All entries for Wednesday 06 September 2006

September 06, 2006

Learning shorthand…

Shorthand


What the political journalists aren't telling you…

It’s clear that things are shifting pretty quickly in Westminster. Today seven members of the government have resigned because – essentially – Tony Blair won’t resign.

But we’re not quite getting the whole story, because we never do. The way these things work in Westminster are a bit complicated and full of as much conspiracy as you can probably imagine. I’m afraid I am speculating, but here’s what’s probably going on at the moment:

  1. The Labour backbenchers are furious that Tony Blair has announced a date for his departure, without actually saying so himself. Instead you had David Miliband explain the “conventional wisdom”, Hilary Armstrong tell us of the “perceived wisdom” and poor Hilary Benn speak of the “growing consensus”. It was pretty clear they were all singing from the same hymn-sheet, written by No 10. What’s more, the Sun were more specific in naming a date, which anyone who knows Westminster knows it will have come from No 10 too. Interestingly the leaked memo saying how Blair would enjoy a ‘farewell tour’ of the country is rumoured to have come from Gordon Brown’s allies. It may even have been written by them to embarrass Blair.
  2. The seven Labour backbenchers who have resigned their positions will have been getting a) a lot of stick from the Labour whips, who work for Blair and b) a lot of love from Gordon Brown’s allies, who have probably promised them jobs in his government. Expect more to sign-up for the Brown revolution as soon as his henchmen can convince them of their future opportunities for employment.
  3. While 17 Labour MPs signed a letter yesterday, calling for him to go, another 49 signed one declaring their undying love for the leader (practically). What’s interesting isn’t that the Blair-lovers trumped the Blair-haters, but that they could only drum up support from 13% of the party. The rest are conspicuous by their absence.
  4. May 31st is an interesting date for Blair to choose to leave. Notably because it’s after the local, Scottish and Welsh elections next year. Blair is pretty unliked in Scotland and Wales, as he is seen (not surprisingly) as a stupid Englishman. So staying in power during their elections will piss them off no-end.
  5. News organisations like the BBC and Sky are having real difficulties in finding ministers who will stand up and support Blair. Hilary Benn did so last night because he was told to, but few others are coming out of the woodwork voluntarily. Note that the 1 o’clock news on BBC One could only drum up a Welsh Lord, whose praise for Blair was extremely conditional on him going before May 31st. High praise indeed.
  6. While Labour backbench MPs want Blair out, they’re not entirely sure how to do it. There’s no formal mechanism for removing the leader (for some reason Blair decided not to create one!!!), and their best bet seems to be for the Cabinet to turn on him. As soon as you see a single member of the Cabinet say that they think it would be best for Blair to step down, he’s finished. They wouldn’t say so openly unless they thought they had support from others.
  7. Some of the Labour MPs who have resigned were slavishly Blairite before today. It suggests that their political career was built upon brown-nosing (no pun intended) whoever appears to be in charge. Now that Brown is in the driving seat, people are switching vehicles.

Personally it’s very frustrating I can’t sit in on the Lobby briefings that take place at Number 10. The tension must be incredible. Maybe they’d like to invite me? Ha ha! You can get some idea of what’s been said here, but you really have to read between the lines to figure out what sort of body language the PM’s official spokesman would have been using! I rather suspect he was trying hard to hide his dejection.

P.S. I notice from the PMOS briefing this morning: “As he had already said… David Miliband had decided to go on the Today Programme himself.” The question is whether he decided what to say himself…

P.P.S. The seven members of the government who’ve resigned all have one thing in common: their seats are in danger at the next election. They’re all from the Birmingham area (where Labour reckons it’s going to get wiped out) or Wales (see above for explanation). So it’s not about Tony going – they’re worried that if he doesn’t go soon, they’ll be following him shortly!


Imbecile of the Week #5: Ken Kutaragi

Last week Airbus announced it was replacing the guy in charge of its A380 superjumbo because of continued delays to production. The delays don’t help when the company is struggling to sell enough of the machines to break even.

Well a similar – and potentially more expensive – situation is going on at Sony, where the Playstation 3 has been delayed in Europe and its production volumes to the U.S. and Japan have been cut to a paltry 500,000 each. They were supposed to sell 4,000,000 consoles by the end of 2006 and will now only manage 2,000,000 tops. It’s causing major problems for Sony as it gives Microsoft yet another Christmas season to dominate as the #1 console.

The production of the PS3 has been delayed because of the Blu-Ray disc players that go inside them. Blu-Ray is one of two competing formats (the other being HD-DVD) hoping to replace the humble DVD as the disc of choice for film and video-game consumers. Both formats have been beset by problems such as a shortage of blue-coloured lasers, discs that just don’t work, and the new version of Windows not supporting either.

But there’s been no chopping of heads as seen at Airbus.

It might because there’s nothing Sony can do about it, so it’s no-one’s fault (hardly likely), or more probably, it could be because of a different management style (Airbus’s boss got into trouble because he didn’t warn the Board of Directors that the plane was going to be delayed by turbulence).

Sony have got a lot to lose from having the PS3 delayed: not just poor figures for 2006, but also a loss in market share as parents buy their kids XBoxes for Christmas, and a boost for HD-DVD which looks set to get to market far quicker than its arch-rival.

Ken Kutaragi (boss of Sony’s Computer Entertainment division) might have kept his job for now, but in the second round of Format Wars, HD-DVD has been dealt another card in its favour.


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