david cameron

Jim Pickard

When Vince Cable said the coalition had “Maoist tendencies” no one took it as a literal suggestion that David Cameron was taking inspiration from Chinese communists.

But it has emerged that the coalition’s “Big Society not Big Government” slogan was originally devised by the heirs to Chairman Mao over a decade ago.

The initiative by the Communist Party of China in 1997 even echoed Mr Cameron’s Big Society flagship theme in its promise to encourage civil society and cut back the role of the state.

Chinese officials said their desire for “small government and big society” should mean less bureaucracy, with civic organisations taking a bigger role in society as the “bridges and belts linking the party and government with the mass”.

Steve Hilton, the Downing Street blue-sky thinker credited with coining the Big Society concept, is treated with suspicion by many on the right of the Tory party given his small-l liberal tendencies.

It is even thought that Mr Hilton voted for the Green Party in 2001, before going on to help Mr Cameron rebrand the Tories in a more modern and cuddly image.

News that the coalition’s main concept was first coined in Beijing could prompt bemused Read more

Jim Pickard

It is always dangerous for a senior churchman to stray into political matters, just as it is risky for politicians to stray into religion. (Thus the firm advice from Alastair Campbell to Tony Blair that he shouldn’t ‘do God’.)

And the criticism of the coalition by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has already prompted a backlash from senior cabinet ministers. Dr Williams has signalled his displeasure with the cuts programme before but this intervention (most notably November) in the New Statesman, is the most passionate and extensive – arguing that “nobody voted for” the coalition’s policies. He also dismissed the Big Society idea as “painfully stale“. It is the most outspoken attack on the government by the church since Robert Runcie criticised Margaret Thatcher in the mid-1980s. Read more

Jim Pickard

Liam Fox’s concerns about setting legal targets for increasing overseas aid spending – which were aired in a leaked letter yesterday – are widely shared on the Conservative benches. Many MPs believe the plan is unaffordable at a time of public spending cuts. And plenty are happy to speak out about their concerns.

Philip Davies, an executive member of the backbench 1922 committee, challenged David Cameron on the issue last week. Davies told us: Read more

This could have been better for David Laws. The punishment imposed by the standards committee is at the worse end of expectations, at least among Lib Dems. One government figure told me he will not be returning as a minister “anytime soon”.

But, particularly in this case, it is important to define terms. If you start from the premise that the didn’t do anything seriously wrong and should be reappointed immediately, this is a terrible conclusion to the investigation. Read more

Jim Pickard

It is hard not to conclude that Ed Miliband won the major clash of the day at PMQs* over the direction of NHS reform.

David Cameron cited today’s letter to the Telegraph from 42 GPs, saying they wanted what they called “evolution not revolution”.(They are all heads of recently-formed GPs’ consortia). Read more

Jim Pickard

The Office for National Statistics has told the BBC that the net EU migration figures the Prime Minister used in his speech on immigration are wrong – and that EU immigration was estimated at 57,000 not 27,000 in the year to June 2010.

The reason this matters is that Cameron used the figure to claim that Europe accounted for only a “small proportion of overall net migration to the UK.” Read more

Jim Pickard

When Nick Clegg called for paid internships last week there was an ironic twist as it emerged that the coalition had just cut funding for that purpose.

Now, as Cameron makes his most rightwing speech on immigration to date, it is worth pointing out the flaw in his vow to make incomers speak the Queen’s English.

As the Guardian points out today, the coalition is making deep cuts to the state programme for teaching immigrants the language.

From the autumn these lessons will only be free for immigrants on jobseeker’s allowance Read more

Jim Pickard

Hillary Clinton yesterday signalled that a no-fly zone in Libya should be led by the UN rather than by the US. (“I think it’s very important that it is not a US-led effort because this comes from the people of Libya themselves…We think it is important that the United Nations make that decision.”) The secretary of state clearly does not want it to look as if the US is flexing its muscles unilaterally once again.

The British position is slightly more subtle, however. As the Downing St spokesman said this morning at lobby: “Our position is as set out by the foreign secretary statement; it said we needed international support , a clear trigger and an appropriate legal basis.“ Read more

Jim Pickard

One Tory MP buttonholed me this morning to ask why the FT this morning carried a story about the donations from the Square Mile to his party. (Donations from financiers and City firms now account for more than half the £22.5m the Conservatives attracted last year.)

You should hardly be surprised by now that your readers support our party,” he observed.

Up to a point, Lord Copper. Yes, the City has always backed the Tories (with a temporary swing away during the peak of New Labour) while the unions are the cornerstone of Labour.

Plus the proportion of City money going to the Tories has actually fallen from 52 per cent in 2009 to 51 per cent last year, if you look closely at the figures in the report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

But the underlying trend is still worth reporting (it’s also the splash in the Guardian) as it shows a medium-term rise in the proportion of funding from city sources – up from just 25 per cent in 2005. Read more