Wednesday, December 14, 2011

After PMQs Labour Insiders Doubt Ed Miliband Will Last Out 2012

Peter Hain is considered by Ed Miliband’s people to be something of an elder statesman, he was an early backer of Ed for leader and has reaped the benefit of that since. After what was a mauling at PMQs, judged one of Ed’s worst outings by many, Hain’s judgement was up there with the legendary Comical Ali. He reached for that old standby, blaming the Tory press…

Unfortunately in reality even the friendly left-wing press were underwhelmed. The Guardian’s Nicholas Watt, the Indy’s John Rentoul, Newsnight’s comrade Paul Mason, ubiquitous leftie Owen Jones and LabourList’s Mark Ferguson were all shaking their heads wistfully.

The more neutral observers such as the BBC’s Nick Robinson said that Miliband had “taken a pasting”, Total Politics described it as excruciating to watch. It was especially excruciating for Labour’s backbenchers and frontbenchers alike who go home for Christmas behind in the polls and on the wrong side of the public on Europe and the economy. Some are even talking of a Yvette Cooper / David Miliband dream ticket next year. That is how desperate they are getting…

The Wit and Wisdom of Adam Werritty

With Liam Fox back on the Christmas party scene, his old chum Adam Werritty has popped up in this week’s Speccie, speaking about the whole saga for the first time. Apparently “one man’s ‘clandestine’ meeting is another man’s informed and fascinating discussion”. The whole thing is well worth a read, and there are other gems such as “I’m all for a free press and responsible journalism. But…” Apparently the whole thing was a “storm in a teacup” and  he will spending New Year’s Eve with Liam, and his wife…

Werritty’s side of the story, while interesting, does not really take in the gravity of the situation:

My story starts on an evening in Dubai six months ago when my then girlfriend and I ended up in an American steak house called Ruth’s Chris. Out of the many thousands of eateries in the city, we couldn’t have made a worse choice. Five minutes after we sat down, a British expat businessman named Harvey Boulter arrived on the table opposite us. I’d met him once before, but I had no intention of meeting him on this trip. However, out of politeness I said hello. The rest is history — and a history which I very much regret.

We stayed on after dinner as Boulter wanted to talk to me about Cellcrypt, his mobile phone encryption software technology. When we first met several months earlier, he’d discussed making it available to British troops in Afghanistan, free of charge, to enable them to make free ‘welfare’ calls home. A worthwhile idea, I thought, and one worth supporting. I mentioned to him that I was meeting my friend Liam Fox the next day — he asked if he could talk to Liam about Cellcrypt over a coffee. I passed on his request, and the next day the meeting went ahead. Big mistake. I ought to have left it firmly to official channels to handle. They exist for a reason — specifically, to ensure that full and accurate records of conversations and meetings can be kept.

I’ve been asked on several occasions why I didn’t apply to be a special adviser. The answer: I actually know very little about defence policy and have never pretended otherwise. Why should I be paid by the taxpayer for an expertise I didn’t possess?”

That’s not what it said on his business card…

Heads in the Sand at Labour HQ

The role of Deputy Party Chairman seems to be forcing Tom Watson further and further from the reality based community. When he’s not paying special close attention to candidate selection, he’s in full spin mode. With the Tories regaining the lead with every major pollster, today was going to be a tricky one, but you can’t fault him for his effort:

Careful you don’t get splinters while you scrape that barrel Tommy…

Another Tory MP Snaps At Speaker

Keith Simpson has been gloriously indiscreet in a post PMQs chat with the Standard’s Craig Woodhouse:

“I do not have any time for the man. He has got a tin ear. He doesn’t know when to intervene or not… He comes out with these appalling cliches, all this business about ‘the public don’t like it, I don’t like it’, but I’m pretty sure my 88-year-old mother is sitting in front of the TV screaming that she does like it. (Burns) would happily take the rap but for once it wasn’t him. He picked on old Burnsy, who tends to be a serial offender, but in fact it wasn’t Burns – it was one of the younger lads standing to Burns’s left. I said to him, it’s like a man who is always speeding up and down the M11 and then gets caught when he is not driving. That’s life. It’s much easier to pick on a man who is a serial offender… Every time the Speaker interferes and leaps up and down he tends to bring out the worst in me.”

There’s even a Huhne joke for good measure. Simpson joins a growing list of Tory MPs willing to break cover and say out loud what many more of them are discuss privately. You might think that the mulled wine has been flowing all morning…

Miliband’s Media Grid Shelved After PMQs Mess

Ed got the inevitable thrashing at PMQs, though it was clearly worse than they expected. Yesterday Labour media grid was leaked, yet today we can see that they’ve had to throw it out of the window after a dire morning. The faces lined up for the media today were Harman, Chuka Umunna and Ed Miliband, yet Balls had to be sent to Millbank to clean up immediately after Ed’s defeat. How bad must it be when Blinky is the mop-up man… 

Steve Hilton Abandons Official No.10 Email Account

The Information Commissioner is set to pave the way to make the private email accounts of those in government FoI-able. Given that most SpAds and Ministers are sick of civil servants snooping around and leaking things before decisions have even been made, government by GMail is widespread in Whitehall. Someone told the Guardian: “Everyone is shitting bricks at the implications. It looks as if they are going to say Post-it notes are disclosable. There is going to be material on the budget, Libyan strategy, everything.” One senior Downing Street staffer, quick to eschew convention, has given up on official emails completely:

From: Steve Hilton shilton@no10.x.gsi.gov.uk
Date: Wed, Dec 14, 2011 at 10:41 AM
Subject: Out of Office AutoReply:

Thank you for your email – Please note, Steve does not access his No.10 emails.

If you require a response please contact ███████ █████ █████@no10.x.gsi.gov.uk or via the No.10 Switchboard on 020 █████ █████.

Many thanks

Annette Craze
Assistant Private Secretary to Steve Hilton

For latest news and information from Downing Street visit: http://www.number10.gov.uk

Help save paper – do you need to print this email?

“Steve does not access his No.10 emails.” Guido refuses to believe that the Downing Street Director of Strategy never sends emails related to his work. It’s right that we are able to see the decision making that is currently off the books. 

PMQs LIVE: In Dave They Trust Edition

Miliband’s Tactical Blunder

Europe is now the third most important issue to voters. A few months ago Guido suggested that if Ed had any eye for the long game he would ground Labour in popular Euroscepticism. He didn’t listen, in fact he did the polar opposite, and now he’s paying the price in the polls. Miliband’s lead over the Tories is about the only reason most of the Parliamentary Labour Party put up with him. Today every major polling firm has the Tories ahead or at least level with Labour again. Uh oh…

YouGov and Ipos-Mori both have the Tories on 2 points ahead on 41, while Survation and ComRes have them tied on 38. The LibDems are still just on the right side of double digits, while UKIP, who have been enjoying a recent surge while it appeared Cameron was going to sell the country down the river, have dropped back down to the 4 or 5 point mark.  That vote is sure to trickle back up after the initial veto-honeymoon for Dave…

Miliband has slumped in personal rankings as well. And it’s not just the pro-polling:

“But it’s a new LabourList poll of grassroots members that may also dismay Team Miliband. It found that the number of their readers rating Ed a good or excellent leader has fallen from 40% in November to just 26% this month. His decline in popularity appears to be linked to the public sector strikes: although 83% of readers backed the industrial action, only 25% though the Labour leader handled his party’s response well.”

Labour will win tomorrow’s by-election, but if these numbers become a regular feature it’s going take more than a “five-point plan for jobs and growth” to save Ed’s bacon.

Kelvin MacKenzie writes in the Spectator

“The problem with journalism is that people don’t tell you the truth. They think it’s the truth, they hope it’s the truth, they wish it to be the truth but they get it plain wrong. You don’t need Leveson to discover that. But it won’t be a bad lesson for him. See you all at the Rusbridger farewell party. With a bit of luck it won’t be long now.”

Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris tweets:

“So Chris Huhne MP says “playing Billy No Mates is no fun” – there speaks an expert…”


Seen Elsewhere

Why Are Radicals Like Carswell Leaving Tories? | BBC
Danczuk: Rotherham Abuse Imported From Pakistan | Telegraph
Ashya King Case Shows How Authorities Get it Wrong | ConHome
The Carswell Show | Jon Craig
Cops Seized Journalist’s Phone to Out Whistleblower | Press Gazette
Chuka’s £2,500 Tax Avoidance Donation | Times
Another BBC Stitch Up? | David Keighley
Divided, Pessimistic Tories Expect Defeat | Alex Wickham
Labour Suspends Rotherham Council Members | Sky
PM Used Terror Crisis to Deflect From Carswell | Rachel Sylvester
Scotland Surges for Freedom | Times


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George Osborne rejects the Ice Bucket Challenge from Ed Balls:

“I’d rather pay the money to charity and pour cold water on his policies.”



Owen Jones says:

We also need Zil lanes.


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