Taxpayers could be hit with an extra bill of £17m if the referendum on the alternative vote is delayed from its planned date of May 6 because of Labour delaying tactics criticised by government insiders as “filibustering”.
At present the poll is scheduled to co-incide with local and regional elections, which would reduce the cost of the plebiscite from £82m to £65m. But ministers are growing increasingly anxious because the relevant bill – covering both AV and reform of constituency boundaries – is currently marooned at the committee stage in the House of Lords.
Despite having already had eight days of scrutiny Labour figures believe that at least another four full days are needed.
For things to proceed smoothly the bill has to become law by the critical point of February 16 – in 12 parliamentary working day’s time. This date is crucial because under the law the Electoral Commission needs a full 10 weeks to prepare the literature for the referendum on AV. Read more
It’s taken me 24 hours to put pen to paper but here is the most amusing exchange from yesterday’s PASC hearing with Oliver Letwin, one of the leading intellectual forces in the government. The subject was departmental business plans – which may explain the lack of other journalists there.
Charlie Elphicke, Tory MP for Dover: Read more
Bob Crow, the head of the RMT union, makes an interesting parallel between the banks and the unions today – describing the bankers’ threat to move offshore as “industrial action“.
He is not the only person who is curious about the rationale for the likely £2m bonus for Eric Daniels, the outgoing chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group, who presided over the disastrous merger of healthy Lloyds and unhealthy HBOS.
Robert Peston at the BBC says there is a case for Daniels’ bonus; that LBG’s profits are returning and that he prevented the total nationalisation of his bank.
The counter-argument, as Peston explains:
I revealed in this morning’s FT that Andrew Adonis has turned down a post as the government’s fuel poverty tsar – the same job that Malcolm Wicks rejected.
It was controversial enough for Frank Field and Alan Milburn to take advisory jobs for the coalition; and they’ve been away from frontbench Labour politics for years. Ditto John Hutton, who had at least been a backbencher for a year before the general election. Read more
Patrick Wintour at the Guardian reveals this morning that there has been a slight shift in the Miliband stance on the economy, agreed at this week’s shadow cabinet.
The Labour leader is sticking to the line that the deficit was caused by the financial crash and not by over-spending in the run-up. But he – and shadow chancellor Alan Johnson – will start to admit that Labour was too slow to talk “openly and clearly” about the need for spending cuts in the wake of the recession.
“He is also to concede that the last Labour government must take some responsibility for the deficit to the extent that it did not do enough to regulate the banks, and acted too late to create a more balanced economy less dependent on financial services for tax receipts.”
It’s a recognition of how Gordon Brown’s “head in the sand” approach was a disaster in the making. Wind back to the summer of 2009 and the then prime minister seemed in utter denial about Britain’s rising debt mountain. Read more