Friday 5 December 2008


A balls-up by DfT lawyers working under Notts MP Geoff Hoon could see the entire British bio-fuels industry go to the wall.

The claim, reported in the Independent, is being made by industry bodies which reckon firms could be wiped out as early as April 2009.

When drafting the new law regulating the biofuels industry the lawyers omitted the current requirement for oil firms to include 2.5% of bio-fuels in their overall supply to UK motorists.

The fear from the biofuels industry is that if oil companies don’t have to buy up their produce, they won’t. Indeed oil companies could save millions by taking advantage of the loophole.

Meanwhile those firms who were producing bio-diesel and bio-ethanol for a known market and a known volume of 2.5% of UK sales have seen the reason for their existence disintegrate.

There have been emergency meetings this week. Could biofuels be to Hoon what Iraq was to… er, Hoon?


A single parliamentary session under Gordon Brown saw more rebellions than an entire Parliament under Tony Blair.

That was one of the findings of University of Nottingham Academic Philip Cowley in a study about Labour dissension that he co-authored.

Brown’s first complete parliamentary session as PM, Nov 6 2007 to Nov 27 2008, saw Labour MPs defy whips 103 times.

Under Blair’s first Parliament, between 1997 and 2001, Labour MPs voted against their whips 96 times.

To put it in context the ‘103’ figure is a greater number of rebellions in one session than under any Government in 30 years.

See Cowley’s full report here.

Thursday 4 December 2008

Rumble in the jungle

I'd like to see it. If you would, catch the parliamentary correspondent's column in the Evening Post tomorrow.

UPDATE (Dec 7): Read the full column here.

Where the hell is Airwash?

It’s been so long since we heard from Erewash MP Liz Blackman in the House of Commons that I’d forgotten what she sounded like.

On Wednesday the MP seconded the Loyal Address – a statement of the Commons’ “gratitude” for the Queen’s speech.

Even she admitted it had been a while since she last spoke and decided it would be a good idea to remind people where she came from.

“My constituency is pronounced ‘Erreywash’, not ‘Airwash’, and certainly not ‘Earwash’, and it is found between Nottingham and Derby,” said the former whip.

It was of course that position in the whip’s office that has prevented her from speaking out in recent times – the idea is that if it’s your job to enforce the party line then you can’t have an opinion of your own.

The way the whip system works is a little archaic and bizarre and something MPs, whips or not, just know. It’s a bit like that unnaturally slow, buttock-clenching walk that everyone in Westminster performs during state ceremonies.

Those close to the top of Labour’s chain of command tell Lobbydog that Blackman’s loyalty is highly valued and that she is an effective operator – a shoe-in for a Government position next time something comes up.

But it’s easy to be loyal when you have an excuse not to say anything publicly.

Now that Blackman has the freedom to sing the people of Erewash should expect her to make up for lost time.

Lobbydog wants to see this ‘effective operator’ holding her own Government to account – the question is whether she’ll be prepared to put her neck on the line and risk future promotion.

The fateful search...

Fingers are pointed while the police search Damian Green's office. Watch the full video spliced with Dominic Grieve pontificating about it here.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

I know nothing...

Was it me or were Speaker Martin’s hands shaking while he tried to fob blame off for the Damian Green cock-up on to the police?

Martin said he had never authorised the police search of shadow immigration minister Green’s office – to gasps and howls in the House.

Apparently the Serjeant at Arms had signed a consent form without ever having asked if there was a search warrant – which it turns out there wasn’t.

Martin said the police did not explain, as they are required to do, that the Serjeant was not obliged to consent to the search or that a warrant could have been insisted upon.

Maybe the police were in the wrong, but surely the Serjeant at Arms should have known the rules too.

Anyone who has ever seen The Bill knows when the police come to search your place the first question you ask is: “You got a warrant?”

And if Martin didn’t know about the search then he should have done. It’s no good saying his underlings didn’t tell him, that just shows there is a huge communication problem among the Commons authorities.

Either way Lobbydog says the buck stops with him.

The only thing more despicable was watching Gordon Brown dodge questions on what he thought about the whole affair – answering every one with an “I don’t want to pre-judge an inquiry” response.

Watch the whole thing here.

Queen's speech

New laws supposed to equip the UK for the modern world will be announced today. How do we know this?

Because, like almost every year in the last 500, a man dressed in black tights will summon people called the “commons” to go to a room full of men in wigs and listen to the head of an ancient monarchy tell us so.

Tuesday 2 December 2008

Big beast to pounce

Big beast Ken Clarke was keeping his cards close to his chest today after reports appeared in the national press suggesting he would lead attacks in a Commons debate tomorrow over the Damian Green affair.

The Guardian reported this morning that the Notts MP and Michael Howard had been drafted in to head a Tory assault on Gordon Brown and Speaker Michael Martin over the affair.

What are likely to be heated discussions will follow a statement by the Speaker on why he let cops search Green's office.

Meanwhile Conservatives have accused the Government of trying to collude with Martin to come up with an acceptable story of who authorised what.

Ken would not confirm his involvement, but if he and Howard do lead the attack then it should be a decent show.

Monday 1 December 2008

On the up

Ever since his sacking from the Tory front bench Newark MP Patrick Mercer has refused to fade away.

If anything his departure made him a more prominent voice from the Tory benches as it gave him the space to speak freely, unburdened by strict adherence to party lines.

He has been the opposition MP of choice for journalists doing stories on anything to do with national security.

Now he has been given the chairmanship of a new parliamentary sub-committee on counter terrorism, news first talked of on Lobbydog.

With an official position to give his comments more weight, we will only be hearing more from the former Sherwood Forester.

Loyal Liz

Erewash MP Liz Blackman has been given the honour of seconding the Loyal Address on Wednesday.

After the Queen's address in the House of Lords the MPs file back down to the Commons where one MP gets the job of moving the Loyal Address - the Commons' acceptance of the Queen's Speech.

Then another MP, in this case Blackman, has to second it - which basically means she gets to give a speech about her constituency and (probably) how it has benefited from Government policy over the years.

It's considered an honour to be chosen for the task and Blackman’s selection highlights the favour she is still held in with the powers that be.

Among senior Labour officials it is almost a given that Blackman will be offered a Government position at the next reshuffle.