Monthly Archives: July 2010

Jim Pickard

Interesting to see that John Prescott now says he was “nervous” about the intelligence that provided the basis for the Iraq invasion.

On the basis of the Alastair Campbell diaries, “JP” – far from expressing nerves about the war - played an enforcer role in making sure that the cabinet knuckled down behind Tony Blair. 

Jim Pickard

A postscript to my earlier blog about the Balls campaign being on the ropes.

Here is a YouGov poll of Labour members from mid-way in the deputy leadership race in 2007 which turned out to be spectacularly wrong. It’s worth bearing in mind. 

Jim Pickard

Ed Balls is in a bind.

On the one hand he has been the most effective member of the shadow cabinet in recent weeks, successfully landing punch after punch on the coalition over the Building Schools for the Future programme.

On the other his leadership campaign is running into the sand. In a poll last night for the Sun he came in fifth behind all the other candidates, with just 11 per cent of those polled (against 37 per cent for David M and 29 per cent for Ed M). It seems that Labour supporters haven’t warmed to him.

So what to do? If Balls swings his weight behind one of the brothers he could give significant momentum to that candidate and therefore secure the shadow chancellorship as a reward. If he stays in the contest and comes third he might get that job anyway. But if he comes in fifth the winner is under no obvious obligation to give him that plum role, for which he is qualified and would no doubt want. 

Jim Pickard

Eric Pickles, communities secretary, says today that his plan for council tax will be a “radical extension of direct democracy” which will “let the people decide“.

Under his proposals, the public will have the power to veto excessive council tax rises. (At present only ministers can ‘cap’ these increases).

Any council setting its increase above a set ceiling (approved in, er, Parliament) will trigger an automatic referendum of all registered electors in its area – at the cost of tens of thousands of pounds. The cost alone (at a time of tight budgets) will prevent most local authorities from even trying to carry out big increase.

They will also shy away from such exercises because they know that - in most cases - the public will almost certainly veto the rise, judging by past experience*.

That means the vital decision is the exact level of the ceiling, which will be set by MPs in London. In which case; does this translate into a transfer of power to local people? In effect, probably not.

The most truly democratic/localist way of doing this would be to let councils do what they want. If voters are angered by council tax rises they can vote out their councillors.

* In 2002 Blair allowed a clutch of councils to hold referendums on council tax rises, including Croydon, Bristol and Milton Keynes. Most voters unsurprisingly went for the lowest rise (or freeze).  

Kiran Stacey

Business hates the idea of an immigration cap – FT
Osborne tells Fox his department will pay for Trident – FT
Forgemasters gives Cable an ultimatum – FT
Only 153 schools apply for academy status – Guardian
Tory promise to make work pay – Telegraph
Tornado fleet to be grounded – The Times
Boris launches his socialist bike scheme – Evening Standard

Jim Pickard

Ed Miliband’s campaign has announced that it has raised nearly £40,000 in small donations from supporters. This will help feed his narrative as being the grassroots/Obama-esque candidate; given that by early July he had only received £15,000 in large donations. 

Jim Pickard

Now that the Lib Dems are in power the party no longer gets “short money” and therefore has had to reduce its headcount at Cowley Street in Westminster. Unsurprisingly this has prompted a difficult period for those who have not kept their jobs or found new ones in government.

In the light of this morning’s blog about everyone wanting to hug/hire a Lib Dem I’ve been passed a list of 10 former staffers who either are or have been looking for new jobs. I’d be surprised if most don’t find new work given the sudden need for UK plc to understand/befriend the yellow party. 

Jim Pickard

Esquire magazine is this month tipping five coalition MPs as future cabinet ministers as part of a piece naming 20 future high-fliers in Westminster.

 

There is one Gandhi-sized gap on David Cameron’s programme of visits in India.

Sonia Gandhi suddenly pulled out of a meeting with the prime minister, which was scheduled for this afternoon. The cause is still a mystery. But, at first sight, it does not bode well for the new Anglo-Indian “special relationship”.

Ms Gandhi, the president of the Congress party, is probably the most powerful person in India. Her son Rahul — who was unable to see Mr Cameron because he’s in London — is a prime minister in waiting. Meeting with the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty is a rite of passage for any visiting dignitary that’s serious about making an impact on India. In New Delhi, personal chemistry is everything, and the Gandhis are the people you need to know. 

Jim Pickard

I wrote back on June 1 about the lobbyists and other power-brokers suddenly courting the Liberal Democrats since they entered government. There has been a surge of applications to attend the Lib Dem conference this autumn from people who have never been before.

Only yesterday I was told that the Daily Mail has just upped its posse attending the autumn conference from, er, one person to 12. Expect this pattern to be repeated elsewhere; including the FT.

Given this new environment I was unsurprised to hear that Tory lobbyist-maestro Peter Bingle is now styling himself as a chum of the Lib Dem movement. 

Jim Pickard

I revealed this morning that the TUC has revoked an invitation to Vince Cable to address it’s autumn conference in Manchester after a decision last week by some of the big unions who are angry about public sector cuts. The general secretaries have also agreed to host a big rally next spring – comparable with the Stop the War demonstration – to protest about mass redundancies.

The Vince move has prompted concerns within the moderate end of the movement, however. Some more thoughtful characters are worried that Vince may be one of the ministers who would resist attempts by more rightwing colleagues to crack down on the movement. Antagonising Vince could be counter-productive, they fear. 

Jim Pickard

Black hole in council pension scheme says Audit Commission - Telegraph

The inside story of the coalition talks – Nick Robinson