Marr as Brown’s Journalist Poodle

Many of Marr’s journalist colleagues are irritated with him but some are laughing at him. The Brownies called in Marr yesterday for the usual exclusive self-declamatory love-in with Gordon that they book whenever he is in trouble. Remember when he got caught plotting the putsch against Blair with Tom Watson? He gave an interview to Marr who gave him the easiest of rides.

This time Gordon was in trouble for losing his bottle, so he called in Marr for another soft interview. Marr, at the end of the interview is sent outside 10 Downing Street, where he makes the announcement to the rest of the press that Brown has ruled out an early election. As if he was the Prime Minister’s Offical Spokesman…

UPDATE : Rich and Mark’s cartoon view is here.

Gordon Has Bottled It

The author of a book on Courage, the genius tactician, has bottled it. Gordon marched his troops to the top of the hill, and then he ran away.
The Brownies* will claim that they are “getting on with the job” but they have done nothing but electioneer, they are not governing, they are campaigning and spinning non-stop. They are more focused on good headlines than good governance.

Oh well, Guido has taken quite a few quid off those betting on an early election and that Tories to be the biggest party bet looks a lot better now.

Gordon’s judgement, to not simply squash the speculation, will be in question and his authority much reduced after this, Cameron called him on it without reservation. Dave didn’t flinch, Gordon just blinked…

*No longer will Guido use the macho sounding term Brownites, these are the Brownies. Compared to the Blairites, we really are dealing with the B-team.

UPDATED : Election Fever – Who Says When

Dateline : 5 October

The Telegraph’s Daniel Hannan has been in touch to point out that Peter Riddell first ruled out any prospect of a 2007 poll back in June, “that’s what first persuaded me it was likely.” He also says Janet Daley has done a similar flip.

Daniel himself has been saying for five months that there’ll be an election this year which he reckons means almost certainly there won’t be “as I’m the world’s worst forecaster”.

Dateline : 4 October
Over the last week or so Guido has been tracking the pundits predictions and will be updating this list (do add pundits names and predictions in the comments):

  • Peter Riddell – “it will almost certainly be on November 1 or 8.”*
  • Tim Montgomerie – is betting on an autumn election
  • Iain Dale – thought Gordon might call it during Tory conference
  • Nick Robinson tells us the preparations for an immediate election are real
  • Team Cameron – we don’t know but “we are on battle stations”.
  • Peter Riddell also ruled out a 2007 election last June.
  • Adam Boulton – told Guido he didn’t think this autumn, but you never know.
  • Mike Smithson – thinks Gordon will play it extra long, not before 2009.
  • Fraser Nelson – can’t see why Gordon would want to shorten his reign.
  • Benedict Brogan – not now, according to his Brownite sources.
  • Steve Richards suspects Dave will be able to claim next week that he stopped the mighty Mr Brown from calling a November election.
  • Michael White suspects not soon.
  • Dizzy Thinks not now.
  • Janet Daley wrote in July “I will stake my commentator’s credibility on the prediction that he will not do so, because I believe that his sense of his own political seriousness would make it inconceivable that he would cut and run before he has established his new dispensation and stamped his own objectives on government.”
Where is Guido sticking his neck? The Brownies are a secretive cabal yet they have signalled a supposed snap election intention. Why would they signal their true intentions to the enemy? Gordon will stretch out his term as long as he can…

Guido has been laying “before Dec 2007” on Betfair if you think Guido is wrong. It has been known…

*Peter Riddell has been been in touch to say he has been quoted out of context and he hasn’t a clue when the election is going to be.

Friday Caption Competition

No2ID to Advocate No2Labour Tactical Voting

Word reaches Guido that at a meeting scheduled for next Tuesday the leaders of the NO2ID campaign are likely to decide on an election strategy advocating tactical voting to oust MPs who support ID cards at the election.

The message is simple; if you want to get rid of ID cards, vote against those who voted for them. Two examples where this strategy might work to devastating effect are Tooting and Islington South:

In Islington South the Tories came a distant third, but the LibDem was less than 400 votes behind left-wing Labour MP Emily Thornberry. Tories should vote for the LibDem and enjoy getting rid of the ID card loving, CND supporting MP.

In Tooting the LibDems were nearly 10,000 votes behind Labour Sadiq Khan, if they switched votes to the second-placed Tory candidate they would be getting rid of an authoritarian Labour MP who voted strongly for introducing national ID cards, strongly for Labour’s anti-terrorism laws and very strongly against investigating the Iraq war.

As things stand the third placed party has no hope, the result of widespread tactical voting would be less MPs to push through ID cards and guaranteed LibDem and Tory gains. Across the country tactical voting would further slash Labour’s majority. The logic is clear, where a LibDem or Tory is in a distant third place, vote for the candidate most likely to unseat the ID card supporter. Guido doesn’t think it impossible we could see Nick Clegg and David Davis on the same anti-ID cards platform.

Of course fear of tactical voting could result in Gordon Brown dropping ID cards altogether before the election – which would be huge a victory for the NO2ID campaign…

Brown Bounce Finished

Graphic credit : ConHom

The Guardian’s ICM poll signals the Brown Bounce is over, and now (after a delay much longer than Guido expected) Labour’s post-Blair lemming-like lurch will re-commence. The Tories had a good conference, the Brown election bluff brought about unity in Blackpool, Dave gave a purposeful speech which was head and shoulders over Brown’s plagiarised effort. Brown’s well planned gimmicks, spin and fakery gave him a good summer, but this winter we’ll hear no more talk of destroying the Tories and “all the talents” won’t save him now.

It wasn’t the speech that turned the polls around, although if Dave had not delivered a good speech it would have undermined the advance of the Tories, it was the return of the Tory party’s Unique Selling Point – tax cuts. Family-orientated tax cuts are a clear vote winner – so keen have the Tories been to decontaminate themselves that they threw away their USP. Look at Clinton, even he was elected on a promise of family-orientated tax cuts. The Cameroons have committed themselves to Gordon’s spending plans for the first three years of government, so Ed Balls is going to argue that the sums don’t add up. If that is going to be the battleground, the Tories can win on those terms.

The middle classes don’t care half as much about the arithmetic as they do about the result. Balls and Brown are so out of touch with middle-England they don’t seem to understand how much the tax burden is detested by the middle-classes, who know instinctively that there is government waste to be reduced. Tax is also the issue that swung the Daily Mail and The Telegraph back behind the Tories, The Sun is “loving it” too. The raison d ‘etre of the Conservatives party is to reduce taxes, if they ever forget it they are finished.

Yvette’s Spinners Do Non-Denial Over Fakery

Yesterday’s story about another bit of “faking it” on the No. 10 website webchat resulted in a Guido first, an instant rebuttal in the comments from the Press Office of the Department for Communities and Local Government

Your story about the Number 10 webchat is incorrect. The individual you name does not work for the Government. This was a public webchat which was advertised on the websites of Number 10 and the Department for Communities and Local Government. The Government did not ask any specific individuals to take part in the questioning.

Guido read it over and realised that it was a non-denial. Read it again. Technically Karen Doran doesn’t work for the government – she works for a goverment financed quango run out of what was formerly the Office of the Deputy PM, now known as the Department for Communities and Local Government. She is technically not on the government payroll, but is paid by the government.

Guido had a weird conversation with the press office where they accused him of “acting like Pravda”. Karen Doran asked Yvette Cooper, who is effectively her sponsoring minister, a patsy question under the guise of “public engagement”.

Why? The press office haven’t got back to me on that yet…

Instant Reaction

Well the audience, as ever, loved Dave. Guido was watching the press pack and some of Cameron’s apparatchiks. The press seemed if not bedazzled, not unimpressed. Team Cameron seemed happy, tension that was in their faces at the start of the speech dissolved into satisfied smiles by the end.

On balance Dave did it, their is no comparison between Gordon’s speech cut ‘n paste from Al Gore and read off an autocue with Dave’s on his feet oratory. Politicians are notorious fakers, inauthentic to the core spinners. Dave was trying to overcome that perception, he was honest about having a privileged upbringing (Gordon was not so honest about his elite education). The strategy appears to be to turn that into a plus, because he came from a secure family with a good education he knows how important it is and he wants it for everyone. This will be a key charge from Labour – that he is an out of touch toff. If he can prove he isn’t, he’ll neutralise that negative.

Will the speech make any electoral difference? Probably not, but he made the case for his party well. Gordon has talked up the election which the Tories, whatever they say, would rather not fight from this position in the polls. Cameron has basically said bring it on, he’s ready for a fight, if Brown chickens out now he’ll look bad…

OMG He Said ‘Pissed’

A Tory leader swearing on stage? It really is a new world…

Fake Ministerial Interaction

A co-conspirator has tipped Guido off to another bit of “faking it” from the government. Keen to show their commitment to e-Democracy (whatever that is) they have been putting great effort into hosting ministerial webchats on the Downing Street website. The trouble is that they only attract malcontents, the mischevious or almost no one at all. After all who really wants to webchat with the likes of Ed Miliband?

This morning’s live webchat was with the Minister for “I’ll have an affordable house with double mortgage subsidy”* and Housing, Yvette Cooper. Only ten people bothered to log in. One of them was Karen Doran.

Karen Doran: What is the government doing to make sure their policy on housing (regeneration and growth) is aligned to policies designed to promote economic growth. Could the Minister give practical examples of the opportunities this presents to local authorities in their place shaping role?

Yvette replies: You are right Karen that new homes need to be planned alongside new jobs — as we are doing in the Thames Gateway, which is a major area of regeneration and housing growth. But housing and economic policies need to work closely together for existing communities too. Look at what cities like Manchester and Birmingham have done in their city centres — creating new jobs, but bringing people back into the cities to live as well.

If that patsy question reads like a planted question, it is because it is almost certainly exactly that. Now why she needed to ask the question in a “public engagement” exercise is beyond Guido. Karen Doran works on the Community Housing Task Force (formerly part of the office of the Deputy Prime Minister) where she advises on “Communications and Consultation Strategy”. So it seems unnecessary for her to pose as a member of the public to ask the housing minister a question.

We are today living in a government which follows a Potemkin strategy of public relations, merely artificial photo opportunities have now been replaced by completely faked photographs. Public engagement is now simulated, the only members of the public the PM interacts with are photogenic school children. When Potemkin built his villages they were intended to fool one person – Catherine the Great, now New Labour wants to fool everyone in Great Britain.

*Yvette is actually Mrs Balls, despite them having a joint household income of some quarter of a million pounds between them, Mr and Mrs Balls claim tens of thousands of pounds every year in mortgage subsidy to make their housing more affordable.

You Read It Here First

The Tory Press Office has now released this extract from the speech in advance “This is a new Conservative Party with new priorities. There’s been a lot of talk about lurching, so let me make it clear – no lurch to the right, no lurch to the left. There’s only one direction for me and that’s forward to the future. A clear balanced programme of change for the long term, optimism about what Britain can be, hope for the next generation. That means understanding that we live in a new world and that the old politics isn’t working.”

++ EXCLUSIVE ++ Cameron’s Speech

It will be “purposeful” inside sources indicate, “everything we do now is predicated on the assumption that we could be fighting an election in three weeks… we are at battle stations”.
  • The speech will emphasise that there is to be no new direction, no lurching to the right or the left.
  • Cameron is sticking to his change agenda.
  • He will say that Brown claims to have similar aspirations to the Conservatives, but the evidence is that he has failed to deliver after 10 long years.
  • The country has a choice between optimism versus pessimism.
After Gordon’s “I am the son of a preacher” speech last week, Cameron will relate some of his personal experiences and how they drive his aspirations for the country.

There will be no gimmicky claims on sunshine this time, it will it was emphasised to Guido, be a serious speech.

Osborne Demands Explanation Over Civil Service

Last night’s employment of Treasury Civil Servants in the production of a rapid rebuttal Labour party press release by Alastair Darling has not go unnoticed by George Osborne. He has written a complaint dressed up as a query;

Dear Permanent Secretary,

On 30th April 2007, the then Economic Secretary, Ed Balls MP told the House of Commons, “Information is not held on overseas income and gains that do not give rise to a tax liability in the UK.”

As the then Paymaster General, Dawn Primarolo MP told the House on 8th March 2007, this is because non-doms are not required to disclose this information: “In general, individuals do not have to inform HMRC of their foreign income or gains unless this is relevant to their UK tax liability.”

Last night, the Labour Party distributed a press release which stated: “The Treasury’s initial estimate, on best information available, is that just 15,000 current non-domicile residents have foreign income in excess of £62,000.”

I am writing to ask you to explain why it is the case that information which the Treasury refused to give to Parliament appears to have been given to the Labour Party. Or, will you confirm that the statement made to Parliament this Spring remains the case.

As I am sure you agree, it is essential that the principle of civil service impartiality is not jeopardised, particularly during this period of speculation about a forthcoming general election.

I would be grateful if you could reply to me with an explanation, by this evening.

Yours sincerely

George Osborne
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

Darling’s Treasury Rebuttal Breaks Civil Service Code

Alastair Darling had a reputation as a safe pair of hands, but the more you see of him under pressure, the less safe he seems.

At the start of the Northern Rock crisis he at first claimed all was well, then dithered, waffled and eventually promised the government would guarantee everything. A promise he has now gone back on – as Northern Rock shares fell even more today.

Unsettled by the finesse of Osborne’s tax policy announcements he seems to have completely lost the plot yesterday, claiming the Tory figures don’t add up whilst simultaneously acknowledging they don’t know how many non-doms there are or what income they have. But the Labour party press release is even more extraordinary:

“Today George Osborne made a £3.5 billion tax commitment. Treasury analysis shows it is impossible for him to raise the money he needs to pay for this commitment from his proposals on residence and domicile. Initial costings by the Treasury show that George Osborne’s proposal would raise a maximum of £650m, leaving George Osborne at least £2.9 billion short.”

It is a sacking offence for civil servants to engage in party political work. Darling has just press released a confession to a fundamental breach of the Civil Service Code. In reality politicians often pressure civil servants to cross the partisan line, discretely behind closed doors where they would be unlikely to be caught, certainly not with the work press released during the opposition’s party conference. Gus O’Donnell, who heads the Civil Service, will not be impressed with this at all.

In more honourable times, a Minister would have been expected to resign if he was found to have pushed Civil Servants to break the rules. New Labour are increasingly unable to separate their private party interest from the interests of the state…

Hat-tip : Benedict Brogan

Raving Tories Play the Bass to the Base

The Tories got all Eeeed-up with this video to the conference hall. What with Thatcher becoming (as exclusively predicted here) cool again and now the Tories leading a rave revival it is all giving Guido a warm nostalgic feeling. Acieeed!

Raving Tories

Rich & Mark’s Monday Morning View

Stormin Rennie is Ready!

Lord Rennard has just emailed Guido:

I am writing you this email from our newly created “election war-room” in Cowley Street. We have just had back-to-back meetings of our Shadow Cabinet and Federal Policy Committee to put the finishing touches to our general election manifesto.

Of course, I can’t tell you the details just yet. [TOP SECRET DOUBLE HUSH HUSH] But it will be a very strong document setting our distinctive values with a strong emphasis on the environment.

Throughout this week the General Election Management Team has been planning things like our press conferences and Ming’s extensive tour across the country. [CALL HELP THE AGED]

The reports from constituencies this weekend are very good. We have had thousands of party members knocking on doors and making telephone calls as part of “community canvass week” Ming himself was out canvassing earlier this week in Scotland.

Whether Gordon Brown calls the election next week, the following week, or at any time in future – we will be ready ! [LIKE THE BOY SCOUTS]

With best wishes

Chris Rennard
Chief Executive, Liberal Democrats

Odd…

Friday Caption Competition (Reds Edition)

Opinion Polls versus Actual Votes

Guido just stuck even more money on the Tories being the biggest party post-election. Note the bet terms carefully – the biggest party. The prices have admittedly moved further against the Tories since last month when Guido stuck £50 on Betfair.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Michael Crick on Safe Seats:

“In effect, new MPs are being elected day by day now, as, amid huge secrecy, small cabals of party bigwigs pick candidates for safe seats.”

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