Friday, 19 December 2008

MP calls for a fiscal stimulus - ANOTHER ONE

If a fiscal stimulus was going to work then you would hope £20 billion would do the job.

But Labour MP Andy Reed suggested yesterday that, as conditions were so exceptional, Alistair Darling should consider a second stimulus in the new-year.

First of all let's look at that logically. If it didn't work once, it's not going to work the second time just because you want it to.

Chucking another 1% of GDP at the problem isn't just whipping a dead horse, it’s like trying to ride the rotting corpse in the Grand National.

Now let’s consider the economic impact.

If all the countries in the world were students, we are the guy who had to take out a second loan because we blew our first one on a fancy stereo.

We then blew that on speakers, we've maxed out our credit card getting pissed and we're at our overdraft limit.

The best thing to do now is to not take out another loan. Thankfully that message seems to have got through to Alistair Darling who denied his colleague.

Spleen vented

Ed Balls has just confirmed he'll attend the first Regional Lobby lunch in January.

For anyone who rues the day Labour started tinkering with the education system this "provocative" piece by Old Holborn will fit the bill.

Iraq inquiry

The only thing worse than a blackout, is a whitewash.

MPs are right to call for an investigation into the Iraq War, like member for Newark Patrick Mercer who said today that it would be absolutely crucial.

But they need to be honest with themselves about what their role in the probe should be.

Lobbydog is not certain that MPs are capable of conducting such an inquiry at the moment without becoming distracted by politics.

More than ever recently Parliament has shown its knack for letting partisan loyalties get in the way of the real issue.

Perhaps an inquiry carried out by a judge, appointed by a cross party group of MPs would be better?

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Chuck your shoes at George Bush!


Great fun. Hat-tip to Thunder Dragon.

Eight to read before bed...

Lobbydog's lot

1) Paul Waugh on the Nike Recession.
2) Lib Dem Voice rates Nick Clegg's first year.
3) Tim Worstall on Tobin Taxes and batshit.
4) Ben Brogan gets the inside track on Jaguar.
5) Burning Our Money argues for elected sheriffs.
6) PJC Journal on the Libertarian Test.
7) Jonathan Rutherford and Jon Cruddas MP at Liberal Conspiracy.
8) Harry's Place deals with the SWP.

Cheer up Geoff!

In the most recent issue of a2b, the Department for Transport's internal magazine, Geoff Hoon describes himself as "a sad person".

The Notts MP trys to explain the comment, but Lobbydog can spot a freudian slip when he hears one.

It's ok Geoff, Lobbydog understands. We all feel a bit down now and then.

With a Christmas period in which the Heathrow row will be left to simmer anyone in your position might feel a bit gloomy.

So keep your chin up Geoff, this one's for you.

Chorus for Clarke grows

Today Stephen Glover writes in the Daily Mail:

"If Mr Cameron wants to save himself, and to safeguard all that he has achieved, he will send for Kenneth Clarke."

He goes further and suggests Clarke is the only person who can help the Tories.

I don't think the piece gives enough weight to the European problem, but overall he may well be right.

Police politics ditched

Plans to make police authorities directly elected have been binned.

It's a kick in the balls for the Government and Jacqui Smith who looked like they might ignore everyone's advice and push on blindly.

It'll also be interesting to see what Vernon Coaker has to say about the whole thing.

He was vehemently defending the idea not a week ago.

The question now - if they can turn on this, then on what else?

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Mc Mc Mc McNulty

In today's stats briefing Tony "the attack dog" McNulty gave a memorably crap answer.

The Employment Minister was asked by a hack whether he agreed with the Chancellor – that recession would ease off at the end of 2009 – or with Lord Mandelson, that it is deeper and longer than we expect.

He said: “I agree with both of course. I think that in different ways they are trying to say the same thing.

“Alistair was saying, rather like the Bank of England, all the signs look like, thus far, an up-turn towards the end of that year.

“But if you look at the chart that the Governor [of the BoE] introduced, as ever with bankers, economists and everybody, there was a huge spread between quite how sharp the line would go back up and how slowly it went back up.

“There was a huge array of, sort of, ‘this is the trend, here’s how it may go’.”


Thanks for that. The hack pressed him again.

“I think they are explaining the same phenomenon," he gibbered.

“One in an economic, er, er, e-e-e economic, economicistic way and one in a business focused way.”

Bennt truth

Hilary Benn has just said in the House that six local authorities will be the first to benefit from £15m set aside to help councils build flood defences.

He named the six areas - a sure thing to get a headline in a local paper.

What he didn't say, and what sharp regional hacks have just found out from Defra, is that each of those six will actually only get £50,000.

That might just cover the cost of a public consultation on what they should do with the money they don't have.

Unemployment

Tony McNulty is giving us a briefing on today's unemployment statistics – showing 1.86m people are out of work – in 20 minutes.

Then at 2pm the Tory's have set their briefing up, let the spin tug-of-war begin.

We should be able to get some sort of breakdown to show how badly Nottingham has been hit, read about it in the paper tomorrow.

"Travel is good"

...said Geoff Hoon to Christian Wolmer at the DfT drinks do last night.

I wonder if that was one of the answers the Notts MP gave during the interview for the Transport Secretary job.

Christian gives a rather interesting yet cutting view of his first meeting with Hoon here.

Loose tongues cost lives

Recess Monkey happened to overhear this conversation between David Davis and a colleague on the tube the other night.

If I were Cameron I'd shunt him up to the Lords sooner rather than later.

The Post Office has to change. Dramatically.

Whether it's full or part privatisation or something else – big change needs to be the starting point for any plan.

The Post Office is going down the toilet and is a monumental drain on public funds, it needs rebuilding.

Lobbydog understands this is controversial, but thinks any plan to save it is being hindered by the need to be sensitive.

Peter Mandelson has, whisperers say, apparently been arguing for full privatisation behind the scenes – ruffling feathers.

So it was intriguing to hear him suggest initial part privatisation. Lobbydog's gut tells him this is a rather feeble ruse to placate core Labour – a first step to the full whack.

Nick Robinson hasn't just taken the bait – he's been caught, filleted and wrapped in breadcrumbs.

"He's saying yes to part privatisation, and no to full privatisation," says Nick, just in case we didn't hear Mandy the first time.

UPDATE: Sky has just reported that Jim McGovern, Pat McFadden's PPS, has resigned over the Post Office plan.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Eight to read before bed...

Lobbydog's lot

1) Politicalbetting: Tories close gap on Labour
2) Mr Eugenides takes aim at Toynbee
3) Iain Dale's Diary gives the PM his undivided attention
4) Letters from a Tory: Slating Kenneth Branagh

5) The Croydonian spots something that we all should know
6) Stumbling and Mumbling: Why New Labour nannies us
7) Fraser Nelson asks Cameron what he would do
8) Order order: Guido confesses

Tipping piles in

Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon has come under fire from another fellow Notts Labour MP today.

Paddy Tipping chided the Government for cocking-up the new law controlling energy companies.

Department for Transport lawyers omitted the current requirement for oil firms to include 2.5% of bio-fuels in their overall supply to UK motorists.

Oil companies will now probably choose to save a packet by not bothering to buy up the fuels.

Tipping said: "The effect of this error has been to threaten the viability of UK companies and in some cases to put them out of business.

"From the Government’s own records, these companies are the very ones that would have delivered high levels of carbon saving.”

A newly invigorated Alan Simpson is also nipping at the heels of Hoon over Heathrow's third runway.

Woofers

There is a closed door briefing about to start at the MoD on the use of Snatch Vixen Land Rovers in war zones.

Hopefully they will announce the earlier, less armoured models are to be withdrawn.

Particularly as John Hutton has just announced the Sherwood Foresters will be deploying to Afghanistan again in April.

UPDATE: No such luck. Some top brass just said that Snatch was here to stay.

At least until science and industry comes up with a better model with similar capabilities that can outperform it.

Ve have vays of making you small talk

The Department for Transport installed a super computer to run all its HR services and – you couldn’t make it up – it started sending messages out in German.

Brilliant. I hear the computer has now begun questioning Gordon Brown’s fiscal stimulus.

The DfT's shared services centre in Swansea provides human resources, payroll and finance support services to the department and its agencies

It was originally forecast to cost £55m but would lead to £112m of savings – a benefit of £57m.

But DfT now reckons the programme will cost £121m and produce benefits of £40m, resulting in a net cost to the taxpayer of £81m.

At least it will provide some small talk material when Lobbydog has drinks with Geoff Hoon tonight.

Last minute reprieve

The Police Minister called Lobbydog last night to point out that the MET's human trafficking team had been saved – for now at least.

The Post's parliamentary correspondent wrote a column about how officers were miffed that the team, which has fought crime very successfully, was going to be closed.

In it he looked at how Vernon Coaker, also Gedling MP, was going to have a tough time whatever he decided to do.

In the end the Government has found half of the funding to keep it going for one more year, the MET will pay the other half.

It's a stay of execution. But the problem will return for the team and Coaker next year.

P.s. Lobbydog took the opportunity to ask Coaker for a pre-Christmas interview about the use of statistics to which he agreed – watch this space.

Monday, 15 December 2008

That's that cleared up then.

What about this little gem of Government speak? It’s from a document compiled by the Dept. of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

Officials were asked how they measured the performance of regional development agencies, to which they replied:

"The tasking framework for RDAs has been radically simplified in the SNR, with the previous suite of 12 PSAs and six output targets replaced by a single growth objective derived from the regional economic performance PSA."

Lobbydog

Maybe it's because the weather has grown colder, maybe it's because a full moon approaches or maybe it's just because he has grown tired of politicians – but Lobbydog has grown some teeth.

Whether his new grizzly form lasts, remains to be seen.



Impossible situation

As if recent stabbing stats and crime figure botches weren't enough to torpedo confidence in Government/police information, there was more embarrassment today.

Last week Police Minister and Notts MP Vernon Coaker said in a select committee that police had to be proportionate when dealing with protestors.

The demonstration at Kingsnorth power station - which led to accusations of police heavy handedness - was raised, but Coaker defended officers saying they needed to protect themselves as well.

Originally Kent Police said their officers had suffered 70 injuries in the £5.9m crowd control operation.

But the Guardian reports that Coaker has now written to Lib Dems admitting none of the "injuries" were as a result of contact with protestors.


Problems included tooth ache, heat exhaustion, diarrhoea and a sting from a "possible wasp".

What is a possible wasp? In fact, what is an impossible wasp? For some reason Yvette Cooper springs to mind.

The Home Office and Number 10 need to get a grip on the information issue. Unfortunately if they don't it will only be a Notts MP who pays the price.

UPDATE, Dec 16: Coaker apologised in Parliament for the Kingsnorth balls up on Monday, and his boss Jacqui Smith for the kinfe crime botch. A bad day at the Home Office.

Portillo on Ken Clarke's bottom


I never thought I'd write that in a headline.


Portillo did a piece in The Sunday Times yesterday looking at the pros and cons of bringing Ken back.


He wrote: "He has what his party’s front bench apparently lacks: 'Bottom', that combination of independent-mindedness, experience and gravitas that makes people listen and trust."