Monthly Archives: July 2009

Jim Pickard

There’s a widespread idea that Team Cameron are obsessed with the West Wing, just as New Labour types have always been avid observers. Read more

Jim Pickard

David Cameron’s European grouping is criticised in strong language from former Tory MEP Edward McMillan-Scott

Conservative HQ tightens its grip over candidate selection process Read more

Jim Pickard

The man who runs the Local Government Pension Scheme has warned that public sector pensions need radical reform to meet critics who believe there is a growing “pensions apartheid”.

Bob Holloway, who manages the LGPS, is quoted in Public Servant magazine saying radical options must be considered. These could include: Read more

Jim Pickard

Just perused the Tory accounts for 2008, which came out this morning.

There’s nothing to rival the Labour accounts, which showed a surprise £4m windfall for clawed-back VAT (part of a £6bn-plus payout by the government after a test case 18 months ago). Read more

Jim Pickard

David Cameron’s use of the word “tw*t” has certainly generated some debate on a quiet news day.

Not sure it quite rivals the John Spellar incident 10 years ago, however, when the then armed forces minister declared: “These cuts must be stopped”. At least that’s what he meant to say. An erroneous “n” crept in to the word “cuts”, giving an entirely different meaning. As Paul Linford points out, the phrase never made it into Hansard but has still become a Commons legend. Read more

Jim Pickard

David Cameron’s Sex Pistols moment as he uses swearword on live radio

Labour under fire for playing field sell-off Read more

Jim Pickard

The new Speaker has let it be known that he will investigate the fact that MPs can claim the new £25 a day subsistence allowance without receipts. John Bercow will hold a meeting with the members estimate committee next week to raise the issue. “He is conscious of public concern,” says a spokeswoman. Read more

Jim Pickard

MPs have given themselves a new £25 “subsistence rate” for any night spent away from their main residence. This fact had passed most people by until the Telegraph’s splash today.

Most controversial will be the fact that MPs won’t need any receipts for this subsidy, for all the talk in recent weeks of the need for total transparency. Bear in mind that MPs made a big deal about the fact that “all” claims from zero upwards would now need receipts. Read more

Jim Pickard

There has been low-level speculation for ages that George Osborne may not necessarily end up as chancellor of the exchequer, an idea rubbished by senior Tory officials.

It is in the spirit of mischief-making that someone has passed me the fringe agenda for the Tory conference in October. Read more

Jim Pickard

Lord Mandelson recently batted away the prospect of his becoming Labour leader by pointing out that he couldn’t leave the House of Lords. (I am trapped. I believe it is for life.”) . Since then, of course, the legislation has been changed – co-incidentally they say – for peers to become commoners again. Read more

Jim Pickard

The Conservative candidate, Chloe Smith has won 13,591 votes – a concrete majority of 7,348.

The Tories will be more than relieved: delighted in fact. I’m not sure anyone really expected such a thumping victory. Read more

Jim Pickard

It seems likely that a Labour defeat in Norwich North would stimulate renewed talk of a plot against Gordon Brown. No doubt some of the serial Gordon-haters will revive speculation of a leadership challenge.

But if June’s uprising – with numerous ministerial resignations – couldn’t dislodge the prime minister, what would it take? Short of a Lord Mandelson “Brutus” moment it’s hard to picture a successful coup any time soon. Read more

Jim Pickard

There has been so much talk of hung Parliaments and small Tory majorities that it is refreshing to hear a contrary prediction. Read more

Jim Pickard

Lord Myners gives short thrift today to Tory plans to kneecap the Financial Services Authority and transfer many of its powers to the Bank of England. Read more

Jim Pickard

When James Purnell dramatically quit the government in June he was not followed by cabinet allies David Miliband and Andy Burnham.

And what of his special adviser at the Department of Work and Pensions, Ian Bundred? Read more

Jim Pickard

A fascinating interview with the departing Foreign Office minister, Lord Malloch-Brown, in today’s Telegraph. It comes just days after Gen Sir Richard Dannatt, head of the army, criticised the government for failing to supply enough men and equipment to Afghanistan. Read more

Jim Pickard

You knew that Lord Mandelson had become all-powerful. But here is the incredible extent of his influence; the business secretary sits on 35 out of 43 cabinet committees.

Tom Harris defends Westminster’s long summer break Read more

Jim Pickard

Paddy Power, the bookies, have put the Tories at 1:25 on to win Norwich North in Thursday’s by-election. Labour are right out there as rank outsiders at 10:1.

Many former Labour voters are genuinely unhappy about the way their MP, Ian Gibson, was treated over his expenses. The party is broadly disliked at a national level. And now it emerges that the party candidate has gone down with swine fluRead more

Jim Pickard

Expect several front page headlines on Tuesday morning about HMRC’s plunging tax receipts in 08/09 – laid bare thanks to an NAO report. Astute readers of this column will already know about the £20bn-plus fall in tax take – you read it here - because it was flagged up on Budget day in the red book small print. You’ll notice that the coming year is set to be even worse, according to the Treasury’s own predictions.

The real nasty today was another £10bn-plus of unpleasant news, including £3bn of uncollected tax and £7bn set aside for legal claims by taxpayers. The bulk of the latter – a staggering £4.8bn – stems from a single landmark case concluded early last year over VAT repayments. HMRC admitted today that they have already paid £1.5bn as a result of this “Fleming” test case. That’s an awful lot of helicopters or MRI machines.

Jim Pickard

Brace yourself for new outrage about the bonuses paid to senior officials in HM Treasury – revealed in its departmental review today. Read more