Monthly Archives: June 2011

Jim Pickard

I’m told that the cabinet will meet in mid-July to make a final decision on whether to proceed with a badger cull in the south-west of England. For Caroline Spelman that could mark her third PR nightmare since Christmas.

First there was Forestry Commission sell-off, which David Cameron ruthlessly abandoned after an uprising by the general public. Read more

Jim Pickard

Michael Gove told the Andrew Marr Show this morning that he wouldn’t comment on potential action by the government against the unions, saying he had no wish to “ratchet up the rhetoric” against the movement. Not least when negotiations are still going on.

That comment sits slightly uneasily against his letter to schools calling on them to keep schools open by using the “wider school community”, ie parents. Read more

Jim Pickard

The FT is this morning running an interview I did earlier in the week with Philip Hammond, the transport secretary.

There’s a news story where he reveals his plan to sell the completed HS2 track to infrastructure funds within a year of it being built. This is likely to be a lease similar to the HS1 (London to Channel Tunnel) 30-year concession sold last year. The secretary of state also predicts that the new line could force down prices on the West Coast Mainline as its operator is forced to compete. Read more

From the FT’s Tech Hub:

A hacking group – no, not that one or the other one, a new one – has published scores of names and phone numbers that it says came from former UK prime minister Tony Blair’s address book Read more

Jim Pickard

Allegra Stratton at the Guardian set the ball rolling yesterday on whether the Lib Dems are planning a new type of mansion tax – albeit under a different name.
The proposal is being kicked around by senior Lib Dem figures (such as Richard Reeves, policy wonk to Nick Clegg) but is meeting resistance from Tories. It is also unpopular with other Lib Dems such as David Laws (who is playing a key role in co-writing their “Tax 2020″ document). That’s right: Laws does not want it.
Wealthy FT readers in big houses may rest easy for a while longer.
Here’s our news take on it:
Owners of £1m-plus homes would have to pay capital gains tax when they sell up under attempts by senior Liberal Democrats to revive their “mansion tax” proposals.
At present CGT is paid at 28 per cent when a second home is sold but main residences are exempt from the levy.
But Lib Dems are considering whether sellers could be forced to pay the duty on any profits beyond a £1m tax-free threshold – a policy which could bring in billions for the exchequer.
Treasury officials have had discussions with experts in the property industry to find out how many people live in multi-million pound homes and where they are located.
However, the proposals are likely to meet fierce resistance from Tory ministers given that many Conservative voters live in homes worth more than £1m.
Vince Cable, as opposition Treasury spokesman, was forced to revise his original “mansion tax” proposal – an annual levy on big homes – after the Lib Dems realised that it would harm many of their suburban voters in south-west London.
The business secretary’s attempts to revive the mansion tax as a device to

 Read more

Jim Pickard

The Times splashed this morning with the trend of declining union membership, focusing on the drop in Unite’s membership – a fall of 262,740 members between 2007 and 2010.

What they don’t point out is that the biggest drop occurred in one single year when Unite bizarrely lost 310,000 members at the stroke of the pen, as FT Westminster revealed in July 2009. Officials admitted that many of these people had stopped paying their fees years before, or had even passed away in the meanwhile. Read more

Jim Pickard

On Wednesday David Cameron told PMQs that his message for military chiefs – concerned about mission stretch in Libya – “you do the fighting and I’ll do the talking.”

A thoughtful reader* has written to the FT to point out the similarity to the Tennyson poem, Charge of the Light Brigade. Read more

Jim Pickard

We have done more coverage of Clegg’s proposed bank shares giveaway to 46m members of the public in tonight’s FT. The City is quite cautious about whether the whole idea is practical.

But there could be a fees bonanza if it goes ahead, with administration costs estimated at about £200m, according to some experts. Read more

Jim Pickard

Ed Miliband is set to give a speech on Saturday proposing an end to Labour’s two-yearly shadow cabinet elections. The move may antagonise some of his frontbenchers but will be welcomed elsewhere; the system did seem like a bit of an anachronism.

It also cements Ed Miliband’s power base. Any challenge to his authority can now be nipped in the bud; he also has greater power of patronage over any young up-coming – and most importantly, loyal – MP who catches his eye.

Aides say that this is not the prelude to a “night of the long knives” reshuffle by Miliband, who moved swiftly to get rid of Nick Brown last autumn as chief whip. There won’t be a reshuffle this summer or around conference time, they insist.

Here is a link to our full story on ft.com. And here is Miliband’s letter to his MPs.

Incidentally, David Miliband gave a private speech yesterday for a charity (UPDATE: sorry, fund-raising) event at a hotel in Bloomsbury. He doesn’t seem to be a fan of the shadow cabinet elections (which he didn’t enter) either; he said it was a great shame that the talented Pat McFadden hadn’t made it in. Hard to disagree.

FURTHER UPDATE: (Friday morning). Yes, David Miliband has publically endorsed the move as a good idea.

Ed Miliband will announce his proposal at the national policy forum in Wrexham Read more

Kiran Stacey

When the FT broke the news that a rebellion was brewing on Conservative benches over a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses, we never expected the rebellion would get this interesting.

Number 10′s resistance to the idea is based on worries the government could face a legal challenge under the EU services directive if it goes ahead with a ban. But it could have essentially ignored the debate, which was a backbench motion which carries no legislative power.

So it came as a shock when the Tories ordered a three-line whip on the vote: effectively instructing all their MPs to turn up and vote against it. Read more

From the FT’s Business blog:

Some have attributed Nick Clegg’s proposal to give every British voter a share in the UK’s state-owned banks (floated during a trade visit to Rio de Janeiro) to a combination of jet lag, domestic political calculation and Copacabana sunstroke. But the UK deputy prime minister’s suggestion has a long pedigree – longer than perhaps even he recognises. Read more

Jim Pickard

John Redwood is among those who support the idea of a bank shares giveaway, calling it an “excellent plan”. Others are rather more muted in their support, admitting that it is not the most straightforward way to return cash to the taxpayers who saved RBS and Lloyds at the height of the banking crisis.

Vince Cable admitted on the BBC this morning that the concept would be a “technically quite a demanding exercise” but “it can be solved”. He said that the handing out of shares was “not imminent by any means” and that it would take “several years” to complete. (Vince seems more focused on the issue of separating retail banking from more risky functions, ie the Sir John Vickers review).

This doesn’t quite tally with my understanding, which was that the Treasury wanted to begin the privatisation of both banks early next year.

Downing Street said only that Clegg’s suggestion is one of several under consideration, adding: “We need to make sure we get value for taxpayers.”

Ed Balls said the future of the nationalised banks should be decided on the “long-term best Read more