Speccie Party: No Canapes, Plenty of Sardines

It was not quite politics babylon on St James – Diane Abbott cosying up to Jonathan Aitken, Andrew Neil cosying up to a bevy of dusky maidens (really), Matthew d’Ancona cosying up to no one in particular. Guido dropped in on the Speccie party. They had heavies in the undergrowth, yet still Guido squeezed in.

Dave apparently did his usual 15 minutes of smiling, showing his face to friends thing, before heading back to Notting Hill (Guido arrived late, so that is second hand, possibly even completely untrue). Coulson was chatting cheerfully to some totty. The co-conspirator’s sweetheart – little Jenny of the Bank of England – was inquiring as to her permanent successor on the Daily Politics – still no news. Melanie Philips actually looked jolly, Simon Hoggart looked lost, Katy Taylor-Richards was wearing a short skirt.

It was as packed as the proverbial tin of sardines. Guido experimented with the cocktail of the night – sponsored by the Ardbeg whisky firm – it was a very strong sort of a whisky sour with Grand Marnier. Guido thinks he will be snoring on the sofa through Diane and Brillo tonight…

Young Blood Needed at the Daddy of Think Tanks

Propeller-Head Wonk Watch: The venerable Institute of Economic Affairs is the grand-daddy of think tanks. Founded in 1955 it fought long and hard for the cause of economic liberalism, laying the intellectual foundations for the defeat of socialism, inflation and the framework for monetarism. They had policy success from the late seventies for two decades.

The IEA’s example spawned think tanks around the world and spread the Thatcher-Reagan Revolution worldwide. In the New Labour era it has been eclipsed, first by the IPPR, then as the Tories march to power by Policy Exchange.

It spends a million pounds a year, more than even Policy Exchange, yet makes little impact. The IEA’s publishing seems focused on reprints from the glory days. The director, John Blundell, is low profile, and never seen on broadcast media. He has successfully raised £1.4 million for the Ralph Harris Fellowship, mainly from the late Dorian Fisher (the founder’s widow). He himself is the fellow and it consolidates his own position – some 20% of the IEA’s income pays for the compensation of John and Christine Blundell.

The low profile and high cost of Blundell is beginning to concern the trustees. The complete lack of influence on the Conservative Party agenda on the eve of government is a big disappointment. One IEA insider lamented to Guido that the fledgling IEA off-shoot in Ghana got more media coverage than the half-century old former intellectual power house.

Blundell has long wanted to take up a think tank position in the U.S. In comparison to Cato and Heritage in Washington the IEA has contracted as they have grown in the last decade. Some trustees think that his fellowship could be a cheap price to move him sideways across the Atlantic, taking a step back from the day-to-day operations, letting him concentrate on fund raising from U.S. foundations with a new grand title. A fresh director could take his place and re-energise the IEA.

The IEA Founder’s party tonight will be a scene of much gossip and gentle jostling for succession. Possible successors to Blundell in the running are said to include; Tim Evans from the Stockholm Network, Matthew Elliott from the Taxpayers Alliance, City A.M’s editor Allister Heath, the IEA’s own Roger Bates and Julian Morris from the International Policy Network. If they want to influence the agenda of the next government, there needs to be a change at the top soon…

Watching the Pigs Vote

The chamber is unusually busy for a late Thursday afternoon, more often than not many MPs slope off early on Thursday for the weekend. Could it be that they have a lot of self interest in this particular vote?

Various pleadings are being made:

Others earn more. GPs for instance. Well if you want to make more money go do something else. Study at medical school and cure people rather than tax them.

We deal with hundreds of letters. No they don’t, their staff do.

We work 70 hours a week. Oh, please.

We need to attract the best and the brightest. Why? Are the best and the brightest motivated by money?

We are so hard done by. Come off it. Long serving MPs amass massive pensions and property portfolios paid for by taxpayers. Never has a class of parasites complained so loudly about the generosity of the host.

None of them mention that their current package is already worth over £130,000, they all prefer to refer disingenuously to the basic salary of £61,820. The existing basic package including accommodation allowance is worth £98,670, add on the £30 per diem allowance and the pension and you have a clearer picture of the total £130,000 package. The trough is filled with honourable snouts…

That Helicopter Doesn’t Look Very Green

Guido isn’t very good at ‘green’ issues. Dave on the other hand is a bit of an expert. So is it greener to take a helicopter to Haltemprice and Howden rather than a train? PMQs ended yesterday at 12.30, leaving plenty of time to catch a direct train leaving Kings Cross at 13.33. Yet Dave and a couple of CCHQ lackies instead took a chopper to East Yorks to see Basher Davis yesterday. So Battersea to Howden, then Howden to Selby (12 miles). Guido’s spy in the sky lost track of him at this point.

The chopper in question was G-ELTE (pictured). Dave apparently went to stay with his father-in-law for the night. Plenty of room to land a chopper on the estate…

Are MPs Worth Four Times the Average?

Today MPs will vote on their own pay and conditions. Who else gets to decide how much someone else has to pay them? It is not like we have competing parliaments to choose from, they set the taxes, and they set their own personal rake off. Like any criminal protection racket, if we don’t pay they will use force to take the money off us.

MPs currently are paid a basic salary of £61,820, almost triple the average UK earnings at £23,244. All but a few dozen also claim the Additional Costs Allowance of £22,110 – equivalent to £36,850 before tax. So the existing basic package is actually worth £98,670. They don’t like to admit this, but that is the existing reality.
They can also claim £20 per diem food allowance, they want this to rise to £30 per diem. Why can’t someone earning more than four times the average wage pay for their own lunchtime sandwiches? Front line soldiers, with pay and conditions determined by MPs, are given the equivalent of £2.30 per diem for rations. School children from low income families get the equivalent of 50p per diem. Why do they think they deserve so much more than soldiers risking their lives and impoverished children?

*This is not including the opportunity to boost household income, as many of them do, by paying their wife, mistress, husband, lover and children. Don’t forget they also claim for all transport, have a gold plated pension, subsidised bars and restaurants on top of the daily food allowance. In total they can claim up to £159,720 in expenses, in 1997 the total maximum expenses claimable by an MP was only £50,213 so that is a rise of 213%. Millionairess Barbara Follett gets her windows cleaned at the taxpayers expense, Margaret Beckett has her gardening done at the taxpayers expense. We buy them new kitchens, dishwashers, washing machines and widescreen plasma TVs. We bought lunch for Prescott to vomit up, and we paid to clean it up as well. We paid Caroline Spelman’s nanny, the Speaker’s wife’s taxi bills, Nick Clegg’s household renovation, enough mileage allowance for Janet Anderson MP to drive twice around the world. We even paid for first class tickets for Blunkett’s dirty weekends away with someone else’s wife. We also paid £7m for a refit of the parliamentary wine cellar. Cheers!

Murray was Doomed the Moment Gordon Wished Him Well…

Asked whether the Prime Minister would send his good wishes to Andy Murray for his next match, the PMS said it was the Prime Minister’s view that the whole of the country would want to see Andy Murray continue his good progress.
Lobby Briefing July 1, 2008


Andy Murray is beaten up in own backyard: you had to feel for Andy Murray yesterday. It is never nice to be beaten up in your own backyard.

Jonah Brown strikes again…

Secret of Irish Profits

Two interesting bits of Irish news yesterday. Research released Wednesday shows that in Britain the average company makes a profit of some €22,500 per employee. This compares to Irish companies who on average make a profit per employee of €45,800. This is after transfer pricing and other disortions were stripped out.

Is that why the security services on behalf of the British government illegally and secretly monitored every telephone, fax and email to and from the UK and Ireland for seven years. Using laws which the British government insisted were necessary to combat a growing threat from terrorism they undertook mass covert surveillance. Do they want the secret of high profits or do they think Osama is hiding in the caves of the West coast? Think he went that way…

In a landmark ruling yesterday the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the British government’s scheme of external surveillance was not “in accordance with the law”. Of course the British government tacitly allows the Americans to do the same to you.

Vaz Down Payment : Bigger Office

Guido is hearing conflicting claims regarding the Vaz pay-off “appropriate reward”. Labour sources say he only managed to negotiate a better office. Selling our liberty at such a cheap price – surely not?

+++ Balls "Sorry" Ministerial Limo Collided With Pedestrian +++

14.57 Just in from a co-conspirator :

Some poor fellow was just walking along Great Smith Street ahead of me, just outside of the Department for Children, Schools and Families. A car zoomed up outside and the door was flung

[…]

+ READ MORE +

Arise Lord Vaz of 42 Days?

At PMQs Dave asked Gordon where there deals done over the 42 days vote. Gordon gave an uncharacteristically direct answer in the negative. Dave asked him to explain the following as the Labour benches looked embarrassed.

The Daily Telegraph has

[…]

+ READ MORE +

633,793 Page Hits from 476,745 Visitors

Google reports 92,332 absolute unique visitors came here last month. More people visited Guido than any other comparable political website.*

The top ten referrers after Google and Yahoo are:

#1 Iain Dale
#2 ConservativeHome
#3 Spectator / Coffee House blog

[…]

+ READ MORE +

Another Day, Another Downing Street Rat…

Andrew Porter reports that Martin Sheehan, Gordon’s Head of Strategic Communications, is making the dash for cash to PR firm Portland.

Martin Sheehan says: “The opportunity to join Portland at this stage in the company’s growth is one I couldn’t

[…]

+ READ MORE +



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