Monthly Archives: July 2011

Kiran Stacey

George OsborneChancellors have always seen the all-important GDP numbers a day before they are formally published, which makes any event involving the chancellor on that day a fascinating game of bluff and second-guessing.

So what could we tell from Monday’s press conference with George Osborne, which was ostensibly about the UK-India trade relationship?

Osborne walked slowly and confidently into the room, his head held high and smiling. But read nothing into that: others have commented before on how he always manages to grin, whatever storm he is facing. Read more

Jim Pickard

Vince Cable’s call in the FT for the Bank of England to restart quantatative easing for the first time since February 2010 marks a remarkable intervention into monetary policy.

Since the Bank was granted operational independence in 1997, politicians have generally steered clear of giving advice on monetary policy, which has been delegated to the Bank.

Mervyn King, Bank governor, has fiercely defended its independence against much less overt interference in the past. Almost a decade ago he publicly dressed-down Ed Balls , then Gordon Brown’s special adviser, for milder remarks on monetary policy.

The business secretary’s call for more QE reflects some desperation among the coalition in advance of tomorrow’s second quarter growth figures, which are expected to be weak. (We are all looking for clues in Osborne’s body language at a press conference with the Indian finance minister today; he has just said ‘there are risks to current and future growth).

Calling for the Bank to buy more assets and be more imaginative about the assets it buys will irritate the Bank. Mr King has pointed out many times that the Bank, if it decides to restart QE will Read more

Kiran Stacey

Aftermath of the Oslo bomb

Aftermath of the Oslo bomb

The top-level National Security Council met at 9.30 on Monday morning to discuss, among other things, the UK’s response to the Norwegian massacreRead more

Jim Pickard

We brought you fresh details this morning of Nick Raynsford’s claims that a former government figure believed he was the victim of black arts.

Mr Raynsford, Labour MP for Greenwich & Woolwich, today demanded a meeting with David Cameron to discuss allegations of “phone hacking, covert surveillance and hostile media briefing” against the unnamed former government official last year.

My understanding is that the official is Tim Byles, former chief executive of Partnerships for Schools, who was last summer blamed by the education department after some schools were assured building projects were safe, only to find that they had been scrapped. Read more

Jim Pickard

By chance I was reading “Stick It Up Your Punter”, a book about the Sun – and one of the best ever written about British journalism – when the story broke about Neil Wallis’s arrest.

The book has several anecdotes about him: Read more

Jim Pickard

One of the most curious lines to emerge yesterday was the suggestion that a senior civil servant had his phone hacked since the last election. Nick Raynsford, a former Labour minister, said in the Commons that there appeared to have been “disgraceful and illegal conduct close to the heart of government” – a strong claim indeed.

He told Mr Cameron:

“A year ago during the period when Mr Coulson was director of communications, the Cabinet Secretary was alerted to evidence of illegal phone hacking, covert surveillance and hostile media briefing directed against a senior official in the Government service.”

The prime minister said he would examine the allegations.

It was suggested that there was a face-to-face meeting between the anonymous official from the Department of Education and Sir Gus O’Donnell, cabinet secretary, where the Read more

Jim Pickard

Nick Clegg is playing the loyal deputy in his press conference and resisting any temptation to distance himself from David Cameron.

The prime minister’s big mistake yesterday was to dodge question after question about whether he had discussed the BSkyB bid with executives from News International. His reply – that he had not had any “inappropriate” chats – hinted strongly of conversations, albeit “appropriate” ones. (Because the PM had removed himself from the decision-making process on the bid.) On 11 occasions he supplied the same evasive answer.

According to Clegg this issue is “semantic and irrelevant”. Others would strongly disagree. Read more

Jim Pickard

As Kiran noted earlier, it was Michael Gove, while at the Times, who went out on the airwaves over a decade ago to defend Tom Baldwin over his investigation into Michael Ashcroft.

Here is must a sample of Gove’s prose back in 1999, long before he was Tory education secretary – referring to both Ashcroft and Lord Archer: Read more

Kiran Stacey

Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory. This one comes from Craig Murray, the outspoken former ambassador to Uzbekistan, who asks, “What’s in a name?”

Quite a lot, it would seem, as far as the Metropolitan Police is concerned. Read more

Jim Pickard

Tom Watson to Rupert Murdoch: “Your wife has a very good left hook.” (meaning right hook)

Sir Paul Stephenson on Neil Wallis: “I had no reason to connect Wallis with phone hacking. I had no reason to doubt his impropriety.” (meaning proprietyRead more

Kiran Stacey

Every time Labour raises the issue of Andy Coulson during a debate on phone hacking, someone from the Tory benches (usually Graham Stuart, for some reason) gets up to ask about his press chief, Tom Baldwin, the former Times journalist.

Baldwin has been attacked by the prominent Tory funder Lord Ashcroft for an investigation he carried out into Ashcroft’s finances, and been accused of illegally accessing his bank details. Read more

Jim Pickard

An interesting moment a while ago when Cameron pointed the finger away from the News of the World towards the rest of the media: in response to a question about the Mirror.

From Nadhim Zahawi: Read more