Monthly Archives: December 2009

Christmas greetings for Tory ‘chums’ and ‘Team Labour’

With the Tories still dogged by their ‘rich toffs’ image, Eric Pickles has been wheeled out to star in a festive film, direct from CCHQ.

No sign of Dave, George or Boris in this video, the latest ‘war room briefing’, intended to galvanise the party faithful. But Eric does spend a lot of time lurking beside a not unnattractive, though somewhat bored, young blonde lady he calls ‘Phoebe’.

The festive film ends with various CCHQ staffers assembled around Pickles, Father Christmas and – inexplicably – a cardboard cut-out of Gordon Brown.

So one party leader did make an appearance after all…

No such video delights for the Labour troops, who have to make do with an email from Harriet Harman.

Her rallying cry summarises Labour’s attack strategy, with a David Brent-ish twist:

‘We have to protect people from the threat of a Tory Government.  They would bring austerity for the many and privileges for the few. Don’t believe the arrogant Tories. Working together as “Team Labour”, there is everything to fight for.’

‘Team Labour’? And just when you thought Harriet had a knack for soundbites…

Merry Christmas!

Cameron should spend less time with spin doctors, says Daily Mail

David Cameron is highly vulnerable to the charge that he is a shallow public relations man with no clear idea of how he wants to run the country.

His advisers know it, and this barbed editorial comment in today’s Daily Mail will have touched a raw nerve at CCHQ:

‘The Tory leader has undergone a transformation. Suddenly, he’s Mr Sunshine again. Discarding the garb of austerity, he now presents himself as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed optimist, listing ‘reasons to be cheerful’ in the year ahead…

‘As with the flip-flop over his promise of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, he risks insulting voters’ intelligence again….

‘Mr Cameron should spend less time with his spin-doctors, worrying about his image and trying to be all things to all men. Instead, he should concentrate on the bitter truth about the task facing next year’s election victor – a task this paper believes he is more than capable of meeting.

‘In the meantime, he would help himself if he resolved to avoid the PR men, spivs and trashy celebrities with whom he has taken to mixing.’

Ouch!

Tory strategists will be hoping that Dave can use the leaders’ debates to show that he is a man of substance. But unless the Tory leader quickly develops a consistent message and clear narrative, this is the type of damning coverage he may end up with…

Corporates only have eyes for Mandy

Today’s FT has some bad news for any Labour ministers who were hoping to bag a big corporate lobbying job after the next election. In a story about Lord Mandelson’s prospects of becoming mayor, it reports:

‘City headhunters have told the FT that he is the only cabinet minister who will be in demand in the private sector.’

Bob Ainsworth will be mortified…

But it’s not all bad news! Further to yesterday’s post, it looks like I got to the bookies just in the nick of time.

The FT reports that: ‘Bookmakers are taking seriously the prospect of Lord Mandelson standing for the London mayoralty in 2012 despite the business secretary dismissing any intention to do so.’

Apparently, Paddy Power yesterday put Mandy at odds of 4:1 to be the Labour candidate, just behind Ken Livingstone at 7:2.

If you snooze, you lose…

But how long will it take them to slash the odds on Sadiq Khan?

The three contenders to be Labour’s mayoral candidate

The cat is out of the bag! Apparently, Peter Mandelson wants to be the next Mayor of London. Fraser Nelson’s story from yesterday has been followed up by The Guardian’s Helene Mulholland – with an interesting twist:

Ken Livingstone (who is determined to be the Labour candidate himself) told the paper that a ‘senior Blairite’ warned him that Mandy ‘would go for it’.

Of course, Mandy’s people deny it all. But that hasn’t stopped me placing a few quid on Mandy to be crowned mayor in 2012 – with the rather good odds of 21 to 1.

Here are the main Labour runners and riders:

Ken Livingstone – 9/1

David Lammy, Jon Cruddas, Alan Sugar – 17/1

Peter Mandelson, Trevor Phillips – 21/1

Oonagh King – 26/1

Chuka Umannu – 34/1

Dawn Butler, Diane Abbot, Harriet Harman, Tessa Jowell, Tony McNulty – 51/1

I won’t be rushing to the bookies to bet on the last five. As for the others, Umannu is hugely impressive and undoubtedly one to watch, but not even in the Commons yet. Lammy was Labour’s big hope a few years ago, but not any more.

King, Phillips, Sugar and especially Cruddas are more plausible candidates to defeat the Tories in 2012, but what about Sadiq Khan? The streetwise MP for Tooting is a born and bred Londoner – and is held in high regard by those Labour insiders who have already been contemplating how to win back London.

For my money it’s a three-way fight between Ken, Mandy and Sadiq.

And you read it here first…

Lobbying firm caught short as George Bridges takes Tory election job

The Conservative Party is to strengthen its team in the run-up to the general election with the appointment of George Bridges,one of the best-connected Tories in the world of lobbying. 

The news will go down well at CCHQ.

Bridges has held senior positions at CCHQ in the past, serving three different Tory leaders. He is highly regarded by the people around Dave, and is good pals with George Osborne, who Bridges will now work alongside to mastermind the Tories’ election stategy.

The news will have gone down less well at Bridges’ current employer, Quiller Consultants.

In recent months, the secretive lobbying outfit has caught the attention of a number of big companies seeking to build links with the Tories.

Quiller has other solid Tories on the team, namely co-founder Jonathan Hill, who headed the Downing Street policy unit under John Major. But without its star player, will Quiller still be such an attractive option for those corporates keen to get close to Dave and George?

Finally, the news will go down like a lead baloon with those companies that have already appointed Quiller to lobby the Tories on their behalf.

Both HSBC and O2 recently dumped their retained lobbying firms and shelled out big money to Quiller to acquire the services of Bridges et al. 

Oops!

MPs and Dr Who stars turn up for lobbying bash

Sounds like Bell Pottinger’s Christmas party bash this year was the usual fun-filled affair.

An agency mole reveals that MPs in attendance included Labour’s Tom Harris and David Cairns, and the Lib Dems’ Bob Russell.

The Tory front bench failed to show up, presumably having been banned by Andy Coulson. But in their place, the agency did get the Brigadier and Katy Manning from Dr Who, and Mrs Fox and the Vicar from Dad’s Army.

‘Tis the season of office Christmas parties and across the land there will be some embarrassed work colleagues the morning after,’ muses the agency’s public affairs chairman Peter Bingle in a festive round-robin email sent out this morning.

Do tell, Peter…!

Lobbyists to reveal Westminster’s greediest MPs

What will MPs make of the fun new Christmas game created by lobbying firm Open Road (yep, them again)?

An email from the agency explains how the MPs Expenses Quest Pac Man game works:

‘Our Pac Man represents an MP. Not just any MP, but an MP that managed to attract a rather significant amount of attention this summer on the question of expenses.

‘Your role is to pick one to represent you, and then gobble up as many expenses as possible before being caught by the press and the electorate.

‘Open Road will be playing the role of the Daily Telegraph in this game. We will publish the names of the MPs/players with the highest expenses/scores.’

That’ll go down well in Westminster then!

But if any MPs are really affronted, they can console themselves with the knowledge that Open Road will generously donate £10 to children’s charity Honeypot for every person that plays the game.