Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Worst BBC Forecast Since Michael Fish

Spare a thought for Nick Robinson who yesterday morning confidently told us that “Gordon Brown no longer appears to be under threat. The cool political climate of the Autumn has replaced the heated frenzy of the Summer.”

Gordon “has been saved for now at least not by anything he’s done but by an atmosphere of weary resignation that has taken over much of his party.”

This putsch is not random synchronicity, Guido has a hunch that the plan is not a mere grassroots move to push Gordon out, it is a determined effort to use backbench proxies to shame cabinet ministers into telling Gordon his time is up. Miliband can stay out of the limelight and let Progress’ president, Alan Milburn, stir up the trouble.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Blairite Plotters Attack Brown’s "One-Off Taxes and Pay-Outs" Giveaways Do Not Amount to a Strategy

Progress, backed by the billionaire Lord Sainsbury, is the Blairite factional organising group in the Labour Party.

This is a statement they are releasing tomorrow* signed by a dozen Blairites – Janet Anderson, Karen Buck, Patricia Hewitt, George Howarth, Eric Joyce, Sally Keeble, Stephen Ladyman, Martin Linton, Shona McIsaac, Margaret Moran, Tom Levitt, and Paddy Tipping.

LABOUR BACKBENCHERS DEMAND BOLD NEW NARRATIVE

In a joint article for Progress Magazine, 12 Labour backbench MPs, including six former ministers, urge the leadership to develop a convincing new narrative which has to be more than a series of policy initiatives in order to restore Labour’s fortunes.

Writing in the Labour Conference edition of the magazine, they say that Labour has no explanation yet as to how it will steer the economy through the troubled waters ahead claiming that one-off taxes and pay-outs, no matter how justified in their own terms, do not amount to a strategy. There is a yawning chasm which the Labour party needs to fill, or the government will suffer a hammer blow.

They suggest the government needs to be better at communicating what it’s going to do about the things that affect people day to day, noting that Harold Wilson’s pound in your pocket and Thatcher’s likening of the economy to a household budget may have been derided by the pundits but understood by the public.

The MPs label recent policies to deal with the crises of 10p tax and the housing market defensive and suggest instead Labour needs to be championing change, leading the debate about new ideas and renewing confidence in our economic competence.

They note the government’s strong investment in public services, but suggest there is a malaise. They write: “We have spent money, diversified, provided choice. But Labour needs to do more to give the public a sense of ownership of public services and a say in how we design and deliver services. This does not mean, they caution a return to a top-down command economy in the public sector but instead urge the government to shift power away from centralised institutions to the individual.”

The backbenchers criticise the failure to create a wholly democratic legislature as unfinished business and argue there is a lack of coherence in the devolution of powers to subsidiary tiers of government, and what should be the final settlement for Scotland. They suggest that fixed term parliaments could provide some certainty to voters and redress the balance of power between the executive and citizen.

They don’t actually say “Brown must go”, but you get the drift… particularly since many of the signatories are the MPs who have requested nomination papers.

*Full article in its entirety here. Guido called Progress for a copy of the statement, they said rather churlishly that they wouldn’t give him a copy of the embargoed press statement. So Progress – you can stuff your embargo – this was obtained through investigative reporting comrades.

Is it a Blairite Plot?

The assistant Labour whip Siobhain McDonagh has told Sky News she believes there should be a Labour leadership election “to clear the air”.
She has requested leadership nomination papers ahead of the party’s conference. This has sent shock-waves down Downing Street – the spin is that this is all normal – “happens every year”. Eh? When was the last time a government whip tried to get rid of the head of government? Tom Watson did it in 2006, (that is why Tories toast Watson’s name).

Is it just a coincidence that her constituency website has only this one picture prominently displayed on the front page? Blair is smiling…

UPDATE : According to Guido’s usually reliable Labour insider, Siobhain McDonagh wrote on the nomination papers for Gordon Brown in 2007 “Gordon Brown will be a disaster” – not knowing that the papers were numbered and she could be identified.

UPDATE II : Some in the comments seem to have misunderstood the last update – she didn’t vote for Gordon, she effectively spoilt her paper – and was identified as doing so.

Threat is Real

This morning Nick Robinson told listeners to Today “Gordon Brown no longer appears to be under threat. The cool political climate of the Autumn has replaced the heated frenzy of the Summer… The PM, it seems, has been saved for now at least not by anything he’s done but by an atmosphere of weary resignation that has taken over much of his party.”

Later this morning we learnt from Sky that some backbenchers had requested nomination papers. Clearly not everyone is resigned to going down with the Prime Mentalist…

Exclusive : Neil O’Brien to Head Policy Exchange

Neil O’Brien is to be the new director of Policy Exchange. Currently the 29 year-old is the director of Open Europe, the leading think-tank working on liberal reforms of the European Union. Open Europe has a reputation as the best connected, least head-banging, media-savvy euro-sceptic group. They were behind the I Want a Referendum campaign.

Neil launched Open Europe in 2005 with a heavyweight board, having made his name with the successful “No to the Euro” campaign. He has good relations with the media and knows how to shape an agenda.

With a budget of £2 million Policy Exchange is aiming to be a Washington style policy powerhouse, this appointment should bring some stability after the recent churn at the top. Nic Boles left to run for London Mayor, his successor Anthony Browne’s tenure saw embarrassments (not of his making) with faked evidence used in one report exposed on Newsnight and a second clumsily spun report was seized on by Labour to paint Cameron as anti-Northerner – resulting in Dave describing the report as “insane”.

Going forward the Policy Exchange board wants to be a critical friend rather than “Cameron’s favourite think tank”. Although Neil’s politics are liberal conservative, he is not a Cameroon or active within the Conservative Party and this was apparently a factor in his appointment.

Friday Caption Contest (Loft Lagging Leader from La La Land Edition)

+++ Sky : Labour Leadership Nomination Papers Requested +++

Sky’s Political correspondent Joey Jones is reporting that “a small number of Labour MPs have requested Labour leadership nomination papers”.

New Policy Exchange Director Announced Today

Who has arguably the most sought after job in Westminster’s wonk-land will be known today. Policy Exchange staff will be told who the new director is at 1pm.

Guido has talked to people who were in the running. The selection of the new director has been conducted by Charles Moore like the search for the next pope. The interviews were conducted off site. The board was consciously seeking a non-Cameroon. Speculation on CentreRight that George Bridges or Danny Finkelstein were in the running was wide of the mark. Bridges, the expectant father of twins, couldn’t take the pay-cut and Danny did not apply.

+++ Come back at 1pm for the result. +++

Fire in Channel Tunnel – Continent Isolated

Just wanted to re-work the famous headline.

Incidentally, one side-effect of the collapsing pound is that Britain will have to pay £8 billion extra into EU coffers by 2013 according to research by Open Europe. That is equivalent to a penny on income tax for the next 5 years.

The EU gravy train is priced in euros…

Thursday, September 11, 2008

He’s Not a Clown, He’s Austerity Brown

As Guido picked up the late edition of the London Evening Standard off the counter the shopkeeper, looked quizzical and said “ee’s off his ‘ead, innee?

The shopkeeper has it right. The grand plan is a joke. It is a re-hash of an existing programme, it would according to the insulating industry take 10 years to complete. The energy producers say the costs will have to be passed on to consumers. Worse, Brown gave helpful tips at the staged photo-op this morning to wrap-up warm, close the curtains, sit in the dark and stick a balloon up the chimney. You could not, as they say, make this up…

Labour MPs are despairing


Seen Elsewhere

Paper Trail Suggests Ashcroft Still Funding Tories | Indy
Bradford Bun Fight Coming | Speccie
Former Minister’s Join ‘Canberra Caterer’ Outcry | The Times
Stop Bercow | The Times
Speaker Cornered | Times
Britain’s Beheaders | Speccie
‘Underclass’ Is Dave’s Fault | Conservative Women
Civil Liberties/Privacy NGO Hires New CEO | Big Brother Watch
Why I Won’t Join UKIP | Dan Hannan
Who Will Stand Up for the Christians? | Ron Lauder
Labour Swing Extends Deep into Tory Seats | Lord Ashcroft


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Westbourne-Change-Opinion hot-button


Lord Glasman tells it like it is:

“The first thing is to acknowledge that Labour has been captured by a kind of aggressive public sector morality which is concerned with the individual and the collective but doesn’t understand relationships.”



Owen Jones says:

We also need Zil lanes.


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