Posts Tagged ‘Tom Baldwin’

Ed Miliband knew Livingstone was an anti-Semitic conspiracy nutter FOUR YEARS ago but STILL backed him for London Mayor

01/05/2016, 09:21:31 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Revelations on Ken Livingstone’s anti-Semitic views might have led the news in recent days, but Ed Miliband was fully aware of them in 2012.

Despite this, he still gave Livingstone his full backing at the last London Mayoral election.

The evidence that Labour’s leadership understood the detail of Livingstone’s opinions came yesterday in two devastating tweets from Miliband’s top spinner and consigliere, Tom Baldwin.

The purpose behind Tom Baldwin’s tweets was to highlight the anti-racist bona fides of his old boss but inadvertently he made the classic PR’s mistake: to confuse presentation and substance.

Before the 2012 Mayoral election, when Ed Miliband was on the stump for Livingstone, he knew exactly what Livingstone thought about Hitler, Zionism and the Jewish people.

He knew enough to force Livingstone to excise the relevant passages from his memoirs but did not feel sufficiently strongly to take action against the candidate for the substance of his anti-Semitic views.


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Monday News Review

11/07/2011, 06:29:49 AM

Rupert returns

Rupert Murdoch put on an extraordinary show of support for Rebekah Brooks yesterday – apparently unconcerned about her imminent interview under police caution. Flying into London to take personal charge of the phone-hacking scandal, the billionaire flaunted his confidence in his News International chief executive. Mrs Brooks, who has twice offered to resign over the controversy, was seen entering Mr Murdoch’s Mayfair apartment at around 5.30pm yesterday. Later, when asked what was his top priority, the 80-year-old media mogul gestured to Mrs Brooks. ‘She is,’ he replied.  The pair spent an hour in the apartment discussing the scandal on the day the final edition of the News of the World hit news stands. Then, in front of hordes of photographers, Mr Murdoch walked her out of the block of flats with his arm firmly around her. They had beaming smiles as they crossed the road to the Stafford Hotel, where they were expected to dine together and were later joined by Mr Murdoch’s son, James, the chairman of News International. Pictures of the ‘Rupert and Rebekah show’ will infuriate the victims of phone hacking and those who question her denials. – Daily Mail

For more than 30 years now there have been two truths about Rupert Murdoch’s increasingly infrequent visitations to the British outpost of his media empire. The first: anyone who is anyone in the world of politics and business angles for (and is delighted by) any kind of audience with the great man. The second is the chill his visit engenders amongst his senior editors and executives in Wapping. Yesterday as Mr Murdoch’s corporate Boeing 737 jet, complete with a boardroom and double bed, touched down at Luton Airport, it was clear how much has changed in the last week. The chill in Wapping is still there – worse than ever – but the audiences for Mr Murdoch have dried up. He and his company – feted by David Cameron and Ed Miliband just two weeks ago at the News International Summer Party – have become a political liability. To paraphrase the famous quote: “It was News of the World wot lost it”. Yesterday Downing Street made it very clear that Mr Cameron would be neither meeting nor speaking to Mr Murdoch on this visit. Privately Government sources are blunter. They are incandescent at the political damage done by the phone-hacking scandal and angry that News Corp has not voluntarily suspended its attempted takeover of BSkyB in the wake of the allegations. – the Independent

Hinton could be the moat senior casualty

Les Hinton, Rupert Murdoch‘s lifelong lieutenant and closest adviser, faces questions over whether he saw a 2007 internal News International report, which found evidence that phone hacking was more widespread than admitted by the company, before he testified to a parliamentary committee that the practice was limited to a single reporter. News of the existence of the 2007 report – the conclusions of which were kept hidden from the public, MPs and police – came as Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corporation, arrived in the UK to deal directly with the rapidly developing crisis. The collection of memos that formed the inquiry were sent to the Metropolitan police earlier this year. This step came after executives who had joined NI more recently discovered its existence and sent it to the Operation Weeting team investigating News of the World phone hacking. Despite the alleged conclusions of the memos, NI executives repeatedly went on the record to say hacking was confined to a single “rogue reporter” – and gave evidence to parliament that that was the case.  The Guardian understands that Hinton was among five NI executives who had access to the report. The then News of the World editor, Colin Myler, and legal counsel, Tom Crone, are also understood to have seen it. Hinton – an employee of Murdoch for 52 years – was succeeded by James Murdoch, who it is understood had no knowledge of the 2007 internal inquiry until recently. He joined NI from BSkyB, where he had been chief executive. Also in the dark was Rebekah Brooks, who at the time was editing the Sun. – the Guardian

Rupert Murdoch’s right hand man could become the highest-profile casualty of the scandal engulfing News Corp. Dow Jones chief executive Les Hinton looks set to be dragged into the firing line after it emerged a report was commissioned in 2007 – on his watch – showing that phone hacking may not have been restricted to royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. Hinton, who after 52 years at the company is seen as a key Murdoch henchman, faces tough questions over whether he saw the report before he testified to a parliamentary committee that the phone hacking scandal was carried out by a “single rogue reporter”. Sources close to News Corp have been forced to deny that James Murdoch or Rebekah Brooks had knowledge of the report, which was carried out by law firm Harbottle & Lewis on behalf of the News of the World. The memo was finally handed over to police last month – four years after it was penned. Brooks was editor of sister publication the Sun at the time, which was not implicated in the scandal, and James Murdoch was at BSkyB. It now looks likely that heads will have to roll over the report. – City A.M.

Cameron’s ‘power to the people’ proposals

Virtually all public services would be privatised under “wrecking ball” plans to be unveiled today by David Cameron. The Prime Minister is to announce that companies will get the chance to run everything from elderly care and bin collection to schools and hospitals. Only the Armed Forces, the police and the courts system will escape Mr Cameron’s huge shake-up. In a speech today outlining his plans, he will accuse public servants of running “old-fashioned, top-down, take-what-you’re-given” services that are “just not working for a lot of people”. Sources close to the Prime Minister say all public services will be opened up to the private sector and the Government will be “neutral” on who runs them. But union leaders attacked the plans. Unison’s Dave Prentis said: “The Tories are now turning their wrecking ball on to the entire public sector.” But the PM, stung by criticism that he has made too many U-turns, has vowed to press ahead with the idea regardless of opposition. But Labour, which has backed the Mirror’s Save Our Services campaign, has accused the Tory-led Government of relying too heavily on private firms. – Daily Mirror

David Cameron will today set out “urgent” plans to boost significantly the role of charities, community groups and private companies in running services such as health, child care and education. Under the reforms, outside organisations could bid for work including ”mutual’’ companies formed by public sector workers and based on the John Lewis Partnership, the department store chain partly owned by its staff. Publishing the Open Public Services White Paper, the Prime Minister will insist he is not going to back down on his plans for reform, despite the doubts of some senior Conservatives. The Daily Telegraph understands that the paper will commit ministers to examine the case for a new “overarching” right to choice for all public services. The new law could be modelled on existing rules in education, which ensure that parents are given a choice of schools by their council. Such a choice could then be extended to anyone who uses state-funded services. Government sources say that the “right to choose” would mean that public sector bodies – including councils – would be forced to consider letting outside organisations provide public services. The John Lewis-style “mutual” companies would allow staff to have a say on how their service was run. Outside bodies running services will operate on the basis of “payment by results” contracts, giving them a clear financial incentive to deliver. – Daily Telegraph

Labour braces itself for Baldwin attack

A senior News International journalist warned Labour that the company’s papers intended to “turn on Ed Miliband and his staff” days before allegations were published in The Sunday Times and The Sun about his strategy director Tom Baldwin. The Independent understands the warning was made to a Labour spokesman hours after Mr Miliband had called on Wednesday for the resignation of News International’s chief executive Rebekah Brooks. Three days later, The Sun carried a story claiming that Mr Baldwin had been a heavy user of cocaine. Yesterday, The Sunday Times carried a story which said he had been accused – in a previous job – of hiring a private investigator to “blag” the bank details of the Conservative donor Michael Ashcroft. The broad theme of both allegations had been made in a book by Lord Ashcroft, which was published five years ago.  But the decision by The Sun and The Sunday Times to attack Mr Baldwin has caused tensions at The Times, where he was formerly chief reporter until he accepted the job with Mr Miliband in December last year. In his previous role, Mr Baldwin would not have been able to sanction such payments – suggesting that if the allegations were correct, someone higher up at The Times during the period in question would have had to sanction it. The last thing Rupert Murdoch would want is a sister paper of The Times precipitating a fresh investigation into the Ashcroft affair. – the Independent

Jarvis Cocker gets in on the act

Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker has celebrated the demise of the News Of The World at T In The Park. Ending its run after allegations of phone tapping were proved to be endemic, the newspaper’s demise has delighted some vociferous critics. Pulp took to the stage at T In The Park fresh from the knowledge that the newspaper would end production. Clearly in a gleeful mood, Jarvis Cocker opened the set with a passionate rendition of ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’. Later, the singer told the crowd to remember the last time the News Of The World was published. Holding the final edition aloft, Jarvis Cocker then proceeded to use the newspaper as toilet roll. With the crowd egging him on, the frontman then told the T In The Park audience “that’s the only thing that piece of shit has been good for in 168 years”. – Clash Music

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Saturday News Review

09/07/2011, 07:11:40 AM

Rupert steps in

The chairman’s reported intervention comes as a third man was arrested and bailed in connection with alleged corrupt payments made to police officers. Sky News understands the 63-year-old man, who was arrested in Surrey, is a private investigator who worked for the newspaper. Former NOTW editor Andy Coulson and former royal reporter Clive Goodman were released last night on police bail after being arrested earlier. Mr Murdoch is due to arrive in the UK on a flight some time today. Sky reporter Hannah Thomas-Peter, in New York, said the News Corp boss had been in Idaho and looked unhappy after being questioned by several reporters. “He presided over the decision to axe a favourite newspaper in order to stop the rot – a phrase used here a lot,” Thomas-Peter said. “The idea was to send a message to investors and shareholders that News Corporation is serious about protecting the Murdoch brand and the proposed takeover of BSkyB. “It is clear at the moment that it does not look like he has been able to stop the rot, so he himself is getting on a plane to fly to London to deal with it.” News International also denied reports that police are investigating suspected deletion of emails by an executive at the company. The Guardian reported that Scotland Yard is probing claims that a member of staff deleted “millions of emails” from an internal archive. Police refused to comment on the reports. – Sky News

Murdoch Snr, the 80-year-old chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, is due in the UK to confront the growing crisis at his media group. His intervention comes as a third man was held last night in connection with alleged corrupt payments made to police officers. The man was later bailed until October. A 63-year-old was arrested at an address in Surrey as former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was released on police bail after being quizzed for nine hours over allegations of corruption and the phone-hacking scandal that forced the closure of the 168-year-old newspaper. The Sunday tabloid’s former royal editor, Clive Goodman, was also questioned at a separate police station over claims that police officers were bribed. As the crisis at Mr Murdoch’s empire deepened, News International’s embattled chief executive Rebekah Brooks hinted to staff that more revelations were ahead, warning of “another very difficult moment in this company’s history”. – Daily Telegraph

Brooks hangs on for now

Sensational allegations of a criminal cover-up were made against Rupert Murdoch’s faltering media empire last night as the phone hacking scandal reached the door of Downing Street. Police are investigating claims that News International deleted millions of emails from an internal archive in an apparent attempt to obstruct a police inquiry. All this came as the Prime Minister made the extraordinary suggestion that Mr Murdoch’s son and heir apparent James had ‘questions to answer’ to police after admitting paying hush money to victims of hacking by the News of the World. In his most difficult day since becoming Conservative leader, Mr Cameron repeatedly refused to apologise for hiring as his media chief ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who was arrested yesterday and held for ten hours. The Prime Minister admitted he, as well as other political leaders, had been wrong to spend years courting the Murdoch empire – and turned on his horse-riding companion and Oxfordshire neighbour Rebekah Brooks, the media group’s UK boss. He said Mrs Brooks, editor of the News of the World at the time it is accused of hacking mobile phone messages of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, should go. ‘It has been reported that she offered her resignation over this and in this situation I would have taken it,’ the Prime Minister said. – Daily Mail

Rebekah Brooks last night told the News of the World’s staff that she had no option but to close Britain’s best-selling Sunday newspaper because it had become a “toxic brand” because of the slew of phone-hacking revelations. In a tense meeting held in Rupert Murdoch’s Wapping headquarters, with News International’s chief executive flanked by guards, and the company disabling the Twitter and email accounts of staff, Ms Brooks apologised to 250 employees and tried to defuse the fallout from her address to them 24 hours earlier, in which she had made the shock announcement that their paper was to be closed and they were losing their jobs. Ms Brooks shared a platform with the NOTW’s editor, Colin Myler, who addressed staff and received applause; Ms Brooks was greeted with silence and the occasional heckler. A NOTW staff member told The Independent that Ms Brooks dodged difficult questions: “She said: ‘I am not going to resign because these are unproven allegations,’ to which someone replied: ‘Well, you closed the paper down over these unproven allegations.’ “We were asking difficult questions about our futures and getting corporate PR-speak back. She told us that everything possible would be done to find us new jobs within News International. Someone replied that it was presumptuous to think that we even wanted to work for the company again after this.” – the Independent

Murdoch jr could still face charges

James Murdoch and News Corp could face corporate legal battles on both sides of the Atlantic that involve criminal charges, fines and forfeiture of assets as the escalating phone-hacking scandal risks damaging his chances of taking control of Rupert Murdoch’s US-based media empire. As deputy chief operating officer of News Corp – the US-listed company that is the ultimate owner of News International (NI), which in turn owns the News of the World, the Times, the Sunday Times and the Sun – the younger Murdoch has admitted he misled parliament over phone hacking, although he has stated he did not have the complete picture at the time. There have also been reports that employees routinely made payments to police officers, believed to total more than £100,000, in return for information. The payments could leave News Corp – and possibly James Murdoch himself – facing the possibility of prosecution in the US under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) – legislation designed to stamp out bad corporate behaviour that carries severe penalties for anyone found guilty of breaching it – and in the UK under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 which outlaws the interception of communications. Tony Woodcock, a partner at the City law firm Stephenson Harwood, said section 79 of the 2000 Act enabled criminal proceedings to be brought against not only a company, but also a director or similar officer where the offence was committed with their “consent or connivance” or was “attributable to any neglect on their part. While the UK phone-hacking scandal has been met with outrage in the US, the hacking itself is unlikely to prompt Washington officials into action. But because NI is a subsidiary of the US company, any payments to UK police officers could trigger a justice department inquiry under the FCPA. – the Guardian

Focus shifts to Ed’s team

The day Alastair Campbell appeared to give ­evidence to the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly, he was given a good-luck hug by his friend Tom Baldwin. Baldwin was the Times journalist who named the weapons expert as the secret source behind the BBC’s claim that the Blair government had ‘sexed up’ a dossier about Iraq’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’ to justify going to war against Saddam Hussein. Campbell was known to liaise with Baldwin in endless attempts to ­discredit the Labour government’s enemies, the results of which regularly ended up prominently in The Times — a paper once admired for its thundering independence. ‘Tom was a ruthless operator and obsessed by the power his friend Alastair wielded in Downing Street,’ says a ­colleague. ‘I think he envied him.’ Even so, who could have imagined, when the appalling era of mendacity that marked Campbell’s tenure in Downing Street finally ended, that a new one would start a few years later? ‘Tom’s trouble is that he is totally disorganised — administratively chaotic,’ says an old colleague. ‘He has a sharp mind, but once when he went on a journalistic assignment, no one was surprised when he called the office to say he’d lost his phone and laptop.’ Those were the days when people who worked closely with Baldwin noticed him slip away from his desk for what they called ‘inquiries with Mr Coke’. No one doubted his abilities as a journalist, with ruthless energy when pursuing a story. – Daily Mail

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Thursday News Review

03/02/2011, 06:59:51 AM

Coulson out Oliver in

Craig Oliver, 41, the controller of BBC global news, was hailed by the Prime Minister as a ‘formidable journalist’. He made his name overhauling the BBC News at Ten and is one of very few television executives to have worked at the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. Mr Oliver’s appointment – understood to have been engineered chiefly by Mr Coulson – was a surprise, since his name had not featured in the frenzied speculation that has been going on in Westminster since Mr Coulson resigned last month. Former colleagues described Mr Oliver as ‘sharp’ and a ‘workaholic’, though some expressed surprise at the appointment because they said he had previously displayed no obvious political leanings. Educated at a Scottish comprehensive school, he has never been a member of the Conservative Party, and is not expected to become one now. His appointment is an indication of the importance placed by Downing Street on broadcast coverage. As a former editor of the News of the World, Mr Coulson’s background and contacts were chiefly in the newspaper industry. By contrast, Mr Oliver has links to all the major broadcasters. He will be employed as a special adviser and paid £140,000 a year, the same salary as Mr Coulson. – Daily Mail

Oliver, 41, is a career broadcast journalist who grew up in Scotland, the son of a former chief constable of Grampian. He attended a comprehensive school before reading English Literature at St Andrew’s University. In the BBC news room he was known as a film buff. “He never gave a sense that he was party political,” said a long-standing colleague and close friend. “His views, as far as I could see, were fairly centrist. He’s not an ideologue by any means. I would imagine he’s fairly mainstream on most issues.” Oliver arrived at the BBC from ITN, after applying to be controller of the BBC News Channel. He lost out on that job but sufficiently impressed BBC News executive Peter Horrocks to be hired to bring the same visual dynamism to the BBC’s 10pm bulletin that he had introduced at ITN. During the recent BBC strike, Oliver, like other senior managers, crossed the picket line and stood in as a newsreader on the World Service. He recently oversaw the sackings of 650 World Service staff. His appointment is an indication of Downing Street’s acknowledgement of the importance of television. Oliver does not enjoy Coulson’s press contacts, but he knows broadcast news inside out. – the Independent

David Cameron yesterday marked a break with the era of Andy Coulsonby appointing a senior BBC TV news editor with no links to the Murdoch empire as the new No 10 communications director. Craig Oliver, who made his name revamping the News at Ten and who ran the BBC’s general election coverage last year, will be paid £140,000 a year and will act as a political special adviser. The recruitment of a senior BBC figure shows that Cameron and George Osborne, who met Oliver over the weekend, recognise that they need to place some distance between Downing Street and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. Downing Street said that No 10’s relations with News Corp had nothing to with the decision to hire a BBC executive. One source said: “Craig was simply the best candidate.” – the Guardian

Go easy on Murdoch

An email, forwarded on behalf of Ed Miliband’s director of strategy, Tom Baldwin, to all shadow cabinet teams warns Labour spokespeople to avoid linking hacking with the BSkyB bid, to accept ministerial assurances that meetings with Rupert Murdoch are not influencing that process, and to ensure that complaints about tapping are made in a personal, not shadow ministerial, capacity. The circular, sent by a Labour press officer on 27 January, states: “Tom Baldwin has requested that any front-bench spokespeople use the following line when questioned on phone-hacking. BSkyB bid and phone-tapping . . . these issues should not be linked. One is a competition issue, the other an allegation of criminal activity.” It goes on: “Downing Street says that Cameron’s dinners with Murdoch will not affect Hunt’s judgement. We have to take them at their word.” Referring separately to the phone-hacking allegations, the memo states: “We believe the police should thoroughly investigate all allegations. But this is not just an issue about News International. Almost every media organisation in the country may end up becoming embroiled in these allegations.” It adds: “Front-bench spokespeople who want to talk about their personal experiences of being tapped should make it clear they are doing just that – speaking from personal experience.” The guidance concludes with the warning, “We must guard against anything which appears to be attacking a particular newspaper group out of spite.” – New Statesman

Labour frontbenchers have been warned by Ed Miliband’s office not to single out Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper group over the hacking scandal. In a leaked memo, Labour’s strategy director, Tom Baldwin, indicated that many media groups, not just News International, could become embroiled in the row over the interception of mobile phone messages. He also ordered the party’s senior politicians to avoid linking hacking to Mr Murdoch’s £7bn bid for control of Britain’s biggest commercial broadcaster, BSkyB. The memo appears to be designed to avoid a re-emergence of the historically-strained relationship between Labour and News International, whose biggest selling title, The News of the World, is at the centre of a new Scotland Yard investigation into hacking. Dated 27 January and apparently emanating from Mr Baldwin, previously a News International journalist for more than a decade, the memo advised Labour frontbench teams: “On phone hacking, we believe the police should thoroughly investigate all allegations. But this is not just an issue about News International. Almost every media organisation may end up becoming embroiled in these allegations.” The shadow Justice Minister Chris Bryant and the former defence minister Tom Watson have criticised police for failing properly to investigate the allegations. There have been suggestions that Scotland Yard had an unhealthily close relationship with News International. A Labour spokesman said the memo was intended to ensure MPs “didn’t confuse two separate issues”. He added: “There’s no suggestion of us going soft or going hard.” – the Independent

DFID money spent on Papal visit

Pope Benedict XVI’s official visit to Britain last September was partly funded by money meant to be spent on international aid, it has emerged. MPs analysing the Department for International Development’s (DfID) accounts said they were surprised to notice that £1.85 million had been transferred to the Foreign Office for the papal visit. They are demanding an explanation from ministers about what the money was spent on and how this was compliant with rules governing what overseas development aid money should be spent on. Malcolm Bruce, chair of the Commons’ international development committee, told he thought many people would be surprised by the news that UK aid money was used to fund the Pope’s visit. “I’m finding it extremely difficult to see how paying for the visit of the Pope from Rome to the United Kingdom as overseas development assistance (ODA) which is aimed at delivering the poorest people in the world out of poverty, that’s its prime objective,” he said. Mr Bruce said DfID was entitled to spend every penny on ODA, but people would expect its funding to be “overwhelmingly focused” on aid money. It has been suggested that some DfID money could be spent on propping up the BBC World Service, he added. “People have mixed views about that, but it would be easier to see a case for that [than for funding the papal visit].”But Mr Bruce said the £1.85 million “does not really fit any criteria that could obviously be seen as ODA”. A government spokesperson said “DFID was one of a number of government departments part funding the Pope’s visit to the UK.” –

Money intended to alleviate poverty in the world’s poorest countries was used to help fund the Pope’s visit to the UK, MPs have revealed. The government is facing a storm of criticism after it emerged that it raided the international aid budget for almost £2 million to cover some of the cost of the papal visit last year. A report published today by the Commons international development select committee has questioned why £1.85m was taken out of international aid to fund the visit despite a pledge by Prime Minister David Cameron that the budget would be protected. The move has been described as “shocking” by MPs, while the Church of Scotland said it was “utterly unacceptable”. The money was part of the overall £10m cost to the taxpayer of the visit by Pope Benedict. The trip should have been funded by the Foreign Office because it was partly a state visit.
Lib Dem Gordon MP Malcolm Bruce, who chairs the international development select committee, said voters would struggle to understand why DfID money was involved. The Church of Scotland Church and Society Council convener the Rev Ian Galloway said the raiding of the international aid budget would undermine the good work done by the visit. Mr Galloway said: “This is an extraordinary confession by the government. It is utterly unacceptable and hard to explain to those whose suffering would be alleviated had this money been used as it was intended.” Anas Sarwar, the Labour MP for Glasgow Central, who also sits on the select committee and was involved in raising money for the Pakistan floods, described the findings as “shocking”. – the Scotsman

Pluralists vs tribalists

The divide between pluralists and tribalists remains one of the most significant in the Labour Party. It underlines the increasingly fractious debate over electoral reform. With this in mind, the decision by Compass, the influential Labour faction, to ballot its members on whether to offer members of other political parties full membership status is an important development. At present, members of other parties are only entitled to associate membership and cannot stand for the management committee or vote in internal elections. One reason why the result is worth watching is the ongoing debate about Labour’s own membership rules. At the end of last year it was reported that Ed Miliband plans to refom the party’s electoral college to give 25 per cent of the vote to non-party members who register as Labour supporters. In addition, as I’ve noted before, having once joked that he wants to make the Lib Dems “extinct”, Miliband has adopted a more conciliatory tone in recent weeks. In his speech to the Fabian Society last month, he declared his respect for those Lib Dems who have “decided to stay and fight for the progressive soul of their party”, and pledged to campaign for the Alternative Vote, having previously only promised to vote for it. If, as seems likely, Compass members approve the proposed reforms, we could see Labour and Lib Dem members working far more closely together on areas such as constitutional reform, climate change and inequality. With hung parliaments likely to become more, not less, common in the future, it is not just desirable but essential to heal the progressive divide. – New Statesman

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Into the Portakabin of confusion comes the risky Lord Glasman

21/01/2011, 11:15:27 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The Labour party currently resembles a building site.

Shadow ministerial teams are laying the foundations for policy, in the main, independently of each other. Various consultations are asking party members “what’s to be built on the foundations”, quite separately from the ministerial teams.  And at the front of the site, operating out of the political equivalent of a Portakabin, Ed Miliband and the shadow cabinet are trying to hold the government to account.

Into this melee have come two recent arrivals. They bring hope of deliverance from the mud and confusion.

Sat in the Portakabin is the first: Baldberts. Not a character from the Shire or a sixth-former at Hogwarts, but a bionic communications director made from the parts of former journalists Tom Baldwin and Bob Roberts –  Ed Miliband has the technology. (more…)

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Cheer up, comrade, and toast the leader

15/12/2010, 08:25:15 AM

by Tom Watson

Last week, every single Labour MP turned out to vote in the same division lobby. We voted ‘no’ to the tripling of tuition fees. There were no forgetful absences. Nobody rebelled. No-one sneaked off early. I couldn’t remember the last time this happened so I asked the House of Commons library to tell me. And guess what? It hadn’t happened in my parliamentary life. Not once since 2001 has the PLP felt collectively strong enough to march in complete unanimity through the same division lobby.

We’ve nearly ended our rollercoaster year with the whole Labour crew turning out resolutely to oppose David Cameron’s Tory-Lib Dem government. We’re ahead in the polls. Britain is now so broken that Nick Clegg can’t safely ride a bicycle – despite all those close protection officers. And the government is already a cabinet minister and a handful of PPSs down after resignations.

And when you started the New Year of 2010 would you, in your wildest dreams, have thought we’d be in such good shape today? I certainly didn’t. So cheer up, comrade. Your Christmas glass of sherry is half full, not half empty. (more…)

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Wednesday News Review

15/12/2010, 07:08:19 AM

Lords end student fees battle

Labour peers today mounted a strong challenge to plans to treble university tuition fees, including recruiting to their cause a crossbench peer and principal of an Oxford college, but were ultimately defeated in a House of Lords vote that allowed the government plans to clear parliament. The Lords chamber was packed for a vote in which a majority of peers chose not to back an amendment allowing for more consultation. Those voting in favour of the amendment numbered 215, but 283 voted against the call for more time. Peers also voted to support the government’s bid to raise the cap on tuition fees to £9,000. – Guardian

A minor rebellion headed by Baroness Sharp, the Liberal Democrat higher education spokesman, failed to cause significant damage, and the motion to allow fees of up to £9000 a year from 2012 was passed by 283 votes to 215 — a much greater margin than in the Commons last week where the Government’s majority fell to 21. In an eleventh-hour submission challenging the rise, John Saxbee, the Bishop of Lincoln told peers that it would normalise debt and was un-Christian. – Telegraph

Coalition urged to slow down over NHS reforms

Senior figures from across the health service have warned ministers that the NHS faces a “train crash” and could “implode” over the pace of the Government’s reform plans. The Health Secretary Andrew Lansley will publish details today on how the Government intends to manage the process by which GPs will begin to take over the commissioning of patient care from primary care trusts (PCTs). – Independent

The ConDem shake-up of the NHS was blasted as ¬“unrealistic” yesterday, amid fears it will put the sick and elderly at risk. The “bruising” reforms would push the health service to the limit, the Commons Health Select Committee warned. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley had “no credible plan” to make efficiency savings of £20billion over the next four years, it said. And they warned it is inevitable that councils would have to cut back on social care – potentially hitting thousands of elderly people who rely on it. – Mirror

Ed’s new boys

The Labour leader head-hunted two senior political journalists from the Mirror and the Times to revamp his campaigning operation, heralding a more aggressive media strategy. The new head of strategy and communications will be Tom Baldwin, whose reporting career has seen him both land scoops and land himself in controversy. A close friend of Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s spin doctor, Mr Baldwin ran a series of articles about senior Conservative donor Lord Ashcroft, resulting in a legal action and the peer making caustic allegations about the reporter in a book. While he plays a largely backroom role, daily media briefings will be carried out by Bob Roberts, Mirror political editor for three years. – Evening Standard

Tory grumbles over court closures

Tory MPs yesterday lined up to slam the Government for closing nearly 150 courts across England and Wales. Ministers sparked fury after saying 93 magistrates courts and 49 county courts would be axed. Sheryll Murray and Jonathan Lord, MPs for South East Cornwall and Woking, were among the Tories speaking out against closures of their local courts. Mr Lord said: “I’m extremely disappointed. Woking ¬magistrates court is purpose built with fantastic disabled access and excellent youth witness provision.” – Mirror

Cabinet member and Conservative MP for Sutton Coldfield Andrew Mitchell has lost his battle to save the town’s magistrates court after the Government announced a series of closures across the West Midlands. It is one of more than 140 courts to be closed in England and Wales, following the announcement. Mr Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, successfully led a Keep Justice Local campaign eight years ago when the future of Sutton magistrates was in doubt. More than 5,500 people signed a petition in protest at proposals to move the court’s caseload to Birmingham. But while he managed to save the court under the Labour government, it is now due to be closed. – Birmingham Post

Final straw for Firth

The Lib Dems have lost one of their most famous supporters after actor Colin Firth today revealed he could no longer back the party. The Bridget Jones actor said he is now ‘without affiliation’ in a fresh blow for Nick Clegg’s party who have few celebrity actors. Mr Firth said he has become disillusioned with the party and his ‘compass has not stopped spinning’ after they switched several of their policies after the election. – Daily Mail

The star of Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones’s Diary refused to criticise Clegg for forming a Coalition with the Conservative Party. “I’m not impugning his integrity, simply because I do believe he did what he thought was his only choice at that time, given the parliamentary situation and it being impossible to do a deal with Labour.” However, Firth, 50, said that the Coalition had compromised the LibDems and “made it difficult for us who thought progressive politics would be the way forward”. Firth and his wife, Livia, became friendly with Clegg and his wife, Miriam, in the run-up to the election. The actor joined Clegg on the election trail in May. – Telegraph

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