Monthly Archives: July 2009

Jim Pickard

Matthew D’Ancona does not appear to be convinced by Damian McBride’s penitence

You can listen to Brown’s former spindoctor here on the BBC or read his interview at the Guardian Read more

There are many good lines in the Ken Clark interview: privatising Royal Mail, dismantling BIS, his fitness regime, his admiration for Mandelson and so on. There were also some striking remarks on the timing of a spending review that are worth highlighting.

Clarke basically argues that it would be senseless to conduct a spending review debate in the run up to an election. I’m not sure it is quite Tory policy, but he makes some interesting points. Read more

Here’s Ken Clarke’s take on mobile phones, Blackberrys and jogging:

FT: Do you carry a mobile phone now?  Read more

After consulting the highly regarded US counterinsurgency field manual, I’ve turned armchair general and definitively calculated how many extra troops are needed in Helmand.

Forget the debate about sending an extra 700 or 2,000 — for the campaign in Helmand to meet basic counterinsurgency doctrine, we’d need to double the number of US, UK and Afghan troops in the province. Read more

FOX ANCHOR: The story is buzzing all around the country and certainly here in New York, is that the News of the World, a News Corporation newspaper in Britain…

MURDOCH: I’m not talking about that issue at all today, sorry. Read more

Jim Pickard

Unite, Britain’s biggest union, has revealed a sharp drop in global membership after discovering a quarter of a million “ghosts” who did not in fact belong to the organisation.

The group has reported a fall in its membership from 1.95m to 1.64m, equivalent to a drop of 310,000, in its annual report published this week. It later clarified this as mainly a “tidying-up exercise” as officials excised the names of former members who had left or died years earlier. Read more

Jim Pickard

Simon Jenkins has some interesting thoughts on the News of the World hacking story

Was Rebekah Wade buggedRead more

Jim Pickard

While most Labour MPs are taking delight from the hacking story – because it puts David Cameron in a difficult position – one person is taking a more nuanced position: the prime minister.

Early today, a Downing Street spokesman made clear that Gordon Brown would not comment on the issue because he was focussed on big global issues at the G8 summit in Italy. In the afternoon Mr Brown said it “raises issues that are serious and will obviously have to be answered.”

But is it conceivable that he would have preferred to have stayed out of a debate which involves some of New Labour’s key allies?

Close relations with the Murdoch business empire seem to be a prerequisite of any successful UK government of recent years. Peter Oborne, in his excellent book “The Triumph of the Political Class” reminds us that Tony Blair twice flew across the globe to address the annual conference of News Corporation executives.

Meanwhile Lance Price, the former Downing Street press office, once claimed that Mr Murdoch had been the “24th member of the Cabinet”.

“His presence was always felt. No big decision could ever be made inside Number 10 without taking account of the likely reaction of three men – Gordon Brown, John Prescott and Rupert Murdoch. On all the really big decisions, anybody else could be safely ignored.”

Early in his premiership, Blair raised the subject of Murdoch during a conversation with Romano Prodi, then Italian PM. He asked about Murdoch’s multi-billion pound bid for Mediaset, the media group. Blair then passed the reply – Prodi would prefer Italian buyer – back to Murdoch.

Here is another direct quote from a Lance Price article in the Guardian in 2006:

“I was reminded just how touchy Downing Street is about Mr Murdoch when I submitted the manuscript of my book, The Spin Doctor’s Diary, to the Cabinet Office. Read more

The latest register of members interests is out. Those of you waiting for more lurid details of the hourly rates MPs charge for their second jobs will be disappointed. We’ll be waiting a few more months for that (I explain why below). In the meantime, we can keep amused with entries like these:

HOOD, Jim (Lanark and Hamilton East)
2. Remunerated employment, office, profession etc Read more

Strictly in the public interest, the Financial Times has broken the code to Andy Coulson’s voice mail. There is little doubt that the ends justify the means. Just see for yourselves.

“Hi Andy it’s Sue. The Guardian have called again. I told him you had no comment. But he says he’s going to stand outside CCHQ and call every hour until you say something. Just thought you should know.” Read more

Labour are revelling in the Coulson furore. They are now even calling for him to be stripped of his Commons pass. Here’s Anne Clwyd’s take in the Commons.

“Given Mr Coulson’s dubious reputation none of us on this side of the House can feel comfortable that he is allowed to walk the corridors.”

Jim Pickard

At a sparsely attended committee hearing this morning I heard Stephen Timms, Treasury minister, admit that public sector pay might have to be frozen. At least he said that the Treasury had not ruled this out. Read more

David Cameron is being offered plenty of advice on the Andy Coulson saga from friends and foes alike: quickly find out exactly what happened, sack him regardless, don’t worry about it unless Coulson is directly implicated, or fight your man’s corner against a politically motivated campaign.

Cameron seems to have been reassured last night by Coulson’s “upright” answers. You have to presume that Coulson’s private assurances were more comprehensive than his public statement last night, which did not touch on whether he was aware of any illegal activities while he was editing the News of the World. (There is, of course, still no evidence to suggest that Coulson did know what the reporters working under him were up to.) Read more

Jim Pickard

Attempts to clean up the financial system have become more urgent given reports of the banking world returning to normal. Read more

Jim Pickard

It is a difficult circle to square: Read more

Jim Pickard

“Gross misconduct”: Junior civil servant sacked for posting a critical comment on a political website

Gordon Brown’s new affordable housing target turns out to be lower than the old one Read more

Jim Pickard

There’s a section at the back of the Building Britain’s Future document where Labour spells out key “deliverables” for the next decade.

Some of these are indeed likely. Others less so. Alex and I have picked out some of the more controversial ones. Read more

Jim Pickard

Alistair Darling tries to talk tough against bankers who need to be brought “back to earth”

Robert Peston makes the case against high pay for bankers Read more

Jim Pickard

Shaun Woodward: Our new secret formula is a great success. The public love it.

Gordon Brown: Higher spending and investment until the end of time.  Read more

Jim Pickard

Labour last year begged a dozen private backers – who lent the party £14m in 2005 – to delay repayments until 2015.

Most agreed; including Chai Patel, Richard Caring, Rod Aldridge and Barry Townsley. Two others wrote off their loans altogether (Sir Gulam Noon and Lord Sainsbury). Read more