Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Dispatch of the Day - 26th March 2008

I can't believe it. Cameron goes on the economy and doesn't suffer a crashing defeat.

The first question is on the FSA and it's recent damning report. Should the Bank of England take the lead Captain Cameron asks? Brown responds by saying the FSA has done a good job, but also needs to improve. He also quotes Frederick Forsyth who says Cameron has 'no basic grasp of arithmetic'. Pretty pathetic in my eyes, and Cameron agrees.

So Mr Brown, can you name 1 other major country that has responded to the economic downturn by putting up taxes? Nope. Another chance for Cameron to suggest that Britain should have been putting something away while times were good. We're investing, claims Brown. Cameron's next attack is on the price rises people see on milk, eggs, petrol et al. So this is it Gordon, your big chance to slam Cameron and the Tories over their economic record. Open goal.....and he fires wide! Brown claims the Tories want to cut tax to the tune of £10bn and will follow the same model as they did in 1992. And who prey tell was an economic advisor during that dark time in the 90s? Captain Cameron. Surely you can do better than that Gordon? Cameron jumps straight back up, and the theme of 'Brown won't answer the question' comes back into play. To demonstrate his mastery of basic arithmetic Cameron scoffs 'One prime minister plus one chancellor equals economic incompetence'. Brown hits back with a jibe about slogans over substance but he must know in his heart that he has messed this one up a bit. He said all the right things about unemployment, recession and interest rates and so on but he failed to make anything of it. I honestly can't believe this opportunity to slam Cameron has been lost so cheaply.

So, no news here today. Brown doesn't like answering questions or admitting he was wrong. The Tories were in power the last time the economy went belly up and favour slogans over substance.

Better again from Clegg, although he was again swatted away a little to easily. Nice questions on home repossessions I thought.

Result 1 - 1

I can hardly believe it.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Dispatch of the Day - 19th March 2008

Bit of an odd start this week, Cameron goes on China/Tibet and uses his second question to congratulate Brown on making the right decision over the Dalai Lama and not delaying the decision. Brown doesn't really know what to make of it and as he remains seated roars of laughter come from the Tory benches. It seems as if Brown may have inadvertently answered Cameron's second question on the Dali Lama before he had a chance to ask it. I don't suppose Cameron's plan was to praise the PM. Brown's quip about all his decisions being correct brings more laughter from all sides of the House (and my desk).

After only 2 questions Nick Clegg is allowed a stab at the PM and unsurprisingly brings up the issue of Gurkha's pensions and rights to remain the UK after bravely serving in the British Army. Personally I can't see much justification for Brown's position and his answer doesn't really give one. He jumps to Iraq for his second question, which I was surprised at. He should have stayed on the Gurkha question especially with the protests going on outside the House. Clegg seemed much more confident today and really had the bit between his teeth but his second question was batted away rather easily by Brown.

Cameron's second set of questions is more of the sort I had been expecting. With the economic bad news featuring in the media daily, there is no need to have a go at Brown on such issues. His questions hark back to previous ones, which Brown has failed to answer. So first up - the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill and the whipping of the peers and the potential for MPs to be whipped on matters of conscience. I have previously expressed my views on this but still Brown refuses to answer saying that the party will decide in due time. Cameron snipes back at him before moving on to ID cards. Brown says he is still in favour (a pretty straight answer) but then follows this with a direct question to Cameron about compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals. Firstly, this practice is incredibly annoying. Secondly, it sets Cameron up (and weeks ago I made the same comment) for a easy goal - Call that election and you can have 6 questions every week.

Ed Balls, after his performance at the budget, gets nicely put in his place by Cameron - "nice to see him sitting quietly" - before he moves onto A levels. Cameron wants them to stay as the gold standard, does Brown? Obviously, there is currently a ..... wait for it....government review on the subject and Brown won't commit pas the review date. Now for the killer blow and an open goal for anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Google. David Muir is the new strategist at No 10, and can you guess the title of his favourite book? The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organisations. Everyone has a good laugh and Brown's reputation takes a big hit.

Brown answers by saying that Cameron has not gone on the economy or health service because the Conservatives 'have no answers to the problems of this country'. And what problems we have.

Result 1 - 2

Happy Easter

Friday, 14 March 2008

Additional costs 'top trumps'

Additional Costs Allowance for my MP

2006/07 (ranking out of 645) - £8,502 (571st)
2005/06 - £10,027
2004/05 (ranking out of 659) - £9,537 (570th)
2003/04 (ranking out of 658) - £10,524 (557th)
2002/03 (ranking out of 657) - £9,254 (592nd)
2001/02 (ranking out of 657) - £9,232 (575th)

From here...

The list of what counts as an additional cost is here

How has yours done? can you top trump me? Have a look here for the 2006/7 breakdown.

The maximum claim per year is £22,100 and doubtless the MPs will claim that the 'John Lewis list' details the maximum they can claim and the figures should not be used to beat them around the head. So the number of members claiming between £20,000 and the maximum...388 by my count! 184 of those claimed the maximum.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Budget special


Now we've all woken up after what was a very dull hour or so the bones of the budget can be picked over. See here...

My concern is, that my mind and that of Nick Clegg seemed to be temporarily aligned. At 12.56 I blogged with Nick Robinson that Brown was an amazing ventriloquist and that I could hardly see his chin waggling. Barely an hour later, up stands Clegg and comments on Brown's ventriloquism skills. Almost word for word, although the Hon. member was much more polite than I was. Perhaps he reads the blog.

I thought Darling delivered the budget without passion, although there was not much to be passionate about. It almost looked as if he was reading it for the first time, but I'm sure Gordon had showed him a copy before today.

One might have expected Cameron to launch an offensive against Mr Darling but instead he chose to eloquently pick holes on the Budget and expose the naughty details Darling left out of his speak. It was a measured response from Cameron, who obviously hoped his indignation with the figures would speak for itself. Brown and Darling sat pulling a variety of faces from the government bench but they failed to knock Cameron off his stride.

Clegg slipped slightly from his PMQs performance but he made a few decent points. Not that anyone was listening.

The government didn't really have a lot to play with today and didn't do a bad job of covering that up. We shall see the fall out over the coming days.

Just peered from my window and the sun is shining, I better go and mend the roof.

Dispatch of the Day - 12th March 2008

In a week of giant killings in the FA cup will Cameron be able to turn around his poor recent form? The budget is also coming up today so Prime Minister turns Puppet Master for the remainder of the parliamentary session.

I suppose PMQs will take a back seat today as Captain Cameron won’t want to use his best lines before his budget speech.

Darfur first up from Cameron, a very reasonable line of questioning with the undercurrent of inaction by the government. Brown responds with his desires to have proper peace talks. This is all very reasonable stuff and the 2 captains agree, Cameron presses on the details and Brown bemoans the difficulties and need for a ceasefire. No real political point scoring, I expect that Cameron is waiting for the Budget for that.

Half time sees Captain Clegg have another bash at PMQs. His question on election expenditure and donations sees Brown stumbling over his answer. Here we have our cup upset analogy, the condescending sneering Brown tripped up by lower league Captain Clegg. His second question snipes at the Tories major donor (Lord Ashcroft) and ends with a little flourish as he tells Brown to stop sitting on his hands and do what is best for Britain not his party. Much better from Cleggy this week, but he still persists in holding that folded scrap of paper like a school boy. Surely the Lib Dems have public speaking coaches or similar?

Cameron returns to ask about whipped voting, specifically with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Many of the subjects covered by the bill (hybrids, saviour siblings et al.) are matters of conscience and should not be whipped. They were not whipped in the original bill in 1990 but are being so now. Brown really doesn’t like this and has no come back. Either doesn't know what decision to make or doesn't want to announce an unpopular one. Personally I find the whipping of votes on such issues abhorrent. Goal for Cameron but I’m not sure there is enough public knowledge about the issues for it to be more.

Result 0 – 1

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Dispatch of the Day - 5th March 2008

Another poor show from Cameron saw Brown close the gap between the two teams today.

I was quite surprised that Cameron chose the tack he did on Europe. Yes, it added to his campaign to show Brown can’t answer a simple question ('and answer came there none' quipped Cameron) and Brown's breaking of the manifesto referendum promise, but the line of questioning allowed Brown to expose the divisions within the Tory party. Far from embarrassing Brown, Cameron left the goal open for Brown to score an easy ‘Tories and Europe’ goal. Cameron’s clever comparisons (or in fact contrasts) with Blair, designed to rile Brown, seems to miss the target although I’m sure privately Brown was irritated.

Half time saw Captain Clegg get nervously to his feet to put his two questions to the PM. Or at least I think he did, it may have been a mouse squeaking. Brown continues to relish the opportunity to do down the Lib Dems and highlight the current shambles that is the party leadership. On another note, why does Clegg persist in holding a scruffy rolled up piece of paper in his hand like a school boy. Have a full set of papers in your hand man, give yourself something to flourish!

The second set of questions from Cameron focuses on the race to be London’s mayor. Brown’s policy of refusing to answer questions backfires slightly as he can’t condemn possible sleaze in the Mayor’s office. Is there a mayoral election coming up?

Result 2 - 1

The table

Position.... Team..... Won..... Drawn... Lost...... F.... A..... Points..... Form