Saturday 13 December 2008

Super Gord

Very funny by Patrick Blower.

Don't mention the...

So it's Britain and France against Germany again.

Nicolas Sarkozy has apparently come to Gordon Brown's support in the diplomatic spat over fiscal stimuli.

The Guardian reports British officials were delighted when Sarko made a joke about the German finance minister - who had previously slated the PM's strategy.

He said: "I have full confidence [Angela Merkel] will give instructions to her finance minister."

Those French really know how to tell them.

How to start the weekend

Lobbydog woke up with a tender head this morning and has only just made it to a computer.

He spent yesterday evening visiting bars in the Palace of Westminster, soaking up Guiness and the wisdom of Tim Worstall - a heady mix if ever there was one.

Friday 12 December 2008

Gov Stats: Irregular and selective

News that Number 10 pushed the Home Office to publish unchecked stats of stabbing figures in Notts is outrageous, but sadly not surprising.

Suspicion that something fishy was going on was first raised when the press release, which had been previously announced, was delayed again and again throughout Thursday.

When it did finally come there was no breakdown of the nine areas involved – including Notts – just an overall figure.

A Home Office official told me the breakdown wasn’t ready yet, which set alarm bells ringing considering the total figure must have come from the sum of all the broken down figures in the first place.

Furthermore the total figure seemed to bear no resemblance to what was happening in Notts – teen stab wounds at the city’s main hospital actually seem to have gone up.

The Home Office was last stung by a statistics balls up quite recently, so it’s no wonder that officials there weren’t willing to put figures out until they were ready.

You have to ask why Number 10 felt the need to push the issue – a desire to get a good headline before Christmas perhaps?

Or maybe to divert attention away from German finance ministers slagging of the PM’s economic policy.

Lobbydog has tried caling Notts MP and Police Minister Vernon Coaker, but it went through to answering machine.


Lobbydog was speaking to his close friend and respected sage Old Tory Fart last night who suggested what on the face of it sounds like a win-win policy for a future Government.

Stamp duty on home purchases should be abolished and replaced with stamp duty on home sales.

1) It removes a huge barrier for young people trying to get on the property ladder.

2) People selling a house have the capital available to afford the tax.

3) Revenue to the Exchequer may actually improve due to the capitally increased figure from which a tax percentage is taken.

Old Tory Fart reckoned some “transitional relief” for people who currently own a property should be provided – after all, they've already paid when they bought their house.

He suggested that if such a person eventually sells their house, then the amount already paid could be deducted from the amount due under the new tax.

George, Alistair, if either of you want to take it on drop me a line.

What do we think people?

Thursday 11 December 2008

Meale tips

Apparently Mansfield’s Labour MP has become something of a lucky charm in the House of Commons.

Alan Meale and two other members, Tony Cunningham and Tony Wright, own a horse called Theatre Bell.

By the end of November it had romped home in four of its last six races – filling the pockets of fluttering MPs.

The horse had previously lost 15 races in a row when stabled in Thirsk, but a move to a new stable turned everything around.

Where was this providential place? Sedgefield – the former constituency of Tony Blair. You couldn’t write it more ironically.

Mann takes scalp

Notts MP John Mann will no doubt have a celebratory pint of ale tonight after partners from law firm Beresfords were struck off.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal also found the partners guilty on charges of misconduct.

Mann has been waging war on a number of big law firms he accuses of over-charging miners trying to claim compensation for ill health.

He too has been the subject of attacks from sections of the law community who've tried to discredit him - Lobbydog has previously been sent information packs briefing against the Bassetlaw MP.

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Saint Alan the Renewable

A Labour colleague approached Alan Simpson after today's PMQs and despaired of the rebel Nottingham South MP's luck.

This MP always kept his head down, always turned up to vote the way the Government wanted (half the time not knowing what the vote was about, he said) and still nothing nice was ever said about him.

"But you," the MP complained, "you do everything you can to make trouble for the Government, then say one thing in the House and suddenly you're Saint Alan the bloody Renewable."

I rather like the nickname. The city MP has actually won some leverage from his intervention today.

Read about it in the parliamentary correspondent's column in the Evening Post on Friday.

One to remember...

Brown's hero

I think even Alan Simpson (Nottingham South) was shocked that he came to the Prime Minister's rescue in such gallivanting fashion during today's PMQs.

Moments before, the PM had made a humiliating blooper that left his lower lip wobbling like bit of liver.

Brown had meant to say he had saved the banks, but instead – in a monumental Freudian slip – said: "We not only saved the world."

Before he could finish the next sentence the house had exploded and Brown turned to red – the cacophony ringing through the Palace of Westminster.

He was on the back-foot, but Cameron took his time landing the killer blow that could have finished the PM for the day.

Then Simpson was called by Michael Martin: "Actually Mr Speaker it's quite nice to have a Prime Minister who would save the world when we're faced with an opposition who can barely save face."

It was a pithy comeback that gave Labour MPs something to cheer and even seemed to boost Brown.

The significance of the whole affair was pushed aside when an even more monumental blooper was made by Nick Clegg (Hallam) minutes later.

The Lib Dem leader wanted to tell a story about a constituent, but foolishly started by saying that a single mum had come to see him with a young child.

Given his reputation - he once told a magazine he had slept with around 30 women - it's no wonder the house fell about laughing for a full minute.

The lame-duck Speaker didn't even try and control the rabble - Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) sat opposite ‘Clegg-over’ using his fingers to flash up number 31.

For the festively challenged among us...


Merry Cameron

Isn't it a bit weird to receive a Christmas card from someone you know with a picture of them on the front?

Hacks in the Lobby were tearing open cards from the Camerons today which sported a typically wholesome black and white snap of the family.

It's funny how politics makes otherwise obscure things seem normal. Maybe I'm just bitter because I didn't get one.

Jar therapy

There was a time when Margaret Beckett must have had a jar in the bottom draw of her desk which, at the end of each day, she opened when no-one was around, whispered into it what she really thought and then tightly screwed the lid back on – packing it away relieved.

Only that way does Lobbydog believe the Housing Minister could have held her tongue while giving the guarded answers she is so known for.

This conclusion was reached after hearing from a Labour MP that Mrs Beckett voted against Michael Martin at every stage of the ballot to elect the Speaker eight years ago – believing him unsuitable.

But she still managed to point out in recent days, albeit through gritted teeth, that it was a tradition for MPs not to criticize the Speaker.

The MP from Derby had also previously said the Government was not, and never had been, tied to building any number of eco-towns – a confusing statement for anyone who has followed the story and one possibly leaving her in need of some jar therapy.

But Lobbydog now fears the jar may be full, after the minister made an uncharacteristic slip the other day – highlighting that a bank thought a Government mortgage help-package might only help 9,000 families.

It may also have been a lack of anywhere else to put her thoughts that led her to “do a Flint” and flash some private papers while walking into Downing Street recently.

Either way, the Prime Minister can’t be happy with it all.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Darling to face tougher challenge?

Can MPs on the Treasury Select Committee please twist the thumb-screws on Alistair Darling tomorrow?

If what one member of the committee tells Lobbydog is right, it should be a little tougher than last time the Chancellor sat in front of them.

On that occasion he got more of a light simmering than a grilling, as Chair John McFall opted to read out questions sent in by the public rather than let his members fully probe Darling.

Tomorrow, when they quiz him on the PBR, we can expect members to ask what his 'plan B' is if the fiscal stimulus falls flat, as some have said it may.

They will also ask if he's going to get any tougher with banks in forcing them to lend and why so many people are saying his forecasts are too optimistic.

We all know select committees don't have huge teeth, but they can still make a spectacle.

Monday 8 December 2008

Suppressed anger

A Notts MP told Lobbydog today that anger amongst Labour members over Michael Martin's performance is much greater than has been reported.

A story on the BBC suggested thirty-two MPs no longer had confidence in the Commons Speaker and 50 said he was at fault over the arrest of Damian Green.

While the MPs won’t be willing to let the Tories take Martin's scalp, there will be mounting pressure on him to step down behind the scenes.

Lobbydog has already made its view known - considering the Speaker has been in post for the customary eight years, it's time to let someone else have the chair.

Simpson and Hoon square up

Geoff Hoon may have to keep watch over his shoulder – the row over Heathrow's third runway is getting closer to home.

The Transport Secretary announced last week that he would take the decision on the runway without giving the Commons a vote – suggesting he thinks it might be controversial.

But now it looks like those Labour MPs opposing the runway – possibly working with the opposition – will try and force a vote.

Nottingham South's rebel Alan Simpson, who has never been afraid of giving the Government a kick when needs be, freely admits he's against the plan.

He told Lobbydog today that Hoon, Ashfield MP, would be wise not to expand Heathrow.

When asked whether he was afraid that such a rebellion would damage the Government Simpson said: "You can say that it would be damaging.

"But for those of us that believe that a permanent shift in Government policy is needed, it would be less damaging to do nothing."

Whipping up a storm

Bob Marshall-Andrews just revealed in the Commons that Labour MPs have been put on a "thinly veiled" three line whip for today's Damian Green debate.

If anyone needed any proof that this issue has become too politicised to be meaningful, that was it.

Good on Bob, a Labour MP himself, for letting the cat out of the bag.