Friday 15 January 2010

The leeches

"I see the leeches are here," sneered Sheffield MP Richard Caborn, as he strutted passed your correspondent.

Being a macho man Caborn would have had no problems pushing the door open if the room was packed like before.

In truth, no-one expected this meeting to be as dramatic as last time or for Gordon to have any real problems. Why? "Because of Geoff Hoon's incompetence," one Labour MP suggested to me afterwards.

Oddly enough, the same answer was once offered to me on an entirely different subject. On this occasion however, while it seemed fair, it was not altogether accurate.

Click to read the Evening Post parliamentary correspondent's column.

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Even Shilpa couldn’t believe it…

From the blog of Bollywood film-star Shilpa Shetty, who recently got married:

“We were back in time to attend our second wedding reception (and finally the LAST!) very kindly thrown by a very dear friend of ours MP Keith Vaz.

“When he told us he wanted to do it at the House of Commons I thought he was joking - but he actually did!”

It turns out Mr Speaker, whom she describes as “articulate” found time to give the actress a tour of his residence. Sally was there too of course.

Shetty even got a signed gift from the PM. Politicians will do anything for a bit of star dust.

Monday 11 January 2010

Hoon update...

I tweeted earlier that I was expecting some sort of statement from Geoff Hoon today.

I’m still not sure exactly what it will say, but it seems as though it will be delayed until tomorrow.

Here is some background – at the meeting of his constituency party the other night some members wanted a vote of no confidence, I'm told.

Apparently this couldn’t take place because it was not on the agenda at the start of the meeting.

I don’t know how much support for it there was, but it looks like Hoon is liked in his own constituency Labour party, about as much as he is in the parliamentary one.

It feels like the writing is on the wall. I was told by another Labour MP that we could probably expect the member for Ashfield to stand down “very soon”.

Labour meeting sets tone of election campaign

It’s no surprise that tonight’s PLP meeting was a rallying call to galvanise the party for the election campaign.

The Hoon and Hewitt debacle was alluded to only in vague terms by the PM, through his salt mine joke, and by Mandy when he told the party “we are not going to let others insert wedges between us.”

There were a few MPs who talked about it but they were, I’m told, unanimously derisory about the pair of rebels – neither of whom had the guts to attend the meeting.

There seems to have been an effort to show the party that this was an election campaign being run by more people than Brown – “I am not a team of one, I am one of team,” he told them.

Mandelson, Harman and Douglas Alexander all gave speeches in which they outlined various parts of election strategy.

One MP told me they wanted to show that the PM would not be involved in the minutiae of day-to-day decision making, but would concentrate on getting out around the country campaigning.

The party will use signs of economic recovery as a platform for their campaign and will then seek to show that Labour can be a party of change – the “right kind of change” that is.

Meanwhile they will try and score points off the Tories by claiming their ‘austerity’ financial plan will endanger the recovery.

See you in the morning for more fun.

The Salt Mine Joke

This was an aide’s account of a joke told by the PM to members of the PLP at tonight’s meeting.

It seems to have been one of the only times the PM acknowledged what happened with Hewitt and Hoon.

The aide recalled: “He said that there was a big issue that confronted him last week – when he spoke to the head of the salt union.

“He asked him what we could be doing more to help. And the man responded ‘Prime Minister we need more people to go down the salt mine’.

“The PM responded that he could immediately think of a number of people that could fit the bill, but added that Tony Lloyd the chairman of the PLP would be opening nominations and that it would be important to have a secret ballot.”

The aide added: “If you’re in the PLP, that’s like Peter Kaye.”