Monthly Archives: August 2008

Jim Pickard

David Cameron must be spitting tacks. The Tories’ favourite think tank, Policy Exchange, has put out a report urging the government to – in effect – abandon the north.

Why bother using money to prop up dying conurbations on the fringes, the report asked this morning? Wouldn’t we be better off concentrating on London, Oxford and Cambridge? The latter two university towns could expand in the way that Manchester and Liverpool (pictured below) did in the 19th century, it argues.   Read more

Jim Pickard

The parallels are uncanny.

A party, in crisis after years in power, deposes the politician who has dominated domestic policy for the last decade. Read more

Jim Pickard

About four years ago the Conservatives hired Rothschilds, the blue-chip City bankers, to examine options for tolls on Britain’s motorway network. It would have been an enormous privatisation, bringing in something not far off £100bn, according to someone involved with the project at the time.

In a real piece of blue-sky thinking, the tolls would have allowed a Tory government to cut road tax across the board. As a result, the fiscal system would no longer penalise old dears who only use their cars to drive to the supermarket once a week – but hit those who drive thousands of miles every month. Read more

Jim Pickard

I’ve never quite seen the Heathcliff analogy myself.

Much more accurate would be to compare the British prime minister to curmudgeonly Inspector Rebus, the hard-boiled cop from the Ian Rankin mystery novels. Read more

Jim Pickard

I believe it was Viz’s Profanisaurus which coined the term “the fecal touch” as the opposite of the Midas touch. The expression comes to mind as the Treasury lurches through yet another crisis, this time over whether or not it’s going to change stamp duty to give the gift of negative equity to naive youngsters  bring much-needed solace to the housing market.

It’s getting easy to lose track of the litany of screw-ups and volte-faces – from losing discs to U-turning on capital gains tax and non-doms….not forgetting the mother of them all, the £2.7bn compo package for the abolition of the 10p tax rate. Read more

Jim Pickard

The talking point this morning in Westminster – for those who haven’t escaped to a beach – will be this fascinating article in the Daily Telegraph.

David Miliband’s spokeswoman told me last night, definitely, that the story (“Miliband lines up Milburn for the Treasury) was “complete nonsense” and that there was no leadership plot. Alan Milburn said today: “I told the paper yesterday it was complete bollocks and I am amazed that they have run with it.” Read more

Jim Pickard

The facts first. Reports of a stamp duty holiday for all home buyers appear to be wrong.

Instead, the Treasury is considering the “deferral” of stamp duty; just for first-time buyers. They would have to pay the money back in the future, a bit like a student loan. Read more

Jim Pickard

This should be THE crucial question for Labour as the party faces the possible prospect of civil war over leadership, direction and policy.

The left, and the unions, want to reach out to core Labour voters with policies such as more affordable housing and a windfall tax on energy companies. Read more

Jim Pickard

The next cabinet meeting will be in the West Midlands on September 8.

This is a break from the usual tradition of holding it at No 10 – and will be the first of more cabinet gatherings in other parts of the country. The idea is to listen (and be seen to be listening) to the concerns of punters out there in the real world. Read more

Jim Pickard

For a level-headed news story on Gordon Brown’s position on windfall taxes see this morning’s FT.

The government is considering upping the proportion of carbon permits which energy companies will have to buy in the latest phase of the EU’s emissions trading scheme.  (Until now they have been given the permits for free). Read more

Jim Pickard

Chutzpah today from the Tories after the breakdown of talks between EDF and British Energy.

Charles Hendry, shadow energy minister, has put out a statement declaring that: “Time is not on our side, as the government has left it very late to give a firm direction for nuclear.” Read more

Jim Pickard

One year after the arrival of Hips and the public aren’t impressed.

A new YouGov poll has found that only 5 per cent of people think the new, compulsory sales packs have delivered benefits. Another 68 per cent said they had failed to make a positive difference. Read more