Friday, 30 November 2007

So let me get this straight...

Harriet Harman is in the schtook because she accepted a loan from what Hilary Benn thought was a dodgy source. Of course Gordon Brown knows nothing about this because Jack Straw told us so... though that may have something to do with the fact that his department has just launched an inquiry after claims that hundreds of defendants escaped justice in Leeds. Oh and Peter Hain took money as well by the way – did he forget to mention this earlier? No need for Alastair Darling to deflect attention, Jon Mendelsohn is doing that for him. Though of course, Darling has lots to business that needs people looking the other way from – the Northern Rock crisis is far from over and costing us potentially £29bn and counting. And despite him being sure those discs containing personal data of 25 million people are on HMRC property, no one can seem to find them – funny that. At least all this has saved Des Browne from the sack – he has been relatively efficient recently. His department have only been slammed for wasting millions of pounds worth of tax payers money from the sale of Quintiq while troops in Afghanistan and Iraq die because of a lack of basic equipment. Then again, he’s probably not as relieved as Jacqui Smith whose department security cleared thousands of illegal immigrants and then she chose not to tell anyone about it for months and months. David “wouldn't it be great to have that Blair back” Miliband must be loving it all – it can’t be doing too much harm to his leadership ambitions and besides, he hates his job at the foreign office – he even takes leave when Royal visitors come over to talk business. Meanwhile Ruth Kelly has been using public money to fund her own party letter headed paper – though it is only stationery... £10ks worth. And all the while they are all trying to dump their problems on Brown. At least Gordon has a friend in Ed Balls. Yes Ed Balls – the one who decided that he would push Brown in to the whole election that never was fiasco in the first place. Maybe all this is a plot to take our minds of the referendum for the Europe Treaty that Brown promised but never gave us? And it all started off so well when all we had to worry about was terrorism and sick animals...

The Poliblogs 30 November 2007

What more is there to come?

Martin Bright has a typically excellent column in the New Statesman about this whole fundraising scandal. Here’s the key graf:

Coffee House

MoD slammed by Select Committee

The Ministry of Defence has been slammed today in a report from Select Committee on Public Accounts that looks at it's management of the Defence estate. The report concluded that over 40% of family accomodation and more than half of single living accomodation is substandard.

Dizzy Thinks

A flagging union

It's right that our national flag should represent Scotland, England and Ireland. Adding Wales would be rewriting history

Hywel Williams

Third time lucky?

The government is having another go at reform of the Child Support Agency. The new system must address parents' concerns

Kim Fellowes

The Liberal Democrat Leader

The role of the Leader of the Liberal Democrats is one of the most difficult in British politics. Unlike the Leader of HM Opposition, there is no specific financial support for the leader of the party, neither, except at election time, does the Liberal Democrat Leader have Police security protection.

Cicero’s Songs

Greens set to join the real world

With New Labour increasingly seen by many as a lost cause, there has been much discussion on Liberal Conspiracy of late as to whether the Green Party might be a more effective political vehicle for the British left. This weekend, in what will be seen as an indication of their desire to be taken more seriously as a party, they are set to ditch their dual leadership structure in favour of having a single leader.

Paul Linford

Labour donors anonymous

Labour_donorsanon Why do so many Labour donors seem embarrassed about giving to the Labour Party? David Abrahams did it through his employees. Wendy Alexander's leadership campaign, where she had to beat nobody, raised £17,000 through attracting several donors of £995, just under the £1000 mark where they would have to be declared.

Rolled-up Trousers

HMRC data security scandal debate - still no mandatory use of encryption

The latest Labour party financial funding scandal seem to be obsessing the "Westminster Village" and has overshadowed yesterday's Opposition debate on the ongoing scandal at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling admitted that the missing CD discs have still not been found or accounted for. He seems to be obsessed with the review of the data security and privacy procedures at HMRC which Kieran Poynter .

Spy Blog

Sleaze Queens Wrestle

Fascinating three-way tussle in the Commons this morning over party funding. In the Blue Corner: Theresa "Nasty Party" May; in the Red Corner: Harriet "Spirit and Letter of The Law" Harman. Trying to referee - and keep the debate in order - Mr Speaker, "Gorbals Mick" Martin. Mrs May's opportunity came during the weekly session on next week's business. So she had to keep on stretching the argument to what should be debated - the speaker warned her three times but ruled in her favour in the end.

Boulton & Co.

'Donorgate' getting serious

Throughout the current rumpus about the illegal donations to the Labour Party, its been assumed that, in reality, it was just a few backroom boys getting carried away. A bit of short term damage and then normality resumed. That was definitely the tone of a discussion on the Radio Cymru programme Taro Post that I took part in this afternoon. Paul Flynn, MP was on for Labour.

A view from Rural Wales

A sensible approach to party funding

The party funding scandal that has engulfed the government will undoubtedly be used as an excuse for more regulation and more state funding of political parties. This is a mistake. The Labour Party is in trouble precisely because it has broken existing laws and been found out, not because there was not enough regulation to guide their conduct.

Adam Smith Inst.

Is Harman Trying the "If I Go, You Go Too" Defence?

Guido is having difficulty understanding the maneuvering of the various Labour party players in the scandal. Dizzy is hinting that the source for the Evening Standard's writ attracting story on Mendelsohn is the Harman nominating MP, Kevan Jones. He was seen dining with the journalist who wrote the article in Shepherds the night before. Not conclusive, but interesting nonetheless.

Guy Fawkes

Newsnight Allegations Mean Harman Cannot Survive

Much as I would like to watch Alan Duncan make mincemeat of Caroline Flint tonight on Question Time, I shall be watching Newsnight. Why? Read on, dear reader, read on. David Grossman has uncovered more about the reason Harriet Harman was so keen to accept money from David Abrahams Janet Kidd. She is in debt up to her very pretty eyebrows. Her campaign overspent to the extent that next week she is holding a fundraiser in Leicester Square, billed as "This is the last opportunity to raise funds towards the cost of our very successful campaign. Places are limited and tickets are available strictly on a first come first served basis.". Tickets are a mere £30. However, that's not the juicy bit.

Iain Dale

Marriage tax myths

Remember policy - y’know, that stuff politicians are meant to do? Well, here’s something for the few of you who do - new research suggests that the Tories‘ proposals to encourage marriage through the tax system would be a wasteful bribe to median voters, rather than a way of improving the way children are brought up. Granted, there’s evidence that the children of married couples do better - on average - than those from single-parent homes.

Liberal Conspiracy

Is the Labour party about to implode?

Man in a Shed was sitting back watching Newsnight when to his utter amazement Mr David Abrahams appeared on Newsnight, or rather phoned in. Perhaps it was a last minute thing, it was certainly dramatic. (Guido has the transcript that is probably also available on the Newsnight web site ).

Man in a Shed

Does the latest poll under-state Labour’s plight?

What if the fieldwork had taken place yesterday? As has been noted often here a key element when assessing a poll is the timing of the field-work. In fast-moving political situations like we’ve seen this week the “when” can play a critical role. So the overnight YouGov poll in today’s Telegraph has to be looked at in terms of when it took place. The figures, as discussed on the previous thread, were with changes on the previous survey from the pollster - CON 43% (+2): LAB 32% (-2): LD 14% (nc)

Political Betting

Dave. Get rid of Teresa May. PLEASE. I beg you.

Open Labour goals all over the place and this woman cannot shoot straight. She cannot shoot at all. She would not recognise a ball if she tripped over one in her ridiculous shoes. Nor a goal, not even if all the world's Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Brazilian footie commentators roared out the word 'Gooooooooooooooal!" in one great, cosmic, orgasmic chorus.


Thursday, 29 November 2007

The Poliblogs 29 November 2007

Get back, get back...

One things seems quite clear to me about this whole fiasco of donations to the Labour Party; the Party should abandon this practice of dealing in donations from millionaires, philanthropists etc. It was something Tony Blair became very fond of as he deliberately took steps to put distance, if not break the link altogether, with the trade union movement.

Bob Piper

An accident waiting to happen

Surely there should be no surprise at all about Labour’s latest breach of the rules on donating to political parties. After all, it’s an easy thing to do. You want to give money to a political party but don’t want to admit that you have done it, so what’s the obvious thing to do? Give the money to someone else who then donates it on your behalf. It is so simple to do, and need only involve two people having knowledge of the arrangement. I wouldn’t be surprised if we find out that it has happened before and in other parties too.

Anders Hanson

Mendacious Mendelsohn Must Go

Mortgage subsidy fiddler Geoff Hoon on Newsnight told Paxman "It seems clear that there could be no impropriety attached to Mr Mendelsohn he acted properly." Paxman: I wasn’t suggesting impropriety I was merely suggesting he knew who Mr Abrahams was.

Guido Fawkes

Sleaze and the BBC

I remember when Labour started their nasty sleaze camapign in the 1990s against the Tories I thought they were fashioning a boomerang. It was over the top, and unnecessary - the Conservative party was going to lose the election anyway. It was bound to damage politics as a whole and to make the life of a future Labour government more difficult.

John Redwood

Brown makes his stand

When Nick Robinson dropped the bombshell on the Today Programme that Jon Mendelsohn had known about how David Abrahams was funnelling money to the Labour party, I assumed that—if this was true—Mendelsohn would be gone by PMQs. But he’s still there tonight.

Coffee House

Getting politics out of the ditch

Yet again, Labour is in trouble over party funding. So here is a modest set of proposals to put a stop to all the scandals and regain public trust

Martin Bell

Down but not out

A series of crises have rocked Gordon Brown's government. A bit of humour and humility will help him remain afloat

Jackie Ashley

Brown must shun party politics at taxpayers' expense

The Labour Party needs to rebuild from its grassroots. No apologies for being a harpy. Yet Gordon Brown at PMQs today was still trotting out the tired script inherited from his predecessor about the Hayden Phillips inquiry (sic) into party political funding. Admittedly this a fast moving story. His performance at PMQs was otherwise faultless. We have got to avoid being distracted by our political opponents whinging on about the internal Labour Party inquiry by Lord Whitty, the results of which are to be reviewed and worked on by m'Lords Harries and McClusky.

Peter Kenyon

The LibDem leadership battle

In the great battles of history, one titanic conflict will surely go unrecorded: the battle between those two political giants Nick "Calamity" Clegg and Chris "Who?" Huhne. Maybe the LibDems are wishing they had an alternative contender for the crown after another excellent performance at PMQs by Vince "Layer" Cable (in which he said Gordon Brown had gone from being Stalin to Mr Bean in a matter of weeks).

Blaney’s Blarney

How good is a $100 laptop?

Can you imagine the excitement of these young Nigerian school children who have been given a $100 laptop each as part of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) programme in Africa. Some of them don’t even have a television at home. Their local community built their school, now well worn, from imageplaster, wood and tin. It educates 150 students and three classes are crammed into the two-room building.

Ellee Seymour

Dave and Dubya

David Cameron should be in the US by now, preparing for his big speech tomorrow. We've seen extracts and it looks quite meaty. It's all about the imminent danger of meltdown in the Balkans, and just what is the Government doing about it? But there's one line that caught my eye in the bits we've been shown in advance: "We will approach every security challenge on the basis of hard-headed practicality: liberal conservatism, not liberal interventionist utopias about remaking the whole world." Notice first his alternative to Gordon Brown's "hard-headed internationalism".

Ben Brogan

DC in DC

I'm currently in Washington DC (have been for two weeks) and will be attending all three public events of David Cameron's visit here, including his speech to Brookings on the precarious situation in the Balkans - a subject close to the heart of the Tory leader's Chief of Staff, Ed Llewellyn, who was adviser to Paddy Ashdown when the latter was High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Conservative Home

Another cheap publicity stunt?

I am of course referring to the announcement that “Lib Dem leadership hopeful Chris Huhne” has written to Met Police boss Sir Ian Blair asking him to investigate apparent "serious breaches" of party funding laws by Labour. Personally, I am somewhat sceptical as to the reasons behind Mr Huhne’s letter. Why? I can't help asking myself. Was it Chris’ place to do it? Isn't he our Environment Spokesman? Aren't such matters best left to the party leader? The last time I looked Vince Cable was acting leader, not Chris Huhne.

The Cowley Street Bedouin

Vince plays John Smith to Brown's Major

There seems little doubt that the loss of those two discs was this Government's "Black Wednesday". It's all downhill from here. Gordon Brown is John Major without the underpants or the electoral mandate. Spare a thought for Tony Blair. It must be hard trying not to crack a rib when you are laughing so much.

Liberal Burblings

Green Policies

I still think it is all codswallop and just another excuse to tax us. I sometimes wonder at the honesty of politicians who trumpet their “Green” aspirations. I’m afraid I still think it is all codswallop and just another excuse to tax us. Recently I was forced to buy a new heating boiler and was delighted to see an offer from British Gas which allowed me a discount for being over 60 years old. This was obviously designed to encourage people down the “Green” path thus helping to save the planet. Something which is shoved down our throat every waking minute.

Labour Home

Incarceration of Gillian Gibbons in Sudan

British Muslims should protest teddy lunacy. Oh come off it, I thought yesterday afternoon, when I heard that the Sudanese authorities had actually gone ahead and charged her. Surely they are out of their minds. When the news broke yesterday teatime that poor Gillian Gibbons was facing prosecution in Khartoum for inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs, I am afraid my normal good humour momentarily deserted me. How dare they! I spluttered, and for a brief undignified moment, I had fantasies of a return to the age of Palmerston.

Boris Johnson

Political self-harm

Is the British body politics about to cannibalise itself. Lib-Dems aspirant leader Chris Huhne has reported Labour to the police. Will police inquiries become a new arena for party point-scoring ? Other parties will retaliate. Police time will be wasted and the reputation of British Politics will be unjustly dragged through the mud again. It's irritating that every Labour scandal, real or imagined, is exaggerated. Other parties problems are downplayed or ignored.

Paul Flynn

Blair's poisoned legacy of sleaze

They say all is fair in love, war and politics - but am I the only person in the country who feels some sympathy for Gordon Brown over the fact that he is now reaping the whirlwind of a Labour Party funding scandal which was absolutely not of his own making?

Paul Linford

It just doesn't quite add up...

Something has been troubling me about all this funding scandal as I am sure it has everyone else. Why did Mr Abraham donate this money in the names of other people in the first place? It looks like he didn't even tell some of them he was doing it and used people who weren't even Labour supporters. So why make things so complicated and look so dodgy if all you want to do it donate some money?

The official line is that Abraham is a secretive man. But the guy has a public profile - one that he has sought after himself by pursuing a political career. And why risk getting caught up in a scandal by needlessly not playing by the book. I just do not understand why he did this. The Telegraph is reporting suspicions of foul play and I am inclined to at least listen to these suspicions. It just does not add up to me. There is no solid motive for these proxy donations that I can fathom. I think there is more of this story yet to run - the question is how much further?

If this scandal does find its way to the heart to government, forget about Mr Bean, Brown might as well be Mr Has-Been.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

PMQs 28 November 2007

Brown on the rack

If Gordon Brown thought his "we're-all-in-this-together" approach to the dodgy donations row was going to blunt David Cameron's attacks, he was sorely disappointed.

Mr Cameron called for a police investigation

Westminster watchers were struggling to recall the last time a sitting prime minister was subjected to such a stinging character reading. (OK, at least until they recalled some of Tony Blair's darkest days.)

Nick Assinder

PMQs - The verdict

"So can it get any worse?" for Gordon Brown asked the Daily Mail's front page this morning. After this week's prime minister's questions, it probably just has. David Cameron was predictably damning about the latest funding scandal to hit the Labour Party. However the chink in his armour on this issue is the Conservatives' own less than pristine reputation on party funding, summed up by vocal Labour MPs as a reliance on Lord Ashcroft's credit card. Dealt a disastrous hand yet again, for as many weeks as it is now possible to remember he has come into PMQs on the backfoot, Brown did his best and tried in vain to take the attack to the Tories. However it was hard work from the off.


Prime Minister's Questions - Donor-gate.

Cameron went in for the kill, and point blank questioned Brown's competence as prime minister. All Gordon Brown could do in reply was to hark back to 1992. It was an absolutely pathetic display by Brown and surely his days are numbered. Vince Cable brought the house down by pointing out the Brown had transformed from Stalin to Mr bean over the last few weeks.

Daily Referendum

Another miserable PMQs for Brown

What does Jon Mendelson know? Enough, it seems, to keep his job. There was muffled laughter in the house when Brown said a "former bishop of Oxford" would look into all this. Who else? Graham Norton? Cameron did well venting incredulity that Brown would use the old Blair-style inquiry device to kick this into the long grass.

Coffee House

Vince Cable - "Brown transformed from Stalin to Mr Bean!"

Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne have rightly both paid tribute to Vince Cables huge success in just a few short weeks, as Acting Leader. I've just heard him, once again, bring the House of Commons to a standstill at Prime Minister's Questions, with a very funny quip- that in a few months Gordon Brown has been transformed from Stalin to Mr Bean!- Referring to the chaos in his Government. Vince then followed this with a serious question, concerning the armed forces, asking if it was true that the PM is really not interested in ensuring they are properly equipped and funded.

Meral’s Musings

Another grim day for Gordon Brown

Great air of expectation ahead of Prime Minister’s Questions today. Authority is draining away from Gordon Brown’s government so rapidly that he had to get a clear win in his clash with David Cameron. Did he? No, he got something of a hammering. Cameron began slowly with a forensic attempt to pick apart the ludicrous nature of Brown and Labour’s position on their funding crisis.

Three Line Whip

Prime Minister’s Questions Podcast - Donation-Gate: 28 November 2007

The best line in Prime Minister’s Questions came from Vince Cable for the Lib Dems:

The Prime Minister has changed from Stalin to Mr Bean, bringing chaos out of order. And in answer to the question about defence spending, we have an exhibition of straightforward deceipt from Gordon Brown, claiming the second largest defence budget in the world on the basis of cash comparisons. He knows full well that his own government make their routine comparisons on the basis of purchasing power parity, and that that will give a very different answer.

The Wardman Wire

Live blog of PMQs from noon: Cameron questions the integrity of the man Vince Cable calls Mr Bean

4pm: A great line from Fraser Nelson (my emphasis): "Brown told Peter Tapsell that "this job is an important job and I will continue to do it to the best of my ability". Yes, Prime Minister, that's what we're all worried about." Editor's verdict: "Vince Cable steals the show today with his Mr Bean line. As the FT's George Parker has just said on Radio Five - Mr Brown thinks himself a serious, weighty figure and hates to be ridiculed. Well done, Mr Cable! Another good performance from Mr Cameron. He provided plenty of good clips for the rest of the day's broadcasts. Also good to hear John Gummer and Michael Ancram joining the attack so successfully."

Conservative Home


Once again Gordon Brown was on a hiding to nothing today – but you would have least have thought he’s have something up his sleeve. I mean, there were no prizes for guessing what the main topic of questioning was going to be. The best he could do was blame the Tories for Black Wednesday fifteen years ago! All true Gordon, but hardly topical! Cameron on the other hand was once again holding all the aces and yet again did not quite slay the clunking fist as he might. He is has not used his questions as economically as he might in the past few weeks. Though it was his final, killer question that sealed him the inevitable point this week:

“We have had 155 days of this Government: disaster after disaster, a run on a bank, half the country’s details lost in the post and now this. The Prime Minister’s excuses go from incompetence to complacency and there are questions about his integrity. Are not people rightly asking, “Is this man simply not cut out for the job?”

Howls from the Tory benches, winces from the Labour benches. But that was nothing. Once again the real star of the show was Vince Cable. He got him on Defence, but he really brought the house down with:

“The House has noticed the Prime Minister’s remarkable transformation in the past few weeks from Stalin to Mr. Bean”

And then Michael Ancram asked him what we were all thinking – something you feel that Cameron should have done:

In the face of the recent crises that have beset the Prime Minister, particularly this last one, he has told us that he learned about them only at the last possible moment. Why does he think that members of his Government—and, indeed, of the party that he purports to lead—are apparently so intent on keeping him in the dark?”

PMQs are not particularly pleasant at the moment, but it makes great viewing!

I score it:

Brown 0

Cameron 1

Politics Decoded: Labour Pains, Energy Gains & Lib Dem No Brains

Here is yesterday's Politics Decoded column that I write every Tuesday on the Wardman Wire...

Labour’s annus horribilis

The misery just keeps on coming for Gordon. This week was the second time he has tried to get back to business with a major assault on policy. The first time it was the queen’s speech where he tried to keep it as boring and serious as possible. Unfortunately for him the media were more interested in scandal. This week it was take two – the CBI address, where Brown was to tell the listening world about nuclear power and new runways and that he would not “shirk” over the major decisions. Only problem was, no one was listening. We were far more interested in the claims that the party who claim to be whiter than white were receiving donations from people who not only did not make donations but don’t even support the Labour party. Dear, oh dear. This really has been an annus horribilis for the Government, or at the very least it’s been a bum few months. Will this slide down greasy political pole continue and if it does, what will mean for the Labour party and in particular Gordon Brown?

More Donor Problems

First let’s deal with donations. Once again this is another classic example of Brown having nothing in his power that could have foreseen or stopped this scandal, yet it is adding to the ever growing perception that his leadership is riddled with incompetence. Of course, there is probably a very good reason why Brown and the rest of the parliamentary labour party do not get involved with the finer points of party donations – ask no questions, hear no lies. But that does not mean to say that Brown should be held responsible. For Peter Watt’s, Labour’s general secretary, to say it was a mistake on the other hand is very, very hard to believe. In fact, I would put that another way but I don’t want to be involved in legal action. The guy was a compliance officer for the party, for goodness sake! He rightly resigned, but still in disgrace and without telling the whole story I “suspect”. Brown has now said the party will give the money back – no doubt it will be re-donated via the correct channels this time…

Major Brown

This is just another story in the long list of gaffs, cock ups and darn right failures by the government since Brown came to power. No matter what Brown does or says at the moment, someone in his party or government are seemingly trying to make him look like an absolute buffoon. Whereas Blair could shake off the most outrageous and sticky bad news stories with a grin, a quick joke, a few gesticulations and a rebuttal that usually began with the words “Look” or “Listen”. It was as though we didn’t get it and after it was made clear by Tony all would make sense and we could move on. With Brown, it is as though he is a hoarder, collecting as much dirt and bad press as he can – with Brown the bad news sticks. This is prime John Major territory we are entering. You cannot account for it nor do an awful lot about it. You just have to hope you can ride it out. That is what Major did for nearly five years. Though he failed to ride it out – quite spectacularly.

Can Brown Ride it out?

So can Brown ride it out? It has to be said, despite claims from the more ardent of Tory supporters, the past few weeks have been no Black Wednesday. The economy is still afloat and the Northern Rock crisis looks to be stabilising a little at the moment – even if it is set to rumble on for longer and could still take a turn for the worse. The missing data discs are part of the story, but not the key part. The sleaze stories such as donations again add to it all, but in themselves will not take down Brown or the party. Even all these things together are not enough in the long term to seriously threaten Brown. It has been a rough few months – what he really needs to avoid is a rough 12 months. If these stories keep coming out from seemingly no-where and the party remain in the 20s in the polls (as today’s ComRes suggests) by the time the conference comes round next year, then what’s the betting on a leadership challenge? It is far too early to predict this, but there are some big Ifs that could turn to realities. Brown will do all he can to avoid this, but come the day, if it comes, how will he react? The question for Brown is what is more important to him, the good of the New Labour movement and the party, or his own well publicised and long awaited appetite for the keys to No.10?

Climate Change & the Green Lobby

Last week, hidden behind the fiasco that is the Treasury and the rest of the Labour party, Gordon Brown made a climate change speech. No one noticed and even less people cared – but the issue of energy and climate change in this country is big dollar. We are talking billions upon billions of tax payers’ money being spent and right now the key decisions are being made. There are two main parts to the energy argument – the security of supply (can we rely on Russia’s gas?) and carbon emissions. However both these two areas are framed in the context of money. Something the green lobby seem to have no idea about.

Good work Malcolm

Malcolm Wicks, the energy Minister, is a busy man at the moment. In January key decisions will be made about nuclear power and the prospect of tidal power (particularly in the Severn estuary). I have a lot of time for Wicks, but he is being forced in to this game of trying to appease the green Nazis (who, to be fair are not all greens, but a section of them) while making decisions that are best for the country. He has described the green lobby as the Vicky Pollard of the industry – and quite rightly. A perfect description in my opinion. Ask them if they want wind power they respond yeah but no but. In fact ask them if they want any energy production at all and they’ll find a problem with it.

Do the maths

Yes in an ideal world we would not have oil or gas to rely on. But right now we rely on it for 80% of our means and to change that would literally bankrupt the country. We could build wind turbines all over Britain but they are neither reliable nor predictable nor cheap. We would need to pave half the country with them too – which of course the greens would hate because we would be ruining the habitat. We could build nuclear power and that would solve many problems – most notably CO2 emissions. But they argue that the nuclear waste is an even worse prospect and that it is just a finite resource. Of course the waste is a problem, but it is not beyond the wit of man to solve it. And of course it is a finite resource – so is oil, coal and gas, but we still have plenty of that left after hundreds of years. The latest proposal they oppose is the Severn Barrage. It could produce 5% of our energy needs but will cost £15bn. It will be entirely predictable, cheap to run and have absolutely no emissions and it won’t rely on the Russians for it to work. But there will be environmental impacts on the bird wildlife – some good and some bad. It is as though they want us to decommission all of existing capacity and not build anything else to replace it

There is a cost whatever we do

The facts are if we don’t continue to burn fossil fuels the lights will go out. If we build these renewable energy projects there will be impacts on the local environment. If we do not build nuclear we will end up paying so much money on other projects that the country will be bankrupted and it will also come from our pockets. If you want to lower carbon emissions there is price to pay, but not nearly as big a price as doing nothing at all.

Dumb & Dumber

The Lib Dem leadership race ambles on. I still maintain that Clegg would be the wisest choice for the Lib Dems, but his has been possibly the worst campaign in living memory. OK, so Major’s 1997 campaign was doomed to failure but at least he gave it a shot and Kinnock lost the impossible in 1992 with his Sheffield Rally but he almost ended the Tory’s rule. Even Mark Oaten got some headlines last time round. Nick Clegg has just sat there taking abuse from Huhne and then agreeing with him on all the major issues. The only thing he done that has been picked up by anyone is complaining to the party that nasty Nick called him a calamity. Big deal Clegg. The guy does not deserve to win this contest, even if does stand more chance of stealing the Tory vote than Huhne. Once again, the Lib Dems appear to be doing the impossible – they have the perfect leader in place right now and yet instead of trying to get him to stay they ripping each other heads off and are likely to end up with either a wet fish or donkey.

The Thermometer of Doom

You will notice that a late runner has entered the frey - this week's buffon Harriet Harman. As a result, Miliband has got a reprieve. Here is how the runners and riders are going:

Harriet Harman - she has come from nowhere and is making a brilliant case to go. Will she jump though? It will be hard for Brown to sack her on the current evidence, but if it gets worse he will have no option. Brown risks Cruddas winning the deputy leadership if she does go, and that will be a blow to his credibility.

Jacqui Smith - her little misdemeanor of failing to tell anyone for months on end that a load of illegal immigrants had been passed for security seems distant and rather boring compared to some of her colleagues recent antics. It won't take much to bring her back in to the picture though - her card is marked.

Des Browne - what a shambles Two Jobs department is in. I thought he'd be first to go, but he has held on - mainly because others have stolen his limelight! He is still under great pressure though and I expect numerous more bad news stories to come out of the MoD and Iraq.

Alastair Darling - the man who has flirted with the sack like no other. He must have woken up in absolute joy to the news of Harman and party funding. The Rock and Data discs debacle is so far from over though that he remains in poll position with the new girl Harman for the sack.

On the menu this week, sir, is Harmen's neck in a sleaze sauce

Harriet Harman is in a spot of bother, to say the least. At yesterday's news conference Brown did his best to avoid the issue of whether she should go. The press and wider media have it in for her too. Her defence is looking weaker and weaker - the very best she can put up is that she is incompetent. So out of no-where we have a challenger to be the first out of the cabinet and blow the mercury on the Thermometer of Doom. But is her departure an inevitability now?

One thing that is really on her side is, ironically, cash. The party have just had a very expensive and drawn out deputy leadership campaign - can they really afford another? They are £600k less well off today as well, after all!

On the other hand, something has to give now in the Government. The pressure is rising higher and higher and if someone doesn't take a fall and release some of that pressure then it will seriously damage the party and Gordon Brown on an even greater scale than it already is.

You wonder what the next scandal will be to hit the party - tune in next Tuesday to find out... it always seems to happen just in time for a raucous PMQs on Wednesday morning. I am not suggesting conspiracy here, but Brown must be fuming right now. Once again he has to face Cameron over the dispatch box looking down a nuclear arsenal of material that Cameron can fire at him armed with absolutely nothing.

Tune in at around 5pm for the PMQ's round up and scoring.

The Poliblogs 28 November 2007: BUMPER EDITION

Simply not believable

As I listened to Newsnight last night, I posted that the circumstances surrounding the donations given by David Abrahams to the Labour Party via third parties being outlined by the party spokesman was not believable. And the explanation has duly fallen apart today. Probing has revealed that Hilary Benn turned down the offer of a donation from Mr Abrahams because he knew the terms on which it was being given. Mr Benn turned down the donation because Baroness Jay had told him about the terms of it - so she knew as well. So that's two senior figures in Labour who knew, apart from the now departed General Secretary of the Party.

A View from Rural Wales

Labour Party funding scandal: General Secretary resigns

The Labour Party has been receiving donations from a wealthy businessman. Only he didn’t wish to donate in his own name, so he made the donations in the names of two of his employees. This illegal practice has now been brought to light, and the General Secretary of the Labour Party has resigned. According to him, although he knew of the arrangement, he wasn’t aware that it was illegal. Really?

Bel is Thinking

Should have known better

Once again, Labour has fallen foul of a funding scandal - and this time, heads will roll

David Hencke

45 Words That Shame the Labour Party

"I was aware of arrangements whereby David Abrahams gave gifts to business associates and a solicitor who were permissible donors and who in turn passed them on to the Labour Party and I believed at the time my reporting obligations had been appropriately complied with." Those were the words of the General Secretary of the Labour Party, Peter Watt, who resigned tonight. They are also the words of either a liar or an incompetent fool.

Iain Dale

Could we have another deputy leadership election?

I suspect that "God forbid!" would be the answer of most Labour Party members to that question, but the current pressure on Harriet Harman over the dodgy donations affair means the possibility cannot be ruled out.

Paul Linford

Harman in trouble

Has Harriet Harman been hung out to dry by the Prime Minister? The Guardian reports that Labour's deputy leader and party chairwoman, is clinging to the support of Downing Street after it emerged that her deputy leadership campaign took money from the woman who had acted six times as an unlawful conduit for funds secretly given to Labour by a businessman. Harman took £5,000 from Janet Kidd to pay off her campaign debts, and yesterday repaid the cash after she apologised to the cabinet for her error.

Peter Black AM

Someone else knew (and sorry Harriet & Janet)

Well well well. A second senior Labour Party official knew about the secret donations by David Abrahams. Jon Mendelson - who was appointed by Gordon Brown to raise funds for him - was told about the arrangement last month by Peter Watt - the man who resigned as Labour's General Secretary a few days ago.

Nick Robinson

Who’d get it if Harman resigned?

Could supporting Cruddas be a way showing unease about Brown? My nomination for Iain Dale’s political blogger of the year (won incidentally by Iain Dale himself - funny that given he was the promoter and vote counter) was Paul Linford. To my mind Paul provides the best insights into Labour party matters and this evening he speculates about who would become deputy leader if Harriet finds she cannot carry on because of the donation scandal.

Political Betting

Why we need to reform party financing

New Labour’s latest funding scandal is part of a bigger problem, and one that goes to the heart of why a strong liberal-left movement is needed now more than ever. Since 1997 New Labour top brass have actively pursued a policy of occupying the centre ground and gradually discarding any notion of what the party stood for. Rather than specific ideals, marketing and positioning (aka spin) would be the way to ensure the Tories stayed out of power.

Liberal Conspiracy

Brown's "impending doom"

By his standards Gordon Brown did reasonably well in his press conference. He stayed calm, managed to smile, and stuck to his basic defence: first he heard of the problem was Saturday, it's unacceptable, Labour will pay the money back, and he's appointed an inquiry led by a bishop and a judge. The event did not in itself deepen the crisis, although his repeated failure to endorse Harriet Harman sounded ominous for his deputy.

Ben Brogan

Browns needs to recover and quick or he is doomed

When a patient’s heart stops beating, medics have about ten minutes to revive it. So it is with the Labour government. Gordon Brown is running out of time to get his defibrillator working. He failed yesterday, and failed again at his monthly press conference. He looks puzzled, bewildered and out of his depth. He is in grave danger of sharing the same verdict history served on the hapless Paul Martin of Canada: an over-promoted finance minister.

Coffee House

Is the Brown Premiership coming to an end?

The moment Gordon Brown announced there would be no election something clicked into place for me. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time but a few weeks later I was struck by this sudden sense that Gordon Brown’s days were numbered.

Pickled Politics

Will Brown last, and what must he do now?

Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Both Mike Smithson at PoliticalBetting and James Forsyth at the Spectator are very taken with Jackie Ashley’s column in the Guardian on the fate of Brown and whether he will last until the next election.

Our Kingdom

Two months of misery and cock-ups for Gordon Brown.

D'oh! - Greatest threat since WW2 - The sun publish an excellent graphic depicting Gordon Brown giving the British people the two fingered salute over the EU Treaty.
D'oh! - The number of prisoners in England and Wales has reached a record high.
Official figures suggest there were 81,135 people locked up in jails and in police stations.
D'oh! - According to Nick Robinson the BBC's political editor, Gordon Brown is to announce very shortly that he WILL NOT be calling an Autumn Election.
Daily Referendum

How the PM could rekindle popularity

The drop to 27 % in the polls is serious, and the lack of trust in politics is tangible. Your well judged campaign to restore faith in politics has been badly damaged by Northern Rock, the loss of HMRC data and the Abrahams donations. I know how upset you are by these developments, and feel they are not of your making. Unfortunately they have changed the political weather, and the Tories are now claiming that Northern Rock is related to your changes to the regulatory framnework in 1997, and the data loss to your merger of Revenue and Customs. No-one said politics was fair.

John Redwood

Why the Oxford Union has it wrong

The Oxford Union’s decision to invite David Irving and Nick Griffin to speak confuses the right to free speech with a duty to offer people a platform. Nick Griffin is, within the bounds of the law, free to sound off in his usual obnoxious way. But that freedom doesn’t oblige anyone to ask Griffin to come and speak to them. Equally, artists were free to draw the Muhammad cartoons but newspapers weren’t obliged to reprint them.

Coffee House

Patrick Cusworth: Free speech does not mean that we are therefore encouraged to promote or support those who preach a dogma of hate

The Oxford Union’s decision to play host to BNP leader Nick Griffin and convicted Holocaust denier David Irving in a debate last Monday evening on the issue of free speech was always going to generate discussion. The motion, which effectively called on the two far-right apologists to justify their right to speak at the event, was described by Shadow Defence Minister Dr. Julian Lewis, who resigned his membership of the Union, as “sheer vanity”.

Conservative Home

Free speech is for nasty people, not nice ones

Most people claim they want free speech. Almost all of them don't really want it at all. It is amazing how quickly they start making exceptions. And, funnily enough, the exceptions always turn out to be people whose views they don't like. That is why it is so important that we protect, above all, the freedoms of those we disapprove of. It may well be true, as alleged, that the Oxford Union's invitation to the BNP leader Nick Griffin and the discredited historian David Irving was a publicity stunt. The Oxford Union, and its older Cambridge sibling, are both fighting to maintain themselves in a world where even Oxbridge students are far less interested in politics and debate than they used to be. But even if it was a publicity stunt, that doesn't mean it was wrong.

Peter Hitchens

British Energy eyes nuclear sites

British Energy has named its preferred site for the first of its next-generation nuclear plants. The firm earmarked Sizewell in Suffolk, Hinkley in Somerset, Bradwell in Essex and Dungeness in Kent for development, but has indicated that the Elephant and Castle area of South London will definitely be the location for the first of the new power stations. The firm said that despite concerns about the viability of the latest untested technology, it regarded the E&C site as the most promising. A spokesperson said "the area is largely uninhabited these days due to the poor quality of the housing built in the 1960s and such empty sites are hard to come by in this overcrowded era, a nuclear power station could be just the regeneration that the area desperately needs".


Gordon Brown And Heathrow Expansion

Gordon Brown says to the CBI that there is a "clear business imperative" for increased capacity at Heathrow, and that Britain's prosperity "depends on it." But a London Chamber of Commerce survey in 2006 revealed that:

Coventry Green Voice

A dogma that has had its day

Last week, he was cutting carbon emissions. This week, he's planning airport expansion. How joined-up is 'Green' Gordon?

Tony Juniper

No more Mr Nice Guy

Chris Huhne's tactics in the Lib Dem leadership race have become increasingly nasty: does he think it will win him support?

Nicholas Blincoe

Brown may be right, but isn't it hypocritical of the government to boycott Zimbabwe ?

I agree with Gordon Brown not wanting to attend a meeting at which Robert Mugabe will be attending, but cannot help but feel Labour are being hypocritical in its dealings with Zimbabwe.

I remember the England Cricket Team looking for guidance from the government a few years ago when they were committed to play matches in Zimbabwe, but didn't want to play them for fear of legitimising Robert Mugabe and because of the propaganda he would gain from being at the matches and shaking hands with the players.

Norfolk Blogger

Enter the Dragon and one MP's call to update the Union Flag

In a Commons debate, Wrexham's Labour MP Ian Lucas said Wales' Red Dragon should be added to the Union Jack's red, white and blue pattern. He said the Union Jack currently only represented the other three UK nations. But Stewart Jackson, Conservative MP for Peterborough, said the plan was "eccentric" and would be unpopular. "I do not believe it would add to the unity of the country," he said.

Miss Wagstaff

Common Purpose

Over the last few days I’ve had a few emails about Common Purpose but didn’t pay them much attention because I get bloody hundreds of emails. But today I got an email from someone who wouldn’t bring it up unless there was something in it so I hopped onto Google to see what I could find. Why do I do these things to myself?

Wonko’s World

Building on a solid Foundation

The Northern Rock Foundation has a long and charitable history, but being taken over by Richard Branson may not be all bad news

Martin Wainwright

Blair and Bush in major fall-out

Extraordinary scenes were reported in Annapolis on Tuesday, after George Bush announced a major breakthrough in the Middle East peace process. After several months of painstaking negotiations, Israeli and Palestinian representatives agreed to a timetable of negotiations. Former British premier, Tony Blair, is said to be "absolutely livid" with the announcement. Blair, who was appointed as Middle East Tsar after he quit as UK Prime Minister, is reported to have pushed his briefing notes aggressively across the negotiating table towards Mr Bush in a fit of pique. An aide later admitted that Blair was "pretty angry" that Mr Bush had upstaged him.


Tories 13 points ahead in ComRes poll

A new ComRes poll for Tuesday’s Independent has headline voting intention figures, with changes from last month, of CON 40% (-1), LAB 27% (-6), LDEM 18%(+2) and Others 14%. The 13 point Conservative lead is the largest recorded for almost twenty years; in the unlikely event that such a whopping swing occured in a uniform fashion at a general election it would produce a Tory majority of 58. It is worth remembering however that ComRes do tend to have the most favourable weighting for the Conservatives (and for ‘others’) so we should expect them to report larger leads than companies like YouGov and ICM.

Polling Report

Where no one's in the saddle

In the centre of a roundabout going into Vilvoorde, on the outskirts of Brussels, is a statue of a horse, a monument to the tradition of buying and selling the beasts in these parts. Until the advent of the tractor, farm-horses were one of Belgium's biggest exports. But the Belgians aren't such expert horse traders in modern times. Ever since the election in June, coalition talks have dragged on and on but without a resolution.

Mark Mardell