Tag Archives: gordon brown

Good on Damian McBride – making the case for coalition government

damian+mcbrideI’ve met Damian McBride only once, in February this year. Two things struck me.

First, how much healthier (and happier) he looked than he did in 2008 when his role in a dirty tricks campaign against the Tories was exposed. He was only 34 when that furore flared, yet in pictures from the time he looked at least a decade older.

Secondly, he is seriously smart. A career civil servant promoted to Head of Communications at the Treasury he retains a deeply impressive knowledge of the knottiest tax policies. It makes …

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How Labour saw Clegg before the 2010 election TV debates

clegg debateThere have been a couple of fascinating posts this week by election expert Philip Cowley, a politics professor at Nottingham University. They reveal for the first time the internal briefing prepared for Labour dissecting the debating skills of each of the three party leaders — Clegg, Brown and Cameron — ahead of the 2010 leaders’ debate.

Yesterday’s focused on David Cameron. Today the spotlight of hindsight is shone on Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown. Below is the assessment of the Lib Dem leader — and what’s perhaps most interesting …

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John Leech MP writes… Remembering the reasons for Leveson

The Manchester Evening News has a regular slot in the paper where they get a number of MPs to write an opinion column on topical issues of their choice. This week just happened to be my turn, so I thought that I would comment on the eagerly awaited Leveson report, due out on Thursday.

For those of you who don’t know, the MEN is owned by Trinity Mirror, and along with other major newspaper groups, are totally opposed to independent regulation of the press. They claim that regulation will be the end of freedom of expression. How ironic then, that the …

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Tim Farron MP writes… This week could have been very different

Last weekend was the fifth anniversary of the day that Gordon Brown changed his mind at the last minute and didn’t call the widely anticipated 2007 autumn General Election. Given the remainder of his tenure it is easy for many of us to forget that following his succession to No. 10 Downing St, Gordon Brown did received a popularity bounce. Brown was 10% ahead in the polls, David Cameron was floundering following a difficult period as opposition leader, and of course the banking collapse of 2008 had not yet happened.

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats must not apologise for cuts

Occasionally Nick Clegg, or his speechwriters create a phrase which deserves to live on in the political lexicon long after the rest of the speech has been confined to the political dustbin. The pre-2010 General Election debates were transformed by Nick referring to the “two old parties” and asking voters to “do something different this time”.

While the phrases were memorable, they were hardly that effective. Voters did what they did the last time they faced a Labour government mired in staggering incompetence and a Tory party leadership tacking to the centre while the grassroots howled. That was in the 1970’s when voters gave Labour a kicking and the Tories the mandate of largest party in parliament but no overall majority. In 2010 the outcome was the same with Labour weakened and the Tories becoming the largest party, except that on this occasion, the Liberal Democrats, from MPs to ordinary members, voted by a huge majority for a coalition. But while the phrases used in the debates were clever and eye catching, it was another of Nick’s phrases which should help set the tone for the party in the future. Nick said there would be “savage cuts”, while Vince Cable joined his Tory and Labour colleagues in saying that post-election there would, under a Liberal Democrat government, be “cuts faster and deeper than Thatcher”.

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Politicians are not mere pawns in the hands of journalists

Understandably the Leveson Inquiry has concentrated on the misdeeds of journalists and the behaviour of newspaper owners. However, the appearance of a series of figures this week at Leveson could – indeed should – have highlighted how often the power lies with politicians, not the media. We had three figures appear who all, in their own very different ways, showed that despite all the talk of politicians been cowed by the media, it is far from uncommon for politicians to have far too much power over the media.

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Why Gordon Brown should be voting for Jeremy Hunt tomorrow

Gordon BrownYesterday, at the Leveson Inquiry, Gordon Brown declined to take responsibility for the activities of his special advisers.

Tomorrow, Parliament debates whether Jeremy Hunt should take responsibility for the activities of one of his special advisers.

So I think we can work out which way Gordon Brown will be voting tomorrow, can’t we?

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A warm welcome for Andrew Marr’s change of heart on blogging

Here’s the BBC’s Andrew Marr speaking in October 2010:

“Most citizen journalism strikes me as nothing to do with journalism at all. A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed, young men sitting in their mother’s basements and ranting. They are very angry people. … Most of the blogging is too angry and too abusive. It is vituperative. Terrible things are said on line because they are anonymous. People say things on line that they wouldn’t dream of saying in person.”

And here’s Andrew Marr speaking to the Leveson Inquiry yesterday:

“You look around and a

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Time for the Lib Dems to blow the final whistle on national wage settlements

It’s over 50 years since the campaign by Jimmy Hill, then chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, successfully scrapped the maximum wage which operated throughout the football league until 1961. Some probably lament the commercialisation of the game which it set in motion. But the idea that individuals should have a ceiling placed on their wage-earning potential by the authorities seems quaintly absurd today.

Except in the public sector. If you’re paid by the government — if, for example, you work in schools, colleges and universities, or the civil service and local government — then your wages are defined by national pay rates determined by Whitehall and trade union negotiations. It doesn’t matter which part of the country you work, you operate within that centrally-set national pay framework. It is as quaint and as absurd as the wage rules of football were half a century ago.

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Opinion: One year on from Tuition Fees: why I’m still a Liberal Democrat

It’s one year on from the vote on Tuition Fees, so I thought I would lay out some reasons why I, as a student, am still a Liberal Democrat after our great ‘betrayal’.

Although our ministers are having to make tough choices, Liberal Democrats have won a major victory – having a tax cut for the low paid, rather than the very rich, as the Tories would have preferred. Raising the income tax threshold to £10,000 is a good way to correct the disaster Gordon Brown created when he scrapped the 10p tax band. Plus it is a tax cut …

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Brown at 10: the authoritative account – which lays into Ed Balls

When it first came out Brown at 10 by Anthony Seldon and Guy Lodge was extremely well received for its authoritative detail and the revised paperback edition maintains that standard well. With Seldon being one of the founders of the modern school of contemporary history, it is no surprise that the book follows the thorough, heavily documented approach contemporary historians strive for – with over 1 million words of interviews recorded for posterity (even if many are, for the next 30 years, withheld from public view) and extensive access to private diaries.

The huge depth of research is accompanied by …

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The weekend debate: What if Gordon Brown Were Still Prime Minister?

Here’s your starter for ten in our weekend slot where we throw up an idea or thought for debate…

Over at the New Statesman Guy Lodge has posed the question, ‘What if … Gordon Brown was leading the Eurozone crisis?’, and come up with quite a flattering answer for our former Prime Minister.

He believes that Gordon Brown would have shown more leadership than David Cameron and George Osborne in the Eurozone crisis, and crucially would have more credibility to deal with Nicolas Sarkosy and Angela Merkel.

Is he right?

What if the Lib Dems had propped up Gordon Brown in …

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Opinion: Labour’s problem

There’s been nothing dramatic about this conference season apart from a few gaffes, but under the surface, I think the Labour conference was significant.

While I enjoyed the Lib Dem conference, I don’t think the journalists did. Whenever I passed a well-known TV presenter, they had a face like thunder. They were looking for factionalism and controversy, but all they found was Lib Dems facing up to a difficult situation with determination and loyalty. That makes dull TV, so they must have been tearing their hair out.

The Tory conference was more entertaining.

Theresa May’s remark about cats, and the more recent

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Opinion: Who will sort out our colossal National Debt?

The one group I’d most expect to be drawing up a roadmap to a debt-free Britain would be true-blue Tories. Some of them at least understand the problem. In a new book by five Conservative MPs - After the Coalition: a Conservative Agenda for Britain,  dubbed by the Independent as the Bible of the new Tory right wing, there is an entire chapter on the National Debt and the risk it presents.

As I have argued elsewhere, it is wrong to think that debt doesn’t matter… that so long as you can keep getting enough out of Peter to pay Paul then …

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Vince Cable’s speech to LibDem conference

You can watch Vince’s speech to the Lib Dem conference here…



(Available on the BBC website here.)

Or you can read the text in full here…

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Chris Rennard writes… Can we tell what will happen in four years?

Four years ago, David Cameron was on the run.

The Conservatives had ‘thrown the kitchen sink’ into winning the Ealing Southall by-election in the summer of 2007 and they had raised expectations of a Tory victory based on the appointment of a well known local Asian businessman as ‘David Cameron’s Conservative candidate’ in a seat with a lot of Conservative Councillors.

But on polling day, the Conservatives not only failed to win the by-election (or even overtake the Lib Dems), but they fell from second place to third in the parliamentary by-election in Sedgfield following Tony …

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Explaining Cameron’s Coalition: politics as seen through the eyes of MORI polls

Explaining Cameron’s Coalition is the latest in the series of general election analysis by MORI’s Robert Worcester and Roger Mortimore, this time joined by two other authors. The book is therefore very much the tale of the 2005-2010 Parliament and subsequent general election seen through the eyes of MORI’s opinion polling, with an often pungent analysis which certainly fits Robert Worcester’s happiness to point out when he got predictions right and others got them wrong.

Though there is a smattering of references to polling results from other firms, the great strength of the MORI data is that many of the …

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Opinion: Do we really want to risk another media mogul running the country?

If there is one thing that the Murdoch affair has confirmed it is that politician’s lust for power knows no bounds. The acquisition of power has been likened to a heroin rush and judging by the extent that Blair, Brown and Cameron, particularly, have been prepared to jump to Murdoch’s commands – we must believe this to be true.

Although it is likely that an attempt to clean up politics will take place over the next few years, now that it has been made so clear that a media giant can have such an impact on the government of a nation …

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Who is Ed Miliband?

Authors of the best accounts of the New Labour years delved deeply into the rival Brownite and Blairite versions of events before coming to their own conclusions. Those who did not frequently ended up with embarrassingly lopsided and inaccurate accounts.

Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre, the authors of Ed: The Milibands and the making of a Labour leader, have avoided making the next generation’s version of the same mistake by talking to both sides of the Miliband family, even returning more than once to the conundrum of when Ed told David he was going to run against him for leader. …

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The Independent View: The bigger picture on privacy

Amongst the frenzy of the phone hacking scandal Philip Virgo has recalled operation Motorman. This investigation by the Information Commissioner and follow-up report What Price Privacy Now studies and provides details of the illegal trade in personal private information. Rather than being limited to the phone hacking scandal, the report suggests this trade was widespread between newspapers, private investigators and corrupt officials.

This report was presented to the previous government that failed to act upon it and halt the illegal trade in personal information. It is with unfortunate irony that members of that previous government including Lord Prescott …

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Hughes, Farron and Foster write to Rupert Murdoch – full text of letter

Simon Hughes, Tim Farron and Don Foster have written to Rupert Murdoch about the proposed take-over of BSkyB by News International.

They ask Murdoch to respond to public opinion by changing his commercial strategy in the UK: withdrawing his News Corporation bid for BSkyB and concentrating all his efforts on cleaning up News International.

The letter in full:

Proposed take-over of BSkyB by News International

Ever since the report of our Information Commissioner ‘What Price Freedom?’ and the conviction and imprisonment of Goodman and Mulcaire in 2006, there has been growing concern about the policy and practices of UK newspaper titles owned

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Government takes action over ‘vulture funds’

When Labour were in power, Liberal Democrats regularly attacked the government for its inaction over so-called vulture funds (that is, in this context, financial funds who buy up debt from poor countries and try to make a profit out of it). For example, then International Development spokesperson Lynne Featherstone said,

Gordon Brown has said this is immoral but so far it’s been all talk and no action.

The Government needs to take a stand and use its influence in the IMF to help devise an internationally binding system to ensure companies can’t prey on heavily indebted developing countries in this way.

The

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Sharon Bowles named most influential Brit in global financial regulation

Sharon Bowles, Liberal Democrat Euro-MP for South East England, is the highest placed British person in the GFS Power 50 list of the most influential figures in global financial regulation.

Sharon BowlesThe list is voted on by readers of Global Financial Strategy, and Sharon Bowles came out twentieth due to her role as Chair of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee. This committee of MEPs has an important role in debating and amending European-wide financial regulation, including new rules on bank capital and bankers’ bonuses.

Sharon Bowles came ahead …

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Opinion: Brown was deceived by his “friends” – let’s hope the Coalition is more careful!

In days of old, when Brown was bold (well, in 1992 anyway) he gave a stirring speech, as Shadow Chancellor, calling for a “powerful alternative to free-market thinking”. He clearly explained why regulations and strong institutions were needed to bring the City under control. Then, five years later he was catapulted into power by the Labour landslide, becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer in Tony Blair’s government.

Tony Blair naively developed an undue admiration for what he romantically saw as the swashbuckling and flamboyant world of supposedly successful entrepreneurs, whose company he found flattering.  Gordon, alas, similarly fell for a charm offensive launched by the very people he once …

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Opinion: Coalition must resist the easy option of raising interest rates

When historians looking back on Gordon Brown’s career are searching for an epitah, they may well settle on the former Chancellor’s claim to have “abolished boom and bust”.

Questionable at the time it was uttered, the crash of 2008 rendered it a nonsense, but there are lessons to be learned for the coalition as they try to unravel the mess left by the Labour Government. The comment mentioned above is an example of a Chancellor falling victim to hubris, and the Coalition must be careful to not to be afflicted by the same condition.

Inflation and how best to prevent it wrecking …

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5 Days to Power: could there have been a Lab-Lib Dem deal?

Conservative MP Rob Wilson’s book on the formation of a coalition government in May 2010, 5 Days to Power: The Journey to Coalition Britain, plays up the drama of the events, talking of how “Gordon Brown and David Cameron were both determined to do whatever was necessary to secure the position of Prime Minister” as if the story is one of a cliff-hanging drama which could have gone either way.

Whilst the outcome is certainly significant for British political history, what the book is far less convincing on is that there was really any serious chance of a Labour – …

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22 Days in May by David Laws – book review

Many insider accounts have already appeared of the events retold in David Laws’s book 22 Days in May: The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition. It is therefore one of the book’s strengths that not only is it written in a lively style which gives some freshness to the now familiar sequence of events but it also adds many new insights.

Although only briefly mentioned by Laws himself, perhaps the most important is how much the Liberal Democrats owe to Chris Huhne. In April, just before the second TV debate, I wrote,

It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on

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The British General Election of 2010: a book worth reading

There are two simple tests I have for books that recount events I was in some way involved in: do they accurately retell events that I have direct first-hand knowledge of and do they tell me something new about events I was one step removed from? If a book pasts both those tests, chances are the rest of the book is interesting and well-informed too – and The British General Election of 2010 by Dennis Kavanagh and Philip Cowley passes both tests with near flying colours (the description of Guildford as a “top” Liberal Democrat target betraying an over-attention to swings to win list over actual party priorities whilst the quote from Disraeli about coalitions is actually rather misleading).

In large part that is because their account is based on hundreds of off the record interviews carried out during the last Parliament and in the immediate aftermath of the general election. Because the interviews have been carried out across political parties (and across factions within them), the authors present a much more robust picture of events than is the fate of some journalists who source their off the record information much more narrowly.

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Just how bizarre will the Brown / Blair revelations get?

The more that comes out about how Tony Blair and Gordon Brown behaved (or perhaps more accurately, how Gordon Brown behaved towards Tony Blair) the more you wonder quite what world they were living in. Here, courtesy of The Guardian’s Nicholas Watt, is one of the latest revelations of the sort of behaviour that would get most people the sack but didn’t stop Gordon Brown getting the Premiership:

During tense negotiations over Britain’s EU budget rebate in 2005, the former prime minister became so exasperated with the Treasury that he kidnapped its man in Brussels.

Jonathan Powell, Blair’s former chief of

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Opinion: New Labour, New Machiavelli?

What has already become the best-known anecdote in Jonathan Powell’s The New Machiavelli is a snippet of conversation he had with his then master, Tony Blair. Powell asked him how he could put up with having a three-hour conversation with Gordon Brown, to which Blair responded by asking him whether he had ever been in love. ‘“Not with a man”, I replied’ — and we know he was lying. This book is testimony to his devotion to Blair.

It is, for sure, a curious billet doux -– less like a bunch of roses than a handful of thorns. Comparing, however …

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