Exclusive preview clip of the new ‘Yes, Prime Minister’

Posted on January 14, 2013

Yes, Prime Minister – one leg of the holy tripod of British political comedy, the others being The New Statesman and The Thick Of It – is back. And I am pleased to present a CrashBangWallace exclusive preview of the new series:

The new series starts tomorrow at 9pm on Gold. Will it live up to its legendary status? We’ll have to wait and see…

The truth about Phillip Blond follows him Down Under

Posted on August 20, 2012

ResPublica’s Phillip Blond – Red Tory philosopher king and the think tank world’s most notable wearer of the Emperor’s new clothes – has had a difficult twelve months. Much of it, admittedly, due to this blog’s interest in the real value, or lack thereof, in his ideas.

First I revealed that ResPublica was facing money problems, leading to the ditching of the majority of their staff. Then the Sunday Times followed up my post with revelations that staff had been locked out of the office due to non-payment of rent, and Blond had loaned himself £38,000 from company funds. The media interest continued, with the Mail reporting bizarre behaviour like the purchase – with ResPublica money – of “a garish Regency-style chair decorated with pictures of women in bikinis and high heels sitting astride motorbikes”.

Then this Spring I exclusively published leaked documents in which a ResPublica donor – NESTA, which is taxpayer-funded – tore apart the “research” which Blond’s outfit had produced for them, including such damning comments such as “too vague to be useful”, “lacking originality”, and “none of the reports are of a sufficient quality to be published”.

It’s understandable, given that Westminster has started to see through his act, that Blond decided to branch out abroad, presumably in the hope that people who’d never heard of him would be more supportive.

Last week the Red Tory messiah headed off to Australia, to attend a “leadership retreat” on a tropical island with Australian politicians, and then meeting Tony Abbott, the leader of the Opposition.

Fortunately, it seems the Aussies lived up to their notorious disdain for people who spout pretentious nonsense – no sooner had Blond’s grand tour begun, but prominent figures right across the political divide started calling him out.

Links through to this blog’s revelations about the Red Tory’s behaviour in practice abounded, with Tweeters including the President of one of Australia’s largest Trade Unions, one of Australia’s most influential political consultants and one of the nation’s flagship broadcasters. Overnight, thousands of Australians came to read the truth about Phillip Blond, and Australia leapt up the rankings to become CrashBangWallace’s main source of traffic.

In the age of the internet, it’s far harder to keep pulling off the same stunt over and over again – as Phillip is experiencing, things do tend to follow you around.

Hopefully, for their sake, Australia has seen through Red Toryism before it infects their politics with meaningless, paternalist gobbledegook. Or, as Blond himself might put it, “Let us seek manifold aspirations that the Antipodean demos has become immunised prior to the pestilential tainting c-change of its domestic dialectic with antediluvian flim-flammery.”

Fallout from the Blond bombshell

Posted on March 16, 2012

Following Wednesday’s exclusive release of letters from one of Phillip Blond’s donors, NESTA, the organisation’s Head of Media Relations, Jan Singleton, has been in touch with an interesting update. She tells me that following the final letter:

Respublica offered to make significant improvements to their reports. This means that the only payment NESTA made was for revised reports that met the standards set out in the original contract. One report did not meet those standards and was not paid for.

Yes, that’s right  – even after a wholesale rewrite of the reports that had taken well beyond their deadlines to produce in the first place, Phillip Blond’s ResPublica still couldn’t get all of them up to scratch.

The question is now how long ResPublica can survive as it becomes increasingly clear that the Emperor is stark naked. Alienating existing and would-be donors is not exactly the way to give yourself a stable footing for the future (or as Blond would say in his normal manner: “to causally generate a foundational dynamic for the upcoming time-flow”).

Certainly NESTA have been put off after having their fingers so badly burned. As Jan Singleton puts it:

…we currently don’t have any plans work with Respublica in the future.

Quite.

EXCLUSIVE LEAK: Phillip Blond donor dissects ResPublica’s unpublishable and inadequate work

Posted on March 14, 2012

Last year, this blog exclusively revealed the financial troubles being faced by the notorious ResPublica think tank, run by Phillip Blond, the self-proclaimed guru of Red Toryism and supposed architect of the Big Society concept. As the story was picked up by the national press, a bizarre picture emerged of an organisation in a state of deranged chaos – staff locked out due to unpaid rent, company-funded Regency chairs decorated with 80s-style soft-porn and all sorts of other oddities.

All this raised the question that if Phillip Blond can’t run his own little empire, why on earth should anyone think his ideas of how to run Britain should be considered for even a second?

In a new exclusive, I can reveal that it’s not just Blond’s financial management that has proved dubious. The supposedly “academic” work his outfit has produced is grievously lacking – even according to one of his own major donors.

Two letters have been leaked to me that were sent to Blond by Stian Westlake, Executive Director of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. NESTA – an endowment fund formed of taxpayers’ money – was a ResPublica donor, having signed a contract to fund a series of six reports on a characteristically Blondian unfocused range of topics, from Lombardy Capitalism to the use of social capital to combat obesity, The money involved was sizeable –  at least £200,000 flowed from NESTA to ResPublica, which is a private company owned by Blond himself.

The first letter, sent to terminate NESTA’s contract with ResPublica, reveals a shocking story of woefully inadequate research being produced by Phillip Blond’s think tank. The full documents are below, but here are some choice quotes, detailing the lateness of the work:

…you then failed to deliver any of the five remaining reports and associated events by the respective milestone dates set out in the Agreement. The second report, due on 15 November 2009, was finally submitted 12 months late in November 2010.

its overall inadequacy:

…despite the extremely generous extensions of time given by NESTA to enable you to complete the reports, none of the reports are of a sufficient quality to be published by NESTA or satisfactory in terms of content or thoroughness… there are some positive elements in the reports, but each of them has significant weaknesses which mean that they are not suitable for publication, fit for our purposes or satisfactory to us as required by the Agreement.

and many specific failings, which the letter lays out in excruciating detail:

…poorly structured……contains no account of sources or bibliography……contains a large number of typos…

…lack of originality…

…poorly thought through…

…several of the recommendations appear either too vague to be useful…or questionable…

…unsubstantiated recommendation…

…vague or difficult to act on…

In short, the letter is a detailed and brutally honest dissection of the lightweight nature of Phillip Blond and his operation – written by one of his own donors. What people have long suspected – that Blond is essentially all long words, and philosophical pretensions, but no practical use – is illustrated by NESTA’s unfortunate experience.

It is hard to see anyone now being willing to hand over cash to ResPublica, or to give Phillip Blond any influence over public policy, given the mounting evidence that he has little clue what to do with either.

There are questions here for NESTA, too. Remarkably, the second letter shows that having already paid ResPublica over £128,000 before deciding to terminate their Agreement with such an incompetent outfit, NESTA still decided to pay a further £85,714.50 of taxpayers’ money, which they were not contractually obliged to, in order “to remain on amicable terms”. In what way is this a justifiable “commercial decision”? What value did taxpayers get from this wholesale handover of their money in return for apparently unpublishable work?

Here are the leaked letters in full:

NESTA ResPublica Phillip Blond Letter 1//

NESTA ResPublica Phillip Blond Letter 2

Maude or Grayling to replace Ken Clarke…say Ken’s own civil servants

Posted on February 20, 2012

Understandably, there’s a lot of speculation over the future of certain Cabinet Ministers at the moment. The strongest argument against predictions of Andrew Lansley’s impending departure is the claim that David Cameron wants to avoid a reshuffle in the foreseeable future.

However, it seems that it’s not only those on the outside of Government who think one might be coming.

Two of this blog’s readers were out for a curry last week and found themselves next to a very loud table who, it soon became clear, were staffers from the Private Offices of Ken Clarke and his fellow Justice Minister, Crispin Blunt.

The civil servants in question were nattering away about the internal politics of the Coalition, so my correspondents decided to talk loudly about politics, SpAds and other Westminstery topics in order to give them a subtle message that people could hear them.

They carried on regardless, and it’s interesting to learn that the prime topic of conversation from Ken Clarke’s aides was who is going to replace him as Secretary of State for Justice.

I’m told by my man with the tikka masala that the civil servants’ top tips for the MoJ job were Francis Maude and Chris Grayling. Ones to watch…particularly if you’re Ken Clarke.

 

 

The Labour Councillor who “Likes” IRA Bombings

Posted on February 16, 2012

Councillor Florence Anderson, Sunderland City Councillor, has form for unpleasant behaviour online. Most memorably, whilst Deputy Leader of Sunderland she got in hot water after saying on Facebook that she wants Margaret Thatcher to “BURN IN HELL” (a statement that she stood by on the bizarre logic that “I’m not the deputy leader of the council on Facebook”).

That was pretty distasteful, and typified the way in which some on the Left take their disagreement with people’s ideas to a truly unpleasant level. There are plenty of Facebook Groups planning to party when Thatcher dies, dance on her grave and so on.

But it seems Cllr Anderson has gone a bit further than merely distasteful behaviour, into the downright worrying.

One of the more extreme anti-Thatcher Facebook Groups is called “Margaret Thatcher doesn’t have to be dead before we give her a funeral“. Florence Anderson is a member. Some of its more memorable posts include calling for violence against Baroness Thatcher.

Just being a member is bad enough, but Florence decided to take it one step further. When the admin of the page posted this:

We are appealing to the IRA to find it in their hearts to bomb the next tory conference

Florence Anderson didn’t think “that’s appalling”. She didn’t think “it’s inappropriate for a councillor to be a member of this group”. She didn’t even think “I could get in trouble for being associated with this”.

Oh no, Councillor Florence Anderson, confronted with a post calling for terrorist murder of her political opponents, didn’t do any of those things.

She clicked “Like“.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s perhaps worth pointing out at this stage that she chairs the committee charged with ensuring public authorities in Sunderland are fulfilling their duties to fight crime.

What do her constituents think of this? Or the Labour Party, who would come down like a tonne of bricks on any Tory who did anything even approaching this behaviour?

I don’t think Cllr Anderson’s excuse that she’s a different person on Facebook quite cuts it.

St Paul’s #OccupyLSX protesters finally reveal what they really want

Posted on November 01, 2011

From an eyewitness on the ground, I can reveal the Occupy protesters outside St Paul’s Cathedral have finally revealed what they really want. After much confusion over vacuous, vague and vapid mission statements ranging from out and out revolution to “can’t we all get along and be friendly”, this comes as a welcome relief.

The protest camp have erected a board listing their demands for donations to the camp. At present it apparently reads:

HUMMUS

SOYA MILK

Yep, smashing some stereotypes there, comrades. Middle Eastern dips for all! Death to the lactose oppressors!

Exclusive: EU official: The Euro’s existence is under threat, and we will screw the poor to save it

Posted on September 23, 2011

The political and economic disaster which is the Euro has reached new depths – as David Cameron noted in Ottawa yesterday “the problems in the eurozone are now so big that they have begun to threaten the stability of the world economy”.

Traditionally, the only place where logic, democracy and facts have never been able to penetrate when it comes to the glaring failure of the Euro has been the European Commission. It’s rare that they ever come clean about the EU’s dubious tactics and unheard of for them to even admit there’s a serious problem.

This morning, though,  a European Commission official called Michele Calandrino was speaking at London’s City Hall as part of an EU Committee of the Regions Open Day, addressing an audience of local authorities and regional apparatchiks. My source tells me that first he confessed that:

European funding is an incentive for Member States to play the game at the European level

Which was a surprisingly frank statement in itself, given the long history of pretending that funding is allocated to target problems rather than to provide political incentives to “play the game”, ie hand over more and more sovereignty to Brussels. A confession of their dodgy dealing from the horse’s mouth.

The really fascinating bit came next, on the Eurozone crisis. The problems were so serious, said Mr Calandrino, that:

we are worried about the future of the Social Fund because of the need for fiscal consolidation to save the Euro

To translate the jargon, the European Social Fund is the main tranche of the EU budget targeted at creating jobs and providing skills training to the unemployed and disadvantaged. As well as being a large amount of money, it’s one of the EU’s posterchildren for how great Brussels is.

If the Commission thinks it may have to scrap the ESF “to save the Euro”, then they are evidently more concerned for the Euro’s future than they have previously let on. As far as I’m aware, the Commission has never previously confessed that the current crisis threatens the currency’s very existence. It’s a measure of how bad things have got that even they appear to be abandoning the pretence that the Euro will inevitably survive.

This confession is also very revealing about the EU Commission’s priorities – they would rather withdraw funding from the unemployed and poverty-stricken than abandon their disastrous vanity project. What a message to send.

“Independent” anti-Boris campaign – the Green Party fingerprints spread and spread

Posted on September 05, 2011

Following my post last week about the apparent attempt by senior members of the Green Party to pretend the Sack Boris campaign they were running was “independent”, the plot has thickened somewhat.

We’ve already established that Common People, the outfit running Sack Boris, is registered to Jim Killock, long-serving Green activist, former Party employee and the partner of Sian Berry, 2008 Green Mayoral candidate. Interestingly, Sian herself – who memorably endorsed Ken Livingstone at the 2008 election – appears to have been involved in organising the Sack Boris flashmob, which took the definition of “mob” to breaking point with a turnout of “a dozen in total“.

Now it has emerged that the Sack Boris site itself is registered to James Mackenzie. Mackenzie’s involvement is interesting on two grounds.

First, he isn’t even a resident of London, as he lives in Edinburgh, which must surely raise a question as to why he is mounting a campaign to “influence the outcome of elections” in London. Second, he isn’t any common or garden Green activist, he’s a full time employee of the Green MSPs and is in fact the exalted Head of Media for the Scottish Green Party. Scottish politicians, including the Greens, would flip if the English started trying to influence their devolved elections, so what legitimacy does he have to poke his nose in to the London Mayoral race?

Mackenzie did mount a defence when I raised this point, arguing that a) he had “visited London“, which is nice but hardly compelling and b) that he had only set up Sack Boris then “handed it over to Common People”, in which case he might want to shift the registration to someone else given that they are sailing rather close to the wind in terms of electoral law.

So the questions stand – how far up in the Green Party does this go, why do Sack Boris and Common People conceal the identities of the people involved and when do they intend to come clean about the true character of this campaign to influence the London Mayoral election?

EXCLUSIVE: Charles Moore steps down as Policy Exchange Chairman. *UPDATE*replaced by Finkelstein*UPDATE*

Posted on June 15, 2011

I understand that Charles Moore, the journalist and long-serving Chairman of Policy Exchange, is going to announce that he’s stepping down from PX very shortly.

This means one of the most influential jobs in centre-right thinktankery is up for grabs. Who will be taking over at “David Cameron’s favourite think tank”?

We will find out soon, I’m told – apparently it will be a senior centre right commentator with exemplary Number 10 links. Intriguing.

Any guesses?

**UPDATE**

ConservativeHome have just revealed that the new Chairman of Policy Exchange will be Danny Finkelstein.