Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Daley (Half) Dozen: Wednesday

1. Dave Hill on a startling recommendation from Simon Hughes.
2. Guido predicts.
3. Dizzy Thinks a government minister should have other priorities.
4. Sam Coates on the local elections expectations game.
5. James Forsyth reckons Cameron is picking the wrong fight on 42 days.
6. Jon Craig asks what Gordon knew about the didgy loans and when did he know it.

My Ten Predictions for Thursday's Elections

We often hear from left of centre commentators the argument that the Conservatives should be doing much better than they are in the polls. Admittedly they have been much quieter in recent weeks, but the argument still gets the odd outing by the less enlightened. I expect it to be ramped up a notch in volume on Friday. People need to consider that around 5.3 million people are voting in London, which equates to 22.4% of the electorate on Thursday. The mayoral and GLA electoral systems actively encourage people to vote for fringe parties (we may see a BNP member of the Assembly as a result). Couple this with the increased use of PR in Wales, Scotland and the Euro elections, and people are more regularly voting for the fringe parties. So I do not expect to see the Tories hit the dizzy heights of 45% as some of the more partisan Labour commentators are saying they must. Here are my ten predictions, for which you can hold me accountable!

1. Boris will win the London mayoralty by a margin of 3-5% on second preferences.
2. Brian Paddick will perform more strongly on first preferences than the polls predict
3. Ken Livingstone will blame his defeat firmly on Gordon Brown
4. The BNP will get a seat on the London Assembly
5. Nationally, the Conservatives will gain more than a hundred seats
6. The LibDems will emerge with a small net loss of councillors
7. National vote share (weighted to take account of areas without elections) will be Con 41, Lab 27, Lib 23
8. Conservatives will take Reading (possibly), Vale of Glamorgan (probably), North Tyneside (hopefully)and Bury (hopefully) and establish footholds in some northern councils, but lose Coventry
9. Gordon Brown will not hold a reshuffle until July
10. Most of these predictions will be wrong!

In some ways it is a complete fools errand making predictions like this, but I am rather fed up with political commentators and pundits who won't put their money where their mouths are. It's what they are paid to do. Even if you can't come up with a rationale for every prediction you can often feel things in your water. You also have to take into account the spin from the different parties and translate what they are saying. These seem to be the lines being put out by the parties at the moment...

Labour: The Tories need to make at least 200 gains if they are to have a chance of winning the election
Translation: We really think they're only going to win 100

LibDems: We expect to make advances on Thursday in our key target councils
Translation: We'll be lucky to hold on to what we've got and what we gain on the swings we'll lose on the roundabouts.

Conservatives: Our results were so good in 2004 that, while we expect to make some gains, we're realistic about what we will achieve on Thursday
Translation: Anything over 100 seats is a triumph and we're on the way to power.
Last year the Conservatives gained more than 1,000 council seats. At the beginning of the evening the BBC were using 600 gains as the criteria for success. During the evening this bar was raised every hour and if you listened to Labour politicians you'd have thought the Tories had done really badly to gain 1000 seats!

And then there's London. The mayoral election result will overshadow everything else. As I have said before, there are only two ways of interpreting this results. If Boris wins it's great for the Tories and terrible for Labour and if Ken wins, vice versa. A narrow defeat is just that, a defeat. I do hope we don't see a succession of politicians from all parties appearing on TV claiming that everything is a massive victory. In my experience owning up to the negatives is actually a rather refreshing thing to do. I don't expect it to happen, but if things go wrong on Thursday for the Party I support I hope you won't find me trying to spin my way out of it.

And now I'm off to Millbank to take part in the BBC Election programme dress rehearsal, where apparently I am going to play the role of George Osborne and Luke Akehurst transforms himself into John Reid. LibDem blogger Alix Mortimer has drawn the short straw. She has to cut off all her hair and be Vince Cable.

Anyway, let's have your own predictions in the comments.

Brown Fails to Impress at PMQs (Again)

No one yields to me in my admiration for the political acumen of the Spectator's Fraser Nelson, but I do think he has called today's PMQs wrongly. He reckons Brown came out on top, whereas I thought he was all over the place. He clearly wasn't expecting a question of 42 days and was all over the place with his first two responses. He couldn't find an answer to the point Cameron made about the Director of Public Prosecutions saying there was no need for more than 28 days. There was no knockout blow from Cameron, but that rarely happens anyway.

What is also as interesting is the total eclipse of Nick Clegg at PMQs nowadays. He just hasn't been the same since the GQ episode. He's made little or no impact in the local elections either.

If I were scoring today's PMQs I'd give Cameron 8, Brown 6 and Clegg 4. Now it's your turn. Who's right, Fraser or me?

Sorry About the Odd Appearance...

... And I'm not talking about the GQ photo! As you can see, the graphics on the blog have disappeared YET AGAIN. All the graphics are hosted away from Blogger at my personal website via a virtual server. The problem was reported to WebFusion yesterday but so far they have done nothing about it. It's the second time in two weeks this problem has occurred. Last time I complained about WebFusion's service they went to great lengths to put it right. This time they have done nothing. If their customer relations people are reading this, they may like to get in touch.

The Perils of Ugandan Discussions

The Telegraph reports that the Bishop of West Wales and a female vicar have resigned followoing rumours of an affair between them. Apparently the rumours started after they both went on a charity mission to Uganda.

Fellow readers of Private Eye will understand why I burst out laughing when I read that.

Brown Steps in to Slap Down Jack Straw

Gordon Brown's decision to veto a planned 37 per cent pay rise for prisoners was absolutely right. But what does it say about Ministers at the Ministry of Justice that they allowed it in the first place? Not a lot seems to have changed since the Prisons Directorate left the remit of the famously 'not fit for purpose' Home Office.

Of course, Brown's action has the added benefit of putting Jack Straw in his place. His 'safe pair of hands' reputation and his stature as the 'if Gordon has to go' caretaker leader have suffered a blow.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

EXCLUSIVE: Fraser Kemp: Stuff Your By-Election

Following the unprecedented decision by Labour to table the writ foir the Crewe and Nantwich by-election before the funeral of Gwyneth Dunwoody has taken place, Labour suffered an unexpected blow tonight when veteran by-election strategist Fraser Kemp MP refused to take charge of the campaign. Sources tell me he has told friends he is fed up with doing by-elections with scant little reward and that he's done his last one.

Outside the Westminster Village, many people might say, Fraser Who? But to political journalists and campaigners Kemp's by-election reputation is second only to that of his long time LibDem rival Chris Rennard. Read his Wikipedia entry to see why.

So why has Fraser has withdrawn his favours? Could it be...

a) He reckons Crewe & Nantwich could be the first Tory by election gain for decades
b) He was hacked off at being left out of Gordon Brown's government
c) He reckons Gordon's a gonner
d) He thinks Tom Watson should take one for the team
e) He disapproves of the writ being moved before the funeral
To be honest, I like Fraser. He's good company and a brilliant political strategist. I never understood why he never got further in his brief front bench career. What's happening to Labour now is exactly what happened to the Tories in the 1990s. There were so many ex Ministers on the backbenches who thought they should still be on the front bench that something was bound to 'give' in the end. History is repeating itself in so many ways.

UPDATE: I happily delete b) after reading a couple of the comments in the comments thread.

Kerching! 10p Tax Band Effect Starts...

HERE, courtesy of Nadine.

Blair Hung in Portcullis House

Tony Blair was hung in Portcullis House this afternoon. Well, his portrait was. One MP said to me it should be captioned 'apres moi, les deluges'. Another said its title should be 'Contemplating Gordon Brown'. Personally, I'd have thought 'Fancy a quick one, Carole', might be appropriate. Massage, that is. Natch.

Labour Shame Over Crewe & Nantwich By-Election

I can hardly believe this. Gwyneth Dunwoody hasn't even been buried yet, but the Labour whips are tabling the writ for the Crewe & Nantwich by-election tomorrow, and it will be held on May 22nd. Gwyneth's funeral isn't until next Thursday, 8 May. It's unprecedented to call a by election before the funeral of the previous MP has taken place. So without a thought for the feelings of her family or many of her friends, Labour election strategists are playing politics by trying to get the by-election over and done with as soon as possible. How contemptible. Hopefully they will pay the penalty.

Pot, Kettle, Black

So Ken called Kate Hoey a "semi-detached member of Labour". Hmmm. That was him a few years ago. At that point he seemed to make a virtue out of it. Rattled is the word which comes to mind.

Hoey's action really presents Labour with a dilemma. With Gordon Brown having made a virtue of GOATS (Government Of All The Talents) they can hardly complain when Boris seeks to be inclusive too. But Labour MPs will be hopping mad and seeking retribution. There will be demands for the whip to be withdrawn on the pretext of her semi-endorsement of a non Labour candidate. You can bet your bottom dollar that they won't do it until after Thursday, though.

Saying Cheese for David Bailey & GQ

Late last year I took part in a photo shoot for GQ along with a host of other people from the Westminster Village. After my last experience with Esquire Magazine (see the awful result HERE) I vowed never to do this again, but when you are told David Bailey will be behind the camera you just don't say no.

The June issue of GQ contains the results of the shoot, which among others Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg (whos pic gets a 1/16th of page!), Matthew D'Ancona, Ed Balls, Tim Montgomerie, Alice Thomson, Shami Chakrabarti and Kevin Maguire took part in.

David Bailey was brilliant. Unlike the photographer from Esquire, he completely put me at my ease and it was quite an enjoyable experience. I had expected to hate every minute and then spend five months fearing the result.

I'll leave you to judge the result of my own page, but I was quite pleased with it. As this is a photo of a photo perhaps it doesn't do it justice!

I shall no doubt get a lot of comments about having an ego the size of a tent, but if you were asked if you'd like to be photographed by David Bailey, would you really say no? Well, would you? Thought not!

My only regret is that I was photographed before I lost a stone and a half. Not that I'm at all vain, you understand ... :)

Cameron Gives Best Today Interview Yet

An absolute blinder of a performance on the Today Programme from David Cameron this morning. It was clear, human, responsive, authoratative. John Humphrys constantly interrupted him, but Cameron dealt with him well and deployed humour to deflect him. At one point he said "You are impossible" albeit with a smile on his face.

At the end of the interview Cameron confessed that he had failed to halt 'Punch & Judy politics'. He accepted that at PMQs he adopted a necessarily robust approach. Humphrys complained the Cameron called Brown a loser. Cameron said that PMQs could never be anything but robust.

Breaking News: Kate Hoey to Join Team Boris

Boris Johnson has just announced on LBC that Kate Hoey would join his administration as a Non Executive Director in charge of promoting competitive sport and monitoring the Olympics.

I imagine this will now result in the Labour whip being withdrawn from her. Could a full defection then follow?

UPDATE: Rather hilariously, LBC didn't seem to recognise that they had a major exclusive and didn't mention it in their 9am news bulletin.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Another Big Tory Poll Lead From ComRes

ComRes, whose polls have traditionally underplayed Tory support, have a new poll out tonight which shows the Conservative lead doubling to 14 percent. The figures are Cons 40 up 2, Lab 26 down 5, Lib 20 up 3. There's now a pattern developing.

Tomorrow, I'm going to stick my neck on the block and predict the parties' vote shares on Thursday, and give my thoughts on the Mayoral election. A nation anticipates...

Boris Puts in Strong Performance

We're half way through the Sky mayoral debate and Boris is putting in a storming performance. Definitely his best so far. Paddick is also doing well. Ken is just sooooo tired.

Keep tuned in on Sky News Online or press the red button for post match commentary after the debate finishes at 9.

Amnesty Launches 'Waterboarding' Video

This is an Amnesty International film to promote their campaign against so-called 'waterboarding'. What do you think of this kind of shock tactic advert? It's going to be shown in cinemas all round the country and has a 15 certificate.

Competition: Name My New Telegraph TV Programme!

Later on in May I will be presenting a brand new - but as yet unnamed - weekly programme on Telegraph TV. I'd like your help in coming up with a suitable name, and to encourage you to take part I'll give a full set of the Margaret Thatcher DVDs, together with a limited edition Thatcher T Shirt to anyone who comes up with the name we finally go for. Can't say fairer than that, can I?

The essence of the programme is that I will be travelling round the country talking to Tory candidates and activists about what's going on in their area, campaigns they are undertaking, what they are making of the national scene or the internal machinations of the Tory Party itself. Like HEFFER CONFRONTED, it will be part of the RIGHT ON programme but also available as a standalone item. The first one will hopefully be shown on May 20 or 27. The task of confronting Mr Heffer each week will now fall to some other hapless victim!

If you've got ideas for places I should go and people I should meet feel free to email me.

Boris v Ken or YouGov v MORI?

The London Mayoral race is turning into a battle of the pollsters. Today's YouGov poll, showing a growing lead for Boris on both first and second preferences is in stark contrast to the two trade union commissioned polls undertaken by MORI which show a rather different picture. One of them is going to have a huge amount of egg on their faces on Friday night. My instinct is to trust YouGov as they have so often been bang on the money in most of their political polls, whereas MORI have sometimes been, shall we say, way out. The punters on seem to share that view but are already turning their minds to what would be a good result for Labour or a bad result, and similarly with the Tories. This post from HF made me smile...

For Brown, BAD = Ken loses by a gap of >3%, OK = loss under 3%, GOOD = A Ken win.

For Cameron BAD = Boris loses, OK = Boris wins by under 5%, Good = Boris wins by over 5%, VERY GOOD = Boris wins by over 10%.

Rubbish. If Ken wins it's a good result for Labour and bad result for the Tories. If Boris wins it's vice versa. In this race, margins don't matter.

A Day in the Life of David Cameron

Join Sam Coates HERE during today for his feature on A Day in the Life of David Cameron.

Bloggers to Be Part of BBC Election Night Coverage

The BBC Election night programme is, for the first time, going to include bloggers as a real part of their mainstream coverage. They've been watching the US primaries closely and have seen the important role played by bloggers in those programmes. Last year when I was on 18 Doughty Street we found that we were getting results far more quickly than the BBC and Sky because people were emailing and texting us with what was going on. Just monitoring sites like and ConservativeHome was far more reliable than relying on one reporter at one particular count. So along with Labour blogger Luke Akehurst and LibDem Alix Mortimer I will be at City Hall with Emily Maitliss appearing every half hour on your screen but also live blogging the whole night both on this blog and the special BBC Election Night blog.

The BBC would like us (the bloggers) to...
  • Act as an alternative results service- if you can help us beat David Dimbleby, we want to hear from you.
  • Find out what's going on a round the country- atmosphere at counts, rumours, gossip, colour- we want it all
  • React to what we're writing on our blogs
  • Shamelessly fish for and draw attention to other eye catching posts on political blogs- tell us if you've seen something deserving of wider attention
And tonight the final London Mayoral debate takes place between Messers Johnson, Livingstone and Paddick on Sky News from 7.30pm. Along with Alex Hilton and Jo-Christie-Smith I will be doing the pre and post match analysis on Sky News and their online operation. More details HERE.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Daley Duo (Sorry!)

Too tired to do a Daley Dozen today, but THIS post from Shane Greer is required reading. It's an analysis of David Miliband's interview on the Andrew Marr Show this morning. Meanwhile, Philip Oppenheim says of Lord Levy's book that if you live by the spiv, you die by the spiv. Charming!

Dinner with the London Boxing Academy

A good friend of mine, Simon Marcus, runs a boxing gym in Tottenham, which has proved fantastic at keeping local kids off the street and giving them a sport to focus on. Boris Johnson visited it last week (pic). Simon has poured a lot of his own money into it but is now engaged in some serious fundraising activity.

The London Boxing Academy is holding its first annual fundraising Gala on the 14th May at the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington, in partnership with CIVITAS and the Haringey Police Amateur Boxing Club. The evening will be hosted by SKY Sport's Adam Smith and special guests include Kenneth Clarke, QC, MP, Iain Duncan Smith, MP, Frank Maloney, Danny Williams and Shaun Bailey.There will be six bouts of amateur boxing, a charity auction of extreemly rare memorabilia of boxing greats such as Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Jake La Motta, Henry Cooper and Ricky Hatton and many more attractions. In the superb surroundings of the five star Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington, this promises to be a superb evening of sport and entertainment. For more information please go to and click on the Gala Dinner tab or contact Simon directly at

Simon writes...
According to the latest Metropolitan Police statistics there are 479 violent crimes a day in Greater London, which equates to 20 an hour. Further to this there were 37 fatal attacks on teenagers by other teens last year alone, and a quarter of all gun crime was committed by under 18’s. Much of this has been attributed to a six-fold increase in gang culture, with children as young as five joining local gangs. But I want to tell you about something positive you can do to help us fight back. I am writing to you on behalf of the London Boxing Academy Community Project. Working out of Tottenham, we use boxing, football and other sports to capture the imagination of excluded students and re-introduce them to education and mainstream society. Through sport we help our students understand the values of team-work, discipline and responsibility which help them achieve academic qualifications and walk away from drugs, crime and poverty. We are meeting with unprecedented success. Our attendance levels are over 80%, many of our students are predicted A-C grade GCSEs, and we are developing some exceptionally talented athletes including several 2012 Olympic hopefuls. You can help us continue the fight-back against educational failure and youth crime! In order to raise funds we are holding a Charity Boxing Gala Dinner on 14th May 2008 at the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington and we would be delighted if you could join us. If you are unable to attend and you would like to make a donation or become involved in other ways such as becoming a mentor or speaker please complete and return the attached form by e-mail or post. Any help you can give would be deeply appreciated.

So please do contact Simon directly or otherwise contact me and I will put you in touch with him, This really is a worthwhile cause. If you can't go to the dinner but would like to help a worthwhile cause financially, the gym would really appreciate your support.

The Trials of Being Harriet Harman

Harriet Harman just admitted on Sunday with Adam Boulton that her blog passwords were 'Harriet' and 'Harman'. Almost as bad as 1234, wouldn't you say?! Having just had to change all my passwords on everything, following the theft of my laptop, I sympathise with her apparent difficulty in remembering something more complicated than her own name.

Adam then went on to skewer her nicely by saying that a Labour spin doctor had rung him up and told him to ask Harman about Lord Laidlaw's sex addiction and use of prostitutes - the lead story in today's News of the World. Had she any comment to make? She then said she hadn't read the story and was clearly uncomfortable. She proceeded to repeat her 'private view' that paying for sex should be outlawed. Later on in the paper review both George Galloway and Edwina Currie rightly said that it would be better for the Police to spend time enforcing laws that were actually enforceable. Prostitution has gone on since time began and no amount of law making will stop it. Instead of bleating about how prostitutes are exploited, politicians like Harriet Harman would do better to spend their time thinking about how it can be regulated along the lines of other European countries.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Levy Throws Grenade at "Liar" Brown

I had to laugh when I watched Simon Walters' video interview with Lord Levy, whose memoirs are being serialised in the Mail on Sunday. Levy started the interview by saying...
I have worked day and often night working on this, writing this, writing the book, I thought let's get on with it, let's get on with writing the book.
That's funny. I thought the book was ghost written by The Observer's Ned Temko. Note how during the entire interview Lord Levy never manages to maintain eye contact with Simon. Essentially, Levy hints at some sort of deeper relationship between Carole Caplin and Tony Blair, calls Gordon Brown a "liar" who knew all about the Labour Party loans, and how he ended up being "disappointed" with Tony Blair who was "just another politician in it for himself".

The Daley Dozen: Saturday

1. Colin Byrne has a good roundup of new media issues, especially on the left/right blogging debate.
2. Dizzy wonders questions the sanity of the Archbishoprick of Canterbury.
3. Shane Greer blogs for the CPS on the importance of reputation.
4. Our Kingdom & Quaequam on the resignation of the English Democrat's London Mayoral Candidate, Matt O'Connor.
5. Donal Blaney reports on an IDS speechg at a conference in the US.
6. Jonathan Isaby on a Tory tax con.
7. James Forsth says Boris should name Paddick his second preference.
8. Devil's Kitchen on the rights and wrongs of Polly Toynbee.
9. Ellee Seymour on the beginning of food rationing.
10. Kiwiblog reckons Gordon's a spin free zone compared to NZ PM Helen Clark.
11. Kerron Cross reckons Google really cares about Westminister.
12. Cranmer on the changing standards of maths education. Those with a sense of humour bypass should look away now.

Marginals Poll Heralds More Gloom for Brown

Last October Gordon Brown bottled out of calling an election at least in part because an ICM/News of the World poll in marginal seats predicted the Tories would win 49 Labour seats.

Tomorrow's News of the World carries the results of a similar ICM poll which shows that things have got three times as bad for Labour in the marginals. If an election were held now, the Tories would sweep away 131 Labour MPs and win a healthy 64 seat majority. Key points from the poll...

  • 131 Labour MPs, including four Cabinet Ministers, will be booted out of the Commons.
  • Voters think Cameron is ahead in almost every area, from setting taxes to winning the War on Terror.
  • Working class voters are deserting Labour because of Brown's bungling decision to scrap the 10p tax band.

Ian Kirby, the News of the World's political editor writes...

Today's poll shows David Cameron's Conservatives lead is not just based on
widespread disappointment at Gordon Brown. Despite the fact that the Tories have
not unveiled detailed policies in most areas, they are crucially winning the
debate about who has the best ideas to run the country.

The Tory lead is 6% in the War on Terror, on the NHS a massive 11% ahead. On schools the lead is 13% and on controlling immigration it's 26%. On tax it's 3% and dealing with the rising cost of living it's 6%. But it's not all good news as Brown is still ahead on the best leader to get us out of the credit crunch. Ian Kirby continues...

Pensioners and working class voters show considerably lower levels of support
for Gordon Brown in all areas. And for the first time the Conservatives' support
is growing outside of their South Eastern heartlands. Voters in the North and
the Midlands show the same levels of support. And Cameron's new supporters now
include a third of those who voted Labour in 2005. And for the first time
working class voters are deserting Brown.

It's these findings which will cause Labour strategists most concern and which indicate a tipping point may have been reached among these key groups of voters.

The position of the LibDems is a little unclear. They may well keep roughly the same number of seats, but they will lose seats to the Tories in the South but gain some from Labour elsewhere. ICM's Nick Sparrow comments...

Today's poll suggests that the situation in the marginals is worse than is
indicated by the national polls. And in the next few weeks the parties will see
if this poll is accurate when they fight a crucial by-election in Crewe and
Nantwich.Gwyneth Dunwoody held it a comfortable 7,078 majority in 2005. According to our findings, it is now easily in reach of David Cameron.

Hmm. I'm not counting any chickens on that one. But this poll is real evidence of the progress the Tories are making in all sorts of areas. I'm sure the New Labour Comical Alis will be out in force saying how disappointing this must be for the Tories - poor, deluded fools.

UPDATE 6.31pm: Ian Kirby's full story is HERE. Poll figures in detail HERE.

UPDATE 6.33pm: YouGov has a poll for the Sunday Telegraph which shows a collapse in Labour vote in Scotland as well. SNP 35%, Labour 28%, Conservative 22%, LibDem 12%, Green 3%. This is a massive rise in Conservative support and would win them seven Westminster seats.

UPDATE 9pm: The Sunday Telegraph poll shows a ten point Tori leade. More HERE.

Gordon Brown's Tipping Point

I'm sat in a queue for the Blackwall tunnel on my way to West Ham. While we wait for the traffic to move I have just read Matthew Parris's stunning analysis of Gordon Brown's precarious position in today's Times. Read it HERE.

His analysis of the Conservative Party's readiness to take power does not make happy reading, but he believes it could happen sooner than most of us think. He also says the Tories have more to lose than gain in this Thursday's elections.

In short, Matthew Parris demonstrates yet again why he is Britain's undisputed Number One political commentator.

Ten Political Memoirs Which Haven't Been Written But Should Be

Well, at long last, here it is! These are listed in no particular order. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.

Michael Portillo
Portillo's is a political journey that would make fascinating reading. He probably thinks is too early to write his testament, but he shouldn't leave it too long. Every one has a shelf life.

Lord (Robert) Armstrong
Has been around the centre of power for forty years. The convention that Cabinet Secretaries don't write memoirs should be abolished. He would provide a fascinating insight into the inner workings of government.

Lord (Robin) Butler

Neil Kinnock
Would probably need a ghost write to keep the text below a million words, but nevertheless his story would be worth telling. I suspect it would be laced with emotion and bitter regret.

Tony Benn
Having written seven volumes of diaries you might think there wouldn't be much else to say, but an autobiography is a very different beast to a spontaneous political diary. It would provide perspective on one of the longest careers in British politics.

John MacGregor
A strange inclusion in this list, you might think, yet John MacGregor was a Minister throughout the entire Thatcher and the first four years of the Major government - and a Cabinet Minister for nearly a decade. I've been encouraging him to put pen to paper and haven't given up yet!

Peter Hennessy
Britain's leading political adacemic started life as a journalist but has become a world authority on the inner workings of government, and he has a fascinating life story to tell.

Paddy Ashdown
Ashdown's diaries do not tell the whole story. His post political career in the Balkans would add a lot to his story of a politician who rose from nowhere to become a key figure in the revival of the Liberal Democrats.

Charles Powell
Charles Powell was for some years possibly the closest adviser to Margaret Thatcher. His foreign policy insights during the period which saw the end of the cold war need to be written.

John Biffen
I'm cheating here a little as John Biffen has indeed written a memoir which he was completing just before he died. I was trying to help him find a publisher and I hope that will still be possible. Having read an early draft of the manuscript his pre-political life is just as fascinating as his political career, where he distinguished himself for his honesty and candour.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Ever Flexible Lord Goldsmith

Remember who was Attorney General when the government tried (and failed) to get the 90 days terror detention measure through Parliament? Yes, it was Lord Goldsmith. The very same Lord Goldsmith who, yesterday, spoke out against the revised 42 day measure. Has he suddenly discovered a backbone?

Why Won't the LibDems Fight the BNP Properly?

The BNP is contesting 562, or 19.8% of the seats in the local elections on Thursday. This is a large increase on the 6.8% of seats they contested last year, although because fewer seats are up for election in numbers terms it is a drop from 717 to 562.

Of the wards BNP are contesting, only 13 are they not being contested by a Conservative and in 9 by Labour. The Liberal Democrats are not fighting the BNP in 126 of the wards. Why aren't the Lib Dems as committed to fighting BNP as the other parties?

UPDATE 7pm: Well this post has certainly provoked a backlash. Perhaps I could reassure my LibDem friends that I was not accusing them of being anything other than incompetent. In my view the BNP must be taken on wherever they stand. Not to put up candidates in those seats is self defeating and merely restricts the voter's options. The LibDems are often the "none of the above" party and could well take votes from BNP candidates. I just don't buy the argument about not splitting the anti-BNP vote. I accept that the LibDems do not have the depth of resources of the other parties and that local candidates are ncreasingly hard to find. But surely it ought to be a priority to put up a candidate against the BNP, even if it is a paper one?

Austin Mitchell and the War of Gordon's Tin Ear

The ever irrepressible Austin Mitchell has some caustic words for our beloved Prime Minister HERE. He says he "he does tricks to dish the Tories without thinking them through" and that he has a "tin ear for the problems of the people". What can he mean?

Lembit & Gabriela's Cheeky Little Earner

Word reaches me that Lembit Opik and his Cheeky Girl have sold exclusive rights to their nuptials to HELLO Magazine. The BBC wanted to invite the happy couple to their election night bash at City Hall on Thursday but were rather taken aback to be told that they were now exclusively tied to HELLO and therefore could not appear together on camera before the wedding - even at a pseudo-political event. Money talks, eh?

Plaid Fails to Rule Out Tory Westminster Pact

Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price has added to specualtion about a possible Conservative-Nationalist pact after the next election by saying in a TV interview that there is "no veto" on Plaid Cymru talking to the Conservatives in the event of a hung parliament.

In an interview with the GMTV Sunday Programme, Adam Price, the MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, said:

Clearly it’ll be easier for us to talk to other parties of the centre left in British politics, the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats, but there’s no veto. There’s no veto as far as talking to the Conservatives, as we did in the Assembly. We have to put the interests of the people of Wales first and whichever political party can come up with the best programme for Wales, across the whole range of government policies, then that’s the basis that we will be approaching any post-election discussions, and the clear message for the people of Wales and Scotland actually is that we need the strongest possible representation ever in their history for Wales and Scotland... We will talk to all parties on an equal basis.

Nothing like showing a bit of ankle, is there?

Telegraph Column: Drive a Stake Through Brown's Political Heart?

In my Telegraph column today, HERE, I suggest that the Tories need to reflect the anger of the electorate and the fallout from the 10p tax debacle.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Another Embarrassment of a Mayoral Debate

Another terribly unedifying London Mayoral debate, this time on Question Time tonight. To be honest it was a joke. Livingstone lied his way through it, Paddick was insufferable and Boris blustered. What a terrible advert for the political process. Compare this to the debates in the US primaries and I defy anyone to suggest that our system is any way superior. Thank God we only have to suffer this embarrassing charade for another seven days.

And as if that wasn't bad enough, they've just announced on BBC1 that Jody Marsh is the top guest on THIS WEEK now [reaches for the off button].

Gordon Brown Orders Leak Inquiry

I understand that several more mobile phones have been destroyed in Number Ten this week following the Mail on Sunday's reporting of Gordon Brown's press briefing on the plane back from America last week (reported by Guido HERE). He has, I can reveal, ordered a leak enquiry to find out who told the Mail on Sunday about the briefing, in which he categorically denied that the 10p tax issue was a problem, that there were any losers or that there were any rebels. As the MoS was not on the plane they felt unconstrained by the lobby rules governing the briefing. Brown's henchmen (in the shape of Damien McBride) are threatening fire and brimstone and demanding the MoS source is named, shamed and sacked.

Wouldn't you have thought they might have something better to do than emulate Jim Hacker?

Labour in Shock at 18 Point Poll Deficit

Things look a little bleak in the Downing Street bunker tonight, don't they? The 18 point Tory lead in the Yougov poll should finally silence those - yes, I mean you John Harris - who keep saying 'why, oh why, oh why aren't the Tories further ahead in the polls?' *

I'm not stupid enough to believe that it is all down to the electorate finally waking up to the magnificence of the Tory policy platform. It's far more a result of Gordon Brown insulting his core vote, as I shall be explaining in my Telegraph column tomorrow - written several hours before this poll was published.

I wonder what the reaction of Labour MPs will be to the poll, particularly those in marginal seats. The Labour whips will be glad it wasn't published when MPs were still at Westminster.

* Con 44, Lab 26, Lib 17

My My, How Can I Resist You

Nadine has published her account of our visit to Mamma Mia last night. It is, I admit, true that we were both on our feet at the end, bones-a-creaking and bopping in the aisles with the best of them. I have to admit that after ten minutes of the show I wasn't too impressed, thinking that the plot was so thin, it made Calista Flockhart look meaty. But once it got going it was hugely enjoyable. I haven't seen anything as camp since I last walked past the row of tents on Parliament Square. A great evening's entertainment.

Why I Have (A Little) Sympathy With the Strikers

Did you realise Alistair Darling put a penny on income tax in last month's budget? No, nor did I, but thanks to Tory MP Justine Greening we now know that the car tax rises announced in March have added £2.5 billion to Treasury coffers. Revenue neutral, they said. It will improve our carbon footprint, they said. Yup, by achieving a 1 per cent emissions reduction. And who's hit most by this tax rise? You're ahead of me ... It's the not so well off, of course.

So, if you are a junior civil servant earning £20,000, living in a Band D house with a family and driving a ten year old Renault Espace, you'll be paying another £120 council tax, an extra £200 income tax and another £600 for food. Another Triple Whammy Labour income bombshell?

People aren't stupid. They have grown wise to these stealth taxes. So when they are offered a pay rise of 2.4 per cent they feel insulted. They know the real rate of inflation - ie their own cost of living index is far higher. This is why public sector workers are on strike today. They have seen through Brown's deception and lies. I will not be at all surprised if we are about to see the beginnings of an upsurge in trade union militancy. There's one man to blame for that.

Who Wants to Listen to Steve McClaren?

The word 'shame' doesn't mean much nowadays. The word seems to belong to a bygone age. But former England football manager has single handedly revived it by agreeing to work as a pundit for the BBC at the Euro 2008 championship - the very championship he failed to qualify for when England manager. Quite why the licence fee payer should have to pay to hear his words of un-wisdom is unclear. We heard quite enough from him and his excuses for losing when he was being paid £2 million a year by the FA.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Winding Up the Guardianistas

Oh dear. I seem to have wound up the lefties on CommentIsFree. Always a joy. Must do it again soon.

PS Mamma Mia was a blast, since you asked. Campery on steroids. I shall leave a report of the evening's events to Nadine. Why do I get the feeling I might live to regret that?

There is Something in the Air Tonight...

I don't want to talk, about things we've been through because there is something in the air tonight, the stars so bright. So, I've made up my mind it must come to an end, because the winner takes it all. Knowing me, knowing you you'll take a chance on me, but I expect it'll be the day before you came. Dum dum diddle.

Guess where a certain lady blogger and I will be going tonight? Albeit with chaperones...

Brown's FaceSaver Starts to Unravel

Labour's PPC for Putney Stuart King has this to say on the 10p tax debacle...
I understand the difficulty normally loyal backbench Labour MPs are now in: I am
not standing to be your Labour MP to go to Westminster and then habitually vote
against a Labour Government. So in no way do I underestimate the dilemma loyal
Labour backbenchers face - and the distaste voting down our own government
leaves them with - it's the same for me.But the government is wrong on this and
if it refuses to back down or rectify its mistake - as they have said they will
not, I can see no purpose, merit or honour in being a Labour MP if that role is
to make life harder for the least affluent, the pensioners and the part-time
workers of Putney.

Not to worry Stuart, you're not likely to get the chance. He wrote this before the climbdown by Gordon Brown. I wonder how he feels now that the climbdown is unravelling as not so much a climbdown but a canine's breakfast.

Let's be clear. There was only one way to climb down and that was to reverse the abolition of the 10p rate. That's the only way every single person could be guaranteed they would not lose out. This mish mash of electoral bribes fools no one.

Tinkering with the minimum wage will be paid for by employers. Increasing the winter fuel allowance will benefit many who pay no tax at all, at the cost of those who do.

Grant Thornton point out today that the abolition of the 10p rate was done to enable the government to reduce the basic rate of income tax from 22p to 20p. Grant Thornton's Francesca Lagerburg says: "You have to ask whether it is possible for the Chancellor to fully compensate every individual negatively affected by the abolition of the 10 rate? The answer is probably no, bevause with the money from the abolition of the 10 rate already spent, it will be difficult to find £7 billion from elsewhere in the Treasury's coffers to give back to low earners."

That's just simple common sense and simple maths. I wonder if the Chancellor gets it. It seems not. Stuart King must be proud of him.

Happy St George's Day

A very happy St George's Day to you all. Read THIS excellent article by Simon Heffer in today's Telegraph on why England must now claim its rights. We recorded a HEFFER CONFRONTED yesterday on the subject, which I will put in the video box later tonight when it is available. There wasn't a lot of confronting going on!

If Only...

I have just got home, having spent an hour at Bloomsbury Police Station and two hours on the phone trying to freeze my bank accounts and cancel my credit cards. Why? Because our car was broken into this evening. Idiots that we are, we had locked our computer cases and laptops in the boot, and my wallet was in the case too. Worst of all it contained my West Ham season ticket and four tickets for Mamma Mia tomorrow night. God knows if I will be able to get them replaced.

The car was parked on Bloomsbury Square on a reasonably busy road, the kind of road you'd never think anyone would have the time to break into a car without anyone seeing. I feel as though a part of my life has disappeared with that laptop. We keep telling each other that at least no one was hurt - it's only possessions. But there's a part of you that feels personally violated. And then of course, there's the 'if only' aspect...

  • If only we had left the office when we had intended to and hadn't had to wait for someone to lock up.
  • If only I had parked the car in the space I had originally chosen but seemed a bit small.
  • If only we had left the gallery viewing when we had intended, instead of staying for a good gossip with a friend.
So in March we were burgled at home and in April the car was broken into. Yes, Gordon, crime really is on the decline, isn't it?

Anyway, as you might imagine, tomorrow will be a little busy, so forgive me if I don't devote as much attention to the blog as I normally would.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Diabetes: Three Months Later

Three months ago, some of you will recall that I was diagnosed with diabetes. I haven't mentioned it much since but every now and then I get an email from someone asking how it's all going. I had some really good news today. Not sure I have the terminology right but when I was diagnosed my blood-sugar levels were 11.7%. They are now at 6.7%, only 0.3% above the national average. Also, my glucose levels which had been 11-13 are now a constant 4.8-6.5 - exactly where they should be.

I have completely changed my diet and as a result have lost more than a stone and a half. Indeed, I'm lighter now than I have been for at least a decade. And do you know what? I feel fantastic. Changing my diet has been far easier than I thought it would be. But I have managed to stick to it, with only the odd relapse (a whole packet of Cadbury's Shots while at West Ham being the most terrible example). Fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits, sweets, chocolate have all been banished, and my carbs intake has also been slashed. I'm now eating a lot of fruit and I even eat the odd bit of fish. To be honest I didn;t think I'd have the self discipline to stick to such a diet, but it's now become normal. And I don't even miss Lemon Lucozade anymore!

The only think I haven't done is to start a proper exercise regime, apart from now walking everywhere instead of taking a cab. That's the next part of the programme. I have a bag in my office stuffed full of gym kit (best not to imagine it). The gym at 4 Millbank is only about 50 yards from where I am sitting now. I'd better soon develop the courage to walk through its door!

How to Harvest Former Labour Votes

Thanks to Auntie Flo for alerting me to this comment left on the BBC Have Your Say website.

"Blimey, read this from the latest BBC Have Your Say on the abolition of the 10% tax band:"Message to Cameron: I don't like you or your party but I dislike Labour far more. To get my vote just remind me that Brown doubled my taxes at the very time I could least afford them.Then remind me I was ineligible for every single government payout after a lifetime of moderate employment. Finally remind me that I queued with scruffy foreign nationals who were guided towards those handouts denied to me. There are 2.2million of me, all with a vote if you want it Cameron.T....., UK"

There' a real lesson in this comment for Conservative campaign strategists. Margaret Thatcher had similar messages in 1979.

Are Labour Candidates Ashamed of Their Own Party?

Click to enlarge

This is an election letter for a council in Lancashire. Its author, Alan Whittaker, is a candidate, but more interestingly is also a Labour County Councillor. it is very strange that nowhere in the letter does he mention the words 'Labour' and 'Party' and 'Candidate'. Is he ashamed of his mparty affiliation, or does he think their brand is now so tainted that he belongs to the Party that dare not speaks its name. Does anyone else have examples of Labour candidates who don't mention their own party on their leaflets?

Tories Should be Glad to see the back of Spink

When Bob Spink had the Conservative Whip withdrawn from him I predicted that he would end up in UKIP. I said at the time that they were welcome to him. I haven't changed my mind. This isn't a defection in he normal sense in that most sensible people in the Tory Party (ie those who know him) will be glad to see the back of him. Many of his views are repellant to the majority of the Conservative Party. I'm not saying this out of any sense of bitterness at his actions - I said it at the time. The lack of support for him in the comments both here and on other blogs was telling.

I will make a further prediction. Within six months Nigel Farage will rue the day he ever met Bob Spink. As UKIP's only MP (albeit not elected under that banner) he will have delusions of grandeur and believe that he should be the de facto leader of UKIP. He's that kind of man. For Farage he spells trouble with a capital T.

UKIP's influence is already on the wane. Spink joining them is not likely to improve their fortunes. Indeed, rather the reverse.

Brown Looks into the Electoral Abyss

This morning's Telegraph front page article on the 10p tax debacle, by James Kirkup and Andrew Porter, carries this revealing sentence...
Labour whips see the vote as "a confidence issue," meaning a Government defeat could trigger a general election.

This is clearly a whips' tactic to bully recalcitrant Labour rebels to fall back into line. Many of them are in marginal seats, which would surely be lost if an election were called now. The rebels have a very tricky calculation to make, for if they support the abolition of the 10p rate they know that their electorates will hold it against them for a very long time. Conservative and LibDem opponents will already be drafting their leaflets.

The parliamentary arithmetic is fairly stark. More than 40 Labour MPs have already signed Frank Field's motion. If all of those carry through their threat and all opposition MPs turn up, the Government would suffer a hugely damaging defeat. And only a month later, they will suffer another one on the 42 days detention issue.

On top of this, Labour's local election results will hardly cheer up their beleagured MPs. The next month could well break Gordon Brown and his government

The Strange Priorities of the Electoral Commission

If you were the chairman of the Electoral Commission, where do you think you would be spending local election night? Birmingham, perhaps, where there has been a history of postal vote problems? Bradford? Or perhaps Coventry. Well, if you are Sam Younger you obviously don't feel any of these places merit your presence. Instead, Mr Younger will be spending the evening at ... wait for it ... Witney, which just happens to be in David Cameron's constituency. When I rang the Electoral Commission to ask why, they were unable to give a reason. I put it to them that it was strange for their most prominent person to be at a count where four of the councillors up for election are being returned unopposed. Comment came there none. I then rang West Oxfordshire Council and asked if they were using new technology or were doing anything out of the ordinary to merit his presence. Absolutely not, they said. Stranger and stranger, said Alice.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Daley Dozen: Monday

1. James Cleverly on how Bob Crow has Ken Livingstone by the balls.
2. Philip Oppenheim on the fine art of Prezza-baiting.
3. Gareth Young on English pauses for English clauses.
4. Dizzy says the government wants to criminalise ticket holders. And then doesn't.
5. Stephen Pollard has a recipe for no government.
6. Kevin Maguire says Vince Cable has suffered a dramatic loss of form.
7. Paul Waugh reckons Ken is feeling the heat.
8. Three Line Whip on a Tory/Labour swap.
9. Jon Craig doesn't feel Gordon's pain.
10. PoliticalBetting has news of a better poll for Labour.
11. Liberal England cheekily announces Lembit's engagement.
12. CityUnSlicker asks if the Bank of England had an alternative.

Quote of the Day: Deport the Phoney Pharoah

From Tory MP Gerald Howarth in Home Office Questions today on Mohammed Fayed...
Given the great distress caused by Fayed's absurd allegations and his burden on the public purse, will the home secretary now take swift action to remove for good, as an undesirable alien, this thief, crook and liar.
What a wonderful thing parliamentary privilege is.

Another Lefty Historian Says 'We Know Best'

I've always thought that the celeb-historian Tristram Hunt is a bit of a prat. His op-ed piece in today's Evening Standard (not online) does little to persuade me otherwise. His argument is that the outer London boroughs really oughtn't to have much of a role in the governance of the nation's capital, presumably because they vote Conservative. No, instead Tristram believes London really only consists of those boroughs in the centre, which, surprise surprise, just happen to be the ones full to the brim of polenta chewing metrosexual lefties like him. He's essentially using the same argument as Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the Indy this morning - that the people are too stupid to know what's good for them. How very typical of the left.

Olly Kendall has a piece on CiF today arguing that it woz the Evening Standard wot will win it for Boris. Not on today's showing.

Government Accused of Creating a Client State

Click on image to enlarge

Mike Warburton of Grant Thornton has just sent out the above graph. He comments...
It's strange that a government that pledges support for those on low incomes can put a further dent in the pockets of these individuals by abolishing the 10p rate of income tax. The abolition of the 10p rate effectively makes low income earners reliant on the tax credit system. So rather than encourage individuals off benefits, the government is increasing their dependence on state assistance to maintain levels of income they were previously used to.
I couldn't have put it better myself.

Yasmin on the 'Rich White Folk' Voting for Boris

"Boris could well win. The public is gullible;
rich white folk and parts of the press love him."

This is from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's column today. How every typical of the leftist claptrap we have grown used to from those who think they know better than so-called 'ordinary people'. Gullibe? I think not. More like intelligent enough to distinguish between a stale old has-been lefty who has run out of ideas and presided over rampant cronyism, and a fresh new approach from a politician who connects with people of all backgrounds, classes and colours.

Oh, and I have news for Yasmin. There are some very 'rich black folk' in this country - and a joly good thing too. They've seized the opportunities Conservative politicians like Boris have presented them with. Why is it that Yasmin has to reduce everything to race?

How I wish the Crosstalk programme I used to do with Yasmin was still running. Love her dearly, but on this one she's wrong. Isn't it amusing how most of the left wing commentariat have already given up on Gordon Brown Ken Livingstone?

Labour MP Abuses Communications Allowance

Click on the image to enlarge it

This, ladies and gentlemen was funded by you, the taxpayer. Ian Cawsey MP at least has the grace to acknowledge at the bottom of the letter that it was funded by the Communications Allowance. How any intelligent person could view this unsolicited letter, sent to thousands of his constituencts, as being anything other than politically partisan I fail to understand. A complaint is being made to the House of Commons authorities about this flagrant breach of the rules. They clearly state: "Neither the Communications Allowance nor House stationery, including pre-paid envelopes, can be used for personal benefit or for party political activities or campaigning."

In addition, Ian Cawsey tells a deliberate untruth. Every Tory Councillor from Brigg and Goole voted against the cuts - including those on the East Riding.

Mr Cawsey is clearly a desperate man in a marginal seat. He hasn;t heard the last of this.

Charles Clarke Launches Grenade at Balls (Not His Own)

Charles Clarke has an extraordinary letter in today's Times, launching an all out attack on his former buddy Ed Balls. It's worth quoting in full.

Sir, Ed Balls’s extraordinary interview with you (April 18) is most revealing and provokes a response.

His injunctions about the “indulgent nonsense” of “private briefings against the Labour leader” certainly come from one who is well acquainted with this kind of activity. Such things do discredit politics and take us back to the days of faction and party-within-a-party that were so damaging in the 1980s. As he says, we’ve seen it over this parliamentary recess, as I know to my cost from the totally false briefing (to which he refers) that I am considering running as a “stalking horse” against Gordon Brown. I hope that he’ll do what he can to stamp it out.

His references to “disappointment” resonate. It’s certainly true that many Labour MPs, including myself, are disappointed by policy decisions such as the abolition of the 10p tax rate, the over-bureaucratic and insensitive nature of the post office closure programme, and the problems arising from lack of preparation for a Northern Rock-style economic challenge. These all stem from Treasury positions with which he is very familiar. It’s also true that many, including myself, are disappointed with many aspects of his education policies, of which the most serious is the absence of a coherent and focused reform strategy for the 14-19 curriculum, along the lines of Mike Tomlinson’s proposals.

As far as his remarks about “falling for false prophets” are concerned, I would advise him to examine himself and his own role. He should stop attacking others anonymously or in code and look to his own performance and record.

Rt Hon Charles Clarke MP

This kind of attack is interesting for various reasons

  • It is further evidence of the disintegration of the New Labour project
  • Charles Clarke isn't beyond doing some very effective off the record briefings himself
  • It adds further fuel to the debate about what Clarke's 'endgame' is.
Sometimes in politics, you throw a pack of cards up in the air and see how many of them land face up. I suspect this is what Charles Clarke is up to at the moment. He sniffs that Brown is now in deep trouble (cf Jackie Ashley in today's Guardian) and is only too willing to stick the knife in. The question now is: how will Ed Balls react?

I'd love to be sitting between them at Norwich City FC's final home match against QPR... I suspect it wouldn't be the players they'd be hurling abuse at. It would be each other.

Clarke: You're not singing anymore, you're not singing any-more.

Balls: Who ate all the pies?

Political Biography: A Journalist's Dilemma

The revelation in today's Independent that John Prescott's biographer Colin Brown knew about his builimia but decided not to write about it in the book raises a few interesting questions about the art of political biography itself. If you're writing a biography of someone, is it not cheating the reader if you don't give the full story? If the reader has shelled out £18.99 shouldn't he or she expect to read about something which clearly had a huge effect on the former Deputy PM. Shouldn't the publisher have a right to expect total transparency?

Colin explains the omission by saying it would have "broken a confidence", a laudable reason in itself we'd probably all agree, but another understandable reason would be that breaking the confidence would in all probability have cost him one of his best sources for stories.

I have long thought it very difficult for lobby journalists to write proper authorised biographies as inevitably compromises have to made along the way. Yet it's also clear that they are the people best place to add the colour and anecdote that biographies written by historians or academics so often lack. I guess we should read them all with a health warning in our minds.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Daley Dozen: Sunday

1. Guido says pass the sickbag, Pauline.
2. Dizzy wants Melissa Kite to pay attention.
3. Coffee House asks what it takes to be sacked by Brown.
4. Iain Martin on how the lobbyists are turning to the Tories.
5. Nich Starling reckons someone has been stirring up local election apathy.
6. Ben Brogan wants it harder, Darling. Oooh, er.
7. Jon Craig has a great Prezza anecdote involving a pork pie. Well it would, wouldn't it?
8. Cranmer on Rivers of Blood, 40 years on.
9. Bob Piper makes three suggestions for Gordon Brown. He won't be pleased to hear I agree with them all.
10. Ellee Seymour on Helmut Kohl's new marriage.
11. Dizzy has a tour de force on the 10p tax farce.
12. John Redwood on how David Miliband has got it all wrong.

The Joys of S & M

I had to laugh when I read this quote from Forumula One boss Max Mosley in today's Sunday Telegraph. You will recall that he was exposed recently in the News of the World for enjoying the so-called delights of Sado-Masochistic sex. He said...

"As long as it's adults in private, and consensual, it doesn't hurt."

Now I may not be very well versed in the matters of S&M but isn't the whole idea of it that it should indeed hurt?!

Backstage on the Andrew Marr Show

A reader just emailed to ask what happens before and after the Andrew Marr show, so I thought I'd share a few backstage secrets with you.

When you do the paper review they normally send you the papers the night before to prepare properly. However, as I live in Kent I said not to bother (ever mindful of the need to save licence fee payers' money!) and I'd arrive a bit earlier. Anyway, when the alarm went off at 6am, I did wonder why I was doing it. I arrived at TV Centre at 7.45 and was taken up to the green room with Caroline Lucas, where we started trawling through the papers. Andrew Marr and his producer Barney Jones were already there. I remember when I last did the paper review in 2003 when David Frost was presenting the programme that Frosty didn't turn up until a quarter of an hour before the programme was due to start. Andrew Marr has a more hands on approach.

Caroline and I each chose five stories (although we only got through three on the show) which the ever attendant researcher Ajay then marked up. When I do a paper review I normally underline the important bits of the story and write a few notes in the margins, but on this programme you have to hold the paper up to the camera so you're not supposed to write on the newspaper. At about 8.30 we were taken to makeup - they always spend far longer making up women, I find. I was done in about 1 minute flat. Perfect skin, you see :)

By this time Jeremy Irons, George Osborne and Billy Bragg had arrived too. Alistair Darling arrived at the last minute, and at 8.50 we were taken down to the studio and mic-ed up. One trick I have learned is that sometimes the back of your jacket can ride up and look very odd, so the way to avoid it is to sit on the bottom of your jacket. It's a bit uncomfortable but stops you looking a dick.

Osborne and Darling were brought into the studio to sit next to each other at the top of the programme (although on screen they looked separate) and were then wheeled off again while the paper review was taking place.

Caroline kicked off with the 10 tax story and I then talked about 42 days terror detention, making the point that a wise general doesn't fight on two fronts at the same time. We had a bit of gentle banter about the Tories' green credentials but after ten minutes it was all over - was it really ten minutes? Seemed like two! I then got whisked off to do a piece on News 24 (which is tomorrow being renamed BBC News) on the political stories of the day. Afterwards I returned to the green room and had a chat with Jeremy Irons. What a nice guy. He's playing Harold Macmillan in a play at the National Theatre at the moment.

The great thing about the Andrew Marr programme is the post match breakfast. When David Frost was presenting it the breakfast took place in the BBC Boardroom. Nowadays it's eaten in the staff canteen, but very enjoyable it is too.

Anyway, if you'd like to watch the programme click HERE. My bit is about ten minutes into the programme.

Prescott's Bulimia: A Story of Pressure Cooker Politics

The revelation of John Prescott's bulimia is not to be laughed at. Bulimia is a serious condition and he is to be praised for his decision to be honest about it. Most people believe bulimia only afflicts young girls who don't want to put on weight. It doesn't. It can affect anyone, as John Prescott's case clearly confirms. Prescott is clearly mildly embarrassed about it, which makes his decision to be open even more praiseworthy. Bulimia is like alcoholism. You can never be cured. It never completely goes away. But the first step to managing it is to recognise you suffer from it.

In some ways, his bulimia partly explains his affair with Tracey Temple, and no doubt others. We all think of politicians as supremely confident and outgoing people who wouldn't recognise shyness and self doubt if they hit them in the face. Many politicians are far from confident. Some are physically sick before making a public speech. Some have to force themselves in front of a TV camera and have serious problems overcoming their nerves. In short, they are just as human as the rest of us.

John Prescott always had a chip on his shoulder - some would say he had chips on both shoulders - about his background. He always felt that Tories were looking down on him. No doubt some were, just as they did on his own side. And it was this inate chippiness which no doubt fuelled his self doubt and his obsessive devotion to his work. In the end something had to give.

The story of Des Browne's difficulties tell a similar tale. It's easy to score cheap party political points and say that both these cases prove that they're just not up to the job, but it misses the main point. We should acknowledge that sometimes we put so much pressure on top politicians that they break.

Unfortunate Quote of the Day No 94

"Prince William landed his chopper
in Kate Middleton's back paddock."
Radio 5 Live newsreader, 20/4/08

Kenneth Williams would have been proud.

Paddick Needs to Discover a Sense of Humour

I don't know how many of you caught the London mayoral debate on the BBC Politics Show this lunchtime but again it was a pretty unedifying spectale, but slightly better than the Newsnight equivalent. Accuse me of being biased if you like (and I know I can rely some of you to do just that!) but I felt that Boris shaded it. At the end he called Ken Livingstone 'stale' and I think that's exactly how the Mayor came across - no now policies, no new ideas. Boris was clearly up for it, while the Mayor seemed to be going through the motions. Jon Sopel tried to goad Boris with some selective quotes but Boris sailed through the jibes rather majesterially.

But perhaps what came out of it most was the total eclipse of Brian Paddick. I have always had a lot of respect for him, but his campaign hasn't caught fire. I think his performance in this debate showed why. He badly needs to discover a sense of humour. If you are fighting two people who are masters of the the oneliner you need to play them at their won game and use humour as part of your political armoury. He particualrly needed some sort of funny line when he repeatedly refused to say who his second preference would go to. In the end he ended up hinting that it would go to the Greens. Not good enough. If the LibDems are in favour of a proportional system, the electorate deserves to know who a candidate's second preference would go to. It tells you something about them. Brian Paddick failed this test and throughout the interview appeared a sideshow to the main focus of Boris v Ken.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

On Sunday AM With Andrew Marr

Tomorrow morning at 9am I will be on Andrew Marr's Sunday AM programme reviewing the Sunday newspapers with Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party. Jeremy Irons, Billy Bragg, Alistair Darling and George Osborne are also on the programme.

UPDATE: You can view the programme HERE. My bit was about 10 minutes in.

Mirror Poll Gives Tories Ten Point Lead

The Sunday Mirror has a Populus poll tomorrow. Populus always seem to rate the Conservatives lower than other pollsters, so I am quite encouraged by this result...

Conservative 40 +1
Lab 30 -3
LibDem 19 +2

This would be enough for a 25 seat majority. An equally interesting finding is that 52% expect their house value to fall over the next twelve months, with only 16% expecting a rise. has more HERE.

The Daley Dozen: Saturday

1. Shane Greer praises The Obama Minute.
2. Liberal Conspiracy on the joys of political twittering.
3. Sam Coates on why we shouldn't eliminate risk.
4. Croydonian encourages us to see ourselves as others see us.
5. Matt Withers on the idiocy of former MP Rod Richards.
6. Coffee House on the Get Carter phenomenon in Downing Street.
7. Donal Blaney asks if Enoch was right.
8. Rupa Huq reckons Gordon should marry her sister Konnie. Desperate times.
9. Chicken Yoghurt on the things Brown didn't say in his Kennedy Library speech.
10. The Newsnight blog explains a new era for BBC blogs. Hyped up, more like.
11. Norfolk Blogger on restaurants he won't be eating in again.
12. Political Betting takes the Sunday Times to task for its misleading London poll.

Gwyneth Dunwoody Unleashed

Paul Flynn MP writes a great blog, but yesterday he surpassed himself with THIS glorious tribute to Gwyneth Dunwoody. This taster should be the only encouragement you will need to read his FULL POST...
On a flight from New York to Seattle in the early nineties, I sat next to Gwyneth in the forward seats of the plane. Some of our more excitable colleagues were sitting in the back. Before the plane took off, Gwyneth asked to see the Chief Steward. She introduced me as Doctor Flynn and herself as Professor Dunwoody. She pointed out two of our colleagues and explained “ Dr Flynn and I are carrying out an experiment on what we call in the United Kingdom ‘Care in the Community’. Those two people are from an institution and we are monitoring their behaviour on this experimental trip. Don’t worry they are not dangerous as long as they do not consume alcohol.’ The Chief Steward was aghast. ‘Give them drinks by all means’ Gwyneth urged ‘but no alcohol.’ She had an air of sublime authority that convinced the crew. Halfway into the journey we heard a British accent behind us complain ‘What’s this horse piss they’re serving us?’

Nadine also has a lovely memory to share.

Labour Candidate: Wake Up Gordon!

Labour seem to be in self combust mode at the moment. After the Angela Smith debacle and then yesterday foru more PPSs breaking ranks it's not time for Labour candidates to get in on the act. THESE words on LabourHome from Labour PPC for Westmorland & Lonsdale will provoke further fury from the Dear Leader. Here's what John Wiseman thinks of his glorious leader...

I seem to be in the middle of a nightmare at present. The BNP are standing all over my home constituency. Everyone seems depressed where I am standing for parliament. Gordon has decided to take money away from his core vote, PPS's are threatening to resign!! When are we going to wake up!!! There is hundreds of councillors who are going to lose their seats if Gordon doesn't listen. I am asking please Gordon for the last time wake up and smell the coffee and save the party as in rectify the tax change!!!

With Regards

John Wiseman
PPC Westmorland and Lonsdale
I suspect Mr Wiseman's career in the Labour Party may be shorter than he had originally envisaged.

Another man whoe career prospects in the Labour Party have not beenenhanced today is Tom Clark. Tom who? He was a special adviser for four years and has written the most superb article in today's Guardian. Read it in full HERE. If you;re not tempted by his conclusion, you should be!

There are times when a prime minister is put on the spot, and he has to decide in an instant which side he is on. Surrounded by Chinese security guards recently, Brown stood next to the Olympic torch but refused to actually hold it, a scene that made plain that the frontman part of the job is better done by intuition than calculation. Such ineptitude could be forgiven if Brown were prepared to stand up and fight for the policies he believes in. But less than a year into his premiership I am starting to worry that the fog of fear has thickened to the point where he could struggle to chart a course through it. To quote another of his favourite lines for closing meetings, "I'm afraid it's all very difficult."

How do I ban a Google Ad?

Can anyone tell me how I can ban particular Google Ads on Adsense? Like many of you I am fed up with this Win an Audi advert which seems to be appearing semi permanently at the moment. I could, of course, just stop using Google Ads completely, but they earn me £150 a month. Would you want to give that up? No, me neither. All advice gratefully received.

Cameron is Right on Care for the Elderly

The papers today all carry the story of David Cameron indicating that the next Tory manifesto will contain substantive proposals to provide an element of free personal care for the elderly. He has spoken of a desire to implement a system where you pay for the first year or two and then get it free. In Scotland, of course, it is completely free, courtesy no doubt of the munificence of the Barnett Formula.

The terrible thing about this whole subject is the means test for the elderly who go into homes and then face the terrible prospect of having to sell their own home to finance it. Care home fees are horrendous and there are few people who can afford them outright. Using strict free market economic logic I suppose it is possible to argue that people should either pay their own way or make insurance provision, but this issue goes beyond economic theory. There's a lot of emotion, feeling and heartache involved, which pure economic theory can never address.

My own view is that this could become a 'clear blue water' issue for the Conservatives. Cameron has been careful not to promise complete free personal care from day one because it would be unaffordable, but if the funding were available to introduce it after the first two years he would be seen to have introduced a system which is both compassionate and sensible. And if abolishing the Barnett Formula can help pay for it, that's an added Brucie Bonus.

Proclaiming the Launch of "When I Wake Up Watch"

When I wake up, well I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who wakes up next to you

Gordon Brown hasn't got tghe Arctic Monkeys on his iPod, he must constantly listen to the Proclaimers. A few days ago I wrote about his almost obsessive penchant for using the phrase "I wake up in the morning thinking..." Well he has been at it again. At a press conference with George W Bush he said...

"I get up in the morning thinking this is the best job in the world..."

So, when he gets up he thinks it's the "best job in the world", what he can do to help homeowners, what can be done to help people with small businesses, what can be done to help people look for jobs and wanting to help people get opportunities.

No wonder he looks so bloody knackered all the time. So, dear reader, do feel free to alert me whenever you hear Brown utter the phrase "When I wake up, I..." He has form on this. Once he uses a line he repeats it ad nauseam. Remember 'prudence with a purpose', 'a hand up not a hand out' and 'no return to boom and bust'. Funny, we haven't heard that one for some time. Can't think why.