Above the Laws

Ever since he walked in May, a David Laws imminent return story has been the mark of a slow news day, however this one is different – there is actually some detail.

The Mail and the Indy have been tipped off to Nick Clegg’s private talks with David Laws about the possibility of a return to a new “Mr Fix-It” position in the Cabinet Office, which would avoid the need for a reshuffle.

A fixer is much needed, but it’s almost as if the coalition big-wigs have decided he is innocent before the Standards and Privileges Committee has made a determination. What about due process? A cynic might think there is an establishment stitch-up going on to clear someone who paid his boyfriend £40,000 of taxpayers’ money, other MPs have gone to jail for less.  Laws has been under investigation for nearly ten months. If it was all so innocuous, why has the inquiry taken so long?

UPDATE: Latest betting on the return of Laws here.

Tory MP Calls For Parties To Pick Up Regional Cabinet Bill

When Gordon Brown took his Cabinet away to Leeds for the day in 2009 the Tories were quick to pounce on his wasteful spending. Robert Goodwill, the then Shadow Minister for Leeds went on the attack:

“The cost of hosting them given the increased security is something that should be borne by Labour rather than by the taxpayer. I can understand them wanting to show their presence in Yorkshire for political reasons.”

And there was plenty of wider condemnation of the idea. The Taxpayers’ Alliance’s Mark Wallace, for it was he, said “These meetings are expensive and of dubious worth to areas that the Cabinet chooses to visit.” Yesterday David Cameron took his Cabinet away to Derby for the day.

Asking around, you can see why they look like a good idea. The Civil service like them because it gets those pesky ministers out out of the way so they can run the country for a couple of hours and the party machines love the fact they get some coverage and face-time in marginal seats, with all the transport and logistical costs paid for. The regional lobby even get spoonfed. As one former Labour SpAd put it to Guido:

“The whole comms side of government and regional offices get to rev their engines. Everyone wins except the taxpayer. I actually hoped the Tories would stop that bollocks, but no.”

Robert Goodwill MP is very quiet today.

Reshuffle Rumour Round-Up

Ken Clarke faced a second weekend being briefed against in the Sundays. Guido can only presume the talk of reshuffle and booting Ken out is coming from an increasingly infuriated Coulson who doesn’t like to see Ministers being hounded by The Sun for being soft on crime. Very new politics.

Philip Hammond isn’t having a good time either. While admittedly snow is out of his control, after all the fuss the Tories made in opposition when divine intervention ruined a government media grid, you would have at thought at least some sort of contingency plan would have been thought up. The betting markets moved when the PMOS had to defend him this morning.

While it would be very hard for Dave to fire Ken Clarke, there’s bound to be a shot across his bow. Rumour is that his junior ministers, Crispin Blunt and Jonathan Djanogly and Lord McNally face the chop, with David Laws being lined up to come and shake up the department. A hang ’em and flog ’em Tory backbencher is also expected to be deployed to dilute “soft” Ken. Still no word on when Laws will receive his expected slap on the wrist from the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, but bad news for those who put their money on a return before Christmas

Agreeing With Tom Watson

Well it’s taking some getting used to for Guido, but Tom Watson is certainly taking to his new role as chief-thorn-in-the-coalition-side. One of the benefits of going from government to opposition is you know where the bodies are buried. He knows his way around the Cabinet Office too. Though he seems to have been stonewalled on getting the government hospitality wine cellar list published, he is aiming slightly higher now…

First there was his report on government cars and who has actually given them up and who hasn’t, now this morning he has released his research into private offices and found Hague costs the taxpayer three times more than Vince Cable. Caveats like security and breadth of brief aside, it makes for an interesting read. No surprise that Caroline Spelman feels she needs twelve personal staff to assist her at DEFRA.

Catty Cabinet Clash

While Liam Fox vs. No. 10 may be the more high-profile simmering cabinet tension, it is no secret that Michael Gove and Andrew Lansley despise each other. This is no new feud, there was talk of a muttered “see you next Tuesday” from Lansley after a Shadow Cabinet meeting a few years back and both men are equally contemptuous of the other’s ability and intellect.

After the recent bad few weeks Gove has had, taking quite a battering and generally looking glum, there is apparently one smiling, happy, ring-fenced, Secretary of State reaffirming his predictions of “I told you so”. Yes, Guido hears Lansley is positively beaming every time he has the opportunity to preach to the odd MP that he always knew Gove would be a disaster…

Gordon's Cabinet Jaunts Live On

Gordon’s strategy of taking the Cabinet on away-days to marginal seats looks set to continue under Dave. Tomorrow he will convene his first Cabinet at an as of yet unannounced location. When these expeditions were set up the Tories called them ascandalouswaste of taxpayers’ money. “The cabinet taking a day trip out of London is not going to solve Britain’s economic problems” said George Osborne in 2008. Guess he will be staying home at No. 11 tomorrow then?



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Quote of the Day

David Cowling, the BBC’s head of political research, in an internal memo…

“It seems to me that the London bubble has to burst if there is to be any prospect of addressing the issues that have brought us to our current situation. There are many millions of people in the UK who do not enthuse about diversity and do not embrace metropolitan values yet do not consider themselves lesser human beings for all that. Until their values and opinions are acknowledged and respected, rather than ignored and despised, our present discord will persist. Because these discontents run very wide and very deep and the metropolitan political class, confronted by them, seems completely bewildered and at a loss about how to respond (“who are these ghastly people and where do they come from?” doesn’t really hack it). The 2016 EU referendum has witnessed the cashing in of some very bitter bankable grudges but I believe that, throughout this 2016 campaign, Europe has been the shadow not the substance.”

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