Monthly Archives: December 2010

Jim Pickard

My favourite episode in the satirical TV programme The Day Today was when the Chris Morris presenter – styled loosely on Jeremy Paxman – goads various politicians into declaring a world war.

I was reminded of the clip this morning when I saw the Times’ splash predicting a campaign of strikes for the Easter: “Unions plot campaign of strikes for Easter.” Read more

Jim Pickard

You can find many of the more serious moments of 2010 elsewhere on YouTube, for example this clip of Gordon Brown leaving Downing Street for the last time.

But here is our compilation of 10 other clips from the political year which are distinguished only by their cringeworthiness. Enjoy. Read more

Jim Pickard

Plenty of coverage around today of the Independent’s story about Miliband’s plans to “sever big money ties with unions”. I predicted a week ago that the Labour leader was planning a symbolic gesture to show that he was not in hoc to the union barons; perhaps this is it?

Yet the reaction to the Indie story has got ahead of itself in terms of what it all means. Read more

The Westminster blog is briefly interrupting its holiday break so readers can listen to the Vince Cable audio clip, courtesy of the BBC website.

Read our story: Cable says he ‘declared war’ on Murdoch  Read more

Jim Pickard

Alex and I are both off this week but the blog will be up and running again soon after Boxing Day. Many thanks to all our readers who have helped support us through the last year.

Jim Pickard

I revealed back in August that David Cameron wanted to invite Britain’s union leaders for a meeting, a surprising overture given the hostility between the two sides. The process has been complicated by the fact that the prime minister – unsurprisingly – did not want to give the brothers an excuse to publically snub him.

Yet the meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow. Patrick Hennessy at the Sunday Telegraph revealed this morning that a delegation of unnamed TUC officials is poised to go into Downing Street to meet Mr Cameron. Read more

Jim Pickard

Alan Johnson heavily criticised the New Year rise in VAT from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent this morning, warning it would cost jobs and could jeopardise the economic recovery.

Is this responsible opposition? A Tory source points out that Labour would have almost certainly have done the same thing – or at least considered it very strongly. Read more

Jim Pickard

Alan Johnson was guilty of modest political opportunism this morning when seemingly questioning Philip Hammond’s position in the light of the extreme weather conditions. The shadow chancellor hinted that the transport secretary should resign.

It reminded me of the occasion that Boris Johnson appeared in front of the transport select committee (in May 2009) to defend charges that he had failed to protect London from the wintry elements.

It seems to testify to the theory that Boris is at his most witty when under pressure:

Q197 Graham Stringer: You are telling me what gritting went on, but that was not the question I asked. The question I asked was what action you took, with your overall responsibility for transport in Greater London, over the five days when we knew, the whole country knew, there was going to be a heavy downfall of snow which was likely to cause disruption. I would like to know what actions you took.

Mr Johnson: As Chair of Transport for London, I am happy to say that I had general oversight and I presided over, with my Commissioner for Transport, a massive programme of gritting. If you ask me whether I personally went around trying to repel each snowflake as it tried to settle over London, then obviously I would have to give you a negative answer. You do ascribe phenomenal powers to me – quite rightly, I think, as I think it is high time that we thought about a revision of the powers-to have authority over basic meteorology, but it is not within my competence to get up into a helicopter and encourage the snow to stay away. What I think you need to focus on, if I may be so bold, Chairman -

 Read more

Jim Pickard

We reported yesterday that David Cameron had joined Nick Clegg in warning of new action against banks which did not show bonus restraint.

David Cameron warned banks on Friday that they faced higher taxes if they continued to pay “unjustified” bonuses, adding to a growing political and regulatory pressure on the City before the industry’s bonus season early next year.The prime minister, speaking after a European Union summit in Brussels, said that the public found such payments “galling”, adding: “Every decision the banks make like that makes it more difficult to keep a tax regime that they might favour.” Read more

A cloud is hanging over one of the government’s biggest privatisationsRead more

Jim Pickard

This may come as a surprise to those who read Nick Clegg’s comments today about the need to crack down on bankers’ bonuses. (And David Cameron’s veiled threats today of a higher tax on banks that don’t comply).

Yet last week coalition MEPs were sent a document on how Britain has been seeking to water down a EU rule intended to restrict bonuses in the future.

The EU last Friday laid out its new rules meaning that no senior banker should get more than 20 per cent of their bonus in cash upfront.

The EU wants bankers to defer half of their bonus, of which at least 60 per cent will have to be paid in shares or other financial instruments.

The British (via FSA policy set out in the summer) had argued that banks should be allowed to give all of the cash element upfront while mostly deferring the shares element. That would have meant bankers getting 40 per cent of their bonus in cash upfront – double what the EU wanted.

The document argued that Britain “led the way” in implementing G20 principles and that the EU should not go any further.

It was an entirely valid point of view to take; but there is a distinct irony in the idea of the British government proposing weaker restrictions than the rest of the EU while posing as banker-bashers.

The document is a bit long but here you go:

CRD3 Briefing

CEBS Guidance on Remuneration Provisions in the Capital Requirements Directive

Summary

  • There are two issues at play in the various press reports covering the CEBS guidance on the CRD3 remuneration provisions: (i) the current interpretation of the upfront cash limit provisions and the tax implications of retention conditions; and (ii) the exaggeration of provisions that relate to state assisted banks and fixed/variable pay ratios.

Upfront Cash and Retention Conditions

  • The provisions in CRD3 imply a cap on the maximum proportion of a bonus that can be paid in cash upfront.
  • These provisions are open to interpretation and throughout the negotiation and implementation of the Directive, we have supported an interpretation that limits upfront cash to 40% of a total bonus. This interpretation is consistent with the G20 agreed FSB Standards.
  • The European Parliament has taken a different view and interpret the provisions as imposing a 20% cap. This will go beyond the globally agreed position and will have a significant impact on the European financial services sector’s international competitiveness.

 Read more

Jim Pickard

If all low-carbon energy is given a public subsidy then has nuclear power been subsidised? You might have thought so.

But Chris Huhne insisted yesterday that this was not the case. Read more

Jim Pickard

Chris Huhne yesterday’s dismissed a Telegraph splash – predicting a 42 per cent rise in bills – as “ludicrous”, as I reported on this blog. Decc’s own predictions are for a real terms rise of about 32 per cent by 2030 (from £500 to £640 per household) which you might argue is quite similar.

One can only wonder then what the energy secretary made of today’s Times headline saying: “Electric bills will double by 2030 to fund new generation of nuclear power stations.” (page 25) Read more

Jim Pickard

Today the FT has splashed on the deputy prime minister warning bankers to show restraint during bonus season for risk of a public backlash. The government would not stand idly by if this failed to occur, Nick Clegg warned.

As George Parker reports: Read more

Jim Pickard

Bob Russell, the outspoken Lib Dem MP for Colchester – and tuition fees rebel – made it into the news this week after the publication of his robust letter to a constituent who had complained about the cost of the imminent royal wedding.

‘[With] reference to your email raising concerns over the cost to taxpayers for the Royal Wedding next year: Haven’t you got something better to do in your sad life? ‘Bit of a spoilsport, aren’t you? What a miserable person you must be!’ Read more

Jim Pickard

Perhaps we should not read anything into this, but new data just released by Downing Street – under its transparency drive – show that David Cameron received 23 gifts worth more than £140 apiece from May to September. Here is a link to the list for the latter months. The largesse included whiskey, jewellery, rugs, wallhangings, a hamper and a tennis racket (most of it was handed in to officials).

Nick Clegg received no presents from May to July and in August and September he was gifted just once: a briefcase from his South African counterpart which he did not keep.

A big announcement is about to be made by the Ministry of Defence.

Bernard Gray — the former Labour adviser and author of a high profile report into defence acquisition — will be taking over as chief of defence materiel. Read more

Jim Pickard

There was something faintly depressing – as well as predictable – at the comments from David Cameron’s spokesman this morning ruling out any review of Britain’s drugs policy. And at Ed Miliband taking a similar stance.

The issue has reared its head once again after former cabinet minister Bob Ainsworth called for legalisation. But is such a controversial subject that party leaders fear they cannot even raise the possibility without being mauled by critics. Read more

Jim Pickard

A harmless story about Bob Roberts, the new director of news for the Labour party. His name is in fact David.

The change of assumed name occurred more than 20 years ago when young cub reporter David Roberts arrived at the South Wales Evening Post in Swansea. Read more

Jim Pickard

Chris Huhne this morning criticised a Telegraph headline – suggesting bills would rise by £500 because of his energy reforms – as “ludicrous” and “absolutely bonkers”.

The splash quoted a website called uSwitch predicting that bills would rise per household by £500 from their current average energy bill of £1,157. (Although it’s not clear by when). Huhne said the rise would instead by from £500 per household to £660 by 2030.

The difference can be explained by the fact that the uSwitch figure relates to total energy bills (including gas) whereas Huhne is just talking about electricity, the subject of the review. Both estimates are in real terms, ie before inflation.

Curiously, however, there is not such a massive difference in the proportionate increase. Huhne’s rise amounts to 32 per cent over the period, while USwitch is predicting 42 per centRead more