Monthly Archives: April 2009

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.

1O DOWNING STREET
LONDON SW1A2AA
THE PRIME MINISTER 13 Aprj| 2Q09

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