Monthly Archives: August 2011

Jim Pickard

My colleague Patrick Jenkins reported a week ago that the reforms to Britain’s banks, designed to prevent another financial disaster, may not be completed for up to eight years:

However, government officials say he may give banks several years – most likely until 2019, when the Basel III global capital regulations will have to be complied with – to adapt to the changes.

The Vickers’ report into banks is understood to endorse strict ring-fencing while giving banks a long time-frame to implement the new rules.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this would not exactly fit in with the promise of Vince Cable, business secretary, that the changes will be carried out as quickly as possible. Read more

Jim Pickard

The week did not start well for Boris Johnson, filmed wandering around Clapham beset by angry heckling middle class voters. Was it the moment that BoJo lost his shine, as Kiran suggested a few days ago?

Friends of the London mayor admit that he was caught on the hop, holidaying with his family on the west coast of the USA, some 300 miles from the nearest airport. On returning to Britain, his Clapham walkabout was not his greatest moment. Read more

Jim Pickard

Sir Hugh Orde, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, rejected criticism of police tactics in this week’s disturbances last night, saying politicians were “irrelevant” when it came to discussing how best to bring rioters under control.

That’s the view shared by the force, judging by a police officer I was talking to earlier this morning. (He pointed out that many of David Cameron’s measures from yesterday are irrelevant; eg, police are already allowed to remove facemasks from youths in a riot situation, even if they are not at the actual riot.) Read more

Jim Pickard

The winning petition may have a typo in it:

Convicted London rioters should loose [sic] all benefits.*’

But it has passed 100,000 signatures, the government has just announced. This does not mean in itself that it will win precious Parliamentary time – that will still be decided by the backbench committee, chaired by Labour MP Natascha Engel. Obviously it has more chance than some others, however, not least as David Cameron has made approving noises (and Iain Duncan Smith is said to be keen).

Here is our news story about the petition, with details of other petitions which have rather lagged behind.

It’s worth pointing out that those sent to jail already lose benefits; this would only apply to those who are convicted but not imprisoned. Read more

Jim Pickard

Sir Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, said yesterday that it was too early to say whether the riots would have any tangible negative effect on the economy. (The question came as he downgraded the Bank’s economic forecast for the year.) Nor will the Treasury aide I spoke to this morning be drawn on the issue.

That doesn’t mean it is not to early to raise the suggestion, however. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Ed MilibandToday is a difficult day for Ed Miliband and the Labour party. Which way do they tack on the issue of riots?

Ed’s instincts are to examine the social causes for the disorder, and tackle its root causes. But he knows the public might see that as excusing criminal behaviour, so he has to tread a fine line, especially if he wants to distance himself in part from the government.

His speech started in a moderate tone, welcoming the prime minister’s speech and thanking the Speaker for recalling parliament. This is a tactic he has used effectively in recent months, starting consensually before working himself to a rousing and more combative finish. Read more

Jim Pickard

David Cameron is making his statement now. His main promises:

* Police: Increased police presence will remain until the weekend.

* Army: The army will not be used to tackle rioters. But soldiers could be brought in to help the police with everyday jobs, freeing up police for “frontline” duties

* Face masks: At present people can only be asked to remove masks in certain areas and for a limited time. That will change so police can ask people to remove masks “where there is reasonable suspicion that they are related to criminal activity“. It is likely that the government will amend existing legislation.

* Communication networks: They could be closed down (presumably on a localised basis) where there are suspicions that they are being used to faciliate criminal activity. The government admits that this is still tentative; there will be talks between police and Read more

Elizabeth Rigby

It may be the dead of August, but the worst riots London has seen in over two decades has awoken MPs from their summer lethargy as they prepare to descend on Westminister tomorrow for an emergency debate. Taking a lead from David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, some are even cutting short their holidays to come back.

And one airline is taking its civic duty in this respect very seriously: step forward EasyJet. It may not be known for its customer service — my recent trip to Barcelona via Luton airport was pretty dreadful — but the airline has taken on this particular task with gusto, setting up a helpline dedicated to flying MPs home. The airline tells my colleague Mark Odell that it decided to set up the service after three MPs contacted the company on Tuesday within an hour of Cameron’s historic parliamentary recall — his second in two months. It says so far 60-70 MPs have got in touch.

Jim Pickard

David Cameron is facing one of the toughest challenges to his premiership, without a doubt. Boris Johnson is also under pressure like never before. (This morning he criticised the government for cutting police numbers, in a classic example of BoJo’s ability to tack left or right whenever it suits – and to find the overlap between both).

In ten years’ time, documentaries about the coalition will be accompanied by images of burning cars and riot police – just as you can’t watch a programme about the Thatcher years without footage of the Brixton/St Paul’s/Toxteth riots.

But this does not mean that there are not major political risks to Ed Miliband from the riots, if his party – or major figures within it – are caught on the wrong side of public sentiment.

They say a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. Right now, the general sentiment in London and other major cities is that the law-abiding majority has been effectively mugged by a small number of feral youths. People are not in the mood for hugging hoodies; at least not right now.

Labour MPs and Ken Livingstone have a right to criticise the cuts to council services and the education maintenance allowance and the imminent jump in tuition fees. But they are playing with fire to link these to the current riots, which appear to be driven more by greed and excitement than concerns about economic or educational opportunities.

Nick Watt over at the Guardian’s political blog has a transcript of last night’s Newsnight Read more

Jo Johnson

Riots in Bromley? It’s hard to imagine. Yet, last night, a few young people threatened to bring havoc to a borough that traditionally has one of the lowest crime rates in the capital. You can see here an extraordinary video of the looting of the Nugent shopping centre.  Fortunately, the incidents yesterday were limited in scope and isolated. But there is no room for complacency.

I spent part of the afternoon with the Orpington local Safer Neighbourhood Team, which is bracing itself for a repeat performance tonight. Now that the mob has done the capital’s bigger high streets and now that the police are out in force in the city centre, the fear is that secondary targets, such as Bromley, Beckenham and Orpington, will become the next front line.  Read more

Kiran Stacey

Boris Johnson in Clapham

Boris Johnson addresses Londoners in Clapham

Jim has written on this blog before about the general sense that Boris Johnson will win next year’s London mayoral elections. He is regarded as charismatic, charming and has managed to avoid any serious misstep while serving as mayor. More importantly, Ken Livingstone is seen by many as yesterday’s man, having previously done the job for eight years.

But the London riots have the potential to change all that. While Boris was away on holiday last night, Ken was allowed to dominate the airwaves, securing a prominent slot on Newsnight in particular, where he blamed the government’s cuts for the violence.

Boris has now returned, and addressed people on the streets of Clapham. But he struggled. Almost drowned out by heckling, he defended his own response and that of the police to Monday night’s riots. Read more

Jim Pickard

There were no recalls of Parliament for 9 years – and now David Cameron has carried out two in two months.

Since 1948 there have been 24 events leading to Parliament being recalled to debate matters of grave importance. Most have involved foreign affairs – although the Queen Mother’s death makes a surprising appearance.

Here is a link to the Parliament website where it has the full details, including precise days – and more background information. (My colleague James Blitz points out that only once before has this happened in August – and that was in 1968.)

September 1949: Devaluation

September 1950: Korean War

October 1951: Prorogation – followed by dissolution

September 1956: – Suez Crisis; Cyprus

September 1959: Prorogation – followed by dissolution

October 1961: Berlin Crisis

January 1968: Government expenditure cuts

August 1968: Czechoslovakia, Nigeria Read more

Kiran Stacey

The number of police on London’s streets tonight will hit 16,000, with the Steve Kavanagh, a senior Met officer, warning of possible “mass disorder” to come.

I have just returned from a press conference with Kavanagh, the deputy assistant commissioner, and Simon Foy, the man leading the criminal investigation. We are starting to get a clearer picture of what happened across London on Monday night, and have learned that a man shot in Croydon last night during the violence there has now died.

Kavanagh’s main message was that the Met had not failed, but had been “stretched to an unprecedented level”. He claimed the intensity and scale of the violence, coupled with the rioters’ speed of movement, had never been seen before in the UK, or even Europe. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Reeves furniture store in Croydon

A burnt out furniture store in South London

David Cameron clearly felt something extra was needed this morning to reassure Londoners and the British wider public that they would be safe in the wake of last night’s riots.

Having flown home early from holiday in Italy, the prime minister has just given a press conference outside Downing Street and did his best to sound tough and in charge, without actually giving us much of an idea what the police can do to stop a fourth consecutive night of violence.

The main tactic will be a major increase in the number of police on the streets, from around 6,000 to 16,000. That will help, but lots of those will come from outside London, so won’t know the cities as well as the locals they are facing. In addition, nobody quite knows in which boroughs violence is likely to flare next. Read more

Jim Pickard

UPDATE: 11.07am

David Cameron has issued a statement on the steps of Downing Street, attacking the “thugs” responsible for the riots and announcing that 16,000 officers will be on the streets tonight. (Up from 6,000 last night)

He has also confirmed that Parliament will be recalled for one day on Thursday. He has described the riots as “sickening”, talked of his “huge sympathy” for the victims” and praised the “incredible bravery of the police”.

Parliament is to be recalled on Thursday for MPs to discuss the situation in Britain’s inner cities. The news was first tweeted by George Pascoe-Watson, former political editor of the Sun. I’ve just had confirmation from another source. I’m told the government will make the announcement later today. How many MPs will be annoyed that they will have to break off from the beach?

(Some have already welcomed the idea, including Paul Flynn, the Welsh Labour left-winger, who called it “the correct choice”. Others disagree, including Labour’s Jamie Reed, who Read more

Kiran Stacey

Until a few hours ago, Downing Street was insisting David Cameron would not return to London to help oversee the response to the riots. This is an era of modern communications, we were told – the PM can be in charge from Italy.

At about the same time, a friend of mine was in a taxi trying to get home via Bethnal Green Road in east London, where police were involved in a stand-off with crowds of (largely) young men. The driver told her: “David Cameron needs to come back – nobody is speaking to these people [referring to the rioters].”

Sure enough, just 20 minutes ago, we were told Cameron would be coming home tonight, ready to chair a meeting of Cobra, the cabinet emergency committee, on Tuesday morning. Read more

Kiran Stacey

It never looks Traders at the NYSEgood for a politician to gloat in the middle of the turmoil, and George Osborne isn’t doing that. But he is pointing out, unsurprisingly, that the swift cuts to eliminate the deficit have made bond traders less likely to turn their sights onto the UK.

In the Telegraph today, he writes:

In retrospect, the use of political capital to implement immediate efficiency savings, pass the emergency Budget, agree the most difficult Spending Review for generations and put in place long-term fiscal reforms to pensions was an excellent investment in our country’s economic stability. Thanks to these decisions, the credit rating agency Standard & Poors took the UK off negative outlook and reaffirmed our AAA rating.

 Read more

Kiran Stacey

It’s that time of year, when we turn electioneers for a fortnight and seek your votes in Total Politics’ top political blogs of the year.

The rules are simpe: follow this link, add in a minimum of five, and maximum of ten top blogs, in order, and hit submit. Write “blank” if you don’t want to enter a vote in a certain box, and make sure to put FT Westminster top of the “political blog sites”. Read more

Jim Pickard

Is George Osborne planning to scrap the 50p income tax rate? Yes.

But not today, nor tomorrow. Not this month, or next. Not even before Christmas. The move may not even take place next year.

The rate – which applies to those earning £150,000 – has always been classified as “temporary” by the coalition.

In recent weeks the Tories and Lib Dems have played up their differences over the issue. In fact neither think the 50p rate should be removed just now; the internal debate is whether to go for 2012 or 2013.

Danny Alexander insisted last Sunday that scrapping the rate was not a priority – and that lifting the income tax threshold to £10,000 should come first. Tory outriders such as Boris Johnson and Lord Lamont called for it to be axed; but even Lamont said this should happen in 2013. Johnson, meanwhile, is unfettered by the responsibilities of national coalition government. Read more

Kiran Stacey

The Lib Dems will publish on Monday the motions they are going to debate at their autumn conference in Birmingham. But today they have told us about one: calling for a panel to look at decriminalising possession of all illegal drugs.

The plans are backed by the party’s Glasgow south branch, and are already being supported by some backbenchers. They also appear to have the tacit approval of Nick Clegg, who is said to be “watching the motion with interest”.

Clegg may calculate that such a motion could provide an effective release valve for members frustrated at having to compromise their liberalism because of being in government with the Tories.

But it has the chance to escalate into a problem for the party. In essence, it backs a decriminalisation of all drugs, including class-As and a network of “heroin maintenance clinics for the most problematic and vulnerable heroin users”.

Julian Huppert, who is well respected in the party, says: Read more