Sunday, January 22, 2006

Where Next For Grace Brothers?

Following the unfortunate revelations about Mr Humphries, Young Mr Grace himself is calling for calm:

"You've all done very well. The task now is to draw everyone together and move forward. No department store is entirely subject to what happens to any one individual. Grace Brothers is much bigger than that."

But what with Mr Rumbold's raid on the boardroom sherry, and before that the problem with Captain Peacock's pants, not everyone is so sure.

"What's wrong with my pussy?" Mrs Slocombe wails. And that one-that-nobody-can-remember-but-he-fancies-Miss-Brahms is even going round telling everyone he's going to take over.

I don't know- whatever will happen next?

Going Down.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Oaten Humiliated

So Mark Oaten has bowed to the inevitable and withdrawn.

The question now is who's next in the humiliation parade?

And do we really care?

Tyler has to admit this race isn't turning out to be quite as entertaining as hoped. In fact, alternative blogging opportunities look much more enticing.

When something interesting happens I'll update this, but meanwhile I commend Guido's objective 24/7 coverage.

Pic of Mark Oaten announcing withdrawal:

Hughes It Is Then

After his better performance at yesterday's PMQ's, Sir Ming is obviously intending to go through with it.

And having tacked left, he's now tacking back to the right. He's ditching that 50p income tax for the undeserving rich, and now wants:

"fairer taxes, not higher taxes. Wealthy people and polluters should pay more; the poor and the old should pay less. I think we should use tax to promote opportunity, not to restrict ambition."

Eh? No 50p rate, but "wealthy people" and Jag drivers "should pay more". Is that right or left? Or just traditional LD gibberish?

But it all leaves Si firmly on track to win. And just because those modernisers are too nice to push.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Clegg At Crash-Site

Following yesterday's dull Sky News hustings, Nick Clegg has reached the crash-site. The punters now have Clegg on 19/1, only just behind Baldie on 17.5/1.

But he's only got another week before nominations close, so just how is Clegg going to elbow Ming aside? Guido reckons it's going to be the failing health gambit, and that does look favourite. But he could also say "well, I was happy to offer myself if colleagues had unanimously wanted that, but it's now clear they're minded to have a proper shoot-out, and I don't think an old man like me should stand in the way. I'm backing young Clegg who's said I can keep my current job and my gas-guzzling Jag."

Will Ming play ball? If not, and given the way LD leadership polls work (single transferable vote) Clegg might decide to go as a fifth candidate. After all as things stand, Si's going to win, and Clegg drawing away some of Ming's first preference votes is not going to change that.

If Si gets more than 50% on first preferences, then all bets are off anyway. More likely is that nobody wins on first preferences, and it's second and third preference that will count.

Assume the bookies are right and Oaten is out on first preferences. Who then gets his "tough liberal" second preferences? Certainly not Si, and probably not Kennedy assassin Ming. Clegg would have just as much chance as the tedious Huhne.

In the next round, Huhne is out. Who would get his second prefs? Again, not Si, and for people who've voted for a moderniser, not the venerable Ming.

By then Clegg is ahead of Ming, who has picked up few of the Oaten/Huhne second/third preferences....catch my drift?

Expect a declaration by the weekend.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Is This What You Want?

Those Orange Bookers have a real problem now. With Si well ahead at the bookies, Ming is looking less and less likely to stand the pace. And they are getting severely rattled.

Scotland on Sunday reports "a long-term associate" as saying:

"He's gone really, really strange in the last 10 days. He used to just be himself and know what to do, now he's surrounded by all these advisers telling him what to say and think."

The "advisers" being those power-hungry modernisers who want Ming to be their Old Pope. Supposedly it's them pulling the strings. And we are even to believe Ming's disastrous showing at PMQs was actually not down to him. It was all the fault of Mark Littlewood, the Lib Dem head of press, who dreamed up the "headteachers" question that Tony punished so ruthlessly.

So we've got an ineffective patrician OAP who in less than a week has demolished his own reputation as a safe pair of hands.

Add in the strong suspicion that he was behind the Kennedy assassination, which will lose him the votes of many a nice LD member.

And add in too the serious doubts over his health. As the excellent Dr Crippen explains, Ming's statistical chances of lasting to the next election, are sadly less than 50%. There's no way that can be kept hidden from members.

Forget the dull Huhne and Oaten. You modernisers just need to ask yourselves one question: "Is Si what you want?"

Cos if not, you'd better find a way of getting Clegg onto the blocks, soonest.

Pic: Guardian

Saturday, January 14, 2006

LibDem Fiscal Sums

Unlike certain Tory leadership contenders, LibDems have never been shy of nailing their colours to the fiscal mast.

Chris Huhne has been making much of his pledge to increase green taxes and use the money to help low wage earners:

"There have to be higher taxes on actions that threaten the future of our world. That means pain for some. Of course...this is a switch in the tax burden, not an overall increase. We must...take the low paid out of tax entirely. Nobody on the minimum wage should have to pay income tax."

He doesn't explain his sums, but he keeps telling us he's a very able economist're right, we'd better check.

Right, so the minimum wage equates to about £9,700pa. And the personal tax allowance is currently £4895pa. So that needs to approximately double to lift those minimum wage earners out of income tax.

And using the IFS ready reckoner gives us a total cost of...jeeps! £30bn pa!

Thirty bill- that's really quite a lot of money, even by the standards of LibDem fiscal sums.

Hmm. So what green taxes would he increase? How about the jolly old duty on unleaded? Should cause a bit of PAIN for those Surrey housewives in their guzzly 4x4s. IFS again...umm...let me see...that's an increase of £1.50 per litre! New pump price of around £2.50 per litre- say, £150 to fill up the 4x4.

Chris is well on the way to saving the planet alright. But possibly not his wafer-thin majority Home Counties seat.

Pic: Grandma's Graphics

Friday, January 13, 2006

Don't Mention The Euro

For some reason Chris Huhne's new website chris2win doesn't mention his red-hot enthusiasm for joining the Euro :

"Germany and France are already about 1% better off each year as a result of their euro membership. These are substantial economic gains reminiscent of the huge benefits derived by the original six member states from their creation of a customs union (and hence abolition of internal tariffs) in the 1950s. The euro is living up to the highest expectations of the economists who advocated it, and Britain is missing out".

Could it be that even in the wacky world of LibDem leadership races, the jobdestroyingsuperstateinducing Euro is now verboten?

Official Euro template: © Ministère de l'Économie, des Finances et de l'Industrie- 03/2002

You Put Your Right Ming In, Your Left Si Out...

Ming sashays left:

"The environment, the environment, the environment...

It's a scandal that the poorest 10% of people in this country pay higher proportion of their income in tax than the richest 10%. It's a scandal. It's a scandal that there are so many people in my constituency who will never get houses.

A party that I lead - I'm not going to talk about the detail in full policy - would most certainly have two things: the environment and a campaign against poverty."

And Si shimmies right:

"Quality public services should not mean an over-mighty state... People have to "earn their way in the world."

Meanwhile poor old Baldie Oaten has had to fall back on a bizarre LibDem multi-nominations rule even to get onto the dancefloor:

'Oaten’s MPs’ nominations include three willing to sign the papers of any serious candidate. In addition to Lembit Opik, his campaign manager, they are Paul Keetch, a close friend of Charles Kennedy, Bob Russell, John Leech, Paul Rowen, Mike Hancock and John Hemming. Mr Rowen, MP for Rochdale, has also offered to nominate Simon Hughes while Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, said: “I’ve offered to sign the ballot paper for anyone who feels they have got a chance.”

Of course, as John Hemming For Leader points out, nominating Oaten 'reveals that John is a masterful tactician, as his cunning plan to prop up his ailing rivals in order to split the 'stop Hemming' vote is an unparalleled stroke of strategic genius.' And poor old Baldie's been suckered right in.

And amid all this Terpsichorean shambles, as Guido reports, Clegg is limbering up for the Military Two-Step. Or is it the Gay Gordons?

Pic: Daily Ramblings

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Uh Huh...You Said Huhne

After Ming's disastrous showing at PMQs yesterday, they're all throwing their hats into the ring.

Of course, Si we expected. But Chris Huhne? Who he?

Yes, we know he's 51, married, Westminster and Oxford educated (another first in PPE, just like Daves Cameron and Miliband), financial journalist. city economist , and Lib Dem MEP. But apart from that what do we know?

Well we do know he became the MP for Eastleigh in May 2005, inheriting a LD majority of 3068, and immediately slashing it to 568 (even worse than Miliband's dismal performance in South Shields)., if you were looking for someone with a proven track record of building electoral support....umm...

Anyway, such is the competition, Huhne's now third favourite on 6.6/1. Baldie Oaten is on 13/1, and after yesterday, Ming has collapsed right down to 2.25/1 (an implied probability of success of only 30%, compared to 66% a couple of days ago.

So the front-runners curse strikes again, and the new leader is Si Hughes on 1.66/1.

This is dreadful news for the Orange Bookers. Their Ming-as-caretaker script is already off the rails, and unless they get somebody credible put up sharpish, they're going to get saddled with Si.

PS It seems quite likely that some of Ming's early supporters must be having doubts about his health. We all wish him well, but as the good Dr Crippen commented here a couple of days ago: "Ming has taken full advantage of Charlie's health problems. But Ming is telling porkies too. He has not "beaten" cancer as the press delight in saying. He is (I hope) in remission. Frankly, looking at him as a doctor, I have my doubts about his health. We need a declaration from Ming's oncologists that he is fit to become leader.We need to know what the odds are that he will alive/fit to fight the next election. I am not a bookmaker. But medically I would say less than 50%. This is quite spectacular political dishonesty and hypocrisy."

Pic: National Literacy Trust