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March 21, 2007

Chancellor Doidge's Budget, 2007 Edition

Last year, your prudent Chancellor unveiled his measures to make Britain economically strong and ethically sound. This year, he shall repeat the exercise bearing in mind the strong likelihood that he will take over the reins of the sinking ship from Tony Blair in the coming months.

Last year, I began with a shameless attack upon the poor. That’s right. “Multi Stamp Duty”. The more houses you own, the more you pay in tax when you buy another one. Anyone buying a second home would pay 5% stamp duty, while anyone buying a third home (greedy buggeers) would pay 10%. Well this year Chancellor Doidge will scrap stamp duty altogether for people buying their first home (down from 1%). This undoubtedly popular move will come into effect as soon as possible, pissing off the rich no-end.

Talking of which, 4×4s. Last year I linked car tax to your MOT test. The more miles you do, the more you pay. If your car is a ‘big-emitter’, you currently pay (in Doidgeland) £100 if you do over 2,500 miles per year. Well I’m going to add a top-rate of £250 per year if you do over 10,000 miles per year. That’ll catch the estate agents in their Mondeos. Because no-one likes them anyway.

I’m not planning to tinker much with my simple tax rates that I imposed last year:

People earning between £15k – £30k pay 25% tax
People earning between £30k – £50k pay 35% tax and
People earning over £50k tax pay 45% tax.

But I’m going to launch a consultation on charging an extra 5% on anyone earning over £1m per year (in City bonuses presumably). We rely on the City of London for a huge amount of our income, but I don’t think charging the highest earners will really result in an exodus of executives to Luxembourg. And even if it does, at least house prices will fall.

And so to house prices. They’re clearly not starting to fall, and they’re not about to crash either. So along with the Department for Communities and Local Government, I can announce that by 2010, 20% of all new homes in Britain must be three storeys tall. In theory, this will mean less land is used, and we can build the millions of homes we need without encroaching too much on the green belt. I’m also sending every house a brick to put in their toilet. Less water used, you see.

Another thing about new homes that disappoints me is the small amount of garden space. True, this is slightly contradictory with what I just said, but I want to make sure there are plenty of green spaces in residential areas. Many local councils have a policy of ‘filling-in’ spaces between homes rather than building new housing estates. I think those spaces are a commodity in themselves and am launching a new national ‘green spaces’ fund to buy them from private landowners and turn them into community spaces, rather than squash more houses into them. Also, any new housing estate will have to have some arbitrary amount of shared green space per dwelling. Let’s say 20m2 per house.

Last year I scrapped BBC Three. The BBC ignored me, and put Anthea Turner on, just to inflame my bowels even more. In revenge, I’m taking BBC Two Wales off them as well. They’re filling it with programmes about Welshness – see here. BBC Two Wales will be replaced on Satellite (and moved onto Freeview too) with a sports channel. I’m still working on BBC Three, and fully intend for it to become a channel full of quality U.S. imports. I’m still planning to use the analogue TV signals for free-to-air High Definition, too.

In the world of journalism (for which I have what you might call a soft-spot), I intend to ban the Daily Mail and Daily Express. Democracy? Pah. They’d both rather have a monarch run the country on a daily basis, especially if they could get Diana back to do it. Fox News is also getting kicked off Sky. There are already rules about impartiality in the UK. It applies to Fox just as it does to Sky News, and yet we’ve done nothing about it.

I’ll sweeten the blow of losing BBC Wales by building a railway from north to south Wales. It takes ages to get there at the moment, and it’s silly. I’ll also build a decent railway from Cardiff to its airport, which is miles away and useless.

Last year I promised you I would introduce two things in 2007. I lied. I’m still going to give you free childcare by paying nurseries directly, but I’m not going to put Fathers 4 Justice into community service. Instead I’m sending them to Afghanistan. They can breach security like no-one else, so hopefully they can infiltrate Al-Qaeda too, and find Bin Laden for me.

As I’m about to take over the government, I thought I’d announce a few things I’m planning to do when Tony goes on his lecture tour. Firstly, I’m going to revoke his passport. Secondly I’m going to take out a banning order on his – and Alastair Campbell’s – memoirs. And finally I’m going to rent out his expensive new homes (incl. flats in Bristol) to poor people. It’s all for his own good. I saw that Channel 4 drama about ‘The Trial of Tony Blair’ and I reckon if he leaves the country we’ll forget about him pretty quickly.

I’m going to pull troops out of Iraq. Sorry, George. They’d be of more use in Zimbabwe, but we can’t do that because we’re not black and we’d look like the imperial aggressors that we, er… are. I’ll send half of them to Afghanistan because that’s a war worth winning, even just to kill the opium trade once and for all. And the rest I’ll retrain as rapid-response peacekeepers, like the S.A.S., but with incense sticks rather than AK-47s.

And finally I’m planning to invade Australia. I like the Aussies, I really do. But they’ve got a lot of unused land. And we have a lot of asylum seekers. I don’t think we should send them back to where they came from, because there’s usually a good reason they left. But with a few water pipes and a few traps for the snakes, I think we can make the bush hospitable. And with a few years’ climate change, we might even be able to grow strawberries out there!

And so, I present my final budget. It’s full of holes, but I don’t care. Someone else can come into the Treasury and clear it up. I’m moving on to new pastures. Well, next door, at least. It’s been an exciting ten years. I’ve cured world poverty, kept Blair and Bono in jobs, and only screwed up the universities, trains, hospitals and schools. Not bad. Now I can move to Number 10, fix it all, and say 1997 – 2007 was all his fault.


March 01, 2007

Tick tock… Tick tock…

Tony Blair - Time to go?I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The longer Tony Blair stays in power, the worse things will get for the Labour Party.

But it’s becoming more and more important that he goes sooner rather than later. Poll results predicting a Conservative lead of 11-13% perpetrate the view that a Conservative government in 2009 is almost inevitable.

That’s a perception that Gordon Brown needs to change. Back in 1995/6, it was obvious the Conservatives were on their last legs. There was little they could do to change the perceived wisdom that the Tories were sleazy, old and without fresh ideas.

Well skip forward to 2007, and it’s becoming hard to disassociate Labour from the same problems. The Cash for Honours inquiry is an unfortunate mirror of the Cash for Questions row – albeit with the threat of jail sentences for added flavour – and there’s only so many tweaks the government can make to the NHS and the education system before running out of ideas.

We’re about halfway through a Labour government. The bristles on a new broom are being weakened every day Mr Blair stays in charge.


February 28, 2007

Labour's scared of hearing 'I Told You So'

Alan Milburn and Charles Clarke will today launch a bid for the Labour Leadership. They’re not standing. But they are bidding to make it an open, transparent and useful process with debate about the direction of the party.

Thinly veiled, it is a challenge to Gordon Brown’s “hide behind the curtains” strategy.

Blair and Brown I’ve always thought Brown would need a kick up the rear in order for him to be honest about what his government would provide, other than more of the same. And so I’m pleased to see Milburn and Clarke push for this so publically. I think their intentions are honest and neither would want to be PM themselves. But the behind-the-scenes briefing seems to be saying this isn’t enough. They want a heavyweight to run against him. And their preferred heavyweight is David Miliband.

None of this is actually likely to make Brown open up and deliver a lecture on anything more useful than ‘Britishness’, his favourite vacuous subject.

But something else might: Polls.

Brown is thirteen points behind David Cameron according to the Independent – which is even worse than Tony Blair at the moment. Mr Brown isn’t stupid, and knows he’ll have to do something about this.

The trouble for him is that the Labour Party members might ‘do something’ before he gets the chance. But something is likely to stop them. Echoing in the back of their minds is the thought that in 2009, under someone else, they’ll hear four eery words from Gordon Brown…

I told you so.


February 14, 2007

Brown v Miliband? The gloves start coming off

Having been controlled by a duopoly for the past 13 years, Labour should consider jumping a generation to free itself from the negative incumbency factor that will otherwise plague the new government’s future.

Frank Field MP, writing in The Guardian today.

His suggestion? Step forward, David Miliband.

It’s a strange time for Mr Field to write this. Under a week ago, Miliband made a silly comment about Gordon Brown on the BBC’s Question Time. It looked like a schoolboy error.

There’s clearly going to be a Blairite wing of the party who look to someone like Miliband to defeat Brown. But it’s not going to happen, and luckily David Miliband is clever enough to know this.

Frank Field should be too.


February 08, 2007

Sillyband

David Miliband - a five-star wally Er… whoops. David Miliband’s made a bit of a cock-up on Question Time, suggesting that Gordon Brown will be less popular than Tony Blair…

“I predict that when I come back on this programme in six months or a year’s time, people will be saying ‘wouldn’t it be great to have that Blair back because we can’t stand that Gordon Brown’.”

It’s a shame, because he’s a pretty decent politician and incredibly clever. He’d be a good foil to the Dour One.

But the odds on Miliband ever becoming Labour leader will have just taken a big knock. Silly billy.


January 21, 2007

Chris Doidge's Blog Forces Major New Government Policy

Chris Doidge’s Blog, 16th January 2007:

There’s probably a case to be made that the Home Office is permanently “unfit for purpose”, encompassing too many different roles. And it’s rumoured Gordon Brown will split it into two when he becomes Prime Minister. The question is: why can’t that be done now?

BBC News Online, 20th January 2007:

The Home Office could be split into two departments under recommendations put forward by Home Secretary John Reid. One department would deal with security issues and the other with justice under the plans, which are set be to put to the Cabinet for discussion.

This post may have a tongue-in-cheek title, or may be true. You decide.


January 10, 2007

Brown needs a challenger, or else he'll have to call an election

Stephen Byers sees the world through blinkered eyes. He says there are “no fundamental ideological divisions within New Labour”, ignoring the section of his party who consider themselves ‘Old Labour’. And he is as Blairite as they come, which colours his judgement of the Chancellor.

But he is right in saying that Gordon Brown’s coronation would be an unattractive spectacle.

Only Labour’s opponents want to see the leadership contest turn into a bloodbath, but every Labour MP should want an open discussion of the challenges their party faces.

If Mr Brown provides us with an idea of what he wants to do, and not just what he believes in, then the public might retract their demands for a ‘snap election’ to vote on his agenda. Otherwise their calls for greater accountability would be justified.

But he needs to stop answering questions with bland waffle, as he did with Andrew Marr this weekend. Otherwise he leaves himself open to attack from Blairites like Mr Byers, who rightly criticise his failure to indicate where the Labour Party is heading.

Published in the Evening Standard, 10th January 2007.
Written in response to an article by Mr Byers in the paper two days earlier. (No web link available)


January 07, 2007

Blair on Saddam: 'What A Kerfuffle'

Lou and Andy, or Blair and Brown While Downing Street might appear terraced to the untrained eye, houses 10 and 11 are definitely semi-detached.

The relationship between Blair and Brown is now so petty that when Brown jumps, Blair has to rush straight in, desperate not to be left behind.

This morning, Brown told Andrew Marr that the manner of Saddam Hussein’s execution was “deplorable and unacceptable”. It’s taken him a week to realise this, but never mind.

Up to now, Tony Blair has kept a bizarre silence on the execution. He’s left public statements to Margaret Beckett and avoided the issue. But now Brown’s offered some thoughts on the issue, Blair has – in his eyes – had to do the same.

What a kerfuffle.

It’s possible that Blair’s been keeping quiet because he doesn’t want to weaken the extremely-shaky Iraqi government. But everyone in Britain’s going to be thinking he’s trying to keep his hands clean.

Yet again, Blair looks weak and Brown’s forced his hand. It’s obvious Brown is getting the best political advice, even if he’s the dullest interviewee on the planet.

P.S. Iain Dale says the BBC’s topline from the interview (Brown and Blair split) shows how dull the interview was. I reckon Brown’s a bit cleverer than Iain is suggesting. Brown knew he could talk rubbish for 15 minutes, drop in the words “deplorable” and “unacceptable” and write the headlines himself.

Brown decided what he wanted the Beeb’s topline to be before he began the interview. And he knew that ‘Brown gives dull interview’ wouldn’t be a major story in the Mainstream Media. Any Blair/Brown split is coming straight from No 11.


December 27, 2006

Two very different politicians

Gordon Brown and Gerald Ford

A question being asked after the death of former U.S. President Gerald Ford is whether a politician of his kind could lead today. Ford was thrust into the Oval Office after Nixon resigned following Watergate. He hadn’t even been elected as Vice President, but had been placed there after another scandal.

Despite not seeking the job, his achievements in two years were impressive. He failed in the 1976 election because of his decision to pardon President Nixon. At the time he was strongly criticised for the pardon, but as time passed Americans realised he took the difficult, but correct decision.

Contrast him with the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, and you have to wonder whether an accidental politician could ever prosper in Britain or America in the 21st Century.

It seems to be to the detriment of politics that there are fewer public servants like Ford.


December 08, 2006

A shock election from Prime Minister Brown?

Might Gordon Brown be preparing a shock election for us in 2008?

Hazel Blears has suggested in a letter to party activists that Labour should prepare for an election in as little as “16 months away”.

Sir Bob Worcester predicted last year that the next election would be on 7th May 2009. He predicted the last one accurately to the very day. But I’ve also been hearing rumours over the past year that Labour might be planning a snap election rather sooner.

They’ve selected their parliamentary candidates for the next election earlier than would be usual in a 4-5 year parliamentary cycle. The Conservatives have responded and should have their lists complete in under a year.

Why would they want a quick election?
Well, it would allow Brown to pull off a few spectacular moves (like reform of the House of Lords) before walking his way through a general election. Similarly, there might be worries that the longer David Cameron has to bed in, the better he’ll get.

But will it work?
I think there’s a chance it might. The best way for Brown to overcome his glaring lack of warm personality is to blind us with a raft of dramatic changes in policy and make his government appear strong and forward-thinking. Scrapping ID Cards isn’t beyond the realms of possibility, and we might see greater independence for the NHS, allowing it to govern itself.

Only if he does this quickly and avoids silly mistakes will the strategy come off. It’s high risk and there’s always a danger that ‘events’ will derail the entire plan. But if it works, we can forget fears of a hung parliament, no matter when he decides to call the election.


December 06, 2006

That Pre–Budget Report In The Numbers That Matter

PBRTotal Pages = 274

Price: £45

Mentions:
Investment = 347
Environment = 168
Spending = 160
Building = 114
Future = 79
School = 59
Prudent/Prudence = 12
Drugs = 7
Strong Economy = 4
Hospital = 3
Legacy = 2
Immigration = 1


Does Gordon love Wales?

Welsh politics is in a bit of a crisis at the moment over its budget, and is looking to Gordon Brown to solve it when he announces his Pre-Budget Report.

The Labour leadership in Cardiff say there’s no more money to be spent on education or health, but the opposition parties are refusing to sign off on the budget before they find some.

So they’re looking to Brown for more cash.

But there’s personality politics at play. First Minister Rhodri Morgan is regarded as little better than a Liberal Democrat by Brown and Blair, and know that if they refuse to help him out, they might be able to get rid of him.

Let’s see whether Gordon’s in a helpful mood.


What's in Gordon's box?

Today, Gordon unveils his 10th Pre-Budget Report. As reports go, it isn’t a Hutton or a Stern.

But, as it’s by Gordon Brown, we’re pretty well aware of what’s going to be in it. He just loves to leak his own work before he unveils it properly. It allows him to revel in his own glory before anyone can properly slag him off about any of it.

Well bugger that.

Much of what he says will be full of dazzling ideas, but with little substance behind them. Apparently we’ll have ten-year jail sentences for CD and DVD pirates. Which, considering how many of them they’ve caught so far, isn’t likely to scare anyone.

His promise in 2004 to cut the number of civil servants – following the Gershon review – sounded brilliant. He promised £21bn of ‘efficiencies’, which actually meant a few thousand civil servants being moved to outside agencies, while still being paid by the government. Whole departments were moved, but it turned out only 4 people worked for them.

We’re promised higher fuel duty and airline taxes, but won’t be given any promises as to where that money will go. You can bet it won’t end up making the railways any better.

The fact is that under Brown, the economy has done brilliantly well for nearly ten years. We’re beating most of our genuine competitors (which doesn’t mean China or Eastern Europe) and our schools and hospitals are much better than they were in 1997.

But he’s still wasted a huge number of opportunities. There’s far too many people in poverty. Elderly people are still struggling to pay their bills. And the official inflation figures don’t take into account that for many people, their fuel bills (which have been soaring) make up a disproportionate amount of their living costs. Similarly, there are subsidies available to people wanting to install solar panels on their roof. But they’ve run out.

Brown’s problem is that he looks too carefully at the polls. We care about education and health, but the environment and child poverty don’t get our blood going. And he knows he’ll do best at the next election if he focuses his spending on the things the majority of people are interested in.

The saddest thing is that, for Brown, the elderly won’t be around to vote for much longer, and so don’t warrant much ‘investment’. The same goes for children and the people in Africa dying because global warming has roasted their water supply.

So whatever is in his box, and whatever emotion he pulls out of it, don’t expect much genuine compassion.


November 28, 2006

George Osborne is a pathetic playground bully

Writing about web page http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,17129-2475122,00.html

According to today’s Times, the shadow chancellor George Osborne has had handwriting analysis carried out on Gordon Brown which found:

The writer is not shy. The writer shows unreliable and poor judgment. The writer was not in control of their emotions and instincts at the time of writing. There are signs that the writer is someone who does not like to give a clear-cut image of himself. There are signs that the writer can be evasive.

Pathetic George Osborne

If this is the level to which Mr Osborne has sunk, is he really a credible Chancellor of the Exchequer? Not in a million years. Two months ago he called the Chancellor “autistic”. He’s making Punch and Judy politics look good.

The article later points out that Mr Brown can only see out of one eye and that the person who carried out the analysis said that the 14 words she saw were “insufficient information” to come to any firm conclusions.

Didn’t stop The Times toadying to Osborne’s pathetic excuse for news though, did it?


November 13, 2006

Brown and Ming sitting in a tree…

I got laughed at on 18 Doughty Street for suggesting that Labour and the Lib Dems might go into a proportional-representation-based love-in after the next election.

Well either I’m not the only clown or the rumours are true. Jasper Gerard in the Observer said yesterday:

Upon entering Number 10, he wants fireworks with announcements even more dramatic than his first act as Chancellor, granting independence to the Bank of England. Many of his prize rockets hoarded in the Treasury have already been set off by that twisted fire starter next door, Blair. So Brown needs a spectacular. And what sparkler would light up the political landscape more brightly than electoral reform?

My favourite scenario is for Labour to win a slim-but-unmanageable majority, go into coalition with the Lib Dems, bring in PR, then hold a new election six months later.


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