Exclusive : Which? Spinner to Spin for Brown

Word reaches Guido that Gordon Brown’s new “Strategic Communications Adviser” will be Nick Stace, who is currently Director of Campaigns and Communications at the Consumers’ Association (Which?).
Gordon must be in a real mess as Stace is not what you would regard as high calibre – he so badly mishandled the whole Home Information Packs (HIPs) stuff that the Consumers’ Association went from supporting the government to half supporting the government, to eventually disowning the government plan. Or something like that, it all got a little confusing.

Also as early as next week a new Head of Press and Broadcasting for the Labour Party will be appointed – expect it to be an internal appointment. This follows the appointment of Stephen Carter over Damian McBride in Downing Street.

Gordon is said to have performance concerns about McSnide’s ever increasing tendency to be found propping up the bar. Guido sympathises – spinning for Gordon would drive anyone to drink…

+++ Harry Landing Brize Norton for Breakfast Tomorrow +++

Too late for the Taliban, just in time for Boujis…

Friday Caption Contest (Hain Rebels)

Labour Were Thinking What The Tories Were Thinking

Immigration minister Liam Byrne told BBC News this morning that the Australian immigration control model had been closely examined by the British government: “I think that people want to know that only those who we need to come to Britain should be allowed to come and I think a points system has worked extremely well in Australia so we have studied that hard, we think it would work well in this country.”
The 2005 Conservative Party Manifesto promised “We will introduce a points-based system for work permits similar to the one used in Australia. This will give priority to people with the skills Britain needs.”

Remember how the Labour Party made a huge issue of the policy and campaign posters, outrageously condemning the commitment as a racist dog-whistle policy. Less than three years later Labour is implementing the same policy.

UPDATE : Gordon describes himself as a Daily Mail reader in the paper this morning when backing their campaign against plastic bags. So he is actually thinking what Paul Dacre is thinking.

+++ Drudge : Harry Fighting Taliban Since December +++

Met Police Commissioner – We Are Waiting to Investigate Conway

Labour’s favourite copper has written to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to inquire about whether or not Conway is going to be referred to the Met. Guido is as keen as mustard on seeing Conway prosecuted, yet one can’t help wondering if Ian Blair would be so eager to investigate Geoff Hoon or David Blunkett, both of whom are guilty of fiddling large sums from the taxpayer.

The Commons Standards Committee, which investigated the case, has said there was not enough evidence to refer it. Blair hints that this is not the protocol that is supposed to be followed. Guido wonders if Sir George Younger is really qualified or motivated enough to conduct criminal investigations.

If Conway has done nothing wrong why was he suspended from parliament? Why are his wrong doings not ordinary matters for the criminal justice system? Do MPs think they are above the law?

UPDATE : Almost forgot, Duncan Borrowman, Conway’s LibDem opponent in Bexley and Sidcup wrote to the Commissioner in January.

Calamity Logic

Guido had his good impression of Clegg diminished during his leadership fight with Huhne, which he won (just) on votes while Huhne won on style and determination. Interviewed yesterday Clegg tried to justify wriggling out of his manifesto promise to hold a referendum. He claimed that the Lisbon Treaty was too “measly and paltry” to hold a referendum on. He was then asked whether the UK needs a clear cut definition so that we can judge if something is constitutionally significant and therefore warrants a referendum?

Clegg: “I strongly agree with that. There’s some good organisations, an organisation which I think is great is Unlock Democracy which is putting forward some ideas about how we could get some sort of logic into when a referendum is appropriate or not.” (BBC 5 Live, 27 February, 2008)

That would be the Unlock Democracy group which put out a statement on Tuesday from its director Peter Facey criticising the Lib Dems for refusing to back a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty saying: “they should back down and support the Conservative amendment.” Logical?

Sienna Director Did Dave Advert

Trendy film producer Matthew Vaughn, the maker of gangster flicks “Layer Cake” and “Lock Stock and Two Barrels” was behind Dave’s glossy new advert. Unfortunately Sienna Miller does not star in this production, it is just Dave and some groovy graphics with the “you can get it if you really want it” theme tune. In Guido’s dreams…

See it on GuyNews.TV

You Can Get It If You Really Want It

Tory “Deep Polling” Shows Seismic Public Attitude ChangeStrengthens Hand of Modernisers

What brought about the unusual change of tone at PMQs yesterday? Brown was mildly bemused by the line of questioning. It confused Iain Dale so much he judged Brown the winner. “I can’t really understand the logic of Cameron asking about internal House of Commons issues when there are far more important things to talk about” blogged Iain.

The Telegraph’s Iain Martin speculated that Cameron was trying to suggest he is on the side of those with their noses pressed up against the Westminster window (voters) who dislike what they see going on inside in terms of expenses, high living generally and a refusal to listen to voters legitimate demands I suspect, however, that if it was shown to a focus group of civilians they would understand it much more easily.” Exactly correct.

The regular Ashcroft financed deep polling asks questions not just about voting intentions (it examines more deeper qualitative lines of questioning about motivations) has revealed a watershed change in voter psychology. The general public now views politicians with contempt, two years of tales of sleaze since Cash for Honours up to the current fiddles by the Speaker, have shifted the public’s attitude beyond merely seeing politicians on a par with estate agents. According to the polling “the public think politicians are either incompetent wankers or crooks” Guido was told by one Cameroon.

Michael Gove has been at the forefront of an internal debate about what to do in the face of what is not just voter disenchantment with politics, it is real voter disgust with politicians. Gove and Steve Hilton argue that politics as normal won’t do, root and branch change is needed. Transparency, real change, not just lip service or an attempt to change perceptions is required. Osborne and Cameron, though more pragmatic, are sympathetic to the argument. It is one Dave himself made in a little noticed 2006 speech to the Power Inquiry:

Public faith in our political institutions is draining away and being replaced by a progressive and debilitating alienation. I wish I could say that this is also a universally accepted truth among politicians. But, incredibly, there are still some people in Parliament who don’t really get it.

Of course, they accept that things aren’t great but there’s also a sense that it’s just a passing phase or a product of public annoyance with a particular government. That’s part of the Westminster Disease.

You’d be amazed at the complacency that pervades the corridors of power. Put simply, despite paying lip service to the need to re-engage the public, the political class is in denial.

I believe it’s time to wake up.

The speech went on to make a number of recommendations, such as increasing the number of free votes, something he urged Brown at PMQs to allow Labour MPs for the Lisbon Treaty vote. The speech also dealt directly with the sleaze dilemma of the political class:

It’s ridiculous that the final, indeed often the only, arbiter of ministerial probity is the Prime Minister. That system of self-regulation inspires little confidence. The only way we can start to repair the damage done to the reputation of politics is to insist on genuinely independent scrutiny from top to bottom. And that must include the Ministerial code.

These are themes that Cameron plans to return to in the coming weeks as the repercussions from the expense scandals will continue to reverberate. Older politicians remember warily Back to Basics and are urging caution. Hague and Davis in particular see in the issue a Pandora’s box out of which will fall many MPs on their own benches who have paid off multiple mortgages (and worse) courtesy of the taxpayer.

Yesterday he got Brown to agree that MPs should no longer vote for their own pay rises, or gold plate their own pension arrangements. Cameron intends to push for more transparency and reform. The modernisers believe that they must inoculate themselves against the Westminster Disease by siding with the people. In America Obama and McCain are both successfully running against Washington. Cameron is going to try to run as the change candidate who stands against the shadowy, sleazy old ways of Westminster. He can talk the talk, can he walk the walk?

Jim Murphy’s “Lines to Take”

The all-partyI Want a Referendumcampaign had a mass lobby of MPs at parliament today. The campaign is really getting under the skin of the government and particularly ministers in marginals.

If those people who travelled to London discover that they all were getting the same answer from their respective MPs they should not be surprised. The Minister for Europe, Jim Murphy, sent out an “idiots guide” to Labour MPs on what “lines to take” when dealing with constituents who expect an answer as to why Labour is not sticking to the manifesto commitment to a referendum.

Obviously these are tricky questions to answer, Murphy has come up with answers full of sophistry. The bottom line is, Brown is breaking Blair’s manifesto promise…

Download Jim Murphy’s “PLP Lines to Take

Runaway Protesters

Right now anti-Heathrow runway protesters are on the roof of parliament irritating Ben Brogan and hundreds of referendum campaigners are lobbying MPs in support of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. No gunpowder in sight…

LibDem Stunt Amuses

In Guido’s schooldays he had an RE teacher with the distinction of being held in contempt by the boys and the headmaster. We would compete to get thrown out of class and sent down to the headmaster’s office. The headmaster would invariably shake his head and send us on our way.

Yesterday’s stunt by Ed Davey had the same feel. He was clearly desperate to get thrown out, he was followed by a few of his faux-harumphing fellow Cleggies. Boys will be boys…

Police as “Judge and Jury” Hallmark of a Police State

That New Labour simply has no respect for civil liberties is now axiomatic and one of the reasons why Guido thinks that in a hung parliament, the Cleggies will be wary of a coalition with Labour.

Big Jacqui wants drug dealer’s assets to be seized as soon as a suspect is arrested. No trial, no jury, no conviction required, just the say so of the police. That is not the British way, it is the way of a police state.

Show Us Your Expenses Nick

Nick Robinson seems quite chuffed with himself, having managed to provoke fifty odd MPs into signing an EDM after his well deserved dig at the Speaker:

THE REPORTING OF MR NICK ROBINSON

25.02.2008

Kilfoyle, Peter

That this House deplores the innuendo of the blog of Nick Robinson, the BBC’s lobby correspondent; calls upon him to substantiate the imputations he makes in his blog concerning the Speaker and hon. Members; and also calls upon the BBC to publish a full, itemised account of the expenses of Mr Robinson, in the name of transparency and accountability of public funds.

Nick accepts that “If you ladle it out, you’ve got to take it, as the old saying goes.”

Well let Guido dish it out a little more to our favourite public service broadcaster. This Freedom of Information request has just been submitted to the BBC’s FoI unit.

Dear Sirs,

Please could you send me, by return as soon as possible, a full, itemised account of the expenses of Mr Nick Robinson, in the name of transparency and accountability of public funds.

Am particularly interested in the itemised receipts for Shepherds, Le Caprice and The Atrium restaurants.

There is considerable public interest in this as evidenced by the Early Day Motion 1037* signed by over 50 members of parliament.

Please acknowledge receipt by return.

Yours faithfully,

G. Fawkes

Although Guido is with Nick on this, it should be a bit of fun to see his wine choices. Before you ask, Guido spends nearly all his pocket money on booze, the rest is wasted…

UPDATE : Curly reckons Nick is beginning to sound like Guido. Say it ain’t so…

UKIP Handbags Swinging

Nigel Farage is threatening to sue the Sunday Times over the claim that he employed his student son, paying him out of EU funds. He admits to employing his wife on the EU gravy train but totally denies any gravy splashing on the boy.

Fingers are being pointed at Roger Knapman, the former UKIP leader, as the source of the story. The word is that he was on the phone to UKIP donors demanding Farage should be ousted on Saturday night. Cui bono?

Polls Tell Labour Blair Was Better

It must be a bit galling for the Brownies to discover that Cameron not only as expected wins over “toffs” (in the vernacular of Kevin Maguire’s fantasy Beano world) – the breakdown is now showing Cameron ahead in the lower D & E income groups in England. Even in Maguire’s North East home region (not in his adopted millionaire’s colony of Richmond) the Tories are more popular than Brown. That is Labour’s heartland, if they can’t win there, they can’t win anywhere.

The SNP are hammering the corrupt Scottish Labour Party, now if only the LibDems could pull some more votes from Labour, the anti-Brown vote will reach 2 to1 in England. Guido always said the Labour Party would come to miss Blair, watching Portillo last night on Thatcher it was interesting how even the dripping wet Chris Patten regretted the manner of getting rid of her – in hindsight it would have been better to let the voters decide rather than disaffected MPs.

Similarly many Labour MPs in marginals will, come the general election, rue the day they swapped a proven three times winner for a dithering, cowardly, psychologically flawed weirdo.

Gordon and Sarah’s Weekend With Dave and Posh

Guido is at a loss as to what to say about the Beckhams and the Browns weekending together at Chequers. The Beckhams are not known for their intellectual pastimes. What does Gordon see in the footballing gay icon?

Hughes Remembers the “Straight Choice”

Simon Hughes is celebrating the dirty Bermondsey campaign that got him elected 25 years ago. He made his name in the early 80s winning working-class Bermondsey from Labour in a vicious battle. The gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was his Labour opponent. Hughes made it clear in this election pamphlet that he was the “straight choice”. Ironically it turned out he wasn’t…It took some twenty years for Simon Hughes to apologise to Tatchell for that campaign, and that was only after he was outed himself.

Hat-tip : Guido is grateful to the Bermondsey Labour Party for pointing this out.

Rich & Mark’s Monday Morning View

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Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner:

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