Smiley Dave

Be gone talk of doom and gloom. It was all happy faces today. Guido spent much of the morning at the Tories’ dubiously named “Big Society” event at the posh eco-council estate by Waterloo.  On the positive side, the idea is to deregulate voluntary activities to ease a roll-back of the state. On the negative side was Dave’s ill-advised Abe Lincoln “by the people” moment, swiftly followed by JFK’s “ask not what your country can do”, thankfully not sugared any further by “I have a dream.

Is this the influence of the aforementioned Ian Birrell?

On questions Nick Watt was straight out the box asking “What about the welfare state?” with his Guardianista pal Jenny Russell demanding to know what Dave would do about corrupt charities. Fair questions, but they clearly show the metropolitan media’s bias against anything not run by the state – Guido’s never seen them so quick to ask about corruption whenever it’s government proposing to provide a new community service.

At least the Shadow Cabinet managed to stay in line, for once – extraordinary with so many present. Though after Chris Grayling’s reference to “my friend Ben Brogan over there”, the friend in question was careful to make sure he wasn’t in the front row for the next session.

Punters Slash Odds, Ed Balls Now Expected to Lose

Right now on Betfair the odds on the Morley and Outwood seat being fought over by Ed Balls (2/5) and Antony Calvert (2/7) slighly favouring the Tory challenger.  Guido understands that Balls is cynically trying to shore up his vote in working class areas of the constituency by taking a knuckle draggingly tough line on immigration in leaflets going through letter boxes.

Antony Calvert has raised thousands online from grassroots Conservatives hoping to defeat the UNITE union backed and widely disliked protege of Gordon Brown.  Many of those hoping for Balls to provide a “Portillo moment” on election night are Labour MPs…

UPDATE : According to YouFund.Me.uk, Calvert has raised over £6,000 online in the last 7 days with the average donation just over £30.  The odds have moved even further in against Balls today, he is now 6/4 versus Calvert at 1/2.  Guido did manage to get a few quid on early…

Baldemort Butters Up Blog

Despite the site coining “Baldemort” as his charming nickname, it seems that the neo-Thatcherite cabinet minister Liam Byrne is a closet Guido fan.  He said at the despatch box yesterday:

“As I was casually looking at my favourite new blog, Order-Order.com, I was surprised to read that at Tory central office the shadow Chancellor’s desk is now listed as ‘George Osborne/Hotdesk’.  Are they trying to send him a message?”

So both Dave and Liam have used Guido’s lines in the Commons in the last couple of weeks. Maybe it’s time to go behind a pay-wall.

Birrell Pulls Ahead in PMS Race

Two weeks ago Guido tipped former Indy deputy-editor Ian Birrell as one of the candidates to become David Cameron’s Prime Minister’s Spokesman. Well things are progressing nicely for the friend who bonded with Cameron through both having disabled children. As last night’s Standard reported Birrell has been taken on for the duration of the campaign to hone the line and  boost Cameron’s speech writing team. This of course puts Birrell in a strong position, if the election goes Dave’s way, to make the move to No. 10. Guido can’t imagine Cameron’s spinner Gabby Bertin will let the job go without a fight though.

Teather Far From Cleared

There is a big difference between being “cleared” by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner and having a complaint dropped. As anyone who has ever attempted to put a complaint in to John Lyon would know, he and his staff are meticulous about every procedural detail before any investigation is triggered or judgement is passed.

Hence it is no surprise that he dropped the Labour-coordinated complaint against LibDem “saint” Sarah Teather. Her opponent Dawn Butler’s staffer had signed the complaint in her brother-in-law’s name, which he claimed no knowledge of.  A sloppy attempt to stitch Teather up without leaving Dawn Butler’s clumsy finger-prints on it. If you are going to do over your opponent, at least do it properly. That does not however answer the serious questions surrounding the dodgy rental agreement Teather and the Lib Dems have in her Brent East office.

LibDem bloggers have gone into spin overdrive, while ignoring the fact she got off on a technicality.

+ + + Tories to Scrap IR35 – Geeks Rejoice + + +

HMRC’s IR35 tax regime is hated by IT contractors and freelancers, the Shadow Business Minister, Mark Prisk confirmed today that:

“For the last 13 years, Labour have constantly meddled with the tax rules for freelancers and self-employed. IR35 has especially proved to over-complex, uncertain and often unfair. At a time when Britain should be open for business, Gordon Brown has made it harder to be self-employed. This is why a Conservative Government would mandate the independent Office of Tax Simplification to undertake a fundamental review of current arrangements with the aim of providing a clearer, lasting and fairer tax regime.”

That is the geek vote sewn up…

Tweetminster Predicts Labour Biggest Party

Tweetminster is the website for people too stupid to work Tweetdeck or any of the many other Twitter apps. They have had problems with their headline-friendly research before – they overestimated Labour activity on Twitter by 45%. After a bit of prompting they retracted those figures in an embarrassing climbdown. Now they are claiming they can predict the election based on tweet patterns – essentially the thesis is that the more tweeted about the candidate, the more likely they are to get elected.   On that basis they are predicting that Labour will get 35%, Tories 34% and LibDems 22% with others scraping 9%.

There are so many methodological errors it is hard to know where to start. The most obvious one is that the Twittersphere is not representative of the voting population. Guido wants to know, do they fancy a bet?

Quote of the Day

Kevin Maguire says of Blair…

“I wouldn’t touch the former Labour PM with a bargepole these days”

Newsnight's Pie Fight : Unappealing Politics at its Best

If you missed last night’s Newsnight, you missed a classic of its kind.

Prezza, Pickles and the Huhney monster trashing each other and squabbling in a manner that would make fish wives embarrassed.  Every now and then Prezza would shoutAshcroftlike he had a politicised version of  Tourette’s syndrome.  Huhne accused Blair of wanting a Labour government to protect his lobbying interests. Pickles tried to out-gruff Prezza.  It was so bad, it was good.

Watch it on iPlayer here.

+ + + Libel Reform Blocked + + +

tom_wDetails are a little sketchy tonight, but Guido understands that there has been a last minute ambush of Jack Straw’s libel reform bill in the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments.

The ambush was apparently galvanised by Tom Watson, with the support of Chris Mullins, Peter Kilfoyle, Jim Sheridan and Julie Kirkbride.

It seems inexplicable, the reform carries widespread support across all parties. Cynics note that some of last minute opponents had in the past benefitted from Conditional Fee Arrangements (CFAs). Others point to the closeness to former speaker Michael Martin, who opposes the reforms in the Lords. Others note that some of the oppents have themselves been beneficiaries of CFAs . Solicitors Carter-Ruck are lobbying intensely against to keep the no-win-no-fee system. Carter-Ruck won £50,000 for Tom Watson on that basis. Coincidentally.

+ + + Developing + + +

Guido Fact : Carter-Ruck solicitors had a table at the Index on Censorship Awards.

UPDATE : Index on Censorship has more:

LIBEL COSTS REFORM STALLED BY LABOUR MPS’ REVOLT

30 Mar 2010

A Statutory Instrument that would have reformed costs in English libel cases was stalled at committee stage tonight after several Labour MPs voted against their party whip to bock a reduction of lawyers’ success fees from a 100 per cent mark-up to 10 per cent. Chris Mullin, Peter Kilfoyle, Tom Watson and Jim Sheridan and Julie Kirkbride voted against the move. Watson and Kilfoyle have both taken advantage of Conditional Fee Agreements in past court cases. Conservative MPs abstained from the vote.

The proposal will now go to a full parliamentary vote.

Exclusive : Guardian Editor's Internal Rant at Murdoch

Guardian’s Imaginer-in-Chief Alan Rusbridger has sent out an email to anxious hacks responding to articles about Carolyn McCall’s unexpected departure from GMG, laying into all and sundry (well, except the BBC) in a thousand words of defensive ranting.

The Times‘ one-line comment calling the Guardian a paper “in turmoil” clearly struck a nerve. In response to that one word, Rusbridger manages 128. Not content with Murdoch-bashing, he then devotes another three paragraphs to gloating over the Indy, calling it loser of the “format wars“, before gushing over his financial overlords and accusing competitors of just being jealous. “Outsiders look at all this and they don’t quite understand it.”

“Let’s be honest. Some of it is envy: the Scott Trust has been, and continues to be, a remarkable illustration of how a company can support serious journalism and how a news organization can place editorial at the heart of everything it does. So it comes under attack – just like the BBC – by people who dislike or envy the subsidy model and our journalistic freedoms.”

Then it’s back to Murdoch-bashing, and something even vaguely close to a threat: “We can equally certainly make the most of the opportunity presented to us. It’s no more than Mr Murdoch would do to us.” And then there’s profoundest wisdom of all: “Insecurity often breeds anger, denial and a search for someone to blame.”

A solution to the newspaper’s woes? “Mutually imagining”

Wipe the Smile Off Their Face

When Guido first heard “political” and “loo-roll” in the same sentence he immediately thought of Andrew Slaughter MP. On the 21st Feb 2008 Slaughter charged one pack of twenty-four Double Velvet rolls at £11.89 (+VAT) to the taxpayer. On the 14th April 2008 Slaughter charged another five packs of nine Triple Velvet rolls at £28.45 (+ VAT) to the people. In total that’s seventy-nine loo rolls in fifty-three days, or almost exactly one and half rolls a day.

But that aside Guido has been most amused with a batch of Dave and Gordon loo rolls:

You can treat yourself to the satisfaction of using a mental looking Gordon or a spliff smoking, tail-coated Dave here.

A Future Blair For All

The British public clearly have a longer memory than the Labour Party would like, even their own most loyal apparatchiks have mixed feelings about the return of Blair. Despite the billing that this was to be a swinging attack at Cameron, old Tony refused to personally attack his political heir: Dave. Instead he chose to meekly go after wonky Oliver Letwin about market forces in the public services – something New Labour was built on.

He also suggested that Labour had never used the “vacuous” slogan “time for a change“, Guido begs to differ and wonders what Tony’s good chum Obama would have to say about that. Looking more orange than even Peter Hain, Guido suspects we won’t be seeing much more of Blair in the run up to polling day – not with the 50% tax rate and everything. He’ll resist the temptation to upstage Brown, it would in any event tarnish his reputation as a thrice-proven election winner to be associated with Brown…

Quote of the Day

Andrew Neil asked Charles Kennedy on the Daily Politics…

…bringing back washed up leaders  is surely a mistake?”

Party Political Broadcast on Behalf of the Labservatives

A cracking attack on the status quo from the LibDems. No really…

Meanwhile Over at Southwark Crown Court…

The three Labour MPs facing criminal charges went in the back of the Southwark Crown Court to avoid oinking protestors staging a mock execution of a pig-like MP under a banner proclaiming “Hang ‘Em All”.

Can’t think why they were so cowardly…

UPDATE : ITN reports the judge excused David Chaytor, Elliot Morley and Jim Devine from attending in person and just their lawyers attended. Guido understands that they are all represented at the taxpayers expense. Even their lawyers are at our expense…

The 'Pin-Striped Scargill' Who Stole Millions for Lib-Dems

During the chancellor’s debate last night Vince Cable attacked the “pin-striped Scargills” of banking, adding for good measure that the LibDems didn’t rely on friends in the City for funding. No, not any more.

The biggest donor in the history of the Liberal Democrat Party was one pin-striped Michael Brown, a financial trader who gave them £2.4 million for a front-row seat sipping champagne next to Charlie Kennedy.  He turned out to be a pin-striped thief and was charged with money laundering, fraud and theft before he went on the run.  Remember that next time the LibDems get on their high horse about the financial probity of political donors…

Bercow Spends £15,640 on Private Detectives

A little piece of  intrigue was raised in committee last week when Stewart Jackson MP was attempting to ascertain exactly why the Speaker had sanctioned spending nearly £16,000 on private investigators with public money.

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Hammersmith and Fulham of 2 March 2010, Official Report, column 1006W, on Members: expenses, how much the (a) budget and (b) approved purchase order is for the use of Detica to undertake investigations in 2009-10; and what it was in 2008-09.

Nick Harvey: An invoice for £15,640, inclusive of VAT, has now been received in line with the original budgetary provision. This was for a piece of work in support of the internal inquiry into the unauthorised disclosure of information about Members’ allowances. No payment for such work was made in 2008-09.

Seems Guido’s initial guess that the Speaker must be worried about his wife proved wide of the mark.

Spin Room Verdict

Dull with no big thrills or spills. Maybe it won’t be the TV debates that decide. The consensus tomorrow will be that Cable benefitted the most…

The Chancellors Debate – via Twitter

[orderorder-live-event altcast_code=”10daeb1213″ height=”600″ width=”480″][…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Alan Sugar on Jeremy Corbyn:

“It’s clear you alluded to students refunds to get votes from young impressionable people. You are a cheat and should resign.”

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