Monthly Archives: December 2008

Jim Pickard

I am starting to wish I’d spent yesterday afternoon in the Lords rather than following the navel-gazing Commons debate over the structure of the committee looking into the Damian Green affair. (Why do MPs always turn up en masse when talking about themselves?)

Some real gems in the Lords’ Hansard. Read more

Jim Pickard

Still waiting for Margaret Beckett, housing minister, to drop the ludicrous target of 3m new homes by 2020. The policy was always based on false assumptions and is now impossible to achieve because of the credit crunch/housing crash. The number of new homes built this year will be far below 100,000 – compared to the annual target of 240,000.

DCLG insists that it will press ahead despite the setbacks. One Whitehall source tells me that - in doing so - the government is reminiscent of Hitler in the bunker in 1945, “still ordering the movement of battalions of tanks which no longer exist”.

Jim Pickard

Lord Jones, former Berr minister, didn’t exactly praise the PBR when he spoke in the Lords debate yesterday: “The accent in the pre-budget report was on stimulation of the consumer. However, regardless of a VAT reduction, people will not go shopping for big-ticket items when they are out of work.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself. Read more

Jim Pickard

We spotted the rapidly rising cost of insuring UK gilts against default in this blog on November 24.

Today the Tories pointed out that the relevant figure (credit default swaps) is now twice the cost of insuring the debt of McDonald’s, the fast food chain. Read more

Jim Pickard

Lots of interest in the decision by the Public Administration select committee today to open an inquiry into leaks and whistleblowing in Whitehall. This is obviously a hot topic given the Damian Green affair.

Separately, there should be plenty of interest in Sir Gus O’Donnell when the cabinet secretary appears in front of the PAC on Thursday morning at 10am. He is appearing for a routine inquiry into the civil service. Read more

Jim Pickard

Peter Mandelson said at the weekend that there would be “no blank cheque” for industries suffering from the credit crunch.

But he sounded a little disingenuous when he claimed: “I don’t expect such a queue to form and one will not be welcomed.” Read more

Jim Pickard


The latest news from the US is simply jaw-dropping. More than half a million jobs lost in November alone – the biggest monthly drop in employment in more than three decades. The unemployment rate is now 6.7 per cent, according to the US labour department.

The news is worse even than economists’ gloomy forecast of about 340,000 job cuts. In fact, 1.2m Americans have become unemployed in just three months.

UK political commentators continue to insist that the US predicament is unique. Any similarities with Britain should not be over-played.

But remember; whatever the structural differences between the two economies, we enjoyed the same debt-fuelled boom as the Americans. Read more

Jim Pickard

I’m the first to point out other’s mistakes. So I’m happy to print that John Denham, innovations secretary, is in favour of the third runway at Heathrow – contrary to a report I did on yesterday. Apparently he has no concerns whatsoever about the scheme and its impact on climate change etc.

That still leaves a substantial number of cabinet ministers with forebodings about the project, given its likely impact on greenhouse gas emissions (and local noise and pollution).

Jim Pickard

So Peter Hain, former work and pensions secretary, is in the clear over late reporting of donations to his campaign to become deputy leader of the Labour party.

Here is the original story from January about Mr Hain’s resignation. He quit – to clear his name – just days after it emerged that the donations were late (and that more than £50,000 came via a mysterious think tank called the Progressive Policies Forum).

In a nutshell, the CPS concluded that Mr Hain was not the person responsible for recording donations. And it wasn’t clear who should have done so. Therefore no case. Read more

Jim Pickard

Here is the statement from the CPS: 

“The Crown Prosecution Service has today advised all concerned parties that there is insufficient evidence to charge Peter Hain MP with any offences in relation to donations made to Mr Hain’s campaign to support his bid to become Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in mid 2007. Read more

Jim Pickard

The Council of Mortgage Lenders has just distanced itself from the 75k figure which has rapidly taken hold in the media. It is a totemic number, as it is almost exactly the peak of the last recession: in 1991.

It’s not an official estimate though, contrary to numerous reports. The CML is predicting 45,000 repossessions this year. As for next year, it tells me: “It is not our forecast, it is very unlikely to be our forecast, we are putting out the new figure next week.” Read more

Jim Pickard

Environmentalists are delighted by the news – earlier this morning – that the Heathrow third runway decision has been postponed til the end of January.

With reports of splits among cabinet ministers (Hilary Benn and the Miliband brothers are the most vociferous opponents, I’m told) some see the delay as a sign that the project is doomed. Read more