Tom McNally, the Lib Dem peer and justice minister, may face a less than positive reception when he returns to the Ministry of Justice after the party conference in Birmingham.
As the Guardian reported today, Lord McNally has already weighed in against his Tory colleagues at repeated fringe events, suggesting that the decision to add the word “punishment” to the government’s legal aid and sentencing bill was the work of “little elves that work in No 10″ helping the prime minister to get the right-wing media on side.
These comments were followed by a remarkably frank discussion of the MoJ’s move to transform the justice system and reduce reoffending through payment by results, at a fringe meeting looking at who should profit from the penal system.
Asking rhetorically whether the introduction of private providers into the prison service was “a sin against the holy ghost [of public provision] or a sensible way of the government financing much-needed services and competition”, Lord McNally acknowledged that the PBR drive had ultimately pragmatic motives.
I wrote on Monday that Lib Dem president Tim Farron’s barnstorming speech at party conference would have looked like a leadership bid if he hadn’t gone to such lengths to praise Nick Clegg.
Well his parliamentary colleagues see it slightly differently. I have spoken to many of them in the last few days, including government ministers, and the overwhelming sense is that this was very much Farron’s leadership pitch, albeit for 2015, after the next election.
Farron himself has further fuelled such gossip, telling BBC 5 Live this morning:
I love doing my job and my job is to be the MP for Westland. That is my number one job. I have a mandate from the Liberal Democrats as well to be their president, I have absolutely no ambition other than that.
Of course there is no ruling it out in the future.
In a highly symbolic – and hugely political move – Ed Miliband is poised to weaken the union vote in future leadership contests for the Labour party. (Or strengthen other people’s, to put it another way.)
I can reveal* that Miliband wants to set up a “registered supporters scheme” allowing thousands of people to vote in future leadership elections. Their votes will be cast within the “affiliated organisations” section, which comprises a third of the total vote. (The other sections are MPs and party members).
This will be rubber-stamped at this morning’s meeting of the NEC (national executive committee). It then has to go through another NEC session on Saturday before passing through conference.
The obvious symbolism is that this is a dilution of the brothers’ power. As no one will ever forget, Ed won the leadership after the main unions clubbed together in his favour in a transparent attempt to thwart his elder brother.
But here is the catch. Last September some 247,339 trade union members voted in the election, most having been sent literature in the post. Another 127,331 members voted in their quorum.
How many people are there, realistically, who are interested enough in Labour politics to register as a “supporter” just to take part in the ballot – but not keen enough to actually join the party? Miliband’s team suggest that the figure will be “tens of
A little-known facet of the planning system is that scores of big decisions every year are taken not by locals but from desks in Victoria, London. The adjudications are nominally by Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities, although in reality they are quasi-judicial decisions worked through by officials.
Today I’ve number-crunched the data and worked out that 81 schemes have been adjudicated by Pickles since the last general election. That rate – about 5.3 a month – is roughly the same as his predecessor over a similar period.