Thursday 14 October 2010

Morning Glory

Tory ladies of a delicate disposition have been all a-fluster recently because of a newcomer on their office corridor.

They were used to neighbouring Labour’s Alan Meale, but recently the Mansfield MP has apparently been letting his old chum John Prescott share his office.

It probably wouldn’t have bothered them, I’m told, had Prezza not started to use Meale’s office as a morning changing room.

Unfortunately it has meant that the ladies have on occasion been confronted with the site of a topless Prescott – enough to shock even the slowest of morning starters into action.

List of justice quagos to be axed...

Ken Clarke's Ministry of Justice has chucked a few quangos on the barby...

Four public bodies will no longer operate as statutory bodies:

• HM Inspectorate of Court Administration will be abolished
• The Legal Services Ombudsman will be abolished
• The Magistrates’ Courts Rule Committee’s function will be transferred to other rule committees
• The Public Guardian Board will be abolished.

Six public bodies will no longer operate as Non Departmental Public Bodies:

• The Youth Justice Board for England and Wales will be abolished and its functions brought within the Ministry of Justice
• The Legal Services Commission will become an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Justice
• The Victim’s Advisory Panel will be abolished
• The Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council will be abolished
• Courts Boards (19 in total) will be abolished.
• The Crown Court Rule Committee’s functions will be transferred to the Lord Chief Justice in consultation with other rule committees.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Passive aggressive Miliband

IT was mentioned at PMQs that Claire Rayner had said before she died that she’d haunt David Cameron if he messed up the NHS, leading a Labour MP to make elongated ghostie noises in the Chamber.

Once it was amusing. After that it became embarrassing, like the boy at the back of the class who won’t stop making fart noises by squeezing his hand into his armpit.

Putting silliness aside it was the most interesting Prime Minister’s Questions I’ve been to for a long time.

In large part that was because of Ed Miliband’s style. His delivery was calm and clear, and so contrasted the howling benches of Labour MPs sitting behind him.

Yet in its incision and tone, which was almost patronising towards Cameron, it carried all of his party’s hostility. His passive aggressive approach turned out to be a handy antidote against the PM’s preferred barefaced hostility.

So today the Leader of the Opposition came out on top, but Labour MPs shouldn’t get carried away. What their party has lacked for so long is someone who can score in an open goal at PMQs. That’s what Miliband did today with his attack over child benefits.

The policy has been dissected for days already – its weakest points put on show for all to see. All Miliband had to do was highlight them again in a witty way.

The real test will come in how he opposes the spending review. In the mean time Cameron will want to adjust his sights as he works out how to handle this new kind of enemy.

Miliband requires a far defter touch than anything the PM has faced in years – the battle between them will be deeply interesting to watch.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Anti-climax at Treasury questions...

What a bore Johnson and Osborne were in the House today – not a patch on the scrap between Michael Gove and Andy Burnham yesterday, (see below).

I suppose Johnson didn’t want to get too involved in a ruckus which showed up his lack of detailed knowledge.

And it would have been rather base of Osborne to pound a weaker opponent for it on his first day, may as well stick to policy and seem the bigger man.

Either way, I hope Johnson finds his fight soon because a good face off between the two has an awful lot of potential.

Monday 11 October 2010

Education questions gets catty...

There was a good old tit-for-tat verbal punch-up between Education Secretary Michael Gove and his new shadow Andy Burnham today in the Commons.

Burnham kicked off by claiming that Gove had lived up to his previous career as a journalist by displaying a “loose grasp of the facts” on the Building Schools for the Future programme.

Gove came back…

"Can I first of all congratulate him on his elevation to being shadow education secretary. Can I say that I admire the way in which he fought his leadership campaign. He was an advocate both for modernisation and aspirational socialism – which is why of course he came fourth out of five, neither of those values being entirely flavour of the month in the Labour part at the moment. Can I also thank him for his reference to my past as a journalist, it was a pleasure to spend some time in a job outside politics before I came into this House. I recommend it to the honourable gentleman."

Burnham came back with the sarcastic comment “I thank him for his characteristic graciousness” before telling Gove he had the “air of the self satisfied teacher’s pet”.

If the rest of their clashes are as much fun I’ll be turning up to education questions more often.

Talking of leaders having to grow into their roles...

At this morning’s press conference there was a moment when David Cameron didn’t quite look as comfortable in front of the cameras as he usually does.

The whole session had been delayed by 45 minutes while the PM was briefed on the tragic death of Linda Norgrove and the rescue operation that preceded it.

So his discomfort may have simply been the shock of discovering that the aid worker could actually have been killed by American troops.

But it may also have been the weight of having to face the press, while tip-toeing through the political minefield of calling for a tough investigation into the incident, while not being seen to criticise the American military.

I thought he was a little wrong footed by questions on his decision to approve the operation – in particular one on whether British special forces should have carried out the operation instead of the Americans who, insinuated one questioning hack, are considered more trigger happy.

While spending cuts have presented a challenge to the new PM, he has looked capable at dealing with the fall-out. That is in large part because he’s been able to dictate the story.

But today Cameron discovered the terrible side of what it’s like to be in power – unexpected events require big decisions, which although taken in earnest, can lead to terrible consequences.