October 2012 Archives
This blog is based on a talk I gave to the Planning and Development Association Meeting University of Birmingham 19th October 2012.
As this government embarks on a series of further ad-hoc iterations and changes to planning policy it is timely to present two simple stories that together offer an important critique for the way planning is currently carried out and the way that uncertainty is becoming the real enemy of enterprise.
Andrew Mitchell's resignation letter:
It is with enormous regret not least because of the tremendous support and loyalty you have shown me during recent weeks that I am writing to resign as your chief whip.
Black Country MP Tom Watson should be allowed to call Michael Gove "a miserable pipsqueak of a man" according to one colleague.
Chris Bryant (Lab Rhondda) called for a rethink of the rules governing which insults MPs are allowed to throw at each other.
Apparently, MPs have got away with calling each other "hooligan" and "idiot" - but when Mr Watson (Lab West Bromwich East) called the Education Secretary a pipsqueak in 2010, in a row over the cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future project, he was silenced and his microphone was turned off.
The TV cameras didn't catch what Andrew Mitchell (Con Sutton Coldfield) said in the House of Commons yesterday but Labour say they are certain he told Ed Miliband he never did swear at police officers.
However, Mr Mitchell did admit swearing when he met representatives of the Police Federation last week, as we report in today's Birmingham Post:
Chris Jones, Secretary of West Midlands Police Federation, who was present at the meeting, said: "He told us that he did say under his breath 'I thought you lot were supposed to f****** help us.'
"That was from his own lips."
As Andrew Mitchell meets Police Federation officers in his Sutton Coldfield constituency, there have been repeated calls for him to reveal exactly what he said to police officers guarding the gates to Downing Street.
Labour leader Ed Miliband, in Bristol yesterday, said: "We still don't know what he said, what he said to our brave police officers, aned h has got to come forward with an explanation."
In fact, Mr Mitchell, the Chief Whip, has set out his side of the story. It appeared in a column by Matthew d'Ancona in the Sunday Telegraph last month, which states that Mr Mitchell denies calling anyone a "pleb" or suggesting they "learn your place", but states: "The Chief Whip admits that he then said, muttering to himself, but in earshot: 'You guys are supposed to fxxxing help us'."
All was explained in his speech to the party conference. Am I imagining things or was he having a sly dig at the lefty Lib Dems? Mr Pickles said:
In my Ministerial office, I've placed reminders of what it means to be a Conservative.
A bust of Disraeli.
A poster of the great Winston.
A momento of the magnificent Margaret.
George Osborne's speech in Birmingham today will be remembered for his announcement that the Government is pressing ahead with £10 billion cuts to welfare, but it also contains news of an extra £200 million to support the nation's top research and development businesses, including Jaguar Land Rover.
The Chancellor will announce an extra £200 million of Government funding for the Research Partnership Investment Fund, which supports university capital projects. The Fund was launched at Budget 2012, with £100 million of funding but has been heavily oversubscribed with an overwhelming number of high-calibre bids.
As you know, this week, Birmingham's International Convention Centre will be the venue for the Conservative Party conference. No doubt many will welcome this for it's going to bring extra revenue and business for the second city though, I'm afraid, we'll have to contend with Harriets and Henrys wandering around the place carrying copies of The Times and The Daily Telegraph.
And so, to a degree, that's all happy and good.
But, sadly, the city centre has still got a long way to go before it can put itself on par with other major European cities.
Let me explain.
Here are some of the announcements that have emerged so far at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham:
- Provide £270 million funding so that councils can freeze council tax for a third consecutive year. This would be a 2.5 per cent real terms cut in 2013-13, and an 11 per cent cut over three years. Require a referendum for any council planing an increase above two per cent in 2013-14.
- Cap rail fares at RPI+1 per cent in 2013 and 2014, costing £300 million over the next two financial years (2013-14 and 2014-15).
A lesson in spin-doctory: a Conservative Party briefing note aimed at Tory press officers and politicians at the party conference in the ICC contains a list of "hostile questions" they may be asked by the media, as well as the preferred answers.
Here's an extract:
Q: Does the Prime Minister have full confidence in Andrew Mitchell?
In my view good policy is made when there is robust questioning and open debate about the merits or otherwise of particular interventions. Naturally any policy or decision will lead to winners and losers and it is important to understand who these are and how these vary across time and space. As part of this process we see many organisations arguing how the perceived impact of proposed policies or plans will/have affect them. These "champions" are numerous and diverse and form part of a wider governance agenda that is both complex and messy, but reflects the political arena in which policy is now fashioned.
Here are some of the highlights of Ed Miliband's speech to the Labour conference today:
My conviction is rooted in my family's story, a story that starts 1,000 miles from here, because the Miliband's haven't sat under the same oak tree for the last five hundred years.
Both of my parents' came to Britain as immigrants, Jewish refugees from the Nazis. I know I would not be standing on this stage today without the compassion and tolerance of our great country. Great Britain.
And you know my parents saw Britain rebuilt after the Second World War. I was born in my local NHS hospital, the same hospital my two sons would later be born in. As you saw in the film I went to my local school. I went to my local comprehensive with people from all backgrounds. I still remember the amazing and inspiring teaching I got at that school, and one of my teachers, my English teacher, Chris Dunne, is here with us today. Thank you Chris and to all the teachers at Haverstock.
Liberal Democrats seem to be struggling to win support at the moment - opinion polls suggest 10 per cent of voters back them, down from the 23 per cent of the vote they received at the General Election.
But they could still be in Government next time, if neither the Tories nor Labour succeed in winning a majority at the next election.
Birmingham MP Liam Byrne (Lab Hodge Hill), Labour's Shadow Work and Pensions secretary, has been attacking Government plans for a benefit cap.
From April 2013, nobody will be able to claim more than £350 a week from Jobseeker's Allowance, Housing Benefit, Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit if they are single and childless, or £500 a week if they are a single parent. The cap for couples will be £500 between them.
The on-going row over who should run the West Coast Main Line could be resolved with the service being taken back into public management, Labour has suggested.
Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle said she would back the Government if it decided to take the radical step.
It follows the decision of the last Labour Government to take the East Coast Main Line, running from London to Newcastle, into public control when the franchise holder, National Express, pulled out.
Labour will continue making "difficult decisions" on spending, public sector pay and pensions if it wins the next election, Ed Balls has warned.
The Shadow Chancellor dropped heavy hints that there would be more cuts under Labour, as he spoke at the party's annual conference in Manchester.
He said he could not promise to reverse any specific cut introduced by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition, because he could not predict what the state of the public finances would be.
Valiant Ed Balls leapt to the defence of Meriden MP Caroline Spelman (Con), after she was sacked from David Cameron's cabinet - and apparently told she was too old.
Downing Street has denied reports Mrs Spelman, aged 54, was told she was losing her job as Environment Secretary because of her age. She was replaced by North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson, aged 56.
But the report was seized on by Mr Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, who contrasted Mr Cameron's treatment of Mrs Spelman with the Prime Minister's support for Andrew Mitchell, the Shadow Chancellor.
Ed Miliband has urged Labour to remain united in a series of receptions with MPs, councillors and activists from each region.
He warned that Labour had "lost our marbles" last time it was in opposition.
The Labour leader made appearances at regional receptions in meeting rooms throughout the Manchester Central conference venue on Sunday night.
MEP Michael Cashman has announced he is quitting politics - and may return to acting.
The West Midlands MEP is a former Eastenders star and played middle-class Colin, the show's first gay character, in the 1980s.
He's represented the region in the European Parliament since 1999 and is the current chairman of Labour's National Executive Committee, the party's governing body.
Birmingham MP Liam Byrne (Lab Hodge Hill), Labour's Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, will today, Monday, launch Labour's "Youth Jobs Taskforce" which is designed to bring together Labour MPs and councils with businesses and universities to cut youth unemployment.
The aim is to demonstrate that Labour can make a difference to people's lives even in opposition.