UPDATE : What does Robert Peston think of those who conspire with public officials to leak sensitive information? Does it only matter when it hinders rather than helps the regime?
UPDATE :David Davis on the Today show made the same point, that locking up opposition MPs for 9 hours is a tactic “reminiscent of Robert Mugabe”, Tim Montgomerie doesn’t approve of the comparison.
As yet unconfirmed rumours going around that the ailing Dods-owned website ePolitix.com is to close with two thirds of Dods reporting staff being made redundant next week. An insider told Guido that they were not “immune” from the downturn.
An astonishing 17 members of the Government Whips’ Office rushed in as Mr Osborne started speaking, to mix with Labour backbenchers and give an impression of widespread outrage.
The way they appeared from nowhere it was as though someone had just lifted a manhole cover and so many sewer mice had come scampering into the cockpit of democracy.
I have noted before the rising tendency of these state-paid Whips (they receive ministerial salaries which place them comfortably in the current top-rate tax bracket) to pack the Labour benches when a Tory is speaking. Never has it been so bad or obvious.
Whips traditionally kept silent in the Chamber. Under the leadership of Gordon Brown – the same Gordon Brown who poses as a defender of Parliament and who claims to want to hear the Tories make their case – this custom has been trashed.
The Whips are now rent-a-gob.
Today a twitchy little man called Lucas, one of the Whips’ number, stood by the double doors heckling Mr Osborne like a football hooligan. The place where Mr Lucas was standing was not officially part of the Commons playing-field.A moment later he stepped over the red line on the carpet and strode to a seat.So it can be said legitimately that a servant of the Crown entered the Commons bawling abuse, like a drunk entering a Wild West saloon.
Another Whip, Bob Blizzard (normally meek), was sitting beyond the gangway in a little knot of Labour MPs. Mr Osborne was trying to explain Conservative policy. Labour people kept trying to get him to give way so that they could make interventions – and throw him off track. “Give way!” shouted Mr Blizzard. I watched him. He said it more than five times, top of his voice, smirking as he did so. Five times!
Speaker Martin tried briefly to quell the Government side but he was no match for this wall of noise.
Another Whip, Mark Tami, chuckled as larky neighbours kept jumping up to try to disrupt Mr Osborne.
Ian Austin, yet another high-salaried tribune of Her Majesty’s Government, leaned back, played pocket billiards and drawled ruderies out of one side of his gob.
Nick Brown, Chief Whip, sat near the Chancellor and oozed satisfaction.
Why are taxes paying extra for party whips on either side of the chamber to thwart democracy? Surely whipping, even in its traditional rather than neo-Brownshirt form, is a party matter, and arguably an unhealthy method of suppressing the democratic will of the people. Why should taxpayers fork out extra for this?
Labour’s benches laughed arrogantly when the Tories retorted that little Ireland and Latvia were taking a Cameroon path. However, bigger European right-of-centre governments in Germany and Italy are not, contrary to Gordon’s claims, embarking on massive fiscal stimulus programmes. Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, the Danish Socialist party leader in the European parliament is complaining that “Angela Merkel and other conservative leaders such as Berlusconi may well water down the plan and refuse to make the necessary national investments…”. The “plan” is the European Commission’s €200 billion fiscal splurge proposal. Another top down taxpayer funded folly.
Gordon, in full on Global Saviour delusional mode at PMQs yesterday, claimed that everyone backs fiscal stimulus except the British Tories. If you don’t read the foreign news you might believe him. The fact is that across the world left of centre politicians back that approach, right of centre politicians are more sceptical. The need to be seen to “do something” means that right of centre governments are doing token symbolic gestures. Mandelson knows that philosophically the conservatives are wary and is capitalising on this with the “do nothing” soundbite.
Confidence won’t return until the property market bottoms out first, corporate balance sheets are recapitalised and personal indebtness reduced. Governments can do nothing to force those things to happen. Politicians just can’t accept their impotence.
Keen readers will notice the change to the portfolio on the right hand side for the first time in a month. Guido has just shorted FTSE futures and Dow futures. Combination of bad local news and a sense that there is a mood of bailout fatigue in the U.S. There is usually a “Santa Claus rally” in the markets at year end. Not sure Santa is going to come this year…