Monthly Archives: June 2008

Jim Pickard

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? 

Jim Pickard

Shock, horror.

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

Jim Pickard

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. 

Jim Pickard

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: 

Jim Pickard

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: 

whopper

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. 

Jim Pickard

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. 

Jim Pickard

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….” 

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: 

Jim Pickard

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. 

  full poll results

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