No Olivant branch for Northern Rock
In addition to the poor pun; this is quite bad news for the government and taxpayers. Olivant was the financial engineering bid, the one that would make the numbers add up before all else. Branson's bid has a big element of investing faith in the Virgin brand to make a turnaround. We know that this does work spectacularly sometimes, but there are a quite number of failures on the route too. I don't see too many crowing about the Virgin Media success story.
MPs' Expenses Inquiry: I Predict a Whitewash
I've just been on the phone home, when my partner told me that the BBC were reporting that Speaker Michael Martin had launched a "root and branch" investigation into MPs' expenses. Good, I thought. It's about time too. Most MPs would admit that the whole system is creaking and is open to misinterpretation. Better look up the detail, I thought. And so I came to THIS BBC Online report - and my heart sank.
MPs: Taking the Michael
Norman Baker, as always, got it exactly right on PM. Speaking of MPs who claim their mortgage payments for London second properties and then sell those properties at a profit when they cease to be MPs, he said: "That's unethical". It is very welcome that Norman, speaking in a personal capacity, we were told, put it so bluntly.
"Secretive and bizarre" decision-making
Perversely, we can find no corresponding report in the Committee’s website. Its latest production there is dated 29 January and does not overtly deal with the issue to hand. This notwithstanding, the Western Mail story tells us that the Committee is urging greater openness about the actions of the European Council. It also complains that parliaments in some of the other member states are given access to draft European Council documents which our local government withholds from the House of Commons.
Something's bugging me...
Sometimes in this job you stumble into a subject about which you know very little and emerge, well, confused. Then you suddenly realise that this is entirely intentional. Clarity is sometimes the last thing government's want when handling tricky questions. So it is has been over the years with the issue of bugging MPs (or intercepting their communications which, I now realise, is very different). To be fair to the Justice Secretary Jack Straw if you listened to him very carefully and then read what he had to say several times the fog did begin to clear (a little).
The Wilson doctrine is to protect MPs from subversion by rogue elements in the security services, but not to give them immunity from all surveillance
Why is there such a furore over the bugging of Sadiq Khan [Labour MP for Tooting]? He wasn't being bugged, but the person he was visiting. That he is an MP should make absolutely no difference.
Policing the Surveillance Rules and House Rules Parliament
The Wilson Doctrine states that privileged conversations of Westminster MPs and Peers should not be bugged. This morning I heard on Radio 4 a description of why the security apparatus had kept quiet when this happened: “We didn’t tell them about it becuse then we’d have to have admitted what we have done”. And - as far as I know - that is the story under both shades of government in the UK, and so is a non-partisan civil liberties question. But the problem is similar to that of seeking a more acceptable set of principles, rules and structures for managing expenses and all the rest in the Houses of Parliament.
The reassertion of our social democracy
Labour project has demonstrated anything, it has underlined just how far British politics has become de-ideologised. No longer do the mainstream parties fight on the basis of competing visions for society, even to the limited extent that they did in the late 1980s, let alone the period of polarisation between Thatcherism and Bennism that immediately preceded the Kinnock years.
Can Labour regain the moral high ground?
Can high level resignations be avoided if Labour is to have any hope of regaining the moral high ground it sought in the run up to the 1997 landslide General election result? The Conway affair exposed by journalists has left all three mainstream political parties wanting. My wife and I took our 10-year old niece to a highly entertaining production of Aladdin by the Castle Players in Lytchett hall in Dorset on Saturday. It is a long way from Westminster, but they are on the button when it comes to the political issues of the day.
Does Ken Livingstone deserve to stay Mayor?
That’s the question I’ve been grappling with for the past few weeks… maybe even months. Long before the allegations appeared in the ‘Evening Boris (Standard)’ newspaper and Martin Bright’s Dispatches documentary on Channel 4, I had been pointing out here that Livingstone was happy hosting events for fundamentalist Sikh and Hindu groups without learning of their background (let alone cosying up to the MCB!).
Tories shrug off Conway affair in new Populus poll (revised)
Tory lead boosted to 9% in spite of problems. The figures from this month’s Populus poll for the Times are just out and show an increase in the Tory lead. The shares are CON 40% (nc): LAB 31% (-2): LD 17% (-2). The Tory share of 40% equals the best the pollster has recorded since the general election and the nine point margin is the best. I go back to the point that I repeatedly raise - that Tory poll ratings are closely linked to the volume of media coverage the party is getting - good or bad. What Conway has done has put the party back in the headlines again.
Fly away, Wendy
The Scottish Labour leader was once admired for loathing sleaze. Now her party badly needs her to show a sense of moral purpose by resigning