Monthly Archives: January 2010

Jim Pickard

I reported this morning that the unions are up in arms about an imminent pay freeze announced today. The three unions representing about 1.5m council workers want a 2.5 per cent rise – the employers have offered zero.

But how hard are Unison, the GMB and Unite going to fight this one? Read more

Jim Pickard

Nick Clegg attracted some mocking laughter from MPs – including Gordon Brown – during PMQs today for daring to question the Cadbury’s takeover. How come the government couldn’t stop RBS, which is state-owned, part-funding the Kraft takeover, he asked?

Last month, Lord Mandelson declared that the government would mount a huge opposition to the Kraft takeover of Cadbury’s, so why does the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is owned by this government, now want to lend vast amounts of our money to Kraft to fund that takeover? Read more

The Tory poison pen letter writer is back. A blast against the “small clique” running the party, written on House of Commons headed paper, was sent to Tory MPs about ten days ago. Here is a pdf of it in full. The anonymous author claims to be a Tory MP but there is nothing to prove it, apart from a brief reference to some internal party meetings, which frankly any Labour MP could have known about. It could well be a rather clumsy attempt at deception and political dirty tricks.

The complaints — against “arrogant” advisers, “destroying” colleagues over expenses and freezing out MPs — echo the first poison pen letter in June, which by no means fomented a revolt. There are also some stylistic similarities which do suggest the same person is behind this — note the love of semi-colons and Soviet analogies (Cameron was “Stalinist” in the first letter while the second berates Osborne’s “KGB-like staff”). The difference this time is that it is longer, more spiteful and mainly directed at the “megalomaniac” George Osborne. Read more

Jim Pickard

I wrote in the FT this morning about Tory PPCs being sent by Steve Hilton on a course (last Thursday) to teach them about climate change. It’s a sign that the leadership are worried that Cameron’s backing for the green agenda is not shared across the Conservative party.

“Reducing Britain’s carbon footprint” is the lowest priority (out of 19) of 144 PPCs, according to this Conservative Home poll. Anne Winterton in a recent PMQs voiced the idea that heavy snow proved that climate change was a nonsense. Read more

Jim Pickard

This isn’t being broadcast by the Tories but I know that a large number of candidates – I’m told it’s no fewer than fifty – are gathering this afternoon to pose for photographs with the Conservative leader in London. The idea is to refresh candidates’ campaign literature ahead of the general election (some already have pics of themselves with David Cameron but need new ones). Read more

Jim Pickard

Well, not exactly. But he has appeared today at a political event at the BBC, as Guido reveals. Apparently it was some kind of internal planning event (understood to have featured Lord Mandelson) giving guidance on the coming election to the Beeb.

There is some discomfort among the Tories about the idea of McBride’s (partial) rehabilitation. This is the statement from Eric Pickles, chair of the Conservatives: Read more

Jim Pickard

Score-draw in PMQs today with no knockout blow on either side. But I rather enjoyed Cameron’s cheeky request to Labour MPs to put their hands up if they were planning to put Gordon Brown’s face on their election literature.

With backbenchers wary of looking like toadies, a mere four put their hands up. A cheap shot, but still….

Jim Pickard

A curious email was sent out this afternoon, purporting to be from Peter Slowe, chair of the Labour Finance and Industry Group. In it, Dr Slowe apparently called for Harriet Harman to quit. Yes, really.

UPDATE: Slowe has said it’s nothing to do with him – instead he says it was a mistaken publicity attempt by his PR advisers. Read more

Alastair Campbell has hasn’t given an inch on the infamous intelligence dossier. There have been a few laughs in the press room, not least when he claimed he was never obsessed with headlines.

One recurrent theme (apart from his insistence that nothing was wrong with the dossier) is his reluctance to say a bad word against Sir John Scarlett, the then head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, who he holds in “huge regard”. Read more

Jim Pickard

The government’s ludicrously-named “Salt Cell” (do they meet in a salt cellar?) gathered this morning. I’m told the result is bad for motorists in those parts of London still afflicted with deep snow (note to London-based journalists: just because it’s melted here doesn’t mean the issue has gone away)

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We’ve had the first session of Alastair Campbell’s testimony. Even the committee were annoyed with his habit of dissembling and sidestepping questions. But right at the end Campbell did finally add something to the narrative of the lead up to war. It emerged that Blair wrote to Bush at several points through 2002 making clear Britain’s commitment to disarming Saddam through military action, should it prove necessary. In Campbell’s words, Blair said “Britain will definitely be there”.

Before that the most striking part has been Campbell’s willingness to front-up to Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain’s former ambassador to Washington. He’s already managed to accuse him of being “churlish” and “inaccurate” and “overstated” in describing Tony Blair’s role. I’m sure Sir Christopher, who is no shrinking violet, will have something to say about that. Read more

Jim Pickard

That means a March Budget before the Easter break, according to Treasury insiders, with campaigning to begin in earnest when MP return from their holiday.

One government whip said that May 6 was now the assumption around which the party was working. This was confirmed by a senior union source, who told me the chances of a March poll were “no chance or even less”. An April election was feasible but still unlikely unless the economic data showed a sudden recovery, he said. Read more

Alastair Campbell has started testifying publicly before a committee investigating the Iraq war for the fourth time. For those of you who want to check what he has said before, here are the links:

Hutton Inquiry 1 and Hutton Inquiry 2 Read more

Jim Pickard

One loyalist MP tells me it will be “bloodsport” tonight at the PLP as people vent their spleen against the authors of last week’s ill-fated rebellion. Read more

Jim Pickard

Mr Robinson has asked a DUP colleague to fill in for him as first minister for Northern Ireland for six weeks.

(William Hay, the speaker in the NI assembly, has just announced that enterprise minister Arlene Foster has taken charge with immediate effect.) Read more

Jim Pickard

As I pointed out at 3pm on Wednesday, Labour plots struggle to gain traction for a variety of reasons - one of which is the lack of an effective mechanism to retire a leader who is unwilling to quit.

It’s one thing to oust Tony Blair with a handful of lightweight names. People tend to forget that Blair had already done a decade in Downing Street. Read more

Jim Pickard

It’s worth having a look at this list of MPs letters criticising Hoon and Hewitt, put together on the loyal Labourlist. There are 20 of them.

What’s interesting is that the names aren’t all slavishly loyal Labour drones. The list includes some genuinely independent minds (eg Martin Salter). Read more

Jim Pickard

Sorry if anyone saw this yesterday – it was up for 20 minutes and then pulled for reasons you may be able to guess…..


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Jim Pickard

Today’s diversions meant I forgot to bring you one of PMQ’s highlights when Ann Winterton, the Tory backbencher, declared that this week’s cold weather was proof that climate change is a myth (I’m not sure it’s that straightforward Ann). Read more

Jim Pickard

One major cabinet minister who has kept his silence today is Alistair Darling, chancellor of the exchequer. Why? We know he is a friend of both Geoff Hoon and Bob Ainsworth (who, you may remember, was expected to resign last summer – but stayed for a cabinet promotion). Read more