Monthly Archives: April 2009

Some MPs are starting to panic about the plans for a daily attendance allowance. They are not so worried about the clocking in system, or what would happen if they are ill. The big concern is whether they’ll have any money for their long, long summer holiday.

Gordon Brown wants to push through his reforms by July — just before MPs disappear for a 12-week recess. This could mean that MPs will be forced to wait till October, when they next attend the Commons, for the funds to run their second homes. Think of all those mortgages to pay. How will they cope? Read more

Jim Pickard

Gordon Brown has acted “decisively” on MPs expenses after months of dragging his heels and looking the other way. Next week MPs will get to vote on a new daily allowance to replace the existing ACA (additional cost allowance) of about £24,000 a year. Read more

Jim Pickard

I had a funny feeling that only the nationalised banks would sign up wholeheartedly to Gordon Brown’s mortgage support scheme.*

Today the programme has finally be unveiled – after months of negotiations. Read more

Jim Pickard

Unite the Union has been at considerable pains to deny that it has provided funds for LabourList, Derek Draper’s solidly loyal website. (I asked them again recently and got a flat “no”).

Perhaps this has something to do with the furore over Draper’s ghost site, Red Rag – it never went live – on which McBride wanted to post his venomous smears. Read more

Jim Pickard

Not now. Not for a while. But I have little doubt that McBride will return to the world of “communications” in one form or another; and maybe sooner than you think.

I remember a conversation with a PR friend after Jade Goody’s unfortunate appearance on Celebrity Big Brother over a year ago. It seemed certain that her career as a celebrity was over. “She’ll be back,” he said. “She’s just too interesting.” Read more

Jim Pickard

You might have forgotten this but the Tories proposed – exactly six months ago – a scheme to let companies defer their VAT payments.

Problem is, this would have only been for….um…..six months. Read more

Jim Pickard

Labour MPs slighted by Gordon Brown in the past are now relishing the downfall of his henchman (sorry, head of political strategy) Damian McBride: They include senior former ministers.

Michael Meacher was out of the blocks last night claiming that Brown’s promise to have ended secret briefings and dirt-digging was nonsense: “All these elements of the Blair era have actually got worse,” he said. Read more

Jim Pickard

Geoffrey Robinson MP is selling the New Statesman.

Here is the press release in full. Read more

Jim Pickard

Brown has written personally to all of the Tories who were the object of Damian McBride’s proposed smear campaign.

And he has just released a letter to Sir Gus O’Donnell calling for a tightening of the rules which govern special advisers.

This would ensure that “if they are ever found to be preparing and disseminating inappropriate material they will automatically lose their jobs“.

Er, isn’t that what happened anyway? To some eyes this may appear like a ridiculous smokescreen.

Anyway, here is the letter.


Dear Gus

I am writing about the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers, and the proposals I want to make to tighten this up.

I am assured that no Minister and no political adviser other than the person involved had any knowledge of or involvement in these private emails that are the subject of current discussion, and I have already taken responsibility for acting on this – first by accepting Mr McBride’s resignation and by making it clear to all concerned that such actions have no part to play in the public life of our country. I have also written personally to all those who were subject to these unsubstantiated claims. Read more

Jim Pickard

When last September I advised Derek Draper to set up a “sort of anti-Guido of the left” I didn’t exactly have Red Rag in mind. Read more

Jim Pickard

As ever, the ideas are admirable. The execution is not. Read more

Jim Pickard

The Conservatives’ reluctance to ditch their plans on inheritance tax – lifting the threshold to £1m – is curious. It suggests an inability to react nimbly to the downturn; fiscal policies which aid the rich look inappropriate when unemployment is soaring. Ken Clarke’s recent confusion over whether the policy would still be implemented in a first term looked amateurish at best. Read more

One clear success from the G20: millions more people have heard of special drawing rights. There are now $250bn worth of them but, understandably, there remains some confusion about what on earth they are.

A colleague on the Lex team aptly described SDRs as the IMF’s “funny money”. Read more

Some MPs want to solve the expenses mess by moving to a per diem allowance. But if what happens in Brussels is any guide, this is a lousy way to clean up politics.

Some of you may have already seen this report by Hans-Peter Martin, a journalist turned MEP, who filmed his colleagues claiming “attendance allowances” at 7am, before rushing off to the airport for their long weekend. (He did not make himself popular.) I particularly enjoyed the shot with all the wheely-bags parked outside the office where the MEPs “sign on”. Read more

Some grim developments on the public finances front. Alistair Darling prepares to acknowledge the biggest forecasting error ever made by a British chancellor (he takes the crown from Denis Healey). The IFS calculates that we’ll have to find £39bn a year in extra taxes or spending cuts till 2016, just to plug the fiscal black hole. And, perhaps scariest of all, one of the most powerful UK hedge fund managers warns that the “only policy option left” for Darling is to print lots more money.

This is not a cheap audition to be the next George Soros. Mike Platt, co-founder and chief executive of BlueCrest, Europe’s fifth-largest hedge fund, is a serious figure who usually shuns the limelight. Read more

Chris Giles does a great job of gutting the financial pledges made at the G20. The big numbers are, predictably, not quite what they seem. His conclusion:

When all the sums are added together, rather than $1,100bn, the new commitments appear to be below $100bn and most of those were in train without the G20 summit. Read more

In spite of leaving the G20 summit with less than he wanted, Nicolas Sarkozy’s victory parade is in full flow. The French president reckons he vanquished Anglo-Saxon capitalism, and he’s doing just about anything to make sure everyone knows it. Not even disparaging Barack Obama appears to be out of bounds.

People close to Sarkozy, I’m told, have been making it known that Obama wasn’t fully across his brief. He didn’t grasp the detail, they claim. Why? It all fits the narrative of Sarkozy coming to London knowing all the arcane regulatory details, standing his ground and outwitting the capitalists and tax-dodgers. Read more

The OECD are on the verge of publishing a black list of countries that are unwilling to sign up to information sharing agreements. This morning this list contained six countries. But it has halved in size as the leaders have realised that they could do without the shame.

The three countries that are going to be fingered are Costa Rica, the Philippines, and Uruguay. Read more

Is the G20 “family photo” cursed? Today Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, missed the first attempt at a “picture of unity”. The word in the conference hall is that he was “spending a penny” while his counterparts were fixing their smiles. The attempt to re-shoot the picture went just as badly, after Silvio Berlusconi of Italy decided he had better things to do.

This is all very reminiscent of the last G20 meeting in Washington. The photographer there was thwarted at the first attempt by Argentina and the second by — you guessed it — Berlusconi and Indonesia’s Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. This disparate family seems incapable of coming together. Read more

There is some magic afoot at the summit. The leaders of the world’s biggest economies are about to agree a grand plan to print money. People with knowledge of the negotiations expect there to be a $250bn deal on the special drawing rights, which is the IMF’s own currency. This will effectively mean that all the IMF countries will have bigger reserves — as if by magic. It is quantitive easing on a global scale. The Germans were clearly a bit queasy about this, but it looks like they have given way.