Thursday, January 31, 2008

Off to Washington

Just getting on the plane. No comments can be moderated until around 10pm. Have a nice day!

EXCLUSIVE: Cameron to Honour Lady Thatcher

Relations between Camp Cameron and Lady Thatcher's office have not always been warm. Among Lady T's friends there has been a suspicion that David Cameron's circle have not treated her with the respect she deserves. After her visit to Number Ten things have improved somewhat.

A further sign in the thawing of relations will come tonight when David Cameron will be presenting Lady Thatcher with a Lifetime Achievement Award 'in recognition of Baroness Thatcher's lifetime contribution to public service and international affairs'. The occasion is the Morgan Stanley Great Britons Awards at London's Guildhall.

Sounds like a fascinating evening.

Heffer Confronted: Clash Over Conway

This week on HEFFER CONFRONTED Simon has a right old go at Derek Conway. I put the case for the defence. I must admit I enjoyed the moment when I said to Simon: "repeat after me: David Cameron got it right." He nearly got there, but not quite...

The full RIGHT ON show can be seen HERE. Ann Widdecombe and Andrew Pierce discuss why the Tories aren't being more hard-hitting in their opposition. Widders sees red.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Derek Conway To Stand Down as MP

Derek Conway has just announced he will not be standing at the next election. Here's his statement...
I have had tremendous support from my local party, my family and friends
but have concluded that it is time to step down. I stand by what I have
said in relation to the report by the Commissioner of Standards and do not wish
to add to those comments at this time. Since joining the Conservative Party
nearly 40 years ago I have had the privilege of serving in public office since
1974 and have done so to the best of my ability.

I have advised the Chief Whip and the chairman of my local Conservative
Association that I shall not seek to continue as the Conservative Party
Candidate for Old Bexley and Sidcup at the next election. Though not an
original supporter of David Cameron for the leadership of my party, I believe
that he has shown he has both the ability and the character to be Prime Minister
of our country and I do not wish my personal circumstances to be a distraction
in any way from the real issues that have to be addressed.

On a personal level I feel very sorry that it has come to this, but for the good of the Party Derek has done the right thing. Even those who feel he has let them down in other ways, will, I hope accept that.

The last forty hours have not shown the Conservative Party in its best light. The baying mob is something I hope not to see again for a very long time. Whatever Derek did or did not do he did not deserve some of the comments that have been thrown his way.

The original blogpost I wrote on Monday night on the subject has also drawn widespread criticism both here and elsewhere. I make no apology for it and I refute any charge of hypocrisy. Name me a friend of Peter Hain who publicly called for him to resign. Name me any friend of Wendy Alexander who called for her head. It's actually got nothing to do with tribal party politics. It's all to do with basic human decency and how you define friendship. I would not expect Peter Hain's friends to call for his resignation. Some of the people who reckon I should have publicly slagged Derek off should look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves how they define friendship. Does it include running from their friends at the first whiff of grapeshot? If so, they're not the kind of friends I would want.

American Primaries: I Want to be Inspired

Now that Rudy Giuliani has effectively been eliminated as a serious contender for the Republican nomination I feel as though I have no home to go to in the US Presidential election. With John Edwards withdrawing this afternoon, Giuliani surely won't be too far behind.

So the contest comes down to Romney or McCain v Obama or Clinton. I would never support Romney in a month of Sundays, Mondays or Tuesdays. His policy platform seems to change by the minute and is too much of an identikit candidate for my liking. If the West Wing were casting for an actor to play the American President he'd be perfect. But there's something about him that just doesn't ring true.

So on the Republican side I will support John McCain, albeit incredibly reluctantly. I just don't see the ideas, the optimism, the can-do attitude that I think such a candidate needs. But I'll take him over Romney.

On the Democratic side it's quite simple. Hilary Clinton represents everything I despise about machine politicians. And her husband's campaigning tactics in the last few weeks have deservedly done her enormous damage. He is not the man he was. He doesn't have the political 'touch' he once had. She may still win the nomination, but she will be badly damaged in the process.

And so we come to Barack Obama. At the risk of being called a 'traitor' by Donal Blaney, I like what I see. He certainly talks the talk, but I still have doubts about his judgement. He's made several errors so far in taking bad policy positions, but he seems to have this Reaganesque ability to shake them off as if he were made of Teflon. Hillary doesn't seem to be able to land a punch. Whenever she starts having a go, he smiles as if he is almost taking pity on her. Maybe he is.

So for me, it's Obama v McCain. My tribal instincts will no doubt win in the end and I'll reluctantly support McCain, but if Obama starts coming out with a more sensible policy platform, you never know.

Tomorrow I fly to Washington DC for ten days. Don't worry - the blog won't just be covering US politics for that time, but obviously I'll want to share with you what I learn.

PMQs: Why Can't Brown Answer a Simple Question?

I didn't catch the first question of Cameron's questions at PMQs, but I thought the PM looked all over the place. Cameron's question was very simple: did the government intend to axe a specific stiop and search form? Brown couldn't answer it. It can't be because he hadn't been briefed on it, as it seems to be the subject of the day. Tony McNulty was on the 5 Live Phone in talking about it all. It was simply because he just won't answer a straight and quite reasonable question.

I thought Clegg was again on solid form. What did you all make of it?

UPDATE: I've been alerted to a very funny comment HERE on CiF. Here's a slightly amended version...
David Cameron: Mr Speaker sir, can I ask the Prime Minister if his name is Gordon Brown?
Gordon Brown: I refer the Right Hon. Gentleman to a report in 1999 outlining the use of the phone book.
David Cameron: Can I ask the Prime minister, can he answer a simple question? What is his name?
Gordon Brown: Mr Speaker, I refer him to the use of the Telephone Book Act, which this government introduced despite opposition from his party.
David Cameron: Oh, I give up.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Daley Dozen: Tuesday

1. Donal Blaney hopes John Mann MP has got it coming.
2. Toby Harnden reveals how Barack Obama dissed Hillary. Or didn't.
3. Tim Montgomerie says good night to Rudy Giuliani. Good night Jim Bob.
4. Guido reckons the sleaze ball has been batted back to Gordon Brown.
5. Adam Boulton on Derek Conway's travails.
6. At least Mr Eugenides thinks I have a point, and issues a challenge.
7. What on earth does Danny Finkelstein mean by THIS?
8. Cassilis is on my case. He can join the queue.
9. Rupert Read applauds good manners in the blogosphere.
10. Hopi Sen reflects on David Cameron's motivations.
11. LibDems want to save close phone boxes shocker. via Norfolk Blogger.
12. Hey, guess what, the worst run Council in England is a LibDem one!

Margaret Beckett is New ISC Chairman

Margaret Beckett is to be the new chairman of the Intelligence & Security Committee, succeeding Paul Murphy who rejoined the government last week. Apart from being a dismal Foreign Secretary for twelve months I would love to know what her qualifications for the post are. This seems to be a post which is automatically given to 'hasbeen' ministers, the best example of which was Anne Taylor. Mind you, having said all that, I'm hardpressed to think of many Labour MPs who would suit the post. Perhaps it should have gone to Ming?!

Hattip Rachel North

The Kenyan Crisis Must Not Be Allowed to Escalate

I've been at The Telegraph this afternoon recording this week's HEFFER CONFRONTED, which will be shown on Thursday. Don't miss it. It's, er, sparky.

I've just seen some terrifying pictures which have come in to The Telegraph on the terrible riots and murders in Kenya. Several were too gruesome for a newspaper to publish. As I have written before, this crisis has terrible echoes of the Rwandan genocide, as inter-tribal killings escalate. The two rival leaders, Odinga and Kibaki, seem not to realise that they stand on the edge of a precipice called genocide. If they can't see it for themselves, the international community needs to make its presence felt. Bill Clinton said that not intervening in Rwanda was the greatest mistake of his Presidency (apart from not paying Monica's dry cleaning bill, of course). Let's hope that the international community ensures that history doesn't repeat itself.

And to those who say it's nothing to do with us, let them just get on with it, I take it you've never been to a concentration camp, and have never been to the genocide memorial near Butare in Rwanda where 50,000 corpes are buried. If you had, you wouldn't take an isolationist stance. You'd want to try to do something about it.

Is a Mini Tory Reshuffle Going On?

Tory MP James Duddridge had his paternity leave rudely shattered today when he received a phone call inviting him to join the Whip's Office. Is this a one off addition to the front bench team, or does it signal other changes to come later today? I would make some calls, but that's not possible at the moment...

The Worst Year of Your Lifetime

According to an historian, 1812 was the worst year in British history, mainly because the Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, was assassinated, 20 Luddites were hanged, we were at war with France and America, the monarch was mad and there had been a series of disastrous harvests.

This led to me think about the worst year of my lifetime. I reckon it would have to be 1973. The economy was riven by strikes, power cuts were the norm ... and we joined the EEC.

Personally, 2005 wasn't too hot either? Which year would you nominate?

My Mother Loved Jeremy Thorpe

There was a fascinating interview with former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe in yesterday's Guardian. If you've got Parkinson's people think you have lost your marbles. Not so, as he amply demonstrates. My mother used to be besotted with Jeremy Thorpe and was a Liberal voter until the, er, events of the mid 1970s. My sister then got to know him in the 1980s through his work at the United Nations Association. I then published his memoir IN MY OWN TIME in 1999. It's a funny old world. It was an absolute pleasure to deal with him and his charming wife Marion and it's a book which made the whole publishing experience worthwhile.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Daley Dozen: Monday

1. Nick Robinson is sceptical of yet another government welfare reform announcement. As well he might be.
2. Westmonster asks if you'd like fries with that degree, Sir?
3. LibDem Voice names its first Dirty Dozen Labour & Tory bloggers & has a London Mayoral Update.
4. Cyclists? Don't get Mike Rouse started...
5. Norfolk Blogger has been out on the p*** and is feeling worse for wear.
6. Con Coughlin on why Obama is the idealists' candidate.
7. Shane Greer doesn't want to make race and issue.
8. Greg Hurst on Red Box reckons Paddy Ashdown may be getting a new job.
9. Our Kingdom speculates on a new devolution ministry.
10. Donal Blaney asks is it becoz the Chief Constable of Kent is black? (Said in the style of Ali G)
11. Danny Finkelstein asks how accountable are our politicians?
12. Cassilis on the wisdom of Samuel Marchbanks.

An Evening With Polly Toynbee

I had a very enjoyable joust with Polly Toynbee for over an hour this evening at a Tory Reform Group media panel. Peter Oborne had to go to Washington (as you do ) so it was just Polly and me. I was my sweet reasonable self, and rather disappointingly so was she. The only flashpoint came on crime where she insisted that all crime was lower and that people's fear of it was irrational and media-fed. I begged to differ and pointed out that violent crime was up, gun crime was up and so was nife crime. I also said that much crime goes unreported, but Polly pointed out that the British Crime Survey demonstrated that crime was still down. An audience member came to my rescue and helpfully told us that Under 16 criminals or victims of crime were not included in the BCS, not were white collar crimes.
I suspect I was not the foaming at the mouth rabidly right wing blogger she was expecting, and to be honest, she was so nice and pleasant that I couldn't bring myself to be as forthright as I might like to have been! I really am far too nice for this political mullarky :)

My Friend Derek Conway

To all those "courageous" anonymous commenters who have been baying for a comment from me on Derek Conway (not a single person put their name to their posts, which says a lot), let me say this.

I believe in friendship. I believe that true friends don't abandon each other in difficult times. I have a track record of standing by my friends when the going gets rough. I've done it when I knew it would cost me personally. I went on TV defending the Hamiltons over the rape allegations when people warned me not to as it could damage me politically. I publicly defended Edwina Currie over the publication of her diaries, when it would have been more politically expedient to join the baying throngs.

And I have no hesitation in telling you that Derek Conway is a friend of mine. Anything I have to say about his conduct, I will say to his face.

I don't 'diss' on my friends in public. End. Of. Story.

WARNING: I fully expect to get a lot of flack for this, but do me a favour, will you? If you want to post a comment calling me a hypocrite or worse, then at least have the courtesy of putting a name to your comment. Because if you don't, it won't get posted. I don't mind people calling me whatever they like, but have the guts to do it publicly rather than hide behind the coward's shield of anonymity.

The Other Side of the Abortion Debate

The row over the Science & Technology Committe Report (which LibDem MP Evan Harris amended 147 times!) on abortion continues. Tonight, Conservative MP Nadine Dorries is holding a meeting in the Grand Committee Room (6-8pm) to present evidence to MPs, which she says was withheld to the Committee. She has accused the Committee of refusing to take evidence from both sides of the argument and is seeking to redress the balance. Among the speakers will be Professor Sunny Anand, the world's leading authority on foetal pain. He's flown in from the USA (at his own expense) to speak and was also on TODAY this morning.

I'm going to try to get to the first part of the meeting before I head off to speak at a Tory Reform Group event with Polly Toynbee and Peter Oborne (Macmillan Room, Portcullis House 7-8.30pm) should anyone be interested.

WARNING: Whenever I mention the word 'abortion' on this blog it provokes a tirade of abuse in the comments (Israel or climate change have similar effects). Anyonymous comments hurling abuse will not be allowed through, so don't even bother.

Quote of the Day

"If the machinery of government is grinding to a halt over the matter of monies amounting to less than the price of a second-hand Ford Fiesta, whose interests are these rules serving, other than those of the Fourth Estate?"

From the Westmonster blog

Tortoises v Hares: Tories Should Beware of Creating False Divisions

The power of ConservativeHome to influence debate within the Tory Party has gain been amply demonstrated in the last week by Tim Montomerie's description of George Osborne as a Hare and David Cameron as a tortoise. Tim regards himself as a hare. Various media outlets have latched onto this description including John Rentoul and last night's Westminster Hour. In a way it is a statement of the bleedin' obvious that there are people in the party who wish to do things at a faster pace than others, but Tim's point is to analyse which tendency is in the ascendant. He reckons the hares are winning the day. Danny Finkelstein points out on Comment Central this morning that in the parable the tortoise actually wins in the end.

I'm not sure how helpful it is to frame the debate in this way. It can be divisive to pigeonhole people into one camp or another. Too often the Tory Party seeks to demonise one tendency or another. Wets, dries - consolidators, radicals - Eurosceptics, Europhiles... the list is endless. To portray George Osborne and David Cameron as being on opposite sides of an argument is stretching things and merely gives opponents of the Cameron project something to gnaw on.

UPDATE: Tim has responded HERE to Danny F and me. He concludes: "This isn't a split but a grown-up discussion about the pace of Project Cameron. The debate is real and Iain of all people should support the grassroots joining in that debate. "

Brown Relaunches 'Britishness' Campaign...

... by ditching Britannia from the 50p coin...

[Shurely shome mishtake - ed]

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Barack Obama's Claret & Blue Army!

From Monday's Sun. Another reason to support Barack Obama...
AMERICAN presidential candidate Barack Obama is a secret West Ham fan.Mr
Obama, 46 - battling Hillary Clinton for the Democrats' nomination - has been
following the Hammers ever since a visit to Britain more than five years ago.And
he keeps in touch with the fortunes of Alan Curbishley's side through his
relatives in England - who are all Hammers fanatics.The Kent-based clan -
related to the US senator after his sister married an Englishman - now hope Mr
Obama will be singing the club's famous anthem "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" all
the way to the White House.The Obama campaign team recently revealed he is a
massive football fan and was a nifty player himself while a student at Harvard
Law School.Mr Obama - bidding to become America's first black President -
watches Premier League games whenever his schedule allows, as long as matches
don't clash with his other great love - basketball.A campaign source said:
"Obama is a big sports nut and loves his soccer. He never really followed it,
though, until he was told all about the passion of West Ham fans by some of his
English relatives."He is always keen to find out how his adopted club are
getting on."Rival Hillary, 60, has been linked with Manchester United after
hubby Bill, the ex-President, revealed during a UK book tour that the Reds were
his favourite team.

The Daley Dozen: Sunday

1. Mike Rouse is conducting a CF election poll. I suppose someone has to.
2. Tory Radio tells Sam Coates to get off his bike. In no uncertain terms.
3. Dr Rant reckons the deep clean is more of a whitewash.
4. Donal Blaney is not impressed by Tory MPs supporting the Democrats.
5. NHS Blog Doctor gives some helpful advice on premature ejaculation. No, really.
6. ConservativeHome urges George Osborne to cut the growth of public expenditure.
7. Justin Webb on why Bill Clinton's campaigning is damaging his wife.
8. Croydonian has Barack Obama's Top Ten Manifesto Promises from the Letterman Show.
9. OK, the post is three days old, but Dan Hannan rightly objects to German despotism in the European Parliament.
10. The FT blog notes Rosie Winterton's new job as Minister for the Humber. I could go on.
11. Waendel Journal explains how Brown is attacking our British identity.
12. If you want advice on how to fail, look no further than Burning our Money.

Your Most Embarrassing Political Moment

In January 1983 (I cannot BELIEVE it is 25 years ago!) I was invited to a reception at 10 Downing Street by Margaret Thatcher, along with other chairman of univesity Conservative Associations. In those days I didn't even own a suit. That soon had to be rectified. I can remember walking up the famous staircase, past the pictures of all previous PMs. At the top of the stairs was Mrs T, greeting her guests. I shook hand, making a mental note of how small she appeared. As she shook my hand she almost guided me on into the reception room. Most of the Cabinet was there - Tebbit, Lawson, Parkinson. I remember having a conversation with Cecil Parkinson about running and he told me about how, after having done an interview about his early morning runs, he would be sent dozens of running shoes by the likes of Adidas etc. He then proceeded to offer me a pair, which sadly I had to decline as my feet were two sizes bigger than his.

The waiters plied the guests with wine throughout the evening. Not being a big drinker I decided to stop after two glasses. However, when you're at a party you feel a bit of a spare part without a glass in your hand, so I took another. As I raised the glass to my lips Margaret Thatcher walked right by me. As she moved past I found my stomach heaving and it was all I could do not to throw up at her feet. It wasn't wine in the glass, it was her favourite tipple: whisky and water.

And so ended what nearly became my most embarrassing moment in politics. Tell us about yours.

Four Ministers Face Police Interviews: What Does It Say About Politics?

Peter Hain, Harriet Harman, Gordon Brown, Alan Johnson. It could well be that within a few weeks no fewer than four Cabinet Ministers will be interviewed by the Metropolitan Police. On the face of it you might expect me to be crowing about it from the top of my voice, but I am not. If I thought any of them were actually guilty of actual corruption, then it might be different.

Hain certainly has a case to answer, and is in the biggest trouble, and I suspect he may well be charged with offences under the PPERA 2000. But let's not lose sight of the fact that in most other countries political corruption implies politicians on the take. That's not the case here, and whatever our views on what Hain, Alexander, Harman and Johnson may have done, they're not being accused of trying to profit personally from their various alleged misdemeanours and incompetences. Let's remember that.

But to the general public, various politicians being interviewed by Inspector Knacker means only one thing - that they're just the ones who have been caught. The ones that even bother to look into what they are being accused of may make a differentiation between corruption and incompetence, but they cannot forgive the double standards of a politician who says he did nothing wrong and reckons that filing his returns to the Electoral Commission six months late is OK. They look at him and wonder what planet he lives on as they ponder the consequences of filing their tax returns six days - not six months late.

Politicians of all colours need to realise that they are held in lower public esteem than ever before and they need to react accordingly - not by arguing for higher salaries or allowances, but by addressing the failings of a political system which is becoming unfit for purpose - and by improving their own personal standards of behaviour.

Most politicians I know are in politics for the right reasons, but the few bad apples are allowing the public to believe that they're all the same. Most politicians I know go out of their way for their constituents and have a deep sense of honour. Now is the time for them to go that extra mile in improving the reputation of the whole of the body politic.

UPDATE: Conor Ryan has blogged along similar lines.

A Good Day for Barack Obama

Many US Democrats are torn between supporting Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. They - women in particular - feel a tribal loyalty towards Hillary, but are drawn by the idealism displayed by Obama. Today's article in the New York Times by Caroline Kennedy, daughter of JFK, may well have quite an influence on these waverer. She comes out for Obama, as the true inheritor of JFK style idealism. It's a powerful endorsement.

It's been a good 24 hours for the Illinois senator. While his victory in South Carolina was expected, the 55-27 margin over Hillary was not. Going into Super Tuesday he has grabbed 'the big mo' back from Hillary Clinton in no uncertain terms.

Tory Candidate Should Come Out Fighting

Brendan Carlin has certainly hit the ground running in his first couple of weeks at the Mail on Sunday. He has a story today about Helen Grant, the new Conservative candidate in Maidstone & the Weald. According to Carlin's story she only recently left the Labour Party.

My first reaction was a huge shrug of the shoulders and an unspoken 'so what'? Shouldn't we welcome people who see the light? Of course we should, but many will understandably be asking how long they should serve a 'Conservative Apprenticeship' before they are allowed to stand as an official Conservative parliamentary candidate.

In another Kent seat, Gillingham & Rainham, the candidate Rehman Chishti was actually a Labour candidate at the 2005 election. He stood against Francis Maude. According to the MoS story, at the same election, Helen Grant allowed Labour telephone canvassers to use her office. It hardly compares.

It is alleged that Helen Grant didn't tell the selection committee about her Labour Party past. It's quite clear the selection committee didn't ask her, so she was hardly likely to volunteer it. You might think that would be their failure not hers. You might think that - I couldn't possibly comment.

At the end of most selection interviews you're normally asked to declare anything from your political or private past which might cause embarrassment to the local Association. I didn't get that question, so I imagine neither did she. I was asked if there was any issue (such as fox hunting) which I had controversial views on which might be a problem (for what it's worth I mentioned the English Parliament issue), but that is a different question to the one candidates are normally asked.

In the MoS story, Helen Grant seeks to play down her Labour activism, saying that she was only in the party for "about five minutes". There are some further somewhat unconvincing lines too. What she should have done was to take the story head on and be quite up front about why she left Labour and became impressed by David Cameron. A passionate defence of why she's a Conservative would be far more likely to convince Kent Tories of her worth. The weak lines fed out by CCHQ on her behalf to the MoS have done her a disservice.

Helen Grant won the Maidstone & the Weald selection fair and square. There was no CCHQ imposition. She topped the voting on each of the three rounds and beat ninety odd other candidates, including me, in a totally fair and transparent contest. If there is any flak from this story she needs to show the qualities which won her the selection and come out fighting. I've never met her, but from what I have been told I reckon she's more than capable of it. As indeed her predecessor has proved to be.

Helen Grant now has an early opportunity to prove her Widdecombe-esque qualities and sock it to those in politics and the media who are quite clearly seeking to undermine her.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Shadow Cabinet Media Tarts List: December

Each month Julian Nicholson and I compile a list of the best media performers in the Shadow Cabinet using mentions on Lexis Nexis as the index. Sayeeda Warsi and Grant Shapps were the biggest climbers, due to Warsi's trip to Sudan and Shapps's sleepout on Christmas Eve. Caroline Spelman and Theresa May both drop a massive eleven places.

December Media Tarts
1 - David Cameron 1480
2 +18 Sayeeda Warsi 184
3 +1 William Hague 132
4 -2 George Osborne 125
5 -2 David Davis 107
6 - Chris Grayling 106
7 -2 Michael Gove 68
8 +6 Grant Shapps 48
9 -1 Liam Fox 46
10 +1 Nick Herbert 44
11= +4 Theresa Villiers 39
11= +8 Francis Maude 39
13= -3 Andrew Lansley 37
13= -1 Eric Pickles 37
15 +5 Philip Hammond 29
16 - Andrew Mitchell 27
17 -4 Alan Duncan 26
18 -11 Caroline Spelman 21
19 -3 David Mundell 20
20 -11 Theresa May 16
21 -5 Peter Ainsworth 14
22 - Jeremy Hunt 12
23 +1 Dame Pauline Neville-Jones 11
24= -1 David Willetts 9
24= +2 Cheryl Gillan 9
26 -2 Oliver Letwin 6
27 - Patrick McLoughlin 4
28 - David Lidington 3
29 -1 Lord Strathclyde 0
30 - Owen Paterson 0
31 - Baroness Anelay of St Johns 0

Liberal Democrats
- Nick Clegg 562
- Chris Huhne 422

December Political Performance Index Results

You were a curmudgeonly lot over Christmas. Only two politicians improved on their December scores, Nigel Farage and Harriet Harman (who still remains bottom). Nick Clegg is the highest climber.

1. (1) Vince Cable 7.28 (7.73)
2. (2) David Cameron 6.66 (7.43)
3. (7) David Davis 5.86 (6.09)
4. (3) George Osborne 5.82 (6.67)
5. (4) Alex Salmond 5.76 (6.63)
6. (5) William Hague 5.66 (6.25)
7. (6) Michael Gove 5.29 (6.16)
8. (8) Chris Grayling 4.77 (5.71)
9. (10) Chris Huhne 4.74 (5.16)
10 (9) Alan Duncan 4.66 (5.29)
11. (14) Liam Fox 4.50 (4.97)
12. (11) Boris Johnson 4.49 (5.13)
13. (15) Andrew Lansley 4.42 (4.60)
14. (20) Nick Clegg 4.06 (4.37)
15. (18) Ian Paisley 4.33 (4.58)
16. (12) Theresa May 4.05 (5.07)
17. (14) Nick Herbert 3.97 (4.45)
18. (13) Hilary Benn 3.88 (4.98)
19. (23) Caroline Spelman 3.87 (3.93)
20. (15) Jack Straw 3.82 (4.48)
21. (16) David Willetts 3.55 (4.24)
22. (17) Alan Johnson 3.41 (4.44)
23. (27) David Miliband 3.52 (3.59)
24. (18) John Hutton 3.39 (4.05)
25. (19) David Miliband 3.52 (3.59)
26. (29) Nigel Farage 3.41 (3.33)
27. (20) John Denham 3.39 (3.90)
28. (21) Rhodri Morgan 3.34 (3.86)
29. (30) Ed Davey (3.32) 3.32
30. (24) Ken Livingstone 2.61 (3.72)
31. (32) Ed Balls 2.24 (2.69)
32. (33)Ruth Kelly 2.53 (2.91)
33. (28) Jacqui Smith 2.42 (3.42)
34. (31) Des Browne 2.31 (2.44)
35. (39) Gordon Brown 2.35 (2.41)
36. (35) Hazel Blears 2.25 (3.12)
37. (36) Ed Miliband 2.23 (2.72)
38. (37) Alistair Darling 2.19 (2.52)
39. (38) Douglas Alexander 2.13 (2.24)
40. (40) Harriet Harman 1. 86 (1.76)

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Daley Dozen: Friday

1. Cassilis on Peter Hain's arse. Well, at least that's what I think he said.
2. Ellee Seymour asks if men are discriminated against, and if bears **** in the woods.
3. Tory Radio has William Hague's speech in the EU debate on Monday.
4. Dr Crippen does some post Guido on Newsnight analysis on journalist bloggers.
5. LabourHome is worried about the party;s £20 million of loans which are having to be rescheduled.
6. Guido & the Tories, as outlined by Three Line Whip.
7. Ben Brogan on why Polly Toynbee has turned on Gordon Brown.
8. Ministry of Truth wants the head of the Electoral Commission. Sam Younger is said to be in hiding.
9. Adrian Monck reckons there are four types of blogger. Which one are you? Or am I?!
10. Donal Blaney on how a xenophobic LibDem councillor wants to ban French tourists for Canterbury.
11. James Macintyre hits back on George Galloway on Open House.
12. Taking Liberties explains how to get round the smoking ban.

Porridge Anyone?

HERE'S an answer to a parliamentary question which might be of interest to Peter Hain, Peter Watt, Wendy Alexander, Harriet Harman ... well, the list is too long for me to continue.

Livingstone's London Becomes More Like Daley's Chicago

Ken Livingstone becomes more discredited by the day. It's even got to the stage when Labour MPs are turning on him. And when George Galloway comes out in your support you know you're in trouble. Today Livingstone slandered a former employee on the radio. She's not taking it lying down. Read more HERE.

About a year ago 18 Doughty Street got a lot of flack for making an attack ad against Ken Livingstone. Here's a reminder of what it said...

I'm now thinking it was a bit tame.

Council Meeting Sit-In on South Tyneside

I don't normally cover local council stories, but THIS meeting of South Tyneside looks to have been a bit fiery. Labour councillors tried to get the public gallery cleared but they staged a sit in. The Police were then called and the Council Chief Executive branded the onlookers "lunatics". This isn't Australia, you know!

Histories of Britain's Parliamentary Constituencies

Former Tory MP for Gravesham Jacques Arnold has launched a new ONLINE SHOP to sell his much admired constituency profiles.
These have proved extremely popular with candidates of all political parties applying for constituencies. They give historical information about each constituency in the country going back to the 19th century. You can either buy them in county bundles or individually.
And no, I'm not on commission!

Northern Rock: If Peston & Shephard Knew, Who Else Did?

There was a very interesting interview with BBC Business Editor Robert Peston in yesterday's Telegraph which I have just got around to reading. He has this to say about Northern Rock...
Peston, the man with the golden contacts book, started watching Northern Rock
back in 2003. He could see it was expanding too fast and riding for a fall. "One
day," he predicted, squirming to recall his hackneyed phrase, "this bank will
find itself between a rock and a hard place."

Gillian Shephard also spotted problems back in 2006 and warned Ministers. If both of these astute individuals could see that Northern Rock was heading for the rocks, why couldn't the combined talents of the thousands of civil servants employed by the Treasury, Bank of England and the Financial Services Authority? This should be investigated by the Treasury Select Committee. Who knew what, when?

Bustin' and Dronin' on Question Time

Can anyone name me a more inane Question Time panellist than the former Blur band member Alex James? He had absolutely nothing to say. It was embarrassing. Car crash TV.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why the Police Deserve a Pay Rise

From an audience member on Question Time...

"The Police probably do deserve a pay rise if only for all the work they're
doing investigating the government."

Rather sums it up.

Can I Have my Blog Headlines on Newsnight Please?

The readership of my blog is bigger than the Morning Star. Should this mean that Newsnight carry my headlines on its programme? No, of course not. But I'd love to know the editorial justification for including the front page of the Morning Star in their paper previews. It's not a conventional daily newspaper. It provides readership for a cult, whose views are no longer relevant, if they ever were.

So here's a message to Newsnight's editor Peter Barron: Peter, do drop the MS from the paper review. It makes your programme look outdated and adds fuel to those who believe the BBC to be institutionally leftist. Surely the Mirror, Guardian and Indy are enough to keep your left of centre viewers happy!

PS Dizzy's also on the case. Tim Worstall explains why they bother with the MS.
UPDATE Fri 4pm: Peter Barron has emailed a response: "We only very occasionally run headlines from the Morning Star - although I'd never say never. It has however popped up a couple of times recently - due to a new system for putting the front page images on air.
Always happy to put less mainstream headlines on the programme when appropriate - no reason why that shouldn't include blogs too."

Jacqui Smith IS Donald Rumsfeld

From Jacqui Smith's interview on Today about 42 days detention.
"It won’t be hypothetical if and when it occurs. We are not legislating now on
the basis that we are bringing it in now for something that might happen in the
future; we are bringing it in now for something that might happen in the future;
we are bringing in a position for if it becomes unhypothetical. If,
unfortunately I and many other experts are right and we do need it in the future
it is in place."

As Shane Greer & LibDem Voice say, it's like listening to Donald Rumsfeld's 'known unknowns'. Except that kinda made sense. The more I see of the lovely Miss Smith the more I want to rearrange the following words.

Depth. Of. Her. Out.

The Daley Dozen:Thursday

1. Letters from a Tory analyses Gordon Brown's appearance and says it's not quite what it seems.
2. Chris Whiteside on the Margaret Beckett Award for Making Things Worse.
3. Rachel Joyce on the pros and cons of the 'A' List.
4. Olly's Onions pays homage to Bono's role in calming the credit crunch crisis.
5. Donal Blaney asks if think tanks provide value for money.
6. Cicero's Songs on the state of blogging in the UK.
7. The Taxpayers' Alliance says we should copy French plans to freeze public spending for 5 years.
8. Labour MP Paul Flynn reckons the Channel 4 Political awards were rigged.
9. Tim Montgomerie sides with the hares, not the tortoises.
10. John Rentoul on Open House becomes the latest leftie to withdraw support from Ken Livingstone.
11. Ben Brogan asks if Hain could spell the end for Gordon Brown.
12. The Spectator has launched a new blog for the US elections called Americano.

Guido On Newsnight Tonight

Guido Fawkes is going on Newsnight again tonight. After his last experience it's a brave decision and I wish him luck. The blogosphere will be watching! But he's got a good story to tell on Hain and it should be told. His research and ferreting around the Hain campaign helped make this into a major story, and I hope that the two journalists he's on with - Steve Richards and Ann McElvoy - will be big enough to acknowledge that.

Cabinet Musical Chairs Continues...

Andy Burnham to Culture. Yvette Cooper (dear oh dear) to Chief Secretary. Caroline Flint to Housing Minister, attending Cabinet.

Has there ever been a married couple in the Cabinet before? Yvette Cooper certainly hasn't got there on merit. By all accounts it was she who was to blame for the disastrous implementation of HIPS, although because of her closeness to Gordon Brown she couldn't be seen to take the blame. She has the media presence of a slab of ice.

Andy Burnham is an interesting character and is being talked up in Labour circles as a potential successor to Brown. We'll see. I used to think he was capabale of speaking his mind, but his recent media appearances have borne all the hallmarks of a speaking clock.

The Omnipresent Mr Purnell

From Oscar Miller on another thread...
Has Purnell got the Welsh Secretary job as well? He is, after all, an expert at
being in two places at once.

Good one Oscar. I wonder if Purnell will be very pleased by this 'promotion', or whether he's been persuaded to take one for the team. The DWP is second only to the Home Office in being a department full of pitfalls. I certainly know which job would be more enjoyable. But if you're an ambitious young Cabinet Minister you have to regard it as a stepping stone to one of the really big jobs.

Levy Cashes in on Memoirs

Lord Levy is to publish his memoirs. Perhaps readers would like to speculate on Tony Blair's reaction when he hears the news!

Caroline Flint: It Could Be You

I'm told Gordon Brown called Caroline Flint in to see him this morning. Was it to ask her to join the Cabinet? No doubt we'll soon know. I was at university with Caroline. We had an, er, frosty relationship. She wasn't quite as glam then as she is now. Nice to see a UEA girl doing good, though! If she is indeed promoted to the Cabinet I think she will the the first Cabinet Minister to have graduated from there. Up to now, Selina Scott is UEA's most famous graduate I think...

UPDATE 4pm: It's James Purnell. I knew I shouldn't have taken a punt!

The Difference Between Blair & Brown: No 94

An email just received, which makes a very pertinent point...
What is striking about the process of the resignation of Hain in comparison with the way Blair/Campbell (Alistair that is) handled this is that the whole of the lunch time bulletins are full of Hain’s resignation and in a few minutes his speech outside his former Dept. Blair would have had the replacement announced before the bulletins could start running, thereby sending the message ‘right problem over let’s move on’.
It is not as if Brown hasn’t had time to think about this.

And the Labour Dominos Begin to Topple...

The broadcast media is already asking: what does Hain's resignation say about Gordon Brown? Most people agree thatr Brown has shown a degree of weakness and misjudgement here. If he had told Hain that his position was untenable and ought to go a couple of weeks ago most commentators would have described it as 'ruthless but necessary'. Instead he stood by a colleague who was a dead man walking. If it had been out of personal loyalty and friendship I could have understood it, but the two men have never been close.

The reason Brown didn't want Hain to go was because it could have a domino effect on Wendy Alexander and Harriet Harman. Harman in particular will view this as a bitter blow to her chances of surviving any further fallout over the Abrahams affair. Which reminds me, where are we on that?

Will Brown Create a Devolved Department?

Following Peter hain's resignation there will now be a reshuffle. I shall now fly a kite. There is no other Welsh Cabinet Minister who could take on that position. Indeed, there is only one Welsh Minister of State who could be promoted, and I can't see Kim Howells in the Cabinet, somehow.

I wonder therefore whether the PM will now create a new Government Department, the Department for Devolved Government, covering Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This would give Brown the added bonus of being able to sack Shaun Woodward, something I am told he would, as Kevin Keegan might say, 'love it' if he could do. Dizzy had evidence of this HERE.

One possibility would be to carry out a wider ranging reshuffle, which would be sold as "freshening up" his six month tired old administration. He could move Des Browne to the new devolved job, and bring in a new Secretary of State for Defence as well as a new Work and Pensions Secretary. Looking through the Ministers of State, Liam Byrne, Caroline Flint, Ben Bradshaw, Tony McNulty and Phil Woolas would appear to be the frontrunners for promotion. That's put a black spot on them, then!

Is Hain's Resignation The First Blogging Scalp?

If my recollection is right, it was Guido Fawkes who first broke the story on Peter Hain's campaign funding on the afternoon of 3 December HERE. It was this story which provoked Peter Hain to contact the Electoral Commission. If Guido hadn't run it, would Hain have come forward? I doubt it very much.

But those of you who have longer memories may remember THIS post by Guido back in May. This revealed Hain's campaign budget and posed the question: how much is Peter Hain's campaign costing? It was that blogpost which ruined Hain's chances in the deputy leadership election. The huge figures went down very badly among Labour Party members, and particularly the trade unions.

Bloggers do not exist to get political scalps. But when a blogger reveals possible law breaking and drives the media debate, as Guido has done, let's recognise that as a good thing and give him the credit he is due.
Guido seems to AGREE. As does Mick Fealty on BRASSNECK. And Roy Greenslade seems to believe there is something in it.

Hain To Be Investigated by the Met

The storm clouds are gathering again over Peter Hain. Sky News is reporting that the Electoral Commission has reported him to the Metropolitan Police. This does not, of course, mean that he will be charged, as we remember well from the Cash for Honours saga.

Can anyone remember the last time a serving Cabinet Minister was investigated by the Police?

UPDATE 12.22: Peter Hain is expected to resign this afternoon.
Graphic Hattip to Lakelander

Ways to Increase Obesity: No 94

So the government wants to give fat people vouchers or cash as "rewards" for losing weight. Have you ever heard of a more crackpot idea? If you give a fat person five pounds, which six words are they most likely to utter next? Yep, Big Mac and Large Fries, please. And I should know!

Mind you, having said that, I have lost half a stone in the last month. Where's my reward?

Bitchfight Over Tax Cuts

Anyone would think Stephan Shakespeare and Danny Finkelstein were a couple of camp old queens from the bitchslap fest they've been having over tax cuts. Stephan started it when he called Da Fink a 'rat' HERE, and Danny hit back in kind HERE, calling Stephan 'demented'. Calm down guys!

It all revolves around Danny's assertion that up front tax cut promises are no longer the powerful electoral tool they once were. He wrote:
Always an automatic crowd-pleaser in the past, it [tax cuts] isn't working
quite as reliably as it used to. John Howard, for instance, lost in Australia
despite his promises.

I think an assertion based on the evidence of one election in a faraway country is pushing it. However, I am pushed to remember any party in this country which has EVER promised up front tax cuts in its manifesto. If I am right, it seems this spat is over nothing. Margaret Thatcher certainly promised lower taxes in 1979 but didn't specify what they would be or how she would achieve them.

No one expects widespread specific tax cuts, but they do expect a Conservative government to achieve lower taxes than a Labour government would. George Osborne has made two specific tax pledges on inheritance tax and corporation tax. This helps give the electorate an overall feeling that Conservatives would indeed be a taxcutting party in government. And frankly, that's as far as he needs to go. Politics is all about perception and less about specifics. People need to perceive that you will be competent in government and they need a general perception of which direction you are heading in. They do not need or want to know that in year three your goal is to lop a penny off Capital Gains Tax. They need an indication of that's what you'd quite like to do if the economy allows it.

And there's the rub. I suspect both Danny and Stephan would agree with that. So come on you camp old queens. Kiss and make up!

Heffer Confronted: The 'A' List

Latest edition is HERE - a bit of to-ing and fro-ing on the 'A' List. Watch the whole of RIGHT ON, with Andrew Pierce & Ann Widdecombe HERE.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Daley Dozen: Wednesday

1. Anthony Barnett & Shane Greer are falling out over fixed term parliaments.
2. Following Caroline Hunt's lead, Newmania bids farewell to the blogosphere. Is it catching?
3. Hot, Ginger & Dynamite gives a State of the Blogosphere address.
4. Kerron Cross on Only Fools and Tories.
5. Danny Finkelstein analyses the trend in internet copycat suicides. He also has brilliant Top Ten Gordon Strachanisms.
6. Bob Piper reviews PMQs.
7. Norfolk Blogger takes his leader to task over the EU referendum.
8. Three Line Whip on life inside Number Ten. Robert Winnett reports from Sue Cameron's FT column on the respective working practices of Major, Blair and Brown.
9. Donal Blaney on a ridiculous sentence for a fraudster. Yeah, I know (in the style of Lou & Andy).
10. Devil's Kitchen calls David Miliband a traitor ... and much more besides. Not for the faint-hearted.
11. Jonathan Shephard of Tory Radio has a rant about the obesity announcement.
12. You ain't seen Gisela Stuart have you? James Lyons reckons she's been abducted.
And as an added bonus...
13. Danvers Baillieu on the day he met John McCain.

LibDem Bloggers Turn on Clegg Over EU Referendum

There seems to be some disquiet in the LibDems about their line on a European referendum. Clegg unilaterally changed their line in his Today Programme interview yesterday, which has not gone down well with some of the Yellow Peril. The party was going to abstain on voting on a referendum but under severe questioning Clegg blurted out that they would actually be whipped to vote against, and support the government.

Norfolk Blogger, Quaequam, Stephen Tall and Gavin Whenman have all slagged off Nick Clegg's refusal to commit his party to a referendum. Tell me, are there any LibDem bloggers at all who support their new leader's calamitous stand? Just asking.

Yes, Paul Walter, I can see you at the back.

Brown Creates a Department of the Prime Minister

Ben Brogan brings us the news that the Prime Minister has replaced his Chief of Staff, Tom Scholar, with Jeremy Heywood. What Ben does doesn't mention is that he won't be called Chief of Staff. Instead, he will be Permanent Secretary at Number Ten Downing Street. There's never been one of those before. Is this the creation of a Department of the Prime Minister? Even Tony Blair didn't go that far.

Fayed Asked Employee to Lie

Can you think of a more despicable man in the public eye than the Phoney Pharoah, Mohammed Fayed? Ok, Ok, I grant you that Max Clifford runs him close. At the Diana Inquest today, Fayed's Head of Security at the Villa Windsor told the court that the Harrods owner had ordered him to fabricate a story that Diana was pregnant and that she and Dodi planned to live at the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's house.

Richard Horwell QC, representing the Met asked Reuben Murrell: "On behalf of Mohammed Fayed you were being asked to rewrite history?

Mr Murrell replied: "I was being asked to be part of something I knew to be a falsification."

Horwell: "You were being asked to pretend that Diana and Dodi were interested in living together at the Villa Windsor?"

Murrell: "Yes".

I raise this to remind people of the Neil Hamilton v Fayed case when Hamilton alleged that Fayed had ordered his employees to lie on his behalf about brown envelopes. On that occasion the court chose to believe Fayed's version of events. The evidence at the Inquest today confirms my belief that they got it wrong, and that Fayed will stop at nothing to get his own way. It's also why I haven't set foot inside Harrods for ten years. Hattip London Evening Standard

Caption Competition: Ed Vaizey

If you are thinking: why has he posted a picture of Ed Vaizey?, read THIS. Then I am sure you will come up with a suitably tasteful caption.

PS May I apologise for the weak joke earlier. Promise it won't happen again. Put it down to low blood sugar levels... where's a lemon lucozade when you need one?!

Telegraph Launches New Online Political Map

The Telegraph has today launched a new online interactive political map. More details on THREE LINE WHIP. You can calculate the effect of electoral swings on each constituency as well as find demographic and social date.

I suspect it will become one of the paper's more popular destinations pages.

FOI Victory in Dodgy Dossier case

Some time ago, when I was at 18 Doughty Street, I was approached by a freelance journalist called Chris Ames, who was fighting the Foreign Office to get an FOI on various aspects of the Iraq dodgy dossier, the most important being: who wrote it? The Foreign Office were refusing to hand over the info he was requesting. I thought he had a good case so I gave him the chance to make a 30 minute documentary on the issue. The result can be viewed HERE.

Today, he won his case at a tribunal. According to the News Statesman... The Information Tribunal has just rejected an appeal by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to stop the release, under the Freedom of Information Act, of an early draft of the now infamous Weapons of Mass Destruction dossier.The September 2002 dossier formed part of the government’s spurious case for war in Iraq. The draft in question was produced by John Williams, the FCO’s Head of News at the time. Its existence tore apart the government’s assertion, to the Hutton and Butler inquiries, that the dossier was the work of the intelligence services.

The Tribunal criticised inconsistencies in the Foreign Office’s account. It noted that the FCO’s chief witness and Director of International Security, Stephen Pattinson,
"was not involved at the time and volunteered no information about the source of
his information". The decision follows a three-year battle by Chris Ames, a
charity researcher from Surrey, who persisted in his quest for the truth. The NS
was pleased to support him, and to provide pages of the magazine for his campaign. We pay tribute to his extraordinary diligence.

I do too. The New Statesman and I were the only people to listen to him and provide him with a platform for making his case in public, so far as I am aware. The rest of the media shut him out and ignored him. You can read more on the case on his Iraq Dossier blog. I'm sure that by the end of the day he will tell all about today's events.

Joke of the Day: What Goes Around...

This is apparently going round all the City Trader desks today...

While on his morning walk, Prime Minister Gordon Brown falls over, has a heart attack and dies because the accidentand emergency deptat his nearest hospital is too understaffed to treat him in time. So his soul arrives in Heaven and he is met by Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates. "Welcome to Heaven," says Saint Peter, "Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a Socialist around these parts, so we're not sure what to do with you."

"No problem, just let me in; I'm a good Christian; I'm a believer," says the PM. "I'd like to just let you in, but I have orders from God Himself. He says that since the implementation of his new HEAVEN CHOICES policy, you have to spend one day in Hell and one day in Heaven. Then you must choose where you'll live for eternity."

"But I've already made up my mind. I want to be in Heaven," replies Brown. "I'm sorry .. But we have our rules," Peter interjects. And, with that, St. Peter escorts him to an elevator and he goes down, down, down ...all the way to Hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a lush golf course. The sun is shining in a cloudless sky. The temperature is a perfect 22C degrees. In the distance is a beautiful club-house. Standing in front of it is Harold Wilson and thousands of other Socialist luminaries who had helped him out over the years --- JohnSmith, Michael Foot, Jim Callaghan, etc. Thewhole of the LabourParty leaders were there - everyone laughing, happy, and casually but expensively dressed.

They run to greet him, to hug him and toreminisce about the good times they had getting rich at the expense of 'suckers andpeasants.' They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster and caviar. The Devil himself comes up to Brown with a frosty drink, "Have a tequila and relax, Gord!"

"Uh, I can't drink anymore, I took a pledge,"says Brown, dejectedly. "This is Hell, son. You can drink and eat all you want and not worryand it just gets better from there!" Brown takes the drink and finds himself liking the Devil, who he thinks is a really very friendly bloke who tells funny jokes like himself and pulls hilarious nasty pranks, kind of like the ones the Labour Party pulled with the European Constitution and the Education, Immigration, Tough on Crime promises. They are having such a great time that, beforehe realises it, it's time to go. Everyone gives him a big hug and waves as Brown steps on the elevator and heads upward.When the elevator door reopens, he is in Heaven again and Saint Peter is waiting for him.

"Now it's time to visit Heaven," the old man says, opening the gate. So for 24 hours Brown is made to hang out with a bunch of honest, good-natured people who enjoy each other's company, talk about things other than money and treat each other decently. Not a nasty prank or short-arse joke among them. No fancy country clubs here and, while the food tastes great, it's not caviar orlobster. And these people are all poor. He doesn't see anybody he knows and he isn't even treated like someone special! "Whoa," he says uncomfortably to himself, "Harold Wilson never prepared me for this!"

The day done, Saint Peter returns and says,"Well, you've spent a day in Hell and a day in Heaven. Now choose where you want to live for Eternity."With the 'Deal or No Deal' theme playing softly in the background, Brown reflects for a minute ... Then answers:"Well, I would never have thought I'd say this -- I mean, Heaven has been delightful and all -- but I really think I belong in Hell with my friends."So Saint Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down, all the way to Hell.

The doors of the elevator open and he is in themiddle of a barrenscorched earth covered with garbage and toxic industrial wasteland, looking a bit like the eroded, rabbit and fox-affected Australian outback, but worse and more desolate. He is horrified to see all of his friends, dressed in rags and chained together, picking up the roadside rubbish and putting it into black plastic bags. They are groaning and moaning in pain, faces and hands black with grime.

The Devil comes over to Brown and puts an arm around his shoulder."I don't understand," stammers a shocked Brown,"Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and a club-house and we ate lobster andcaviar and drank tequila. We lazed around and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and everybody looksmiserable!"

The Devil looks at him, smiles slyly and purrs,"Yesterday we were campaigning; today you voted for us!"

Peggy Noonan on Ronald Reagan

Peggy Noonan is not well known in this country, but to anyone who's ever written a political speech, she's a legend. She crafted Ronald Reagan's words throughout much of his Presidency. It was she who wrote the tribute to those who died on the Space Shuttle - "the surly bonds of earth". It was she who wrote Reagan's moving tribute to the Normandy veterans at Pointe du Hoc in 1984. Her memoirs WHAT I SAW AT THE REVOLUTION remain in my top ten political books of all time. She understood Reagan like few others, and it was for that reason that she was able to write such beautifully crafted speeches. However, anyone who has read his diaries knows that he put his all into their creation as well. He didn't just deliver them brilliantly, he played a huge part in the writing of them.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I have just read an article for the WEEKLY STANDARD which Peggy Noonan wrote just after Reagan's funeral in June 2004. I defy any Conservative to read it without having moist eyes by the end of it. Here's a short excerpt...
Walking into a room in the Capitol Wednesday before dusk: A handful of people
were standing together and gazing out a huge old white-silled window as the
Reagan cortege approached down Pennsylvania Avenue. The sun was strong, like a
presence. It bathed the women in glow. One was standing straight, with
discipline. Her beige bouffant was brilliant in the sun. I approached, and she
turned. It was Margaret Thatcher. It was like walking into a room at FDR's
funeral and seeing Churchill.

The cortege was coming toward the steps. We looked out the window: a perfect
tableaux of ceremonial excellence from every branch of the armed forces. Mrs.
Thatcher watched. She turned and said to me, "This is the thing, you see, you
must stay militarily strong, with an undeniable strength. The importance of this
cannot be exaggerated." To my son, whose 17th birthday was the next day, she
said, "And what do you study?" He tells her he loves history and literature.
"Mathematics," she says. He nods, wondering, I think, if she had heard him
correctly. She had. She was giving him advice. "In the world of the future it
will be mathematics that we need--the hard, specific knowledge of mathematical
formulae, you see." My son nodded: "Yes, ma'am." Later I squeezed his arm. "Take
notes," I said. This is history.
When I'm in America the week after next I hope to meet Peggy and interview her on camera about her life working in the White House. If it comes off, it will be the highlight of my trip. Do read the aricle in full HERE.

Quote of the Day

"In politics, friends come and go but enemies accumulate."
Peggy Noonan

Never a truer word spoken. The same can be said of the blogosphere. More on Peggy Noonan in a moment.

LibDems Look Both Ways on Electoral Fraud

I was struck by THIS post by Stephen Tall on LibDem Voice, where he highlights a Council of Europe report on the UK voting system, which is open to widespread fraud. Funnily enough, Stephen makes no mention of this report from yesterday's Birmingham Post, which tells the story of a Lib Dem Councillor charged with 11 counts of forgery due to postal vote fraud...
A local election candidate arrested in a major electoral fraud inquiry is to be
charged with forgery. Mohammed Khan, aged 54, of Hob Moor Road, Small Heath,
Birmingham, will be summoned to court this week to face 11 counts of forgery. He
is one of several people at the centre of an investigation into alleged postal vote fraud during the 2006 Birmingham local elections. In April 2006, Mr Khan was arrested and bailed by West Midlands Police detectives working for the economic crime team on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud the election process. A day earlier, his wife Naseem Akhtar had been arrested following the discovery of a number of postal voting forms at an address in Ronald Road, Bordesley Green. Last year, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) advised the police that fraud charges against a number of individuals including Mr Khan could be brought. A spokeswoman said: "Our lawyers have been considering this case for some months and this week we advised West Midlands Police of our decision.
Strangely there was also no mention in the LibDem Constitutional Affairs Spokesman, David Heath MP's press release on the subject.
“We should be deeply ashamed that the United Kingdom, which throughout history
has been seen as the cradle of parliamentary democracy, has been found so wanting by our international counterparts. The defects highlighted in the report, such as the fact it is ‘childishly simple’ to register bogus voters, were pointed out in recent legislation. However, the remedies suggested by the Liberal Democrats have been summarily rejected by this Government. For the sake of our democracy and our international reputation, ministers must now deal with the opportunities for abuse.”

He may like to look closer to home, too. This may seem as though I am making of party political point, and I suppose I am, but I do recognise that all parties suffer from individuals who abuse the system. Stephen is right to say that it is a problem of Labour's making, but he falls into the usual LibDem trap of trying to appear as white as white, when in fact their bed linen is a peculiar shade of grey.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Daley Dozen: Tuesday

1. The Taxpayers' Alliance slates council charges which it reckons are taxes.
2. Ken Livingstone is a flawed political genius according to Paul Linford.
3. Tory Radio has a great quote from a Labour MP on Nick Clegg.
4. Tim Worstall implores the blogosphere to come to the aid of a British blogger in need.
5. Rupert Read says fossil fuel industries must pay to deal with theor waste.
6. Robert Winnett on how Brown misled us on duty free allowances. Not once but twice.
7. Peter Diapre on Boulton & Co on why Harriet Harman isn't a fan of James Purnell.
8. Shane Greer notices that Nick Clegg appears to have adopted the Patients Passport.
9. Red Box thinks Jacqui Smith might be displeased with the impossibly pompous Keith Vaz.
10. Stephen Tall on voting fraud. Hmmm, we might return to this tomorrow, Mr Tall.
11. Donal Blaney wants to ditch Michael Martin. Don't we all.
12.Mike Rouse wants to ban Facebook requests. Hear, hear!

Gordon No Mates

Four times Gordon Brown has invited me be his friend on Facebook, and four times I have rejected his advances. Does he not get the message? I don't want to be his friend! Go away!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Lefties Line Up to Attack Martin Bright

Read THIS article on LabourHome attacking New Statesman political editor for his DISPATCHES programme on Ken Livingstone tonight. The article makes no attempt to refute any of the serious allegations Bright made against the Mayor, but instead concentrates on giving Bright a good kicking. Typical New Labour tactics.

When the political editor of a left wing magazine writes that: "The voters of London should kick Ken out when they go to the polls in May," the Labour Party should recognise it has a big problem. If they want to continue to stick their heads in the sand they will reap the reward in May.

Hansard Society Invites Three Scots To Discuss English Votes

The much respected Hansard Society has an interesting event planned for 6th February. They have a debate on the West Lothian Question. The question being put is this: Is the West Lothian Question unanswerable? Sadly I will be in the US, so I won't be able to go, but I shall certainly miss some cracking debate. This is what the blurb says:
The Scottish voters have elected a nationalist administration to govern
them but where does this leave the rest of the UK? Is the West Lothian Question
unanswerable? will consider questions such as; Is the Union under threat? Is an
English Grand Committee the answer? Could a federal UK work?

So, then, you might ask: who are the speakers?

They are Lord Falconer and Sir Malcolm Rifkind. The debate will be chaired by the broadcaster Sheena McDonald (an ex girlfriend of Gordon Brown).

Now dear reader, what do this august threesome have in common? They're all Scots! Nothing wrong with that, but if you hold a debate on the unfairnesses towards the English in the current arrangement, wouldn't it be a nice idea to have a token Englishman/woman on the panel? Not according to the Hansard Society. Steve Uncles from the English Democrats made a gentle enquiry and was told:
The reason we chose these speakers is that they are both representatives of
the Westminster parliament and have considerable experience of the issue we are
debating. We do not choose speakers on grounds of their nationality for this or
any other meeting, but on their experience of the issues we wish them to

So that's alright then. I can't actually think what expertise Lord Falconer has in this subject beyond being Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, a period during which I cannot recall a single utterance he made on the subject.

I think this comes under the category of 'you couldn't make it up'.

Full details of the debate can be found HERE.

The Daley Dozen: Monday

1. Matt Wardman has all you ever needed to know about Mike Rouse.
2. Capitalists AT Work on The Guardian's endorsement of 125% mortgages.
3. Ellee Seymour reveals the violent side of Hackney which explains Jacqui Smith's Ratners moment.
4. Shane Greer thinks Fixed Term Parliaments are "undemocratic". As Captain Mainwaring might say: "stupid boy".
5. Nadine tells of her encounter with a local farmer. Viagra was requested. No bull...
6. Norfolk Blogger questions our £800m aid budget to India.
7. Mike Rouse on the KINDLE, an iPod for books.
8. Danny Finkelstein on Barack Obama's "awesome speech".
9. The FIRST POST writes the speech many politicians would love to give.
10. Kiwiblog on Japanese whaling.
11. Cranmer reckons the Commons debates on the EU Constitution will be a farce.
12. John Redwood tells of his battles with the BBC over Northern Rock nationalisation.

Has Jacqui Smith Fallen on Hard Times? :)

From Melanie Phillips' blog over on the Speccie, comments retired cop Frank Pulley:

"Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, has admitted she would feel unsafe walking the streets of London late at night." Jeez! Isn't she earning enough as home secretary?

hat tip to: Verity

Parliament Bypassed Again

So the government has this morning announced its plans for Northern Rock. Er, just a cotton pickin' minute. Shouldn't this have been announced to the House of Commons first?

UPDATE: A commenter has pointed out that it had to be announced to the Stock Exchange. I understand that, but if the announcement hadn't been pre-briefed the Stock Exchange could have been told at exactly the same time as the House of Commons.

And let's be clear. This is nationalisation by another name. It may not be civil servants who run the reconstituted bank, but the taxpayer is still guaranteeing it.

UPDATE 12.30: By preannouncing this at the weekend the Prime Minister, together with Branson's comments, effectively created a false market in Northern Rock shares. I'd have thought that this must have transgressed some FSA or Bank of England rule. Any of my City readers care to shed some light?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

New Interview Resource Launched

Check THIS site out. It's called Access Interviews and aims to archive every interview since 1859. Quite an undertaking. It's the brainchild of celebrity interviewer Rob McGibbon, who is also adding video content on the site as well as articles on the art if interviewing. The politics pages are a bit sparse at the moment but are being added to every week. Users can submit interviews themselves too. What a great resource!

EXCLUSIVE: Ann Widdecombe's Successor is...

Helen Grant has been selected to succeed Ann Widdecombe in Maidstone & the Weald. The selection meeting has just concluded, having started at 9am this morning! I confess to not knowing anything at all about Helen, but I do know she topped the voting in the first round, so she has had them all on side right from the start. Good for her!

UPDATE: Helen's website is HERE.
UPDATE: Vicky Ford, who was in the final 9, has just blogged her thoughts in a typically magnanimous way.

The Daley Dozen: Sunday

1. John Redwood on why Gordon Brown's latest Northern Rock wheeze is wrong-headed.
2. Bob Piper has some sensible thoughts (insert cheap jibe here) on doing deals with the LibDems.
3. Donal Blaney has some astonishing revelations about Shaun Woodward's foreign travels.
4. Daily Referendum is in a naming and shaming mood.
5. Paul Flynn MP half expects David Miliband to ask him about the facts of life.
6. Justin Webb denies the BBC is overexcited by the Democrats.
7. Cassilis has a new look.
8. Tracey Crouch on her live TV debut, talking about the Maidstone & the Weald selection.
9. Norfolk Blogger has it in for that nice Francois Mitterand.
10. James Kirkup suggests the Electoral Commission should handle all political donations.
11. Adam Boulton on the good and bad sides of Gordon Brown on foreign trips.
12. Mark Pack from LibDem Voice disovers he is not a real person.