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. Read more
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. Read more
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. Read more
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). Read more