Friday 24 July 2009

Chloe Smith: Up in Norwich, down to earth in Westminster

Chloe Smith seemed buoyant as she spoke with David Cameron just now – it was an impressive win for her and the Conservatives.

She should enjoy the lime light because it doesn’t last. Has anyone heard anything about Edward Timpson in the last few months?

To be fair to the Tory MP, who took Crewe and Nantwich, he’s been beavering away for his constituents – you just don’t get much coverage as a backbencher.

Chloe – is it just me or does she have something of the Ruth Kelly about her – will now have to get used to the more tedious realities of parliamentary life as a junior MP.

They include days spent sitting through delegated legislation committees, communicating with the leader through a burly chief whip and trying to stay awake while Sir Peter Tapsell or Gerald Kaufman bangs on in a debate about badgers or something.

Welcome to Westminster!

Playing politics with health...

Dr John Grenville, of the Derbyshire Local Medical Committee, made the following comments when I chatted to him about the Government's handling of the swine flu pandemic.

Doctors, he said, are arguing that not everyone should be getting Tamiflu, but the feeling is politicians will be too scared to tell the elctorate that.

“There is a feeling amongst clinicians that advice is going to the politicians and then decisions are being taken on a mixture of clinical advice, plus what the politician thinks is politically good or bad.

“The politicians would say it’s their job to judge the mood of the public and to take decisions based on that – but we are now confronted with a situation where politicians should lead not follow public opinion.

“They need to be standing up being counted and prepared to take tough decisions if they are the right ones based on clinical judgement.”

Thursday 23 July 2009

Tamiflu causes hallucinations

…in extreme cases that is. But other more common side-effects include vomiting and diarrhoea.

I was told that by a senior member of the British Medical Council who reckoned the Government are being far too “free and easy” with the anti-viral drug.

At the moment the system is – anyone who has anything resembling swine flu is plied with Tamiflu.

But this doctor said most people should just rest and take fluids with the drug being saved for the most serious cases.

Apparently so many people are now taking it that added pressure is being put on GP surgeries from people coming in complaining about the side effects.

Tamiflu was good for politicians, he said, because it could make them look like they were doing something.

Alan Duncan secret film

The people at Don’t Panic – who brought us that film of the naked picnic at Anthony Steen’s mansion - have done it again.

Here is a video shot secretly of a visit to the House of Commons – Alan Duncan and Nigel Evans are the unwitting stars.

Well worth a look.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Fun time with Silvio?

The press briefing earlier was one of the better ones Brown has done recently.

Not that it was overly gripping – but at least he seemed to relax a bit about half way through which meant he didn’t go all defensive.

It was surprising because the first answer he gave was particularly rubbish – he’d been asked whether he agreed with four fifths of people in a survey who reckoned cuts would have to be made after the next election.

He replied that it was all about the way in which you asked the question. If, instead, you asked people if they thought spending on police and ambulances should be protected then they would say yes.

What? That’s not asking the question in a different way – it is asking a totally different question. It’s like saying, “ask people if they think Mother Theresa was good, they’ll say yes.”

On the whole though it felt like the PM was loosening up for a summer holiday, even though he said he was only going away for a few days.

He even chuckled at one reporter’s suggestion that he deserved a longer holiday – “Berlusconi’s villa seems fun,” she said.

By election blues

The by-election in Norwich North has received very little press coverage, apart from the fact that Labour’s candidate has swine flu.

Just on that – I wondered whether he might be faking it to make people feel sorry for him. You know, like when the kid that was rubbish at sport kicked the football into his own net by mistake and then pretended he had a hurt leg because he was embarrassed.

Anyway, the lack of coverage is probably because it is clear the Tories will win, so it doesn’t have any ‘news value’ until after it has actually happened.

There is still, however, a significant question over just how big the win is.

From Labour sources in Norwich I hear the party’s voters are so angry with the leadership for cutting down the previous MP Ian Gibson over his expense claims that they are loathe to vote for the new man.

If Labour takes a pasting it will not only suggest that Brown’s re-relaunch efforts over the last few weeks have been in vain, but also that his handling of the expenses crisis was frowned upon.

I suspect though that when they get in the voting booth many will go back to what they know.

But if it’s not a whopping victory for Cameron it will add weight to what many Labour MPs keep trying to convince me of – that the Tories have not yet “sealed the deal” with the electorate.

My money is on a Tory win by about ten points.

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Johns housing deal

The local government Johns – that is Denham and Healey (right) – announced proposals for the “biggest transfer of power to councils in a generation” today.

One part sounded particularly interesting – allowing councils to hold on to the housing rent they collect so they can spend it themselves.

Under the current system many have to simply hand over the cash they collect to central Government, meaning they have little power over spending on their own housing stock.

The change proposed by Labour would empower councils, but let’s not forget the system in its current form was honed by Labour in the first place.

They’ve had years to change it, so why come up with proposals now?

Maybe because there no chance a change will happen till after a Labour general election win – i.e. vote for us and keep your housing money.

Winterton whines

Did anyone hear Sir Nicholas Winterton in Expenses – the MPs' story on Radio 4 just now?

The piece started exploring the lovely view from his office and then went on to him talking about how the last few months had been "hell".

Let's just remind ourselves of what he’s endured.