At last a little bit of excitement has developed in the LibDem leadership contest. The Huhnie monsters released a campaign briefing entitled “Calamity Clegg”. Guido (of course) has a copy of the now withdrawn document for you to download here.

It sparked a thoroughly enjoyable bit of a clash on the Beeb and a complaint from Clegg to the returning officer that “the older boy is picking on me.” Having read the document it actually makes Guido more inclined towards Clegg and his public sector choice agenda.

UPDATE : Huhne’s lot are now saying Sorry and asking the returning officer for permission to publish the document. Eh?

Northern Rock CEO Sold Millions in Shares Before Collapse

Adam Applegarth did pretty well out of Northern Rock shares in the year before it collapsed. He has trousered many millions over the years, allowing him to enjoy an Aston Martin with a Ferrari for his missus parked in the driveway of his mansion. His confidence in his bank’s business model long term is demonstrated by his selling of £1.5 m of shares in two days. (25 Jan 2006 sold 52,253 at 957p for £500,061.21 and the next day he sold another 111,426 at 957p for £1,066,346.82).

His faith in the business was shown by his purchase last April of just 262 shares worth a little under £3,000. Not a lot of faith in the business from the boss was there?

Enron’s crooks were massive financial supporters of the Republican party. Northern Rock gave half-a-million to Labour’s favourite think-tank, the IPPR. It also employed Gordon’s personal pollster, Deborah Mattinson, as an adviser. Of all the pollsters to seek advice from, why her? Why give money to that think-tank? Nowadays it is very rare for publicly quoted companies to make politically partisan donations.

Blinky Balls is the Problem in the Brown Bunker

Matin Kettle joins the lengthening list of left-of-centre pundits now bemoaning the Brownies, he reveals this morning that bad-tempered Brown’s control freakery is asserting itself, that Miliband despairs of him and that Gordon has even fallen out with Bob Shrum. The article is worth reading in full, this extract get to the heart of the the problem with the Brownies;
One thing on which there is a lot of agreement is that Brown has got to widen the circle soon. Brown promised a different sort of government, but many of his worst and most controlling habits have reasserted themselves since things started going wrong. Cabinet still has some good discussions, but in No 10 the bunker is back. Brown, Ed Balls, Ed Miliband and Douglas Alexander talk every morning by phone at seven, meet every day at 10 to decide priorities, and are running the whole government. And, judging by the record, running it pretty badly.

The inner circle may have called off the general election but in their heads they are still positioning not governing, and thus letting Cameron off the hook. Relations between the key players at the top are worse than in the summer. Brown’s long hours and short temper – he lost his cool with Bob Shrum, his American adviser, the other day – shape a bad mood inside No 10. Some staff are leaving already. Others are having second thoughts about staying. Good people feel excluded. The animus against Balls in particular is very great. He should concentrate on being a better minister, they say. Michael Heseltine was right, says one veteran. The problem isn’t Brown. It’s Balls.

Balls and the rest of the second-raters in the bunker don’t govern in the national interest, they just position and spin for short-term political gain. Tactics that succeeded in leveraging Blair out are not an effective strategy for actually governing…

Gordon’s Favourite Banker Resigns

Adam Applegarth, chief executive of Northern Rock has finally resigned as has non-executive director, Derek Wanless (pictured), Gordon Brown’s favoured and most trusted banker.

It turns out that the chief-exec sold over £2.6m of shares at peak prices while still urging thousands of employees and investors to buy shares when the company was facing trouble.

Sir Derek sits, like so many other of New Labour’s great and the good, on various government quangos; the Statistics Commission and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. More importantly he chaired Northern Rock’s Risk and Audit committees. If anyone should have known what was coming, it was Gordon’s favourite banker. He had to sign off on all strategic risk management issues. Guido called for his resignation right at the start

Incidentally, Schillings (lawyers who boast of being able to cover-up the truth) are huffing and puffing furiously to Guido about that Investment Memo on behalf of Northern Rock. Guido, they will find, is a little bit more resilient than a blogger in a bedroom in Guildford…

Friday Caption Contest (Malloch Brown Edition)

Tony Blair’s Blogsite is Up

Peace in the Middle East? Like y’know, This is the time for everyone to get real.” Guido kids you not, he really does say that. Guido will try to cope with the competition.

He has also set up a Sports Foundation as well to guarantee himself front row seats help disadvantaged kids. Guido expects this to result in civil war breaking out in the Lawn Tennis Association with an invasion threat from the Bowling League. He has a dossier proving that they covet the lawns…

UPDATE : Guido’s understanding is that this is being paid for out of a £400,000 subsidy from the British taxpayer. Roughly equivalent to the cost of two Blair speaking engagements.

Aussies Makes Ear-Bogey Eating a Political Issue

£24,000,000,000 of Public Money is a Matter of Public Interest

Yesterday the FT lost a High Court battle to publish the investment memorandum being circulated in the City for Northern Rock. In it was revealed that by the end of this year £24 billion will have been borrowed from the Bank of England by Northern Rock.

It also revealed that possible options might involve continuing public money supporting the private company for years. These are vast sums under consideration. Gordon Brown refused to answer legitimate questions from Vince Cable about this yesterday. Northern Rock injuncted the FT, and got the memo removed from a U.S. hosting service where it had been uploaded yesterday.

It is public money and the public have a right to know what is going on, as incidentally do shareholders because arguably there is currently a false market in the shares. The reasons for this being suppressed are not commercial, they are political. Everybody in the City already knows what is in the memo. The government just doesn’t want the political embarrassment. Schillings are acting for Northern Rock trying to suppress the memo, which is all over the internet. One copy which might last longer is being hosted in India on Yahoo. Their offices in Mumbai will be closed by now, so Schillings might find it difficult to get it removed quickly. Don’t worry if it goes missing, another will pop up somewhere like China or Australia.

UPDATE : Link is now dead, traffic overwhelmed bandwith limits. working. It will no doubt pop up somewhere else.

UPDATE II : Schillings got the Indian site deleted. You can still find the memo here, and many other hosts.

The “Top Secret” Menu at Chequers is Emblematic of Brown

The retreat of Gordon into the bunker has happened faster than predicted even by his worst enemies. Yesterday’s FT article by Sue Cameron was spot on. Gordon doesn’t have a vision beyond stuffing the Tories, with no genuine sense of the national interest, just the narrow party interest. Soldiers forinstance are merely handy photo-op props, under-funded and under-equipped. Cabinet government means government by his cronies in the cabinet. The cabinet is fearfully inert, unsure whether to continue the New Labour reform agenda of Blair, with more choice and reliance on the private sector, or revert to the top-down, centrally planned 1940s model. The Brownie clique of second raters itself is unsure what vision to offer.

The promises of open government and a new Gordon who had changed after the long march to oust Blair now ring hollow. An emblematic example of this is the determined resistance to revealing who ate what on the Chequers menu. The LibDems and the Tories are asking on behalf of the taxpayer who is dining at their expense.

Brown is blocking, quite wrongly, FoI requests, parliamentary questions and such like. Why?

What paranoia stalks government that makes it is a state secret to know who Gordon breaks bread with on the weekends?

No M’Lord

The FT may have lost a High Court battle to print the Northern Rock investment memo, Gordon somewhat pathetically at PMQs claimed it was “commercially sensitive” information to get him off the hook discussing it. Vince Cable lashed into him when he made that “absolutely bogus” claim. £24 billion of taxpayers money on a bail-out is a legitimate matter of public interest.

It is definitely not secret any more. Guido told you 4 hours ago where it could be found online in the U.S., it is as of now the top Google search result for Northern Rock Summary. You can’t keep politically expedient secrets in an open source world…

UPDATE : Our old friends Schillings are at it again. No Pasaran!

That “E-Borders” Announcement

Gordon came into office promising change with an end to spin and a return to the primacy of parliament with government announcements made first in the House, not on the Today programme.

The E-borders deal (worth £500m, £650m, or £1.2bn, depending on whether you believe the Sun, the Mirror, or the Home Office) was announced not on the Regulatory News Service, or via a statement to the House of Commons, but at the bottom of a story in the Sun, in an article by one G. Brown.

Market sensitive information, put out in a tabloid. So much for “change”…

Northern Rock Nationalised

Historically the Labour party has favoured the nationalisation of the banks, and with Northern Rock they have now achieved that objective.

The FT published yesterday an investment memorandum obtained by the FTs’ Alphaville blog (since injuncted* by a High Court Judge).

The document revealed that even if the bank was sold, the Bank of England would have to provide support to Northern Rock until 2010 when the stricken lender could still be in hock to the tune of £6bn.

This memo reveals that Northern Rock will owe £24bn to the Bank of England by the end of the year. It has effectively been nationalised without a vote held.

*The injuncted memo is online if you really want to read it in its entirety. Hosted in the U.S. tut, tut, tut.

OLR Win 90% of Government Contracts

OLR has become the Halliburton of British politics. Whereas Dick Cheney’s old firm was suspiciously successful in winning war profiteering contracts, Gordon’s crony pollster Deborah Mattinson’s OLR wins focus group and citizen’s juries contracts. Guido explained how this works in September. In May Guido revealed the £153,484.38 focus group. Why does Gordon like OLR so much? Well could it be that they get (free of charge) research results that give Gordon 92% approval ratings? Teasy May has now written to Gus O’Donnell, the head of the civil service, demanding an inquiry. She says “Citizens’ juries are increasingly looking like a sham… Not only are these glorified focus groups wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money but he has the nerve to award the contracts to his personal polling crony.” It is corrupt, plain and simple.

Gordon’s Little Secrets

Who does Gordon have over for dinner at Chequers? Shouldn’t be a state secret should it? After all you pay for it all, even Tony and Cherie allowed us to know who they had over for the weekend.

So why, when Gordon is supposedly committed to open government, are they stonewalling the Telegraph?

What is the Tory Treaty Referendum Policy?

Guido still doesn’t know what the Tory policy is on ratifying the EU Treaty. They want a referendum now, that at least is clear. Gordon is not going to “listen to the people”, that is also clear.

So what therefore would a Tory government do in power in 2010, two years after the treaty could be ratified? That Tory poster promising a Conservative government would hold a referendum was, we were told, incorrectly interpreted. Well that was the line last week…

Hague however said yesterday

“If we don’t succeed in forcing a referendum in this House and if we fail to win in another place (the Lords) and if all EU member states implement the treaty and if an election is held later in this Parliament, which is a lot of ifs … then we would be in a situation where we had a new treaty in force that lacked democratic legitimacy in this country and in our view gave the EU too much power over our national policies. This would not be acceptable to a Conservative government and we would not let matters rest there.”

Now this could be a popular position, standing up to European meddling is always popular in Britain. So what if the continent is isolated from Britain? It would not be the first time that Britain has stood alone against a continental threat, would it?

Apart from Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine, no Tories that people have ever heard of would have a problem with this stance. So why not state the policy unambiguously? The Brownies are hoping to open up Tory divisions on this issue. The way to avoid that working is to clearly and decisively state that a Tory government will not be bound by a treaty not approved by the people. Ken and Hezza can be thanked politely for their opinion, they would no doubt still try to piss on the Eurosceptic parade, but so what? Ambiguity gives the press a story, clarity will kill the story and Brown’s divide and conquer plan will come to nought. Given that Cameron was elected to the leadership on a rock-solid Eurosceptic platform he can hardly be said to have given in to his Eurosceptic right-wing. He is a Eurosceptic right-winger…

Blair is Getting £400,000 a Year in Expenses

Just a teensy bit of help with office costs at the expense of the British taxpayer. Well he has two offices, one in Jerusalem and another in Mayfair. Handy for arranging those $500,000 speaking engagements in, errm, China.



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