Vain Vince v. Bruiser Balls and Calamity Clegg

Vince on the prowl: pic courtesy BBC

Vince on the prowl: pic courtesy BBC

As we start gearing up to the next general election political parties always make extravagant claims that they will win. The reality at the moment is neither the two biggest parties – Labour or Tory – are likely to get an overall majority. The intervention of UKIP and the fact that the Liberal Democrats are likely to cling on in their strongholds – even if they lose seats – has seen to that.

That’s why the rather bizarre reconciliation between Nick Clegg and Ed Balls is particularly interesting. For whatever the  parties are saying publicly, everyone knows the Liberal Democrats will be talking to Labour as well as the Tories.And they will start worrying who is going to get what in any new coalition.

In  a story on Exaro News  earlier I illustrated this – from information obtained  from two independent  Westminster sources – one in the Labour Party and another in the Liberal Democrats – about the real reason why Ed Balls and Nick Clegg – who until now both publicly say they loathe each other – are kissing and making up.

 The answer is a premeditated power grab from Vince Cable, the current business secretary, to get  the chancellor’s job  from a somewhat unpopular Ed Balls. It appears according to both sources that the last thing Nick Clegg wants even if he were to remain deputy PM.

According to the Liberal Democrat source ” Vain Vince ” – once shadow chancellor for the Lib Dems – fancies the post but such a move would be anathema to both Clegg and Balls. Cable. The main reason is Cable’s tendency to keep things to himself . As the Lib Dem put it :

“It is no coincidence that Vince Cable and Gordon Brown were both young members of the Labour party in Scotland at the same time. They were very similar in keeping things to themselves,” said the source.

The insider recalled Clegg’s irritation with Cable as shadow chancellor. Clegg would complain to colleagues that he had to wait until Cable went on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to find out what the party’s economic policy was on a particular issue.

While Balls interest would be to get Clegg on side fuelled by the fact that his leader, Ed Miliband is warming towards Nick Clegg after they regularly met socially at last year’s Olympics.

The ability of politicians to scheme like rats in a sack is one of the more unenviable sides of Westminster politics. Getting the electorate to trust politicians is one thing. The fact that they don’t trust each other – especially among people in their own party – is quite another.




Dirty Tricks at the green ministry

The true Conservative green logo: Replace the tree with a belching exhaust pipe.Pic:courtesy

Six weeks ago I  had a particularly critical look at the antics used by David Cameron and Boris Johnson to delay tough new air pollution rules to avoid the Mayor having to pay out £300m in fines to the European Union. (see

Now word via Whitehall has come to me  that a recent government initiative to curb ” red tape” to help business is about to be used as a further battering ram by the coalition to undermine  the so called commitment by both parties to a greener Britain.

My old Guardian colleague Allegra Stratton has already exposed the government’s move to incorporate all 278 environmental laws into the review ( . And it has  alarmed environmentalists.

Whitehall sources are telling me that the way civil servants in the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have been instructed to review the laws is extremely detrimental to green campaigners.

Effectively they have been told to concentrate on the BURDEN green legislation and regulations place on business and ignore the BENEFITS it brings to general health and well-being.

And this is from two ministries, business and energy and climate change , headed by two of  the Liberal Democrats in the Cabinet, Vince Cable and Chris Huhne.

Given the review cover issues like climate change, national parks, wild life protection, waste regulations, to name but a few areas, the only people  thrilled by this will be  libertarian think tanks like the Adam Smith Institute and the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party.

If we pursue this line of argument we would never have bothered with energy conservation, banned lead in petrol ( they  all cost money to business in the short-term) and been quite happy to keep landfill going and see animals and plants become extinct. Luckily some of this stuff – like phasing out landfill , clean beaches and air pollution, depend on  directives from the EU, so even the most brown nosed civil servant in Defra is going to have difficulty telling his political bosses it is OK to forget the benefit to the environment.

And the government seem to have forgotten that not all business will be pleased if it is successful. There are 880,000 jobs in the environment industry dependent on existing regulation.

 As Adrian Wilkes, chairman of the Environmental Industries Commission, points out: “This is a potentially major threat to the UK’s environmental industry, which lives and dies by the regulatory framework. Government intervention is a vital ingredient in the creation of the environmental markets of the future.”

So once again, just like the row over privatising the rest of the forests defeated by the campaigning group 38 degrees, the coalition has put its foot in it. Unless that is, they never really believed in the green agenda in the first place.

Going Downhill fast: The Liberal Democrats bankrolled by RBS

Nick Clegg-party in dire straits and bankrolled by the Royal Bank of Scotland

In the week when student protest over tuition fees reaches a climax, public support and money for the Liberal Democrats is collapsing all the time. And it is now even more in hock to one of the banks that provoked the financial crisis in the first place

In article in the Tribune  this week I point out that the party has had a bad time in recent local council  by-elections  getting as few as 10, 45 and 98 votes in some cases. It is also in an appalling financial  situation getting less money in the last quarter than UKIP and  relying on a big donation from the taxpayer via the Electoral Commission  to keep afloat. Only after the 2005 election were the figures worse. 

 A closer look at the party loan book reveals a delicious further irony – the party is actually being bank rolled on a £1m indefinite loan from the discredited Royal Bank of Scotland – the bank of Fred ” the Shred” Goodwin- which itself is being bailed out by the taxpayer and subject to a still secret report from the Financial Services Authority.

 Given Vincent Cable’s high-profile attacks on the banks for the poor lending, the business secretary is much more cautious in lending his party money than RBS. He gave a £10,000 interest free loan to the party on April 13 but demanded his money back, insisting it was repaid on May 25. He was one of only two donors post the election who wanted their money back pronto, the other more understandably being Susan Kramer, defeated by Zac Goldsmith in Richmond.

As for local elections performance the best guide is on this website . Although it shows a small overall gain of four for the Liberal Democrats, this can be accounted for entirely by their performance on general election day,May 6, where they made a few gains. Since then, apart from taking one seat from the Tories and a couple from Independents in Cornwall, they have slumped.

And all of this is before the cuts and tax rises have to bite and student fees go through the roof.

No wonder Vince Cable wanted his money back. He’ll need it for his retirement.