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

Jim Pickard

Take a bow, Tessa Jowell, Blairite former Olympics minister. She put Mr Balls fifth behind Diane Abbott et al.

Incidentally there were rumours before the election that Jowell might not run for the shadow cabinet if David Miliband didn’t win; but apparently she still intends to put her name forward.

As Jim just pointed out, there were not many turncoats among MPs. Most voted the way they said they would.

But some MPs still managed to do wonders for their political careers by ranking the new leader Ed Miliband in fourth or fifth place. Read more

Jim Pickard

Crucial to the Ed Miliband camp’s narrative was the idea that the YouGov poll in early September – which for the first time put him ahead of David, albeit by only 51:49 – gave him the psychological edge. The theory was that ambitious MPs in the elder brother’s camp would jump ship in order to win promotion, as we reported at the time.

This was wrong. Ultimately only one MP quit the David Miliband camp in the last week or two: Chris Evans, MP for Islwyn. And even then it was not to join the Mili-E bandwaggon: he decided to back Ed Balls, whose political reputation – if not his campaign – had been picking up. Read more

Jim Pickard

Atmosphere at Midland Hotel like “wake” after Labour elects “scared” “jelly” – Julian Glover, Guardian
Labour is now “unashamedly centre-left” - Len McCluskey, Guardian

How David Miliband lost his commanding lead – FT
Ed has won; but now what? – FT
My pledge to the squeezed middle – Ed Miliband, Sunday Telegraph
Ed Miliband: the new Obama or mild-mannered ditherer? – FT
Ed’s deficit reduction plan should be 50 per cent tax rises and end NHS ring-fence - Will Straw

Jim Pickard

There are those who argue that Lord Mandelson’s intervention on behalf of David Miliband was counter-productive given his associations with the old New Labour project. Mandelson’s centre-ground modernising agenda is not to the taste of either unions or more radical activists.

Only last week he said that the manifesto, authored by Ed Miliband, failed to address the concerns of anyone other than natural Labour supporters.  Read more

Jim Pickard

Sorry for the delay – have been writing for the main site, where we have written about the victory of Ed Miliband over David Miliband by the thinnest of margins.

The headline victory is astonishingly close, 50.65 per cent to 49.35 per cent. Read more

Jim Pickard

I first revealed a few weeks ago that Unite had got around the Ray Collins (Labour general secretary) ban on putting pro-Ed Miliband literature in the same envelope as the ballot papers sent to its members. It had just put the envelope inside a separate envelope; simples.

As I wrote at the time: Read more

Jim Pickard

At the start of the week I explained that I was having trouble laying off my 7:1 bet on Ed Miliband because the bookies were obstinately keeping David as the clear favourite. That has now changed, and I’ll be placing a bet on the elder brother at 7/4 (Paddy Power) in order to secure a profit.

David is still expected to win the first round of voting today, with strong backing from MPs and activists if not union members. Yet Left Foot Forward, the left-wing political blog, is predicting that the younger brother would edge ahead by a single percentage point with the help of second preference votes. Read more