Friday 2 October 2009

One last hurrah for Duncan

Pint sized Tory Alan Duncan will have one last hurrah as shadow leader of the House on Monday.

As we all remember, Duncan was demoted recently after being caught on film bitching about how MPs were being treated in the wake of the expenses crisis.

But the listings show a fringe meeting sponsored by The Guardian - entitled How can we fix politics: What a Cameron Government must do - in which Alan Duncan, shadow leader of the House of Commons is apparently appearing.

Good old Grauniad.

Thursday 1 October 2009

Harriet farce

What an absolute numpty Harriet Harman is.

Yesterday she struck out at a website called Punternet on which people can review prostitutes from their area.

She even demanded it be closed down by Arnold Shwarzenegger, the Governor of California, where the website is based.

But, predictably, since highlighting it the site has experienced a massive surge in traffic.

So much so that managers have now posted an open letter to Harman thanking her for her. They write:

I would like to thank you for the huge influx of traffic to my website which your actions have caused.

I am sure that the ladies who are a part of the PunterNet community thank you as well, as they will no doubt benefit financially from the many new clients who might otherwise never have found them.

Conference wind down

I could tolerate the over-cooked eggs, the tepid coffee and the cold service, but this was going too far. “Excuse me, waiter – there appears to be a Mandelson in my breakfast.”

The morning feed, you see, is sacred at conference. It’s one of the few times of day you have away from politics and it should be kept that way.

Believe me, being surrounded all day by hundreds of people obsessed by politics is draining. Even the most banal discussions don’t stray – someone has even asked me what kind of soap I thought David Cameron used.

Read the full column in tomorrow's Post.

Wednesday 30 September 2009


Health Minister Ben Bradshaw on hospital car parking charges: "We don't think it makes sense to spend money that's currently being spent on patient care - getting people treated faster and better - on subsidising car parks."

Health Secretary Andy Burnham on abolishing hospital car parking charges: "When you come into hospital it affects the patient experience if people can’t come in every day to visit because they can’t afford the charges.

"If you have friends and family around in hospital it helps you recover – this is about making the NHS more patient focussed."


As predicted by colleagues last night the Page 3 girl in The Sun (today page 7) is wearing blue pants.

“Everyone will expect [Cameron] to make things better,” says Keeley from Bromley.

“He can’t possibly do this instantly as he will inherit huge long-term deep rooted problems.”

And they say young people aren't interested in politics. The 22 year old lass seems awfully well informed.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

How are we paying for all this?

Here are a few things to think about from the PM’s speech as some more detail about funding has emerged.

Free care for the elderly at home – to be funded through cuts in advertising, marketing, IT and consultancy budgets and through local government efficiencies.

Questions: How will efficiencies affect councils? Just how much money was being spent on advertising, IT etc?

Cancer tests within a week of seeing a GP – funded through £1 billion of efficiencies from the NHS capital programme.

Question: Does that mean planned buildings won’t be built?

Supported housing for 16 and 17 year olds – funded through existing housing budgets.

Question: How much spare money is there in existing budgets?

Brown's speech

Brown's speech was better than last year - although I did get a message from a hack colleague halfway through simply saying "vom".

I'll do a bigger post soon.

Tory housing attack

During his conference speech this morning Housing Minister John Healey will reveal some ‘secret’ minutes from a meeting of Tories.

Labour hopes the minutes, obtained under FOI, will show the Conservatives are planning to align social housing rent with private sector rent if they get into power.

The meeting was apparently between Tory council leaders, some of Boris Johnson’s deputies and Grant Schapps, shadow housing minister.

Healey will use the minutes to suggest the Tories are being two faced on housing.

Rehash Brown

Do I detect a rehashed announcement in the PM’s speech today?

Brown will announce a £36m boost to the funding of Family Intervention Projects.

FIPs, as they’re known, threaten a problem family with eviction if they don’t improve behaviour, while giving them intense one-on-one support to sort out problems in the meantime.

The PM will say he wants the number of families dealt with by FIPs to jump from 5,000 each year to 10,000, or 20,000 over the two years the new cash will cover.

Hold on a second news-hounds, check this Express story out from July.

Here’s hoping he has something more original up his sleeve for his ‘make or break’ speech.

Monday 28 September 2009

Mandy has them in his palm

There was a bizarre moment in Mandy’s speech – the whole thing was like a mini-panto – as he announced the car scrappage scheme extension.

He said: “…extra money for an additional 100,000 cars…and vans!”

And as he said “and vans” he pointed to an imaginary van in the far corner of the conference hall, and then swept his arm across, as if the van was ploughing through the audience of swooning delegates.

He really did have them in the palm of his hand – it was a bit like watching a dog-owner tickle their puppy’s tummy, but after a while it all gets a little gratuitous when the puppy gets over excited.

Only Mandelson can work an audience like that – “it’s just the kind of thing we need at the moment,” a minister said to me afterwards, trying his hardest not to imply that the PM won’t be able to whip delegates up in the same way.

Mandy revs it up

Was it me or was Peter Mandelson overly shouty in his speech? More later.

Labour to attack Tory councils

Labour is planning a verbal assault on Tory councils in an attempt to land a blow on the national party.

The tactic – to be launched by John Denham tomorrow – was set in motion after David Cameron said that if the country wanted to know what a Tory Government would be like, they should look at Conservative councils.

“We’re taking them up on that,” said a Labour source to LD earlier.

The party hopes that by pointing to cuts made by Tories at a local level they can convince voters that the Conservatives are a party of meanies who want to throw people out of their council homes through blind ideology.

The dividing line, of course, is that Labour on the other hand is the party that wants to make the world a better place.

The assault on Tory authorities is something we are going to be hearing more and more of in coming weeks.

Lost in communication?

Listening to senior Labour figures speak so far there is a concerted effort to try and shift media attention on to the Tories.

I heard Brown, Harman, Glenis Willmott and several others at delegate meetings last night – one thing they kept highlighting was the Tories’ position on Europe.

In particular they highlighted the Conservatives’ new alliances in the European Parliament, their voting record there and how Cameron’s wish “to pull back” from the EU would jeopardise progress in this country.

When they spoke with one voice they did push a powerful message. But the problem was they were speaking to delegates and MPs, an audience desperate to be rallied.

It’s not clear that the same points are being made effectively to the public yet, for that to happen the whole party needs to be on message.

Some MPs are saying there is no guidance or communication from the top coming down on which key points they should be hammering home.

Sunday 27 September 2009

What's in a name?

There was an interesting fringe meeting earlier named “Fighting Climate Change: The EU and Copenhagen” – don’t stop reading, I promise it’s interesting.

The chair opened by dissecting Labour’s poor showing in the recent European elections – adding that the idea was that the dire results would form a key part of the meeting's discussion.

He then admitted that the reason they had included climate change in the title of the event was because they didn’t want to have a meeting called “What Went Wrong in The European Elections?”

The honesty was actually rather endearing.

Tough decisions

I’d like to have blogged a bit more today but the first day of conference always promised to be hectic.

On an opening note, the PM was in The Sunday Telegraph today pledging to put the interests of mainstream middle class voters first.

It’s his attempt – guided by Mandy no doubt – to re-build the coalition that gave Labour its three previous election wins.

The problem is this time the clamour among his own MPs in Labour heartlands to give precedence to the party’s core vote is notably greater.

Several MPs I’ve spoken to said they want to see policies and speeches that will reconnect with working people.

Stoke Central MP Mark Fisher said the party needed to do much more to work with unions – “we have to remember who our friends are,” he said.

Wooing the middle-classes is necessary for Labour to win but focussing on it now, in the vulnerable position he’s in, is a huge gamble for Brown

The problem is he doesn’t have much choice but to take it.