30 April 2009

Brown plays politics with swine flu

There is just no stopping the man, even when it comes to public health..  A swine flu alert was delayed by several hours, so Brown could make the announcement at PMQs:

Councillors in the Devon resort learnt at 8.30am yesterday that Amy Whitehouse, 12, had tested positive for the virus after a holiday in Mexico.

Yet although the decision was quickly taken to close down Paignton Community and Sports College, where she is a Year 7 student, parents complained that the first they heard about the school closure was on the lunchtime news after Mr Brown's announcement.

Dr Sarah Harrison, public health consultant for Torbay, said the timing did not affect officials' actions.  However:

This was a national incident and the timing of the announcement was an order that came from above.

What a tragedy Brown is, and truly sad he he has to resort to play politics with swine flu.

Digg This

Confusion on MPs’ expenses

Earlier this afternoon Iain Dale posted:

Tory MPs have just been paged to say that there won't be any votes on expenses because the Government has accepted Sir George Young's amendment which seeks to refer everything to the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

I am sure Iain reported what he thought was reliable information.

Later five votes take place and the Government win the them all by large margins.  The changes will be deferred and could be reserved when the CSPL reports later this year.  Confusion reigns.

Picking up on Iain’s point. Did the Government whips spread misinformation that there would not be any votes so Tory MPs would go home, ensuring Brown would win handsomely?

I am all at sea.  Help please.

Digg This

Good grief. Can this be true?

The Mail is not a paper I read or care for much.  Coffee House has brought my attention to this story on the subject of the day:

The three unnamed backbenchers are said to have been placed on 'suicide watch' by Labour whips, who fear they might break down when the details of their excesses come out.

Two are understood to have had extra-marital affairs with other members of Parliament.

Not only are they believed to have shared hotel rooms during annual conference get-togethers and party away days but also to have double-claimed for the rooms on their expenses.

If both MPs have claimed for the bill they will be branded frauds as well as love cheats when journalists and freedom of information campaigners sift through their receipts.

The third backbencher is said to have made 'grotesque' financial claims.

A Commons source told the Mail: 'The whips have three Labour MPs on suicide watch. That's how serious this scandal is. The whips believe they might kill themselves.’

Are we are being spun the line that we should take it easy when we attack our elected representatives, otherwise matters could well take a turn of the worse?   Possibly so.

Digg This

Nick Robinson’s quote of the day


The BBC’s political editor is back from the footy and has blogged about about Brown’s plight:

Authority, unlike virginity, can be regained. After all, Gordon Brown did just that last year - in part by appointing Peter Mandelson to the cabinet. However, as Lady Bracknell might have said to lose it once may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose it twice begins to look like carelessness.

Nick Robinson has spoken.  Once you loss your virginity, you can’t get it back.  Now you know.

Digg This

Is Tom Harris MP voting today?

A tired and emotional Tom Harris posted a very ill judged piece on his blog in the early hours on the Gurkha vote, which he has now apologised for.

Tom has also twittered that he has setting up a new Mac in his constituency office today.  One assumes from this that he will not be voting on the reform of MPs’ expenses today?

Tom, as you have plenty of time on hands perhaps you would like to give us your thoughts on the present problems of your party and how these can be resolved.

Let’s hear your solutions Tom!

Digg This

Mandelson: I am looking forward to a sunny weekend

Speaking on the Today programme, Mandy said:

It is in indeed turning into a bit of a week.

He also mentioned that he was looking forward to a sunny Bank Holiday weekend.  More importantly, Mandy didn't appear confident that Brown would win the vote on MPs’ expenses and allowances. Oh dear.

In reality the vote today is a sideshow.  Brown has already lost his authority no matter what happens.

Digg This

Do Labour MPs have courage?

Following John Rentoul’s article on Sunday, which I offered comment on, he has a further piece in Indy this morning, which is deadly for Brown:

The Prime Minister has lost his way. He has lost his place in the script. You know it is over when Nick Clegg cuts it as a figure of moral authority, and Brown is reduced to making up numbers such as £1.4bn as the cost of allowing all 36,000 Gurkhas the right to live here. Even if it did come to £1.4bn, which is doubtful, why should we draw the line there, after £175bn of fiscal stimulus, on the one immigration issue on which even Empire loyalists are on the liberal side of the argument?

Brown has lost the argument about the Gurkhas so comprehensively that David Cameron did not even need to rehearse his Mr Angry act. He did Mr Bipartisan instead, congratulating Clegg for setting the pace on the issue. It was a smart bit of tactical cross-party generosity that diminished Brown further.

No, you know it is over when BBC journalists start interviewing each other about how much the Prime Minister's "authority" has been reduced.

I have argued on this blog that Alan Johnson is Labour's best hope.  John again suggests this, saying he probably will not avert a Labour defeat.  Agreed.

Where I do take issue is that Labour under Johnson can stagger on until 2010.  This is just not plausible.  Alan Johnson will have to call an election in October.  The electorate will not stomach two un-elected prime ministers in the same full term parliament.  Johnson’s hope is to get a sufficient bounce in the polls that mitigates against a Labour meltdown.

Brown has failed as prime minister and is ridiculed repeatedly.  Yesterdays incident in Commons was just another in a long line of pubic embarrassments.

The only issue that remains is whether Labour MPs have the courage to do what is necessary.  The truth is they have no alternative.

Digg This

Nick Robinson’s away day

The BBC’s political editor decided to take himself off to the the football in Manchester on the day the government was defeated over the Gurkhas.  He makes this point on his blog:

It is proof, if any were needed, that away from the economy the prime minister is consistently misjudging issues.

Brown is not the only one misjudging issues.

I find it appalling that the BBC’s senior political reporter decides to absent himself from Westminster on this of all days.  He is paid taxpayers money to report on the major political stories, not from train going to the football, but from Westminster.

Perhaps it was time Robinson spent more time at the football, and the BBC employed someone who wouldn't mind being a full-time political editor.

Digg This

29 April 2009

What will now happen on Thursday?

After a further erosion to Brown’s authority before, during and after the Gurkhas debate, what will happen on Thursday when MPs vote on expenses?  My guess is those 27 Labour rebels have given momentum to MPs that think Parliament should decide and not be dictated by the Executive.  We shall see if the Commons Standards Committee motion is carried.

The issue of the Gurkhas showed that not only did Brown misread the mood of the House but of the country as well.  You can’t play politics with soldiers lives.

Well done to Nick Clegg.  No doubt the Gurkha debate may have forged a working relationship with Cameron on certain issues like expenses, but this should be taken too far.  The polls are not indicating anything other than a decisive Tory victory at the election.

Digg This

Has Brown been told that it will be June?

Putting aside the two issues of the day, swine fever and the Gurkhas, Brown looked and sounded very downbeat at PMQs.  At the end of the session he couldn't even remember that he was to make a statement on Pakistan and Afghanistan, and started to walkout until being called by the Speaker.  Another YouTube classic can be added to the list.

No doubt he is hearing about what has been going on whilst he has been away.  There is nothing new in what Jon Craig is saying, except that he is quoting the thoughts of an MP on when Brown will go:

We've got to have a strategy in place for the day after the local government elections," said my MP, a minister under Tony Blair and admittedly not one of Gordon Brown's biggest fans.

"He can't see that he's the problem," the MP went on. "He's going to destroy all our achievements.


Many MPs favour Alan Johnson, currently displaying his warm, reassuring bedside manner to the nation as the Health Secretary leading the fight against swine flu.

HMQ better clear her diary.  The week beginning 8th June will be one to remember.

PS. How I wish that I had put a bet when I first raised the subject of Brown being replaced!  Such is life.

UPDATE: LabourList and LabourHome are now debating Brown’s leadership.

Digg This

Coded words from Hazel Blears

Apparently, the small and perfectly formed Hazel Blears is to say that the recession can bring communities together.  These little nuggets stand out:

It can be a catalyst for communities to come together.


Our welfare system must not allow anyone to withdraw from society as the consequence of forced withdrawal from the labour market.

Is she referring to communities or giving her take on the polls, and in the second quote voicing her worries about Gordon’s future?  She should be more explicate!


Digg This

Tom Watson MP has made an error on his blog

Tom Watson MP, the minister closely implicated with “McBridegate”, has a blog post entitled, Paul Mason: Meltdown.

I am just wondering if Paul Mason is the codeword used when No10 wish to refer to his boss.

Digg This

Will Gordon be right on swine flu before leaving Downing Street?

We all remember what our fatally wounded leader said about the recession.  With only a few weeks to go before his final visit to HMQ, Moses has spoken out on Swine flu:

We have been preparing for this kind of scenario for many years. Britain is among the best prepared countries in the world. I do urge people to follow the advice from the Department of Health.  We, together with the World Health Organisation and our partners in Europe and internationally, will continue to take all the urgent action that is necessary to halt the spread of this virus.

We can only pray that he is right for once.

Digg This

28 April 2009

After Thursday, will Brown have any authority left?

The FT Westminster blog has posted this:

The powerful standards and privileges committee, which represents four parties, will table an amendment on Thursday calling on Gordon Brown to allow an independent review of expenses to conclude before passing reforms.

An intervention from as important a committee as this (it basically looks at complaints over breaches of rules) is almost certain to win wide support in the Commons. It is highly likely that Gordon Brown will be forced to withdraw the face saving compromise he cooked up last night. The great and the good of the Commons have spoken. It will be a humiliating decision, but the prime minister has little other choice.

The post has been updated saying the vote will go ahead, and that the Tory frontbench will be backing part of the Brown reform package

Should the Standards and Privileges Committee amendment be carried, then Brown’s authority will finally be eroded.

Digg This

The ‘I Can’t Stand Brown Society’ gains momentum

After Stephen Byers hit Brown’s 50p tax policy for six, another member of the ‘I Can’t Stand Brown Society’ speaks out.  This time it is Charles Clarke on MPs’ expenses:

On these kind of political solutions he's got to recognise that these are House of Commons matters and he's got to not bully in the way he goes about it.

If you just pick up the newspaper one morning and see you are being asked to do something, that's simply not the way to conduct politics.

It's very damaging. I hope he'll now take the opportunity to pull the proposed vote on Thursday altogether.

Just to add to Brown’s welcome home David Blunkett, who dreamt up the idea of ID cards, has now said they should be dropped.

So while Brown has been away, three senior ex-Cabinet ministers have directly criticised Brown and the policies that he is pursuing.

One more matter.  Mandy appears to have disappeared from few since his weekend interview with The Times.  Perhaps he is putting the succession strategy together.  One can only hope so.

Digg This

Campbell dances around Labour's problem

On the face of it, what Alastair Campbell says on his blog about the 50p tax issue makes much sense:

So in a nutshell 'the new top rate is a manifesto breach, and nobody likes to break manifesto  promises. That we have done so is a sign of how extraordinary are these economic times. This is a measure to raise money, not a shift in our stance on enterprise, because business and enterprise are central to national recovery. It has to be seen in the round, with all the other measures we are taking to  try to lead Britain through the recession. These are uncertain times and we cannot guarantee success, but we believe this is the best response at this time to deal with the worst effects of a global crisis and its impact on Britain.

The problem is that his suggestion would have to come from Brown’s lips and nobody would believe a word.  It is well established that Moses used the 50p tax rate to create a dividing line with Tories, and, more importantly, that is what everyone believes.  If Campbell thinks the toothpaste can be put back in the tube he is mistaken.

Campbell needs to tackle Labour’s fundamental problem, one Gordon Brown, and stop dancing around issue.

Digg This

The final solution: Find Blair a safe seat


While Brown fiddles around in Downing Street silencing his YouTube critics and deciding on the next tactical move in his last desperate attempt to wrong-foot the Tories, the rumour mill moves up a gear.  Today brings news that Cabinet rebels (this must be assumed to mean all members apart from Brown) want ID cards scrapped, together with the £25bn replacement for Trident.  Let us not be detained any longer by the rights and wrongs of major planks of New Labour's agenda being tossed into the skip.  Oh no, we must move on to far more weightier matters.

Listen up.  Rumours are circulating that another Honorary Life Member of the ‘I Can’t Stand Brown Society’ is thinking of giving up his position and returning to the front line.  The Daily Mirror reveals that John Reid will make a comeback in the June reshuffle.  The assumption being that Brown will still be sitting in the Cabinet Room to make the offer of renewed friendship.

There is of course a much better idea that Labour should actively consider.  Toss out the present Cabinet and restate all surviving members who took office in 1997.  Furthermore, Blair should be found a safe seat and dragged back into Downing Street with Alastair Campbell hanging on for dear life.

While all this is going on, Cameron will climb ever higher in the polls whist he maps out his plans for the UK with Boris Johnson and Alan Sugar holding his hands.

Digg This

27 April 2009

Brown is totally humiliated

After Moses climbed down on MPs’ second homes allowance he decide to pen a letter to Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the Committee on Standards on Public Life:

I would ask the Committee on Standards in Public Life to come forward with its proposals on this issue as soon as possible and preferably before the summer recess, taking into account MPs' attendance at Westminster, the need for transparency and accountability and the desire to reduce the existing limits on the allowances which MPs may claim, producing overall cost savings.

In his reply, Sir Christopher said the issues were "not simple" and that "making recommendations based on evidence is key if we are to put forward a workable and credible package of changes".  He added:

We aim to complete our review as early as we can consistent with doing a thorough job.

In other words, Sir Chris will do it his way and not by the summer recess.

To add to Brown’s gloom, the latest poll is hardly what was expected after the budget:

CON 45%(+5), LAB 26%(-2), LDEM 17%(-1)

If that was not enough, Brown’s Rt. Hon. friend Stephen Byers MP decided to make a less than tactful speech in the Commons today.

I assume Brown is coming back from his away day, although his reasons for doing so are unknown.

Digg This

More nails in Brown’s coffin

While Nick Robinson continues to do Brown’s bidding in Kabul, Michael Crick is reporting that Moses has had to abandon his plans to reform MPs’ second home allowance.

There is no stopping Brown in a further attempt to deflect attention from his domestic troubles as he attempts to save the world once again.  As Con Coughlin correctly states, what is needed is action and troops on the ground, not more spin and fine words.

The away day then took a bad turn during the second leg to Islamabad.  The Pakistani president is upset with Moses describing his country as the “epicentre of terrorism’.  In a snub to Brown, the joint press conference will now be held with the Pakistani prime minister. There are more details on the farcical day out if you can be bothered.

Oh dear.  On the one hand we have a rather undiplomatic day in the sun.  On the other, Brown’s credibility is now further undermined by his total misjudgement in attempting to force through changes to MPs expenses without first consulting the other parties.

I will now join the Lord West school of betting.  What are the odds that there will be one final journey down The Mall in June?

Digg This

Cameron should concentrate on the economy


Cameron has decided to re-launch a campaign calling for a referendum on the EU Treaty.  Lobbydog asks if this such a good idea at the present time and I agree.  This will just open old wounds that Labour will exploit to the full now that Ken Clarke has a prominent role.  Far better to focus on the economy where Cameron is scoring points.

Brown is doing a fine job discrediting himself.  The Tories should concentrate on making substantive points that resonant with the electorate, rather than exposing their weaknesses.

Digg This

Sam Cam is some girl


There is a delightful profile of Samantha Cameron in The Times:

Walking into the family’s new home in North Kensington a couple of years ago, Samantha Cameron was stopped by a friendly resident. Nodding to the removal van, the neighbour said: “Next time you move, it’ll be to Downing Street. ” Samantha replied: “I f***ing hope not!”

I assume this means the Cameron family will not be living above the shop!

Digg This

Who was giving odds of 66-1?

Yesterday the Sunday Times reported that a Government minister had placed a bet at 66-1 on Labour not winning the next general election.  Today the Telegraph names Lord West as the minster placing the bet, which he has since denied.

Whether the story is true or not remains to be seen.  A question.  Which bookmaker offered odds of 66-1 against Labour securing a majority in 2007?  I think we should be told.

Digg This

Friends in high places


Dear me.  Master Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has been accused of leaving his rented flat in a less than clean condition.  Naughty boy.   Could it be that was why he was late for the ‘faked photo incident’?  He must have been detained by the landlord.

Isn't interesting how all the these wonderful stories surface while various contenders jockey for position to become the next leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.

Digg This

The real reason for Brown’s panic over expenses

The NOTW gives the reasons why Brown panicked and made a fool of himself when he smiled for the camera last week.  The Labour party internal polling is dreadful:

The internal polling - based on polls and focus groups carried out over the past two weeks - are grim reading.

They show:

Labour cannot win the next General Election.

Voters think Labour are now sleazier than the Tories.

Even if Brown fixes the economy, voters still don’t want another Labour government.

After Brown’s initial proposals were rejected last week, there are signs of a compromise in the offering.  There has to be for two reasons.  Firstly, Brown’s credibility wouldn't recover if he lost the vote on Thursday, not that this would worry Cameron and Clegg.  More importantly, all MPs are forced to take action before the detailed receipts are published in July.

It should be a fun packed week with much grandstanding from all sides.

Digg This

26 April 2009

Brown’s removal can’t be left until the party conference

John Rentoul’s thoughts are moving fast regarding Brown’s leadership.  He now taken up Paul Routledge's suggestion that the move to oust Brown will come at the Labour party conference:

I have been wondering about Paul Routledge's column in The Mirror on Friday. In it Brown's biographer suggests that "the Prime Minister has only a 50-50 chance of surviving Labour’s annual conference in September". Is that based on the law that once things start going wrong they get worse, or are there more specific nasties lurking to bring Brown down?

Things will will get worse for Brown, so why wait until the party conference?  Do Rentoul and Routledge really believe that doing the deed in front of the TV cameras would be a wise move?

One further point. If Brown’s removal is put off until late September, there will no flexibility as to when the election could be called.  Better to have a new leader in place in June, giving the possibility of a early October election.

Digg This

Questions for Tom Harris MP

I read a cross section of blogs that include Tom Harris’s ‘And Another Thing’.  He loves throwing mud at the Tories rather than concentrating on his own party’s dire position.  I have never read any offerings on how he would resolve Labour's deep-seated problems.  You can read his latest post here.

I have asked him three initial questions on his blog.

1. Could you kindly explain to me what Brown’s agenda is other than short-term tactical games in a attempt to wrong foot the Tories?

2. Do you think you could achieve for Labour what Cameron has done for the Tories?

3. I would like to hear your views on how Labour could revive itself for the election?

Come on Tom, let us have your views and opinions.

Digg This

The defections start

There was an unexpected overnight poll.  The Tory lead is now consistent, which comes as no surprise.

The number of defections to the Tories will increase as we get closer to the election.  Today a LibDem candidate has jumped ship.  My guess is that Clegg’s party will get squeezed out of the picture.  In truth, what does the lad have to say that you can remember for more than 5 minutes?

UPDATE: I have just noticed this on the BBC web site.

Digg This

Is Mandy happy?

Mandy gave an interview in the The Times yesterday.  I was struck by what he to say about his relationship with Brown.  There is nothing new here, but why now?

So why the thaw? “You’ll have to ask him.” He’s not here. “Well, I never felt any animus towards him,” says Mandelson. “It was a source of great sorrow and more to me that from 1994 onwards we were unable to get on. It wrecked my political career.” How so? “In obvious ways. I don’t need to dwell.” You mean the two incidents that caused you to leave the government were cooked up by Brown’s people? “I’m not saying that,” he says.

In the Observer there is an article quoting anonymous sources:

"I think Peter is pretty isolated in cabinet now," said one colleague, who knows both Mandelson and Harman well. "He doesn't build alliances and I think it's been difficult coming in when you have been out. He has never been one for cabinet government, he has always been one for dealing directly with the man at the top - that worked with Tony, but now it is more of a cabinet system and it doesn't."

The Mandelson question reflects broader unease about the future of the New Labour movement he did much to create, after a week in which it advocated a super-tax on earnings over £150,000 and a legal duty to eradicate discrimination based on social class.


So far, Brown has backed Mandelson when he has really hit the roof, including over the part-privatisation of the Royal Mail, when he felt Harman and others were undermining him, but some wonder how long he will stay if he feels his influence waning.

Another old colleague says Mandelson would not want to be a "fig leaf" for an unreconstructed administration: while he still believes he has a valuable role, the rekindled relationship with Brown could quickly sour should he conclude that he has become a token presence.

Where these leaks are coming from is not the point.  Being one of the architects of New Labour, I doubt Mandy is truly happy with the decision on the 50p tax.

Clearly there is no linkage between the two articles.  However, it is interesting that Mandy’s doubts about Brown and the Cabinet are being raised now.

If Mandy is not happy, all could be revealed fairly soon

Digg This

It has to be June

In early March I had a blog exchange (my assumptions in that post proved fairly accurate) with John Rentoul about my pet subject, Labour replacing Brown with Alan Johnson.  He has chosen today to raise the matter again, which maybe coincidental after my ‘Dear Gordon’ letter posted yesterday.

There is no need to revisit the arguments.  However, there is one issue that I must take up with John.  It is known as The Bob Hawke Scenario.  John explains:

It was one of the most extraordinary days in Australian politics, which are so much earthier than ours. Malcolm Fraser, the Liberal prime minister, went to the Governor-General to ask for a general election. Hayden was a colourless leader of the opposition and Fraser wanted to capitalise on the Government's unexpected victory in a by-election. At the same time, though, Labor MPs were meeting in Brisbane. Most feared that they would lose under Hayden and thought that they stood a better chance with Hawke, a charismatic and – as Carleton found out – sharp-tongued new MP. By the time Fraser got back from the Governor-General's mansion, he found that he would be fighting the election not against Hayden but Hawke – who went on to win not just that election but the next three as well.

Events have moved on.  Brown’s position is now untenable, as I have argued.  In any case, this scenario will not wash in the UK.  It will come over as too cynical, and moreover, I doubt Johnson will play ball immediately before an election.

In fairness, John details this scenario only if Brown will not go voluntarily:

The mechanics are secondary.  The simplest way would be for Brown to realise that he was leading his party to certain defeat and to stand down voluntarily. Under Labour rules, the Cabinet then chooses one of its number as prime minister until a leadership election can be arranged.

I don't know if ministers have the fight left to put pressure on Brown to make it happen. But I know that they should.

I don't know if ministers have the fight left to put pressure on Brown to make it happen. But I know that they should.

The change has to come in June.  Either Brown goes on his on accord or the Cabinet rebels.  No other option is plausible.

PS:  One other matter.  I assume as the Mail and Indy now share the same building, the front pages were swapped by mistake this morning.

Digg This

25 April 2009

Have a sleep-in this Sunday

Due to the that fact that Brown has received such an awful press this week, the BBC have cancelled Marr this Sunday.  They will show the London Marathon instead.

The decision was taken in consultation with Downing Street.  It was concluded that giving Cabinet members further exposure, especially Yvette Cooper, would just encourage people to sign the No10 petition.

Digg This

Not another internal party feud


There have been reports all week about the Boris versus Cameron side-show.   The Times details the simmering tensions.  Pre “McBridegate” Labour would have screamed, “Tory-toffs fall out, how can you expect them to run the country”.  But not now.

Still, Cameron needs to sort this little local difficulty out before gets out of hand.  The message should be clear:

Boris you concentrate on your day job, whilst I win the election.  In other words, shut up.

A Blair-Brown feud Mark II will not do the Tory party any good this side of the election.

Digg This

Gordon, the decision is yours

Dear Gordon,

I have wanted to write this letter for a while, and now is the appropriate time for you to hear what I have to say. The weekends are always a good time for thought and reflection, this one especially so, after the week you have endured.

I have taken a keen interest in politics for many years and have been an active participate. These days I observe from the sidelines. We met briefly some years ago in your early days as Chancellor. I was an industry representative involved with the formulation of the London Underground PPP proposals. Indeed, I had many meetings with your junior ministers and senior officials.

Looking back to June 2007, I have always held the view that it was a fundamental error for you to have been elected unopposed as Labour leader. It would have been better for you and the Labour party to have had an election. There is no doubt you would have won, and having an internal debate about policy would have given you a solid platform to move forward, and more importantly enhanced your credibility.

The other grave error was to initiate speculation about the October 2007 election that never happened. It was demeaning to use the office you hold in this way, and then showing utter weakness by calling it off, after being wrong-footed by the Tories. It was also not sensible to go on The Andrew Marr Show to do this. Much better to have made a statement in Downing Street.

Since then you have taken a beating in the polls and more generally in the eyes of the electorate. Of course they respect you for tackling the banking crisis of last Autumn. But let us be clear about this. The voters would have expected any Prime Minister to have done this. After all, that is what is expected of a leader.

Before we move to the present day, a couple of further points. You and Tony were unbeatable. Him doing the empathy lark, setting the overall strategy and playing on the world stage. Your role was also key, being the intellectual force of new Labour, developing and implementing polices on the home front, and, of course, being a very successful Chancellor. Neither of you could have succeeded without the other.

Back in 1992, after Kinnock’s failure at the election, you could have had the leadership. Tony wasn't well positioned. However, you flunked your chance. Worse still, if I remember correctly, Tony felt rather let down with your decision. After John Smith’s untimely death, Tony took his chance and the rest is history. By taking the decisive decision to stand, Tony proved that he had a natural ability to lead.

Moving to the present day, there are three events that have happened in the last couple of weeks that make your position untenable. One is “McBridegate”. The others are your plans to reform MPs’ expenses and the 50p tax policy.

The seriousness of the e-mail scandal has had a detrimental affect on your physical and mental wellbeing and judgement. You have panicked in the quest to regain the political initiative, having lost control of the agenda. As usual you have chosen the path of short-term tactical advantage in the hope of wrong footing the Tories. It has backfired in a spectacular way. On MPs’ expenses you have alienated the Commons, and over the 50p tax issue you have debunked one of the core principles of New Labour, the one of aspiration. Should you fail to win the vote next week on expenses, or you have to fundamentally change your proposals, your credibility will be in ruins.

Over the last few days you have had an awful press, which has turned to ridicule after the publication of the Bloomberg article. Moreover, you have misread the mood in the country over tax and spend. You will be aware that leadership speculation has now restarted, and it is rumoured that Tony is unhappy with recent developments.

My guess is that the June elections will be disastrous. Labour will be humiliated, with it’s core vote eroded.

I honestly do not see how you can recover from this position. The leadership rumours will get worse and there could well be further revelations about the working methods of your closest advisors.

Gordon, you have to decide what to do. You could choose to stay on, but I would not advise this. Your reputation and credibility will suffer further, and the party that you have spent your whole life working for will disintegrate.

Of course, you cannot take any immediate action. However, after the June election results are announced you have to make the supreme sacrifice. You should not allow others to take this decision on your behalf. You will find that people will respect you and back your decision, because it is in your own best interests.

The Labour party can then unite behind a new leader who may be able regain the political initiative and narrow the Tory lead before the election, although I admit this will be difficult, as Cameron has captured the public mood. My recommendation to you would be that Alan Johnson is the best person for this task. Mandy can decide on the strategy to allow this to come about, so the damage to the Labour party is limited.

I appreciate this advice will come as a painful blow, but the decision you have to take is one of statesmanship. I assume you would not want your final period of office to be increasingly undermined, in a similar disgraceful way as you and your supporters behaved towards Tony in 2006. You yourself will be further ridiculed.

Up to now you have not found it easy to listen to advise, no matter how sound this is. I am sure after you have considered the above, you will take the harrowing decision to resign in June for the sake of the country and the Labour party.

Kindest regards

Digg This

24 April 2009

Brown’s day did get worse

Oh dear. Gordon’s day did get worse.

1. Damian McBride may get called to give evidence to a Commons select committee;

2. Some some reason that I fail to understand, No 10 have launched a petition calling for Brown to resign.

McBride’s evidence will give the Downing Street bunker more concern than the petition, especially if the committee request certain e-mail trails.

Digg This

This is our Prime Minister you are talking about

Brown is being ridiculed on the blogs today.  I know it is Friday, but please remember he is our Prime Minister.

See here, here, here, here, and here

If that is not enough, Kelvin Mackenzie said on Sky TV:

Gordon should take a bottle of brandy and a gun, go to a quiet room, have a drink, then blow his brains out.

Even Anthony Eden was treated with more respect than this!

Digg This

The Economist is losing patience with Brown

The Economist has a critical leader, “Gordon Brown’s budget is a dishonest piece of pre-election politicking”, which deserves attention:

THE wheel of fortune turns swiftly in politics. Gordon Brown pulled off the G20 meeting in London on April 2nd, emerging with a plausible aura of global statesmanship. After a handful of Labour sleaze stories and a misguided statement on YouTube, the prime minister looked more like Richard Nixon: shifty, angry and with a list of enemies to smear. And that was before a downright dishonest budget on April 22nd.

The budget was a crucial one, for two reasons. First, Mr Brown is running out of time—he has to hold an election by June 2010—and Britain seems increasingly fed up with him. The public regards his party with distaste (see article). That’s partly because a dozen years in power tends to tarnish: when the home secretary’s husband charges the taxpayer for the porn he watches, one gets an inkling that a government’s time is up. But it’s also because of Mr Brown’s character. His strength, which the G20 meeting displayed, is dour pragmatism. Too often, though, he resorts to tribal politics, in a way that seems both scheming and incompetent.

Second, the budget marks the government’s attempts to deal with the fiscal consequences of the worst slowdown since the second world war. Mr Brown is partly to blame for this mess, but crisis management should have played to his strengths; instead, it revealed his worst side.

The leader goes on to trash the Budget and ends:

This must seem like clever politics to Mr Brown and his crew: folk have been inflamed by the greed and grubbiness of bailed-out bankers. In the short run, a bit of class war may work. But, like Nixon, Mr Brown is already struggling to escape the suspicion that he has a grudge against the world. And for every voter who likes the idea of soaking the rich, there may be several who remember that Labour pledged at the last election not to raise tax rates during the life of this parliament. In turning his back on the revolution in thinking that brought New Labour to power in 1997—that even though few Britons were very rich, many aspired to be—Mr Brown may be quitting the hard-won centre ground too soon. The entrepreneurial classes are now surely the Tories’ for the taking.

April offered Mr Brown two shots at reviving his flagging premiership. The G20 went well. But by attempting to use the budget for political advantage rather than engaging the nation honestly in a slow, shared transformation, the prime minister has done neither himself nor his country any favours. The public is losing patience with him, and so is this newspaper.

There is not a word or sentence in this article that I could take issue with.

Has there been another week when a Prime Minister has received such universal criticism from all media outlets?

Digg This

Gordon, How is your day so far?

1. The latest poll gives the Tories an 18 point lead;

2. The economy shrank by 1.9% in the first three months of 2009, leaving the Treasury forecasts in ruins;

3. Bloomberg spills the beans about domestic life inside the bunker;

4. Proposals for the changes to MPs expenses are in tatters;

5. Car production falls by 51.3%;

6. Actress Joanna Lumley is  "ashamed of our administration" over Gurkha settlement plan;

7. U-turn announced on decision to build Titan prisons;

and the good news

8. The BBC puts out a poll saying Brown is more trusted on the economy.  The problem with the poll is only two people voted, Labour luvies Nick Robinson and Robert Peston.

Now for some exclusive news.  After various reports of serious injuries to staff in Downing Street, The Health and Safety Executive have instructed that all laser printers are to be removed from the Downing Street bunker.

Digg This

The Treasury building is in flames

It has been reported that fires have broken out at various locations inside the Treasury building this morning.

In as separate development, the Office of National Statistics has reported that the UK economy shrank 1.9% in the first three months of 2009.  The BBC reports:

The worse-than-expected figure casts doubt on the chancellor's prediction that GDP for the whole of 2009 would only shrink by 3.5%.

"A contraction of at least 4% is much more likely," said Benjamin Williamson at the Centre for Economic and Business Research.

"Our latest forecast is for a 4.5% contraction this year, making 2009 the steepest single year contraction in economic activity since the 5.1% fall in 1931."

It is not known at the present time if the fires have been caused by the Treasury’s own forecasts produced for the Budget being set alight.  A spokesperson for the fire service has been quoted as saying, “there is a hell of a lot of rubbish inside the building”.

Digg This

The Prime Minister we are not proud to have

Forget the polls, the Budget, the tactics, the You Tube video silliness, and everything else you hear or think about our Prime Minister.  Just read this on Bloomberg:

Like Anthony Eden, Winston Churchill’s World War II foreign minister who was undone as prime minister by the 1956 Suez Crisis, Brown has been derailed by events in the very field where he made his name.

“You’ve got the Eden problem,” says Anthony Seldon, author of the 2005 biography “Blair.” “There was a man who was brilliant as foreign secretary, but couldn’t cope with the job upgrade.”


The strain shows, say current and former Brown aides: Among other things, it has inflamed a temper that has always been the subject of gallows humor among those who work with him, they say.

The prime minister, 58, has hurled pens and even a stapler at aides, according to one; he says he once saw the leader of Britain’s 61 million people shove a laser printer off a desk in a rage. Another aide was warned to watch out for “flying Nokias” when he joined Brown’s team.

Still, the atmosphere in No. 10 Downing Street, where Brown lives and works, is grim. In his less-than two years in office, he has already gone through two chiefs of staff -- Tom Scholar and Stephen Carter -- and five advisers on strategy.

One staffer says a colleague developed a technique called a “news sandwich” -- first telling the prime minister about a recent piece of good coverage before delivering bad news, and then moving quickly to tell him about something good coming soon.

and finally:

His long years in opposition, both before and during government, encouraged a preoccupation with tactics over strategy, as demonstrated by tax and the non-election,” says Martin Farr, a lecturer in politics at Newcastle University.

The prime minister “can be regarded almost as a Shakespearean character, in the way his career and personality have brought him to this point,” says Farr.

I am fed up repeating myself.  Brown is not fit to be Prime Minister.  Some wise heads in the Labour party are going to have start looking at the political reality.  The tragic consequences of this man remaining in office are staring the rest of us in the face.

Digg This

Portillo’s words are ringing in my ears

Firstly Cameron did very well on Today this morning.  He rightly side-stepped the 50p tax issue:

I think it’s a mistake…it’s bad for Britain”, but added “it’s going to have to take it’s place in the queue of tax rises we want to get rid of.

Excellent and well said.  He has avoided the telegraphed trap that Brown set for him on Budget Day.

He also dealt brilliantly with the issue of when the Tories would set out detailed spending plans:

When it comes to the next election we will set out in detail more plans. The problem with the view ahead is the Chancellor’s forecasts, which we think are junk.

However, the most important part of the 08.10 slot wasn't the Cameron interview, but the piece by Michael Portillo (included in the Cameron link), “Is it time for Cameron to get radical?”.  This is key:

And what about the Chancellor's new 50 pence top rate of tax? If Cameron promises to scrap it, Brown will sneer that he wants only to protect the Tories' rich friends.

But if he doesn't make that pledge, supporters will wonder what's the point in having a Conservative government?

And since Cameron, like Thatcher, surely thinks high taxes bad and wrong, isn't it only honest to say so?

There is Cameron's dilemma. Is it time to abandon his cherished centre ground and become a radical?

Well, while he thinks that one through, he'll be careful not to be misled by fuzzy and inaccurate memories of Margaret Thatcher.

She put winning office for the first time above all else. Before that first election win she was moderate to a fault.

But after three terms in office, that's not exactly how the world remembers her.

Absolutely.  An impeccably well timed intervention. I trust the Cameron will write the words I have highlighted on his shaving mirror, for that is the way to win the election.

Digg This

Working For Margaret


I expect we will have a whole string of programmes looking back at Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister over the next week or so.  Matthew Parris, on Radio 4’s Archive Hour, has a programme exploring what it was like to work for Lady T.  For a political obsessive like me the programme will be fascinating.

I admit to being a fan.  Without doubt she was a great PM.  She changed the political whether.  Her failing was to destroy forever the industrial base in Scotland and northern England, where to this day the Tories remain unpopular.

I lived in her constituency for many years.  My parents still do.  Thatcher was a faultless MP and a delight to meet, although she could be rather overbearing at times.

Thatcher and Atlee remain the two outstanding Prime Ministers of the post-war period.

Digg This

23 April 2009

The hidden details of the Budget start to emerge

Fraser Nelson has unearthed the details of the investment cuts that are hidden away in the Budget:

The slowdown in spending growth from 1.1% to 0.7% was only current spending, which masked a 17% cut in what the Treasury categorises as “investment” spending (ie, roadbuilding  etc). Put the two together, and total spending is being cut (yes, cut) by 0.1% in real terms from 2011-12 to 2013/14. Now, debt interest payments will be up 8.4% in that timeframe – so other budgets will have to fall by 0.6%. Except social security bills can’t fall, so on cautious estimates Tetlow reckons there will be an average 2.3% cut (yes, cut) a year across other government departments each year over this three-year period likely to be covered by the 2010 Spending Review.

Note that these cuts to the investment programme do not kick in until next year.

He goes on to rightly point out:

This is a crucial departure. Labour can no longer go on about “Tory cuts” – they are cutting, and significantly – but still nowhere near enough to balance the books.

Perhaps this goes someway to answer Dizzy’s perceptive post about the recession.

This side of the election we are being lured into a false sense of security that all will be well in a year of so.  The next few years are going to be very painful indeed, especially for those firms and employees dependent on pubic sector capital works programmes.

Austerity UK will be us for some years.

UPDATE: It is worth taking a look at Stephanie Flanders take on this.

Digg This

Brown: It is tax for a purpose

Brown on the tax hike announced in the budget:

This is not taxation for its own sake.  It is tax for a purpose.

A pity he did not go on to say that the purpose is to create dividing lines with the Tories.

Digg This

Is Brown going to surprise us with an early election?


A clever clogs at the BBC developed the above.  “Help” is the most used word from Darling’s speech and best describes what Brown may very well need:

The foreign exchange market is worried about the debt market's ability to absorb the amount of issuance for the next year," said Russell Bloom, an analyst at Action Economics.

"A lack of interest could see speculation of IMF aid rear its head again. I think this is the fear that is being priced into the market," he added.

Geoffrey Yu, a currency strategist at financial services firm UBS, said that he would pay close attention to what credit rating agencies say about the UK's increased debt burden.

"Any whiff that they will have to review the UK's ratings because of this, then you're going to see a wave of sterling selling. That's the risk right now,"

Of course they are instantaneous reactions, but tactical Brown is not going to wait around for these scenarios to bubble up.

Then we have this from Danny Finkelstein:

But it is important to note a subtle but highly significant shift from the 45p measure to the 50p measure. Darling changed the timing.

By moving the tax rise into this Parliament Labour has massively reduced the Tory dilemma.

Agreed, on the assumption that Brown will let the Parliament run for the full five years.

Now this from Paul Waugh:

Way back in 2005, Labour famously pledged once again not to raise either rate of income tax "this Parliament".

That means that an election has to happen before next April if the PM is not to break his most important promise on taxation.

Is it possible we could get an early Budget next February (complete with tax cuts for those on middle incomes) and a March 2010 general election?

Clever chap, but for Brown to wait until next year he has to hope and pray that the growth forecasts are accurate, which of course they won’t be.

Consider this.  Would it not be best for Brown to fight the election on his tax and public spending proposals where he would hope to divide the Tories?

Finally, we have Brown’s rush to clear up the matter of expenses within days.  There is more to this than Brown just wanting to deflect attention from the awful borrowing figures.

I question what Paul Waugh says about the timing, but are we going to see a Cabinet reshuffle followed by an early election?

Digg This