Friday 5 June 2009

Here's a little "snubbage" nugget for you

Brown sent letters to all the ministers who either quit or were sacked in the reshuffle, a transparently ad hoc affair.

In those to both Caroline Flint – who later slated the PM – and Tony McNulty, who had scandalous expense claims, he told them he didn't believe it would be long before they returned to Government.

But in Margaret Beckett's – who even yesterday morning had been tipped for promotion – the phrase was conspicuously missing from the template letter.

In your face Beckett.

UPDATE: The Number 10 "list" had Beckett as a resignation, but Beckett told Lobbydog clearly that she'd been sacked.

Missed motorway call led to false accusation

It seems Number 10 may have held a grudge against Paul Farrelly – the MP falsely outed as a plotter against Gordon Brown – from last year.

Farrelly told Lobbydog that before last week the only time the PM had called him was just before the vote on 42 days.

Actually that’s not quite right – the PM doesn’t call anyone. A lackey calls and tells you the PM is on the line and requires a conversation.

Anyway, at that point Brown asked for Farrelly’s support and the MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme told him where to go – explaining the 42 days measure was not only wrong but a political mistake.

The next time Number 10 tried to contact him was a couple of days ago, but he couldn’t take the call as he was driving up the motorway.

He phoned back later and left a message and then, while campaigning for the elections missed another call.

Shortly after that his name was fed to the Guardian as one of the conspirators behind the cyber-plot.

Sounds like Chief Whip Nick Brown thought he was in guilty hiding, when actually the MP – who said he’d never even seen any rebel e-mail – was trying to convince people to support the party in Staffs.

The irony, of course, was that Farrelly was so angry at the false accusation, that he let go of restraint and actually did call for the PM to step down.

Lord Sugar's verdict on future PM

"I have noted with disgust the comments of a certain Mr Gordon Brown who has accused me of doing well out of the recession...

...I do not know who Mr Gordon Brown is...Whoever he is, he has not done his home work properly."

Alan Sugar (now Lord Sugar thanks to Mr Brown) in a letter to The Times, March 19 1992.

Prescott's bile

"Whilst I knew we were short of money I didn’t realise we also lacked the will to fight these elections.

"The people responsible for this non-campaign – and make no mistake there was no campaign – were Harriet Harman, Caroline Flint, Douglas Alexander and yes, our former Communities Secretary Hazel Blears."

That was what Prezza spewed on Labourhome last night. Chances are Alastair Campbell, known not to be Harriet Harman's greatest fan, had a hand in it too.

Lame duck PM?

I’d better finish this quickly. Things are moving so fast that by the time I’m done it could all have changed again.

If the Prime Minister can’t win a power struggle with Alistair Darling, then the faeces has really hit Brown’s fan.

We all know the PM wanted his buddy Balls at the Treasury. But it shows his weakness that he had to give in and let Darling stay.

It’s that very weakness that has angered many back benchers. They want sweeping changes at the top and if it’s not the cabinet, it may well be Brown.

Purnell spits it out

Finally James Purnell finished that sentence he began back in March.

It's been a long time coming, but you get the feeling this crisis is now beyond the point of no return.

The other significant thing is that it means Brown's planned reshuffle is in tatters.

But back-benchers I've spoken to have said if there isn't a major change of personnel in the cabinet, then there will be one in Number 10.

Problem for Brown is he doesn't have many people left to reshuffle.

Thursday 4 June 2009

Has Brown shot himself in the foot over expenses...again?

Alan Simpson MP told Lobbydog that a key factor which pushed back-benchers to rebel was the PM's handling of the expenses crisis.

He said the case of Ian Gibson MP, who was punished by Gordon Brown’s “Star Chamber” – set up last month to investigate MPs’ expenses – had caused particular anger.

It was reported that Gibson sold a taxpayer funded flat to his daughter below market value.

The Star Chamber disapproved and ruled he would not be eligible to stand at the next election.

Simpson said: “Mr Gibson is the only person to have been judged by the panel and he did so because he was confident of clearing his name, and was shocked that the panel didn’t take the same view.

“It looks as though this was a hanging that was looking for a trial. Brown should have been more demonstrative of people in his own cabinet but there’s a feeling that he couldn’t do it.

“His first action was against the back benchers and many think that is unforgivable on the part of Brown.”

Rumour of Brown sinks pound

A rumour that the PM will quit in the next two days is sweeping through the money markets and causing the pound to plummet.

A friend of Lobbydog who is in the know, we'll call him Ashton, informed me the pound has fallen around 1.25% against the US dollar so far today.

Support for Brown wanes

Things really aren't looking too peachy for the PM.

Several back-benchers I've spoken with this morning, who last year gave their support to Brown, have pulled-back.

Many are simply saying let's "wait and see" till after the elections, but I doubt the polls will offer much hope.

There is a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday which looks like the make or break moment for the attempted coup.

Nottingham's plotter

Graham Allen’s involvement in the plot to oust the PM is unexpected, but revolt isn’t unprecedented for him.

He was one of the MPs who organised the rebel Parliament just before the Iraq War.

The conflict was looming and Tony Blair, PM at the time, was refusing to call Parliament for a debate during summer recess.

Allen, Nottingham North MP, and others won wide-spread, cross party support for the ‘rebel Parliament’ which would meet in a hall elsewhere in Westminster.

They arranged sponsorship, broadcasting rights, officials and even a logo - but nine days before it was to sit Blair backed down and called Parliament.

The move to topple Brown is far more challenging, but the story shows he has some organisational capacity.

He's also spent the last few years on a personal mission to push through 'early intervention' - his agenda on social policy reform - with some success.

Allen will be giving his side of the story in the Post tomorrow.

Like most of his party's MPs he's stomping his patch today desperately trying to get Labour voters out.

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Hoon and Beckett will survive, says Lobbydog source

Lobbydog has been informed by a usually reliable source that Geoff Hoon, Margaret Beckett and Vernon Coaker will all survive any reshuffle.

If it plays out that way Hoon, Transport Secretary, will be the biggest surprise of the three East Midlands ministers.

His face has been in the Daily Telegraph recently more than most people's.

There have been rumours that Beckett, Housing Minister, may even get promoted back to full cabinet.

Police Minister Vernon Coaker has come out of the expenses scandal relatively unscathed.

Back benchers have told me, however, that only a sweeping change will suffice to get the party through the "next period of time".

If it’s not the cabinet, one said, it'll be Brown. So I’m not sure how wise keeping Hoon around will turn out to be for Brown.

His main plus is that he's been staunchly loyal - he was one of the few members of the cabinet appearing on TV defending the PM today.

Johnson prepares for leadership bid

Lobbydog has spoken to a Labour back-bencher who said Alan Johnson is definitely, seriously considering standing for the Labour leadership.

He'll finalise his decision this weekend at home and we may find out one way or another on Monday.

The signal that the leadership challenge is on will be a rejection of a promotion in the reshuffle.

None of the whispers going round say a leadership move is dependent on whether Labour performs better than expected in the elections.

Even within Labour circles the vote is considered a forgone conclusion.

PMQs: Too little, too late

I think after 50 seconds even Sir Peter Tapsell forgot the start of his sentence.

Cameron and Osborne were practically cracking up on the front bench while he asked his question.

Apart from such light entertainment PMQs was a bruiser for the PM today.

Brown actually appeared quite confident but the times are simply against him now.

Cameron had a dig about the departure of Blears and Smith, but didn't land the killer punch - as can be his habit.

Nick Clegg said Labour was finished and the real choice now was between the Lib Dems and Tories.

He was laughed into his seat, but that he could say it at all is telling.

Far more interesting was watching the cabinet and other ministers as they sat trying to look nonchalant.

The PM twice declined Cameron's invitation to say Darling would be in position next week.

Ed Balls sat down next to Alan Johnson. The Health Secretary refused to even acknowledge his colleague - he didn't look at him once.

Police Minister Vernon Coaker stood by the door biting his finger-nails and walked out half way through.

Labour's storm is breaking.

Clarke: Fat cat pay will fall

Ken Clarke surprised Lobbydog last night when he said he thought top executives’ and directors’ wages were too high.

Perhaps the shadow business secretary is still a bit sore after severing his connections with British American Tobacco.

We were chatting about an attempt from a Labour MP, to be made today, to bring in a national "maximum wage". Yes, you read it correctly.

Clarke scoffed at that of course, but said the recession would bring some "common sense" back into how executives were paid.

Labour’s Paddy Tipping, who will announce his proposal after PMQs, told Lobbydog he thought there would be public support for a ceiling on wages.

Maybe, but it won't help Labour avoid a beating at the poll booth tomorrow.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Gordon and Glenis sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G

I think Glenis Willmott was trying to convince me of the PM's popularity earlier and went too far.

The European Labour leader, an East Midlands MEP, told Lobbydog that Brown had a tactile welcome to Worksop on his visit earlier this week.

When he'd arrived, Willmott claimed, some women wanted to "kiss and cuddle him".

Really? I wonder if the onslaught of lust offended the PM's Presbyterian morals.

Or perhaps Willmott was projecting her desires on to others. Who knows?

Either way the thought of planting a smacker on one of those wobbly jowls sends a bit of a shiver down this dog's spine.

Miliband still lights a candle

I'm not sure if the Foreign Secretary was trying to appear thoughtful and statesman-like at a briefing earlier, but in the end he just looked bored.

A little glimmer - a flicker of intention perhaps - escaped when he spoke about potential leadership challenges though.

He said the PM was the right man for the job "last year, this year and next year".

But when specifically asked if he'd rule himself out of a future leadership contest in the same way Jack Straw did he said:

"I never get into speculation about next jobs because if you start to speculate about next jobs you forget about this job.”

Patricia Hewitt quits

The former Health Secretary is standing down at the next election.

She says it has nothing to do with her expenses, but she's doing it to spend more time with her family.

Her expenses were among the less extravagant - £920 in legal fees when she moved out of her Leicester flat and £194 for blinds for her London home.

Still, a lot of medical people I know who hated Patronising Pat with a passion, will have a drink tonight.

She told the Leicester Mercury: "I do think that if I had decided to stay, yes, I could win the seat.

"But I am standing down now to give the constituency time to find the right candidate. I am confident Labour can hold Leicester West.

"I didn't plan this. I did initially want to serve another term. But I feel the time is right.

"The truth is that after 13 years as an MP and 10 years in Government, I have not seen enough of my family. They have paid a high price for that."

Monday 1 June 2009

Michael Martin as Fagin, nice.

Hat tip to wteSmithy

Greasy haired twat

Without a doubt the story of the day is that of the Lib Dem councillor whose party put out local election campaign leaflets describing an opponent as the above.

The Lib Dems (weren’t they supposed to be the nice party?) claimed it was a joke that backfired.

They said: “What's particularly distressing is that we took the decision to fight a positive campaign."


Can we please redact ‘redacted’?

Why do officials have to come up with such ugly, pointless words?

For starters it just sounds awful – redacted – like a type of dinosaur or the noise metal pots make when they fall out of a cupboard.

All it means is blacking words out, so people should just say that.

I guess we can’t expect any better from bureaucrats but journalists should know better. So I’m hereby calling on all hacks to banish the ‘R’ word from all news coverage.