Talking Balls

Dastardly Balls and his Muttley-like SpAd Alex Bernardelli have been cock-a-hoop all day proclaiming that the experts at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development were backing his calls for a slower pace to the cuts:

Blinky Balls“This is a very significant intervention. Even the OECD, which has traditionally supported government economic policy and George Osborne’s deficit reduction plan, is now saying the Chancellor should consider changing course.”

But as ever it, turned out to be balls.

The Secretary General of the OECD just went on Sky News to say he hasn’t changed his mind at all. Quite the opposite in fact, and he went on to accuse the Shadow Chancellor of misinterpreting what he’d said:

 “No way was there any signal of a change in course. We are continuing to be supportive. We can now say it with an even greater conviction because we just put out our economic outlook yesterday…”

Balls says we should always “listen to the economists”. Did he hear the CBI say that under Labour that “the economy would be weaker because of the impact of a loss of confidence in the markets”? Or how about when the IMF said Osborne’s plan “greatly reduces the risk of a costly loss of confidence in public finances and supports a balanced recovery…” Or what about when Mervyn King, he’s surely an expert, said that the government’s policy “has to be something where a really significant reduction in the deficit, the elimination of a large part of the structural deficit, takes place over the lifetime of a parliament.” Did he miss the British Chambers of Commerce Chief Economist David Kern say he “supports the need for credible deficit cutting measures over the next few years and supports the government’s emphasis on spending cuts rather than tax increases”?

Sounds like someone’s got a bad case of selective hearing.

Frontrunners to Replace Huhne

LibDems and civil servants are openly discussing when, not if, Huhne will be going. There is some logic to getting the mess out of the way before the weekend, and the country will be able to cope without a Climate Change Secretary for a couple of days. The two yellows in the lead to replace him in the Cabinet role seem to be Ed Davey, who has been invisible as a Business Minister, and Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne, who has been all over the TV whenever Hague is busy being briefed by MI6.

Both are Orange Bookers, though Browne is seen as more right-wing which will likely dent his chances for the soppy climate change brief. Obviously Laws is toxic and Guido understands that Sarah Teather has little chance of a promotion. 

+ + + Tory Lord Hanningfield Guilty on Six Counts + + +

The seventy-year-old Tory peer racked up £14,000 of fake accommodation charges between March 2006 and May 2009. He wasn’t staying in town, but being chauffeured back to Essex instead. His claims that “they were all at it”, however true, did little to help his case. The prosecution closing statement was damning:

“There was no real honesty in making claims that way, because of four reasons – the written rules, the golden rule of ‘don’t make a claim for more than you spend’, there’s nothing to suggest this was the practice, and his behaviour. The way he filled out the forms does not suggest he really believed the rules allowed him to make false claims. It was a deliberate and dishonest decision on his part to fill in the forms in that way.”

He will be sentenced in three weeks time…

Proceed With Caution

If the police had any suspicion that Chris Huhne might have charges brought against him, they are legally obliged to caution him and read him his rights. Now that Press Association have picked up on this morning’s Mail story, presumably independently verifying that the police have made contact with the Director of Public Prosecutions, it’s clear the police must have had a suspicion that Huhne might face charges when they grilled him at Belgravia Police Station for two and half hours on Tuesday.

Essex Police have so far refused to comment publicly whether they questioned him under cautioned, but as the week rolls on, it’s becoming pretty clear that they must have. A serving Cabinet minister is a suspect in a police investigation, how exactly is he meant to be doing his job properly? If he had any honour left he would step down immediately to fight the charges.

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This…

Songstress – turned – political – campaigner Annie Lennox tells the Staggers this week that she doesn’t want to be put in a box: “I have different hats; I’m a mother, I’m a woman, I’m a human being, I’m an artist and hopefully I’m an advocate. All of those plates are things I spin all the time.” Guido thought we weren’t allowed to mention Annie Lennox plating

What Do We Get Mr & Mrs Miliband?

We like to think we did our bit for Justine with our campaign to get Ed to make an honest woman of her. It was one of our most successful campaigns in the shortest time. Sentimental romantics that we are, we like a happy ending.

They get married tomorrow, in a modern touch, both children will attend.

So what to get the happy couple as a present? Something nice, not too expensive in these austere times. They probably have all the domestic appliances they need already. A book maybe? What book should we send the couple as a wedding present?

Vicky is Answering Questions

Hot on the revelation that Vicky Pryce has signed an affidavit confessing to have taken Chris Huhne’s points hacks may want to ask her a few follow-up questions. If so they should hurry on down to Stationer’s Hall in the City where she is on a panel at an economics conference  at 11.15. Chris Huhne is not answering questions – except to the police, even then he can’t remember the answer…

Huhne’s Local LibDems in a Panic

As Guido reported at the time, Chris Huhne’s Eastleigh LibDems met last night for an emergency meeting. They tried to spin it on the way out as a “scheduled local area committee”. Though local sources are adamant that such meetings are announced in advance and open to the public. They also don’t last for over two hours…

Guido understands that the two complaints to the Electoral Commission were top of the agenda, as was how long their local MP could survive at the centre of an ever growing media storm. Loyal councillor Chris Thomas was sent out to speak to the local media that had gathered, including a BBC camera crew. He was apparently very “relaxed” about the expenses allegations, but quick to attack the “underhanded” tactics of secretly recording meetings. Apparently Huhne is his “normal self” despite it all. As brazen and shifty as ever then…

One spinning loyalist however could not hide the fact that the rest of the councillors left the meeting “tight lipped and ashen faced”, looking “decidedly worried” and gazing down to avoid the questions shouted from the local press.

Anne Winstanley, Huhne’s ever silent election agent, was the last to leave, carefully avoiding the press by “running” into a car from a side door – in the manner of a US-style crook avoiding the “perp-walk” of shame. Guido understands she is not living at home at the moment in order to avoid a doorstepping.

This Huhne loyalist won’t be able to hide from the Electoral Commission forever though…

UPDATE : According to the Mail the Director of Public Prosecutions is set to rule on Huhne’s prosecution. In response to the Sunlight COPs submission to the Electoral Commission Huhne released a statement ‘I am satisfied that the declaration of election expenses has been checked thoroughly and is fully compliant with the rules.’ Never believe anything until it is officially denied…



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Quote of the Day

Charles Clarke says Cameron is the most successful PM for over a century…

“Under Margaret Thatcher the Conservatives gained 99 seats. They lost 211 under John Major, gained one under William Hague, quickly and wisely got rid of Ian Duncan-Smith, gained 32 under Michael Howard and have so far gained 133 under David Cameron who, to the great surprise of many (including senior Conservatives), has turned out to be the most electorally successful Tory leader since 1900.”

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