Pickles’ Pilgrim Party

Guido is off for beer and sandwiches with Eric Pickles to mark the launch of the growing  Trade Union Reform Campaign. The new group must be doing something right given that they have sent both the Morning Star and the TUC round the bend today.

In a pre-emptive move the TUC rushed yet another one of their poorly researched spin memos declaring all of the great things that taxpayer-funded trade  union officials apparently do. It will come as no surprise that the Taxpayers’ Alliance were able to shred it within hours.

Next time the TUC want to be taken seriously, they shouldn’t get the pseudo-academic/Morning Star writer Gregor Gall to do their research. He relied on a discredited BIS review that was conducted under the union-funded Labour government. No wonder it was pro-brother…

After campaigning for nearly a year now on the issue of Pilgrims, Guido likes what has been trailed so far from Pickles’ planned speech:

“The public want their council tax frozen and their bins emptied every week. They don’t want it spent on trade unions’ political campaigning. It’s not right that the public’s money is covertly being used to bankroll union activists. They are diverting resources away from frontline services, waging class war with public funds. At a time when every council needs to help pay off Labour’s deficit, it’s time to cut these pilgrims and axe these non-jobs on the rates. Unions should not be given free office facilities and the free service of union dues being collected by government employers.”

TURC has attracted the support of both Liam Fox and Aidan Burley, amongst others. Anyone know what the dress code is?

John Kampfner tells Leveson that with the Lobby…

“…the interdependency is most invidious and obvious. Some lobby correspondents have become stenographers to power. When a minister or spokesman telephones, they take it down and reproduce. The more faithful the end product is to the caller’s intent, the more likely the journalist will receive a story in the future. All sides get what they want. The label “exclusive” is fair, technically, in that nobody else has the story, but these are not scoops in the sense that the term was originally intended. This is not intrepid reporting or digging, but services rendered in return for access.”

Halfon Puts Hague on the Iranian Spot

Tory MP Robert Halfon has just ratcheted things up in the House in regard to Iran. Having been granted an Urgent Question, he pushed Hague on “what will happen, if these latest economic sanctions don’t work?” He didn’t stop there either:

“What more is being done to bring Russia and China to the UN table? Most would accept that Britain has shouldered its fair burden in tackling dictators. But it seems clear that the free world must send a message to Iran, that if they continue with their nuclear plans it will lead to military action. No one wants war. But tragically, it is looking increasingly likely…”

Hague waffled about “many contingency plans for many contingencies”. A sound-bite almost up there with “known unknowns”.

The Other Sayeeda of the Story

Today’s Mail has picked up on Guido’s scoops regarding the ongoing battle between CCHQ and Roger Helmer MEPs. Tory MPs are now bombarding the chairman’s office with letters demanding that Rupert Matthews is allowed to take over when Helmer resigns, in line with convention. One bit of shameless spin made Guido chuckle:

“However, if Mr Helmer stands down, the returning officer would ask Mr Matthews to become an MEP as the next in line Tory on the list. Party chiefs would have to approve his candidacy, however, and sources say they cannot do so because he has dropped off the list of candidates. A senior source denied Baroness Warsi was trying to manipulate the East Midlands list.”

A bit of dodgy briefing there. The only reason Matthews “has dropped off the list”, is because Warsi threw him off…

UPDATE: Guido understands Crick is doing a bit of a hatchet job on Rupert Matthews for Channel 4 News tonight.

Exclusive: Labour Call in the Pollsters for Crisis Welfare Briefing

With Ed continuing to plummet in the polls and Labour peers voting against the wishes of Labour voters on the benefits bill, Guido is not that surprised to learn that a crisis meeting has been called, for after PMQs tomorrow at 1230, there will be a briefing session on public attitudes to Labour and welfare reform in the Shadow Cabinet room for members of the PLP.

The session will be lead by James Morris, who is seconded from pollsters Greenberg Quinlan Rosner to Team Ed. He will break the news to the MPs gently, by running through Labour’s private polling. The Shadow Cabinet will be coaxed towards an understanding of the attitudes of that reality based community, better known as the voting public, with hard data about what the public think about Labour’s position on welfare and welfare reform generally. Guido hopes that Morris will offer a slightly more astute and sophisticated analysis than he tweeted last night:

This benefits cap issue is toxic for Labour, who are violently out of sync with the public here, in particular their own lower-income working voters. Oh to be a fly on the wall tomorrow…

MPs’ Chinese Subsidy

Given it is Chinese New Year today the exclusively MPs-only Member’s Dining Room is offering some specials; for starters oriental vegetables with pink ginger, toasted sesame seeds and soy dressing for only £2.05 (after the £1.53 subsidy) followed by the seasonal winter vegetable and lemon stir-fry with hazelnut couscous for a mere £6.75 after the taxpayer chips in £5.13 of subsidy. Gùng héi faat chōi, indeed…

Look at this subsidy another way, it will take a worker on minimum wages 7 hours to pay the taxes required to subsidise today’s two-course celebratory Chinese New Year lunch for one MP. Someone should tell the MPs it is the Year of the Dragon, not the pig…

Look Inside Huhne’s New £1.3 Million Property

With the Huhne/Sunday Times emails going to the CPS this morning, the only portfolio that the Secretary of State for Climate Change will have soon is his property one. Guido was just typing up the £1.3m deal that Huhne has just closed on a building in Clerkenwell, when it popped up on the Standard website. They haven’t run the photos though:

Currently offices downstairs, the Grade II listed building takes Huhne’s empire up to eight properties and he paid above the asking price. There will be plenty of time for decorating soon…

A Taxing Question for Labour

The fact that polling shows that 69% of voters support the benefit cap, leaves Guido wondering about the other 31%. If taxpayers knew how much they were personally contributing to these handouts, you would imagine that 31% figure would be a lot lower. Enter backbench Tory MP Ben Gummer, whose plan to print a break down of taxes on a statement sent to every taxpayer, every year, has got a lot of attention this morning. The Sun are liking it and the Telegraph claim:

“If you were to discover, for instance, that £4,000 of the £10,000 you have paid in tax and NICs for the year went on welfare, it might put the argument over capping benefits into a different context.”

A sample PDF of the document is here and apparently the Treasury are listening. There is a 10 Minute Rule Bill issue tomorrow, and Guido is scratching his head to see how the Labour can justifiably oppose the idea. Any additional cost would be minimal given that statements, minus the breakdown, are already sent out. Hard to argue that people should be kept in the dark about their own money…

Research Report

It’s always nice to know your work is appreciated, so Guido enjoyed his chat last night with a northern Labour MP whose name escapes him and whose face blends in.

“Amicably” discussing the Commons subsidy and difference in prices for […]

Chuka Umunna replied when teased by colleagues about his suits:

“It’s not just Tories that can look good…”[…]

Labour Backs Bishop Vote Against £500-a-Week Benefit Cap

[…]



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Quote of the Day

Andrew Neil on the dying Dead Tree Press

“I read more bloggers now than mainstream columnists, because they’ve got more interesting things to say. Too many columnists today make you think, ‘Yeah, I think you’ve said that 10 times before and I’ve just noticed your column has not go a single fact in it’”.

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