Archive for March, 2009


Could the G20 protests be the main story?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Will the police measures distract attention from the meeting itself

With world leaders arriving in London for Thursday’s G20 meeting in the capital a big police operation is going on to ensure that the gathering itself can take place in relative peace and safety.

Given the bomb attacks in London in July 2005 when the G8 meeting was taking place in Gleneagles there’s obviously a worry about police over-stretch.

Meanwhile the person ostensibly in charge of all of this, Jacqui Smith, has her own problems to deal.

All the parties have their own political agenda and, of course, David Cameron has been given a boost by being invited to a private meeting with Barack Obama.

Whatever we are in for an interesting few days.

  • Our cartoon, the first for a while, is by Marf. More of her work can be found at Welcome back Marf – you have been missed.

  • h1

    Is being an MP really on par with a GP or a school head?

    Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

    What do MPs do to justify all their cash?

    This morning Ermintrude made a point that is worth its own thread – what is it that MPs do to justify all the cash that they get.

    Expressing the hope that a realistic appraisal of an MPs role should come out of this mess he wrote: “What bugs me is the frequent suggestion that their jobs are equivalent to other professional like headteachers or GPs. They’re not.”

    This reminds me of one of my all-time favourite contributions to PB. A couple of years ago a new party was set up called “Save Bedford Hospital” and looked ready to eat into Labour’s vote in this marginal constituency. The consultant who was running it got a lot of media attention and after one such appearance Roger came up with the brilliant damning observation – “..well after hearing XXXX I’d much prefer to have him as my MP than my doctor”.

    One of the hard things in assessing an MPs role is that much of their time is taken with party political matters or electioneering – things that shouldn’t be paid for.

    On how they vote there’s a whole apparatus is each parliamentary group thinking that one through and from the whips’ perspective their function is to do as they are told.

    What about case-work? I’m sure all MPs receive a lot of correspondence and quite a few requests from constituents asking for help over one thing or another. But how big a burden is this and how much of it is really directed to the party political side of their work?

    And if case-work was so burdensome how come that well in excess of 100 MPs are able to take on paid extra work as ministers of one sort or another?

    The big test would be whether the “quality of MPs”, however you want to measure that, is affected by how much cash is thrown at them? Well there does not seem to be a shortage of people wanting to change places with them.

    My solution on the second home issue is to allow the equivalent cost of a maximum of four nights a week at the Days Inn Westminster during the period when the house is sitting. A perfectly good hotel and maybe we could add on a fiver a night for the odd “premium” movie.

    So what do you think – how much should an MP get paid? With the latest increase announced yesterday it will be just under £65,000 a year. Is that too high or too low? Let’s see what the PB community thinks.

    What do you think the annual salary of an MP should be?
    0 – 24999 pounds a year
    25,000 – 34,999 pounds a year
    35,000 – 44,999 pounds a year
    45,000 – 54,999 pounds a year
    55,000 – 64,999 pounds a year
    65,000 – 74,999 pounds a year
    75,000 – 84,999 pounds a year
    85,000 – 94,999 pounds a year
    95,000 – 104,999 pounds a year
    105,000 pounds a year or more


    Will Gord regret not sacking Jacqui?

    Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

    Has he become distracted by the G20 meeting?

    Well here we are – another day of appalling front pages for MPs in the tabloid press as the Jacqui Smith porn issue rumbles on and outline details of expenses for every single MPs are published.

    What then will be the overall impact on the outcome of the general election? Will it all be forgotten about in a few days or is this another boost for the opposition – particularly the Tories?

    I think we will look back on yesterday and conclude that Brown made a serious mistake in not demanding Jacqui Smith’s immediate resignation. Her porn on the public purse is the story that is resonating and one that will blow up time and time again. It is hard to see how she can function in such a sensitive role as home secretary with this hanging round her neck.

    Brown had a chance yesterday morning to close down the issue and appear decisive on the whole expenses explosion. This would have taken out much of the sting and the message would have been that the PM is firm on such matters. If Cameron had been in the same position then I think he would have been brutal, perhaps even over-brutal.

    As it is Brown could now appear to be weak and ineffective in dealing with the explosion of stories on MP expenses that we’ll see in the coming days and weeks.

    What the mass publication of data does is to create local issue in every single seat up and down the country and we should expect further nasties to emerge. What a gift if you are campaigning to unseat an incumbent in a marginal seat.

    Not only can you attack the individual MP for his/her custodianship of public money you can also point ot the weakness of the PM on the matter.

    Could it be that Gord has been so focussed on this week’s G20 meeting that his eye has not been on the ball? I think so.


    ComRes has Labour back in the 20s

    Monday, March 30th, 2009

    CON 40(-1) LD 18(+1) LAB 28(-2)

    But could there be no votes for Labour in the G20 meeting?

    What should be the final poll for March, ComRes for the Indy, is now out and shows a small increase in the Tory lead – although the shares of both the main parties slipped on the last polls from the pollster a week and a half ago.

    The notable feature is the high figure for “others” 14% which shows the Greens and SNP on 3% with the BNP on 2%. Only three people in the whole survey said UKIP and they were given a rounded up 1%.

    In other questions the poll asked for voters’ views ahead of this week’s G20 meeting there are three findings that might cause concern at Brown Central.

    Brown “has the right policies to get Britain out of recession” – Agree 31%: Disagree 58%

    Brown “should focus more on finding a domestic solution to the economic crisis than a global one” – Agree 72%: Disagree 22%

    I am optimistic that the economy will improve before the end of this year” – Agree 27%: Disagree 70%

    So the Tory lead extends and every single poll in 2009 has had Cameron’s party in 40s. Something dramatic needs to happen for this to be turned round and it’s very hard to work out what that, if anything, could be.

    Looking at the detail a key factor remains the difference between the parties on “certainty to vote”. Tory supporters records 65%, Lib Dem 63% while only 45% of those saying they were voting Labour were certain to turn-out.


    PB Poll: Is Jacqui Smith going to survive?

    Monday, March 30th, 2009
    Will Jacqui Smith still be Home Secretary on General Election day?
    YES she will
    NO she won’t

    Ladbrokes has Jacqui at evens on being still in the job at the end of the year. James Purnell is the 8/1 second favourite.

    William Hill Politics make it 4/6 that she’ll be out by the end of the year.

    I got 6/4 on Smith not making it to the general election last November and I’ve got £10 on at 100/1 that the Home Secretary on News Year’s eve will be David Blunkett.


    Continuation thread: a mercy election?

    Monday, March 30th, 2009

    Who will put the Gvt out of their misery?

    If I were a better person, I might feel a little more sympathy for some of our Labour MPs. The last fortnight has damaged, in no particular order, Tony McNulty, anyone related to Jacqui Smith, Harry Cohen, Dawn Butler and some of the other London MPs, Nigel Griffiths and now 5 other MPs who think they might recognise that brunette who was so forgettable that the Rt Hon Member for Edinburgh South needed to take some photos to remember Remembrance Day.

    I’m not a better person, and the furthest I’m prepared to go in sympathy is to ponder the following:

    If the election really is next Spring/Summer, can Labour actually handle having more weeks like the last one? Does any party have the mental fortitude to endure more and worse revelations about ‘private’ conduct and sleaze? Is staying in Government one more year really worth the damage to personal reputation that is likely to hit dozens more MPs until they give up power?

    The Labour line has been that things might be better by next year. In reality, I think it more likely that the Conservatives’ 13-point lead becomes 20-points than that it shrinks to just 6 points. Things could get much, much worse – and the price of staying on is likely to be brutal, unless we think that revelations of sleaze are now exhausted.

    If the Labour Government was a living creature, we’d be talking about a mercy killing. If they want to avoid the most unbearable year of their lives, I’d suggest that a lot of Labour MPs might want to start lobbying for a mercy election.



    To go or not to go..

    Monday, March 30th, 2009

    Isn’t now the time to draw some distance?

    Two of my favourite political writers, Allegra Stratton in the Guardian and James Forsyth over at the Spectator’s Coffee House blog, have picked up a tentative alliance that they believe is being woven between Jon Cruddas and James Purnell, with a view to the Labour leadership.

    Leaving aside the technicality that there is no vacancy, and no election may be called for over a year, all eyes it seems are on the battle that will wage to succeed Gordon Brown when he leaves office and presumably resigns as Party Leader.

    I have plenty of time for Jon Cruddas – he comes across as a decent and honest man, and I liked his insistance that, if elected Deputy Leader of the Party, he would not want or accept the postion of Deputy PM. He has an authenticity, an of-the-Party feel about him, that is perhaps less obvious with some of the other candidates (perhaps all except Johnson). I presume that he still wants to reform the Party from Harriet Harman’s office, and that he recognises this can best be achieved by acting as kingmaker – strengthening the hand of an otherwise able candidate who could never appeal to Cruddas’ base of support.

    If he has picked Purnell, and stranger alliances were mooted last Autumn (David Miliband and Alan Johnson, anyone?), I think he has picked well. Purnell has timed his ascent well, refused to be moved from the DWP last October when there were rumours of a reshuffle, and has acquitted himself better than most of his Cabinet colleagues in the last 12 months. I was alarmed that he removed his sideburns on the advice of a media consultant (those leeches are not friendly to hirsute preauricular expression), but compared to the competition I believe he is saleable to the public – his weakness is the open question of whether he has a powerbase within the party.

    There is one thing I cannot understand. Given that Labour failing to retain their majority at the next election (followed by a leadership contest) is considered almost certain by most, and given that association with the Brown regime will be toxic for many of those candidates, why are none of the hopefuls accepting some time on the backbenches for the sake of credibility?

    I cannot feign a tenth of the insight into Labour Party politics as someone such as HenryG, but it seems to me a general rule that when unpopular governments fall, their leaders and those close to them are tarred and damaged. Conversely, on the rare occasions that government ministers have seen fit to resign on principle, they are lionised both within the party and by the voting public. John Denham was largely unknown to the public prior to his resignation over the Iraq War. Robin Cook’s reputation was certainly not hurt by his preparedness to speak truth to power, even if that rehabilitation in some quarters was expedited by his untimely death.

    There are some candidates, Harriet Harman in particular, who will by neccessity and temperament retain seniority as long as possible and seek to consolidate their status in the leadership election. Some, like David Miliband, could perhaps not afford to build from the backbenches – to abandon the pretence of being the heir-apparent would not serve him well. Yet for a comparatively young Secretary of State, who can already claim to have run one of the largest departments, the frontbench of a dying regime has little to offer.

    I can understand that James Purnell has work he must want to finish at the DWP, and I can understand how counter-intuitive it must seem to seek demotion as part of an aspiration to leadership, but I honestly believe he would be best served by creating distance between himself and the Prime Minister as soon as possible. He has built a media profile, but they are not yet sick of the sight of him. He has gained top-level experience, but not yet run a department into the ground. If he steps back now, with the support of the Cruddas wing, I think he could steal the leadership from Harriet Harman and the other hopefuls.

    It would be bold, but then that is the mantra that always worked for the Blairite wing: at their best, when at their boldest.



    The Jacqui Smith continuation thread

    Sunday, March 29th, 2009

    Coffee House

    Once again… can she survive?… and is Darling in trouble too?

    From James Forsyth at the Spectator’s Coffee House blog:

    “These revelations are so damaging because they will lead to the voters just laughing at the government. When the electorate rages at a government, its members can at least console themselves they are being taken seriously. But when they are being mocked, there is no such consolation… Labour should prepare itself for a year that will be even more humiliating for it than the last year of the Major government with all its tabloid tales of Tory sleaze was for the Conservatives.”

    Latest prices on Home Secretary at the end of the year are here – Smith is quoted at 11-10, but if you believe that she won’t last the year and the GE is 2010, how about Purnell at 10-1, Ed Miliband at 12’s, or maybe even Johnson and Denham both at 20?

    Meanwhile, Alistair Darling may be in trouble too, over the collapse of the Dunfermline Building Society, with its chairman appearing to say that the Treasury have been lying about him. Fraser Nelson wonders if there could be serious implications for the Chancellor:

    “Conspiracy theorists will note that, if he has slipped, it will be a good time for No 10 to send the dogs after him – punishing him for his collusion with Mervyn King over trying to stop Brown launching a second stimulus. I would not be surprised if some knives come out for Darling now: this is how Brown operates. This story may just be the opening that Brown’s attack dogs need.”

    International round-up:

    Double Carpet

    Editor’s Note: Mike should be back on the site by late afternoon tomorrow