Quote of the Day
10 Feb 2013 at 19:27
My lords, ladies and gentlemen, in the immortal words of Chris Huhne to Vicky Pryce, there are three points I want to get across to you tonight darling…Boris Johnson, starting a speech
Quote of the Day
10 Feb 2013 at 19:27
My lords, ladies and gentlemen, in the immortal words of Chris Huhne to Vicky Pryce, there are three points I want to get across to you tonight darling…Boris Johnson, starting a speech
10 Feb 2013 at 15:28
A nice little scoop from Environment Secretary on my LBC show this morning. We spent ten minutes discussing the horsemeat scandal and towards the end of the interview (you can listen to it HERE) this exchange took place…
ID: There are no health implications, are there?
OP: As we speak this morning, this is an issue of fraud and a conspiracy against the public, probably conducted by criminal elements. They have substituted a cheap material for that which is on the label. It is a labelling issue, which we may find out as the week progresses and the results comes in that there is a substance, which is injurious to human health, which is not the situation at the moment. At the moment it is a labelling issue.
Frankly, I was grateful Owen Paterson appeared. Last night I got a frantic message from LBC to say that his press office had called to query me tweeting that Paterson would be on the show. They said he wouldn’t be. I knew different. You see nine times out of ten when our producers call a government press office to ask if we could have a minister on my Sunday show, they say no. Half the time I’m sure the press officer don’t even ask the ministers. The Department of Health, Home Office, Department of Education and the MoD are the worst offenders. It gets to the point when you wonder what on earth the dozens of press officers in those departments actually do all day. Every time I am turned down by the Department of Education I have a simple policy. I text Michael Gove. And more often than not he texts back to say how delighted he would be to come on. So that’s what I did when the Defra Press Office gave my producer the runaround yesterday. I texted Owen himself, and hey presto, he readily agreed to come on. Good on him. That was early evening. Just before midnight, following the phone call to LBC Defra and I had this following Twitter exchange…
Credit to the Defra twitter people, though. Their next tweet read “Oops, have a great show!”
10 Feb 2013 at 08:52
There’s a story in today’s Mail on Sunday with the headline
MARY’S REVENGE ON LABOUR PEER WHO ATTACKED CAMBRIDGE
Simon Walters, the Mail on Sunday political editor, alleges that Professor Mary Beard, a judge at this year’s Paddy Power/Total Politics Political Book Awards , effectively vetoed the Book of the Year prize going to Andrew Adonis, for his book ‘Education. Education, Education. I attended the judges lunch and it is entirely untrue. Yes, there was a spirited discussion about the merits of the various books and you would hardly expect the likes of Mary Beard, Adam Boulton, Keith Simpson, Chris Mullin and Carolyn Quinn to go into the meeting all with the same viewpoint. But by the end of the meeting there was a unanimous winner, and it was Caroline Shenton. There were no vetoes, no spats, no walkouts. Let’s lightly fisk the Mail on Sunday story…
Cambridge academic Mary Beard was embroiled in a new row last night after she opposed awarding a £10,000 book prize to an ex-Cabinet Minister who accused the university of failing poor state school pupils. Lord Adonis, an Education Minister in Tony Blair’s Government, had been shortlisted for Total Politics magazine’s Political Book of the Year award alongside little-known author Caroline Shenton.
True to the extent that she also opposed giving it to 8 other shortlisted books.
However, Professor Beard, a judge on the panel, criticised his book, Education, Education, Education, published by Biteback, and Miss Shenton was awarded the prize for The Day Parliament Burned Down, published by OUP. One source said: ‘Mary rubbished Andrew and his book and made it clear he’d get the award over her dead body. ‘When his book made the final two, it was virtually impossible for him to win because it had to be a unanimous decision.’
It was impossible for any book to win if there was disagreement. All judges agreed that Caroline Shenton should win.
However, the other judges did not know that months earlier the academic and TV presenter – known to millions for the BBC series Meet The Romans – had attacked Lord Adonis for ‘bragging’ after he blamed Cambridge for failing to boost poor state schools.
Wrong. They did. Because she told them.
The pair clashed at a Cheltenham Literary Festival debate last October when the Labour peer savaged the university for not backing the Teach First initiative – of which he is a trustee – whereby top graduates are sent to teach in tough comprehensives. Prof Beard accused him of ‘silly social engineering’ and ‘political nonsense’. A festival source said: ‘It seems there’s a feud between them.’
A policy disagreement does not imply a feud. Unless your name is Brown or Blair, of course.
Prof Beard confirmed she had rowed with Lord Adonis, but denied she should have stood down as a judge. In a statement, she said: ‘I did have a bit of a good humoured “set to” with Adonis. But that is what debate is all about … and it certainly wouldnt [sic] determine my judgment of what he says in the future.’ Lord Adonis said: ‘I find the whole thing very amusing. Prof Beard’s comments suggest Cambridge should be more open to criticism.’ The row comes weeks after Prof Beard was targeted by internet trolls about her looks after an appearance on Question Time.
And had she not been attacked by trolls, I suspect this non-story would never have appeared in the Mail on Sunday. I spoke to Simon Walters about this story on Wednesday and told him it was total rubbish. But it was clearly doing the rounds, as two other judges mentioned it to me during the awards event on Wednesday evening and were quite upset about it.
I suppose it’s much ado about nothing, but it is highly regrettable that one of the 8 people in the room for the judges lunch felt it necessary to leak proceedings and do it in such and inaccurate malicious way. Such is life, I suppose.
9 Feb 2013 at 22:45
Now, I post this purely as an educational tool. Tool. Geddit? I suppose we all knew that the French were the biggest pricks in Europe, and now we have proof! What I would love to know is how they worked this out. I doubt whether the research cost much to put together. I imagine there were plenty of volunteers.
Hang on, on further observation it seems the Hungarians are bigger than the French. No wonder my friend Deborah is going there in Monday!
In case you wonder, I saw this on Facebook and felt the need to bring it to wider attention. More on the Huffington Post
I think I will get my coat…
9 Feb 2013 at 20:12
This is the candidate the LibDems selected tonight to fight the Eastleigh by-election. His name is Cllr Mike Thornton. This is him at a council meeting. Hardly a surprise that he was so bored, listening to all those LibDem councillors drone on. I suspect this picture is going to be quite a popular one over the next three weeks.
Perhaps the LibDems know what they are doing – selecting someone local, who’s about as boring as they come. After all, he’s not going to fall into the trap that the Tory candidate has already plummeted into, and given her views on everything in the first day, no doubt pleasing the Tory faithful but offending a lot of other people in the process. That’s why I would have been a hopeless by-election candidate. I’d want to answer a straight question with a straight answer. Not the done thing. I can’t imagine Mike Thornton ever making that mistake.
Picture courtesy of @Matthew_Myatt
9 Feb 2013 at 17:15
You know those rather boring adverts at the back of local newspapers? Pages upon pages of public notices and planning applications, all put there courtesy of your local authority. Many people wonder why on earth in the days of websites all these adverts appear, week after week. Well it’s because local authorities are under a statutory obligation to place them in local papers. It’s the law, you see.
Local authorities would dearly love not to have to do this. They think the same purpose could be served if the adverts and public announcements were put on their websites, thus saving huge amounts of council tax payers’ money. They also argue that they could be included in their regular Pravda-esque freesheets, although these are soon to be banned by Comrade Pickles. (In my view quite rightly, although it is arguable whether it really requires national legislation – surely local voters could vote in a party which promsied to abolsih them? I think that would be called ‘localism’).
So Eric Pickles is really pleased about this and will urge all local authorities to withdraw their local newspaper adverts so they can each save hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, right? Wrong. And it’s for a very simple reason. He doesn’t want to go down in history as the man who killed off the local newspaper industry, because that’s what would happen if these adverts ended. Dozens of local newspaper simply wouldn’t be able to survive the fall in ad revenue they would undoubtedly experience.
So effectively, local government is subsidising local newspapers to the hilt. And council tax is therefore rather higher than it need be.
Local media is important, whether it be print or broadcast. But this cash cow won’t be there for ever and local newspapers would be wise to plan for a future without these public service adverts. Sooner or later they will be gone.
UPDATE: Here’s some information sent to me by a source close to Mr Pickles.
Helen Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will deregulate the publication of planning permission applications in local newspapers. 100347
Robert Neill: The hon. Member may not be aware of the fact that the last Administration produced a consultation paper on this issue, proposing to remove the statutory requirements to publish notices in newspapers (Department for Communities and Local Government, ‘Publicity for planning applications’, July 2009). However, this was not well-received. Following that consultation, the Administration concluded:
“The Government has decided not to take forward this amendment. This means that the statutory requirement to publish certain applications in newspapers remains. It is clear from the responses that some members of the public and community groups rely on the statutory notices in newspapers to learn about planning applications in their area. The Government is not convinced that good alternative arrangements can be readily rolled out”. (Department for Communities and Local Government, ‘Publicity for planning applications: Summary of responses to consultation’, December 2009. p.14).
My Department does not have any current plans to remove the statutory requirement for certain planning applications to be advertised in newspapers. Such notices ensure that the public are informed of decisions by their local authority which may affect their quality of life, local amenity or their property. This is especially the case in relation to planning applications, where there is a limited period for local residents to make representations.
Notwithstanding, there is scope for reviewing statutory notices in general. Ministers have been clear that, in an internet age, commercial newspapers should expect over time less state advertising as more information is syndicated online by local authorities for free. The flipside is the free press should not face state unfair competition from town hall newspapers and municipal propaganda dressed up as local reporting.”
In essence, it has have flagged to the newspaper industry that they should expect – down the line – a reduced income from statutory notices, and they should adjust their business models accordingly, and find new ways to raise income and adapt to the internet. My source says: “Equally, some statutory notices are useful, but some aren’t. It very much depends on what the notice is for. The public appreciate planning notices slightly more than – say – temporary road closure notices. But dumping information on an obscure council website doesn’t necessarily mean that people will see it…”
8 Feb 2013 at 13:00
What do the terms right and left mean any longer? These two words have defined political discourse and debate for most of the last century, yet they are becoming increasingly irrelevant as supposedly right wing politicians adopt what have been traditional left wing causes. In a similar manner, in the last 20 years Labour politicians have taken on right wing policy stances on law and order and immigration. David Davis, always seen as a traditional right winger, is Parliament’s leading advocate of civil liberties, while John Reid and various other Labour Home Secretaries took great delight in being further to the right than Michael Howard ever was. Devout Christian Tim Montgomerie, editor of ConservativeHome, is a leading proponent of gay marriage, while lefty Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather opposes it.
Political commentators bandy the words ‘left’ and ‘right’ about with gay abandon without coming to terms with the fact that politics has moved on since 1988. Two things have caused this – the end of Communism and the rise of Blair.
In the Tory Party there are still a few traditional ‘hang ‘em and flog’em’ authoritarian right wingers, but they are a peculiar species, almost threatened with extinction. They generally answer to the name of Chope, Leigh or Howarth. From time to time they emerge from their habitat to squawk abuse but few in the Tory Party take much notice of their predictable views. They certainly made their presence felt in the gay marriage debate, but not in the way they had intended. All they achieved was to persuade MPs like Mark Menzies, who had intended to abstain, to vote in favour. But that is not to take away from the fact that most of us hadn’t seen the so-called rebellion coming. Far more Tory MPs voted against the government that I had imagined. And I won’t pretend that David Cameron hasn’t been weakened by it. But in some ways he only has himself to blame. I fully support the intention of the Bill, but if you actually study the wording of the legislation you cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that it’s a dog’s breakfast of a bill – hurriedly drafted by people who have little understanding of some of the complex issues. All this means that in Committee and further parliamentary stages there are going to be some further bitter debates. The opponents’ dander is well and truly not just up but fully erect!
Aside from the issue of gay marriage there are further distinctions which have to be made between the traditional right, and the modern right. The typical Tory MP from the 2010 intake is dry as dust on economic policy but at the same time as wet as a goldfish on social policy. And it is they who now hold the whip hand in the Tory Party. It is they who are coming up with new policy ideas for the next election. It is their loyalty David Cameron needs to cultivate and rely on.
No serious observer of the Westminster scene believes there is a serious plot to unseat David Cameron. The first priority of any coup plan is to have a King over the water, who is ready and willing to strike. There is no such person. Were Boris Johnson in Parliament that might be different. But he isn’t and won’t be until at least May 2015. There is no way on this earth any current Cabinet Minister could be persuaded to jump ship and lead a plot, and neither Liam Fox or David Davis are that stupid. There may be seven or eight Tory MPs who have sent Graham Brady a letter demanding a leadership vote, and I could probably name them all. None are figures of any influence at all, and most of them are bitter because of lack of preferment.
Cameron’s Number Ten team have always been useless at cultivating backbenchers. Thatcher and Major were far better at it, but it’s as if Number Ten has a deathwish in the way that they appear as if they couldn’t care less what their backbench colleagues think. That must change, but plenty of have been saying it for two years and nothing happens. One Tory MP, elected in 2005, told me recently David Cameron had never exchanged a word with him in the eight years he has been in Parliament. I found that remarkable. The trouble is, I suspect he is not alone.
All parliamentary parties are coalitions of people who agree with each other 85% of the time. It’s how the party leadership handles the other 15% which determines whether they command a happy ship. At the moment Cameron captains a somewhat mutinous ship, but all he needs to do is, in the words of Erasure, show a little respect.
7 Feb 2013 at 21:20
This time last night we were nearing the end of the 2013 Paddy Power & Total Politics Political Book of the Year Awards. It seemed a long time since the idea first emerged in a brainstorming meeting last summer. It really was the most fantastic evening. Four hundred people packed into the IMAX cinema on the South Bank, a mix of politicians, publishers and assorted celebs. I arrived midway through the afternoon along with my colleagues from Biteback who had done all the legwork for the event. I must admit that as I sat through the rehearsals I was wondering about all the buttons being pressed at the right time. The saying ’It’ll be alright on the night’ was one which sprung to my ever hopeful mind. And it was! The only hitch was that we started 15 minutes late as it proved impossible to corral 400 people into the cinema from the drinks reception. But we finished on time at 9.30, after a very memorable 75 minutes.
Gyles Brandreth proved to be an inspired host, and had the audience in stitches throughout the event. One reason I chose him to compere the evening was that I knew that if there were any technical teething problems he would be able to brush it off so no one noticed. As it turned out, there weren’t any, or if there were, they were so minor that few people noticed. But they, and Gyles, did indeed notice this fabulous pair of pins and the stockings that adorned them. Who did they belong to? Jemima Khan? Fiona Phillips? The answer is at the bottom of this blogpost… Prepare yourself for a shock.
The first award went to Ian McEwan who won political fiction book of the year with Sweet Tooth (Jonathan Cape).
Other winners included Ian Cobain, who picked up £3,000 for debut political book of the year with Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture (Portobello Books). Political biography of the year was won by W Sydney Robinson with Muckraker: The Scandalous Life and Times of WT Stead (Robson Books).
Telegraph cartoonist Matthew Pritchett won the political humour/satire category with The Best of Matt 2012 (Orion), a collection of his cartoons. Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson (Profile Books) picked up the international affairs award. Journalist Nick Cohen won polemic of the year with You Can’t Read This Book (Fourth Estate), and made the best acceptance speech of the night.
Christopher Duggan won history book of the year with Fascist Voices (Bodley Head). HarperCollins picked up another accolade with Sherard Cowper-Coles’ Ever the Diplomat (HarperPress) winning political process book of the year.
At the end of the evening veteran politician Tony Benn won the lifetime achievement in political literature award, presented by former MP and diarist Chris Mullin. We played a three minute segment of a wonderful video which has been made recently. I am a huge fan of his diaries and have read all nine volumes. He’s signed them all for me. Even someone like me who disagrees with him on most things (apart from Europe and parliamentary democracy) can see what a giant among pygmies he has been.
The main political book of the year award went to Caroline Shenton who wrote ‘The Day Parliament Burned Down’ (OUP). It’s a brilliant book. I’m sad to say that the book was offered to Biteback to publish but we didn’t take it up. The one that got away.
I did have one disappointment though. Unbeknown to me Irish politician Senator David Norris was in the audience, and no one told me. I’m reading his autobiography at the moment, ‘A Kick Against the Pricks’ and it is truly wonderful. I so wish I had got to meet him.
The evening went so well that Paddy Power immediately committed themselves to sponsor the event next year. Lord Ashcroft has done the same, and I also had two more approaches from companies who wish to associate themselves with the event. I really couldn’t ask for more. These events couldn’t exist without sponsorship and I am very grateful to both Lord Ashcroft and Paddy Power.
Bearing in mind my company only has 11 employees, and none of them has organised an awards ceremony before, I think my team were heroes. In particular Suzanne Sangster and Katy Scholes have worked their socks off to make this event a success, and yesterday really pulled it off. Katy is very young but took total charge yesterday and it’s a pleasure to see her blossom.
You can buy any of the shortlisted books HERE
The full list of judges and books nominated are all on the Political Book Awards website
Roll on 2014!
7 Feb 2013 at 16:11
I’ve got Sky News on the TV at the moment and have just heard the phone conversations between Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce. I think it is scandalous that they have been made public. I almost felt dirty listening to them. I’m not sure what is proved by their release. Indeed, why have they been made public? I don’t recall this ever happening before. I’m sure it is right that the jury should listen to them, although I am not sure they help Vicky Pryce’s case at all.
6 Feb 2013 at 13:54
I’ve spent the last 90 minutes watching the Prime Minister’s statement on the Francis Report into the terrible goings on at Stafford Hospital. What was allowed to happen there was terrible, and an indictment of all those who sat by and watched this catastrophe developing. Let’s not beat around the bush, this happened because the system allowed it to happen. The NHS is far too obsessed with back-watching, targets and bureaucracy rather than being obsessed with the quality of patient care. Others far more qualified than me will comment on the wider implications of what happened there, but let me leave you with one thought.
Can you imagine the outcry if this had happened at a private hospital? There would be calls for the modern day equivalent of public lynchings and the profit motive would be blamed. This was a massive public sector failure. Typically, the NHS regulators failed. The GMC failed to dismiss anyone. Most of the people there were moved or promoted to other senior jobs in the NHS. An utter disgrace.