Friday 8 May 2009

Two jags, two sh**s and now two loo seats...

Prezza is like Noah's Arc, everything going two-by-two.

As there is so much being said about expenses I’ll keep this short. I only wanted to highlight my two (it's catching) favourite bits news-wise.

1) Prezza claimed for two loo seats in two years. Comedy genius.

2) Even David Miliband’s gardener queried whether it was necessary for the MP to spend so much doing up his home, given the short time he spent there.

Thursday 7 May 2009

Labour stubborn over BNP

Sometimes when a politician won’t admit things have gone wrong it’s annoying due to the sheer arrogance of it.

But on occasion it leaves a genuine fear of what might happen if they really don’t admit things need to change.

So it is with the British National Party and their successful attempts to steal core working-class Labour voters in the East and West Midlands among other areas.

Lobbydog fears the BNP will make further gains at the European and local elections in June.

The problem, as demonstrated by a chat I had with Europe Minister Caroline Flint earlier, is that ministers won’t admit that people who’ve switched to the BNP feel Labour has failed them.

To what extent it’s true is neither here nor there – that’s the way they feel.

Flint pushed Labour’s usual response to the BNP problem, which is the worst one you can give to people feeling let down.

First she suggested that actually Labour had done a lot for them and secondly she said the people who’re sympathising with those voters – in this case the BNP – are fakes.

The BNP are fakes, but if Labour wants to say it convincingly it first must humbly admit it has lost touch with voters in those areas.

If the BNP get one seat in the European Parliament it’ll bring a lot of funding that’ll provide a platform for them to increase activity in the UK.

I just hope those campaigning for Labour on doorsteps are saying what ministers won’t.

Woolas has been a very naughty boy

Did everyone see that press briefing with Phil Woolas and the Gurkha campaigners?

Woolas and the Government took a beating from Joanna Lumley and co, who only yesterday had lavished praise on Gordon Brown for saying he'd sort it all out.

The row erupted again because five Gurkhas had their applications to settle in the UK turned down.

While Lumley was speaking she kept looking at Woolas like he was a naughty schoolboy and she was a head-mistress explaining to his parents that he’d been caught putting laxatives in the teachers’ coffee-pot.

Someone get it on Youtube please.

Policy from science-fiction

Lobbydog is disappointed but not surprised that the Government found a way round the European Court judgement on the DNA database.

Police Minister Vernon Coaker wants to keep the details of innocents for up to 12 years on the database.

The Notts MP's premise for this is that you will increase detection rates by having more details on the database – the thinking being that even if people have committed no crime they may commit “future-crime”.

Doesn’t that phrase sound like something out of the Minority Report?

Remember this - the Court's ruling said the Government's use of the database "cannot be regarded as necessary in a democratic society."

Wednesday 6 May 2009

More cock-up than conspiracy

It was rather fun to watch the lobby correspondents shuffling around to see Hazel Blears’ face at PMQs.

She’d conveniently turned up late enough to not get a full-view position on the front bench, instead tucking herself down the side of the Speaker’s chair – not literally, though she’d probably fit.

Someone close to the Communities Secretary told Lobbydog today that the whole affair over her article was “more cock-up than conspiracy”.

Apparently the Observer called at the end of the working week for an article for the Sunday paper, and one was simply rushed out.

Blears' Youtube line - a play on Thatcher's "you turn if you want to" speech - seemed reasonable at the time, they said, but it was only later that they realised how it had been interpreted.

Do you believe it?

Labour MP: If Tories can’t win now, they never will

Part of me thinks Labour's Paddy Tipping was playing games when he told Lobbydog how tough it would be for his party to hold Notts County Council in June’s election.

"People are disappointed with the Labour Party," said the MP for Sherwood.

"It’s like the last days of the Thatcher and Major governments, but I don’t think the Tories have ‘done the deal’ with the public yet.

"Labour colleagues have said if the Tories can’t win it this time then they never will."

It’s that old tactic you often see used in football matches – the other team is expected to win, so put the pressure on them.

The thing is, he’s right. The pressure is on the Tories and if they don’t take councils in June there’ll be a big question mark as to just how much they’ve managed to dent Labour’s support.

Tuesday 5 May 2009

Labour = outdoor exercise. Tories = doing nothing in your bedroom.

This exchange took place after Harriet Harman produced a list of community groups, scout branches and sports clubs from around the country at a briefing this morning.

She said their funding would be at risk if the Tories got in at this summer’s local elections – the final answer verges on the bizarre.

Hack: So all these groups would have funding under Labour? Everybody who represents these groups here (holding up the list), if they vote Labour they are going to be safe and funding is guaranteed. Is that correct?

Harman: Erm (looking down at document in front of her) it says [under the Tories] ‘these groups and groups like them would see funding put at risk’.

Hack: You’re saying this is what the Tories would do, but people – from that message that you’re putting out there – would glean that…'under Labour we’d be safe, the funding for our groups would be safe' – and that’s what you’re saying is it – that their funding would be guaranteed?

Harman: (Looking at the document again) it says [under the Tories] 'small grants awarded to local groups could be almost wiped out'. Our budget figures stand along side and in contrast to what the Tories are suggesting. It’s basically important for people that have had funding in the past that has come through Labour investment – because, you know the Tories have said we didn’t mend the roof when the sun shone – well actually we did invest in the local community…

…we would give as much support as possible to local groups, local health services and local education services and the Tories would just give help to millionaires basically.

Another hack: So what are you guaranteeing? These [groups] would also possibly be at risk under a Labour Government as well, given the economic situation.

Harman: Well I can’t add to what is in this report. If you look at what we say, (pause) look at our record, at what we’ve done and look at what the Tories’ budget figures would do compared to our budget figures (pause). So I think really, just look at all these documents and if you want further detail on the Cabinet Office stuff, you can get it from the Cabinet Office or from the Treasury…

A third hack: Is there a concern that you’re playing politics with these people? I mean (reading from a list) the Calder Canoe Centre – do they know that today the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party is saying that their funding is at risk? There’s an argument over the validity of your argument, but is there also concern that these are pretty small, little groups that may not appreciate being thrown into the middle of a very bitterly fought election campaign?

Harman: They’ve had public funding in the past and it’s like when I went to Lancashire, and went to Pendle Leisure Centre. You know, this is about young people being able to have activities in the school holidays and after school. Their parents are working and they can be doing something which is healthy and something they can enjoy and is good for them as opposed to hanging around. So – healthy physical outdoors exercise contrasted with hanging about with their friends with nothing to do or sitting in their room with nothing to do which is what they said they would be doing – that’s what the young people said to me they would be doing when they are not in the Pendle Leisure Centre.

HARMAN: Big bad Tories will cut your funding, but so might we…

The basis of Labour’s local election campaign, launched today, is puzzling.

Harriet Harman came out with a list of local community groups which she said would have their funding put at risk if the Tories got in.

Think “Blythe Players Amateur Dramatic Society” – odd groups to base an election campaign on. To be fair there were some worthy causes – local disease support groups and so on.

The problem is that if your message is ‘Tories will cut community funding’, you also need to be able to say ‘Labour will not’.

But when Harman was pressed she couldn’t guarantee that Labour also wouldn’t cut the funding of each group.

That leaves the party’s message as ‘the Tories might cut your funding, but so might we’ – hardly election winning stuff.

I’ll post a couple of transcripts of her answers later.

Tories target counties

Look at where the shadow cabinet is going to launch the Tory local election campaign today and you’ll see some of the authorities at which the party believes it can make the greatest gains.

It’s no secret they’re targeting the midlands counties like Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, where Labour councils are scared the Government’s unpopularity might see them unseated.

Liam Fox is in Devon, Michael Gove is in North Yorkshire, Alan Duncan is in Essex, Chris Grayling is in Lancashire, Francis Maude is in Derbyshire and Theresa May is in Notts.

Meanwhile George Osborne is in Somerset, Eric Pickles is in Warwickshire, Grant Schapps is in East Sussex and Caroline Spelman will go with David Cameron to Tynemouth.

Monday 4 May 2009

Keep calm and carry on, keep calm and carry on, keep calm and carry on, keep calm...

Mrs Lobbydog had been promised Gordon Brown would play no part in our bank-holiday weekend.

She gave way after I explained my fingers might burst had I not the chance to post something on his difficulties – it’ll have to be quick though, so I’ll sum it up.

The PM apparently has this iconic World War II poster – designed to prevent panic in the event of Nazi invasion – somewhere in Number 10.

I've a mental image of him standing in front of it every morning and reciting its message, always saying it one more time than he did yesterday.