N is for New Delhi - NOT nationalisation
Brown has manfully kept up his efforts to avoid the N word when asked about Northern Rock. He prefers to say 'public ownership'. Whatever you call it, the story has shifted away from nationalisation while we've been away, with a private sale now looking more likely and Virgin the favourite. This development has nothing to do with Sir Richard Branson's presence on the trip, or so we are assured by all concerned.
We Pay For Brown's Crock Fudge
You've got to hand it to the guy. As feared, Bottler's going to fudge the Crock nationalisation. He's reportedly decided to make taxpayers keep all NR's liabilities, while giving any unencumbered assets and all future profits to Branson and the existing shareholders. Rather than getting himself branded with the N word, spineless dithering Bottler would rather leave the rest of us exposed to a tanking property market and Branson's well known appetite for public cash. Let's just recap on what we know so far:
How will the public react to being denied their referendum?
In an interview on today's Politics Show, David Miliband reiterated the government’s opposition to a referendum on the EU Reform Treaty, claiming that: “The reformed Treaty is there for parliament to scrutinise and then to pass .... Obviously, people will put down an amendment and parliament will have to decide, but I don't think this Treaty meets the bar of fundamental constitutional reform that should be the basis of having a referendum.”
They lied yesterday; they will lie tomorrow
An absolutely stonking column on the Lisbon treaty from William Rees-Mogg hits the streets in The Times today, the title of which we have borrowed for our own post. With the strap line, "The Lisbon treaty is a dangerous betrayal", Mogg tells us he is against the treaty "because it involves an important constitutional transfer of powers from the European nations to the European institutions, from national democracy to supranational bureaucracy."
Building a conservative movement: a simple suggestion
Straight after the Tory Conference in October I wrote a well-received piece on Conservative Home that set out ten things that the Party needed to do to build on the momentous week just past. One - the appointment of someone in Team Cameron to handle coalition relations - has been embraced: George Eustace is now in situ and he is working with the wider conservative movement to ensure its leaders are kept in the loop and they have a channel of communication to the Party leadership.
Nick Clegg was asked on Andrew Marr's programme this morning whether he could work with David Cameron in a new coalition government in the event of a hung parliament. Clegg said "Of course I won't answer that. The electorate haven't spoken and it would be arrogant to pre-empt what the electorate might say."
Brown won't get his Tory split on Europe
William Hague was on Steve Richards' GMTV show at 6am this morning (amazing what baby care does to your viewing habits) and asked The Question ahead of tomorrow's debate: what would a Tory government do about a ratified EU Reform Treaty/constitution? He answered in almost the exact same words Cameron used on Marr last week. "In our view too much power would have been transferred from Westminster to Brussels, that it would lack democratic legitimacy for the reasons we have discussed, and that we would not let matters rest there and that is a position that Conservative MPs, as far as I can see, are very, very supportive of."
The EU Constitution Show
Since politics became a branch of the entertainment industry, Parliament has been obsessed with soundbites, visual imagery, and Punch & Judy showpieces (whatever the denials) because all of these constitute the very essence of theatre. But the House of Commons is about to stage a production which is scheduled to run for four weeks, the outcome of which will be an unmitigated flop.
The fun and fuss as viewed from the Balkans
A busy, busy week. In London, MPs start debating the Lisbon treaty in detail. Open Europe are trying to keep the argument for a referendum in the limelight, and compensate for some of the rather wonkish arguments that will ensue, by holding a series of votes in marginal seats. They plan ten such campaigns at first starting in the seat of the Europe minister Jim Murphy in East Renfrewshire in Scotland . The Government is pretty confident that it will win the votes that matter to it in the House of Commons and that any Labour rebellion will be of the “small explosion, nobody hurt” variety.
PMQ s could be scrapped.....
....if Nick Clegg gets his way. They face meltdown in Hull after internal feuding and gross financial mismanagement; they're on the skids in Stoke following allegations of improper conduct; and the Lib Dem leader of Liverpool City Council could face disqualification from office for up to five years. So what's Nick Clegg's big idea to turn his party's fortunes around?
I'm tipping David Miliband to oust Gordon Brown by May.
David Miliband is to give the keynote speech at Today's Fabian Society - Change the World conference. The BBC have obviously had the heads-up on his speech, and what David has to say sounds to me like a man setting out his Prime Ministerial stall. There were rumblings before Christmas that Labour MPs were giving Gordon Brown until May to prove himself fit to win the next election. I don't think he's managed to do that, in fact, I think his image is so tainted with incompetence, he most likely never will.
We have lift-off
London's mayoral candidates agree on one thing: they don't want a third runway at Heathrow
The smoke and fog of EU battle
The Lib Dems are playing games over the EU. They promised to vote for a referendum on the EU Constitutional Treaty in the last General Election, and like the Labour front bench are now walking away from their commitment. They say they now want an In-Out referendum instead, but cannot table one in the Commons as an amendment to the present Bill. Doubtless they realised this when they promised one! Never believe a Lib Dem promise.
Nick Clegg gives a good interview on Andrew Marr's Politics Show
Not usually one to watch early morning telly on Sundays, but this morning I watched Nick interviewed by Andrew Marr. The theme now well developed by commentators, is to keep comparing Nick with Cameron. All very predictable, as inevitably the first part of any interview puts Nick in the position of having to explain ad nausea, the very distinct differences between Liberal Democrats led by Clegg, and the Tories led by Cameron. Answers have to be given on the use of 'language', ie 'giving power back to people'. Since when has this been a traditional Tory vision?
Rural Affairs: Farmers' £40m foot-and-mouth bill
Further proof has been discovered that the Welsh Assembly Government has little influence with that of Gordon Brown's Cabinet. The foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2007 may have cost Welsh farmers more than £40m, a Welsh assembly committee has found.
All aboard the gravy monorail
So, what is an MP worth? As they mull over giving themselves a bumper pay rise, this question is once again on the nation's lips. Regular readers will be aware that I hold our elected representatives in the highest regard; frankly, it is hard to imagine that any mere monetary compensation could ever begin to express the depth of gratitude we should all feel for the selfless public service these men and women provide. Perhaps, in the manner of some oil-soaked emirate, we might construct a purpose-built luxury island - off the south coast of Dorset, say - with grace-and-favour mansions for each one of our 646 MPs, 24-hour room service, and a dedicated monorail link to whisk them to and fro from the Palace of Westminster during those occasional weeks when they actually have to fucking show up.
Jacqui Smith, (and how, if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought)
If you want laughs or escapism or a brilliant plot illuminated by compelling characters, George Orwell is not your man. If you want stark warnings about power and language, he was the greatest writer of the 20th century. Since most readers of this blog (I assume) went to school when studying proper books was still in vogue, you're probably familiar with Animal Farm and 1984 (if not, please read them - they're available free here, I imagine with permission).
Can Ken withstand the media barrage?
Is winning a third term starting to look doubtful? If you want proof that May’s fight for the London Mayoralty might not be the foregone conclusion that the betting markets currently suggest then do what I did last night - go to Google News and input the words “Ken Livingstone”. The top few results are featured in the screen shot above - and just looking down the list you can see that he might be in some trouble. What’s particularly poignant is that the media references come from a much broader range of sources than just the Evening Standard with whom the Mayor has been involved in a long war of attrition.
In defence of Socialist Action. Sort of.
socialist%20action.gifA Channel Four documentary tonight is set the launch the first full-on mainstream media attack on the evils of nasty, nasty Trotskyism for at least 20 years. As a middle-aged ex-Trot myself, I feel two decades younger already. It’s been too long, guys. If advance write-ups in the Sunday Times and Observer yesterday are anything to go by, C4’s Dispatches strand will tonight ‘exclusively reveal’ what anybody in the least interested in such things has known full well since 2000; many of London mayor Ken Livingstone’s six-figure salary bag carriers are or were members of a small far left grouplet known as Socialist Action. What’s more, the programme will say that like it’s a bad thing.
Let MPs pay themselves what they like
I’m going to say something deeply unpopular: MPs should vote on their own salaries. They constitute a sovereign Parliament. If they’re too scared to be sovereign over their own terms and conditions, it’s hardly surprising that they should hand away their authority in other areas – as they are about to do in the most abject way by ratifying the European Constitution Lisbon Treaty.