Matthew Green, our man in Kabul, has just filed this update on the fears that the Taliban were plotting to attack David Cameron’s plane. Downing Street are playing down the incident as part of the “dynamic” operational environment in Afghanistan.
By Matthew Green in Camp Bastion Read more
The list of special advisers pay is out. They finally have a contract. Andy Coulson is the top earner at £140,000, within a whisker of David Cameron’s pay. (Still a big pay cut. I’m trying to find out if it is supplemented by CCHQ.) Steve Hilton is worth £50,000 less.
Rupert Harrison is on £80,000 as part of the Council of Economic Advisers and surely deserves more for running the economy. Jonny Oates is the most expensive Lib Dem (he is one of the few with private sector experience). If I have the time, I’ll work out average pay for the two parties. I suspect I know who will come out winning. Read more
George Parker wrote the definitive piece on the Demon Eyes football team, membership of which is as important to a Labour political career as an Oxford degree and service as a special adviser.
Almost as good as the article is this fantastic cover image*, which shows David Miliband, Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and James Purnell (looking rather shifty) mocked up as the 1966 World Cup winning side. We’re only missing Ed Miliband (who I think also turned out for the team a few times) and Diane Abbott (who definitely did not). Read more
The first set of elections for committee chairmen are over and there have certainly been some upsets. The full list of results is below, but here are some highlights.
– Andrew Tyrie wins the race to be Treasury select committee chair, easily beating Michael Fallon 352 to 219. Clubable, completely independent minded, led the charge over extraordinary rendition even though it is outside his expertise. A former special adviser at the Treasury and a Clarke-ite. George Osborne, welcome to scrutiny.
– Adrian Bailey heads up the Business committee, narrowly defeating Barry Sheerman. A long serving member of the committee, former librarian, reasonably loyal Labour MP with concerns about late licensing hours. Once described in the local press as having a personality like a “vandalised bus shelter”.
– James Arbuthnot holds on to the Defence committee in one of the most unpredictable races, beating off a challenge from Patrick Mercer (the voice of the forces), Julian Lewis (who hoped to be a minister) and Douglas Carswell (who wants to take on vested interest in the industry). Arbuthnot, a former defence procurement minister, was the establishment choice who was seen as having run the committee commendably. Will be interesting to see if the reports are more or less punchy, now that there is a Tory defence minister.
– Lastly a word for Karen Buck, who only lost out on the work and pensions committee to Anne Begg by 14 votes.
Full results are below, taken-from-this-house-of-commons-pdf. Read more
Liam Fox has sent out an email to all defence officials and armed forces setting out his goals as defence secretary. It is a much clearer statement of intent than the Ministry of Defence will be used to. But it also shows that, in some areas, pragmatism reigns. Three points shone through:
– He’s not shying away from axing entire equipment programmes. If he sticks to his word, the days of delaying projects to balance the short term budget are over. This is a promise that may be tested to destruction by the end of the year. Note there is no mention of the role the Treasury will have in the Defence Review.
– He will still reform the internal workings of the MoD, but not until next year. This was always a pledge made in opposition that looked unrealistic, particularly given the challenges facing the MoD. It would have entailed running a war, completing an Defence Review, cutting the budget for the first time in 20 years AND reorganising the structure of the MoD — all at the same time.
– There is a change of tone with industry. Fox is offering a new working arrangement and an update to the Defence Industrial Strategy. But the big message is that he will be bearing down on costs. It is something all defence secretaries want to do, some publicly say they will do, but few manage.
Let’s see how Fox fares. The full statement is copied below. Read more
Put aside the talk of a rise in student fees. The most important hint given by David Willetts today is that soft student loans, subsidised by the state, will have to be reformed. He’s raising the axe over a indirect giveaway to the middle-classes worth around £1.2bn a year.
Willetts is, understandably, still skirting around the issue. But the declaration of intent to bring down the cost to the taxpayer is clear:
“What I want is something that does indeed reduce the burden on the taxpayer but it also has to strengthen the finances of universities in the long term, some of which are in a very fragile state because of the mess that Labour left behind,” he said.
Just consider what would happen if student fees were raised without tackling the student loans. Without stopping the perk, the state could end up spending even more on higher education, not less, in order to subsidise bigger loans. For Willetts to meet his goal of easing the burden on the taxpayer, the interest rates on loans must rise.
At the moment the government offers terms that are beyond generous. Read more