Monthly Archives: May 2008

Jim Pickard

A month or so has passed since the Bank of England unveiled its £50bn-plus liquidity injection to free up the financial system.

The radical move, which could see as much as £100bn of mortgage-backed securities swapped for gilts, was designed to pump confidence into the banking market.  Read more

Jim Pickard

The Treasury is not happy with the idea that it could scrap its proposed 2p increase in fuel duty AND its new tax on gas-guzzling cars – and still beat the relevant revenue forecasts by more than £4bn if oil prices stay at their current highs.

Here is the theory of Maurice Fitzpatrick, senior tax manager at Grant Thornton, the accountants: Read more

Jim Pickard

The Chancellor of the Exchequer reassured the world in the spring that Northern Rock’s assets were “good quality” as he set aside further billions of debt towards keeping the business going.

Even at the time this seemed odd, given the lender’s rush for market share last year at the top of the housing market. Among its products was the notorious 125 per cent loan-to-value mortgage, which has since ceased to exist. Read more

Jim Pickard

It’s been a hell of a long time coming and here are the MP expenses highlights. With ear-splitting drum roll………

Tony Blair: £11,200 on a new kitchen in Sedgefield Read more

Jim Pickard

Just got off the phone with Graham Stringer, MP for Manchester Blackley, who has broken ranks and called for a (any) cabinet minister to challenge Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership.

If MPs know who might replace the prime minister it would make it easier to raise the 70 signatures required to start the process, he argues.  Read more

Jim Pickard

A swing of 17.6 per cent to the Tories cannot be dismissed as “mid-term blues” or, as is often the case, a mildly discontented electorate giving the government a poke.

True, the swing is less than the two big Tory-to-Labour swings of the mid-90s, which preceded the landslide of 1997. Then, Labour took Dudley West (1994) and South-east Staffordshire (1996) with swings of 29 per cent and 22 per cent respectively. Read more

Jim Pickard

If and when Labour lose Crewe & Nantwich at today’s by-election there will be endless head-scratching about how Gordon Brown can improve his act.

There will be demands from the left of the party; and from the right. There will be debate about Mr Brown’s policy platform and whether it is right or wrong. No doubt his handling of the economic downturn will also be mulled over. Read more

Jim Pickard

The strapline is deliberately provocative. I’m sure you can think of many good reasons.

But there is little doubt that the Tories’ fund-raising attempts are going more smoothly than Labour’s. Read more

Jim Pickard

A story this morning by my colleague George Parker about the possible return of Ken Clarke to the Conservative front bench has set the cat among the pigeons.

As always, the charismatic Clarke divides Tory opinion, not least because of his views on Europe. You can get a flavour of the debate on this blogRead more

Jim Pickard

A senior Tory tells me, over a cup of Earl Grey, that 30 Labour/Lib Dem councillors have defected to the Conservatives in the last 12 months.

Only one Tory councillor has quit the party during the same period. Read more

Jim Pickard

Not a lot, judging by the latest poll by Labourhome.

A poll by the group – designed to “take the temperature of Labour activists” gave the highest scores (this is relative) to David Miliband at 5.48, Alan Johnson at 5.45 and Hilary Benn at 5.43. Read more

Nicholas Timmins

There is one statistic that really hammers home how expensive the 10p U-turn is. About £2bn of the £2.7bn in compensation is going to those who had already won from the 2007 Budget. Officials insist this was the only simple and quick solution. But there was another way that was cheaper and more comprehensive.

Ian Mulheirn, chief economist at the Social Market Foundation and a former Treasury official, thinks he has the answer. He believes the chancellor could have compensated all those who lost out for just £1.5bn. By contrast, the chancellor’s plan was almost twice as expensive but only covered 80 per cent of the 10p rate losers. Read more

Jim Pickard

Caroline Flint has just announced a new £200m fund to buy unsold properties from desperate homebuilders and then rent them to social tenants.

By my calculations, that money could buy…..less than 1,000 average British homes. Read more

Jim Pickard

Charles Clarke, the dissident former home secretary, was fairly loyal last night at a debate  held by Progress magazine at (ironic this) the Thatcher Room in Portcullis House. However, Mr Clarke conspicuously failed to answer the question of whether Gordon Brown was the right man to lead Labour into the next election.*

The motion: whether Labour could hold the south. Read more

Jim Pickard

It was Sian Berry, the Green candidate for London mayor, who told me – a while back – that people care less about the environment during difficult economic times.

“In about the mid-1980s, environmental issues started to appear spontaneously, and it kept rising up to 1989,” says Ms Berry. “At the top of the economic cycle it was considered more important than health and immigration. During the recession it dropped like a stone.” Read more

David Brooks, one of the most influential conservative commentators in the US, has just penned a love-bomb to David Cameron in the New York Times. The Republican party, he argues, must take lessons from across the Atlantic to revive its fortunes. Here is the key passage:

The flow of ideas has changed direction. It used to be that American conservatives shaped British political thinking. Now the influence is going the other way. Read more

Nicholas Timmins

aradarzi.jpg Lord Darzi’s pledge yesterday that future health service changes will be evidence based and subject to external review is all aimed at making some entirely necessary changes to the shape of services more understandable and palatable.

As part of the reassurance, service changes will be put through the government’s “gateway review” process, one that subjects major government projects to peer review to identify failures and risks early so they can be put right. Read more

gordon-brown-at-conference.JPGThere is one huge roadblock to any future leadership challenge to Gordon Brown: any challenger would need the backing of a fifth of MPs to trigger an election. This restriction is a big reality check to those speculating that Mr Brown’s position is in danger.

But, as someone pointed out to me recently, this is not the only way that Mr Brown could be deposed. There is a Labour rule that would allow for a change of prime minister without the immediate need for a party leadership election. It is effectively the “silent coup” clause. Read more

Jim Pickard

Labour’s national executive committee are meeting again this week to revive the search for a new general secretary to replace Peter Watt - who quit last year after the David Abrahams proxy donations controversy.

On Friday the party slipped out the news that David Pitt-Watson, the City fund manager who was poised to take the job, had walked. The founder and chairman of Hermes Equity Ownership Services was concerned about potential liabilities from taking up the job at a time when Labour is about £20m in the red.   Read more

Jim Pickard

Paddy Power, the bookmakers, are paying out on a Boris victory. Even though the final result is still seven hours away.

The loss of London would be the final nail in a devastating day for Labour. Soon we will find out for sure.