Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Daley (Half) Dozen: Saturday

1. Tom Harris explains why he has no regrets over his yes vote on Iraq and why Tony Blair is simply fab.
2. Lobbydog on how a US political interviewer rubbed herself against Gordon Brown.
3. Bob Piper appears to both defend and attack Gordon Brown over British Jobs for British workers. He should be a LibDem.
4. Richard Willis asks why no one saw our imminent bankruptcy coming.
5. Kerry McCarthy MP explains why she votes for the government.
6. Political Betting asks if this is the winter of our discontent.

Film Review: Frost v Nixon

Last night I went to see Frost v Nixon with mini me Shane Greer. Those of you who are long time readers of this blog will know that I have a certain fascination with Richard Nixon. I've read every book he has written (and he was a fantastic writer) and also visited to Nixon Library in Yorba Linda in California. While recognising his deep flaws, he was, in many ways, a brilliant politician, tactician and intellect. Those who write him off as a crook and just concentrate on Watergate are missing out on learning more about a President who in many ways was a conservative radical.

Having not seen the play, I entered the cinema with severe doubts as to how the director could generate the momentum for a movie about an interview to get through two hours. I need not have worried. The impossible was achieved. You could watch the film as a Nixon aficionado and not feel patronised, yet if the only thing that you knew about Nixon was that he resigned over Watergate, it wouldn't go above your head. It's a political movie without politics.

The drama of the film revolves around the jousting between the two main protagonists. If I were David Frost, I'm not sure I'd be too happy about how Michael Sheen portrayed me. In fact, I'd say it was Frost who seemed to have just as many character flaws as Nixon.

Indeed, I thought Frank Langella's performance as Nixon was actually quite sympathetic to Nixon and helped us understand his motivations and idiosyncrasies. I had expected the film to portray Nixon as a monster, but it was not like that at all.

Langella certainly deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance. He commanded the screen beautifully and although he didn't try to impersonate Richard Nixon, he managed to convince the audience almost from the first sentence that he was, actually, Nixon reincarnated.

I cannot believe that a single reader of this blog would not enjoy Frost v Nixon. Go and see it!

Labour Candidate Calls For Abolition of Child Benefit

In an article for LabourList, the Labour PPC for Walthamstow, Stella Creasy, has called for Child Benefit to be merged with the tax credits system, which would effectively mean its abolition. I'm not sure how well this will go down with many of her constituents.

Despite the fact that a large number of people do not warrant the child benefit payment (they are either rich enough already or spend it on things unrelated to their children), it would be a brave political party which included a commitment to abolish it in its election manifesto.

UPDATE: John Moss has also blogged on this.

Ten New Blogs

Subrosa - A Dundee housewife's view of Scottish politics
Fetler's Blog - Left of centre
John Rentoul
Jane Merrick
Andy McSmith
Independent Politics Blog
Martin Westlake - Europe based, left of centre
From One End of Kent - Thanet Labour councillor
Dual Citizen USA
Sepoy Agent - Right wing

These blogs aren't necessarily newly created, but I haven't known about them before and they had not, until now, appeared in the TP Blog Directory.

Visit the Total Politics Blog Directory which contains more than 1,800 blogs. If you know of one which isn't there, please fill in the Submit a New Blog form on the left hand side of THIS page.

Quote of the Day

"The problem with socialism is that you
eventually run out of other people's money."

Margaret Thatcher

Political Books Out Soon

I thought I'd start trying to alert readers to political books which will be appearing over the next few months. As far as I know there is no site which carries a comprehensive list of forthcoming books. But I need your help. Amazon are useless at alerting people to forthcoming book releases, so if you know of an interesting book about to appear do email me and I will add it to the list.


19 Stanley Johnson: STANLEY, I PRESUME


20 Richard Vinen: THATCHER'S BRITAIN
23 Paddy Ashdown's Autobiography, A FORTUNATE LIFE

Friday, January 30, 2009

How Much Has Gordon's Euro Decision Cost Us?

A reader emails...
When Gordon Brown negotiated the EU's budget from 2007-2013, he agreed to make Britain's contributions in Euros, rather than sterling. As I'm sure you probably already know, he also agreed to give up £7bn of our rebate - and agreed to load it into the final years of the period. How many extra billions are we paying as the result of a weakened pound?

Anyone know the answer?

Geoffrey Robinson: Labour IS to Blame For Recession

For those of you who didn't see the Daily Politics, there was an interesting exchange between Anita Anand, myself and Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson. At the start of his interview Anita asked him how Gordon Brown could possibly claim, following the IMF report, that Britain was best placed to withstand the economic recession. Robinson replied (and I am quoting from memory here) that "Gordon hadn't particularly said that". I burst out laughing at that point. Anand then put it to him that I had found that remark bizarre and he naturally came back and said "the recession was nothing to laugh about."

Anand then gave me the chance to explain my laughter. I said that in every interview or speech he made Brown had used the phrase and that it was laughable of Geoffrey Robinson to pretend otherwise, especially in light of the IMF report. Robinson then said that (and I will get the exact quote when the programme is on iPlayer) the government were at least in part to blame for the recession because they had failed to impose proper regulation on the banks, and they were to blame in other ways too, and that he's surprised the Daily Politics ComRes poll wasn't worse for Gordon Brown.

I then latched onto this and killed him with kindness (as is my wont) by saying that it was so refreshing for Geoffrey Robinson to be so characteristically honest and admit that Labour were indeed to blame for much of what has gone wrong, and if Gordon Brown did the same he would win a lot of kudos with the electorate. Instead ok keeping stumm, Robinson dug himself even deeper into a hole and said that he was sure the Prime Minister would do just that at an appropriate time. Hopi Sen reckoned hell would freeze over before that happened. He's right.

The reason this is moderately interesting is that Geoffrey Robinson isn't just some random Labour MP. Not only was he Paymaster General in the Treasury in the first two years of Blair's government, he was also Gordon Brown's paymaster in Opposition. He is as close to Gordon Brown as you can get, even now. So perhaps he will do what good friends should, and encourage Brown to come clean about his own culpability for what has transpired.

The 6 minute clip is HERE - scroll in two minutes. The full programme is HERE.

Here's the Robinson part of the transcript...

"People are trying to pretend that Gordon Brown doesn't realise that a good part of the responsibility is with the Government because of our inability to have regulated the banks to anything like the tight extent that we should have done. I think that has been a failure on our part."

Asked if the Prime Minister would accept any blame, former Paymaster General Geoffrey Robinson said:

"You're not going to get the Prime Minister to concede anything in the yah boo politics of Prime Minister's questions time. There will be a considered statement of the situation in due course."

Tune in to the Daily Politics at Noon

At 12 noon today I will be on the Daily Politics on BBC2 as one of their two guests for the whole programme. Labour blogger Hopi Sen will be the other guest. I think I am right in saying that it is the first time they have had two bloggers on for the whole programme. So we'd better do ourselves justice!

I shall be wearing a particularly nice tie, you will be pleased to hear :)

Quote of the Day

"Campaigning is like sex – if you’re not enjoying it, you’re not doing it right. It should never be a drudge."

Hazel Blears

To read further gems from the sex mad Chipmunk on the art of political campaigning for PPCs, click HERE.

UPDATE: Dizzy has another, ahem, interpretation.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Daley Dozen: Thursday

1. Guido reports on the Duncan v Harperson show, and very entertaining it is too.
2. Paul Waugh warns against messin' with Tory MP Ben Wallace.
3. Red Box has a leaked memo showing just what Norman Baker thinks of Susan Kramer.
4. Sunder Katwala puts the case for a Lib-Lab coalition. Worked really well last time, didn't it?
5. Croydonian on how the media swallowed Hamas's line on the UN school in Gaza.
6. Douglas Carswell on whether we need a new register of lobbyists.
7. Lord Soley on why it's perfectly OK for him to be paid for lobbying.
8. Alistair Cooke explains how Salisbury's first government fell.
9. Letters from a Tory says Mark Field is wrong to want to abolish speed cameras. Except he doesn't.
10. John Redwood asks how we can get out of a black hole.
11. Events, Dear Boy, Events imagines a Brown-Obama conversation.
12. A Very British Dude on 10 great American things we can't do without.

Battersea - Conservative Gain

Labour MP Martin Linton is a vocal opponent of a third runway at Heathrow, yet last night he voted in favour of it. He explains on his website that he didn't really mean to but got confused. I ask you. Still, he is a former Guardian journalist, so we must be forgiving.

But I wonder if his LibDem and Tory opponents will be quite so forgiving when they come to write their next Focus and In Touch leaflets. I think not.

Conservative Gain.

Jon Cruddas is Frit

There's a very revealing interview in today's Independent with Jon Cruddas. He's fairly critical of Gordon Brown's reaction to the economic crisis throughout the interview and keep's saying that David Cameron is doing well. To his credit he does give some suggestions as to what Brown should now do.

Two things strike me about this. Cruddas has a habit of popping up at inconvenient moments and being disloyal while giving the appearance of 'only trying to help'. This is the man who has now refused office in a Labour government twice. The more liberal elements of the media interpret this refusal to dirty his hands as an honourable move of one of the few remaining idealists in politics. I choose to interpret it another way. He's frit.

The second thing is that reading this interview, you get the impression that here is a man who really fears he is about to lose his safe seat. He gave as one of his reasons for refusing office the fact that he wants to concentrate his fire on the BNP in his constituency. So far he has done it to remarkably little effect. He knows that the BNP are not taking votes away from the Tories. They're taking his, and there's precious little he is doing about it. The most revealing sentence in the interview was this...
Mr Cruddas expressed concern that Mr Cameron was invading Labour's natural territory and being advised by so-called "Red Tories" urging a return to traditional, One Nation Conservative policies and community-based solutions, such as a people's bank. "It is very, very sophisticated, very worrying for us," he said. "It is not just about policy but language. We [Labour] still have a one-dimensional take on Cameron. I think Cameron is doing well."
Cruddas knows Cameron is doing well from the voter reaction in his own constituency. The Conservative candidate, Simon Jones, needs a 7.8% swing to dislodge Cruddas. He's one of the party's best grassroots campaigners and Cruddas knows he has a fight on his hands.

So his interview today was almost a cry for help from a very "frit" man. And he has every reason to be.

Evan Davis: A Reader Writes...

Just had an email from a reader who watched the Evan Davis programme last night on BBC2 called THE CITY UNCOVERED. I didn't see it as I was otherwise engaged on important matters of State on Sky Sports 2 (West Ham 2 Hull City 0, since you ask). Did others see it? Do they agree with the point this reader is making?

I don't know if you had the pleasure of watching Evan Davis' BBC documentary "The City Uncovered" at 9pm last night. It examined in detail the operation of markets, how bubbles form and what happens when they burst. All very current and relevant, and it linked past events through to the current crisis in an interesting, eloquent and comprehensible-to-a-layman way. All of which is exactly what readers of Evan's old economics blog on the BBC website would expect.

So far, so good. However, 55 minutes out of the 60 were spent interviewing Americans and talking about the horrendous, inevitable bust that has occurred there. Included in this, by way of example:

- a segment where a US marine is sold a subprime mortgage at 16x salary by a mortgage salesman who used to live the highlife and has now gone broke because he could sell the loan on to a banker in New York, who has since been fired. Interviews with all three, including a touching part where the marine breaks down in tears because he has had to use his son's hard-saved college fund to keep up mortgage repayments;

- an analysis of part American bubbles and crashes, including railways in C19, the Wall St Crash and the dotcom bust; and

- a discussion of how Lehman, Goldman Sachs, Merrills and other Wall St banks created these horrible derivatives which permitted this to occur (no mention of any UK-based institution during this segment).

The British mentions were:

- a City banker (who could make a career playing an odious Tory toff, and talked like that Harry Enfield character who used to say "considerably richer than yow" all the time) who analysed why the markets in America went wrong;

- a token mention of how far RBS shares had fallen, although with the implication that they were hit because the US markets collapsed; and

- an even more token shot of Evan talking about bubbles with London Bridge in the background and Gordon's voice saying "we've abolished boom and bust" in the background.

Anyone watching this programme who did not understand markets or the full story around the crisis would have come to the conclusion that it was all America's fault. There was no other conclusion to draw from the evidence presented. Indeed, my wife drew exactly that conclusion. And whose party line, lifeline, soundbite is "it was all America's fault"? Oh yes...

On an macro-economic level, it was a fascinating and informative programme. On a political level, it was disgraceful propaganda and should be named and shamed.

Has Gordon Been Reading Marx?

"Owners of capital will stimulate working class to buy more and more of expensive goods, houses and technology, pushing them to take more and more expensive credits, until their debt becomes unbearable. The unpaid debt will lead to bankruptcy of banks, which will have to be nationalized, and State will have to take the road which will eventually lead to communism."

KarlKarletto Marx, Das Capital 1867

UPDATE: It appears the person who sent me this was having me on. I've just noticed on the email it said "Karletto Marx". Ha ha.

Choosing When to Rebel

Two welcome things emerged from yesterday's Heathrow debate.

Firstly, Tory Transport spokesman Theresa Villiers admitted that there was, after all, a case for the expansion of airport capacity in the South East. Previously she had denied any need whatsoever.

Secondly, the fact that there were no Tory rebels at all demonstrated a first class whipping operation was in place. Even though I find myself on the other side of the argument, I can see that from a party discipline viewpoint, it was a job well done. If in government there is a small majority, this sort of iron discipline will have to be imposed with some degree of regularity.

I've asked myself several times over the last 24 hours what I would have done if I had had to vote last night. To have been the only Tory rebel would have required balls of steel. And it would have been a very lonely and isolated position. It's interesting to talk to people about their logic for rebelling against the party whip. Some will only ever do it on matters of conscience, some believe it is wrong to rebel on an issue which was in a party's manifesto and others believe you should judge each issue on its merits giving only a passing concern to what the whips say.

MPs have to recognise that they are elected under their party banner rather than because of their wonderful individual qualities. Therefore, they do owe a duty to their respective whips and the party's policy platform. But equally, they are elected as representatives rather than delegates, so they also have a duty both to represent the views of their constituents but also their own consciences.

The other balance to get right is the frequency of rebelling. If you become seen as a serious rebel you then get tagged as a 'maverick'. Mavericks can get a lot of media publicity, but their influence wanes with every rebellion. The Labour benches have about 20 MPs who can be expected to rebel on any given issue. We all know who they are. But they have virtually no impact with government ministers - the very people they are supposed to want to influence.

I am sure this will provoke comments from purists who feel that MPs should only ever vote the way they feel they ought to. Oh if only life were that simple. We don't live in a word of idealism. We live in a world of 'realpolitik' and those politicians who achieve things in their careers on behalf of their constituents and the country are those who recognise that.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

BBC Gaffe: Cable is LibDem Leader!

This is a screenshot from the BBC News at Ten, describing Vince Cable as the "Liberal Democrats Leader". Amateur night. But you never know. Whoever was doing the 'astons' may have had more foresight than they realised!

The Daley Dozen: Wednesday

1. Mihir Bose explains the politics of the England World Cup bid.
2. The Wardman Wire interviews Labour blogger and MP, Tom Harris.
3. Michael White reports from last night's Connect event and says there will be no snap election.
4. Jon Craig calls Geoff Hoon 'offensive'.
5. James Kirkup recounts the LibDems' apparent willingness to take 'dirty money'. Nothing wrong with that, says LibDem Voice's Stephen Tall.
6. O'Conall Street calls for new regulation of lobbying - in Northern Ireland as well as Westminster.
7. Jonathan Isaby warns against talk of a Tory landslide. He's right.
8. The ConHome list of 100 Tory Peers gets more bizarre by the day. Today's offering? Stuart Wheeler. Jeez.
9. John Rentoul is unimpressed by the "feeble" James Purnell.
10. Toby Harris asks if the Sunday Times was acting in the public interest.
11. Iain Martin says it's too late for a Brown Mea Culpa, even if he was incapable of delivering it.
12. Paul Waugh thinks the Tories should try an attack of headless chickens on Brown.

And 7 games unbeaten for the Happy Hammers, with Carlton Cole scoring 5 in 5. Happy days.

Gordon's Day of Reckoning

Because you had a bad day
You're taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don't know
You tell me don't lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
The camera don't lie
You're coming back down and you really don't mind
You had a bad day
You had a bad day

Remember the Daniel Powter Song, BAD DAY? As Events, Dear Boy Events has pointed out, Gordon's had a bit of a stinker...
1. A PPS resigns;
2. Heathrow vote is too narrow for comfort;
3. IFS report not kind to Moses
4. IMF reports states that the UK will be the worst performing economy in 2009; and
5. Has a stinker at PMQs
6. Rumours begin that Obama may not come to London for the G20 summit.
An early night Prime Minister? Or perhaps a new mobile phone...

Blubbing Brown Begs Rebels Over Heathrow

Jon Craig reports on how a "blubbing" Prime Minister saved the government from defeat in the Opposition Day debate on Heathrow. He called in a succession of potential rebels and gave a "dewey eyed" performance in order to persuade them not to rebel.
Labour MPs claim a "tearful and dewy eyed" Prime Minister called the Labour waverers into his Commons office one by one and pleaded with them to back the Government. "If we lose this vote it will de-stabilise the Government and de-stabilise the markets," said the embattled Prime Minister, according to one MP who voted with the Tories despite the emotional appeal.

Makes you want to weep. For the record the Government won by 19 votes. That margin would have been 9 had 5 DUP MPs not voted the other way. Does anyone know if any Tory MPs voted with the government in favour of a third runway at Heathrow?

1992 Tory Campaign Music: Can You Help?

Andrew Lloyd Webber composed a piece of music for the Tory 1992 election campaign, which was played in their PPBs and before John Major's public appearances. It was a jazzed up version of a piece of classical music a Rondo, I think. Can anyone tell me what it was based on, or where I can download it?

How to Prevent The Independent From Closing

One of my new year's predictions was that The Independent newspaper would go out of business. It seems that top media commentator Roy Greenslade agrees with me. He has written a very perceptive article in tonight's Standard suggesting that that end is nigh and that the Independent's owners should do something really radical to prevent the inevitable. He proposes that they should stop printing a print edition and put the whole thing online.

It's the sort of suggestion that Sir Humphry Appleby would characterise as "courageous".

What Iceland Thinks of Gordon Brown

This picture was taken outside a shop window in Reykjavik. I shall refrain from further comment.

IMF: Britain May Go Bankrupt (UPDATE: See End of Post)

"Britain is better placed than any other country to weather the recession."
Gordon Brown

How much longer can the Prime Minister remain in denial? The IMF says that we will have a negative growth rate of 2.8% this year, worse than any other advanced economy. They also say the prospect of the UK going bankrupt cannot be ruled out. That's not David Cameron indulging in a bit of doom mongering. It's the world's pre-eminent economic institution.

Isn't it about time the Prime Minister acknowledged that his policies have made matters worse in this country than elsewhere?

But I suppose we might as well whistle in the wind.

UPDATE 2 Feb 6pm:

Last Wednesday I wrote a blogpost titled IMF: BRITAIN MAY GO BANKRUPT. It was based on a Sky News report, which I had just been listening to ...
The IMF says that we will have a negative growth rate of 2.8% this year, worse than any other advanced economy. They also say the prospect of the UK going bankrupt cannot be ruled out.

A heated debate ensued in the comments in which a commenter called Despairing Liberal maintained that the IMF report said no such thing. I retorted that I had heard Kay Burley on Sky News report that very thing. The debate went on, and on, and on. In the end I asked Sky for a clip of the report which would verify things one way or the other. I have just received the clip and regret to say that Kay Burley said the following...
The Fund's boss also warned that countries going bankrupt could not be ruled out.
So there was no specific mention of Britain. I clearly misheard her. I have a policy on this blog of holding my hands up when I have got something wrong, and I do so now. And at the same time I readily apologise to Despairing Liberal and Canvas.

I am updating the original post with this information.

Quote of the Day

From one of my commenters called Wallenstein...

"My nan was told by her doctor that she had acute angina. She replied that she was there to be examined for a heart problem, not chatted up."

UPDATE: Various commenters tell me this is an old joke. Well, I had never heard it before and thought it was worth a titter. Or maybe a Twitter.

The Student Politician Flounders at PMQs

I thought this was David Cameron's strongest performance for a very long time. A slam dunk victory. Brown was at his repetitive, floundering worst - totally unable to think on his feet. The only time he managed to light a fuse was in his last answer to Cameron where he had a right old go about Ken Clarke's views. Brown accused Cameron of indulging in student politics, but Cameron hit back with a devastating retort...

Only one of us was a student politician, and he's never grown out of it.
I'm afraid Nick Clegg was totally wrong footed by Brown's very short reply of "yes we do" to his first question about whether the PM supported the view that it is wrong for Members of the House of Lords to abuse their position. He had no time to think about his supplementary and consequently garbled a response about the super rich and tax havens, which bore virtually no relation to his initial question. Not good.

Cameron 8
Brown 5
Clegg 1

UPDATE: Michael White has been twittering a commentary of PMQs. Very entertaining as you might expect, but he just twittered the following

Tory question. Too long. Classic error.

Only one problem. The questioner was Martin Horwood, LibDem MP for Cheltenham. Doh.

Michael White scored it as a "pretty sterile 33 draw with Clegg making little impact on 2".

UPDATE: Tim Montgomerie has twittered that I clearly didn't embarrass Geoff Hoon enough last week; he was tapping away AGAIN on his Blackberry while Gordon Brown was PMQing. How rude.

Blunkett To Tie The Knot

David Blunkett has announced he is getting married, so Andrew Neil has just announced on the Daily Politics. I hope he finds the happiness he has so clearly lacked in his personal life in recent years. Best wishes to them both.

The Daily Mail At Its Worst?

There's nothing more than the Daily Mail likes to cover a story about gay adoption. And if the child has been ripped away from Grandparents and given to gay parents, so much the better. So it was hardly a surprise to find the story on the front page of the Daily Mail this morning.

I have no idea how accurate it is, or whether there's more to this than meets the eye. There probably is. The Grandparents have been told that at the age of 46 and 59 they are too old to bring up children. On that basis why do we allow women over 50 to have IVF? It's a ridiculous argument.

Surely, if a child's natural parents are not in a position to bring up the child, the next best thing is for the Grandparents to do so, assuming their circumstances are appropriate. As I say, we only have what the Daily Mail says to go on in this particular case, so I'm not going to rush to judgement. It would be good to hear Edinburgh City Council's side of the story.

UPDATE: The Telegraph has a few more details.

Lord Truscott: What Goes Around...

A friend of mine is taking a little satisfaction from the difficulties Lord Truscott is experiencing over the House of Lords cash for access scandal. I'll let him explain...
I met (Lord) Truscott in April, 1989 when I was canvassing for the Conservative Party in Colchester. I was walking up a long road of Council houses when I passed three Labour canvassers walking the other way. I said "hello" to them. Truscott's reply consisted of four words, "f... o.., you c...". So you will understand that I am not very distressed by his difficulties since the appearance of last weekend's Sunday Times.

What a nice man.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Daley Dozen: Tuesday

1. John Prescott ain't gonna hold up the white flag any time soon. He gets blogging in a way few of his colleagues do. This is a brilliant blogpost (i you ignore the list of 50 Labour achievements).
2. Labour Peer Lord Harris tells how he foiled a Sunday Times attempt at entrapment.
3. PR & Social Media blog asks if blogging is right for business?
4. Guido has proof of Gordon's boom and bust.
5. Some of Tom Harris's best friends are gay.
6. Dave's Part is being taken to the High Court by former Respect member turned Tory Johanna Kaschke, the woman who is also suing Alex Hilton.
7. Dan Hannan explains why he will continue to be a merchant of doom.
8. Lobbydog tells how Ken Clarke beasted a Minister.
9. The Blue Blog's Craig Elder looks at some important changes to Wikipedia.
10. Party Lines learns how not to launch a consultation.
11. John Redwood asks "Anyone for the Euro?"
12. Sir Graham Bright for the House of Lords, suggests ConHome.

Clive Soley Illustrates the Lobbying Problem

I'm listening to Lord Soley on the Simon Mayo programme explain why it's quite OK, thank you very much, for him to be paid £29,000 by the pro-Heathrow interests to argue their case on the media, and presumably in the House of Lords. He says he would still be arguing the case even if he wasn't paid to do it, but wouldn't be able to argue it as well as the briefing wouldn't be so good. I ask you. He seemed to be saying that as long as you believe in the cause you are espousing, it's Ok to take money.

If I, as a political geek, am appalled by this line of justification, God alone knows what the 5 Live audience makes of it.

I fully accept the argument that because Peers are not salaried they do have a perfect right to earn a living (despite the fact that they get a daily 'allowance'). But this surely has to be in areas outside their parliamentary line of duty. As I understand it, we have banned MPs from taking up political consultancies, and quite right too. We should now do the same with their Lordships.

Tories Embrace Open Source

I've got a feeling the folk over at Microsoft won't be too happy right now. The Tories have just published a report recommending that the government makes more use of open source software (ie using OpenOffice instead of Microsoft Word), and bans any IT contract worth over £100 million. The report suggests this could save us taxpayers over £650 million a year.

What's interesting about all this is that it shows that the Tories' flirtation with 'tech' over the past couple of years wasn't just a flash in the pan - they're really ploughing ahead with this stuff. This announcement, after all, comes just a day after George Osborne reiterated his commitment to publishing online every item of government spending (interestingly, it was Barack Obama who did the same in the US - check out the US spending transparency website HERE.

I shall leave the technical analysis of all of this to my good friend, Dizzy.

UPDATE: More details HERE on ConHome.

How to be a Happy Homosexual

Graeme Archer explains how, in a beautifully written article on CentreRight. He reckons gay people are natural Tories and should fight against legislation which is supposedly designed to protect gay people against incitements to hatred, but is actually all about restricting freedoms.
I am not a cynical being, but I'll overcome my proclivity for optimism, with which I was born, and against which counselling has proven ineffective, to study the heart of this wretched proposal, to peer into the manipulative hearts of those who propose it. It's sole purpose is to shore up Labour's vote in the liberal, educated middle-class, to act as a reminder to them of everything they disliked about the last Tory government.

Indulge me for a moment, and don't argue with the proposition that a large proportion of educated people really did dislike the Tory party a few years ago. David Cameron has been markedly successful at making the Tory party their natural home again. The law is for the Margaret Drabbles of this world, who think it's usually best to be on the side of good things, and see kindness as one of life's immutable good things. They tend to know and like lots of gay people, and so are supposed to draw the inference 'This act will protect my good friend X. So I am in favour of the Act. Moreover, I'm in favour of the people who propose it, and against those who vote against it'. The legislation is designed for nothing more than to give editorial writers at the Guardian the reason they need to decide not to write leaders of cautious favour about David Cameron. Insidious, isn't it?

Insidious, but, I expect, unsuccessful. It would have achieved its objective in 1999, but not in 2009. We've been here before, haven't we? All the arguments against legislating against freedom of expression in the realm of religious belief apply, identically, in this case. If you don't like homosexuality, whose life is improved by making it a crime for you to say so?

Stonewall have fallen straight into Labour's trap, expostulating about Tory opposition as some sort of 'red meat'. Clever phrase, since we tend to be vegetarians - all these liberal shibboleths cluster together, you know - but wrong-headed. I'm not going to attack Stonewall. The life of someone like me has been made better in the last few years, and Stonewall were at the front of most of those improvements. But they are being foolish in acting as Labour's cats paw. I would have thought the mayoral election would have finally cured them of their flirtation with identity politics, with seeing 'gay voter' as a synonym for 'Labour voter'.

They'll get there, eventually. For the big hidden secret of homosexuality isn't to do with checked shirts, or silly dance music, or soft furnishings, or those unpleasant words used by columnists whose favourite activity is to be as unkind as possible about people they've never met. It's even more shocking. Most gay men are naturally conservative.
Read on HERE. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Graeme is one of the most talented writers in the British blogosphere.

A Bit of Parliamentary Spectator Sport

If you fancy a bit of spectator sport this morning, do pop along to the Boothroyd Room in Portcullis House where the Police & Crime Bill Standing Committee is taking evidence from the English Collective of Prostitutes and the UK Sex Workers Network (for it is they). Chairing the bill committee is none other than my old friend Sir Nicholas Winterton. Expect extreme politeness and the occasional sharp intake of breath. And also for the public gallery to be filled by parliamentary sketchwriters.

Brown's Mendacity on the Recession: If Proof Were Needed...

Thailand is currently a political and economic basket-case. The new government has been paralysed by the activities of supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. When they occupied Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International airport they destroyed the crucial tourist industry at a stroke. Vehicle assembly work has collapsed, and the cranes throughout Bangkok are at a standstill, with 60,000 unsold apartments on the market.

Despite this, the pound has slumped against the Thai Baht. Six months ago one pound would buy you 75 Baht. Today it will buy you 50. What does that say about the money market's views of the UK economy?

It also tells you that Gordon Brown's claim that we are best placed to stand the global recession is at best spurious and at worst mendacious. Virtually every economic indicator shows the direct opposite.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pickles 1 Paxman 0

Jeremy Paxman: Eric Pickles, you've been uncharacteristically quiet.
Eric Pickles: Generally when I come on this programme, I like to respond to questions.

Love him.

The Daley Dozen: Monday

1. Lobbydog on why Greenpeace's lobbying efforts on Heathrow have backfired.
2. Derek Draper on how the Lords 4 can learn from his own Lobbygate experience.
3. JailHouseLawyer has discovered another letter from Obama to Labour MP Dawn Butler.
4. Jonathan Sheppard reckons lobbying scandals are just as much down to politicians as lobbyists.
5. Richard Willis on Obama's radical gay rights agenda.
6. Stephen Pollard asks why the taxpayer subsidises the poisonous London Review of Books.
7. Dave Hill asks if Boris Island is a PR stunt or does Boris really believe in it?
8. Andrew Sparrow on Cameron's promise to debate his opponents in power.
9. Letters from a Tory writes to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.
10. Richard Spring spots some green shoots. Sadly there are in his garden.
11. New Direction tries to pretend that National Socialists weren't Socialists. But fails.
12. Fraser Nelson on a striking exchange between Boris and Sir Ian Blair.

EXCLUSIVE: Daniel Kawczynski: "The Speaker Has Let Me Down"

Daniel Kawczynski MP writes exclusively for the readers of Iain Dale's Diary. In this heartfelt article he declares that the Speaker of the House of Commons has let him down and that the Speaker has banned the Serjeant at Arms from discussing last week's issues with him.

By Daniel Kawczynski MP

When I entered the House of Commons nearly four years ago for the first time as an MP, I was very much in awe of the role of the Speaker. I was impressed by the idea of the independence of this position; whether Labour or Conservative, Speakers down the ages have shown an impressive outward appearance of impartiality, This concept is very important for a junior Opposition backbench MP. No matter what issue or controversy arises the Speaker can act in good faith to resolve disputes and ensure that blockages and frustrations are minimised.

Mr Martin, the current Speaker, has shown a perfectly amiable attitude to me up until now. He smiled pleasantly from time to time and can sometimes restore order in a delicate and yet very effective way. I remember when at PMQs we were having a very heated debate over the tragic death of Baby P. Tempers were high and he managed to calm things down by using the phrase that ‘we must remember that a child has gone before us’. That was a highly skilled way of bringing the robust and increasingly ill mannered debate to some sort of civility.

I have always been concerned about the limited access that we have to the Speaker. He is of course a very busy man but over the last four years I can remember only one occasion when I and a selection of fellow Conservative MPs were called in to see him to discuss issues and that was very soon after the 2005 election. Perhaps the Speaker’s office could organise more of these discussions so that MPs have the opportunity of properly putting their general concerns to the Speaker. It is not a suitable substitute to say that from time to time we can meet him at a reception or drinks party as these occasions are not generally conducive to raising serious issues or seeking clarification and guidance on confidential and serious matters,

My confidence in the Speaker was badly shaken last week. On Wednesday, January 21st I raised a point of order which expressed my deep concern about an incident earlier that evening. Whilst I was speaking in the Chamber, I received an alarming text message from my researcher saying that a Police Officer was in my office and was threatening to seize a constituent’s letter addressed to me. I was shocked by this and abandoning the debate, left the Chamber immediately after finishing my speech to find a Police Officer in my office.

After the Damian Green debacle, the revised procedure for the police had been clearly outlined by the Speaker and I quote from his statement, “a Police Officer needs to have the authority of the Serjeant at Arms before entering an MP’s office”. In this instance the Police Officer had not notified the Serjeant at Arms, nor me, that she was going to visit my office. It transpired that the Police Officer had entered my office and asked a young intern to find her the document she was seeking. When I finally arrived in my office to meet with the Police Officer she had already had sight of the document she wanted. I felt that as the issue being investigated was of such importance that I must reluctantly allow the Police Officer to have the letter. The division bell had rung whilst I was discussing the case with her and so I quickly had to decide what to do. I was on a three line whip to vote as it was an opposition day motion. Clearly the situation was not conducive at all to discussing such a serious matter with a Police Officer. Why could she have not taken the time to arrange to meet with me directly at a mutually convenient time to sit down and raise the issue with me? That way I would have been more than happy to help with her enquiries and discuss releasing whatever material she needed. I would then have had time to seek legal advice.

In behaving in the way she did, the Police Officer broke the rules as set out by the Speaker, put pressure on an intern to find her what she was after, threatened to seize the document and disrupted my work in the Chamber. Fortunately, my researcher had the presence of mind to find me in the Chamber and alert me as to what was happening. I was put in a much weaker position than if the procedures had been followed.

On Thursday the Speaker rebuked me for raising the point of order, criticising me for being “hasty”. He asserted in his statement that the Police Officer arrived by appointment. This is simply not the case; there was no appointment and she arrived at my office after telephoning less than five minutes before. Whilst I appreciate that my staff were told that the police were coming to talk to them, I absolutely do not accept that they were doing so by appointment. The police informed my young researcher that they would be coming and did not seek any agreement. As I was speaking in the Chamber, my researcher obviously could not get hold of me to try and come to the office in order for me to be present when the police came.

In approaching my staff directly, the police put them under undue pressure which they should not have had to bear, and in asking my staff to hand over documents, the Police Officer in question was asking my researcher to make a decision which simply was not his to make. My team are young, and still learning, and I am extremely protective of them. My researcher took exactly the correct course of action in refusing to hand over the letter when he was told it could be seized and in coming to get me from the Chamber. With the benefit of hindsight, I have now advised my staff that should another Police Officer request to see them in my office they should refuse until I have had a chance to meet with the Serjeant at Arms to discuss whether or not we should agree to such a request.

I hope that readers will appreciate how closely MPs have to guard the confidence of their constituents. I deal on a daily basis with highly confidential personal documents, and my constituents as well as those of every other Member of this House must be certain that their personal information will be viewed only by their Member of Parliament and his staff. The police action on Wednesday immediately called this certainty into question. Of course we all want to help the Police to carry out their jobs effectively. Handing over documents is however a very complicated issue and has potentially huge implications. The matter in hand although serious did not have an immediate life threatening nature to it, so I am sure the police officer could have waited for a few extra hours until the proper procedures had been carried out.

I was flabbergasted by the Speaker’s statement to the House when he said that I had rushed to a conclusion before making my Point of Order. I understand well the police were doing their job, and they were undertaking an important investigation with a national security undertone. I do feel however, that in putting pressure on my staff to hand over a document which was not theirs to give, the police acted in a way not befitting this house. It appears the Speaker wishes to protect the police even when they are not following the strict procedures he himself had laid out only weeks before.

I was so concerned over this matter that on Thursday I met the Serjeant at Arms, as well as with Chief Superintendent Bateman, the most senior Police Officer on the Parliamentary estate. Having listened to my concerns, they were in agreement with me about how serious the police action was on Wednesday, and about its implications for the work undertaken by all Members of the House. Chief Superintendent Bateman admitted that a mistake had been made and that from now on the proper procedures would be followed. The Serjeant at Arms came up to me on Wednesday night after my Point of Order deeply shocked at what had happened and embarrassed to find that the Police had again not consulted her before entering an MPs office. In the Thursday meeting she promised me that changes would be made. I suggested to her that she has the pivotal role in all of this and must be the very heart of protecting MPs’ offices from inappropriate entry.

My understanding from the previous ruling on Damian Green was that the Police could not enter an MP’s office without first consulting the Serjeant at Arms, indeed the Speaker stated clearly in his statement on the Damian Green Affair that: “A warrant will always be required when a search of a Member’s office, or access to a Member’s parliamentary papers, is sought. Every case must be referred for my personal decision, as it is my responsibility.” As this did not happen before the Police entered my office and as the Police Officer put my staff under huge pressure to hand over confidential documents without first consulting me, I felt that the Police Officer had broken the rules, I therefore had no option but to raise the issue as a Point of Order. I am therefore very disappointed and concerned that the Speaker labelled my actions as being hasty.

Finally, at the first opportunity on Thursday morning, members of staff and I contacted the Speaker’s office to request a meeting. I had emailed the details of my concerns to his office on Wednesday night just after 10pm. Despite several calls we were unable to secure a meeting. Obviously such a meeting would have given me the opportunity to clearly set out to the Speaker personally and directly why I felt compelled to raise the Point or Order. I am deeply concerned that he made a statement about my actions without allowing me to put my side of the case and this greatly disappoints me. It is this action by the Speaker which has so shaken my confidence in him. How could he pronounce on my case when he did not even meet with me or my staff to hear out concerns over the incident?

The Speaker has to hear a lot of Points of Order over the course of a year. The mechanism can sometimes be abused as a quick and easy way of raising an issue. Nine times out of ten the Speaker says that whatever has been raised is not under the guidelines of a Point of Order and moves on. What the Speaker has to realise is that even if you have heard 10, or 100 or 200 irrelevant Points of Order, a genuine one will always come up from time to time and it must not be taken lightly. The Speaker has let me down and I hope he will restore my faith in him.

I have now been told that the Serjeant at Arms will not see me to discuss my concerns further as the Speaker has stated that the matter is closed. I find this deeply disturbing.

Daniel Kawczynski MP

Will the BBC or Jonathan Ross Blink First?

I am afraid I foresee the end of Jonathan Ross's career at the BBC. The Sun appears to have made it their top priority to call for his head. The rather harmless joke he made about giving an unnamed 86 year old one last night on his Radio 2 show fuelled the calls for him to go.

I make no bones about it. I like Jonathan Ross's shows and his unique brand of humour. Yes, sometimes he goes too far, and the Russell Brand/Andrew Sachs was a disgrace for which he has been punished. That should be the end of it, but it is clear now that it won't be. Every word he utters now will be scrutinised to the extent that only a saint would be able to pass muster.

If you defenestrate Jonathan Ross to the point where he can no longer host his shows in his normal style, then there's little point in him continuing. And that's what both The Sun and the latter-day Mary Whitehouses are counting on, of course. The question is, who will blink first - the BBC or Ross himself? Because if I were a betting man, I'd bet that they will have parted company by the end of the year.

UPDATE 8.40pm: Jonathan Ross has just posted this on his Twitter feed...

"Just spoke to Russell. He wants to be on Twitter. Will try to help him set up account. 'citing!"

There may be trouble ahead...

Another Triumphant Day on LabourList

On the day LabourList were trumpeting an article by Alastair Campbell (my newest Facebook friend) they've sent out this email to their entire list. Hugely informative, as you can see. And I never knew Alastair could speak Latin ... or was at a loss for a headline.

They really should be taking advice from the only Labour politician who knows anything about the internet, John Prescott. You think I jest? He left a comment on this blog an hour ago (in THIS thread) thus proving him to be a man of great eloquence and sagacity. I thank you.

UPDATE: Apparently they sent this our three times and on the fourth time they got it right.

When You Should Take Your Own Advice

Readers may have noticed today's stories in the Times and Guardian on the Lords Communications Committee report on the Government use of press briefings in advance of telling Parliament, conduct of SPADs etc.

There is a rather delicious irony in the Statement put out by the Committee yesterday...

'Ministers should make policy announcements to Parliament rather than the media, a committee of peers will recommend today.'

You'll notice that the committee's report has not actually been laid, nor is it on its website.

A case of "Do as I say..."?

UPDATE: The Press Gazette has a full report of the Committee's recommendations.

Frank Field: My Part in Maggie's Downfall

A fascinating anecdote from the interview with Frank Field in yesterday's Sunday Times Magazine. Apparently he went to see Margaret Thatcher two days before her resignation. I have read virtually every book there is to read detailing the events of those terrible few days, but this was new to me...

Two nights before Mrs Thatcher lost office in 1990, Field — convinced few Tories had the guts to tell her the game was up — decided to visit Downing Street and tell her himself. “For some extraordinary reason, I used to have — and still do — a good relationship with her.” Informed that the PM was busy, he settled in a waiting room. After a while Norman Tebbit entered: “Frank, what do you want?” “I’ve come to tell the PM she’s finished. I suppose you won’t let me see her.” Shortly afterwards, Mrs T herself appeared, “trembling”, recalls Field, “as I imagine people do when told they have inoperable cancer.” Field found her a chair. “Frank, why have you come?” she asked in quavering tones. “I’ve come to tell you that you are finished. I’m not discussing fairness, Prime Minister, I’m discussing the options. You cannot now go on a top note, but you can go on a high note.” He told her that Michael Heseltine, who was leading the drive to unseat her, was vacuuming up MPs’ support in the race to be her successor. “Oh, Mr Heseltine is a dreadful bad man,” she said wearily. Field urged her to get her candidate in the race, and when she asked who that would be, said: “It’s obvious, Prime Minister. It’s the person you’ve promoted to all these offices — John Major.” “Major? He’s a very young man, Frank.”

“Time will take care of his age, Prime Minister, but if you don’t have your candidate, your successor will be Heseltine.”

Field was smuggled out the back way and no word of his visit was released to the press; we know, of course, how the story ended.
You can read the full profile of Frank Field HERE.

A Definition of Leadership

Erik Jendresen was the supervising producer of the wonderful series BAND OF BROTHERS. I have just come across a note I was sent some years ago by the man who inspired the series, Richard Winters (played in the series by Damian Lewis). I had written to Mr Winters to tell him what his story had meant to me, and told him I was hoping to go into politics, so he sent me this note from Erik Jendresen on leadership.

Leaderhip is ineffable and independent of ambition. There are those wjo seem to radiate a field of influence to which others will respond in the same way that metal filings line up in a magnetic field. A leader is invariably self-motivated - not to achieve any particualr ambition, eather motivated to purse personal excellence. Invariably, human beings respond to and follow individuals who are themselves motivated. The best leaders are motivated by a need to excel; that pursuit is a passion and a source of deep personal satisfaction.

The idea, early on in one;s career in the miliatry, that "the best way to get through this - the most effective and safest way to survive the bullets and the bullshit - is simply to do the best that I can" is not about impressing superiors or getting noticed. It is about a personal choice of action based on standards that are set by the individual and in this way independent of (and sometimes higher than) the standards imposed by the military establishment. In seeking to acgieve those standards the leader is by definition a man or woman of action - self motivated and self governed - and their actions speak louder than ehortations or pep talks.

The great secret of leadership is to empower others - to strive for ecellence and peak performance. Thus the officer always acts "for the men" - and this commitment generates force loyalty. All of which to say is that leadership can truly be distilled into a two word formula. Follow me.

Follow my example. Follow my commitment. Follow my formula for personal satisfaction and peak performance. Follow me over that hill and into harm's way, because I will go first and show you the way.

So a leader allows actions to speak louder than words or posturing. He or she puts the individuals under his/her command first - even before themselves. He or she is a master of training, not merely a graduate. I imagine that a man of ambition cannot achieve true excellence as a leader because men of ambition are motivated by more than excellence - they have one eye on advancememt, one ear cocked toward unit politics, one nostril flared to sniff out opportunity, and, invariably, subordinates can sense ambition and ulterior motive in a leader like a dog can sense fear.
And there, ladies and gentlemen, you have an eloquent explanation of why Tony Blair was a leader of men, while Gordon Brown will never be.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cameron Is Winning Back the C2s

Last year I wrote repeatedly in the Telegraph that David Cameron needed to try harder to win over the C2 vote. Those are the voters who voted Margaret Thatcher in in 1979 and Tony Blair in 1997. According to the ComRes survey for the Independent, this is the lead for the various socio-economic groups.

AB +14
C1 +13
C2 +17
DE +15

Progress indeed. This will give great heart to candidates in marginal seats, especially in the West Midlands and North Kent.

UPDATE: UK Polling Report has more info.

A Short Stay in Switzerland

I've just watched A SHORT STAY IN SWITZERLAND, which detailed the illness and assisted suicide of Anne Turner. She was played, very movingly, by the wonderful Julie Walters. A drama like this is incredibly difficult to make. The issue is so sensitive, with dogmatic views held by both sides of the debate, that the programme is bound to generate a lot of heated argument. Was it right of the BBC to commission the programme? Did it explore the issue properly and without bias? Was it over emotional, tugging too much on the heartstrings? You will all have your own views.

The BBC has come under fire for attempting to influence a debate which takes place tomorrow in the House of Commons on assisted suicide. I see absolutely nothing wrong in screening this programme the day before the debate. I suspect it is coincidence anyway, as programmes like this are usually scheduled far in advance of parliamentary timetables.

I don't think anyone has a right to judge either Anne Turner or her family. I'd like to think I would know the right thing to do in similar circumstances. I think that's all I will say about this. Writing on this subject while feeling emotionally exhausted by watching Julie Walters' performance is perhaps not the best time to be reflective.

The Daley Dozen: Sunday

1. Tom Harris writes something sensible on climate change and "nauseating environmentalists".
2. A Very Public Sociologist on millionaires and the Morning Star.
3. Paul Flynn MP on the Labour Lords scandal.
4. Ellee Seymour is enjoying her new iPhone. I still don't want one.
5. PoliticalBetting reckons Netanyahou is on his way to victory in Israel.
6. Mark Pack reckons Progressive London is a front organisation for Ken Livingstone.
7. Alix Mortimer on the meaning of 'progressive'.
8. Richard Willis rushes to judgememt on the foul stench of Labour sleaze.
9. Fraser Nelson on Harriet Harman's plan to ban MPs' second jobs.
10. Liam Murray wishes my ancestor, Robbie Burns, a happy 250th. And yes, you read that right.
11. Puffbox reports on the success of the 10 Downing Street Twitter feed.
12. Beau Bo D'Or reports on a top level BBC management meeting.

Tory Lead Is Up to 15 Points Again

PoliticalBetting is reporting a ComRes/Independent poll showing a 15 point Tory lead. Less than 60 days ago the same poll was a reporting a single point Tory lead.

Con 43 +2
Labour 28 -4
LibDem 16 -1

This is the fourth poll in a row to show a lengthening Tory lead. This is clearly good news, although even Conservative strategists will have to acknowledge that this must be mainly down to people's anger with Labour, and the Prime Minister in particular, rather than a growing enthusiasm for the Tories. Or - could it be that Ken Clarke's return has done it?! Perhaps we will find out more when the detail of the poll is published.

I wonder how long it will be before we hear the sound of Labour leadership rumblings. Give it until March. Then the great sages will say that if Gordon Brown doesn't do well enough in the Euro elections he will have to go. You see if I'm not right.

Should Draper Hand Over To John Prescott?

Tim Montgomerie did a piece on the Politics Show critiquing Labour's online strategy this lunchtime. Sitting in the studio listening was the old bruiser himself, John Prescott. While using some pretty garbled internet language, it's true to say that John Prescott knows more about campaigning than Derek Draper will ever do. If he can transmit than knowledge into an online environment I suspect his Go Forth website will outdo the disappointing Labour List.

Prescott has started his own BLOG and this afternoon has even taken to commenting on ConservativeHome this afternoon to thank Tim for his well meant advice. You can view Prescott's response to Tim HERE.

A Brownie from Baroness Royall

On ITV News just now, Baroness Royall, Leader of the House of Lords said this...

"Peers don't get paid so they are free to do consultancy work."

Er, shurely shome mishtake. They get paid £330 just for turning up and signing in!

Why Labour Fears Ken Clarke

James MacIntyre, who is in pole position to succeed Martin Bright as the New Statesman's political editor, has written an interesting article on the return of Ken Clarke in this week's magazine. He says Cameron should be praised for bringing back the old warhorse and explains why Labour fear him.
Labour strategists envisage two serious problems that Clarke could cause Cameron in the coming months. The first is how the Tory leader will cope with being outshone, either in the Commons or on television, by the new shadow ­business secretary, who may be 68 but whose appetite for politics has not diminished - he amusingly tells friends he is in mid-career. The second problem will come if and when Ireland votes "Yes" in its second referendum on the Lisbon treaty later this year. Even before Clarke's recall, Cameron faced sharp questions about whether he would then reverse his commitment to Britain's holding a retrospective referendum on the treaty. With Clarke, whose firm position is well known, having to field questions on the issue, the pressure on Cameron will be all the greater.

For now, however, Cameron should be praised for surprising his critics - including this one - with a bold move that, in a stroke, does as much to "decontaminate" the brand of Conservatism as have all his superficial image changes since 2005. The Clarke camp's slogan during the last leadership contest, after years of refining the message, was, simply, "Change to win", and his presence goes some way to addressing the lack of any Cameron "Clause Four moment".

Clarke is one of very few politicians with genuine popular appeal: what strategists call "cut through", an ability to connect. It is arguable whether Labour has anyone as popular. ­Although Brown, Alistair Darling and Mandelson - "serious people for serious times" - represent a heavyweight team on the economy, the Tories appear to be on the front foot for the first time since the Business Secretary's recall. Suddenly, it is harder for Cameron to be criticised from the left by those who believe he has done nothing substantial to change the Tory party. The "nasty party" image has faded more this week than in any other in the past decade.

Leaving aside the fact that "Change to win" was Cameron's slogan, not Clarke's, MacIntyre's general analysis is spot on, and reveals just how much Labour fears Clarke. They will try their damndest to drive wedges between Clarke and Cameron over the next few months. Tories must not allow that to happen.

Read the whole article HERE.

Your Views on Nigel Farage Please

I'm in the process of writing two European related articles at the moment, one on the President of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Poettering for TOTAL POLITICS, and the second one on the leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage for GQ.

On Monday week I'm off to spend a couple of days in Strasburg to interview them both.

The Nigel Farage profile will be quite lengthy and personal. It will also look at UKIP's likely performance at the Euro elections in June and how important Nigel Farage is to the party, and what might happen to him afterwards. I should emphasise that I am writing this in very much the same way as I wrote the profile of the Milibands for GQ in November. My own political leanings go out the window - as far as is possible, anyway.

If anyone has any anecdotes or insights into Nigel's career, life and motivations, or indeed Nigel's reputation and popularity within UKIP, please do get in touch by email. iain AT iaindale DOT com.

And if you have any questions you'd like me to ask Hans-Gert Poettering, please do suggest them in the comments.

Tabloid Journalist Trying to Infiltrate Tory Party

Just a word of warning to Tories who have a Facebook profile. If you get a Friend request from someone called Carla Jones, beware. She's alleged to be a Daily Mirror journalist on the look out for Tory scandal, but hiding under an assumed identity.

She has 153 "friends". If you are one of them, probably best to "defriend" her.

Eric Pickles Unleashed

Operating on the basis that most of you don't invest £2 in the Independent on Sunday, let me direct you to a long interview their political editor Jane Merrick has done with Eric Pickles. Here are a few excerpts...

Unlike some of his more high-rolling colleagues, Eric Pickles has never been on a yacht, and is proud of the fact. "I once went on the Liverpool to Birkenhead ferry, it was quite jolly but it was a bit nippy," he says. "I have the great advantage that Mrs Pickles gets very seasick. I never take the woman on water, so it's not likely to happen."

Rather than simply attracting back floating voters who backed Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s but switched to Tony Blair in 1997, Mr Pickles says the Tories want to go further into Labour territory. Sitting in his new office at Conservative campaign headquarters, surrounded by maps of target seats, he says: "Crewe was about building a bridge that they felt safe to come across and to give us support. I set down a task, that in the chip-shop queue a couple of weeks later, they would be proud to say they voted for Edward, proud to say they voted Tory."

But how can the Tories replicate this one sensational victory, which in any case was helped by Labour's disastrous campaign to portray the Tory candidate as a "toff"? Mr Pickles says: "Look, I'm a first-generation Tory, OK? We were Labour voters. It's not an easy thing, to go for a Conservative, because we believe all this stuff, and it's sort of in your DNA...

"It's about getting through the class thing, getting through the jargon... to say look, the Tories, they really do get it. I do genuinely feel sometimes that Labour's the ruling class... who are there to administer us, but don't really understand what it's like any more."

Mr Pickles ... turns his fire on Gordon Brown, who does not "get it".

"If you asked him about the price of petrol, he would tell you the futures market of barrels, but he couldn't tell you what it was at the pump."

But surely it is Eton-educated Mr Cameron who does not understand financial hardship? "Well, David had his bike nicked... outside Tesco's. I mean, it wasn't even Waitrose. So he wasn't even shopping in a toff's supermarket."...

For emphasis which is only half-comic, he adds: "Nobody should look down on somebody just because they have the misfortune to go to Eton. Nobody should look down on someone just because they went to a comprehensive."

One thing that does threaten the party's electoral chances is the return of Mr Clarke triggering infighting over Europe, I suggest. "Ken now has the benefit of the wise words of his colleagues, and is subject to collective responsibility, and I don't expect him to be anything other than an asset on the doorstep," Mr Pickles says, but warns colleagues: "If the party talks to itself, we will lose; if the party talks to itself, we won't make it."

Great stuff. More please, Eric.

Should Gordon Brown Copy Ann Widdecombe?

A reader has pointed me to Matthew Parris's column in today's Times. He reckons we're stuffed. Economically, anyway. Reading his prose about the kind of hopeful language that politicians deploy in these circumstances made me think back to a question Ann Widdecombe was asked last night during our theatre show in Bournemouth.

"If you were Chancellor of the Exchequer, what would you do to get us out of recession?"

The audience was expecting Ann to announce a series of economic initiatives which would rescue the economy. But her answer was rather different.

"Haven't a clue," she said. "And the trouble is, nor has anyone else."

She accused politicians of announcing initiatives for their own sake, rather than because they were sure to have an effect. They were keen to be seen to be doing something, even if it turned out to be the wrong thing.

She has a point. No politician in government or those in the senior echelons of the Opposition can be seen to be shrugging their shoulders in despair or admitting they really don't know what should be done because we are in uncharted territory.

But that's exactly where we are. So when we hear Gordon Brown repeatedly saying that "we're doing everything we can" or "using all the weapons at our disposal" what he's really saying is "frankly, we ain't got a clue what to do either, but we can't be seen to admit it."

Ten New Blogs

Jon Snow
Sassy Conservative
Wardog - SNP blog
A Libertarian's Diary
Cambridge Universities Labour Club
UKIP Bradford Blog
Curious Hound - UKIP blog
Peter Malpas - Chorley Tory councillor
West of the West Wing - A Scottish based blog on US politics
An Incredulous Eye on the Isles - Blog based in the Western Isles.

These blogs aren't necessarily newly created, but I haven't known about them before and they had not, until now, appeared in the TP Blog Directory.

Visit the Total Politics Blog Directory which contains more than 1,800 blogs. If you know of one which isn't there, please fill in the Submit a New Blog form on the left hand side of THIS page.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Labour Peers Face Serious Sleaze Allegations

Remember Cash for Questions? Well the Sunday Times has got the Mother of all political sleaze scandals in its edition tomorrow. It makes Cash for Questions look like a minor infringement, compared to charging up to £120,000 for changing legislation, which is what Lords Snape, Truscott, Taylor and Moonie are accused of.
Lord Truscott, the former energy minister, said he had helped to ensure the Energy Bill was favourable to a client selling “smart” electricity meters. Lord Taylor of Blackburn claimed he had changed the law to help his client Experian, the credit check company... [Lord] Taylor told the reporters: “I will work within the rules, but the rules are meant to be bent sometimes... Taylor, a former BAE consultant, said he would not table the amendment himself but offered to conduct a “behind the scenes” campaign to persuade ministers and officials. After agreeing a one-year retainer for £120,000, he said he would discuss the amendment with Yvette Cooper, chief secretary to the Treasury, and talk to officials drafting the bill.

Truscott, his Labour colleague, was also keen to help “behind the scenes” – for a fee of up to £72,000: “I can work with you . . . identifying people and following it . . . meeting people, talking to people to facilitate the amendment and making sure the thing is granted.”

He said he would identify and talk to people who could be persuaded to change the legislation. He offered to contact MPs, peers, civil servants and John Healey, the minister in charge of the legislation.

Moonie offered to help for a fee of £30,000 a year and Snape indicated that he would charge £24,000. By contrast Lord Rogan, the Ulster Unionist peer, said: “If your direct proposal is as stark as for me . . . to help to put down an amendment, that’s a nonrunner. A, it’s not right and b, my personal integrity wouldn’t let me do it.”

All political parties have suffered sleaze allegations, so I'm not going to go off on a knee-jerk rant. But once again the reputation of politicians is going to be dragged through the mire. On the face of it, these four Peers have a lot of very difficult questions to answer. If they are guilty of the accusations they deserve to lose their party's whip and possibly more.

I wonder if the BBC will report this story in the same way that they reported the Cash for Questions incidents. Nothing on their website yet... Waiting...

UPDATE 10.30pm: The story has now finally appeared on the BBC News website but still nothing on TV news bulletins though, according to commenters.

UPDATE 12 noon: It's now leading the BBC news bulletin.