Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Clegg Breaks Ranks on Nuclear Options

Nick Clegg has broken ranks with the political establishment on Trident, telling Nick Robinson “We have to be realistic and candid about what we can and can’t afford as a nation”.

Nuclear CleggDuring the Cold War the logic of Trident and other nuclear missile systems was compelling, now the threat is from terrorists and rogue states the case for Trident is nowhere near as strong.  The Russian nuclear arsenal is much reduced from the Soviet era, so any future threat response imaginable need not be made to meet an over-whelming massive multiple warhead nuclear attack from a hostile superpower.

Yet the Tory and Labour party establishments remain committed to the U.S. supplied Trident system.  The £100 billion price tag for a system that isn’t really independent is too much in these circumstances.  Britain needs a much reduced smaller bespoke system along the lines of the French force de frappe.  Something more akin to smart missiles which can be launched from air, land or sea.

Nick Clegg has asked Ming to review the LibDem approach to strategic defence.  The military top brass will always demand expensive new toys, just as trade union leaders always demand pay rises.  The Tories are also reviewing defence matters.  £100 billion is a lot of money to pay for the wrong insurance policy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bonkers MPs Should Lose Seats

Brown is BonkersAlistair Campbell thinks MPs detained under the Mental Health Act should not automatically lose their seats. The BBC reports him saying that such a “simple and symbolic” rule change would be a “powerful” way to lift the taboo around mental health which exists in politics. Campbell said many MPs including members of Tony Blair’s government had had mental problems. Yes, someone did once say that Gordon Brown was “psychologically flawed”Sorry, but Guido really doesn’t want bonkers politicians running the country anymore…

+++ 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.

Errrm…

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.

Comparison

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


Seen Elsewhere

Liz Kendall For Leader | Indy
Bashir Booted Out By Respect | Respect
Americans Try Haggis | Guardian
Page 3 and the Art of the Self-Pity Statement | Guardian
Steven Woolfe For UKIP Leader? | Asa Bennett
Mohammed — in Pictures | Speccie
Leon Brittan’s Accusers Must Show Their Evidence | Dan Hodges
New Saudi King Renames Roads While Body Still Warm | TechnoGuido
In Davos, Carrying a BlackBerry is a Status Symbol | Business Insider
New Labour in Peep Show Quotes | Telegraph
Here is What a 7 Way Debate Sounds Like | BBC


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George Galloway says of his former Respect candidate the UKIP MEP turned Tory, Amjad Bashir…

“Clearly Bashir does not have any real political principles or commitment, only naked opportunism and self-interest. He represents the revolving door principle in politics. The Tories are welcome to him because he will cause them embarrassment. Fortunately Respect was able to act before he did it to us.”


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