Friday, 13 February 2009

F***ing Boris

This is an extract from Johnson's rant - and he looked like such a well mannered boy.

Boris: You have gone on television and connived to try and give the impression that I f***ing tipped off David Cameron.

You are trying to make me look like a f***ing fool.

I cannot believe that you have allowed the [committee] to become a part of this. This is such f***ing bulls***.

Read the full transcript of his conversation with Keith Vaz here.

I think Vaz comes out of this looking the sillier character actually.

If you are going to take notes of a conversation then you wouldn't include swear words would you - unless you want other people to think the speaker is uncouth.

Hoon sugars a bitter pill

There were two sweeteners for the losers in yesterday’s trains contract story.

Derby firm Bombardier lost the £7.5bn contract, but the Government decided to announce (unexpectedly I’m told) that it would give them a smaller deal – worth £120m to £150m – on the same day.

The second less-known sweetner could turn out to be much more cynical.

Three sites were named for Hitachi’s UK based facility that will provide the 500 definite jobs to the UK.

Two were in areas in which Hitachi will receive Government grants if it chooses to set up, in the third – Ashby de la Zouch just south of the Derbyshire border – they will get nothing.

If you were Hitachi chief exec would you choose a site where you get free money or one where you don’t?

This question has occurred to industry insiders who are suggesting the Ashby site is only in the short list to keep disgruntled Labour voters in Derbyshire happy.

Derbyshire is of course a Labour heartland and Geoff Hoon’s home county, (though he’s a Notts MP).

Prezza rips it out of Mandy

On the note of blogging. This is V funny - hat tip to Waugh and Brogan for picking it up.

Mandelson's on-line ambition

Mandy is trying to get Labour bloggers marching to the same tune.

Andrew Sparrow has an interesting bit here about a speech he gave to one the "blogger's breakfasts".

I've always been of the opinion that trying to control the blogosphere would be like trying to mould water - it would just keep slipping through your fingers.

Besides, trying to use it as a tool shows a lack of understanding of the reasons it came about in the first place.

But perhaps it's not impossible to control at least a part of it. After all if you pour enough mud into water it becomes clay.

If there is one person who might make it work for him it's the Dark Lord. I'll be watching with interest.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Bumbling Boy

The hearty John Robertson MP waded in to try and make a point, but it was like watching a tubby-boy poke a beehive and then start bumbling around as he got swarmed

To read the full account of this week's bizarre select committee in which energy chiefs gave evidence pick up a copy of the Evening Post tomorrow.

I'll it link up later.

The real story behind "12,500" jobs

Today's announcement that a contract to build super trains would "create or secure 12,500" UK jobs is at best botched, and at worst cynical.

The very fact that they put "create or secure" in front of the number immediately rang alarm bells in my head.

After speaking to Agility Trains chief exec Alistair Dormer, Lord Adonis and Geoff Hoon this is what I've sussed out.

There will be 200 to 500 definite jobs at a factory to be opened in the UK by Hitachi.

Supposedly there will be a further 2,000 definite jobs.

But there is only an absolute guarantee of 1,300 of those – as positions to maintain the train cars – being UK based.

Transport Minister Lord Adonis said he couldn’t yet say where these 1,300 or the remaining 700 of the 2,000 – at other UK depots and in the supply chain – would be spread.

Hoon admitted the remaining “10,000” jobs – made up of new positions in the national supply chain brought about by the contract and existing ones “secured” – was merely an “estimate”.

Here is the killer – the estimate was in part put forward by Agility as part of its bid to win the contract. Of course the firm would paint its bid in a positive light.

The real job numbers will depend on how much Hitachi, which has an already established global supply chain, eventually relies on the UK supply chain.

But it has no legal obligation to use any British suppliers – in fact it would be illegal under EU law for Hitachi to specify suppliers at this point.

If the Department for Transport had said “this will create 500 UK jobs” in the first instance, that would be something close to a solid story.

But by throwing this purely speculative 12,500 figure out there, they undermine any good news there is at the root of it.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Dead man walking

Even reading it now I want to curl up like a hedgehog.

Speaking about the economy a couple of weeks ago Brown said: "I'm reminded of the story of Titian, who's the great painter who reached the age of 90, finished the last of his nearly 100 brilliant paintings, and he said at the end of it, 'I'm finally beginning to learn how to paint,' and that is where we are."

Then today Titian-gate erupted after Cameron took the p*ss out of the speech in PMQs.

Accusing him of not knowing his facts Cameron said: “You told us the other day you were like Titian aged 90. The fact is Titian died at 86."

It seems no-one knows how old Titian really was.

But the Tories have now admitted going on to Wikipedia and trying to change the age of Titian to agree with what Cameron said - Orwellian.

McNulty yelps at Lobbydog

Tony McNulty is biting back after a mauling from Lobbydog.

This blog has previously posted on ‘attack-dog’ McNulty’s various scraps.

But it seems the Employment Minister didn’t like his ribbing.

Today at a briefing on unemployment figures for the regional lobby, he joked with hacks that he wanted to bar your’s truly.

“Shall we tell him he’s banned,” the other hacks apparently asked.

“No. I want to do it myself,” said Tone, tongue in cheek.

Unfortunately I was covering a select committee meeting when all of this was said.

But come on Tony. I know you’re reading. I bet you never miss a post. You love it.

Why not leave us a message?

Don't forget the energy bosses!

While MPs line up to bop more bank chiefs today, there'll be some big-wigs across the corridor who also deserve a bit of a slap.

The electricity companies are giving evidence to the Energy and Climate Change Committee today.

Lobbydog wants MPs to raise the specific issue of pre-payment metres – read about the scandalousness here.

They require the tariff to be set on the meter itself and there've been cases where the energy company doesn't turn up for years to update it.

Then when they do they backdate the first bill – meaning customers, often OAPs, are landed with ridiculously large bills.

Most companies have abolished the practice but E.ON is sticking to its wicked guns.

Paddy Tipping and Judy Mallaber will hopefully get off a few shots in today's meeting.

UPDATE: They did well, E.ON Commercial Director Jim Macdonald got roasted. Pick up a copy of the Post tomorrow to read about it.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

CAMERON: Good manners will defeat 'page three'!

Cameron had an interview with the Evening Post today. Listen in here.

He gives his opinion on a Notts story in which a councillor was found with a page three calendar hanging on his office wall.

The councillor later said, when challenged, that he’d hung it to make a "political point".

Cameron said it wasn't acceptable and that Page 3 girls went against good manners.

But his comments will upset self-confessed Tory girl and glamour model Lucy Pinder for obvious reasons.

By the way, I didn't include her in this post just so I could put up a picture of her. Actually, I did it to make a political point.

What you missed if you watched the bank chiefs

While Peston and co were hunting as a pack - sinking their teeth into bank-chief meat - it went unnoticed that a key figure in British banking was speaking elsewhere in Westminster Palace.

Lobbydog went to the Thatcher Room to see the bank chiefs, but after an hour slipped out and strolled across the the estate to the unexceptional, almost empty Room 2A.

Inside Angela Knight (above), chair of the British Bankers' Association (BBA) of which almost all our banks are members, was talking to a Lords Sub-Committee on finance.

The bank-chiefs had earlier apologised for recent chaos (I’ll post on it later) but said risk procedure had been carried out and, basically, no-one could have seen problems coming.

But after being asked about increased regulation, Ms Knight, a former Erewash MP, said…

“Don’t forget that there are an awful lot of banks not just in the UK but in the world. Some banks have got into difficulty, many have not.

We need to be careful before we start to say ‘do we need X or Y to make the banks behave properly?’ We need to accept that an awful lot are doing pretty well.”

So if RBS and HBOS had robust risk procedures which were properly carried out like everyone else, why weren’t they among the “many” that didn’t get into difficulty?

The bank chiefs argued their teams had the skills to run things properly. HBOS chief executive Andy Hornby (left) said his lack of banking experience didn’t matter.

Likewise HBOS chair Lord Stevenson (below) said it didn’t matter that Charles Dunstone, HBOS’ Risk Committee chair, came from a retail background and not a banking one.

But Ms Knight said: “In such aspects as risk control, in such aspects as who occupies what position, how the reporting line operates as well as the kind of corporate Governance needed – that is where the attention should be paid.”

I suspect that despite the grandstanding and big-speeches going on in the Thatcher Room we won’t get such clear answers as we did in Room 2A.

Just a quickie before the bank chiefs are up.

I hope the MPs have done their homework for today's Treasury Committee.

The bank chiefs are going to know in intricate detail what they're talking about, and there's a danger some MPs might be shown up as grandstanders and nothing more.

I'm told we're going to hear an apology.

In the greater scheme of things it won't make much difference, but in terms of theatre it should be a good watch.

Catch it on Parliament TV, I'll give you a run down later too.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Jacqui gets let off

No-one made any sort of comment about Jacqui Smith's expenses spat in the Commons just now.

Not even a passing quip or a sneer. Nothing.

They simply stood on their tippy-toes and spoke over the elephant in the room.

Utterly disappointing. As one experienced hack pointed out though, others may've not wanted to sling mud because they have greater bloopers to hide.

BROWN: Bankers need to ask themselves soul-searching questions

That was the PM’s tough line that came out of this morning’s lobby briefing - it should work I reckon.

I mean, when a school-boy won’t own up after sticking a “teachers smell” sign to the staff-room door, he’d be told to ask himself “soul-searching” questions in detention.

So obviously it should also work for people who made millions out of bringing the British economy to its knees and now want to take home taxpayers’ cash in bonuses.

The comment, during a briefing in which 99% of questions focused on banks, was aimed at those who have bonuses bound into contracts.

Michael Ellam’s answers, like Yvette Cooper’s on the Today show and Darling’s on Marr, were peppered with the word “should” where the word “will” might have been.

Bankers should/will not get bonuses, are two very different sentences. But there is a general lack of will all round at the moment.

That might be because, as the FT’s George Parker highlighted during the briefing, that these are people who’ve made a lot money for banks over the years.

Now they’ll be expected to do it for the Government, i.e. ministers don’t want to cheese them off.

As Parker said, If that is the case they should just be up front about it.

Hoon wriggles

Hoon looks uncomfortable while Shami gets emotional.

Unbroken expenses rules, broken ethics

The most irritating response to questionable ethical behaviour is “no rules have been broken.”

That is especially so when said rules are set by the people behaving questionably.

We hear today that Jacqui Smith stayed at her sister’s house and then claimed back her rent money from the tax payer.

She says she paid her sister market rates, but it is not clear what that means yet.

Why can’t MPs see that such an arrangement is dubious when tax-payers' money is being used?

Right now senior ministers should be looking to be spotless in terms of expenses.

At Home Office questions today Lobbydog wants to see people haranguing Ms Smith over this on the Commons floor.

It should provide something for newbie Chris Grayling to get his teeth into.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Is George stepping up?

“Well, look, y-y-you can look at the detail of these things…”

Was the incoherent answer that Alistair Darling gave to the question of whether there should be a cap on bankers’ bonuses.

Both he and his yet-to-be nemesis George Osborne were interviewed on Marr this morning.

The preview shot of their interviews at the start of the show had an awkward feel to it – they had probably been hitting each other with rolled-up newspapers moments before.

But when the camera fell upon them for three or four seconds both looked to convey some sort of message in their face.

Darling must’ve got his expression wrong because he looked smug, while Osborne was so steely-faced I thought a throbbing vein in his forehead might pop.

This blog has given George a tough time over the appointment of Ken Clarke – which he’ll admit in his heart knocked his confidence – but today he did well.

He came across competent and confident and showed something he has sometimes lacked, maturity.

His plans for Bank of England reform were well put forward and he was comfortable talking about “correcting market failures” – which should be unbecoming of a Tory.

And on a day when news headlines focused on bankers’ bonuses he answered the crucial question properly. Should there be a cap?

“Yes. Is the short answer,” he said.

Moments later Darling gave his stuttering response to the same question and the difference was marked.

The Treasury has apparently told banks that executives associated with big losses “should” not get bonuses.

But the Government also told banks last year that they “should” start lending to small businesses and that hasn’t happened.

Can we spend our way out of recession?

Lobbydog saw stand up comedian Liam Malone last night - this was his wise answer.

“I tried to w*nk myself out of loneliness once. It didn’t work.”