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. 

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? 

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?  

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. 

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. 

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.   

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”. 

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 minister

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. 

Jim Pickard

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

Answer: Nothing 

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. 

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?