Friday 6 February 2009

What a tit Jeremy Clarkson is

The Top Gear presenter was at a press conference in Sydney when he made some silly comments about Gord last night.

He said: "We have this one-eyed Scottish idiot who keeps telling us everything's fine and he's saved the world and we know he's lying, but he's smooth at telling us."

His comments show he seriously lacks judgement.

Yes, yes, the eye thing is below the belt - but what's that bit at the end? The PM is smooth at telling us!

Which country has Clarkson been living in? It shows he hasn't really got a clue and just had a dig to cause a stink.

I fartt in yor zheneral direksion!

First the Germans and now the French – Gordon Brown is becoming the whipping boy of European leaders.

Lobbydog would’ve paid to see the look on Gord’s face as his VAT cut was slagged off by the French President last night.

Sarko said tax cuts in the UK had done sweet FA to boost consumer spending.

“That will bring them nothing,” he said. “Consumption continues to decrease in Britain.”

It was in December that German Finance Minister Peer Steinbruck slated the PM’s economic rescue plan as “crass Keynesianism”.

Still, Gord’s only got himself to blame after years of boasting how much better Britain was than France and Germany.

Also it would’ve been an extra bitter pill to swallow after Tony Blair became the first Prime Minister to meet Obama.

Blair nipped in there quickly while Brown was looking the other way. Old habits die hard.

Posties for the chop

While most people are busy digging themselves out of a snowstorm, Lobbydog suspects somebody is trying to bury bad news.

Tales of massive job cuts at Royal Mail have been reported today, but have slipped out without much fanfare.

Managers have been told they need to save ten percent from office and staff costs in a letter, which was then leaked to the unions.

I guess we’ll never know who gave what to whom and why, but we shouldn’t be surprised at the news itself.

Lefties who were given hope that Royal Mail might only be part-privatised (were in denial) should take this as a sign.

Ten years from now Mandy will have put Royal Mail firmly in private hands.

Thursday 5 February 2009

Geoff Hoon wanted to lamp us

I thought we we’re going to get into a ruckus with Geoff Hoon earlier.

The Post’s parliamentary correspondent first noted that the Transport Secretary might be breaking here.

And at one point at lunch earlier today he even said “c’mon!” to us in the middle of a rant.

Some other regional hacks and myself were having lunch with Hoon when someone inevitably brought up the snow issue and why busses don’t have any chains for their tyres.

“How many snow chains have you got?” Hoon demanded from the hack. There was silence.

“I, I don’t have any,” came the quiet response.

“No. Have any of you got any snow chains? How much are they? £54.50 at Halfords,” he said answering his own question.

“Why has nobody got any snow chains?” More silence. “Then why are you all whinging about what the Government hasn’t got?”

“C’mon! If you live in the Alps you’ve got snow chains, you’ve got them in the back of your car. Why has none of you – intelligent capable people – got snow chains?”

At this point another hack said: “Well, I don’t have a car.”

UPDATE (6th Feb): Hoon pulled the same trick on Question Time last night - demanding to know if anyone had snow chains. He seems to have adopted this new 'attack is the best form of defence' approach all round.

Charles Horton is going to get beaten up today…

The MD of South Eastern Trains will be jumped by the chiefs of four other rail companies, who he made look very stupid, and they’ll whip him with their silk ties till he bleeds.

He was the one boss who agreed to tell MPs in last night’s Transport Select Committee how much profit his company was making – £27m for the record.

Four others – from Virgin, First Group, Hull Trains, and National Express – refused to cough up the info, infuriating the committee chair.

When Horton decided to speak up the others started throwing each other panicky looks.

Beads of sweet began forming on the forehead of First Group’s Paul Furze-Waddock (it’s his real name, honest) while I thought Virgin’s Graham Leech (the irony) was going to spontaneously combust.

Leech’s head started twitching and he chewed his bottom lip while he twisted his neck round to stare at the other bosses.

None of them would say what their most expensive fare was, having hiked their prices well beyond inflation earlier this year.

Brown saves pensioners too

Stand aside suffragettes, out of the way William Wilberforce – a new force for freedom is upon us.

Gordon Brown took top prize for self-congratulating exaggeration of the day at PMQs yesterday when he was asked about the Government’s scheme giving free bus travel for pensioners.

He called it: “One of the emancipating forces of our time!”

Lobbydog agrees the scheme is good.

But he must have missed the news stories about pensioners throwing themselves under the Queen’s horse at Ascot to win their right to travel to Poole for free.

Wednesday 4 February 2009

Cameron flops

At PMQs earlier I'm pretty sure there was a line of dribble escaping Lindsey Hoyle's mouth and forming a dark patch on his suit lapel.

No doubt he would say it's because he was up all night negotiating over strikes or something.

But I wouldn't blame him if he just lost interest in the show.

Rather than jumping in feet first and slapping the PM for drumming up xenophobic sentiment with the "British jobs" comment, Cameron dilly-dallied for a full six minutes.

He must've reckoned: "I'll use two questions on international affairs to push Brown into a corner and on the third I'll hit him with the 'British jobs' line."

Instead it meant for most of the time no-one could quite work out what he was getting at.

It was like watching a David Cronenberg film where they don't let you know what the point of the story is, so none of the scenes make sense.

When he finally got round to saying the PM should apologise for his comments it hardly seemed worth it anymore.

At one point I drifted so far I began looking down and examining the scalps of the Tory front bench over which I sit - Theresa May needs to do her roots.

Anyway, some light relief eventually came when Dennis MacShane was told off by the Speaker for getting too rowdy – but it was too little too late.

Blunt knife out for Hoon

The only thing worse than being a backstabbing toad, is being a backstabbing toad that lacks conviction.

Charles Clarke falls into the second category after his interview in the Telegraph in which his apologises for trying to get the PM sacked last year.

He even let slip rather unsubtly that he'd like a job at the top table.

"I'd love to do transport," he told the paper.

That will give the incumbent Notts MP Geoff Hoon nothing to think about.

Self defeating Lindsey deal

I’ll be intrigued to see exactly what kind of deal they reach at the Lindsey refinery.

Anything that sees jobs given preferably to British workers is surely going against EU rules.

Regardless of whether it’s the right thing to do, you can’t ignore that it’s against the law.

If they do come to a settlement what’s to stop people in other countries doing it?

As Andy points out in his comment here,

“If a UK firm wins a contract in Europe you can bet they wouldn't be expected to make all their UK workers redundant and then recruit a load of Europeans in the country the contract is based.”

Notts MP John Mann has also tabled a motion "deploring" the use of foreign workers at Lindsey, and congratulating unions for "exposing this exploitation and the absence of equal opportunities to apply for all jobs".

Bizarre considering he’s advocating preferential treatment of British workers within the EU.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Flag hag

In a secret message Peter Mandelson confirmed his status as Dark Lord of British politics by surreptitiously appearing in front of an upside-down Union Jack.

That’s what I reckon anyway.

The official line is that the mis-hanging, which occurred during a signing with the Chinese Premiere, was a mistake.

You’ve got to laugh at the silliness of flag-gate.

That is unless you’re Tory MP Andrew Rosindell who won the prize for overreaction of the day.

He called it "an unbelievable flaw in protocol".

Euro tables turn

In a rather unnoticed turn-around yesterday Ken Clarke, of all people, used Europe as weapon against the Government.

Reports of yesterday’s Commons statement on wildcat strikes carried Clarke’s comments about “British jobs for British workers” being irresponsible language.

Fair enough as that’s the day’s main story, but it was not where the Rushcliffe MP began his speech.

He opened by highlighting the division within Labour over EU rules on foreign workers, revealed when Alan Johnson said they may need to be reviewed.

The shadow business secretary then challenged minister Pat McFadden to state clearly that the Government supported the EU rules as they are.

Officially ministers do, but to have said so categorically at that point would’ve been damaging.

I expected Clarke to be strong on the front bench, but was still surprised by the nuance of this – the Tory’s former difficulty on Europe was now Labour’s, and Labour’s former weapon was now the Tory’s.

More and more I think Mandelson will be the one wanting to take Clarke on to stop further points being scored.

Let them drown...

…is the attitude of the Treasury to local authorities which had cash in Icelandic banks, reckons one councillor.

Peter Antill from Tewkesbury said: “The approach adopted so far suggests that had Treasury officials and MET Office officials been on Thailand’s beeches at the time of the Tsunami, the Treasury officials would have stood by and watched MET Office officials drown because they were informed weather professionals.”

He was giving evidence to a committee after Alistair Darling’s department refused to guarantee councils' frozen deposits because authorities were “informed investors”.

Nottingham City Council had £42m in their Icelandic accounts - let's hope they keep their head above water.

Monday 2 February 2009

BROWN: We'll get through this

By John Lobbydoh
Brown Correspondent

PRIME Minister Gordon Brown insisted Britain would get through devastating snow showers today.

Mr Brown made the comments as paralysis in the capital’s transport system brought London to a standstill.

Addressing Parliament he said: “These are difficult times but we are in a very strong position to deal with this.

“We’ve invested £56m to buy a packet of salt for everyone in Britain, which they’ll be able to wave out in front of them as they walk so dissolving the snow.

“There is also real help for the most needy in the form plastic cards, which we are giving to people so they can scrape their windscreens each morning.

“Finally we’ve set up a task force to look into the cost of buying everyone snow shoes.”

He added: “This is a snow shower that formed over northern Europe and was blown here by unexpected, unpredictable winds.”

Just kidding.

Cops demand money back from Police Minister

Suffolk Police have apparently written to Police Minister Vernon Coaker asking for £160,000 to cover the cost of policing the PM's summer holiday last year.

The local paper is reporting that the Browns' visit during July and August led to a major security operation that stretched the force's meagre budget.

The trip was meant to boost tourism in the area - next year maybe they should just get the deck chairs out and sit in the back garden.

I'll have a serious policy please Carol

Just when Labour’s image as the unattested party of gimmick seemed to be set, Cameron's team have come up with an absolute monster.

Carol Vorderman is to head up a maths task force which will look at teaching methods, how to address people's "fear" of the subject, and whether tests have become easier.

Here’s an idea – why not get a maths teacher to do it? Or a professor of education? Or anyone who has some experience in schools beyond having been to one as a child?

Lobbydog was an education correspondent long enough to know that being good at maths does not make you a good maths teacher.

Thankfully I doubt the former Countdown presenter will have any real sway over policy – she is just a publicity grabbing measure.

But that realisation makes the entire project lose credibility – I’d be interested to know what the blogger Tory Poppins has to say about this.

UPDATE: The Tories have put out pictures of Cameron and Vorderman having a snowball fight outside Parliament - seriously.

Mandy on form

I just finished listening to Humphries jousting with Mandelson on Radio 4.

A welcome change after the PM’s interview over the weekend.

The Dark Lord did well to fend off some of the presenter’s harshest unruliness.

It always impresses me that no matter how much he seems to be in a corner, he manages to argue himself out without sounding unreasonable.

It’s not going to get any easier for him, particularly with a winter of discontent falling thick on the Houses of Parliament today.

Sunday 1 February 2009

George is important, honestly

The Conservatives must get over this need to emphasise George Osborne’s importance at every turn.

It sounds forced and has done since before Ken Clarke came back – plus it’s not doing the shadow chancellor any favours.

The most recent example was one of William Hague’s answers on Marr this morning.

The skeletal presenter had just asked Hague whether he was now deputy leader of the Conservative Party.

“I’m David Cameron’s deputy,” he said.

“We don’t use the title deputy leader. Technically they call me the senior member of the shadow cabinet.”

While Marr, myself and the rest of the country were wondering what the need for all this trifle was, Hague answered without anyone asking.

“And there is George Osborne – indispensible to everything David Cameron has done.”

The other political interview on Marr was Health Secretary Alan Johnson.

Downing Street officials were, earlier this week, encouraging other members of the cabinet to talk about the economy to take the strain off Brown.

They singled out Johnson and accused him of keeping a low profile. I’d say he probably has – not wanting to tie himself, and his ambitions, to the deck of a sinking ship.

Rebuffing accusations Johnson seemed to query how he could be keeping a low profile if he was on the Andrew Marr show.

The question is obviously whether he would have been on the Andrew Marr show had he not been accused of keeping a low profile.