Guido's Misery Index : Britain's Got the Blues

Dave wants us to have some kind of gross national happiness index, an idea Sarkozy has also pushed. Not sure if the government really has any control over our overall happiness, it seems to Guido that governments mostly cause unhappiness and can do little to make us smile. The national mood is cheered by things like good weather, Royal Weddings and sporting victories which are beyond the government’s direct control.

Ronald Reagan popularised the idea of a “Misery Index” initiated by the economist Arthur Okun, an adviser to President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s. It was simply the unemployment rate added to the inflation rate.

Given the budget deficit is the biggest economic challenge the country faces today, Guido’s Misery Index adds on the government’s deficit divided by the GDP taken from the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Retail Prices Index + Unemployment rate + ( Public Sector Net Cash Requirement / GDP ) = Misery Index

Plugging in the latest available figures for September 2010 gives you:

4.6% + 7.7% + (20.7 / 331.4 x 100)  = 18.55

The Misery Index has been steadily increasing since the beginning of the year. Misery rising even after Gordon has gone. Welcome to Tory Britain, it’s certainly blue.

N.B. Stats bods can check Guido’s adding up here.

Brothers in Arms

Late yesterday evening by Piccadilly tube station a smug looking sharp suited man and a scruffy looking bald chap in shorts and a  red cycling jacket, made ready to head their separate ways.

Donning his red cap the slightly dishevelled looking chap unlocked his bike, before laughing and sharing a joke with his Underground bound companion. They then hugged like brothers in arms.

With the look on their smiling faces, Guido would love to know what it was Steve Hilton and  Rohan Silva were plotting over drinks last night…

The Birrell Bandwagon Rolls On

He is wounded, but without a smoking gun Coulson isn’t going to be forced anywhere. However let us just say a few months into the new year a job offer he can’t refuse might arise and off he goes. Whenever Coulson leaves, and in whatever way; be it disgraced, or off back to News Corp., British Petroleum or a spin merchants at board level there will be one hell of a power vacuum in Number 10. There is no way that the control-freakish Steve Hilton isn’t going to want to fill the post with one of his own. One of the Zen Men so to speak…

Since months before the election the name of Ian Birrell has been floating around CCHQ and wider Tory-circles.  Since they sing from the same hymn sheet it seems likely that Hilton wants the Big Society enthusiast and former deputy-editor of the Indy inside Downing Street. Other than being a mate of Dave and Steve’s what is it about Birrell that is so desirable? Even ConservativeHome today calls for Birrell and three other people to be added to the No.10 machine, despite the Tories promising to cut the number of political advisers. Is something afoot? Birrell’s big-society, blue-sky, Cameroon credentials are not entirely to ConservativeHome’s taste…

UPDATE : Well connected source texts speculating that he could replace Ed Llewellyn, Dave’s chief-of-staff. Hmmm…

Beginnin' Diggin' into Piggin' Wiggin


Dave’s Old Etonian chum Bill Wiggin might have thought he had got away with his expenses, but the discrepancies between his evidence and his receipts leave a literal paper trail. Dave gave one of his famous cast iron pledges that Wiggin would go if he was found guilty, yet he’s still got the Tory whip. As Guido has previously reported though, there are new developments. Wiggin’s office received this today from the Sunlight Centre:

Guido hears that Wiggin replied personally, almost automatically, claiming the matter was in the hands of Hammersmith and Fulham Council who are apparently dealing with a “misunderstanding”. Looks pretty black and white from here…

Coulson Thais Tongues

There was a quiet mention last Friday of Dave’s Christmas plans. Ephraim Hardcastle reported “friends of the Prime Minister say he plans to take his family to Thailand, where he will enjoy the hospitality of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.” Eton and Oxford educated Vejjajiva is a contemporary of both Cameron and Boris, although the Mail played a straight bat others were quick to notice Dave’s old school chum’s atrocious human right record and willingness to employ emergency powers at the drop of a hat. The little matter of a coup d’etat against a democratically elected government and the shooting by snipers of dozens of peace protesters in May. Strangely there was nothing in print though…

Guido understands that at a number of Sunday papers were ready to question how appropriate it is for Cameron to be kissing under the mistletoe and sharing turkey with such a controversal figure, even if they did know each from school, but the Downing Street machine had other ideas. Andy Coulson and Henry Macrory deployed the security line to put off at least one Mirror hack from filing their piece. Apparently, despite the news of the visit already appearing in print, the PM and his family would be at risk if the Sundays picked it up. Yes, of course, that’s why they didn’t want the story running. An heir to Blair indeed…

Piggin' Wiggin's Permit Porkie Pie

David Cameron’s old Etonian chum Bill Wiggin escaped the hatchet despite a previous promise from the PM that he would be sacked if he was to be found in breach of expenses rules. However new allegations have come to light that might put this old ally, whose wife Camilla is one of  Dave’s ex-girlfriends, in a pretty tricky spot.

During the investigation by John Lyon into his expenses, Wiggin told the Commissioner: “I could not claim the second home discount because Hammersmith and Fulham Council do not allow residents parking permits for second homes. Therefore I was not able to claim any discount.” And Piggin’ Wiggin was absolutely correct – the council website says:

“Who cannot apply for a residents permit?  Residents who own a property in Hammersmith and Fulham but spend the majority of their time at a different address.”

But is the little piggy telling porkies? Wiggin lives in the 4×4 haven of Parsons Green, does he really not have a car in town? If he ever applied for a parking permit he would be misleading the council as to where his main home really is, if what he told the commissioner was true. How do we know Piggin’ Wiggin’ told a porky? He claimed back for the cost of a residents parking permit on his expenses last year of course:

Oh dear it seems that Mr Wiggin must have declared that his London house is his Main Home in an official document to the council, yet at the same time he was claiming tens of thousands of pounds by telling parliament it was his second home. Potentially every claim since 2001 has been false.

Bow Group Turning Into "Failed Candidates' Association"

It was Henry Kissinger who said student politics is vicious because the stakes are so low, that logic applies to think-tanks. Over at the Bow Group the mother of all squabbles is raging and Michael Howard, one time chairman of think-tank back in 1970, has been called in to settle their increasingly vicious internal battle.

Rival factions in next month’s internal elections are briefing against each other as to whether the candidate for chairman, Brian Cattell, is eligible to stand. His opponent Craig Rimmer says that Cattell is over the Bow Group’s age limit of 36. The current Chairman, Annesley “Action” Abercorn seems to have upset pretty much everyone with his efforts to scrap the age limit to allow Cattell to stand. Abercorn denies he is backing Cattell but repeatedly referred to “the other side” when referring to Rimmer on the phone to Guido earlier.

Kwasi Kwarteng MP, a long time Bow Group figure, sent furious emails to other members describing “Annesley’s latest piece of madness … the worst type of student politics”. Opponents of the move include the MPs Sam Gyimah, Andrew Jones, Peter Lilley and Chris Skidmore. One rather bitchy new member said the change risked turning the Bow Group into a “failed candidates’ association” with chairmanship of the Bow Group seen merely as a way to revive flagging parliamentary ambitions. Abercorn, and his bus, gave a spirited fight in LibDem seat Hazelgrove at the election and Cattell stood in Leeds in 2005.

In August Abercorn chose a poorly attended meeting of the Bow Group Council in Brent to call an Emergency General Meeting to discuss raising the age limit to allow three members of the Council to be older than 36. Fewer than thirty people turned up to the meeting and it was declared inquorate. Abercorn then declared the EGM postponed and at another meeting a few weeks later, the motion was passed, clearing the way for Cattell to stand. Guido asked to see the minutes but apparently it was “private”. The whole drama spilled out onto Facebook at the weekend with both factions seizing the Bow Group account to get their version of events across to the membership. The world waits with baited breath for Michael Howard’s adjudication at a meeting scheduled for tomorrow…

Cameron: Wiggin Has To Go

When Tory whip Bill Wiggin first came under the expenses spotlight Dave was put under pressure to sack him. The Prime Minister told GMTV on the 21st May 2009:

“He [Wiggin] has given us every assurance that every penny he claimed should have been claimed and it does look like it is – look it’s a bad mistake – but it looks like it’s an honest mistake and he was not claiming money that he wasn’t entitled to. Now if he was, that would be totally different and he would be out of the door…”

Yesterday the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner ruled that Wiggin was guilty of a “serious” breach of the rules for claiming thousands of pounds in expenses “he did not actually incur”. He has been told to pay back £4,000. So now time for Dave to crack the whip and show him the door…

Expenses Are Back – Piggy Wiggin and Khan's Moranic Receipts

With invoices being trawled, coppers called and MPs still insisting they have done nothing wrong, it could be June 2009 all over again. With MacShane being referred to the Yard yesterday it has also emerged that Tory whip Bill Wiggin claimed thousands of pounds for costs he “did not actually incur”. Another way of putting that is “fraudulently”. Back in the day Wiggin defended his over zealous expense claims by saying “I think people need to realise we are but human”. Yes, greedy ones. The mind boggles as to how it wasn’t seen fit to pass on his file along with MacShame…

With MacShane and Margaret Moran both being looked into by the cops, the total number of Labour MPs under investigation or facing trial is now at six, but there seems to be some discrepancies in those cases that the Met are picking up. One of the key allegations against Margaret Moran is her dodgy receipts. Amongst various housing decorations she also claimed £130 from her communications allowance for Labour Christmas cards. The claim was rejected and so she resubmitted the invoice calling the cards “Constituency Surgery Cards” and Fees office duly coughed up. A trick that sounds very familiar.

Back in March Guido reported:

“Having had over a grands worth of greeting card receipts rightly rejected from his Communications Allowance claims, Khan then went back to the printers and had them create a new receipt, for the same amount, but without the birthday cards itemised on them.”

Khan’s printer “Public Impact” is run by Labour Party affiliates and he told John Lyon he “couldn’t remember the complaint”. Which is convenient. A report was submitted to Scotland Yard who have, as of yet, not ruled concluded the investigation. Perhaps in the light of their look at Moran, they might like to clamp down on other MPs with equally dodgy receipts…

Yeo's Below Par

Having had the best part of three months off you would expect MPs to have got all their holidaying out of their system until Christmas. But then not every MP is part-time like the multi-millionaire green investment guru Tim Yeo. When he’s not whoring-out the Parliamentary estate for his “green investor” friend’s benefit, he’s hypocritically arguing that wind farms should be built, but not in his pretty constituency. All the hard work he has put in – Parliament has been back a week – has forced Yeo to apparently take a golfing holiday to the States. He’s clearly looking for more anecdotes for his golf based after dinner speech service and FT Golf column…

But come on Tim, what about your carbon footprint? A business class flight across the Atlantic generates 3.56 tonnes of carbon per person. Nigel Bennett, Yeo’s local LibDem opponent said “this really goes to show once again that Yeo is a below par MP”.  When Guido called to confirm this story the painfully posh assistant in Yeo’s office wasn’t very helpful: “I don’t think Guido Fawkes is a very nice friend to Mr Yeo so we won’t be commenting.”

Strictly No Laughing

Guido can’t decide whether the British public are a sympathetic bunch who want to help some one out, or a cruel rabble who want to elongate someone’s humiliation for their own viewing pleasure. Either way Anton Du Beke must be missing old partner Kate Garraway.

It turns out that despite her atrocious Strictly Come Dancing performance on Saturday, which saw the lowest ever score for a salsa, Anne Widdecombe still topped the viewers vote for the person they didn’t want to go home. The boffins at Survation, a specialist pollster who gauge this sort of thing, seem to think the public feel sorry for the former Tory MP and feel she could become a John Sergeant type figure. Guido can’t think why people would want to see more of this:

He has his suspicions though…

Here We Yeo Again

Multi-millionaire green investor and part-time Chairman of the Environment Select Committee Tim Yeo is advocating massive increases in green spending again in today’s Guardian. On the one hand it will do his business interests a world of good, but  just make sure it is kept well away from his backyard. At the same time as calling for more wind-farms Yeo is fighting one being built in his constituency because it would ruin the view. Think there is a word for people like that….

Tories Astroturf Newsnight

On Tuesday’s Newsnight Paxman asked the audience of grassroots party members if any of them thought the child benefit announcement had been handled well. Only one person put their hand up to defend the Government…


But who was this  loyal grassroots member? Well none other than Richard John, a party staffer and recently appointed Head of Communications for the Welsh Conservatives. The only person who would defend the handling of the announcement was being paid to do so. Apparently he was spinning away on Monday’s show as well. Would the BBC class Andy Coulson as a “grass-roots member” too?

Handbags in the Hyatt

The rumour going round conference about two MPs in a punch up are a little wide of the mark, but things certainly got heated in the Hyatt bar at around 2 in the morning. What is clear is that Chris Pincher, MP for Tamworth had to rescue fellow MP and whip Marc Francois who was being collared and shoved by the new MP for Hendon Matthew Offord. In the fracas Francois’ lanyard was torn from his neck. Offord had been drinking scotch…

Not the best career move, but allegedly a woman was involved. It’s all denials this morning but three separate witnesses have remarkably similar stories…

Docked in Brum


Guido docked his yacht* late last night within spitting distance of the main Hyatt conference hotel.  The river police noisily erecting a security barrier on the canal woke him up this morning. Fortunately the floating Guinness-palace is now inside the security cordon. If the Prime Minister looks down from his hotel suite window he’ll be able to easily identify the boat – it is the one with the 5-foot-wide Jolly Roger pirate flag fluttering to the aft.

Sky News viewers who thought Guido looked less than cheerful (above) on Adam Boulton with Iain Dale and Tim Montgomerie this morning shouldn’t read anything into it. It was merely caffeine deprivation…

*Not too familiar with nautical terminology, does a barge qualify as a yacht?

Top 10 Most Popular Fringe Events at Tory Conference

Courtesy of the FringeList.com service, based on users who have registered to receive free SMS text message reminders to attend events, the top 10 most popular events on the fringe are in order:

  1. Iain Dale’s Diary Blogreaders Comedy Night
  2. The Big Society Party
  3. Rally For Boris
  4. Tesco & CCA Champagne Reception
  5. Cocktail Reception
  6. The Chief Minister of Gibraltar’s Reception
  7. Save The Great British Pub Drinks Party
  8. Bow Group Annual Drinks Reception
  9. Direct Democracy: The Coalition’s Big Idea
  10. Cutting Council Spending and Delivering Low Taxes

Top 50 Tory fringe events according to registrations can be found by clicking on tory.fringelist.com/popular. You can even find out which events Guido will be attending here. Which way is Brum?

Yeo's Lovechild Gets Parliamentary Pass

Staying with this morning’s baddie, Guido has found what might just be the first acknowledged lovechild on the Westminster gravy train. According to the Register of Interests of Member’s Staff it seems Tim Yeo has employed his daughter Claudia Stent in his office and given her a pass.  Not sure what the 17-year-old’s qualifications were for her role…

Claudia was born in 1993 after Yeo’s affair with Tory councillor Julia Stent. The scandal cost him his job three years later when it came out. He’s clearly taking a fatherly interest in her welfare – Guido was unable to establish from his office how much (or even if) the taxpayers were paying the 17-year-old…

Yeo Says No

Guido always takes a keen interest when he hears the name Tim Yeo and green issues in the same sentence. The author, director of various green technology companies and part-time MP is one of the Tories biggest advocates of climate change hype and he does very well out of it. Not only was he elected Chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, but he also makes thousands of pounds a year from helping green investment companies such as AFC Energy. So you would think he would practice what he preaches about the environment.

Think again. Yeo is throwing his weight behind a campaign to stop a wind farm being built in his seat. In true NIMBY style he says:

“This happens to be one of the most beautiful parts of my constituency which stretches from here to the coast.”

Guido wonders whether he would be saying the same if it was one of his companies involved…

BBC Strikers Plan to Disrupt Tory Coverage

Frankly if the BBC unions want to strike during the Conservative Party conference does it matter? ITN and Sky will still be there.

Gaby Hinsliff asks why Tories who complain about left-wing bias should be bothered. They shouldn’t. The BBC bosses will be embarrassed not to have covered the governing party’s conference, they shouldn’t. They should hold tough against the unions no matter what blackmail if they want to impress the government.

Hardly anyone watches the coverage anyway.

UPDATE : Will the BBC go on strike? Smarkets punters make the probabilities Yes 65% / No 46.

Is a Formal Liberal-Conservative Electoral Pact Possible?

Nick Boles, the Cameroon insider and wonk turned newly elected MP, has put the cat among the pigeons ahead of the party conferences by advocating in his new book “Which Way is Up a formal electoral pact between the Tories and the LibDems.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

Seen Elsewhere

Tory Results In Full Tory Results In Full