David Cameron has just unveiled the full list of unpaid trade ambassadors working on his behalf around the world.
I’ve put an asterisk next to those which were already in an existing trade ambassador scheme set up by Gordon Brown two years ago; on balance it seems fair to point out that they include many of the biggest names.
Here is a link to my piece from last week which provides a tally of the innumerable business figures now roped into coalition roles.
Sir Anthony Bamford – JCB
Malcolm Brinded – Royal Dutch Shell
Richard Lambert – CBI
Chris Patten – Chancellor University Oxford
The Whitehall battlelines over Afghanistan are coming into focus. General Sir David Richards this morning made absolutely clear he is a commander who is unwilling to be hurried out of Helmand, whatever the prime minister might think.
In his first major interview as chief of defence staff, he rules reducing troop numbers next year and says Britain will stay “as long as it takes”. His words to The Sun leave some room for manoeuvre. (Downing Street are insisting he is “of the same mind” as the prime minister.) But they certainly do not chime with David Cameron’s recent pronouncements. The differences in nuance are obvious.
They give a flavour of a behind-the-scenes debate that will grow in importance. Indeed differences camps almost mirror those in Washington, with Obama and Cameron pitted against the Two Davids (Petraeus and Richards) over the pace and timing of withdrawal.
There is one line in the Richards interview that underlines these emerging alliances. “As long as we continue to put faith in Dave Petraeus and hold our nerve, then I think we can do it,” he says. “It’s definitely winnable.”
This military faith in the mission contrasts markedly with the advice David Cameron is receiving from his spies. John Sawers, the head of MI6, is warning that Britain is overly focussed on a small part of Afghanistan while the threats to Britain are growing elsewhere.
It is worth comparing Richards’ words with those of Cameron.
Rebellions have been more frequent in the early days of the coalition than at any period since World War 2, according to research published today by the Centre for British Politics at Nottingham University. There have been 59 rebellions in the last 110 votes, the Guardian reports this morning.
Researchers Mark Stuart and Professor Philip Cowley found that 89 coalition MPs had defied their party whips. Of these 67 were Tories. The 22 rebellious Lib Dems may not seen a very high figure but it is in fact 63 per cent of the Lib Dem backbench – which consists of just 35 MPs.