Monthly Archives: September 2010

By Beth Rigby

We’ve heard that the business council will be announced later today, a body of the great and good to advise David Cameron. It will meet four times a year and there will be 20 business leaders from sectors that are “strategically important to the UK”. A list of some members is below — some of the more well known names include Sir James Dyson and Justin King of J Sainsbury.

But will it be little more than a talking shop? (Just think of Gordon Brown’s Business Council for Britain.) My source says the idea is that business will provide high level advice on business and economic matters in the UK, while the PM is also keen on setting up smaller advisory groups as part of his efforts to make sure each minister and department across business are listening and talking to business. Let’s see if it works.

Here’s the list so far: Read more

Congratulations are in order for Chris Huhne. We’ve heard he has provisionally settled the energy department budget, winning him a place on the so-called “star chamber”.

This makes him the first Lib Dem spending department ministers to join the “Public Expenditure Committee”, the cabinet appeals court for the spending review. He attended his first meeting today, sitting alongside other “high achievers” such as Eric “thrifty” Pickles and Caroline Spelman. Six departments in total have now provisionally settled. Read more

Eric Pickles’ has launched another offensive in his long war against excess and frivolity in Whitehall.

Reams of spending data has been published for 2008 showing how his department allegedly lived it up in the pre-Pickles era. Read more

Jim Pickard

As I revealed earlier Rosie Winterton is set to be the new chief whip; she is the only person standing for the job.

Meanwhile there are 49 names standing for the shadow cabinet. They are, in alphabetical order:

Diane Abbott

Douglas Alexander

Ed Balls Read more

Jim Pickard

You can watch an interview with Miliband here on Sky. Meanwhile here is his formal resignation statement:

Dear Alan,

For nine years South Shields and the South Shields Labour Party have given me great support. I look forward to that continuing for many years to come. The extraordinary efforts of party members – from Shields and across the country – during my leadership campaign made me feel very proud indeed of our shared values and shared vision. Read more

Jim Pickard

Ed Miliband has just released a letter to Nick Brown welcoming his decision not to run for chief whip – the job he had held under Gordon Brown.

The decision came after Nick Brown sought assurances from the new leader that he had his confidence; I’m told that the answer was no. Brown, MP for Newcastle East, won’t stand for the shadow cabinet and is now returning to the back benches. The word sweeping conference is that Rosie Winterton is likely to replace him. Read more

Jim Pickard

copyright Charlie Bibby FT

Jim Pickard

FT sketchwriter Matthew Engel and I discussed over breakfast the best way for David Miliband to bow out; which now seems 99 per cent likely. Does he do a speech? A written statement? Some kind of pooled TV interview?

The former carries the risk of him overshadowing Ed once again. The second option may not be sufficient to satisfy the media hunger. So we are presuming the third option some time this afternoon – no doubt near the 5pm deadline by which time MPs have to say whether they are running for the shadow cabinet. Read more

Jim Pickard

David Miliband’s advisers are confirming that he is leaving Manchester and is heading back to London. That is surely not the behaviour of a politician who is about to say he will run for the shadow cabinet and unite behind his brother. I could still be wrong – but it seems increasingly likely that he will quit frontline politics.

A key moment today, picked up by Channel 4, was when Ed Miliband criticised the Iraq invasion. David, stony-faced, refused to clap. He turned to Harriet Harman, politely applauding next to him, and whispered: Read more

Jim and Alex will write a live blog of Ed Miliband’s keynote speech to the Labour party conference this afternoon. Come back here at about 2.15pm UK time to follow their coverage of the address by Labour’s new leader.  Read more

Jim Pickard

Several senior Labour figures believed, or at least hoped*, that Diane Abbott would not stand for the shadow cabinet. I’m not sure they will be universally delighted to find out – in a few minutes – that she is going to throw her name into the hat. Given her high profile, after running in the leadership contest, she is likely to get into the final 19 (especially given that at least 6 seats are guaranteed for female MPs).

Will Ed MIliband welcome her outspoken left-wing views when he is trying to shrug off the RedEd tag? Not necesssarily. And will she enjoy the discipline of having to stick to the party line on a specific policy beat? We shall find out.

Jim yesterday spotted the extraordinary number of spoiled ballots among the trade unions and affiliated organisations. More than 36,000 ballots were wasted — about 14.6 per cent of the votes cast in this section of the electoral college. The reason is that the voters simply failed to tick a box saying they supported Labour.

An absurd rule, I know. But did it make a difference? There was talk last night among some of the Ed Miliband camp suggesting this was an important factor. One aide claimed the campaign had managed to reduce the spoiled ballot rate in the unions backing their man. The ground campaign apparently handed out thousands of “how to vote” cards making clear that they vote wouldn’t count unless they ticked the box at the end. One Ed aide claimed the effort won them up to 6,000 extra votes. If true, it made a big difference to the result. Was it another Florida hanging-chad moment? Read more