Tuesday, June 16, 2009

+++ Shahid Malik Being Investigated +++

Malik Reported to Parliamentary Standards Commissioner
Standards Commissioner today confirms he is investigating if Malik’s parliamentary expenses were used to defray his personal expenses.  He has written to Malik asking him to explain himself…

UPDATE : Letter is now up on Sunlight COP’s site.

Government Paying Banks to Help Sell Gilts

You might have got the impression that the economy is turning. In reality the debt crisis is now in phase two and the government can’t easily find buyers for gilts.* In what is a rare shame for a triple-A rated nation, HM Treasury was forced this morning to ask banks for help selling the debt paper.  Barclays, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and RBS are looking for buyers of £5 billion of Gordon’s gilts round the market with generous yields being offered.   Not quite a buy-one-get-one-free offer.  Not yet anyway…

When Gordon set up the Debt Management Office it was supposed to handle gilt sales for the government. The tidal wave of government debt flooding the market has made that more difficult…

See also: S&P Downgrades UK Government Debt

*Full disclosure, Guido sold gilt futures before breakfast this morning.

Candid Polly’s Contradictions

Polly has written an article on ‘candour’ today

Osborne’s plans will be set out “in due course”, he says, but watch out: “Some savings will only become apparent when we have the chance to look at the books in government.” So we won’t know until after an election – and that’s not honest. There is nothing hidden in government books. It’s all in the Treasury’s red book.

Got that?  When the Shadow Chancellor says he needs to have a look at the books once he is in government, he isn’t being honest because he need only look in the government’s openly published Treasury red book.  Polly has caught Osborne out!

A few paragraphs down she writes

The red book’s own predications are usually wrong.


N.B. Want to see Richard Littlejohn’s classic bitch-slap of Polly again? The video is here.

Kelly Review of MP’s Expenses

The Committee on Standards in Public Life Review of MPs’ Expenses kicks off today with opening evidence from “witnesses”; Harriet Harman MP, Alan Duncan MP and David Heath MP.  Surely they are “the accused”?

Sir Christopher Kelly invited evidence from all interested parties and some of the submissions were better than others. Some of the best submissions (out of hundreds) are up on the Committee’s website.  Guido suggests you skip reading all the MPs’ self serving demands. In the main they unsurprisingly argue for even more money.  Look instead at some of the more realistic submissions:

Donald Hirsch, Head of Income Studies, Loughborough University argues for a £1,600 increase in pay to compensate MPs for loss of their well-padded expense perks. They base this on the same sort calculations applied to welfare claimants.  That seems a fair basis to Guido.


The Sunlight Centre for Open Politics makes income comparisons both internationally and against average UK earnings and consequently argues for no increase in MPs’ expense allowances or pay.  Transparency International suggests some safeguards against MPs’ corruption. Unlock Democracy puts forward some broad ideas and principles. The Taxpayers’ Alliance suggests among other ideas, accommodating MPs in the Olympic Village.  It is fair to say that all these NGOs make the case for transparency down to the last penny.

The Council of Employment Judges suggests MPs should get the same expenses as them, £95 a night.  The Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accounting wants full accounting, the National Audit Office wants to do the accounting.  The Electoral Commssion wants harmonisation of various reporting requirements.

The NGOs which do not receive taxpayer subsidies on the whole do not want another Quango, the various Quangos all want to protect or increase their turf.  All the political parties claim to want to reduce the cost of MPs’ expenses.  It will be interesting to see who is called from outside the cosy political establishment to give evidence, Peter Oborne has made a submission…

Best Idea for MPs’ Second Homes Crisis Solution

Guido loves this idea from the Taxpayers’ Alliance on how to solve the problem of MPs’ second homes: house them in the Olympic Village after the Olympics.

There will be a legacy of 3,000 homes after the Olympics, so it would require no new capital.  The project has been nationalised already since it failed to attract outside capital, the 572 MPs outside London could be housed there at no extra cost.

As they point out, since the Olympics forms a major terrorist target the Olympic Village will already have been built with security in mind.  Housing MPs in a single location will make it easier to arrange a variety of services.

It is also constructed in an ecologically sound fashion and provides a low carbon  emissions means of transport connection to Westminster via the Jubilee line tube network that would take only 25 minutes.  If it is good enough for Olympians, it is surely good enough for our humble public servants…

Monday, June 15, 2009

Who Punk’d Guido Over Purnell?

LabourList did a story on the weekend relishing Guido getting punked over that Purnell story.  So a bit of background as to how it went wrong might be useful.

It wasn’t a one-off anonymous tip.  It was a tip given in two parts, the week before the source had told Guido there was a meeting to be held in Manchester, which Purnell’s people where encouraging people to attend.  That meeting coincided with the PLP meeting. Two out of three elements of that tip were verified.  It seemed interesting.

Guido was also able to identify who the person passing the information was (though the tipster didn’t know that).  Guido discovered he worked for Lindsay Hoyle MP, who coincidentally spoke at the PLP that night in favour of Brown carrying on with the job.  The tipster was also an officer of the Labour Party, serving on the National Executive of Labour Students.  This all boosted, though he could not have known this, his credentials.  He could, Guido reasoned, be in a position to know.

JontyThe tipster called Guido’s voicemail-to-text-message* number during the PLP meeting and spoke in hushed tones, claiming he was at the Manchester meeting and that Purnell had just told people that he would stand if no credible candidate came forward.  Nice bit of plausible nuancing. Guido took a flyer and ran a much caveated post emphasising it was unconfirmed and immediately tried to get hold of Purnell.   When it didn’t check out, Guido retracted it pretty quickly.  Still haven’t figured out why Jonty Pryor went to all that trouble…

*Provided by SpinVox.

Byrne On/Off on Cuts and Spending

Last night there was a briefing scheduled by the Labour Party on “Tory Cuts” :

Operational Note

Sunday 14 June 2009

Strictly for operational use – not for publication or broadcast

Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury, sets out the choice facing voters between investment under Labour and cuts under the Conservatives.

The economic landscape is more uncertain than it has been for generations. But irrespective of what happens over the coming years, David Cameron – Mr 10% – wants to spend less than Labour and give £200,000 tax cuts to the 3,000 richest families.

In the years ahead – from 2011/12 onwards – no matter what the economic circumstances – the Conservatives are committed to 10 per cent cuts across almost all Government departments.

Format: Off camera, on record briefing

Date: Monday 15 June 2009

Venue: Labour Party HQ, 39 Victoria Street

Time: 1115 arrival for 1130 press briefing with Liam Byrne MP followed by Q&A session

Then it was cancelled:

Subject: News from Labour: Liam Byrne MP briefing tomorrow (15.06.2009) cancelled

Dear all,

Please note that tomorrow morning’s off camera, on record briefing with Liam Byrne MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has now been cancelled.

Kind regards,

Laurence Newman

Labour Party Press Office

Now, apparently, it is back on. Though some Lobby hacks say they haven’t been telphoned about it. Cock-up or conspiracy?

UPDATE : Guido is not breaking the “not for publication or broadcast” embargo, because he did not get sent these emails directly.  Despite the Labour Party spinning that it is now reaching out to bloggers, Guido is excluded by Labour’s press office.

Guido gets press releases, operational notes and press conference invitations from the LibDems, Conservatives, SNP and UKIP.  Nothing however from Labour’s press office, despite Roger Baker, Head of Press and Broadcasting at 39 Victoria Street telling Guido personally only last week that this would change. When it does, Guido will respect their embargoes…

Rich & Mark’s Monday Morning View

Hail Mandelson

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Journalist Attribute Thyself

The Times’ Sam Coates blogs that David Miliband has a good idea in hisI thought about bravely resigning toopiece in the Guardian:

In an oblique reference to the Damian McBride briefings, he also calls on the media to abandon unattributable briefings, saying all politicians’ spokesmen should be named, or not quoted by media outlets. “The gotcha culture of politics is not in anyone’s interests,” he said.

Sam writes that “at the moment heads of press and special advisers request permanent anonymity in the media, shielded by the catchall, blame-all “spokesman” tag. Naming happens in America. Why can’t it happen here?” Sam, could it be because you go along with it?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mad Scots Meme Goes Trans-Atlantic

Mad Scots
brownbonkers 1Guido’s co-conspirators have made the comparison before, now the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart has spotted the similarity. One is famous on YouTube as a slightly bonkers Scot with tragic mental health issues and unruly hair, who ultimately loses and the other is a singer in a talent contest. Susan Boyle and Gordon Brown have a lot in common…

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