Monday, 31 May 2010

From shirt-lifter to home-flipper

Danny Alexander said last night that he had been “advised” that he was not liable for the tax but admitted it was his second home for parliamentary purposes.  “I have always listed London as my second home on the basis set out in the parliamentary rules as I spent more time in my constituency than I did in London,” he said.  “I sold the [south London] flat in 2007 and moved to another flat but was advised that CGT was not payable because of the operation of final period relief, which exempts homes from CGT for 36 months after they stop being the main home.  I paid all the taxes required but CGT was not payable on the disposal of my flat. I have already publicly declared that I will pay capital gains tax if the time comes for me to sell my [new] second home.”

England, you were shit!

And you had the nerve to congratulate each other at the end of the game?!  For what exactly?  Steak'n'kidney Lampard missing a penalty?  The two Japanese own goals that gave you a win?  Get to South Africa and win the World Cup.  Or don't come back.

Congratulations to Millwall, on the other hand, for making it into the Championship and Dagenham & Redbridge who go up to League One for the first time.  At least some of you know you're in this for our entertainment.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Oh, Danny boy

The new Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, avoided paying capital gains tax when he sold his taxpayer-funded second home at a profit, The Daily Telegraph discloses.  Alexander, who was appointed on Saturday after the resignation of fellow Liberal Democrat David Laws, designated the property as his second home for the purpose of claiming parliamentary expenses but described it to HM Revenue and Customs as his main home.  Last night Mr Alexander admitted that he took advantage of a loophole to legally avoid paying CGT on the sale of the south London property in June 2007.

The disclosure that he failed to pay CGT comes at a particularly sensitive time because the Coalition is planning to increase the rate of the tax for owners of second homes and buy-to-let properties in an emergency budget next month.

Read the full Telegraph article here.


adj. Expressing or arousing desire

David Laws's resignation letter

Dear Prime Minister,

The last 24 hours have been very difficult and distressing for me, and I have been thinking carefully about what action I should take in the interests of the Government, my constituents and - most important of all - those whom I love. I am grateful for the strong support which I have received from my friends, family, and from you, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Chancellor. This support has been incredibly important, but nonetheless, I have decided that it is right to tender my resignation as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. I have done so for three reasons.

Firstly, I do not see how I can carry on my crucial work on the Budget and Spending Review while I have to deal with the private and public implications of recent revelations.

At this important time the Chancellor needs, in my own view, a Chief Secretary who is not distracted by personal troubles. I hardly need say how much I regret having to leave such vital work, which I feel all my life has prepared me for.

Secondly, while my recent problems were caused by my desire to keep my sexuality secret, the public is entitled to expect politicians to act with a sense of responsibility. I cannot now escape the conclusion that what I have done was in some way wrong [in some way?!], even though I did not gain any financial benefit from keeping my relationship secret in this way.

Finally, and most importantly, I have an overriding responsibility to those I love most, and who I feel I have exposed to scrutiny in this way. I have pursued a political career because of my sense of public duty, but I have too often put this before the interests of those I love most. It is time to redress the balance. I want to apologise to my constituents for falling below the standards that they are entitled to expect from me. The job of being a constituency MP is no less important to me than my Cabinet responsibilities. I shall ensure that I co-operate fully with the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner in the review that I have requested. I intend to consider carefully over the period ahead how I can best serve the interests of my Yeovil constituency, which I care so passionately about.

It has been a great honour to serve however briefly in your Government and I will remain its strong supporter lol.

Yours sincerely,

David Laws 

to which David Cameron replied:

Dear David,

Thank you for your letter tendering your resignation from the Government, which I accept with sadness.

The last 24 hours must have been extraordinarily difficult and painful for you.

You are a good and honourable man [WTF?!]. I am sure that, throughout, you have been motivated by wanting to protect your privacy rather than anything else. Your decision to resign from the Government demonstrates the importance you attach to your integrity.

In your short time at the Treasury, you have made a real difference, setting the Government on the right path to tackle the deficit which poses such a risk to our economy.

I hope that, in time, you will be able to serve again [I don't fucking think so!] as I think it is absolutely clear that you have a huge amount to offer our country lol.



The Observer editorial

David Laws cannot reasonably have expected to keep secret for ever the arrangement by which his parliamentary allowance for accommodation was paid over several years, in breach of the rules, to a man with whom he had a gay relationship.

Even if he thought he had escaped discovery last year, when hundreds of MPs' expenses were coming under scrutiny in the midst of a massive scandal, he might have considered it wise to go public. Then at least blame could have been shared with colleagues. Then, too, he was the Liberal Democrat education spokesman, a position of some standing, but not a senior post in the Westminster hierarchy.

His role as chief secretary to the Treasury cast matters in a different light entirely. Mr Laws, perhaps more than any figure in the government apart from the chancellor, would have been associated in the public eye with the implementation of harsh austerity measures. He would have been called upon to explain why cuts were necessary and why some people would suffer more than others.

His credibility in delivering that message was irrevocably sabotaged by reports that he took £40,000 of taxpayers' money and gave it to a lover. The fact that Mr Laws tried to keep the secret when its eventual disclosure seemed inevitable suggests he was not acting rationally. That, in effect, was his defence – that deceiving the parliamentary allowances office was not part of a plot to defraud the nation, but the extension of profound self-deception.

He was not known to be gay, even by family and friends. Acknowledging the man with whom he shared a flat as his "partner" on official forms would have amounted to a kind of announcement. It would have crystallised, too, in his own mind something about which he may well have been in denial, or at least felt unhappy.

A generous interpretation is that enduring taboos about homosexuality forced him into an impossible position and that awkwardness and embarrassment, not greed, were his undoing.

To an extent that is surely true. But private torment does not necessarily excuse wrongdoing. Mr Laws might have been motivated by complex psychological processes, but he cannot have been ignorant of the rules. Perhaps he felt sufficiently ambivalent about the status of the relationship to feel he could not meaningfully identify his lover as a "partner" under the expenses guidelines. But given the length of their cohabitation, that was a tenuous excuse.

If Mr Laws had really wanted complete secrecy, he could not have claimed at all, or found other accommodation. He is a very wealthy man. It seems unlikely, given the relative modesty of his other expense claims, that he was motivated by money. But his judgment in allowing such a situation to develop has surely been proven faulty.

It is in the public interest that such a failing be exposed. But there is something disquieting in the way the examination of Mr Laws's housing arrangement has hauled into the glare of public scrutiny a matter that is for him so intensely private. It is a peculiar, and not entirely healthy consequence of the expenses scandal that every detail of an MP's life is now considered legitimate subject for a forensic audit, with the assumption being that crooked intent lurks in every receipt.

If we are to attract good candidates to the job, and not just those of independent means, we must trust them to spend money on second homes and offices without assuming the worst.

Mr Laws's transgression was by no means the most serious offence committed under the old allowance regime. Had he been just another MP, his position would surely have been secure. Sympathy for the awkwardness he clearly felt about his sexuality would have overridden anger at the technical breach of the rules. But he was a cabinet minister in a coalition government that has advertised its benefits to the country as representing "new politics". That claim includes the expectation of integrity in general, and honesty over expenses in particular.

Mr Laws's job also demanded that he axe services and impose severe financial constraints on public sector workers. He could not, given the revelations about his expenses, credibly fulfil the function of an ambassador of austerity, as he honourably recognised in his statement last night. He is right to resign. His personal position deserves much sympathy, but his cabinet position was untenable lol.

Share the moment, indeed

Once again, in the name of entertainment, we were subjected to the usual collection of freaks that wouldn't look out of place in a circus and yes, the United Kingdom came last.  This can be of no surprise to anyone with two ears, however, the song having been "composed" by Pete Waterman and sung by a cardboard cut-out of a young Conservative.  While Greece Opa'd and Azerbaijan Drip-Dropped, Josh Dubovie's singing sounded good to him and him only. 

Belarusian butterflies - PMSL

Meanwhile, Germany romped home with some silly little bitch singing in a mockney accent (must be all the rage in Germany).  She did provide the highlight of the evening, however, with the look she threw at last year's winner when he refused to kiss her at the end.  If ever a look said "Kiss me now, you bastard, or I swear your mother will be dead by the end of the night, so help me God!", this was it.

Enough already.  Get the fuck out of Eurovision and spend the money instead on an adaptation of a different Daphne du Maurier novel each year. Or an 'How to read the autocue' course for Julia Somerville.  I'd share that moment with anybody.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

David Laws resigns

Liberal Democrat David Laws has resigned as Chief Secretary to the Treasury after admitting he claimed expenses to pay rent to his partner.  Mr Laws said he would be standing down with immediate effect, in a statement given at the Treasury.  He had earlier apologised and said he would pay back the money which the Daily Telegraph said totalled £40,000.  The Yeovil MP said he wanted to keep his relationship with James Lundie private. Good luck with that.

He is to be replaced by Danny Alexander haha!

David Laws' statement

"I have been involved in a relationship with James Lundie since around 2001 - about two years after first moving in with him.  Our relationship has been unknown to both family and friends throughout that time.  I claimed back the costs of sharing a home in Kennington with James from 2001 to June 2007.  In June 2007 James bought a new home in London and I continued to claim back my share of the costs.  I extended the mortgage on my Somerset property - for which I do not claim any allowances or expenses - to help James purchase the new property.

In 2006 the Green Book rules were changed to prohibit payments to partners.  At no point did I consider myself to be in breach of the rules which in 2009 defined partner as "one of a couple … who although not married to each-other or civil partners are living together and treat each-other as spouses."  Although we were living together we did not treat each other as spouses - for example we do not share bank accounts and indeed have separate social lives.  However, I now accept that this was open to interpretation and will immediately pay back the costs of the rent and other housing costs I claimed from the time the rules changed until August 2009.

James and I are intensely private people. We made the decision to keep our relationship private and believed that was our right. Clearly that cannot now remain the case.  My motivation throughout has not been to maximise profit but to simply protect our privacy and my wish not to reveal my sexuality.  However, I regret this situation deeply, accept that I should not have claimed my expenses in this way and apologise fully.  I have also referred myself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner."

Friday, 28 May 2010

David Laws apologises over expenses

I guess you'll have time to go to Pride after all, David
(image courtesy of Nobody Likes a Tory)

Read the full Telegraph article here.

Conservatives bring a new meaning to the word 'reform'

How many years has Iain Duncan Smith spent in opposition?  How long has he had to prepare a blueprint for the future of the welfare state?  What does he come up with?  Re-assess everybody on incapacity benefit.  The former Conservative Party leader is now responsible for pushing the government's Welfare Reform (?) Bill through Parliament over the next few months.  Announcing that everyone on incapacity benefit will be reassessed for their ability to work, he said it was a "tragedy" that people on these benefits for more than two years were more likely to retire or die than get a job.

Among other measures, a new Work Programme will be established and older workers will be given assistance to find work immediately rather than having to wait twleve months, as is currently the case.  But penalties for benefit claimants who refuse to accept jobs introduced by Labour would be more rigorously enforced.  For Labour, Yvette Cooper said tax credits had made many people in low-paid jobs "thousands of pounds better off" but they did not always realise it.  Duncan Smith said he was determined to tackle what he considered the UK's culture of welfare dependency by making work pay.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Alastair Campbell still scares the Tories

No Conservative minister would appear on Question Time this evening and here's the reason.  Executive editor, Gavin Allen, writes on the BBC's Editor's' blog:

This week, for the first time in my three years as executive editor of Question Time, we were told by Downing Street that a cabinet minister would only appear on the programme if another member of the panel was replaced. According to No 10, a senior member of the cabinet was available to do Question Time but only if Alastair Campbell was replaced by a member of the shadow cabinet.

Very obviously, we refused and as a result no minister appeared, meaning that the government was not represented on the country's most-watched political programme in Queen's Speech week - one of the most important moments in the Parliamentary calendar.

No 10 stated that the objection to Alastair Campbell was that he was not an elected Labour representative or a front-bencher. Not only is Alastair Campbell one of the most senior and influential figures in the Labour movement - an architect of New Labour - but Labour ministers regularly appeared on Question Time panels when the then opposition was represented either by someone outside of the front bench or by an unelected panellist - sometimes even a prospective Parliamentary candidate. It is not an argument or an objection that bears scrutiny.

It is a fundamental principle of our independence that politicians cannot dictate who sits on the panel. It is for Question Time, not for political parties, to make judgments about impartiality and to determine who is invited to appear in the interests of the audience. Parties are free of course to accept or reject those invitations, but they do not have a right of veto over other panellists. Licence fee payers rightly insist that the BBC must be free from political interference.

Say what?  Haha!

Vince Cable resigns as Lib Dem deputy leader

He wants to concentrate all his efforts on being a Tory.  I thank you.

National Vegetarian Week

You can't possibly live in Brighton and not mention all the activities going on for National Vegetarian Week.  What's that?  I can?  Splendid.

Hazel Blears to replace Diane Abbott on This Week

'Do fucking what?', I hear you cry.  Hazel Blears (who resigned her cabinet minister's post last year embroiled in an expenses scandal and then had the gall to stand for re-election) is to replace Diane Abbott as Michael Portillo's bitching partner on the BBC's 'This Week'.

Ms Abbott announced last week that she intended to join the contest for the Labour party's leadership. The BBC was concerned that her continued appearance as a pundit would breach its editorial independence guidelines.  Abbott is a regular on the show alongside host Andrew Neil and fellow pundit Michael Portillo, the former Tory minister, with whom she has formed a popular double act on the This Week sofa.  She told the Guardian today: "They told me I can [continue on the show] and it appears they've backed off. I find it very strange."


Blears is a former Labour party chair and communities secretary, a role which she left last year for "personal reasons". The Telegraph claimed she quit partly because of the revelation that she had not paid capital gains tax on the sale of two properties. She was returned as MP for Salford earlier this month, having been first elected to parliament in 1997.

A BBC spokesperson said: "For the sake of fairness to all the candidates for the Labour party leadership, while Diane is a candidate she won't be making her usual appearance on the This Week sofa."  

Yes, but Hazel Blears?!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

ITV fluffs Nike's lines - doh!

Nike's epic World Cup advert [ARCHIVE], featuring Ronaldo, Rooney and some bloke from Chelsea, has got Stephen Armstrong flapping in today's Guardian.  Rather than just taking it for what it is (a rather amusing self-pisstake by the above footballers), Armstrong is upset they're depicting Rooney as old by sporting a beard.  Right.  Wouldn't much fancy sitting next to him during a whole episode of Jesus of Nazareth.

Ronaldo in another, completely unrelated advert - your point?

Meanwhile, ITV debuted the advert during the Champions League final, but somehow managed to cut Nike's name off the end. Nike and ITV have reportedly agreed compensation in the shape of an undisclosed number of free showings, proving just how dangerous it is to broadcast an iconic,  multi-million dollar commercial featuring a character whose catchphrase is 'doh!', during a live football match.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Banks warn that higher capital ratios could push Britain back into recession

The Guardian writes: Bankers set themselves on a collision course with the new coalition government today by insisting that their firms should not be broken up as a result of bank reform.  In a warning to governments around the world, the bankers also revealed they were preparing research to show that proposals to force them to hold more capital would have a 'significant impact' on the global economic recovery.

Standard Chartered's chief executive, Peter Sands

The coalition government has pledged to set up a commission that will spend a year to look at ways to break up banks but Peter Sands, chief executive of Standard Chartered, said that setting limits on the 'size and scope' of banks 'simply won't work'. Presenting papers produced by the Institute of International Finance, a banking industry lobby group that represents about 390 banks and insurers, Sands called for the G20 to establish a taskforce to look at ways to reach international agreement on how to deal with failing companies.

Read the full Guardian article here.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

A swansong for Europe

As artists from countries, European and otherwise, rehearse for the Eurovision Song Contest in a week's time, this year's theme, 'Share The Moment', couldn't be more ironic if it hit Nana Mouskouri on the head with a with a bottle of home-made ouzo. Like Eurovision, the euro has many flaws, but its weakest link is Greece, whose fundamental problem is that for years it spent too much, earned too little and plugged the gap by borrowing in order to enjoy a rich man's lifestyle.  It flouted EU rules on the limits to budget deficits, its accounts more wayward than those of a Westminster MP.

Back to the drachma?

By any legitimate measure, Greece was unworthy of eurozone membership.  That it achieved card-carrying status was down to the sleight-of-hand skills of its Brussels fixers and the acquiescence of central bank bean-counters.  Now we know the truth, jet-hosing it with yet more debt makes no sense.  Another dose of funny money will delay but not extinguish the need for austerity.

This is why the euro, in its current form, is finished.  The game is up for a monetary union that was meant to bolt together work-and-save citizens in northern Europe with the party animals of Club Med.   No amount of assistance from Berlin can save the euro from collapsing under the weight of its own structural dysfunctionality. You cannot run indefinitely a single currency with one interest rate for sixteen economies, when there are such huge fiscal disparities.

In 1996, Sir Martin Jacomb, then chairman of the Prudential, predicted: "A country which does not handle its public finances prudently will find its long-term borrowing costs adjusted accordingly.  Although theory says that default is unlikely, nevertheless, a country that spends too much public money, and allows its wage costs to become uncompetitive, will experience rising unemployment and falling economic activity.  The social costs may become impossible to bear."

Pope has the gall to ask Catholics to help fund his UK visit

Roman Catholic churchgoers are being urged to help meet a shortfall of more than three million pounds in funding for Pope Benedict's visit to the UK.  The Church has asked them to put at least one million pounds in Sunday's collection - largely to pay for three big open air masses at which the Pope will preside.

It is hoped the Pope will stay awake for at least part of the services

As this is a state visit by Pope Benedict XVI, the bulk of the cost is being borne by the UK government.  The Papal visit will cost fifteen million punds, not including extra policing and security.  The Church's share of the cost is seven million, and with slightly less than half of it raised, congregations are being asked to contribute via the collection plate.

Most of the money will be spent on three open-air masses which the Church says could attract up to 400,000 people in total.  One of the masses will form the high point of the Pope's visit, the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman at Coventry Airport on 19 September.  Secularist groups have criticised the use of taxpayers' money to fund the visit of a religious leader [they have a point].

Clueless bitch in tabloid sting

The Duchess of York has been filmed offering to sell access to ex-husband Prince Andrew for £500,000.  The News of the World said Sarah Ferguson was filmed by an undercover reporter posing as a businessman. She appears to accept a $40,000 cash payment, and is quoted as saying: "Look after me and he'll look after you."  The paper says the prince, UK trade envoy, knew nothing about the deal.  The duchess has not commented.

Sarah Ferguson says she has more than one mouth to feed

According to the video soundtrack, the duchess tells the undercover reporter "£500,000 when you can, to me, open doors".  She also says the cash would "open up all the channels whatever you need, whatever you want, and then that's what and then you meet Andrew and that's fine.  And that's, that's when you really open up whatever you want."  The newspaper says that the duchess told the undercover reporter: "Look after me and he'll look after you... you'll get it back tenfold. I can open any door you want."

The duchess, daughter of Sir Alex Ferguson, says that her ex-husband, who has been the UK's Special Representative for International Trade and Investment since 2001, "never does accept a penny for anything" and describes him as "completely whiter than white".  And she claimed she had financial hardship. "I have not got a bean to my name. I'm a taxpayer, a British taxpayer and I left the royal family for freedom and in freedom it means I am bereft. I'm hopeless."

Sarah Ferguson married Prince Andrew in 1986 and the couple had two daughters, Beatrice in 1988 and Eugenie in 1990.  Although they separated in 1992, she and their daughters later moved back into a wing of the former marital home [oh, the poor love, just the one wing?] and maintain a close relationship with the Duke of York.

UPDATE 01/06/10
During an appearance on the American Winfrey Oprah show, Ferguson said: "I haven't faced the devil in the face because I was in the gutter at that moment. So I'm aware of the fact that I've been drinking, you know, that I was not in my right place." The duchess has also claimed that she is yet to see the full video of her meeting with the reporter.  

Perhaps that would explain her misunderstanding of past and present tenses.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

David Cameron: I will deliver for Tory voters

According to Robert Winnett and Andrew Porter of the Daily Telegraph, Mr Cameron appeared more relaxed and upbeat than at any time since the turn of the year, as he gave them his first major newspaper interview since becoming Prime Minister.  He was still angry over “appalling” Labour lies that he blamed for preventing celebrated candidates such as Shaun Bailey winning in marginal seats. “They were telling people in Hammersmith they were going to have their council house taken away by the Tories.”  Yes that's right, Dave.  Read this, see if it rings any bells: Independent 5th May 2010, dick.



Some weekend reading for you

The Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition has published its programme for government. Here are the key details, with some analysis from the BBC's political research unit.

Bon barbecue!

Arsenal secure signing of Marouane Chamakh

Arsenal have confirmed the signing of Morocco and Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh on an unspecified long-term deal.  The twenty-six year old, who had been linked with Arsenal since last summer, is to join on a free transfer when his contract with Bordeaux expires.  

In February he revealed Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal had all been in touch with him about possible moves.  "Without any hesitation, Arsenal was my preferred club," said Chamakh, who has scored seventy-nine goals in eight years at Bordeaux.  No doubt, he won't score for another eight years.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Nike World Cup advert


Theresa May - gay for pay

During an appearance on Question Time, Theresa May was challenged about her record on voting against gay adoption and the votes she had missed on the Gender Recognition Bill (which gave transsexual people legal recognition in their acquired gender).  Mrs May said: "If those votes were today, yes, I have changed my view and I think I would take a different vote."

She added: "On gay adoption I have changed my mind ... because I have been persuaded that when you are looking at the future for a child, I think it's better for a child who is perhaps in an institutional environment, if they have an opportunity of being in a stable, family environment - be that a heterosexual couple or a gay couple - then I think it's more important that that child is in that stable and loving environment and I have genuinely changed my mind on that."


Diane Abbott enters the Labour leadership race

"Ever since it became clear that a Labour leadership race was in the offing, people have been urging me to run.  The declared frontrunners are hugely talented, but the danger is that they are "hoovering up" all the nominations and sucking the air out of the contest."

"I came up through the party as an activist. I am [a] former councillor, was an elected member of the national executive, a former trade union official and am the veteran of many grassroots campaigns. So I am better placed to engage with ordinary Labour party supporters than any of my rivals."

Thursday, 20 May 2010

No more Government reviews - after these twenty-seven

I'm pretty sure that, prior to the election, all three leaders vowed to cut the amount of money wasted on "suits" and pen-pushers as well as quangos, advisors and consultants clogging up Whitehall.  Yet today sees the publication of the Government Programme Coalition Agreement document which includes TWENTY-SEVEN new commissions or reviews.  Banking, human rights, the affordability of public sector pensions, Lords reform, employment rights, control order laws, sentencing policy and the housing revenue account are just some of the subjects. 

There will be an autumn spending review aswell as reviews of stamp duty, legal aid, police officer employment, alcohol taxation, the Extradition Act, the renewal of Trident and the representation of Scottish MPs at Westminster.  Also sent for review are the control and use of funds of future receipts from the fossil fuel levy in Scotland, the future funding of long-term care, the taxation of non-domiciled residents, local government finance, higher education funding, support for part-time students in terms of loans and grants, the governance of national parks, a fair pay review in the public sector, the criminal records regime, family law, and vulture funds.  Not to mention the Office of Budget Responsibility.  The what?

You need Balls to lead the Labour party

by Alexander Craven

The Co-operative party

The Co-operative Party has maintained its representation in Parliament at about the same level as before the election.  Out of the forty-three candidates selected to fight seats at the election, twenty-eight were successful.  Six sitting MPs lost their seats on the night and eight candidates drawn from the Parliamentary Panel were unsuccessful.  The twenty-eight MPs now represent a greater proportion of the Parliamentary Labour Party as a whole. The number of female Labour and Co-operative MPs increased to eight.

Of the five Labour leadership contenders, only Ed Balls is a member of the Co-operative Party.

Ed Balls and John McDonnell join Labour leadership contest

Former cabinet minister Ed Balls and left-winger John McDonnell declared their candidacies today, joining David and Ed Miliband in the contest to succeed Gordon Brown.  Former health secretary Andy Burnham is expected to declare his intention to stand tomorrow. 

Launching his campaign, Balls said: "I'm going to put my name in for the Labour party leadership.  I think it's really important we don't just talk to ourselves, we've got to hear what the country's got to say.  I think we've got to listen first, hear what the public say.  That is what's going to be at the centrepiece of my campaign" [yep, that should do it, Ed].

UPDATE 20/05/10 at 8.00 - Former health secretary Andy Burnham says he wants to stand for Labour leader and "rebuild the party for new times".  He told the Daily Mirror newspaper the party owed a "debt of thanks" to Gordon Brown and Tony Blair but said he would end "stage-managed" politics.  He said Labour had to understand voters' sense of "unfairness" and that Labour lost because they felt "our priorities were not their priorities".

Lib Dems want same public funding as opposition parties

Michael Crick writes in his blog:  "Strong rumours reach me that the Liberal Democrats are trying to keep receiving Short money. That's the taxpayers money which opposition parties - yes, OPPOSITION parties - get from the state to help balance the fact that the governing party has the distinct advantage of being in office, with special advisers, and so on. And now, of course, the Lib Dems are a governing party, so shouldn't be entitled to Short money.

Short money was introduced by the Labour Leader of the House Ted Short in the mid-1970s to help opposition parties operate properly. The money was worth £1.75 million to the Lib Dems last year. That compares with their total party budget of around £5 million. So the Liberal Democrats will be in big trouble without that funding. The sums are calculated on a formula based on the number of seats obtained at the last election and the number of votes.

If the Lib Dems are indeed trying to keep up the Short payments it will look very odd in this era of 'new politics' and financial stringency. Coming on top of the row over the proposed 55 per cent rule, the Lib Dems will inevitably be accused, having now obtained some power, of trying to rig the system in their own favour. 

My efforts to get a response from the Liberal Democrats this afternoon have met with silence. I know an email is circulating amongst senior Lib Dems with details of my enquiries. Perhaps one of them could get back to me."

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Labour's 24 hour drinking laws could be scrapped

Britain's 24-hour licensing laws could be axed after the new coalition Government ordered a wholesale review. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said she is determined to examine problems created by the ''binge-drinking culture'', including street violence and other crimes. Speaking at the Police Federation conference, she said she opposed the 2003 Licensing Act when it was introduced by the previous administration. She said: ''We are going to look at the licensing laws. I was in opposition when the new laws were introduced and I argued against them. I argued that those were the sorts of problems that would come about but I was told we would have a cafe culture. We think they have produced problems on the streets. There are some other issues to look at around the binge drinking culture that has grown up. We think it is right that we do review these laws.''

David Cameron takes on the 1922 Committee

David Cameron provoked his first major confrontation with the Tory right when he announced plans to weaken the role of backbench MPs by ending their right to hold a formal parliamentary meeting without ministers present. In a move described by rightwingers as worthy of North Korea, Cameron announced an immediate ballot of all Tory MPs to allow ministers to attend the weekly meetings of the 1922 committee. The ballot, which opened within an hour of the meeting and is to be run by the whips, will close tomorrow.  Senior Tories believe that the idea, sprung on the party by Cameron at a meeting with no notice, was suggested by John Major, who was plagued by backbench rebellions. The Tory leadership hopes the presence of ministers at the 1922 committee will make it more difficult for troublemakers to plot against the government.

Vince Cable plans new attempt to privatise Royal Mail

The government is preparing for another potentially explosive confrontation with the postal unions by attempting to privatise Royal Mail, the Guardian has learned.  Vince Cable, the business secretary, is determined to press ahead with a restructuring of the group, which could embroil the government in a dispute with the Communication Workers Union.  Cable has asked Ed Davey, his fellow Liberal Democrat and junior minister at the business department, to prepare the plan in detail.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Bonkers Boris says bashing the banks is bollocks

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has said that attacking UK's banking sector as a matter of government policy is "nuts".  In a passionate defence of the City and Britain's financial sector, Johnson said that a vibrant banking sector was vital to support businesses who want to raise capital.

Boris announces his engagement to Floella Benjamin

Speaking at the Google Zeitgeist conference near London, Mr Johnson said that the UK's financial sector produces 9pc of Britain's annual GDP and 13pc of "value added" in the economy. "I think it is completely nuts for people to want, as a matter of public policy, to attack the financial sector," he said.  "We need a great City where business can raise capital in order to expand and I will continue to protect that."

Mr Johnson's remarks are in stark contrast to the position of the new Business Secretary, Vince Cable, who described bankers as "Arthur Scargills in pinstripes".  The new Government has announced that there will be an inquiry into the future of banking in the UK which will report next year.  The commission will consider proposals on breaking up banks between retail and investment operations.  It will also look at ending proprietary trading where banks use clients funds to make investments.  Mr Cable has said he supports the break up of banks and says that the UK should act unilaterally if necessary.  Banking leaders believe that such a move will destroy the UK banking sector where the main players all offer "universal services" across retail and investment.  

Nick Clegg realises he was a Tory all along

David Cameron has declared that he wants his vision of a 'big society' of community work and social enterprise to be one of the 'great legacies' of his Government. The Prime Minister set out his plans alongside Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, in their first joint public engagement since their press conference last week.

Lord Triesman cuts a dash with his colourful new costume in a bid to fool the press

Mr Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, had strongly criticised the Tories' 'big society' proposals during the election campaign. But he has now attempted to smooth over any differences on the issue, saying:

"What I'm discovering is we've been using different words for a long time. It means the same thing. Liberalism, big society. Empowerment, responsibility.   It actually means the same thing."  

The coalition partners were speaking to community leaders invited from across the country to a meeting around the Cabinet table in Number 10. The Government was publishing its proposals on civil society as the first chapter of a more comprehensive coalition agreement document.

Mr Cameron said: 'It's a big signal that the first part to be published is actually that part about having a big society, decentralising power, about empowering communities, about all the work you do to help build the big strong society you want to see in the United Kingdom. I hope this is the start of something very big.'

Mr Clegg told community leaders that the fact Tuesday's meeting was taking place so early in the new government was "expression ... of how much importance we, together in this new coalition government, attach to what you do".  

The Press Association



Monday, 17 May 2010

Toeing the party line


Lord Triesman quits FA and 2018 World Cup bid jobs

Lord Triesman is to stand down as chairman of the Football Association as well as the England 2018 World Cup bid.  His exit follows what he has called his "entrapment" by the Mail on Sunday [sounds about right].  The newspaper article said he suggested Spain could drop its 2018 bid if rival bidder Russia helped bribe referees at this summer's World Cup [does anybody else not understand this?].  The England 2018 team has apologised to the Russian and Spanish FAs as it tries to rescue the World Cup bid with a Fifa decision due in December.

 Ms Jacobs is single - there's a reason for that

You too can look like a fat-arsed Westminster whore in the pocket of the pimps at the Daily Mail - details here.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Khan takes Manhattan


Besian Idrizaj


Twenty-two year old Austrian striker Besian Idrizaj has died from a suspected heart attack while sleeping. He was at home with his family in Austria. Idrizaj signed for Swansea last August, having previously been on the books at Liverpool; he also had loan spells at Luton Town and Crystal Palace.

BBC News

Practically psychic

Gerald Scarfe, August 2009

Observer readers flock to The Independent on Sunday

Sales of The Independent on Sunday rose by 18.9 % in April. The month-on-month increase is the highest in the market, taking circulation to 168,151. The rise of The Independent on Sunday coincides with a fall in sales of 21.3% at The Observer.

Hmmm, would that be the same Observer that came out in support of the Liberal Democrats before the election?  Yes, I think it is.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Quote of the Year 2008

Nick Clegg

"I will never allow the Liberal Democrats to be a mere annexe to another party."

Read the BBC article here.

Caroline Lucas: 'We could have had a new politics. This isn't it'

The Guardian writes: "The [Green party's] manifesto articulates a world in which maximum wages in any corporation can be no higher than 10 times the lowest, the railways will be nationalised and the NHS de-privatised; where most people cycle and ride trains, have decent pensions and are paid a living, as opposed to a minimum wage, a maximum 55mph on motorways.

But the manifesto also articulates some policies that, if highlighted during the election, would have been red meat to the tabloids: the idea that everyone should eventually receive a citizen's income, for example, whether they are working or not; that heroin should be available to addicts on the NHS; that the needs of refugees should be prioritised over the economy. There was an idea knocking around their spring conference of a kind of NHS for pets – it didn't get into the manifesto, but might well return for further discussion. How is she to sell this kind of proposal in parliament without, frankly, opening herself up to mockery? 'It's a question of priorities,' she says."

Read the full Guardian article here.

Sarkozy threatened to pull out of euro over Greece row

The Guardian writes: "Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to abandon the euro unless Angela Merkeldropped her hostility to the EU's €750bn safety net for the single currency, sources in Brussels and European capitals said yesterday. In a confrontation between Europe's two most powerful politicians, the French president said he would walk out of the talks and warned of lasting damage to the Franco-German relationship unless the German chancellor backed the plans.

Read the full Guardian article here.

Nick Clegg: we caused offence by joining Tories, but it's worth it

Nick Clegg today defends his decision to spurn a progressive coalition government with Labour, saying it would have been unworkable and regarded as illegitimate by the British people. But in an article for the Guardian the Liberal Democrat leader acknowledges the ill-feeling that his party's decision has created, admitting: "It has caused both surprise and with it some offence."

Knowing me, knowing you

Before a closed party conference on the decision tomorrow, Clegg concedes: "There are those on both the left and right who are united in thinking this should not have happened. But the truth is this: there was no other responsible way to play the hand dealt to the political parties by the British people at the election. The parliamentary arithmetic made a Lib-Lab coalition unworkable, and it would have been regarded as illegitimate by the British people. Equally, a minority administration would have been too fragile to tackle the political and economic challenges ahead."

Read Nick Clegg's article in the Guardian here.

"I will never allow the Liberal Democrats to be a mere annexe to another party," said Nick Clegg in 2008. Read the BBC article here.

Friday, 14 May 2010

How to delete your Facebook account

The Daily Telegraph writes: "Facebook's privacy policy is a whopping 5,830 words long. As the New York Times recently pointed out, the Constitution of the United States is just 4,543. In recent months, Facebook has made revisions to its privacy policy that makes a growing amount of information public by default; users must opt out if they want to keep their information private, or share it only with a trusted group of friends."

Read the full Daily Telegraph article here.

The state of the Coalition


Ministers looking for a new logo for the LibDemCon party were quite excited when they came across German artist Stefan Rohrer's remodelled Volkswagen at the opening of a horticultural show in Villingen-Schwenningen, southern Germany.  They swiftly moved on when a child pointed out that it looked like it had been thrown together in a matter of hours.

UK Government's ministerial salaries (May 2009)

Office-holders in House of Commons Ministerial Entitlement (including parliamentary salary of £64,766)

Prime Minister   197,689
Cabinet Minister   144,520
Lord Chancellor   144,520
Government Chief Whip   144,520
Minister of State   106,136
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State   96,167
Solicitor General   134,257
Advocate General   134,257
Government Deputy Chief Whip  106,136
Government Whip   91,390
Assistant Government Whip   91,390
Leader of the Opposition   138,383
Opposition Chief Whip   106,136
Deputy Opposition Chief Whip   91,390
Speaker   144,520
Chairman of Ways and Means (Deputy Speaker)   106,136
First Deputy Chairman of Ways & Means (Deputy Speaker)   101,126
Second Deputy Chairman of Ways & Means (Deputy Speaker)   101,126

Office-holders in House of Lords Ministerial Entitlement 
(no parliamentary salary)

Lord Speaker   108,253
Cabinet Minister   108,253
Minister of State    84,524
Parliamentary Under Secretary   73,617
Attorney General   113,248
Advocate General   98,307
Government Chief Whip   84,524
Government Deputy Chief Whip   73,617
Government Whip   68,074
Leader of the Opposition   73,617
Opposition Chief Whip   68,074
Chairman of Committees   84,524
Principal Deputy Chairman   79,076

Source: Parliament website

Not forgetting their other jobs, of course.

Cameron takes an axe to the grass roots of democracy

The coalition government's move to make it harder to dissolve Parliament is a "constitutional outrage", ex-Transport Secretary Lord Adonis has said. The ConDem plan will mean that 55% of MPs must approve such a move to get it through the House of Commons. Currently, it takes 50% of MPs plus one vote to scupper a government.  Not content with this, David Cameron plans to cut the number of parliamentary constituencies to 585, and decrease the size differential between them, in a move to reduce a pro-Labour bias in the electoral system. 

Meanwhile, the Home Secretary faces a petition demanding her dismissal, one day into her tenure.  It's not so much the Home Secretary bit that has upset people but the fact that Theresa May has also been appointed Minister for Women and Equality. In 1998 Ms May voted against equalising the age of consent; in 2000 she voted against the repeal of Section 28 (legislation that banned the 'promotion' of homosexuality by local government and schools) and in 2001 and 2002 she voted against gay couples jointly adopting children. 

Conservatives plan to cut seats - The Guardian
Petition to hang Theresa May

Thursday, 13 May 2010

£1 million in lost deposits at General Election

The General Election saw nearly £1 million in lost deposits from candidates achieving less than 5% of the vote. The biggest losers were the small parties with UKIP losing 458 deposits at £500 each, costing them £229,000. In addition to the cost of ensuring Caroline Lucas was elected as their first ever MP, the Green party was hit by a £164,000 loss (equal to half the annual package accrued by Caroline Lucas as a member of the European Parliament), 265 lost deposits cost the BNP £132,500 and the English Democrats were out of pocket by £53,000. In contrast, the Conservatives lost just two deposits, Labour five and the Liberal Democrats didn’t lose any.

At-a-glance: Coalition policy plans

Here is a link to the BBC's tidy summary of the Coalition policy document and within it a link to download the full document. And here is a summary of that summary!
  • Emergency budget within 50 days
  • "Accelerated" action to cut the budget deficit: £6bn of spending cuts this year
  • Next year's 1% National Insurance tax rise to be partly scrapped
  • Referendum on the Alternative Vote system for general elections
  • Fixed-term Parliaments - next election in May 2015
  • Trident renewal to go ahead but cost scrutinised
  • No further powers ceded to EU without referendum
  • NHS spending to rise in real terms every year of the Parliament
  • Great Repeal Bill including abolition of ID cards
  • Restore the link between the state pension and earnings from April 2011
  • No new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted
  • Tax break for married couples and civil partners
BBC News: Coalition's policy plans

1,500 complaints to Ofcom about Boulton and Burley

Media regulator Ofcom has received almost 1,500 complaints about Adam Boulton's on-screen clash with Alastair Campbell and Kay Burley's interview with electoral reformist David Babbs. As of this morning Ofcom has received a total of 1,418 complaints from members about the two incidents involving Sky News presenters. Burley's interview with Babbs, of electoral reform campaigning group 38 Degrees, attracted 722 complaints. The complainants accused Burley of bias and aggressive behaviour in the interview. The interview resulted in the presenter being heckled by protesters saying 'sack Kay Burley' and a Twitter campaign.

Ofcom has also received 696 complaints about Sky News political editor Adam Boulton's on-screen row with former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell. Most of the complainants are understood to have objected to what they viewed as unprofessional behaviour by Boulton, who appeared to lose his temper after Campbell accused him of being 'upset that David Cameron is not prime minister'.

Ofcom is still assessing 700 complaints that Boulton allegedly 'heckled' Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg about his expenses in the second leaders' debate."

Organised crime fears cause ban on 500 euro note sales

Exchange offices in the UK have stopped selling 500 euro banknotes because of their use by money launderers. The Serious Organised Crime Agency says 90% of the notes sold in the UK are in the hands of organised crime. Soca deputy director Ian Cruxton said 500 euros had become the currency of choice for gangs hiding their profits.  Are you sure you wouldn't rather wait till the gangs had all of them?

The move means nobody will be able to buy the note in the UK - but travellers will be able to sell them if they enter the UK carrying them from abroad. There has been mounting international concern over the note, which is worth more than £400, and its use by criminals or tax evaders."

Mervyn King hails the deficit reduction plan of his Tory pals

Bank of England governor Mervyn King has backed the new government's deficit reduction plan, calling it "strong and powerful". Mr King said plans for spending cuts worth £6bn in 2010 were "sensible". Investors also gave a cautious welcome to the new government - with UK bond prices rising, although sterling weakened. Meanwhile, earlier Conservative plans to scrap the Financial Services Authority have been shelved.

Mervyn King took the unusual step of praising the new government's plans at the Bank's quarterly Inflation Report media conference. He said the measures planned by the Conservatives and agreed by the Liberal Democrats demonstrated a commitment to cutting the deficit. He also implied that the previous Chancellor Alistair Darling had not gone far enough with his Budget policies.  Wanker.

Mr King warned that recent events in the eurozone had shown how quickly markets could turn against a country which was seen to lack credible plans to cut borrowing.

VAT will have to rise, say economists

VAT is set to rise under the new coalition government, according to a BBC survey of influential economists. Of 28 independent economists currently used by the Treasury to assist its forecasts, 24 said they expected the rate to rise in the coming parliament. The majority predicted a rise from the current 17.5% to 20% before the end of 2011. Analysts say a 20% rate would raise an estimated £11.5bn a year.

VAT was temporarily cut last year to 15% to aid the economic recovery. But the tax on consumer goods is seen as an attractive way to boost the government's tax income, with cutting the country's budget deficit a priority for the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. There are 35 economists listed as independent consultants for the Treasury's UK economic forecasts. Six declined to take part in the BBC's survey.

Coalition government: Like a flat-pack with screws missing, this deal will wobble

Polly Toynbee writes for the Guardian: "Weddings stir deep emotions. Some weep with simple joy as the happy couple plight their troth. Some cry with disappointment. But some wise old heads sniff into their handkerchiefs because they have sat through too many costly 'happy ever after' ceremonies that ended in acrimony. Those who remember the Two Davids of the 1987 SDP-Liberal Alliance will recall the exquisite agony only too well, cruelly captured by the Spitting Image puppet of little Steel perched in big Owen's pocket. I was responsible for the appalling daily press conferences during that election, when all the press sought was a wafer of difference between the two: they often found a crevasse, even between those similar parties." "

Read the full Guardian article here.

Chris Evans brings one million more listeners to Radio 2's Breakfast Show

Astonishingly, Chris Evans has added more than one million listeners to the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show since he replaced Sir Terry Wogan, official figures show. His daily show now attracts a record 9.5m listeners a week, according to the figures from industry body Rajar. Figures for the Chris Evans show, which is on air for half an hour longer each day than Sir Terry's programme, are the highest audience for any radio show since 1999 when the current system began. Though quite who would want to listen to that twat is beyond me.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Another day in Downing Street


The Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition Cabinet

PM: David Cameron
Deputy PM: Nick Clegg
Foreign Sec: William Hague
Chancellor: George Osborne
Business/banking: Vince Cable
Defence: Liam Fox
Health: Andrew Lansley
Energy/Climate: Chris Huhne
Justice Sec: Ken Clarke
Home Sec: Theresa May
Education: Michael Gove
Chief Sec to Treasury: David Laws
Scottish Sec: Danny Alexander
Communities Sec: Eric Pickles
Culture/Olympics: Jeremy Hunt
Work and Pensions: Iain Duncan Smith
Tory chair: Baroness Warsi

A day in Downing Street

A class act

Heil,  Murdoch

Anyone know where Downing Street is?

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Leave it to them

I must add my voice to the increasing number of Labour MPs who have been voicing concerns about the possibility of a Lib/Lab pact and now hope that the Clegg/Cameron talks bear fruit to save us from an unworkable rainbow coalition.  Just imagine being answerable to the Greens.

But as I write, it is emerging that Labour has withdrawn from the talks.  Time then for Labour to reflect on the past thirteen years, elect a new leader and be prepared for government following the next general election.  Just a thought.

Capello's first choice for England

England's 30-man provisional squad for the World Cup finals:

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, David James, Robert Green.

Defenders: Leighton Baines, Jamie Carragher, Ashley Cole, Michael Dawson, Rio Ferdinand, Glen Johnson, Ledley King, John Terry, Matthew Upson, Stephen Warnock.

Midfielders: Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Steven Gerrard, Tom Huddlestone, Adam Johnson, Frank Lampard, Aaron Lennon, James Milner, Scott Parker, Theo Walcott, Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Forwards: Darren Bent, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey, Wayne Rooney.

But no Bentley.  Hmmm, I wonder if he would like to take up the offer of writing for us during the World Cup, so unceremoniously declined by Aaron Ramsey!

Meanwhile, Fifa general secretary Jerome Valckehile has admitted an extra £67m ($100m) had to be injected into the project to ensure hosts South Africa were ready.  England officials expressed deep concern about the team's World Cup base, particularly the state of the training pitches, when they visited the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus in December ...

 ... they had a point.