Some bemusement around here about the new figure of 10,000 British troops in Afghanistan.
The old figure was 9,000, and we are sending another 500. Now Gordon Brown feels the need to reveal the fact that 500 special operatives are at work in the mountain state. The prime minister told the Commons that it was unusual to talk about the activities (of the SAS etc) but he wanted to show the nation’s appreciation. Read more
The Cabinet Office white paper on “Smarter Government” has been leaked by the Tories over the weekend. It is full of promises to make efficiency savings, move more civil servants out of London, sell public assets and the usual stuff.
It also has the whiff of a document cobbled together at short notice, judging by some of the promises in the draft (published after last week’s cabinet meeting where the strategy was approved). Read more
Fascinating account in the Sunday Times today of tensions between Gordon Brown and his defence secretary, who last week seemed to criticise President Barack Obama for his delay in sending more troops to Afghanistan. Read more
I’ve just emerged from a stuffy Westminster room where Philip Hammond gave another of his “Doing More With Less”-type speeches.
His key point – apart from a new centralised property agency to rent out Whitehall back to the civil servants – was the claim that £60bn could be saved through greater productivity performance. Read more
Edward Leigh, chair of the public accounts committee, has written an angry letter to the Chancellor demanding to know why the £61bn loans to HBOS and RBS have only just been made public.
Alex suggested yesterday that the timing of the announcement could be related to an NAO report – out tomorrow imminently – which would have revealed the loan. Leigh has asked Alistair Darling to clarify if this is the case.
Here is the letter
Committee of Public Accounts
25 November 2009
Rt. Hon Alistair Darling MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Thank you for your letter of 23 November informing me that the Treasury granted the Bank an indemnity in October 2008 against losses it might incur in providing emergency support to RBS and HBOS. I followed this up with you in the House today and I must say that I cannot regard your answer as a full and sufficient explanation. I shall therefore await your further advice before deciding how to properly discharge my responsibilities in this situation.
Jim Pickard is the FT's chief political correspondent, having joined the lobby team in January 2008. He has been at the FT since 1999 as a regional correspondent, assistant UK news editor and property correspondent.
Kiran Stacey is an FT political correspondent, having joined the lobby in 2011. He started at the FT as a graduate trainee in 2008, working on desks including UK companies and US equity markets before taking over the FT's Energy Source blog.