Friday 26 February 2010

Sky-diving in Ashfield

Is the Labour party about to parachute a woman into Geoff Hoon’s old seat?

A Lobbydoggy has helpfully informed us in a comment to an earlier post that an ‘all women shortlist’ (AWS) was not what the local Ashfield party wanted.

But it appears the national party has imposed its will, as it did in Sherwood.

If there is anyone out there who wants to dispute that, feel free to do so here.

Word is, however, that there aren’t too many local women in contention.

Expect there to be some well known regional Labour figures, people who are favourites with party chiefs, in the running for what is a pretty safe seat with a 10,000 vote majority.

Massive Government contract falls through...?

Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis has just announced that the Government has put the brakes on a £7.5bn train building contract.

The decision was taken, Adonis said, for two reasons – though Lobbydog suspects one is more pertinent than the other.

They say the rail network’s needs have changed after passenger growth slowed and further sections of track were electrified, meaning that a different type of engine than those ordered would be needed.

You’d think they would have known about the electrification programme when they ordered billions of pounds worth of diesel carriages.

Then, crucially, they say that there was a “reduction in capacity of the debt market” – suggesting the Government may not have been able to borrow cash to fund the project.

Did the banks think we weren’t good for the money?

The deal definitely won’t be signed before the next election – and then we’ll have to wait for the results of a review to see if it ever does.

Labour says Hoon's seat needs female touch

The Labour candidate who will fight Geoff Hoon’s Ashfield seat at the election will be chosen from an all women shortlist.

The special selection panel of Labour’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), met last night and made the decision.

There is a Labour majority of 10,000 there so whoever gets the candidacy is likely to be the next MP.

I don’t know whether an all women shortlist (AWS) is what the local party wanted – perhaps one of my Notts readers can inform us?

What I do know is that there are a group of men in Notts who are getting well miffed with the NEC excluding them from the selection process in seats that become available.

There was a right hoo-ha when nearby Sherwood, vacated by Paddy Tipping, went AWS.

None-the-less I’ve heard that the chosen candidate there, Emilie Oldknow, regional director of East Midlands Labour, has been working on all cylinders.

If the candidate (pictured) can capture the voters’ imagination it should be a more interesting battle, as Labour has a smaller 6,500 majority.

Thursday 25 February 2010

Tories meet with Israelis

Lobbydog has learnt that shadow attorney general Edward Garnier recently met with Tzipi Livni, the top Israeli politician at the centre of a diplomatic spat last year.

The incident in question erupted after a British court issued an arrest warrant on war crime charges for Livni shortly before she was due to visit the UK.

But at an informal meeting during a trip last week Garnier assured her that the Tories would alter the law so that it could never happen again.

At the moment any magistrate across the country can issue an arrest warrant for anyone in UK territory as long as they believe there is a reasonable case to be answered.

For charges to actually be brought the Attorney General would have to give approval.

But by that time anyone looking to carry out a political stunt, as they were in the Livni case, would have made their point – while at the same time putting world leaders off coming to Britain ever again.

The person who sought the warrant against Livni was a pro-Palestinian Jewish lawyer – who argued that the former Foreign Affairs Minister bore responsibility for war crimes during the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

Garnier told Livni that a Tory Government would tweak the law so that an arrest warrant for war crimes could only be issued with the consent of the Attorney General.

Tory sources say the change would be brought in not because of any pressure or deal, but to stop UK courts being used in political protests.

But Lobbydog suspects the Tories haven’t forgotten about ‘give and take’ during their time in opposition.

The trip, which shadow business secretary Ken Clarke went on too, also saw the Tories visit Teva Pharmaceuticals – one of the biggest manufacturers of generic drugs.

The firm, I’m informed, would be capable of doing the British Government a tidy deal on cheaper drugs for the NHS if it was so inclined.

Brown's Shortlist interview...

Not so sure today's interview in Shortlist magazine will make the waves last week's did.

It was recess when David Cameron's interview was printed so hacks were scrabbling about for something to write.

Lily Allen's inappropriate lyrics and Dave’s love of darts were spread all over the nationals the following day.

To be honest, even if we were still in recess, I'm not sure the follow up interview with the PM today would be reported further.

In one slightly interesting part, however, discussing Fabio Cappello's decision over John Terry the PM says he faces similar challenges.

"I think maybe Fabio Cappello would sympathise with me. Bill Shankly when he was manager of Liverpool said 'I don't drop people, I just make changes'. There is something in that. You've got to make decisions that are best for the team."

So there you go Alistair Darling – he wasn't dropping you, he just thought he was getting rid of you for the good of the country.

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Now we'll see how green Dave really is...

Labour rebels narrowly missed out on their plan to stick it to the big power companies in the Commons just now.

They had wanted to get an amendment added to the Energy Bill that would give ministers powers to cap carbon emissions coming from power stations.

Labour rebels joined with the Tories and Lib Dems to get it through – but they lost by eight votes, 244 to 252.

The Tories still have a chance to get the amendment added to the Bill in the Lords though, using their ability to hold up the legislative process as a bargaining chip.

The Tories would basically say ‘let this amendment through on the Bill, or we’ll hold up all of your legislation so that you can’t get any of it through before the election’.

The question is – do the Tories, who undoubtedly have strong big business links, really have the will to strike a legislative blow to the power companies for the sake of the environment.

Dave’s eco-credentials are now really on the spot.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Spinning off a cliff...

Lobbydog sniffed a rat when Lord Mandelson announced there would be £64million “new” funding for UK businesses today.

His news release suggested this was money handed down by the Government to be doled out by regional development agencies (RDAs).

But when questioned whether the money already existed in RDAs' budgets or if it really was new cash being handed down by the Government he gave a shifty reply.

“What we’ve got to do in this situation is make sure that every pound of public money is targeted where it is going to give the greatest return.

“If that means prioritising, if that means switching, if that means doing a little less here because you can get a bigger bang for your buck elsewhere that’s what were going to do.”

Translated the answer means ‘no, this is not new money’. In fact it is money that the RDAs already had in their budgets, but are only now allocating.

See how Mandy tries to make it sound like the Government is doing something courageous; typical Mandelson game-play.

In truth, money that would have been spent promoting business by RDAs anyway is now being spent on promoting business by RDAs.

There was tangible tension among some RDA people I spoke with who resented the fact that Mandelson was suddenly high-jacking one part of their programme and touting it as some kind of fiscal stimulus.

LD questioned the Biz Secretary further later in the day, asking why – given that RDAs are constantly handing grants out and that this money was not new cash – had he chosen to hold such a big event highlighting the work today.

“What? Today, as opposed to tomorrow,” he said.

“No. Today, a couple of months before a general election,” I suggested.

He replied that he had always highlighted the work of RDAs.

What really takes the biscuit – and I don’t just mean a rich-tea, I’m talking double chocolate hob-nob territory here – is that he also admitted the Government is actually cutting RDAs’ budgets.

Only the Dark Lord himself would try and spin this one into a good news story for Labour. This time he was caught with his trousers down.

Possible Government upset

Lobbydog has learnt of frantic phone calls between ministers and backbench Labour rebels today.

A revolt is on the cards after the rebels teamed up with opposition parties in a bid to re-shape the Government’s Energy Bill – which will be voted on tomorrow.

The coalition wants an amendment passed that would give the secretary of state power to impose carbon emission limits on power stations.

The wording of the amendment agreed by the coalition was subject to last minute wrangling, but they finally hammered out a version last night. To see it click here and scroll to NC15.

If such carbon limits were imposed it would mean power companies having to invest heavily to make their stations greener.

In the phone calls ministers warned that if the amendment went through it would mean black-outs and power companies deserting the UK market.

But the rebels simply accused ministers of being wimpy and snivelling in front of the power firms.

A total of 35 Labour MPs need to vote for the regulation to push it through – assuming that the Tories and Lib Dems vote in force with them.

The problem is that it seems the Tories have only put a two line whip on the vote, meaning there may not be enough Conservative support to carry it through.

Should be an interesting watch.

Monday 22 February 2010

Roll up, roll up!

They say you can put anything on eBay and there will be someone out there to buy it.

You certainly find some odd stuff. Take this item – a signed picture of Keith Vaz.

Hurry people, there are only two days left to bid and the offers are pouring in (that is if by ‘pouring in’ you mean there are none).

The price is currently 99p, but then you would also have to pay £1.01 for postage.

Sunday 21 February 2010

Infamy, infamy...

The moment Gordon Brown grabbed an aide by the lapels and screamed “they’re all out to get me” must’ve been dead scary for the poor chap getting the hairdryer treatment.

But I can’t help but be reminded of the classic Kenneth Williams line in Carry on Cleo
“Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!”

But of all the bumph in today’s Observer my favourite part without a doubt was how Brown used to prepare for PMQs.

Apparently his team ran through how things might go, with Ed Miliband normally playing David Cameron.

I imagine…

GB: Right let’s play this through. I’ll be me. Harriet, you be Alistair. Alistair, you be Ed. Ed, you be Harriet, and other Ed, you be Cameron.

EM: What? Why do I have to be Cameron again? I always end up as Cameron. I can’t get the voice right and it means I always have to lose. Can’t I be you for once?

GB: Eh? Of course you can’t be me. I’m me.

EM: But Harriet’s Harriet, and she’s still Alistair. In fact what about Harriet – I could be a good Harriet, I’ll even put on some mascara.

GB: No, your voice is too soft and besides, Ed’s already got his Harriet wig on. Look, you’re Cameron and that’s just the way it is.

Right here we go [clears throat] – they want to cut, we want to invest, they were wrong on the recession and they’re wrong on the recovery.

EM: [in Cameron mode] Well, I have a leaked document here which shows the Department of Energy and Climate Change is having to make a 10% cut in its budget – this proves this Government is….

GB: Stop! Ed, what are you doing?

EM: Debating, it’s PMQs.

GB: But what’s all this about a leaked document, There are no leaked documents.

EM: There could be.

GB: Oh really. Who leaked them then?

EM: Maybe I did. I mean, maybe Ed Miliband did.

GB: I see, and what documents were these exactly?

EM: You’ll have to ask Ed Miliband.

GB: [grabs Miliband by the lapels]

Mrs Lobbydog is calling me for dinner, but just before I sign out let me remind you of this other line from Carry on Cleo, which feels pertinent having read about Jack Straw in the Observer piece.

It is spoken by Caesar as his bodyguards try to assassinate him: “I don't want to die! I may not be a very good live emperor but I'd be a worse one dead!”

See you in the morning.