Labour can't afford General Election now

GORDON Brown will be excused if he has a wee smile on his face after yet another monumental cock-up hit the Home Office this week - the cupboard full of neglected files on criminal convictions of Brits abroad may well scupper Dr John Reid's thoughts of challenging the Chancellor for the Labour leadership.

By Graham Dines

GORDON Brown will be excused if he has a wee smile on his face after yet another monumental cock-up hit the Home Office this week - the cupboard full of neglected files on criminal convictions of Brits abroad may well scupper Dr John Reid's thoughts of challenging the Chancellor for the Labour leadership.

Dr Reid was sent into the department - which is responsible for everything from policing, prisons and the probation service to homeland security, immigration, asylum, and nationality - to sort the chaos and muddle which has swamped it in recent years.

Soon after, he assured everyone that all was well, and it was fit for purpose. Patently, it is not.

You may also want to watch:

This week's fiasco, in which ministers were forced to admit that British nationals convicted overseas of rape, murder, or paedophile offences could be working with kids because their records had not been processed by our police, will have dented hard man Reid's reputation as a fixer and probably made Mr Brown even more of an odds-on favourite to inherit the Blair crown.

When he becomes PM, the Chancellor could be urged by some of his more hot-headed supporters to call an early election, to build on the honeymoon period he will inevitable enjoy as the country breathes a collective sigh of relief that Tony Blair is spending more of his time with the rich and famous.

Most Read

Some have even suggested Mr Brown could seek his own mandate as early as October, as the Brown effect neutralises the Tory revival under David Cameron.

The other scenario is that October 2008 would be the ideal time to go to the country.

Both seem to overlook one huge problem Labour is facing - it cannot afford the £20million needed to fight a General Election.

David Cameron's stewardship of the Conservative Party has led to a surge in donations. The Spectator today reveals the Tories raised £21 million last year, compared with £15 million in a normal non-election financial year.

The magazine calculated that the unusually high level of gifts means that the party will be able to reduce its debts to just £5 million once it has sold the former Conservative Central Office building at 32 Smith Square.

A £5,000-a-plate dinner at Blenheim Palace in the company of Mr and Mrs Cameron last month is understood to have raised £500,000 for the Conservative coffers - a party record for a single fundraising dinner. And smaller, more intimate dinners with Mr Cameron or George Osborne are being held for millionaire donors who join the Leader's Club by donating £50,000 annually or the Shadow Chancellor's Club for £25,000 a year

The so-called cash for ermine rumpus has hit Labour's coffers and it may be forced to go cap-in-hand to the trade unions for emergency election funding.

I believe Labour's cash crisis rules out an early election. I also suspect May or June 2009, coinciding with the European Parliament elections, is also a non-starter.

If Cameron's Tories ride out the change in Labour leadership and are still ahead in the polls, Mr Brown could decide to go the full distance - and find, as John Major did in 1997, that he's boxed himself into a corner.

This is why I believe the next General Election will be held in October 2009. I also suspect the outcome will be a hung parliament - David Cameron denied a majority because of Scotland and the urban north and Gordon Brown failing because of southern England and London.


THE European Parliament is being battered by Eurosceptics for issuing teaching packs to schools which have been described as “sheer, naked propaganda.”

Although officials in London have defended the packs as merely being in response to requests from teachers, East of England UKIP Euro MP Jeffrey Titford said he was “aghast” to see the pack.

“It is so blatantly one-sided that there must be conflict with the Education Act, which requires that pupils must be offered a balanced presentation of opposing views.”

He accused the European Parliament's London office of interfering with British politics by seeming to advocate proportional representation, rather than the first-past-the-post method of electing Members of Parliament.

“The most appalling feature of all is this pack has been endorsed by the Electoral Commission as a teaching aid,” said Mr Titford.

“It contains a great deal of misleading, one-sided and highly political material. Completely absent are any references to the EU's huge fraud problem - it hasn't had its accounts signed off by its auditors for 11 years - the serious democratic deficit it is creating, or to the massive and increasing membership fees that Britain has to pay to be in the EU.

“The list of links and resources that teachers and students are encouraged to access, for further information, contains not a single Eurosceptic website or organisation.

“This isn't a teaching guide,” complained Mr Titford. “It is a new low in sheer, naked propaganda and I hope schools in the East of England will have the sense to keep these packs out of the classroom.”

However, Dermot Scott, head of the European Parliament's UK office, said the pack had been produced in response to teachers' requests for information and more than 500 had so far been issued.

“We believe we have made a genuine attempt to be even handed in our portrayal of the European Union and the issues we deal with.”

The packs have been welcomed by the European Movement. David Houseley from Felixstowe, who is chairman of its Suffolk and North Essex branch, said he would like to go further and send supporters of the UK's membership of the EU into schools and sixth form centres to explain the work of the European Parliament and the Union.

“The message we want to get across is that the major issues facing Britain can only be solved by working at a European and international level - global warming, climate change, prevention of terrorism, third world poverty, the spread of Aids, nuclear defence, the problems in the Middle East, and energy dependence on Russian gas and Middle East oil,” said Mr Houseley,

“We can't stand with our heads in the nationalist sands and pretend we can solve these problems by ourselves or that they have nothing to do with us.”


NO debate on the future of Stansted in Essex - or indeed any regional airport in the UK - can take place in isolation from global warming and growing concerns at how aircraft emissions are adding to the problem.

As the country in general gets richer, so more people have a disposable income which they itching to spend on flights abroad. It might be harming the planet, but as Tony Blair succinctly pointed out this week, no politician in Britain is running for office on a platform that people should give up flying.

The Prime Minister has pledged to offset his personal air travel - that is, calculating the amount of carbon emissions from the flights and paying a cash amount per mile travelled towards green and renewable projects.

Stansted's growth has been fuelled by low cost airlines - in particular easyJet and Ryanair - which make it easy and economic for people to spend a weekend away or to jet off to their villas.

The Government's solution is to hike airport departure taxes for all departures including package holidays using charter airlines, effectively hitting the less well-off in society who struggle to take a family break. The tax is regressive - whether you earn £20,000, £200,000 or £2m a year, every person on a flight will have to pay the same fee.

The Liberal Democrats want to replace the tax on tickets with one on tax no-frills airlines, which Sir Menzies Campbell says will not hit the poor because few of them use low-cost flights.

“The vast majority of people who use so-called cheap flights are people earning quite substantial sums of money - or people with quite substantial pensions,” says the Lib Dem leader. “It's not poor people who take cheap flights.”


: Former foreign secretary Robin Cook's fierce opposition to the Iraq war has been set in stone as a lasting epitaph to the politician. An outspoken critic of the UK Government's decision to topple Saddam Hussein's regime, he quit his post as Leader of the House of Commons in 2003 as a result.

A headstone has been erected in Edinburgh's Grange Cemetery where Mr Cook - who died in 2005 aged 59 - is buried, with the message: “I may not have succeeded in halting the war, but I did secure the right of Parliament to decide on war.”

The headstone describes Mr Cook as a “Parliamentarian and Statesman. Beloved husband of Gaynor and much missed father of Chris and Peter.”

In his resignation speech as Leader, he asked: “Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years, and which we helped to create?”


Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus