Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Ashworth’

Parliamentary notebook: Cameron’s wafer-thin majority belies the Tories’ Queens Speech triumphalism

27/05/2015, 07:00:08 AM

by Jonathan Ashworth

Today, us MPs will be summoned to the other place to hear Her Majesty’s Gracious Address, the first Queen’s speech by a majority Conservative government for almost 19 years.

Later, in the Commons, jubilant Tory MPs will wave their order papers and cheer the returning triumphant prime minister Cameron to the rafters. His every (lame) gag will be met with guffaws as if he’s now the Tory answer to Peter Kay. Every snide put-down of an opponent will be met with much whooping and exaggerated slapping of thighs.

As the prime minister exits the chamber and heads for his customary glass of claret in the members’ dining room, ambitious Tory MPs will queue up to shake his hand. And let’s face it, given the scale of our defeat who can blame them?

But although our defeat in the country was resounding the parliamentary arithmetic that has consequently been thrown up offers even the most pessimistic Labour Uncut correspondent some hope.

Five years ago when Harriet Harman spoke for the opposition in the Queen’s speech debate she faced government benches with a working majority of 83. Today she will be opposite government benches with a working majority of just 16.

In the last Parliament, government MPs rebelled in 35 per cent of divisions. In those votes where the opposition defeated the government we won often because Tory MPs – many of whom have just been re-elected to the Commons – routinely voted against their own side.

(more…)

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Monday News Review

14/03/2011, 06:18:28 AM

Lib Dems force rethink on NHS reforms

Nick Clegg yesterday made a desperate attempt to prevent a Lib Dem revolt over the Tories’ NHS shake-up. Just hours after Party activists voted against the reforms, the Deputy Prime Minister insisted the Coalition was not trying to privatise the health service. The plans will let market forces run riot in the NHS and senior Lib Dems fear it will inflict more damage on them than the broken tuition fees promise. But, speaking at the spring conference yesterday, Mr Clegg said: “What I need you to know is all of us in Government are listening and that we take those concerns seriously.” Mr Clegg also used his speech in Sheffield to rally his Party after the Barnsley by-election battering. Responding to claims he was too close to the Tories, he joked: “I haven’t been kidnapped by David Cameron, I haven’t changed one bit.” He added: “Yes, we’ve had to toughen up. But we will never lose our soul.” The Deputy PM mocked Mr Cameron for opposing electoral reform. He said the only people in the “No” to the alternative vote camp were the Conservatives, the BNP, John Prescott, Norman Tebbit and David Owen. Mr Clegg was also ridiculed for claiming the Coalition was “not a cuts Government”. Labour MP Tom Watson said: “He’s living in cloud cuckoo land.” – Daily Mirror

Ministers signalled a potential climbdown over the Government’s controversial health reforms last night – after Liberal Democrats delivered Nick Clegg a bloody nose on the issue. Tory Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the reforms, which would put GPs in charge of the £80billion NHS commissioning budget, remained ‘under review’ in the wake of criticism from inside and outside Government. Critics claim the changes will break up the NHS and lead to greater privatisation and less accountability. Lib Dem activists at the party’s spring conference threw out a motion supporting the Government’s health reforms over the weekend and replaced it with a text that was highly critical of the changes. The British Medical Association will also debate a series of critical motions on the reforms at an emergency conference later this week – including one expressing no confidence in Mr Lansley. – Daily Mail (more…)

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The Uncuts: 2010 political awards

31/12/2010, 07:30:03 AM

It’s been a busy old year. Gordon departed. Cameron and Clegg moved the brokeback wagons into Downing Street. Gideon slashed and burned. Vince tried to waltz his way into some young “constituent’s'” knickers and Ed beat David.

After the arguments over the electoral college in Manchester, and the luke warm tussling over AV we thought it best to pick our winners rather than have a readers vote. The old fashioned way. Feel free to add yours in the comments.

Politician of the year

There really could only be one winner:

George Osborne

Filled with his own self importance, and a belief that he was born to do this. He had the audacity to call his budget “progressive” while slashing and burning with that trademark smirk. But in all serious political circles he has earned (grudging) respect. As Cameron twists and turns, Nick jumps through hoops and Vince dances around a resignation, Gideon has become the rock at the heart of the Cameron government. Well advised, well rehearsed and well… impressive. Let’s hope 2011 isn’t as good a year for the man who could keep Labour out of power for the next decade.

Runners up:

Ed Miliband won against the odds. Has finally beefed up his team and started landing punches. A win in Oldham East &  Saddleworth followed by a good showing in the locals could give him the momentum to really take on the government in 2011.

David Cameron. He won. Just. He made it into Number 10. Just. He ends the year with decent poll numbers all things considered, a “radical” programme and a sturdy majority (courtesy of his Lib Dem pals). Fair dos. Not a bad position for a PM to be in.

Best supporting politician

Winner:

Nick Clegg. Like The Man from Del Monte in the old ads who liked to say “yes”, Clegg’s willingness to hop into bed with Cameron and accept his “big, comprehensive offer” now gives him more clout than any of his predecessors since Lloyd George. But at what price?

Runners up:

David Miliband for his magnanimous speech at conference.

Gordon Brown for not backseat driving.

Harriet Harman for super-subbing during the summer, although lost marks for her fingerprints – or at least dinner plates – being all over the Hewitt/Hoon plot.

Geraldine Smith (late of Morecombe & Lunesdale) whose gutsy defences of Gordon and denunciation of all wannabe coup-ists was a sight to behold.

Brass neck of the year

What a 'Jeremy Hunt'

Winner:

Nick Clegg for his volte face on tuition fees.

Runners up:

Hewitt and Hoon for their risible, back-of-a-fag-packet plot to oust Gordon Brown.

George Osborne for calling the budget “progressive”.

Tony Blair for saying Bank of England independence was his idea in A Journey.

Liam Fox for his “fury” over his leaked letter to Cameron about defence cuts. 

The man behind the man award

Winner:

Stewart Wood From Peter Parker to Spiderman. The bespeckled Oxford don and foreign policy adviser to Brown became the war time consigliere to Miliband Jnr. Masterminding the tortoise vs the hare victory over Miliband Snr. Now a peer with his sights set on taking down Sayeeda Warsi.

Runners up:

Sue Nye Respected for her long-suffering loyalty to successive Labour leaders and unfairly fingered for Gordon Brown’s Mrs. Duffy encounter (“It was Sue” squealed the nark). Bows out both well-liked and well-respected.

Ray Collins for helping keep the Labour show on the road and ensuring that Labour did not do as badly as some predicted. Or end up as broke.

Off to a flying start award

Winner:

Rory Stewart for his less than generous remarks about the sartorial standards of his constituents.

Runners up:

Mark Reckless Crazy name, crazy guy. Too pissed to vote. His “I don’t intend to drink in Westminster again” pledge is one that Westminster’s watering-hole watchers will be keeping their bleary eyes on.

Chris Kelly the publicity hungry backbencher is rumoured to be taking his chicken whisperer act on “Britain’s got talent” next year.

Survivor of the year

Winner:

Andy Coulson. Like all spin doctors, a wannabe Rasputin. And like the mad monk, seemingly unkillable. He ends the year in situ. But the phone hacking scandal is not going away.

Runners up:

Vince Cable One time Lib Dem treasure, ended the year on a low after trying to impress two young undercover journos with his “nuclear option.” Neutered but still walking. Just.

Jonathan Ashworth. It is said that in the event of a nuclear holocaust Jonathan Ashworth will still be working in the Labour leader’s office. 3 masters in 12 months.

Gisela Stewart. One of the bright points of a grey evening was seeing Birmingham Edgbaston – the first seat to indicate the Labour landslide back in 1997 – stay Labour.

Nigel Farage. A plane crash at the general election, a train crash of a successor. Britain’s favourite little Englander still stands.

Political battle of the year

Winners:

Miliband vs Miliband. Part A river runs through it, part The Godfather II. It was what it was always going to be: two brothers divided by their determination to get the top job. It leaves a legacy. It must. But is there more drama to come?

Runners up:

Osborne vs Mandelson. You might think you know which one is the better politician, but only one of them masterminded their way into government this year

Balls vs Gove. Michael Gove’s early billing as a star of this Tory generation took a near fatal hammering from a brutal master of political pugilism, Ed Balls. Gove’s calamitous decision to axe the building schools for the future programme was made to hurt more than he ever imagined it could.

Adam Boulton vs Alistair Campbell. Did Sky want the Tories to win the election? At a corporate level we can be fairly sure that it did. At a journalistic level? Hard to say. But Boulton’s reaction shows that the accusation strikes close to the bone.

(Ex) minister of the year award

Winner:

Alistair Darling To emerge, as chancellor, from a beaten government and a tanking economy with your reputation enhanced is truly a remarkable achievement and the mark of a quietly brilliant man.

Runners up:

Kenneth Clarke The Tory right may be screaming for his head, yet his enlightened approach to prison reform may set penal policy in a direction that actually works. But will Cameron’s nerve hold and keep Ken where he is?

Bob Ainsworth An unlikely hippy, it’s safe to say, but his recent call for drugs reform was a significant intervention from a former minister who knows that the “war on drugs” was lost long ago. The number of people who secretly agree with him but would never dream of saying so is a small part of everything that is wrong with politics.

The Jo Moore award for PR disaster of the year

Winner:

Bigot-gate Gordon Brown’s description of Rochdale pensioner, Gillian Duffy, as “that bigoted woman” was the undoubted numero uno gaffe of the general election campaign. Few recall, however, that Labour took Rochdale from the Lib Dems on election night.

Runners up:

Fire up the Quatro poster. A spectacularly ill-judged Labour campaign which turned Cameron into one of the country’s most loved TV characters.

Airbrushed Cameron Equally backfiring idea, which showed Cameron to be even more plastic and artificial than he is.

Liam Byrne – His “there’s no money left” note to his successor, David Laws, was quickly used as a stick to beat him with. A colossal mistake by an otherwise smart man.

The fourth (rate) estate award

#Hackinggate Non-reporting of the biggest media scandal in decades. Guilty consciences all around Fleet Street as no-one seriously doubts that the culture of phone hacking goes well beyond one rogue reporter at the News of the World. We know this because people keep owning up to it in the Guardian. Yet, apparently, this despicable practice, the gross and illegal abuse of privilege, doesn’t warrant a mention in the vast majority of the press.

Runners up:

Nick Clegg’s Nazi Slur on Britain One of the most pathetic days in recent British journalistic history. Andy Coulson got exactly the headlines he wanted. Those responsible – editors and scribblers – damaged their own reputations to suck up to their future bosses, and Lib Dem central office wasted a day fighting fires started by lickspittle. Tawdry, tawdry stuff.

Kay Burley Sky News’s afternoon anchor. Just type her name in to YouTube. Enough said.

Prediction of the year

Winner:

Dan Hodges for his “David Miliband has won” prediction on Uncut, five days before the coronation ceremony. At which Ed was crowned.

Runners up:

Benedict BroganCameron will be PM by tea time on Friday”.

Nick Robinson “David Miliband will win”‘ prediction, about 90 seconds before he lost.

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Conference diary III: per non cambiare nulla…

28/09/2010, 11:18:12 AM

As ancient as Rome, as implacable as Sicily, is Lampedusa’s iron law of politics: “bisogna cambiare tutto per non cambiare nulla (everything must change, so that nothing changes) ”.

And so it was last night for two staffers overheard in the Midland bar:

“You’ll never guess who’s doing the Sue Nye job, this week at least”?

“No. Who”?

“Go on, guess”.

“I don’t know. Who?”

“Sue Nye”.

“Of course. Should have known.”

(Sue Nye has worked for Labour leaders since Callaghan. She was gatekeeper to Neil Kinnock and then to Gordon Brown from before the treasury till the last days in Downing Street. She is married to Gavyn Davies, the Goldman Sachs partner who also chaired the BBC).

Other at least interim team Ed Miliband staffers include Jonathan Ashworth (Brown, Harman), Rachel Kinnock (Blair, Brown, Team EM) and Anna Yearley (PLP, Brown, Team EM).

* * * (more…)

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The leader we have: inside the leaders’ office

11/06/2010, 02:08:39 PM

“And all the sons I might have had mean nothing, for I have a son.”  So wrote James Baldwin.

And so it is with the leadership.  While Diane and the boys spend the summer in a four month penalty shootout, Harriet has quietly slipped on the captain’s armband.

If the coalition collapses in August – which is very unlikely, but not impossible – it will be Harriet who leads Labour’s reponse. (more…)

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