Monthly Archives: August 2009

From the FT’s Arena blog:

Lord Turner, chairman of the UK’s Financial Services Authority, casts a sceptical light on the role of the City of London in the UK economy in an interview with Prospect Magazine. During the last boom, the financial sector grew as a share of gross domestic product, and ballooned as a share of profits and taxes. Should the government have as a goal to protect the City as a pre-eminent financial centre? Or has the City grown too big for Britain’s good? Lord Turner says the City watchdog should be “very, very wary of seeing the competitiveness of London as a major aim”.  Which British industries – if any – have the potential to replace the City? Does the UK have any choice other than to nourish the financial services industry? Join the debate: click on commentRead more

Jim Pickard

The Times has splashed this morning on criticism of the government over its imminent alteration to the housing benefit system (which was in the April Budget) which will save £140m a year.*

Frank Field and others are protesting about the change which will mean that people will no longer be able to keep any surplus housing benefit over and above the cost of their rent. Read more

Jim Pickard

Irwin Stelzer in the Telegraph

Philip Stephens in the FT Read more

Jim Pickard

That was a teaser headline.

I’ve just listened to the shadow welfare secretary for the best part of an hour and I still haven’t a clue what would change under a Tory government vis a vis the benefits system. Read more

Jim Pickard

The man Dan Hannan seems to have put his foot in it again – or has he? Read more

Jim Pickard

It seems like great news for anyone wanting to get around Britain more swiftly: Network Rail has outlined its plans for a high-speed rail link from London to Scotland. The case for such a scheme is powerful; rail capacity is close to bursting and Britain has been left trailing by other countries such as France and China. Here is the news story on the BBCRead more

Jim Pickard

From my Notebook column in this morning’s FT:

It is 2012. A press conference in Stratford, east London Read more

Jim Pickard

Amid the debate about whether Gordon Brown should comment on the release of the Lockerbie bomber, here are a few other things which he has commented in the last year:

“I was deeply saddened to hear the news of Jade Goody’s death…she will be remembered fondly by all who knew her” (March 22Read more

Jim Pickard

Richard Dannatt’s £1.49 bottles of wine: how the head of the Armed Forces put MPs to shame

Mandarins criticise New Labour government Read more

Jim Pickard

It’s not every day that I’m accused of “incompetent journalism in its most insidious form” by a (more) famous author*. Read more

Jim Pickard

I got up super-early this morning – well, 6.30am – to attend a debate between David Cameron and Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan, at the RSA.

Taleb was full of fascinating intellectual ideas but none seemed particularly relevant to UK politics or the big issues (probably) facing Cameron next year. Read more

Jim Pickard

Here is my exclusive from this morning’s FT. It’s pretty self-explanatory. Read more

Jim Pickard

I was struck by Gordon Brown’s insistence today that: “Three-quarters of the terrorist plots that hit Britain derive from the mountain areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan and it is to make Britain safe and the rest of the world safe that we must make sure we honour our commitment to maintain a stable Afghanistan.” Read more

The fractious debate over President Barack Obama’s efforts to reform US healthcare has provoked a transatlantic split, as some of his critics from the American right ridicule the UK’s National Health Service, which some people view as a possible model for the US.

David Cameron, leader of the UK’s opposition Conservative party, on Friday added his voice to that of Gordon Brown, the Labour prime minister, in defending the NHS from US criticism, saying Britons were proud of the service. Mr Brown’s intervention on the Twitter social networking site came as some Republicans used the NHS as an example of the potential pitfalls facing Mr Obama as the US president tries to push through a healthcare reform bill. What do you think about US healthcare reform? Would you rather be sick in the US or in the UK? Click on the “comments” button to join the debate. Read more

Jim Pickard

David Cameron was unable to comment on Alan Duncan’s embarrassment yesterday because he was on a cross-channel ferry. Now he’s back and the Tory leader has ticked off his front bencher. But Cameron seems to be saying he is secure in his job. Read more

Some of you may remember when Gordon Brown declared that the City’s “old excesses” were coming to an end. His Op-Ed in the Times this Spring was full of ambition, swagger and purpose. He made absolutely clear what he considered to be an unacceptable bonus, setting out some basic principles (see below).

Brown’s first principle: “there must be no reward for failure”. Read more

Jim Pickard

Am I the only person unimpressed by the man who accepted Alan Duncan’s offer of a conciliatory drink at the Commons – only to then film him undercover? Read more

Jim Pickard

This may be of interest to council chiefs at a time when they are expected to find ever more efficiencies: The accounts for DCLG, just published, show an anticipated rise in central administration costs (for the next financial year) from £203.8m to £208.7m for the department.

A case of do as we say, not as we do?

Jim Pickard

No wonder Labour is so reluctant to hand over the whips’ list of Parliamentary Private Secretaries. I’ve just had a word with Valerie Passmore, editor of Dod’s Parliamentary Companion.

It was Dod’s which provided me with the list of 12 vacancies in government for PPSs – the lowest rung of the ministerial ladder. We ran the story on Monday. The fact that many MPs don’t want a job in government any more implies that morale is sliding. Read more

Jim Pickard

I haven’t had a chance to number-crunch today’s unemployment figures yet. But there was an interesting chart in the Audit Commission report – also out today – on how councils are faring in the recession. Read more