So Britain has a Tea Party movement of its own. So says Daniel Hannan, the libertarian Tory loon who blogs in the Telegraph.
For those not aware of such things, the Tea Party, named after the Boston Tea Party and primarily it was sparked by the US recovery bill, the massive piece of financial stimulus that prevented the US economy shrinking any more than it did last year. So they like to think of themselves as anti-big government, anti-tax, anti-spending organisation. Exactly the sort of people who Daniel Hannan, that champion of Iceland, likes.
In fact, while separate from the Republicans, many members are in fact extreme Republicans, liberatarians, paranoiacs, who are bitterly upset that a man like Barack Obama became president. They call him a 'socialist', 'Commander in Thief' (obviously, they are all terribly funny)
They are celebrated by the likes of Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, who like to portray those attending the protests are the voices of ordinary people, like Joe the Plumber presumably. They don't mention the huge role Fox News has played in supporting and organising the gatherings, giving them ludicrous amounts of publicity. Beck, indeed, rather than be an impartial television host - I know, such a thought is impossible, but in theory this is what he is - he has actually campaigned to get people down to the demonstrations.
The best that can be hoped for this movement in the US is that they pigheadedly decide to stand in elections and split the Republican vote.
And now we have our own movement, championed by Daniel Hannan. Not a shrinking violet he, as Hannan is set to do the speaking. That will set pulses racing.
North Briton had to do a double take this morning while reading James Forsyth's column on the recent poor performance of the Tories. Was this the New Statesman I was reading? No, but the Spectator which makes it all the worse for the Conservatives.
The whole article can be read here but essentially it recounts the tale of a 'crisis' meeting held in Notting Hill (goes without saying) earlier this week. In attendance are George Osborne, Steve Hilton And Andy Coulson. 'Why are the Tories not doing better?' is the question they are asking themselves.
Forsyth writes: 'When you consider that they’re fighting against a party whose agenda has bankrupted the country, led by a Prime Minister who is loathed even by his own aides, this seems incomprehensible.'
He asks an important question even though his analysis is for the most part flawed. And he comes up with the wrong answer.
It is undeniable that Gordon Brown and the Labour government are very unpopular - hardly a surprise considering the current economic situation.
But what the Tories have yet to realise, is that voters still do not believe they present a credible alternative. They haven't been forgiven for the excesses and mistakes made during their last time in office. Had Osborne been at the Treasury when this economic crisis first hit, the British economy would have been in an even more precarious position. After all, Osborne had advocated even greater deregulation and looked at places like Iceland for inspiration. Well, we all know what happened there.
He opposed the nationalisation of Northern Rock. He and the Tories opposed the stimulus plan. It they were in power unemployment would be higher and the cuts they want to introduce immediately are likely to undermine the shaky economic recovery. Just this week the IMF have warned of this. Chief economist Olivier Blanchard, said: 'Notwithstanding the recent pick-up in growth momentum, there is little evidence as yet that private demand is self-sustaining.
'Hence, fiscal and monetary stimulus may need to be maintained well into 2010, although if developments proceed as expected, withdrawal could begin in 2011.'
There will have to be cuts, but timing is crucial.
Osborne's latest economic plan has also come under fire. He warned that financial markets were likely to panic unless a 'credible' plan to reduce the deficit is presented this year.
But the below, from The Economy News, shows how much unease there is towards overly hasty cuts:
But, according to analysts at UBS AG (NYSE:UBS), the British Pound may fall below parity with the Euro and drop to $1.05, the lowest level against the Dollar since the mid-1980s, if the government tackles the country's debt burden too early.
Mansoor Mohi-Uddin, chief currency strategist at UBS in Singapore, said yesterday that, 'if the next government was to prematurely curb the fiscal deficit, without the economy reaching a surer footing, the consequences for sterling would be grave'.
So, one reason why voters are not flocking to the Tories is their economic plans are distinctly shaky and divisive, packed full of holes and consistently vague.
It is hard to pinpoint exactly what else the Tories stand for at the moment. They want to repeal the hunting ban, have an inheritance tax giveaway, try and carve up the BBC. They have 'messed up' on marriage couples allowances, they remain split on Europe and are now ludicrously marginalised in Brussels - Christ the EU needs reform but they are going to get nowhere without working with the likes of Merkel and Sarkozy, who should be their bedfellows. Their immigration policy is chaotic, they want to bring back prison ships, when every expert says this would be a disaster. They desire extra privatisation within the education system with more academies - schools which can be owned and directed by any Tom, Dick and Harry however cranky. I mean crikey, Gove has even been talking with Goldie Hawn about education.
Their plans for constitutional reform are misdirected. Yes, there could be a reduction in the number of MPs, but surely sorting out the House of Lords and making the Commons more representative should be their ambition?
They have often talked of simplifying the tax system, reducing bureaucracy for small businesses; a very laudable and sensible claim but no one really has any idea what this entails.
And Boris Johnson can't really be helping them much as he is making such a hash of running London with his spinning doors administration.
The desperate calls pleading for them to tell voters exactly what they would do have been loud and frequent, but to no avail. Until they listen, outline their plans, make their policies clear, then they are going to continue struggling.
So what this gathering in Notting Hill should have concluded is while voters might be fed up to the back teeth of Labour, there is no love for the Tories or their agenda.
* Apologies as ever to Steve Bell, for nicking the excellent If cartoon above.
Realising that one is behind the curve, it was nevertheless a shock to see Iain Dale's blog entry which, at its top, featured an artwork which depicted and compared Adolf Hitler and Gordon Brown.
Now, I am broad minded artistically. Nothing shocks me. The artist, having read the comments attributed to him on the blog is a complete turd, but there we go.
But for Dale to post the image with no comment, no proviso, no clarification, is akin to accuse Gordon Brown of being a Nazi. It is well known that Gordon Brown is a strident supporter of Israel. Dale's shallow bleating excuses after complaints came in just reveal him to be the tribal, partisan, shallow little Tory he is.
When it comes to the depiction of political leaders, all sorts of nasty things are done. One of my favourite sketches from Spitting Image involves Mrs T's head being blown apart by a zap from God. Cartoons constantly mock, abuse and exploit the image of politicians.
Art work, though, is different. It is designed with greater longevity in mind. The weasel-words the artist uses to excuse himself do not rescue him from his low, base, trough.
North Briton's first instinct when the Observer was published on Sunday was to express surprise at the sheer amount of pages Andrew Rawnsley's latest book was afforded. The new Observer news section had 60 pages, including adverts, and ten of those covered the book. I know Rawnsley is good but does he really deserve more than a sixth of a whole newspaper? Or is filling pages with unedited chunks from a book a cheaper way of filling a paper than actually employing any reporters?
As for the allegations, I was a bit non-plussed. They had all been heard before, they are all unsubstantiated, not a single source is named and every allegation has been completely denied. This is all par for the course. Sir Gus O'Donnell is hardly likely to admit he admonished Gordon over losing his temper. And it is perfectly reasonably for someone in a job such as Prime Minister to lose their temper. Apart from anything else, if somebody lost something as important as a disc containing the details of the 25million people who receive child benefit, not only would I get angry, the guilty party should probably be trussed up and tossed into the Thames.
For what it's worth, I don't believe their is a culture of bullying in Downing Street. Bullying, to my mind, means sustained attacks against an individual, using their apparent weaknesses against them, chastising them for their inadequacies, trying to humiliate and shame them. In a highly pressurised workplace, such as Downing Street or a news room, one expects tempers to be short, anger to be on display. Things will get thrown, computers bashed about. People might be hauled out of chairs, lapels might be grabbed. This is not bullying. This is a busy, high-pressure workplace.
It's worth pointing out that many of the people who work alongside Gordon Brown have been their for years, not just since he was Prime Minister, but for years.
What has worked in the government's favour, though, has been the emergence of Christine Pratt, the chief executive of the National Bullying Helpline, who claimed individuals from Downing Street and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister had contacted them. Her comments on the BBC on Sunday inflamed a row that would otherwise have blown away. It would be easy for me to now list the huge flaws her charity has: the late accounts; the admitted touting for business; the charity's appalling website; the resignation of all of her trustees in protest at the breaking of confidentiality; the large irregularities in her claims. But would this be fair? As I write, her charity is teetering on the verge of collapse after all the charity's patrons resigned on mass. This is her career and her livelihood, and perhaps her husband too.
The Labour Party has been pretty ferocious in attacking Ms Pratt and her comments. The left in general has gleefully highlighted the inadequacies of her public statements. But isn't this becoming bullying? There is no doubt Ms Pratt has made a terrible mistake, speaking out publicly could do no end of harm to her charity. Public figures who wanted to be associated with have fled with horror, but will the charity, which undoubtedly is doing something worthwhile, survive? Ganging up on her, using her flaws against her, is bullying. She made a mistake, a big misjudgment, but the pressure needs to ease off.
And Peter Mandelson himself gave a masterclass in bullying today. The dark master of spin has appeared to soften in recent years but in his brief press conference today much of the subtly he has recently deployed was gone. Instead, he was quiet, menacing and insistent. 'Bullying will not be tolerated by this administration' he told the assorted gathering, who were left in no doubt that if they questioned him he would intimidate and scare them into submission. East End gangsters would be jealous of such a display. I have a great deal of time for Peter Mandelson and his political talents, but this was not particularly edifying.
So no one comes out of this row well. The Tories and Lib Dems can basically be ignored for their asinine requests for an investigation.
Ironically, the only person whose reputation hasn't really changed at all is Gordon Brown.
That old dinosaur Norman Tebbit has become and interesting columnist for The Daily Telegraph. North Briton rarely agrees with what he has to say, but he is no slavishly tribal Cameroonian and likes to cook.
'If in the face of the most disastrous government since we lost the American colonies the best the opposition can expect is a hung Parliament, it is time that Camp Cameron asked itself some serious questions.'
Now, ignoring the attack on the government, that's fair comment, and the criticism of Camp Camerons' recent lacklustre work, this is an extraordinary thing to say. The 'most disastrous government since we lost the American colonies'; I'm sorry. Now I know George III was never particularly happy about losing the colonies in the US but is Norman Tebbit really suggesting we should never have got rid of them? Afterall, the British Empire climbed to greater heights in the 19th century. Should we have kept India as well?
It is impossible to read the rest of his column and take it seriously.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: the politician that keeps on digging. The delightfully pompous, ludicrous and misguided MP has been entertaining political watchers for nearly forty years and it is clear he has no intention of stopping now, especially as he steps down at the next election.
Today he has regaled us all with his opinions about travelling on trains and had pop at at those who attacked MPs for their exploitation of the expenses system. In my league of most entertaining expenses interviews, he comes a close second to Sir Anthony 'Balmoral' Steen. For those who have some how missed the fun, Sir Nicholas popped up in Total Politics magazine saying that he shouldn't be expected to travel in standard class with ordinary people as that would put MPs below local councillors and army majors.
He then made matter worse in an interview on Radio Five Live. Here is what he said:
'If I was in standard class, I would not do work because people would be looking over my shoulder all the time, there would be noise, there would be distraction and, I am sorry, if I am doing work I want to concentrate on that. Why do businesspeople travel first class.'
Do standard class passengers behave differently, he was asked? But of course.
'They are a totally different type of people. There are lots of children, there is noise, there is activity.
'They have a different outlook on life. I very much doubt whether they are undertaking serious work and study, reading reports and amending reports which MPs do when they are travelling.
'They very often have a different outlook, of course they do, because they are in a different area of activity. They may be travelling just because tehy are on holdiay or they are going to London to visit somebody. MPs are going to London to work.'
Are MPs better than ordinary people?
'I didn't say they weren't as good, but they are in a different walk of life. They are doing different things. Very often they are there with children. I believe that the facilities extended by the rail companies to travel first class are very valuable for businesspeople and I include in that category MPs.'
It's politicians like this that always please me because they are just so entertaining. His sort will be missed.
It is apparent he never travels standard class. He appears to view the buffet bar on trains as a buffer zone, like the Korean demilitarised zone, between civilisation and barbarism.
The ridiculous thing is, I think that MPs travelling first class is, in many cases, perfectly reasonable. MPs have a heavy work load, many have to travel long distances and sitting in first class can offer a decent atmosphere in which to work. To defend such extravagance by essentially arguing those in standard class are a different species is just spectacularly stupid.
Labour whip David Wright has revealed himself to be a bit of a twit after the controversy sparked from a tweet he made on his twitter feed in which he described Tories as ‘scum-sucking pigs’.
North Briton doesn’t object to his crude, unsubtle insults, but more to his ham-fisted, pathetic attempts to wriggle out of it. For those who managed to miss his comments this is the message sent:
‘ivenevervotedtorybecauxse you can put lipstick on a scum-sucking pig, but it’s still a scum-sucking pig. And cos they would ruin Britain.’
It’s not a clever comment, it adds very little to political debate but is the sort of insults that get thrown around by politicians and their bag-carriers all the time.
But instead of simply holding his hands up, acknowledging the comment, braving the somewhat pot/kettle protests from the likes of Eric Pickles, Wright tries to pretend the ‘scum-sucking’ phrase had nothing to do with him.
First the message was deleted and replaced with a toned-down message with the phrase ‘scum-sucking’ removed. Then he sent a message to an objector on Twitter – TrippyPip – saying ‘think you’ll find the pig if the Tory Party not Tory voters. But fair does, apology in the ether.’
Wright’s excuse is that he had initially sent a Twitter message quoting Barack Obama during the US presidential election campaign when he said ‘you can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig’. If Wright had used his brain at all, he would have remembered Obama’s use of the phrase didn’t actually do him many favours as it prompted waves of attacks from opponents.
Wright also denied using the phrase ‘scum sucking’. ‘I wouldn’t make derogatory remarks,’ he bleated. ‘Somehow this has been adjusted or somebody has tampered with it.’
North Briton takes his denials at face value but one remains skeptical. It seems more likely that Wright used the ‘scum-sucking’ phrase and then panicked, following a predictable reaction from easily-offended Tories. If he’d stuck to his guns in would have blown over in a day or two. No one really cares about such insignificant things.
Political insults have always been part of the colourful game. Honourable members have always traded political insults. Aneurin Bevan famously called Tories ‘lower than vermin’. As with Obama, it didn’t do him much good as one headline described him as ‘The man who hates 8,093,858 people’.
Other great insults include Winston Churchill calling Clement Attlee ‘a sheep in sheep’s clothing’ and Clement Freud’s put down of Margaret Thatcher, calling her ‘Attila the Hen’. Denis Healey called Mrs Tr ‘the great-she-elephant’ as well as describing an attack by Geoffrey Howe as ‘like being savaged by a dead sheep’. More recently, and offensively, blogger and wannabe-Tory MP called Chris Bryant a ‘prick’.
My personal favourite is Michael Foot’s description of Norman Tebbit as ‘a semi-house trained polecat’. A delightfully perfect description.
A meander through the streets of Pimlico and Belgravia led North Briton via Tachbrook Street today, via the a couple of lovely fish stalls, a butchers, an exorbitant bread stall - why are they the most pricey stalls at farmers' markets? - and a devoted cupcake seller.
At the top of the street was David Rowntree; Blur drummer, geekish, attending a Labour stall in one of the few vaguely Labour areas of Westminster. He wasn't just passing, for Rowntree has become the PPC for the constituency, finding himself pitted against Mark Field, the sitting Tory, in what is, and will continue to be, a very safe Conservative seat.
Blur, as a group, still continue from what I know, but Rowntree has spent a couple of years campaigning for Labour in the borough, going for the council and now for parliament. He won't win of course, but that is hardly the point - it's the trying that counts.
As it happened, North Briton was with Mrs Briton on the way to Chelsea Physic Garden for a sneeky glimpse at the snowdrops when passing Mr Rowntree's stall. We picked up a leaflet.
It is a typical leaflet to be honest, lots of vows but full of good intent. And he doesn't shy away from who he is:
'I am David Rowntree, your Labour candidate at the next Parliamentary election. You may know me as the drummer for the pop band Blur, but I am also studying to be a lawyer.'
'I have had a successful career, some good exeriences and some bad. But I want to use the benefit of those epxeriences to give somethings back and serve my community.'
It's all laudable stuff without actually saying a great deal but North Briton misses the days when one was a Westminster hack, challenging what he is standing for. A brief glimpse on a short walk through Belgravia is fun though.
*Apologies for blog silence recently, other things intervened.
It is often assumed that George Osborne is the weak link in the Tory chain, but maybe after all he isn’t.
True, Osborne’s ‘eight benchmark’ speech this week was received as warmly as a soggy dog jumping on your bed. He claimed Lord Stern had become a Tory adviser, a slightly unfortunate claim considering just before the Boy George stood on his hind quarters, Lord Stern had issued a forthright statement saying he was no such thing. The shadow chancellor faced accusations of plagiarism – admittedly from one P Mandelson. Having reluctantly studied both speeches, they are very similar, the most striking similarity being their staggering dullness, vagueness and general filling of platitudes.
Osborne, along with the rest of the Conservative Party, cannot quite decide their economic policies. After insisting cuts should cut now, they have now softened their stance, saying cuts would not be ‘swingeing’. Coincidently, this change of heart appears to have occurred immediately after visiting the talks in Davos, where they found no one agreed with them.
But it is now clear he isn’t the weakest link after all.
Step forward Chris Grayling.
North Briton must confess that while knowing Chris Grayling is something of a liability, his full calamitous nature has only recently become clear.
First he compared crime on Moss Side with Baltimore, on display in The Wire. This happened when every MP appeared to want to try and appear hip, dropping mentions of The Wire into every conversation.
According to the Manchester Evening News, he came to this staggering conclusion after spending one night on the streets of Moss Side. After such an experience he claimed gun and gang crime had escalated into ‘urban war’.
In a speech Grayling said his night ‘was a shocking and enlightening experience,’ adding that ‘the Wire has become a part of real life in our country too’.
The MEN article continues:
‘The reality is that the latest figures show shootings have fallen by 82 per cent in Greater Manchester because of Operation Cougar - a pioneering approach which treats gang crime as a child protection issue - as well the capture of dangerously influential mobsters like Colin Joyce and his Gooch cohorts.
‘In fact, over the last two years, Greater Manchester Police have recorded the biggest reduction in gun crime of any force in the country, largely because the guns have all but fallen silent in inner south Manchester and north Trafford, despite the tragic, fatal shooting of 16-year-old Giuseppe Gregory in May.
‘DS Darren Shenton told the MEN: "Urban war is not the case now and the use of those words is particularly hurtful to members of the community. The reality is that last year we had a 43 per cent reduction in firearms activity in Greater Manchester and an 82 per cent reduction in gang related firearms activity.
‘There's a huge difference between the problems and challenges they face in America.’
The paper helpfully published some enlightening statistics which showed that Baltimore, population 600,000, had 234 murders in that year, while Greater Manchester, population 2.5m, had 34.
Of Baltimore’s killings 191 were gun-related murders, while Moss Side had, er, none.
So essentially, Grayling had visited part of a city which, while certainly having problems, is making good progress in tackling violence on the streets. He then tootled off, did a provocative speech to drum fear into the minds of voters, scare them witless, make wild exaggerated claims, undermine the work of a police force and community workers, all for a bit of a cheap politicking. Unsurprisingly, the press he received was suitably critical.
Then, most hilariously of all was the delightful gaffe over the appointment of Sir Richard Dannatt to the Tory team during the party’s conference last year. It revealed so much about Cameron’s Conservative Party on so many levels. It explicitly revealed how Just Call me Dave has a clique running the party with many major issues getting no shadow cabinet discussion at all. It appears the Tory Party is preparing less for sofa government, more for broom cupboard government.
It left poor, uninformed Grayling looking very foolish. There he was, lambasting the appointment as a gimmick, believing Dannatt to be Gordon Brown’s latest GOAT, when in fact it is Just Call me Dave’s handiwork. Suddenly, it was a political masterstroke. The bald one was left looking like a lonely penguin, flapping about with no where to go and on one to turn to.
As it turned out, the appointment was a disaster and made Dannatt and Just call me Dave looking very foolish. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Grayling was one of the few senior Tories with a broad grin etched across his face.
Grayling’s punishment, it appears, was to be firmly locked in a closet for a few months, in the hope that being out of sight was out of mind.
Now, in his latest gaffe, Grayling has been caught fiddling crime figures, trying to exaggerate violent attacks for a bit more cheap politicking.
The BBC discovered Grayling and the Tories had sent out statistics to activists showing that crime had rocketed under Labour. In his defence, these are Home Office statistics, but the Tories conveniently removed the warning that the figures for the periods before and after 2002 were not comparable as the method of counting crime had changed.
A blustering Grayling appeared on Today yesterday, flailing around desperately as the full truth emerged. And today Sir Michael Scholar, chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, has issued quite a stern rebuke
In a statement he said:
‘The Authority appreciates that political debate involves the selection and interpretation of statistics and other evidence to support an argument. It would not be appropriate for the Authority to seek to intervene in political debate directly.
‘However, where we see that official statistics have been presented or quoted in a way that seems likely to mislead the public, we will publicly draw this to the attention of those involved.’
The Conservative’s use of the figures was ‘damaging trust in official statistics’.
From an independent figure such as Sir Michael Scholar, this is quite an attack.
To pick a phrase from the ether, it can’t go on like this. North Briton knows that the curse of the Home Secretary is to get blamed for every domestic problem. But this is supposed to happen after being elected, not before. One wonders how much longer Just call me Dave will put up with his bumbling, accident prone shadow home secretary.
The Boy George, it has long been recognised, is the Conservative Party’s weak link, a man who lacks the finely tuned political antennae, that are so vital in politics today.
Most vividly, this was shown when Peter Mandelson skewered him so effectively after their chance meeting on a Russian oligarch’s yacht. It was a particularly enjoyable spectacle watching the Boy George being roasted on a spit, continually turned by the delicate hand of the Business Secretary.
And so, today we get another chucklesome piece of embarrassment for Osborne.
The Tory Party press office this morning let it be known that Lord Stern, who is one of Gordon Brown’s most influential environmental advisers, would advise a Tory working group on the creation of a Green Investment Bank.
In the draft of his speech – North Briton must be honest and admit failing to catch every word of the captivating live version so cannot be sure he actually said the words – Osborne claims that one of his economic benchmarks is to be a greener economy.
And he crows: ‘I am delighted that Lord Stern has agreed to advise us on the creation of this Green Investment Bank.’
What a coup for the Tories. Gordon’s favourite green adviser turns over to the blue side.
Only he hasn’t.
In a pleasantly cool and measured comment, Lord Stern completely contradicts the Boy George:
‘I should stress that I am not, and have no plans to be, be an adviser to any political party.’
Oh dear. It is important to note at this point that Lord Stern was ennobled by Gorgon Brown in 2007 and sits as a non-party peer. He is not affiliated to either the Conservatives or Labour, and resists any temptations from the Liberal Democrats. He is a professor at the London School of Economics, an independent, and internationally respected, expert on climate change. So he is just the sort of character political parties would want to consult, but it is clear he does not like being explicitly associated with a political party.
Just to make the point, here is the whole of Lord Stern’s comment:
‘Climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy should be high on the agenda for every political party, not just to reduce the risks that result from greenhouse gas emissions but also to stimulate an exciting period of growth, creativity and innovation.
‘I would be willing to speak to the Conservatives’ advisory group about their ideas for a Green Investment Bank, just as I am continuing to contribute to discussions with the Labour Government about policies on climate change.
‘I should stress that I am not, and have no plans to be, an advisor to any political party.
‘Low-carbon growth is the only viable growth option: high-carbon growth will kill itself.
‘The transition to low-carbon growth is likely to become the most dynamic period in economic history – full of creativity and innovation. But it will need substantial investment, some of it risky in the early stages as learning takes place and policies become more settled.
‘Thus there are strong arguments for a Green Investment Bank that can provide a public-private partnership to share risk and foster innovation.’
Admittedly, it’s not quite as embarrassing as the shambolic appointment/unappointment of General Sir Richard Dannatt as future Tory defence minister/advisor. That really was funny: the shadow cabinet didn’t know – Chris Grayling’s career hasn’t recovered since; the military was furious as Dannatt was hired while still officially in the army; Cameron looked like an opportunist idiot; Dannatt proved himself to be completely politically naïve and rendered all of his criticism of government defence policy as useless.
Nevertheless, the Boy George should really have agreed Lord Stern’s role before giving him a place in a keynote speech but it is just the sort of political posturing and foolishness we have come to expect from the callow youth.
UPDATE: Right on cue, Lord Mandelson hovers into view and issues a withering put down upon Boy George.
'I have read George Osborne's speech with incredulity. He must have made some mistake. I realise his speech was thrown together in haste but he or his researcher appear to have dropped in policies, paragraphs, indeed, almsot whole pages of the speech I made on January 6.
'If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery I certainly feel sincerely flattered. However, the serious point is this: as his answer to questions revealed, there is a big difference between photocopying and understanding. I think he can recover from his performance today. After all, my friend Joe Biden deservedly became Vice-President of the United States.'
For those who forget, Mandelson is referring to the moment when Biden nicked passages of a Neil Kinnock speech.
It was quite a task to maintain a straight face this morning when North Briton read Boris Johnson's article in the Daily Telegraph this morning. It is clear the man has no shame at all.
For those fortunate enough to have avoided the piece (which you can find here) London's very blonde mayor had a dig at Lord Mandelson who travelled in business class on his way to Davos, while Boris and his cronies flew with the cattle. He writes:
'In a spirit of glorious self-righteousness, we shouted back over our shoulders that this was the difference between Labour and Tories. Ours, I bragged, was the approach that the recession-battered public wanted to see. We were the ones who were being frugal with taxpayers' money. This was how an incoming Tory government would run the economy, I cried, and it was with considerable nostril-flaring satisfaction that we eventually found our seats. They may have been narrow. They may have been located near the loos in the tail of the plane. But they unquestionably occupied the moral high ground.'
North Briton has always struggled to take Boris seriously as a politician, but really, coming from Boris this is absolutely shameless posturing. His cheap, slapdash article ends with this rallying cry:
'The servants of the people should travel with the people. And politicians should create the conditions in which British business, not politicians, can afford to travel up front.'
As a statement it is hard to disagree but it is really a lazy piece of political point scoring, one which handily ignores Boris' own history, more of which later.
It is, of course, eminently reasonable for senior politicians of any persuasion to fly business class, especially if they are working and need more space. And Mandelson, as Business Secretary, is certainly a man needed at Davos on behalf of the British government.
Was it necessary for Boris to be there, however? North Briton concludes that, as the representative for a major world city, Boris should be there, championing London's causes to the economists, bankers and business leaders gathered in Switzerland. One imagines few will take his posturing and buffoonery very seriously, but there we go. We don't know how big a team Boris travelled with but it would surprise me if it was particularly excessive.
But if we are looking at the use and possible waste of taxpayers' money, let's have a look at the blonde one's own history.
One of his first acts as mayor was to establish the Forensic Audit Panel, the lynch mob, chaired by Tory Patience Wheatcroft, whose mission was to uncover the wasted millions during Ken Livingstone's eight years in the office. Except they didn't. the wasted millions weren't there. The body cost £300,000. The most astonishing find, they reported, was the Red Ken had a private wine cellar, full of expensive wine, to share when foreign dignatories paid a visit. Not exactly a scandal then.
A long list of Boris' costly policy failures could follow here, but they have been covered comprehensively by Tory Troll and BorisWatch already. North Briton will instead concentrate on Boris' complete disregard for the pockets of taxpayers when it comes to using taxis.
In the final six months or so of 2008, Boris chalked up more than £8,000 in travel costs as he darted around London from drinks party to lunch to launch to drinks party again.
Our part-time mayor - who earns most of his money from the Daily Telegraph, £250,000 a year, for his columns - seemed to think it was perfectly reasonable to claim £99.75 from the Red Lyon Pub in SW1 to Juxon House in EC4 on January 1. Or December 9, 2008, when Boris spent £237.50 travelling from N7 to N9. How was he travelling? Sedan chair?
Boris has yet again demonstrated his great capacity for hypocrisy and cant. God Almighty! North Briton cannot wait till Boris bores of London and returns to the Commons to chase Cameron down. At least then London will be spared of this bumbling fool.
North Briton enjoyed a quiet evening in front of the television last night watching Julie Walters in Mo, an excellent biopic about the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam.
Walters was excellent in the role, really embodying the character, capturing her light, fluffy voice and portraying her warts and all. I met her once at the launch of her book Momentum. She was funny, engaging and warm and had a clear affinity with the public. She did call people 'Babe'. And she certainly enjoyed a drink. It is hard to think of any current high profile politician commanding such widespread respect.
It's good to hear this morning that the programme was Channel Four's highest rated drama for more than eight years, drawing an average audience of 3.5million.
For those who missed the programme it can be seen in all its glory here.