Is it a Blairite Plot?

The assistant Labour whip Siobhain McDonagh has told Sky News she believes there should be a Labour leadership election “to clear the air”.
She has requested leadership nomination papers ahead of the party’s conference. This has sent shock-waves down Downing Street – the spin is that this is all normal – “happens every year”. Eh? When was the last time a government whip tried to get rid of the head of government? Tom Watson did it in 2006, (that is why Tories toast Watson’s name).

Is it just a coincidence that her constituency website has only this one picture prominently displayed on the front page? Blair is smiling…

UPDATE : According to Guido’s usually reliable Labour insider, Siobhain McDonagh wrote on the nomination papers for Gordon Brown in 2007 “Gordon Brown will be a disaster” – not knowing that the papers were numbered and she could be identified.

UPDATE II : Some in the comments seem to have misunderstood the last update – she didn’t vote for Gordon, she effectively spoilt her paper – and was identified as doing so.

Threat is Real

This morning Nick Robinson told listeners to Today “Gordon Brown no longer appears to be under threat. The cool political climate of the Autumn has replaced the heated frenzy of the Summer… The PM, it seems, has been saved for now at least not by anything he’s done but by an atmosphere of weary resignation that has taken over much of his party.”

Later this morning we learnt from Sky that some backbenchers had requested nomination papers. Clearly not everyone is resigned to going down with the Prime Mentalist…

Exclusive : Neil O’Brien to Head Policy Exchange

Neil O’Brien is to be the new director of Policy Exchange. Currently the 29 year-old is the director of Open Europe, the leading think-tank working on liberal reforms of the European Union. Open Europe has a reputation as the best connected, least head-banging, media-savvy euro-sceptic group. They were behind the I Want a Referendum campaign.

Neil launched Open Europe in 2005 with a heavyweight board, having made his name with the successful “No to the Euro” campaign. He has good relations with the media and knows how to shape an agenda.

With a budget of £2 million Policy Exchange is aiming to be a Washington style policy powerhouse, this appointment should bring some stability after the recent churn at the top. Nic Boles left to run for London Mayor, his successor Anthony Browne’s tenure saw embarrassments (not of his making) with faked evidence used in one report exposed on Newsnight and a second clumsily spun report was seized on by Labour to paint Cameron as anti-Northerner – resulting in Dave describing the report as “insane”.

Going forward the Policy Exchange board wants to be a critical friend rather than “Cameron’s favourite think tank”. Although Neil’s politics are liberal conservative, he is not a Cameroon or active within the Conservative Party and this was apparently a factor in his appointment.

Friday Caption Contest (Loft Lagging Leader from La La Land Edition)

+++ Sky : Labour Leadership Nomination Papers Requested +++

Sky’s Political correspondent Joey Jones is reporting that “a small number of Labour MPs have requested Labour leadership nomination papers”.

New Policy Exchange Director Announced Today

Who has arguably the most sought after job in Westminster’s wonk-land will be known today. Policy Exchange staff will be told who the new director is at 1pm.

Guido has talked to people who were in the running. The selection of the new director has been conducted by Charles Moore like the search for the next pope. The interviews were conducted off site. The board was consciously seeking a non-Cameroon. Speculation on CentreRight that George Bridges or Danny Finkelstein were in the running was wide of the mark. Bridges, the expectant father of twins, couldn’t take the pay-cut and Danny did not apply.

+++ Come back at 1pm for the result. +++

Fire in Channel Tunnel – Continent Isolated

Just wanted to re-work the famous headline.

Incidentally, one side-effect of the collapsing pound is that Britain will have to pay £8 billion extra into EU coffers by 2013 according to research by Open Europe. That is equivalent to a penny on income tax for the next 5 years.

The EU gravy train is priced in euros…

He’s Not a Clown, He’s Austerity Brown

As Guido picked up the late edition of the London Evening Standard off the counter the shopkeeper, looked quizzical and said “ee’s off his ‘ead, innee?

The shopkeeper has it right. The grand plan is a joke. It is a re-hash of an existing programme, it would according to the insulating industry take 10 years to complete. The energy producers say the costs will have to be passed on to consumers. Worse, Brown gave helpful tips at the staged photo-op this morning to wrap-up warm, close the curtains, sit in the dark and stick a balloon up the chimney. You could not, as they say, make this up…

Labour MPs are despairing

Populus Shows Most People Not Interested in Politics

Some odd findings come out of the Populus pre-conference polling of voter perceptions. Guido is working on the assumption that the poll methodology is good – poll pundits like Mike Smithson or Anthony Wells might beg to differ. Some of the findings were:
  • Voters think Brown is more left-wing than he was this time last year.
  • Voters think Cameron is slightly more right-wing than he was this time last year.
  • Nick Clegg is seen as to the left of Ming.
  • Clegg and Brown are seen as slightly more left-wing than their parties.
Most people inside politics and informed enough to read political blogs would disagree with those findings and believe that Brown is to the right of his party and Clegg is more right-of-centre liberal than Ming. So how do you explain the perception disparity?

We live in a tele-democracy, most people are not interested in political detail. Which is why when Dave went off to hug a husky, polls showed that the Tories were seen as more green than the LibDems. McCain is sweeping up woman voters because he has a woman on the ticket, never mind her policy stance. What the likes of Karl Rove, James Carville, Rupert Murdoch, Peter Mandelson and Steve Hilton understand is that perception and image matter more than policy substance in a tele-democracy. People who are not interested in politics have votes. George Dubya Bush was on to something when he said “you can fool some of the people all of the time, and they’re the ones to focus on”…

Classic Biden Gaffe

Biden is Obama’s VP candidate. Here on the campaign trail he hails Chuck Graham, Missouri Senator and paraplegic.

Via the Fink

Gordon’s New Mobile Target

Tim Kiddell is the man with the most difficult job in Whitehall. He is according to the FT the newly appointed speechwriter for the PM. Presumably as a civil servant he will write the non-party speeches.

Gordon was asked by the press this morning for an idea as to what he’ll be saying in his speech to the Labour Party conference. He desperately needs some new lines because yet again Brown said he would be telling them he would be “getting on with the job”. Not if he carries on as vacuously as he is…

Has Gordon Set Out His Vision this Year?

It is nearly a year since Gordon dithered and then bottled calling an election. The greatest strategic error of his political life. He said at the time and repeated this morning at his press conference that it wasn’t a few polls in the marginals that scared him off, it was so that he would have time to set out his vision to the people.
Well he has had a year to do just that. Given he now says they are going to “rethink policy” does that mean it will take another year to set out his vision? Does anyone now better understand his vision?

Third of LIbDems Dissatisfied With Clegg

A third (33.4%) of LibDem grassroots activists privately polled by the party are dissatisfied with Nick Cleggs leadership rating it “ineffective” or “very ineffective”.  Of those that expressed an opinion a similar number (31.7%) thought that the LibDems were on the wrong track.   
The ever ambitious Chris Huhne will take comfort from the fact that not one of the 46.9% who said they voted for him to be leader said they had any regret about doing so.  He has been suspiciously quiet lately…

Maguire and McBride Plotting Over Pints

Tucked away in a dark corner of the Westminster Arms yesterday evening Guido spied the Mirror’s political editor and the PM’s infamous spin doctor self-medicating. McSnide looked very rough. The Ollie Reed of blogging is no position to criticise, but Damian really looks like he has been hitting it hard. Bloated. Suppose it must be tough in the bunker. In Berlin in 1945 they were dosing themselves up to the eyeballs on amphetamines to escape from the inevitable reality. Damian should think about switching his medications, amphetamines are slimming.

Coincidentally there has been another round of rumours in Labour circles that, as they retreat further from the reality-based community, Maguire is going to be called in to wage the coming Class War from Downing Street itself. Guido thinks it is wishful thinking, Maguire maybe many things, but he is not that stupid. He knows a loser when he sees one.

His script has however been noticeably more loyal to Brown lately:

“Gordon Brown is aiming for the Right target”
“Chancellor Alistair Darling should shut up”
“Gordon Brown must strike back at the doom-mongers”
“Panicking Labour MPs need to chill out”

Who knows…?

Downing Street is Running Out of Rats

Another rat is leaving the sinking Downing Street ship.  Paul Sinclair, formerly Wee Dougie Alexander’s SpAd before becoming the Prime Mentalist’s Scottish spin doctor, is jumping ship ahead of the Glenrothes by-election.  He is off to spin at Hill & Knowlton according to Paul Waugh.  Sinclair was considered a potential candidate in Glenrothes…

Picture Speaks a Thousand Words

This picture was taken at St. Paul’s just before lunch today after the service to commemorate the efforts of British armed forces who served in Northern Ireland, remembering those who gave their lives.

Be careful what you wish for…

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