Round II : Gloves Off

Tonight in the House of Parliament Grand Committee room Guido will be re-united with Nick Robinson and Michael White discussing the subject of ‘the internet: saviour or corruptor of democracy?’

It is being hosted by Danny Alexander MP, the rest of the panel iincludes Peter Kellner (YouGov), Grant Shapps MP (Shadow Minister for Housing).   The organisers say get there early if you want to get in…

Follow the debate (it’s running from 6.30pm today) and send in your questions and comments to the panel – before or during the debate using the Twitter hash tag #idebate.

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Tempers Flare in the Heat

BlinkyEd Balls, denuded of Damian McBride, has to call journalists himself now to make threats. Blogging Speccie hack Fraser Nelson got the full hairdryer treatment from blinky: “take that post down now… You should not call me a liar…” Balls told him if he kept the blog post up, it will “expose” the sort of publication that the Spectator is and its “political” bias. “So you will take the post down?” Balls told a laughing Fraser.  The heat must be getting to Blinky.

Economy Contracting Worst Since 1958

The UK economy contracted an horrific 2.4% in the first quarter of 2009, its biggest quarterly decline in 51 years, according to the latest ONS data released today. This comes on top of the OECD saying we can expect a severe recession to come. Didn’t brown and Darling tell us last year that the economy would be on the up by this July?  Still a day to go…

Rennard's Last Campaign

Lord Rennard resigned from his job as LibDem CEO last month, he claimed it was for “health reasons”, and that is a fiction that Clegg and the LibDem establishment are happy to maintain.  He was scheduled to leave Cowley Street in September, however Chris Fox has already been appointed as his successor and is now in place in Cowley Street.  Rennard is therefore somewhat superfluous in Westminster.

Shhh, Don't Tell Anyone We're in StockwellNick Clegg confirmed last week that Chris Rennard would be running the North Norwich campaign, it is likely to be the last campaign Rennard runs.  It is a little awkward given that the reason for this by-election on July 23 is that Ian Gibson, the sitting Labour MP, stood down over his expense claims.  Rennard himself is mired in his own expense claim difficulties over his “second home” two miles from Cowley Street.  He has now been reported to the House of Lords Privileges committee and asked to explain how and why he has claimed over £40,000 in expenses for what is in reality his main residence which he owned before even becoming peer.

He has now taken the step of calling in lawyers, Goodman Derrick, to advise him…

Paramount Wake for New Labour

Propeller-Head Wonk Watch: Guido was at the “21st Birthday Party” for IPPR held in London’s Paramount at the top of Centre Point.  IPPR was partly responsible for dragging the Labour Party from the electorally chilling loony left towards the centre. You knew this was a valedictory affair the moment Nicholas Boles came on the video tribute.  When the former head of  Policy Exchange, Cameron’s favourite think tank, was paying tribute you knew the moment for this once so New Labour think-tank was over.

ipprAccording to one of the speakers 1500 people had worked for them over the years, they included some famous names now in high office who had done the photo-copying as interns.  The whole night had a “our best days are behind us feel”.  When a drunken IPPR PR started screeching “how did you get in?” it felt embarrassing to tell her that Guido was invited to the wake – and, even more embarrassingly – had been there at the birth long before her.  Farewell New Labour, we won’t forget you easily…

Blundell Ousted from the IEA

Propeller-Head Wonk Watch: Dale is first with the news that John Blundell has been ousted from the directorship of the venerable Institute of Economic Affairs, the grand-daddy of think tanks.  To be honest whatever spin is put in the official announcement this has been in the offing for some time.  Guido made his view clear to all in wonkland last year: “Young Blood Needed at the Daddy of Think Tanks“.

The problem was that John Blundell was not only low profile, he was very expensive and was beginning to concern the trustees.  The complete lack of influence on the Conservative Party agenda on the eve of a change of government was a big disappointment. The IEA trustees very pointedly introduced a rule in April that no IEA employee could drink during business hours or at IEA events.  The IEA has also, like most think-tanks, suffered from a fall in donations post credit crunch.  Staff were recently put on a four day week.

Possible successors to Blundell who are likely to throw in their hat are said to include; Tim Evans, formerly with the Stockholm Network and now kicking his heels at the Libertarian Alliance, the IEA’s own Roger Bates and Julian Morris from the International Policy Network.   Bates and Morris have baggage which will probably rule them out of the running, both have acted too often as think-tankers-for-hire to directly push policies on behalf big agri-businesses and Big Pharma.   The IEA has always kept itself above that sort of thing, it campaigns for capitalism not big corporations.

Matthew Elliott is too happy where he is and will want to keep the pressure on the incoming government from the Taxpayers’ Alliance. His brother-in-law, City A.M.’s editor Allister Heath, is in with a strong chance.  If the IEA wants to become a policy player again he would be a good choice, with his contacts in the media and politics he understands what will get attention.  The only thing is that if (as is rumoured) Matthew d’Ancona is thinking of moving on from the Speccie, Allister might also fancy his chances there.  Other potential candidates from wonkland could include Progressive Vision’s Mark Littlewood or Shane Frith, both of whom have done work for the IEA in the past.  A lot of people would like to run the biggest think-tank budget in Westminster…

Rich & Mark's Monday Morning View

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Balls Speaking to McBrideSpectator

Balls Still In Touch With McBride

balls_mcbrideWhen you know that it was Ed Balls who originally talent-spotted McBride at the Treasury and that it was Balls who directed the smear operation which McBride ran, it makes sense. Damian McBride was to have been Ed’s right hand man when he ran for the leadership if things had gone differently.  Having told the Today show to much guffawing that he barely knew “Mr McBride” he has now switched tack.  Perhaps fearing he was going to be caught lying when directly questioned by Gaby Hinsliff, he said his recent contact was merely social – “I certainly wished him a happy birthday. As I said [when he resigned], Damian did a very stupid thing, he’s paid a very heavy price, but we all get on with our jobs.” So Mr McBride hasn’t quite been airbrushed out completely…

Mrs Bercow Cavorted with Stripper Who Turned Rapist

You won’t believe this in the Mail on Sunday.

Hain's Political Lobbying Firm

The Sunday Times has uncovered that Peter Hain, despite being made Welsh secretary in Gordon’s last barrel scraping re-shuffle, is still a partner in a firm that specialises in political communications. HaywoodHain, a consultancy set up with his second-wife claimed to have a “detailed understanding of the political landscape in the UK” on its website and used Hain’s London home as the office address. No conflict of interest there…

Keen's Squatters are Angry Taxpayers

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Banner reads “Reclaiming Your Taxes”Could this be the work of the provisional wing of the Taxpayers’ Alliance?

N.B. More photos here.

+++ Police Called to Keen House Over Squatters +++

Mr-&-Mrs-Keen-on-Expenses

Unconfirmed reports from local sources say police have been called to deal with squatters at Mr & Mrs Keen (on expenses) empty home. At least it is going to good use…

Brown's Billions for Climate Change

Yesterday when Gordon proposed throwing $100 billion at developing countries to help them cope with climate change, he said:

When historians look back on this critical moment, let them say, not that we were the generation that failed our children; but that we had the courage, and the will, to succeed.

Brown is BonkersThe Prime Mentalist will succeed only in putting our children into debt that will last generations.   No other G7 country  supports this position because they are not led by loons.  They have budget deficits to worry about, Britain’s deficit is the worst, last month alone the government overspent by £20 billion.  Britain is broke, a government that can’t pay it’s bills has resorted to printing money to buy its own government debt and has run out of things to tax. They are planning to tax phone lines.

Bonkers Brown reminds Guido of Wacko Jacko, saving the world “for the children”.  Jacko died broke, living extravagantly beyond his means.  Brown is taking us to never, never land financially…

Polly is Rabidly Pro-Politics

Polly is moaning again: “The blogosphere could have been a source for better information, but purveys even more rabid anti-politics bile.” Guilty as charged.

Of course it could equally be said that Polly is rabidly pro-politics.  Which of us is right?  Polly with her frothing  at the mouth endorsements of one social democratic politician after another, or Guido, warning against believing the promises of politicians?

Since the days of David Owen she has seen her hopes dashed by one social democrat after another promising her a good time and big government spending.  You would have thought that she would have learnt by now, they all fail to deliver in the end and to expect more from politics is to delude yourself.  This is not cynical nihilism, this is the age-old reality of politics.

Polly has singled Guido out in the past, saying that he couldn’t write about politics well because he has no sympathy for politicians.  If Polly looks at the polls she will see that none of the voters have any sympathy for politicians. Which of us really, truly understands politics: Polly with her over-the-top endorsements and flattery of politicians, or Guido with his anti-political cynicism. Who is rabidly unrealistic?

See also : The Class Contradictions of Polly, For the Love of an Older Woman and a philosophy of life that is anti-politics.

Friday Caption Contest (My Little Pony Edition)

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Press Association and Big Media Fail to Double Source

Big Media Twits

Guido has just checked with David Miliband’s office. He didn’t Twitter a tribute to Michael Jackson. British newspapers are reporting that he Twittered “Never has one soared so high and yet dived so low. RIP Michael”. Except of course he didn’t.

On Wednesday Guido gave a presentation to the Press Association on the future of digital journalism.   Looks like Guido could teach them something about checking their sources…

UPDATE : Paul Waugh and Sunder Katawala also exercised commonsense in suspecting that Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs might not be Twittering in the middle of the night about Wacko Jacko.  Guido will not be taking lectures in future from Twitterholics on how they will crowd source news or from the grandees of the newswires on how they have higher thresholds for substantiating stories.

UPDATE II : P.A. have now pulled their story, so has the Telegraph. Agence France Presse also ran the story.

Wacko Jacko Heart Attacko

Michael Jackson died of a heart attack last night.  He did some half decent political songs (They Don’t Care About Us and Earth Song) but his best stuff was disco like Billie Jean and Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough “Thriller” was the best-selling album of all time, yet he dies almost broke…

UPDATE : PMS says on behalf of Gordon Brown “Michael Jackson had millions of fans in Britain and the Prime Minister’s thoughts are with his family.”

Dave says “I know Michael Jackson’s fans in Britain and around the world will be sad today. Despite the controversies, he was a legendary entertainer. Everybody will be thinking of his family, especially his children, at this time.”

Clean Hands in Parliament

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Is this what they mean by cleaning up parliament?  This poster has gone up in all the loos on the parliamentary estate.  For MPs too stupid to understand the correct procedure…

Gordon's Lies Get More Extreme

No Really, HonestlyGordon at a photo op this afternoon:

“They [Tories] would take away all the measures that would help the unemployed.”

Are the Tories really going to abolish the dole and re-training grants? When did they say that?

UPDATE : Labour have just sent out a press release:

We will uphold the highest standards of integrity – Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown MP, Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party, today pledged Labour candidates to the highest standards of integrity, accountability, and prudence with public money.

100 of Labour’s young candidates and activists joined Gordon Brown at Labour HQ to sign up to an eight point promise that they will put the public’s interest first.

Of course you will…

Hat-tip : FT Westminster Blog

Derek Ducks Out of PR Masterclass

pr weekSadly Guido’s old adversary Derek Draper ducked out of giving us the benefit of his PR and blogging expertise at PR Week’s “new media” conference at the very last moment.  Guido had to improvise his speech since he was expecting to just have another ding-dong with Draper. […] Read the rest

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