Monthly Archives: June 2008

July 3 is the day when MPs will (perhaps reluctantly) back the new expenses regime (see my last blog).

They also get a choice on pay. Do they accept or reject the recent recommendations by Sir John Baker which amount to an inflation-busting 4.5 per cent pay rise? Read more

Shock, horror.

Michael Martin’s committee of MPs has done the unexpected and come up with a new system of expenses for the Commons. Read more

Officials are a bit slow to wake up to the world of the $130 barrel.

The government has revised its estimates for oil prices upwards in the wake of the recent spike, but still believe it will halve in the next 18 months. Read more

I’ve been wondering for a while now how much the shortfall in stamp duty will be this year, given that house sales could be down 40 per cent and prices 10 per cent.  

Lord Oakeshott, the Lib Dem Treasury spokesman for the Lords, has an estimate of £5bn, down from £10.1bn in 2007/8: Read more

Still laughing here at our colleague Robert Shrimsley’s astute take on the Irish no vote and the aftermath: Here it is in full…

“The great figures of Europe met in the wake of the Irish No vote to agree on a way forward.
About one thing they were absolutely clear. “We must respect the Irish vote,” they agreed. “It would be a terrible sign of European arrogance to suggest we could just sweep aside a democratic vote of a member state.”
So they all agreed to go out and tell the Irish how much they respected their vote. And they agreed there must be no bullying; no warning the Irish to get their ungrateful Fenian butts into line or go it alone in miserable and obscure isolation.
In fact, they were so clear on this point that they at once agreed to go out and start emphasising it in public. Several gave statements noting that there was pressure from some quarters for Ireland to be left behind but adding that the people of Ireland should not be frightened or feel disrespected because they were sure it would not come to this. And so, just to offer further reassurance, they would put up posters in Ireland making clear that the Irish had better vote Yes PDQ or get their miserable Fenian butts out of the EU.
But maybe even this is not enough, said one. Perhaps we ought to get over to Ireland and give TV interviews stressing that under no circumstances will there be any miserable Fenian butt-kicking.
While they were there, they would take the chance to add that so deep was their respect for the Irish No that Ireland could have as long as it liked to change its mind. Across the continent European leaders insisted there would be no pressure. “If the deadline slips by a few months, so be it,” said one, adding that to take any other view would be to “disrespect the Irish No”.
But surely, they argued, the best way to demonstrate our respect to the Irish people is to show how we can move Europe forward. We need to change the agenda, said another.
“The people have spoken,” they said. And the message was that they wanted to get away from all this talk of treaties and constitutions and referendums that had caused the Irish reaction that had to be respected.
“We have to move the agenda on,” they said. We need to stop bothering the people of the EU with these referendums they do not understand.
When you analyse this, they said, what the Irish – who had to be respected – were telling them was that this was far too complex a matter and they want us to drive this through without bothering them. Once you put it that way it was clear their views had to be respected.
More importantly they had to heed the message that they were being told – to stop fussing about internal stuff and start talking about things that really mattered to the people, like jobs and the economy. That meant they needed to drive through those changes as fast as possible so they could get on to the important matters.
So they got to work at once, working out how to secure most of the rejected changes without bothering the Irish again – out of respect for their democratically expressed wishes. After all, they noted, deep down the Irish are good Europeans. They know a convoy cannot move at the pace of its slowest member – unless, of course, that slowest member is France.”

Some more spying tales.

Britain’s first national security strategy document has largely been forgotten in Whitehall. Officials are carrying on in much the same way as they did before Britain’s security priorities were set out on paper. One explanation is given in an endnote to the document: Read more


Global Dashboard have spotted an incredible interview in the LA Times with “Curveball”, one of the most important “disinformation” agents in the run up to the invasion of Iraq. Read more

A tennis match with Tony Blair, the former prime minister, is among the auction lots to be sold at a Labour fund-raising dinner next month.The event, which is hoping to raise £500,000 from table places alone – with 500 tickets at £1,000 apiece – as well as more money through the auction.

Among the prizes are lunch with Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United, and a day out at a racing circuit with Lord Paul Drayson, the pharmaceuticals millionaire. Read more

My favourite line from today’s report – “Conduct of Sir Nicholas and Lady Winterton” – lies in the appendices. It is a letter to the standards commissioner from Lady W on April 28, 2008:

….”My husband and I have already commenced looking for an alternative property with similar facilities in the Westminster area. As I am currently chairing the Local Transport Bill Public Bill Committee and Nicholas is the lead Chairman on the Finance Bill Public Bill Committee and, in addition, we shall be attending the inauguration of the new Taiwanese President in Taipei in May, I am sure you can appreciate the limits on our time….” Read more

ZumaBritish diplomats in South Africa have had a busy few months, but this afternoon their problems were less to do with Robert Mugabe and more to do with Gordon Brown.

Mr Brown’s comments in parliament on Zimbabwe today included not one, but two embarrassing blunders, according to a foreign office source. Here are his words in full: Read more

Gordon Brown announced today that no ministers would take a pay rise this year. Pour encourager les autres, etc, etc.

The government has also rejected Sir John Baker’s recommendation of a 4.6 per cent pay rise for all MPs this year. They will get to vote on this on July 3. Read more

  full poll results

Well here’s a poll that will cheer up Gordon Brown. A survey of 19,751 people in 20 nations by has found that Mr Brown is the most popular leader in the world (well, almost). Read more

From the BBC….

 ”A personal computer holding sensitive documents relating to defence and extremism has been stolen from Hazel Blears’ constituency office in Salford.  Read more

bush-brown.jpgDiplomacy with Iran is difficult to follow at the best of times. Yesterday Gordon Brown added to the confusion by announcing sanctions on Iran that do not exist. Whatever his motive, it has not helped Britain’s relations with the US, the EU or Iran. Quite a feat.

Here is the background. Standing next to George W. Bush, the prime minister yesterday announced tough new EU sanctions on Iran.”We will take action today,” he said, “that will freeze the overseas assets of the biggest bank in Iran, the bank Melli.” Read more

Yesterday was a day of sheer drama as the terror bill was passed in the Commons by the thinnest of margins after genuinely heartfelt debate over balancing security against human rights.

And now we’ve been treated to an even more entertaining event - this morning’s resignation by David Davis, shadow home affairs secretary, ove the same issue; the defence of Habeas Corpus etc. He has already been replaced by Dominic Grieve; not temporarily. Read more

Distracted, momentarily, from the 42 day anti-terror debate.

My eye is caught by the collapsing share prices of Britain’s housebuildersRead more

The Commitee for Standards in Public Life, the Commons watchdog, doesn’t seem to think so.

Today it showed its thinly disguised disdain for the members estimate committee, chaired by Speaker Michael Martin, which is reviewing expenses and perks and is due to report in the summer. Read more

Ministers have been maintaining for ages that the housing market is not at the start of a painful crash. Even Caroline Flint, housing minister – who was photographed with a briefing note suggesting price falls of 10 per cent this year – has maintained that long-term demand remains strong.  The prime minister, meanwhile, is pushing ahead with numerous ways to ensconce new first-time buyers on the wavering housing ladder.

Matthew Oakeshott, Lib Dem Treasury spokesman, has a suggestion for senior ministers. Read more

When 35 Labour MPs signed up to an EDM criticising plans to raise fuel tax in the autumn it was seen as a massive threat to Gordon Brown’s authority.

Was it really? Read more

Some speculation over the weekend about Sir Richard Caring, owner of The Ivy, Annabel’s and Le Caprice. The perma-tanned millionaire has given a constituency donation to Michael Gove, Tory shadow schools spokesman. He is an obvious target for Conservative fund-raisers.

Caring – a friend of Sir Philip Green - is still awaiting the repayment of a £2m loan due from the Labour party, borrowed when Tony Blair was in charge. Read more