All entries for Wednesday 10 January 2007

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)

Lottery cash propping up the Olympics?

Writing about web page

In something of a surprise, the government has indicated that it might use cash from the National Lottery’s general good causes fund to pay for the increasingly expensive 2012 Olympics.

The original cost of £2.375bn was partly to be funded by a special Olympics lottery fund, separate from the main funds. The cost has since risen to £3.3bn and may rise further.

The Chairman of the Big Lotto Fund, Sir Clive Booth, said in response that “Whitehall doesn’t understand the Lottery”. He says charities may be denied up to £950m as a result of the move.

Labour’s 2005 manifesto says:

Our Lottery bill will give a duty and a power to every Lottery distributor to involve the public more dramatically in decision-making at every level.

If they believe that, will Tessa Jowell be asking the public what they think about even more Lottery cash being spent on the Olympics?

I suspect not.

I’m pleased the Olympics will be in London. But the government seems to be incapable of paying for it properly and is taking the easy – and unfair – option.

Chris likes…

In a new and ever-evolving feature on my blog, here’s a list of things which I currently like, in alphabetical order:

  • 24
  • Curry
  • Fajitas
  • Google Earth and the 3D Connexion Space Explorer
  • Google Reader
  • Jack Bauer
  • Local Government Financing
  • Louis Theroux
  • Manchester United
  • Pineapple
  • The West Wing
  • Tuna pasta bake
  • Working late into the night
  • YouTube as a journalistic tool (no, seriously – research and free music)

Chris hates…

In a new and ever-evolving feature on my blog, here’s a list of things which I currently hate, in alphabetical order:

  • Blog-related PR spam
  • Cardiff weather
  • Chelsea Football Club
  • Extortionate train fares
  • Joss Stone
  • Lasagne, with a passion
  • Reality TV shows involving celebrities
  • Samuel Preston, lead singer of The Ordinary Boys
  • The Daily Mail
  • The distance from Cardiff to Blackpool
  • The regularity with which computer mice are breaking on me
  • Trying to find shoes that fit me (size 12, unusual shape)
  • U.G.C. (if you don’t know, don’t ask)
  • Washing-up

Council tax made me ill

I think I’m coming down with something. The time of night I’m writing this might be relevant.

But I think I’m finding council tax interesting.

I have an exam next week and the only compulsory question on the paper is about local government financing. It’s hardly an episode of 24.

It ought to be a complete bastard of a question, but a chapter in a book called Local Government in the United Kingdom (by Wilson and Game) has got me interested. It’s very well-written for a start, but it’s great at revealing how important local government finance is. I don’t think I can – or should – explain here why that’s the case. You’ll just have to believe me that it is.

The government’s ballsed the whole thing up (surprise surprise). Apparently we’re using house valuations which are now 18 years out of date and counting. We’re the only country in the world which has just one type of local tax (a tax on property). And we have one of the smallest local government sectors in the Western world. All of these things are a bit daft. The government have admitted this, but aren’t doing much about it.

And for all these reasons and more, I’ve decided that – at least in this book – local government finance is interesting and important.

I’m definitely ill.

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