Monthly Archives: November 2009

The mistake of the last Speaker, Michael Martin, was to refuse to recognise the head of steam building up over MPs expenses. Read more

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

Tim Yeo unveils portrait of David Cameron

Alex Salmond makes the case for Scottish independence Read more

I’ve just been pointed to the website for the Richmond Park Tories which lays out recent Conservative policies. Such as….

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

It seems that Tory rising star Stephen Greenhalgh has been a little incautious in his choice of words, according to this trade magazine report of his comments at a recent event.

The Hammersmith & Fulham council leader suggested yesterday on a public podium* that some shadow Cabinet members may not have the experience to run the country. Read more

Greg Pope, the Blairite MP turned blogger, is distinctly unimpressed with Sir Jeremy Greenstock’s testimony at the Iraq Inquiry today:

It sounded like he’d had a terrible time when he was our man at the United Nations: kept out of the Blair-Bush loop, considered resigning, thought the war lacked legitimacy.  Read more

Hopi Sen is not impressed with Philip Blond

Ann Treneman is not impressed with Philip Blond 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

MacDonald stands before hedge to lecture housewives on currency markets

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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.

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Lyons report revisited: Liam Byrne’s cunning plan is moving thousands more civil servants out of London

Lord Adonis punishes National Express Read more

The FT’s splash this morning was “Dubai stuns debt markets“. Read more

Lots of people have been perplexed over the timing of the Bank of England’s admission that it extended £61.6bn of loans to prop-up Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS. Why was it disclosed this week?

Well, the main reason is that the terriers at the National Audit Office were about to call the Bank’s bluff by revealing the secret loan in an upcoming report. Mervyn King merely decided it would look better for the Bank to confess independently. Read more

The “macro” story on donations today (Electoral Commission figures for Q3 are out) is that the Tories received £5.27m in donations – more than the other 17 parties combined. Labour got just over £3m (mostly from unions) while the Lib Dems received £816,663.

A trawl through the Tory donors is interesting in terms of individual gifts:
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One of the biggest stories of the day is the Supreme Court ruling that banks can carry on charging big fees on personal overdrafts.

This is rich in irony given an apparent revelation in the House of Commons an hour ago. Vince Cable pressed Alistair Darling over the issue of the £61bn emergency loans to HBOS and RBS. Were the banks charged interest, he demanded? Read more

The main “finding” from the first day of the long-awaited Iraq inquiry appears to be that the Bush administration were discussing toppling Saddam Hussein as late early as 2001. This will come as no surprise to most people who followed developments in Washington through that period.

But it does give me an excuse to dredge up my favourite nugget from The 9/11 Commission reportRead more

To the cynics, the Calman Commission was always an attempt by Labour to show that it was taking seriously the desire within Scotland for independence/ greater freedom. But will ministers do anything with the Calman report, published nearly a year ago? Read more

An astonishing tale emerged this morning as Bank of England executives faced the Treasury select committee.

It transpired that the BoE extended secret emergency financing to RBS and what was then HBOS during the banking panic in October 2008, indicating the two banks were even closer to collapse than had been thought.