Tag Archives: harriet harman

Deputy PMQs: Vince tackles Harriet on bankers’ bonuses

Y’know I’ve expressed my general contempt for the pantomime which passes for Prime Minister’s Questions on many occasions: it’s theatre, mirage, insubstantial: all performance, no content. But we discovered today there’s something worse than the usual rowdy PMQs: when there’s both no performance and no content.

It’s hard to remember that William Hague once had a fearsome Commons reputation for being the best, sparkiest, wittiest debater on the block. Perhaps all those after-dinner speeches have dulled his senses – or perhaps he reckons he’s not paid enough to waste all his best lines on Parliament – but today’s performance against Prime Ministerial stand-in Harriet Harman was lame and dull. To put it in context, he made Harriet look actually quite good. She wasn’t – she was anodyne and frequently out-of-her-depth – but the comparison was to her credit, not his. Still, at least Mr Hague was better than Gordon Brown.

Vince Cable rose, as is traditional, to cheers from all-corners of the house. He started with a dry, slightly obscure, joke in Harriet’s honour – “may I express the hope that when she was briefing the Prime Minister for talks with his friend Signor Berlusconi, she remembered to enclose an Italian translation of her progressive views on gender equality?” – but then stuck to the touchstone issue among the public at the moment: how can government ministers talk of the need for public sector pay restraint when they are signing-off large bonuses for executives in banks currently majority-owned by the public? Harriet made a half-heartedly fierce show of sounding tough while committing the Government to nothing.

In a low-scoring contest, Vince edges it both for injecting (a little) humour into proceedings, and (more importantly) for asking a question that matters to the public, on an issue the government can do something about, and where his own party has something distinctive to say. Mr Hague, take note.

Full Hansard transcript of Vince and Harriet’s exchanges follow:

Posted in Parliament and PMQs | Also tagged , , , and | 3 Comments

Brown’s five Iraq inquiry U-turns explained

The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow has been a busy boy – he’s been trying to keep pace with the Government’s U-turns since Gordon Brown made his statement announcing the Iraq inquiry last week. He reckons there have been a possible nine, and a definite five:

  • Holding the inquiry in public
  • Allowing the inquiry to attribute blame
  • Forcing witnesses to give evidence on oath
  • Publishing an interim report
  • Membership of the inquiry committee
  • Indeed, it’s interesting to compare this list with Nick Clegg’s consistent pressure on the Government over the past few days, and the clarification he’s sought from inquiry chair Sir John Chilcot.

    Economist columnist-blogger Bagehot has today analysed this litany of reverses in an attempt to explain Mr Brown’s reverse Midas touch:

    I prefer to see the whole, shambolic episode as a parable of the dialectical weakness that has undone Mr Brown’s premiership.

    The prime minister made his announcement without proper consultation, either of other political leaders or other interested parties, such as current and former generals. His proposal came in for criticisms—on the openness question, the composition of the panel, the time-frame and so on—that ought to have been glaringly predictable, and would certainly have been made plain by any meaningful canvassing of views. As a result, an initiative that was doubtless expected to be a vote-winner threatened to become a political disaster. The government has responded with an ongoing frenzy of back-tracking and buck-passing, leaving it to Sir John to resolve many of the controversial issues himself. (There is a useful catalogue of the various U-turns here.) What ought to have been a cross-party endeavour instead became, in the votes in the Commons yesterday evening, a futile test of the government’s strength.

    There you have it: an encapsulation of the whole Brown tragicomedy. The motive may (or may not) have been noble. But the execution was a catalogue of shoddy judgments and mistakes, combining lack of consultation with a political tin ear, failings that perfectly illustrate why Mr Brown’s overall position is so vulnerable. That vulnerability in turn explains why he was obliged so swiftly to climb down. He is in large measure the author of his own predicament; and the predicament is in turn emasculating him.

    And Labour’s U-turns aren’t restricted solely to Iraq. Just today, Harriet Harman scrapped the Government’s plans to limit the scope of the committee set up to oversee the reform of Parliament. Ministers had been planning to prevent the Wright Committee from examining any Government business. However, Ms Harman today contacted Lib Dem shadow Leader of the House, David Heath, to inform him that she would be accepting his amendment allowing the committee to look at Government business.

    David Heath commented:

    Posted in News and Parliament | Also tagged , , , and | 2 Comments

    Daily View 2×2: 3 June 2009

    2 big stories

    “It’s not the wheels falling off the government.”

    With these (deliberate?) words on Radio 4’s PM yesterday afternoon, Harriet Harman defined today’s big story. No, the PM’s reshuffle plans have in no way leaked throughout a thoroughly angry and demoralised cabinet, and they are not at all about to resign en masse. The government is not in the slightest on a course to imminent implosion and Gordon Brown is not reduced to kissing babies on the news and saying nice things about Susan Boyle in a farcically doomed attempt to court popularity. Honest.

    Covered with varying degrees of glee …

    Posted in Daily View | Also tagged and | 2 Comments

    When spinning misleads: The Times and the Equality Bill

    The question of pay audits has been one of the big areas of contention within the Government ahead of the publication this week of the Equality Bill. Should firms be required to carry out an audit to see if they are paying men and women the same rate for equivalent jobs? Should small firms be exempted? How small is small? Should there be an initial voluntary phase? And so on. At various times, different camps seem to have had the upper hand in this debate, with Peter Mandelson pushing for very little on this front and Harriet Harman pushing for …

    Posted in News | Also tagged and | Leave a comment

    Clegg on Brown’s MPs’ expenses reforms: “Bringing the Brussels gravy train to Westminster is not the way to fix our expenses system.”

    The Evening Standard billboards I walked past this evening proclaimed, more than a little hyperbolically, Brown axes MPs’ expenses. The truth is a little more mundane – you can read the full text of the written statement from Commons leader Harriet Harman’s statement to the Commons setting out Labour’s proposed changes to MPs’ expenses rules via the BBC HERE.

    The headline-grabbing announcement is the scrapping of the second homes’ allowance, and its replacement with ‘a flat-rate daily allowance, based on actual attendance at Westminster on parliamentary and government business or the business of the Opposition frontbenches’ limited to the …

    Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 4 Comments

    NEW POLL: How do you solve a problem like Sir Fred?

    The debate has raged all over the weekend about what exactly the Government should do (if anything) about the £650,000 per year pension to which Sir Fred Goodwin, former chief executive of RBS, is entitled thanks to a deal struck with the bank’s board and later sanctioned by the government when it became a majority owner.

    Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman provoked a media storm when she suggested that the government might introduce legislation specifically to claw back a large part of Sir Fred’s pension. Meanwhile, Lib Dem deputy leader Vince Cable has put forward his own proposal: …

    Posted in Voice polls | Also tagged and | 10 Comments

    Opinion: Is the Fuhrerprinzip* the new basis for governing Britain?

    The latest round in the Sir Fred Goodwin saga contains possibly the most astonishing statement yet to emerge from a senior Government Minister:

    The prime minister has said that it is not acceptable and therefore it will not be accepted,”
    Harriet Harman

    This is part of the Government now talking about retrospectively changing the law to deprive Sir Fred Goodwin of his pension. The law, and acts legal at the time, will be subject to revision subject to the Prime Minister’s definition of acceptability.

    Retrospective legislation is always dubious. Better historians than me may be able to correct me, but …

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

    Missing: one marked register

    News via the Press Association:

    The SNP demanded an inquiry after it emerged that a record of everyone who voted in last year’s Glenrothes by-election has gone missing.

    The party had asked to see the marked registers from November’s crucial by-election – which resulted in a shock victory for Labour.

    I’m not hugely surprised by this, as after the 2005 general election there were numerous complaints from people who tried to access the marked register for their constituency about the records being in a poor shape, delayed for long periods on in part missing. The rules then were that marked registers were …

    Posted in Election law and News | Also tagged , , and | 6 Comments

    Lib Dems to oppose Labour/Tory attempts to weaken Freedom of Information

    Today’s Guardian reports on Labour’s latest attempts to dilute the very Freedom of Information Act (2000) which it once passed:

    Ministers today faced a backlash following the revelation that they are backing plans to exempt MPs from Freedom of Information Act legislation. The Liberal Democrats denounced the move, saying the party’s MPs would be advised to vote against the plan when it is considered in a free vote next Thursday. Tories are being urged to abstain. However, with many backbenchers from the two main parties privately in favour of the move, it is expected to be approved. …

    Downing Street defended

    Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 1 Comment

    PMQs: Vince tackles Harriet on housing

    It says something about the repellant oiliness of Cameron and the monolithic self-righteousness of Gordon Brown that I am pleased to see Harriet Harman and William Hague at the ballot box today. Mind you, for technical reasons, I am listening from the next room.

    Hague ranges over the recession’s effects on small businesses and the need to tackle unemployment – trying to cut Vince’s ground out from under him? Good luck with that. Harman: Brown is “Superman” to Cameron’s “Joker”. The hubris of these people is unbelievable. I sometimes wonder why the entire Liberal Democrat contingent doesn’t

    Posted in News and PMQs | Also tagged and | 12 Comments

    Leaked Harriet Harman email: are Labour playing party politics over Damian Green?

    Iain Dale has the leaked email and the story here.

    Posted in Parliament | Also tagged and | Leave a comment

    PMQs: Cable tackles Harman on unemployment and interest rates

    With our Superman Prime Minister currently bestriding the globe like a Colossus of financial acuity, it was left to Harriet Harman at today’s Question Time to bat for the Government and laud the financial bail-out as Gordon Brown’s Dunkirk. It was not her finest hour. Ms Harman struggled to sound on top of her brief throughout the half-hour exchange, with both Vince Cable and William Hague asking tough questions that left her visibly floundering.

    You can watch Vince’s encounter for yourself via YouTube here, or read the Hansard transcript, below:

    Posted in News and PMQs | Also tagged and | 4 Comments
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