Daily Archives: July 12, 2010

Jim Pickard

Carne Ross, a former British official to the UN*, offered his controversial testimony to the Chilcot inquiry today – and it makes uncomfortable reading for the government of the time.

In his written evidence, Ross said he believed the government had “intentionally and substantially exaggerated” its assessment of Iraq’s capabilities ahead of the 2003 invasion. For example, he revives the point that Iraq was officially thought to have “up to 12” Scud missles – which became “up to 20” in the September dossier.

Ross also highlights flaws in a paper sent to the Parliamentary Labour Party by then foreign secretary Jack Straw to drum up support from MPs. 

Jim Pickard

George Parker wrote an insightful article a few weeks ago about splits at the top of government over the coalition’s plans for a cap on immigration. The reason the story was revelatory was that it was Tory ministers such as David Willetts and Michael Gove who were expressing concerns about the policy – not the Lib Dems.

Ed Davey, Lib Dem business minister, told me over a fish lunch last week that he was pressing hard to fight a new Brussels directive which could impose – in his view – £2.4bn of costs on business. A vote on this “pregnant workers directive” has just been deferred until the autumn, partly (I’m told by one EU contact) because of this British lobbying. 

Jim Pickard

There has been some puzzlement in Whitehall after Boris Johnson vowed to have it out with Eric Pickles over the latter’s plans – as yet undisclosed and undefined - to cut the £7bn London budget.

 

Jim Pickard

The Guardian splashed this morning on Andrew Lansley’s plans to abolish the Food Standards Agency, sparking accusations from health charities that he had “caved in to big business”. The FSA had been fighting a battle with the food industry over the introduction of colour-coded “traffic light” warnings for groceries and snacks.

 

Jim Pickard

I’ve added today’s list of new Lib Dem members of select committees to create a more comprehensive database of names.

There will be some inevitable omissions as the last few seats are filled. But this should be of interest to Westminster types and beyond.

Striking selections include Rory Stewart, the Afghanistan expert, on foreign affairs and Rachel Reeves, former Bank of England economist, for business.

The Labour MPs are in red, Tories in blue and Lib Dems in orange. Chairs are in brackets.

BUSINESS (chaired by Adrian Bailey) – Luciana Berger, Jack Dromey, Chi Onwurah, Rachel Reeves. Brian Binley, Rebecca Harris, Margot James, Nicky Morgan, Nadhim Zahawi, David Ward

CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT (John Whittingdale) – David Cairns, Paul Farrelly, Alan Keen, Jim Sheridan, Tom Watson. Louise Bagshawe, Therese Coffey, Damian Collins, Philip Davies, Adrian Sanders 

Jim Pickard

It was a mite discourteous for Lord Mandelson to tell Times interviewer Ginny Dougary that he only read one newspaper – and it wasn’t hers.

Dougary did not disclose the name of the publication in question; we can only speculate.

Kiran Stacey

Mandelson: Clegg killed off Brown – The Times
Plans for GPs to control up to £80bn of NHS funding –The Times
Budd sets out to repair OBR’s reputation – FT
Government puts extradition under scrutiny – FT
Pressure piled on Gove over schools errors – FT
Food Standards Agency to be abolished by health secretary – The Guardian
Probation watchdog: serious crimes may be price to pay for cutting cost of justice – Daily Telegraph
Cameron and Clegg promise to give power away – Daily Telegraph
Osborne’s cap on housing benefits will ‘drive poor families into ghettos’ – Independent

Jim Pickard

Senior Labour figures including John Reid and David Blunkett spoke out against a Lib-Lab coalition during the post-election talks. Now we know that Tony Blair was equally sceptical about the idea, thanks to Mandelson’s memoirs in the Times.

According to Mandy, “Blair was firmly oppposed to even thinking about a deal with the Lib Dems.” It would be a serious error that prompted an outcry, he argued. Labour would be “smashed” at the next election. A few days later Blair repeated that it would be a “constitutional outrage“.

The book also reveals that David Miliband and Alistair Darling were firmly against the talks. The national mood at the time was fairly unsympathetic to the idea of Labour – and not only Brown – remaining in Downing Street.

Mandelson says that when Gordon Brown first started discussing the idea of working with the “Liberals” the peer said to him: “If you’re serious perhaps you should stop calling them the Liberals and get their name right.”

There is also a great line about Clegg finding Brown “bullying” and “uncongenial“: In fact Brown had been in what passed for his “listening mode“, according to the peer. It makes you wonder what he was like on a bad day.