Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The PMQs Battle 20 February 2008

PMQs - The Verdict

You can bet there were many places Gordon Brown would rather be on his 57th birthday than in the chamber for prime minister's questions. There was little evidence of Brown letting his hair down - apart from cracking a joke about asking the prime minister of China about Wigan - but at least the leader of the Opposition took the time to wish him many happy returns. And, reflecting on some of the PM's disastrous early performances at the despatch box at noon on a Wednesday, it is hard not to conclude that he has got a lot better at the weekly joust.


Northern Rock And DNA Dominate PMQs

Given the Speaker's refusal to allow a Conservative request for a statement, it was perhaps unsurprising that David Cameron chose his opening salvo to be on the Crown Prosecution Service. The Government stands accused of inaction following a request from Dutch police to compare thousands of DNA profiles against the UK's own database - and possibly catch some serious criminals in the process.

Niall Paterson

Point-by-point: Question time

The main points from prime minister's questions on Wednesday, 20 February, from 1200 GMT:

Prime Minister Gordon Brown sent his condolences to the family of Corporal Damian Lawrence who was killed in Afghanistan. Answering a question from Labour MP Ann Begg, Mr Brown said all of the money lent to Northern Rock would be paid back. He said the government would only return the bank to private ownership when it could get the "best deal" for taxpayers.


The Verdict

I am pushed for time today, so going to have to make it short and, hopefully, sweet...

The opening Labour planted spoiler question was there as is becoming the new Brown tactic – Brown got a dolly of a question on Northern Rock.

Cameron wisely steered clear of Northern Rock – wisely because Brown has nearly as much ammo to throw at the Tories on this one as they do at him. Also Brown would have been expecting it and easily prepared. Instead Cameron went for the “missing” Netherlands data disc, containing DNA profiles from crime scenes, sent to the Crown Prosecution Service [CPS] in January last year, to be checked against the UK's database. Cameron won this encounter, but only used three questions up...

Clegg then stepped up, delivered a couple of good’uns: one on Northern Rock where he managed to discredit the government and Tories and one on energy prices. Good show from Clegg.

Brown gave a cheap shot about the Tories not asking about Northern Rock – which was a bit dumb considering Cameron had only asked three questions and it obvious what his next three would be about! And they were. Only Cameron decided to talk about Northern Rock’s Freedom of Information status.

I am not really sure where Cameron was going with this. At first I thought that maybe he knew something explosive and exciting and that he would drop the bombshell on Brown with the damage being so bad the Prime Minister would have had little opportunity but to resign there and then. Instead he had no insider information, no scandal, nothing at all. Just a bit sensationalist conspiracy theory about the government trying cover something up (though Dave had no idea what). It could have worked out, but to have a convincing conspiracy theory he should have at least had something up his sleeve about what Brown was trying to cover up.

Cameron, at this point, had blown it. Brown was batting away Cameron’s full tosses like Don Bradman might have seen my pathetic attempts at bowling had the extremely unlikely chance of him facing up to me on at the crease ever happened. Brown was in full throw and Cameron was going nowhere.

The real problem with the Northern Rock issue for the Tories is that ecomonics is Brown’s specialist subject – in fact I think it is his only subject. While they should be making good capital out of all this, Cameron is no match for Brown in a one on one dual.

It was a PMQs of two halves today, but with Brown finishing far the stronger I have to give him the points. In Cameron's defense, however, he will probably get in to the evening news with his questions on the DNA discs - so maybe I am being harsh but...

Brown 1

Cameron 0

The Late Lunch Briefing

I will be taking a couple of weeks out after today, so my postings will become far less frequent, though I do hope to get the odd thing up – not least the PMQs Battle on Wednesdays. Today’s Late Lunch Briefing is just a quickie...

The Latest Poll – Bad News for the Tories

ICM has released its latest polling figures – the first pollster to do so in light of the nationalisation of Northern Rock – and it makes miserable reading for the Tories. They are unchanged on 37%, but Labour are actually up two points on 34%. ICM, it should be noted, have been the harshest on the Tory share of late, but the fact Labour has gone up post NR is a telling story in itself. All this ties in with the growing perception that the government have handled this latest episode of the Northern Rock debacle fairly well; and that their decision making has been far more sensible than the option that the Tories want to pursue.

To Cut or Not to Cut

The same poll has said that a significant number of people want to see some sort of tax cuts or sustained spending. The obvious thing for the Tories to do is promise tax cuts therefore you might think. But it is an absolute minefield for them and really sums up the difficulties the Tories face if they are ever to get a serious, general election winning lead over Labour. As soon as they start to promise tax cuts the first thing everyone thinks about is the NHS. Get the Tories on the NHS and they become the nasty party again. In fact, get them on tax cuts and they are easily painted as the nasty party again because everyone assumes cuts in key public services.

However, unless the Tories do something they are simply unelectable – as poll after poll, month after month has shown. They are going to have to be very clever in how they position any public spending policies or they will be taken to the cleaners. But Cameron and Osborne will sooner or later have to take a risk – when they do this very much depends on when an election is going to be called and how itchy the right of the party get about the Cameron leadership. If the right start to sense that they are on to another hiding with Cameron in charge, expect them to become more and more vocal and the Tories to become more and more un-electable. But, a 3% lead in the polls is simply not good enough for the Tories.

Dangerous times ahead

Forget Labour being “in between a Rock and a hard place” with their banking issues, long term it is the Tories who are firmly wedged between the rock and hard place – they are damned if do and they are damned if they don’t. I will be very interested to see what effect NR nationalisation has had on the other pollsters’ polls.

The Poliblogs 20 February 2008

Are the Tories wrong on Northern Rock?

Have the Tories got their policy and tone right in their response to the nationalisation of Northern Rock? The jury is out. For understandable reasons, based on their desire for voters to see this as a cataclysmic event, they have turned up the rhetoric against Darling and Brown to quite abusive levels. However, there is a creeping sense that it is not working. Voters are entitled to ask: what on earth would the Tories do differently at this point? Cue Conservative mumbling about the Bank of England, not starting from here and private sector solutions.

Three Line Whip

From a rock to a hard place

At last, after four months of dithering, the UK government has finally decided to nationalize the failed bank, Northern Rock. To their credit, and as if to show how far they have grown from their Old Labour roots, they declare that this nationalization will be "temporary". But as the economist Milton Friedman once noted, "Nothing is more permanent than a temporary government programme".

Adam Smith Inst.

Darling/Osborne Fiscal Policy Meets The Smurfs

Yesterday, the TPA's Corin Taylor picked him up on one point he made, which was that cutting spending growth below Labour's planned 2.1% pa would be to "head off onto the margins of the political debate," chasing a target that "would be lower than anything Margaret Thatcher achieved during the economic turbulence she faced in her first parliament". Corin sets out the history of real public spending growth for the last 35 years so we can see the whole picture. He argues that although spending did indeed grow by more than 2.1% pa during Thatcher's first parliament (2.3% pa to be precise), it was an extraordinarily turbulent time. Over her whole period in office she got spending growth down to 1.5% pa, even taking account of the higher growth in the early years.

Burning Our Money

Northern Rock: History Will Vindicate Darling

So says Hopi Sen here. LOL agree 100% with all three predictions.

1. Northern Rock will be a money spinner;

2. Natasha will have time limited effect on Five;

3. Gordon will edge PMQs tomorrow.

Five are going to be on an upward swing anyway because of factors other than the lovely NK so it may be a little difficult to analyse the out turn.

Chris Paul

Don't worry Darling

David Cameron is calling for his head, the City has lost confidence and the bookies are offering 5/2 that he will be gone from the Treasury by the end of the year. Yet, I suspect that Alistair Darling has more job security than most. Darling was a temporary appointment; no one believes that Brown will keep him in post after the next election which explains why some young Brownites were so keen on an early election. But to move Darling before polling day would be a huge risk. First of all, it would call into question Brown’s judgement in appointing him in the first place. Second, it would add considerably to the feeling that this is a government on its last legs. Finally, there is no guarantee that Darling would go quietly.

Coffee House

Cuba after Castro

Stay in one of the five star hotels, and Cuba is a fabulous place for a holiday. Sit down by that swimming pool and bask in the Caribbean sunshine, light up a cigar from beyond the wilder shores of Freudian symbolism and knock back cocktails blended from the finest rum on earth. And if it’s nightlife you want, there’s hot jazz and salsa clubs that stay open until four am. That’s on the weeknights. Convertible pesos only, of course.

Dave’s Part

Yes, it was dodgy

The long-awaited release of an early draft of the British government's Iraq dossier has produced a smoking gun

Chris Ames

The selfishness of the Council Tax non payers

Let's get one thing straight immediately. I don't like the Council Tax and I want to see it replaced by a fairer system based on people's ability to pay. What else would you expect from a Liberal Democrat.But I do object strongly to people who deliberately refuse to pay their council tax in order to "make a point". I say this in relation to a gentleman in Norfolk who is now being sent to prison for 34 days because he has again refused to pay his council tax.

Norfolk Blogger

Ken Clarke rejects English Parliament

Former Chancellor Ken Clarke, Chairman of David Cameron's Democracy task force, gave evidence to the Commons' Justice Select Committee yesterday. The Committee is taking evidence on the impact of devolution. Within his evidence he said that...

Conservative Home

Should we have more politics on TV?

Jon Bright (London, OK): Mark Bell of CentreForum has an interesting piece in CiF today asking the above question. I had a rather ingrained resistance to the idea, but he might have turned me round. The case against, which he deconstructs, runs as follows: Here in the UK, political parties are banned from advertising on television or radio - with the exception of occasional five-minute party political broadcasts. The logic is seemingly that political advertising encourages negative attacks, reduces politics to soundbites and superficiality, and increases the political influence of the corporations and vested interests whose money would be needed to fund such advertising.

Our Kingdom

Council Tax pensioner jailed

Meet Mr Richard Fitzmaurice, a 76-year-old pensioner who has devoted his life to his country, who served 22 years as a soldier in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, and who yesterday was handcuffed and led away to prison for non-payment of his council tax. The humiliation of handcuffs was a bizarre decision for someone has never threatened anyone or exhibited any signs of resistance to his fate. He was there, he said, ‘on a matter of principle’, because ‘the way old age pensioners are being treated is shameful’.


Only three Daves from ICM in the Guardian

The poll that caught me by surprise. My apologies for not getting a thread up earlier but the latest Guardian ICM poll has taken me by surprise - I wasn’t expecting it until next Tuesday which would have followed the paper’s normal pattern. Also the fieldwork took place at the end of the half term week in many places when a lot of people are away. Pollsters tend to avoid such periods because they have thrown up odd results in the past. The shares are with changes on the last ICM poll CON 37% (nc): LAB 34% (+2): LD21% (nc). So good for Labour and the Lib Dems but disappointing for the Tories.

Political Betting

67% tell ICM that their taxes are too high

The Guardian suggests that voters prefer "continued spending at the next election over tax cuts" by 51% to 36%. We'll need to look at the exact question ICM asked but that seems a pretty useless finding if that was the question asked. What really would be interesting would be to identify voters' reactions to pledges of specific promises of, say, a reduction in council tax, paid for by slower growth in spending.

Conservative Home

Tories 3 points ahead in latest ICM poll

ICM’s monthly poll for the Guardian has topline figures of CON 37%, LAB 34%, LDEM 21%. The changes from the last ICM poll are Labour up 2, with the other two parties unchanged. The poll was conducted between the 15th and 17th of February. The poll continues the pattern we’ve seen since September last year of Labour doing comparatively better compared to the Conservatives in ICM polls done for the Guardian than in polls done for other clients. As I said when I first commented on this apparent pattern, I can find no obvious explanation for it, but as the months go past the patten seems to be consistent.

Polling Report

A View Across the Pond

The fall of Casro

Yesterday came the news that Fidel Castro is standing down as leader of Cuba. It was swiftly followed up by a statement from Mr Liberty and Democracy himself, George Bush, saying that he wants a democratic transition to come over the small island. Now, I am not just about to defend Castro or his regime nor am I going to criticise it. The focus here is with George Bush and it goes right to root of why the popularity of Americans has suffered so badly in past few years.

In defence of the US

First thing first however, I am not a US basher. If I had a choice between the US and any other of the emerging super powers running the world it is a no contest for me. The lazy, stereotype myths that Americans are dumb are extremely ill-founded. The US could teach Britain a thing or two about many areas of politics and standards. I am sure that in twenty years time, or however long it is before the BRIC countries start to really have an impact on world affairs, all those ill-informed righteous bigots will be longing for the day when a true democracy had the base of power. However, there is a good reason why the US has got a growing band of haters and critics and it is best exemplified by the situation in Cuba.

The stinking hypocrisy

The call for the US to have democracy installed in Cuba absolutely stinks of hypocrisy. This is the country that has a small corner of Cuba solely used for the imprisonment of hundreds of inmates for as long as they want without trial. They don’t do this in their own country because it is against their constitution and against International law. The very poor standards and lack of human rights that the US criticises Cuba for having are the very same poor standards and lack of human rights that the US is taking full advantage of for their own means. Who the hell is George Bush to tell Cuba what political avenue to pursue when it is, de facto, practicing exactly what it is preaching against and much worse?

For Example

Take the case of Omar Khadr, a 15 year old boy. Now I don’t know what this guy has or hasn’t done and quite frankly I don’t care – it is up to a court to decide. However under US and International law he is a minor and should be tried in a juvenile court. But as the US is using Cuba as its base to torture and hold suspected terrorist subjects, it can do whatever the hell it likes. Thus, Khadr will be tried without any specialist juvenile judge, despite the trial focusing on his actions and words between the ages of ten (the age he is alleged to have been forced to join al-Qaeda) and 15. He is treated as an adult prisoner of war, interned with adults while he faces trial. This could not happen in America, but can and does in Cuba. Then there are the stories of water-boarding and other torture methods, poor living conditions; and remember not one of these men have been found guilty of anything nor are they likely to stand trial at the type of court that the US would demand for its own citizens and for other countries to adopt.

Hope for the future

Until America practices what it preaches, what position is in to tell other nations to adopt certain standards? I am all for the standards that they do preach, but they are so ill-equipped to be preaching right now. This is a George Bush issue currently, let’s hope that a McCain, Clinton or Obama clamps down on this desperate hypocrisy and makes the US a nation that has the integrity as well as the compulsion that the world will want to follow.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Politics Decoded

... is up at the Wardman Wire.

I have finally worked out why I am so negative about politics at the moment

And, I give Ken's so called congestion charge a good, logical kicking.

The Poliblogs 19 February 2008

Darling surely has to go

It was always said during the Blair years that the worst job in politics would be Chancellor under Gordon Brown. After ten years in total control of the Treasury, there would be no way that Brown would tolerate a mighty Chancellor - let alone one of near equal status. Darling, when he began, was touted as being essentially a safe, dull pair of hands. Having risen without a trace through cabinet, Darling would be unexciting but competent. His talent for keeping his departments out of the news was just what Brown wanted.

Conservative Party Reptile

Getting there slowly

The government has finally done what it should have done months ago with Northern Rock; but many questions remain

Vince Cable

Hague set to replace Osborne

He may be a smug git but give Vince Cable his due, not only has he demolished the Tories almost amateurish proposals for Northern Rock, he's almost certainly ended George Osborne's tenure as Shadow Chancellor. Osborne has never before looked so out of his depth as he did today. Cable's comment that the Shadow Chancellor was in danger of castrating himself as he straddled both sides of the fence summed up the incoherent strategy adopted by the Shadow Treasury team ever since the Northern Rock crisis began.

The Daily Pundit

The Government is right on Northern Rock

And tremendously courageous, in my view. In this day and age, even much of the left, including myself, is decidedly dodgy about nationalisation. My brand of social ownership and democratic control is a decentralist one; though if government didn't have a role this would be little more than foolish economism. I still think however that the role of the state is not to own resources, but to secure ownership and distribution of those resources across society.

New Direction

Northern Rock and the case for extending social ownership

£25bn here and £25bn there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money. It has been absolutely apparent for at least five months that nationalisation represents the only realistic means of safeguarding the astonishing sums of taxpayer cash shovelled into Northern Rock to rescue the bank from the consequences of managerial incompetence. Finally Alistair Darling has gotten the message. The erstwhile bearded Trot himself has brought the UK’s number five mortgage lender within the ambit of proletarian property relations. Only another 199 of the top 200 monopolies to go and Britain becomes a workers’ state, comrade.

Dave’s Part

In defence of Darling

Remember, the Northern Rock crisis was not caused by the government. In light of that, the chancellor has done a pretty good job

Martin Kettle

Has anybody thought about Scotland?

One can only revel in the disarray experienced by the "colleagues" as they struggle to come to terms with the self-proclaimed independence of Kosovo. Continually vaunting its unity, whenever a crisis emerges, the EU somehow always fails to step up to the plate, each nation state adopting its own position until a formula is found to paper over the cracks and give some uneasy semblance of common purpose.

EU Referendum

Why the Archbishop got it wrong

Whether Rowan Williams is a good man or a bad man; an intellectual or an academic; a highly sensitive soul or a machinating demagogue or whether or not he deserved the tabloid-led backlash is irrelevent to the position that he took when he delivered his speech, Civil and Religious Law in England: a Religious Perspective.

Pickled Politics

What are Cameron's Conservatives for?

Gordon Brown stood for the leadership of the Labour party on a platform that argued that the renewal that was undertaken in order to gain power needed to be repeated if Labour was to keep power. The fact is that by successfully occupying the centre ground, by modernising and reaching out beyond its own activists Labour ended up turning the Tories into a replica of what it used to be itself – a party with a narrow base, a party obsessed about the wrong things and a party seen as old fashioned and out of touch.

Labour Home

What are TfL hiding?

Last week Mike Smithson broke the story of a BPC investigation into an Ipsos MORI poll carried out for Ken Livingstone. In the Evening Standard today Andrew Gilligan picks up Mike’s story and has got some comment from John Curtice and Ben Page of MORI. The story begins back in December with this press release from the Mayor’s office, claiming to show that a poll for Transport for London showed two thirds of respondents were in favour of the new emmissions based congestion charge.

Polling Report

Monday, 18 February 2008

The Late Lunch Briefing

Are we approaching the tipping point?

Northern Rock, up to now, has not seemed to have caused any serious damage to the government. Even this weekend’s polls only put the Tories on a nine point – which may sound like a lot, but in the grand scheme of things is nothing that would be seriously worrying those behind the door at No.10. However, today’s news that the bank will be nationalised could well be a tipping point.

More Dithering

The decision to nationalise the bank in itself is not a major disaster – it was always the most likely and sensible option given the run of events. However, the way this debacle has been handled is starting to become a major, major embarrassment. The accusations of the Brown government “dithering” have never been more appropriate. It seems, and it is only a perception, but it does seem that the Treasury not only is dithering and wavering on what to do, but it has no conviction in what it is doing. One minute we are definitely going to have a nationalised bank, the next Branson will definitely buy it, then we wake up to a sort of temporary nationalisation that might well become permanent.

Perceptions have been damaged

I suspect the long term financial impacts of all this are not going to be nearly as bad as many of the more vocal right wing commentators would have us believe. We’re not all just about to be £25bn out of pocket. However, the question is still not so much whether this will cost the tax payer, but how much it will cost the taxpayer. It won’t be £25bn, but we will pay. Much worse however, is the perceptions that are being formed over all this.

Firstly there are the voters. Almost no –one from either side of the political spectrum is giving praise for the way Darling has handled all this. There has to be some sort of impact on the polls after all this, even if only temporary. If the Tories cannot make big gains out of this, then I’m not sure they ever will –and I mean in to double figure leads across the polls. If this does happen, there will be a very precariously balanced axe hanging over Darling’s head. If he goes, the Tories will be able to move on to phase two of the Cameron mission. They are currently at a stage where people are willing to accept them; the next phase is where there actually start to listen. If the government really do make things any worse over this, then people really start to listen to the Tories – the only phase after that is voting them back in to power. A long way, but these next few weeks could well be giant steps for them.

Secondly, it is the overseas perceptions. What must the traders and investors in New York be thinking about all this? Probably quite pleased actually – just when London looked liked it might succeed in becoming the number one financial centre on planet earth, it gets its pants pulled down by a goon of chancellor in front of the whole world. The damage is done on this one – it is now just a question of how bad the damage will be. For a country that has put all its eggs in to industries such as banking and moved completely away from manufacturing, this could well be disastrous. Again, it’s too early to tell, but just how bad are the impacts going to be on all of us? Iain Dale has some cuttings from the world press and they do not make good reading.

Sack him or back him?

Things continue to go from bad to worse for the government – I just do not know how much more it can take before the polls start to really reflect the mess they are in. If they do, it will be very hard for them to turn things round. Brown now faces a very difficult decision: does he back Darling or sack him? Backing him may prove to be one step too far for the electorate; on the other hand, sacking him may well fan the flames. Whatever he chooses, it is a critical decision.

The Poliblogs Blog of The Week

I am going to be posting intermittently from Thursday onwards for a couple of weeks as I take a hard earned break. I will try and get things up every other day, but the roundups and blog of the week award will be on hold after Wednesday. Therefore, this week's winner will be up for two weeks!

Now, cries of cronyism are sure to fly at this week's winner, but it's my blog and I don't care! This week (and for the next two!) The Poliblog's most favourite is The Wardman Wire!

OK, so I write a column at the Wardman Wire every Tuesday so of course I am going to back it - but I only do it because I think Matt has great blog. The Wardman Wire is probably the most complete political blog there is at the moment, covering a range of topics (though mainly focused on politics and current affairs) from all angles of the spectrum. Matt gets a regular host of guest columnists which provides a great range across the political spectrum. The most recent of which has been following the MPs allowances scandal - which has not only provided some excellent and and at time heated debate, but also some great ideas of what Parliamentary procedures should follow in the future.

In the coming weeks Matt will also be focusing on the Mayoral elections, with another host of supporters and opponants of the main candiates putting their case forward. It will be an asolute must read to anyone with an interest in the Mayoral elections on 1st May.

In short, you get brillaint insight from Matt Wardman, guests posts from blogger such as The ThunderDragon, Mike Rouse, Dave Cole, David Keen and of course, myself. What more could you want?

The Poliblogs 18 February 2008

Return to the 'N' word

Imagine, just for a second if you had suggested to Gordon Brown, before he became prime minister, that he would nationalise a bank in his first year in No 10. He would have laughed, then snorted but, if you'd persisted, you might have seen the colour drain from his face. The N word - nationalisation - is so toxic to Brown's generation that they never wanted it to be heard in the same sentence as the Labour Party again. That is, no doubt, one reason he has delayed so long before taking this decision.

Nick Robinson

Crock- Three Questions From Taxpayers

Now that our dithering "government" has finally pulled the trigger on nationalising Northern Rock, taxpayers are formally and irrevocably on the hook for up to £110bn (we don't know how much because we haven't seen any proper accounts for months). For taxpayers, there are three key questions.

Burning Our Money

Where are we with Northern Rock?

It seems to me that the fundamentals of this problem have left policy makers with few sensible choices. The Government was right to step in last autumn to save Northern Rock - protecting depositors and stopping its problems spreading to other parts of the banking system. Alastair Darling was right to properly test all options for the future of the bank. The Treasury had two detailed proposals on the table and they are now taking a hard-headed choice in the best interests of the tax payer. The Chancellor has clearly decided that under current market conditions the private equity options failed to deliver sufficient value for money for the tax-payer. So bringing forward legislation to take Northern Rock into a period of temporary public ownership is the right decision.

Tom Watson

Darling and Brown go mad; Northern Rock Nationalised

Well it is all over the news and I am quite shocked that it has come to this. Sadly, I have to eat my hat (hat-tip istockphoto) as I was sure that Virgin would win the bid. Instead, the Government has decided it knows how to run a bank better than private sector bankers. The decision really beggars belief and although I will post on this later this week, but here are 5 key points to remember:


Sifting through the Northern Wreckage

Perhaps, the greatest political danger for the government from yesterday’s nationalisation of Northern Rock is that it fits so neatly into the narrative of a government that is incapable of making a decision. On The Today Programme this morning, Alistair Darling was repeatedly pressed on the question of why this step was not taken earlier and had no adequate answer.

Coffee House

Vince Cable was right - Lib Dems show better understanding of Northern Rock issue than the government

Vince Cable was right after all. Despite government dithering and trying to avoid the inevitable, it has been announced that the Northern Rock will be nationalised after all. Despite Tory claims that this shows a catastrophic failure on the government's part, at least the government have finally made a decision on this. Remember, the Tories have absolutely no stated policy in this topic and whilst opposing nationalisation have produced no alternative policy with which to lead on.

Norfolk Blogger

Northern Rock nationalised

Cranmer is not going to bore his readers and communicants with allusions to the wise man who built his bank on a rock and the unwise man who built his bank on sand, but the decision to nationalise Northern Rock does demand a little analysis beyond that presently being served up by the mainstream media. This is, after all, the first nationalisation of an industry since the 1970s, since those heady days when the likes of British Leyland, British Aerospace, or Rolls Royce were in public ownership so that profits may be shared ‘for the benefit of all’.


How Mr Darling lost the government’s economic reputation

The Northern Rock crisis has undermined this government’s economic reputation, and deservedly so. They have made mistake after mistake in responding the Credit Crunch and the run on the bank. I have put the main blog entries on Northern Rock from this site together so people can remind themselves of the way the crisis unfolded from last summer. The main errors (highlighted at the time on this site) were:

John Redwood

Punters unmoved by the Northern Rock announcement

Is nationalisation really going to have no electoral impact? Even though some are calling it “Labour’s Black Wednesday” there has been very little movement in the general election most seats betting following yesterday’s announcement by Alistair Darling that Northern Rock. The chart showing betting prices as implied probabilities has hardly changed on the past week. It’s the same with the spread betting markets where punters buy and sell the number of seats the parties will get at the election as though they were stocks and shares. There was a minuscule move to the Tories yesterday but that was prompted more by the latest YouGov poll showing Labour 9% behind rather than Northern Rock.

Political Betting

Are the Tories doing well enough?

Even David Cameron’s most enthusiastic backers in the 2005 leadership contest might have thought it unrealistic to imagine that after a little over two years in the job he would have opened up a nine point lead over Labour. But despite having done this, Cameron is still plagued by the question of whether the Tories should be further ahead.

Coffee House

Lib Dem nasties challenge Clegg

"It's delicious to watch another party suffering European difficulties," writes ConservativeHome's Tim Montgomerie. He's referring of course to David Heath's threat to defy the Lib Dem Whip over the revised EU constitution - a "u-turn on policy that has never been debated at conference," according to Linda Jack.

The Daily Pundit

Children with fathers do better

On 21 January Peers voted in favour of a change in the law which undermines the importance of the father to a child born after in-vitro fertilisation. The law currently refers explicitly to a child's 'need for a father', which doctors must consider before providing fertility treatment. But the Government proposes to replace this with a reference to 'the need for supportive parenting' in order to give lesbians and single women easier access to IVF.


The latest moral corruption of society is mineral water?

Jesus wept. That is all you can say when you hear that the Environment Minister, Phil Woolas, has said that the amount of money that people spend on bottled water "borders on being morally unacceptable". What a complete idiot. All those people that go a long journey and find themselves thirsty are now it seems morally reprehensible. Why.. doesn't anyone know they should be drinking coca cola? Diet of course so that we can stave off the obesity epidemic, and caffeine free too so that you don't have a heart attack and cost the state lots of money as well.

Dizzy Thinks

How Goes The War On Ken? (Part 2)

Friday’s decision by Ken Livingstone to suspend his equalities adviser Lee Jasper and invite the police to investigate the many claims made against him by the Evening Standard was a calculated gamble at the end of another awkward week for the London mayor. His and Jasper’s wish must be that the move will persuade the capital’s voters that there is nothing to hide and result in Jasper’s exoneration. Livingstone will also be hoping that some of the heat will now go out of the story and that the media will talk instead about the issues he would prefer to debate.

Liberal Conspiracy

In defence of supermarkets

Jay Rayner argues in The Observer that supermarkets have made our lives better. It is a odd thing to say, but I think he has a point. Politaholic is no spring chicken. I can remember a time when most shopping was done, certainly in the working-class area in the city where I grew up, in corner shops. This was before the rise of the super and mega markets. In those days if you asked the corner shopkeeper for parmeson cheese he would have looked at you as if you were mad. An avocado? I didn't know what one looked like until I was in my 20's. Wine was for posh people; and was expensive (now one can buy a reasonably quaffable bottle for around a fiver).


Kosovo's giant mosh pit

Mother Teresa Street in central Pristina has turned into a giant mosh pit. The crowd surges one way and then twists back the other and, for a while, you have to give up all hope of independent movement. From time to time people will clear a small circular space for a spot of traditional dancing to the sinuous local pop music, as the crowd flows either side of them.

Mark Mardell

YouGov reports nine point Tory lead

A new YouGov Poll for the Sunday Times tomorrow, according to the Press Association has some good news for the Tories. “…Questioned on their voting intentions, some 41% of those taking part said they would back the Tories (down two points on a similar poll last month), 32% Labour (down one) and 16% the Liberal Democrats (up two). The overall Conservative lead was down marginally from 10 points to nine compared to the last comparable poll.”

Political Betting

Parties steady in latest YouGov poll

After almost a fortnight without any voting intention polls there is a new poll from YouGov in the Sunday Times. The topline voting intention figures, with changes from YouGov’s last poll back in January, are CON 41%(nc), LAB 32%(-1), LDEM 16%(nc). The poll was conducted between the 14th and 15th of February and clearly shows no significant change in party support over the past two weeks.

Polling Report

Friday, 15 February 2008

PMQs Gold

There was no PMQs this week, hence no roundup. Given the lack of quality of late in the chamber, it is probably just as well. Take a look at this clip from PMQs back in the days when they knew how to perform for the crowds...

Iain Dale's Boris article

Iain Dale has a piece in today's Telegraph about Boris Johnson's chances of winning the Mayoral election on 1st May. Below I have added my own comments to key sections of the article. I implore you to read the whole thing however over at the Telegraph website so as to get the full story too...

Iain's words are in black, my fisking is in red:

Instead of ignoring his opponent, as most incumbents would, Ken talks about Boris all the time. He launched personal attacks on him from the off. As an electoral strategy, it was bizarre. He dubbed Boris a racist, yet the charge failed to stick. Why? Because no one who has ever met Boris, seen him on TV or read his books would ever believe him to be one.

Iain is absolutely right on this point in my opinion – why is Ken so obsessed with the Boris campaign? The “Look at him” strategy designed to make everyone look at the opponent and see how terrible they are usually only results in everyone looking at the opponent and ignoring the incumbent. This has been Livingstone’s biggest mistake so far – and also the attempts to paint Boris as a racist are simply unpalatable and patently untrue.

Ken failed to understand that, in Boris, he had met the Right-wing equivalent of himself - a politician seen by the electorate as independent of party politics and with a Teflon-type ability to deflect attacks.

Boris independent of party politics? More on this further down...

But there the similarity ends. Boris unites people, whereas Ken revels in division. His political strategy is based on class, and setting people against each other.

Greatly simplified – while many of us do love Boris, there is a significant number out there who do not like him. Worse of all, the biggest uniting factor behind Boris is a belief that while he is a nice chap, he is not necessarily up to the job of running the world’s premier city.

Since then Boris has started to develop some clear thinking in several policy areas, not least crime. But it still doesn't amount to a vision.

This is the catch 22. If Boris focuses on policy he loses what is his greatest selling point – his personality. If he focuses on his personality is will not be seen as a credible candidate. In a straight contest between Ken and Boris on policy and vision for London, Ken will win hands down. What is Boris’s policy on crime exactly? What will he do about transport except get rid of bendy buses? What impact will he have on business in London where Ken is seen as having such success? What will he do for poverty? We know where Ken stands on these issues, whether we like where he stands or not. While Boris can “out-personality” Ken (which is no mean feat), he has yet to show that he can “out-vision” him. I doubt he can and even trying may well have a detrimental effect on his campaign.

Ken did this in 2000 - less so in 2004 - but his ability to appeal to non-Labour voters has now been dented, not least by the scandals that emerge from City Hall.

There is absolutely no evidence what so ever for this. In fact, the immediate poll after the Channel 4 programme went out showed Ken had stretched his lead.

Mobilising the Tory vote is incredibly important. In 2004, turnout was 70 per cent in parts of Labour-dominated Lewisham, while in parts of Kensington & Chelsea it was little more than 20 per cent. Steve Norris lost by only 100,000 votes. That's why Boris's "get out the vote" operation will be crucial to his success. Boris's success is also crucial to David Cameron. If Boris wins, Cameron will be seen to have passed his second big electoral test - and, more important, Gordon Brown will have failed his first.

This works both ways. If Boris cannot even win in the Tory’s back yard, what hope have they got in the rest of the country? The Tories should be cleaning up in the South East by now and Cameron knows if he associates himself with a loser here, then it will discredit the Tories.

I also disagree that Boris is seen in similar terms as Ken, i.e. not partisan. Ken left the Labour party; he is often seen as a thorn in New Labour’s side. Boris is seen as Cameron’s old pal from school intrinsically linked with Cameron’s attempts to modernise the party.

I think the damage would be greater to the Tories if they lose in London than to Labour if Ken was to lose. The SE is just a corner of Britain, albeit an important one. But we all know the Tories have this area sewn up – what does the North care about a Mayoral election?

If Ken loses it will be seen more as his loss than Labour's and Labour shouldn't be winning in London anyway given the larger Tory numbers in the SE right now. On the other hand - if Ken does win it will be seen as a Ken win rather than a Gordon Brown and Labour win.

This election will not be won on first preferences. A key part of the Johnson campaign strategy will be to love-bomb Lib Dem voters into giving Boris their second preferences. It will be tough, as London Lib Dems are a little more Left-leaning than their country counterparts. But if anyone knows the way to attract second preferences, it's Boris's newly imported Australian campaign manager, Lynton Crosby. His appointment signalled the seriousness of the campaign.

Spot on – and the key reason why Boris will lose. Paddick supporters are far more likely to go with Ken that Boris.

His campaign managers have resisted the temptation to de-Boris Boris. Any attempt to turn him into a robot politician will end in him losing.

The catch 22 point. Either he is Boris with no policies or he is the robot with policies that cannot compete with Ken. Unless he can find a third way he has a fundamental problem that he cannot overcome. I don’t see how he can overcome this. Iain is calling for Boris to focus more on policy and vision, but he himself recognises that the biggest mistake would be to move away from Boris's biggest strength - his personality.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

The Great Archbishop Debate

Are you Backing The Bishop or Bashing The Bishop?

The Poliblogs 14 February 2008

Why isn't Michael Fallon in the Shadow Cabinet?

Has anyone - apart from ConservativeHome - noticed that the Member for Sevenoaks is pound for pound one of the most effective operators on the Tory benches? He offers a consistently robust Thatcherite critique of Labour's economic failings. As vice-chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, where he plays a nifty bad cop to John McFall's good cop, he has repeatedly skewered Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling, most recently on Northern Rock. Mr Fallon is a canny media operator who manages to generate more coverage than half the Shadow Cabinet.

Ben Brogan

Northern Rock: Spin cycle begins

Late last night, (ignoring traditional rules about making announcements prior to the stock exchange opening, but who in the Treasury cares about that) the Government announced that unless Virgin and the Northern Rock management improved their bids, then Northern Rock will be nationalised. Given that the Rock is already on the public accounts, this is a mis-statement at best. The Rock is already nationalised, all the government are saying is that they will exclude private sector intervention from the future unless the terms are improved.


The case for a written constitution

Does Britain need a written constitution? Traditionally, this isn’t an issue to which the left has paid much attention. Either it has been written off as being of little importance, or else the very concept has been seen as favouring conservative forces in a society. As a result, the ruling class has essentially been able to make up the rules of the political game as it goes along. But with the latest hint from justice secretary Jack Straw that such a development is likely over the next decade or two, it is clearly time to sharpen up our ideas on this one.

Dave’s Part

The government tears up the Bill of Rights

It is typical of this government that Parliament should not be meeting on this day of all days. On 13th February 1689 “the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons assembled at Westminster” presented a declaration to the new sovereigns, King William and Queen Mary. This declaration, known as the Bill of Rights, established Parliamentary supremacy over the Crown in important areas, and guaranteed Parliament’s freedoms .It did so that the people could practise the religion of their choice, avoid arbitrary manipulation of their laws and require redress of ills before they had to pay taxes.

John Redwood

What's driving Ken?

Ken Livingstone's congestion charge policy was established to reduce congestion; now it seems it's about what car you own

Daniel Moylan

This is Gordon Brown's mistake

The chancellor is taking the heat for a U-turn on tax-avoidance by non-doms: but it is the prime minister who should have resisted City bullying

Will Hutton

Spin is alive and kicking at the Treasury

The Treasury spin machine went into overdrive yesterday afternoon to try and water down the significance of Alistair Darling’s u-turn on the taxation of non-doms. Throughout the afternoon, journalists were subject to a range of explanations from supposedly impartial civil servants. First the rules to gain access to offshore trusts and the other assets of non-doms were drawn up by an overeager official who had gone too far. Then, in another call, we were told to believe that there was, in fact, no change to what was originally proposed and yesterday’s announcement was “just a clarification” of what had been said all along.

Three Line Whip

I wish I could fly

This intriguing, if badly-scanned, graph appears in today's Guardian. It's a stark illustration of the pollution caused by the global shipping industry. The darker the area, the more particulate pollution its suffers from - and some of the darker patches overlay major shipping lanes very precisely.

Know Your Place

Archbishop Rowan Firestorm was Started by the BBC before Interview was even Broadcast

Archbishop Rowan Firestorm was Started by the BBC before Interview was even Broadcast

[Update: It appears that this article had a glitch or two in publication, and so there is some undisciplind pinging going on. My apologies.] There’s been a huge media firestorm after the Archbishop of Canterbury’s lecture to lawyers in London, as we all know - and it’s all been blamed on “Rowan’s naivity” or “Rowan’s bad press team” or “what did he expect, mentioning Sharia” or [insert random Rowan-bashing reason here]. After a bit of digging, it turns out that the Beeb was reporting inaccurate statements about “ABC says Sharia is inevitable” even before the interview was broadcast. Rowan (and a well-tempered debate) never had a chance - whether you agree with his line or not.

The Wardman Wire

Matt Wardman accuses the BBC of stirring

Matt Wardman accuses the BBC, in fairly strident terms, of encouraging an unnecessary storm over the Archbishop of Canterbury's words. His evidence for this is pretty weak. Essentially, he has two points. First, that by publishing the story on their website before the interview they pre-empted his interview and thereby prevented people getting the balanced and nuanced account of his opinions that the interview provided. Second, that the website article was distorting.

Sinclair’s Musings

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

The Late Lunch Briefing

Darling In Circles

You put your left leg in. Your left leg out. In. Out. In. Out. You shake it all about.

What is going on at the Treasury? Are we witnesses the most incompetent Chancellor this country has ever seen? So Non Doms won’t be taxed to the back teeth on foreign income or gains not sent to the UK. In fact, apparently it never was going to tax these people. Oh no, the only reason we ever thought that the Treasury would is because they said so... but that was only because of “careless drafting” of an HM Revenue & Customs consultation paper. Careless drafting? You are supposed to running the most important department of in the country – we cannot be doing with careless drafting... or even worse: dithering!

It is no surprise that Darling has changed his mind on this one. It is reported that the change of heart came following a call from George Osborne for Labour to adopt the Tory plan. The Tories driving Labour’s economic policy? Surely not.

The Wooden Chancellor

Of course this isn’t the first U-turn of the “Wooden Chancellor”, Alastair Darling. We have had Northern Rock and the “will it or won’t it” be nationalised drama (for clarity, right now it won’t be nationalised, though it is unlikely that they will accept the Virgin deal, so it probably will be nationalised, but actually no-one has a clue). There has been inheritance tax u-turns. We’ve had the about turn on Capital Gains tax. This list goes on. When you add all this in to the boiling pot that is economic recession and falling house prices, you have to question how long this born loser has left at No.11.

The press, the city, parliament, they are all full of gossip about how Darling might be moved in a Spring/Summer reshuffle. It is something I suspected at my New Year predictions. Even the most ardent of New Labour supporters who has any interest in the well being of the British economy as an International super-power must be worried about this buffoon running our economy. But will he go?

Party Politics before Economics

The problem with Darling going is that it will inflict serious damage on the government. It will be seen as a major scalp by George Osborne and the Tories. It will be reported as a failure of Gordon Brown’s premiership. It will be seen as a clear sign that the economy is in trouble and will only make the situation less stable, purely on lack of confidence driven by a perception. I fear that Brown will save this numskull purely for political reasons – i.e. to save his government and his own bacon.

A plea to you all

The truth is, in the short term there will be damage. But in the medium to long term it surely can only be good for the government and the country. Things are only going to get worse economically and with such a halfwit in charge of our money it will only be magnified. We need a tough, iron chancellor at No.11 and we need it before things spiral out of control. The only way this can happen, however, is if we all applaud Brown doing getting rid of darling rather than make political capital out of it.

So I make plea right now: all anti-Browns, all Tories and Lib Dems, all anti-Darlings and people with half a brain: applaud when Brown sacks this man, encourage him to do so in fact. Make him feel like it is the greatest decision made since Henry V made a few expert judgments and gave the French a jolly good hiding at Agincourt.

Of course, the Tories are such an excitable lot that they will make Brown look like a complete bonehead if he does sack him – and you can hardly blame the Tories for all this mess anyway. So it looks like Darling is here to stay and free to really mess things up... but we can all still hope.

The Poliblogs 13 February 2008

Darling getting it wrong again

Under Blair, Labour was never so foolish as to come into direct conflict with the City. The government tiptoed around it in an effort to nurture the powerhouse of the British economy. But led by Brown, with Darling as Chancellor, they are now clumsily treading on the collective toes of many in the business community.

Adam Smith

Time to go on the offensive on Europe?

It’s pretty much a given in the Liberal Democrats that the party doesn’t talk about Europe in its leaflets. It’s with good cause too. Firstly, it isn’t actually one of the top concerns of voters when they are asked in opinion polls what their biggest issues are. Just like electoral reform, it comes well down the list after all the big ones like health, education, crime, transport and so on. But also, there is an understandable reluctance for Lib Dems to talk about an issue on which it is perceived that the party is out of touch with the voters.

Anders Hanson

Spreading democracy...

Foreign Secretary David Miliband today makes the argument for military intervention to 'spread democracy'. So, according to The Guardian (although it is less than clear in the text) Britain and its partners have a 'moral imperitive' to use force to 'spread democracy'. Gone is the requirement for some sort of facade, no more humanitarian intervention to defeat tyrants terrorising their own people, not even a 'sexed-up' excuse to wipe out fantasy weapons of mass destruction... no, the moral argument for spreading democracy will be sufficient for us to send our forces off to die, and to kill.

Bob Piper

They really don't want you to have a referendum

Labour is clearly rattled by the row over it reneging on its promise of a referendum on the EU Constitution. Not content with threatening to withdraw the whip from Labour MPs who support honouring this manifesto commitment, Labour is engaged in a desperate attempt to discredit the cross-party ‘I want a referendum campaign’.

Coffee House

Should we subsidise the arts?

Should there really be tax breaks for donations to the arts, as Paul Myners and Nicholas Serota demand here? The Pigovian case for such tax breaks is well-known; without them, there’d be an under-supply of such public goods. However, the egalitarian case for such breaks is very shaky, as this recent paper discusses. It argues that donations to the arts can actually increase inequalities of well-being in two ways - even leaving aside the possibility that such donations are really intended to boost the ego of the donor.

Liberal Conspiracy

Frank Field: Right theory, Wrong practice

Labour MP Frank Field has had to put up with a lot over the years - not least being ousted from Blair's first government for being too radical and since then being treated by his own side as if he's about to defect to the Conservatives. Well, today Frank launched rather interested reform plans that would charge people who earn over £150,000 a year an extra 10% tax which could be offset totally through donations to charity. You can read the BBC report here.

Little’s Log

Foul emission in London

Up in London the Livingstone beast is at it again. He is going to charge the owners of Chelsea Tractors £25 a day for taking their gas guzzlers into “town”. It will not affect me. I have only driven in London twice in the last six months and the Crippen Toyota Previa (four children, Ken, what else can we do?) has relatively modest emissions. As Iain Dale vehemently points out, the charge will not apply in some of the most congested parts of London, such as Crouch End and Willesdon. The people most affected will be voting for Boris anyway.

NHS Blog Doctor

Prime Minister Balls?

In a fascinating post, Robert shows how the Tories are doing Alistair Darling harm by sympathising with him. The Chancellor may be replaced by Ed Balls so they present Darling as a decent man treated awfully by bossy Brown. They want to spread discord and paranoia because it suits their own ends. But at the root of the Balls for Chancellor movement, is a prospect even more worrying for the nation: it is that Ed Balls appears convinced he is the natural next Labour leader. Can I be alone in finding this idea preposterous?

Three Line Whip

Voodoo polling corner

A sudden outbreak of voodoo polling this morning, or more to the point a sudden outbreak of serious newspapers reporting a voodoo poll as being meaningful. What’s a voodoo poll? It’s what Bob Worcester calls the little “press the red button to vote” polls on Sky News, or the little readers’ votes things on the BBC website. They are entertaining enough, but they mean nothing whatsoever, they don’t measure the opinion of a representative group of people, they only measure the opinions of people who wander past that particular website (or are directed to said website by people trying to influence the poll) and care enough about the issue to vote…often several times if they know how to delete cookies from their computer.

Polling Report

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Politics Decoded...

... is up at The Wire

The Poliblogs 12 February 2008

Will Gordon speak up for his Chancellor?

This is a dangerous week for Alistair Darling. It's half term at Westminster, not much is going on, and when things are quiet there's mischief about. Put together the dire headlines for the Chancellor yesterday and today (Not just "Knives out as Darling loses trust of City" - Sunday Times; "Why Darling is a menace to Britain" - William Rees-Mogg; "Darling's confidence seems misplaced" - Anatole Kaletsky; but more importantly the FT/Telegraph pincer movement on non-doms) and you get a picture of trouble.

Ben Brogan

Booze: Is Bottler Brown Dithering?

On the day three scumbag yobs were jailed for kicking Garry Newlove to death in what the judge called a night of "drunken aggression", you might have expected the Government to signal a crackdown on cheap booze. But you'd be wrong. My narks in the Treasury tell me the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, is unlikely to hammer cheap beers and lagers sold in supermarkets with big tax increases in his Budget on March 12.

Boulton & Co.

Sharing The Proceeds Of Growth

Take a look at the chart. It shows how much of our GDP has been spent by government under each of our last six Prime Ministers (counting the 1974-79 administration as one). 44 years ago when Harold Wilson first took the controls, government spent 38%. This year, it expects to spend 42% (£589bn), but the path from 1964 has been extraordinarily bumpy, and back in the mid-70s they spent 50% (we're using HM Treasury's figures on Total Managed Expenditure- TME). Where will the line go next?

Burning Our Money

And the brass neck of the year award goes to...

If there is an award for a brass neck of 2008, George Osborne has just done enough to win in. First, he proposes a tax on the non-doms (which I critiqued at the time). Then, Darling nicks it in his infamous magpie budget. Then, it becomes clear this daft proposal will simply drive away the highly-mobile millionaires resulting in a net loss to the Exchequer. Today Osborne has written an “open letter” to Darling asking him to repeal this proposal for all the harm it will do. A proposal which he was complaining was nicked from him. Of course winning parties tend to have brass necks – and Osborne’s cheek is far preferable to the pusillanimous approach of previous Shadow Chancellors. But what a cheek it is.

Coffee House

Dr Martin Parsons: Gordon Brown’s hypocrisy in condemning the Archbishop's sharia comments

On Thursday Gordon Brown’s spokesman denounced Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ claim that the introduction of sharia to the UK was inevitable. However, Gordon Brown himself has been quietly seeking to appease certain aspects of the agenda of 'peaceful' Islamist groups in the UK - including what amounts to a partial implementation of sharia.

Conservative Home

Should Labour adopt all-black shortlists?

If not positive discrimination, then what? An internal Labour Party report on increasing black representation in parliament – written by Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote – is recommending that current law be changed to allow all black shortlists for parliamentary selections. This is a proposal I am instinctively uneasy with, largely because I can remember the way positive discrimination worked in local government and the voluntary sector in the 1980s, before being subsequently outlawed. In particular, I recall watching one young Asian woman – a pleasant enough human being, as it goes, who co-habbed with a pal of mine for a while – enjoy a string of rapid promotions to jobs that were on any fair judgement beyond her capabilities, until she predictably came rather spectacularly unstuck.

Dave’s Part

Clegg's first 50 days

The new leader of the Liberal Democrats has made a steady start but he should now exploit Cameron's weaknesses

James Graham

Censoring the interweb

I was stuck at the back of an inordinately long queue in the central Post Office yesterday so naturally I picked up the in-house magazine, put there to divert customers' attention from the fact that their lunch break is being frittered away, whilst half of the counter positions remain unstaffed. Inside was a feature asking people's views as to whether the internet should be censored. Presumably, the editor felt that it would make a good talking point. Unfortunately, none of the proffered arguments convinced me.

Peter Black

Why Lynton Crosby will encourage me to bet on Boris?

Is Ken being ousted the best bet around at the moment? Cards on the table straight-away: quite simply I believe that the 1.84/1 that’s available on Boris Johnson to win the London Mayoralty is by far the best value political bet that’s currently available. Last October I pocketed £3,400 on Gordon’s general election U-turn and in the coming eleven weeks I’ll be investing at least half of that on Boris - when the prices are right. As Sean Fear observed in his excellent analysis on Friday Ken won last time thanks to the fact that many non-Labour voters in the GLA election opted to split their ticket and vote for Ken in the Mayoral race.

Political Betting

Do the Tories need a change of tactics?

Mick Fealty at Brassneck has a very good take on the Tories' discussion on whether or not they should be bolder in taking on Brown. "Cameron and Osbourne are in tight, working hard and lacing the Brown Government with short body blows, none of which looks remotely like taking down the old Scots slugger. It may be that they need to stand off and offer a fresh perspective on that most ancient and pivotal of political arguments, tax."

Three Line Whip

Mayor unveils programme to transform cycling and walking in London

Ken Livingstone today announced the most ambitious programme to transform walking and cycling in London’s history. The package of measures will create a new network of quick, simple, and safe routes for cyclists and pedestrians that will change the profile and priority of walking and cycling on London's streets.

Theo’s Blog