Monthly Archives: April 2008

Jim Pickard

There won’t be much coverage tomorrow of the energy debate on Thursday morning: alas.

But 33 Labour MPs rebelled this afternoon to back an amendment to the Energy Bill which would have encouraged homes and companies to install renewable energy systems such as solar panels or wind turbines. 

Jim Pickard

Gordon’s tea with Thatcher last summer seems like an eternity ago.

At the time, their only common ground seemed to be that Gordo – like the Baroness – was “not for turning”. 

Jim Pickard

The Kate Hoey rebuttal has just come out.

Boris Johnson’s campaign had claimed this morning that Hoey (Labour MP for Vauxhall) would be the first member of his new administration if he becomes mayor at the end of this week. 

British soldiers must be feeling a little dizzy. Gordon Brown has made some big promises to them about troop numbers in Iraq, which have invariably proved inaccurate. Remember the 1,000 troops home for Christmas? And the halving of British troops serving in Iraq to 2,500 by the Spring? Ministers have either done some creative work on definitions of “home” or blamed changing conditions on the ground. But, from what I have been told, it has as much to do with the prime minister’s penchant for round numbers.

Mr Brown’s role in the “1,000 home for Christmas” has been well reported. The catchy announcement was made without consulting the Ministry of Defence. There was then a scramble to work out how the pledge could be met. In the end, about 500 support troops sent to Kuwait were defined as being out of Iraq and therefore “home”. 

Anthony Seldon, Tony Blair’s biographer, has penned an thoughtful oped arguing that Gordon Brown has a personality better suited to good times. Had he taken over in 1997, rather than 2007, his eccentricities would have proved “less of an obstacle”, Seldon argues. This passage is worth quoting:

Personalities of Brown’s introverted type flourish when things go well, but find it hard to cope in adversity. Many prime ministers, like Churchill, have had their own “psychological flaws” and yet have served with distinction. Blair’s own extrovert and optimistic personality would have been better suited to the adverse conditions that bedevil any long-serving administration. But the combination of his immaturity and Pollyanna mindset was fatal when mixed with the euphoria of those early years in power, when it was inevitable that only flim-flam emerged from No 10.  

Forget affordability. The toughest problem facing Treasury officials may be finding a way to make timely payments to some of the 5.3m households that are set to lose out from scrapping the 10p rate.

The rub is that if officials choose to keep Gordon Brown happy by using his cherished tax credits system, the lucky losers identified for compensation may be waiting for up to 18 months for their backdated cheque. This would coincide with the much heralded plans to raise the minimum wage, which will not come into force before October 2009

Jim Pickard

In the end it took a face-to-face meeting between Gordon Brown and Frank Field last night to end the 10p revolt.

But if the government thinks it’s out of the woods, it should think again. Backbenchers are ready to use their newfound clout over other issues: the next big one being 42 days terror suspect detention without trial. 

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William Hague, the Tory foreign affairs spokesman, is rightly concerned about the shipment of Chinese arms which is trying to find its way to Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe, but his grasp of African geography is less certain. 

Jim Pickard

The U-turn is already happening. Apparently Gordon Brown will – in Prime Ministers’ Questions at noon – announce compensation (backdated!) to those affected by the removal of the 10p tax rate.

Good news for poor workers. 

Jim Pickard

Frank Field has now gathered 45 Labour names for his amendment to the finance bill – which would provide compensation to those hammered by the abolition of the 10p rate.

At this rate the rebel former minister looks increasingly likely to defeat the government. 

Jim Pickard

It has taken a year for many Labour MPs to notice that the headline cut in income tax from 22p to 2op came at a cost – the abolition of the 10p band.

That seems pretty embarrassing. Bear in mind that the headlines – the day after the 2007 Budget - focussed on this sleight of hand. 

Jim Pickard

Hazel Blears, communities secretaries, told a Commons committee this morning that the quality of data on the UK’s migrant population was not as good as it could be.

“We are working with the LGA (Local Government Association) to get better data,” she said.