Thursday 19 February 2009

Lobbydog takes recess

Dear Readers,

Lobbydog is going on holiday for a week. However, he will leave the site in the safe paws of his friend Angry Ferret (pictured).

Ferret will give you a bit of political drama and something to think about until I get back.

See you next week,

Gordon Brown agrees with Lobbydog

It seems the PM and Lobbydog have something in common.

After this site posted on Harman's ambitions, this piece appeared in the Telegraph today.

According to one key adviser, [Brown] does not believe reports that she is jockeying for position – not because he believes she is devoted to his cause, but because “he just thinks it’s preposterous anyone could even consider Harriet could lead anything”.

I wonder what else we agree on?

Wednesday 18 February 2009

Brown's road to ruin

“Protectionism is the road to ruin,” warbled Reverend Brown, delivering his sermon at the Downing Street press conference this morning.

I day-dreamed that he might start shouting, “shame on thee, on every one – for ye all have suckled on Satan’s teat.”

But by the time I came around a plucky German reporter was asking the PM if he was on the ‘road to ruin’ when he made the protectionist promise of British jobs for British workers.

Brown rebutted the suggestion but later went on to say, “non-UK contractors applying for contracts in the UK”, should, “give local people a chance to get jobs on these construction projects.”

This was typical of the PM trying to have it both ways in terms of his message.

The Government’s actions suggest to me that Brown wants a non-protectionist, open market.

But he’s unwilling to face up to the flak he’ll get – and the lost votes – if he admits that what he wants means being a British worker in Britain conveys no special advantage.

So he laces his words with caveats about British jobs and British workers – the result being a mixed message.

Voters will see one thing and hear another – that may be Brown’s road to ruin.

What if Darling got p*ssed?

Not a bad idea for next time he gives a statement to the Commons. It can't make his delivery any less riveting anyway?

Throwing in an "I larve yoo zhorzh," here and a "cermon y'poncy Tory basa," there would definitely combat those droopy eyelids.

I just got back from the Downing Street press conference where Japanese journalists kept asking the PM comical questions about their finance minister.

Shoichi Nakagawa stepped down after appearing in front hacks after one too many.

One asked what Brown would do if Darling did the same thing. Irritatingly he wouldn't be drawn.

Mad Hattie

Having met her once and seen her perform in the Commons it boggles my mind that Harriet Harman could have a hope of leading Labour.

The papers today are stuffed with stories about her positioning herself to take over from Brown after an election defeat.

But as we saw with the Tories after they imploded in the 90s political parties do funny things in the wake of a beating.

Alan Johnson would be a sounder, certainly less irritating candidate.

Baby bail-out

Child poverty targets will be shooed away and told to be quiet like an irritating youngster this week.

Meeting the Government's goal of abolishing child poverty by 2020 will require an additional £4.2bn, the Institute of Fiscal Studies reports.

Meanwhile charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reckons that by 2010 there will be 600,000 more youths in poverty than the Government had predicted in 1997.

But tackling child poverty isn't very economically productive - young people can't even vote - so it's unlikely Gordon will deliver a bail-out any time soon.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Tempting the devil

Ken Clarke has launched a broadside against Mandy.

Rushcliffe MP Clarke said: “It’s clear that even Peter Mandelson is exasperated by Gordon Brown running around like a headless chicken announcing a daily initiative, instead of sitting down calmly and producing a proper plan.

“He is quite right to say there is no value in trying to create frenzy around these issues every day. Who can he be referring to if not Gordon Brown?”

This is the big beast trying to force a response from the Business Secretary, who has been keeping a low profile recently.

Some have argued that Mandelson’s withdrawal from the limelight is a deliberate tactic, an attempt to take the wind out of Clarke’s sails.

The temptation for Mandelson to deny a rift between the PM and himself will be there, but he won’t take the bait – he’s been around too long.

But if Clarke keeps up the attacks then something will have to be done. We watch and wait.

Can we just call them all racist?

I'd been trying to avoid taking part in the war between LabourList (Derek Draper) and the right-wing bloggers - but this is too funny to ignore.

A bit of background for new readers:

Draper is a Labour spin-doctor brought in by the party to re-balance the blogosphere - which is heavily tilted towards the political right.

His tool is LabourList, a website launched with the aim of rallying left support on the web.

But it has been criticised for being controlled from the top down - unlike many of the rightish blogs which stand apart from the Conservative Party.

Since its launch LabourList has not been a resounding success.

The film also alludes to a story about Draper's university qualification, which it was initially reported came from the famous institute UC Berkeley.

It turned out later that it was from a lesser known college next door to its prestigious neighbour.

Hat tip to Donal Blaney.

Not Spelbound

Perhaps it's 'nannygate' or her dwindling support among Tory grass roots – but Lobbydog thinks the pressure is beginning to show on Caroline Spelman.

The shadow communities secretary didn’t sound up for the fight on Today this morning and in a briefing on Tory local government proposals yesterday she found it tough sparring with hacks.

The proposals themselves are quite interesting and have even won the support of a few Labour MPs in Leicester.

But that didn’t make it any easier for Spelman yesterday – she was relentlessly challenged by a few members of the regional lobby.

Where a Gove would have silver-tongued his way out of the corner, or a Pickles would have barged his way out, Spelman seemed to become worn out – like a wasp stuck in a jar.

Over the weekend Spelman – known as Spelperson by some Tory members who dislike her PC views – came bottom of a satisfaction survey among the party faithful.

More tea? No thanks, I'm feeling a little hoonish.

Lobbydog is hereby starting a campaign to get the word "hoonish" put into the Oxford English Dictionary.

It was thought up by the Grim Reaper and detailed in a comment on Dale.

Grim writes: One word to describe Gordon Brown? Most of the ones I want to use will get deleted, so I'll settle for hoonish* instead.

*Hoonish = having a Geoff Hoon-like quality/qualities.

Monday 16 February 2009

Keep your chin up Oxford

Lobbydog is particularly upset at the job losses in Oxford today.

I was born and bred in the city, my Granddad lived in Cowley and my uncle worked at the factory - where they now build minis - most of his life.

A sad day for the city, but an ominous sign of things to come.

Clarke Honeymoon

Ken Clarke comes in at sixth in the most recent ConservativeHome shadow cabinet league table.

He rates two places higher than his predecessor Alan Duncan and seven places higher than the shadow chancellor.

It's not bad considering he’s disliked by the right of the party.

Cameron engages in “golliwog” debate

This is what he had to say on offensive words in an interview with Iain Dale…

“There’s one bit of political correctness which is terribly important and that’s about politeness.

“I have a disabled son and I don’t want people to call him a spastic. You are a gay man, you don’t want someone to call you a poof. If you have a black friend, you don’t want someone to call them something offensive.

“It’s about manners and I think what we’ve got to do is frame this debate in a sense of what is good manners and politeness and what is common sense.”

Considering the Carol Thatcher incident and the sacking of Notts MP Patrick Mercer a while back, his words will have been carefully chosen here.

Notice how he says the words “poof” and “spastic”, but when it comes to race relies on “something offensive”.

I imagine as he’s speaking to a gay man and as the father of a disabled child, he feels there is a sort of ownership of those particular words.

If the interviewer had been black and not gay would he have changed the words he used? Or does he simply consider the race issue more of a hot potato?

The full interview appears in Total Politics on Wednesday

Sunday 15 February 2009

£10bn of losses? Let's do it anyway.

The Financial Services Authority predicted that HBOS would make the £10bn of losses it announced this week.

Lord Turner, FSA chair, admitted so this morning on Marr.

If it was known to the FSA, who were party to the Lloyds merger deal discussions, it must have been known to the Government.

Ken Clarke said the merger had been a disaster for the tax payer and for Lloyds this week.

As Rory Bremner put it this morning, “if you’re a Lloyds shareholder, look away now.”

Cable is Ferengi

Vince Cable – who is beginning to resemble a Ferengi from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – was wheeled on to Marr this morning to talk on financial regulation.

The third party’s treasury spokesman seemed comfortable even when he said the Lib Dems would shrink the state and reduce public spending.

I guess it’s the advantage of knowing he won’t win that allows Cable to be honest.

The difference with the (rather contrived)Tory line on public spending – that there won’t be a decrease, only a reduction of the increase – is marked.

The public purse simply isn't weighty enough for big spending plans in the future.

UPDATE: David Cameron uses similar language in an interview to be published in Total Politics this Wednesday.

"We are going to be facing a situation where we are already borrowing eight per cent of our GDP.

"If the economic forecasts change at the budget it could be a lot more than that. It won’t be possible to do all the things we want to do."

Only the PM clinging on to public spending now.