Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Conference Diary: Tuesday 6

Today has been a day of endless fringes. At lunchtime I chaired a Climate Change discussion for the Conservative Women's Organisation, which was quite a genteel occasion. Earlier this evening I spoke on why Parliament is so unrepresentative, and even got heckled. I had the temerity to disagree with Theresa May, who reckoned one reason women don't get involved in politics is because the media discuss their appearance too much. Rubbish, I said. It was the same for men. Had she not heard people discussing William Hague's baldness, David Cameron's partings or Gordon Brown's funny jaw? This provoked one woman in the audience into paroxysms. Well, I exaggerate slightly, but she certainly wasn't about to join the Iain Dale Fan Club.

Then it was on to my final fringe event in the Freedom Zone, where I chaired Tories Got Talent. I had expected the whole thing to be a disaster, but in the end there were too many people wanting to take part. It was great fun, with the real speaking talents on display. Rupert Matthew won the competition - he's number three Euro candidate in the East Midlands. He gave a brilliantly funny speech titled "Don't mention Europe - I did, but I think I got away with it. James Cleverly came second, with Shane Greer, Zehra Zaidi and Robert Cook featuring in the Top Five. I hope this event will become a regular.

Anyway, I have now driven home, and for personal reasons will be missing the last day of the conference. I will explain the reason tomorrow.

Conference Diary: Tuesday 5

I posted this earlier but it doesn't seem to have appeared.

The speech of the week so far has been from Nick Herbert (well, of the ones I have seen, anyway). Eloquent, passionate and delivered without notes or using an autocue, the speech explained Conservative prisons policy in a way that made me proud to be a Conservative. I hope this doesn't sound patronising, but in terms of being a top rank frontline politician, I felt Nick came of age today. It was a stellar performance.

Conference Diary: Tuesday 3

Our good friend Derek Draper has just been spotted in the conference centre. I know we have a big tent nowadays, but there are limits. Perhaps he has come to post comments on the blog in person...

All parties allow one or two observers to attend from their rivals, but they are normally junior officials rather than well known names. I am sure he is getting a very warm welcome.

Conference Diary: Tuesday 4

One of the regional TV producers had a good idea of filming a skit of the Miliband banana cardboard cutouts today, and putting the theme from Banana Splits to it? Remember that from your childhood? One banana, two banana, three banana, four...

They filmed three cutouts in different parts of the conference centre but they couldn't find a fourth. Ever resourceful, they went back to the first one to find that it too had disappeared.

Tory press officers, it seems, decided to remove them following David Cameron's speech, as they undermined his serious message.

Cameron Hits the Right Note

Being cocooned in a conference centre, it's not easy to monitor what is going on in the outside world. I don't know if Gordon Brown has spoken yet about the economic crisis. But I have just seen David Cameron make an unscheduled speech here in Birmingham, which was really meant for the audience outside rather than the one in the hall.

I watched it in the exhibition hall and everyone stopped what they were doing to listen. There was an eerie silence and it was almost like the family gathering round the wireless to listen to a wartime address by Churchill. Cameron struck exactly the right, reassuring, note.

He gave a warning to the banking community that there would have to be a day of reckoning but today was not that day. He offered the government the full support of the Opposition in passing the necessary legislation to help the country through the crisis. He said that tomorrow in his speech he would outline a full policy response. He even hinted - unless I misunderstood him - that a form of national government might be necessary.

We are entering a new world, both economically and politically. Many mettles will be tested.

Conference Diary: Tuesday 1

Just about to have breakfast with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. Her Tory conference experience has not had the best of starts. Her train left Euston at 9.40pm last night ... and it arrived in Birmingham at 4am. Apparently someone had thrown themselves on the line. A number of comments spring to mind, but all of them in very bad taste. [Slaps own wrist]

Tories Are Getting Younger

There is one striking difference at this party conference. The age profile of the represetatives (we don't 'do' delegates in the Tory Party) is much younger than normal. Everyone is remarking on it, even journalists. I wonder if this is either because a lot of the older people who normally come to conference haven't come because it isn't by the seaside so they can't make a week of it, or because the Party has attracted a lot of new activists. I suspect it is a mixture of the two.

Parliament Should be Recalled

Last night at about 8pm I got a text saying "Jonah's trip to Washington went well then". It was only later that I found out that Congress had rejected the Bush/Paulsen rescue package. For the rest of the evening there was only one topic of conversation at the conference. At the Telegraph Party Janet Daley and I both thanked our lucky stars we weren't economics columnists. We really are entering the unknown. The subject of David Cameron's response was much discussed. I suggested that he should walk out onto the conference platform this morning and say this:

I have just telephoned the Prime Minister and offered my support, and that of our party at this time of economic crisis. I have suggested that Parliament should be recalled.

The only trouble is, what's the betting the Prime Minister wouldn't be able to take the call as the telephone would probably be in pieces having been flung at the wall a few minutes earlier?

More later, including a report from the fringes yesterday.

My Conference Fringe Today

Climate Change: How to be Blue & Green
ICC, Hall 9
Organised by the Conservative Women's Organisation & Oxfam
Chair: Iain Dale. Speakers: Andrew Mitchell MP, Peter Ainsworth, Barbara Stocking (Oxfam), Tony Hawkhead (Groundwork).

People Like Us: Is British Society fairly reflected in Parliament?
Jubilee & Kohinoor Room, Copthorne Hotel, Paradise Circus
Organised by the Hansard Society
Speakers: Iain Dale, Julie Kirkbride MP, Sayeeda Warsi, Eleanor Laing MP and Theresa May MP

Tories Got Talent
Austin Court Hotel, 80 Cambridge Street
Freedom Zone
Compere: Iain Dale. Judges: Jonathan Isaby & Nadine Dorries
The Tory equivalent of Simon Cowell's Britain's Got Talent. Why am I dreading this one? Must remember to hitch the trousers up...

The Daily Telegraph Top 100 Right Wingers: 100-51

Here's the first half of the Daily Telegraph Top 100 Right Wingers list, which Brian Brivati and I compiled. The second part will follow on Wednesday. To read the full columns click HERE and HERE.

54. (+20) DAMIAN GREEN
60. (+12) ED VAIZEY
63. (-1) ALAN DUNCAN
69. (-33) RUTH LEA
72. (-14) DON PORTER
73. (-6) NEIL O’BRIEN
83. (-29) LORD TEBBIT
92. (+4) MIKE WHITBY

Monday, September 29, 2008

Conference Diary: Monday 4

I've got a further three fringes today (listed below). I am sure they will all have a bit of spark, so if you're at the conference, do come along!

David Davis in Conversation with Iain Dale
Austin Court Hotel, 80 Cambridge Street
Freedom Zone & Total Politics
A half hour conversation followed by audience Q & A

Freedom & the Internet
Austin Court Hotel
Freedom Zone
Chair: Iain Dale. Speakers: Guido Fawkes, Phil Hendren, Chris Mounsey, Nadine Dorries

Collaboration or Control? Politics and the Internet in the 21st Century
Telford Room, Austin Court Hotel Organised by Centre for Policy Studies
Speakers: Iain Dale, Jeremy Hunt MP & Robert Colvile (Daily Telegraph), Paul Morris (Microsoft)

Conference Diary: Monday 3

Later on last night I was invited to dinner by BAA along with eight or nine others. As regular readers know, I have had some critical things to say about BAA and its airports in the past. I sat next to Tom Kelly, who is now their Director of Communications, having previously spent sic years working in Number Ten as Tony Blair's Official Spokesman. We had some interesting discussions about so-called BORIS ISLAND, the airport which might (or might not!) be built in the Thames Estuary.

I made the point that at the very least it merits a full feasibility study - and I believe Boris will announce this later this week. The general view within the airports sector is that it would be impractical and too expensive and that if politicians think protests at Heathrow are loud, they are nothing compared to what would happen here. They may be right.

However, if the Conservatives are to cancel a third runway at Heathrow - as the Guardian alleges this morning - then either further capapcity needs to be found elsewhere to we accept that the business will go to our European competitor airports. Personally, I think this would be madness, but it's a debate which needs to be had. It's a bit like the Trident issue. The government made a decision before there was a full public debate on whether the replacement of Trident really fitted into our future defence needs. We're getting this arse about face. Surely the debate should come before the decision.

There are many advantages to building a new airport and there are clearly some disadvantages too. But if Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted cannot meet capacity demands, then we need to have an informed discussion anout the alternatives.

Aviation is an incredibly important part of our economy, and whatever the envionmental movement might say, it would be a tragedy if we saw it enter a period of gradual decline. But that's where we're heading now.

Conference Diary: Monday 2

Last night's fringe on the future of Scotland under a Tory government, organised by Policy Exchange went very well indeed. The room was absolutely jam packed and I reckon there were well over 125 people there. I won't rehearse the arguments here, but suffice to say that there was not a lot of love towards Alex Salmond in the room. Alan Cochrane, Scottish editor of the Telegraph put a trenchant case for the Union and even suggested the repeal of the Scotland Act.

The room seemed to be split on the desirability of that, with an equal number of people wishing to continue with the current devolution settlement, and even some who wanted to see the Scottish Parliament and Executive getting further powers. David Mundell, as you might expect, said the party would only support a referendum, on further powers if it was approved by the Scottish Parliament, but it would argue against it. The party did, however, support the Calman Commission, something Alan Cochrane clearly views with disgust. He warned Conservatives not to be wooed by Alex Salmond, who he alleged was playing the Tory Party for all he was worth.

I have never been at a fringe where there were so many people who wanted to ask questions.

Conference Diary: Monday 1

I must admit I was not very happy when my alarm went off at 6.30. The thought of having to vhair a fringe meeting only an hour later filled me with horror. Although I am a morning person, I just couldn;t imagine who on earth would attend a fringe at that time of the morning. When I accepted the invitation to chair it, I had assumed it was in the evening... Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised. Clearly there are more people desperate to hear about food miles and the benefits of airfreighting fresh food into the country than I had imagined, as the event attracted fifty people. It was organised by the campaign group FLYING MATTERS and among the speakers were its chairman, former Labour MP Brian Wilson, Tory MEP Nirj Deva, who had hotfooted it from the UN General Assembly in New York, and Greenpeace's Chief Policy Advisor, Benet Northcote, who, you may be surprised to know is a former Tory candidate and Wilfred Emmanuel Jones, who is Tory PPC for Chippenham and used to rejoice in the title on Britain's only black farmer. He can't any longer as there is another one!

The discussion ranged far and wide, from the arguments surrounding climate change to airport expansion, sustainable development in third world countries and British agricultural policy. Indeed, it was far more interesting than I had thought it might be, with some lively contributions from the floor. All in all, a successful fringe event, I think. Which just about made getting up at such an ungodly hour worthwhile. Almost.

Is Gordon Going to Abandon His Reshuffle?

The papers are full of rumours that Gordon Brown will have to abandon his planned reshuffle on Friday because various ministers have made ckear that they would resign rather than be moved. It's perfectly possible that the PM will say he never planned a reshuffle in the first place and that it was all media hype. Except that he can't, as he needs a new Transport Secretary. So he's got a bit of a dilemma. But doesn't it demonstrate the weakness of his position, that he is effectively having to give in the blackmail by his Ministers. I can think of no Prime Minister in my lifetime who has been held to ransom like this.

If there was a share market in Gordon Browns I would be selling them fast.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Daley (Half) Dozen: Sunday

1. John Redwood explains why he is against the nationalisation of B & B.
2. Tom Harris on why the LibDems haven't got any shadow anythings.
3. Tory Diary has five of the Tory posters on display in Birmingham.4
4. Rene Lavanchy has some interesting Labour reshuffle speculation.
5. Shazia Awan explains on the Blue Blog how she lost her virginity.
6. Charles Crawford on Denis MacShane, Chris Patten and Europe.

Sorry for the short list today. Have to go to bed now. Am chairing a fringe meeting at 7.30 in the morning. YeGods...

Anyone in Birmingham, don't forget the Freedom Zone fringe at 12.30pm where I'll be interviewing David Davis, followed at 2.30 by the blogging fringe with Guido, Nadine, Dizzy and the Devil. I don't drink, but if you see me in a bar later on tomorrow afternoon you'll understand why I might need a double vodka...

Diary of a Conference Slut

I've just done a guest blog for the new Conservative Party Blue Blog. It's mainly about my twenty four years of attending party conferences. Here's how it starts...
Lovely to see Shazia Awan's conference diary in which she describes herself
as a "conference virgin". I did suggest that since this is my twenty fourth
conference the Blue Blog might title this offering as the Diary of a Conference
Slut, but that was felt to be too near the knuckle for those in the Party of a
more delicate disposition. It sparked off memories of the 2002 conference (at
least I think it was 2002...) when I was running the Politico's Bookstore stand
and Ann Widdecombe was selling one of her novels by doing a passing imitation of
an East End barrow boy. "No sex, no violence, no swearing, buy your very clean
novel here," she screeched to the admiring throng. Not a very good sales pitch,
I thought. After all, without a good dose of sex, violence and swearing, a
Conservative Party Conference wouldn't be the same, would it?

Read the full blogpost HERE.

Conference Diary: Sunday 4

Just had a chat with Eric Pickles about the new Tory commitment to encourage councils to reintroduce weekly collections. I asked him about the reaction of councillors to this. Unsurprisingly most have greeted it with huge enthusiasm. Of course, many councils of all political persuasions have introduced fortnightly collections, often because central government diktats leave them with no choice. All councils should be encouraged to improve their recycling, but when there are public health issues involved, they must take precedence. It will be interesting to see how many councils come forward and commit to reintroducing weekly collections.

Conference Diary: Sunday 3

In a few minutes time Boris will address the conference. Sadly I can't be in the hall to see his speech but I am told that he is going to commit to no council tax rise and also assert that "you cannot regulate your way out of a recession". I'll post more about his speech later, I hope, but I'm glad he he said this. Of course financial markets need to be regulated, but what we need - and what this government has failed to provide - is effective regulation, rather than more regulation.

Overregulation is in Labour's DNA and the Consertatives must be very careful not to fall into line with every new regulatory initiative which the Treasury or Labour Party HQ come up with. Many of them will be launched to garner positive press headlines rather than anything else, and the Tories must be prepared to speak out against them if necessary. Economic activity and growth are not spurred on by extra regulation. Quite the contrary.

Conference Diary: Sunday 2

Two very strong speeches from William Hague and David Cameron this afternoon. Hague was his rumbustuous self and Cameron did another fifteen minute off the cuff eloquent exposition of the Conservative response to the economic crisis. He spoke about the Tory plan for recovery, which is summed up in a booklet which I had better get a copy of. Here are a couple of bits from Hague's speech which sum it up...

"We know that the efforts of Labour to cling to office will be desperate; that they will spend money they do not have, on projects they will never complete, to cover up promises they have never kept, in pursuit of power they no longer deserve...

"And so we say to him, [Gordon Brown] that in a country with the biggest budget deficit in the whole developed world, with a weak, divided and dispirited government, with the poor getting poorer and the economy at a standstill, with the word of government less believed than at any time in our history, with violent crime at its highest in our history, with family breakdown the worst in Europe, with our armed forces overstretched and devalued, with our public servants demoralised, with stealth taxes hitting the whole country, with the nation's pension funds plundered by their own Prime Minister, and with no trace of hope, optimism or purpose emerging from a Cabinet consumed with its own fate, you have had your chance and blown it: this is no time for no change...."

Conference Diary: Sunday 1

The trouble with party conferences is that it is very difficult to keep tabs with the media narrative. Most of the journalists I have met so far seem completely knackered and willing the party conference season to be over. I suspect that the big story is not going to be here this week, it will be the unfurling economic situation. But that in itself represents a real opportunity for David Cameron and George Osborne to demonstrate that a Conservative government would have a well thought out approach to dealing with the crisis that is rapidly developing. I will be attending the session this afternoon and report back later.

The Task for the Tories

I shan't shed any tears if the Conservatives get no big headlines from their conference. Steady as she goes, should be the motto of the week. Boring is good. The only downside is that if journalists aren't fed stories they tend to go searching for ones which might not be so advantageous.

The key priority this week is for George Osborne and David Cameron to exude gravitas and competence, and show that Labour accusations that they have said nothing about the economic crisis are totally bogus.

I will be blogging from the Blackberry throughout the day, and I suspect the blog will take on the form of a real diary over the next three days as I flit from event to event. Hope you can keep up!

If you're at the conference, do come along to the fringe I am chairing tonight....

Scot Free: What future for the union under a Conservative government?
Jury's Inn
Policy Exchange & Total Politics
Chair: Iain Dale. Speakers: David Mundell MP, Alan Cochrane (Scotland editor, Daily Telegraph), Roger Gough (Policy Exchange), Dr Charlie Jeffery (Edinburgh University)

B&B: Was There An Alternative?

On my way to Birmingham last night I was listening to Five Live when the news was announced (in the usual way, by Robert Peston, for it is he) that the Bradford & Bingley was being nationalised. I wonder how much this had added to government debt. Presumably Gordon Brown will be too shameless to mention the 37% figure again. With Northern Rock it was 43.4%, so presumably it is now much higher.

The only people who will lose out are the B&B shareholders and the pension funds who still had investments in it. Robert Peston was at pains to point out that mortgage holders and depositers will be unaffected.

Did the government have any alternative to do what it did? Should it have allowed the B&B to go to the wall? Will it be the last bank to be rescued?


A Day with the Family

It might seem a bizarre way to spend your golden wedding anniversary, but my parents didn't want a party. They just wanted their three grandchildren and three children at home. In the end we all went out for a pub lunch in Great Yeldham and then spent a couple of hours at the Colne Valley Railway at Castle Headingham. They were having a Thomas the Tank Engine day, so my nieces were in their element. One of them, though, was a little frightened by the Fat Controller! The steam railway only has a mile of track, and I did think £11.50 per ticket was a bit steep (!), but it was a ll a very enjoyable experience.

The best part of the day was that on the way there, as a surprise, we took my parents to the church where they got married, in nearby Linton. It was all rather touching.

Yesterday evening, before I headed up to Birmingham, my sisters decided we would do something we hadn't done for about 25 years - and play a card game called Racing Demons. I used to love this game - it's incredibly fast moving, and provokes a lot of swearing. Nothing had changed, and I found myself calling my fourteen year old niece, Issy, things which would be banned on this blog... Disgraceful.

Anyway, it was a lovely day. Now back to politics...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday Open Thread

I won't be blogging today as I am spending the day with my parents in Saffron Walden. It's their golden wedding anniversary. Please discuss anything you want in this open thread.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Daley Dozen: Friday

1. Shane Greer exposes yet another Labour scaremongering lie.
2. Charles Crawford reckons the European parliament is full of 'liberal fascists'.
3. Letters From a Tory writes to Senator Dodd about the banking crisis.
4. Trixy is speechless. Well, that makes a change.
5. Tom Harris ain't as young as he used to be. Poor old bugger.
6. England Expects is no more. Gawain Towler explains why.
7. Shed a tear with Ellee Seymour over two painful departures.
8. Tomas Livingstone warns not to bet on David Miliband.
9. Fraser Nelson explains why Nigel Lawson was the most redistributive Chancellor in history.
10. Devil's Kitchen accuses Tom Harris of ... well, see for your ******* self.
11. Andy McSmith reckons Derek Draper is an alien.
12. Sadie's Tavern has fallen out of love with that nice Mr Fraser Nelson.

The 'Irresponsibility' of Gordon Brown

I have just been watching Gordon Brown's address to the United Nations. I think I was one of the few who remained awake. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Brown proclaimed...

"The age of irresponsibility is over"

Well if David Cameron can't hang that around his neck, then I'm a Dutchman. Who on earth was presiding over this 'age of irresponsibility' for eleven years as Chancellor?! If he knew that people were behaving irresponsibly and chose to do nothing about it, then who was being irresponsible? Yup, got it in one.


Brown's Control Freakery is Paralysing Government

When Tony Blair went, we all thought we were getting a return to Cabinet government. And so it seemed, for a bit. But then stories began to emerge about Gordon Brown wanting to micro-manage every department, rather than look at the big picture. Today CommentIsFree carries an article by Martin Kettle (no friend of the Conservatives) which contains a fascinating anecdote...
A few weeks ago, one official confided an extraordinary story to me. Four years ago, ministers decided that Britain's South Atlantic island possession of St Helena needed to have an airport. If planes could land on the tiny island, more than 1,200 miles from the nearest continent, its economic and demographic decline could perhaps be turned around. Plans began to be made. The airport was scheduled to open in 2010.

Earlier this year, the Foreign Office finally asked the Department for International Development to sign off on the airport. The file went up to the secretary of state, Douglas Alexander. But instead of giving the go-ahead himself, Alexander was required to pass the decision up to Downing Street. Brown insisted on reading all the papers in the St Helena file and afterwards asked personally to see all the tender documents, in case they did not give value for money. I am told the papers remain in Downing Street and that no final decision has yet been taken.

It would be hard to find a better example of a decision that a prime minister in times of trouble should not waste his time on and one that should be delegated to ministers. What would Napoleon have said? But the St Helena episode has become a Whitehall byword for a lethal combination of micromanagement and indecision.

If ever anything summed up the hopelessness of Brown's style of government, this does. And the thing is, he will never change. His government is being paralysed by Brown's insistence that the whole shabang has to be run from Number 10. Perhaps if he trusted his Ministers a little, they might - from time to time - rise to the occasion. Sadly, we are unlikely to find out.

Hattip James Forsyth.

Last Night's Question Time

I have been putting the finishing touches to the Top 100 Right Wingers List which starts in the Telegraph on Sunday, and while doing so have been watching last night's Question Time. I reckon it was one of the best episodes I have seen for some time. I thought every member of the panel was on form, even if Derek Simpson was a bit monosyllabic. He does have a wonderfully dry sense of humour, though.

Theresa May and Hazel Blears were very firey. If they had been at secondary school they would have been pulling each other's hair out in the playground. Theresa put in her strongest performance on Question Time ever, I thought, and Hazel Blears did herself no harm by being very blunt and feisty. Fraser Nelson took great delight in teasing her about standing for leader, and David Dimbleby even referred to her a Ginger Chipmunk. I wonder where he got that from... No, I mustn't lay claim to inventing the chipmunk phrase. I have learned my lesson on that one.

UPDATE: Watch the Ginger Chipmunk moment HERE.

Has Draper's Blogwar Campaign Started?

Over the last three days I have noticed that there has been a dramatic increase in anonymous postings on this blog, full of bile and vitriol at everything Conservative. I wonder if Derek Draper has let loose his puppies of war. Just asking.

Justin Webb Says 'Death to Al Qaeda'!

There are plenty of readers of this blog who appear to think the BBC's North American editor Justin Webb is a liberal, pinko lovin' Commie. I've never quite understood this. Perhaps they should read his diary column in this week's Spectator and they might see a different side to him...

There is a sharp intake of breath at a BBC meeting when I tell the story of friends in Washington who have been known, after saying grace at the start of their smart dinner parties, to raise their glasses a second time with the shout, ‘Death to al-Qa’eda!’ This approach to the world, simplistic and doomed to disappointment as it doubtless is, strikes me as refreshing in its acknowledgement of identity. American self-confidence has been battered by the Iraq war and by events on Wall Street — on the eve of this election most Americans think the country is in poor shape — but they still back themselves and the American creed: pluralism, tolerance and freedom. They raise their glasses in what they genuinely believe is a fundamentally decent cause. And I raise my glass back to them.

I now have this great desire to organise a dinner party and invite Yasmin, Polly, Johann, Jackie, Sir Michael, et al. Mind you, I suspect they would be more shocked by the thought of saying grace, than by raising a toast to the death of Al Qaeda. Having said that, as an agnostic, it's not likely to happen at any dinner party I organise, I suppose.

You Know Things Are Desperate When...

HARRIET Harman is the new favourite with the bookmakers to replace Gordon Brown as the next leader of the Labour Party, according to Ladbrokes this morning. She has replaced Foreign Secretary David Miliband at the head of Ladbrokes' betting. Harman, who re-built her career after being sacked from Tony Blair's first cabinet, is now 3/1 from 5/1 with Miliband out to 7/2 from 2/1.

3/1 Harriet Harman
7/2 David Miliband
5/1 Jack Straw
8/1 Jon Cruddas
8/1 Alan Johnson
12/1 James Purnell
12/1 John Denham
16/1 Alan Milburn
16/1 Ed Balls
16/1 John Reid
20/1 Andy Burnham
20/1 Ed Miliband
25/1 Caroline Flint
25/1 John Hutton
25/1 Yvette Cooper

The New Conservative Party Website

The Conservatives have launched their new website this morning, along with the Blue Blog. First impressions are good. The design is quite appealing, above all very clear. Navigation is also good. It re-establishes the Conservatives as the party with the best website.

However - and there always is a however, isn't there - there's something indefinable that is missing. It's a bit too safe. There's nothing very radical about it - nothing that has a 'wow' factor to it. Sure, the Video Wall is good, and the Blue Blog is a welcome innovation (but why no link to it from every other page?), but the DONATE page is far too vanilla. There's nothing to make you actually WANT to do it.

I'm told it is all very much work in progress and that lots of new things will be added over the coming months, so we'll look forward to that. The technology behind the site is flexible enough to allow quick changes to be made, not just to the content, but also the structure. One of their team told me that it's intended to last for several years, well beyond the next election.Political party sites are notoriously difficult to get right and also notoriously difficult to attract traffic to. And that's the challenge for the Conservatives.com new six strong web team.

It's great that the site is now properly resourced. far too often in the past really good initiatives have been started and then allowed to wither on the vine (remember the Sort It campaign). But I hope they realise that marketing the site is just as important as the technology and content.

So overall, I like it. B+.

Blog Regulations Proposals Thrown Out

The European Parliament proposals to regulate bloggers were thrown out yesterday, thank goodness. EU Observer has the full story HERE.

UPDATE: My original story can be found HERE. I suspect this isn't quite the end of the story and that periodically they will return to the issue, as is usual in EU matters. Eternal vigilance is required!

Telegraph Column: Cameron's Reshuffle Dilemmas

My Telegraph column today looks at how David Cameron may reshuffle his Shadow Cabinet once Gordon Brown has completed his own reshuffle. The main guesses predictions are...

  • Edward Garnier to become Shadow Attorney General
  • Ed Vaizey to replace Peter Ainsworth at Environment
  • Theresa Villiers to move from Transport
  • Greg Clark to replace David Willetts at Innovation, Universities & Skills
  • Maria Miller & Justine Greening to possible decline promotion
  • Sir Malcolm Rifkind to head up new Shadow Department of the Nations team
  • James Arbuthnot to be Defence Secretary in a Conservative Government

Enough to get your teeth into? Read the full column HERE.

Did I Ever Tell You...

I don't have many claims to fame, but inventing the phrase "plastic poll tax" as a description for ID cards is one of them - back in 2005. I see it has become Chris Huhne's phrase du jour. Royalty cheques should be sent to...

PS Did I tell you I also invented blogging? :)

UPDATE Fri: When I was typing this entry, I did think to myself 'I bet someone comes up with an instance of someone else using it'. And they have. Anthony King in 2003. OK, hands up. I really am Al Gore in disguise.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Moment of Epiphany

I have just seen an advert for the Halifax which says they pay fifty times more interest than any other bank.

Suddenly, the demise of HBOS all makes sense :)

The Daley Dozen: Thursday

An early Daley Dozen tonight. I am now off to do the Sky News paper review at 10.30 and 11.30.

1. Donal Blaney apologises to Tim Montgomerie.
2. Danny Finkelstein has the latest Downfall video, featuring Giles Coren and his Chief Sub Editor.
3. Danny Finkelstein (on form today!) writes an open letter to Andy Coulson. Or if you get the subtle hint, it could be to someone else.
4. The FT Westminster blog on how Labour can fight back through blogs (according to D Draper).
5. Hopi Sen looks forward to the Tory Conference. At least I think he does.
6. Mike Rouse is well impressed by Lisa Chantelle. I suspect he is not alone.
7. Iain Martin reckons Derek Draper's not so bad really. Guido begs to differ.
8. Mark Pack explains why he reads the Daily Mail.
9. Earth, or in this case Tom Harris, is calling Redwood.
10. PR Media blog on a Tory blogging initiative in Birmingham.
11. Theo Blackwell on what Labour can learn from Arsene Wenger.
12. Neil Stockley on reading the British public's views on climate change.

My Conservative Conference Diary

I've had a couple of people email to ask if I am going to be speaking at any fringe meetings at the Tory Conference. So in an effort to drum up an audience for those events, here are the ones I am speaking at or chairing. Here goes..


Scot Free: What future for the union under a Conservative government?
Jury's Inn
Policy Exchange & Total Politics
Chair: Iain Dale. Speakers: David Mundell MP, Alan Cochrane (Scotland editor, Daily Telegraph), Roger Gough (Policy Exchange), Dr Charlie Jeffery (Edinburgh University)

Flying and Fair Trade? Should we stop buying air-freighted food to save the planet?
7.30am-9am over breakfast
ICC, Room 10A
Organised by Flying Matters
Chair: Iain Dale. Speakers Wilfred Emmanuel Jones, Rt Hon Brian Wilson, Nirj Deva MEP, Benet Northcote (Greenpeace) et al

David Davis in Conversation with Iain Dale
Austin Court Hotel
Freedom Zone & Total Politics
A half hour conversation followed by audience Q & A

Freedom & the Internet
Austin Court Hotel
Freedom Zone
Chair: Iain Dale. Speakers: Guido Fawkes, Phil Hendren, Chris Mounsey, Nadine Dorries

Collaboration or Control? Politics and the Internet in the 21st Century
Telford Room, Austin Court Hotel, 80 Cambridge Street
Organised by Centre for Policy Studies
Speakers: Iain Dale, Jeremy Hunt MP & Robert Colvile (Daily Telegraph), Paul Morris (Microsoft)


Climate Change: How to be Blue & Green
ICC, Hall 9
Organised by the Conservative Women's Organisation & Oxfam
Chair: Iain Dale. Speakers: Andrew Mitchell MP, Peter Ainsworth, Barbara Stocking (Oxfam), Tony Hawkhead (Groundwork).

People Like Us: Is British Society fairly reflected in Parliament?
Jubilee & Kohinoor Room, Copthorne Hotel, Paradise Circus
Organised by the Hansard Society
Speakers: Iain Dale, Julie Kirkbride MP, Sayeeda Warsi, Eleanor Laing MP and Theresa May MP

Tories Got Talent
Austin Court Hotel, 80 Cambridge Street
Freedom Zone
Compere: Iain Dale. Judges: Jonathan Isaby & Nadine Dorries
The Tory equivalent of Simon Cowell's Britain's Got Talent. Why am I dreading this one? Must remember to hitch the trousers up...

Please also do come and visit the Total Politics exhibition stand, where we will be handing out copies of the magazine, together with the packs of the Sky News Top Trumps cards. The stand is in the ICC Hall 3, number 78.

LibDems Found Guilty of Breaching Privacy Rules

Remember THIS? Sky is reporting that Nick Clegg and the LibDems have been found guilty of breaking privacy rules by phoning people without their invitation on the evening of Clegg's speech at their party conference. It's not as if they weren't warned.

The Sexist Language of Harriet Harman

Imagine the outcry there would be if someone like, say, David Cameron said this about Harriet Harman...

She's the kind of woman your mother used to warn you about.

You know the kind of woman I'm talking about.

She'll promise you the world. Promise to make all your dreams come true.

But if she got her wicked way with - you in the ballot box - you'd never hear from her again."

I suspect there would be such a media outcry that in the end Cameron would be forced to issue a fulsome and humiliating public apolology. Yet replace the word she with he etc and those are the exact words used yesterday by Harriet Harman about David Cameron. As far as I am concerned it's all part of political banter, but she would be the first to complain if a Conservative used such language about her. She may need reminding of that one day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Jeremy Paxman Quote of the Day

Paxman's signoff line on tonight's Newsnight...

"I'll be here again tomorrow night, when it would be jolly nice if you could sit up an pay attention."


The Daley Dozen: Wednesday

1. Mark Hanson has a very entertaining Labour conference diary.
2. Fraser Nelson makes the astonishing assertion that Brown isn't paid to lie to us.
3. Jane Merrick hands out her coveted Manchester awards.
4. Conor Ryan hits out at the treatment of his old boss, Ruth Kelly.
5. Paul Waugh names the BBC source for the Miliband-Heseltine story.
6. Tom Harris explains how he learned his boss (Ruth Kelly) has resigned.
7. The CovWatch blog is getting moist at the thought of the Tory Party Conference on Coventry's doorstep.
8. Robert Peston to Gordon Brown: J'accuse.
9. Sadie's Tavern on those reshuffle rumours.
10. Cranmer on 'Catholics for Obama.
11. Jo Christie-Smith asks if Sarah Palin might be good for women.
12. John Redwood says one speech does not a comeback make.

Who's the Novice Now?

The Telegraph is reporting that US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulsen is refusing to meet our novice esteemed Prime Minister on his much vaunted trip to New York to solve the world's financial crisis. You'd laugh if it wasn't so sad - and so humiliating for this country. More HERE.

Novices: It Therefore Follows...

If, in these challenging times of financial instability caused by the US mortgage market collapse it is 'no time for a novice'... then it must follow that Gordon Brown believes that the next President of the US should be John McCain and not Barack Obama...

I must admit, when I heard the 'novice' line (which was admittedly a rather good one) I assumed it was a dig at David Miliband rather than David Cameron. To be able to insult both of them at the same time must have been doubly rewarding!

Children and Props

This is a charming photo issued by Number Ten in April 2007. It really is. It made even a wizened old sceptic like me feel warm towards the PM and his family. Had he not mentioned the phrase yesterday, I would never have thought he was using his children as 'props'...

Just like any other group of people, politicians are proud of their kids. And why the hell not? I can't understand the mindset which says that they must be kept hidden away. Protected yes, hidden no. A politician's family is part of what makes them tick. It's not possible to totally separate private and public, and to pretend you can is clearly ridiculous. Brown is right that kids don't choose to be part of a public media-driven circus, but by sending out photos like this, he is acknowledging that even he has to bow to the inevitable. It's just a shame that 18 months later he seems to forget doing it.


For some reason some people are getting this message when they try to access this blog - including me. Can anyone explain why this is and what I can do about it?


The spin from Team Brown is that Sarah Brown's intro to yesterday's speech was entirely her idea and only discussed a few hours before the speech was given - and that it was entirely her idea.

On the Today Programme this morning, Gordon Brown says: "We discussed it over the summer".

They can't even get their stories straight over that.

PS She did do it very well though.

The Top 100 Left Wingers: 25-1

And today we have the final instalment of the Top 100 Left Wingers. Click to see the full lists HERE and read our rationale HERE.

4. (+13) ED MILIBAND
5. (-) ED BALLS
12. (-10) TONY BLAIR
13. (-7) JACK STRAW
17. (-1) SUE NYE
18. (+5) GEOFF HOON

And starting on Sunday, the Top 100 Right Wingers... Betcha can't wait, eh?

Using Your Wife as a Prop

Great comment from The Dirty Rat on Guido's blog...

I have a rather important interview today. My wife is coming along and will introduce me to the board and tell them what a f****** good bloke I am etc. etc. Nice touch don't you think?

If David Cameron Slept With a Goat...

What I found hilarious about reading through more than 200 comments left on the Gordon Brown speech thread is the blatant organised trolling by Brown devotees. They're obviously thick. They accuse me of a ritualistic knee jerl slagging off of his speech but they clearly haven't thought this through. Most of us on the right were willing him to put in a good performance yesterday - just good enough to cement his position for a bit longer. And that, according to the BBC, is just what he has done. I seriously thought it was so bad that it would encourage the plotters, but I am very happy if I am proven wrong.

Gordon Brown is politically already a dead man walking. There is nothing - barring transforming himself into Superman and David Cameron found sleeping with a goat - that he can do to recover his position. And even then I'm still not sure he'd win. Some of the more sensible Labour types know this and recognise that he has reached a tipping point. Others delude themselves that he is the man to get them a fourth term.

I haven't always believed that, as the archives for this blog will show. Until very recently I thought it was possible or him to turn things around. I no longer do.

And The Most Qualified Person Is...

Gordon Brown makes much of the fact that he is the only politician who is remotely qualified to get us out of the economic mess he has landed us we're in. Using his logic, I wondered about some other similarly "qualified" people, who might have overseen similar reconstructions/revamps...

1. Hitler - uniquely qualified to oversee the postwar reconstruction of Germany
2. Graham Taylor - uniquely qualified to rebuild the England team after their failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup.
3. Adam Applegarth - uniquely qualified to bring the glory days back to Northern Rock.
4. Robert Maxwell - uniquely qualified to rebuild the Daily Mirror Pension Fund.

Feel free to suggest other appropriate people...

A Jacqui Smith Video Biography

The Observer has made biographical films of three politicians which are being shown at the party conferences. I've contributed to all three, and here's the one for the Labour conference featuring Jacqui Smith. They seem to have only included the positive or nice things I said about her! Last week's one on Vince Cable is HERE. And next week we have Eric Pickles.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Top 100 Left Wingers 50-26

Brian Brivati and I explain HERE our reasoning behind this year's Top 100 Left Wingers. Final instalment tomorrow...
33. (-2) DAN CORRY
34. (+14) LIAM BYRNE
35. (+47) IAN AUSTIN MP
45. (-1) NEAL LAWSON
47. (-14) JACK DROMEY

The Daley Dozen: Tuesday

1. The Australian Conservative launches as their equivalent to Conservative Home.
2. Former Labour MP Jane Griffiths launches a vicious attack on her erstwhile Reading colleague Martin Salter.
3. Dizzy wonders if Gordon Brown has been watching West Wing.
4. Paul Scully has an amusing tale of the Labour MP who hates junk mail so much he sends it.
5. Charlotte Gore thinks Gordon Brown is using emotional blackmail. Surely not.
6. James Forsyth predicts Harriet Harman is the Coming Woman.
7. Paul Waugh on Gordon's "hand of history" moment.
8. Jon Craig gives us some background on a media savvy Sarah Brown.
9. Rene Lavenchy asks an important question: what has happened to James Purnell's sideburns?
10. Adam MacQueen asks if perhaps Gordon Brown's leg fell off?
11. James Cleverley has a new job.
12. Colin Byrne has an entertaining Manchester diary.

Gordon Brown Speech Open Thread

Your comments please...

2.35 Nothing new so far, no mea culpa, lots about being serious, a sentence about not using his children as props, which by even mentioning them he just did.

2.40 The list of announcements starts with a commitment to an 80 per cent cut.

Wants to help families through difficult times. What about those not classed as 'families'.

2.43 Incredibly weak Harry Potter joke.

2.47 Describes the NHS as "Labour's NHS"!

2.52 Getting applause after every couple of sentences. Very reminiscent of IDS in 2003.

2.53 Wants to put children first. As opposed to putting them second.

2.55 Promises complete elimination of child poverty by 2020. He must know this is an impossible pledge to keep.

2.56 This is a speech which ticks boxes, but doesn't inspire.

2.59 Here he goes with the personal stuff.

3.00 From April free health check ups for over 40s.

3.02 Abolishing prescription charges for cancer patients.

3.06 Lots of announcements, but where the vision? Where's the plan?

3.08 This is a budget speech, not a conference speech.

3.09 Bear in mind I am listening to this sitting in a service station on the M6. It may come across differently on TV.

3.17 Not sure how much more of this bollocks I can listen to. Apparently all the nation's ills are the fault of the Conservative Party ... who haven't been in power for eleven years.

3.18 Whenever he talks about how much he loves this country he sounds so incredibly false.

3.20 Oh, 55 minutes in, he finally mentions the armed forces. In one throwaway sentence. Disgusting.

3.21 Sorry, I now understand why George Osborne says he hates Gordon Brown. I can't stand listening to him any longer. I am going to get back on the M6 and switch over to Steve Wright on Radio 2. He talks more sense.

Quentin Letts Names Labour's Next Leader

From today's Daily Mail...
Later in the afternoon we heard briefly from Hazel Blears. She was perky, relaxed, animated, committed, intimate, all in the space of three minutes. Now I know many of you will read this and laugh like goats but if Labour really wants a new leader to dent Cameron, and if Alan Johnson truly isn't going to run, I reckon Labour could do worse than opt for the ginger chipmunk.

Hear, hear! The campaign starts here.

Poll: Most Influential Journalists

In a future issue of TOTAL POLITICS we will be doing a big feature on the 50 Most Influential Political Journalists in the UK. And we'd like your help in compiling it. We've created an online poll, which you can take part in HERE...

There are six questions in the survey and it should take around five minutes to fill in.


PS: If you have a blog, please feel free to encourage your readers to vote!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Miliband Falls Flat

I've been at a dinner tonight pontificating on the general political situation tonight, and have just got back to see the Miliband story which broke three quarters of an hour ago on the BBC website.
The foreign secretary, tipped by some as a future leader, was discussing his speech with staff who told him that it was being given six marks out of ten. He was heard to reply: "I couldn't have gone any further. It would have been a Heseltine moment." His aide replied: "No, you are right. You went as far as you could. That was what the party needed to hear."

I'm not sure this is as big a story as the BBC are making out. It really would have been a big story if he had said: "I wish I had gone further and done a Heseltine."

I listened to Miliband's speech driving up to Manchester on the radio. I was underwhelmed. He made all the errors David Davis was said to have made in 2005. The delivery was wooden, he fluffed too many lines and he stuck too rigidly to his brief. Most people here seem to agree with that analysis, with the likes of Quentin Letts and Kevin Maguire also panning it. It got a perfunctory, rather than ecstatic, standing ovation and left the audience wondering if he had been built up beyond his reputation. If only he could make a platform speech like his brother Ed.

The Daley Dozen: Monday

1. SNP Tactical Voting has some interesting advice on buying shares.
2. Headhitter on being a Tory hippy.
3. Spin & Spinners on two examples of Alastair Campbell's lies.
4. Robert Peston fisks Andrew Marr's interview with Gordon Brown. Not sure Mr Marr will be pleased.
5. Donal Blaney has some amusing marketing lessons for young Conservatives.
6. Jon Craig has a bizarre encounter with Cherie Booth.
7. A LabourHome blogger on why he is resigning from the Labour Party.
8. Paul Waugh has a sneak preview of Davod Miliband's first Cabinet.
9. Iain Martin thinks Ed Balls is the next Chancellor. Oh please let it be so.
10. LibDem Voice has news from, er, Rochdale Labour Party.
11. Tom Harris in porno shocker.
12. Cranmer is praying for Gordon.

The Inconsistencies of Alistair Darling


In a speech on 18 May, David Cameron said this (as reported in the Daily Mail)...
Mr Cameron hopes his offer of a return to what Lady Thatcher called "live within your means" will chime with disillusioned voters.

Five months later, at today's Labour conference session, Chancellor Alistair Darling the BBC reports...
Mr Darling said the government would be "disciplined" in its attitude to the public finances and would have "to live within its means".

Funny how at the time of Cameron's speech, he was accused by Labour of returning to rampant Thatcherism...


Today the BBC reports ...

When asked earlier by the BBC if income tax would go up Mr Darling declined to answer "yes" or "no", instead saying "it is not the time to take money out of the economy".
Yet a year ago, he seemed to think that cutting tax, rather than raising it, would take money out of the economy. This is from John Redwood's blog...
It was even stranger to hear him revealing his economic ignorance, when he told the nation of the damage that taking £21 billion (his assessment of the costs of all the tax proposals in the Report) out of the economy would do. What ever does he mean by that? The £21 billion stays firmly in the economy it is just that the government does not get its hands on it. The whole point of reductions in tax rates is to stimulate more growth and jobs, as the private sector is usually more creative and successful at spending such money well.

Isn't it rather worrying to have a Chancellor who believes that money is taken out of the economy by cutting tax, and also believes it is taken out by raising tax?

The John Reid Train Will Not Leave the Station

Ben Brogan reckons it's John Reid who is feared by the Tories. He and other political journos keep hinting that Reid may well be up for a spectacular comeback. I hate to disappoint them but they are whistling in the wind. It just ain't gonna happen. Trust me. I have reason to know.

Oooh, that was cryptic, wasn't it?

Brown & Hoon In Showdown

I am hearing rumours of a quite spectacular fallout between Gordon Brown and Geoff Hoon. It seems Mr Hoon has not been quite so loyal as he has made out... More if I get it.

EXCLUSIVE: Name of New Official Tory Blog Revealed

In a couple of hours the Tories will officially name their new blog. It's going to be called The Blue Blog. Snappy, eh?! It will form part of the newly revamped Conservatives.com website, which will go live in a few days time. From the shortlist they had, I suspect it was the best option, if not very daring. With a name like that, there are bound to be others in different sectors, but so what.

It's interesting that both the Labour Party and LibDems have also revamped their websites in the last few weeks to coincide with their conferences. The Labour one is a vast improvement on what they had before, but I still think the LibDem one looks to messy and difficult to navigate, even if it has far more functionality than the previous version.

A lot of us are expecting big things from the new Conservative website. I'll bring you news of it when I have it.

Snippets from Manchester

* The city of Chester's delegate has had her pass withdrawn and booted out of Conference after bumping in to David Milliband. She told him that he was a disgrace for the way he is "plotting" to bring down Gordon Brown. Miliband's people complained and they have now withdrawn her pass as a result.
* Arrived at my hotel, the Malmaison. Very impressive. Rooms decorated like an old style western bordello. I imagine.
* I am told that Tory defector Quentin Davies is cutting a rather lonely figure at the conference. He was spotted last night leaving the secure zone at about half ten last night on his own, just as the parties were kicking off elsewhere. Today he was seen hanging around the side of the conference hall looking like the kid no one wants to talk to in the playground. I almost feel sorry for him. Almost.
* Last night James Purnell was in the bar of the Radisson. He was drinking a half pint. He's never going to win the backing of the beer and sandwiches crowd with an effete habit like that...

Telegraph Top Left Wingers List 75-51

The second installment of the Top 100 Left Wingers list appears in the Telegraph today, conting down from 75 to 51.

58. (-12) HAZEL BLEARS
67. (-24) JON CRUDDAS MP
70. (-5) CLAIRE FOX
71. (-21) BOB CROW

The Nixonian Personality of Gordon Brown

"Don't try to take on a new personality; it doesn't work."
Richard Nixon

Someone said to be that Gordon Brown is turning into Richard Nixon. Admittedly there is a facial similarity with the hang dog expression and jowls, but until now I hadn't thought about the psychological similarities. I have quite a fascination for Nixon and have probably read more books about him and by him than about any other politician bar Margaret Thatcher.

But think about it. Like Nixon, Brown's in a very difficult corner, but can't seem to acknowledge the hole he is in. Like Nixon, he constantly talks about 'getting on with the job'. All around him, key political allies maintain a pretence that all is well and that people are not really consumed by Watergate a leadership crisis.

The Labour conference is proceeding as normal, but there is an elephant in the room. Last night I had an email from a friend which summed it up.
It's like a family holiday where uncle's just been revealed as a cross dresser + 2 aunties shagging the same cousin.... Keep up appearances til they get home with the carving knives... These people are deluded....
One example of Gordon's paranoia is the campaign by his acolytes (translation: Charlie Whelan & friends) to get Martin Bright sacked as political editor of the New Statesman for not being sufficiently 'on message'. Private Eye has already revealed Whelan's bullying of Bright and his aggression towards Bright's wife.
Whelan duly gave Thorpe [Mrs Bright] and listening hacks a rambling monologue in which he insisted her husband and the father of her two children should be fired. “I’m no fan of Livingstone, but Martin Bright should not be political editor after what he did,” he said. “I’m going to talk to Geoffrey… He can’t allow criticism of Gordon. If Geoffrey’s got any sense, he’ll listen.”
There's more detail at Harry's Place HERE. Bright himself acknowledged what has been going on in a recent blogpost which he ended with the words...
As someone who has experienced at first hand the inept mafioso tactics of Brown’s political gangsters, I could not agree more.

As Harry's Place said, Brown went beserk when Bright did his documentary exposing Ken Livingstone, which did him so much damage in the mayoral campaign. Rumour is that Brown tried to get his old mucker Geoffrey Robinson to sack him from the New Statesman at that point. Robinson wisely demurred, but since then there has been a drip drop campaign to oust Bright.

According to Harry's Place...
A hate campaign ensued and soon trade unions were drafted in as muscle, threatening to withdraw their advertising from New Statesman unless Martin Bright was given the boot.

Had it not been for the sale of 50% of the NS to Mike Danson, there is little doubt in my mind that Robinson would eventually have succumbed to the pressure. Danson, however, is made of sterner stuff.

Tribune alleges that the new NS editor, Jason Cowley, also wishes to relieve Bright of his weekly column, but has found out that it is protected in Bright's contract. Cowley has also hired a new political correspondent, James MacIntyre (son of Don), a very well thought of young journo currently plying his trade at the Independent. It's getting to the point where Bright could sue for constructive dismissal.

So Martin Bright is now getting the Ivan Lewis treatment from Brown's henchmen. I don't know why anyone would be surprised. Lewis was the Minister whose slightly amorous text messages somehow found their way into the Sunday papers, coincidentally a few days after he had made some slightly off colour remarks about the direction of the government. Funny that. Can't think how that happened. Nick Cohen can though. He catalogues how Brown is using his thugs to stamp on any sign of internal dissent in THIS article.

All of this coincides with the reemergence of Charlie Whelan as one of Gordon Brown's key allies. His new role in UNITE gives him access to all sorts of levers of power, and believe you me he is pulling them. And allied with the reemergence of Derek Draper as a power in the Labour land, it's easy to see the way the wind is blowing.

The signals being sent out to any dissident is: mess with us and we will mess with you. What's so Nixonian is that once you're on their enemies list they never give up, even though they are meant to be running the country.

I wonder if Alex Hilton is having a good time in Manchester.

Decoding Mrs Blears

On the face of it, Dominic Lawson got a corker of an interview in yesterday's Independent on Sunday - with none other than that picture of permanent chirpiness, Hazel Blears. Jane Merrick thinks it spells big trouble for one G Brown. Let's give her words a light 'fisk'... (my comments in blue italics)...

If people are telling you, Dominic, that the Government is dysfunctional on the basis of their tiny perspective... well, there may well be concerns that people have got. I do think that making decisions quickly and executing them is essential to good government, and I've learnt that over the past 10 years."
An overt reference to Brown's dithering and lack of decision making ability?
Some people are saying that he's a decent man, we're sick of all these attacks, pulling someone apart, we don't like it. But then there are concerns from people: do they really know him? I think there is a responsibility to try and connect more with people... If you're not careful, people think you're out of touch and you don't understand them, and I think that's a very bad place for politicians to be."
Which is where, by implication, she thinks Gordon is.
When people think about Gordon, it might be that he's a bit serious and dour – but experienced... People make their political decisions not just rationally, but emotionally as well, and I think that our government needs to be more emotionally intelligent, and the bit that Cameron has got is a language...
So Gordon lacks emotional intelligence.
So I asked Blears: is it your position that Gordon Brown remains the only person who can lead the country at this time? "My position is that, at a time of economic global turbulence, I think that the Labour Party needs to get on with the job of trying to protect ordinary people as they go about their lives." You will observe that Blears chose not to answer a simple question with the simple answer: yes.
She's not the only one.
I genuinely think at the moment that if we have a big bloodbath in the Labour Party... I would rather we didn't get into that sort of internecine warfare. And if the party can find another way through and face its challenges, then I think it will be in a better place."
Those words raise many more questions than they answer.
This was a genuinely revealing interview with a politician who knows what has to be done but can't quite bring herself to say (or do) what we all know she is thinking. I remember all the speeches an interviews given by the likes of Michael Heseltine, Peter Walker, et al. They were pored over by Westminster Kremlinologists, who were searching for any sign of disloyalty to the leader. Yesterday it was Hazel Blears's turn. Today it will be David Miliband's.

What Jed Bartlet Said to Barack Obama

The New York Times has a fascinating account of an (imaginary) conversation between President Jed Bartlet and Barack Obama. It's actually written by West Wing creator (the God that is) Aaron Sorkin. Read the full piece HERE, but here's a snatch to wet your appetite...

BARTLET That was a hell of a convention.

OBAMA Thank you, I was proud of it.

BARTLET I meant the Republicans. The Us versus Them-a-thon. As a Democrat I was surprised to learn that I don’t like small towns, God, people with jobs or America. I’ve been a little out of touch but is there a mandate that the vice president be skilled at field dressing a moose —

OBAMA Look —

BARTLET — and selling Air Force Two on eBay?

OBAMA Joke all you want, Mr. President, but it worked.

BARTLET Imagine my surprise. What can I do for you, kid?

OBAMA I’m interested in your advice.

BARTLET I can’t give it to you.

OBAMA Why not?

BARTLET I’m supporting McCain.


BARTLET He’s promised to eradicate evil and that was always on my “to do” list.

God I miss the West Wing.

Trumping at the Labour Party Conference

I'm driving up to Manchester this morning, but fear not dear reader, I have written some juicy blogposts which are timed to appear during the course of the day. Sadly I don't actually have a pass to get me into the conference itself (£200 at late accreditation I ask you!), which for my physical safety may be just as well. I'm attending a dinner this evening and staying overnight.

But those of you who are lucky enough to have a pass, do head over to the TOTAL POLITICS stand and pick up a free pack of Sky News Top Trumps cards. The blurb tells me...

The specially-produced card game, which proved a big hit with (most) MPs and party activists last year, again features 30 of the country’s most influential politicians. Each card includes pen portraits and scores the politicians against five new categories – all judged by a panel of leading political journalists, which might strike a worrying chord for the Prime Minister as his future prospects score comes out at a lowly three out of ten.

Gordon Brown does top the Google hits category with a score of 7,470,000. But it is the Tory leader who is seen to have the best future prospects with the highest score of nine and also heads the value of memoirs category with a rating of £2.4 million. Interestingly, Cabinet colleagues David Miliband, James Purnell and Andy Burnham are judged as having the best prospects in Labour’s ranks.

The other two categories are the expenses claimed and the marginality of their seats. Alex Salmond – the King of Scotland as he is dubbed on the cards – is the biggest spender at £166,814 while Chief Secretary Yvette Cooper’s West Yorkshire seat is seen as the safest of those featured in the pack.

As one of only two Lib-Dems in the pack, party leader Nick Clegg may be disappointed with average ratings. But he does better than Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly and former Shadow Home Secretary David Davies who are both dropped altogether. Among the new entrants seen as rising stars are Tory Culture spokesman Jeremy Hunt and Labour left-winger Jon Cruddas. London Mayor Boris Johnson, although no longer an MP, keeps his place which suggests the panel believe he remains a major political player.

Sky News Political Editor Adam Boulton, who led the selection panel, said: “The game was hugely popular last year but we did receive the odd complaint from those unhappy with their scores. I expect that will be the case again this time. It’s a fun and light-hearted game to play but what’s on the cards is the collective view of some of our most dedicated Westminster watchers so the ratings are bound to spark some debate”.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Daley Dozen: Sunday


Fraser Nelson needs a hug.

1. Dizzy explains how a Tory councillor became a terror suspect.
2. Tom Harris on when he will know his wife is going to divorce him.
3. Iain Lindley on the similarities between the Labour Party Conference and Eurovision.
4. Capitalists@Work have news of a new J K Rowling book.
5. John Cruddas is obviously in denial at the Labour Conference. It's all going swimmingly, he says.
6. Nadine reckons Gordon Brown has had Botox!
7. Tim Congdon on the UKIP blog has a Eurozone 'what if'.
8. LibDem Voice on the pointlessness of uniform swing calculations.
9. Jon Craig is predicting a reshuffle at the end of next week.
10. Red Box on what Deborah Mattinson told the Cabinet (and Charlie Whelan).
11. Jeremy Hunt reckons he knows why his local surgeries are so busy.
12. SNP Tactical Voting reckons new Scottish leader Iain Gray is the most boring man in Britain.

Caption Competition: Ed Balls Takes It...

I am indebted to the FT Westminster blog for this photo from today's football match between the media and Labour. I'm not sure who is administering to Mr Balls, but I do hope he was wearing protection. UPDATE: It's the FT's George Parker...

Any captions to entertain us with?