Daily Archives: May 28, 2010

We started covering the imminent battle to run Unite some time ago. The identity of the new general secretary, to be picked this autumn, is important given that the union is Labour’s biggest backer. The name to watch is Jerry Hicks, who – as the most strident left-winger in the contest – has the potential to shake things up.

Here is a video from film director Ken Loach supporting the Hicks candidacy, saying he is the right man for the “massive battles ahead” now that the “old ruling classes are back in power.” Read more

The official announcement has just come through. There are 56 new peers entering the House of Lords. There are 29 Labour, 16 Tories, 9 Lib Dems, 1 DUP and 1 cross-bencher.


John Prescott (pictured): Croquet-playing, Tweeting, sentence-mangling former deputy prime minister.

John Reid: Scottish former defence secretary (and home secretary, and health secretary) who now chairs Celtic football club

Margaret Wheeler: Unison, director of organisation

Michael Williams: former adviser on foreign affairs

Des Browne: Scottish former defence secretary

Quentin Davies (pictured): former defence secretary who crossed the floor from the Tories and put his bell tower on expenses

Bev Hughes: Former immigration and prisons minister

Sir Jeremy Beecham, former chair of Local Government Association

Rita Donaghy, former chair of Conciliation and Arbitration Service

Tommy McAvoy: Former senior whip in the Commons

Hilary Armstrong: North-east MP who remained loyal to Blair until the end.

John Hutton (pictured): Blarite former defence secretary who resigned last summer but did not knife Gordon Brown Read more

For those with plenty of time on their hands, I can recommend a new site, Twung Parliament, that corrals zillions of Tweets from MPs of all parties in a single venue. Don’t go there expecting to find our what’s really going on in Westminster – but it’s amusing enough. Incredibly, more than 200 MPs in the current Parliament use Twitter.

Today, for example, Grant Shapps is re-opening a pub in Welwyn; Tim Farron (contender for Lib Dem deputy leadership) has had a Pot Noodle for lunch, Tristram Hunt is visiting a “head of youth services” and Tom Watson has just discovered that :”Aussies drink less beer than in 1950s”.

Ed Balls is still one nomination short of the requisite 33 nominations needed to enter the contest. But – if the worst comes to the worst – he can rely on Gordon Brown’s support, surely? I predicted a week ago that he would cross the threshold with ease. Read more

Robert Peston is not only a former colleague but also a superb financial journalist. But I can’t quite agree with the premise on his blog today – “a coalition housing crash” – that changing stamp duty could prompt a damaging property downturn. (To be fair his argument is more nuanced than the heading suggests).

I’ve been pondering for some time how the government could restrain any newfound housing bubble if the current trends (prices rose 10.5 per cent in the year to April, according to Nationwide*) continue. Prices are still lower than their peak but shooting up in many parts of the country (admittedly not all) as a direct result of the Bank of England base rate being at the artificially low rate of 0.5 per cent. Mortgage rates are therefore lower than they might otherwise be, a situation that could in the coming few years have a dangerous impact on the market. Letting this trend continue – until it is once again unsustainable – is the real risk for the coalition. Read more

Ed Miliband, Labour leadership contender, appears to be making a bold call today:

In a speech at the London School of Economics, Ed Miliband will say he wants to get the Labour Party as a whole behind the “living wage” campaign, calling for a rate of £7.60 in London and a national average outside the capital of £7.16. About five million workers would benefit. The actual minimum wage is set to rise to £5.93 in October. (PA)

At first glance this seemed hugely radical/drastic depending on your point of view; given that it would represent a 28 per cent rise in wages for the lowest paid. Surely the CBI et al should be horrified? Read more

The by-election result in Thirsk and Malton last night, near where I grew up*, was bad news for Labour. The party had hoped that former Lib Dem voters (of the left-leaning variety) would rush to their arms in protest at the coalition. Except that’s not what happened in this ballot, prompted by the death of a candidate on the eve of the general election.

Instead, the Tory share of the vote crept up from 52 per cent to 53 per cent, a comfortable win for incumbent Anne McIntosh. The Lib Dems rose from 19 to 23 per cent. It was Labour which saw support crumble – from 23 per cent to 13.5 per cent – in the newly-created constituency.

On paper that looks disastrous for Labour, an indictment on a party that is leaderless, directionless and still in a state of shock. It is also appears confirmation that the coalition is on the right track.

In fact it may be symptomatic of the fact that all new governments enjoy a honeymoon; even Gordon Brown had three months or so of public goodwill in the distant summer of 2007. How long this one will last remains to be seen. Read more