Monthly Archives: December 2011

Kiran Stacey

The FT has a big analysis piece today on how hedge funds became some of the Tories’ biggest donors. The graphic below displays how important the industry has become for filling the party coffers, and how quickly that has happened. If you want to analyse the full graphic, along with details of who the donors are, follow this link (behind the paywall).

A couple of interesting points to note from the analysis too: Read more

Jim Pickard

Nick Clegg is to sound a critical note against his Tory cabinet colleagues by warning in a speech that the debate about cuts should not become “polarised” between the public sector and the private sector.

The deputy prime minister’s comments at 10am this morning will be seen as a riposte to those Tory ministers who are ideologically keen to see the influence of the state reduced as a result of the deficit reduction programme.

“I know that some of our public sector workers bristle when they hear ministers talk about paring back the public sector,” the Lib Dem leader will say.

“If we play into these bygone caricatures of the left and the right, if we allow our society to fracture into these camps, that is the surest way to drag the UK back to the 1980s.”

Mr Clegg will make the comments as he sets out plans for England’s largest cities to take greater autonomy over their transport systems and housing under a “dramatic shift in power”.

The deputy prime minister and cities minister Greg Clark will offer individual “city deals” to the eight main regional conurbations under which they could each have “one consolidated capital pot to direct as they see fit”.

But Mr Clegg’s speech is likely to attract attention for his defence of government workers Read more

Kiran Stacey

Vince Cable will not be outflanked by George Osborne. Osborne said on Tuesday that banks needed to show restraint when paying bonuses – an unusually anti-City message for a Tory chancellor.

But Cable today has gone one further, urging investors not to focus only on banks, but to make sure that no big company allows its executives to be paid too much. We will have more on this in tomorrow’s FT, but here is the letter he has sent to top investors and FTSE100 chairmen: Read more

Jim Pickard

The prime minister was asked in the Commons if he would show some “bulldog spirit” at the weekend EU negotiations. “That’s exactly what I will do,” he insisted.

Yet however the talks are resolved, Cameron seems unlikely to emerge clutching what many of his backbenchers would like to see: the repatriation of various powers such as human rights legislation and employment laws.

That is likely to stoke the internal pressures which were visible in the October Commons debate over an EU referendum, when 81 Tory backbenchers rebelled against the leadership.

Ed Miliband skewered the prime minister over the issue during PMQs, reminding the House that Cameron had promised the repatriation of powers during that debate: “Six weeks ago he was promising his backbenchers a handbagging for Europe, now he’s reduced to handwringing.

The line is sensitive for the Tory leader as it reflects what many of his rank and file believe. Asked by backbencher Steve Baker whether Britain should simply “leave Europe” –  Read more

Kiran Stacey

The FT reports this morning that payday lenders (or legal loan sharks as they are also known) have been flooding into the country looking to take advantage of hard-up recession-hit borrowers and the UK’s lax lending laws. Borrowing at rates of up to 5,000 per cent, customers can find their debts escalating at a startling pace.

Even though many other countries have interest rate caps, the UK has never gone down that route. The government has always said it is wary of implementing such a cap in case it pushes poor people into the hands of illegal loan sharks instead.

Labour MP Stella Creasy has also waged a long campaign to get the government to crack down on these companies, and now her campaign is gaining momentum. Read more

Kiran Stacey

The Independent has a terrific scoop today on how Bell Pottinger, the PR firm chaired by Lord Bell, Baroness Thatcher’s former media adviser, has been promising potential clients access to senior figures in Number 10.

Perhaps the most damaging part of the story for the government is the boast from Tim Collins, managing director of Bell Pottinger Public Affairs, that he was able to get David Cameron to raise the issue of intellectual property with the Chinese government on behalf of Dyson, one of their clients.

The paper quotes Collins as saying: Read more

Kiran Stacey

Reading accounts of the deal agreed between Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel last night to impose new rules on EU countries to guarantee fiscal discipline, you might think the two countries were uniting to save the Eurozone from its more profligate members.

But which two countries first broke the rule that deficits should not go above 3 per cent of GDP? It was France and Germany, back in 2003. What’s more, the two then united to make sure that they wouldn’t face sanctions for doing so – effectively destroying the rules (known as the “growth and stability pact”) altogether.

What’s more, they were supported in this action by the UK (otherwise known as the country that like to lecture others on fiscal discipline). Gordon Brown was chancellor at the time. Read more

Jim Pickard

Rather a strong question in the heading, you might think. But when YouGov asked thousands of people about the characteristics of our national leaders the replies were striking.

Asked whether leaders were “strong” the replies were Cameron 18 per cent, Ed Miliband 7 per cent and Nick Clegg4 per cent.

On “good in a crisis“, it was Cameron 13 per cent, Miliband 4 per cent and Clegg 3 per cent.

In touch with ordinary people” produced a different result with Cameron on 8 per cent, Miliband on 21 per cent and Clegg on 11 per cent. (Miliband was also slightly ahead on ‘honest‘).

As for “natural leader“, Cameron was on 17 per cent with Miliband and Clegg both tied on 5 per cent.

The most striking angle is not who comes out with the most popular personality but just how low the scores are throughout; suggesting the low regard with which our political leaders are held.

With eight positive characteristics to choose from, 58 per cent of those surveyed – when asked to describe Nick Clegg – replied “none of these”.

More broadly, Labour – who might be expected to do well out of the government’s economic difficulties – appears to be treading water in the polls. Sunday’s ICM poll Read more

Kiran Stacey

A British protester burns an EU flag

A British protester burns an EU flag

Two sources who would know have told members of our political team that the chances of having a referendum on EU membership this parliament are very low indeed.

One ruled it out altogether, the other said the “number one priority” of coalition policy on Europe was  not to have one.

David Cameron pretty much guaranteed that today when he said there would only be a referendum “if a new treaty passes powers from UK to Brussels” adding:

 

As Prime Minister, I do not think the issue will arise.

 Read more