Further reading

Jim Pickard

Today the FT has splashed on the deputy prime minister warning bankers to show restraint during bonus season for risk of a public backlash. The government would not stand idly by if this failed to occur, Nick Clegg warned.

As George Parker reports: Read more

Jim Pickard

It turns out today that cuts to local government “spending power” will only be 4.4 per cent on average next year across Britain’s councils. So says Eric Pickles and his DCLG department. This sounds great compared to the figure floating around recently about a 10 per cent cut for the same period.

Except this is looking at apples and pears.  Read more

Jim Pickard

It was a relief to Ed Miliband that his defeated elder brother took a step back from frontline politics after losing the Labour leadership race in September. But David Miliband has remained, like Banquo at the feast, a visible presence on the backbenches from where he could – at some theoretical later date – still return to wreak revenge.

A survey in yesterday’s Sunday Times makes troubling reading for Ed. It suggests that 12 per cent of the public think Ed would be the better Labour leader, far below the 37 per cent for David. That is a very similar finding to surveys published during the summer.

Meanwhile pollsters found that 40 per cent of the public do not rate Ed Miliband’s leadership skills, compared to 27 per cent who do.

Back then Ed’s allies shrugged off those polls. Within a few months, they argued, people would have seen Ed in action and would have warmed to him. (David’s position as foreign secretary had given him a higher profile).

That shift in public opinion does not seem to have happened, however, although Labour as a party is now consistently ahead in the polls. The unknown unknown is where Labour would be polling if it had a more charismatic and decisive leader.

David is keeping his powder dry in terms of any remaining Labour ambitions. This morning he was quoted in his local newspaper saying:

“I’ve got to admit I wish the leadership campaign had gone differently, but who knows what will happen in the future?…I think Ed’s done well. It’s a very difficult job being the leader of the

 Read more

The Liberal Democrat position on student fees has been bungled in countless ways. But there must be one error of judgement that is more important than the rest — call it the original sin. Here are my top three contenders:

1. Nick Clegg ducking the chance to reform the policy in 2009

Most senior Lib Dems knew they had a policy to scrap tuition fees that was unrealistic and unaffordable. Secret work was done to come up with an alternative that maintained a critical stance but cost a lot less. The result was a more progressive form of tuition fees — something like the proposals today. When this was put to the Lib Dem MPs and the federal policy group, it went down terribly. Some MPs thought it was futile to attempt to scrap a vote-winning policy when any change would be blocked by the Lib Dem conference. Apparently one of the most persuasive arguments  was that the Lib Dems were not going to win the election, so why do the responsible thing?  Clegg eventually ducked the confrontation with his party at the 2009 annual conference. How he must be regretting it now. Read more

Jim Pickard

The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken out in a BBC interview – attacking the IDS plans to make long-term unemployed work for their dole money:

I’ve got a lot of worries about that. I don’t immediately think it’s fair. Read more

Jim Pickard

I am trying to take my eyes off the Mail’s scoop on Tony Blair giving a £50,000 lecture to toilet roll and disinfectant manufacturers – and instead concentrate on the big issue of the day. That is, Iain Duncan Smith’s plan to make the workless do manual labour in return for their dole money.

It throws up plenty of questions. Namely: Read more

Jim Pickard

This morning Sir Gus O’Donnell told a committee of MPs that he published advice pre-election on how politicians should conduct coalition talks on the advice of the Queen.

As Chris Hope at the Telegraph writes:

Officials were desperate to ensure that the Queen would not be put in the position where she would have to choose between parties to in a bid to help set up a stable government.

The booklet still hasn’t been published and is awaiting ministerial approval before its release. (Sir Gus hopes this will be before Christmas). Interestingly, the manual covers much more than the section on coalition talks: it has around a dozen chapters covering ministers’ relations with Europe, devolved governments, the monarchy, the government, peers, civil servants and councils.

That, some suspect, sounds rather a lot like a draft written constitution. Read more

Jim Pickard

For some inexplicable reason there were titters at the morning lobby press briefing when the prime minister’s spokesman said that a new technology city near the Olympic Park would “rival Silicon Valley (pictured)”.

David Cameron will say later today that:

“Right now, Silicon Valley is the leading place in the world for high-tech growth and innovation but there’s no reason why it has to be predominant.”

It is true that the government has done well by luring Google, Facebook, Intel and McKinsey to set up outposts at the new tech park by the River Lea. (Although BT politely declined, according to Guido). And there is nothing wrong with having ambitions, a la Field of Dreams (‘build it and they will come‘).

But Stratford (pictured) still has some way to go before it catches up with Silicon Valley, the Californian hub of American high-tech enterprise, which is home to the following 100-and-something companies (courtesy of Wikipedia).

 Read more

Jim Pickard

New Labour was very fond of appointing business figures to ceremonial jobs as a way to convince the world that they understood enterprise.

It was also a cunning device to create diversionary “good news” when events were not going to plan. The trend reached its surreal peak when Gordon Brown appointed Alan Sugar as Lord Sugar and made him enterprise tsar – on the day that the beleaguered Labour prime minister was almost toppled by an uprising of his own ministers.

In the post-CSR environment, David Cameron and his team are determined to foster a climate of upbeat events and news stories to shift the focus off the deepest cuts for a generation. This may explain why the prime minister was planning to unveil a new wave of “trade ambassadors” next week to co-incide with a trip to the Far East. This news management has alas been spoiled this evening by FT columnist Mark Kleinman (also business editor of Sky) who reveals on his blog* that Richard Lambert, the outgoing director-general of the CBI, is one of them. Read more

Jim Pickard

If you have not yet read Too Big to Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin, buy it now. The book – an account of the downfall of Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers – explains the credit crunch in a clear way and reads like a thriller. It’s the best business book since Liar’s Poker or Barbarians at the Gate.

I’m reading it at the moment and it is a stark account of how unfettered casino capitalism nearly brought the financial system to its knees. It’s also a reminder of why politicians are so keen to rebalance the UK economy away from the City of London and towards regional industries.

Vince Cable was the most outspoken when – in his conference speech – he decried City workers as “spivs and gamblers“. Other ministers have followed suit in more moderate language.

The only problems with this admirable desire is that a] The City still accounts for a huge proportion of UK GDP (and jobs and tax take), b] Labour spent a decade trying and failing to revive industry, with manufacturing declining faster than it did under the previous Tory administration and c] There is little or no money left to subsidise ailing or fledgling industries in the regions.

It is a circle which will be very difficult to square. Read more

Jim Pickard

Kevin Schofield at the Sun had a fine scoop this morning about the £27,000 in kind given by Tony Blair to David Miliband’s campaign for the Labour leadership.

The revelation will be a small but significant footnote when the history of the contest is written. That is because Tony Blair, while clearly a covert supporter of the older Miliband brother, refused again and again to back him in public. (Andrew Grice at the Independent reported that this was because Miliband thought his former mentor’s support could be a double-edged sword). Now we have physical proof that he was backing David.  Read more

Jim Pickard

In December 2009 David Cameron made a speech in which he promised to reduce the burden of health and safety. His most heart-rending example was that of a small boy who drowned while fishing for tadpoles. As Cameron told his audience:

What’s more, the fear of transgressing all these rules causes people to stand aside when others need help.

This was most tragically illustrated in Wigan two years ago, when a ten year old drowned in a pond, having rescued his young sister, because officers were told not to intervene as they hadn’t undertaken their ‘water rescue’ health and safety training.

But was it a true story? Read more

Jim Pickard

FT sketchwriter Matthew Engel and I discussed over breakfast the best way for David Miliband to bow out; which now seems 99 per cent likely. Does he do a speech? A written statement? Some kind of pooled TV interview?

The former carries the risk of him overshadowing Ed once again. The second option may not be sufficient to satisfy the media hunger. So we are presuming the third option some time this afternoon – no doubt near the 5pm deadline by which time MPs have to say whether they are running for the shadow cabinet. Read more

An anxious autumn is Labour’s yet to lose — Philip Stephens/FT
Cameron rejects talk of an election pact – FT
Don’t expect to see David Miliband marching with strikers — FT
Three quarters of voters reject coalition cuts message — The Times (£)
Have the union members really been voting for Ed? – John Rentoul
More insights on the Labour YouGov poll — UK Polling Report
A paean to Anne Widdecombe, Queen of Dance — The Guardian

Kiran Stacey

Electoral reformers face uphill sruggle – FT
Cameron’s fresh EU rebate battle – FT
Phone hacking inquiry was abandoned to avoid upsetting police – Guardian
Bookies give Coulson 88% chance of leaving before Tory party conference – Smarkets
Ed Balls, political hero – Mary Riddell, The Telegraph
Statesman in shorter trousers hit by a noxious cloud of mockery – The Times (£)
Four in 10 Lib Dems would not vote for them again – The Independent

Kiran Stacey

Pre-budget report to be ditched – FT
CBI warns over university cuts – FT
Pickles and Cable calm business fears over RDA replacements – FT
A Heathite lurks behind the Big Society – Tristram Hunt, FT
Met could reopen phone hacking case – The Independent/PA
Yates: Met will look at fresh phone-hacking evidence – Guardian
Gove wants baccalaureate for England – Guardian
Gulf widens in leadership battle between Milibands – The Times (£)
Lib Dems ‘biggest losers in boundary dispute’ – The TImes (£)
Dannatt fury at MoD – The Telegraph

Jim Pickard

It is, of course, entirely co-incidental that Gordon Brown has announced his plans for the future today: just hours after Tony Blair, the yin to his yang, published his autobiography. (Which is apparently flying off the shelves).

Brown will be doing lots of charity stuff – for free – including education work for Africa. The rather sober note struck by Mr Brown is surely not a deliberate attempt to remind the public that he, unlike some, is not a jet-setting millionaire?

He says he will be doing public speaking in the USA, but this will be to fund his charitable work. He has set up something called the Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown to pay for staffing costs.

(Incidentally, we asked Ed Balls if his old mentor could come back to the shadow cabinet doing international development; not in a million years was the gist of his response.)

Here is the Press Association:

Gordon Brown announced his plans for the coming months today, including working to increase global access to education and boosting internet use in Africa. The former prime minister will join the Global Campaign for Education’s High Level Panel on Education for All and will work to secure economic justice in  Read more

Jim Pickard

George Osborne’s Budget was not progressive, says IFS – FT
David Cameron is in danger of turning into a “Heathite” - Bruce Anderson, FT
How John Bercow will sit in judgment over civil service redundancy payments – FT
Politicians should stay clear of rich donors – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
Clegg faces rough ride at Lib Dem conference – Nick Watt, Guardian

David Mililband makes his pitch to British industry — FT
Will Cameron dare follow through with localism? — Tony Travers/FT
Three cheers for the postcode lottery — Tim Harford/FT
100 things you may not (need) to know about coalition — Sam Coates/Times (£)
Cameron won’t repeat Thatcher’s mistake of acting too slowly — The Sun
‘You may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb‘ — Jonathan Freedland/Guardian
The price the Tories pay for a coalition -- Tim Montgomerie
The Lib Dems aren’t on 8 per cent, yet — Anthony Wells
Margaret Thatcher, Vince’s hero - FT Notebook