Daily Archives: August 23, 2010

Jim Pickard

Evan Davis was on good form during this morning’s Today Programme while quizzing Bob Neill, local government minister, over the scrapping of the Audit Commission.

In particular, his questioning over whether private auditors – who are set to take on the function of the AC – would not also provide “bagels” at meetings was a joy.

(The commission has been taken to task for its apparent extravagence in recent weeks, including an annual £40,000 on bagels).

Neill said he was confident that costs will fall as a result of introducing more competition. In particular there would no longer be a 5 per cent surcharge on audit fees which currently goes to the AC’s central “corporate” costs.

But how will members of the public know if and when it becomes cheaper? (Let alone whether it is more or less rigorous?

Jim Pickard

It is (or was) so rare for the Lib Dems to attract big donations that a £250,000 gift to the party is striking. In the Electoral Commission announcement today is a sum of that level from Brompton Capital, a firm owned by Rumi Verjee, the entrepreneur.

Verjee owns Thomas Goode, the Mayfair store, and is apparently friends with the likes of Elton John and Lord Snowdon. He qualified as a barrister before launching the first UK franchise of Domino’s Pizza in the 1980s. 

Jim Pickard

The irony is palpable.

Not only have Saatchi & Saatchi given Labour £322,605 in the second quarter – in kind – but they have given the party a total of £893,739 in free adverts since they started working for them in the autumn of 2008. 

Jim Pickard

The lowland countries of Europe function perfectly well without elected government. In the Netherlands and Belgium there is often post-election haggling between politicians that goes on for months – or over a year – to form a coalition government. Life carries on more or less the same.

Labour, in a similar vein, is learning that having no leader is not the same as being rudderless. Curiously, the party is not quite in the dire state that some would have you believe.

Commentators have queued up to warn the party that it’s time has passed, that its leadership candidates will never be prime minister, and that it is doomed. The dreary nature of the leadership race is proof that Labour is spent, they seem to suggest.

In fact its supporters can take solace on three fronts: 

Jim Pickard

More good news for the David Miliband camp: he has won his second (of two) primaries – where party members are given the chance to nominate their favoured Labour leader.

He’s not overwhelmingly ahead, however. Brother Ed came second with 34 per cent to his 39 per cent. 

Jim Pickard

The Labour leadership candidate is on the prominent World at One programme on the BBC to discuss his manifesto. Only problem is, Burnham can’t discuss any details of his tax policy until later in the week. It makes for a rather strange interview – and is not exactly great for his credibility.

Burnham said he wants tax to shoulder more of the share of cutting the deficit than at present. (So which taxes should go up?) At the same time he is saying he would, or could, get rid of inheritance tax and stamp duty. (So which taxes should go up?)

Maybe it will be more clear later in the week. But with the ballot papers going out in a few days’ time there won’t be many more high-profile opportunities for him to make his case and prove his credibility.

Here’s a link to the Burnham website: I can’t see the manifesto anywhere yet.

UPDATE

Apparently the Burnham team sent out a copy of the manifesto yesterday: here is the tax & spend bit. It doesn’t exactly clarify the fine details: 

Jim Pickard

Ed Balls will save the Royal Mail – Daily Mirror
The Lib Dems will always be divided - Stephen Pollard, Telegraph
Only a dozen “free schools” to open in first wave - Chris Cook, FT
Labour lays out welcome mat for disgruntled Lib Dems – FT
Don’t underestimate David Cameron – Michael Dugher MP, Labour Uncut