Monthly Archives: August 2011

Jim Pickard

One issue where the unions may have been right all along is the thorny question of the public finance initiative – which they raised concerns about a decade ago. Unions including Unison and the GMB have been arguing for years that PFI is simply more expensive than conventionally-financed schemes. (They also have an often kneejerk hostility to private companies in the public sector per se).

The coalition signalled last year that it believed the system was “discredited” and “a ploy to keep expensive projects off the balance sheet”. Read more

Jim Pickard

The idea is raised by none other than Ken Livingstone in his interview with Total Politics this week. There’s no doubt that the Europe-loving sometime cross-dressing comedian is a full-on Labour supporter with a very high profile. I also rather like the idea of three Eds at the top of the party: Miliband, Balls and Izzard.

Here is the quote from Amber Elliott’s interview: Read more

Jim Pickard

There’s a good interview in Total Politics today which is a reminder of why it would be a mistake to write off Ken Livingstone; it appears there is plenty of life left in the wily newt-loving leftwinger.

Asked why people should vote for him, Ken jokes: Read more

Kiran Stacey

A gang member holds a gun behind his backIain Duncan Smith and Theresa May have begun very early work on their gangs strategy in the wake of the English riots, and will publish their findings in October. But we are already starting to get some idea of the solutions they are likely to look at it. Some of them are encouraging, some are definitely not.

On Sunday, IDS told the Sunday Times some of his preferred measures, which are heavily influenced by a 2009 report called Dying to Belong from the CSJ, the think tank he established. The report is thorough and exhaustively researched, and has a comprehensive set of proposals.

It is based on a twin-track method, whereby senior gang members are offered an amnesty to leave the gang and then harrassed by official government bodies if they refuse to do so. If the latter, youth workers turn up at their home, the police go through their entire history to find evidence of any misdemeanour, from unpaid parking fines to a missing TV license, and they are brought in front of the courts at the slightest sign of wrongdoing. Read more

Jim Pickard

David CameronTory MPs yesterday tried to play down the similarities between David Cameron’s post-riots speech and the famous “back to basics” conference speech by John Major in 1993. The latter became an albatross around Major’s neck as a string of Tory MPs were caught out in various salacious scandals in the mid-1990s.

I’ve analysed the two speeches and found some very similar echoes in tone and content. Curiously, Major does not mention “single parents” or “single mothers” or “family values” or “absent fathers” – contrary to the collective memory of what the speech was all about. (That message was instead spun by aides who pre-briefed the speech to journalists.) By contrast Cameron very clearly suggests that family breakdown is a key cause of social discontent. Read more

Jim Pickard

It was the turn of Nick Clegg to make a big speech today, following David Cameron and Ed Miliband yesterday – with Theresa May later this morning. (Perhaps tomorrow could be an oration-free occasion?)

The deputy prime minister diligently tried to avoid any open clashes with the prime minister over tricky issues around removing benefits from offenders and delivering tax breaks for married couples. Read more

Kiran Stacey

David Cameron and Theresa May have insisted their cuts to police budgets can be achieved without a reduction in frontline police numbers.

But Tim Brain, the former Gloucestershire police chief and now honorary senior research fellow at Cardiff University’s Police Science Institute, has challenged that claim head on.

In a study released today, Brain calls for the government to “pause and think again” about its planned 20 per cent cut to police budgets over the next four years, saying that it is bound to affect frontline policing. Read more

Kiran Stacey

George OsborneAmid the frenetic activity surrounding the response to last week’s riots, a cautiously-written, but telling article by George Osborne and a group of other finance ministers in today’s FT risks slipping by unnoticed.

The piece is moderate in tone, but has the chance to be controversial on a number of levels:

1) It calls for other countries to follow broadly the UK deficit reduction plan. When the ministers write that there should be “credible fiscal consolidation in countries with large deficits”, it is a clear message to western economies: cut your deficits now. Read more

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