Monthly Archives: January 2012

Jim Pickard

I’m not entirely sure that the potential merger between PCS and Unite has been confirmed before by any senior figure from either union: until today. Mark Serwotka, head of the PCS, told us in an interview today that he wanted to deepen the “ever closer developing relationship” the pair had formed since signing a co-operation deal a year ago. He also pointed out that his union had a similar deal with Unison which had not gone so well.

There are wider political consequences. While both unions are not in formal merger talks, as Serwotka made clear, any future deal would be of great concern to the Labour party. Why? Because Unite, with about 1.5m members, is the party’s biggest donor. The PCS, with nearly 300,000 members, is a vocal critic of the party for its relatively centrist approach. Read more

Jim Pickard

It’s a common assumption that without Scotland the Labour party would be eternally doomed, unable to ever get another majority in a Disunited Kingdom.

As Peter Oborne wrote yesterday in an otherwise excellent Telegraph column about the union: Read more

Kiran Stacey

After four days of heated argument about the complex process of holding a referendum on Scottish independence, unionists are finally starting to get the debate they have been wanting to have for a while: about the substance of what independence means.

At first, Westminster politicians seemed to have been outmanoeuvred (again) by Alex Salmond, getting drawn into a row over the timing of a referendum and what questions would be asked – allowing the Scottish leader to depict them as interfering in Scottish politics.

Now, they are beginning to put him on the spot, asking the kinds of difficult questions they think will guarantee that the Scottish people will not vote for independence when they eventually get the chance to do so. Read more

Kiran Stacey

This was a dangerous PMQs for Ed Miliband. The Christmas break has not been particularly good for the Labour leader, with criticism being fired at him from his own supposed “guru”, Maurice Glasman – and a more coded warning shot from his own front bench in the form of Jim Murphy.

His relaunch on Tuesday fared little better, as Jim mentioned in his post yesterday.

Miliband’s vulnerability was made clear when, on standing up to speak, he was given a bigger cheer by the Tory benches than his own. Read more

Jim Pickard

I’ll gloss over his cruel treatment by John Humphrys on Today, his 35-minute-late arrival at his own press conference and the hostile questioning by some journalists today.

On matters of substance, did Ed Miliband offer up any new policy?

There was a new idea; forcing energy companies to put elderly customers on their cheapest tariffs. This would apply to all over-75s, many of whom fail to shop around or don’t have internet access.

It’s quite a smart policy and wouldn’t cost the government anything. (Although energy companies are likely to complain that it could impact on their investment plans.) In practice it could also mean other people’s energy bills rising, but for now Miliband was able to deny that potential consequence.

The move follows on from plans, announced at conference, to limit the power of Britain’s “big six” energy companies by stopping them from producing gas and electricity and selling it themselves. (Instead, all their energy would go into a central pool, allowing supermarkets and others to enter the supply market.)

For those who thought that the keynote conference speech about “predators v producers” was too vague, this kind of detail should be welcomed. (We’ll ignore the point that Miliband did little to address these issues as energy secretary.)

There will be more “fleshing out” of the concept of responsible capitalism in the coming Read more

Kiran Stacey

Alex Salmond with David CameronMichael Moore, the Scottish secretary, will address MPs at 4.30pm today to explain why the Westminster government is offering Alex Salmond the chance to hold a legally-binding referendum on Scottish independence.

Ostensibly, the answer is that government legal advice says that any “consultative” referendum could be open to challenge in the courts. But there is another, political reason. If Westminster offers the power to have a referendum, it can also tie in certain conditions.

The two things unionists want to stop are:

  1. Salmond delaying the referendum until 2014 or later, by which time the first minister might have built up a sense of unstoppable momentum and;
  2. A third option appearing on the ballot, dubbed “devolution max”, which might appeal to those nervous about full independence.

 Read more

Jim Pickard

This may sound counter-intuitive given the Tory focus on the “Big Society”. But charities are shedding jobs much faster than the public sector, according to a survey published today.

Analysis of the Labour Force Survey, collated from ONS data, suggest that the voluntary sector now* employs 723,000 people – a fall of 70,000 over the previous 12 months. Read more

Jim Pickard

The FT splashes this morning with news that Cameron may be expected to increase Britain’s contributions to the International Monetary Fund – if other countries such as Japan and Brazil decide to increase their support for it to deal the eurozone crisis.

That would place the prime minister on another collision course with some of his most unruly backbenchers. Some 31 Tories rebelled by voting with Labour last July against plans to raise Britain’s potential contribution by £9bn from £10.7bn to £20bn. The country is now under pressure to increase this £9bn “headroom” to E30bn. Read more

Jim Pickard

For the full story you’ll need to read page 2 of today’s FT but I’ve been doing some calculations on Gordon Brown’s income based on the House of Commons register.

The total is £1.07m. This does not include the £123,429 which he has given to charity. Read more

Jim Pickard

With friends like this, who needs critics? Lord Glasman, one of Ed Miliband’s closest political friends, has just published an op ed in the New Statesman in which he appears to criticise the Labour leader in rich language.

The peer, whose advice has in the past been listened to closely by Miliband, warns that these seem like “bad times for Labour and for Ed Miliband’s leadership.” Read more