available for later download so people can watch them when they want to. Programmes will also be podcastable either on video or with sound only. The channel will initially broadcast Monday-Thursday, four hours per night from 8pm until Midnight. It will initially only be available on the internet.

You can visit the 18DoughtyStreet Blog HERE.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Well Who'd Have Thought It...

[blogpuff] I'm told Andrew Neil told Daily Politics viewers on Tuesday: "Iain Dale's blog is the first one I read every day". I always said he was a man of discernment. [/blogpuff]

Ming Upsets LibDem Party Organisations

I didn't hear Ming's speech today so I won't comment on second hand reports. But I do know that Ming has succeeded in upsetting just about every Liberal Democrat party organisation going. Each conference the leader takes a tour of the exhibition stands. Ming offered himself for just 45 minutes, meaning that he only had time to visit the commercial stalls and skipped over all the party stalls which are traditionally visited by the leader. It's not a very sensible move upsetting organisations which have a lot of power within the party, are run by ordinary members, and have the ability to submit motions to conference. Tsk Tsk.

PS Click HERE to read why Alex Foster couldn't face staying for Ming's speech. He speaks for many of us who attend Party Conferences. Once you have heard one leader's speech, you've heard them all.

Policy Exchange Wins Think Tank of the Year

Prospect Magazine has awarded the prize of ‘Think Tank of the Year’ to Policy Exchange. Nicholas Boles has done a fantastic job in making Policy Exchange one of the leading centre right think tanks. Anyone who has read any of their publications will know that it is a think tank that literally throbs with new ideas and often thinks the unthinkable.

Accepting the award, Nick Boles said: “We at Policy Exchange are naturally delighted with this award. The UK, and London in particular, is very fortunate to have a policy community second only to the United States. The award is very much in tune with the spirit of the age. A decade ago, the centre-right was demoralised and perceived to be flagging intellectually. The rise of blogs such as Conservative Home and Iain Dale’s Diary, the renewed interest in what the Opposition is saying, and the award of this title are all confirmation that the centre-right is back with a vengeance.”


Declaration of interest: I am a proud trustee of Policy Exchange!

EU Serf's Guide to New Labour EU Sellouts

EU Serf has a good post about John Reid's imminent sellout on our EU veto in crime and justice issues.

Will he or won't he? This is how it normally goes:

1. Wild eyed federast asks for powers
2. British government minister refuses point blank
3. Another federast asks again
4. Government minister looks into it
5. Opposition & Media kick up a stink
6. Meeting held, British Minister stands firm
7. Public forget the whole affair
8. Government caves in
9. Look for robust language tomorrow and a treachery at a later date.

Serf's got it just about spot on.

There May Be Trouble Ahead...

Oh dear. Guardian hack Ros Taylor has started away against the Guidomeister. Read THIS and be afraid. Very afraid.

She concludes... Guido Fawkes is a blog of its disillusioned, exhausted time; it's a blog for the tail-end of the Blair era and the alarming lack of engaging alternatives. It may be anarchic, but it's not revolutionary. Sorry, Guido. Do your worst.

Does she not remember that Guido once tried to blow up the Palace of Westminster? Guardian Towers in Farringdon Road would be a doddle.

UPDATE Fri: Mick Fealty aka Slugger O'Tolle comes to Guido's defence HERE. Guido is so far remaining an untypical staesmanlike silence. Maybe he's keeping his gunpowder dry.

Kennedy Refuses Ming's Handshake

The LibDems must be really thanking Paddy Ashdown for needlessly revealing that Charles Kennedy refused to shake Ming Campbell's hand after his speech on Tuesday. At a stroke, Ashdown demonstrated to us all that the wounds from Kennedy's overthrow are well and truly gaping open. I suppose Kennedy thought that if he shook Ming's right hand, his left might be used to stab him in the back again. Actually, what the refusal did was to display a petulance entirely lacking in his speech. If he truly does still harbour hopes of a leadership comeback he would do well to dispose of such things.

Spooks Plot Was a Real Coup

Spooks is one of my favourite programmes so I was really looking forward to the new series. However, greater love hath no man than he lay down his Spooks for the LibDem Conference. So I only got around to watching it last night. Was it worth the wait? You bet.

The two episodes were about a coup attempt by renegade secret service agents, a media mogul and the Cabinet Secretary. The bit I loved came during a fake News 24 news bulletin when BLOGGERS LEAD PROTESTS was on the strapline at the bottom of the News 24 screen. They then showed Mi5 officers watching a. series of impassioned pleas by bloggers for people to rise up against the coup. Sadly, Guido and Recess Monkey were nowhere to be seen. Already under house arrest as dangerous subversives I expect.

The plot was so convincing that I started thinking of the circumstances in which the fictional events portrayed in the programme could become reality. Democracy is a very fragile thing. Who was it who said something like 'dictators rely on good men remaining silent'?

The only bit which jarred was when the Cabinet Secretary blurted out: "I'm only a bloody politician, you know." Er, no actually, he' a civil servant. But then again, nowadays...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

EXCLUSIVE: Meacher Weighs Up Leadership Bid

It may seem astonishing to you and me, but Michael Meacher, the man who in the late 1970s was regarded as Tony Benn's vicar on earth, is seriously weighing up a challenge to Gordon Brown for the Labour Party leadership. Well, perhaps more accurately, I should say he is considering challenging John McDonnell for the position of Leftie candidate who will be smashed by Brown/Johnson/Reid/Benn (delete as appropriate). Michael Meacher's career has been one long failure. When he took Blair's shilling he sold out to the left, who now regard him with utter contempt. His conversion to the green cause raises a hollow laugh among those who remember his years as Environment Minister when he appeared to be more concerned with holding on to his red boxes than doing anything meaningful for the wider green cause.

So, is this speculation on my part which can be dismissed as blog gossip? No. I know for a fact that Meacher has been discussing a leadership bid with at last two senior (but equally maverick) Labour MPs. He hasn't decided whether to go ahead yet, but he's got an ego which in the end will prevail, I suspect. What fun.

EXCLUSIVE: Kate Hoey Seeks Damages From Labour Party Members

Remember THIS story? Well I've been leaked the two letters above (click on the images to enlarge), which show that Labour MP Kate Hoey is seeking financial compensation, in her capacity as chairman of the Countryside Alliance, for the damage caused to the CA stand at the Labour Party conference last year by three Labour Party members.

She is seeking £1,000 from each of them. Nothing like a bit of fraternal solidarity! I understand the Labour Party has banned the three of them from the Manchester conference, so there can be no humiliating handover of cheques. What a shame. It seems the Countryside Alliance is again exhibiting at the conference. Let's hope their 24 hour security won't be [terrible pun] outfoxed [/terrible pun]... I'll just get my coat...

Seriously, Kate Hoey is a woman of great courage. I just wish she'd do just one more courageous thing. And I think you know what I mean.

Leading Unionist Defects to Conservatives

News from Slugger O'Toole of a defection to the Conservatives in Northern Ireland tomorrow. See HERE. James Leslie is a former Ulster Unionist MLA and according to Slugger he "was considered a highly talented junior minister with a solid local voter base". Northern Ireland Conservatives will be highly delighted.

More PodCasting Campery With Niles

When I was at the LibDem Conference I was asked to do a podcast with Alex Foster who runs Niles's Blog - one of my favourite LibDem Blogs. We even did a bit of it in German! There's also an insight into what happened on the casting couch a couple of weeks ago. You can listen to it HERE, courtesy of LibDem Voice.

Jenny Tonge Returns to the Gutter

I've never understood why people take Jenny Tonge seriously. Even most LibDems share my view of her. Yesterday she was at it again at a fringe meeting...

"The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they have probably got a certain grip on our party"

In January 2004 Tonge was was sacked as a front bench Liberal Democrat spokesperson after expressing support for Palestinian suicide bombers. Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council and BICOM are nbow calling for her to be sacked from the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party (she's now a Peer).

Gavin Stollar a spokesperson for the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel said: "Jenny Tonge's original support for suicide bombers in Israel got her sacked from the frontbench. I think her vulgar repetition and rhetoric means that her position within the party needs to be seriously reviewed.”

Jeremy Newmark, Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “Two weeks ago an independent Parliamentary Inquiry warned of linkage between this kind of discourse and themes common to antisemitism. Jenny Tonge has provided shocking evidence that the Inquiry was right to be concerned. Conspiracy theories of this nature provide a breeding ground for the politics of hatred. The Liberal Democrat leadership must take action.”

Ben Novick, a BICOM spokesperson said: "Unfortunately, we are not surprised by Jenny Tonge's comments, but we are still shocked. At a time when suicide bombing and terrorism is affecting many liberal democratic societies across the world, it is truly shocking to hear a Liberal Democrat parliamentarian espouse such sentiments.”

I think any comment from me is superfluous. But feel free to fill in the blanks. Jenny Tonge is a ******* ****** *** ***.

Charles Kennedy Back as LibDem Leader According to LibDems Website

As you know, I've had quite a good time at the LibDem conference this week. I wasn't going to bother turning up tomorrow for the Leader's Speech, but the LibDems seem to have had a change of leader without me noticing. Click HERE and scroll down the agenda to 11.30am...

11:30 - F49 Speech by the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Rt Hon Charles Kennedy MP
Chair: Simon Hughes MP (President of the Liberal Democrats)
Aide: Duncan Brack (Chair, Federal Conference Committee)

Perhaps Ming got bad news from the Electoral Commission Doctors Stand which he visited this morning (see pic).

PS Just my little joke - it's the 2005 agenda, which for some reason is still on the LibDems website!

John Reid does a Brian Hanrahan

In the Spectator tomorrow, John Reid doesn't rule himself out, but he doesn't rule himself in...

"I don’t think anybody at this stage has to rule themselves out. I think we’ve got time just to take stock of the approach, the strategic position of the party and policy priorities, and I think that people will find, looking at the lessons of the last few weeks, that unity will be at a premium and that actually people want to work together more closely. I don’t think people have to take that decision at this stage. I have said all along that I will not make any statement in any case until Tony Blair has announced he’s going or when he’s going."

Funny that, I thought he had...

Blog Threatened by Greenwich Council Heavies

Remember all the fuss about AEG and the Dome? Greenwich Council have now threatened the GreenwichWatch Blog which first uncovered AEG's misrepresentation of the Greenwich chaplaincy. See HERE. Delighted to see GreenwichWatch are taking the Council's threats so seriously. So seriously that the blog now has a new strapline - see above.

Send the Sandwell One!

Bob Piper is obviously being categorised along with me as security risk. See HERE. Outrageous. Even if I can't go to the Labour Conference BOB MUST GO! He'd cause far more trouble than me.

Simon Heffer Should Read His Own Newspaper

Tim Montgomerie has an article on ConservativeHome today having a go at the Telegraph.

It's amazing that this morning's Telegraph has no mention of the Built to Last referendum result or the drop in Tory membership. The Torygraph is in danger of losing its status as the party's house journal.

Well let me add grist to Tim's mill.

Simon Heffer has his usual dig at the Conservatives today in his ranting column, alleging that politicians have remained silent on the prospect of a veto on home affairs issues in the European Union. Read his piece HERE. He implies the only people to take this seriously are the Freedom Association. Wrong. He should read his own newspaper (see HERE). A page 2 article says...

David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said he was "astonished" that such a move was even being considered, after Geoff Hoon, the Europe minister, refused to rule out moving to majority voting in decisions on EU police and judicial co-operation. In a furious letter to John Reid, the Home Secretary, Mr Davis said: "To surrender the veto would directly contradict the pledge given by the former foreign secretary that 'there is no plan, proposal or intention to slip elements of the constitution through the back door'."

It makes you wonder, doesn't it. If Simon Heffer can't even be bothered to read his own newspaper or know what's going in the news pages, why on earth should we?