Thursday 13 May 2010

Vaz and Soulsby back Miliband

David Miliband's leadership campaign has gained the support of Keith Vaz and his Leicester Labour MP colleague Sir Peter Soulsby.

Vaz told LD: "David Miliband is the best candidate and will be a terrific leader."

While Sir Peter said: "Now that things are becoming clear and the dust is beginning to settle, I’m convinced that David Miliband is the best person to take the party forward.

"He has very widespread support from all shades of opinion within the parliamentary party and I also think he’s got the right ability to communicate effectively."

I'll be letting you know which MPs support who as they tell me. No doubt many will wait and see who is looking like a winner. In the mean time here is Miliband's candidacy speech again...

The Beast doesn't do e-mail

Nice to know that in these times of uncertain politics and new politicians that some things will never change.

This morning MPs were being given their induction on new rules for expenses, how they can be used and how they must be recorded according to IPSA guidelines.

It turns out that expenses documents will have to be submitted electronically, and electronically only.

At which point the ‘Beast of Bolsover’ Dennis Skinner MP, about as old school as you can get, was heard to say…

“I’ve never sent an email in my life and I’m not going to ****ing start now.”

I know Skinner doesn’t do computers and he doesn’t have any staff in Westminster either.

In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if his office was completely bare and consisted of nothing more than a table, a stool and an old wind-up phone – oh, and perhaps a coal fire in the corner.

Cuts begin at the top...

Here are some details of those ministerial pay cuts.

It amounts to a 5% wage decrease for ministers. The coalition says that, along with the subsequent pay-freeze, will save the taxpayer £3million over the Parliament.

This is Cam and Clegg saying ‘we are cutting money that benefits us, because soon we will be cutting money that benefits you’. Watch this space.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

More potent than the sum of their parts...

I couldn’t help but have a little snigger when Clegg turned to Cameron, looked into his eyes and said “together”.

But apart from those moments of sugary sweetness – this was as impressive as it was fascinating.

Their joint PR power was much more potent than the sum of its parts. I saw a sci-fi movie once where a bunch of mini-robots all joined together to form an all powerful uber-robot. This was the political equivalent.

They played off each other’s jokes, nodded at one another, made each other seem legitimate and justified.

But most of all they made the idea of coalition change from being something that seemed like urgent crisis management in the face of an inconclusive election last night, to being a vision and something that might inspire people this morning.

I have no doubt that the public will warm to this kind of joint press conference, if nothing else because it’s so novel. Rarely have they seen politicians of different parties talk like this.

The problem is that for the moment it is not the public, but their own MPs that they need to take with them.

I spoke to one Tory MP earlier who simply did not want the coalition to work, because they did not want it to become a positive advert for coalition politics.

Meanwhile the public themselves will only get carried away until they realise the horrific cuts that this brotherly coalition is going to implement.

Labour meanwhile will need to pick its leader very carefully to face off the challenge that Clegg and Cameron present.

The eventual leader will need to be able to drive a wedge between the pair, without being labelled as the person who didn’t want politicians to work together.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

On the Conservative's lot...

I'll be blogging in more detail tomorrow. For now here are some words the deputy chief Tory whip, South Leicestershire MP Andrew Robathan, gave to LD.

“The truth is that we’ve had an election which wasn’t entirely conclusive and that’s why we have had to deal with people that we haven’t always got on with.

“I’m sorry we’ve had to enter into a coalition but we had to do that because the British public has said that’s what should happen.

"I think it’s a pity but of course I’ll go along with it because that’s what the electorate decided.

“I hope the Lib Dems will see sense on some of their policies. And don’t forget – they are very much the junior partner.”

On Labour's Lot...

Some words given to LD from Tristram Hunt, television historian, and the new Labour MP for Stoke Central.

"Now the party will move down a generation. The Blair and Brown era is over and we can move on from some of the internal party struggles surrounding that.

"A lot of the energy that was spent on it over the years was not used effectively.

"The other lesson we learn from this is to have a full and open leadership contest.

"The nature of Gordon’s election didn’t help him I don’t think. Let’s have a debate about the last 13 years and see where the party goes from here."

Suspicious minds

I’ve a feeling all these negotiations will start to get ever edgier today.

It’s reaching that point in the courtship when the suitors get tired of bringing flowers and choccies and instead grab their prize by her enlaced arm and demand “what do you want from me woman?”

But even if a Tory or Labour party leader manages to come to some sort of arrangement with the Lib Dems, I’m getting the impression they may not be able to take their MPs with them.

Chris Williamson, the new Labour MP for Derby North (above), told me last night that he found the Lib Dems “untrustworthy” as a party.

“What’s clear from their desire to form an alliance with the Conservatives is that they are not the face of progressive change,” he said.

Of course he said a Labour influenced government would be better than the Tories, but it hardly points to the possibility of a harmonious progressive alliance.

Meanwhile on the Tory side I’ve spoken to several MPs who’d prefer Cameron to stop meaningfully negotiating with the Lib Dems, sit back, hold his nerve and let the Lib/Lab pact fail on its own.

They’re sure it would, and as long as it was made to look as though they had tried to negotiate with the Lib Dems they could then run a minority Government from the moral high ground.

They could even have another election which they’re sure they’d win because they think people would be dismayed with the way the Lib/Lab coalition has tried to “betray” the election result.

There is also the matter of money, surely only the Tories could afford another election.

Some of this is born out of a fear that the Alternative Vote system, which might come about if Cameron teams up with the Lib Dems, could rob the Tories of seats.

The thing is there must also be a gaggle of Tory MPs who are unwilling to go down the minority Government/election route because they have only just won their seats with small majorities.

Another fraught day ahead.

Monday 10 May 2010

The devil's choice...

“We haven’t been discussing the leadership,” said Yvette Cooper as she ran away from Downing Street shortly after Gordon Brown announced he would resign.

I wonder if there is any other statement she could have said at that very moment which would have been more unbelievable.

Even though I’ve only been based in Westminster two years, I know that I’ve just experienced the most nail-bitingly intense day of politics that I will see for a long while to come.

A bidding war has seen the two parties throw everything down on the table to try and lure the Lib Dems into bed.

The Tories have agreed to a referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV) system and Labour, as well as giving up its leader, has agreed to definite AV legislation and a referendum on proportional representation (PR).

It’s a devilish choice for the third party. They have been aching for PR and this may be their only chance to even come close for decades.

But even if they take it, the Lib Dems and Labour would still have to get the support of other marginal parties to form a majority. Have no doubt that the closer they get to their majority, the higher the price will be for those last few seats.

The Tories’ offer is far more likely to come about, but taking a referendum on AV would be like the Lib Dems accepting a glass of sour house wine, when the next bar along is offering free Champaign.

All in the national interest of course.

Emotions get a hold of Adam Boulton...