Sunday, April 13, 2008

Jack and Ed: "Rumble in the Jungle"?

The latest YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has the Conservatives on 44% to Labour’s 28%. The Conservatives have been ahead in the polls now since last October. The papers are full of reports of panic on the backbenches as perhaps 100 Labour MP’s contemplate eviction at the next election. The Cabinet is bickering with, amazingly, near fisticuffs between Jack Straw and Ed Balls (who would have thought Straw had it in him?). There are also reports that Charles Clarke is collecting signatures – 71 are needed - for a “stalking-horse” leadership challenge if Labour does badly in the May local elections. There is discontent on the back-benches over the abolition of the 10p tax rate (which is about to kick-in) and it looks like Brown is heading for defeat over the 42-days detention proposal. Brown appears to be consolidating his reputation as a “ditherer”: he will attend the closing but not the opening ceremony in Beijing (He says that was the plan all along. Maybe. But it looks like a repeat of his performance over the European Reform Treaty: both there and not there, neither one thing nor the other). Probably the Blairites are right; Brown was not the man to be PM. Oddly, the “not flash, just Gordon” pitch was wide of the mark. He is a crowd-pleaser (what else is the 42 days about?) but an inept one. Yet I doubt if Brown will be replaced before the next election. Labour does not (despite Blair being hurried towards the exit) have a reputation for ruthlessness vis-à-vis failing Leaders (unlike the less sentimental Tories). Of course, the election is a long way off and recovery is not impossible; but it looks more and more unlikely. The trouble is that Cameron and his coterie are, I suspect, a great deal more right-wing than all his tree-hugging suggests...

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Prezza: 27 Pork Pies every day

MP's are allowed an "additional costs allowance" of up to £22,000, which is supposed to pay for the cost of maintaining a second home. As a result of the efforts of the indefatigable Heather Brooke, we now know how some high profile MP's claim they spend this money. Some claimed more than others: "Dave" Cameron £21,359 and "Ming" Campbell £11,611. They also seem to have spent the money on different things: Cameron spent it all on mortgage payments (here you can see "ordinary Dave's" Oxfordshire pad) whereas John Prescott appears to have spent a fair amount on grub: £4,000 in 2003-04. (At Sainsbury 4 Crusty Bake Pork Pies cost £1.65; so that's that's nearly 27 pork pies a day. Quite an achievement, even for Prezzo). Mark Oaten apparently spent nearly £2,400 on "white goods and soft furnishings". Now behave yourself...

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Former PM may be interested in EU Presidency

The former Prime Minister has not ruled out an interest in becoming President of the European Council (if the Reform Treaty is ratified the President will serve a two-and-a-half year term). The PM is still, for a politician, a relatively young man: still in his fifties. He was elected Leader of his party in 1994, and after the 1997 General Election became his country's youngest ever Prime Minister. He is a charismatic, approachable politician. Around the world he is being lauded for the role he played in helping to broker the Good Friday Agreement.

No, not Tony. Bertie Ahern has just resigned as Taoiseach and will be succeeded by his Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen. Asked about the Presidency of the Council Ahern said he would "certainly like to be considered for a position like that" but he would "have to think about it". Has he a chance? Hard to say. The circumstances of his resignation - the Mahon Tribunal revelations vis-a-vis his rather irregular personal finances - are not perhaps very helpful.


Nick Clegg did say he's bonked thirty women didn't he? Or, rather, "no more than thirty" (which I suppose could be one, since one is less than thirty; but I think he is suggesting 20-something). Now: he did refer to women. If he had said thirty "sexual encounters" well, he could easily have been referring to his time at public school (Nick is almost as posh as Dave). Why did Nick disclose this to us? Presumably he thought it would make him seem honest, down-to-earth, a bit of a lad, and so on. Perhaps he doesn't want anyone to think he is of the Mark Oaten tendency (also a happily married man). And the Oprah-ish confessional seems de rigueur these days. Didn't Cherie say that Tony was "always up for it" and a "five times a night man"? One good thing about Gordon. I just can't see him humouring such a question. In the Commons he apparently muttered something about "British reserve" ...Quite. Then again, I'm not sure which is more sad, that Clegg thinks it appropriate to answer a question like this, or that he appears to have meticulously kept count...