Skip to content

Archive for October, 2010

17
Oct

The things I like about Ed Balls.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

16
Oct

Embarrassment for Lib Dems and Lembit.

Coming the same week that Boris was confirmed as the Tories’ London mayoral candidate and a month after Ken Livingstone was selected as Labour’s candidate, it’s frankly nothing short of an embarrassment for the Lib Dems that they’ve apparently delayed their candidacy decision for another year. The mayoral contest was always going to be a two-horse race – Brian Paddick came nowhere close in 2008 despite a decent campaign – but for the Lib Dems to select their candidate a year later than the other parties is surely akin to requesting a drubbing at the polls.

The decision’s also an embarrassment for Lembit Opik, the maverick former Cheeky Girl fiancé, who lost his Montgomeryshire seat in May. He was the clear favourite to win the candidacy, and the fact that the decision has been delayed is a direct message that Opik is not wanted. That’s hardly a surprise. As hard as he tries to present himself as a serious politician, the maverick/idiot in him can’t help coming to the fore – I’m reminded of the time last month when he went on Iain Dale’s LBC radio show to discuss some serious topics affecting Londoners, only to suddenly leave half way through so he could go to a comedy club.

That said, even if the party – sensibly – decided that Lembit wasn’t the right choice, I’m amazed that they were unable to persuade any other quality candidates to stand. One of their current MPs, for example – David Laws? Simon Hughes? Ming Campbell or Charles Kennedy (whisky aside) even? Even, dare I say it, Sarah Teather? In fact, thinking about it, as much as I can’t stand the woman, Teather would be a great selection – female, London-based, well-known. Either way, whoever they picked would have been a more sensible option than the ‘do nothing’ approach.

15
Oct

Tumbleweed blows across Ken’s website.

As much as Ken Livingstone is an archaic, near-antediluvian, obsolete dinosaur of an old politician, I can’t help being surprised at how unkempt his campaign website is. The site’s clearly about two months out of date. The home page talks about how “at the beginning of September, Labour Party members and members of affiliated Trade Unions will receive their ballot paper to vote who should be the Labour Party candidate for London Mayor.” All in the future tense. Likewise, the ‘Events’ page of the site gives detail of one event which he and Oona King will be attending…on 16th September.

He’s going to need to do a lot better than that – particularly when competing with Boris’s social media-savvy campaign team and 100,000-odd Twitter followers.

15
Oct

When Boris met Blatter.

Having just heard that he had to spend some time with the odious Sepp Blatter, FIFA president, on Wednesday, Boris has nothing but my full sympathy. On a serious note, he deserves credit, too, for the enthusiasm with which he has got behind England’s 2018 bid. He recognises the huge cultural, sporting and commercial benefits that hosting the World Cup would have in London, across the country and beyond.

“At the heart of England’s bid is a commitment to creating a lasting legacy. By hosting the most operationally efficient and commercially successful contest ever, what’s promised is a global fund for football to finance community projects around the world.

“In England, winning the bid could also create more than four million extra young players, 100,000 coaches, an international centre for disability football and a chance for every schoolgirl to sample the sport. We can show that football really has the power to transform lives.”

9
Oct

Dear Scottish Power.

Dear Scottish Power,

You may think you’re clever being able to provide Scottish power to a Southampton address, but it would take considerably more than that for me to think that being woken at 8am on a Saturday morning by one of your employees banging on the door requesting a meter reading is anything other than an abomination.

Furthermore, on seeing my less-than-happy face, your employee telling me “Oh, you could just phone us with the reading.” doesn’t actually improve things, on account of me already having been woken and had my entire weekend month year life ruined.

Were this to ever happen again, please understand that said employee would not return to the office alive.

Yours sincerely,

Boris Backer

9
Oct

A good betting year continues.

After correctly predicting Alan Johnson would be appointed shadow chancellor, you’ll forgive me, I hope, a brief moment of egotism as I share with you how my betting year’s gone so far.

In April, I cashed in on AP McCoy’s Grand National win, having got on Don’t Push It at 18/1, I think, before it shortened to 10/1 at the start. In May, I collected my winnings having backed the hung parliament outcome back last December. I bought in at 11/4, before it shortened to odds-on by May. In the summer, I had money on Spain to win the World Cup, and Nadal and Serena Williams to win at Wimbledon – all somewhat predictable, but profitable nonetheless. Then the other week, I won a tidy sum with a bet on Ed Miliband to win the Labour leadership contest. I got on it a couple of weeks before the result, when his older brother was still comfortably odds-on. Then, finally, today I made another packet, having yesterday whacked a tenner on Johnson to become shadow chancellor at 16/1.

Of course, for every win there’s a loss (let’s not mention the £10 I have on Liverpool to win the league this season…), but I reckon I’m maybe £600 up this year. Much appreciated beer money.

[For anyone interested in political betting specifically, I strongly recommend Mike Smithson's politicalbetting.com.]

8
Oct

Quote of the Day: Alan Johnson.

“To pick up a primer in economics for beginners!”

(Alan Johnson, when asked what his first task as shadow chancellor would be.)

4
Oct

Osborne’s benefits plans are too simplistic.

I was pleased to hear, earlier, that George Osborne plans to end some universal benefits for the richest families. It’s long amazed me that all parents - even millionaires or billionaires – receive child benefits. That it’s finally been acknowledged that not everyone needs them is both sensible and practical. I hope we do the same with other benefits - let’s stop giving the winter fuel payment, free TV licence and free bus pass to rich pensioners, for example.

However, the devil, as ever, is in the detail and I can’t say I’m too impressed with Osborne’s specific plans. Apparently, quite simply, child benefits will not be paid to any family in which one parent earns more than £44,000. There’s no tapering, no means testing, just a simple cut-off point. Ridiculous. For a start, I suspect we’ll see a greatly increased number of £43,500 salaries (and what motivation is there, for example, for someone to get a £2,000 pay-rise if it loses them £2,500 of benefits?). But even more stupidly, the plans take no account of combined parental incomes – put simply, a family in which the husband earns £44,000 and the wife stays at home (total income: £44,000) will receive no child benefits but a family in which both the husband and the wife earn £43,500 each (£87,000 total) will continue to receive the benefits.

Rethink needed?

4
Oct

Boris fights for London in conference speech.

Boris made his speech at the Tory party conference, today, giving a spirited defence of London’s budgetary needs in advance of the Comprehensive Spending Review later this month (watch it here). It was as colourful as ever, but made some serious points about how savage cuts in London would impact on the rest of the country. The threat that he “would not accept” cuts to London’s transport infrastructure will have been noted by the Treasury.

Here’s the best bit…

“If you come to City Hall I can show you the physical evidence of the cuts we have been making over the last two years, a whole Marie Celeste floor of deserted desks waiting to be rented out to another agency. I could take you to the London Development Agency, where the headcount is falling from about 600 to about 153, or to the backrooms of London Underground, where 1,000 jobs have gone with more to follow, under a £5 billion programme of savings. We have cut the colour photocopying, we have cut the business cards, we have even cut the sandwiches from the TFL board lunches, but I can not and will not recommend that this country should embark on a programme of cuts to London’s basic transport infrastructure – the buses, the railways, the Tube, that would damage the ability of this country to compete internationally, and to generate jobs for decades to come.

When you look at a London bus, you are looking at seat fabric from Huddersfield, and windows from Runcorn, and destination blinds from Manchester, with bodywork and chassis assembled all over the country, from Falkirk to Guilford to Scarborough, to Leeds to Rotherham to Blackburn, to Ballymena, and when you look at the tube railway, you see rails that are made in Scunthorpe, where there are 350 jobs, and conductor rail from Chard in Somerset where there are 180 jobs, concrete sleepers from Sandiacre in Derbyshire, and 800 people working on signalling at Chippenham in Wiltshire, and ballast for railtrack quarried in Yorkshire, and stockpiled in Wellingborough.

There are 60 jobs making timber sleepers at Boston in Lincolnshire, the constituency of my old friend and colleague, John Hayes, and I hope that my old chum will join me with all his redoubtable campaigning fire and fight for London transport, and I hope we will be joined by the people of Derby, where we are making our new air conditioned trains, and by the people of Crewe where rail parts are manufactured, and by the people of Coventry and Portsmouth and Worthing.

What do we have in Worthing? We have the congestion charge correspondence unit, and if that body is not popular anywhere else, it is popular in Worthing…”

[Read the whole speech here.]

4
Oct

Proud to be European. This weekend.

Once every two years, my politics changes for a weekend. I wave the Flag of Europe, I hope for unprecedented European integration and collaboration, I hope for Europe to be an all-powerful, all-conquering, dominant force…

Many congratulations to Colin Montgomerie and his European team for regaining the Ryder Cup!