The recall of parliament to pay tribute to Margret Thatcher might have turned into the predictable “She was lucky to know me” Tory love-in had it not been for Glenda Jackson. So awesome is Glenda’s speech that no comment is needed from me!
Rail fares minister Simon Burns isn’t so worried about the tenth consecutive rise in rail prices because he shuns commuting by train in favour of a costly chauffeur driven government car.
According to the Mail on Sunday, the Conservative MP travels the 35 miles between his Essex home and Westminster using the £80,000 a year departmental car service.
The disclosure comes just days after inflation-busting average rises of 4.2% for regulated rail fares, which include season tickets, took effect for passengers.
A spokesman for passengers’ campaign group Railfuture told the newspaper: “It would be nice if the person who is setting these fare rises was also experiencing some of the congestion and overcrowding endured by ordinary, hard-pressed travellers.”
Burns reportedly defended his regular use of the Department for Transport pool car by saying: “I have given up my second home in London and I commute to and from work carrying classified papers which I work on during my journey.”
Cabinet Office officials confirmed that there are no restrictions on ministers taking the “red boxes” that contain their government papers on public transport.
Transport minister Stephen Hammond revealed details about the department’s travel arrangements in parliamentary documents.
He said: “With the introduction of a departmental pool car service on 1 April 2012, individual ministers are no longer allocated government cars.
“The Secretary of State (Patrick McLoughlin) and Minister of State use the pool cars on a daily basis.
“I use the pool cars occasionally and also use the top-up service as business requires it.
“The Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Norman Baker, used the car on an extremely occasional basis for journeys of less than three miles, the last date being 20 November 2012.”
Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who uncovered the arrangement through a parliamentary question, told the Mail on Sunday: “This looks to be an extremely poor use of taxpayers’ money, and a very bad example for a minister to set.”
- Minister lets car take the strain (standard.co.uk)
- Rail fares minister shuns commuting for £80,000-a-year departmental car (telegraph.co.uk)
- Anger as Simon Burns, minister in charge of rail fares, uses chauffeur-driven car for work (standard.co.uk)
- Minister lets car take the strain (express.co.uk)
- Anger as rail fares minister Simon Burns uses chauffeur-driven car for work (standard.co.uk)
Ed Miliband has struck back at Unite Leader Len McLuskey’s after he criticised the Labour Leader for accepting the coalition’s public sector pay freezes.
McCluskey said the move was a “victory for discredited Blairism” and warned the Labour leader that he risked putting the party leadership on a collision course with its core supporters.
In sharply worded riposte Ed Miliband said, “Len McCluskey is entitled to his views but he is wrong. I am changing the Labour Party so we can deliver fairness even when there is less money around and that requires tough decisions. It requires a tough decision to put the priority on jobs ahead of public sector pay. It also requires us to say we do believe the government is going too far, too fast with their cuts but we are not going to make specific promises to reverse those cuts unless we are absolutely sure that we know where the money is coming from. That is right, it is responsible and it is the way we are going to proceed.”
Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman said Labour’s hand have been forced by the coalition’s austerity measures: “When we left government the economy was beginning to grow and unemployment was beginning to fall but because they’ve squeezed the life out of the economy with their austerity cuts they are now in a position of having to continue with that public sector pay freeze. But what we don’t agree with is their proposals on regional pay bargaining, we don’t agree with their cuts in tax credit and we think they should make sure they do it as fairly as possible.”
Shadow cabinet minster Liam Bryne says it’s time for the Labour Party to become radical reformers on the warfare state. In an article for the Guardian to mark the 70th anniversary of the Beveridge report he points out that Beveridge considered “‘Idleness’ every bit as insidious as disease or squalor.”
The shadow work and pensions secretary says it is time for his party to think again about the welfare state, adding “one more heave behind our old agenda won’t do”.
Bryne goes on further to say “He [Beveridge] would have worried about the ways that his system had skewed social behaviour because he intended benefits to help people who had their earning power interrupted because of illness, industrial injury or the capriciousness of the trade cycle. He never foresaw unearned support as desirable”.
This change in policy will no doubt cause issues with the extreme left of the party but to my mind is long overdue. It can’t be right that unemployed families can live in accommodation that the employed can only dream of. That creates a situation where the unemployed cannot afford to work because they couldn’t pay for their accommodation; not to mention the resentment from working people.
Maybe it’s time to think about how we pay benefits. Maybe payment of benefits should be more akin to payment of wages. Employed people don’t get pay rises because they have more children, their pay doesn’t increase if they choose to move to a bigger better house, regardless of how inappropriate their existing on is.
What would the be the result of the unemployed having their total benefits capped at (for example) 70% of the net income of a person working a full-time job on minimum wage?
Lets look ahead to 2012. The Tory party is in full nationalist swing, the Libs Dems as divided and deeply unpopular. The economy is still flat-lining with the coalition’s plans strangling off growth and leading us ever forward to a that double-dip the Chancellor told us his austerity would avoid. So confident is Cameron of his right to rule the Tory’s have made the first moves to privatising the NHS and even pandered to the party’s euro-sceptics at the expense of his coalition partners and yet The Tories have a six-point lead in the polls. Ed Miliband seems to be leading the party into a monumental decline in support. Never has a Labour leader had it so good.
With that in mind my predictions for 2012:
- Boris Johnson will defeat Ken Livingstone in the fight for Mayor of London.
- Interest rates will remain below 1%.
- The economy will continue flatline and may dip into contraction.
- The Con Dems will blame the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics for the lack of growth.
- Inflation will remain above raises in pay.
- Bankers and executives will receive massive bonuses.
- The coalition will survive although the Tory’s will kick the Lib Dems over an increasingly large number of issues.
As you can see I predict that Ed will totally fail to capitalise on the any of this.
Unlike the Tories Labour is very reluctant to stab a failing leader in the back and so Ed will go one but this will be his crunch year. This time next year things will be worst and Ed must have tapped into the ground swell of unhappiness.
This year’s conference season has ended with more of a whimper than a bang. Looking back, none of the parties have anything to crow about, but who was the good, the bad and the ugly?
First up was the Lib Dems. You could have been forgiven for missing it; in fact, judging by the number of empty seats lots of people did. We were first treated to Vince Cable’s rather underwhelming speech and then the piteous whining of Nick Clegg. Oh and the Human Rights Act, I’ll come back to that in a bit.
Next came the Labour conference and Ed Miliband leading the party members in the collective booing of Tony Blair. Now I’m not as Blairite by any stretch of the imagination but booing the most successful party leader that Labour has ever had seems perverse at best. The pity is that Ed’s speech was otherwise the single highlight of the whole conference season: honest, forward thinking and positive.
Last and by all means least came Big Dave and his Tory Tigers. Theresa May and her cat flap spat with Ken Clark providing the only bit of interest in the whole week. Cameron wasn’t only unimpressive, he was totally unmemorable.
Now I said I’d come back to the Human Rights Act. Ever since the local elections Clegg has desperately been trying to show that he’s not a pale blue Tory. Well now we have Clegg and May both vociferously arguing different sides of the Human Right Debate. Add to that the fact that nothing it going to change and the term Put Up comes to mind.
So who was who? Will Ed was the (slightly tainted) Good; Dave the (self deluded) Bad; and Nick? Well maybe not so much ugly as desperate.
Whilst I am certainly no fan of Peter Mandelson, his interviews are always interesting and often very thought provoking. Watching Mandy being interviewed on Andrew Marr’s show this morning crystallised, in my mind a few thoughts that I have been having for a while.
The first is whether Labour really should be as dismissive of the Lib Dems as many of the grass-roots have been. I know that there is a feeling that they have shot themselves in the foot and will be wiped out at the next election. I don’t really think that is true. Labour may end up having to work with the Lib Dems in the next parliament. Probably best not to alienate them now.
This second is whether Ed Milliband was correct to declare that New Labour is dead. With bad feeling for Tony Blair, within the party and the country, running high, it is understandable that he would want to put some distance between himself and the New Labour architect. The problem is, is he sure that what he has to replace it is better? The Labour Party seems to hate winners and revel in losers. Think of Neil Kinnock, standing ovation after standing ovation at conferences. A Labour big hitter by anybody’s reckoning. Yet for all his popularity with the party Kinnock led Labour to three electoral defeats.
I often wonder what would have happened had Tony Blair not become leader in 1994? Would Pressa have been as successful? I don’t know and it probably doesn’t matter. Tony Blair led Labour to three consecutive election victories at least one of which when he was deeply unpopular with the public. And what happened when the party ditched Tony and replaced him with Gordon Brown, a politician more of the Neil Kinnock variety? A crushing defeat.
Ed Milliband has risen like phoenix from the ashes but if he is to move the party away from the gains made by Blair, lets hope he remembers that radical lurches to the left may well be very popular with the unions and party faithful, but it’s not their votes his wooing.