Monthly Archives: September 2012

Jim Pickard

Mood music about a winter of strikes has become as predictable an autumn occurrence as the first fall of leaves: but will it happen?

Today’s Daily Mail gives you a flavour of the language: Britain could be “on the brink of the first general strike since 1926,” it says.

The annual TUC has become a kind of Groundhog Day where union officials threaten to take action against the coalition’s austerity measures without ever coming remotely close to bringing the country to its knees, despite such warnings as the one in today’s Mail that “Vital services would be wiped out.”

The mood here in Brighton is not one of radical workers rising up against the Tory-led government, however. A glum wind was blowing off the grey sea, this morning, which suited the general sense of unease and apprehension rather than revolution.

In reality there are at least two TUC proposals which could easily be confused.

One of them, passed this morning, said that co-ordinated action is necessary and should be considered in the future. It is too vague to lead to the kind of mass protest that some might fear (or conversely hope for).

A second, more focused call (from the Prison Officers Association) asks comrades to continue to “lead from the front against the uncaring government with a coalition of resistance” which could involve “far-reaching campaigns, including the consideration and practicalities of a general strike.” As Bob Crow put it yesterday: they can’t put us in jail as the prison officers will also be on strike. 

The POA proposal was discussed this morning by the TUC general council, which was a “surreal” conversation according to NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet; not least because of the confusion as to what the words actually meant.

The POA describe the motion as the chance for the union movement to at least give itself the “ultimate weapon in our armoury” for the future: in reality officials know that it may not even be legal. “If it’s not achievable….at least we can hold our heads up high and say we considered it,” said the union general secretary.

Even if it is approved, the question for the brothers is this: what next?

The Public and Commercial Services union, which is one of the more radical, wants action Read more

Anyone who reads Sir Howard Davies’s acerbic regular diary column in Management Today magazine will know that the former head of the CBI and London School of Economics is extremely well-qualified to lead an independent inquiry into UK airport capacity. He seems to spend much of his time travelling by air between international destinations – dropping in the occasional barb about the airports he passes through.

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Kiran Stacey

The FT, the Guardian, the Mail and the Independent all agreed this morning; the reshuffle was David Cameron’s turn to the right. In came Chris Grayling, out went Ken Clarke. In came Owen Paterson to Defra, in came Michael Fallon to the business department. One Number 10 official remarked yesterday described Grayling as “a good rightwing appointment”. I don’t think I have ever heard someone so close to Cameron saying anything like that before.

Our analysis on how important a moment this could be can be found here.

The problem is, Labour doesn’t seem to get it (to coin a phrase). Ed Miliband decided instead to attack the prime minister for carrying out a “no change” reshuffle: Read more

Kiran Stacey

David Cameron has now completed the Conservative cabinet appointments of his first major reshuffle. As Nick Clegg works own reshuffle, here is the Tory side of the new cabinet (with the changes in bold):

PM: David Cameron
Chancellor: George Osborne
Home Secretary: Theresa May
Foreign Secretary: William Hague
Education Secretary: Michael Gove
Health Secretary: Jeremy Hunt
Justice Secretary: Chris Grayling
Welfare Secretary: Iain Duncan Smith
Defence Secretary: Philip Hammond
International Development Secretary: Justine Greening
Transport Secretary: Patrick McLoughlin
Communities Secretary: Eric Pickles
Environment Secretary: Owen Paterson
Culture Secretary: Maria Miller
Northern Ireland Secretary: Theresa Villiers
Welsh Secretary: David Jones 
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Kiran Stacey

Andrew Mitchell

Andrew Mitchell, the new Tory chief whip

Lots of commentators are pointing out what a hard-line disciplinarian Andrew Mitchell is likely to make as the new Tory chief whip. Well I have two stories that add to that impression.

The first is Mitchell’s “bollocks” stamp, which, one civil servant tells me, he brandishes whenever he is given a document he doesn’t like. Mandarins more used to Labour’s more caring style when it came to international development were taken aback to find Mitchell regularly sending back briefing papers with that one word of feedback planted across it.

The other piece of Mitchell’s back story that people seem to forget is that he used to be a strong advocate of the death penalty. When I asked him about this in November last year, there was an extremely long pause before he said: Read more

Kiran Stacey

This post originally attributed the statement to Justine Greening, the transport secretary. It was actually issued by her ministerial colleague, Theresa Villiers. Apologies.

Justine Greening Theresa Villiers has just announced she has not signed a contract with FirstGroup to run the West Coast mainline as she was expected to do last week because of the legal challenge from Virgin Trains. Here is the transport minister’s full statement (emphasis mine):

On the 15 August 2012 the Department for Transport announced to the London Stock Exchange that it intended to award the InterCity West Coast franchise to First West Coast Limited, a subsidiary of First Group.

Bids were received from Abellio InterCity West Coast Limited – NV Nederlandse Spoorwegen, First West Coast Limited – FirstGroup plc, Keolis/SNCF West Coast Limited – Keolis SA and SNCF, Virgin Trains Limited – Virgin Group Holdings Limited.

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Kiran Stacey

It is the day before reshuffle day, and unsurprisingly, generous-spirited backbenchers are lining up to give David Cameron advice on what he should do. Here’s a response from Douglas Carswell, the Tory backbencher, which sums up the feelings of many on the right of the party:

They don’t need to reshuffle the people, they need to reshuffle the ideas and the thinking. They can reshuffle all the personnel they want, but it is a lack of ideas that is the problem.

But of course he does have some idea of people he thinks should be brought into government:

Kwasi Kwarteng, Liz Truss, Dominic Raab: there seem to know what free markets are all about.

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Jim Pickard

David Cameron and Nick Clegg are set to intervene in the increasingly fractious row over Heathrow’s proposed third runway by launching an independent commission to review the future of Britain’s airports, FT Westminster has learned.

The Tory prime minister and his Lib Dem deputy have had urgent talks this week to thrash out a way to draw the poison from the toxic public debate about the expansion of Heathrow.

The pair will announce within days that they have agreed to set up a commission of experts to examine the pros and cons of different airport proposals. There will be no politicians on the commission, reflecting the coalition’s desire to end the Read more