Friday, November 10, 2006

Johnson for Deputy?

Colour me Impreseed. Alan Johnson's team are saying they have 70 MPs pledged to support him and they were prepared to name names until asked not to by No 10. .

That's way above expectations- especially since he's been widely regarded as damaged since conference. I expected there to be less, mostly because MPs don't like to back a candidate when there's not much to gain and a lot to lose by committing early.

It will be fascinating to see the names. The ones I've heard so far are very moderate to Blairite.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

A stunning revelation

This Mary Ann Sieghart article in the Times today contains barely a shred of evidence supporting its thesis about women voters preferences.

However, if you do find and replace, finding the word "women" and replacing it with the phrase "Mary Ann Sieghart" it suddenly makes perfect sense.


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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The morning after the night before.

God. I'm knackered. Spent the night rather enjoyably hanging out at politicalbetting commenting on the US elections, and rather less enjoyably watching the appallingly bad coverage on Sky (with an honourable exception for Andrew Wilson).

Looks like the Democrats have got a good chance of winning both the House and the Senate. They're ahead in both tight races in Virginia and Montana with recounts looming in one or both.

In the House, looks like the Democrats looking at about 30 gains, giving them a pretty decent margin.

A good day for the Democratic party.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Don't bother with the Lobby pass, Guido.

I understand Guido Fawkes has applied to have an orange L stamped on his Commons pass.

He shouldn't bother. If he slips Gallery news a small wedge he can save himself the trouble of blogging the Lobby.

As a sample of the wares on offer.... today's highlight, and I bloody hope it's fair use.

"The Downing Street spokesman was asked if the Prime Minister would donate a day's pay to the Farepak Fund - as proposed by minister Ian McCartney for all MPs - to recompense families who have lost up to £40m from their Christmas Fund.

The spokesman replied, " I think Mr McCartney said it was a matter for individual MPs. I do not think it is my domain. MPs will make their own individual decisions."

What does the spokesman for the individual MP for Sedgefield think that individual MP would do, he was asked.

" I have not had time to ask the individual member for Sedgefield. I could not interrupt the press conference with the Polish Prime Minister. That would not have been a very good idea.

" MPs will make up their own minds in their own good time, " he said.

One correspondent said, " May I make a suggestion - do not make that suggestion to Mrs Blair.

The spokesman said, " Shall I pass that on to Mrs Blair from you personally, " he asked.

"No," said the correspondent.

" What is that worth, " asked the spokesman.

" A day's pay, " said the correspondent's colleague."

Cockpit of the nation.

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Party Funding reform- consequences again....

Money is like water. It flows around obstacles.

Think back to the last time the Government regulated funding of political parties.

In response to the fact that donations were untraceable, secret and were often obtained from abroad, Labour introduced the Electoral Commission, made all donations above a certain limit public knowledge, said only UK businesses and individuals could donate. In addition, the Government limited national election spend in the year before the election- while allowing candidates to campaign locally before the election was called.

The response?

Political parties of all kinds took out loans from donors and only declared them under duress, the Conservatives funded local campaigns through Richard Ashcroft and a shadowy group called the Midlands Industrial Council while the Liberal Democrats took a donation from a Spanish-based tax exile through what now appears to be a front company used for money laundering.

All of these were unintended consequences of a laudable desire to clean up political funding.

This isn’t an argument against reform. The victory for the reforms was that we know about it, not that the money stopped flowing.

We know a lot more now about political funding than we did a decade ago and this is a good thing. Sure, at the moment my party is getting the stick, but we’re in Government and it’s to be expected. Whatever the short term headlines, it’s a price worth paying for greater openness in the system.

Yet it would be stupid to pretend that the next set of reforms won’t also have unintended consequences.

It’s only by surveying the laws as burglar shops and houses do, to see where one might best break through that you can try and mitigate the unintended consequences.

The Hayden Phillips review on Party funding has set out three possible scenarios, but reading carefully I suspect that the package we might well end up with will look like this:

1. Donation limits for individuals and companies, but an exception for affiliated groups where they represent a collection or routing of low level individual donations (eg a Trade Union political fund).

2. A tax incentive or similar form of public support, weighted to encourage small scale donations.

3. A limit on local spending over a longer period, say a year before a General Election.

4. No real change for outside bodies.

If we get something like this, I’d expect to see the following responses.

1. Minimal or zero membership fees with donations sought instead to qualify for tax relief on donations. Result: A bit of a boost for the Lib dems in funding. Good for Tories too as tax breaks help their wealthier membership base donate more. Labour happy as trade union relationships preserved.

2. Increased emphasis on internet fund-raising.

3. Increased gifts of money to outside organisations for campaigning outside of election periods.

4. As a result of the above, growth of organisations like the Taxpayers
alliance, with emphasis on developing a stronger local campaign presence.

5. Reduced national party spend in election compensated for by increase in spend by outside bodies.

So how would this look during an election campaign? More to come..

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US Mid Terms prediction time

After taking a punt on John Kerry at 1.35/1 after getting a heads-up on the early exits and losing, I'm not betting this time. I want the Democrats to win too badly to think it through clearly.

That said my predictions are as follows:

1. Dems gain 5 seats in Senate taking it to 50-50 (counting Lieberman and Sanders as Dems).

Rhode Island, Pennsylvannia, Ohio, Missouri and Montana go D

Maryland and New Jersey stay Dem

Virginia, Arizona and Tennessee stay R.

Missouri and Virginia are the races I'm least sure about, but if I rate them boh as toss ups, it looks like the R's are doing better in the South than the west... so let's split it on that basis.

Intriguingly, If Chaffee wins RI, Lieberman win Ct and the Dems win Virginia and Missouri, Chaffee and Lieberman will effectively control the Senate....

2. Lieberman wins in Ct, but by less than polls predict.

Lamont's been pouring money in in the last week and has a good ground game and I think the Ballot paper is bad for Lieberman.

3. Dems gain 22 in the House.

It's a guess. I've taken the 13 "likely Dem" seats and added 9 of the 14 toss up races.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

OK you freaks. here's that Barbara Amiel picture you've been searching for.

10% of my traffic today came from people searching for Barbara Amiel pictures.

Honestly, what's wrong with you? She's 66 and married, guys.

Still, give your public what they want and all that.

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Unintended Consequences.

The Lawyers, of whose Art the Basis
Was raising Feuds and splitting Cases,
….. to defend a wicked Cause,
Examin'd and survey'd the Laws;
As Burglars Shops and Houses do;
To find out where they'd best break through.
Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees

Party Funding Reform- The problem.

Reading the papers over the weekend, I thought a little about what the political landscape will look like when the current debates on party funding and loans for peerages have played out.

I don’t mean in regard to prosecutions. Personally, I suspect that any putative case is pretty thin, so pressure is being put on publicly in the hope that either someone will say something incriminating or that a decision to act against someone, anyone will result. I confess though, that I know absolutely nothing about the case.

No, I’m thinking about party funding.

More specifically, I’m thinking about a political funding environment that restricts donation levels or loans to political parties. They have a system like that in the US, and it’s led not to a decrease in political campaign funding, but in a re-routing of money from the Party to the outside campaign body.

For example, this ad running in Montana is a straight out attack on the Democratic candidate, John Tester. It’s called BrokeBank Democrats. (Those democrats, both gay and fiscally irresponsible!)

The ad is paid for by an organisation called The Free Enterprise Fund, which is funded by a some of the same people who also funded the infamous “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.”

So what’s that got to do with us? Only the fact that this is probably where we’re going too, so we better think carefully if we want this kind of campaigning.

More to come..

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