There can’t be many words likelier to trigger a heart attack in a new MP than these: “You do realise you’re on the list to make your maiden speech tonight, don’t you?” It was Jeremy Wright, a government whip, breaking unwelcome news: the Speaker had me down to speak earlier than I’d requested in my email to his office. I could be called at any minute.
The House loves nothing more than spontaneous eloquence. But the off-the-cuff effect, of course, takes time. Many maidens are crafted for weeks, then rehearsed in empty committee rooms with 20 foot high and ornately-coffered ceilings that almost replicate the feel of the chamber. In search of the extempore, some prolong the gestation of their inaugural orations for months.
The maiden speech is not just a significant personal moment, but also the biggest set-piece performance of an MP’s parliamentary career. Mine was set for disaster. The speech was still just a half-formed text, far removed from the classics I’d been urged to study, among them Matthew Parris’ 1979 debut, described as “one of the best” by the kind lady who’d posted it to me. Read more
The unions, Ed Balls, the Taxpayer’s Alliance, Tim Montgomerie and Guido have all come out against a rise in VAT.
The possible flaw in their argument is taking the tax rise in isolation. They’re assuming every option for spending restraint is an alternative. The brutal fact is we’re probably going to implement all the cuts they can think of, dream up a few more, and raise taxes. That’s how big the hole is. Read more
Either Alistair Darling has been reading Alex’s last blog or great minds think alike. The former chancellor has just briefed the lobby hacks on what to expect from tomorrow’s Budget. Top of his predictions was a change in index-linking for benefits from RPI (and the less well-known Rossi index) to CPI. The obvious benefit – as Alex explained this morning – is that the CPI measurement of inflation is usually lower. As a result the government could save about £1bn a year.
Most intriguing was Darling’s prediction that the coalition might tomorrow announce a rise in VAT (a move he sees as inevitable) but not to kick in until either the pre-Budget report. Why? Because then the September inflation index (on which next year’s benefit uplift would be based) would be lower. (A rise in VAT means a rise in prices). Cunning or what? Read more
From today, I will be periodically providing FT Westminster readers with some jottings from the backbenches. David Cameron has promised to make transparency a watchword of the “new politics” and the purpose of the blog will be to try to help the FT’s political team, led by George Parker, to shed even more light into the murky Gothic interior of the Palace of Westminster.
The postings will be pretty random, in frequency and subject matter. It would be hard for me to compete with FT Westminster bloggers Alex Barker and Jim Pickard on the scoop front – and that, for obvious reasons, is not the idea. But I do hope to bring something of an insider’s perspective onto politics and policy-making in the new parliament. If I fail to do so, my blog will deservedly die a speedy death. Read more
Welcome to a new, occasional series running up to the Autumn spending review. We’re planning for the “Cut Of The Day” to be as arbitrary, brutish and irregular as the whims of the Treasury axemen. So you may see a few examples on a single day, or none at all.
The basic premise is to lay out the case for and against various measures. We’ll try to pull together some greatest hits before the Spending review. So please do let us know if you think the options are too damaging, cruel or indeed unnecessarily merciful. Read more