Britain Enjoys Joint Highest Employment Rate Since 1971

The latest employment figures are out. According to the ONS:

  • The employment rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were in work) was 74.6%, the joint highest since comparable records began in 1971.
  • The unemployment rate was 4.7%, down from 5.1% for a year earlier. It has not been lower since June to August 1975. The unemployment rate is the proportion of the labour force (those in work plus those unemployed) that were unemployed.
  • There were 1.56 million unemployed people (people not in work but seeking and available to work), 45,000 fewer than for September to November 2016 and 141,000 fewer than for a year earlier.

Nice reading for the government this morning…

Toxic European Parliament: Legionella Outbreak Hits Hot Water

The EU Parliament’s Directorate-General for Infrastructure and Logistics has ordered the immediate closure of the distribution of warm water in Brussels and Strasbourg Members’ offices following detection of Legionella bacteria. It has happened before in 2002 – the futuristic building was only opened in 1999. The problem is the offices are empty more than half the time with water stagnating…

UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge tells Guido

“If it wasn’t so serious it would be comical. On one hand the European Union is fighting to retain control of the UKs fishing waters, yet in Brussels it cannot manage to control a little warm water to MEPs offices. With these offices only fully used half the time due to constituency work and the ridiculous monthly move to Strasbourg, the stagnating water in the Brussels pipes is a disaster waiting to happen. The Parliament here is similar to the water; infested, dangerous and cold. Roll on 2019.”

It would be terrible if all those MEPs were struck down by Legionella. One of the early symptoms is “mental confusion”. So be on the look out for MEPs exhibiting this symptom…

Labour Candidate: “Don’t Vote for Me”

Last week Guido told how Labour fielded two candidates in the same council ward election. Now one of the Labour candidates, Sean Rowell, is having to take it on the chin and throw his support behind the other, Rosie Adams. Rowell wrote on Facebook:

“So, the Tories got a hold of this and are now doing everything in their power to shame Labour. This was not the party’s fault, it was a mistake by an individual doing the best for the voters in the divisions available in North Yorkshire.

“As a decent bloke, I have asked that people do not vote for me, this hopefully will give the other candidate, Rosie Adams a better return than what there would have been with two candidates from the same party. And the Tories are jumping all over this as well.

“Yes, I’m annoyed that it has happened, even though I knew I would not win, this has just made us all in Labour look incompetent. I know some people will be upset that I have asked them not to vote for me, but do vote for Rosie.”

“This has just made us all in Labour look incompetent…”

Plans to Fly “Expel Ken” Plane over Wembley Stadium

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to fly a plane towing a banner over Wembley Stadium with the message: “Expel Ken #CorbynOut.” The anti-Ken flypast is set to take place during the televised Arsenal v Man City FA Cup semi-final on Sunday 23rd April. The campaign hopes to reach £6000 and has so-far raised nearly £1000 in a few hours. One individual donated £500. A message posted on the JustGiving site by the organisers reads:

“Enough is enough. He needs to go. #CorbynOut. Say No to Racism. At the Arsenal v City semi-final let’s spell it out high above the Wembley sky to a global television audience: Expel Ken #CorbynOut “

Who will go first: Arsene Wenger or Ken Livingstone?

Owen Smith Desperate for a Retweet

Owen Smith’s twitter is an odd sight at the moment: 11 tweets have been posted asking for a retweet regarding a youth group in Pontypridd. Either hacked or really, really desperate for a re-tweet…

SNP’s Controversial NYC Visit: Timeline of What We Know

A row is brewing over allegations that the SNP used ‘short money’ – taxpayer’s cash given to opposition parties for parliamentary activities only – to fund a trip to New York City. Reports say four SNP MPs – Paul Monaghan, Joanna Cherry, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh and Corri Wilson – travelled to the big apple on the public purse. Foreign trips by MPs are common, but questions are being asked as short money is subject to strict rules saying travel expenses must be incurred only “in relation to the party’s parliamentary business”Concerns were raised when the MPs were spotted holding an SNP banner during the city’s Tartan Day Parade…

The Scottish Daily Mail reports that the SNP has refused to release the full itinerary for the trip. Paul Monaghan and Corri Wilson do not hold a front bench portfolios. Joanna Cherry is SNP Spokesperson on Justice and Home Affairs. Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh is SNP International Trade spokesperson. Have they been undertaking activities relevant to the party’s parliamentary business or to their remit? 

Thursday April 6 – Group begins to arrive in NYC. Joanna Cherry travels from Montreal:


Friday 7th April – Attending launch of a musical album at the exclusive private members Norwood Club, Manhattan:

Saturday 8th April – Visiting the New York Times building

Saturday 8th April  – Attending a reception at the St Andrew’s Society of New York State with Nicola Sturgeon

Sunday 9th April – Meet UN bodies: UNDP, UN Women and UN Youth Envoy

Sunday 9th April – Attending a ceilidh at the New York Caledonian Club

Sunday 9th April – Attending the Tartan Day brunch

Sunday 9th April – Waving an SNP banner at the New York Tartan Day Parade

This is not a complete timeline and is not necessarily indicative of the substance of the entire trip. That remains unknown…

An SNP spokesman said the MPs were “representing the SNP Westminster Group” and that the trip consisted of:

“High level talks with representatives from UN Women, UNDP and UN Youth Envoy discussing work on gender and equalities, people living with disabilities, and international youth engagement”.

The MPs now appear to be back in the UK…

Having Us E.ON: Corbyn Names and Shames Energy Firm That Sponsored Labour Conference

Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the Federation of Small Businesses was overshadowed this morning when the Labour leader blocked a question on Syria. So let’s get back to business. Announcing plans to woo small firms with a crackdown on late payments by large companies to suppliers, Corbyn named and shamed energy giant E.ON:

“Some of the biggest names in business are holding huge cash piles that don’t actually belong to them. I’m going to name some names based on reports of a reputable credit agency… E.ON, the German energy provider currently pays 78 days over terms.”

That would be the same E.ON who Labour got to sponsor an event at party conference in 2016. E.ON’s Director of Strategy and Regulation worked the room alongside Labour MPs…

And at conference 2014, E.ON was allowed space to “build a kind of Wendy house” for Labour MPs and members to sit in and chat energy with the firm. E.ON branding also appeared on the side of the conference hall:

You’re having us E.ON!

Corbyn Blocks Question on Syria from BBC Reporter

Commotion at Jeremy Corbyn’s Federation of Small Businesses presser just now when questions to the Labour leader on Syria were dramatically shouted down by some of those present. BBC journalist Mark Lobel wanted to ask the leader of the opposition about the top international story of the day but was obstructed, apparently contrary to the advice of Corbyn’s press team.

Bizarrely, Corbyn departed the podium to remonstrate with Lobel. Looks like questions on other topics weren’t getting anywhere either:

It’s understood Corbyn did do interviews about Syria once he was off the platform.

Taking one question about a major news story does not preclude other questions on business policy – that’s not how it works…

New York Times Thinks Sketch is Serious

The New York Times has interpreted a British newspaper sketch as if it were a serious news report. Patrick Kidd – parliamentary sketch writer for The Timeswrote of an Emmanuel Macron rally:

“My masters at school, I will be honest, had not properly prepared me for the task of following an hour-long speech in rapid French. Mr Macron did not ask for directions to la gare once, for example. Nor did he invite anyone in the audience to come to une boum chez lui ce week-end. He didn’t even say “zut” or “bof”. One wondered if he was French at all.”

But in a brilliant example of our ‘separation by a common language’, the gray lady missed the joke. In an online photo essay ominously titled ‘Will London Fall‘, Sarah Lyall wrote:

“He could not tell his readers exactly what Mr. Macron said, however, because, as he boasted in the article, he does not really speak French, although he studied it in school. But why should he make an effort, seemed to be the idea, when it is so easy to ridicule the French for being French, and when to be English is to feel superior to your neighbors?…

“Mr. Kidd’s hauteur isn’t surprising, given that Mr. Murdoch’s papers and the rest of the country’s right-leaning news media have spent decades nurturing an ancient anti-Europe narrative long reflected in the Conservative Party’s Euroskeptic wing. If London, or at least much of London, has welcomed or tolerated all the changes, many people around Britain, particularly from older generations, have lamented that they no longer recognize the country of their childhoods.”

To which Mr Kidd replies this morning:

God bless the “failing New York Times”…

H/T: Ned Donovan

How Do You Solve a Problem Like 73 Empty Seats?

Meanwhile in Brussels… the European Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs is meeting today to scratch their heads on a tricky problem: Brexit Britain will leave behind 73 empty seats in the chamber. The next European Parliament elections are in 2019. What to do with those empty seats…

  1. Abolish them: The simple answer would be to abolish the United Kingdom’s seats and shrink the European Parliament (from 751 to 678 – not exactly a deep cut). But cutting the number of MEPs would mean leaving a lot of officials with less work to do and would be a symbolic body-blow. Is this likely to happen in a super-massive bureaucracy?
  2. Redistribute to other member states: The obvious answer – but then the question becomes how to distribute 73 seats between the remaining EU-27. You could even out the number of seats so as to distribute them equally between the remaining countries. Or you could distribute them proportionally according to the current number of MEPs per country. Or you could distribute them to less-represented countries. The numbers on this are being crunched
  3. Create a pan-European list: The most intriguing possibility is that Britain’s seats could be re-allocated to form a pan-European list, meaning every EU citizen could have a say in who should replace British MEPs. A European electoral college would run alongside the current party system. The idea ran into trouble in committee earlier this year but is still being actively campaigned forEurophiles call this “making elections European again”…
There is one other answer, of course. Who cares?

Fat Cats Gallery: The Council Bosses Who Cost You Millions

Britain’s biggest council fat cats are named and shamed this morning in a report that reveals mind-blowing levels of local authority remuneration. The TaxPayers’ Alliance Town Hall Rich List exposes the staggering pay of council employees across the United Kingdom:

  • At least 2,314 council employees received total remuneration in excess of £100,000 in 2015-16;
  • This is 89 more than the previous year;
  • 539 council employees received total remuneration in excess of £150,000 in 2015-16;
  • This is 53 more than the previous year.

Frustratingly, only seven of the top ten best-paid council officials in Britain have been named. This is Guido’s fat cats gallery..

Dave Smith, Chief Executive, Sunderland, £625, 570Sonia Tongnarelli, Director of Finance, Sunderland, £605,958 Alastair Crichton, Director of Finance and Customer Services, North Lanarkshire, £486,208

David McElhinney, CEO LDL, Liverpool, £461,823
 Sharon Lea, Director of Place, Birmingham, £414,10
 Phil Morton, Hambleton, £397,967
Bruce McDonald, Kingston Upon Thames, £387,000

Note that this list does not include:

  • The unknown fifth highest earner: Exec Director of People’s Services in Sunderland (£444,495);
  • The unknown eighth highest earner: Director of Community in Fareham (£387,451);
  • The unknown tenth highest earner: MD, People and Places, West Lancashire, (£386,116).

Council tax bill gone up this year? The full report should help you figure out why…

Ballot Balls-Ups: Admin Errors Plague Unite Election

A Unite member was confused on receiving a voting pack for the union’s general secretary election which mistakenly included two candidate statements by Len McCluskey – instead of one each from Len and contender Gerard Coyne. The candidate statements leaflet was a Len-only document…

Meanwhile, ballot papers were mailed to Unite members for the National Young Members’ seat on the Executive Council. That mail-shot was sent again when the Union realised it had broken the ‘spirit’ of its own rule book…

Last year Unite acting general secretary Gail Cartmail wrote of the early general secretary election:

“The decision was taken by the union’s executive council in order to save the union about £1m by aligning the ballot with that for the union’s executive council.”

A lot seems to be going on postage…

B-Rex: Boris Johnson Meets Rex Tillerson

The G7 meeting of foreign ministers is underway in the picturesque Italian city of Lucca, Tuscany. Boris Johnson – under fire all weekend for a decision to cancel a planned trip to Moscow – has already met US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the margins of the meeting. Earlier BoJo name-checked Rex, saying Britain would “support… efforts by Rex Tillerson to try to move the process forward”…

Lib Dem Metro Mayor Candidate Already Mayor on Facebook

It seems the LibDem’s candidate for the first West of England Metropolitan Mayor is confident of victory. Stephen Williams lists the mayoralty as his current job on Facebook, despite the election not taking place until 4th May:

Easy to be mayor on Facebook isn’t it…

Public Still Not Sure What Labour and LibDems Believe on Brexit

A deeper dive into the Lord Ashcroft’s latest Brexit poll reveals the public remains confused about Labour and the LibDems’ position on Brexit almost a year after the historic referendum vote. The full report shows an near perfect four-way-split amongst respondents when asked to name Labour’s position. Remarkably, the majority think Labour “would still like to prevent Brexit from happening if at all possible” despite Jeremy Corbyn making media appearances for months to emphasise that his party will not seek prevent Brexit and “respects the will of the people“. Either people are not listening or Jeremy is not getting enough cut through…

As for the Lib Dems, almost 37% of respondents “don’t know” the party’s position at all – but at least those who do come to a consensus. Meanwhile, UKIP and the Tories dominate in the battle for clarity on Brexit…

PC Keith Palmer’s Funeral Procession Leaves Wesminster

Parliament Square fell silent this afternoon as the funeral procession for PC Keith Palmer, who was killed in the Wesminster terror attack, left the Palace of Wesminster. Flowers arranged on the hearse, which was escorted by Met Police officers, read: “No 1 Daddy“. The Queen assented to give PC Palmer the honour of his coffin lying in the Palace overnight. RIP PC Keith Palmer.

Update: PC Palmer’s cortege passed through the streets of London and has now arrived at Southwark Cathedral where his funeral is taking place.

Corbyn Launches £10 Minimum Wage at £6 Per Hour Employer

Even though it’s a Monday – a day he often takes off – Jeremy Corbyn is at the football to launch his new £10 per hour minimum wage policy. Ahead of the event at Luton Town, Corbyn said:

“Low pay blights the lives of huge and growing numbers in our country and fuels widening inequality. The government’s re-branding of the minimum wage to the National Living Wage hasn’t dealt with the real problems of low pay and rising cost of living.”

But there’s a problem for ill-judged Jez: Luton Town advertised for stewards at £6 an hour. Here’s the advert, posted on a student jobs site and naming the club and its Kenilworth Road ground:

That’s not to mention the time the club owed £2.5 million in tax to HMRC but only payed back £275,000. Now we know what happens when a life-long Arsenal fan chooses Luton Town FC for a major policy launch…

UPDATE: Luton Town FC have told Guido: “All stewards employed by the football club are paid the national Living Wage, and have been since December 2014. The agency running the advert, Recruit Event Services, are nothing to do with Luton Town FC and haven’t been for at least six years. The current owners of Luton Town Football Club, Luton Town 2020 Ltd, took the club out of administration in 2008 and have since paid fully, and on time, every penny of tax to the Treasury.

New HS2 Conflict of Interest Row

HS2 will re-tender a £9 million consulting contract after further potential conflicts of interests came to light. Construction News reports that the bidding process for a “commercial services management framework” has been abandoned and will start afresh within the month. It emerged that firms Arcadis and Mott MacDonald  would be “conflicted” if chosen…

Last month Guido forced the scrapping of a separate £170 million contract between public-sector-backed HS2 Ltd and private firm CH2M. Our series of revelations exposed a half-a-billion pound revolving door between the two firms. Chris Grayling will have a lot on his plate at the Transport Select committee after Easter…

Miliband Dances While Syria Burns

During the 2015 general election campaign, Ed Miliband suffered from a major – and very understandable – public perception problem: everyone thought he was weak. To prove his balls, the Labour Party leader claimed to have stopped a war. He told Jeremy Paxman in a leader’s debate:

“This government proposed action in Syria. The bombing of Syria, right? I was called into a room by David Cameron and Nick Clegg, because president Obama had been on the phone – the leader of the free world, right? I listened to what they said, and over those days I made up my mind, and we said no, right? I think standing up to the leader of the free world shows a certain toughness I would say.”

This was Ed Miliband’s ‘I’m-tough-enough’ pitch: ‘I’m tough because I opposed military action in Syria…’

Ed Miliband did successfully sabotage British government intervention in Syria – however the way he went about it was anything but tough or principled. On Thursday August 29, 2013, Miliband derailed David Cameron’s plan for UK airstrikes on Assad targets by majority of 13 votes. During an eight hour debate, the former Prime Minister’s voice faltered and he looked moved to tears when describing horrific videos showing the victims of Assad’s chemical attacks writhing in agony. Tough-as-nails Milband said of the emotional Prime Minister: “I believe he has to make a better case than he did today”…

This was a betrayal and hypocrisy. When Miliband was first “called into a room” with David Cameron, he gave the Prime Minister his assurance that if he could appease Labour backbenchers then he would support military action. Over the week that followed Miliband prevaricated on that decision, asked for concession after concession, and – as was briefed to the Guardian – generally “buggered around” the government. Miliband led Downing Street on a merry dance during a time of crisis and uncertainty:

  • Miliband said he wanted to see the government’s legal advice. Cameron published it.
  • Miliband said Britain must go to the UN and also get weapons inspectors’ reports. Cameron did.
  • Miliband said he wanted two votes before military strikes. Cameron agreed to two votes.

At the eleventh hour, when the level of backbench disquiet became clear during a shadow cabinet meeting, Miliband changed his mind. He shafted the Prime Minister by phone the night before the crucial vote. As was pointed out at the time: “His overriding concern was the internal politics of the Labour Party”…

On Friday Ed Miliband appeared on Channel 4’s The Last Leg. He danced in a stupid skit to A-ha’s classic Take On Me. Miliband said on the show:

“The horrible scenes, ghastly scenes… obviously make me think about it [whether blocking military action was the right decision], I have thought a lot about it and whether it was the right thing to do but I think in the end, in my heart of hearts I do feel it was.”

Ed Miliband still uses his Syria sabotage to claim he’s tough. As he was during that crucial week in 2013, Miliband is still dancing whilst Syria burns…

Item Club Quadruples GDP Forecast

Independent economic forecaster the Item Club – sponsored by City professional services giant EY –  today reports a headline prediction of 1.8% GDP growth for 2017. This is well up on even the 1.3% prediction it made last October. And it is incredibly well up on its post-referendum forecast…

The Item Club sent shock-waves through the City last summer when it downgraded its forecast for 2017 GDP growth to an absolutely dismal 0.4% after the Brexit vote.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, says….

“The UKIP vote is going to the Tories. That’s the story of the first week of the campaign.”

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