31 August 2009

The poll that sums up the month

Anthony Wells has the details of the latest YouGov monthly poll for the Telegraph:

CON 42%(nc), LAB 26%(-2), LDEM 18%(nc)

As the silly season and the summer holidays end today it is worth stating the obvious.  Brown absence has not made any difference to the polls, neither has the not-serious-about power element of the Tory party.

There has been some talk about whether the perceived economic recovery that Brown will ensure takes place no matter what (oh yes, the figures will be massaged somehow), will translate into improved polling for Labour.  The bad news for Labour suggests that this is unlikely.  Historically, governments that are responsible for a downturn do not benefit when the economy turns round.  1970, 1979 and 1997 are all cases in point.

So, it would seem that Brown’s fate is sealed.  The voters have had enough, and it is unlikely that there will be any game changing tactics to be had.

Let the critical pre-conference season begin that will determine whether Brown leads the Labour party into the election. If he does, then Cameron’s landside majority is almost assured, so long as he does not drop that Ming vase.

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The autumn offensive stalls before it starts

Today is not a day for the heavy stuff.  However, planning the forthcoming week is always a good idea over any weekend, especially this being the one when Brown returns to carry out his duties on a full time basis for the last time.

So we do not miss any earth shattering events that Our Dear Leader is planning, the Telegraph publishes a useful guide to the weeks’ attractions.

You may find that the following is a little more accurate:

Tuesday – Internal meetings where Brown sets out his ‘developed-over-the-summer’ plans to wrong foot the Tories.  One question has already been submitted, “That is all very well Gordon, but how do we win the election?”

Wednesday – Backing Young Britain.  A serious issue that Brown has completely failed to address.  Expect a further airing of already announced policies.

Thursday – Another Cabinet away day, this time in the south of England.  This event will cause major inconvenience to voters in many marginal constituencies as Cabinet ministers descend on their towns and cities to make meaningless announcements.

Friday – G20 finance ministers are summoned to London for a lecture by Brown entitled, “How to implement my policies and face humiliation at the polls”.

Can we hope for the launching of one or two Exocet missiles to change the political whether in the coming weeks?  On the evidence so far, don't hold your breath.

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Why prison food should be better than hospital food

Just what is so surprising about this news?  It is right and proper that prison food is better than hospital food.  The government is correct to implement this policy and should be applauded for at last getting something right.

After all, as a civilised society, we would be most embarrassed if a mass murderer who blows up planes and an old man who stole vast sums of money from a train, were released into the community under-nourished.

Here we have it. A New Labour policy with proven results.

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The truth from Brown!

Mike Smithson comes up with an explanation about who is behind the leaked letter on the Megrahi trade deal.  He concludes that it could be Jack Straw himself.

Then he asks:

Why doesn’t Brown Central follow the old adage - “It all else fails try the truth”?

What have we all missed over the holiday weekend?  Has Brown secretly been replaced by a look-a-like with a completely different personality?  We should be told.

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30 August 2009

Brown to speak following Japan’s election result

Reacting to Japan's election results, Brown is expected to say:

Japan is a far away country of which we know very little.

I have noted that Prime Minister Taro Aso has taken responsibility for the defeat and will immediately resign.  In my view this is the principle difference between Japan and the UK.  In this country, the Prime Minister does not take responsibility for anything and continues in office regardless of any humiliation bestowed upon him.  I fully expect the new Prime Minister to continue with the policies that I have insisted other countries adopt and to suffer the same consequences as his predecessor.

I will be visiting this far away country at the earliest opportunity to escape from the problems that I face here at home.

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Get ready for the bank holiday election bonanza

A new nationwide game will be launched anytime soon.  It will be called,

Conclusions of Japan’s election for UK politics

The are expected to be thousands of participants and they will all wish to make the most memorable and lasting comment.

So called “experts”, after taking crash courses in Japanese politics, will be become immediately available to appear on whatever media outlet will have them.  The 24/7 news programmes will talk of little else.  The Today programme is likely to extended on Monday.  There is even rumours of a Newsnight special.  Due to the supply of “experts” new TV and radio stations may well appear overnight.

Prepare yourself for the big bank holiday bore.

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Brown’s ‘virgin’ election team is not the issue

This is not a matter that should be concerning Labour party officials.  What they should be concentrating on is how they can narrow the Tory lead rather than having sleepless nights worrying that Gordon Brown does not have a team experienced enough to fight the next election:

Gordon has got his cabinet in place . . . but there is a real worry about how inexperienced his advisers are.  Peter has been telling Gordon that none of his senior advisers has ever really worked on an election campaign. He is concerned that it is not a strong enough team.

Another believes that Brown has “a virgin team” as well as coming to this perceptive conclusion:

It is the first election since before 1997 that will not be fought by a combined Blair/ Brown team . . . Nobody knows how it’s going to work.

Sorry comrade, some of us have worked out how it is going to work.  We are just waiting for Labour MPs to start fighting.

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Andrew Marr causes the BBC grief even when he is off air

You have to laugh.  Old Marr is causing real problems for the BBC with his little watched Sunday show.  Last Sunday the BBC schedule listed the show for broadcasting, even though the programmes producers had no intention of transmitting an edition:

A programme controller went down to the studio to check that everything was OK, only to discover to his horror that no one was there at all

A series of panicked phone calls ensued and the controller was informed that Marr and all his colleagues were on holiday. At the last minute it was decided that the only thing that could be done was to go over to the News Channel.

How sad for Andy.  It has taken a week for this news to filter out.  No one noticed that the programme failed to appear last Sunday.  The question is, will anybody notice when the programme does return next Sunday?

Nick Robinson should be summoned at once to bring much needed credibility to the Sunday schedules.

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‘Our boys’ would have preferred Dave


The Mail has revealed that the motivation for Brown’s trip to Afghanistan was nothing to do with him wanting to get a tan or doing his bit for the morale of ‘our boys’.  Oh no.  What it was all about was to scupper Our Dave’s trip, planned long along.

Our clever boys cottoned on to this and got their their own back by asking Brown why they have to pay tax when overseas.

Nothing has changed.  Brown is the same man as before the summer.  The AJ4PM campaign has been given a boost without our man doing any campaigning whatsoever.

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29 August 2009

Gordon gets away to the sun


He never fails, does Brown.  When most of us are having a few days off at the end of the summer, Brown comes back to work over a holiday weekend.

Our Dear Leader has chosen to seek the sun and a few cameras to boot.  Here he is with our boys in Afghanistan.

Not flash.  Just more cheap politics by Gordon.

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Thank you for voting


Much appreciation to all those that voted for this blog in the Total Politics Annual Blog Poll.  Being rather a new boy, the listing at No 60 came as a complete surprise.

There was amusement that comrade Dale has labelled this blog ‘Right of Centre’.  Such is life.

Once again, thanks for your support.

Happy holiday weekend to one and all.

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28 August 2009

AJ4PM: Are Labour MPs up for the fight?

John Rentoul has replied to my earlier post and has clarified the issue I took up with him that next year is too late for Brown to be replaced.  I take the point, the Callaghan principle is important, especially to Gordon Brown.    He continues:

I agree with EDB that October would be better. By then, Johnson could promise an early election in six months' time, that is, in April. But I don't know if the Labour Party is up to it, and it may be that we will have to wait until the Callaghan principle weakens Brown's determination to cling on.

The point John raises, “But I don't know if the Labour Party is up to it” is fundamental.  As I said on Sunday in reply to his usual weekly article:

And yes, Labour may not have the stomach for the fight with so many MPs leaving at the next election.  However, these are excuses rather than reasons.  If Labour wants any chance of winning the election then change has to be made.

Brown may want a longer period in office, but that does not help the Labour party.  What does help the Labour party is to have a new leader.

Are the PLP up for the fight?  Over the next few weeks we will find out.

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AJ4PM: Surely, it has to be October

It has taken a while, a whole day in fact, for John Rentoul to react to Matthew Parris’s thoughts in yesterday’s Times.  What we get is an unscheduled article in the Indy.

Rentoul launches a full frontal assault on Our Dear Leader.  He rips into Brown about his behaviour over the summer and towards colleagues past and present.  Then we get his response to Matthew Parris:

Well, he hasn't, of course, although it is just possible that, over this summer, he has taken a decision to step down early in the new year. All I can say, on behalf of the Alan Johnson For PM campaign, is that we will tolerate no complacency. We cannot rely on him to go of his own volition. He will have to be pushed out, either by his own party, if it has the wit and the will to minimise the damage it will suffer at the election, or by the voters.

Agreed, up to a point.  It is those deadly words, “early in the new year” that needs a little discussion.  Is Rentoul now seriously suggesting that Brown, having taken the decision to stand down, will now become all mechanical and go through the motions until January?  He’d cock the whole thing up and the media would catch on.

Back in April, we discussed The Bob Hawke Scenario and after consulting Labour MPs, Rentoul changed his mind:

Since then I have spoken to Labour MPs and others who have prompted me to revise the timetable. Every week that the Labour Party puts off getting rid of Brown, said one activist, damages the party further. And when I suggested leaving the change until the last possible moment before a general election, an MP said that would be "cynical and horrible". I think they are right. If it can be done it should be done quickly.

In fairness he did add:

I still think it is more likely that Brown will go towards the end of this year or early next year.

This is too late.  Unforeseen events may well intervene during the winter that would make the change impossible.  The Labour party would get boxed in, with obvious consequences.

There was a window of opportunity in June, which was missed, or, to be frank, bungled.  October, after the party conference, if Brown does not step down before, is when it should happen.  Leaving the transition until January, however it is managed, is just too risky and would be seen as too cynical a move.

For this fully paid up member of the AJ4PM campaign, it is October or bust.

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Megrahi Shock horror: Brown handled it better than Gaddafi

What’s this!  Could there be a glimmer of hope for Brown in the latest poll that gauges voters reaction to Megrahi’s release.  This is the key finding:

Some 63 per cent thought that the Libyans had handled the affair badly, while 15 per cent approved of their actions.

And to the news that will have Labour MPs rocking in the aisles:

Mr Brown’s attempt to distance himself from the move, saying that it was a decision for the Scottish government, has not gone down well, with 56 per cent saying that has handled the matter badly, and 23 per cent thinking that he had done well.

Is this a case of the figures being misinterpreted?  Sadly it would seem so, according to Peter Riddell:

Mr Brown has appeared both ineffective and devious

Dam, the offer of a helping hand in an attempt to spin the figures Brown’s way has not worked and never will.

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How not to do it by Gordon Brown.

All is revealed.  Brown starts to set out his plans to boost the Tory majority.  The poorest families are to see their benefits cut by up to £15 a week.

Brown’s best friend, Frank Field, is rather perplexed by the decision:

At one stroke, they get rid of a reform aimed at getting flexibility into a fairly inflexible market by giving people incentives to shop around. The timing for this could have been decided in Conservative headquarters.

That rather tortured look on Frank’s face has just become much worse.  Perhaps he can be persuaded to join the AJ4PM campaign?

In one way, of course, this news is very good.  It gives Labour MPs the incentive to start organising another attempt at a coup.  The difference is that this time it has be successful.

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27 August 2009

Mike Smithson is asking the wrong questions

Mike Smithson is getting rather desperate on his blog.  His latest post:

Can Brown take hope from Major in 1992?

Never thought of that one.  Does it require further analysis?  No.

From earlier today:

Does this mean that Mandy is now out of the race?

As Mandy has already said on the record (twice?) that he will not be returning to the Commons, why ask the question again?

Mike, here is the question you should be asking:

Can Alan Johnson narrow the Tory lead in the polls?

Here is a clue to the answer. The word begins with a ‘Y’


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Is Brown’s support within his party ebbing away?

PoliticsHome has taken the pulse of the nation following Brown’s summer holiday:

Exhibit 1

imageNow, did the Labour supporters think it was a good idea that Brown took a holiday or are they suggesting that keeping him away from the media helps the party?  We should be told.

Exhibit 2

imageHmmm.  Maybe all politicians should take a break in August, or is it that voters have stopped listening to Labour no matter who is in charge?

Of course, it would have been interesting to see how our-man-in-waiting would have performed,  I guess we we have to wait until Alan Johnson gets the job on a permanent basis.

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Mandy or Lord Mandelson?

The excellent blogger, Soho Politico, argues that we should stop calling his Lordship, Mandy.  In a post that may well provoke some reaction, Soho concludes:

In general, whether you are gay or straight, if you have not had explicit authorisation from Peter Mandelson himself so to refer to him, this needs to stop.

Well, having thought about this most carefully Mandy it will remain.  There is no reason to change the habit and it may confuse my readers to do so.  Some may conclude that using the title Lord Mandelson refer to someone else.

Mind you, if he has struck a deal and Brown does resign or, as I have argued for months, that Our Dear Leader should be replaced by Alan Johnson as part a carefully organised transition managed by his Lordship, then Mandy becomes:

A Great Man or Lord Kingmaker

After all, in 1994 Mandy came down against Brown and will have to do it all over again if he wishes to ‘save the party he loves’.

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Will Brown resign?

Could this be true?  After the endless debate here and elsewhere, has the mystery now been solved on what will now happen to Our Dear Leader?

Returning to Britain I find our Prime Minister, in at least one deep and mysterious sense, still away. What, when it comes to the release of the Lockerbie bomber, are Gordon Brown’s mental processes? What did he think when — as must have been the case — Scottish proposals to release al-Megrahi were disclosed to him. What did he think of the decision to release the Libyan before the row erupted? What does he think now? I’m reminded of a remark made in what is still the most penetrating book about Margaret Thatcher, One of Us, by the late Hugo Young. Young describes one of her Cabinet ministers: “He had a mind not so much open, as permanently vulnerable to a succession of opposing certainties.”

Weird-sounding to say this, I realise, but I have the strongest of impressions that Mr Brown has already resigned. I’m not sure on what level I mean that — whether perhaps I just mean he is resigned; or that he has taken a mental step still to be followed up by action; or that an agreement has been reached but has yet to be disclosed. But of one thing I’m strangely sure: that in some way, and on some level, Mr Brown has gone.

Could Matthew Parris be right?  Has Brown finally realized the game is up?  Maybe there has been a deal struck over the summer.  There has been enough on this blog on what the Labour party should do.

Let the speculation commence.  Maybe we will get a clue.  Just keep an eye on John Rentoul’s little list.

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Daniel Hannan is now the story

Guido has the full story about Daniel Hannan’s latest so called outburst:

Guido spoke to Dan to ask him when he gave the interview – about “a month or so” ago was his answer – before the NHS kerfuffle cemented Dan in the affections of Labour’s spin operation.   He said it wasn’t the first time he said that, that he wasn’t going to deny his view in the future and that on immigration he was on the record as taking the Friedmanite free market liberal view rather than the restrictive Powellite stance.

As Guido rightly says, yesterday there wasn't much hard news on the political front and it is a non-story.

The little local difficulty here is not what Hannan says at every given opportunity, but the man.  Labour will just pounce.

Yes, it was slow news day.  Yes, it is still the silly season.  Yes, Hannan is entitled to say what he wants, although it may not be in his best interests to do so.  But, he himself is now the story regardless.

It would be sensible practical politics for Hannan to pipe down a bit in this critical pre-election period for Team Cameron.  After all, he does rather like the sound of his own voice a touch too much.

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26 August 2009

What was it? That name Brown used to be proud of.

Do you remember Prudence?  He used to be our Chancellor. Sadly, he became our Prime Minister and left Prudence behind.  For it is revealed today that Brown wasted £12bn by cutting VAT.

That is not all.  Labour’s perfectly oiled spin operation is not functioning that well:

5% of those polled were unaware that there had even been a cut in VAT.

Mandy will not be pleased with that finding.

If you spent any your hard earned cash on drink whist VAT has been cut, poor yourself a stiff one and read this.  Once you have recovered from what is really going in the economy, you should console yourself with this thought.  Brown will not be quoting from the article when he tells us all we have come out of recession and he has ‘saved the world’.

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Prescott has found a new role

On Megrahi's release, John Prescott said this on Sky News:

No, I don't have any objections. If the man is dying, if compassion is part, as it is, of the Scottish administration and the medical authorities then get proof to that effect, then it's a decision for the legal authority.

"You know, Scotland has always had a great deal of independence of its legal authority, going back many years, so we have to respect that decision. And I do.

Not bad from The Old Bruiser.  Forget whether he is right or wrong.  Without realising it, has Prescott now become an elder statesman?

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On Ted Kennedy’s death

There is some cringing stuff out there paying tribute to Ted Kennedy.  It was a long time ago, but there is one word that will always be associated with his name, Chappaquiddick.  The mystery of what happened has never come to light.  That one event ruined the ambition he had to become President.

Michael White’s daily posts on Guardian's politics blog are at times difficult to swallow, but his thoughts this morning, following Kennedy’s death, paint an accurate picture of the man.  On Chappaquiddick he is spot on:

Ted Kennedy was lucky not to go to jail over the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, the 28-year-old woman he left to drown when he drove his car off a Chappaquiddick bridge – not far from where the Obamas are now on holiday – in July 1969.

He got a two-month suspended sentence for leaving the scene of an accident. Anywhere but Massachusetts, where the Kennedy clout was – still is? – legendary, the cover-up that followed the accident would not have held. Was it about drink, sex and bad driving? That's what people assumed at the time, but we still don't know.

Without the name “Kennedy”, Ted would have never have recovered from the incident.  That is worth remembering when hear and read some of the tributes he has received today.

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Megrahi: For Brown, the questions remain

Well, what did Brown achieve by speaking at his press conference on Megrahi’s release?   Not much, it would seem.  For man who has spent the last five weeks away, he looked shattered.  So, the questions remain about what he knew and what has been said between the UK and Libya over the years.  The toothpaste is not back in tube.

Today, other titbits of information seep out, Firstly, the police are contradicting the statement that Kenny MacAskill gave to the Scottish parliament.  Secondly, we have this not-to-be-ignored piece by Irwin Stelzer in the Telegraph, where he says that the Special Relationship has been damaged.  What is more, he is highly critical of Brown:

Which brings us to Brown's involvement. So long as he continues his Macavity game, it is difficult to pin down his specific role. As the poem goes, "When the Foreign Office finds a Treaty's gone astray… it's useless to investigate – Macavity's not there." In this case, Brown's culpability is too obvious to hide. He is, after all, the father of Scottish devolution. In a world in which terrorists have no regard for borders, decisions taken by those in charge of the justice system are inextricably linked to a nation's foreign policy. Even Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish justice minister, admits this is "a global issue". For the Prime Minister to have outsourced the justice system to Scottish authorities who can bring the United Kingdom into disrepute and strain relations with its allies was irresponsible. And now the United Kingdom, not merely Scotland, will pay the price in terms of damaged relations with the US.

Then there are two diplomatic events that Brown will have to navigate through:

More significant would be a refusal from Brown to attend both next week's celebration of the 40th anniversary of the coup that overthrew King Idris and brought Gaddafi to power, and the opening of the 64th session of the UN General Assembly on September 15, over which Libya's Ali Abdussalam Treki will preside as president.

If Brown was hoping that yesterday’s belated statement would put the help to close the story down, he has failed.  More importantly, from his point of view, this whole affair could well overshadow and derail his strategy for the autumn.

Mandy’s words were not enough.  This remains Brown’s responsibility and he should have been much more open and frank yesterday on whether he backed Megrahi’s release.

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Will this policy excite the nation?

Will this light up the sky?  Is this the topic that dominates discussion in the Dog & Duck?  Will this be talked about in office tea rooms?  Is productively at work suffering because of the endless highly charged debates?  Will this be the game changer that swings it for Brown?

Wait for it.

As part of Our Dear Leader’s recently found reforming zeal Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, will announce today that Lords reform will be rushed through before the election. 

What, of course, he won’t say is that this all part of the cunning plan to wrong foot the Tories before the election.

From the evidence so far, Brown’s ever-so-long vacation has been a complete waste.

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Ted Kennedy is dead: How will Brown handle this?

Will we have to wait 5 days for him to speak?

How can possibly react to these and other such events instantaneously after the Megrahi shambles?

UPDATE: it took just Brown 30 minutes to get a statement out!

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25 August 2009

Has Mandy done enough for Brown?

At his press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,  Brown said:

I was both angry and I was repulsed by the reception that a convicted bomber guilty of a huge terrorist crime received on his return to Libya.

When I met Colonel Gaddafi over the summer I made it absolutely clear to him that we had no role in making the decision about Megrahi’s future.

Because it was a quasi-judicial matter, because it was a matter legislated for by the Scottish parliament and not by us, it was a matter over which we could not interfere and had no control over the final outcome.

Whatever the decision that was made on compassionate grounds by the Scottish parliament our resolve to fight terror is absolute.

It is the ‘Mandy style’ quote, “angry and repulsed” that will get the headlines.

Will it be enough to silence the critics for Brown?  Maybe.  We shall see.  But he could have said the above much earlier than today and damaging headlines would not have happened.  For that he only has himself to blame.

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The Tuesday outing of the not-serious-about-power element of the Tory party

I do apologise.  I would so wish to post about Chris Grayling’s comments that parts of the UK are like ‘The Wire’, an American TV show.  However, I have never watched the show.  Therefore, I haven't a clue what he going on about and don't understand the comparison he is attempting to make.  No doubt, millions of others will share this view.

I can only assume that he has a part-time job as the UK’s publicist for the programme.  He is has done a good job – the ratings for the show will now dramatically increase.

Team Cameron has become rather a worry.

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Brown doesn't understand what it is like to be stumped

Ever been stumped playing cricket?  It is very humiliating way to lose your wicket.  You forget to leave your foot behind the popping crease and, more importantly, on the ground.

Is this exactly what has happened to Our Dear Leader over the Megrahi affair.  By issuing letters to mark various events just makes Brown look weak, because has failed to express an opinion and say where he stands on this rather important issue.  Now when he does speak, as he will have to at today’s press conference, Brown will equally be accused of being weak, showing a lack of leadership and reacting to media pressure.

Because of his self-imposed silence over Megrahi’s release Brown has found himself in a no-win situation.

The poor chap has been well and truly stumped. 

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Careful who you fly with

Our Dear Leader is not saying much but is issuing letters of congratulation left, right and centre.  His latest offering is to BA on reaching its 90th birthday:

British Airways has never lost the pioneering spirit and vision that saw it take to the skies with the world’s first daily international flight from London to Paris on this day in 1919.

Ninety years on, the world’s most iconic airline is still proudly flying the flag and remains a great British brand. Many congratulations to all its staff, past and present, on this special day.

Just what will happen to that cash strapped, loss making airline now?

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Brown hands out the autumn hors d'œuvres

In preparation for Mandy’s carefully planned autumn offensive that Brown will act out when he returns on a full-time basis, the Indy has details of the first course that will be served up.  On neatly arranged platters, a list of specific spending cuts will be offered to the assembled masses:

Initially, Mr Brown will seek to establish in voters' minds the key differences between Labour and the Tories – on policy, government intervention to limit the impact of the recession and preserving frontline services. Then he will acknowledge that the Government needs to go beyond the £35bn of efficiency savings it has already promised. The aim will be to show Labour is serious about reducing the deficit, which is set to rocket to £175bn in the current financial year and to £173bn next year.

Cabinet ministers will announce that some projects will be abandoned, shelved or delayed to save money. One admitted yesterday: "Efficiency savings are useful but not a substitute for real savings. There will be things that need to be put off, done more slowly or abandoned altogether."

No specific decisions have yet been taken, but the move will fuel speculation that the Government may delay the £25bn renewal programme for the Trident nuclear weapons system. Aides insist that Mr Brown remains committed to retaining Britain's deterrent.

These nibbles will hardly set the world on fire or wet the appetite for the main course to follow.  There are no game changing morsels amongst these little offerings.  No, of course not.  The Grand Plan is hardly going to be leaked in the dying days of August, but there will be one for sure.

The main course surprise delights in an attempt to wrong foot the Tories will come when Messrs Cameron & Co least expect it.

The serving of the final supper in Brown’s Last Chance Saloon has barely begun.

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Downing Street prepares for a visitor

It has been a peaceful month in Downing Street, but Monday was a busy day.  The staff, after working tirelessly during August, were putting the finishing touches to the summer cleaning operation.  The Prime Minister's car, little used for many weeks, was taken out for a spin around the Westminster village to ensure it was in perfect working order.  Even the hinges on the famous front door were oiled, as it had been rarely opened since July.

In the afternoon, after all the chores were complete, the staff gathered to receive their instructions for the following day.  The Housekeeper informed the devoted servants that on Tuesday a man would appear for a few hours and cause havoc.  Mobile phones may fly and doors could be slammed.  Who is this man they all wondered, as they had assumed the house was to remain unoccupied until next spring.

The Housekeeper, anticipating that the staff may have forgotten all about him, then handed out pictures of the man that would visit them for a few flitting hours.  There was a stunned silence, broken only by the occasional cry of, “Oh no, not him”.  Trays of stiff drinks were then handed out, so the staff could recover from the shock that was so obviously felt.

For today, Tuesday 25th August, Our Man in Scotland, one James Gordon Brown returns to Downing Street.

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24 August 2009

Another day, another poll

Just more of the same in the latest poll from ICM:


And Alan Johnson doesn't even get a mention as an alternative Labour leader.  Possibly the sample weren't asked about him.  It doesn't matter.  He is the only alternative.  This is a gem:

David Miliband is the only one who matches Brown head to head.

The Boy David will not be grateful for that connection.  But that is the point, Alan Johnson is not tarnished by association with Brown.

So, the little discussion from Sunday repeats itself once more.

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Tim Montgomerie is having a bad day

Not only is the editor of ConservativeHome attempting to get the toothpaste back in the tube, but Daniel Finkelstein now takes issue with what he had to say.

Gentlemen, is this debate going to go on through to the general election campaign?  For David Cameron’s sake, one hopes not.

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At last, Rees-Mogg gets something right

William Rees-Mogg, chief advocate to the bitter end for Nixon, and who once said in a Times leader, ‘Lord George-Brown drunk is a better man than the Prime Minister [Harold Wilson] sober’ (the latter won four elections, by the way), has this thought provoking comment in his column:

This is not a Government that knows what it wants to do in defence matters. Bob Ainsworth has no idea; Gordon Brown is in a fog of indecision.

Well done your Lordship.  After all these years, you have made the right call.

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The Monday outing of the not-serious-about-power element of the Tory party

If it goes on like this can we expect Our Dave to throw in the towel and say, “Why should I bother?”

The Indy has details of a poll on the mood of Tory backbenchers towards the NHS:

Asked whether the NHS should receive guaranteed spending increases in real terms during the course of the next Parliament, 29 per cent of Tory MPs agreed and 62 per cent disagreed. Only 33 per cent believed the current NHS model, funded from general taxation and free at the point of delivery, was sustainable for the next 60 years, while 62 per cent did not.

Firstly, the poll produces just the headline that Cameron will not want to see.  Secondly, the poll is, in a way, meaningless, as some of the Tory MPs canvassed will not be standing at the election, so what is the point of stirring the pot?

And here is Tim Montgomerie, editor of ConservativeHome, in the same paper:

David Cameron is a conviction politician – comfortable with all of conservatism's key traditions but he is leaving it late in the day to spell out the tough decisions that he intends to make. His support across the nation is currently wide but not necessarily deep.

Granted, that Montgomerie makes some valid and obvious points in his article.  But it is hardly sensible politics for a leading Tory supporter to highlight where Cameron is weak.

Cameron will lay out his plans when he is good and ready and if he doesn't need to so to win the election, he won’t.  As discussed, in reply to John Rentoul yesterday, elections are all about ‘selling’, not freighting the voters.  Everyone excepts that there will have to be cuts, but how you tell the voters of the pain to come is the key.

As one Tory MP says:

The hope is that we would be more radical on health in office than we say now, that he [Mr Cameron] is anxious not to frighten the horses.

Spot on, old boy.

No wonder Cameron hasn't ‘sealed the deal’ with the voters.  The Tory party is the problem.

Mandy’s eyes must light up when he is briefed about this stuff.  Just imagine if a so-called leading supporter of the Labour party had said similar at the same point of the electoral cycle leading up to the 1997 election.  His Lordship and Alastair Campbell would have him despatched to the Tower of London without delay.

The Tories have got to get their act together.  Notwithstanding his other difficulties, Brown is going to launch the mother of all attacks on the Tories in September.  Just watch this space.

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Megrahi: It is time for Brown to speak out

Events have moved on.  Not only has Obama spoken out, but the Head of the FBI and Chairman of the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Americans are now threatening to boycott Scottish goods.  Letters sighting Brown’s involvement in the release of Megrahi are being circulated.  Mandelson has met Saif Gaddafi, the son of the Libyan leader, twice in the past four months.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the decision by Scottish Justice Secretary, the Scottish Executive is not responsible for UK diplomacy and foreign policy.  These matters rest with the UK government.  This is not the time for crude politics that leave the SNP holding the ball, as short-term tactical Gordon Brown would wish.

Liam Fox, the shadow Defence Secretary, sums up the situation perfectly:

Most people will think it is nonsensical and would expect Gordon Brown as Prime Minister of the UK to say something about it. But as ever, when the going gets tough, Gordon Brown goes to ground. He makes all sorts of statements about celebrity, about sporting events, but when we face a major issue about the United Kingdom's prestige about how we are perceived overseas about a major question of justice, Gordon Brown is silent.

This is not an occasion for Mandy to try and manipulate the media and use words like “offensive”, as he did over the weekend.  It should not fall to ‘holiday time stand-ins’ to take the flak.

There is no question about the matter.  It is time for Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, to speak and reveal his role in the affair of Megrahi.

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Megrahi: The family lived in Glasgow

Soho Politics kindly alerted me to a comment made by Subrosa on his blog following a comment of mine.  It states that Megrahi's wife and children have been living in Glasgow:

Didn't you know that Megrahi's wife and children have been living in rather a plush house on the outskirts of Glasgow for the past several years? By all accounts they had more or less open access to Megrahi, especially since his illness was diagnosed.

I still can't discover who paid for it all.

Of course they're now back in Libya.

Subrosa has subsequently commented, bringing my attention to an article in The Herald from last December:

The interview, at the family home in Newton Mearns, near Glasgow, was sanctioned by the Libyan authorities.

Four of their five children, aged between 11 and 25, now live in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, but all have experienced Scottish life and education for some of their formative years.

Now look at Megrahi’s Wiki entry:

A Petition to the Scottish Ministers seeking Megrahi's compassionate release was raised on 19 December 2008. The Petition stated that he was terminally ill and would benefit physically and psychologically from compassionate release to his temporary home in Glasgow while he awaited the outcome of the appeal granted to him by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission in June 2007. Since it was likely to be many months before such an appeal was finally decided, the Petition asked that Megrahi be allowed to spend his very limited remaining time in Scotland with his family and loved ones.

For my sins, I only read the London based media and have not seen this information quoted anywhere over the last few days.

As I have no knowledge of the details behind this, nor of Scottish law, it would be foolish for me to draw any conclusions.  That I will leave to others.  However,  I fail to understand why this information has not received wider circulation than it has.


PS: Thanks to Subrosa, who I hope will forgive me for posting her information on this blog.

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23 August 2009

How Mandy helped England to win the Ashes


There is no question about it.  There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind.  Mandy’s strategic decision to keep Brown away from the media during August was pivotal to helping England win the Ashes.

Just think what would have happened if Brown had wished the team luck for the final Test?

Well done England.  A deserved victory.  Oh and Spurs beat West Ham.  What a day!

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The one remaining option for Labour

So, we come to the little matter of Gordon Brown and what the Labour party must do if it to have any chance of narrowing the Tory lead.  John Rentoul's article addresses this and also sets out what Cameron has to do if he wins power:

The reality is that cutting public spending is very, very difficult. I do not believe that anything like the 10 per cent real-terms cuts in non-health spending implied by the current government's plans will be achieved, whoever wins the election. That means that taxes will have to rise. Cameron, for all his "bravery" in promising spending cuts, hasn't even got to that bit of the manifesto. He will need a mandate to take the tough decisions to avoid his government being broken. He has hardly begun to ask for it.

Yes, taxes will have to rise.  Public expenditure cuts take time to work and the Whitehall machine will not deliver what is proposed.  But why does Cameron have to set out exactly what he will do if he wins the election?  No Opposition leader ever has.  Did Blair say that independence would be given to Bank or England?  Did Thatcher mention the word “privatisation” once in any of her election campaigns?  Of course not.  Elections are all about selling yourself to the voters, no matter how bad the economic situation is.

It is the ‘selling’ that neatly brings us on the Labour party.  The polls have not moved in Brown’s absence, the not-serious-about-power element of the Tory party, which is further exposed in the Indy, has made little difference to the Tory lead.  As John Rentoul explains:

Nothing has changed my view that Alan Johnson as prime minister could improve Labour's prospects. Brown's temporary absence may not have made a difference, but his permanent departure would. I do not claim it would make a huge difference; the Labour brand itself has become tarnished. But a lot of the party's unpopularity is personal to Gordon Brown. The only thing that propped Brown up was the fear among Labour MPs of an early election. Now the election is imminent anyway. It will take a flashpoint to trigger the mechanism. Labour is waiting for its Sarajevo.

Well, there was a flash point in June and Labour missed the chance.  He continues:

Let us leave all that aside for the moment, however. It may not happen; the party may be too demoralised and disorganised to do it. New Labour's 13 years may end with a whimper rather than one last effort to obtain a hung parliament.

He can say that again about being disorganised.  And yes, Labour may not have the stomach for the fight with so many MPs leaving at the next election.  However, these are excuses rather than reasons.  If Labour wants any chance of winning the election then change has to be made.

Let us play September out.  Brown comes back, lights up the sky with initiatives galore, pulls a few rabbits out the hat, has a reasonable conference but the still the polls do not move.  Then what.  Does the party just accept defeat?

It is still worth Labour considering the options so long as doubts remain about team Cameron, as Alan Watkins demonstrated.  Labour doesn't need for the polls to narrow that much for a hung parliament, but this will not happen, as Rentoul says, with Brown in charge.

Mandy is not stupid.  He must know that Labour has to make the change.  He also knows it will not be him, but how he loved teasing the media about returning to the Commons.  The unanswered question at the moment is why won’t he move against Brown.  Maybe he does have an Exocet missile that he will launch to change the political weather in Brown’s favour but it is doubtful.

So, let us assume that Rumfeld’s famous unknown unknowns do not bubble up, that Cameron doesn't drop that famous Ming vase, but doubts remain about his party.  This being the case, then Labour with Mandy's management, that he has so ably demonstrated, has to make the change to Alan Johnson if the party is serious about a fourth term.

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Cameron’s silly season

There are two must read comment pieces in the Indy  One by John Rentoul (see later post) and the other by Alan Watkins.  Both are in some ways linked.

Watkins makes some valid points on the performance of Our Dave.  Take this pertinent observation on Cameron’s comments on Lockerbie:

Silly the season may be, but at times Mr Cameron does seem to be a rather silly man. Does Mr Cameron really know anything about the Lockerbie bombing? Certainly the Scottish legal system does not appear in a very flattering light. I am speaking of the original trial, or the bits I read, rather than of the hurried events of last week. I do not know whether the supposed bomber should have been in prison or returned to his country.

Mr Cameron is supremely confident: he should have been kept in jail. I do not want to accuse Mr Cameron of obediently following the Washington line, though he usually does. Rather it is that a responsible leader of the Opposition should not allow himself to be mixed up in a quasi-judicial decision, unless the evidence or the merits of the case are extremely clear. Here, both the evidence and the merits are buried somewhere yet to be disclosed or to be revealed.

Precisely, and it was most odd for Cameron to speak out as pointed out here.  The relationship between the UK, the US and Libya is complex.  As far as trade deals go, it becomes a very convoluted and murky story. (The Great Man-Made River Project is one example.  A Google search with the word sanctions added reveals much).  Dave and others would be better advised to leave well alone.

What niggles away at Watkins is the fact that Cameron has not sealed the deal with the electorate, even though Brown will not recover:

Now, I am not proposing any phoenix-from-the-ashes act on the part of Mr Gordon Brown such as Sir John performed in 1992. Things have gone too far for that. It is rather that Mr Cameron is incapable of creating the same enthusiasm among his following as Wilson, Mr Blair and even Lord Kinnock (unsuccessful though he was) created in theirs.

There is one further point.  Take Cameron out of the equation, and as August has demonstrated, the Tory brand is rather exposed.  Is it the case that Cameron has clicked with the public but his party has not?  In our system of government, one plays on the other.

Cameron can do it, but the team under him is the worry, hence Mandelson’s focus on Osborne.  Mandy knows that if Osborne cracks, the Tories are very exposed.

Although the Tories are riding high in the polls, is their lead that solid?  Is there still time for Labour, not Brown, to retrieve the situation?  There just maybe, and the opportunity is well worth taking, but another post is needed for this little discussion.

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Alistair Darling should fight battles he can win

Alistair Darling, our lucky to be in post Chancellor, is rather frustrated with Our Dear Leader.  Darling believes Brown’s strategy for attacking the Tories on public expenditure cuts is just plain wrong:

I am trying to talk sense into that man. He just doesn't get it --going on about "Tory cuts" is not going to make an impact on the electorate.

We have to frame the debate in terms of our cuts being better than their cuts. The voters aren't stupid - they know how bad the economic situation is.

‘Talking sense’ into Brown.  Who’s kidding who?  Move on Alastair. 

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Afghanistan: The poll findings that no government can ignore


Before we get to the main business of the day - who leads the Labour party at the next election - the none too small matter of Robert Ainsworth and Afghanistan needs some further attention.

One other finding of the ComRes poll is:

All British forces should be withdrawn from Afghanistan as quickly as possible:

Agree  60% (64% in July) Disagree 33%  (33% in July)

A Mail on Sunday poll has a different take, but the conclusions are the same:

The BPIX poll finds that 69 per cent do not believe we should be fighting a war in Afghanistan. Only 31 per cent believe the mission is worthwhile.

These verdicts should be most worrying for Brown, as he remains hidden away from reality:

Only 26 per cent think Mr Brown is handling the war 'fairly well'. Seventy-two per cent say he is handling it 'fairly badly' or 'very badly'.

Also, a mere 1.6 per cent believe Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth is dealing with the war 'very well'. Thirty-eight per cent say he is doing 'very badly'.

Mr Brown has repeatedly tried to justify the war by claiming that it is helping to protect the British people from terrorism - but the survey shows that three-quarters of voters do not believe him.

Brown needs to take note of these judgements during his remaining time in office.  He is still Prime Minister and has ultimate responsibility for our troops and the performance of Ainsworth.

It remains to be seen whether Dannatt will speak out after his retirement at the end of the week, and what further damage he will do to the credibility of Ministry of Defence.  One matter, of which there can be little doubt, is that Ainsworth shouldn't continue in office.  His performance is causing collateral damage to the MoD and our troops in the field.

How much longer can any Prime Minister put up with headlines like the one above with ‘our boys’ fighting a war?


PS: Tucked away at the bottom of the Mail article are the results of a BPIX poll on the state of the parties:

Tories would win 36 per cent of the vote, Labour 24 per cent and the Liberal Democrats 17 per cent.

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