Monthly Archives: February 2011

There were some fascinating exchanges in the Commons after David Cameron’s statement on Libya. Here are some of the highlights:

– Britain may arm the opposition: Cameron said that his top priority was deposing the Gaddafi regime: “If helping the opposition would somehow bring that about it is certainly something we should be considering.” He added that he was “trying to establish contact with the opposition to find out what their intentions are”Read more

A few weeks ago, we asked one senior British government figure whether the uprisings would spread to the Gulf. There are “no problems” yet, he replied.

The language was revealing (when exactly did Britain see democratic change as a problem?) But it is probably to be expected given Britain’s investment in the preserving the regional status-quo. Read more

Jim Pickard

Nothing sensational so far in the revised Mandelson diaries, but this passage is thought-provoking:

When Ed pronounced New Labour ‘dead’, he was not only being more categorical than was wise, but quite possibly more than he really intended. (xxi) …Even allowing for the tactical choices he had made in his bid to become leader, however, I was struck by the fact that he had given no strong clue during the campaign as to what alternative to New Labour he envisaged. He was quick to say what he was against: essentially, Tory policies and Tony’s policies. But he rarely said what he was for, apart from a belief in greater social mobility and equal chances in life for the young, more strategic government intervention in the economy, and primacy for individual rights in counter-terrorist law. I would sum up his position as being an egalitarian social liberal – different from Tony, yet not a reversion to Old Labour. Read more

Jim Pickard

The reaction inside the Treasury to the original Q4 GDP figures a few weeks ago was, I’m told, one of disbelief at first.

It would be interesting therefore to be a fly on the wall inside George Osborne’s ministry this morning as that number – a fall of 0.5 per cent – was downgraded by the ONS. The new figure is a 0.6 per cent drop. Read more

Jim Pickard

Sorry for the blogging silence on Thursday, I was enjoying a three-hour lunch with Bob Crow and also putting the final touches on our new “austerity calendar”.

It’s in today’s paper FT but also online at this address, where you should be able to see many of the major tax rises and benefit cuts taking place in the next few years; or at least the ones we already know about. I hope it proves a useful tool.

Jim Pickard

Les Bayliss was the contender for the leadership of the Unite union last autumn who called on the movement to resist the urge for mass strikes.

In the end it was the more openly left-wing Len McCluskey, from the old T&G branch of the superunion, who swept to power at the end of December. Read more

Jim Pickard

One of the fascinating aspects of the events in Libya is how swiftly the western perception of the Gaddafi regime has changed. Only a few weeks ago the country was regarded – albeit with some suspicion and caution – as a reasonable place to do business of a commercial (or political) nature.

The Libyan British Business Council, based at St James’s Park in London’s upmarket West End, has failed to update its website, it seems*. It saysRead more

Jim Pickard

David Cameron made a splash on Monday with an article in the Telegraph calling for an end to monolithic state provision of public services. Downing Street officials were rather vague that day about what it all meant – beyond saying that charities and companies would get a chance to run (or at least bid for) some services. But the prime minister’s message dominated the media cycle that day.

We will find out more when the white paper is published within the next fortnight. Meanwhile the prime minister has achieved the desired impression; that he is a reformer in the Blair mould who wants to see better public services.

What will have passed many people by is that the government has meanwhile quietly dropped its proposal for quotas to ensure that voluntary and private groups deliver a certain proportion of services – as my colleague Nick Timmins revealed the next morning. This rather undermines the idea that ministers are about to force through a revolution in delivery.

As Nick revealed:

That idea was set out in last October’s comprehensive spending review, which said the government would “look at setting proportions of

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Jim Pickard

There was delight in the London Treasury today after Verena Ross, director at the FSA, was nominated as head of one of Europe’s three new “supra-national” watchdogs.

German-born Ross will be the chief executive of new European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the watchdog overseeing financial and securities markets. Read more

There’s been some chatter in the City about David Cameron’s trip to the Gulf being part of a cunning plan to sell the taxpayer’s bank stakes. Read more

Jim Pickard

Among those who appear not to have foreseen the brutal force meted out to protesters in Libya was Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean, who this month tried to strike a positive note about Colonel Gaddafi during a Lords debate.

The peer neglected to say that she was a member of the International Advisory Board of the National Economic Development Board of Libya (although she did declare that she holds the position of chair at the Arab-British Chambers of Commerce). Read more

Jim Pickard

In case you missed the Today programme this morning, it featured US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner backing the coalition’s deficit reduction strategy. Geithner appeared to rebuff the idea – recently floated by Ed Balls* – that he had criticised UK economic policy during a speech at Davos.

Instead he said: “I’m very impressed at the basic strategy that [George Osborne] has adopted.”

“I don’t see much risk of [growth being damaged] at the moment. Again, what he did is a very remarkable thing. At a time when it was easier to make tough choices quickly because they were not problems created by

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