Thursday 11 February 2010

Hoon finally goes...

So Geoff Hoon finally fell on his sword yesterday, but only because he tripped while legging it from other sword-wielding Labour party members.

The Ashfield MP’s official position was that he would stay on at the next election no matter what.

There had been rumours of him standing down, but ones I heard had been dependent on him finding a better job offer outside Parliament.

If that is the case his position would’ve been more: “I definitely won’t stand down, unless someone else decides to pay me a good wage, in which case I definitely will.”

So the question is what happened to bring the decision on now?

One answer is that he actually thought he would lose a vote of no confidence which his local party were planning to hold – he wanted to jump rather than be pushed.

But even if the party had passed the motion of no confidence – some think Hoon could have fought it off – the final decision on deselection would have rested with Labour’s governing body, the National Executive Council (NEC).

Word from the NEC is that it would not have been willing to push Hoon out this side of an election because it would have meant high-profile party division.

It could be, of course, that to save the party the embarrassment of the no confidence vote he simply decided to do “the right thing”.

But given the recent bungled leadership challenge, it would be fair to argue that saving his party embarrassment has not always been at the top of his agenda.

The other option is that he has indeed found another job – there has been speculation about Hoon being linked with a position at the Football League.

Whatever the answer, Labour has now lost one of its most divisive characters – and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Beckett back in the chair

By the time the Speaker’s election came round last year Margaret Beckett was already miffed with Downing Street after she was sacked on reshuffle day without being given a reason why by the PM.

Rumours ran rife that Beckett’s subsequent candidacy in the Speaker’s election was encouraged and supported by Number 10 – out of a desire to put an establishment figure in the chair, but also as a sweetener for pushing her out of the cabinet.

The story, refuted by Beckett, was that after the whips went round asking Labour MPs to support her, there was a backlash and her campaign flopped.

But LD discovered that her new job, as the chair of an influential national security committee, was offered to her shortly after the failed Speaker’s election bid.

It feels as though the speed at which the position was offered supports the involvement of Number 10 in the Speakership bid.

Certainly Beckett’s undying support for Brown would also suggest so.

Gove moth infestation...

Michael Gove has been accused, bizarrely, of bringing a moth infested carpet into the House of Commons.

Graham Allen MP complained about the moth infestation in his Westminster office corridor.

He said: “It is not true that the first moth arrived when I opened my wallet nor when I had to examine my 1987 expenses claims.

“The fact is Michael Gove MP brought in a second hand Moroccan carpet and ever since we have been plagued by them.

“Michael Gove somehow has managed to get a transfer to another [moth free] office.

“I hope the Common House moth does not take up permanent residence and become the House’s Common moth.”

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Flaky fightback from Labourlist

Labourlist is fighting back against the Tory campaign slamming Gordon Brown’s so-called “death tax” – but their efforts look flaky.

In this piece Alex Smith claims the Tory poster is a bad move because it’s “nasty, macabre and wrong”.

The only one of those three adjectives which is significant, of course, is the final one. After all, if there is such a tax then people won’t be fussed how the poster attacking it looks.

As proof Smith writes: “Andy Burnham denied that this is Labour's policy at all hours before the slapdash poster campaign launched, remarking ‘I'm not currently considering that as a lead option for reform’.”

But this is a misrepresentation of what the Health Secretary said.

The quote is from a Guardian report of a Labour press conference at which Burnham was questioned about the death tax story, published in the same newspaper.

Burnham first claimed the Guardian story was inaccurate, when asked how, he replied: “The Guardian suggests a £20,000 flat levy. I'm not currently considering that as a lead option for reform.”

So it is not that Burnham isn’t considering the tax at all, as Smith’s piece would suggest, but that Burnham is not considering a £20,000 flat rate as a ‘lead option’.

That leaves the implicit indication that he is considering it, albeit not as a lead option. Indeed, it suggests that he also is considering other mechanisms, a variable rate or a different flat rate for example.

To confirm this, Burnham then denies the Government currently favours the tax but adds that it is “considering its options”.

The left would do better to hear what Burnham is saying and accept that if we want a National Care Service it means drastic measures to pay for it.

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Robin Hood was a socialist…

I guess it stands to reason. Sherwood MP Paddy Tipping pointed it out in a debate earlier.

He was arguing for better tourist attractions to be set up at Sherwood Forest for when Ridley Scott’s new Robin Hood movie, Nottingham, is released later this year.

“We want people to come and look at Nottingham Castle and admire it and then go from the home of the villain to the home of the free men in Sherwood Forest,” he said.

“I want them to see that this green wood is a place to live and work and perhaps, for unreconstructed socialists, to give from the rich to the poor.”

Unfortunately, given that Russell Crowe is playing the lead in the new film, I fear the most any peasant will get is a mobile phone in the side of the head.

Varley's warning

Barclays’ John Varley spoke with the precision you’d expect of a big bank’s chief executive when being interrogated by the Treasury Select Committee earlier.

There was no real tough questioning, perhaps because John Mann MP and a few others were absent.

The CE delivered this warning to trigger-happy regulators.

“To be clear - there is no economic growth without risk-taking by households and by businesses. The banks’ job is to ensure that they support that risk-taking responsibly.

“A risk free system is a system without growth, a system without employment and none of us wants that.

“The anxiety I have is that if you look at the banking system as a whole…you would see returns on capital operating at below the cost of capital.

“We’ve got to ensure that this equation between cost of credit, credit supply and the returns generated by banks is an equation that is on one hand creating fairness to consumers…and on the other hand creating adequate terms to shareholders.

“…massive reform beyond where we are already, layering capital requirements on banks, would have the effect of making banks both risk averse and, where they take the risk, charging for that risk in a way that consumers might consider unacceptable.”