November 26th, 2008 Editor
I don’t know whether dress for today’s Pre-Budget Report debate was three-line-whipped on the Labour front benches, but I was somewhat distracted from the issues under debate by the fact that Alistair Darling and Jack Straw seemed to be wearing exactly the same suit and tie combo. No doubt the right-wing blogs will be awash with Tweedledee-Tweedledum analogies. I’ll see if I can get a grab from the coverage asap, but in the meantime:
November 18th, 2008 MediaMole
I’ve heard from a friend at the BBC that, in an attempt to garner some enthusiasm for it’s great migration to Manchester, the beeb has been organising coach trips for staff to visit Salford ahead of the move. The idea seems to have backfired however, as the assembled journos and media-types have hardly embraced the opportunity, being too afraid to leave the coach during it’s stops in Auntie’s new home.
November 17th, 2008 Editor
The weekend polls made interesting reading this week, with a YouGov/Sunday Times survey putting Labour only five points behind the Tories (on 36% and 41% respectively), whilst a ComRes/Independent on Sunday offering claimed that the Tories had stretched their lead to 11 points (Con 43%, Lab 32%). Predictably, this has lead to interested parties spinning one or the other to show a ‘Brown bounce’ or a lack thereof. Whilst I’m profoundly unqualified to comment with any authority on the shady art of political rune-reading, I would say that during the London Mayoral election YouGov put out a series of unnervingly accurate predictions of a Johnson win for the Evening Standard, whilst others were saying that Ken might edge it. They even put out a smug press release in the wake of the election offering their help to other pollsters:
We stand ready to help our friends in other market research companies to investigate where they have gone wrong and work out how to improve their performance in the future.
Although ComRes weren’t major players in the London elections, I think if I were Gordon Brown, I’d be feeling quietly confident.
November 13th, 2008 TheHyrcanianTiger
Whilst Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon chose to fill most of this week’s Commons address on the proposed third runway at Heathrow with beareaucratic waffle, he did hit upon a gem from Theresa May on BoJo’s proposals for an airport in the Thames Estuary:
Just last Friday, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), to whom I would be delighted to give way, was asked whether her party liked the Mayor’s plan. Her answer was “That’s Boris’s proposal”, which reveals the chaos and confusion on the Benches opposite.
Theresa May seems to have declined Hoon’s invitation to interject, but unfortunately for Boris, several members from his own party weren’t afraid to stick the knife in. Tory MP Mark Francois even afforded the Lib Dem’s the opportunity to give Johnson a kicking, as Hansard records:
Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh) (Con): As a south Essex Member, I strongly opposed the proposal for an airport at Cliffe, not least because of its environmental impact. Equally, I oppose the fantasy airport in the Thames estuary. What is the Liberal Democrats’ position on the idea of an airport in the Thames estuary? Are they for it or against it?
Norman Baker: We are all against it. We have no mayoral candidates, or anyone else, in favour of it. We are against any expansion of aviation in the south-east: we believe that there is no environmental case for it whatsoever.
Now, I have documented on these pages again and again how Johnson’s regime, far from being the model for a future Conservative Government that it is often held to be by senior Tories, has increasingly strayed off-message (and has even openly criticised the policies of Cameron et al), so this latest episode should come as no surprise. But on previous occassions such discrepancies have been swept under the carpet by Tory HQ; to have members of the Conservative Parliamentary Party openly and explicitly attacking their own Mayor is quite remarkable.
November 11th, 2008 TheHyrcanianTiger
Boris has resurrected his baffling dream of summoning an airport out of the Thames Estuary today by naming Doug Oakervee as chair of a feasability study. The press release triumphantly hails Overkee as ’instrumental in the development of Hong Kong’s revolutionary offshore International Airport.’ This would be the airport that suffered such severe organisational, mechanical, and technical problems that the Chinese government were forced to reopen a terminal at the closed Kai Tak Airport to handle freight traffic redirected from the offshore site. So you’ll excuse me if I remain sceptical.
Quite apart from my unqualified objection to the very idea of building a new airport at a time when we are meant to be cutting carbon emissions, I have to say I find the timing odd. As the RSPB pointed out several months ago, one of many obstacles to building an aiport on the estuary is the fact it is home to some 200,000 birds. And as we learnt with the emergency landing of a Ryanair plane in Italy this week, birds and aeroplanes don’t mix well…
November 11th, 2008 Editor
…Jon Craig gave me a giggle by getting all hot-under-the-collar over that well-known adonis, David Cameron, telling the Sky News blog:
After years of being led by a succession of - how can we put this politely? - ugly men, (William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Howard) now the Tories have a leader who looks like a matinee idol.
I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help myself:
P.S: Apologies to all who’ve been attempting to log on over the past week without any success. I’ve been having problems with my hosting provider; Hopefully these are all sorted now.
November 11th, 2008 TheHyrcanianTiger
The Sir Ian Blair resignation farce reared its ugly head again today with the news that the outgoing Met Police Commissioner is getting a golden goodbye of as much as £1m, depending on what you read. This has predictably and quite rightly sparked outrage in many quarters, including angry press releases from The Green’s AM Jenny Jones. However I’m amazed at how Boris has managed to escape the full force of most of this ire. Jones seems to suggest that the decision to pay-off was taken unilaterally by the Mayor, saying as she does that:
If the Mayor had consulted other parts of London Government about.. the decision to compensate him, we probably wouldn’t be in this situation
You can’t help but detect a whiff of suspicion that this is hush-money for Blair; hoping that he’ll leave the scene quietly without revealing the murky politiking that seems to have preceded his decision to ‘resign.’ Lest we forget, Johnson is the Mayor that not only promised to end wasteful spending of public money, but even asked the police to investigate allegations that his predecessor Ken Livingstone used it for political ends.
Given that this latest act of profligacy follows BoJo’s decision to use £400k of public money to pay-off Porsche over their congestion charge legal challenge, the words ‘Pot, Kettle, Black’ seem apt.
November 1st, 2008 Editor
Perhaps its due to the proximity of Guy Fawkes night, but Guido has been getting a little carried away with his latest conspiracy theory. For a while now he has been crying foul play over the ‘delay’ of Gordon Brown’s Ask the PM appearance on YouTube. Guido’s typically flambouyant explanation is as follows:
Yesterday was closing day for Gordon’s “Ask the PM” on YouTube gimmick, Guido and the Taxpayers Alliance uploaded their questions just before the close yesterday evening. Guess what: this morning Downing Street put the closing date back two weeks!
Maybe they only want Andy Marr to ask Gordon a question? Perhaps they will commission Deborah Mattinson to do a citizen’s consultation? Totally pathetic. This exposes the whole Downing Street “engaging with the people online” stuff as bullsh*t spin. This is classic New Labour “consultation” and “engagement”, they want the online equivalent of a Potemkin Village.
Now I hate to spoil his fun with such boring concepts as ‘facts’ and ‘journalistic integrity’, but I happen to be very good friends with the bloke who runs the PM’s YouTube channel, who I went to university with. And the real explanation for postponing the deadline is somewhat more mundane: he simply misread the date when the original graphic was uploaded.
Sorry Guido, no plot here.
October 29th, 2008 TheHyrcanianTiger
David Cameron has just been inviting Gordon Brown at PMQs to assert with him that ‘you cannot spend your way out of a recession’, whilst claiming that ‘now is not the time for a spending splurge.’ Before he exerts too much effort on trying to persuade the Prime Minister to his way of thinking, can I suggest that he starts with getting his own party on message? Our very own Tory loose cannon Boris Johnson only yesterday was claiming in the Evening Standard that ‘this is the moment for a life-affirming splurge’, in an article headed ‘BORIS JOHNSON has called for the public to spend their way out of the recession.’ This, of course, is not the first time the two most powerful Tory politicians have been seemingly at odds, after BoJo rubbished Cameron’s ‘Broken Britain’ soundbite as ‘piffle.’ So in claiming that Boris’s London will be the model for a Tory government in Westminster, can we assume that Dave is not envisaging himself at the helm?
October 28th, 2008 Editor
Sod’s Law states that it was inevitable that the Deripaska story would break just before Mandy’s trip to the Russian Oligarch’s motherland this week. However in all the furore, a fact that has been overlooked is that when the itinerary was provisionally drafted for his predecessor as Business Secretary John Hutton, a meeting with Deripaska was indeed included. One has to assume that this was to discuss matters of national interest, which by extension, have been damaged by Mandelson having to quietly withdraw from the meeting due to the media storm. Given that this whole charade was percipitated by Mandelson supposedly putting himself before his job, you would be forgiven for wondering why this wasn’t getting quite so much attention. The truth of the matter is probably that Mandy abstaining from meeting Russian billionaires isn’t quite such an impressive front page splash for the tabloids.