Eric Pickles' party at Westminster last night was not seen as a universal success. Read the story of what happened HERE.
What I did enjoy was Eric's thoughts on his Question Time appearance last week:
"My appearance was not a complete success, shall we say. After the programme, I phoned Mrs Pickles for her verdict and she said it was 'mixed'. 'You looked a bit slimmer after your diet. But on the other hand..you were crap'," Pickles revealed.
You can always rely on your better half giving it to you straight!
I knew when I defended Eric Pickles I might be in for some stick; such is the low standing of MPs at the moment. Apparently, I am overpaid and overfed (which I can plead not guilty to on both counts) and I am out of touch with the British public. Listening to Iain Dale during a phone-in on BBC Radio Wales at lunchtime, my initial thoughts that the public want our elected representatives to have virtually no expenses and live in the YMCA, were confirmed.
The majority of MPs are hard working. There are always rotten apples in every barrel, therefore it goes without saying there are going to be some MPs who have their noses firmly and deeply in the trough, but to tar all MPs with this brush is just plain bonkers.
The current system of MPs allowances needs drastic reform. I don't think there is anyone - at least publicly - who is not saying the same. MPs who cannot easily commute to and from Westminster, should have somewhere to work outside their offices and get their head down. This is not unreasonable. The taxpayer should be expected to pay the rent for a flat, but not pay off the interest on mortgages. The taxpayer should not be paying for antique fireplaces (as we have in Jacqui Smith's constituency home) or the cost of plasma televisions and Sky. We all, quite rightly, feel these are not reasonable expenses.
An MP has an office to run and should receive funding for this. When we contact our MP we expect a prompt response and an answer to our questions in a reasonable length of time. We want to know how hard our elected representative is working for our local area. We want to know what their views are on a variety of topics. All of this requires staff and although MPs use the services of unpaid interns, you cannot staff your Westminster office and your constituency office purely on interns. We expect to get paid for our labour; so do those working in the House of Commons.
An MP has to commute to and from their constituencies. Some live close to London; others live further away than Brussels. It is reasonable and right for the taxpayer to pay for the travel expenses incurred.
I am sure if the main party leaders got their heads together they can come up with a transparent system. Now is the time to do it.
Stuart Wheeler is a member of the Conservative Party who intends to support UKIP in the European election - and is gifting them a rather substantial donation - but intends to vote Conservative in the local elections and at a general election. If I urged all my readers to vote for UKIP I would be expelled from the party and quite rightly so. You cannot be a member of a political party and publicly say you are going to vote for another party.
There are those who think if he is expelled, this will start a flow of support from the Tories to UKIP. I have sympathy with this position as I also have sympathy for those who say the Conservative Party cannot bury its head in the sand over Europe. It cannot and it needs to address this issue head-on. Personally - as many readers will be aware - I think we should renegotiate our membership of the EU. We can have all the benefits of free trade, without having to be full members of the club.
Stuart Wheeler is entitled to his own opinions. He is entitled to donate his money to any political party. He has made his decision. He should voluntarily resign his membership or he should be expelled.
UPDATE: 20:31 Sky news is reporting he has been expelled.
Yesterday we learned David Cameron is due to meet Barack Obama next week when the president is in London. Gordon Brown will be livid and David Cameron will think all his Christmases have come at once. It is a sign the Obama administration knows the Conservative Party is odds-on to win the next general election.
What does this mean for the so called special relationship? Well, I have almost finished Obama's book, 'The Audacity of Hope.' In the section on foreign policy, there is a distinct anti-British tone. I imagine his views have been influenced by his Kenyan ancestry and his dislike of British imperialism. He certainly doesn't seem to have the admiration of Churchill his predecessor had; some would say for obvious reasons.
My hunch is we will see a cooling off of relations between the US and Britain; at least for the remainder of the Brown government. Perhaps he will view David Cameron in a different light and they will probably have more in common with each other than Obama has with Brown. I also imagine other world leaders will marginalise the prime minister. If it is good enough for Obama to meet Cameron, then it will be good enough for them too. Despite his grandstanding around the world and his wish to be the first European leader to meet President Obama and address both Houses' of Congress (both wishes coming true), expect Brown to have the most difficult twelve months a prime minister has had since Jim Callaghan. He is unpopular not only at home, but with other European and world leaders. If the latter can take the chance to forge a new relationship with his likely successor, they will.
According to press reports, Jacqui Smith's husband, Richard Timney, has been watching pornographic films at taxpayers' expense. You couldn't make it up. She is a hapless Home Secretary, someone who is not worthy to hold a great office of state, and the old adage 'you make your own luck' seems rather appropriate here.
One does have to ask the questions: Why was she claiming for five pay-per-view films watched in the constituency home? Irrespective of the fact two of them were pornographic movies, how can she think this is a reasonable expense? Has this anything to do with her job as an MP or a cabinet minister? Of course not. She should go, and go quickly.
I am watching coverage of the build-up to the 1979 general election, broadcast on BBC Parliament last night. You can almost feel the excitement as if it was happening now. Unfortunately, there is no chance of history repeating itself 30 years on. We will have to wait another fourteen months or so to remove another discredited Labour government, however, the parallels between Callaghan and Brown are obvious. Callaghan was unelected; as is Brown. Callaghan was lurching from one crisis to another; as is Brown.
If you haven't recorded the coverage, it will be available on the BBC iplayer. First-class stuff.
Tonight - we are told - if we care about our planet, we will turn off all the lights in our home for one hour. This extravaganza is taking place at 8.30pm.
Unless I have got it wrong, April 1 is next Wednesday! According to the Earth Hour website, switching your lights off is a vote for earth, leaving them on is a vote for global warming. Is there anything the environmental lobby will not do to stop us feeling guilty about leading our law abiding lives? I think not. Man-made global warming is not a fact. It is disputed by many scientists and many more are frightened to say so as their financial support for research projects will be stopped. These fascists will stop at nothing to make sure we tow the line. Just like Donal Blaney, I will be turning ON all of my lights at 8.30, for one hour. It may seem futile to many, but I am going to show that I am not going to be bullied into feeling guilty about sitting at home, reading a book or watching the television and I don't expect my nine-year old son to have to risk injuring himself trying to find his way around the house because he needs to go to the toilet. I ask you to vote in a positive way and tell these controlling dictators enough, is enough.
President Obama is going to meet with David Cameron next week for an hour. I love protocol. He is having a meeting with Gordon Brown earlier in the day, which will last for 1 hour 5 minutes, which will be followed by a joint press conference for 40 minutes.
This is a coup for Cameron. He has stated he has not asked for a meeting, but it seems President Obama knows that Brown is likely to suffer a defeat in just over a year's time and Cameron will be the man to succeed him. After all the effort Brown made to secure a meeting with Obama at the White House, all Cameron has had to do is nothing. The way Obama treated Brown when he visited Washington was disgraceful. It was an insult to Britain. Whatever we think of the prime minister, he is still the head of government and deserves the respect the title affords, but it does show exactly what Obama thinks of Brown as a person. He is keen to look to the future and he knows Brown is not part of the future. I imagine David Cameron is a very happy man tonight.
Eric Pickles may be the darling of the Tory grassroots, however he was not the darling of the Question Time audience last Thursday in Newcastle upon Tyne. Eric lives 37 miles away from the House of Commons, yet he has a flat in London which he stays in during the week. When he bought this flat, the Commons was still sitting until the wee small hours of the morning. He defended his decision to use the second home allowance by stating if he returned home he would have to set off at 5.30 am and not get back until after midnight. There was much booing and jeering from the good folks from Geordie land. Welcome to the real world were the comments he received not only from the audience, but from members of the panel, which included the infandous Michael Winner.
I have sympathy with Eric. MPs regularly work 15-plus hour days. If they can get back home to their constituencies in a reasonable time, then they should; but this is not always possible for those who - by most standards - do not live that far away in miles. An MP has a split working life. They spend most of their time - quite rightly - representing their constituents in Westminster and they also have much work to do in the constituencies on a weekend or when parliament is in recess. There does need to be reform of MPs allowances and expenses. There needs to transparency. The public does not have confidence in the current system and it is open for abuse. There are times MPs act lawfully, but are not seen as acting in the spirit of the law.
Those who heckled Eric Pickles in Newcastle do not leave work at 5.30am and get home after midnight on a regular basis. It was - as Eric said - hang an MP week. Hopefully a reformed and transparent system will be introduced. I also think the public need to be educated on what an MP's working life is like. MPs should not benefit financially in the long term from a second home; renting accommodation, not buying it, should be one measure introduced.
It was not Eric's finest hour, but we are all entitled to our cock-ups. Those who think he should be replaced as party chairman are talking complete bollocks. He didn't get his point across very well, but those who were jeering him don't fully understand the role of a Member of Parliament either.
I've been having problems getting the sound to work on YouTube videos on my computer, so whilst I have read reports of what Daniel Hannan said in the European Parliament, I have only just managed to listen to it.
In around three minutes, Dan managed to say what we all want to say to Gordon Brown and he did it with such clarity and eloquence. No wonder he has become so popular around the world and the video of his performance has become such a hit. Bravo, Daniel. We need more politicians like him with the guts to speak out. Perhaps he should become the next Conservative leader in the European Parliament?
On July 26 last year, I wrote this. I am now more convinced than ever I was correct. If you want to read more about what I think about Obama, scroll down my sidebar and click on the tag 'Barack Obama.'
The man in a fish out of water. His inexperience is manifesting itself in more ways than I thought imaginable. If it's not gaffes on the Tonight Show, it is gifts to Gordon Brown of toy Marine One helicopters from the White House gift shop and 25 DVDs that can only be played in North America. Now he has managed to snub President Sarkozy. It has been revealed he wrote former President Chirac a letter expressing his desire to work together to build a safer world. How long will it take him to alienate most of America's allies? Time will tell.
I did not know Jade Goody. I am not shedding tears at her passing, although like any other person I am naturally saddened a life has been cut short. I found her a very loud, brash woman and not the sort of person with whom I would strike up a friendship. She rose to fame as a result of her outspoken brashness and the fact she was uneducated.
It is fair to say her upbringing was exactly the opposite of what you would want for your children. Her father was a drug addict and an habitual criminal and was mainly estranged from her from the age of 2. She regularly missed school looking after her disabled mother. Money was tight as she was growing up on a council estate in Bermondsey.
I do admire her, although as I have said before, I did not want to watch her illness so closely. She did choose the public route for money, but not for herself. She was determined to make sure her two boys have the best possible start in life. She knew she was uneducated and didn't want her children to suffer the same fate. She will also save countless lives by bringing cancer into the public spotlight. Many more women are now taking cervical cancer seriously and with more smear tests taking the place, the early detection rates will increase and save more lives.
In many ways she has achieved more in her 27 years than those of us who are far better educated will achieve in a lifetime and for this she deserves our admiration.
Readers of this blog will know I am not a fan of George Osborne. I try to like him; I really do. I try and pretend he will be a great Chancellor of the Exchequer. I want to believe it, but every time I get myself in to this wonderland, he says something to bring me crashing down to earth.
Yesterday, he said that Brown's proposed income tax rate of 45% for the rich was difficult to avoid. Really? I could avoid it, like the plague it is. The lower the rates of tax, the more investment you attract in to the economy. It sends out the right signals. It says Britain is a place to do business without the government trying to squeeze as much money out of you as it can get away with. The rich are in a uniquely advantageous position of being able to relocate anywhere in the world and therefore avoid paying UK taxes. Raise the rate of income tax and watch them leave the country in droves. The lower the tax rates, the more money the treasury gets. More investment = more wealth = increased tax revenue. You don't need a degree in economics to work out this equation.
I wish David Cameron would just replace Osborne with someone who has a firm grasp of economics. John Redwood would be good, although he does suffer from PR problems. Unfortunately, you have to be touchy-feely these days if you want to be a minister and this is something Redwood is not. He would make a damned fine Chancellor though. So would Michael Fallon. Osborne is a good strategist and is essentially a back room boy. He is certainly not of the calibre to hold a great office of state.
There are times in life when it's the little things that make a big difference. When someone is feeling down, a kindly word or an arm around their shoulder can make them feel special and help make their day better.
It is the same when you want to 'spend a penny.' I have passed by many establishments that proudly tell those of us with a full bladder that the toilets are for customers only. Not very friendly. Indeed, I am less likely to frequent the establishment and hand over my hard earned cash with such an unwelcoming sign in the window.
Boris Johnson understands this and has come up with his 'Open London' scheme. Many businesses have signed up to this initiative. So next time you are in London you won't have to feel embarrassed when you want to use the loo.
I am nearing the end of Barack Obama's book 'The Audacity of Hope.' It is a good read and I would recommend it to anyone. It proves in politics there are far more things that unite us, than divide.The main differences in opinion I have with him tend to be on the solution to the problems, not in what the problems are.
It is worth noting that conservative politics in the US are different in many ways than conservatism in the UK. Huge debates rage in America over subjects like abortion and gay marriages. These issues seldom find their way on the television news or in the newspapers. The Democratic Party also is vastly different from the Labour Party. Democrats believe in the capitalist, free market; something which cannot be said of many in the Labour Party who will only be happy when the state is running everything. Hopefully President Obama will continue to give Gordon Brown the cold shoulder, as the latter continues to grandstand his way around the world trying to create a new economic order.
The fact of the day on Iain Dale's Diary is the following: Did you know that every single Labour government in history has left office with unemployment higher than when it started. Looks like they're not going to buck the trend this time, doesn't it?
I did know this fact, however, it is useful to remind voters of it. It is also useful to remind voters Labour governments tend to leave office with the country effectively bankrupt. This is why the famous poster below is getting another airing; albeit brought up to date. The parallels with the 1970s though are a stark reminder of what years of a Labour government does to this country. Roll on the next general election.
Should MPs be required to wear a tie when addressing the House of Commons? Labour MP, Graham Allen thinks not, but the Deputy Speaker, Sir Alan Haselhurst, disagrees. He rebuked Mr Allen for making a point of order not being properly attired.
This reminds me of a story. A nun stopped a police officer and complained about a man who had sworn at her. 'It is disgusting for this man to speak to a nun in such a way', she exclaimed. The police officer looked at her attire. She was not dressed in nun's clothing and there was no way of distinguishing her from anyone else on the street at the time. 'How did you know I was a police officer?', he replied.
Whether we like it or not, we are judged by what we wear. Those like Jeremy Paxman who feel the tie is useless are missing the point. A tie is a beautiful accompaniment to a man's attire. It is one of the very few accessories a man can wear. A suit doesn't look the same without one.
The majority of us will have felt revulsion observing extremists marring the welcome home parade of our troops in Luton this week. As we are constantly reminded - and it is true - these people would not have the right the protest if it was not for the bravery of our armed forces.
The Conservative Defence Spokesman, Liam Fox has said:
Decent-minded people will be appalled and disgusted by the actions of extremists at the welcome home parade for our troops. It is thanks to the bravery and commitment of the men and women in our Armed Forces that we have the freedom of speech that these nasty individuals abuse. They need to be reminded of this fact.
I disagree with his statement that they are abusing their right to freedom of speech. They are exercising their right, as much as we find it distasteful. What those of us find their views abhorrent need to do now is use our right to freedom of speech. We need to attack them.
Muslim extremists want to change our country. They do not understand our Christian country, its values and what makes us tick. What is more, they do not want to understand us. They want to turn this country into the Islamic Republic of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. They use their rights to freedom of expression and speech to make it clear they really don't like Britain. Using my rights to freedom of expression and speech, I intend to give them a clear message:
Bugger off. Go to a country where you will be happy. A country where they share your extreme Islamic views. A country that is intolerant of other religions and creeds. A country that will welcome your medieval intolerance with open arms.
Now do you see why freedom of speech is so important and why we have to fight to preserve it and our British way of life?
Whilst another murder in Northern Ireland is a tragedy, it is important not to get carried away and predict the end of the peace process. To do this is playing into the murderers hands. They want instability. They want innocent people to lie awake at night in fear. If we let them do this, they have won.
I was listening to Radio 4 earlier and heard Martin McGuinness talk of the murderers as traitors. I can't remember the rest of his words exactly, but they did convey his annoyance. Of course, he never regarded himself as a traitor when he was on one of his murdering sprees. He, along with Gerry Adams, is only bothered about his political career. The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland across the sectarian divide want to live in peace. If, however, a sizable minority had an appetite for a return to sectarian violence and murder, I imagine McGuinness would be singing from a different hymn sheet. I don't believe for one moment this leopard has changed his spots.
My worry is that the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA will keep on planting the odd bomb here and gunning down the odd person there every few months. This will keep everyone on a knife edge. They will do this to provoke the British government into taking action that will inflame some sections of the community. I have no doubt the British government will not respond in the way the terrorists want them to, however, I suspect the terrorists will continue. The past couple of days have been sad for Northern Ireland. Now is the time to hold our nerve.
Gerry Adams has stated that the murder of two British servicemen in Northern Ireland was 'wrong and counter productive.' This - according to the BBC - means politicians on all sides in Northern Ireland have condemned what happened.
Wrong and counter productive is hardly a condemnation. It sound as if Adams finds it a set back to his political agenda. I do not think for one moment Gerry Adams is bothered about the death of two British soldiers or the injuries suffered by others.
I imagine Ted Kennedy will also find it wrong and counter productive, or perhaps he now thinks more highly about Britain as the prepares to receive his honorary knighthood? I'm sure you have your thoughts and I have mine.
What happened last night was murder and I don't see the likes of Adams and McGuinness shedding any tears. Why should they? They, after all, are murderers themselves. The only difference between them and the bastards who carried out this attack, is they wear suits.
Senator Edward Kennedy is someone who has supported the Republican cause in Northern Ireland for decades. He is not a friend of Britain. Far from it, he is someone who helped Noraid raise funds for the IRA, the same terrorist organisation that murdered Lord Mountbatten, the beloved great uncle of the Prince of Wales. Quite what the Royal Family are thinking now is probably unprintable. No doubt some of the money Kennedy helped to raise was used to blow up the Grand Hotel in Brighton in 1984, leaving many dead, crippling Norman Tebbit's wife and almost killing Margaret Thatcher.
How on earth Gordon Brown can think Kennedy is suitable for a honorary knighthood is beyond the comprehension of many. If you feel the same way, then join this facebook group set-up by Donal Blaney. You will also find details of a Downing Street petition you can sign to vent your anger.
I have said on this blog many times before that constant intervention in the markets will prolong the recession, which I believe will be a depression of 1930s proportions. Nothing has made me change my mind. The latest Bank of England intervention (which should have been opposed by the Tories) will only make things worse.
I have also said Gordon Brown is deluded. He genuinely believes he does not have any responsibility for the current economic mess we are in. George Osborne has said the same. I rest my case on this subject.
Brown has also been desperate to bathe in the light of Obama. He recent visit was so cringe worthy, it made me ashamed to be British. The only saving grace is that we have never voted for this pathetic man to be our prime minister.
Now Brown is insistent in his aim to save the world. Unfortunately for my family and for millions in Britain, life is getting very hard and we still have to put up with over a year of this government. Quite how much damage it can inflict upon us is impossible to gauge, however, I can imagine it will be great.
Yesterday, we picked up a friend from Manchester Airport and took them back home to Hull. The last time I was at the airport was three years ago. Luckily it was the same terminal I had flown from, so I had some idea of how to get there and the layout of the terminal building, however, I made sure we got there in good time, just in case there were any navigational problems.
As security is so tight in airports these days, you cannot park your car and stay with it for a little while, whilst someone else goes inside to meet and greet. The parking charges for the short-stay car park are exorbitant to say the least. The first 35 minutes costs £2.00. It then went up to over £3.40 for the first hour and if for any reason our friend had been delayed (waiting for luggage perhaps) and it had taken over an hour, we would have been subjected to a charge of £5.00. The prices, of course, keep going up.
Luckily the flight arrived early and we were stung for £2.00. It could have easily been worse. I don't mind paying a fair price for any goods and services and I do not expect something for nothing. This, however, is a rip-off. It is unjustifiable, but they have you by the short and curlies, and they know it and I imagine similar charges apply in every airport in the country. It doesn't make you want to do a favour next time, does it?
Whilst at the Trafford Centre yesterday, I called into WHSmith to buy some books. When I went to pay, I was asked if I would like a bag. I had three novels in my hand, so naturally I said yes. I was informed they would charge me - wait for this - a penny for a bag. This was - according to the signs I saw later - to help reduce the number of bags in circulation. This would help the environment and WHSmith would also make a donation to somewhere or another, no doubt what they would describe as a worthy environmental cause.
Before you check your calendars, it is not April 1 today. Could you imagine me walking all afternoon with three books under my arm? I thought not and do you think I am going to be put off spending a penny (if you pardon the pun) just to have something to help me carry these books? Nope to that one too.
Of course, they could provide paper bags, rather than the plastic variety, which would be kinder to the environment. This would cost more, so we rather know where WHSmith's priorities really lie. Pretend you care about the environment and hopefully it will drag in more customers of a gullible persuasion. Perhaps they will spend more.
Here you will find political analysis from a conservative/libertarian perspective.
Individuals, families and communities are better placed to make decisions about their lives; it is not the job of government to meddle. Our civil liberties are being eroded in the UK by the most anti-libertarian government anyone can remember and I will always fight protect our rights.