Harman 7/1? Worth a Punt

Betfair has finally opened up a market on who will be the Labour number two – smart move guys, but the trading would have been more choppy earlier. Alan Johnson is favourite, Hilary Benn is behind him 5/2 and Harman is next at 7/1.
Blears, Cruddas and Hain follow up in that order at long odds. Guido suspects it could be that the favourite wins, but has nevertheless put a few quid on Harman at what looks like good value. Suspicious number of Brownites backed her nomination…

Floreat Etona

New Labour was said to be a clique or a party within a party, is Team Cameron an Etonian party within a party?
David Cameron Lord de Mauley Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Lord Luke
Oliver Letwin Lord Cope of Berkeley Bill Wiggin Lord Astor of Hever
Hugo Swire Lord Glentoran Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Astor
Boris Johnson Lord Skelmersdale

This is the Eton faction on the frontbench. But look around CCHQ and the shadow team’s young advisers, a suspicious number of well groomed, well spoken and well mannered types. Can we out some of the Team Eton back-room boys in the comments please?

UPDATE : Candidates names as well please. Off to a good start in no time…

Grammar School Row Down to Cack-Handed Willets

As far as Guido can tell this whole “new” grammar school policy row is bogus. The policy hasn’t changed since a speech on education Dave delivered a year ago. What is new is Willetts – he’s simply not up to front line political combat. He framed the debate in a way that created confusion and maximised opposition – and pulled Dave into a fight he wasn’t particularly looking for.

Sources assure Guido that those speculating that this is a faux-row to get Gordon off the front-page are mistaken, it is cack-handed presentation of the policy which has given irreconcilable activists a stick to beat Dave with. This is no carefully contrived Clause-4 moment.

Nevertheless it has still, amazingly, given Team Cameron some benefits. Three in fact:
  • Dave appears strong and willing to stick to a position that angers some people, (think Kinnock taking on Militant, so not a slimy pleaser).
  • The “Tories have changed” narrative is reinforced.
  • Rather amazingly, the Tories, rather than Brown, are dominating the political agenda less than a week after he became PM-elect.
The policy is hardly new, go back to April 4, 2006 and read this Cameron speech;
“The task is simple – to create more good school places. I intend to lead the debate on improving quality and standards in all our schools. That’s why I won’t be distracted by calls to create a few new grammar schools. My focus is on the need to develop good local schools.”

Willets, for all his supposed brains, is really not up to selling policy change to the Conservative activist base. Something that will no doubt be remembered come the reshuffle…

Gordon intervening in the row would never have happened under the old Alastair Campbell media grid regime. It means the Tories are setting the news agenda to which the PM-in-waiting has responded, with Cameron getting an opportunity to emphasise the changing nature of the Tories to middle class LibDem voters.

Friday Caption Contest (Washington, Late Edition)

Yes it isn’t Friday (when this was supposed to go up to coincide with Tony’s visit to Dubya*). There were, errm, technical problems.

What should have been on the placards?

*Incidentally, wasn’t that Ruth Turner chatting animatedly to the POTUS in shot on Newsnight?

Rich & Mark’s Monday Morning View

Sunday Times Police Hunt Arms Trail in Downing Street

Who Didn’t Kow-Tow to Gordon?

Only a few malcontents on the right and the usual suspects on the left. Clarke, Hoey and Frank Field stand out. Croydonian has compiled the full list.

Where Does Dave Find His Campaigners?

So when you need a replacement to run WebCameron where do you advertise? Obviously someone ideologically sympatico is required to run an enthusiastic hard-hitting campaign. So advertise in the Guardian. Doh!

World Bank Sleaze Allegations Swamp Gordon’s Chief-of-Staff

Gordon Brown is expected to recall his former private secretary from Washington, where he serves as as an executive director at both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, to become his chief-of-staff. The Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning that Tom Scholar, like Paul Wolfowitz, is accused of abusing his position to assist a girlfriend get a promotion.
He is accused of violating the Bank’s Staff Rules and the Board’s Standards of Conduct, like Wolfowitz, Scholar is said to have a romantic relationship with a female employee at the World Bank. Scholar has never officially disclosed this relationship even though it clearly interferes with his oversight responsibilities as a Board member. He is accused of directly intervening to further the woman’s career. He is not taking calls and has gone to ground.

Looks like Jonathan Powell’s successor will follow in his high ethical standards…

Saoirse!

click to enlarge
Guido is off back home to Ireland today, where he’ll be doing his bit for the only party of which he is a paid up member – the Progressive Democrats. (How a cynic like Guido came to be a paid up member is complicated and involves alcohol). The Irish general election is on May 24th. The PDs are the more ideological part of the governing coalition which over the last decade has made Ireland the high-growth, low tax, successful enterprise culture that it is today. They are fighting a strong threat from a rainbow coalition of Socialists, Greens and Gerry Adams’ gangsters.

The PDs are standing firmly on their anti-IRA, tax-cutting, free markets and free enterprise platform. Didn’t Britain once have a successful political party that stood for those values?

Incidentally Tony Blair, fresh from paying tribute to Sarkozy, appeared last night in Fianna Fáil’s party political broadcast backing Bertie Ahern. Fianna Fáil is the Irish equivalent of the Conservative party – so that is the second foreign centre-right political leader he has backed against their socialist opponents in as many weeks. The PDs are allied internationally with the LibDems, but as far as Guido can discover, no-one from Cowley Street is going to help the Irish liberal party. We will cope…

Benn Scrapes Through

Team Benn seems to have relaxed and the word is they have scraped together enough nominations to see Hilary through.

Even the prayers of atheists get answered…

UPDATE : Maybe not. As of this evening still officially 3 nominations short? Time for some more prayers? Although over at LabourHome they say he definitely has the numbers.

Shop-a-SpAd : Gus O’Donnell Warns “No Ifs, No Buts”

Guido has been in touch with the Cabinet Office, and a few cocky SpAds should watch their step – you know who you are – the boss of the civil service seems to agree:

Gus O’Donnell has reiterated the ground rules for civil servants, including special advisers, on their conduct during the subsequent election campaign.

This note also provides guidance to ministers in relation to the requirements of the Ministerial Code.

Ministers
During the leadership/deputy leadership election campaign, ministers remain in charge of their departments. Government business continues as normal.

All costs associated with the leadership/deputy leadership campaign – travel, accommodation, printing and so on – should be met by the individuals or the Party not the taxpayer.

Under the terms of the Ministerial Code, ministers must not use government resources for party political purposes. They must uphold the political impartiality of the civil service and not ask civil servants to act in any way which would conflict with the Civil Service Code.

So off the office computer, desist from using the taxpayers’ Blackberry and take your leave. Guido is being sent more and more examples day-after-day that show SpAds breaking the rules.

Cameron’s Old Boss’ Firm to Rebuild Labour Party Website

Michael Green’s Tangent Communications has won the contract to rebuild the Labour Party website. Green backed Cameron’s leadership bid with a donation. How ironic…

WebCam-Man Deleted

Sam Roake, formerly the Head of Web Campaigning at CCHQ, has left the building. He is keeping tight-lipped about the reasons why, as is CCHQ. Presumably there has been a falling out since as far as Guido can determine he has not got another job to go to.

Last week they quietly re-launched the WebCameron site, it is actually a step backwards technically from the one Roake created. It now focuses on Dave’s Diary (tip: make the posts shorter and more often Dave, like errm, Dale’s Diary). It has a forum which is based on off-the-shelf software. Gone is that pesky “Ask Dave”, gone is the uploading of user generated content, gone is all the cutting edge stuff.

WebCameron now has all the capability and cutting edge cheap look and feel of the LibDem Youth and Students website but with videos. In short it is a step backwards. Simple geeky details like the RSS feeds changing without warning meant that subscribers didn’t notice, they just stopped getting their feeds, Guido didn’t notice any email warning either. Sloppy.

The Tories are now looking to hire a replacement, with a wish-list of abilities that are much in demand in the Clerkenwell-Soho hot-spots of the Web 2.0 mini-bubble. Rishi Saha, of Pimp-My-Party fame, is searching for a Tory leaning geek. Roake won’t be unemployed for long.

UPDATE : Guido now understands that Roake has received offers already. Bubble 2.0 is definitely out of Beta.

Number Twos Through

With one more day to go Jon Cruddas needs one more nomination to be through. Benn looks finished, unless he has a last minute surge, which is not impossible. Although Johnson’s people have been blamed for smearing Benn others have suggested that Blears’ people had more to gain.

Blears’ salary as Party Chairwoman is paid for by the Labour Party. During the leadership elections she is not doing any work as Chairwoman (for obvious reasons), organising the elections is all being left to Jaquie Smith. Given the cash-strapped nature of the Labour party some are calling for her to forego her salary during the campaign – she is after all not doing the job she is paid to do. Seems fair enough…

Gordon Backed by 81% of Labour MPs

Alan Milburn somehow found the time to nominate Hazel Blears, but not Gordon Brown. What a surprise…

Gove “Doing Immense Harm”

So says David Cameron, or at least that is the inference to be made from his blog about the use of the term “Islamist terrorists”.
It’s hard to over-emphasise the importance of language. I know it sounds like a side issue, but it isn’t.
[…]

+ READ MORE +



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