Daily Archives: January 17, 2013

Jim Pickard

One big question which hangs like a fog around Labour is what the party would do with the benefits bill if it was in power.

Ed Miliband’s argument is that if he was prime minister, the social security tab would not have risen so sharply in the past few years because there would be less unemployment. Clearly that is not a hypothesis that can be tested. 

Kiran Stacey

 

Frans Timmermans, Dutch foreign minister

Frans Timmermans, Dutch foreign minister

I’m not sure if anyone in Downing Street is fluent in Dutch, but if they are, they may want to watch the edition of Nieuwsuur (their equivalent of Newsnight) broadcast earlier this week.

Cameron is off to the Netherlands tomorrow to make his great make-or-break speech on Europe, where he’s expected to announce a renegotiation of powers followed by a referendum in the next parliament. He has chosen to do it there because he regards prime minister Mark Rutte as one of his great allies in the cause of reforming Brussels. 

For Tony Blair, they were the “forces of conservatism”. For Margaret Thatcher they were an inefficient bureaucracy that needed to be scaled back. British civil servants have been described as the envy of the world but to many ministers they are little more than a block on their most coveted policy ambitions.

Yes, Prime Minister, the sitcom that personified the devious and obstructive mandarin in the character of Sir Humphrey Appleby, returned to British television this week after a 15-year gap. And, for many ministers, the world it depicts, in which officials prevent them from carrying out manifesto promises and protect the status quo at all costs, is as true today as it was in the sitcom’s 1980s heyday.