The wash and spin cycle hasn’t got rid of sleaze

You’d have, quite reasonably, imagined that the focus on the Labour’s Downing Street press briefing machine, that it’s spin, spite, and bullying actions might’ve been washed out by recent revelations.

Appears not, if Tim Walker’s report in the Daily Telegraph is correct. He reports that Wheels of No10 spin turn on Samantha Cameron, saying:

“Briefing against her has already begun,” discloses my man in Gordon Brown’s bunker. Astonishingly, Labour officials claim that David Cameron’s wife, who transformed the fortunes of the Mayfair stationer Smythson while raising three children, is “lazy”. The plan is to compare Mrs Cameron, 38, unflatteringly with Sarah Brown, 46.

“Much will be made of Sarah’s charity work and journalists will be encouraged to make comparisons with the amount of work that Mrs Cameron does for charity,” says my mole.

Reorder: spots, change, leopards. Seems sleaze can’t be washed out of Labour in the spin cycle.

Truth, lies and Alastair Campbell

It gives me no pleasure to write about Alastair Campbell. But following his appearance at the Iraq Inquiry yesterday I thought it worth providing a collection of press articles about the event. Each in their own way identify Campbell as a villain in the Iraq affair. Some of the words used in these articles include: unscrupulous, brazen, evasive, unrepentant, stubborn arrogance, laddish, bruising, and cocky. Mostly dancing around the big word, liar. 

Now, I can’t leave a review of Alastair Campbell’s mendacious and malign influence on British politics with reprising Michael Howard’s wonderful skewering of him in 2007.

The Baroness’s attempt at public rehabilitation

Baroness Scotland, of employing illegal immigrant fame, is looking for public rehabilitation. She is this week’s guest on the BBC’s Desert Island Disc’s.

Don’t know whether it’s her initiative or others, but, I remain highly sceptical of her motives. Appearing in a non-threatening interview environment, where expressions of atonement can be offered without harsh questioning. It’s a chance to reprise her impressive back-story as a way of excusing her breaking the law.

My view remains, if we can’t expect our highest law officers to maintain the dignity and integrity of our highest offices, then there’s little chance of expecting less senior office holders to do the same. I agree with Chris Grayling’s opinion, quoted in the Daily Mail,”To dismiss this as an administrative error is utterly unacceptable.”

More on Spain and truth

My blog post yesterday of Spain’s economic woes was prompted by a chart on Guido’s blog. Today Gordon Brown, at Prime Minister’s Questions, said in deflecting a question about the UK’s comparative performance, that the UK was not the only country in the G20 in recession, Spain is in recession too.

Spain is not listed in the membership of the G2o. Gordon currently chairs the group. One of his senior advisers – Shriti Vadera – has been seconded to the group. So Gordon Brown used trickery to deflect criticism on his handling of the UK economy. This is a typical Gordon Brown ‘mis-truth’, ‘mis-speak’, ‘porky-pie’, or plain lie. Take your pick. It has caused a bit of a rumpus.

At issue here is a debasing of our political culture. Arguments about differing interpretations is the stuff of political discourse. But, what mustn’t be allowed is for untruths to go unchallenged, and that the deliverer of the untruth be allowed to continue without apology or regret.

I know it’s a small point about Spain not being in the G20. It’s one of the things about Gordon Brown that annoys. One can accept his standpoint on many things, though not agree with them. Political chicanery behind closed doors is one thing, but, we must believe that the Prime Minister speaks the truth about facts, even though we disagree on their interpretation.

It’ll be interesting to see if this is a case where he apologises, as he’s failed to do so in so many previous instances of mis-truths.

Battle for the truth: Abbott, Portillo, Campbell

Alastair Campbell was offered an opportunity to reflect on the unsavoury articles on Gordon Brown in the Sun newspaper, in Andrew Neil’s BBC’s This Week programme on Thursday evening. It provided illuminating exchanges between Alastair Campbell, Diane Abbott and Michael Portillo. Yet further evidence of the low regard in which Alastair Campbell is generally held. Certainly by me too, and never better expressed than in Michael Howard’s critique of his malign influence.

At around 5 minutes into the This Week video, which hopefully someone will put onto YouTube, Michael Portillo recalled a time when he heard Alastair Campbell abuse a journalist. Here’s what Portillo says, and the picture is of Campbell’s reaction,

Portillo: “You were screaming abuse down the phone on a daily basis.”

Campbell: “So you say, Michael.”

Alastair CampbellPortillo: “I heard you. Sometimes the lines are open.”

Campbell: “Balls.”

Portillo: “It’s not balls at all. There was an occasion when I was on the line, waiting for an interview as secretary of state, and Tony Blair was on before me, and the line was open. You then, in my hearing, abused the interviewer, because he’s asked some question which you’d told him he couldn’t ask. The deal you had with the media was, you would abuse them if they didn’t do what you wanted them to do … and then you wouldn’t give them the stories. You did that every day of your working life.”

Campbell: “Absolute bilge …”

Abbott: “You can still see the bruises on them. … I’m talking about  journalists that you used to go lobby meetings. Your modus operandi was about bullying.”

Campbell: “I know you don’t like saying good things about the Labour government. ….”

Abbott: “Here we go, here we go.”

Later in the exchanges,

Campbell: talking about Blair being a conviction politician and moving the Labour Party to the centre ground with left of centre values, which Campbell says, “…is where he [Blair] and Diane would… disagree”

Abbott: “We disagreed on the Iraq war to name but a few, which is not something you’d like to remember.

Abbott: “Would you come back to help [The Labour Party]?”

Campbell: “I probably help more than you do Diane, that’s for sure …”

Abbott: ” …. I’m turning out people to vote in my own constituency. Many of whom were worried about some aspects of what you represented in the Labour Party.”

Spot on Diane.

Foolishly damaging your earning potential

There are numerous aspects of the Baroness Scotland affair that need mentioning. They are in no particular priority order, although the first I imagine will have more lasting impact on the Baroness.

  1. Baroness Scotland’s frankly incomprehensible limpet-like desire to hang onto office will, I believe, reduce her future employment prospects for each day she remains in office. To wilfully want to damage your long term earning potential is peculiar. Perhaps it’s being seduced by the trappings of power.
  2. Had she resigned at the onset of the affair dignity would have been preserved, and she would’ve attracted praise for her principle. Not now though, whatever her original high principle, it’s being eaten away daily, until just a husk will remain when she loses office at the next election.
  3. More worrying for her should be that, apart from her niggling detractors in the blogosphere, Conservative shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling,  has her in his sights. A serious political opponent can exact damage on your future career. He’s pushing hard to have the investigation into her case re-opened. Here’s some of what he said earlier in the week,
    • “The more we hear about what happened last week the clearer it becomes that this was an investigation rushed through under fierce political pressure and it has failed to do the job properly.”
  4. When un-impeached integrity is required to handle sensitive and important cases, one such now sitting on Baroness Scotland’s desk in the shape of the BAe corruption and bribery scandal, having that integrity under challenge is neither good for the Baroness, nor the country.
  5. Finally, as the most senior law officer in the England and Wales, you’d have thought that one the law’s most famous latin phrases – dura lex sed lex: The law is tough, but it is law – would come straight into her mind, to help her resolve her predicament. Apparently not.

Baroness Scotland’s situation is unlikely to improve, in fact it’s likely to get worse and worse, and yet it could have been so different. Perhaps it’s Lord Acton’s dictum that applies, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Surely Baroness Scotland will go now: update – apparently not

£5000 FineBreaking news over at Sky. Surely to goodness she hasn’t the effrontery to remain in post, as THE senior law officer in England and Wales. Keep voting in my little poll HERE. Results at the end of the day, that’s if she lasts that long.

UPDATE: 02.30pm

The mind numbing crust of the woman. She says she’s not resigning. Abso-blooming-lutely shameful. This isn’t any old minister we’re talking about, it’s the most senior law officer in the land. Excuse me, the country has a right to expect the highest levels of probity from it’s most senior law officers. The media are not impressed:

  • Iain Martin speculates on the real reason for her not resigning
  • Paul Waugh is shocked by her lack of contrition

Just as Iain Martin says, can you imagine a local magistrate surviving in similar circumstances. No, nor can I. This case, more than any other ministerial blame avoidance, will do more damage to Labour than any other. Easy to say – Labour ministers are above the law, even when found out they carry on regardless.

Will the Baronesses survive?

Surely there’s not much chance that Baroness Scotland will survive in her job as Attorney General, now Guido has her in his cross hairs. Faced as she is with the joint difficulties of being caught employing an illegal immigrant and seemingly wrongly claiming expenses to which she’s not entitled.

Baroness Scotland’s case brings into sharp focus the case of another Labour minister – the children’s minister Baroness Morgan- seemingly also wrongly claiming expenses to which she’s not entitled. No mention of her by Guido yet, but I imagine he, and quite a few others, have got something brewing on the expenses scandals of members of the House of Lords.

Continuing pressure on Attorney General

The Attorney General illegal worker affair is the top story on the BBC’s PM radio programme. Eddie Mair asks just the right questions of the managing director of a household staff agency, seems that requesting to see a passport solves most problems, why didn’t the Attorney General do this?

The Financial Times Westminster blog thinks it’s a big deal, and the Daily Mail, who broke the story has a helpful update.