Mad Frankie Maude has released the figures showing how much former Prime Ministers have been claiming in allowances over the last year. Both Tony Blair and John Major asked the taxpayer for the maximum £115,000 in order to “meet the costs of public duties“, while Margaret Thatcher claimed £109,191. Former Prime Mentalist Gordon Brown made sure no one can say that he’s worse value than Tony, undercutting him by a crafty £1.83. Guido doesn’t quite understand why Blair, Brown and Major need a hundred grand each from the taxpayer each year while they make millions swanning around the world…
In an interview with the Speccie, Osborne has gone for the jugular:
“As for the role of the Labour government and the people around Gordon Brown, well I think there are questions to be asked of them. They were clearly involved and we just haven’t heard the full facts, I don’t think, of who knew what when. …my opposite number, who was the City Minister for part of this period and Gordon Brown’s right hand man for all of it so he has questions to answer as well.”
That should do wonders for the cross-party inquiry consensus…
Last week Gordon and a tiny number of loyalists took umbrage in this statement from the Cabinet Office:
“We confirm there is a record of only one call between Mr. Brown and Rupert Murdoch in the year to March 2010, on 10th of November 2009″.
They claimed this was complete vindication and proof that Gordon did not lie about the “declaration of war” phone call. However if that statement is compared to what was said at the time by Brown’s official civil service Prime Minister’s Spokesman, that vindication looks very shaky. The Guardian reported the following briefing to the Lobby on 12 November 2009, the day news of the official Murdoch/Brown call on November 10 had leaked:
“‘He [Brown] has regular communications with Rupert Murdoch, as you would imagine, and he has the most enormous personal regard for Rupert Murdoch,’ the prime minister’s official spokesman said. ‘I am not going to give any further information about the conversation. I am commenting as much as I think I can about a personal conversation. There is nothing unusual in the prime minister talking to Rupert Murdoch.‘”
So there was contemporaneous confirmation from a civil service source that there were regular conversations between Murdoch and Brown prior to November 2009. In the light of the latest Cabinet Office statement saying that they have only have a record of one conversation, any such regular calls can only have been unrecorded and unmonitored. Add this to Peter Mandelson’s sworn statement that the “war” conversation took place and it is clear to all but Brown’s bunker buddies that last week’s statement in no way clears the Prime Mentalist…
The Cabinet Office has revealed details of Gordon Brown’s chats with Rupert Murdoch: “We confirm there is a record of only one call between Mr. Brown and Rupert Murdoch in the year to March 2010, on 10th of November 2009”. Despite the statement making it clear that no independent civil servant was on the call to take minutes, the Prime Mentalist is claiming that he’s in the clear: “This statement confirms Mr Brown’s evidence to the Inquiry”. Not quite.
Before people start crowing that Murdoch has committed perjury, Uncle Rupe told the Inquiry that Brown phoned him in September 2009, not November. Given that Murdoch’s kids were having sleepovers at Chequers, we know full well that Gordon had a mobile phone…
Ed Miliband wasted no time in dumping his old boss in it at Leveson. When asked yesterday whether any of his advisers had briefed against colleagues, Gordon Brown insisted:
“I would hope not, I have no evidence for that.”
Yet Ed says that’s not the case. Asked whether Ed Balls, Charlie Whelan or Damian McBride had ever engaged in negative briefings to the press, he said:
“Ed Balls, no. Charlie Whelan left, I believe in 1999…one of the reasons he left was he briefed. On Damian McBride, when I was a Cabinet minister, I did raise a specific concern that I had with Mr Brown, I believe in 2008, about some of Mr McBride’s activities.”
Gordon says he knew nothing about the dark arts of Whelan and McBride, but Ed says he personally told him about it in 2008. Brown was on oath…
Guido has been looking through the “evidence” that the Prime Mentalist has provided to Leveson to back up his claim that he never threatened Rupert Murdoch in the now infamous “declaration of war” phone call in November 2009. Lots of noise has been made about Civil Servants supporting Brown’s version of events, but that is not quite true. Statements have been provided by various staffers who heard the call:
- Stewart Wood – then Brown’s SpAd, now Lord Wood and Ed’s consigliere – a political appointment known to mop up and cover for Brown’s messes in the past. The Prime Mentalist was witnessed roughly pushing Wood, but he still denies it ever happened.
- Gavin Kelly – then deputy chief of staff and another political loyalist. Brown once grabbed him by the collar and said “they are out to get me”. Hardly a credible witness either.
- David Muir – another political spinner. Claims “Gordon would shout and be exasperated and angry about things” but covers for him adding “it was for the right reasons”.
- Michael Dugher – yet another political spinner. Now and MP, but spent the dying days of the Brown government forcing the line. Old habits die hard.
The only non-political witness statement provided is from Simon Lewis, who was the PM’s Official Spokesman. The only civil servant Brown uses for back up was the only witness not to actually hear the call. He stresses that his statement relies on what he was told to brief to the press. Funny that…
UPDATE: A reliable Westminster watchers notes: “I think the contention from Murdoch is that there was a call in late September (just after the Sun came out), rather than in November which is the call people refer to.”
While Hunt waves/drowns in Parliament Murdoch has been shining some light on Brown. The key quote from when the Sun switched to supporting the Tories in in late 2009 Murdoch confirms that Brown called to say:
“Your company has declared war on my government and we have no alternative but to make war on your company.[…]
Dave arrives in Indonesia and moments later:
“A tsunami watch was issued for countries across the Indian Ocean today after a large earthquake hit waters off Indonesia, sending residents pouring from their homes in panic. The US Geological Survey said the 8.7-magnitude quake was centred 20 miles beneath the ocean floor around 269 miles from Aceh’s provincial capital.”
Can anyone remember another Prime Minister this sort of thing used to happen?[…]