Monthly Archives: July 2008

Jim Pickard

I had a chat with Denis MacShane the other day. He argues that Gordon Brown’s unpopularity is not out of the ordinary right now.

The Blairite former Europe minister points out a number of countries whose leaders are in the doldrums: All thanks to the economic downturn and rising commodity costs. Read more

Jim Pickard

One Labour source has just pointed out the problem with the so-called “dream ticket” of David Miliband with Alan Johnson as a running mate – in the event (still not certain) of a leadership contest.

The job of deputy leader woult not be up for grabs. So even if Miliband secured Johnson’s backing, what could he promise him? Read more

Jim Pickard

I spoke to one of Miliband’s friends yesterday and he said it would be ludicrous to write that he was “helping the campaign”.

So does that mean that there is a leadership campaign? Or was it a slip of the tongue?  Read more

Jim Pickard

The Treasurers’ report* in Labour’s annual accounts says there has been a “dramatic improvement” in Labour’s pension fund. It has swung from a £6.3m liability in 2005 to a surplus of £1.9m at the end of last year.

Sounds good, for sure. But much of the difference is down to the way in which actuaries use a discount rate for the scheme’s liabilities. In 2005 the rate was 4.7 per cent, in 2007 it was 5.8 per cent. Read more

Jim Pickard

Those outside the Westminster village may be bemused that an op-ed (today’s Guardian) on Labour’s future could be seen as a statement of leadership intent.

David Miliband’s language is carefully coded. Read more

Jim Pickard

Plenty of reports around last week that there could be a ban on MPs taking extra jobs outside the House of Commons.

Supposedly, Gordon Brown is looking at either a total ban, a limit on outside remuneration or a restriction to only media work.   Read more

Jim Pickard

What did the deputy Labour leader say while she watched footage of the Glasgow East defeat?

Yesterday The Times reported that she said “This is my moment” – a claim which she subsequently denied. Today the paper is reporting a slightly different phrase: “This is my time”. Read more

Jim Pickard

A string of stories in The Times have floated the idea of Harriet Harman as successor-in-waiting to replace Gordon Brown. Today the paper’s website predicts that the party’s deputy leader is preparing the ground for a contest.  

I can’t help sharing the views of Philip Stephens, the FT’s esteemed commentator, who doesn’t rate the idea of Harriet Harman as prime ministerRead more

Jim Pickard

As early as May we were reporting some of the big demands from unions such as Unite and GMB from the Labour national policy forum – which ended yesterday.

How many did they actually get? Hardly anything, despite the OTT headlines this morning. Read more

Jim Pickard

Question: What do Crewe & Nantwich, Glasgow East and Henley have in common?

Answer: Nothing Read more

Jim Pickard

This is such a hard one to call. Even the SNP activists can’t really believe the idea that they will overturn a 13,500 Labour majority on July 24. But they think they will make a massive dent in it – at the very least.

One big issue is the lack of Labour bodies on the ground. Read more

Jim Pickard

David Davis believes public opinion has swung behind him. Maybe, maybe not. Certainly, one opinion poll suggests he now has public sympathy over what he sees as an erosion of human rights. Davis told me on Wednesday that another poll – which has been withheld – gives a similar picture.

But what does the by-election prove? Read more

Jim Pickard

Maybe I’m just “emotional” because it’s 3.20am and I should be fast asleep. But David Davis’s “victory” – he’s just won 17,113 votes, about 70 per cent – already has a hollow ring. It’s not his fault, poor chap. Where were the other major parties?

He must have felt like a prize fighter, psyched up and oiled up, entering the boxing ring only to discover toddlers and puppies all around him. Read more

One more thing for Labour MPs to worry about. Gordon Brown, or someone advising him, appears to be following the Jimmy Carter political playbook. First it was the cold calls to unsuspecting members of the public, a dubious campaigning tactic pioneered by Mr Carter in 1976. Then there was the appeal to waste no food* and drive electric cars. The call for sacrifice has the ring of Mr Carter’s 1977 address on the energy crisis, a piece of political theatre many Americans find hard to forget.

Sitting by the fireside and sporting a woolly beige cardigan, the president urged people to save energy by putting up with the cold. “All of us must learn to waste less energy,” he said. “Simply by keeping our thermostats, for instance, at 65 degrees in the daytime and 55 degrees at night we could save half the current shortage of natural gas.” It was not his most popular proposal, but it was one of the most memorable. Read more

Jim Pickard

Thursday’s by-election in Haltemprice and Howden was starting to look like a bizarre circus.

No disrespect to the electoral candidates such as “Mad Cow-Girl” (pictured below), David Laurence Bishop (Church of the Militant Elvis party) and Tess Culnane (National Front). Read more

Jim Pickard

More than 80 Labour MPs have reportedly signed an amendment to the Climate Change Bill which would force the government to raise its targets for cuts in carbon emissions.

The bill commits ministers to a 60 per cent cut in CO2 emissions by 2050, while MPs want that changed to 80 per cent. Read more

Jim Pickard

I had to stifle a groan when listening to BBC radio just now. Its grave tones said that – in the wake of Thursday’s vote – there would probably be a new inquiry into MPs expenses. It’s by the committee on standards in public life, chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly. The review would strike terror into the hearts of MPs (I paraphrase).

The only problem is; so what? As one person close to the committe admits, it could come up with a highly critical report, but then what? The MPs who voted down the members’ estimate committe (MEC) are not going to vote for any other major change.  Oblivious to the public mood, their heads are buried deep in the sand. Read more

Jim Pickard

The Cabinet Office is putting out a report on Monday looking at UK food policy. It’s expected to say that one in 10 deaths – up to 70,000 a year – could be saved by people eating more healthily.

A third of cardiovascular cases and a quarter of cancer deaths are diet-related, meaning that eating five portions of fruit and veg a day could hugely reduce the burden on the NHS. Read more

Jim Pickard

The recommendations for reform of MPs’ expenses were hardly radical. They would have kept their circa £23,000 of expenses for a second home in London - and won greater public respect – in return for taking a few blows such as tougher auditing, a halving of the allowance for those in greater London and the end of free furniture and new kitchens.

For a majority to reject the proposals yesterday was the equivalent of a giant V-sign at the media and – much more importantly – the voters. Read more

Jim Pickard

Anyone who thought my last post was a bit dismal should take a look at ft.com

Our three main headlines today are… Read more