Monday, February 26, 2007

Smith Institute’s Mattinson Spins Poll for Brown

The Brownites are obviously getting increasingly desperate about his bad personal poll ratings versus Cameron. The Guardian/ICM survey last week showing Brown 13% adrift of Cameron (worse than Blair) shook Labour MPs at a vital time and led to renewed calls for Labour to skip a generation with Miliband.

A week later comes the Brownite response, today’s Guardian reports on a survey of a hundred “opinion leaders” which shows Gordon outperforming Dave on a whole range of indicators – scoring a modest 92% on integrity.

Who conducted this highly scientific “survey”? None other than Opinion Leader Research run by Deborah Mattinson, the long time Labour Party consultant who is now Gordon Brown’s unofficial pollster and sits on the advisory committee of the Smith Institute – alongside the veteran U.S. pollster Bob Shrum. It was Shrum’s anti-Cameron advice to the Sith that forced the Charity Commission’s official investigation. Guido wonders why a non-partisan, non-political, educational charity has so many pollsters involved?

Mattinson has plenty of previous, she was wheeled out by the dark forces of the Sith the last time Brown’s negative ratings caused rumblings. Popping up in the Times with an article claiming, ironically, that it was all spin and that Gordon is in fact a popular guy.

Of course surveying “opinion leaders” is completely subjective and easily manipulated to give the required answers. Mattinson’s clients know it, but since her clients include Defra, the Department of Education and Science, the Department for Work and Pensions and coincidentally HM Treasury, you can be sure she knows where her bread is buttered and what they want to hear.

Is Guido the only one who has noticed that in times of need, Gordon’s pollster conducts polls with dubious methodologies which she then writes up in hagiographical pro-Gordon articles? Is Guido the only one who thinks there might, in the circumstances, be a serious conflict of interest in her not only sitting on the board of the Smith Institute but also having HM Treasury as a paying client? Who commissioned and paid for this survey of “opinion leaders”? How did she get the HM Treasury contract? Was it by competitive tender?

Guido has asked them repeatedly this morning who commissioned the poll, but nobody at Opinion Leader Research seems to know…

UPDATE : Guido has just noticed that The Sun this morning headlines Deborah’s “survey” Brown is back in poll victory. Will that do Gordon?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Gordon’s Shadowy Henchmen

Guido has been told by sources that the Smith Institute is the tip of the iceberg for Gordon’s secretive ways. Guido’s attention has been directed towards the Political Research Taskforce (PRT) run out of 39 Victoria Street. This is the shadowy nerve centre of the Brownite party-within-a-party.

Ex-alumni of the PRT include its former leading light, Spencer Livermore*, who is now Gordon’s chief political and strategy adviser.

Sources tell Guido that Gordon’s dozen SpAds (compared to the usual ministerial 2 and not forgetting the 8 civil servant support staff) cost the taxpayer well over a £1 million a year. The SpAds liase closely with the PRT team at 39 Victoria Street. Brownite ministers even have their spin lines co-ordinated by the PRT. Wary ministers will nervously check with the PRT to find out what the correct Brownite, as distinct from party, line is on an issue before going on Newsnight to parrot the approved formula. Such is the paranoia of the Brownites and the fear of his wrath amongst junior ministers.

Strangely the cost-cutting redundancies at Labour HQ have left the PRT largely unscathed…

++ Developing ++

*Spencer knew about the Loans for Lordships scandal during the 2005 election period. A memo emailed to him and obtained by the Observer in November outlined the situation. So presumably his master, who was running the election campaign, also knew about the secret loans.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Is the New Statesman Compromised?

The old New Statesman historically was the discussion journal of the Labour party. Issues and personalities of the left were analysed within its pages and it still has serious journalists holed up at its offices. Yet compare the vitality of the Spectator to that of the Statesman, all shades of conservative and other strands of thought appear in the Speccie. But search for anything critical of Brown in the Statesman and you will find little.

Improved as it has been under Kampfner’s editing it still lacks something because the hand of Geoffrey Robinson is suffocating it. He is prone to wandering up to writers post publication and congratulating them with the line “Gordon liked your piece”. As if any self respecting serious writer on the left would care.

The whole issue of Robinson’s ownership and his total devotion to the Brown cause depresses staff. The embarrassment of being known as the Brownite house magazine with the symbiotic “independent charitable non-partisan think-tank” – which just so happens to have moved offices three times with them in the last ten years (can you guess who?) – makes staff blush.

Guido was filming outside their offices recently when Kampfner came out, “What are you up to?” he asked of us. “We’re doing a piece on the Smith Institute, care to comment?” “Oh no”, he said and walked off. What kind of state of affairs is it when the editor of the liberal left’s house journal won’t discuss the question of the independence and integrity of his magazine? It shares offices with a controversial think-tank under investigation by the Charity Commission for dubious practises involving the future leader of the Labour party. Every newspaper in the country is covering the story and the New Statesman ignores the elephant literally in the same room as it. Not a single story about the Smith Institute has appeared in the magazine with which it shares offices. Bizarre.

Nick Cohen, a New Statesman journalist, has a bestselling book out, What’s Left? How Liberals Lost Their Way. Guido can’t help but wonder if part of the answer can’t be found in the silence and timidity of the left’s leading journal when it comes to discussing what is going on under its own roof.

UPDATE : Guardian’s Greenslade challenges Kampfner, Martin Bright tries a Sith mind trick, these are not the stories you are looking for, you can go about your business…

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sith’s Allies Fightback

Will Hutton, failed ex-stockbroker, failed ex-editor, has been wheeled out to provide covering fire for the Smith Institute in the Guardian. According to Hutton, saying there is in fact something very sleazy about the cozy Gordon/Treasury/Sith nexus, is some kind of attack on democracy. (Incidentally, Will, we have previous).What is democratic about holding private meetings behind closed doors? What is democratic about the Treasury quietly paying £11,000 to the Smith Institute for arranging 2 meetings on it’s behalf, but not charging the self-same Smith Institute a single penny for holding 165 meetings on it’s premises? Isn’t that anti-democratic? Isn’t that something we should openly shine a light on? Gordon’s Treasury tax-kickback-subsidised charity paying Bob Shrum to devise an anti-Cameron strategy, is that something we should keep secret?

What is democratic about using Tom Watson MP to spread the most vile false smear campaign against Guido the week after he made an official complaint against the Smith Institute? Even by the shrill standards of the blogosphere it was a step too far that forced Guido to threaten immediate High Court action against Gordon’s failed putsch leader. When they are cornered they fight hard and dirty.

Now a statutory authority has issued a direction threatening Guido with contempt of court, imprisonment and fines unless Guido hands over documents obtained from whistleblowers. Guido will provide evidence of the Sith’s wrongdoing, but he intends to protect his sources as well. Now I’m off for a drink…

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Smith Institute : Gordon’s Slip is Clearly ShowingBelow the Hem

“Britain is a better country because of the choices that voters made in 1997, 2001 and 2005….”*

Is that a quote from the draft 2009 Labour party manifesto to be signed by Gordon Brown? In a sense it is, in that it comes from an invitation sent out by what is effectively Gordon’s preparatory campaign committee. The Smith Institute is, even Brownite allies admit, now in its final days as a charity. One Brownite sneered to Guido that “even if it does lose it’s charitable status, it won’t matter, Gordon will be PM by then.”

That may be, but we will know that he is just as slippery as Blair when it comes to covert funding. We’ll know that his big business friends with interests in government contracts, government preferment and personal advancement, backed his campaign with cold cash given behind closed doors. Gordon glad-handed them at events at No. 11 organised by the Smith Institute, subsidised the Sith’s events by allowing them to use No. 11 rent free, the Treasury paid tax kick-backs on donations to the “educational charity” and even went so far as to pay thousands directly to the Smith Institute’s private company to organise events.

Gordon then tried to get a peerage for his allies Wilf Stevenson, the director of the Smith Institute and Ronnie “PFI” Cohen, the financier and Gordon backer. When Blair goes will anything really change when it comes to New Labour sleaze?

*Hat-tip to Hencke

Friday, February 2, 2007

The Times’ Phil Webster to Gordon :"Will this do?"

The Times has a big two-page spread today and a leader on the growing influence of right-of-centre think tanks. Fascinating as it is, why choose today to concentrate on these think-tanks? Phil Webster, political editor, is a friend of Ed Balls and a fellow supporter of Norwich. They even travel to matches together.

Tucked away elsewhere in the paper is a tiny PA piece on a Charity Commission investigation of another think-tank where Ed Balls once worked. Times readers will have to look hard to find it. All the other papers give it prominence Telegraph – page 4, FT – page 3, Independent – page 24, Mail – page 4, Guardian – page 16, Express – page 4, not forgetting the BBC. Even News International stablemate The Sun has a piece on it.

Fact : The Times had the Smith Institute / Gordon Brown story last year.

No. 11 Downing Street, the Rent-Free Home ofGordon Brown’s Smith Institute

It will, Guido predicts, emerge in the Charity regulator’s investigation, that despite having over the years held 165 meetings there, not one single penny has ever been paid by the Smith Institute to the Treasury for the use of No. 11 Downing Street. Absorb that stunning fact.

Wilf Stevenson bleats that they paid for their own tea and biscuits. Despite all of Westminster knowing that the operation is a Brownite organising front, Wilf Stevenson now denies it. The following quotations (after the first) are from less guarded times…

“The Smith Institute has never had and does not currently have a direct relationship with Gordon Brown.”
Wilf Stevenson, Director of the Smith Institute, November 30, 2006.

“This is a series of three seminars dealing with social, cultural and knowledge entrepreneurship. There has been a building interest in this area and it needs to be further investigated in the think-tank world and also within government. This series is under the patronage of the Chancellor of the Exchequer”
Wilf Stevenson, Director of the Smith Institute, July 1999 at 11 Downing Street.

“We were in at the beginning and are still here, still innovating. We look forward to hearing what he has to say. But to get us started: Gordon Brown.”
Wilf Stevenson, Director of the Smith Institute, October, 2004 at 11 Downing Street.

“Can I welcome you all, first of all, to No 11 Downing Street for the first in a series of Smith Institute seminars..”
Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer, October, 2004 at 11 Downing Street.

“I am a last-minute substitute for Gordon Brown, so I would like, on his behalf, to welcome you all to Number 11 Downing Street. I know, looking around, some of you are quite regular attenders of Smith Institute seminars, and you will know you get a letter from Wilf Stevenson before each one explaining that you are invited to Number 11 by kind permission of the Chancellor. I have to say, this series of seminars in particular is being held not so much by the kind permission of the Chancellor, but by his absolute insistence that they take place. He is unable to be with us now, but he will want to know exactly what has been said in the discussion when I see him later this morning. Many of you, including and perhaps especially the panel here, have known Gordon for a long time.”

John Healey MP, Economic Secretary, HM Treasury, December 2004 at 11 Downing Street.

Credits to co-conspirators : Saxon Times & Theo Spark for the picture montage. “Welcome to No. 11″ for the quotes.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

++ Statement from the Charity Commission ++

The Charity Commission for England and Wales has opened a formal inquiry into the charity The Smith Institute today.

Feb 1, 2007 14:19:09

The decision to open an inquiry was taken in the light of new information we have received which raises concerns about some of the charity’s work.

The scope of the inquiry is to determine whether The Smith Institute is both established and operating as a charity advancing the education of the public in the field of study and research into the economy of the United Kingdom.

The Commission has informed the charity of this decision. The Commission has been and continues to engage with the charity in relation to the issues raised.

On being warned of the approach of the Spanish fleet, Drake is said to have remarked that there was plenty of time to finish the game and still beat the Spaniards. On receiving endless journalist’s phone calls at lunchtime, Guido finished another bottle of Chablis with Katy Taylor-Richards, and will still defeat the Sith.

PFI Lawyers Love the Sith

Guido knows just how many loafing City lawyers and bored City brokers follow this blog. Sometimes they can be useful in coming up with little gems. This note, about yesterday’s meeting of the Sith in No. 11, is from the Clifford Chance private internal intranet this morning:
Number 1 law firm at Number 11
On the podium yesterday morning was Stuart Popham, who was invited to speak at a Smith Institute event at Number 11 Downing Street. Stuart shared the limelight with Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Vicky Pryce, Chief Economic Adviser to the DTI and Michael Snyder from the Corporation of London. Clifford Chance was there in force, with networking skills worthy of a place in the Prime Minister’s, ehem, Chancellor’s home.
You can just sense the self congratulatory smugness at their proximity to the dark side. What is a small donation to the Smith Institute compared to all the millions to be made from drawing up those PFI contracts for Gordon…

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

This Morning the Smith Institute Met in No. 11

The arrogance of the Sith is incredible. Despite being warned by the Charity Commission to hold events at politically neutral venues, they held yet another event this morning at No. 11.

A co-conspirator tells Guido

Alistair Darling was “looking very proprietorial ” telling the assembled business executives how it will be in future. Attending were some ministers, no politicians from other parties, but some Labour backbenchers.

With Gordon’s future chancellor and only Labour MPs present, seems to Guido to be a little bit political and far from neutral. If you have not yet watched Iain Dale’s ten minute documentary on the Smith Institute, click here.

UPDATE : Dizzy has picked-up on the Treasury’s John Healey avoiding answering questions about EMI. Wonder why?


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Left on Left says:

The lefties are attacking because the panellist is a millionaire and lives in a London home worth upwards of two million. Someone had best tell them he’s called Ed Miliband.


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