Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Downing Street Spins Malik is Different from McNulty

Tony McNulty resigned from the government when he came under investigation by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner over £60,000 claimed on a second home, where his parents live.

Malik Reported to Parliamentary Standards commissionerYesterday the PM’s spokesman, Michael Ellam, was asked whether the Prime Minister thought it was premature and unwise to bring Shahid Malik back into Government so quickly.  He was also asked why it was right for Shahid Malik to step down while Sir Philip Mawer held an inquiry, but not while  John Lyon held one?  Ellam gave some waffle which didn’t really make sense.

McNultyMcNulty admitted in his letter of resignation that “It has been immensely difficult for me to give full attention to my job as Minister for London and for Employment and Welfare Reform with this issue hanging over my head.” Malik on the other hand wants us to believe he can give his ministerial duties his full attention despite being under investigation for corruption. 

Why is he different from McNulty?  Why is John Lyon’s investigation less important than Sir Philip Mawer’s investigation – which had less damning evidence to consider?

You Twitter If You Want To

Hazel Twitter

Under pressure Hazel Blears has set up a Twitter account. “YouTube is no substitute for knocking on doors” she once famously said and Twittering is not going to stop a deselection either.  Poor Hazel, she only has 9 followers…

Drug Pushing Lobbyists of the World Unite!

The news that sleazy lobbyist Steve Morgan, formerly of the now defunct Morgan Allen Moore, who was retained by Peter Hain in his disastrously dodgy bid for Labour deputy leader has taken his team of spin merchants to the huge American spin shop Burson-Marsteller is a little worrying. Morgan Allen Moore was described by PR Week last year as a “scandal-hit outfit”, becoming the first firm ever to be kicked out of the industry’s self regulatory group.  PR Week reports that

Morgan’s new ‘market access’ practice at Burson-Marsteller will advise healthcare clients on issues related to product marketing and access to the NHS.

Back in the not so distant past Morgan was hired to push a drug responsible for widespread deaths and crippling illness. Ortho Biotech, a division of Johnson & Johnson, retained Morgan Allen Moore in 2001 to push its anaemia drug, Eprex.  Eprex is currently being investigated by the FDA because of the high number of patients who have suffered strokes and died as a consequence of taking the drug. Eprex was withdrawn in September 2001 (“Eprex vials to be withdrawn”, Chemist and Druggist, 22 September 2001, page 28 – not online) because of fears over its safety. On 14 July 2002, the Financial Times reported that

“Eprex has been linked to a rare but devastating condition known as antibody-mediated pure red blood cell aplasia or PRCA. The condition is triggered when the body produces antibodies against its own EPO, shutting down red blood cell production. The only treatment for PRCA is regular, life-long blood transfusions”.

Burson-Marstellar – a company which was itself also investigated by the APPC for having a secret client in 2007 – represents, amongst others, Digene Corp, a company principally specialising in the production of a test for HPV, the virus that causes genital warts in women.  A marriage made in hell, some might say…

PMQs Live Chat : Heat is On

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…


Seen Elsewhere

Users of Gay Hook-Up App Grindr Infected | TechnoGuido
ISIS Raising Funds Online Using Bitcoin | TechnoGuido
UKIP’s Youth Challenge | BBC
ISIS Operative: This Is How We Send Jihadis To Europe | BuzzFeed
Shapps Defends Bashir Defection | Seb Payne
Tory Leadership Contenders Jostle Over Europe | Alex Wickham
Cutting Taxes is Good For You | Art Laffer
Suspects Will Now Have to Prove Innocence | Laura Perrins
Labour Cllr: Cops Shouldn’t Stop Petrol Thieves | HandF Forum
Creeping Cultural Acceptance of Anti-Semitism | Eric Pickles
Time For Greece to Leave Eurozone | Allister Heath


Rising Stars
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Boris on British Jihadis. Apparently based on MI5 intel:

“If you look at all the psychological profiling about bombers, they typically will look at porn. They are literally w***ers. Severe onanists. They are tortured. They will be very badly adjusted in their relations with women, and that is a symptom of their feeling of being failures and that the world is against them. They are not making it with girls, and so they turn to other forms of spiritual comfort — which of course is no comfort.”


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