Monthly Archives: January 2008

Jim Pickard

Rosie Winterton, a transport minister, was yesterday awarded the extra title of Minister for Yorkshire and the Humber – replacing Caroline Flint, the new housing minister.

Rosie_wintertonMeanwhile Phil Hope became minister for the East Midlands.  Read more

Jim Pickard

Lord Levy, former fund-raiser for Labour under Tony Blair, showed a delicious sense of timing in announcing plans to publish his memoirs yesterday; just after Peter Hain resigned.Lord_levy

Simon & Schuster, the publisher, has won the auction to publish the memoir of the controversial former businessman who was at the heart of the "Cash for Peerages" probe by police into Labour donations. Levy was cleared after an investigation which saw Blair become the first prime minister to be questioned by police while in office.  Read more

Jim Pickard

MPs pay was the dog which didn’t bark, let alone bite. A thinly-attended House of Commons last night capitulated to Gordon Brown’s wish for pay restraint and a 1.9 per cent pay rise was passed without even going to a vote.

It was always hard to see why anyone would have stepped out of line and fought for the 2.56 per cent recommended by the Senior Salaries Review Board.  Read more

Jim Pickard

Today’s volte-face on capital gains tax shows that the government is capable of listening to entrepreneurs and their spokesmen. But do ministers pay too much attention to business lobbyists?

That is the argument of Friends of the Earth, which – in July 2005 – made a freedom of information request for access to records of lobbying meetings between the CBI and DTI (now BERR) after the last general election.  Read more

Peter Hain’s resignation was inevitable once the police were called in to look into the shambolic financing of his doomed attempt to become Labour’s deputy leader. After coming fifth in the contest (who came sixth? Can’t remember), he must be wishing he hadn’t bothered.

But the big question at Westminster this afternoon is whether Gordon Brown will use this as a chance to beef up his cabinet, which many Labour MPs believe is lacking in heavyweights: people who can take the fight to the Tories. Read more

So it looks like MPs are going to step up this afternoon and vote themselves a below inflation pay rise — all for the good of the nation. It would be inspiring but for all the whining and grumbling. But who are the MPs blaming? The answer is both baffling and slightly disturbing.

In the tea rooms and bars, there is a growing sense of enmity towards the Senior Salaries Review Body. This is hard to explain. After all, the independent body did their bit and recommended an above inflation pay rise for MPs. But even this has failed to satisfy the honourable parliamentarians hankering for more pay.  Read more

Watching Gordon Brown in action today at PM’s questions, I couldn’t help thinking he was actually enjoying himself for the first time. The body language was more relaxed, the smile a little less robotic.

He seems to think this clever Goldman’s wheeze on saving the Northern Rock with a government-backed bond issue offers the government an escape route from the whole fiasco and could even end up with the taxpayer making a profit. Read more

Jim Pickard

The debate over the Anti-Terror Bill looks likely to be one of the biggest challenges to Gordon Brown since he became PM.

Countless legal experts have stepped up to criticise the increase in pre-charge detention from 28 days to 42.  Read more

Jim Pickard

David Cameron had the best lines at Prime Minister’s Questions today. On Northern Rock, he claimed, the public had been offered a "sub-prime deal from a sub-prime minister". Very good.

He also suggested that Gordon Brown had turned from Prudence into Del Boy. And the difference between administration and liquidation, he quipped, was: "Administration is what the government is in at the moment, liquidation is what will happen by the British people at the next election."  Read more

Jim Pickard

The Information Commissioner wants more transparency in the publication of MPs’ expenses. Not everyone agrees.

Denis Murphy, a Labour MP, says he voted against similar proposals last time around but will listen to what the commissioner has to say.  Read more

At last, cooking is to be elevated to the level of importance of religious education on the national curriculum. The youth of Britain will have to learn about frying and filleting along with the ten commandments.

Whatever the merits of making cooking compulsory, it fits an interesting pattern. Education ministers just seem to be incapable of stopping themselves from foisting their own interests and hobbies on innocent children.  Read more

Jim Pickard

Some of Gordon Brown’s recent comments have offered curious insights into how he sees the UK’s role in the world.

Last Friday saw the prime minister jet off for India and China with the promise to teach its 2.4bn citizens how to speak his native tongue. “I want Britain to make a new gift to the world….English,” he pledged.  Read more