Friday 27 November 2009

Beckett: Mortgage rescue needs to be looked at again

No matter how much people point out how few families the Government’s Mortgage Rescue Scheme has helped, until now the spokespeople have stuck fast to the line – ‘it was only ever meant for the most needy’.

That is despite Gordon Brown saying that it would help 6,000 families most at risk from repossession, when after nine months it has only helped a piddling 92.

But the Government’s defence was knocked today when Margaret Beckett, who launched the scheme when she was Housing Minister, admitted to Lobbydog that it may need reworking.

Having lost her job in the summer reshuffle she is not so constrained anymore, and when told that not a single person in her own Derby constituency – indeed across the whole county of Derbyshire had been helped, she gave way.

“I’m surprised at the results. Certainly it was always thought that not all the families that we would want to be on the scheme would be able to go on it,” she said.

“The idea was to try to prevent people from losing their homes if it was at all preventable.

“But I think that if this picture is being repeated across the country then the relevant people should look at it to see whether there’s a need to extend the help by some degree.”

It’s a flaccid admission, but an admission none-the-less, from the minister who launched MRS that the scheme has not worked.

Vazoline strikes again

This blog has been a long time tracker of Keith Vaz as he pants like a chihuahua around the feet of the rich and famous.

This gem of an example popped up this week after Vaz attended the wedding of Bollywood star and Big Brother winner Shilpa Shetty, pictured. Get ready to cringe.

Mr Vaz said: “Most of their famous friends were due to be at the reception, but I was invited to the wedding.

“I think I was the most famous person there! But there were masses of photographers outside.”

Thursday 26 November 2009

Child Trust Funds slump

As if people's lives weren't hard enough at the moment the Government appears to be encouraging parents to stick their cash in a loss making scheme.

A Labour MP came to Lobbydog complaining that HM Treasury was haranguing him to try and get more of his constituents signed up to the Government's Child Trust Fund.

Under the scheme parents get a £250 voucher to open the fund. They are free to pay in whenever they want and then they get regular update letters showing them how much money is accruing.

The problem is that it isn't, accruing I mean. The money in the trust fund is invested in stock, property, or whatever the particular chosen scheme deals in.

Obviously during a recession, as the value of those investments drops, so will the value of the trust fund.

The MP has had parents come to him who have opened the fund with their voucher and then month by month seen the value drop - £240, £230, £220 - until some have feared they might even end up owing the Government money.

They won't of course. But even the fact that the Government wants them to put their own money in the trust fund when its value is dropping is pretty twisted.

Treasury told me it's still a good long term investment, but they should at least stop pushing it until the recession recovers. That of course would make the policy look bad.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Come on Mandy

Maybe now SKY are highlighting that Clarke wants a debate with Mandy, things might happen.

Mandelson somehow resisted the huge pressure that came (cough, cough) after Lobbydog ran the story in March.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Inquisitive minds

A glance at the names down to question the Health Secretary today presented a worrying picture for Labour.

Given that health is a key election battle-ground, particularly when members can ask about the services in their local area, you would think Labour MPs would be queuing up to take part.

But out of 25 names on the question list just five were Labour MPs.

In the absence of any real zeal to get involved you would think the party machine might kick-in, require people to partake in debates and score points off the opposition.

But one Labour MP LD spoke with sighed and said there was a lack of any kind of organisation, when it came to party heads speaking to the troops.

Behind the battlefront

As election-day approaches the amount of position-jockeying within the Conservative party is hotting up.

Despite more moderate Tory poll leads in recent days, those who’ve been in the parliamentary party for a while are adamant they shouldn’t be left out when the jobs are divvied up after an election victory.

The problem for them is a raft of new MPs that will flood into the Commons if they do win, many of whom Cameron is sweet on.

The likes of Nick Boles, for example. He is the candidate for Grantham, where Lady Thatcher grew up (corrected Events and Old Rightie), currently held by the defector Quentin Davies.

Boles was also the founder and former director of the favoured think tank Policy Exchange and, with Francis Maude, leads the Conservative’s policy implementation unit.

He is Notting Hill set and apparently close to Cameron personally – “that’s what he likes to tell people anyway,” commented one Tory MP.

If the Tories do win Cameron will need, for a while at least, to have a number of people in Government positions who know how Parliament works.

That bodes well in the short term for the MPs who have made his opposition function in the Commons.

But I suspect that after a couple of years in Government we may see Cameron clean out what will then become the old guard, and replace the majority of them with the “young turks” who win seats at the 2010 election.

Arrested for having DNA

"It is now the norm to arrest offenders for everything if there is a power to do so.

"It is apparently understood by serving police officers that one of the reasons, if not the reason, for the change in practice, is so that the DNA of the offender can be obtained."

Professor Jonathan Montgomery, chair of the Human Genetics Commission

Monday 23 November 2009

Labour women

When a Labour MP stands down it is normally the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) that decides how the contest to become the new candidate for the seat works.

But there are so many Labour MPs standing down at the next election that the NEC has had to set up a special sub-committee to deal with the issue.

It will meet tonight to fix which of 14 constituencies should hold open contests, which should hold contests from all woman shortlists and on which they should impose a candidate.

There is a feeling that with Harriet Harman weilding a fair bit of clout on the NEC the majority of the 14 will be all woman shortlists.

The rumour, as well as talk of imposed candidates, is already causing friction at a local level.