Taxpayer Funded Lobbying of Dave Pays Off

Dave has come out in full support for minimum pricing on booze. He told the Manchester Evening News yesterday, and reaffirmed this morning, that he is “very supportive” of the campaign to have a 50p per unit minimum that Guido mentioned yesterday. No surprise that the taxpayer-funded lobbying firm Our Life have been quick to welcome the measure. Their chief exec Alison Giles was positively gushing with praise. What she didn’t mention though was Our Life’s previously lobbying of the Tories, while the taxpayer picks up the tab.

The NHS trusts that have channeled Our Life £509,000 to lobby the government (and the government to be,) have bought policy. Half a million quid of public money to get the PM to back your campaign – a necessary move in their eyes, in order to by-pass the Health Secretary who has comprehensively rejected minimum pricing. Regional NHS authorities are subverting the normal policy making process at a massive cost to the taxpayer. If they are doing it on alcohol what else are they doing it on? How many other taxpayer funding lobbying companies have the public sector set up?

Where’s the Cut?

Last night John Redwood flummoxed Kirsty Walk on Newsnight (here) when he said that the government was not cutting public expenditure. She didn’t really know where to go with her line of questioning since it was so off her script. The BBC weltanschauung is that we will soon be seeing massive and terrible cuts in government spending which will provide endless material of the grinding down the poor and vulnerable kind for them.

The truth, as Redwood points out, is that the government is still planning on spending rising every year, government debt will continue to rise year-on-year and the deficit will not be closed even in 2015. The unfunded overspending will be restrained in comparison to Gordon Brown, but will continue regardless. This government will continue to spend more than it receives and the budget will not be balanced. There will be no overall cut in spending…

Champagne Socialism

So while Tony is selling off limited editions of his book at £150, (but don’t even think about taking a photo,) Labour HQ look keen to get in on the money-making act. Apparently they will be raffling off VIP packages to leadership election results evening in September.

Chosen members will be treated to 5 star, ever so socialist trip, with seats to the announcement, a hotel and meet-the-leader reception. Tickets are a tenner. Guido isn’t sure thais is going to cure the Labour Party’s crippling debt. Nice to see them trying to keep up with their former leader’s entrepreneurial flair though.

Government Funded Lobbying Firm Lobbies Government

Last week Eric Pickles pledged that the ‘corrosive and wasteful’ hiring of lobbyists by councils and quangos would be stopped. A welcome saving to the taxpayer, but is the use of private firms really the worst problem? What about those that skip using private companies all together?

Last week also saw the news that Greater Manchester local councils are attempting to set a 50p-per-unit minimum alcohol price. As the BBC quoted at the time:

Andy Walker, of wellbeing and health organisation Our Life, said he hoped a by-law in Greater Manchester would be passed and create a “domino effect” nationally.”

So who are “Our Life”? According to their website they “passionately believe that people have a fundamental right to better wellbeing and health”. Generic buzz words. Essentially they are a health lobbying group seeking to have a minimum price put on alcohol, though they don’t want to call it that. Instead it’s a “campaigning membership organisation”. So who are their members and where are they getting their money from?

With a total budget in 2010/11 of £1,632,690, they are carrying over £850,000 of funds from 09-10. This is no two-bit operation. Once you deduct that, their income for 2010-11 is £782,690. Guess who is picking up the tab? £300,000 of that is a “grant from NHS North West”. A £209,000 is from that “membership” mentioned before. And who are their members? Well twenty-four NHS Trusts of course, oh and “SmokeFree North West”… a NHS Trust funded organisation.

That means that £509,000 of their £782,690 income this year is from the public money – not including the £107,480 they are bringing in from other consultancy, where the clients are unnamed, but Guido would put good money on them being public bodies too.

A minimum 65% of their income this year is from the taxpayer, how is this any better than the NHS using private lobbying firms?

Labour’s Legacy Love In

Well it wasn’t quite the Rose Garden, but Chris Huhne and Sayeeda Warsi’s joint press conference this morning was certainly surreal. Gone are the days of their Question Time spats. Today they were united in one cause only – slamming Labour:

They are demanding that the Labour leadership contenders who were in the last cabinet give back their severance pay, turning Labour’s banker-bonus-bashing rhetoric on its head. The odds of this happening are minimal, but it makes for a nice grenade to lob into the leadership election. Bouncing questions on whether these gigs would be a permanent fixture if the two parties moved toward some sort of electoral pact, it was very much a love in, but both were constantly reminding the audience that they were two parties coming together in the national interest to fix the mess created by one party.

Talking of elections, Guido was most upset not to have been given the chance to put to Chris Huhne the questions he has been avoiding for the last few weeks. Mainly why his election expenses are full of invoices from one “company” based in his constituency office, for leaflets produced and printed by a completely separate company. Still no reply from him or his agent…

Shock From the Soothsayers

Guido is working on some troublemaking, but worth noting the pointless announcements today. The Bank of England said growth will be 3.4% in 2011 while Osborne’s OBR say it will be 2.3%. Low economic growth and inflation rising. Fun times.

Douglas Carswell hits the nail on the head:

“Government prints off vast quantities of new money and gives it to the big banks. Banks then start to make vast (paper) profits again, while inflation rises. I’m not sure we needed a Bank of England forecast to tell us that would happen. The soothsayers should instead be telling us what happens when polices based on stimulating over consumption and running up more debt fail to solve an economic mess caused by over consumption and debt.”

Slightly more cheery news that unemployment has fallen again in the last quarter, by 49,000. The Beeb don’t seem too happy about this, and can barely contain their frustration that job market is “yet to weaken”The Treasury is spinning that this is the fastest rise in employment since 1989.

Agreeing With Tom Watson

Well it’s taking some getting used to for Guido, but Tom Watson is certainly taking to his new role as chief-thorn-in-the-coalition-side. One of the benefits of going from government to opposition is you know where the bodies are buried. He knows his way around the Cabinet Office too. Though he seems to have been stonewalled on getting the government hospitality wine cellar list published, he is aiming slightly higher now…

First there was his report on government cars and who has actually given them up and who hasn’t, now this morning he has released his research into private offices and found Hague costs the taxpayer three times more than Vince Cable. Caveats like security and breadth of brief aside, it makes for an interesting read. No surprise that Caroline Spelman feels she needs twelve personal staff to assist her at DEFRA.

Goodbye GOD

So Cathy Newman got the scoop tonight that Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell isn’t quitting. Yet.

Well more intriguingly the king of the mandarins wanted to go straight after the election, but given the circumstances, it is easy to see how he would have been persuaded to stay on in these unchartered waters for a little longer.

Now the battle starts for who Dave and Nick want to put in GOD’s shoes…

Silly Season (Caste Edition)

It seems that these PM Direct events are giving hacks endless copy over the quieter months of the summer. Asset rich David Cameron declared earlier that he is “middle-class” (despite the Eton education and blue blooded wife.) Cue a mild […]

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Dave’s Sponge Avengers

So Dave has finally done it, he is actually lifted a government policy from the first episode of the Thick of It with the creation of the Snooper Force, or is that Sponge Avengers? However noble the pursuit […]

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Oona’s Open Invite

It seems struggling London Mayor wannabe Oona King is deploying a last ditch open-bar strategy. She tweets enthusiastically:

“YOU are invited to a party at campaign HQ on Wed 11, 6-8pm! Come down and meet me and the team and

[…]

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Band of Brothers

As if the Labour leadership contest wasn’t exciting enough already, just as it comes to its natural conclusion we learn this morning that More4 will be making a docu-drama about the Mili-brothers. The “light-hearted” look at their bitter rivalry that […]

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