Government ministerial reshuffle

Reading Guido’s running blog on the ministerial comings and goings, wife and I tittered over this,

12:30pm: Penny Mordaunt is the new PUSS at DCLG.

No disrespect to Penny, but to be the new puss must be fun. I know, it’s really Permanent Under Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government. Can see why it’s shortened.

On flooding Prime Minister says ‘lot of things that need to be fixed’

It’s good to see that the Prime Minister recognising the need to do more to combat flooding. Here’s part of the BBC’s report on the storms,

Prime Minister David Cameron has visited the village of Yalding in Kent, which experienced severe flooding on Christmas Eve, and was confronted by an unnamed woman who said her local council had done nothing to help villagers.

She said: “We still have no electric. We need electric. As I say, the council, from Monday, we have been trying to contact them, but they have all decided to go on their holidays. Nothing.”

Mr Cameron said the severity of flooding in the area made it difficult to ensure homes were protected.

“Look at this man’s house, I was just talking to. That was a flood barrier he got after 2000 – quite a high flood barrier. But this was such a massive flood the water went over the flood barrier and into the house.

“Sometimes these are very, very tragic events. It is impossible to protect everybody against everything but we have got to do more and we have got to do better.”

On the flooding situation, Politics Home report the Prime Minister saying ‘a lot of things need to be fixed’. I don’t know all of the facts here, but it seems to me that the local council lacks an effective emergency reaction plan or preparedness for flooding. Here’s Surrey Heath’s webpage on flooding, and here’s Maidstone Borough Council’s webpage on flooding [Yalding is in Maidstone Borough].

Cameron’s speech and reactions to it

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has given his speech on Europe.

I didn’t see the speech, but have read it, and quite a few comments too. I did manage to catch Prime Minister’s Questions, of which more when I have time.

In short my view is that this is a hugely significant moment for the UK, and is just as important for the European Union too.

David Cameron has sought to recast our relationship with the EU, and to give the people of the UK a choice. In identifying the need for the UK having a changed relationship with Europe he forcing the EU to face uncomfortable truths about the nature of the EU and the direction it’s headed.

The reasons for creating the EU were valid and necessary. World geopolitics and trade has, and continues to go through immense change. The lack of flexibility and lack of democratic validity were fine way back at the founding. Now they need to be revisited. David Cameron’s speech is much more important than the clamour of the in/out brigade. It’s the start of a conversation about change. If members of the EU reject the chance to discuss the changes that are needed, then the result is that we will leave the EU.

Politics is about passion, principle, and pragmatism. Cameron’s position is all three. Forget the silly arguments about what Cameron’s view will be on staying in or leaving if we don’t get a satisfactory renegotiation. This is high level strategic political bargaining, and you don’t declare your full bargaining position before you have to.

There’s talk about splits in political parties as a result of this speech. Me, I see likely splits in Europe. If you were Greek, Spanish wouldn’t you want the chance to argue for change. There’s 50% youth unemployment in Spain, and close to 30% unemployment in Greece.

Here’s a smattering of views on the speech:

  • Benedict Brogan – Daily Telegraph, thinks it helps Cameron electorally.
  • Peter Oborne – Daily Telegraph,  thinks Cameron has finished of the Conservative Party.
  • Paul Goodman – Cameron bets the farm on the kindness of strangers.
  • Patrick Wintour – Guardian, thinks the PM may live to regret his gamble

Interestingly, the clear thinkers in Europe, such as Angela Merkel and the Dutch, are not being dismissive. There’s hope for Europe yet.

Let’s end these unseemly security breaches

Now, I don’t want to become known as ‘Disgruntled of Lightwater’. Though I fear I might.

Yet again, a security lapse embarrasses the government, and that embarrasses us all. Guido Fawkes reports on the government official openly carrying a sensitive document for the sharp-eyed, or the long camera lens to see.

In 2009, a similar, though much more serious, security breach by a top policemen, while walking up Downing Street, caused his rapid resignation. Rightly so.

If it’s a secret, confidential, or sensitive document then it should be held securely in a document wallet, attaché or brief case. It’s cavalier and unprofessional to simply hold such papers in one’s hand, as it’s easy to drop them, lose them to a strong wind, or their contents to a long camera lens. It should not happen, and sends the message that security considerations are an inconvenience. Wrong, what should be held securely, should be.

I’m going to suggest to the excellent Cambridge Satchel Company they offer to make a range of attaché cases especially for government officials. I’ll even ask Michael Gove about this at his next Gove’s Breakfast.

See what I’ve become, Disgruntled of Lightwater; hey ho.

No chance of Gordon running the IMF

I’ve listened to David Cameron’s interview with Evan Davis of the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Evan Davis persistently interrupted Cameron, making the interview uncomfortable to listen to. But, I guess that’s the penalty we probably must accept when interviewers quiz politicians who are immensely well practised in answering questions. Never the less it was tiresome to listen to.

One question where Cameron was allowed a reasonably uninterrupted flow was when Evan Davis asked Cameron about “Gordon Brown emerging as favourite as the next managing director of the International Monetary Fund director …. “. Cameron’s replied

“I haven’t spent a huge amount of time thinking about this. But it does seem to me that if you have someone who didn’t think we had a debt problem in the UK when we self-evidently do have a debt problem, then they might not be the most appropriate person to work out whether other countries around the world have debt and deficit problems”.

…. it must be someone [to run the IMF] who understands the dangers of excessive debt, excessive deficit, and it really must be someone who gets that, rather than someone who doesn’t see a problem.

So that’s a big NO then. Thank goodness. Here’s a fuller review on what Cameron said about the IMF leadership.

UPDATE: Seems I’m in agreement with the heavyweight’s in our media over this morning’s interview between Davis and Cameron. David Hughes in the Daily Telegraph says Cameron gets a word in edgeways.

PMQ’s analysis: Miliband falls short

Caught Prime Minister’s Questions today, the first for quite a while.

Labour opposition leader Ed Miliband strikes first with questions on Libya and William Hague, connecting them together in a theme of government incompetence. I’m not sure how the incompetence thing resonates with the populace, especially as it’s tough to lay on the government in only brief questions, with no detailed evidence. Cameron deflects the questions with assurance. Cameron marginally the winner.

Ed Miliband’s second set of questions are on the police job cuts. Each dispute each other’s figures. I’m pretty sure the country is behind a sensible review of police pay and conditions, and therefore see little mileage for Labour in arguing too hard against the proposals.

Miliband fails to ask a sixth question. Cameron ends with a flourish around Labour lack of policy.

Verdict; Miliband has improved, but not enough, and his question session ends rather limply. While Cameron, not an outright victor, ends on a surprising high note. Therefore the government backbenchers leave with a smile, while Labour backbenchers probably leave disappointed at what might have been.

Final note: The amusing bits were Ken Clarke trying, with difficulty, to do up his bottom shirt button with one hand, and Denis Skinner, bobbing up and down energetically to catch the Speaker’s eye, and towards the end, only managing to half raise himself, obviously realising that he wasn’t going to get chosen.

Now for something different

The hottest topic this week wasn’t the state of Red Road in Lightwater, but the arrival of Larry the Cat to No 10 Downing Street. Recruited to rid Downing Street of rats and mice.

Larry’s official title – yes, he’s got one – is Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office. Downing Street staff will be covering the cost of Larry’s food and other bills.

Larry the Cat’s arrival sparked much feline and rodent related humour, of which this is some:

  • Iain Martin relates Larry’s version of what happened to him this week.
  • The Daily Mirror naturally thinks he there to “clear Downing Street of rats – and there is no shortage of them around at the moment.”
  • Larry has his own Twitter account – Downing Street Cat – and says amusing things like, “HOLY GARFIELD! Theresa May isn’t nice! She wears “kitten heels”! I feel a bit sick.”
  • Downing Street Rat also has a twitter account, but isn’t as humourous, although he’s said,  “I am no tim’rous beastie…I am rat. Bring it on”, and “What kind of name is Larry for a cat anyway. Horrible creature.”
  • Paul Waugh reported on the event saying, “There then followed questions from hacks as to whether the money for the cat hiring would come from a Treasury ‘kitty’..and whether Larry would be ‘happy’.”
  • Someone thinks it’s Cameron’s ‘claws four’ moment. Hmmm.

 Hat tip: WSJ Europe & EPA for the picture of Larry

Lightwater blog’s person of the year 2010

Fraser Nelson was my 2009 person of the year. He was often a courageous lone voice, which is a key reason why he got my vote.

The chief personal characteristic that I look for in choosing person of the year is courage. Courage is a rare commodity. It means overcoming fear, which so often debilitates. Courage is taking a measured risk, not a careless risk.

I imagine you’ll not be surprised when I make David Cameron my 2010 person of the year.

I do so for a number of reasons. Primarily for the courage in forging a coalition government. Not easy to give up on a party’s sole grip on power. Although the other reasons are just as important, which are to have brought order and balance back to the office of Prime Minister. No longer do we blanch at the bullying, rudderless, and chaotic Brown government, nor the vanity and self-awareness of Tony Blair. Cameron seems made for the role.

Cameron’s joint press pre-Christmas press conference with Nick Clegg was a clincher, an accomplished performance. As they always say about leaders, be in it in sport or elsewhere, they have headroom. They make it all seem easy, and you know that they’ve more to give when required. In a complex and interconnected world this is a vital attribute.

Benedict Brogan offers his judgement on Cameron, as does Iain Martin.

PMQ’s analysis: Not waving, but drowning

Wowee, a game changer of Prime Minister’s Questions, where the leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband, was so soundly trounced by David Cameron that there are already mutterings from Labour about how long Ed Miliband can last as Labour Leader.

PMQ’s was full of references to England’s bid to host the World Cup, which made for a lighter atmosphere.

Going back to Ed Miliband’s performance, while he was heroically weak and ineffective, it was by comparison to Cameron’s stellar performance that he was shown in such a poor light. Cameron was absolutely on top of all his briefs, shown by minimal use of his briefing notes, and wasn’t discomfited by Ed Miliband or any backbencher.

The commentariat talk about PMQ’s not affecting public perception of a party leader’s standing. I’m not so sure. While the general populace won’t watch PMQ’s, the quality of performance directly affects party morale and press commentary. Refer Peter Hoskin, Quentin Letts, Paul Waugh, and Simon Hoggart.

Here’s the final question from Ed Miliband and Cameron’s answer:

Edward Miliband:With that answer, it is no wonder that today we learn that the Foreign Secretary describes this gang as the “children of Thatcher”. It sounds just like the 1980s-out of touch with people up and down the country. Why does the Prime Minister not admit that he is complacent about the recovery and complacent about the people who will lose their jobs? And it is they who will pay the price.

The Prime Minister: Not waving, but drowning. My mother is still with us, so she is able to testify that what the right hon. Gentleman has just claimed is not literally true, but let me say this: I would rather be a child of Thatcher than a son of Brown.

PMQ’s analysis: Cameron peerless

Just checked when last I wrote an analysis of Prime Minister’s Questions, it was back in July this year. Anyway, having a day working on some projects [emailing like crazy], I found time to watch the whole of today’s PMQ’s on my computer.

There’s not a huge lot to say, other than David Cameron is mightily impressive at the despatch box [read Hansard report]. Ed Miliband’s questions were on cancellation of funding for school sport partnerships, and the failure of the PM to meet his previously stated promise to ensure all ‘require banks to disclose the number of employees paid salary and bonuses of more than £1 million’.

A couple of tricky questions from the Labour leader. David Cameron handled them with accomplishment, while also delivering a few well-placed barbs that didn’t allow the Labour leader to leave the chamber on a happy note. 

What I did observe in Cameron’s answers was an ability to moderate his tone to reflect the questioner. If it’s Labour front bench, then it’s all guns blazing. Yet, if the question is from a backbencher, then it’s respectful consideration and desire to be helpful, all delivered sotto voce. I hope he keeps doing this. Generous recognition of the role of backbench MP’s shows a respect for parliamentarians, whomever they may be.

If you watch a repeat of the programme – HERE – just look at the careful attention that Cameron gives to the ‘Beast of Bolsover’ Denis Skinners’s question.