Thursday, 31 January 2008

The Late Lunch Briefing

Time for the fallout

So Derek Conway has been suspended from the house and will step down as an MP at the next general election (insuring that he keeps a good salary for another year or two and bumps up that pension fund). The fallout from all this won’t just affect the Tory party. It is looking like all MPs will have to change their rather cushty set up – and quite right too.

Why are MPs so different?

I do not have a problem with MPs employing members of their family. But only if they are actually doing the job and doing it to the standard that should be expected of someone being paid out of the public purse. All other public bodies have to go through an arduous bureaucratic process to show that when they employ someone it is done in a transparent and fair process – not discriminating against any race or other minority. In fact, employing someone in a public sector body is one of the most complex processes known to mankind. All sorts of people have to get involved and at each stage you have to make it absolutely clear why that candidate has got to the next round. So why are MPs so different?

Time to take the problem out of their hands

They have effectively been given a bottomless pit of our cash to handout to whoever they want to. I propose that recruitment is taken out of the hands of MPs, unless they want to pay them out of their own pocket. The Houses of Parliament should set up an administration department with HR experts who are then in charge of the recruitment process. By all means MPs should play a part in this process, but it is scrutinised and policed. Just like every other public sector body in this country. From the government and parliament that gave us the Gershon report and is always talking about efficiencies, isn’t it time you got your own house in order?

Prove it

Of course, our dear MPs won’t ever do this because it will be inconvenient for the ones who abide by the code of conduct and a damned right nuisance for the ones who are pocketing a fortune through the current system. But if they truly want to prove that they aren’t a bunch of corrupt, money grabbing fiends who are exempt from the law then they won’t opt for any half way houses and run with this option. Either they want to stamp this menace out, or they don’t. I bet they don’t.

The Poliblogs 31 Januray 2008

And the winner of PMQs is ... Boris Johnson

The best part of PMQs came just after it ended, in the form of an irate Boris Johnson. "I am sure the Prime Minister inadvertently misled the House when he said I want to cut spending on the Metropolitan Police".... Brown was walking out the door, to Tory roars. "I'm the only one who has to stay and listen to it" says Michael Martin. Boris had just done what the other Tories should do all the time: refuse to put up with falsehoods said by the Prime Minister.

Coffee House

A Visit to PMQs

I had the pleasure of being in the public gallery for Prime Minister's Questions today, first time I'd been in there, and an experience I'd recommend.

All the normal cliche's probably hold true, the chamber is much smaller than you'd imagine, for example, but the more important things are probably the more subtle. Cameron looked nervous when the cameras weren't on him, and I thought he talked nothing but nonsense, Nick Brown is clearly still a very influential figure for the PM despite not having a cabinet position, he stood behind the speaker keeping an eye on the Labour benches, presumably for any errant Blairites wearing the wrong expression, and Osboune and Cameron do look like two kids who've found themselves with the best toys, constantly sniggering to each other.

Liberal Action

Round one to Ken

London elections 08: Despite the acres of newsprint and months of research, the campaign against the mayor doesn't seem to be working

Dave Hill

Who will lead the reform?

Now that Derek Conway is out of the way, MPs can turn their minds to the "what is to be done?" question. A consensus is emerging that the status quo is not an option. Even traditionalists accept that the "one bad apple" argument won't wash. The Commons must now bring itself into line with accepted practices in the public and private sectors. But who will take the lead? David Cameron has wisely taken a first step by ordering his MPs to answer questions about family members on the payroll and how much they are paid. The Lib Dems have done the same. We wait to hear from Labour. Some say it should be up to the various Commons housekeeping committees. Others point to the work done already by Kenneth Clarke and Andrew Tyrie.

Ben Brogan

Conway: "I've Become A Distraction"

Henryconway"It can't go on," a forlorn Derek Conway told me shortly before Tory HQ issued a statement announcing that he is to stand down from Parliament at the next election. "I've become a distraction. I've done nothing wrong and some of the press coverage has been unfair. But we can't carry on like this." Derek Conway's view of his demise is not shared by many of his colleagues on the Tory benches in the Commons. I have been struck by how the attitude of many Conservative MPs towards him has hardened in the past 48 hours.

Boulton & Co.

Con-way Parallels: More Like Old School Tory Felony

Iain Dale covers the announcement by his bessie mate Derek Conway MP that he will not be contesting the next election. We can only hope that he'll still be in jail then and there will be a by-election before too long in Bexley Heath and Sidcup. In justifying his decision not to "diss on" (sic) his friend Iain suggests that none of Wendy Alexander or Peter Hain's friends were calling for them to resign. But I'd say that at least some of their blogging friends were covering the case.

Chris Paul

Relatively Working For MPs

So Derek Conway has resigned. He really had no choice after the revelations that he had employed both of his sons at the taxpayer's expense for minimal work, and Cameron withdrew the whip from him. Personally, I appreciate Iain Dale's stance on Derek Conway: he's a friend, so anything he wants to he'll say to Derek's face. Simple human decency. It appears to be a dying breed.

The Thunderdragon

Who else is on the payroll?

Are there more family businesses such as "Conway PLC" earning tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money from working in the House of Commons? The answer is we do not and cannot know. The reason for that is the House of Commons, led by the Speaker, has consistently blocked attempts to reveal basic information such as the names of the staff MPs employ, whether they are their relatives of their employers and what they are paid (see this story from September 2006).

Nick Robinson

Why isn't Brown acting?

As Andrew stressed earlier, the European response to the credit crunch has been anaemic (How anaemic? Check out the footage below of Gordon Brown and his EU compatriots agreeing the "way forward for [the] global economy"). By contrast, the Americans have been the very model of proactivity - introducing sharp interest cuts and proposing massive tax relief programmes. What's holding the British Government back? I suspect it's a combination of economic and political motivations.

Coffee House

Smithson’s view: A Hung Parliament? – Don’t bet on it

I asked a professional gambler recently – someone who made a decent tax-free living from his betting – if he could offer me some tips that I could follow. One of his suggestions, which he said had proved to be a sure-fire consistent money-earner, was to bet against the draw in cricket test matches. He brought up a pile of statistics on his lap-top to show that the odds you can usually get on this option are better than the chances of it happening. The reason was simple – cricket punters have a long-standing record of over-estimating the chances of draws which in the modern game have become much less likely. Thinking about this, it is the same with hung parliaments.

Lib Dem Voice

Bad IDea

Since I called yesterday for a Conservative MP to be hanged in Parliament Square, let’s redress the imbalance this afternoon by regurgitating a Conservative Party press release practically verbatim. It concerns a little remarked-on side effect of the national ID card scheme which will make life a small misery for tens of thousands of people in rural and outlying areas of the country, and particularly Scotland.

Mr Eugenides

Housing gem from the Tories

With the furore over sleaze, it's easy to forget that some serious policy work is going on in the Conservative Party and it's during weeks like this that quite significant hints slip by unnoticed. It's a shame that the Tories' new idea on housing may go unnoticed There is a real gem today on Conservativehome from Grant Shapps, the thoughtful shadow housing minister. He proposes that communities might be offered lower council tax, or have local services boosted, if they accept a major housing development in their area. It's a radical and interesting idea and a really innovative solution to the problem of Nimbyism.

Three Line Whip

Jack Straw's prison shame

Let's be totally clear about it! The British Government's prison policy is a total disaster. Of course, there are those who should be imprisoned, primarily as a result of violent deeds that have been committed in the past. Some such people are a threat to the safety of the public.

Turbulent Cleric

John Moir: The big lie underpinning the Northern Rock rescue plan

John Moir, retired accountant and former financial director of Lloyds of London, argues that the Northern Rock rescue plan is the biggest financial rip-off in history. There are a lot of facts surrounding the Northern Rock disaster that are being withheld from the public, i.e, the taxpayer or, in its simplest term, “us”). These facts, some of which I will enumerate below, would be embarrassing to the Government and would probably scupper the latest ingenious plan (i.e, con) to get the Government off the hook. This does not excuse the official lies and deception.

Conservative Home

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

The PMQs Battle 30 January 2008

PMQs - The Verdict

With accusations of sleaze dominating the front pages and the rolling news channels, visitors to the public gallery might have been surprised to hear barely a whisper about money troubles at prime minister's questions this week. The elephant in the chamber was Conservative MP Derek Conway's generous use of the public purse to top up his sons' pocket money, but - frustratingly for Gordon Brown - the Labour fundraising scandal which last week forced his first ministerial resignation meant he could not stick a clumsy boot in.


Prime minister's questions – live

Gordon Brown has lost a cabinet minister since the last PMQs and, with Derek Conway no longer taking the Conservative whip, David Cameron has in effect lost an MP. So both of them may be reluctant to start lecturing the other on standards in public life. If the Sun is anything to go by, then Cameron has decided that today's the day for an announcement on stop and search powers (enabling him to pre-empt the government's initiative on the same issue due next week).

Andrew Sparrow

Gordon Cuffs Boris

While the BBC employed an expert on the Daily Politics today to interpret Gordon's hand gestures, I wondered whether the BBC thought about doing the same for Alex Ferguson at United games. I have to say while watching PMQs (before the post-event analysis available on the above link) I thought that Brown's cuff link had popped out. Therefore I wasn't too surprised when he started fiddling with it trying to put it back together.

Kerron Cross

The Verdict

Another week of Mr Soundbite versus Mr Won’t Answer The Question. Of course any chance of these two amateurs discussing what everyone is talking about was very unlikely. Accusations of pots and kettles would have had made this week’s drama just too much as one accused the other of having a corrupt party. Instead they both accused each other of not being very good at their job – why this didn’t fall under the kettle and pot category, I am unsure.

The problem is, neither of these two are very good at PMQs. Both are repeating the same gags and accusations while never actually landing any good punches. Cameron is like a man possessed by alliteration at the moment – it is like he has just learnt what the word means and now wants to impress everyone with it. Today’s alliteration was a particularly low point - "flannelling about the Flanagan report". So bad in fact, that everyone’s ears pricked up and it will probably make the evening news and a few of daily rags too. So maybe not so bad afterall!

Brown continues to do what he does best – the one thing that annoy me more than anything else – he just listed a load of statistics and blamed the world’s problems on the Tories. He then accused Cameron of learning his lines – again. Heard it all before Gordon. At least Cameron’s learnt lines are more listenable than the never ending repetitive stats that come out of your twitching gob.

What have we done to deserve these two? This has to be the lowest point in PMQs for a long, long time. I’m talking decades. On the government benches we have a man who wants to bore us in to submission and boy he is doing a good job; while on the other we have a man who wants to be flash, unfortunately his lines are about as good as the Fastshow’s Swiss Tony’s right now.

Please up your game gents. I have to sit through this non-event every Wednesday and its starting to feel more like Groundhog Day. In a first for The Poliblogs, today I score it a no-score draw, because quite frankly these two don’t even deserve half a point from a small time blogger let alone to get a prime time slot in Parliament.

On a plus point – Clegg looked a lot stronger today. Please keep it up, for the sake of my sanity!

Brown 0

Cameron 0

The Late Lunch Briefing

Bad Week for the Tories

It has not been a good week so far for the Tories (it hasn’t been that great for Labour either, but it rarely is these days). First the polls showed an unexpected fall in their share of the vote – despite the seemingly endless bad news stories about Labour. Then they got caught up in a sleaze scandal which trumps anything Hain has done (or not done, ahem). Then a shadow minister is arrested after allegations he assaulted two teenage children – though this has hardly featured in the headlines given the scale of their other problems. Of all of these issues it could well be the first one, the polls, that causes most alarm at CCHQ, however.

Cameron Saved in the Nick of Time

Remember back in the summer when Brown took over the party? It was Cameron and the Conservatives who were getting all the bad press and trailing by a country mile in the polls. There were not just rumbles, but ever growing vocal calls for the head of David Cameron. The thing that saved him was Gordon Brown’s non-election. Up until that point Brown was the golden boy and Cameron was up for the chop. Then the polls turned on their head. The Tories surged to an 8 to 10 point lead. It shut the right of the party up immediately. Suddenly his position was saved – and in the nick of time too. The Tories are a party who constantly appear to be just around the corner from imploding, and the gauge that measures this is the polls.

Have the Tories Peaked?

If the right of the party think that they are on to a sure fire winner, they will shut up. As soon as it looks like they might lose, all hells breaks out. I fear we may be just months away from that position. The problem is, if Cameron cannot make Brown and the Government look useless and take a commanding lead in the polls after the catastrophic few months they have had, then will he ever?

We all know that the Tories need to be polling a good 8-10 points at least over the government come the day of the general election if they want to win a majority. The mid-term opinion polls will always favour the opposition, and on that basis you would expect the Tories needing to be polling in the region of 15-20 points if they are to look like serious contenders. Right now, after everything, they are not even close.

They Must Hold it Together – or They Are Finished

Unless something extraordinary happens, how is Cameron going to change this? He has had everything he needs in the past few months to pull ahead in to a commanding lead. The question right now for the right of the party will be – have the Tories peaked in the polls? If they think they have and they start to slide back down again, expect the Tories to implode. Again. Something they must avoid at all costs. Changing Cameron and going back to the right could well spell the end of the party as well know it and end any hopes of forming a government for a long, long time.

The Poliblogs 30 Januray 2008

Neither Parliament nor people will decide the EU Treaty: the government offers a done deal.

The government has failed to give us the promised referendum on the EU Treaty.

Now it is failing to give us the promised full Parliamentary scrutiny. Yesterday we had a bad tempered debate on how much time would be made available to go through all the powers transferred and the complexities of the EU proposals.

John Redwood

A House divided

Yesterday, the House of Commons debated the motion to curtail debate on the Lisbon Treaty ratification. The vote went with the government, the Ayes 299, and the Noes 243. The guilty men and women are here. Amongst the notable contributions was Sir Nicholas Winterton, who declared:

EU Referendum

Conway: Call Me Dave's Flip-Flop

Licking his lips after the Standards and Privileges Committee recommended a 10-day suspension from the Commons for Derek Conway, Labour's backbench sleazehunter John Mann MP rushed up to me in the Members' Lobby and asked gleefully: "What will David Cameron do now?" The answer, from a senior member of Tory high command, could not have been clearer: "The whip will not be removed from Derek Conway. He has apologised and faces the appropriate punishment by the House of Commons."

Boulton & Co.

Conway loses the whip... Cameron loses his last shred of credibility

I never thought I'd see the day when The Conservative Party, the oldest political party in Britain and probably the most successful, would cave in to the demands of a handful of Tory bloggers. Derek Conway losing the whip is the very least he deserves.

Daily Pundit

Conway gloom

Tory MPs are trying to find comfort in David Cameron's decisive action in the Conway affair. His willingness to end Mr Conway's political career - admittedly only after the Mail revealed an extra £32,000 in potentially dubious family payments - is compared favourably to Mr Brown's "dithering" over Peter Hain & Co. Mr Conway has many friends and admirers at Westminster, and not just among those who recall his heroic efforts to keep the Major government afloat

Ben Brogan

Public and Corporate resignations

So we have had a good few weeks of resignations and clinging on and it seems appropriate to note the etiquette and mores of today's world when it comes to hanging on to one's highly paid job. First up, Peter Hain, who finally succumbed after realising the plod were coming to feel his collar, his boss seemed to weak to act. Next up on the list is the Harriet Harman, keen to keep her status and showing no sign of remorse - up until she is proven guilty of something.


Stop And Search

Just who is taking the lead on stop and search these days? Government or Opposition? You'd probably say the Conservatives, if the first paper you picked up this morning was The Sun. In an interview, David Cameron says he wants to cut out the form-filling and remove the requirement on cops to refer up the chain of command whenever they wish to S&S. The police are no longer racist, he asserts, and changes such as these will be welcomed in the ethnic communities.

Boulton & Co.

Tories go one up on violent crime

It's 1-0 to the Tories in the great stop and search debate after the Sun's front page on Tory proposals to extend police powers upstaged the Guardian's report on Labour's plans for designated 'hotspot zones'. It would never have happened in Alistair's day. Incidentally, has Brown been to Liverpool yet to visit the scene of Rhys Jones's murder? What about Manchester and Nottingham and scores of other cities where similar attacks have taken place? If not, why not?

The Daily Pundit

Labour's reforms cost taxpayers dearly

Gordon Brown today urged his Cabinet colleagues to push ahead with Labour’s "reform agenda". Presumably, this is the same reform agenda which a few years ago led to an overhaul of the correctional system, intended to merge prisons and probation to manage offenders from the moment they are charged until well after they are released. It was called the National offender Management Services (Noms), and cost millions to set up and run. Figures show the cost of running the service is now almost £900m a year. The probation workers' union, Napo, claims that the budget has risen by 556 per cent since 2005. Over the three years of its life, Noms has cost the taxpayer more than £1.5bn. Now, the Government has effectively scrapped it.

Three Line Whip

Regions, Parliaments and the future of England

Peter Facey (London, Unlock Democracy): There is a real danger that the debate about English devolution is becoming sterile, with the debate crystallising into two irreconcilable camps. On the one side you have individuals who put all their emphasis on an English Parliament, and regard any talk of decentralisation below this level at best premature and at worst a plot to break up England - not to mention something that has already been rejected by the public.

Our Kingdom

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

A View Accross The Pond

The Republican’s Big Day

The Republican’s are waking up to their day on the front pages today. So far it has all been about the Democrats, but today in Florida only the Republicans will be going to the polls with anything to play for. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will find out in just a matter of hours whether his gamble to focus all his efforts on to Florida have paid off... all the signs are, it hasn’t.

The Democrats are down to a two horse race between Clinton and Obama. I predict that tomorrow the Republicans too will be in a two horse race with Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani fading away to the leaders John McCain and Mitt Romney. A Quinnipiac survey shows McCain on 32% to Romney's 31%, Giuliani's 14% and Huckabee's 13%. Four other pollsters tell much the same story.

Clinton whinging

Meanwhile, Hilary Clinton is really showing herself up, again. She is calling for the state's delegates to be reinstated. This despite all the candidates agreeing that they would not campaign in Florida on the proviso that no delegates would be awarded. I suspect that there is more to run on this and that a row with Obama could be brewing... again. Obviously, if the vote is close and no-one looks set to lose out too badly, then the delegates will almost certainly be reinstated as a way of avoiding any damaging arguments.

The betting between Clinton and Obama is tightening – Clinton is still the favourite, but the gap is closing. Obama’s case has probably been helped by backing from a member of the US “Royal Family”, Senator Edward Kennedy. He is said to be up-happy with the Hilary Clinton’s campaign and sense that he is not the only one.

My Prediction

As for the Republicans it is looking like McCain all the way to me. All this could change of course next week when we enter Super Tuesday where 24 states hold their primaries. Right now I am going to lay my cards on the table: Come November we will be watching a battle between McCain and Obama. And what a battle that will be – two brilliant politicians who offer in the way of personality, at least, so much on opposite ends of the scale. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – oh to have this calibre of candidate leading our two main parties.

The Poliblogs 29 January 2008

Conway: what should Dave do?

Take time to read the Standards and Privileges report on Derek Conway. It is jaw-dropping stuff. The facts are that Mr Conway paid his son Freddie roughly £32,000 to "work for him" while he was at Newcastle University. The committee concludes: "This arrangement was, at the least, an improper use of Parliamentary allowances: at worst it was a serious diversion of public funds. Our view is that the reality may well be somewhere between the two."

Ben Brogan

Keeping it in the family

First an MP is found guilty of paying £50,000 to his "all but invisible" son in what was, at worst, "a serious diversion of public funds." Then it emerges that he paid his other son and his wife too. So why is Derek Conway not in more trouble? There are many small procedural answers and one very big political reason.

Nick Robinson

Derek Conway

Tory MP Derek Conway has been outed as employing his son as a parliamentary researcher whilst he was a full-time student and paying him £1,000-plus per month, with a total of around £13,000 salary - plus bonuses. And all from taxpayer's funds, for work that wasn't done. Certainly not work to that value, anyway. There is no excuse for what he has done. It is utterly disgraceful and unacceptable. He should have to repay every penny that has been wrongly taken. Every. Single. Penny. From his own money.

The Thunder Dragon

Derek Conway: Dead Man Walking

Do you remember Michael Trend? He was a former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party who stood down as MP for Windsor at the 2005 election over a mistake about his expenses. In his case he had claimed an annual allowance of £20,000 that was meant to fund London accommodation for MPs from faraway constituencies. He was disciplined by the Standards & Privileges Committee, suspended for 2 weeks from the Commons and had the sense and honour to stand down at the following general election.

Blaney’s Blarney

Sleaze: Before The Tories Get Too Smug...

DerekconwaympAny Tories gloating or feeling smug about Labour's embarrassment over the financial affairs of Peter Hain, Alan Johnson or Harriet Harman and "donorgate" should read the latest report of the Standards and Privileges Committee of MPs: Conduct of Mr Derek Conway. The committee is chaired by former Conservative cabinet minister Sir George Young.

Boulton & Co.

Conway row to escalate, as Tory poll lead shrinks

Following yesterday's initial revelations, it's since emerged that Derek Conway employed another of his sons using taxpayers' money. The news is like manna to the Government, and has spurred the Labour MP John Mann to call for another formal investigation into Conway's actions.

Coffee House

How many more Conway's?

Half a dozen? A dozen? More than a dozen Tory MPs engaged in what amounts to treating parliamentary allowances "like a family heirloom," as one Westminster insider puts it in today's Daily Mail? We'll know soon enough. Chances are this emerging scandal won't just end the career of Conway and at least one prominent Tory frontbencher, it could be the end of Cameron. If more cases emerge and it transpires that the Tory leader knew about them then it's goodnight Vienna.

The Daily Pundit

The Tories get medieval

Did you know that on average, we give a measly 0.7 per cent of our income to charity? Or that if we raised this to just 1 per cent, the voluntary sector would get an extra £4 billion? It was one of the more intriguing points raised at the Tories' judderingly titled one-day conference today, 'The Role of the State in the Post-Bureaucratic Age' (which Alice Thomson also dropped in on. It was basically a blue-skies thinking session (there was even a cheery squiggly blue-sky background) at which a succession of Shadow Cabinet members trooped up to affirm their commitment to decentralising power, opening up the processes of government and, basically, not making the same mistakes as Labour.

Three Line Whip

It's still the economy, stupid

Bill Clinton, famously, hung a sign on the wall of his 1992 presidential campaign headquarters that read: “It’s the economy, stupid”. It was placed there to keep the campaign team focused on the plain fact that, broadly speaking, voters feel more inclined to change their governments when they feel that the alternative is more likely to look after their economic interests.

David Jones MP

London Mayor election update

1. Evening Standard latest: Lee Jasper (aide to Ken Livingstone) admits £18,000 was improperly diverted. Police now investigating …

2. … and as Lynne Featherstone points out, that makes five police investigations into allegations of financial misdeeds at City Hall and the London Development Agency (LDA). As Lynne says, once again there are also question marks over whether their press operation has been telling the full story.

3. Political Betting casts reasonable doubt on the last YouGov Mayor poll (which put Brian Paddick on 8%, +1%): the sample size was just 240, which makes the margin of error +/- 6.5% - a very high figure. (This is the margin of error for the random sampling process; in addition there are other causes of error, such as a systematic bias in who is asked to take part in a poll.)

Lib Dem Voice

Who told us that we are better than McDonalds workers ?

We've all heard the jokes about people who work in McDonald's. It is supposed to be harmless fun, but at the end of the day it is often a class thing, a smugness amongst the educated middle class against people who are lowly paid, often lacking qualifications and end up in what is seen as a dead end job. So it saddens me to see people being so demeaning of the opportunity given to McDonald's staff to earn a proper accredited qualification.

Norfolk Blogger

Mayoral poll based on just 240 voters

How much can you trust a survey with such a small sample? The detailed data on YouGov’s London mayoral survey is out today and there are two things to highlight - the survey took place AFTER the controversial Channel 4 Dispatches programme last Monday but the size of the sample was just about the smallest that I can recall from the firm. In their normal national voting intention surveys YouGov generally involve about 2000 people. The figure for Saturday’s Daily Telegraph poll was 1992. In previous surveys for the London Mayoral race the figure has been about 1000. The December survey was based on 995 responses and a poll in November had a sample of 1036.

Political Betting

What does Cameron actually stand for?

“Cam’s withering”, says Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun. The Tory lead has been slashed to two per cent in one poll and eight per cent in another. “Voters still don’t grasp what he stands for?” says Trevor. Where’s the vision thing. We all know that Dave can do the soundbites, jump the red lights and mulch his own compost but what would he do if he was given the Westminster vegetable patch?

Three Line Whip

Daily Record tells Wendy to go

The death knell on Wendy Alexander's leadership of Scottish Labour (Holyrood division) has been sounded by the official Labour press office in Scotland, the Daily Record. To be generous, the editorial is a warning shot to Wendy that she needs to up her game. In reality, this is a notice to quit.

Tartan Hero

Politics Decoded

Read my Politics Decoded column over at the Wardman Wire which is up now.

The round up will be with you before 12pm.

Monday, 28 January 2008

The (very) Late Lunch Briefing

More dodgy money accusations

The dodgy money stories continued over the weekend. The big casualties were Alan Johnson and Tory MP Derek Conway. As far as I can tell so far, the Johnson story is a storm in a teacup and not much will come of this. The Tory case is slightly more interesting however. It goes back to a debate I had with Matt Wardman and Dave Cole over MP’s wages and expenses.

I made the case that the problem with MPs remuneration is not their direct salaries – even if they do vote for their annual pay rises themselves. These annual pay rises are under such massive media scrutiny that they couldn’t possibly get away with massive inflation busting greed. Hence the other day they only voted for a below inflation increase. They could hardly do anything else. Anyway, they all know that there is plenty of scope to bump up that bank account with the various allowances MPs get. Enter Mr Conway.

Really? Mmm.

Derek Conway has described paying his son £1000 a week but not declaring it as “administrative shortcomings”. To me, and I might add for legal purposes I emphasise sounds like – no accusations, this sounds like hogwash! I may well be wrong, but handing over a grand a month to a student to work an extra 17 hours a month just seems unlikely to me. How many MPs do similar things but pay a student that is not related or previously known to them? How wise is it to pay a grand a month to someone who has eye on his university work and a good night out in the evening as most students? Good pocket money anyway – I wonder if Mr Conway gave his son any extra pocket money out of his own pocket?

It does raise the issue of just how much scrutiny are out MPs getting at the moment. You may remember a couple of weeks back of the Lords who were complaining that they didn’t get paid sick pay – not realising that in their scramble for claiming allowances, they didn’t actually get a properly salary at all and were therefore not eligible for sick pay. We have MPs who are claiming housing payments for a second home yet are within easy commuting distance of London. The annual expenses claims are now published with some real belter from last year.

How honest are our MPs?

LSE did some research in to MP allowance and I think you will find some of the findings very interesting. For a start, there is no correlation between party affiliation, constituency size, average income of the constituency and marginality of the constituency are all uncorrelated with the total amounts claimed. It is the older and more experienced MPs that claim less for some reason. In terms of hiring staff it is the Lib Dems that spend the most per MP. Overall though, the findings were quite positive – generally speaking our MPs do not milk the system. However, it is clear that some of them, a minority of them, do...

More scrutiny will weed out the cheats

It will come as a surprise, maybe, that cabinet ministers claim the least on average – about £9k less than your average MP. It is no coincidence I don’t think that these are the MPs that are also under the greatest scrutiny. It is my belief that it is not so much the fact that our MPs can claim a allowances that is the problem, but it is far too easy for them to do it and the checks just are not good enough. Hence, I have no problem with Mr Conway employing his family, but more needs to be done to prove that his son is doing what he is paying to do. It is also a very good reason why MPs should not be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

The Poliblogs 28 January 2008

It's the economy, stupid

The competence of this government has been put into question once again over the ongoing capital gains tax fiasco. The latest concession in offering "entrepreneurs’ relief" is just another example of how out of touch the government with the business community. Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI employers' body, stated that the new relief would "do nothing to help the real business powerhouses of this country":

The Adam Smith Inst.

How damaging is Conway to Cameron?

Will there be few tears shed for David Davis’s rounder-upper? This lunchtime’s news that Tory MP Derek Conway faces a 10-day Commons suspension after the standards watchdog said he paid his son too much from parliamentary allowances. Freddie Conway, received a salary as a researcher while he was studying at Newcastle University. The only problem was, according to the report “.. no records appear to exist of either actual work that Freddie did for his father, or of the work he was required to undertake”.

Political Betting

Polly turns on Brown

Must-read of the day is Polly Toynbee's searing critique of Gordon Brown's week, which she believes could turn out to be the moment the next election was lost. There's lots to surprise students of the Toynbee oeuvre here, not least to find that she is still pro-police after that distasteful demonstration. She's spot on about Labour's "miserable tribalism" (arch: G Brown) which is behind so many disastrous decisions (avoiding Rock nationalisation, messing up CGT to name two). But her smack-in-the-Brown-solar-plexus conclusion is this:

Ben Brogan

London Key To Vote In '08?

The Mayor of London is in a jolly mood. Latest polling suggests that his ratings have actually gone up since last week's Channel 4 Dispatches programme, which he considers to have been "a hatchet job". Indeed if Livingstone can win in May for the third time, some senior Labour strategists are now arguing that Gordon Brown should call a General Election in June.

Boulton & Co.

YouGov - Livingstone apparently undamaged by Dispatches

A new YouGov poll for ITV London has topline voting intentions for the London mayoral election of Livingstone 44%(-1), Johnson 40%(-4), Paddick 8%(+1). I can’t find the exact dates of the poll yet, but press reports suggest it was conducted after the Channel 4 Dispatches programme criticising Ken Livingstone, and the preceeding couple of weeks of agressive attacks on Livingstone by the Evening Standard.

Polling Report

Boost for Ken in new YouGov poll

YouGov puts him 4% ahead. After one of his most controversial weeks since becoming Mayor in 2000 there’s a boost tonight for Ken Livingstone in his bid to secure a third term in the most powerful directly elected office in the UK. A Yougov survey for ITV London found - with changes on its last poll a month ago - Ken 44% (-1): Boris 40% (-4): Paddick LD 8% (nc)

Political Betting

Clegg and spending

I like Clegg’s language, his correctly choosing 2000 as the starting point to an “explosion”. The days of Kennedy’s “penny on the pound of income tax to pay for education” is gone. I’d like to think the premise of Kennedy’s proposal – that more money would get extra results – has been tested to destruction so future governments know not to make the same mistake. Standards have staggeringly declined in British schools between 2000 and 2006. The tragedy is that so many millions of pupils suffered to prove this point to the world.#

Coffee House

Andrew Lilico: Politics, the inflation target, and what Conservatives should say

In this article I shall argue that there has been a significant failure of political leadership, from Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling, regarding the UK’s inflation target. The significance of this failure is becoming magnified in the difficult policy situation we face in 2008, has already undermined, and threatens to undermine further, the hard-won credibility of UK monetary policy.

Conservative Home

Looking on the bright side

But for Conservative Home, we would have missed it completely (they nearly did) – but yesterday there was an ICM poll published in The Guardian which explored the electorate's views on the European Union. The strap gives you a taste of the findings, it declaring: "Poll finds support rising for EU membership." And, by the way, it also reports Labour polling up a point to 35 percent, with the Tories down two to 37 percent, giving Cameron a minuscule two percent lead – albeit in a poll that tends to favour Labour.

EU Referendum

Meaningless words

"Reform" is one of the most devalued words in politics. It should go into lexographical dustbin along with "radical" and "change". Consider the issue of welfare "reform". Alarmed by the Tories unveiling of "radical" welfare "reforms", Gordon Brown is today highlighting his own "radical reforms". He and his new welfare secretary, James Purnell, will pledge to introduce proposals recommended by the ex City banker David Freud. This is just, you may recall, what the Tories did a few weeks ago.

Nick Robinson

Davos and Soros are too gloomy- but Davos usually gets it wrong

A year ago the luminaries, power brokers and business leaders at Davos were very optimistic. The discussion in private sessions ranged widely over ever larger bids based on heavy borrowings. We were at the peak of the rule of King leverage. The attendees foresaw a continuation of the securitisation bubble and thought it represented the new economic stability. In other words, last year Davos did not predict Credit Crunch, securitisation meltdown or the coming slowdown. The world’s most powerful and best informed got it hopelessly wrong.

John Redwood

Why we need to reform the Electoral Commission and the Register of Member's Interests

Over the last few months we have seen a massive increase in the number of politicians who have not registered donations or other items with either the Electoral Commission or the Register of Member's Interests. I may be being generous but I don't believe all of those concerned are corrupt or deliberately not declaring things properly, so perhaps we need to reform the Electoral Commission and the Register of Member's Interests.

Colin Ross

Is there a point at which Liberal Democrats should want to leave the European Union?

I used to take it more or less as an article of faith that the EU is good for us. Somehow. And that the Liberal Democrat position of being avowedly critical of some of the ways it operates was a good one - we were the first, I believe, in calling for CAP reform way back just after we joined, for example.

Jock’s Place

Alan Johnson donation - yes, it is a damp squib!

Tinkering around at midnight last night, I thought I was going out on a bit of a limb by describing the media story about the Alan Johnson donation as a "damp squib". I am delighted beyond measure to see my early doors judgment supported by the vociferous Mr Whenman and Liberal Action.

Liberal Burblings

Too many soundbites from Cameron - Says Ken Clarke

Ken Clarke is right to highlight Cameron's obsession with the fluff of sound bites. Every time he speaks it is as if he had five of them to say and he shoe horns them in in an almost corny way. His sad attempt to emulate Vince Cable's Mr Bean line about Gordon Brown by referring to Gordon Brown "turning from Prudence to Del Boy without touching the ground" was enough to make you groan it was so lame.

Norfolk Blogger

Are the good times returning for Gordon?

Will today’s polls bring a smile back to his face? Following the good news for Labour in last night’s YouGov poll on the London mayoralty there’s a further boost for the party in new national voting intention surveys from YouGov and ICM this morning. And one of them has Labour’s deficit down to just two per cent. The latter finding is in the monthly ICM survey for the Guardian which has, with comparisons on the last poll from the firm a fortnight ago the following splits: CON 37% (-3): LAB 35% (+2): LD 20% (+2)

Political Betting

The Blog of the Week Award

Blog of the Week

This week's blog of the week is Edland. The posts over at Edland have been top notch stuff of late - not that they haven't always been very good, but since the New Year Ed Clarke has stepped up a level. A Libertarian who, like many of the right of centre blogosphere, have really had enough of New Labour - but Edland writes about it in his unique and immediately gripping fashion. Well worth adding to your favourites.

Runners Up

John Redwood. Not the most popular of MPs, even in his own party and will always be remembered for his shameless "singing" of the Welsh National Anthem. However, in his spare time he writes a cracking and very thought provoking blog. Great coverage on the Northern Rock crisis is his specialty at the moment. Makes other MP's blogs look very amateur and tokenistic.

Paul Linford. One of the blogosphere's truly great blogs. Watch out for his famous Top Tens, but also his daily comment is measured and well informed. A former hack, you would expect his writing to be top notch. He does not disappoint.

Late Start...

All the usual stuff will be up today - just a bit later than normal.

I will post the Blog of the Week at 2:30pm

The Roundup at 3pm

And The Late Lunch Briefing at 5pm

Friday, 25 January 2008

The Late Lunch Briefing

So the dust is beginning to settle, Hain is out and the newbies are in. Well, I say the dust is beginning to settle; actually the truth is it hasn't even begun! This is a story that is going to haunt the Labour party for the next year at least probably much longer. This is just the end of chapter one. The chapters still to come include Wendy Alexander, Harriet Harman and probably one or two other characters that we didn’t realised were in the story. Every day that passes, the Brown administration resembles the John Major government more and more. Something the Labour party must be deeply worried about.

Whereas Blair could shake off the bad news stories, with Brown they just seem to get bigger and hang around like a bad smell. His party is fragmenting (though not on a Tory scale yet). He is being dogged by sleaze. The press is turning on him. He is unpopular and looks dithering and weak. Worst of all: circumstances are conspiring against him. Just like Major, he is taking over at a time of deep economic uncertainty. I strongly believe the best thing that could happen to the Labour party, if they are still in this position in September, is a leadership challenge – it is also the worse scenario for the Tories because someone competent may just take over as PM.

The real question for the Tories in all this is who is David Cameron? Is he the Tony Blair or the Neil Kinnock of the Tory party? One thing is for sure, he has had to modernise the party like Kinnock did. A shift to the right would be an unmitigated disaster for the Tories. What is less clear is whether he is the fall guy, like Kinnock, who has to do the dirty work but ultimately is not accepted by the electorate or can he give us a vision and some hope in times when everything in Westminster seems distinctly flat? My fear is the former, my hope is the latter. It is an absolutely key twelve months. The worst case scenario is come the next general election we have a choice between the latter day Major versus the latter day Kinnock. It will mean another five years of a visionless Britain.

The Poliblogs 25 January 2008

Will Hain do for Brown?

You might expect a Cabinet resignation, sparked by a police inquiry, just seven months into a new Prime Minister's first term, to be a meltdown moment. Objectively, the elements of this story tell a terrible tale of incompetence, casual contempt for the law, and complacency at the heart of the Labour party. In the past hour we asked the question that should be a shocker but has become routine: has the Prime Minister been interviewed by the police? (Answer: No). All this on a day when the Treasury goes into reverse on CGT, Labour MPs vote for more money, and pandemonium grips the markets. This should be a dire day for Gordon Brown.

Ben Brogan

Hain: Did "Bottler" Brown Dither Too Long?

When Peter Hain did "the right and honourable thing", as Gordon Brown put it, and resigned, the Prime Minister acted fairly swiftly to reshuffle and freshen up his Cabinet. The Cabinet changes took less than five hours and the full ministerial reshuffle, 14 appointments in all, under six hours. In that time, three ministers under 40 were promoted to key Cabinet jobs and the gender balance tilted a little, with another woman joining the Cabinet as a full member.

Boulton & Co.

Where now for Gordon Brown?

I wrote yesterday that Gordon Brown's New Year relaunch is in tatters. Now he's in the uneviable position of having to relaunch the relaunch. How should he go about it? We've already witnessed Brown's new approach to personnel - that is, to draft youthful faces into the cabinet. Now his comment piece in today's FT indicates one of the central planks of his policy approach - the reform of financial systems:

Coffee House

Donation differences

There are important differences between the cases of Peter Hain and those of Gordon Brown's deputy, Harriet Harman, and Labour's Scottish leader, Wendy Alexander, who are still awaiting the verdicts of the Electoral Commission. Harriet Harman. The most obvious difference is scale. Peter Hain failed to declare over £100,000 whereas Harriet Harman's deputy leadership campaign accepted a much smaller sum, £5000, from a proxy for David Abrahams and Wendy Alexander accepted just £950 from a Jersey-based businessman who was not a "permissible donor".

Nick Robinson

Some thoughts on the Hain resignation

Firstly, it should have come sooner: why did Hain wait for Police involvement before deciding that clearing his name was more important (and more time-consuming) than his two Ministerial posts? However, I'll still nod in respect to the man for taking the decision. It had to be taken, and it was the right one. Labour ministers have shown an extraordinary bouncebackability since Mandelson so he won't be out for long, but he can't fight this and do his two jobs at the same time. Late, but right.

J.Arthur MacNumpty

A life as a comedian beckons for Paul Flynn MP - Is Peter Hain his idol ?

I you need cheering up at this depressing time of the year, read Paul Flynn's account of why we should be sorry that Peter Hain has lost his job. The almost comical list of Peter Hain's achievements does go on and, if it is to be believed, Peter Hain should be made a saint, given a nobel prize and should be given a statue on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square. Perhaps the most comical of Paul Flynn' assertions about who will not be sorry about Peter Hain departure are

Norfolk Blogger

Ken's fightback backfires

Like many Londoners, I have been reading and watching the steady stream of allegations being levelled at Ken Livingstone, the London Development Agency, and his inner circle of Advisers, with fascination: It really has been like watching a train crash.

Meral’s Musings


OurKingdom: The National Centre for Social Research has just issued its new British Social Attitudes Report. This is taken from its 13 page pdf summary press release.

Only 13% of people born and living in England, and 3% of people born and living in Scotland, describe themselves as ‘only’ or ‘mainly’ British. Meanwhile, nearly half of those born and living in England say that they are ‘equally English and British’, and only one in five born and living in Scotland describe themselves as ‘equally Scottish and British’.

Our Kingdom

It’s 5/1 that Hain will get back to the Cabinet in 2008

Is this worth betting on? William Hill are offering odds of 5/1 that Peter Hain will be back in the Cabinet by the end of 2008, and 3/1 that he will return there by the end of 2009. ‘Mr Hain was a 7/1 shot to be out of the Cabinet by the end of this January and 2/1 to be the first Cabinet Minister to lose his position - so many political punters are celebrating his departure’ said Hill’s spokesman Graham Sharpe.‘However, given past situations with, for example, Peter Mandelson, it is far from impossible that Mr Hain could be back in the Cabinet in a comparatively short space of time.’

Political Betting

Daily Roundup...

Will be a little later today...

Thursday, 24 January 2008

The Late Lunch Briefing

More on the Hain resignation later. Today's Late Lunch Briefing focuses on the possible first commons defeat for Gordon Brown as PM...

A defeat in the Commons for the Government?

The Government today unveils it plans for holding terror suspects. After previous defeats, the latest arbitrary figure they are going for is 42 days without charge. The Tories and Lib Dems are opposing this measure and there is a good chance that many Labour back benchers will too. Ironically, I suspect that the extension of the 28 days limit is probably quite popular with the electorate – most have bought into the line, rightly or wrongly (who knows?), that we live in dangerous times and that certain civil liberties need to be curbed for our own safety. Personally I feel that unless the government can make the case for the extension using hard facts, I just cannot back them on this issue. So far I have not heard the government make this case – their argument is solely based on a very loose “what if?” Either way, the vote could spell trouble for Brown.

A busy time for the Whips

In order for the government to be defeated there needs to be over 34 Labour rebel backbenchers. It is going to be tight and the Whips will have their work cut out. So what can the Whips do to ensure that the government wins the day? Well, this takes us in the dark and murky world of British politics. The unsaid and largely unknown. Hansard doesn’t report what the Whips do in Parliament – the excuse being that it is a party issue. So what do we know and just how far will do Whips go to ensure the government wins the day?

The dark and murky world of being a government Whip

A fascinating and revealing piece on this can be found here, written by Patrick Dixon. He details, using first-hand accounts of the extreme lengths that some Whips will go to. Those not familiar with the Whip system should know that Whips are the key figures in the party that instruct MPs how to vote. They will tell their parliamentary party members that they must vote in today’s debate and then underline the words either once, twice or three times. This indicates what the punishment will be if they don’t vote or vote against the party. One line means that not a lot will happen if they don’t vote. Three lines mean a withdrawal of the whip – which is effectively expulsion from the party, hence the term Three Line Whip. But there are far more sinister tactics used than this...

Extortion, blackmail, heavy verbal abuse and even physical roughness

The bully boy tactics used by Whips have been reported to include extortion, blackmail, heavy verbal abuse and even physical roughness. The threat of losing that promotion to the cabinet or that meeting with the queen is not uncommon. There are even reports that MP’s have been threatened with sleaze stories being released to the press or their partners. Whips have been accused of keeping “little black books” which are a directory of misdemeanours that members have built up over the years that can be used against them. Of course, depending on whose account you listen too, these tactics are either common or not ever used. Given what I have read and heard I suspect it is somewhere between the two. There is little doubt that heavy handed whipping does go on and I am sure Westminster will be party to some on the upcoming Counter Terrorism Bill.

An extraordinary account

I will leave you today with this extraordinary account of just how extreme Whips are willing to go to ensure they win a parliamentary vote:

This Patrick Dixon talking to a Tory MP discussing the 1992 vote on Maastricht where many Tory MPs were planning to vote against the government:

“A lot of wives were then contacted, either by the Whips Office or by somebody from Central Office or by the friend of the MP attacked, depending on how well they knew the family. And the line with the wives was, er, sometimes persuasive, like, you know, "You're not going to get . . . Your husband's not going to get the title. You won't get the title or won't get the trips abroad or won't get this or won't get that," or quite threatening: "We know something about him, in his private life.

Then as the night came and then the day and then the evening and the vote at ten o'clock, as that got nearer the numbers were just not adding up and they [The Whips] were getting more frenetic. Going round they would try a combination of all these things simultaneously.

'The plan fell apart and they would just physically, er, get hold of people, verbally abuse them, or persuade them there's drinks - the Prime Minister probably never poured out so many bloody drinks - and the Prime Minister was available...

And then as the vote was called and the divisions began I saw people physically blocking the entrance to the Lobby to stop some Members getting in. I saw one MP physically carried into the Lobby...”

Should be fun and games in the Commons again then with the Counter Terrorism Bill too then... oh to be a fly on the wall!

The Reshuffle

Hain's resignation does of course mean that Brown will have to reshuffle his cabinet - or bring in a new face directly to the DWP and Wales posts.

Has Brown made another Boo-boo?

Of course, Brown did say only a few weeks ago that Hain is only guilty of being incompetent, instead of sacking him - a sign of more dithering and poor judgment? What if it is now shown that Brown backed a man who deliberately committed fraud?

The fallout from all this could be very serious indeed...

The Thermometer of Doom

Peter Hain has resigned!! About time too! It seems that the final straw was being referred to the police. We'll miss you on the Thermometer of Doom, Peter. Though I am sure we will find someone else to replace you before long.

It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on Harman who has been accused of similar, though not the same, allegations.

More on all this later...

The Poliblogs 24 January 2008

Dave and truth

Raised eyebrows in Camp Cameron this morning at the way his views on parents and faith schools were presented this morning by the Times. They assure me he does not condone parents who lied about their faith to get their children into religious schools. The key line is "I don't blame anyone who tries to get their children into a good school," but presumably he would blame those who can be shown to have exaggerated their religious enthusiasm.

Ben Brogan

Will a downturn help or hinder Brown?

Although they look at it from different angles, I think that James Forsyth and Daniel Finkelstein have both identified one of the most interesting political questions of 2008 – will an economic downturn boost or deflate support for Brown’s Government? Contrary to James, Finkelstein claims in an article today that the gathering economic storm-clouds will be good news for the Prime Minister:

Coffee House

ID Cards are to be delayed: Ten reasons to scrap them.

Apparently a document has been leaked to the Conservative Party which suggests that plans to issue ID Cards to UK citizens have been put back to 2012. Some suggest that this could be leading to the scrapping of the stupid scheme. Here are ten reasons why I think the scheme should be scrapped:

Daily Referendum

The recession of 2008 and the return of economic intervention

Governments should not intervene in market economies. For over two decades now, even to challenge that proposition has been enough to mark you out as at best an unreconstructed Keynesian pinko and very probably an outright goddam red. The smelly little orthodoxy moved on from being the exclusive preserve of mildly eccentric laissez faire think tank nerds in half-moon spectacles to become the received wisdom of the parties of the mainstream right, ultimately spreading to international social democracy. That girl TINA has surely been putting it about.

Dave’s Part

Home Economics

Yesterday's decree from the Secretary of State for Education unsettled me somewhat. On the face of it, teaching children the basics of how to cook is a laudable ambition. It does seem, on the face of it, that much of the current fatness epidemic is caused by poor eating habits. Children ape their parents so if they are fed a bad example there isn't much that is going to whip them into shape until they are mature enough to set their own direction.


BREAKING NEWS: LibDems want a referendum on the EU constitution!

Yes it's true! We have not broken any promises - we promised a referendum on the EU constitution. We still want a referendum on the full constitution of the EU as constituted from the various treaties since the Treaty of Rome - ie. an “in or out” referendum - which is a much, much wider matter for referendum than the very narrow amending treaty - the EU Reform treaty.

Liberal Burblings

Ken Livingstone and Dispatches

I guess a lot of people watched the Dispatches program on Monday night - Martin Bright's the Court of Ken! I watched it myself at about midnight on Monday. Hadn't realised when they interviewed me (for an hour) that I would have such a starring role! Usually when you do these things (or my experience anyway) is that you end up on the cutting room floor.

Lynne Featherstone

This Not-So-Charming Man

A couple of weeks back, the right-wing columnist Richard Littlejohn made a vile attack on Gordon Brown in which he made reference to his "kiddie fiddler smile." That estimable blogger Paul Burgin was one of those who were suitably outraged, expressing the view that Littlejohn should not be allowed to get away with such a "joke."

Paul Linford

Is the “Gordon’s a weirdo” tag a deliberate strategy?

Could such an approach backfire on Cameron? Yesterday’s characterisation by David Cameron of the Prime Minster as being “that strange man in Downing Street” has prompted a number of Labour-leaning bloggers, including Paul Linford, to suggest that this is part of a Tory plan.

Political Betting

Fanatics, bores and sceptic tanks

Sorry to return to possibly the most boring issue(s) on the agenda these days - Europe, the Lisbon treaty and the campaign for a referendum. It seems that 80% of the British public want a referendum, but the same public is evenly divided as to whether the treaty should be approved or not. And when it comes to whether the EU is really an important issue at all, opinion polls suggest that most of us don’t think so.

Shiraz Socialist

Let me say something nice about Mr Darling

Over the last decade the UK has been marooned with a high standard rate of capital gains tax, whilst many other countries have decided to be friendlier to savers and entrepreneurs by slashing CGT rates.

John Redwood

Delay tactics

Tony Blair regarded ID cards as an election winner. He pledged that legislation to make them compulsory would form a "major plank" of Labour's next election manifesto. Under Gordon Brown it now looks clear that will be no such pledge. Any decision on compulsory ID cards could be delayed until after 2020 even if ministers stay committed to the scheme and there is no change in government and technological problems, concerns about cost and shifting public attitudes don't cause yet more delays.

Nick Robinson

A climate for eurosceptics

President Barroso sees the European Union’s plans to deal with climate change as a route to popularity. He told the European Parliament that it was a great argument for the European Union and shows that the world needs a strong EU. I am not sure he won over quite everyone in the chamber.

Mark Mardell