Friday 1 May 2009

Wriggle it, just a little bit

When politicians say they won’t answer hypothetical “what if” questions it’s mainly because they know the answer will displease.

It’s also an attempt to avoiding committing to a position – leaving themselves a little “wriggle room” – in case they need to flip-flop later down the line.

That was what came to my mind when Cameron kicked off his campaign to get a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on Tuesday.

He wants a referendum now because he doesn’t like the agreement – but he won’t commit to pulling the country out of it on the first day of his premiership if the agreement has been ratified by all other European states by then.

My guess is that he won’t commit to it, because he won’t do it.

Britain’s withdrawal would be a bold move that might make the whole treaty collapse – I don’t think Cameron has the audacity to sour relationships with Sarkozy and Merkel so early in power.

Next week Minister for Europe Caroline Flint will also launch the What’s the EU ever done for you? campaign – an attempt to “mature” the British debate on the issue.

With battle lines being drawn before June’s European elections, you can bet she’ll say the Tories are divided and indecisive on the EU Treaty – Ken Clarke’s name will probably pop up.

How Cameron handles the situation will be a real test of him and how ‘repositioned’ his party really is.

Simpson's bath plug

Nottingham South MP Alan Simpson and his take on the allowances row...

Thursday 30 April 2009

Clegg doesn't want to play with Cameron

Lobbydog was chatting to Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg earlier about his victory yesterday.

I asked whether he'd consider a Camerclegg coalition with the Tories after the next election given that he looked quite comfortable next to the Conservative leader in the post-vote pictures.

"I wouldn't read too much into that," he said.

Sorry Dave.

Conway slagged off by Tories in House

Expenses abuser Derek Conway is speaking in the Commons in the Allowances debate.

He has been interrupted twice by Tory MPs, Patrick Cormack and Bernard Jenkins, who criticised him for speaking.

Cormack called his speech an "abuse to this House".

But Conway - with the Deputy Speaker's support - was somehow allowed his speech.

Anyway, Lobbydog will be keeping an eye on the Cormack’s receipts too when they come out this summer.

Just ONE family helped by Mortgage Rescue Scheme

Only one household has been helped by the Government’s Mortgage Rescue Scheme.

Lobbydog reported last month on how officials were saying the criteria for the scheme – designed to rescue those most at risk from becoming homeless – was far too tight.

At that point most applications were getting turned down – but I’m still shocked to find out today that only one family has been helped.

If Darling is right and the recession is over by the end of the year, the downturn might finish before this scheme gets into double figures.

You know who you are love cheats

Most of the time cheating lovers get caught by lipstick on a collar or a suspect text message.

Really the careful cheat should be able to cover his/her (yes ladies, you cheat too) tracks for those things.

But imagine an unstopable crusade to out you - led by determined camapaigners, whipped up by sneaky hacks and band-wagon riding politicians and driven by huge public anger.

I bet those three Labour MPs who are said to fear that disclosure of their expenses receipts will reveal their adultery didn't think of that.

I also bet that when they found what was going to happen they did think of a four letter word.

Wednesday 29 April 2009

One for the album...

You can see the moment he realises he has to turn around and thinks "I'm cool, I'm cool, no-one noticed, no-one noticed."

Cheers CrownBlog for getting this on Youtube.

Clegg's pasty fist of fury

Nick Clegg planted his pasty metaphorical fist firmly in the face of Gordon Brown earlier.

Clegg had a good PMQ’s, better than Cameron. Then he led his party, with Tory help, to a victory over the Government in a vote on Gurkhas.

The Lib Dem leader’s motion to give Gurkhas an equal right of UK residence was carried 267 to 246.

It’s not often this blog discusses the Lib Dem’s – but credit where credit is due.

Comedy gem at PMQs

Can someone get that on Youtube please?

Just when I thought it was going to end on a dull note the PM delivered a classic Brown moment.

PMQs had ended and the Speaker called the Prime Minister to make the next statement.

But Brown, not thinking I guess, had already started to walk out the Chamber.

He then realised the Speaker meant him and quickly turned around to come back.

He tried to pretend he'd just been walking along the bench to look at papers.

But the moment was sealed - much to the enjoyment of the opposite benches.

MPs to leaders: Stop playing games with expenses

Unwanted news for the PM this morning – a group of MPs, including some from Labour, has tabled an amendment which would scupper his expenses plans.

The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee amendment – to be voted on tomorrow – will say any changes to the expenses regime should wait for the completion of the Kelly Review.

But the PM, as we know, has gone out on a limb to try and get changes immediately.

Notts Labour MP Paddy Tipping told Lobbydog: “MPs’ expenses are paid by Parliament and a decision should be made by Parliament.

“There is a feeling that all the leaders of the political parties are looking to make short term gains talking about interim solutions.

“But we want a comprehensive long term solution in place that inspires public confidence.”

He didn’t accept the amendment was a challenge to Brown’s authority. I wonder if Gordon will see it that way.

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Monty Pickles

Only just spotted this. I love the Python sketch, excellent idea to mix it up. Well done BeauBoD'Or.

MPs square up to Downing Street cronies

Sounds like Labour MPs made their feelings about the expenses debacle known to Chief Whip Nick Brown at the party’s meeting last night.

A couple that I spoke to and those on Radio 4 just now, Mark Fisher and Stuart Bell, seemed to be taking the same line.

They were angry over the handling of the situation, but they blamed bad advice in Downing Street and hinted that Brown – who they urged to take control – had been misguided.

Stoke Central MP Fisher said: “He was very poorly advised indeed and he should look at the quality and the experience of some of his advisors in Downing Street.”

The lingering question is whether it should be possible to misguide the PM to such an extent.

Perhaps more interesting now is that Labour MPs – while still backing the PM for now – feel angry and able enough to speak out against the Downing Street cadre.

Monday 27 April 2009

I pity Sir Chris

The PM's badly-conceived intervention in the expenses situation is becoming like one of those home video TV shows.

First scene – man shows off on bike, he cycles into river. Second scene – man chucks boomerang, it flies back and hits crotch. Third scene – man tries funky jig at wedding, trousers fall down to reveal comical Y-fronts.

The pattern is they all brought it upon themselves, and so it is with Gordon.

He could have stuck to his line about waiting for Sir Christopher Kelly's review or he could have properly tackled the problem himself.

Instead he broadcasted that bizarre video – at best a cack-handed attempt to address the problem, at worst an attempt to use the issue to capitalise politically.

His planned daily allowance, with all its flaws, couldn’t be seen as a serious attempt to address the public’s fears that expenses were being abused.

Not even Labour MPs liked the idea and now, embarrassingly, it seems it’ll be dropped when the Commons votes on Thursday – behold the Y-fronts.

Ironically the PM now wants Sir Christopher to come up with a replacement for the second home allowance urgently – in other words he’s telling the poor chap to pre-empt his own review.

Expenses flip-flopping

There was little doubt after our lobby briefing this morning that new MPs’ expenses proposals would emerge today.

The PM's spokesman distanced the Government from last week's proposal - in which the plan was to scrap the second home allowance and replace it with a daily attendance allowance.

At that point – in that weird video – the PM said he wanted the changes, but today we've been told they were merely an "alternative".

The back peddling is a little unsightly.

But the degree to which today's new proposals differ from last week’s will be a measure of how strong Brown feels on this.

It would be a black-eye if the daily allowance idea disappeared altogether in the new plan.

But if he keeps that part – which has proved unpopular with MPs of all parties – he risks dooming his proposals to defeat in Thursday’s vote, which would be even worse.

EU Treaty campaign

David Cameron is launching a campaign which aims to force a referendum on the EU treaty in a couple of hours.

It will play well with some supporters, but If you ask me they should keep it more low key than they are.

The Tories have got a pretty clear message on the economy at the moment and it’s hitting home.

Why not score as many points as possible on that issue before aiming fire elsewhere? Particularly on a target which points to Tory divisions.