Friday, 24 April 2009

Brown: Godfather of soul

Courtesy of

Why can't they get it right?

Several Labour MPs have said to Lobbydog that they think Brown’s expenses proposals – particularly the daily allowance – are cr*p.

What could have been an attempt to sort the issue out is now in chaos. In part that’s because the proposals themselves are flawed.

But it’s also because the announcement was a political move. The will to push proposals appeared out of nowhere at what might have been a fortuitous moment in the news cycle.

As it is, the move seems to be backfiring after it was jointly dumped by the other two parties and is now being rejected by Labour members.

It will now lengthen the list of half-baked attempts to pay lip service to public anger over expenses.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Clarke calls Cooper's bluff

While we're on the subject of the Rushcliffe MP here is his little spat with Yvette Cooper which was on Channel 4 news.

Clarke sits back

Something I noticed yesterday that I forgot about until now.

Ken Clarke is usually the laid back sort anyway, but during the budget statement the Notts MP was noticeably excluded from proceedings.

The Tory front bench was a hive of activity – David Cameron, George Osborne, Philip Hammond and Oliver Letwin all discussed lines of attack during Darling’s speech and passed documents to each other.

Clarke, the shadow business secretary, didn’t say a single word to anyone.

He just sat back and stretched out his hush puppies with a relaxed smile on his face.

Considering he supposedly spends a lot of time discussing the economy with the leadership and was sitting right there, it almost seemed odd that he chose to keep his mouth shut the whole way through.

If it was an attempt to make sure the focus never shifted from Cameron and Osborne it seems to have worked.

McNulty can't talk

Employment Minister Tony McNulty has kept a low profile since the investigation into his parliamentary expenses began.

So it almost felt rude not to go along to a jobs stats briefing yesterday to try and squeeze in a question about the issue.

As we all know, he claimed £60,000 of taxpayers’ cash to pay the mortgage on a house his mum and dad were living in.

I asked him what he thought of the PM’s new system under which – as an outer London MP – he wouldn’t have been able to make his claims.

He said he’d been calling for such a change for a long time and endorsed it.

Eh? So he was calling for rule changes, presumably because he thought something was wrong with them, while at the same time making the most of those rules to claim tons of money?

After I pressed the point he replied that the investigation prevented him discussing specifics – to be expected I guess.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg rejected the PM’s expenses changes yesterday anyway – so we may be back to waiting for the Kelly review.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Labour MPs speak their mind

Most Labour MPs I spoke to praised the measures the Chancellor took, while qualifying comments with phrases like "under the circumstances".

A few went a little further. Here are two of them...

Mark Todd is a business minded Derbyshire Labour member who is standing down at the next election. Speaking about spending cuts and debt he said:

"The spending cuts announced were helpful, but to be honest there will need to be other measures in the future – today maybe was not the day to announce them.

"We face the best part of a decade getting on top of things even on a quite optimistic assumption of the Government’s ability to continue paying off its debts.

"It’s going to be a tough decade of tighter spending and tax increases – that’s a tough future for this Government and for the next.

"The person who holds the chancellorship will not be very popular for quite sometime."

Mark Fisher, Labour member for Stoke Central, said he thought measures in the budget were good. But added:

"It was a sobering occasion. I was surprised by how optimistic the chancellor was about recovery.

"I hope he’s right. But when the economy is going to shrink by 3.5% this year to say it’s going to jump back up and start growing by three per cent after that is hopeful.

"There is, of course, determination, a will and energy to pull through, but saying we will turn around within 18 months is on the optomistic side."

THE BUDGET: Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit...

There was a matter-of-fact conversation concerning small rodents humming on the benches behind me as the Chancellor droned through his statement.

“There must be a bunny,” said a voice. “He hasn’t had a single cheer from his own side, he needs to give'em something – give'em a bunny. Hold on, here comes the bunny… on no, not yet.”

Another voice replied: “I don’t know. He hasn’t really got anything left. I