Monthly Archives: October 2011

Jim Pickard

The business department has put out a list of 119 successful bidders for £950m of public money through the regional growth fund. (A new vehicle which now plays part of the role of the wound-up RDAs.) On average this is more than £8m each.

The only downside is that you can’t see how much money each company or council is getting or – necessarily – what for. In fact there are 10 successful bids where no details whatsoever have been disclosed: even the names of the winning companies. 

Kiran Stacey

Remember Lord Young? He is the former trade and industry secretary who was given the task of reviewing health and safety regulation for Number 10 last year. He was forced to resign last November, however, after telling a Telegraph journalist that many Britons had “never had it so good”, despite the economy being gripped by recession.

At the time, David Cameron said:

Obviously he is extremely embarrassed. He was very quick to retract completely what he said. It was unacceptable.

 

Kiran Stacey

Just over a week after leaving office, Liam Fox has returned to the spotlight, giving an interview to BBC Bristol defending himself and attacking the media.

Talking about his meeting in Dubai, attended by Adam Werritty but no civil servant, Fox said:

I think it was really just a mistake not to have somebody there but… we were sitting in a coffee lounge in a hotel, it was hardly a high security meeting.

But nonetheless, given this was a potential defence supplier – not as it turns out an actual defence supplier – it still should have had somebody there. It’s very easy to be careless but you pay a price for it.

 

Kiran Stacey

I revealed this morning that despite David Cameron’s promises to cut down on civil service pay, the total Whitehall bonus pot went up last year from £136m to over £140m. Much more shocking than that, however, is the news that in the same financial year, directors of FTSE 100 companies have seen their pay rise by nearly 50 per cent. That follows a 50 per cent rise the year before.

David Cameron was asked about this issue at his press conference in Perth on Friday morning. What can we do to stop directors paying themselves so much money? 

Jim Pickard

Lady Thatcher, the former Conservative prime minister, has claimed more than half a million pounds of taxpayers’ money in the last five years, it emerged on Thursday.

The 86-year-old Baroness benefited from the public duties cost allowance available to former UK premiers. Between 2006 and 2011 she claimed a total of £535,000.

The system was set up by Sir John Major in 1991 to reward former incumbents of No 10 for work including answering letters and attending public events. Yet Baroness Thatcher is rarely seen in public and suffers ongoing health problems.

The public duties cost allowance was capped at just £52,760 a year in 2001 but has since risen sharply.

The allowance has cost taxpayers more than £1.7 million in the past five years supporting Baroness 

Jim Pickard

Tony Blair made clear in his memoirs how he thought that introducing Freedom of Information was one of his biggest mistakes.

“You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it.”

That view is shared by Jonathan Powell, in his excellent book “The New Machiavelli“, where he admits that New Labour ministers found FOI the bane of their lives.

This dislike of transparency appears to have remained with Mr Blair in his post-government years. The final few pages of “A Journey“, his fascinating political memoir, describe what he is up to after leaving Downing Street.

The former prime minister says “my new life takes me around the world” on a multitude of worthy causes, including his formal role as quartet envoy to the Middle East, his Faith Foundation, his work in Africa and finally his Climate Group.

He does not mention his creation of Tony Blair Associates, a sizeable private business headquartered in a luxury office block in Mayfair, with several large clients around the world. Blair does not discuss his work with clients such as JP Morgan Chase, the government of Kuwait and with Mubadala, an investment vehicle in Abu Dhabi. You can read more about his activities in our article from two years ago: “Inside Blair Inc“.

Earlier this month we heard that Mr Blair was involved in a new contract to advise the government of Khazakstan, an authoritarian state in Central Asia. 

Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis. In the early hours of the morning, eurozone leaders emerged from their summit in Brussels with a deal designed to stem the sovereign debt crisis. The markets seem pleased but big questions on the details remain. We’ll bring you reactions, news and commentary as we get it throughout the day.

All times are London time. By Tom Burgis on the news desk in London, with contributions from FT correspondents around the world. This post should update automatically every few minutes, but it may take longer on mobile devices.

17.28: Over to Athens, where Kerin Hope, the FT’s Greece correspondent, listened to the was at the finance minister’s press conference.

“Evangelos Venizelos has broken a week-long silence on the new Greek haircut much to the relief of Athens businesspeople and bankers. Flanked at a press conference by exhausted-looking advisers, the finance minister gave a few pointers on the benefits to Greece of Thursday’s deal:

  • A €8bn slice of Greece’s first bail-out loan will be disbursed by mid-November, just in time to avert a funding crunch that would have delayed payments of

 

A few, initial head-scratchers at pixel time.

First, the Greek debt deal:

1) Greece’s debt will remain 120 per cent of GDP a decade hence, even under the 50 per cent bondholder haircut. (As the debt sustainability analysis by the Troika warned.) Does that look like a safe number to you? Say, providing a good buffer to any external shocks that Greece might face over that period? Does it look like it rules out subsequent bondholder haircuts?

2) The huge disparity between haircuts and actual debt reduction is a creature of Greece’s reliance on official loans (plus the ECB’s getting made whole on its Greek bond holdings). This deal will chuck another €100bn on the fire. Again, if

 

Kiran Stacey

Lord Justice LevesonThe inquiry by Lord Justice Leveson into media rules in the wake of the phone hacking scandal is massive. It is supposed to run in two parts, one looking at the specific allegations around hacking, and another looking at the broader issues of media regulation and ownership.

When David Cameron announced its remit, many people were surprised by this breadth. One of those, it seems, was Leveson himself – at least according to John Whittingdale, the chairman of the culture, media and sport select committee. 

Jim Pickard

Glenn Beck, the controversial US commentator who quit Fox News this summer, has express support for Monday’s Eurosceptic rebellion in the House of Commons.

Those who wish to consolidate their power even further have united globally. It is time for freedom lovers to understand that tyranny and the ‘spontaneous’ movements around the globe are uniting. 

Kiran Stacey

Ed Miliband’s interventions on Europe have a habit of serving only to bring David Cameron closer to his own backbenchers on the issue. On Monday, as Tory rebels lined up in their dozens to defy Cameron on an EU referendum, Miliband was the only one who managed to restore harmony on the Tory benches, uniting them in laughter when he said:

Apparently president Sarkozy – until recently his new best friend – had had enough of the posturing, lecturing and know-it-all ways. Let me say, Mr President, you spoke not just for France but for Britain as well.

At PMQs on Wednesday, a similar thing happened. Miliband had some good lines, including telling saying Cameron “was pleading with his backbenchers instead of leading for Britain in Europe”.

 

Jim Pickard

For true political anoraks the Telegraph has a full list of who rebelled in last night’s epic Eurosceptic uprising. The figure, including abstentions, is slightly over 50 per cent of the Tory backbenches. For David Cameron that is truly inconvenient and embarrassing; given the vote did not need to be whipped.

More sensational is the news that 49 of the 81 rebels only entered Parliament last year – and 9 of those who abstained. Partly this reflects the fact that the new intake are instinctively Eurosceptic in the main. It also shows how many feel they have no chance of advancement in the current Parliament given that the Lib Dems have squeezed the Tory share of ministerial jobs. There is also the pressing matter of the imminent boundary review, which means all MPs need to play to their constituents to ensure they keep their seats