Tuesday, 31 July 2007

The Poliblogs 31st July 2007

Stinging criticism of Brown from Labour MP

Gisela Stuart MP is an unlikely "rebel". She's your archetypal "Blair babe". On election night in 1997, her successful result at Edgbaston came early on, and gave a clear signal that we were in for a Labour landslide.

Ms Stuart has been criticising Gordon Brown for not holding a referendum on the European Constitution/Treaty. She should know what she is talking about. She helped write the original "constitution".

Liberal Burblings

Both Cheeky Girls move in with Opik

Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik has been forced to welcome Gabriela Irimia's twin sister into his home.

The politician was thrilled when fiancée Gabriela agreed to move in to his country cottage in Montgomeryshire, Wales. However, her mother Margit became concerned that Gabriela's sister Monica would be lonely without her - so Lembit has now decorated the spare room so that both Cheeky Girls can stay with him.

Digital Spy

NHS hits the news again

After a lull in which there was talk of "clinical engagement" and getting staff back onside, the DH reveals its true colours again. And they are not nice.

Dr Rant

Lord Saatchi calls for an end to "nicey-nicey" politics

Lord Saatchi has today warned that "nicey-nicey" politics will not win us the next general election urging David Cameron to reach out to voters on the economy instead of focusing on branding. He said all of Mr Cameron's efforts so far had been "to no avail".

Conservative Home

Could Gordon torpedo the Tory EU lifeboat?

One of the most brilliant moves by Tony Blair was his amazing U-turn in April 2004 on having a referendum on the EU constitution. For in one short announcement he completely undermined the Tory campaign for the Euro Election seven weeks hence. The demand for a referendum had been Michael Howard’s device of uniting the Tories on the contentious EU issue.

Political Betting

The Gordon and George Show

In public George W. Bush is an unpredictable figure. Sometimes he’s skittish, seeming to blurt out the first thing that comes into his head. At others he’s sullen and doesn’t really seem as if he wants to be there, and can’t really be bothered now he is.

Adam Boulton

It's not Blair

Gordon Brown's first trip to the US since becoming prime minister highlights how different he is from Tony Blair.

Ian Williams

Andrew Lilico: The Difference between a modern Conservative and a Blairite

Why are you a Conservative? How are your views different from those of a New Labour supporter? How do you believe that your views are better than those of a New Labour supporter? I’ll tell you how I think matters lie.

Conservative Home

Unnecessarily detained

The government wants to detain terror suspects for more than 28 days. Very well then, show us the evidence to justify it.

Andrew Dismore

I wouldn't waste the shoe leather to vote in a private referendum

I'll make my views clear to everyone to start off with. I am something of a sceptic over Europe. I don't mind the principle of the EU, not at all. In the same way as I think Communism is, in principle a lovely concept. However, the EU is deeply flawed, has far too many things wrong with it, is deeply mistrusted by a high percentage of this country (okay, I know UK politicians are too, but at least we choose them) , has too many bureaucrats interfering in things that are not broken, and EU rules are not applied equally across EU states, leaving a deep sense of injustice. Oh and before people say "you must be the only Lib Dem who holds such views", I know it is not common, but believe me, I am not the only one.

Norfolk Blogger

The buzz around David Davis

Some interesting speculation on the Tory blogosphere over the last couple of days over whether David Davis is now becoming David Cameron's de facto deputy, and as such whether he rather than George Osborne or William Hague is now best placed to take over should Cambo fall under the bus or, alternatively, be ditched by his increasingly restive party.

Paul Linford

Has the Brown bounce run out of steam?

There are still lots of smiling Gordons to illustrate our main article this morning but not quite on the same scale as recent polls have suggested. The surveys are from two pollsters who have hardly figured as successive YouGov and ICM polls have reported big leads for Labour in the past three weeks.

Populus in the Times has with comparisons on its last poll at the start of the month CON 33% (-1): LAB 39% (+2): LD 15% (-3)

Communicate Research in the Independent has compared with its last survey carried out before Gordon moved into Number 10 CON 34% (-3): LAB 37% (+5): LD 16% (-2)

Political Betting

Prolonging the Agony of School

Raise the school leaving age to 18? Teachers think it's a shocking idea. Geraldine Everett, chairman of the Professional Association of Teachers, says:

“Here is a Government that has toyed with the idea of lowering the voting age to 16 in order to promote a greater sense of citizenship among our young people. Yet it proposes to extend compulsory education or training to 18, to compel the already disaffected to, in their perception, prolong the agony.

To make them conscripts is likely to reinforce failure, leading to even greater disaffection. Enforcement could lead to mass truancy, further disruption to other learners and staff, maybe even needless criminalisation if enforcement measures are imposed.”

Of course, the commissars will not listen to the teachers. Piff! What do they know?

Burning Our Money

Is Brown reversing Blair's reforms?

The think-thank Reform has a interesting report setting out how in the 1st month of the Brown era, a reverse gear has been found on the public sector reforms we saw during the Blair era. Many I guess will welcome this, but as the Reform report point's out the 'inital decisions will impose an upwards pressure on public sector costs'.

Labour Home

Monday, 30 July 2007


As you can probably see, I have managed to add only a few more links to the site - in the Left and Right bloggers sections. I still have many more to add. It is a very tedious and boring process so I am doing it in as small a stages as I can!

If you think I have categorised you blog incorrectly then let me know.

The Weekend Poliblogs 28th-29th July 2007

Balls and Alexander should worry

Horrid bunch that we are at Westminster, we are already tracking the rivalries in the court of King Brown. The most intriguing is the three-way race between David Miliband, Ed Balls and Douglas Alexander to catch the teacher's eye and win the 'most likely to succeed' award.

Ben Brogan

Stephan Shakespeare: Changing the leader would be madness for the party; but it is also madness not to change a flawed strategy

“No lurch to the right”, “stay the course”, “stick with the centre ground”, “no wobble” – when these familiar phrases appear in the press, we can sum up the situation with one word: “trouble”.

The next election is still winnable for David Cameron. But it will demand clear thinking. Above all, Tory strategists must understand that in the modern world – and after all, we strive to be ‘modern’ – there is no such thing as a ‘centre ground’. We live in a multi-dimensional world, we do not aggregate around some fixed mid-position on a line on a graph. Where would you place the Gordon Brown of taper relief, which he has pledged to continue even for private equity? On the left or right? It’s certainly not centrist.

Conservative Home

Has Brown been over-bought?

A summer onslaught by the Tories may bring the new leader's honeymoon to an abrupt end.

Tania Branigan

Going Private

If Gordon Brown refuses to hold an EU referendum, the Tories might just back a privately funded poll. That is from William Hague via The Guardian who is looking at an initiative by former minister Lord Young of Graffham.

If Daniel Hannan is right, though, Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister, could also call a referendum on the revamped EU constitution.

The SNP, he says, like all the other parties, fought the last election arguing that the EU constitution should not come into effect without a referendum. Salmond could call such a referendum in Scotland, a move that would almost certainly force Brown to do the same on a UK basis.

EU Referendum

The first Democratic spat

Barack Obama says he's willing to meet the leaders of Iran and Venezuela if elected president. Hillary Clinton says that's naive. He calls her "Bush-Cheney-lite". Does it matter?

Eric Alterman

Flooding bonuses

I am not particularly enamoured with large bonuses in either the private or the public sector. There is always a question mark over who determines them, how they are assessed and whether they can be justified or not. I am not therefore singling out the Environment Agency for any other reason apart from the fact that they are the latest body to have gone down this route.

Peter Black

If I Was American.

Firstly, as the title points out, I'm not American, so I cannot vote in the 2008 elections. But, if I was American, what would be important to me and which issues appeal to me as a voter? Well, I'll break them down.

The Liberal Republican

Cannabis: Don’t die of shoddy reporting - UPDATED

I’ve written a couple of articles in the last couple of months on the general theme of the abject state of science/health journalism in the mainstream press - see Why is the Indy Shilling for Big Pharma? and Dumbing Down Dementia- the second of which includes this observation:

Ministry of Truth

Not worth a life

"Too many died," said Harry Patch the 109 year old only survivor of the Passchendale trenches. "War isn't worth one life." He said war was the "calculated and condoned slaughter of human beings".

Memories flowed back of my own father who would have been 108 this year. He died aged 43. I recall a rumbustious, lovely man who brought fun and laughter to any company he joined.

Paul Flynn

London flooded or Miami wrecked? More bad weather on the way

Piers Corbyn, the man who has successfully forecast, weeks or even months ahead, much of this summer's extreme weather events, has issued a warning of further heavy rainfall on 5th-9th and 18th-23rd August. He also warns that there is a serious risk of flooding in London, as the floodwater from this rainfall hits the spring tides of 12th and 28th August.

Picking Losers

YouGov boost for Boris over Ken?

Tucked away in the detailed data from YouGov’s July poll for the Daily Telegraph is a question about the mayor of London that I have not seen reported anywhere - how Boris and Ken are doing against each other for the London Mayoralty.

For when asked “If you had a vote and had to choose, who would you prefer to see elected as the next Mayor of London, Boris Johnson or Ken Livingstone?” those surveyed split Boris 36%: Ken 35%: Dont Know 29%.

Political Betting

Does this data make an early election less likely?

If Gordon is thinking about a 2007 general election then every bit of data will be scrutinised to spot the trends so he can be absolutely sure that Labour would be heading for victory with a comfortable majority.

The above table has been clipped from the full data from ICM’s Guardian poll this week that had Labour’s margin down a point but still with a healthy 6% lead. What it shows is the view of people who said they actually voted last time for one of the three main parties and how their voting intentions have changed since.

Political Betting

Would the Tories really do better with Hague?

Ths is the first in a series of articles in which I will look at the possible alternatives to David Cameron should, for whatever reason the party find itself choosing another leader.

This is something that I don’t think is likely to happen but it just might. The potential of several figures will be examined before I reveal the identity of the person I have good reason to believe that Labour most fears.

Political Betting

Talisman of victory or just another albatross?

I maintain my belief that David Cameron will never be Prime Minister. Events of the past week have simply confirmed that in my mind.

Political Hack UK

Time for Cameron to reflect

Perhaps the best outcome of these torrid last few weeks is that the Cameron project has been brought down to earth. After winning the party leadership against all the odds, some of the Cameroons had the idea they could walk on water, and rewrite the normal laws of politics. They thought if they said the mantra “social responsibility” long enough, the phrase would mean something. That they could change society by exhortation, not legislation. That companies could be dragooned into implementing government priorities. All of this new-age nonsense has proved as useful as a chocolate fireguard in the heat of Brown’s first few days.

Coffee House

The Honours System, A Good Way Of Managing Corruption

The Honours system is corrupt, everybody knows this. It is a means of rewarding cronies and sucking up to high society. Now most people seem to think that this a good reason to scrap the whole thing or at least reform it but that misses the point. As it is if you donate large amounts of money to political parties, or serve out a career in the civil service without spilling the beans you will be rewarded with a gong. If the OBEs, MBEs, KCMGs etc didn't exist then the politicians would still want to give something in return for services rendered so what would the various donors receive instead?

Unenlightened Commentary

Tying the knot? For you, we promise £5,000

Have you ever attended Weight Watchers or Slimming World? Or bet on a horse? I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be personal. It’s just that if you have, I have good news. Even if you put all that weight back on when you stopped going, or lost all your money when Dobbin refused at the first fence, your experience can still be put to use. It can help you to understand how the Tories can solve their dilemma over marriage.

Daniel Finkelstein

Friday, 27 July 2007

The Poliblogs 27 July 2007

Dulling down

George Galloway's eviction outburst was met only by disapproving tuts in the Commons. Where's the wit and anger the house was once famed for?

Alastair Harper

Not Boris

Oh dear, I think I'll be in a minority of about one when I write this here.

I realise that Boris is the Spectator's candidate for Mayor, and that he's an all round funny fellow and all that. But...

I can't for the life of me see how anyone could consider he'd make a good Mayor. I made a huge mistake last time round in voting for Ken Livingstone on a single issue, the congestion charge. Steve Norris was against, and I was (and remain) hugely in favour. But I stupidly ignored the more rounded picture - that Livingstone is a first class sh*t, and a man who disgraces the city he represents.

The Spectator’s Blog

Scottish independence and the English left

The reasons why the Scottish National Party are so often derided as Tartan Tories continue to escape me. I’ve always found it more analytically useful to consider them as some species of social democrats.

Let’s put it like this: since Alex Salmond took over at Holyrood last May, I have read nothing to suggest that that the SNP are to the right of the outgoing New Labour-Lib Dem coalition.

The policies currently on offer at their website are mostly the usual motherhood and apple pie stuff served up by all mainstream parties these days, pledging ‘fairer this’ and ‘safer that’.

Even so, it also includes radical-sounding promises to pull Scottish troops out of Iraq and British nuclear weapons out of Scotland.

Dave’s Part

Political arithmetic

This time around, the government seems to be winning its battle over the the 28-day limit for detaining terror suspects.

Alan Travis

Just what has the Foreign Office been telling Pakistan?

Miliband Major is in Pakistan at the moment, and an anxious nation holds its breath, awaiting his return. So far, so very dull indeed. However, a report on this momentous event in Pakistani newspaper Dawn is remarkably telling:

Mr Miliband, who earlier served as the Environment secretary in Blair’s final Cabinet, was opposed to the Iraq war and within the Cabinet also criticized the Israeli attack on Hezbollah last year".

Opposed to the Iraq war? Really?

The Croydonian

Could the Scientists Tell Us If Floods Are Caused by Climate Change Please?

Isn't it nice when two people on the same side of the argument put forward entirely contradictory viewpoints on climate change. These two quotes are from columnists for the same national newspaper. Could anyone prove to us what the science REALLY says, please? Isn;t it strange, I thought the scientists were all agreed. At least, so we were told...

Iain Dale

URGENT: Take Ladbroke’s 8/1 on a 2007 election

The Telegraphs YouGov survey for July, our this morning, has more good news for Labour and could reinforce the growing calls for Gordon to go to the country early. These are the figures with comparisons on the last poll from the pollster five days ago - CON 32% (-1): LAB 41% (+1): LD 16% (+1)

This is the biggest lead by any pollster for Labour since November 2005 before David Cameron became Tory leader.The last time that YouGov had a margin on this scale was in August 2005.

Political Betting

BROWN: The Hypocrite

David Cameron made a point in his final PMQs of the year by questioning Brown over the EU Constitution/Treaty. As Cameron said, the Irish PM said the treaty was 90% the same as the constitution which was rejected by the people of France and Holland, and the Spanish premier even said it was 98% the same. However, Brown now says we won’t have a vote on it despite in their manifesto saying ‘we will hold a referendum on any EU constitution.’ All that has changed is the name, but now he says we don’t need a referendum on it. This is despite the fact he says we are willing to trust the people and listen to them. This is all just New New Labour spin, he can get away with it now in his honeymoon period, but soon he will become massively unstuck, if he says he wants to listen to the people, he cannot just simply treat them like fools!!

UoB Conservative Home

Gordon Brown - The Con is On

Nothing has changed under Gordon Brown. He talks the talk, but he does not walk the walk. With all the put on earnest sincerety that he can muster, he tells people that he, Prime Minister Brown, is different to Tony Blair. But is he? Of course not. There may have been personal animosity and resentment between the two men which leads some people to think they are very different characters, but when it comes to their modus operandi, they are two peas from the same deceitful pod. The Labour culture of say one thing and do the opposite is alive and well in the Brownite government - which in reality is absolutely no different to the Blairite one that preceeded it.

The Waendal Journal

Po-faced puritanism

The atmosphere of bansturbation thickens. There appears now, for many people, to be no middle ground between "I dislike X" and "X should be banned". Whether X is fox-hunting, smoking, drinking, trading with Israel or online pornography is irrelevant. The apotheosis of this attitude comes in this article on Comment is Free.

Conservative Party Reptile

Climate Change My Arse - Part 9 (The Cold, Hard Facts?)

Global Warming, as we think we know it, doesn't exist. And I am not the only one trying to make people open up their eyes and see the truth. But few listen, despite the fact that I was one of the first Canadian Ph.Ds. in Climatology and I have an extensive background in climatology, especially the reconstruction of past climates and the impact of climate change on human history and the human condition. Few listen, even though I have a Ph.D, (Doctor of Science) from the University of London, England and was a climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg. For some reason (actually for many), the World is not listening. Here is why.

Daily Referendum

What's the point of university?

Students are getting into deeper and deeper into debt, but they may not be getting much for their money.

Tomas Hirst

How Brown is reversing Blair's reforms

Doesn’t anyone spot what Gordon Brown is really up to? The great Peter Riddell isn’t convinced that he has altered the Blair reform agenda, and thinks that “changes are at the margins”. Well, you could say that. If you snap the brake cable of a car, change is at the margins – but the consequences will be rather profound. Brown has ingeniously sabotaged the City Academy programme, keeping the name but ensuring new ones will be indistinguishable from existing schools. Meanwhile the NHS establishment is freezing out (or, as happened yesterday, just sacking) independent healthcare providers. They will now never get the critical mass they need. The CBI says it is “alarmed by this shift into neutral”.

Coffee House

Model behaviour from Ed Balls

The children's secretary has spoken out against Asbos, admitting that they have failed. I never thought I'd see the day, but I'm very glad I have.

Matt Foot

The Toriblogs 27 July 2007

Reports of the death of the Conservative party have been grossly exaggerated over the past few days. But all is not well at CCHQ - they have rarely looked much worse in fact - and the next couple months will be a critical time for Cameron and his team to regroup and hit the ground running in October. The health of the party may well be at its lowest ebb, but they say a week is a long time in politics - a few months is an age.

Here is a round up of the best in the blogosphere's reaction to the Yougov poll today and the calls for Cameron's head.

Also, click here for my take on the situation...

Portillo: Tories may never win a general election again

On last night's This Week on BBC1, Andrew Neil asked Michael Portillo if it is possible that the Conservatives will never win a general election again. Portillo's answer was "yes".

That is interesting and perhaps reflects Portillo's rather semi-detached relationship with the Tories at the moment. Even Diane Abbott disagreed with him.

Liberal Burblings

Is 32 per cent the bottom?

So it’s back to where we were, that is if you believe tomorrow’s YouGov poll in the Daily Telegraph. It puts Labour on 41 per cent, nine points ahead of the Conservatives on 32 per cent. That last figure may seem familiar, as it is roughly the falt-lining figure which the Tories bobbed under William Hague, IDS and Michael Howard. And it is just about where David Cameron started from way back in December 2005

Ben Brogan

We need to stop an autumn election - we don't need to change our leader

Fraser Nelson authors an article in this week's Spectator (not yet online) that speculates about the possibility of a fourth Tory defeat and who might then succeed a defeated David Cameron. His hook for the article is the string of recent bad news stories for the party and Trevor Kavanagh's widely-reported prediction that 'Brown will win, and win big.'

Conservative Home

Is an early election the cautious approach?

Whenever the subject of an early election, perhaps as soon as October, is mentioned people dismiss the idea because of Gordon’s character. The man, they argue, is not a risk taker and why should he chance everything on an early poll.

Political Betting

Mail Staff to Rebel Against Pro-Brown Stance?

There is a growing sense of concern among some Daily Mail writers and editorial executives about their newspaper's devotion to Gordon Brown. "Some of us are starting to feel we're writing for a Labour paper like the Mirror," says one. "The Mail's coverage of David Cameron's trip to Rwanda was mad. There was no attempt to give him any benefit of the doubt. The attacks were amazingly skewed."

Iain Dale

It's time for hardball against Brown on security

One of the most interesting findings in the YouGov survey for today's Daily Telegraph (its headline 9% Labour lead was reported here last night) is overwhelming public support for extra detention powers for the police. 74% favoured "detaining terrorist suspects without charge for as long as the police need to carry out their enquiries, provided adequate judicial safeguards are in place." 17% did not favour such powers and 9% didn't know. Tory MPs are overwhelmingly opposed to these extra powers.

Conservative Home

A few bright spots for the Tories

As Matt suggested, I’m getting some stick from Tories here in the Commons – mainly ones who have just seen today’s Spectator cover (Peter Brooke’s brilliant cartoon of Cameron about to be run over a bus) and asking if I’ve gone all Brutus. Quite the reverse. I merely sought to dangle regicidal Tories over the precipice and ask them to look down. Yes, things are grim. The Thames is still rising, the Daily Telegraph has a horrible poll tomorrow and the markets are crashing. But there are a few reasons for Tories to be cheerful:-

Coffee House

Unprincipled Brown plays leapfrog

Et tu, Brute? The knives are out for David Cameron like never before. Attacked from within the Conservative party, attacked by the Labour contingent in the House, attacked by the Lib Dems, attacked by commenters on news sites and blogs, some of whom take their lead from the dead tree press, attacked by that frustrated band of ever opportunist UKIPpers who always portray themselves as new Tory defectors - despite UKIP's membership and vote size never seeming to increase and remaining negligible.

The Waendel Journal

Time for opposition

With Brown's Labour Party soaring in the polls – enjoying a nine point lead over David Cameron's Conservative Party – even the staunchest of the Cameroons can no longer deny that "project Dave" is veering off the rails.

This is no mere "Brown bounce", but a decisive rejection of Cameron, who attracts a mere 27 percent approval rating as Conservative leader, compared with 43 percent in February.

EU Referendum

The End of the Tories?

Liberal Burblings have reported that Michael Portillo has stated that the Tories may never win a general election ever again. I didn’t see This Week last night, so I do not know the full context but it is a pretty bold thing to be saying. After all, only a few months ago the Tories were the party with the 9 point lead in the polls and all it takes is a harsh event to occur and the tables are turned. Cameron knows this all too well with the Grammar schools debate that has seen his personal and party rating go in to free fall in the polls. The “Brown bounce” has been more of quantum leap for Labour and all of a sudden people are talking about a snap election either this year or by next summer to capitalise on the polls. While I think it is alarmist to suggest the Tories will never win an election ever again, I do think the Tories are in their worst position they have been in – ever.

This may be surprising to some. After all, it is only a few bad polls and surely they have had harder time during the poll tax or IDS years? Well maybe, but there was always time for them to recover in those days and there were still options on the table. Right now the Tories are running out of options and when Cameron goes they may well have none left. This week William Hill opened a book on the next Tory leader. It makes worrying reading for the Tories:

W Hague 9/4

D Davis 5/1

G Osborne 10/1

A Lansley 10/1

L Fox 12/1

A Duncan 12/1

N Herbert 14/1

T Villiers 16/1

Their favourite is a man who has tried and failed. Many believe Hague was given an impossible task and his time came too early. I back that theory up – but it is going to be very hard to give him his time again. He will be cannon fodder to the Labour front bench and the media. You can count out Osborne – to much like Cameron. Davis is probably the best bet, but again may not have much more to offer than Cameron and has tried and failed at winning his party over too many times. Alan Duncan is a poor man’s Boris – too much interest in being a personality but just not as good at it as Boris. Fox would be seen as going back to the Old Conservatives – may please the right of the party, but the old factions would remain. Herbert and Villiers would have just about everyone going – who? The only other credible option to me would be Michael Gove and he could well be the absolute last option for the Tories. An intellect who would not be associated with the failures of the past. He too would really be up against it though with a party that has no idea what it stands for and has more fault lines running through waiting to split than the San Andreas.

The underlying problem of the party isn’t so much who leads them, but the perception that no one can lead them. There appears to be more difference between Cameron and the right of party and the grassroots than there is between himself and the government. If they haven’t sorted out the fundamentals of the party by now, when ever will they? Even the Labour party in its darkest days when threatened with the SDLP pushing them as the third party recovered more quickly than the Tories have.

Just look at the ICM polls going back to 1997:

In the 1997 election Labour won their landslide victory – look at the share of the vote:

Con - 31.4%

Lab - 44.4%

Lib Dem - 17.2%

A year later, Hague was in charge and things got worse –

Con - 29%

Lab - 50%

Lib Dem – 16%

By 1999, they had recovered a little but were still being portrayed as a no hoper party:

Con - 32%

Lab - 45%

Lib Dem - 16%

In 2001, they lost their second straight election with the following share:

Con - 32.7%

Lab - 42.0%

Lib Dem - 18.8%

This heralded the IDS years, seen by most as the lowest point in Tory history. Yet a year after the 2001 election, the polls were very familiar –

Con - 32%

Lab - 42%

Lib Dem - 20%

In 2005 the Tories lost their third straight election under Howard. This was enough to make him resign:

Con - 33.2%

Lab - 36.2%

Lib Dem - 22.6%

And yet today’s polls actually make worse reading for the Tories than it did back then. And it is widely perceived that not only does the election system favour labour, but the polls between elections favour the opposition party.

This may be just a slightly long winded way of saying the Tories are flat lining. They have gone virtually nowhere in 10 years and have used up nearly all their options. It appears they are pinning their only hopes on an economic disaster for the country and that it completely discredits Brown and the government rather like it did Major back in the early 1990s. This having exhausted all the change of leadership and political spectrum positioning options.

Ben Brogan suggests that the Tories have been taken by surprise by Brown's "drip-drip of wheezes designed to buy off critics, such as the successive u-turns on casinos, cannabis and 24-hour drinking" - but why on earth have they? The 100 days programme was well known for months and months. The Tories appear to have no plan to counter this. Brown and his team appear to be working much, much harder than the Tories right now and it is showing in the polls.

Getting rid of Cameron can not be the answer - because it only narrows down the options even more and the same difficult questions remain. Cameron and his front bench really need to hold their nerve now. His party need to stop falling apart every time there is a hint of bad news in the press and a few of his team need to stand up and be counted rather than sulking in the corner. If Cameron doesn’t use this summer break to really get things moving again for October it may well be the last chance saloon for the Tories for a long, long time.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

The Shambo Cow blogs

(Picture hat tip Phil Caldicott)

The growth of "live blogging" has been increasing over the past year or so. It started, in my experience, with sporting events and moved in to the political world with election night. Now we have live blogs for by-elections and the weekly PMQs. But I have to say, today the Guardian have just taken the next giant step towards live blogging on absolutely anything.

Some Guardian hack (Mathew Weaver) has been sat at his desk all day watching the 24 News coverage and news sites on the internet and using whatever means he can get their hands on to cover the big story of the day... "Shambo to the Slaughter". A sick cow that is heading for the slaughter house.

The bovine has a cow form of TB but a load of religious types who believe the cow cow is sacred are refusing to let the authorities take it away. This, my good people, deserves paying someone to blog about all day. Incredibly Mathew Weaver has been glued to "MooTube" (Shambo's webcam) all day to keep a gripped nation up to date. Barely twenty minutes has passed all day without an update. Don't believe me, click here.

Commentary has included:

Shambo, the sacred Hindu bullock with bovine TB, is due to be taken for slaughter this morning, but the Welsh authorities will have to break up a religious ceremony to get him. Follow what happens here.

Shambo himself has shuffled to the left of his straw-lined pen ... then back to the right.

The vets have arrived and the monks have gone to greet them. The music has got faster and the mood changed.

Thanks for all your comments below. Sorry if some of you think this is all too trivial for the Guardian to be covering, but as noted in earlier posts, this case has sparked worldwide interest, and you did all click on it.

Radio Wales has been playing Buffalo Soldier, while we wait for the vets to return with their warrant and cattle truck.

For the bullock-spotters out there, those tags on Shambo's ear read: 742266 200001.


Police have returned and used bolt cutters to get access to the farm, BBC Wales reports. They are now removing people from temple area.

The Press Association is reporting the following:

A group of 20 police officers marched in and surrounded the temple after cutting the chain which had secured the gates. Some of those who had gathered to worship in front of Shambo had to be dragged and carried from the scene by officers after refusing to leave.

It's not looking good for Shambo - go the live blog now to keep up to date for biggest breaking story in Europe.

The Poliblogs 26th July 2007

Hills open a “next Tory leader” market

With the polls continuing to go against him William Hill has opened a market on the next Tory leader.

At the weekend I suggested that Cameron should pre-empt such a move by putting his job on the line in a “back me or sack me” move.

These are the prices:

Political Betting

Sacking the manager is not the panacea

Interesting article in the Spectator by Fraser Nelson that wonders "if David Cameron were to be run over by a bus tomorrow, who would lead the Conservative party?". He argues that, should there be an election next spring and the Tories lose, then the question will no longer be a speculative game and become real because "Opposition leaders do not survive failed election attempts in modern politics".

Dizzy Thinks

An unholy mess

The revolving door that is the Conservative party leadership sometimes resembles the medieval papacy for shortlived and undistinguished tenures.

Edward Pearce

The Tories have no plan B

Fraser's piece is already making waves. The reason for this is that it poses the question that all Tories are thinking about but dare not voice - not least because they do not know the answer to the question: "If not Dave, then who?" To lose a fourth successive general election, as the polls suggest the Conservatives are on course to do, would be a savage blow to any party.

Coffee House

Control poll

"More than half of voters do not believe that Tory leader David Cameron is in control of his party, a new poll has found. The survey of 1,877 people, conducted by YouGov for Channel 4 News at Noon, revealed voters consider the Conservative Party to be well to the right of its leaders in terms of politics. Just 22 per cent of those questioned said Mr Cameron was in control of the Tories, compared to 52 per cent who said he was not."

Conservative Home (The Telegraph)

Nowhere but down

According to The Guardian today – which has published the results of an ICM poll giving Labour a six point lead - David Cameron is losing his appeal to voters. It suggests that many Conservative voters have come to dislike the Tory leader and that he is no longer attracting new support to the party.

EU Referendum

LibDems up 2 points to 20% in ICM poll

The LibDems are up 2 points in the ICM Guardian poll today. Cameron is losing grassroots support, the poll finds.

Lib Dem Blogs

Gordon Brown announces Conservative policies on security

He's making a statement in the house right now. His announcement includes:

Unified border forced

A review of using telephone intercept information

Post charge questioning

He's pushing the extra detention argument again - but just quotes from Lord Carlyle. Bring us the evidence Gordon - and we might listen to you. Personally I think this is the wedge issue he';s using for party political purposes to gain advantage.

Man in a shed

Lurching right

A blog or two ago I mocked the spinning of comments made at the political Cabinet about the Tory leader lurching to the right. This morning it finally dawned on me that it is Brown not Cameron who has - to use a phrase bequeathed to British politics by Alastair Campbell - "lurched to the right". In terms of political strategy it's brilliant and accounts for many of the Tories problems.

Nick Robinson

Working from Home and the Transport System

But why do we still do it? Why do we put ourselves through the agony of commuting? It is one of the great mysteries of the modern world, and a rebuke to the futurologists. Do you remember all those people - about five or 10 years ago - who said we were going to be working from home?

Boris Johnson

Why Voting Intention Polls Matter

We’ve now pretty much got the measure of the “Brown bounce” in the polls - YouGov, MORI and ICM are all showing a Labour lead of around 6 or 7 percent. So, what does this actually tell us? Well, not a lot really. Anyone with sense in their head should have foreseen that Brown would receive a boost after becoming Labour leader. For those of us who write about polls it was becoming incredibly tiresome constantly adding caveats to the hypothetical polls showing Labour slumping with Brown in charge that newspapers insisted on asking. Everyone knew they were artifical, that people are very bad at predicting how they will react to things in the future. No one, of course, could accurately predict how high the Brown bounce would be, but everyone should have expected there to be one.

Polling Report

Seeing the light?

A columnist who urged everyone to support the invasion of Iraq is having second thoughts.

Neil Clark

Intelligence Committee observes "America couldn't give a damn for UK concerns"

The Intelligence and Security Committee has concluded in its report to Gordon Brown that the US government appears not to have cared one jot about the opinions of the UK government when they raised concerns about the illegal rendition of CIA prisoners to torture camps in other countries via UK airports.

Norfolk Blogger

Civilization Marches On

This is the engine of it all:

According to the Institute of Alcohol Studies, drink is now about 55% more affordable than it was a quarter-century ago.

Not necessarily booze you understand, but anything. That it takes us less hours of work (which is what they mean by "affordable") to purchase a given quantity of something.

Tim Worstall

Evasion, evasion, evasion

"Running scared", is how The Daily Express puts it – the refusal of Gordon Brown to answer Cameron’s question on the EU constitution.

The Sun, on the other hand, has "Cam hammers PM on EU pledge", which is a good sign, when the paper starts using a nickname. The Boy might start realising that "there's votes in that thar referendum."

The sour notes came from the left-leaning papers, such as The Daily Mirror which accused the Boy of trying to portray himself as a Eurosceptic by attacking Labour's refusal to hold a referendum on a European treaty.

EU Referendum

Splish, splash, splosh

Halfway across a severely swollen river is not a good time to let the tiller go. But that of course is precisely what Cap'n Al Johnson is doing on the good ship NHS. Whereas the Commissar had it hard about (or was that just the way her trousers were hanging?), Cap'n Al has let it go all floppy.

Yesterday he told the Health Select Committee he was junking one of the Commissar's most cherished but highly contentious policies:

Burning Our Money

Computing uncovers £50m ID card consultant costs

A Freedom of Information request by Computing magazine reveals:

The government has spent £53m on consultants for the national biometric identity card scheme, and continues to use 83 external contractors at a cost of nearly £50,000 per day.

Home Office Watch

Brown's Bounce Is Dave's Dip

As MPs go away for the long summer break, Sky News Election Analyst Professor Michael Thrasher takes an overview of the state of the parties according to the opinion polls, and looks to past precedents to see what could be in store for our political leaders.

Adam Boulton

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Phase Two

Now that the Poliblogs has been up and running for a few weeks and I am getting more of an idea where things are heading, I have been steadily increasing my sources. I am currently covering in excess of 100 blogs - so you don't have to! I hope to get this figure to rise over the coming weeks too.

If you have any suggestions of great political blogs out there that you think I may have over looked or simply want to plug your own blog, please let me know and I will add it to my ever growing list.

As I am sure you can tell, I need to update my blogroll as it only has a fraction of the sources I am currently using - something I will tackle this weekend I hope (at least in part).

As time goes on, I have a few more ideas of things to add to the site, so please keep on coming back!

PMQs 25 July 2007

And so to the last PMQs before Parliament rises for its summer break and the conference season. It'll be all the way in October before Brown and Cameron go at each other again - and I bet Cameron is relieved. It has been a shocking few weeks for the Tories and Cameron in particular. The latest revolt is coming right from the heart of the party - David Davies.

This is how the blogosphere saw it -

PMQ's Review

On the last Prime Minister's Questions before the Summer recess and both Gordon Brown and David Cameron gave strong performances; Brown does now seem to be getting the hang of PMQs.

Conservative Home

Gordon Brown demonstrates the Gentle Touch

We have a change from the Blair era of Prime Minister’s Questions.

Tony Blair used to have John Prescott on one side slouch on the bench snoring away (see below), and Gordon Brown looking like Edward Heath in a huff on the other side.

The Wardman Wire

Today’s Hero is…David Cameron,

for pressing Gordon Brown on the need for a referendum on the EU Treaty. Cameron rightly pointed out that the Irish, Spanish, Belgians, the European Commission and even the author of the Constitution, Giscard d’Estaing, ALL say that the Treaty is 90%+ exactly same as the rejected EU Constitution.

Enough is enough

Flood tourism follies

David Cameron is discovering just how far Gordon Brown is prepared to go to score political points. This afternoon the answer is Gloucester and Tewkesbury. The PM announced at PMQs that he is heading west later to see for himself how the aftermath is going.

Ben Brogan


Did anyone else notice in the small print of Gordon Brown’s announcement regarding new security measures in PMQs today, that UK citizens will have ID cards by 2009 - in fact we will have biometric cards. Brown seems to think that this is the panacea for our security problems in the face of terrorism.

Tales from the Riverbank

The Clunking Fist Connects

To date, Cameron has got the better of Brown at PMQs but the clunking fist had some good lines today. I’d bet that this one--"The wheels are coming off the Tory bicycle; it's just as well he's got a car following him!"—will be on the news tonight. As Tony might say, clunk!

Coffee House

Live Blogging PMQs

As this is probably the third most important PMQs Cameorn has faced (behind his first with Blair and then the first with Brown - both wins for Cameron) I thought I would live blog my views on how all sides do.

Little’s Log

PMQs – The Verdict

This has been a difficult week for the Tories, and the Labour backbenchers knew it.

That David Cameron's trip to Africa while his constituency was under water was a mistake had become such accepted knowledge by Wednesday that even Rwandan journalists were questioning why he wasn't back in Witney.

The Conservative leader, who looked like he knew what was coming, had little choice but to use his first questions to tackle the flooding. Other days this might have made him look serious and consensual - but with the Labour benches in such a boisterous mood it looked like mild torture for the Tories.



Incredibly, I score it Brown going in to the recess with a clear one point lead. There was always likely to be the "Brown Bounce" in the polls, but that never meant he was going to take the "bounce" in to PMQs where it was perceived that Cameron would be the better operator. He has taken away the chance for Cameron to make headlines at PMQs by using it as a forum to announce new policies - a little bit of cheating but rather shrewd.

Today was Brown's best performance so far. It's going to be a long summer for Cameron and a far more relaxing one for Brown.

Brown 1

Cameron 0

The Poliblogs 25th July 2007

Tory Delusions

One of the nice things about politics and personalities is that you can like and respect an individual and yet totally disagree with what he or she says. For example I like and respect Tony Benn, but I think it is fair to say that I am a bit more right-wing than he is. One thing he said in the early 1980s which I disagree with (and which the facts bore out against him) was that, if only Labour was more left wing, so that they could counter the Conservatives monetaristic threat, then Labour's electoral salvation would be in sight!

Mars Hill

Here's some beef

Amidst all the hullabaloo about David Cameron heading to Rwanda while parts of his constituency remain flooded, it is worth noting that the report he is unveiling over there has some pretty sound ideas in it.

Writing in the Telegraph this morning, Peter Lilley, the group’s chair, argues that trade is essential and that rich countries must do five things:

The Spectator Coffee House Blog

New EU treaty is 96% the same as the constitution

The invaluable think-tank Open Europe has translated the text of the European treaty formerly known as the constitution into English; something the government has so far failed to do. Their work shows that 96 percent of the text is as it was in the constitution.

The Spectator Coffee House Blog

Boris blasted as "bumbling buffon" by Tory mayoral rival

Tory hopeful Lurline Champagnie has launched an outspoken attack in the Harrow Observer against rival and blue-rinser favourite Boris Johnson.

Theo’s Blog

BREAKING NEWS - Yates To Give Evidence On Cash For Honours

It's just been announced that Assistant Commissioner John Yates will be called to give evidence before a committee of MPs investigating Cash for Honours.

The Public Administration Committee suspended its Inquiry because of the ongoing criminal investigation.

Adam Boulton

Climate Change My Arse - Part 8 (Global Scapegoat)

So last year's heat waves were down to Global Warming and this year's floods are down to Climate Change. It's funny how the terminology changes to suit the political agenda isn't it? I heard on the news this morning that 5% of our flood defences were already in poor repair previous to the recent flooding. The environment agency are quoting £1billion to improve defences but damage is estimated at £2billion. So from my limited accounting skills I can work out that instead of the floods costing £1billion (the cost of the repairs the government knew were needed but didn't carry out) they have now cost £3billion (the cost of repair to the flood defences plus the cost of the damage done).

Daily Referendum

The short presidency of Dick Cheney

America got a new President over the weekend, didn't you notice?

Well, it was only for a couple of hours as President Bush temporarily handed over power to (shudder) President Cheney while George W. was having a colonoscopy.

Daniel Finkelstein

Obama needs to raise the stakes if he is to defeat Hillary Clinton

Greetings from Charleston, South Carolina. This evening Sam Coates and I attended the first Democrat debate of this presidential cycle that was sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee. Here are a few quick observations:

Britain and America.com

It's Their Tube, not YouTube

CNN's use of YouTube for tonight's Democratic presidential debate is being hailed as groundbreaking experiment in democracy. It is nothing of the sort.

Niall Stanage

Peter Franklin: Abolish the Treasury

I know what you did last summer.

Amid the hosepipe bans and dwindling reservoirs, you slashed the flood defence budget.

By ‘you’ I mean Her Majesty’s Treasury, which would no doubt object that the budgetary decision was taken by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which has immediate responsibility for flood defence. Never one to miss a trick, HMT would also point out that Defra had been given all the money it needed and only ran short thanks to its lavishly incompetent implementation of the Single Payment Scheme for farm subsidies. This much is true. But what has flood defence to do with the Single Payment Scheme?

Conservative Home

Stephen Crabb MP: In defence of the Rwanda trip

Thirteen years ago the world abandoned Rwanda.

After 100 days of brutal and highly organised killings between April and July 1994, nearly one million rotting corpses were left strewn across this beautiful country; almost a third of all the children had been made orphans and millions of traumatised survivors sought safety in disease-ridden refugee camps.

Conservative Home

Smell of Piss Removed From Trains By 2014

THE unbearable stench of stale urine will be removed from all mainline and suburban rail services by 2014, the transport secretary said yesterday.
Ruth Kelly said Network Rail will spend £1bn a year in a massive nationwide programme to make Britain's trains almost entirely piss-free.

The Daily Mash

Politics 2.0

Our leaders are still hesitant but the internet could eventually revolutionise political campaigning in Britain.

Mark Hanson

OOOoo he`s so "Strong"

We are the worst performing economy in the Anglosphere and Britain was already surging ahead at the end of the Major period. Without the administrative an tax burdens placed on the private sector (and the swollen public sector) it would have done as well as the other free economies . A historic missed opportunity. These gains are driven by the global markets that believe in the low tax and entrepreneurial societies that Brown despises. Those actually in this sector are aware of this and this is not the problem the Conservatives have ( Those involved almost universally support the Tories). The drag on business is in front of you everyday. The problems are these:

Islington Newmania

How long until a Labour majority is the betting favourite?

Even though today’s ICM poll in the Guardian, reported in the previous thread, shows a one point drop in Labour’s lead the sentiment on the betting markets is moving towards Labour being returned with an overall majority for an unprecedented fourth term.

On the Cantor Spreadfair commons seat market this morning prices are CON 252-255.7: LAB 307.2-310.4: LD 48.1-54 seats. So the mid-point in the Labour spread is nearly 309 seats or just sixteen short of an overall majority.

Political Betting

More bad news for Dave

Today's Guardian ICM poll continues the run of bad figures for Dave. Now, all of this can be (and is being) dismissed by Tory optimists as part and parcel of the predictable "Brown bounce": Gordon has not yet been PM for a month, after all. And I agree that Cameron would be daft to mould his strategy around the voting intention statistics drawn up by pollsters in the first few weeks of a premiership. The finding that should worry Dave is that a majority of Labour and Tory voters think that Brown has brought a change to government. This suggests that the public has bought Gordon's mantra that he has "listened and learned" and is the "change" candidate.

Coffee House

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

The case against an EU constitution

William Hague has today given a speech to Policy Exchange today on why there should be a referendum on the new EU Treaty (aka the EU constitution).

I am in almost all circumstances against referenda. But the taking of wholesale soveriegnty away from the electorate to the unelected bureacrats in Brussels is fundamentally against anything democratic. I am resigned to the fact that we will never get the chance to vote on this matter I'm afraid - but hopefully some of the media will take this case up some more and Parliament will do its job and give us a chance to say who governs us. Manifestos are the basis for a mandate to rule, not an unelected scrapheap of has been politicians. Below are some selected texts -

So Gordon Brown has been absolutely right to emphasise the importance of sticking to manifesto promises. As he told the BBC the weekend before he became Prime Minister, 'the manifesto is what we put to the public. We've got to honour that manifesto. That is an issue of trust for me with the electorate'.

So is this new Treaty in fact a relabelled Constitution? If we look at what political leaders are saying elsewhere in Europe it turns out that the only matter of dispute is whether, as the Irish Prime Minister says, ninety per cent of it is still there, or, as the Spanish foreign minister claimed only yesterday, it is ninety eight per cent the same.

The mandate's obscurity is a deliberate disguise.

Rather than countries taking their turn to chair the EU's business a new EU President would set the EU's agenda, as well as having a rather undefined role representing Europe to the world. There would be an EU foreign minister in all but name, with his own diplomatic service. Unlike the current High Representative, who reports to the foreign ministers' council meetings, he would preside over it. The EU would for the first time have a single legal personality, a prerequisite for statehood that would allow the EU to sign treaties in its own right. Criminal justice agreements would no longer be strictly intergovernmental but would be treated like ordinary community matters - so the Commission would have the main right to propose laws, the European Parliament would have the right of co-decision and, most importantly, the European Court of Justice would gain full jurisdiction over present and future agreements. Additionally, because of the doctrine of implied external competence, we could now see the Commission taking charge of and the Court of Justice ruling on our extradition agreements with third countries, such as the United States or Algeria.

Our national veto will be abolished in sixty areas. Some are relatively trivial but others are certainly not...

So it is clear that this new Treaty will produce effectively the same wide and fundamental changes to the EU that the rejected Constitution intended.

As the President of the Commission has said, with this new Treaty theEU would acquire 'the dimension of empire'.

The answer is simple: trust the people and let them decide.

Click here for the full text.

The Poliblogs 24th July 2007

Cost of Government Day: Monday 23 July

The TPA has extended the concept of Tax Freedom Day, long championed by the Adam Smith Institute and now an established part of the political calendar (in 2007 it fell on 1 June) and can now provide an estimate of the Cost of Government Day. This is the date in the calendar year on which the average person has earned enough gross income to pay off his or her share of government spending and regulation.

The result for 2007 is as follows:

  • The average person must work for 204 days of the year to pay off his or her share of government spending and regulation.

  • The Cost of Government Day in 2007 is 23 July.

The Tax Payers’ Alliance

Ed Balls and Nursery provision

So now he tells us. Now he tries to repent. Well, thanks for nothing, chum. After 10 years of suffocating legislation, the Labour Secretary for Children and Schools, Mr Edward Balls, appears to have woken up to what his government has done.

After 10 years of elf and safety lunacy, Balls has plaintively called for children to be allowed to take a few risks: play conkers, have a snowball fight, climb a tree, get a few scabs back on their knees. Bring back the joys of childhood, says the blithering Balls, as if Labour had nothing to do with the creation of our grossly over-regulated society and compensation culture.

Boris Johnson


In Nanny's world councils have been given, or shall we say believe that they have been given, a hell of a lot of power over us.

Now, as we all know, power can corrupt; it would seem that one of Nanny's "respected" local councils has found that to its cost.

Nanny Knows Best

Proud to be British

Most days, the newspapers report the name of a soldier who has been killed, a soldier like the squaddie from Holyhead.
What the news does not show, and what the newspapers rarely describe, is the soldiers who are injured. Amputees with burnt faces are not photogenic. Soldiers with brain injuries, physical or mental, act strangely.
It is all most unpalatable for the general public. Best ignored.

NHS Blog Doctor

Still not getting it...

You might have noticed that your humble Devil did not crow over the Ealing and Sedgefield by-election results. There were several reasons for this; first, NuLabour were always going to hold Sedgefield. Let's face it, had Blair ever thought that the seat was in doubt he would have put himself into a nice safe seat; it's a trifle difficult to be Prime Minister when you haven't even been elected as an MP.

The Devil’s Kitchen

Paying for Labour's next General Election win

On a positive note, let's examine the options to funding Labour's next General Election campaign. How much money needs to be raised?

Peter Kenyon

‘Cash for honours’: the inquiries continue

Labour’s top fundraisers and donors may have been saved from chokey by the Crown Prosecution Service last week, but they still have to run the gauntlet of the House of Commons’ Public Affairs Committee.

Lib Dem Voice

First and second class kids

The story of schoolchildren being trained to work in a call centre will trigger a dumbing-down furore, but systemic failures in education are the real problem.

Fiona Miller

Ditch Cameron for Oddball Fascist, say Tory Rebels

SENIOR Tory MPs are calling for David Cameron to be replaced with another vote-losing weirdo from the party's extreme right wing.

Frustrated with the relatively normal behaviour of the Conservative Party over the last 18 months, rebel backbenchers are plotting to replace Cameron with a leader who can recapture the child-scaring days of the late 1990s.

One rebel Tory MP said: "Norman Tebbit just sits at home all day writing psychotic, foul-mouthed letters to the BBC. It's such a waste."

The Daily Mash

Fare games

British Rail was criticised for raising ticket prices rather than investing in improvements - but the quasi-privatised railway is doing just that.

Christian Wolmar

Raining on Gordon's parade

The government can't do anything about the weather, but it can get the blame for it. So Prime Minister Brown is wise to take the floods seriously.

Martin Kettle

Was the Rwanda trip a big mistake for Cameron?

With the flooding story continuing to dominate the news the Guardian has postponed publication of its ICM survey for July which was carried out over the weekend in the immediate aftermath of Thursday’s by elections. So we don’t know the precise figures but Michael Crick on Newsnight last night suggested it was in the same region as the last ICM poll a week and a half ago which had Labour 7% ahead.

Political Betting