Friday 12 March 2010


I’ve blogged in the past about how Labour chiefs have stymied Parliamentary reform.

But they’ve now come up with the ultimate way to stick two-fingers up at attempts to modernise the Commons – bringing in more members of the Vaz family.

Valerie Vaz, sister of Keith, is on a shortlist of potential candidates for Walsall South, which brings an 8,000 vote majority with it.

The shortlist has been the subject of controversy in Walsall where local party members are miffed that it seems to have been manipulated by party chiefs wanting to lever in a favoured candidate.

As one writes: “I feel woefully let down by the democratic process in the party. We have to renew ourselves as a fully democratic party…”

Stories like this are repeating themselves again and again around the country.

But putting aside the irritation of the sidelined Labour grass roots, can you imagine two Vazes (or Vazi?) on the benches of the Commons?

Are you Mandy? I'm not saying that I'm not.

Mandelson made very innovative use of the word “spatchcocked” in his briefing yesterday while describing Tory policy on regional development agencies (RDAs).

We're still discussing here exactly what it meant.

My favourite word however was “dissembling”, simply because of the to and fro of the briefing that surrounded it.

The Tories say RDAs are bloated, need to be changed and made more efficient.

Meanwhile Labour says RDAs are great as they are and that the Tories actually plan to “scrap” them, but are being disingenuous about it.

A hack put the initial question to Mandy.

“Lord Mandelson, are you accusing the Conservative party of lying?”

“I’m accusing them of dissembling.”

“What does that mean in English?”

“I’m accusing them of creating a different impression from the policy which they would peruse if elected.”

“So that means lying.”

“They’re frightened.”

“Does that mean lying?”

“They know they’re in the wrong place on regional business support and investment, they know they’re at odds with local business opinion. They have put themselves on this hook of abolishing the RDAs without thinking through the consequences for the regions.”

The literal definition of dissembling is the 'creation or adoption of a false appearance in order to conceal facts, feelings, or intentions'.

Or in a word, lying.

Wednesday 10 March 2010

A particularly good PMQs today...

People that disagree with the DNA database are crims...

This new campaign video shown at Home Secretary Alan Johnson’s press conference on crime yesterday left me livid.

It actually seems to suggest that only criminals would disagree with the DNA database – the one that holds data on 850,000 innocent people.

“Do we honestly need a whole database just so the police can see if someone’s dandruff matches their cigarette butt,” says the thief in the video, as if it were the best argument that opponents of the database have come up with.

It certainly was not the argument that convinced the European Court of Human Rights to rule that the kind of DNA database the Government was creating was "a disproportionate interference" in people's lives and that it couldn't be "regarded as necessary in a democratic society”.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

A new challenger...

Labour officials who published the shortlist of women wanting to be the party’s candidate in Ashfield have said they made a mistake.

The list put out last night included Gloria De Piero (right), Faye Abbott and Pam Tatlow (see post below).

But it turns out Pam Tatlow is not on the shortlist – instead a woman called Joyce Still, who hails from Liverpool, will take her place.

This new candidate could make the contest more interesting. It’s not so important that she’s from outside the constituency because, as I mentioned below, so are the other candidates.

But Still seems to have more experience, having stood for Labour in the 2001 and 2005 elections in different seats and having already been a councillor.

She also has a background in nursing, currently works as a health visitor on a "challenging" estate and represents Unite on regional and national committees – all of which will go down well with Labour party members.

It’s this kind of stuff which might enable a candidate to overcome the profile that De Piero – who is the national party’s favoured candidate – brings with her.

It would also stand her in good stead to fight it out with Jason Zadrozny, the Lib Dem candidate for Ashfield, who is the main threat to Labour.

The biggest obstacle for any Labour candidate, though, may still be their own party’s activists.

Comments on this site have shown Ashfield party members still feel slighted by the national party’s manipulation of the contest in their constituency.

Monday 8 March 2010

Ashfield Labour shortlist announced

The shortlist of three women hoping to become Labour’s candidate to fight Geoff Hoon’s Ashfield seat at the election has been announced.

We already know about Gloria De Piero, the former GMTV presenter who some local Labour members feared was being levered into the seat by the national party.

The shortlist also includes Pam Tatlow, who has stood for Labour before, though not since 1992 when she came third in Cheltenham I believe. She’s now the chief exec of a university related think tank.

Faye Abbott is the third candidate. She’s a party member from Coventry who is yet to fight an election, though she has been a council candidate in her home city.

Given her lack of experience it’s unlikely Abbott would win the candidacy. Tatlow has been around longer, but you can’t help but think this is a list in which De Piero stands out.

She is inexperienced as a politician too. But the biggest criticism against her, that she is not local, is cancelled out because neither are the other two.

The question is whether Ashfield Labour members who feel they have been stitched up, will be angry enough to punish the party at the ballot box and vote Lib Dem.

The UK’s third party is seen as the greatest threat to Labour in Ashfield and is fielding a vocal, born and bred local man who sits on the council.

Campbell's love secret...

I was getting comfortable for a snooze on the train back from Stanstead last night when I noticed Alastair Campbell’s name printed in the women’s mag Mrs Lobbydog was flicking through.

She looked surprised when I asked if I could borrow the copy of Elle, but I just had to find out what the secret of a long-lasting relationship was – something the Labour spinner was promising to reveal.

Surprisingly, the secret turned out to be buying a copy of Campbell’s most recent novel, Maya, a story about an A-list movie star whose changing relationship with an old friend leads to “disturbing consequences”.

I wondered if his time as a soft porn writer helped him capture just how disturbing the consequences were.

I admit I have no intention of reading Maya myself and so turned to a couple of other reviews to see what the book was all about.

They seemed to suggest it is more of a vehicle for Campbell’s own sourness – I’ll leave you with the words of Anthony Horowitz from The Telegraph.

“If you were to sum up this grim, rather bitter book in one sentence, it would be this. He who lives by the media, dies by the media.”