Asked to praise Gordon Brown’s work David Cameron said…
“I’d be delighted to, if he could be bothered to turn up to this House.”
Diane Abbott’s campaign has had a horrific week. She isn’t picking up much support and frankly every time she opens her mouth she shoots herself in the foot. It’s going to take her TV career, let alone backbench reputation a very long time to recover from her pasting by Andrew Neil on This Week last Thursday. Another week of the campaign begins with her saying something stupid…
She was straight out of the blocks today attacking IDS for his plans to allow people to move to areas where there are jobs available. Her criticism of the policy would be more credible if her parents hadn’t emigrated to the UK in the 1950s as part of a wave of economic migrants looking for work. Where would Diane Abbott be now if she her steel welder father hadn’t sought better career prospects somewhere new? Certainly not a contender for Leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition.
UPDATE : Punters give her and Andy Burnham each an outside 3% chance of becoming Labour leader.
Given his willingness to use it for his own advantage whenever he was attempting his salt-of-the-earth, dyed-in-the-wool working class act, you would think that Tony Blair would have a little more concern for the fate of Trimdon Labour Club. His own authoritarian smoking legislation is to blame for the club being forced out of business and it is set to close. Perhaps he could dip into his pockets, or perhaps one of his off-shore trusts, for a little assistance to keep it afloat. Come on our Tony give something back t’Labour.
Gordon’s strategy of taking the Cabinet on away-days to marginal seats looks set to continue under Dave. Tomorrow he will convene his first Cabinet at an as of yet unannounced location. When these expeditions were set up the Tories called them a “scandalous” waste of taxpayers’ money. “The cabinet taking a day trip out of London is not going to solve Britain’s economic problems” said George Osborne in 2008. Guess he will be staying home at No. 11 tomorrow then?
On first impression the aims of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces - “to promote in Parliament better understanding of the UK’s armed forces, and their objectives and activities” - seem reasonable. Alarm bells start to ring when you look at the make-up of this particular cross-party group. Any organisation that has Lord “Cash for Influence” Moonie as its treasurer needs investigating…
So far all the group seems to have done is get some army officers drunk on the Common’s terrace. They deserve a beer you might say, but when you look at who is organising this whole jolly grouping, the true purpose of it all comes into question. The first meeting “agreed that the offer of the UK Defence Forum to provide support for the APPG and single service groups within it be accepted (subject to appropriate disclosures in the Register of Interests).” Now what would a group funded by a bunch of weapons contractors have to gain from pouring money into such a group, eh?
The background of the employee brought in to organise the APPG is laughable. Robin Ashby was subject of an exposé in the Indy two years ago. It was revealed this defence lobbyist had a pass sponsored by a LibDem peer. He was subsequently stripped of the pass. That didn’t stop him getting another one from Lord “Cash for Influence” Moonie in 2009. Again this was exposed, this time by the Telegraph and for a second time he was stripped of that pass. He now has a third pass, this time through the back door of an APPG of which Lord Moonie holds the purse strings.
Ashby runs the defence industry funded UK Defence Forum and owns lobbying firm Bergmans.* Bergmans, according to the Indy, do work “on behalf of more than a dozen large defence and aerospace companies including BAE Systems, Northern Defence Industries, UK Defence Forum, Boeing and Rolls-Royce, which has been criticised for its past links to the Burmese regime.” A nice bunch, and just the man we want mingling with law-makers.
In his secretarial role to the Armed Forces APPG, Ashby has been given a third new parliamentary pass and email address, and is once again free to roam the corridors of power and take full advantage of the parliamentary hospitality and entertainment, for himself and his clients. So embedded is Ashby that this morning he even signed off emails on behalf of an MP. In what way does the group’s chairman James Gray think it acceptable to grant this arms lobbyist, who has twice before been stripped of passes, unfettered access to MPs and Lords when the rules about this are so clear?
UPDATE : Just got off the phone with Robin Ashby. He says he is more of a hobbyist than a lobbyist, his hobby being the UK defence industry which doesn’t pay him much more than expenses. He claims he is basically semi-retired, with an office and a staffer. The Millbank, Brussels and Washington office addresses on his website are all “rubbish” he says. When Guido pointed out the obvious commercial advantages of having a parliamentary pass for someone who offers a parliamentary monitoring service he said he does that all online. All clear?
The amorous Lord Strathclyde is spinning that he is slashing the maximum amount Peers can claim in expenses from £53,000 to £45,000 if they are full-time. The whole Lords system is to be replaced by a “clocking-in” service where Lords will be given £300 a day for turning up. Out of this they have to pay for all travel, staff, office and food. Poor hard done by sods.
Guido suspects that we will be seeing the Lords a little busier than usual when they actually have to turn up for their shilling, meaning this plan could backfire and ending up costing the taxpayer more. There is also a very obvious flaw in this which Guido likes to call the “Rennard Model”. There will be nothing to stop Lords turning up in the morning to collect their £300 and then disappearing off for the rest of the day – it is going to be an honour system – something that is very lacking in Westminster. If these changes haven’t been properly thought through then the this system is looking just as prone to abuse as the last set up.
Listening to the BBC or reading left-wing newspapers and blogs would lead you to think we were about to suffer shock-doctrine economics at the hands of the Coalition requiring martial law to enforce. The fact is that at the end of this parliament government spending will be up another 9%.
The public sector is merely looking at below inflation spending increases, but increases nevertheless. There are not going to be across the board spending cuts, there is going to be a re-prioritisation of resources, with slower overall spending growth. George Osborne is no Pinochet…
Incidentally it could be worse, in Obama’s United Soviets of America the White House is planning (Brown-style) to maintain 10% deficit financing next year. Within a generation the White House itself is predicting a 25% deficit. Which means Greek style bankruptcy…