Saturday, June 23, 2007

Basildon Rebuilding

We are off an running for the Basildon Town Centre procurement process, and we have had a decent amount of coverage in the specialist press. The aim is to find a partner for the planned £1bn redevelopment of the Town Centre, using the mandatory OJEU process, and if you are genuinely interested in that then I suggest you Google it. If you are interested in Basildon Town Centre, on the other hand, the link is here.

It is early days for this project, but so far it has gone well. Most encouraging has been the co-operation from the different public agenices, not lead the Communites and Local Government department, which is funding the procurement process, and the support from across Basildon's political divide. If you know Basildon politics, then you know what an achievement that is.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Brown's Dirty Tricks

Brown has said that he wants to form a government of 'all the talents'. This is a lie, and it is the sort of lie that gives politics a bad name because everyone knows that it is a lie, but everyone, commentators, politicos, journalists has to act as if it isn't. It really is not the case that Brown cannot fill up his ministerial ranks with those available on the Labour benches. It is certainly not the case that the Liberal Democrats have people of such 'talent' that they would be a unique asset to any government. What the Liberal Democrats would bring to the government would be votes for the Labour party at an election. The problem from the Liberal Democrat perspective is that they would mainly be switchers from the Liberal Democrats to Labour, something that worries Brown not one jot. From his perspective a few Liberal Democrats in his coalition plants him firmly in the crowded centre ground, while the LibDems take all of the electoral risk. There are relatively few people who wouldn't vote Labour if they associated with the Liberal Democrats, but there are plenty of people who would be turned off a Liberal Democrat party in bed with Labour instead of in opposition to them. And if it all goes pear-shaped, which of course it has, who gets hurt? Not Brown, but Ming Campbell, who now looks weaker than ever.

So, tonight Brown and company are probably pleased with their scheming, but they really shouldn't be. In politics it is possible to be too clever; integrity matters and if people don't trust you then they tend not to believe you, at which point it doesn't matter what you are saying or what message you are trying to deliver. After this, quite a lot of people won't trust Brown. Some of the them will be Liberal Democrat politicians, which doesn't matter unless there is a hung parliament. Some of them will be his own back bench MPs, which doesn't matter, unless there is a close vote in the Commons. Some of them will be ordinary members of the public, which doesn't matter, unless, of course, there is an election some day.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Labour and the Liberal Democrats have been talking about a coalition. This was this morning’s revelation, that the two parties of the Left have been cosying up to each other behind closed doors with a view to including such talent as can be found on the LibDem benches in Brown’s first government. Then someone blew the gaff, and it’s not quite clear who. Was it Brown wanting to clear the decks after failed negotiations, or was it a LibDem insider who thought the whole idea mad? The latter seems more likely. If Basildon in Britain in microcosm, our experience suggests that it is the Liberal Democrats who suffer by getting too close to Labour. We used to have 17 Liberal Democrats on our Council, but then they made the tactical error of supporting a Labour administration that was already pretty unpopular with their own voters. This was pointed out at some length by the local Tories and a few elections later we are now down to 3 LibDems. A Brown/Ming deal could see that scenario writ large. With the only opposition to the government falling to the Conservatives, the result could be carnage for LibDem MPs and it is not surprising if one of them showed a few vestiges of a survival instinct.

This fiasco doesn’t hurt Brown, but it really hurts Ming, who wasn’t exactly smiling Mr. Popular anyway. The LibDem leadership stakes is increasingly looking a worthwhile punt.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Postcode Lottery

There is a new drug to treat Myeloma, somthing that I am quite interested in as I am currently in remission from that ghastly disease. Revlimid - or lenalidomide - has been given marketing approval by the European Medicines Agency, which is great as trials suggest that it markedly increases the survival chances of people who have already had treatment but where the disease has returned. One of the fun things about Myeloma is that the disease usually returns, so this is a very likely scenario. The trouble is that for England and Wales NICE, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, or Cost Effectiveness as it is wryly known in the medical profession, now has the ball. Their past record is not stellar, delaying or denying drugs that are available almost anywhere else in the developed world because of some arcane actuarial calculation. They did this with Velcade for Myeloma, and Herceptin for breast cancer to name but two. Let's hope their process doesn't end up with doctors having to tell patients that it isn't a good use of resources to keep them alive. Let's hope that in the interim NHS trusts don't refuse to prescribe Revlimid while they wait for NICE count the beans.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Law and Order

Fred Thompson is tooling up for a run at the Republican nomination for President. Here he is speaking at the Policy Exchange in Stories Gate London on the 19th of June. He may look vaguely familiar...

One Last Row

It seems that predictions of trouble at Tony Blair's last act as Prime Minister being a major EU negotiation have been borne out. Geoff Hoon, the Europe Minister and noted Brown loyalist, has suggested that an unfavourable outcome from the forthcoming Brussels summit could lead to a referendum in Britain before any agreement is finally ratified. As the Daily Telegraph puts it:
Both Downing Street and officials representing Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, reacted furiously, believing Mr Hoon was suggesting that Mr Blair and Mrs Beckett may meekly sell out British interests in a cowardly late-night deal at the summit.
The threat seems to be that if Beckett and Blair land Brown with any kind of political problem then there will be a referendum. Since that would almost certainly see both the then PM Gordon Brown and the Conservative opposition advocating a 'No' vote then such a referendum would almost certainly be lost. So, what Brown is saying via Hoon is that he reserves the right to abrogate any deal that he doesn't like. This puts Blair in a pretty humiliating position when it comes to actually trying to conduct negotiations with the other EU leaders. No wonder he is miffed, but he only has himself to blame. He shouldn't be out representing Britain at negotiations for a binding treaty with only 5 days left on the job, and if he is then he should have squared his position away with the incoming Prime Minister. That Brown feels that he has to do this says all that needs to be said about the working relationship between the two men who have been running our country for the last 10 years.

Monday, June 18, 2007

BBC Notices that it's Biased

BBC has a soft-left bias! Next, Pope found to be Catholic and bears seen to defecate in the woods. No-one with a central nervous system could have failed to notice what is described as the 'liberal' agenda of the BBC that colours its news reporting and makes most of its drama qualify as fantasy. The corporation spent years attacking the last Conservative government and fawning on New Labour, and even after they fell out with Labour government during the Kelly affair there was an air of denial in the coverage, like an abused spouse claiming that the other half 'loves them really'. You won't find a fashionable cause unlauded, a terrorist's point of view unrepresented or a sympathetic right-wing character in a BBC programme. There is no BBC equivalent of House MD, the very un-PC doctor played by Hugh Laurie in the excellent US series, and any policeman or intelligence officer as a protagonist must be angst-ridden and conflicted. This from an organisation so right-on that they admit that they would cheerfully abuse a Bible but not a Koran.

Stop press: rain is wet.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Blair's EU Swansong

There is an EU summit on the 21st and 22nd of June, at which German Chancellor Angela Merkel will seek to revive the EU constitution. This, as you may recall, was rejected by the voters of France and Holland and then shelved, but now it's back and with it the proposal that more UK law should be decided elsewhere.

So, who's going into bat for Britain at the Brussels event? Well, this is where it gets a little odd. The British government team will be headed by Tony Bliar, who will cease to be Prime Minister on the 27th of June, and the other key player is Margaret Beckett, who is not tipped to remain as Foreign Secretary when Gordon Brown takes over. We don't have the A-team, we have the ex-team, a delegation that can be confident that they won't have to take any of the political pain of anything that they agree to. Tony Blair in particular may have interests other than the national interest in mind, when you consider that he may want the EU Presidency to one day become a line on his CV.

If I was Gordon Brown I would be a tad concerned.