Friday 27 May 2011

Gove goes to Supreme Court

Michae Gove is preparing to take the Shoesmith decision to the Supreme ourt. This from DfE.

A DfE spokesman said: “The Government thinks that it was right in principle for Sharon Shoesmith to be removed from her post as Director of Children’s Services.

“The High Court thought that the decision was taken in a fair way. The Court of Appeal said today that they thought it was not sufficiently fair, and was therefore unlawful.

“There are questions of constitutional importance involved in this case, beyond the specific question about whether Ed Balls should have had a further meeting with Sharon Shoesmith before removing her.

“Our initial application to appeal has been turned down by the Court of Appeal. We intend to pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court."

Wednesday 25 May 2011

The story behind the collapse...

There was a right rigmarole during Barack Obama’s speech earlier after an MP collapsed half way through – but the incident ended up with another MP getting a private moment with the most sought after politician on the planet.

Like the thousand or so other members of the audience, Stafford Tory Jeremy Lefroy (pictured) had been waiting hours in Westminster Hall for Obama to arrive and speak.

But at about 5pm his colleagues standing around saw the poor chap suddenly drop to the floor. Mid Derbyshire MP Pauline Latham and others were on hand.

While the President carried on, Latham and co carried Lefroy out of a side entrance, but initially couldn’t rouse him.

She told Lobbydog: “It was quite frightening and pretty dramatic because we had no idea what was wrong. But in the end he had been a little ill before hand and had just become dehydrated over the day.”

The group arranged an ambulance and rushed to and from his parliamentary office attempting to find his medical history for paramedics – it was only when they arrived that Lefroy woke up and became alert again.

With her colleague from Stafford safely on his way to hospital, Latham returned to hear the second half of the President’s speech only to find it had finished and Obama was now being swamped by politicians eager to shake the golden-boy’s hand.

Unable to get back in she milled about outside, but then by coincidence happened to bump in to Obama as he left and was able to engage him in conversation with hardly anyone else around for a good few minutes.

That was an opportunity many of the MPs inside, and no doubt some of my lobby colleagues would have done a lot for.

She said: “I hadn’t expected to get a proper conversation with him, but he was suddenly there and I told him what had happened.

“He said he hoped that I’d enjoyed the first half of the speech that I’d seen and sent his best wishes to Jeremy, he was a very charming man.”

The Stafford MP was taken to St Thomas’ hospital on the other side of Westminster Bridge, but is fine and is expected to go home tonight – a happy ending for everyone.

Clarke in the news again....

When faced with undeniable accusations that you fell asleep during what was arguably the most significant political speech of the year there is really only one thing to do – make light of it.

That is what Rushcliffe MP Ken Clarke did earlier this year when he fell asleep while George Osborne tried to set out his strategy for economic growth during the Budget Day speech.

He laughed off the jeers from the Labour benches, even when Ed Miliband said: “Indeed the Justice Secretary fell asleep during the Chancellor's speech, his growth strategy was so compelling."

So it was no surprise that the official line coming from Clarke’s office after he was caught nodding off during Barack Obama’s speech was just a little tongue in cheek.

“He was not asleep, it seems he was just living the American dream,” a spokesman told me earlier. Classic.

That embarrassing toast between Obama and the Queen

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Mid-sentence blip...

With all the arguing in the sentencing story about whether it’s worse to give criminals 50% off their prison term than it is to give them 33% off, something quite important has been under played.

The way the story has been told so far is that currently if a person charged with a crime gives an early guilty plea, they will get their sentence reduced by a third (a 33% “discount”).

But, according to the political dialogue, the Government wants to increase the discount to 50% in a bid to offer a greater incentive for people to own up.

The thing is, as pointed out by the increasingly noticed Anna Soubry in this week’s justice debate, judges can already give a 50% discount if they want to.

In 2009 the Labour Government introduced the 33% discount as a guideline only, but it was still up to judges if they wanted to offer a 20% discount, a 75% discount or nothing at all for a guilty plea if they saw fit.

If the 50% discount were introduced chances are it too would be a guideline and it would be up to judges to implement it or not, just like they could have chosen to do before the Government’s Green Paper came out.

It is true that more 33% discounts popped up after the Government introduced the guideline in 2009, but with the final decision still down to a judge it makes all the political fuss in the Commons feel a little empty.