Monthly Archives: February 2010

On Thursday in the Notebook column I reported the early stages of a merciless bureaucratic assault on the army stables.

It makes passing reference to Dudley, a six-year-old Irish-bred grey gelding, who is fitted with a leopard-skin saddle as mascot for the Queen’s Royal Hussars.

The article suggests that Dudley, like the other MoD horses, has a “through life cost” to the taxpayer of £150,000. This deserves to be corrected. A reader has let me know that Dudley may actually be a private military company, only indirectly benefiting from taxpayer support.

I would like to point out a quite significant misconception in your notebook piece: Dudley is not paid for by the defence budget but by the officers of the regiment, who all chip in to fund his procurement, through-life costs, and  personal equipment. Technically he may therefore be a Private Military and Security Company.

Dudley, please accept my apologies. The full notebook extract is copied below. Read more

Lots of controversy over whether the Israeli ambassador was summoned to see Sir Peter Ricketts, the head of the Foreign Office, or invited. Here is a brief guide to the diplomatic lexicon.

An invitation: Typically to dinners or functions. A staple of diplomatic life. Can be declined in most instances without causing offence. Read more

It was to be expected. But Paul Krugman, Nobel prize winning economist and chief Gordon Brown cheerleader, has revealed that we have another letter heading our way on how fast to cut the deficit.

There’s an economists’ duel underway in Britain. Everyone agrees that Britain needs to address its underlying budget deficit; but how fast? One group of prominent economists has published a letter saying that cuts should start more or less immediately. Read more

Three reasons why Tory co-operatives may be a radical idea that few workers will want to take up in practice:

1) Demand  Read more

Jim Pickard

When it comes to an Englishman’s home it seems there are certain things you can’t say. John Healey, housing minister, found this out to his cost yesterday when he explained that – for some people – repossession was not the worst option available to them.

Cue outrage in The Sun. And more outrage in The Express. Even the Mirror, which is rarely the first to attack the government, joined in with more than a hint of outrageRead more

Jim Pickard

I’ve seen a transcript of the Piers Morgan-Gordon Brown interview, which will be on ITV1 at 10.15pm on Sunday. There are genuinely touching moments about the death of Brown’s daughter and his son’s cystic fibrosis. On balance, however, it proves what we already know; that the PM does not emote particularly well. Here are some of the less serious highlights.

Brown: Sarah and I, we’re, we’re a modern love story….

Morgan: Tell me about this plane journey that Sarah was on about where you first move in.

Brown: You, you might say love at first flight. I don’t know. I don’t know.

Morgan: You didn’t join the mile high club did you?

Brown: No.

(re the proposal)

Morgan: Are you on bended knee?

Brown: No.

 Read more

Jim Pickard

Sky has revealed a list of Westminster’s most fanciable 100 MPs. Good to see Julie Kirkbride – we mentioned here on this blog yesterday – coming in at number 3.

Boyish Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, is at number 5, sweeping most of Parliament before him. Read more

Jim Pickard

Geoff Hoon resigns

Civil servants take “tricky questions training” Read more

Jim Pickard

Those who erupted in shock yesterday at the news that Andrew Mackay had landed a job with Burson-Marsteller will no doubt be outraged* by my latest intel.

I’m informed reliably that Julie Kirkbride, Mackay’s wife, has been chatting to several lobbying firms in the last month or so about work post-election. I’m told she is aiming for an annual salary of about £100,000 with flexible working patterns to fit around school holidays. Not certain exactly which firms she has been talking to as yet. Read more

This blog is not usually a home for 45-minute lectures. But David Willetts gave a compelling presentation to the RSA last week that deserves a wider audience (well, a slightly bigger academic seminar room).

Watch out for the implications of the argument in his book — which looks at generational divide and how baby boomers stitched up generation X and Y — for David Cameron’s policy platform. Read more

Jim Pickard

Labour made a huge error by rejecting the chance to obtain state funding for the party – leaving it at a “catastrophic disadvantage” in the coming general election – its former general secretary has written.

Party officials have dismissed the claims by Peter Watt, who left the Labour party under a cloud after the cash-for-honours affair*, suggesting he is now embittered and vengeful. The book, Inside Out, should indeed be read through that prism** – as Rod Liddle explains.

Yet Mr Watt, as general secretary, occupied a central position within the party hierarchy from which he had unique access to its machinations. That’s why it’s fascinating to see him blame Labour for the failure of cross-party talks to address party funding in late 2007. Read more

Jim Pickard

Andrew Mackay, former Parliamentary aide to David Cameron, is to work for lobbying company Burson-Marsteller – as a consultant and strategic adviser – after the election. The story was broken by PR Week this afternoon. Read more

Jim Pickard

The curious non-resignation of Joanne Cash, PPC for Westminster North: Paul Waugh charts the aftermath. Here is his original story.

Do northerners like the Tories? Nick Robinson visits Pendle. Read more

Jim Pickard

It is possible to read informal minutes of Labour NEC* meetings circulated by a member with a commitment to transparency. The latest are just out, relating to a gathering of the party hierarchy in late January:

This caught my eye:  Read more

Enjoyed Richard Revees’ blast against New Labour’s puritan streak in today’s FT. The Demos director’s main target is Andy Burnham’s plans to ban smoking in doorways.

It is not yet clear how the doorway rule would operate in practice….Perhaps we could mark-out six-yard boxes, around the doors, like the one around goals in football (Mr Burnham is a keen player). They might become known as “Burnham Boxes”Read more

Brooke Masters, chief regulation correspondent, talks about the future of regulation in the UK.

Jim Pickard

There has been an enormous amount of to-ing and fro-ing in recent weeks between the three parties and the three broadcasters hosting April’s pre-election TV debates; some of which I alluded to last week.*

Philip Webster has a good piece this morning on Brown taking soundings from Joel Benenson, who advised Obama and Biden ahead of their election debates. Read more

Steve Hilton’s flow of thought has been blissfully uninterrupted by the fuss over his strategy bulletins. The Tory barefoot sage is still on a mission to re-educate senior Tory MPs on the importance of “people power” and gardening. But, as you can see from the last two strategy emails below, his missives have been toned down a bit, at least in language. No more references to “cool stuff”, which is a shame.  Perhaps this is a real life example of transparency changing behaviour?

For those of you who prefer to see your bulletins in graphical form, I’ve pulled together a word cloud. Read on for the full text.

 Read more

Jim Pickard

I’m sure there’s an interesting story to be told today about lobbyists gaining access to the Commons by MPs hiring out rooms to entertain them. The authorities have released the full list of “banqueting office functions” booked from 2004 to 2009. (To be fair many of the guests are charities etc) Read more

Jim Pickard

Alex spotted that Sir John Butterfill paid back £17,478 despite being asked to pay only £2,364.

Who else has appeared to have gone overboard in an attempt to clear their name? This list is not comprehensive but will give you an idea….*

Phil Hope has paid back a stunning £42,674…..10 times the £4,365 demanded of him.

Keith Vaz has paid back £18,949, more than 10 times the £1,514 demanded of him.

Sally Keeble paid back £4,189, 10 times the £451 recommended.

Humfrey Malins repaid £9,954 8 times the demand of £1,329 Read more