I am no expert in military logistics, but I was struck by the extraordinary recent deterioration in the performance of the surface route to the Afghan theatre.
Right now, British troops are acutely dependent on our ability to send supplies by sea to Karachi, where they are unloaded and then taken by road through Pakistan. Ahead of this week’s Public Accounts Committee, the National Audit Office provided me with a briefing based on its detailed report into the Ministry of Defence’s logistics supply chain. This noted that only 15 per cent of consignments shipped by land through Pakistan between 10 December 2009 and 8 December 2010 arrived within the targeted time of 77-87 days, a fair way off the 75 per cent target.
Last night the government lost a crucial amendment to their Europe bill in the Lords by a handful of votes.
Peers voted to introduce a “sunset clause” on the entire bill (actually, the entire bill apart from one technical point), which would limit it to only five years. Importantly, this means that the so-called “referendum lock” – whereby any transfer of sovereignty from London to Brussels could only be allowed after a Yes vote in a referendum – would have to be voted on again in five years’ time.
PoliticsHome revealed back in March that a Tory backbencher was putting forward a private members bill proposing a cut in the minimum wage in parts of the country. As Paul Waugh pointed out, the bill was mysteriously removed from the parliamentary agenda by unseen hands.
But the bill is about to pop up again in a debate tomorrow for its second reading. It is once again proposed by Chope and is backed by Robert Syms, Ian Liddel-Grainger, Nigel Evans and Brian Binley.
The betting odds on next year’s London mayoral election seem to offer rather good value if you share my belief that Boris Johnson will win by a fairly easy margin.
According to OddsChecker, you can still get around 4/7 on the Tory incumbent (I caught 4/6 at PaddyPower yesterday morning) with little better than evens (around 11/10) on Ken Livingstone.
The tension between Nick Clegg and his one time rival for the party leadership Chris Huhne is well known, and stems not least from Huhne’s description of his current boss as “Calamity Clegg”.
But still, when Clegg addressed hacks in the press gallery this afternoon, you might have expected him to come out fighting for his energy secretary, who is facing allegations that he passed points on his driving license to his wife. Not so. Instead he used the opportunity to make a cruel, but quite funny joke at Huhne’s expense:
Whatever people say or think about Chris Huhne I don’t know any politician who is better at getting his points across.
Downing Street has clarified today’s Times report (see my blog earlier) that the long-delayed white paper on public services reform will not come out until September. When Maude said it was out “within months” he meant before recess, ie July, according to a spokesman.
Of course, this does not belie the fact that there have been significant delays already and that there is a major debate within government over the content.
My colleague James Crabtree observes this morning that “Westminster is awash with rumours of the possible departure of Mr Cameron’s strategy guru, Steve Hilton – who is said to be “dismayed at the NHS retreat“.
Likewise over at the Times, Sam Coates suggests that senior Tories now think there is a “50-50″ chance of Hilton walking out within six months, “disillusioned with the realities of governing from Downing Street.” Coates on page 8 offers intriguing analysis of the conflict between the impatient, “radical” Hilton and the cautious pragmatism of George Osborne and his desire for “simple initiatives that the public can understand“. (Osborne’s enemies may point out that the Treasury’s cuts have also created plenty of political headaches.)