Thursday 20 March 2008

Treatment of the Gurkhas a national scandal

It’s not often that I have cause to agree with Nick Clegg, but this is one issue where Conservatives and Lib Dems (plus I daresay, more than a sprinkling of Labour supporters) can most certainly concur. The Lib Dem leader raised the treatment of the Nepalese Gurkhas on the floor of the Commons to the Prime Minister at yesterday’s PMQs.

The Ghurkhas, one of the most famous and distinctive regiments within the British Army, have fought for Britain since the Napoleonic wars, including in the Falklands, Afghanistan and Iraq. However, current rules do not provide the Gurkhas any right to remain in the UK if they retired from the Armed Forces after 1997.

Unsurprisingly, Brown dismissed any change to the status quo for the veterans, with the Government arguing that such a retrospective change would be too difficult to enforce. However, Communities Secretary Hazel Blears did promise to look “very carefully” at the issue. Some comfort. Frankly, it is a sad day for Britain when fifty retired servicemen feel the need to hand back their military honours to a Government they fought for, yet one which will not recognise and reward that sacrifice.

Several Conservatives have raised this as an example of where Britain is prepared to let in benefit migrants from EU countries, yet will refuse leave to remain for those who have put their lives on the line for the sake of British values. As Clegg himself has argued "I think this is a simply scandalous way to treat some of the most modest, brave and courageous individuals I have ever met". I can only agree.

A Bill has now been tabled in the House of Lords to give the Gurkhas the right to remain, and parity of pension rights as British soldiers. This is a Bill which I hope will receive genuine cross-party support, and that Britain is seen to treat her friends and allies better than Brown and Co. would have it.

Tuesday 18 March 2008

The Prime Minister’s lost his brain – again

Spencer Livermore, Gordon Brown’s closest adviser for over a decade, has confirmed his departure from Number Ten. Livermore, once hailed by Pink Times as the most powerful gay man in Britain, will take up a post at Saatchi and Saatchi managing Labour’s PR activities in the build-up to the next election.

The departure of such a key lieutenant in the Brownite machine could hardly have come at a worse time for the ailing Prime Minister, still reeling from the Bad News Budget and a newly published Guardian/ICM poll which gives the Conservatives a thirteen point lead.

While both Brown and Chancellor-in-Waiting Ed Balls are said to have attempted to persuade Livermore to stay, Brown just doesn’t seem to have that motivating touch – unlike his predecessor Tony Blair, who famously persuaded spin supremo Alistair Campbell to remain for two years beyond his initial departure date.

The blogosphere has been buzzing with rumours that Livermore’s departure was hastened by Stephen Carter, Brown’s new head of political strategy. Yet whether Livermore’s decision was more influenced by Carter’s behind the scenes machinations, or if he still has not forgiven Brown for the famous explosion following October’s election fiasco – which according to sources, reduced the thirty-two year-old Livermore to tears – is currently unclear.

Whether this will be the first of several political “disappearances” from Number 10, or merely the beginning of the rats leaving New Labour’s sinking ship is also a matter fro debate. Either way, this author has little sympathy for Brown, whose legendary mood swings are hardly likely to build deep loyalty in his closest aides.

Once again, a lesson sorely ignored from Number Ten’s previous incumbent – but not, it may appear from yesterday’s post, its next one…

Monday 17 March 2008

Behind every great leader, there's a Gove

Shadow Children, Schools and Families Secretary Michael Gove has long been viewed as a rising star in Conservative circles, but BBC Newsnight reports that the former Times correspondent has impressed many in his briefing of David Cameron prior to the leader’s speech at least week’s Conservative Spring Forum.

“He was really cracking the whip” reported one onlooker, advising the young party leader to refer to “mothers and fathers” as opposed to “parents”, and that dated phrases such as “creeds and colours” were best avoided. While Steve Hilton, Head of Media and Communications at Conservative Central Office, was in attendance, it is understood that he made few comments other than to endorse Mr. Gove’s suggestions.

That it was Michael Gove who persuaded Cameron to run for the party leadership following the 2005 election is common knowledge amongst Cameroonies. Now seen as an arch-Cameronite and party moderniser, it comes as little surprise to us Goveites to hear that the man tipped as a possible successor to Mr. Cameron is playing an increasing role in passing on the benefits of his journalistic background.

From the hammering he has regularly been handing out to Brown’s boy Ed Balls (Brown’s Balls?), this commentator anticipates an ever-higher trajectory for the Shadow Education Secretary just as his Labour opposite number’s star is beginning to wane. In the meantime, there could be worse appointments for the Conservatives to make than to give the Surrey Heath MP an increased role in the formulation of policy and election strategy.

Come on Dave, give us a Gove!

Tuesday 4 March 2008

Just how "highly thought of" is Harman?

An amusing aside for all those who have cause to wonder the level of respect and trust between Gordon Brown and his Labour Party Deputy Harriet Harman (and since her funding difficulties, there are many) passed on by a friend in Camberwell.

Apparently, Ms. Harman was on a routine constituency visit to a local school yesterday and (true to form) giving comments to the local press. When one hack asked how she felt about Prince Harry’s recent return from Afghanistan, following the Prime Minister’s expression of pride in him and the other deployed forces, Harperson was handed a scrap of paper by a party aide, which she quickly glanced at before answering in the affirmative.

What did the note read?

“You are proud too”.