New Rental Currency…

I am currently flat hunting, as I am moving at the end of the month. And saw this advert on Gumtree and was quite shocked by the rent…

 

For those who can’t zoom in this is what is advertised with what is circled in red* in bold below:

It is in god location in #######, which is 5 minutes walking to ##### #####, and the bus is very convenient with 10, 11,15, 16, 23, 27, 34, 35,etc.

The flat has a window can see the sky.

The kitchen is big with a dinning table.

Bills are included. There is central heating system.

The contract duration will be six weeks.

The period of rent could be one russian girl. 

It is clean and quiet. Student will be priority.

 

I know they say rent is high these days, but blimey!

 

* I have blacked out and starred out the the details for obvious reasons.

 

Could Parliament reach new highs?

Soon, not only could you be able to buy Coke in the House of Commons canteens, but you may be able to get Cannabis too. I have it on good authority this morning that the House of Commons catering department are considering selling Cannabis Energy Drink in Portcullis House.

The member of the house staff who told was bemused how it got here, and suggested the Austrian company that owns the energy drink has clearly got their UK dealers to pitch it to them. Apparently a few test cans were even sent in, and it might go before the committee that decides such matters.

Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, it is purely at the consideration stage at present, with the suggestion being passed up the line. And let’s be realistic, unless there is a brave foolish person, not worried about their job, on that committee, then this is as far as it will ever get.

The headline to this post is as John Rentoul would say on twittter: #QTWTAIN

Although, it does offer something that any workplace could benefit from:

Cannabis Energy Drink makes you feel good

Cannabis Energy Drink is a powerful energy drink that immediately provides extra energy: Improves your concentration Improves your performance Makes you feel energetic

I mean who doesn’t want to feel good let alone energetic?

Although, we could all imagine the Daily Mail’s response, can you imagine their ire if it ends up being subsidized! And the energy drink maker’s website is the stuff of a journalist’s wet dream. As according to the maker’s website:

“A normal energy drink gives you energy. But Cannabis Energy Drink immediately gives you extra power and a little more… a bit of uhh… that.”

And its ingredients:

“Need energy? Drink Cannabis Energy Drink. The hemp seed extract provides a very nice taste and… some more.”

There are some who would say there are some in Westminster (on the Government benches) who need some energy, and many would say there are those who need “some more” too. But it does come with a health warning:

“Not suitable for children, diabetics, pregnant women and persons sensitive to cafeine (sic).”

I am gonna go out on a limb and add people sensitive to Daily Mail editorials, as well as certain MPs to that list…

Nevertheless, there are quite a few high profile politicians who have in the past admitted to have taken cannabis, from Alastair Darling to Harriet Harman. And even the Prime Minister has allegedly indulged in the substance. So there may not be a big fuss about a product that merely contains hemp extract.

Hang on, what am I typing, of course there would be… its Britain!

There was quite a stir only last year when Lib Dem Tom Brake MP’s Early Day Motion (EDM) on “Evidence-Based Drugs Policy” was tabled, which called for the decriminalisation of drugs; it found support from 19 MPs, with former Labour Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth, and Conservative MP Peter Bottomley among the signatories.

The EDM is the parliamentary form of the Post-it note, but with less power and influence, yet that EDM alone, led to this Daily Mail headline:

“The Lib Dems are determined to see drugs decriminalised”

 

All jokes aside, I hope this is just gossip doing the rounds. As personally, I don’t want to see this on the shelves in parliamentary canteens, not because of my opposition to the decriminalisation of drugs (I have always thought legalization arguments are pretty weak), but I think it would make parliament look a bit silly. And I have strong faith in the catering department seeing sense.

I am not sure why this has come to pass now, it maybe because there are two Bob Marley films around at the moment and someone saw a gap in the market. But, as I said, the sight of MPs walking around with a smiles on their faces clutching cans of ‘Cannabis Energy Drink’, may be a long time from coming.

Especially if the official company advert (below) is anything to go by, relaxing will be the last thing on their minds…

Jah!

Recession Chancellors: Osborne is no Cripps

Everyone is dealing with the fact we have slipped back into recession, but the overall growth picture looks equally bad. The quarter to quarter data leads people to ignore the flat line recovery of the economy.

For me the best way I have heard it summed up comes from the USA here with this handy chart below:

…check out the UK line. The UK was recovering on a fine trajectory right up until early 2010, at which point UK growth hit a brick wall.

What happened in 2010? That’s when conservative David Cameron came to power with an agenda of reigning in the debt…

The annual growth rate for Mr. Osborne as Chancellor is quite damning (blue line below). In 2009-10 growth rate was 2.1% when he took over inheriting the previous Labour economic start to the year. In his first solo year as Chancellor the annual growth rate was 0.7%. And after today’s announcement the OBR has revised its annual growth rate down to 1% for 2012-13.

When you compare this to say Labour’s post-war Chancellor Stafford Cripps’s 3 years as at the Treasury from 1947-50 (red line below) then it is quite embarrassing. In contrast, the annual growth rate Stafford Cripps’ inherited in his 1st year was -1.35%, his second 3.66%, and third 3.46%.

Clearly Cripps had it a lot worse. Cripps inherited a post war economy destroyed by years of war with higher debt and a larger deficit. Furthermore, he inherited an economy that had experienced a few years of negative growth previously. Cripps was able to benefit from a peace dividend and Marshall Aide to be fair. But you can see the point I am making:

Osborne needs to up his game and fast as others in his job have had it harder!

If only Osborne had listened to Ed Balls’s Bloomberg speech more closely:

I believe that – by ripping away the foundations of growth and jobs in Britain – David Cameron, Nick Clegg and George Osborne are not only leaving us badly-exposed to the new economic storm that is coming, but are undermining the very goals of market stability and deficit reduction which their policies are designed to achieve.

Far from learning from our history it is my fear that the new Coalition government is set to repeat the mistakes of history – and that George Osborne’s declaration of ‘cautious optimism’ on this platform a fortnight ago may go down in history alongside Norman Lamont singing in his bath.

I was lucky enough to work on Ed’s leadership campaign so I remember his speech well. Yet it was this section of the speech that I remember most of all, as people now refer to it as ‘The Bloomberg Speech’, but it was actually called ‘There is an Alternative’ and this is why:

Here in Britain we have seen, in recent days, MPC member Martin Weale warn of the risk of a double-dip recession as a result of the current fiscal tightening.

But whether our economy continues to recover or slips back into sustained slow growth – even recession again – is not just a concern for Treasury ministers and financial analysts.

Whether our leaders make the right calls now on growth and jobs, the deficit, public spending and welfare reform will determine the future of our country for the next decade or more and shape the kind of society we want to be.

I do believe we face a choice as a country – on the economy and the future of our public services and the welfare state.

You can watch the whole thing here:

Who is next in the SpAd ‘Sack Race’?

Everyone has been talking about the politicians in the current email revelations by James Murdoch and Leveson yesterday; and Jeremy Hunt’s Special Advisor (SpAd) Adam Smith has felt the invisible hand push him out the window as he has decided to quit this morning; but who could be next?

If this email from yesterday is anything to go by then surely the next person could/has to be Alex Salmond’s SpAd:

The email, if accurate, is rather damming and certainly in breach, of at least this section, as shown below, of the Code of Conduct for Special Advisors:

If not this one:

If it is the above section then it has to be assessed whether he was acting on Salmond’s authorisation, I would assume this is why Adam Smith has gone.

The big question that Alex Salmond hopefully will be asked and will answer after his speech today at the Institute of Directors will confirm which SpAd met with Frederic Michel. And gave the impression that:

He believes the time has come to organise a First Ministerial debate between him and Ian

Gray [ Labour leader], who are the two only possible FM candidates.

He would be very keen for Sky News to organise it with Adam. there is a timing issue as it

would have to be orgamsed before dissolution on 22nd March.

The likely candidate one would assume is Kevin Pringle (and as is being claimed by some). He has been an SNP press officer since 1989, when not taking time out to do other jobs like spinning for Scottish Gas in 2004, and must be worrying this morning especially since Adam Smith’s departure. This is not the first time Mr Pringle has been in the sack race, and then the Scottish Sun was calling for it!

And let’s not forget the revelations of his alleged previous breach of the Code over the “dirty tricks” and whole “Cyber Nats” affair in 2009. And then reminded only in January this year of his spinning of academic support for a second question in the referendum.

Being pulled up once on this section of the code is bad enough, twice is shocking, but three times is unforgivable and is just sloppy! He was viewed by some to have been lucky to have kept his job on previous occasions, so third time unlucky some may start to think…

The funny thing is that the Scottish Government was set to bring in its own Code of Conduct for SpAds, but has yet to confirm it in the Scottish Parliament. Being the parliamentary “stato” that I am, I am pretty sure that, as a result the Code of Conduct, which SpAd’s in devolved administrations must adhere to, is from the Cabinet Office of June 2010.

Oh the irony, that an SNP SpAd could be fired under the rules laid down by Westminster, thanks to Scotland still being in the union; and potentially because they didn’t choose to take the powers from Westminster they already have.

Something I am sure will not be lost on a potential next winner of the ‘sack race’…

UPDATE: 

It appears that it was not Mr. Pringle, as many thought, but as the below tweet shows, it seems Geoff did it! But the questions above still stand, and Geoff Aberdein (referred to also as Salmond’s “part-Labrador”) may have entered the ‘sack race’… or could at least pick up another red card

 

Are we watching the beginning of the end of the European ‘Austerity Consensus’?

This morning news that the Cutty Sark, a ship strongly associated with bringing global products and trade to European markets, was bookended this evening by the news that global financial markets are setting sail away from European financial markets.

This has been brought on by the result in the first round of the French elections that suggests that François Hollande could be on his way to the Élysée Palace; but could his victory also be the crest of a wave that shows the tide is turning in the so called ‘Austerity Europe’?

Although, such a tide may not wash away the right-wing austerity drive in some parts it certainly would knock it off course. And it would herald that the current consensus on austerity policies in Europe, enshrined in the European Fiscal Compact, is starting to crumble with more political clouds forming on the horizon.

The resignation this afternoon of the Dutch PM, Mark Rutte, is one such storm cloud. The subsequent malaise means that the budget enforcing the European fiscal pact will not go through. And the coming elections could lead to the rise of an anti-austerity left who are chomping at the bit for an early election smelling blood; despite recent opinion polls putting the Labour Party and Socialist Party’s behind the current government coalition.

Then there is another dark storm cloud starting to form in the looming Greek elections in May; although the Greeks may still return the governing coalition, they may be emboldened to argue for opening up the  European Fiscal Compact if they see other senior European countries attempting to do the same. Especially as there is a chance that pro-bailout parties could be in the minority, unable to form a government, as four smaller anti-bailout parties sit on a 10% share of the vote each.

In addition, there are local elections in Italy whose outcome could put the technocrat leader Mario Monti, who relies heavily on cross party support, in a rather inclement disposition. Furthermore, Ireland is going to the polls to in a referendum to ratify the European Fiscal Compact and the trade unions are leading the “No” campaign, although they trail the Yes campaign 42% – 27% there are 37% of voters undecided.

When one pours more misery on top of this in the shape of next month’s North Rhine-Westphalia state elections that are expected to land Angela Merkal’s party a bloody nose, with a Red-Green Alliance victory, European Austerity starts to  appear to be a sinking ship.

Although, Angela Merkel and her governing coalition appear to be faring well in the opinion polls, the German Federal Elections in October 2013 could begin to look grim if the popular Fiscal Compact begins to look unworkable, and on her watch German taxpayers believe they are picking up the bill.

The situation could look even worse for the European centre- right, if Hollande and the French Socialists show a more agreeable and successful alternative than currently on offer by centre-right European political governments,  sparking a boost for the European parties like the German SDP. The latter who also endorse the Francois Hollande’s European fiscal plans.

The potential for a domino or snowball effect to occur starts to become imaginable. And let’s not forget what Mr. Hollande has said he sees himself in this role as insurgent:

“I am a European who is going to change the direction of the continent….” “….Germany should not decide the direction of Europe alone.”

“If Europe is not capable of taking decisions, I will not ratify the treaty because I consider it’s a very important point for growth,”

Not since Napoleon could a Frenchman stand on the precipice of holding such sway in Europe that would make Charlemagne blush; and it is also been a long time since European leaders have grown to be cautious of the sound of the name Hollande.

As Napoleon famously once said: “A leader is a dealer in hope”, and today as global financial markets rush to dump European shares overboard, and the day before the UK could slip into a double dip recession, François Hollande is selling a hopeful alternative that the rest of Europe could start to buy. 

Regardless of if anyone agrees with his alternative, his election would certainly changes the current consensus in Europe. Something centre-right leaders will be fully aware of…


Possible Tories who may ‘Phil’ like becoming UKIPers

This week’s revelation by Tim Montgomerie that there are some Tory MPs who are strongly considering joining UKIP has not come as a surprise, but has started much speculation.

The funny thing was that talking to a few Tory Researcher I know, or “insiders” as others on the blogosphere like to refer to them these days, they have their own suspicions and are not completely opposed to the idea; one said:

Well its better than the Lib Dems, and most of us agree more with their policies than our own at the moment…

It’s quite a laid back approach and something I find quite strange. As the alternative would be a Labour MP like John McDonnell going over to the Greens or Respect, and to say I would be livid would be an understatement. Personally, I find the very idea of even letting someone like Galloway back into our Party revolting.

Anyhow, the Guido Fawkes blog has done a rather helpful list of possible defectors. However, there are a couple of exceptional names missing: Philip Hollobone MP and Philip Davies MP.

Both MPs are on the backbench and very critical of the frontbench Cameroons, not careerists and hold pretty much the same views as Ukip on a plethora of issues.

In addition, they both had slim majorities after the 2005 election similar to the size of the UKIP support locally. And although they now both have massively increased their majorities at the 2010 election, from the low hundreds to over 9,000 each, they won’t be ruling out how tight their majorities once were in 2015.

Furthermore, at the last election both MPs enjoyed the support of UKIP who not only didn’t run candidates against them but also came out and officially campaigned for them.

And what’s more, MPs like Davies welcomed it!

Given that these two seats are potentially marginal (if you add David Nuttall MP, similar ilk with an current marginal seat), what would stop them jumping ship to UKIP and cutting a deal with the Tories who would not want to risk losing possibly marginal seats?

And why could a deal not be struck by smart Tory strategist seeking a Tory majority ahead of the next election to cover their right flank?

Everyone is a winner, the Tories don’t have to worry about Labour gaining a possible marginal, and Ukip get to grow in size. Those on the ideological political right would see another party to buttress the core beliefs. UKip for some rightwing Tory activists is what the Green party is for some of the more loopy lefty Labour activists.

The precedent is already set, and the deal struck could be similar to the one they did in Northern Ireland with the Ulster Unionist Party before the last election.

The Ukip MPs could become the English (and Scottish) version to Ulster Conservative and Unionist candidates in Northern Ireland. In affect they could be the Conservative and UKip candidates, which is pretty much what UKip are doing now anyway.

The defecting MPs could create a situation that forces the hand of CCHQ to recognize their fellow ideological brothers. And the ideal MPs to do it would be those who are already breaking the Tory whip and are de-facto Ukipers anyway…

What is Ashcroft so interested in?

An enjoyable part of my job involves monitoring Parliamentary Questions. It’s a good way of finding out things about the government and also the MP/Peer asking the question.

One of my personal favourite Peers is Lord Ashcroft as he usually asks quite pointy questions now he has a some what frosty relationship with Downing Street.

In the past he has asked questions on the obvious subjects that a tax dodging Lord of Belize would ask questions about: the top rate of tax or lobbying for an airports on his “island dream”

However, one of his recent questions has particularly caught my eye:

Government: Air Travel

Question

Asked by Lord Ashcroft

To ask Her Majesty’s Government who, other than British Airways staff, travelled on the chartered aircraft with the Prime Minister to the United States on 13 March.[HL16486]

 

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): As set out in the Ministerial Code, details of ministerial overseas travel are published quarterly, covering date, destination, purpose of trip, type of transport (ie scheduled, RAF, chartered or Eurostar), the number of officials accompanying the Minister for non-scheduled travel, and the cost. You can access this information at: www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/resource-library/ministerial-gifts-hospitality-travel-and-meetings-external-organisations.

Information covering the period January-March 2012 is expected to be published by the summer.

The time in question was Cameron’s visit to the USA for the so called “Oberon” visit. I remember thinking at the time that it was a little bit risky to have both the Chancellor, Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister on one flight. Even the Royals don’t do that, and they are the unelected part of our state.

If there was a terrible air accident like the tragic one that beset Poland, then the top of government would have been effectively decapitated. Leaving Nick Clegg as Prime Minister, not a thought worth thinking about…

There is two reasons for Ashcroft to be asking this sort of question. One, Ashcroft was just a bit bored. Or two, he wants to know who has Cameron’s ear and has accompanied him on said flight.

As Ashcroft is ‘Peering’ into rather than out of the tent more these days it would seem likely he is using parliamentary ways to do it. Anyway, just like him we will have to wait until summer to find out who was on that flight.

A right Royal money spinner

This is the Diamond Jubilee China that the  the House Of Commons Gift Shop/Retail Department hope will help them to cash in on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Apart from the odd colour scheme, and rubbish design that makes it look more like a souvenir I once got off an Irish relative, the thing that really sticks out is the price.

When you scroll down the advert you discover how much a small part of history costs:

A coaster will set you back £20, a mug £30, and a rather odd looking plate will cost you £35.

As the advert says, the collection has been:

“Inspired by the central lobby within the Palace of Westminster…”

It seems the price has been also!

Don’t get me wrong, I think this memorabilia sale will be a right royal money spinner, but could not a similar ruse be thought up before ideas such as charging for Big Ben Tours are thought up first?

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