Friday, February 29, 2008

The Daley Dozen: Friday

1. Norfolk Blogger says my blog has been banned by Norfolk County Council. I feel an FOI coming on.
2. Conservative Women are not happy with Matt Drudge.
3. City Unslicker explains why Angela Merkel has been undermined by E.on.
4. Theo Spark has got a bad case of Governmentium.
5. Ben Brogan is going red in Birmingham.
6. Bob Piper explains why Andrew Lansley is popular in the NHS and also explains his new polite promise.
7. Burning our Money on the scandal of local government pensions.
8. Danny Finkelstein on why Shirley Williams nearly re-ratted to Labour. Tony Sharp has more.
9. Donal Blaney on the difference between Michael Gove and Andrew Lansley.
10. John Redwood asks what should we pay MPs?
11. Kiwiblog looks at the likely successors to New Zealand PM Helen Clark.
12. David Hughes reveals GordonBrown had to break into his own office at 5am.

Alexis Carrington-Colby-Dexter on John McCain

From Joan Collins' diary in The Spectator...

"John McCain really needs to do something about his pallor. His complexion is more translucent than Nicole Kidman's".

She hasn't lost it, has she?

The 2005 Tory Intake Begins to Impose Itself

The 52 strong 2005 intake of Conservative MPs constitutes more than a quarter of the Parliamentary Party. On occasion they have acted in concert to achieve an aim. Today we have another example of that in the letters page of the Daily Telegraph, where 27 members of the 2005 intake make a radical suggestion for recall elections, along the lines of the Californian system. As I say in my Telegraph column today, it is inconceivable that this letter was written without the explicit consent of the Party leadership. This morning I have spoken to a senior party source who tells me not only did the leadership consent to it, they actively encouraged it. I suspect they even instigated it. It's clearly designed to send a message to the old guard of Tory MPs. The message is this. "You've had your day, things are going to be very different now. We are not going to be tarnished by your actions". Here's the letter.
Sir - At a time when trust in politicians continues to be diminished, there is an urgent need to look again at the sanctions available when an MP has been found to have behaved improperly.

The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee is able to suspend an MP, but many members of the public feel frustration that, save for very limited circumstances, an MP disciplined by the Commons authorities will not be answerable to his constituents until a general election is called and, therefore, can retain his position and salary for some years.

As Conservative MPs all elected for the first time in 2005, we recognise that we are accountable to our electorate and, consequently, we do not think that a parliamentary committee should have the discretion to expel an MP. However, we do think that consideration should be given to creating a recall mechanism, similar to that used in some US states, to enable constituents to vote on whether they remove their MP during the course of a Parliament.

For example, in California in 2003, a petition was organised calling for the recall of the governor, Gray Davis. Once it was established that a sufficient number of electors had signed the petition, a ballot was held on whether Davis should be recalled. That ballot succeeded, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected to replace him.

We would want safeguards to be put in place to ensure that this mechanism was not abused, such as requiring a high percentage of registered voters in a constituency to petition for a recall ballot, or only permitting a recall ballot when the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee has recommended it as a sanction.

None the less, a mechanism of this sort used in exceptional circumstances would increase MPs' accountability, address some of the frustration felt by a disenchanted public and help restore trust in our democratic institutions.

David Gauke MP, Ben Wallace MP, Greg Hands MP, Ed Vaizey MP, Brooks Newmark MP, Richard Benyon MP, Peter Bone MP, James Brokenshire MP, David Burrowes MP, Douglas Carswell MP, Greg Clark MP, Philip Dunne MP, Tobias Ellwood MP, Stephen Hammond MP, Philip Hollobone MP, Stuart Jackson MP, Mark Lancaster MP, Anne Main MP, Maria Miller MP, Anne Milton MP, Mike Penning MP, John Penrose MP, Lee Scott MP, Graham Stuart MP, Rob Wilson MP, Stephen Crabb MP, David Jones MP

Telegraph Column: The Consequences of Mr Lansley

Click HERE to read my latest Telegraph column on Andrew Lansley and NHS funding. Here are a couple of tasters...

I suppose that compared with Labour's £110 billion commitment to Northern Rock, the Conservatives should find it relatively easy to uncover an extra £28 billion to spend on the National Health Service. This is what shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley appeared to commit the party to in an interview yesterday. The truth, however, was a little different, and once we ''small state" Tories had picked up our jaws from the floor we were told that Mr Lansley had actually said nothing new and it was all a storm in a teacup. Those of us with memories of longer than six months recall the same thing being said of David Willetts' speech on grammar schools...

What was he suggesting? That the defence budget be slashed? That the Home Office should fund fewer policemen? Tory spokesmen point out that no spending pledge has been made and any suggested cuts are included in Labour's spending plans, which the Tories are committed to shadowing until 2011. But the damage had been done...

Some of Mr Lansley's detractors have long believed that David Cameron would come to regret publicly guaranteeing him the position of health secretary in a Conservative government. It seemingly gave him a licence to speak out in a manner they did not enjoy. They now feel vindicated...

The Conservatives are polling narrowly ahead of Labour on the economy and NHS. This interview may help improve the latter, but not the former. During Labour's period in opposition, between 1992 and 1997, Gordon Brown instilled an iron discipline on spending pledges. Shadow cabinet members were banned from making any pledge without his explicit approval. They were even banned from talking about money, in case anyone should misinterpret their remarks. I trust George Osborne will impose a similar discipline on Mr Lansley and his colleagues in future.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

More on Mr Lansley...

My comments below on Andrew Lansley's Times interview on NHS spending seem to have provoked the ire of some readers. I think this is one of those occasions when as a blogger you realise that you can't please all of the people all of the time. Not that I try very hard. A similar thing happened on Wednesday when I called PMQs for Gordon Brown. A funny thing for a supposed CCHQ mouthpiece to do, wouldn't you say? My comments on Andrew Lansley were rather moderate compared to what Ben Brogan or Fraser Nelson have had to say today.

I've written more about this issue in my Telegraph column tomorrow. And I make no apology for calling it as I see it.

Respect to Prince Harry

I've been a bit tied up most of the day so only heard about Prince Harry serving in Afghanistan (best headline in tomorrow's papers from the Daily Star: WHEN HARRY MET TALI!) a couple of hours ago. The news emerged via Matt Drudge's website earlier today. I asked myself the question: If I had known about Harry being there would I, as a blogger, have ignored the press embargo. My response took a nano second. No I bloody wouldn't, and Matt Drudge should be ashamed of himself for putting the Prince's life at risk in this manner, not to mention those of his fellow soldiers.

When the original decision was made not to send Harry into active service I argued that it was wrong. He wanted to go. He was prepared to go, and the decision that he shouldn't go effectively made his role in the armed forces redundant. Well done to him for sticking to his guns and having the guts to go where most of us would fear to tread. Makes you proud to be British.

I'll be doing the News 24 paper review at 00.15.

Why Cameron Is Centering on Public Disquiet About Politicians

There's a must-read post on Guido this morning on the reasons for David Cameron's selection of topics for PMQs yesterday. He concludes: "Cameron is going to try to run as the change candidate who stands against the shadowy, sleazy old ways of Westminster".

Extra Money Does Not Necessarily Buy a Better NHS

Whoever negotiated the GP Contract on behalf of the Department of Health should never be allowed near a negotiation again, but knowing this government, the self same person was probably also responsible for negotiating the famous 'red lines' in Lisbon.

I begrudge no one a fair return for their work, but a 60 per cent rise in pay for seeing 40 per cent fewer patients is not something that is defensible. This applies to GP partners, some of whom now earn £250k per annum. Salaried GPs are on £74k, while the average for partner GPs is £113,000.

The problem is not that people begrudge GPs a high level of pay, it is that they see the service they are getting deteriorate, with surgeries closing more often in the evenings and weekends. The government says it is addressing this but it is a problem of their own making.

I was astonished to read in today's Times that Andrew Lansley is promising to outdo Labour in spending on the NHS. He says that spending will rise from 9 per cent of GDP to 11 per cent. Assuming an annual average growth rate in the economy of two per cent, that extra sum is quite staggering. Health Service inflation has always been higher than in the rest of the economy, but even so, for an opposition spokesman to commit to such an increase is, shall we say, 'surprising' to put it mildly.

Such a commitment cannot possibly have been made without the agreement of Philip Hammond and George Osborne. Putting aside my strong view that the Tories should be slashing the overall level of public spending, this really does underline to NHS professionals that the Conservatives are determined to put the NHS at the forefront of their election appeal. I just wish it didn't have to be the case that to do that they have to dangle billions of extra money in front of people. It shouldn't always just be about money and a spending war with Labour. Competence, radical reform and efficiency are far more important.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tories Launch Massive 'Friendship' Campaign

The Conservatives are launching a huge advertising campaign tonight aimed at not only increasing membership, but attracting so-called "Friends of the Conservatives". And no, it's not a Dorothy-like euphemism. At least, I don't think it is! The campaign's slogan is a slightly suvggestive YOU CAN GET IT IF YOU REALLY WANT IT. Frankie Howerd would be proud. Seriously, it's based on the song by Jimmy Cliff, which has been incorporated into a new video which has been launched on Facebook tonight by the Party. It's a great page with lots of widgets and downloads.

It has long been a mystery to me why British political parties have been so lax in emulating their American counterparts in using the internet to register supporters and raise money. If donation limits really are going to be imposed it's the only way political parties will be able to survive. Barack Obama's campaign has raised tens of millions of dollars with an average donation of £55.

The great thing about the Tory campaign is that it is hugely positive in outlook - strong on aspiration, with a tone which will hopefully attract the support of those in the 25-55 age group.

I'd love to show you the video here, but there's no embed code on it. Doh!

ConservativeHome's thoughts are HERE.

The Daley Dozen: Wednesday

1. Jon Craig is not a fan of the 'toothless' Sir Christopher Kelly.
2. Cranmer asks what would happen if the BNP endorsed David Cameron.
3. Ben Brogan says the Commons authorities should have left the protesters on the roof and left them to see how they like it! He also now promises to campaign for a third runway!
4. Bob Piper wishes to continue to enjoy the freedom of touching his genitals in public.
5. Cassilis laments the 'classist' approach of both sides of the political divide.
6. Devil's Kitchen enters battle with Labour MP Keith Hill.
7. Donal Blaney has some suggestions about what to do with the protesters at the Commons. Releasing them is not one of them.
8. Vicky Ford relates her experience of the I WANT A REFERENDUM protest.
9. John Redwood calls the LibDems 'silly stunts'. At least, I think that's what he said.
10. Kerron Cross on why David C Davies was Top Cat today.
11. How the earth moved for Mrs Tory Radio.
12. Stephen Pollard on the Archibshop of La-La Land, who's "at it again".

Hillary Fails to Land a Blow

I've just watched the whole Clinton-Obama debate screened last night from Ohio. Most pundits called it a score draw. I don't. I call it a win for Obama. Hillary Clinton needed a big win and she failed to get it - hence it is a victory for Obama. I actually thought she copped by far the toughest questioning, but her pleading for sympathy seemed inappropriate and phoney. The only area she came across as more knowledgeable was foreign policy, but few Americans vote on that issue alone. Obama failed to rise to her bait on a number of occasions and came across as sincere, polite and informed. Hillary was shrill, defensive and a little nasty.

Clinton is still ahead in the Ohio polls, but only by four or five points. Obama leads in Texas, but very narrowly. If Obama wins both states next Tuesday we'll see how magnanimous Hillary can be in defeat, or whether she intends to prolong her agony all the way to the convention in Denver.

Westminster Will Miss Peter Murphy

Just a word about a veteran journalist who retired from his job today. Peter Murphy has been the voice of IRN at Westminster for more years than he probably cares to remember. I doubt whether there's a single person who reads this blog who hasn't heard one of his reports on an independent radio station. He's a journalist of the old school - one who believes in reporting what happened, rather than editorialising about what may or may not have been meant by it. Westminster will miss him and wish him a happy retirement.

Peter will be on Sky News PMQs at 8.30pm with The Observer's Gaby Hinsliff. Any my colleague Shane Greer will be reviewing the papers on Sky tonight at 11.30pm.

William F Buckley Jr: 1925-2008

One of the world's most important Conservative thinkers, and founder of NATIONAL REVIEW magazine died today. William F Buckley Jnr passed away during the night according to the National Review Corner blog. They are carrying some very moving tributes. Here are a couple...
His accomplishments were almost incalculable. As George Will once said, "before there was Ronald Reagan there was Barry Goldwater, before there was Goldwater there was National Review, and before there was National Review there was William F. Buckley." As conservatives — and as Americans — we are all standing on his shoulders.

He's probably the most gracious man I've known. He is of course a legend on the Right, and legends can be intimidating. The first time we met, my agenda was simply to avoid saying anything dumb in his presence. Yet he instantly sought to put me at ease. He asked what I was writing about and seemed genuinely curious to know. He listened to me, rather than the other way around. To my surprise, I was comfortable around him—because he had a special ability for making folks like me feel that way.

You can send your own tributes to

Let me Introduce You to President Barack Santos

Where truth and fiction meet... This video looks at the similarities between fictional West Wing presidential candidate Matt Santos, and Barack Obama. Or is it the other way round?

Dale in "Brown Wins PMQs Shocker"

I have to be honest and say that this week's PMQs was not David Cameron's finest hour. If I was scoring it for Sky News I would give Brown 4, Cameron 3 and Clegg 4. I can't really understand the logic of Cameron asking about internal House of Commons issues when there are far more important things to talk about. He did raise the question of an the EU Treaty referendum in his fourth question, but it came across almost as an aside. His final point about a TV debate with the PM was well made and made the PM look uncomfortable. Gordon Brown looked at ease throughout the earlier line of questioning and although he did his usual thing of turning the question back on Cameron on two occasions he came across as rather more fluent than usual. He also made quite a funny barb at LibDem Nick Clegg leader saying: It's nice to see the Rt Hon Gentleman back. Perhaps he will stay long enough to hear the answers". Clegg's response was good - especially as it appeared to annoy the Speaker - and his subject of questioning (mental health) was one which gets too little coverage.

UPDATE 6.22pm: The response in the comments have been interesting, and reflects what Iain Martin has said on Three Line Whip...
Did it work for the Tories? A Westminster insider would answer no. I suspect, however, that if it was shown to a focus group of civilians they would understand it much more easily.
That has caused me to pause for thought. I still think it wasn't one of David Cameron's better days but maybe my judgement on his choice of subject is indeed influenced by the thought that a "Westminster village" subject wouldn't resonate 'out there'. So far, it would seem, I was wrong.

A Tale of Two Protests

As I type this, Sky News have decided to pause their coverage of the protests on the roof of the Houses of Parliament. They have had an avalanche of emails from viewers who say that the media are playing into the protesters' hands. BBC News 24 has also stopped. A couple of months ago listeners persuaded Radio 5 Live to halt a phone in hour on a subject which for the moment I can't remember. Even a few years ago, this would not have been possible. I sometimes tire of presenters constantly imploring viewers or listeners to "send us your views", but on these occasions, people can exhibit real power and cause programme editors to really think about the extent of the coverage they give to incidents like this.

Of course, today will be a day of contrasts. The I WANT A REFERENDUM campaign has a mass lobby of Parliament. Will this get the same amount of media coverage if the protesters obey the law? I doubt it very much.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Pre-Planned LibDem Stunt That Went Wrong

The charade of Ed Davey getting angry was not as spontaneous as LibDems are suggesting. Indeed, it's quite hilarious that despite hours of preplanning, their "spontaneous protest" went off with all the fizz of a wet firework.

I am told that the LibDems had planned for not only Ed Davey to provoke the Deputy Speaker into ejecting him, but Julia Goldsworthy and Norman Baker were all set for martyrdom too. Sadly, though, they couldn't get frenzied enough and merely joined a few of their colleagues in stomping out in a "well that'll show 'em" fit of pique. Several other LibDem MPs stayed rooted to their seats as they failed to react to a whips pager message ordering them to spontaneously scarper.

In the end they all managed to make total prats of themselves. It comes to something when despite hours of planning, the brewery piss-up was still totally disorganised. Whelk stall, anyone?

Caption Competition: What is Nick Clegg Thinking?

LibDem Foreign Affairs Spokesman Ed Davey was ordered out of the Commons Chamber after the Deputy Speaker ruled that a LibDem Amendment to the Lisbon Treaty Ratification Bill would not be called. It sought a referendum on EU membership. Davey reacted with anger and after he repeatedly argued with the Deputy Speaker's ruling he was ordered out of the chamber. Several LibDem MPs upped sticks and followed him. Truly a pathetic sight. I could never understand why Nick Clegg didn't junk this ridiculous policy when he had the chance to, and instead commit his party to sticking by its manifesto pledge of a referendum on the EU Treaty itself. Anyway, see if you can come up with a suitable caption for what Nick Clegg is thinking in the above photo. Photo credit: BBC.

Poll Results: What You Think of Michael Martin

A couple of days ago I asked you to take part in an online poll on the Speakership of the House of Commons. Here are the results...

How do you rate the performance of Michael Martin as Speaker?

Excellent 2%
Good 4%
Adequate 11%
Poor 33%
Dreadful 49%

Do you think it is now time for Michael Martin to step down as Speaker?

Yes 91%
No 9%

Who would you like to see elected as the new Speaker of the House of Commons, should a vacancy arise?

Sir Alan Haselhurst 22.6%
Sir George Young 18.8%
Sir Menzies Campbell 12%
Frank Field 11.3%
Vince Cable 9.5%
Kenneth Clarke 9%
Alan Beith 4.1%
Michael Ancram 3.5%
Sir Patrick Cormack 3.4%
John Bercow 2.5%
Sylvia Heal 2.2%
Sir Michael Lord 1.1%

Who do you rate as the best Speaker of the last 30 years?

Betty Boothroyd 49%
Bernard Weatherill 32%
George Thomas 18%
Michael Martin 1%

1,122 people took part in this poll. Note that 46% of the respondents were not Conservative voters.

Wanted: Foreign Correspondents for TOTAL POLITICS

TOTAL POLITICS, the magazine I am launching in June is looking for correspondents in Brussels, Australia, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. We'd be looking for occasional freelance features on elections and political campaigning developments in each country or region, with the possibility of interviews and commissioned profiles. We already have a correspondent in Washington, and hopefully Moscow and New Zealand. If you are interested, or know someone who is, please send me an email.

To sign up for Email alerts or to ask a question about TOTAL POLITICS, click HERE.

Brown 'Reheats' Neighbourhood Police Announcement

The government spin machine went into overdrive yesterday with the announcement of a "new" neighbourhood policing plan. All the TV and newspaper outlets lapped it up. Only it wasn't new at all. It is part of a government programme which has been rolled out since 2005, when it was first announced. These new neighbourhhod police teams are already inexistence (eg HERE). Why does the media always going along with these 'reheated' announcements?

Portillo Documentary Was a Hit

The Portillo documentary on BBC 4 last night was a gripping 90 minutes of political TV. As regulars know, I'm no great fan of Mr P, but this programme was superb. I think he may have found his niche. Like several of his other TV documentaries he imposed himself on the narrative, and again, it worked. He sought to explain the Thatcherite legacy on the Conservative Party and did it very well. His main theory was that the Party had still to recover from the way Margaret Thatcher was overthrown and that David Cameron is the first leader to look as if he can administer the necessary medicine. His star witnesses all seemed to agree with at least the first part of thatr sentence.

The star of the whole programme was Michael Howard. His cameo appearances showed a self knowledge and analysis of his own limitations which was gripping to watch. He knew the party had to change but knew that his own personality would not let him introduce some of the measures needed to do it.

There were one or two factual howlers - David Mellor was never in Margaret Thatcher's cabinet, for instance - but overall the programme demonstrated how this genre of documentary can work. I'm not sure what appeal it will have had outside the political classes, but they deserve to be catered for too.

As a footnote, it was also interesting that Portillo admitted that his candid interview with William Hague was the first time the two men had spoken since 2001.

You can watch the programme HERE (until 3 March)

Are the Tories Becoming a National Party Again?

The ComRes poll in today's Independent is of interest for two reasons. It gives the Conservatives an 11 point lead (41-30), the largest ever in a ComRes poll. But more importantly it shows the Tories ahead in every region of England for the first time. Even the North East seems now to be warming to the Cameron message. This may be incredibly significant if it proves to be a longer term trend rather than a one off flash in the pan. However, Scotland still seems impervious to David Cameron's charms.

Brown Blows Death Penalty Dog Whistle

A typical bit of Gordon Brown sleight of hand in The Sun today on the Death Penalty debate. Apparently "he was moved to speak out after more than 100,000 Sun readers backed the return of capital punishment. Translation: Sun journalist rings Number Ten Press Office desperate for quote on orders of editor.

Here's what Gordon Brown's (Press Officer) said: "Over the last 40 years, Parliament has decided that it is not the best way forward. But that is not to underestimate the feelings that people have - and particularly loved ones, when the worst crimes have been inflicted."

That would be why his government is letting murder suspects out on bail then....

Translated, that quote says: "I can't actually tell Sun readers I'm really against the death penalty because a) it doesn't fit with their story and b) they'd want to lynch me." It's such a clever formulation of words you just know they didn't spontaneously emerge from the lips of the Prime Minister. Well done to the press officer who no doubt spent half an hour carefully honing them. Well done indeed

Monday, February 25, 2008

Nanny Knows Best

A reader emails...


Is it me? My 10 year old daughter goes to xxxx Primary School in xxxxx, West Sussex, and has taken a balanced lunch box to school since she was 4 years old - she tends to have a chicken sandwich, yoghurt, baked (low fat) crisps, apple or banana and a chocolate bar (usually a Penguin). I now read on the school newsletter, "I am writing to remind you that we do NOT permit sweets or chocolate bars in your children's lunch boxes."

My daughter is a fit child who is absolutely the correct weight for her height. What the hell gives the school the right to demand what goes in our child's lunch box?

Of course, they ripped the kitchens out of this school years ago.

If I were that parent I'd be furious. If the school cannot provide lunch for its pupils it certainly has no place to dictate what parents give their children to eat in the packed lunches. The culture of the Nanny State in our schools is very much alive and kicking.

The Daley Dozen: Monday

1. Don't mess with Jon Craig. I'm telling you!
2. Luke Akehurst answers 20 questions from Paul Burgin.
3. Norfolk Blogger has (another) go at Nick Clegg over the EU referendum.
4. Ellee Seymour on the flaws of another government PR initiative.
5. Paul Canning accuses Jacqui Smith of complicity to murder.
6. Donal Blaney on Hillary's nasty side. I'm sure Harriet Harman would approve.
7. Ben Brogan reckons Sarkozy is turning into Le Prezza.
8. Vicky Ford enjoys a day out in, er, Luton.
9. Burning our Money on why state teachers send their own kids private.
10. Cassilis on why Hillary needs to discover humility. Fast.
11. Nadine Dorries likes someone who delivers on a promise.
12. Shane Greer welcomes a right wing BBC programme.

Nastiness Courtesy of Harriet Harman

This from today's Q& A with Harriet Harman in The Independent...
Question: As a feminist, are you proud of Margaret Thatcher?
Harriet Harman: No, because she was out to prove she was every bit as nasty as all the men in her cabinet.

Which part of that answer isn't nasty then? Harman and many so-called feminists like her, still haven't got over the fact that Margaret Thatcher got to where she did on her own merits. She didn't need an all woman shortlist or an A List. The frightening thing is, nor did Harriet Harman. Makes you wonder who she was up against, doesn't it?

UPDATE: Ben Brogan seems to share my view. And Dizzy has an erudite response too.

Open Thread

Apologies for the lack of blogging today. I am about to go to the funeral of former Conservative MP for North Norfolk, Sir Ralph Howell, which is taking place this lunchtime in Dereham.

I'm back later this afternoon so until then please use this as an open discussion thread. I will moderate comments as often as I am able.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Poll: Who Would YOU Like to be the Next Speaker?

Take part in the Speaker Poll HERE. Vote on whether you think Michael Martin has done a good job, who you'd like to see succeed him, and for your best Speaker of the last thirty years. The results will be posted a bit later in the week, once at least 1,500 of you have voted!

The Daley Dozen: Sunday

1. Phil Taylor has yet another example of Ken Livingstone's mendacity.
2. Liberal Burblings has a burble on Ming's memoirs.
3. Biassed BBC is angered by the 'Andrew Marr Love-in'.
4. Homosexuality good. Church bad. Archbishop Cranmer explains...
5. Tracey Crouch's day in the life of a parliamentary candidate.
6. Ben Brogan explains the silence of The Speaker.
7. Donal Blaney says tax doesn't have to be taxing.
8. Baroness Ros Scott reports from the Welsh LibDem Conference.
9. An Englishman's Castle is not sure about Ireland's Eurovision entry.
10. Hopi Sen on political fashion.
11. Mr Eugenides on the costs of spending a penny.
12. Dan Hannan wants you to lobby Parliament on the 27th.

Top 10 Runners & Riders to Succeed Michael Martin

Everyone seems to putting forward their own favoured candidates to succeed Michael Martin as Speaker of the House of Commons. One or two candidates are even letting it be known that they would certainly consider the job were it to be offered. Off the record, natch. So here are my Top Ten Runners & Riders in order of likelihood...

1. Sir Alan Haselhurst (Con)
For: Been deputy for many years and performed well when Gorbals Mick was ill. Popular across the divide.
Against: His age, although he's the youngest 70 year old you'll ever meet.
Odds: 3-1

2. Sir George Young (Con)
For: Respected, with wide experience of political life.
Against: Seen as a toff by Labour MPs.
Odds 3-1

3. Sylvia Heal (Lab)
For: Has few enemies.
Against: Has few friends on the Tory or LibDem benches.

4 Alan Beith (Lib)
For: Has no enemies.
Against: Seen as incredibly dull.
Odds: 20-1

5. Vince Cable (Lib)
For: Hugely respected, would remove one of Brown's leading critics
Against: LibDems wouldbe reluctant to lose one of their stars and he pronbably wouldn't want to do it

6. Frank Field (Lab)
For: Liked and respected by most MPs who've never worked with him.
Against: Over Gordon Brown's dead body.

7. Sir Patrick Cormack (Con)
For: Deep love of Parliament and knowledge of procedure.
Against: Age and battlescars from reselection.

8. John Bercow
For: Independent minded, turned off by party politics.
Against: More popular with Labour MPs than his Tory colleagues.
Odds 66-1

9. Michael Lord (Con)
For: Experience
Against: Regarded by most as having had his day

10. Ming Campbell (Lib)
For: Sympathy vote, liked and respected
Against: Sympathy vote is not the strongest card.

Who do you think might be other plausible candidates? My money is on my home MP Alan Haselhurst. He's been a huge success as Michael Martin's most senior deputy and hasn't put a foot wrong. He carries the right mix of authority and humour. I hope he is indeed Michael Martin's successor.

Ming's Memoirs Lack Zing

I think we need a new definition of the word 'explosive'. "Turn to the Review section to read Ming Campbell's explosive memoirs" said the ad in the Mail on Sunday. I duly did, but found that the extract about Charles Kennedy's drinking added little to what we already knew. Not exactly explosive, I'd say. The only vaguely new material was an account of the conversation between Ming and Kennedy when Ming told him he should stand down. But even that could hardly be described as 'explosive'. Ming's account certainly does a lot to scotch any impression that he acted duplicitously, which was no doubt the intention. Read on...

I went to see Charles in his office. 'I think it's in the interests of yourself, your family and the Party that you should now step down.' I said. 'I don't think we can go on as we are. It's not tolerable. I tried to find an elegant way out for him. : 'You can say you've led the Party to its best General Election results since the Twenties. You've got new family responsibilities. You've got a wonderful wife and a beautiful son. You want to spend as much time with them as you can. You're leaving the party a legacy of achievement of which you're proud. All this is true.'

At this point Ming took an onion out of his pocket...
Charles listened intently. 'Ming, we've always been friends,' he said. 'I value your advice but you'll understand that I'll need to talk to Sarah. I've listened very carefully to what you've had to say.' He came out from behind his desk, shook my hand and said: 'Thank you for being so frank. We've had a long friendship. It's survived this long and I hope it'll survive all of this.'

Now I hope I am not being unduly cynical when I say that this sounds very much like the conversation Ming would LIKE to have had. I suspect Charles Kennedy's recollections may be a little different.

You can buy Ming's Memoirs HERE.

Could Crist Be the Saviour of the Republican Party?

Could the Republican Party be approaching the abyss? The Sunday Times reports today that John McCain's denials of a relationship with a blonde lobbyist are starting to unravel. Although the content of the article doesn't quite match up to the headline, it's telling that McCain is quoted as saying: " We still don't know how this whole thing ends up". Let's look into a counterfactually interesting abyss. What would happen if McCain is hown to have told an untruth about his fidelity? The likelihood is that he would have to abandon his campaign. What happens then?

The Republicans would be without a presidential nominee. No one seriously believes Mike Huckabee, the only other candidate left in the race, would be a credible candidate. So who would they turn to? Rudy Giuliani? Not very likely after his appalling campaign. Mitt Romney? Highly probable, but he's disliked and mistrusted by many members of the Republican establishment who would see it as their role to make a recomendation to the Convention in September.

A very likely scenario is one where the party looks to a popular State Governor to carry the torch. And who better than the incredibly popular Governor of Florida? Step forward Charlie Crist.
OK, enough of the counterfactuals, but make no mistake Crist is the coming man of the Republican Party. Whatever the outcome this November, expect him to be a candidate in 2012.

Will the 'Men in Grey Suits' Despatch Mr Speaker?

The Sunday papers have launched new attack on Commons Speaker Michael Martin over more expenses allegations. However, the most damaging thing from his point of view is the resignation of his PR adviser, Mike Granatt. Needless to say our gutless MPs are keeping their heads down on this, with Norman Baker the only one to put his maverick head above the parapet. The real point is that Michael Martin has been the worst Speaker in living memory. He deserves to go because he's useless. The expenses allegations are a diversion from the point that he should go because of his incompetence. Every Labour MP I speak to recognises this privately and Conservatives and LibDems think so too. There is no formal mechanism for despatching a Speaker, but it would be a very foolish Speaker indeed who refused to go after being approached by a cross party delegation of men in grey suits. The usual channels should get to work.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Daley Dozen: Saturday

1. The Huntsman has Nanny Hewitt in his sights.
2. Louise Bagshawe reckons LibDem MP David Heath is frit. Of his Tory opponent.
3. Britain & has closed for business. But is due to be relaunched in the Summer.
4. Liberal Burblings details 300 defections from Labour ... to the Tories.
5. Our Kingdom believes the Paisley era in Northern Ireland is coming to an end.
6. LabourHome wants to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the start of the Miners Strike. Leopards ... spots... UPDATE: Strangely the story has disappeared from LabourHome. More anon.
7. John Redwood says we will live to regret this week's rished Northern Rock legislation.
8. Donal Blaney is finding blogging (and being called a fascist) rather tedious.
9. Rupert Read wants to decriminalise the sex industry.
10. The Coffee House on why it's called the Coffee House.
11. Cranmer is not impressed by the FT's Europhile obessions. Not impressed at all.
12. Dave's Part looks at the Bridgend suicides.

Let's See If I Can Make It Easier...

... The first three pills just happen to be ... Asprin, Nurafen and Codine. I've still got a streaming cold but I'm about to drive to London to go to Saturday matinee of the Sound of Music. It's Connie Fisher's last day in the role of Maria. My sister Sheena (the punk rocker) organised it as a Christmas present for me and my mother.

My mum can't get out much as after five (yes, five!) hip replacements she's permanently on crutches. So it's more than my life's worth to tell them I feel awful and can't go. I shall just have Confidence in Me and sniffle my way through and imagine that I am High on a Hill With a Lonely Goatherd. I'm sure Something Good will come out of it. I just hope that for my mother, getting into the Palladium won't be like Climbing Every Mountain. Joining us will my other sister, Tracey (yes, Tracey from Essex...) who still reckons she's Sixteen, Going on Seventeen. So until this evening, So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehn, Goodbye.

PS Do you think I've been taking too much Benalin?!

Who Should be on The DNA Register?

Balancing the responsibilities of the State against the rights of the individual is one ofthe most difficult things for politicians to get right. The tendency is to be all in favour of civil liberties while in opposition but to revert to authoritarian type when in government. That's certainly happened with this Labour government. And in times of threats to national security, politicians need to be quite courageous to resist all the demands to impose authoritarian measures on the populace.

The argument surrounding DNA evidence is a perfect example of the dilemmas faced. At the moment only someone interviewed by Police has their DNA taken. If they are charged it is kept on their records, but not removed if they fail to be convicted. Some argue that if the government had everyone's DNA on record it would make the Police's life far easier and crimes would be solved much more quickly. It's a similar argument to ID cards.

This week European judges will consider the case of two people who were charged with a crime but never convicted who want their DNA wiped off the national database. This case has far reaching implications and could lead to more than 500,000 other people's DNA being wiped.

This is a really difficult one for people like me who believe that the rights of the individual must be protected from the pervasive influence of the State. In theory I would support the right of the innocent individual to have their records wiped if they had been found not guilty of a crime, or not even charged. However, the real world does not operate in this way. The individual also has the right to be protected from harm by others, and it is the role of the State to introduce laws which enable that to happen.

As I understand it the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives believe that only those convicted of a crime should be on the DNA database. It's a consistent position and easy to argue. The fact that 100,000 innocent children are on it and should never have been, 26,000 police-collected samples have been left off it and half a million entries have been misrecorded lend weight to the view that the government is incapable of managing such sensitive data.

And yet, and yet. What worries me is that sex attackers and murderers are more difficult to find without full access to DNA records. So I wonder if a messy compromise isn't something we should be considering. My only exceptions to the "No DNA record unless charged" rule would be for people interviewed on suspicion of rape or murder. I accept that it would mean some innocent people being added to the DNA register, but it would undoubtedly reduce the time it takes the Police to solve these two heinous crimes, and therefore prevent others from taking place. Of course one can take this further and use the same argument in favour of everyone having their DNA taken, as it would then lead to other crimes being solved more quickly. I realise that. But I'm afraid that murder and rape are crimes which merit a different and stronger approach.

UPDATE: Martin corrects me in the comments: "Actually Iain you're wrong to say:"If they are charged it is kept on their records, but not removed if they fail to be convicted."People who are arrested but not charged remain on the DNA database."Before 2001, the police could take DNA samples during investigations but had to destroy the samples and the records derived from them on the Database if the people concerned were acquitted or charges were not proceeded with.The law was changed in 2001 to remove this requirement, and changed again in 2004 so that DNA samples could be taken from anyone arrested for a recordable offence and detained in a police station." the dataabse is already being populated with the DNA of people who have never been charged just in case they later go on to commit a crime. Either they should be removed or everyone should be added.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Daley Dozen: Friday

1. Dizzy questions a LibDem MPs' eating and drinking habits.
2. Dizzy also questions the conduct of Norman Baker and claculates he owes the taxpayer a cool £8,000.
3. Lanson Boy reckons he's got one up on me by blogging from the office of the President of ... Mozambique!
4. Guido reckons someone at CCHQ is in for a bollocking. And if not, they ought to be.
5. Inspector Gadget describes the daily lot of a policeman. Prepare to be shocked.
6. Donal Blaney refuses to appear on the BBC Asian Network.
7. Bill Blanko reports on today's press gallery shenanigans.
8. Kerron Cross gives his best man some tips. No mention of a Prince Albert, though.
9. Cassilis becomes a Socialist. Well, kind of.
10. The UN's call for disestablishmentarianism (I got tired just typing that) leaves Cranmer unimpressed.
11. Kevin Maguire on a victory for the Brothers which leaves Brown with a dilemma.
12. Party Political Animal gets the Land of the Free off his chest.

The Auschwitz Fiasco Should Serve as a Warning

I suppose as everyone else has weighed into the Auschwitz row, I might as well add my twopennyworth. When I first heard about I could hardly believe anyone could be so crass. Whatever checking procedures that are in place in CCHQ are clearly not working.

But just when it looked very bad for team Cameron, up rode the increasingly ridiculous Ed Balls with an attack which had most of the lobby rolling in the aisles. He accused the Conservatives of playing party politics in a press release on Labour headed notepaper. The Tories went into 'explanation' mode and sought to clarify what "Trips to Auschwitz" on their list of Gordon's gimmicks actually meant. They said "The government was trying to suggest in a press release earlier this month they were going to fund two children from every school. The problem is they said they would pay for it in full. But when you look at the analysis the schools have to pay £1.9 million. So what exactly is the government paying for?” Fair enough, but the damage was already done.

As most commentators have pointed out, David Cameron can hardly be blamed for this and no one seriously believes that it was meant as a deliberate insult to those who died in the Holocaust. But coming so soon after Brown's "student politics" jibe, it does look incredibly crass. Things of this sort do happen from time to time in all parties. That's not to excuse it, but I go back to my point at the beginning - checking procedures need to be far more rigorous. This should serve as a warning.

Current Affairs Magazines On The Up

You know, this idea that the great British public is disinterested in politics is rapidly losing credance. Well, it is if magazine sales are anything to go by. the ABC figures piblished this week show that in the last twelve months the circulation of current affairs magazines has jumped by 10.5% - compared to a 3% drop overall in all other sectors. I must admit that brought a smile to my face when drawing up the final version of the TOTAL POLITICS business plan yesterday.

The Economist +6.7%
The Week +7.7%
Spectator +5%
Prospect +20.2%
New Statesman -12.7%

The New Statesman figure is very odd, as it has become far more readable and easier on the eye. But for the rest it seems that there's a very bright future. As well as my company launching TOTAL POLITICS, the Social Affairs Unit is about to publish a new right of centre competitor to Prospect called STANDPOINT.

Livingstone: Christie Clarification Provokes More Questions

This story about Linford Christie being asked by Ken Livingstone to be one of the Olympic torchbearers gets odder and odder. Livingstone now denies asking Christie to do it, yet Christie's agent has a signed letter from Livingstone inviting Christie to take part. The Mayor is developing a track record for making a statement and then immediately having to backtrack once the truth is established. His reputation for political sure-footedness is taking a bit of a battering at the moment.

Today, Tony and Telly

Enjoyed the Today Programme this morning albeit that Tony Benn rather dominated the discussion - but I know my place in these things! They played a wonderful archive clip of Jack de Manio interviewing a public schoolboy with an accent Brian Sewell would be proud of. He told of his speeches at Speakers' Corner. Tony, in his endearing way, veered off the topic completely and launched an attack on the BBC for never reporting public speeches unless they were broken up by fights. He asserted that the BBC didn't report a single speech from the anti-war rally in Hyde Park. I pointed out that this was a load of old cobblers as I remembered seeing news reports of Charles Kennedy's speech at the very least.

We then did a separate and longer piece for the World Service on a similar theme. I made my usual point about the BBC having a liberal world view, but I was rather undermined when we walked back into the Today newsroom when Tony pointed out a John McCain poster on the wall. He found it most amusing.

I'm now sitting next to Gary Bushell in the reception of the LWT building waiting to do a piece for the GMTV Sunday programme with the Telegraph's Robert Colville on his CPS pamphlet, on why politicians are so rubbish at using the internet. It will be shown on Sunday between 6am and 7am.

The London Universities Conservative Ball at the Russell Hotel last night was very enjoyable despite the onset of a streaming cold (I feel like **** warmed up today). Boris spoke during the drinks reception and Nadine made the after dinner speech. Highlight of the evening was having my picture taken with Nadine clasping my head on her ample bosom. My life will never be quite the same. No more middle eastern earthquakes caused by me then!

So, once I have done this interview I'm off home to curl up in bed or maybe get my new Vaio up and running. Mind you, with my capabilities it might take all weekend...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I Will Avoid 'Genital Shaking' in Future

I really would like to apologise to the people of Israel, the Lebanon and Jordan for any inconvenience caused by the six earthquakes which have struck the region over the last few weeks. According to today's Telegraph (so it must be true) it is all the fault of me and my ilk...

Shlomo Benizri, of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Shas party, suggested that the tremors could be stopped through the simple expedient of repealing various liberalising laws on homosexuality that have been passed by the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, in recent years... Last Sunday, to the outrage of the religious Right, the country's attorney general, Meni Mazuz, ruled that same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children. In what Mr Benizri clearly believes is no coincidence, the first of last week's quakes hit the country just two days later."Why do earthquakes happen? One of the reasons is the things to which the Knesset gives legitimacy, to sodomy," Benizri said during a parliamentary debate on earthquake preparedness. Stopping "passing legislation on how to encourage homosexual activity in the state of Israel, which anyway brings about earthquakes," would represent a cost-effective method of preventing future earthquakes, he continued.

"We are looking for earthly solutions, how to prevent them," he said. "I have another way to prevent earthquakes. The Gemara says that one of the reasons earthquakes happen - which the Knesset (parliament) legitimises - is homosexuality. "God says you shake your genitals where you are not supposed to and I will shake my world in order to wake you up," he added.

It is sometime since I realised I had made the earth move. I promise in future to resist the temptation of any genital shaking in the hope that further earthquakes may be avoided. I thank you.

On Today With Tony Benn

Tomorrow morning at 8.20am I will be debating with Tony Benn on Radio 4's Today programme. We'll be discussing the merits (or otherwise) of Speakers' Corner. Apparently there's going to be a new one in Nottingham.

I hope I won't be too knackered and incoherent after tonight's London University Conservatives Ball!

Miliband Makes an Honourable Apology

Listening to David Miliband's apology over rendition flights, it struck me that this was the way it should always be done, and that many of his colleagues could learn a lot. It's never a pleasant experience to address the Commons and hold your hands up and say sorry. But Miliband did it well - and only six days after they were first told by the Americans that there had been an error in what they had originally tiold the FCO when Jack Straw was in charge. The Home Office could learn a lot from this. Statements and a apologies do not come naturally to Home Office ministers. They have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the Despatch Box.

The BBC Diplomatic Correspondent James Robins was adamant that this was a huge humiliation for Jack Straw, who was sat beside Miliband. I'm not so sure. He told the Commons the truth as he knew it to be. I'm not making excuses, but if your own officials tell you something and the Americans confirm it and you then go and tell the Commons, what's the alternative. In this sort of case the minister is caught between a rock and a hard place. Radio 5 didn't carry William Hague's response so I may be missing a party political point here (!) but in this case I have some sympathy for Miliband and Straw.

Quick Question

I'm trying to find out how many different forms of councillor there are - ie how many district councillors, how many county councillors etc. I rang the LGA who told me to ring the Office of National Statistics. They had no idea. I've tried googling it but no luck. Can anyone help?

UPDATE: Thanks to all who left comments. David Boothroyd has come up with goods!

The Old Ones Are the Best

Tony Benn is reported in the Telegraph Spy column as telling LBC Radio: "I got a death threat the other day. I haven't had one of those for years and I was so chuffed that someone thought I was still dangerous." Cue chuckles. The only trouble is that Benn has been coming out with the line for several years. It's a good one and always goes down well with an audience. And he's not alone in wheeling out tried and tested laugh lines. Most politicians do it. I remember Michael Portillo got into trouble several years ago when he told the exact same jokes at a dinner which he had told at the same dinner a few years before. Ann Widdecombe has her "Christian principles joke", David Davis has his "diamond ring joke", and I have my "Ann Widdecombe's knickers" joke. And if you haven't heard me tell that one before, I can guarantee you will, if you come to an event I am speaking at!

How Much Will Ming's Book Reveal?

Ming Campbell's autobiography is out in a couple of weeks' time on 6 March. Considering he only resigned as leader four months ago, this really has been published in double quick time. However, I wonder how light much this book will shed on recent events. The publishers were less than satisfied with the chapters on Charles Kennedy's overthrow and Ming's own departure. They sent the manuscript back ordering him to spice it up. You can preorder the book HERE for £13.20.

Am I alone in finding the subtitle annoying? Of course it is MY Autobiography. Whose else would it be?

Podcast with Tory Radio

Yesterday I recorded a ten minute PODCAST with Tory Radio about the new magazine I am working on, TOTAL POLITICS, and a few other things besides. You can sign up for email alerts on the magazine on the TOTAL POLITICS website HERE.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Heffer Confronted: Thick & Useless Tories

Simon Heffer's column today took the Tories to task over their failure to provide a proper opposition. He suggests that John Redwood should take over as Shadow Chancellor. I am a great admirer of John Redwood but I put it to Simon Heffer that he does seem to frighten the electoral horses a bit. And when Mr S calls David Willetts thick ... well, see for yourself.

The Daley Dozen: Wednesday

1. Dizzy reckons he's bigger than ConservativeHome. Fight. Fight!
2. Philip Johnston on Brown's inability to make a decision.
3. Shane Greer excuses those who take sickies. Is he trying to tell me something?
4. Sam Coates asks if the LibDems are going wobbly on Norther Rock and asks if the Government has been less than truthful over Northern Rock.
5. LibDem Voice asks when is a police investigation not a police investigation. When it concerns Lee Jasper, it seems.
6. Donal Blaney encourages those on the left to pay more tax if they want to.
7. Paul Linford wants a leap year public holiday.
8. Anthony Barnett on what's wrong with the Tory Party.
9. Tom Watson is in consultative mood.
10. Devil's Kitchen tells us what white people like.
11. Kerron Cross asks THE question about Kosovo's future. Will it be in Eurovision?
12. Cassilis has his think tank roundup.

Do You Know How Big the PSBR Is?

In the 1970s and 1980s we all used to wait with baited breath for the latest trade figures or the latest PSBR (public sector borrowing requirement, for those born after 1975) deficit. I have no idea what the latest trade figures are. Do you? For some reason the media doesn't report them any longer. Probably too frightening. Until today, I had no idea how bad the PSBR had got. Allister Heath informs us that for the financial year 2007/8 the total has already reached £26.8 billion, with the final figure expected to be nearer £40 billion. This is the kind of economic stability we are supposed to be impressed by, apparently.

Do Al Qaeda Want McCain To Win?

Yes, according to BBC America Correspondent Justin Webb. He writes on his blog today...

Islamic terrorists want war. They want suffering - among others and their own people alike. They would surely surmise that McCain will give them what they want. Bin Laden himself intervened with what many thought was the effect of keeping President Bush in power in 2004 with that weird tape just before the poll. I think al-Qaeda would back McCain - that is not an argument for or against America backing him, but it seems to me that the vague assumption that the terrorists would back a lefty is lazy thinking...

Quite an astonishing thing for a BBC reporter to say, even on his own blog.

Hattip Centre

Radical Car/Road Agenda Unveiled by CWF

Conservative Way Forward has today published a new transport policy paper titled STOP THE WAR ON DRIVERS. Written by transport expert and former Borough Engineer Malcolm Heymer, it contains some fairly radical proposals each of which seeks to give more power back to the car driver. Unfortunately, its more sensible headline proposals are bound to be obscured by some which, on the face of it, seem to be distinctly odd, to say the very least. The paper calls for the scrapping of...

* Speed cameras (no - only ones that are cash cows)
* Bus lanes that reduce road capacity (only if they directly cause congestion)
* 40mph and 50mph speed limits for HGVs (open minded on this one)
* Tolls on the Dartford Crossing (should have happened years ago)
* Obstructive road calming schemes (yes, but with some exceptions)
* Road user charging schemes (disagree - M6 toll road works very well)
* Maximum parking standards in new developments
* Any form of technology that takes decisions away from the driver (need clarification)
* Urban cycle lanes (disagree, but need to read their reasoning)

In addition they call for...

* A surge of spending on trunk roads and the motorway network (an increase, not a surge)
* An 80mph speed limit on motorways
* A return to the 85th percentile principle in speed limit setting (no idea what this is)
* Vehicle activated signs on the approaches to hazards, rather than speed cameras
* Positive licence points for advanced driver training (open minded)
* Shared-space traffic calming schemes where appropriate (no idea what this means)

Unfortunately the full pdf document doesn't seem to be on their website. I haven't read it in full yet, but I have highlighted in green the ones I would agree with 100% and given further comments in brackets.

I am a particualr fan of vehicle activated signs rather than speed cameras as they are far more effective in persuading drivers to reduce their speed on an approach to a dangerous piece of road or a village.

So, which of these suggestions meet with your approval or disapproval?
UPDATE: The full document can be read HERE.

PMQs on Sky News at 8.30pm

I'm on Sky News at 8.30pm commentating on PMQs with the ever fragrant Julia Hartley-Brewer. I'm quite clear on who came out on top in today's exchanges, but would be interested in your feedback. Issues to discuss:

* Gordon Brown's continuing habit of turning the question back on David Cameron
* Camerons's tactic of the 'vicious aside'
* Nick Clegg's tactic of two questions on different subjects
* Brown's weak response on FOI and Cameron's demolition in the 5th question

BBC Makes us Pay Twice

So the BBC intends to charge us twice for watching their programmes and again through iTunes. Currently their programmes are available for 7days on the iPlayer (which is superb). I thought the reason they couldn't be available after that was one of licensing. Apparently not, if they are going to be on iTunes. I'd have no objection to them being on iTunes if they were also permanently available on the iPlayer too. Perhaps someone from the BBC could get in touch to explain why licence fee payers are now expected to pay £1.89 to watch a programme they have already paid for through the licence fee - and twice the amount American subscribers of iTunes are being charged.

UPDATE: Some people in the comments are drawing an analogy to DVD sales. I understand the point but I think it is misplaced. I have no objection to these programmes being on iTunes so if people want to download them they can. In those terms it is similar to buying a DVD in that you have bought a product. What I object to is being told that the programmes can only be on iPlayer for 7 days for licensing reasons. That is quite clearly not the case. Streaming a programme is very different from downloading one. I do not understand why a programme cannot be streamed more than sevemn days after its transmission. Perhaps someone can enlighten me.

New Labour Sheds Its Skin

Late news from my parliamentary correspondent at Westminster: group of Labour MPs (principally Ken Purchase) break into chorus of "The Red Flag" in corridor outside the tea room after 3rd reading of the Banking (Special Provisions) Bill.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dan Hannan Ejected from the EPP

I've just been told that Dan Hannan has been thrown out of the EPP*. Lucky him. Apparently there was some sort of vote, presumably among MEP members. I am sure he got full support from the rest of his British colleagues. Actually, I am not sure of that at all, come to think of it. It followed THIS row last month. Anyone got the details of what actually happened this evening?

* Note, single sourced!

On Newsnight Scotland Tonight

Busy night tonight, so not much opportunity for blogging. Just off to a Conservatives Abroad reception - strangely held in this country - followed by dinner with Sir Patrick Cormack, followed by a debut appearance on Newsnight Scotland, where I shall be defending the honour of the English. I think. So if you happen to be north of the border (or in Berwick) do tune in at 11pm. I've got a particularly nice tie on today (passes sick bag...).

UPDATE: Much enjoyed the appearance. You can see it HERE until 23.00 on 20 Feb. The piece starts about 14 minutes in.

The Daley Dozen: Tuesday

1. Dr Crippen assails David Aaranovitch and Polyclinics. And all in one article.
2. Ellee Seymour on MPs interacting on each others' blogs.
3. Jonathan Shephard's going to 'have' Brian Paddick. And it's going to be a marathon session.
4. Our Kingdom wants more politics on TV. Yes please. More media tarting ops.
5. Red Box on some jiggery pokery pro Labour lottery funding.
6. Daniel Finkelstein asks: Where is President Bartlett? Indeed so.
7. Paul Linford asks if Neil Hamilton was hard done by.
8. Ben Brogan examines the Northern Rock Board's Labour connections.
9. Cicero's Songs examines Kosovo's past, present and, yup you guessed it...
10. Richard Spring MP discovers that homeownership is at a ten year low.
11. Bryan Appleyard looks into the art of 'Mastur-interviewing'.
12. Guido now comes to you via Bloomberg. Am I left behind?!

A Flushed Tory Candidate is Incommunicado

Blogging Tory candidate Tracey Crouch has been "off line" for the last 18 hours having dropped her Blackberry down the lavatory. What is worse - she heard the "splash" but unaware what caused the noise (stop it!), she then flushed the loo, only realising far too late as her precious Blackberry disappeared around the u-bend. She is now back on-line having spent £250 on new machine. Lesson to us all: don't blog from the bog!

Quote of the Day

In Florida, a man who was pulled over in a routine traffic stop ended up killing the traffic cop who stopped him. The deputy was shot eight times, including once behind his right ear at close range. Another deputy was wounded and a police dog killed. A statewide manhunt ensued. The man was found hiding in a wooded area with his gun. SWAT team officers fired and hit him 68 times. The media asked why they shot him 68 times. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd (pic), told the Orlando Sentinel...
"That's all the bullets we had!"

More Money to Our Friends in the North?

I thought I'd share this email with you, from someone in local government in the Surrey Borough of Waverley...
I thought you might be interested in a grossly unfair situation that my
borough council in Surrey is faced with due to the policies of this morally
bankrupt government. Waverley Borough Council is in South West Surrey and is one
of the most affluent boroughs in the UK. However, it also has pockets of
deprivation and the council owns and manages some 5,000 council dwellings
throughout the borough.

Under an iniquitous system devised by this Labour government, nearly half
of Waverley’s rental income from its council housing stock is taken by the
government every year, presumably for redistribution elsewhere in the country
(Labour marginals perhaps?). This will amount to £10.8 million in 2008/9, which
is £2,000 per home or £40 per tenant per week. As a result of this, there is
absolutely no chance that our housing stock will be able to meet the
government’s own Decent Homes Standard, which in effect means that this Labour
government is imposing a grossly unfair tax on the most vulnerable and needy in
our community.

The council has already had to cut housing maintenance in the coming
budget, and the Housing Revenue Account has now run out of reserves. Ian
Wright, the Parliamentary under Secretary in the Department of Communities and
Local Government, has acknowledged by letter that he has become increasingly
aware that the system is unpopular and widely perceived as unfair. But all he
promises is a review, with no terms of reference and no timetable. He has
refused to meet with the Leader and Chief Executive of the council. The irony of
this situation is that if these council houses were to be transferred to a
housing trust under LSVT, the government would not take a single penny. Our
tenants have twice voted to remain with the council, and by deciding to remain
with the council this Labour government is penalising them to the tune of more
than £10m a year.

Badgering Dave

I'm not sure it David Cameron will have endeared himself to his National Farmers Union audience yesterday, when he told them there is nothing he likes better than watching badgers playing in the road outside his Oxfordshire house. Every farmer I know regards badgers as vermin and would cheerfully take a gun to them - if they weren't protected, of course!

Seriously, the reason why farmers are so anti-badger is that the cases of bovine tuberculosis - which badgers carry and then infect cattle - have risen from 125 to 2,000 a year over the last 14 years. The government stands accused of doing nothing and as a result Hillary Benn was heckled during his speech at the same conference yesterday.

You Couldn't Make it Up: No 94

Being rewarded for failure in the public sector is nothing new, but it has reached new heights of farce in local government, where it's always possible to come up smelling of roses.

I grew up near Saffron Walden, where the District Council rejoices in the name of Uttlesford. The chief executive finance director of the council, Phil O'Dell, was forced to resign recently, when it was disovered he had presided over a massive deficit of £1.8 million, leading to 21 staff redundancies.

A matter of two months later, Mr O'Dell has got himslef a new job as a local government consultant ... advising various local authorities ... wait for it ... cue drumroll ... on their financial affairs! And even better; according to The Sun, one of the councils he will be advising is none other then ... you got there ahead of me ... Uttlesford! Hurrah for Mr O'Dell!

UPDATE: A local journalist has got a quote from Uttlesford. "Mr O'Dell will not be working, directly or indirectly, to offer advice directly or indirectly to Uttlesford District Council now or at any point in the future". He also says the current chief executive is also leaving at the end of this month.

Next they'll be abolishing language oral exams. Er...

Ridiculous Job Titles: No 94

Fancy a new job? HERE'S a corker. If you can come up with a more ridiculous job title than HEAD OF HORIZON PLANNING you've done better than me. And read the guff that accompanies it!

Horizon Scanning (HS) is the systematic examination of potential threats, opportunities and likely developments, including but not restricted to those at the margins of current thinking and planning. The Horizon Scanning Centre’s (HSC) main aims are to undertake HS for Government and to help Government Departments raise their HS capabilities. In this high profile role, you will be expected to develop the HSC’s vision and direction, leading and creating the best mix of teams and resources. You will continue to build and maintain the high level cross-Government market for strategic futures products and services, working with other relevant centres and cross-Government groups as necessary. You will lead in improving further the evidential and analytical basis for horizon scanning, so that the UK Government is positioned increasingly at the cutting-edge of the field.

No doubt another £100k of our money down the swanny.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sir Ralph Howell: A One Off

The death of Sir Ralph Howell has robbed Norfolk of one of its more colourful political characters. During my time as Conservative candidate in North Norfolk in the runup to the 2005 election Ralph was unfailingly courteous and helpful to me. He was anxious not to interfere but would occasionally phone me with a piece of wise advice. Everyone in politics needs a wise old owl figure to keep them on the straight and narrow, and Ralph filled the role perfectly.

After he stood down in 1997 he was careful to leave the stage to his successor David Prior, but when I made clear I would welcome his involvement he seemed to relish a brief return to the political hustings. He said he would like to come out canvassing for a morning and it became clear to me just how revered he was by the North Norfolk electorate. Lady Margaret would join him and watch him enjoy himself from the car, for by that time she was very ill. It obviously gave her great pleasure to see her husband back in the political ring. Ralph enjoyed it so much that he came out several times during the campaign. Many candidates hate it when their predecessors reappear. I didn’t. I knew how popular Ralph was and valued his wise counsel.

It is true to say that they don’t make ‘em like Ralph Howell anymore. It’s rare for a country farmer to go into national politics, and those that do often find it not to their liking. They struggle to make an impact. Ralph Howell never achieved ministerial office, but he gained tremendous respect for his tenacity in defending the interests of North Norfolk. His ideas on ‘Workfare’, where peoples may only receive benefits if they work for them, were twenty years ahead of their time. Ralph would be amused that some of his ideas were taken up by a Labour government, rather than a Conservative one.

I'll be attending Ralph's funeral at Dereham Church on Monday. It's a certainty that it will be packed.

* This article originally appeared in my EDP column on Saturday. Photo credit to EDP.

The Daley Dozen: Monday

1. Guido reviews Robert Colvile's CPS pamphlet on politics and the internet. As does Douglas Carswell MP.
2. Dizzy reckons Darling's announcement is a Northern Crock of ...
3. Nadine doesn't like being too close to Gordon Brown. He frightens her kids.
4. Red Box reckons Branson might feel life biffing up Vince Cable.
5. Daily Referendum agrees with me on a Vote of Confidence in el Gordo.
6. Party Political Animal reckons politicians should examine their own behaviour before they lecture others.
7. Labour Home reports that Chris Leslie is pulling out of the race to be Prezza's successor.
8. Brassneck on Ian Paisley Jnr's resignation.
9. Edward Leigh questions a commitment to Labour's spending plans.
10. Dizzy asks if something is rotten in the state of Conservative Future.
11. Vicky Ford wants a referendum. Don't we all.
12. Donal Blaney informs us that the Yanks just don't give a damn what we think.

Fayed: The Most Odious Man in Britain

I'm sitting on the train back to RTW (that's Royal Tunbridge Wells for the uninitiated!), feeling disgusted. If you have read the Evening Standard's report of the Phoney Pharoah's so-called 'evidence' to the Diana coroner's hearing, you will understand why. If there is a more odious, despicable man than Mohammed Fayed in public life in this country then I have yet to come across him. He wouldn't know the meaning of the word honesty if it was explained to him by Mother Teresa herself. The man has the moral standing of a skunk.

He reckons that Tony Blair personally ordered the assassination of Princess Diana. He believes the following list of people were involved in the conspiracy. Brace yourselves...

The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, Robin Cook, Diana's sister Sarah, the two doctors at the Paris hospital who treated her, Paul Burrell, Sir Paul Condon, Sir John Stevens and Diana' best friend Rosa Monckton.

Most laughably of all, he now reckons his drunk employee Henri Paul had also been paid by Mi6. This rather ignores the fact that he was killed too.

And this is the man who convinced a jury that Neil Hamilton was guilty!

The fact is that there are two people to blame for that crash - and both their surnames are Fayed - Dodi for allowing Henri Paul to drive the car and his father for employing a drunk driver in the first place.

Fayed concocts these ridiculous conspiracy theories in order to mask the guilt he ought to be feeling himself.

Do feel free to join me in my longstanding boycott of the Phoney Pharoah's little grocery store.