Friday Caption Contest (Begging Bercow Edition)

SNP Surge 15% Ahead of Labour in Scotland

The SNP in power have not performed as disastrously as Labour’s pre-election scaremongering depicted. Remember the dire warnings of capital flight and businesses re-locating? Which explains why in office their poll ratings have surged – expectations were so unrealistically low.

A lot of Scottish Labour MPs will be very worried by the prospect of an early election in Scotland… no “Brown bounce” in to be seen at home…

Contrarian? Crazy?

Six months ago the Tories looked set for victory at the next general election, they were the odds on favourites, Labour activists were downhearted. Now things have reversed, Dave is in trouble and can do nothing right. So Guido just put £50 on Betfair on the Tories being the biggest party after the general election.
Why? Well look at the price chart, it appears to have topped out recently with firm support from punters at an implied probability of 40%. Clearly Guido is not the only one who thinks it can’t get any worse for the Tories.

The Ashcroft marginal seats machine is purring away quietly, the SNP control Scotland and seem to be doing well and that will require Labour to divert resources to shore up their crumbling position. The Cameron project’s problems coming now mean they have plenty of time to recover and adjust their approach before the general election. Brown is spinning that the election is around the corner, it ain’t – Labour is bust financially.

Talking of of bust, boom to bust is the other factor. The U.S. economy is spluttering, the property market has some worrying signs, unemployment is as high as it was under Thatcher in 1979*, interest rates are up, inflation is up, government debt is prolific, mortgages payments are ballooning, home repossessions are astonishing and bankruptcies are at a record rate. Brown has not abolished the economic cycle.

So in six months the economic and political picture could, Guido is betting, look very different. Don’t bet against it.

*In 1979 unemployment was 1.4m, in 2007 unemployment is 1.7m, Source: Unemployment ONS Labour Force Survey.

Romsey Redhead Silent on Merial

Sandra Gidley MP, AKA the Romsey Redhead and Big Pharma’s best friend in parliament, was paid for by Sanofi Aventis to go to Paris and Budapest last year on a junket.

They are one of the co-owners of Merial, the company suspected of being the source of the Foot and Mouth outbreak in Guildford. Guildford is all of 60 miles away from her constituency. No word from her about the outbreak as yet…

Blogs Drove Iraqi Interpreters Issue on to Agenda

The left-wing blogosphere has scored a rare victory. Taking time out from pledging not to buy Alastair Campbell’s book, obssessing about Guido being a baby-eating Nazi and Iain Dale being a Tory media-tart, they actually did something productive.

They drove the disgraceful treatment (by the government) of Iraqi military interpreters up the political agenda. It was not an exclusively left-wing blogosphere affair, on the right Donal Blaney isn’t happy about their treatment. He is also not happy about the government “posturing” over non-British citizens locked up in Gitmo. Can’t say that Guido agrees with him on that. British governments should protest violations of human rights wherever they occur. Would it be “posturing” to call for the release of Chinese political prisoners?

UPDATE : Thursday morning the Tories are calling for action. Doc Fox says the UK has a clear moral duty to protect the interpreters, William Hague says it is a matter of honour, and Damian Green is protesting at the official bureaucracy surrounding their case.

Basra : British Defeat Bodes Badly for Afghanistan

Guido takes no pleasure in reporting this, but it seems to be going unsaid in the British press. British forces are painted, particularly by broadcasters, as having achieved a measure of success in Basra due to superior British peace-keeping techniques honed in Northern Ireland.

The truth is very different. To quote from a report by the ICG;

Three major Shiite political groups are locked in a bloody conflict that has left the city in the hands of militias and criminal gangs, whose control extends to municipal offices and neighborhood streets. The city is plagued by “the systematic misuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias that increasingly intermingle with political actors,” a recent report by the International Crisis Group said.

The Washington Post reported a senior U.S. intelligence official yesterday saying that “The British have basically been defeated in the south”.

The article went on to say that British forces

… are abandoning their former headquarters at Basra Palace, where a recent official visitor from London described them as “surrounded like cowboys and Indians” by militia fighters. An airport base outside the city, where a regional U.S. Embassy office and Britain’s remaining 5,500 troops are barricaded behind building-high sandbags, has been attacked with mortars or rockets nearly 600 times over the past four months.

In May Blair visited the Basra HQ and came under mortar attack – not a sign of pacification.

The head of the armed forces, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, told the BBC that success depends “upon what your interpretation of the mission was in the first place… I’m afraid people had, in many instances, unrealistic aspirations for Iraq, and for the south of Iraq.” The reality is that once Britsh forces exit Basra the fighting will escalate into a full-scale civil war. Mission failure.

This begs the question – what now is the plan in Afghanistan? They are a people who fought the Red Army and won. The Soviets were brutal and were still defeated. Is NATO going to match and exceed that brutality in pursuit of “victory”? Afghanistan should be monitored closely and elements that present a clear and present external danger should be eliminated. It is not the job of NATO to impose Western values by force as Rome’s Imperial Armies once imposed Roman law.

Rich & Mark’s Monday Morning View

Friday Caption Contest (Ainsworth Edition)

Stat Porn – Neck & Neck with Dale

In July 250,654 unique visitors made 321,734 pageloads. So slightly more people came here than to Dale’s, but fewer times – an indication perhaps that he had a more active comments section lately.

The most popular posting of the month was the Alastair Campbell cartoon on July 9.

UPDATE : PoliticalBetting had 3/4 million hits last month.

Brown Meets Bush

Silly Season Service

Guido is now at a secure undisclosed location. The output to the blog will be reduced – am amazed at the angry complaints whenever Guido does this, “your blog is finished” etc. Then when blogging resumes, back comes the traffic as before. To all those who are unhappy about this, please accept a full refund.

The service in truth has been much reduced since the recent arrival of Caoimhe Priya (say Kweey-vah Pree-ya, the name reflects her Indo-Irish heritage). She’ll be getting christened here in Ireland and then her father will be taking her nearer to the vineyards of Margaux.

We do have broadband and will be checking in daily, but things will be at an easy pace. Comment moderation and Guido’s sunglasses are on.

EXCLUSIVE Ali Miraj : Labour Did Approach Me to Defect

Guido spoke at length with Ali Miraj last night and learnt that there was, as widely rumoured, an approach from a Labour party intermediary and that he turned down the approach. He told Guido that he did not take it that seriously and he would never defect.

He angrily described the team around Cameron as “twats”.

He said that he had sent his critical article to Cameron, Coulson and Hilton last week. On Thursday Cameron called him directly and pleaded with him not to publish it. Cameron was the one who suggested Miraj come in and see him at his Commons office on Monday.

During the meeting “we discussed ways I could help”. Cameron did not concede any of the criticisms in the original article, but merely defended his position with “flim flam”.

Guido put it to him repeatedly that it was true he had suggested making him a Lord, he did not deny the claim as made by Cameron, flannelling that he wasn’t going to discuss a private conversation, even though we were discussing just that.

Then the discussion took a very interesting turn, he was very critical and animated about the Sayeeda Warsi peerage. Comparing his decade long support and work for the party to her more recent support. The tone was “why her, and not me?”. This was very revealing, his ambition and impatience has previously boiled over at the promotion of Asian women. In the previous case it was about Priti Patel. He is at 32 a man in a hurry with a high opinion of himself. He feels strongly that having been an early supporter of Cameron he deserved special treatment. Now he has got it, kicked off the A-list…

200 Pledge to Back Private Prosecution

Over two hundred people have pledged to contribute financially towards bringing a private prosecution over Loans for Lordships since the CPS has shown itself unwilling to do so.

Guido has taken soundings and now believes that the best course of action is to form a special purpose vehicle to instruct a legal team and take this further. It also seems wise to first allow the Public Administration Select Committee to conduct its investigation when MPs return after the recess. They will hold evidence sessions after Parliament returns from its summer recess, and report by the end of the year.

Tony Wright plans to call Assistant Commissioner John Yates as a witness. It will be particularly interesting to see what evidence comes out at that time. Meantime if you want to be involved in the formation of a vehicle to bring a prosecution or have relevant legal experience and knowledge, email Guido.

The Courts come to a halt and the political class will be on holiday for the next month. Guido will be in touch with pledge makers with more details in due course.

Guido’s Top Political Blogs

Dale is looking for your list of Top 20 blogs for his 2007 Guide to Political Blogging in the UK. He wants a more objective means of ordering of them. Don’t know why, last year the result seemed right to Guido.
I don’t have an order of preference, but the blogs Guido reads every day tend to serve up new information rather than commentary. Iain is in there, da Fink’s Comment Central, the Speccie’s CoffeeHouse, Recess Monkey, the unmissable Political Betting, ConservativeHome, LabourHome and LibDemVoice. Dizzy is reliable, SpyBlog is authoritative. Kevin Maguire often talks down to his readers, but has the odd gem of (sometimes unintended) insight, Benedict Brogan is fast and from the frontline.

My favourite blog overall is probably Mike Smithson’s Political Betting.

Email your list to Iain by clicking here and you could win a pile of DVDs and stuff.

Brown Bonks Bonce

Nick Robinson and all the rest of the Lobby will be in full-on pontification mode today in Washington.

Yet again it falls to Guido to get the important news: Gordon Brown banged his head against the door frame as he boarded the Presidential helicopter. Perhaps he misunderstood and was over-excited to be on his way to see Camp David?

Billions spent on the BBC news gathering operation and they miss the big story again.

Rich & Mark’s Monday Morning View

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