The Tory voting for an EU budget increase

Posted on October 31, 2012

Today the Government faces at least two votes on the future of the EU budget. It is an encouraging sign of the times that the debate is now between whether to freeze or cut the amount swallowed by Brussels.

Only a few years ago the battle was about whether to give up our rebate or simply to agree to a slightly lower rise. (Needless to say, Tony Blair went for the more costly option and sacrificed part of the hard-won rebate). Nowadays there is hardly anyone to be found in the political world who will argue, publicly at least, for more cash to go to the EU.

But there is one exception.

No-one really noticed at the time, but last week the European Parliament voted on the proposed EU budget, which proposes a 6.8% increase in the amount wasted spent by the European institutions.

This was the point at which David Cameron rightly stated his opposition to the plans, telling his MPs that

We’ve not put in place tough settlements in Britain in order to go to Brussels and sign up to big increases in European spending

The vast majority of his backbenches, his party members and the electorate at large unquestionably agree with him or want to go further.

At this point, let me introduce Malcolm Harbour, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands. Faced with an opportunity to vote to save taxpayers’ money, be loyal to his party leader and win the appreciation of his constituents all at the same time, Malcolm did the oppositehe voted for the EU budget to increase above inflation.

The latest press release on his website is titled “Danger for an iconic brand”. It refers to the future of the London Black Cab, whose manufacturer is in trouble, but may as well be talking about Harbour’s own impact on the reputation of the Conservative Party.

These are the last convulsions of the now almost extinct Conservatus Pro-Brusselsaurus. Malcolm Harbour is a disgrace, but looking at the composition of the Commons today we have good reason to hope he may be one of the last of his plodding, bizarre species.


Malcolm Harbour’s office have been in touch to report that he has since corrected his vote to register against the Budget – they assure me that it was a “genuine slip of the finger” in the Parliament’s electronic voting system. Maybe the pro-EU Conservatives are in fact already completely extinct?

“Filthy rich” Mandelson pulls up the ladder on aspiration

Posted on January 26, 2012

Famously, Peter Mandelson once said he was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes” – the phrase summed up the embracing of aspiration which proved to be one of New Labour’s key steps to electoral success.

So it’s interesting that he has now apparently abandoned his state of intense relaxation and is instead jumping on the bandwagon of being twitchy about income inequality and critical of the aspiration which he once embraced.

It’s convenient for him that this change of heart has come about in 2012 – long after he himself became “filthy rich”.

No-one knows quite how much he earns, though high six figures or even seven figures a year are often touted. We do know that his latest house is worth £8 million – more than enough to count as filthy, one would have thought.

His spin today is that this is because economic and political circumstances have changed. But isn’t it really just the same old story, that he’s the kind of person who embraces aspiration when he himself is aspirant, but promptly does his damnedest to pull up the ladder once he’s at the top of the pile?

The master strategist was part of the group around Tony Blair who recognised that being tough on crime, welcoming towards aspiration and positive about enterprise is the foundation of electoral success in Britain. If even he is abandoning that thinking – largely because he is now rich enough to afford to – then the Opposition are in real trouble.

Brown in the USA

Posted on December 16, 2010

Gordon Brown is treading the traditional path for ex-Prime Ministers by going Stateside to lecture our American cousins about how he “saved the world”. On Monday he was hawking his book on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. So how did he do?

Tony Blair remained very popular in America even when his approval ratings were languishing back home. Judging from the reaction on Twitter, though, the Yanks didn’t really warm to Gordon. Here are just a few choice snippets:

The guy’s a complete idiot“…”unfunny“…”Oh God“…”slightly scary….shivers down your spine“…”Not exactly shocking that Labour got smacked around“…”demented“…”oh, crap“…”too weird-lookin‘”…”what a dick“…”reinforces why the Yank Patriots conducted the American Revolution“…

Really, the Americans got off lightly – most British viewers felt they were seeing a jollier, more relaxed Brown than ever before.

The old Brown still shone through, though – that “weird thing with his mouth” was picked up, and the smile was as worrying as ever. In classic, embarassing Gordon style he also committed his old sin of using the same lines at different gigs, opening on the Daily Show and the Late Late Show with a cringeworthy “what a great country!”

Americans evidently know how to spot a wrong’un when they see one. It’s hard to imagine Gordon Brown ever winning an election in the USA – much like in Britain, in fact…

Has Gordon gone all Zen?

Posted on September 03, 2010

Ed Balls has pulled some pretty outrageous stunts over the years, but this morning’s Today Programme interview took the biscuit.

In response to the question “Have you spoken to Gordon Brown since [Blair’s] autobiography came out?”, he replied:

“I spoke to him the night it came out. I said I thought it was pretty one sided and unfair, and he shrugged his shoulders and said…you know…err…in life you should think about the future.”

Are we really meant to believe that? For a start, it even sounded like Balls was making it up on the spot. More fundamentally, when has Gordon Brown ever been known to shrug his shoulders, lackadaisically chalk something down to experience and counsel that you shouldn’t bear grudges? Bearing grudges is practically his only transferable skill!

Either Balls just made that up, or he phoned the wrong Gordon Brown by mistake.