The Week in Politics
• The “Dumb and Dumber” of British politics, Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt, got their 15 minutes of fame this week with their attempt to topple the Prime Minister, at long last uniting the Labour party – in loathing and contempt at their inexplicable displays of disloyalty. Not one single Minister joined them in their putsch, with only a handful of the usual suspects, Charles Clarke, Frank Field et al chiming in from the back benches and several members of the PLP emailing the plotters to let them know exactly what they thought of them.
The Labour blogosphere was particularly damning – LabourList calling on supporters “to unite and focus on the real challenges ahead” – and the public was most unimpressed. As Left Foot Forward reported today, the first polls since the failed coup have shown that 60 per cent of the electorate think Labour is the most divided party, compared to only 17 per cent for the Tories and 10 per cent for the Lib Dems, with 62 per cent of the opinion a contest would be a “distraction from the serious issues that the country currently faces”.
• On Monday, the election campaign looked to be well and truly underway with David Cameron and Alistair Darling trading blows over Labour’s publication of a dossier which detailed a £34 billion black hole in Tory spending plans. The result has been a steady drip of dropped policies, flip-flops and u-turns from Team Cameron.
As Left Foot Forward has reported, the Conservatives this week u-turned on Educational Maintenance Allowances, marriage tax and scrapping NHS targets, with the Independent today revealing further volte-faces on extra prison places and tax breaks for savers, the Tory leader telling the paper he had “messed up”.
• The Arctic weather conditions saw the country almost grind to a halt this week as temperatures dropped as low as -21°C in the Highlands of Scotland. All forms of transport have been affected, supplies of grit are at critical levels, gas supplies are running low and the weekend’s sporting events are in danger of being completely wiped out. Left Foot Forward reported that in Scotland, as in the rest of the country, the failure of local, central and devolved governments to work more effectively together and learn the lessons of previous cold snaps hadn’t helped.
In yesterday’s Times, Melanie Reid published a quite ridiculous article that said snow “brings out the inner Tory in all of us”. Interesting. Left Foot Forward wonders whether those would be the values of looking after number one, “no such thing as society” and freezing people’s pay if they’re unable to come into work? If anything, snow brings out the inner Labour in people, the ideals of solidarity and self-help – looking out for neighbours, helping the elderly and sharing school runs. (Hat-tip: Paul Waugh)
Progressives of the week
Oxford scientist Dr Patrick McSharry and the Met Office’s Keith Groves, who rebutted the claims of climate deniers and climate sceptics that carbon dioxide doesn’t cause global warming and climate models are inaccurate. Speaking on last night’s Newsnight, they also brushed off claims that a few weeks’ snow is evidence global warming doesn’t exist.
Regressive of the week
Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green, whose dog-whistle denunciation of the legal aid bill for asylum seekers was gobbled up with glee by Right-wing newspapers – none of which bothered to check that the £28 million figure quoted by the Tories was similar to that of previous years or indeed that the number of asylum applications in the third-quarter of 2009 was 24 per cent lower than the same period a year before. Politics at its worst from David Cameron’s “nice” new Tory party.
Evidence of the week
Britain has less than ten days’ gas reserves at current usage. Data from Gas Infrastructure Europe, broadcast on last night’s Newsnight, shows that Britain has 4.3 billion cubic centimetres of gas in storage – a fraction of that of our European allies. France has 12.2bn cm³, Italy 14.3bn cm³ and Germany 19.6bn cm³.
What’s trending on Twitter
The coup that never was
It’s the story that dominated Westminster on Wednesday, gripping politicians, hacks and Sky News viewers. Here are five of the best from tweetland’s finest on the event:
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@alexsmith1982: I think it’s probably time for a secret ballot we can all take part in.
@Jessica_Asato: I am at a loss for words. The time for complaining was June. Not now.
@anthonypainter: Even if there were to be a ballot, it would only have one outcome. So what’s the point in this? Futile and damaging.
@TomBage: Miliband, Mandelson, Darling or Straw. If you have the bloodlust, now’s your chance.
@BevaniteEllie: Makes a change that Hoon and Hewitt aren’t both former ministers who are bitter Blairites. Oh wait…