Monthly Archives: October 2009

The business secretary discusses whether Tony Blair has a realistic chance of getting the job. Read more

Jim Pickard

This blog has been a bit quiet of late: we realise. In part it’s because I’ve had (probably) swine flu and have been in bed since Monday.

It’s also because Alex and I have been more or less off-diary for a fortnight to take a long look at Tony Blair’s multiple interests since leaving office – with the help of half a dozen colleagues. Read more

Jim Pickard

During the Tory party conference I went to watch the Tories’ controversial new allies – Michal Kaminski and Robert Zile – at a gathering. Afterwards I wrote a fairly neutral piece. Why? Because I didn’t know enough about Polish or Latvian politics to start repeating Labour-generated smears about certain MEPs: not without any first-hand proof*.

Afterwards, a Labour MP wrote to me to complain that I’d been too soft on Kaminski, leader of Poland’s “Law and Justice” party (and chair of the new rightwing alliance in Brussels which includes the Tories). Read more

Would Tony Blair give the EU proper internal attention, and would EU leaders accept being eclipsed by a star?

Gordon Brown thinks Blair would be an excellent candidateRead more

David Miliband, British foreign secretary, speaks to the Financial Times about Afghanistan, Russia, the prospect of president Blair and the Tory party’s policy on Europe.  Read more

Jim Pickard

A first-time voter next-year would have been just five when Labour won its landslide election in 1997. Imagine trying to explain the public excitement as Tony Blair was elected to office after two decades of Tory government.

Reading John O’Farrell’s “Things Can Only Get Better” brings back those expectations which could never – in truth – be met. Read more

Most politicians are desperate to appear on BBC Question Time. Britain’s most watched political show can make or break a career, but most folk in Westminster are vain enough to take the gamble. The exception is Gordon Brown.

As far as anyone can remember, Brown never appeared on the show during his decade as chancellor. Answering questions from ‘real people’ is just not his thing. Read more

Jim Pickard

The fact that the UK has seen six successive quarters of negative growth – meaning we are still in recession – is bad news for the prime minister. Not least because he claimed, only last month, that Britain was likely to return to growth by now. The implication was that his Pre-Budget Report would not quite so grim. Unfortunately he was wrong:

September 24, FT: Read more

Jim Pickard

MPs go home early for Christmas - but will they come back early?

Gordon Brown evades straightforward rugby question Read more

Jim Pickard

I agree with Kelvin McKenzie’s argument that the appearance of the gruesome Griffin on Question Time was not the BBC’s fault: blame the people who voted for the BNP.

But I have misgivings about the potential impact of the programme (watched by 8m people, about triple the usual). Firstly there is a danger that some viewers will be left with the impression of one man defending his views against the shrill “liberal elite” and a mostly hostile crowd. Read more

Jim Pickard

I was a bit confused last Tuesday to be told I was wrong after writing there would be a meeting between the Tory backbenchers and Labour backbenchers over the Legg report. Especially given that the tip had come from some usually solid sources.

I’ve since learned that Tony Lloyd, chair of the PLP, was indeed urged at that meeting to hold a joint gathering with the 1922 Committee and he did agree to consider the demands. Unfortunately, by the afternoon – once the news had reached the Labour hierarchy – he was asked to kill off the idea. Read more

Jim Pickard

The Legg investigation starts to unravel

William Hague tells ambassadors to stay out of the campaign for Blair EU presidency Read more

Jim Pickard

A new ICM survey for tonight’s Guardian will deepen the gloom among Labour MPs. It suggests a three-figure majority for the Conservatives and Labour down to fewer than 200 seats.

Incidentally, only 13 per cent of those surveyed had any sympathy for MPs who feel they have been hard done by by the Legg review. Read more

Jim Pickard

The prime minister likes Kit Kats. That much is known. But a Q&A with Mumsnet – the mothers’ website – appeared to go badly last week when Brown was asked a dozen times what his favourite biscuit was; and did not answer.

The Times had a good piece on it on Saturday. This morning, their excellent commentator Rachel Sylvester criticised “Biscuitgate” as Gordon’s “latest disaster”. Read more

Brown, Cameron, and Clegg are answering questions – although separately – on diversity in parliament.

Further Reading: Read more

Jim Pickard

An intriguing story around today about “up to five” Labour MPs who could step down before the general election to prompt by-elections around the country. The idea, apparently, is to punish Gordon Brown for uncorking the Pandora’s Box that is the Legg investigation.

I’m sure some MPs are indeed making this threat. But down at the Stranger’s Bar this evening an old hand points out one obvious reason why they might not carry it out. Read more

Jim Pickard

I wrote this morning about environmental groups speaking out about their fears that the Tories won’t deliver on their green promises – despite Cameron’s baloney about “vote blue, go green” from a few years back.

Now, conversely, someone has pointed me towards the fact that the head of a major housebuilder has just warned that Tory housing policy is – in his words – “scary as hell”. The property industry was alarmed by a letter from Caroline Spelman to councils inviting them to sit on any applications they don’t like (or rather, that they feel have been imposed from above via regional targets) until after the general election. Obviously the likes of CPRE are much more enthusiastic. Read more

Jim Pickard

Bad news for UKIP over donation – told to repay £364,000 by court

Five Labour MPs to step down early to trigger by-elections? Read more

Jim Pickard

Political Editor of the Sun heading to the more dollar-esque pastures of Portland Public Relations. You may remember a few weeks ago that we revealed the company had hired Michael Portillo – in a vivid sign of the PR industry wanting to snap up Tories.

Of course we wouldn’t dare to suggest that GPW had Conservative tendencies; but the Sun did rise on Cameron in the middle of Labour party conference. Read more

We’ll have more on this soon. But basically Lord Drayson is going to implement all of the recommendations in the Gray review, apart from a (very radical) plan to to outsource management of the £13bn defence equipment and support budget. He wants to implement it all within 6 months. That means a defence review in every parliament, a 10 year capital budget and a big organisational shake-up that is the MoD equivalent of the storming of the Bastille.

Drayson also admits there is already a hole in the budget plans for 2010 (which is the current “planning round”). They will have to decide on programmes to cut or scale back before Christmas. The “long term” decisions will be left for the strategic defence review. Flagging up the cuts is quite bold stuff and will have industry chiefs reaching for their panic pills. Read more