Monthly Archives: June 2009

Jim Pickard

We are about to see the full details of Labour’s new policy of giving priority on council housing waiting lists to local residents.

This is an obvious dog whistle to working class voters who might otherwise vote BNP. Read more

Jim Pickard

You might have missed an excellent article this morning by my colleague Michael Peel.

He says lawyers are warning that the new threat of up to a year in jail for errant MPs guilty of expense scams is actually less severe than the existing penalty. Read more

Jim Pickard

Brown is on the wrong side of the spending argument, says new opinion poll

Jeremy Hunt demands greater disclosure of BBC expenses Read more

Jim Pickard

Gordon Brown’s set-piece announcement tomorrow morning is the environment. The plan is for the PM to lay out the path to the Copenhagen climate talks later this year. Read more

Jim Pickard

UPDATE: It’s a spoof. Ignore the rest of this blog! Here is Paul Waugh on how the whole media were fooled. Glad I’m not alone. (Although David Cameron and Gordon Brown have both come out to express their condolences this morning.)


Jim Pickard

The Big Lie – Tory cuts versus Labour investment – is now taken for granted. So it wasn’t newsworthy when Gordon Brown repeated it during an address to a bunch of Labour youngsters in Victoria this afternoon.

I did like this new one though: “They (Tories) would take away all the measures that would help the unemployed.” Read more

A jubilant taxpayer approaches Sir Rodrick Whitehall after hearing that Gordon Brown has abandoned plans to increase the public contribution to the MPs’ pension pot.

Tim Taxpayer: Hoorah! At last. They’ve seen sense. Even venal MPs realise the public wouldn’t accept stumping up more cash to feather the Westminster pension scheme. We’re making progress! Read more

When it comes to bookshelves, I’m unashamedly nosy. So as Ed Balls gave a briefing on Neet statistics last week, I concentrated on jotting down the books he kept in his office. The results were interesting enough for us to launch an occasional series — “on the bookshelf” — devoted to snooping into politician’s libraries.

Balls is unlikely to be impressed at being our first victim. But he shouldn’t worry. His office collection, for the most part, stands to his credit. There are a couple of odd choices (Gerald Ronson’s autobigraphy?). But the quality is generally high (particularly for an office) and there are no embarrassing texts on “Great Chancellors”. Indeed, I probably regard Balls more highly after having taken a peek into his library. See what you think. Read more

Jim Pickard

McBride is a listed company which acts as a “supplier of own-brand products to supermarkets”. Fascinating.

But what is curious is that its share price fell sharply in mid-April just as the fortunes of Westminster’s Damian McBride slumped. (He quit on April 11). A weird co-incidence? Read more

Jim Pickard

Anyone hoping that John Bercow would fall flat in his first session of prime minister’s questions (Tory MPs, for example) would have been disappointed. Read more

Jim Pickard

The charge against Gordon Brown is that his promise of future investment – instead of cuts – is cloud cuckoo land given the grim public finances. You may think this unfair.

But here is the verdict of the governor of the Bank of England today when asked about the national deficit: Read more

Jim Pickard

PMQs is drawing to a close. Crash. Smash. Thud. That is the sound of a prime minister caught in an elephant trap – and one of his own making. Read more

Jim Pickard


Gordon Brown hast just told the Commons that two Iranian diplomats have been expelled from Britain – after the Iranians expelled two British diplomats. Read more

Jim Pickard

Gordon Brown is “dishonest and foolish”: Larry Elliott is concerned about Britain’s declining economy and the prime minister’s response

One in 10 households with good credit records are now in negative equity (let alone those with bad credit records): so why no major outcry? Read more

Jim Pickard

The GMB threatened last summer to end donations to 35 Labour MPs. But the warning has proved a damp squib with only five losing funding from the union.

The union, one of Britain’s “big three”, said in June last year that it would withdraw financial support from up to 35 MPs because they had failed to back traditional Labour policies.

The announcement was seen at the time as a sign of growing alienation of unions under Gordon Brown’s government.

But the GMB’s failure to implement the threat may raise scepticism over similar warnings.

Unison, the public sector union, said last week that it would cut its support for Labour unless the party stopped “biting the hand that feeds it”. Read more

Jim Pickard

Margaret Moran, Labour MP, made the headlines after claiming £22k for treating dry rot at her home in Southampton – more than 100 miles from her Luton constituency. Since then our colleague Miles Johnson has been asking questions about a business she runs called Equality Networks. Here is Miles’ latest dispatch:

Margaret Moran, the Labour MP for Luton South forced to stand down over her parliamentary expenses claims, warned Jacqui Smith, then Home Secretary, against a Muslim organisation in her constituency which was competing for funding with her own non-profit company.

Documents seen by the Financial Times show that in July 2007 Ms Moran sent a letter to Jacqui Smith “to raise concerns” over a Luton-based community organisation was receiving public funding and had applied for “Preventing Violent Extremism” funding from the Department of Communities and Local Government. Read more

Jim Pickard

Bercow wins by 322 to Young’s 271. Despite having been criticised as an objectionable “floater” by Quentin Letts – and thus proving the limits to press power. Read more

Jim Pickard

The final round will be between Bercow and Young, it has just been announced. Widdecombe has just been knocked out and Haselhurst, Beith and Beckett have dropped out.

The gap between the two has already started to close, with – in the second round – Bercow on 221 and Young on 174. [A larger increase for Young (62) than Bercow (42)Read more

Jim Pickard

Newsflash: John Bercow is ahead with 179 votes in the first round of the voting for the new Speaker.

This doesn’t mean he’s home and dry. Sir George Young picked up 112 votes, far ahead of Margaret Beckett at 74. Read more

Jim Pickard

How did they all do? Marks out of 10 are for the speech – not the chances of success:


Margaret Beckett: 5/10

Thin gruel from the Labour former minister and bookies’ favourite. Admits that public confidence in the Commons is lost and says she will “facilitate desired change”. Agrees that an independent financial regulator (for MPs) would be a good idea…but the “devil is in the detail”.

No-nonsense style. Says she has chaired lots of committees and bodies. “I have never been afraid to speak truth to power, wherever power been found. I have always been my own woman.” Points out that the Speaker has historically always been from the ruling party: Betty Boothroyd was the exception to the rule. A bit humourless.

Sir George Young: 8/10

Tory grandee points out that he has relevant experience as chair of the Standards and Privileges Committee. That proves his independence and strength of mind. Gives backbenchers reassurance by indicating that he won’t join the “bidding war to be tough” on MPs. Points out that many innocent members, “those who did no wrong”, were “caught in the backlash” of the expenses scandal. Has a good line comparing the financial crisis with the political crisis: both now need “recapitalisation”.

Says he wants to tilt power back from the executive to Parliament. Calls for: more “brisk” Parliamentary debates; cut back on pointless opposition day debates; call MPs by relevant experience rather than seniority; let chairs of select committees announce their reports in the chamber.

Ann Widdecombe: 6/10

A well-received speech, despite the unfortunate vocal delivery. Says she will only be an interim Speaker, retiring at the next general election. Her purpose would be to oversee rapid reform and restoring public faith in the Commons. Wouldn’t spend her whole time parading up and down in the country in TV studios, she assures the House. But admits in so many words that her main selling point is public popularity. Makes the serious point that legislation is not sufficiently scrutinised in the House. Read more