Monthly Archives: November 2010

OK, I know, there were only four Tory MPs who signed-up to opposing a rise in tuition fees. Read more

Here’s a rather entertaining and comradely exchange between Kevan Jones, the former Labour minister, and George Parker, the FT’s political editor who is my boss and therefore right about everything.

As chairman of the press gallery, George gave evidence to a committee of MPs conducting a review of catering on the parliamentary estate. Read more

So the Royal Wedding is to be on April 29. Congratulations to the couple. They’ve picked a date that effectively parks a golden landau in the path of the political horse race. It will come a few weeks after the cuts kick in, and a few days before an epochal referendum on electoral reform. Read more

David Cameron took the biggest delegation to India since the Raj in an attempt to revitalise relations. But, impressive as it was by UK standards, the trip has clearly not provided much of an aide-mémoire for Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister.

Here is a telling dispatch from James Lamont, the FT’s man in New Delhi: Read more

Transparency on high-end pay is good for Whitehall but not yet for the City – that is the conclusion emerging from the Treasury.

But what about the Lib Dems? Weren’t they billing themselves as the slayers of City excess? Tackling “obscene” banker pay was one of Nick Clegg’s top four priorities in the election campaign.

Yet it seems the element of the four point plan where the Lib Dems have made least progress.

Just compare what has happened to the proposals Clegg unveiled during the election.

Cash bonuses? Uncle Vince says £2,500 is your limit. Board level bonuses? Banned outright. (Vince made a joke about how the bank directors can make do with free golf club membership.) Working at a loss making bank? No bonus at all.

There was more. The one measure that really stood out was transparency. Cable and Clegg wanted to require banks to publish the names of all staff on a pay and bonus package greater than the prime minister’s salary. This would not only have ensnared top traders — it probably would have included their PAs as well.

When we asked Clegg about this recently, he dismissed the question, saying the Walker review was being implemented. When we pointed out that the legislation had been delayed, he seemed a bit taken aback.

Now George Osborne wants to impose such transparency rules on high pay “internationally rather than unilaterally” — which is an all too transparent code for shelving the reforms. Sir David Walker, the City grandee who proposed the tighter disclosure rules, has given the chancellor some convenient cover.

What will Clegg do? This will be a fascinating test of Lib Dem resolve. Read more

Reforming schools funding was always going to be a test of strength for Michael Gove. If today’s interview on Andrew Marr is any clue, then he’s thrown in the towel in the first round. After months of preparing plans to bypass local authorities and fund all schools directly from Whitehall, he is now claiming that the plan was always to fund through local authorities. Here’s what he said about the story:

“The Financial Times ran a report of what they thought was going to be in the white paper, fair play to them, journalists often anticipate events, but the truth is that we will be funding schools through local authorities as we do at the moment.”

Ministers can often make claims like this when stories are based on briefings from their aides and officials. Conversations are deniable. But the FT’s story was not only confirmed by the officials we spoke to. It was in a draft White Paper that we were reading back to the department. It was supported by conversations we’d had with people who had been briefed on the consequences of the changes. None of the factual elements of the piece were disputed by education officials in the week after publication.

Of course there are caveats in any such story. There was a consultation planned and a final decision was to be taken early next year. No journalist can discount the possibility that a minister will buckle at the first smell of grapeshot. But one thing is clear. Directly funding schools was Gove’s preferred model a fortnight ago, before he was overwhelmed with fierce complaints from councillors.

Just to put the record straight, we thought it might be worthwhile to publish some extra extracts of the White Paper.

1. The explanation of what is wrong with the system: Read more

When Cameron heads too deep into the westcountry, whether for work or pleasure, things never seem to go to plan.

Some members of his team are already muttering about the “Curse of Cornwall”. Read more

A remarkable number of the new Conservative peers share a common past: knowing David Cameron when he was a young Tory apparatchik.

It is tempting to conclude the honours list is payback to some people who helped him rise to the top. But that is probably a bit unfair. It more reflects the fact that Cameron is the first Tory prime minister to rise from the party’s staff ranks. Read more

Martin Stabe

With the release this morning of data detailing every Whitehall payment above £25,000, some of the frustrations with analysing public data to which journalists have become accustomed were absent. Nevertheless, making sense of the mountain of data still posed significant technical challenges. Read more

UPDATE: Lord Young has resigned Read more

Notable names include: Fiona Shackleton (is this to make amends for Royal divorce business drying up?); Stewart Wood, the Oxford don turned Labour backroom star; Michael Grade, the former executive chairman of ITV; Patience Wheatcroft of the Wall Street Journal (we’re still waiting for a gong for the Westminster Blog); John Sharkey, the former ad man who led the Lib Dem election campaign; and Stanley Fink, the godfather of the hedge fund industry.

Full list below: Read more

Margaret Thatcher always had a soft spot for David Young, the businessman who brought some “can do” spirit to the old Department of Trade and Industry.

Baroness Thatcher said of Lord Young: “Other people brought me problems. David brought me solutions.” Read more