Friday, May 30, 2008

Policy leaks

Hat tip to Paul Linford, who commends Justin for pointing out this from the Daily Mash.


LABOUR will today unveil a detailed plan to alienate its last remaining pockets of support.

The central plank of the party's strategy involves identifying the 10 most popular family cars in Britain and then making them a nightmare to own.A Labour spokesman said: "We're going for the double whammy of making them too expensive to drive, but also impossible to sell."And if that doesn't work we'll just spray paint a big swastika onto the bonnet."

The party is also drawing up plans to spend £200 million of taxpayers' money on a vicious PR campaign against the country's 100 most decorated war veterans.

Meanwhile teams of party researchers will tour marginal constituencies, identifying Labour voters and then kneeing them in the groin or setting fire to their coat.

And later this week, in a carefully stage-managed event at Westminster, at least 10 Cabinet ministers will explain why they intend to vote Conservative.

The spokesman added: "We'll take stock during the summer and if, at that point, there are any Labour voters left, the prime minister will send them each a personal, hand-written letter calling them a c*nt.

Wry smiles all round to end the week.

Chutzpah in extremis

There was once a young man who murdered both his parents and then begged for the court's mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan. That, dear reader, is chutzpah.

In the ever-fertile ground that is Nadine Dorries blog - remember that she is a Tory MP and therefore people actually voted for this fool - grows this little gem.

When we closed down our mines, forever, Germany kept theirs ticking over, so that if necessary they could be 're-booted' in the future. Which they have been. Makes sense as technology has provided us with the ability to extract all the harmful chemicals from coal to provide a clean burn. France went nuclear. Three
quarters of France’s energy is met by nuclear power. So, just thinking along the lines of economic competitiveness, does being almost totally dependent on fuel imports put us at a disadvantage? Do you think that just maybe someone in this place may suggest it's time to end the culture of short termism?

I'd love to answer you, Nad - but you don't allow comments. Frit, are we?

It was a number of years ago, but can anyone remember which party put the boot into the coal mines? And which PM led the charge? Come on, you lot at the back. When Nad says 'we' - she means it.

For any Tory MP to come back now and suggest that this might have been a mistake is actually insulting to those mining communities who were destroyed by the Thatcher years and the vindictiveness of the Conservative party.

Oh and Nad - the technology to cope with stripping out the sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and the particulates from burning coal does exist, but capturing the carbon dioxide emissions has proved more challenging. Even if it can be made to work reliably within a decade or so, the costs may make even fiendishly-expensive nuclear power more cost-effective and our need for core, reliable power is increasingly urgent. Even John Howard, the former conservative prime minister of Australia, accepts this, although George Bush continues to push the clean coal agenda.

You really should spend less time with those Bushite neocons.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Nothing to see here...

One of Iain Dale's/Nadine Dorries mates at the Daily Mail has apparently uncovered a secret whipping operation by Harriet Harman and a cohort of women MPs (and there's a phrase I never thought I'd write). Not in a Max Mosley vein, obviously....

Nad writes:
Simon Walter’s has proved today that investigative journalism is alive and well. Simon rang me the day after the vote to tell me that he had been given information that Harriett Harman had organised a huge whipping operation after the abortion vote. He wouldn’t disclose any details, however, I did get the feeling that maybe his information had come from Labour MPs as there was no way I, or any other Conservative, would have access to that kind of information.

Oddly, only a few days previously, she wrote that
A Labour MP took me to one side last night and gave me the Labour whipping instructions for today.

The crux of the story is that Harriet Harman apparently whipped the Labour vote through the lobbies to block Nad's proposals. Hmmm. The votes weren't whipped by the Labour Party - a number of parliamentary whips voted with their consciences and weren't required to resign - all that happened was that a committed group of campaigners persuaded others to vote in a particular way. Kinda similar to what Nadine herself was doing.

But Nadine hasn't politicised the debate. Not at all - not even by making the point that 83% of Tory MPs voted for 22 weeks while 80% of Labour MPs voted against. It is all Harriet's fault.

It truly is a Nad, Nad World.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Dale has spoken

David Cameron wants a mayor for Birmingham and now even the voice of Conservative Central Office that is Iain Dale has decided that we need one - based upon his six visits to our city. Nothing like getting under the skin of an area to understand it - and that's nothing like getting under the skin of Birmingham (although he is about as irritating).

So what's holding you back, Mike? Get on with it. Your party has spoken.

She's off again.

'There will not be one hint of triumphalism or complacency from this Conservative Party'
David Cameron, BBC Radio Five Live, 10:46am 23 May

Nadine Dorries MP, ranting 2:55pm 23 May

She doesn't write a blog, as she doesn't grace us with the ability to comment or even to link to individual postings. Dreary Alden's rather similar. What are they scared of?

Anyway, Jacqui isn't arrogant or unpleasant - I've got a lot of time for her. She's a very competent Home Secretary and an excellent local MP. I can understand why she and Nadine don't see eye to eye - one's an intelligent, leading politician and the other's a useless idiot with a blue rosette attached.

While you're at it - witness Unity's thorough kicking of the half truths that constituted the great Nad's address to Parliament this week. The boy's good. Very good.

Send in the cronies

In a new dawn for the GLA building, as Ken's cronies leave their shiny, Thames-side offices, they are immediately replaced by...

A whole new army of Boris' mates. Including the REAL 'operational' mayor - 'cos Boris can't be trusted to look after the job, not now he's got his newspaper column to write again and he's still MP for Henley. Well, he has to fill the time in somehow. Boris still believes that he'll negotiate a no-strike deal with the unions, especially with this former-Trotskyite turned union-basher in charge. There is not a hope in hell of that happening, not with the staunch left-winger Bob Crowe in charge of the RMT - so left wing, they've even parted company with the Labour Party. It seems also that there are concerns as to whether Boris has overstepped the mark legally - the Labour leader on the GLA is thinking of taking legal advice.

What does seem to be the case is that Londoners - for whatever reason (temporary loss of sanity is a good bet) - elected Boris as their mayor, but will end up with a rag tag bunch of Boris' mates actually doing the work (some for free, apparently, and others on decent six figure sums - all paid for by the taxpayer). Forgive me, but where were those people on Boris' manifesto?
Hat tip - Chris Paul.

Another mourning after

Local elections, London mayor, Crewe and Nantwich....

Part of this IS a midterm dip, part of it is caused by a misfiring Crewe by-election campaign and this is certainly all coinciding with a downturn in the economy - not a recession, at least not yet. What we mustn't do is put all of the blame on those things and ignore the reality behind it.

The Crewe campaign didn't work - we can't build everything around attacking the Tory toff status. That doesn't mean it hasn't got some power - I think that Cameron and the rest of the old Etonians populating his cabinet are still vulnerable to being tagged as inherently out of touch, but we need to be strong on policy and highlight the vacuity and inconsistencies of the Cameron/Osborne project.

We need to recognise that the old, disorganised Tories of the past twenty or even thirty years have gone. They've smartened up their election act massively and they've got the money to win.

Yet another hat tip to the ever-vigilant Bob Piper (and through him to Yourfriendinthenorth) for this quote from Jon Cruddas.
Let's not mess about - our people are abandoning us, we're sinking fast and no amount of hand-wringing and promises of 'listening and learning' from election night will change that... The New Labour attitude that you can kick the workers from pillar to post because 'they've got nowhere else to go' has reached its ludicrous conclusion with the election - with working-class votes - of the SNP in Scotland, independent radicals in Wales and the BNP in industrial English towns like Stoke-on-Trent... We don't need to play one half of Britain off against another. It's not too late to change - but choose change we must."
He gets it. Does anyone else? It isn't just about trying to hang on to the vacillating Worcester woman or Mondeo man, it is about talking in terms to which our traditional voters can relate. For more than a decade, the party has assumed that this core vote will always vote Labour because they can do nothing else. That core vote has been eroded since the heady days of 1997, when we were carried to government with a broad range of support. As the centre ground shifts, we find ourselves without our traditional support to back us up.

I'm not convinced that changing leader would help - the internal fighting would be destructive to our government and our already damaged chances of winning. Gordon needs to stop the bits and pieces stuff - he needs coherence and he needs it now. I'd simply ask him to be brave and let's take on two big issues - poverty and housing. I know he believes passionately about education and tackling poverty, but he needs to step back from the detail and organise a big picture. We need a narrative - a consistent message that tells people why Labour have been and will be a better government than any other party and that this is consistent with our principles of social justice and striving for equality of opportunity. Everything that is done and said must go towards building that narrative and that takes discipline from the party as well. He needs to listen to the people and scrap policies that are unpopular - I'd stamp on the ID card project, which will be the Labour poll tax and will screw the coffin lid down on our government. Let's have a big programme to build new houses operated by social landlords - the age old cry of more council housing. People want it and more importantly, they need it. Find ways of making life easier - perhaps a temporary cut in fuel tax now on the understanding that the oil companies cut pump prices accordingly would be a step forward, as the current elevated price is providing a massive boost to the treasury.

It is clear that the Tory message from this campaign is that this is the beginning of the end of the Labour government, that they now have an unstoppable momentum to carry the failed PR man into No 10. It is up to us to prove them wrong. We can do it, but we need more courage and we need focus on the issues that matter - not just words. Let's see some practical policies that can change people's lives for the better.

If we can't do that, if we can't reconnect with our core vote, then we won't win the next general election. And if we can't do it, then we don't deserve to.

Be brave, be bold, but above all, be Labour.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Whoops - Tories lose the plot

8000 names, addresses and the goldmine of voting intention data have been lost by the Tory party in Crewe and Nantwich - they emailed it to a radio station on the Isle of Man by mistake.


I'm sure that Ravey Davey Cameron will be quick to follow his own advice.

Mr Cameron said people would "be angry that the government has failed in its first duty to protect the public." He added: "What people want from their prime minister on a day like this is to show some broad shoulders, be the big man and accept some responsibility."

So who takes the blame, David?

As an aside - are 8000 promises enough to win? Hmmmm. Even in a by-election and relying on your core support....

A Conservative spokesman said the data was already in the public domain, except for voting preferences, which were encoded
Up to a point, Lord Copper.

You see, the electoral register IS public domain, but only in a restricted form. You can tick a box on your registration form and ensure that your details are not on the public register that is sold to the junk mailers and others. Politicians get access to the full register which includes all registered electors, so as the data here would have been based on the full register, the Tory spokesman isn't telling the whole truth. They note that the preferences were 'encoded' - not encypted, as I don't think you can encrypt individual cells in Excel. I am amazed that the spreadsheets weren't encrypted prior to being emailed. What I suspect he means is that they have used an internal code to identify voting intentions, a code that would be cracked in no time at all.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Frankley Speaking

One of those little electoral pecularities is the parish council of Frankley in Birmingham. For the few years of its existence, it has been made up of local residents who all serve as independents. This year, the BNP thought they'd have a pop at it and put up three candidates from outside Frankley - who all got roundly defeated at the polls.

It was proposed that the three main parties make a stand against the BNP and support the local residents. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats helped out. The Tories didn't respond at all.

Still mad and dangerous

Nadine Dorries just can't help herself. She got into a discussion in the Grauniad on feminism and queried whether we would have equal pay - or at least more equal pay - without feminism as so many more women are in top jobs now. The fact that the feminist movement may have helped accomplish that doesn't occur to her. But that isn't the depth of her wisdom, oh no.
The feminist discussion is just not something that I major in. But I know personally, I look at my daughters who pay half when they go out [on a date] with someone and I think, 'They never did that in my day'. I'm purely selfish about this, to be honest with you."

As selfish as she is about other things.

Making a controversial film about Christian fanatics like unChristian Voice and the like is really like shooting ichthys in a barrel. Like the BNP, they can appear rational on the surface right up until they tell you that the planet is 4000 years old and get all defensive when things like the fossil record is pointed out and cite the Bible as evidence, pooh-poohing the scientific establishment. The programme included a fundamentalist school where the science exam for infants asks (and this is serious) how many days it took God to create the world. Channel Four pointed a camera at a bunch of this lot and showed the results on Monday night. They included a big mate of Nadine's - one Andrea Williams, the public policy director of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship and another of the wingnut religious bigots. It was almost the end of the programme when we had a rare moment of joy. Sitting on a bench beside the Thames after the launch of Mad Nad's anti-abortion crusade, the reporter asked what the MP thought of the anti-Islamic sentiments expressed by Williams and others (there is common ground with the BNP here as well). As Andrea fumbled out a vague response, Nadine's face was an absolute picture - you could almost hear her internal voice whimpering 'Oh shit' as her carefully-constructed image was battered as a result of proximity to such bigotry. That's before we even consider Williams' expressed views on homosexuality (predictably, she's not a big fan) and countless other little foibles.

Incidentally, Nadine turned up on the Daily Politics complaining that the Commons Science & Technology Committee only got to hear from pro-abortion witnesses until she found a couple of tame antis to appear. Nadine, this might be because the vast majority of medical and scientific witnesses believe that. This is a little like the climate-change cynics demanding equal air time, when this would actually be a misrepresentation of the balance of scientific opinion, which gives their views little credence.

Incidentally, Tim at Bloggerheads links to the YouTube file links - Nad's embarassment can be seen at the end of part 5. The whole thing is worth watching, because these are people with a mission - they want to follow the lead of the Christian right in the US and get some sort of grip on the levers of power. And as I've noted before, there are Tories prepared to tap into that powerbase.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Forwards in Conservatism

Birmingham City Council have a free newspaper, which is delivered to some households in the City and dumped under a few hedgerows as well. You will recall that for years, the Liberal Democrats planned to scrap it, but once they and the Tories scrambled into power in 2004, they realised the power of propaganda and a new contract was duly signed. You may also remember that it is supposed to be a politically-neutral publication - which is why Albert Bore has become accustomed to having his budget response spiked.
So, imagine my shock when I read Mike Whitby's column in the current issue - always a cure for insomnia, telling the readership that the elections were a vote of confidence for the ruling partnership and burbling on about other successes (sic) of the Regressive Partnership.
Surely this has to be an abuse of an apolitical publication?

Blogger Blasted for Being Blotto

Oh dear. So quick to throw the mud at others, poor old Guido has been caught drink-driving.
'I was giving a few people a lift to Victoria station when the fuckers pulled me over...'
That's a great way to talk about the police of the Metropolis. And he's got form - this is apparently his fourth alcohol-related offence and his second drink-driving conviction. This time, he got a three year driving ban with a compulsory retest, an eighteen-month supervision order and will have to be tagged for the next three months between 9pm and 6am.

Hat tip to Bob. Sorry Unity - he's not hearing the cell door slam behind him. Yet...

Friday, May 09, 2008

Judged wanting

John's been to court again.

And again he's been slammed by the judge.

This case is too serious to joke about - I've just deleted three paragraphs of political digs at the Liberal Democrats after reading the full judgement. This isn't the place for levity. Frankly, this is an absolute disgrace. In brief summary of the case, a daughter with disabilities was born to a 22 year old mother as a result of a brief liaison with a 66 year old man. The mother, according to the clinical psychologist, is in the bottom 2% of the population for verbal skills and the bottom 1% on capacity to perform tasks. The child is disabled and is oxygen dependent and while the mother clearly wants to care for her, she seems signally unable to provide the level of care required and may not be able to learn the routine necessary to keep the child alive and healthy.

Most of the names in the judgement are anonymised, with a couple of exceptions.

Lord Justice Wall was damning in his criticism of John Hemming,

'My judgment is that his self-imposed role as a critic of the family justice system is gravely damaged.... Speaking for myself I will not be persuaded to take seriously any criticism made by him in the future unless it is corroborated by reliable, independent evidence.'

John attacked the mother's own solicitor - effectively accusing her (identified only as 'SC' in the judgement) of fabricating evidence. The judge was so shocked by this that he didn't just ask for a transcript of the hearing, he had the court staff knock up an audio CD as well so he could be sure of what Hemming had said

In a nutshell, Mr. Hemming's response was that the evidence contained in SC's file had been made up: in a word, fabricated.... Mr Hemming seized immediately on the discrepancy in the dates which I have identified in paragraph 64 above, and sought to argue from it that "there is some doubt as to some of the provenance of some of the documents in these files." I intervened to say: "I believe in calling a spade a spade. Do you think this is a put up job?" Mr Hemming replied: "I think this is a put up job and I have some experience in looking for evidence".
The judge reviewed the case files and the notes, found nothing to support John's claim and wrote that he found it

not only unacceptable but shocking, that a man in Mr Hemming's position should feel able to make so serious an allegation without any evidence to support it. In my judgment, it is irresponsible and an abuse of his position. Unfortunately, as other aspects of this judgment will make clear, it is not the only part of the case in which Mr Hemming has been willing to scatter unfounded allegations of professional impropriety and malpractice without any evidence to support them.
This all kicked off when the Official Solicitor was appointed to act in the mother's place, as she was deemed incapable of giving instructions to her own representative. Some of the notes referred to in the judgement support that decision. John's view is that the Official Solicitor is there to rubber stamp the local authority's decision - a long way from the truth. A clinical psychologist (HJ) was appointed to clarify whether the mother was capable of instructing her solicitor and understanding the ramifications of the legal process. To be clear, the psychologist specialises in this field - her doctorate was into research of the parental competence of mothers with a learning disability and she has 18 years of experience in the clinical field. There are probably few people in the country better qualified to pass an opinion and John Hemming certainly isn't one of them.

That didn't stop him from having a go. He accused her of being in the pay of the council (experts aren't supposed to be partial - they give an honest opinion based upon their view of the facts and have an overriding duty to the court, at least they did when I had to act as an expert a few years ago). The judge commented:

It is plain to me from these documents, that in addition to the allegations set out above, Mr. Hemming believes that HJ was in the pay of the local authority and thus was "the local authority's expert". For good measure, he asserts that the system is "evil" and that "there does seem to be little concern in the legal profession about the reliability of opinion offered in court.". The clear implication behind the "witch findings" items on the website set out at paragraph 95 above is that "experts" like HJ are in it for the money; that they are happy to "manufacture 'evidence'"; and that they are in receipt of "phoney" letters of instruction. The result, Mr Hemming asserts is a "disaster"
This set of assertions - laid out on John's website - are thoroughly demolished by the judge. There is no evidence to support his attack on the witness' competence, the claim that she was falsely instructed - the clinical psychologist was actually instructed on behalf of all parties - and there's no evidence beyond John's own conspiracy theories that she's in it for the money. Repeating those claims outside court or without the protection of parliamentary privilege would very probably see Hemming facing a libel suit.

Lord Justice Wall gave his view

Even more unarguable – indeed it is outrageous - is Mr Hemming's allegation that HJ was the paid expert of the local authority. She was nothing of the kind. Such an allegation is not only without any evidential foundation of any kind: it is plainly contradicted by the evidence.

Mr. Hemming's allegation that HJ is part of an "evil" system only warrants comment because it comes from a Member of Parliament, and thus from a person in a responsible public position whom one ought to be able to trust only to make serious accusations when they are based on evidence. I am astonished that somebody in Mr. Hemming's position should have seen fit to put such a disgraceful allegation into the public domain. I reject it unreservedly.

The nub of the problem with John's support of the mother was his failure to understand the basic principle of the law as it affects children

...the danger of the mother’s approach, reinforced as it has been in my judgment by Mr Hemming’s partial and tendentious advice, is that it has been entirely adult focused. Not once in his argument did he mention the welfare of KP [the child]. His emphasis, and that of RP [the mother], was entirely on her rights and the alleged wrongs which had been done to her.
Here, John has signally failed to understand that the core of child protection work shifted with the 1989 Childrens' Act, where the very first item - s1(1) says that

the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration.

The judge sums up neatly with a reasonable view of the system - imperfect, certainly, but far from evil.

In my judgment, the arguments advanced by Mr Hemming in this case are ill-informed and tendentious. They are contradicted by the evidence, and must be rejected. I think this most unfortunate. Nobody who works in the Family Justice System regards it as perfect: most of us see it as under-resourced and struggling to deal with the work loads thrust upon it. Constructive criticism, particularly from those in a position to bring about change, is to be welcomed. I am myself in no doubt that the system must change and adapt, and I have spoken many times in public in support of my belief that there needs to be greater transparency in order to combat the partial, tendentious and inaccurate criticisms made against the system. I therefore welcome the opportunity provided by this case to demonstrate that the system has operated properly, and that the criticisms made are unfounded.

John picked on the wrong judge. This is not a judge who is unaware of the faults - he could have found common ground over the changes required to the system - much as I agree that it could be improved - but he picked on the wrong case. The judge adds

I would like to make it as clear as I can that the function of this court is to maintain standards in family justice, and does not hesitate to criticise a local authority which has broken the rules. Indeed, I invite any reader of this judgment to read the forthcoming decision of this court in Re F [2008] EWCA Civ 439, which is being handed down on 1 May 2008, and in which Thorpe LJ, Wilson LJ and I are deeply critical of a local authority.
This case is a tragedy, certainly, but I don't believe that justice or the mother's case was served by John's ill-considered and wild interventions. As the judge himself adds in a postscript,

at the heart of this case, as with so many family cases, lies a human tragedy: the premature and unconsidered birth of a disabled child, and a mother who is plainly incapable of caring for her, however much she may want to.

I cannot recall ever reading such a harsh set of criticisms of a serving MP by a judge. John Hemming should be ashamed of his performance in this. I don't write this lightly or with any political malice - hard as that may be to believe - but his behaviour was wrong. I've written before that there are problems with the Family Courts system and that perhaps the time has come to review the absolute secrecy in which these courts operate, but John's wild allegations about impropriety on the part of social workers - a much-maligned group of people who do a dangerous job (statistically they have a higher risk of being murdered than do police officers) in a very difficult and emotionally-charged environment. Mistakes and injustices are bound to happen in any system and we need to find ways to minimise those and right the wrongs, but chucking wild conspiracy theories around serves nobody, least of all KP. She is at the centre of this, not the mother and still less John Hemming. He would do well to remember that.

Cheers Paul!

One nice thing I forgot to mention about last week's shenanigans at the Council House - lots of self-satisfied, smug Tories celebrating and a smattering of dejected Labour campaigners - was that I ran into Paul Dale of the Birmingham Post, who took the time to say some nice things about the blog. Thanks for polishing the ego for me, Paul! Nice to know that I have at least one reader out there.

I also got interviewed by Adrian Goldberg, of The Stirrer, for the live results internet broadcast. I believe that the broadcast lives on somewhere, but it wasn't one of my finest hours and I have nothing but renewed respect for those talking heads who have a microphone shoved into close proximity and have to say something relevant.

One of the things about this is that I know I don't have the reach of an Iain Dale (or even a Bob Piper), but the depth of the readership is most interesting. Councillors, journalists and MPs make up a disproportionate chunk of the readership of the blog.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Whitby evicted

A mole in the committee corridor reports seeing Cllr Whitby fuming at having to be asked to leave the Planning Committee meeting today as they needed to move onto the private agenda, from which all non-members of the committee must be excluded.

Wonder what could have enticed the leader of the council down from his office?

Monday, May 05, 2008

So, now what?

Thursday wasn't a good day for Labour in Birmingham or elsewhere in the country. Fortunately, we did buck the trend here and were only just in second place behind the Tories on city-wide vote share, but our voters stayed at home - 13,000 fewer turned out for Labour than last year, compared to a Lib Dem vote drop of 4000 and 500 for the Tories. Our problem is that unlike the other two parties, our vote is spread across the city and the anti-Labour vote continues to coalesce behind whichever party has a chance of winning/holding the seat.

How do we recover? Beyond my pay grade, really, but as everyone else is having a pop, I'll join in.

1 - Keep Gordon. We have two years to run on this government and we've already had six months of inaction due to the leadership/deputy leadership elections. Another few months would add nothing but would make us look disunited and argumentative. A party that turns in on itself is not fit for government and the people won't elect it. We need to rally behind our leader and look outwards at the real targets - the Tories and the Lib Dems.

2 - Let Gordon be Gordon - with caveats. Don't try and be Blair. You aren't. Cameron is better at it than you and even he isn't a patch on Tony. Work on your strengths - let's see the competence of the Chancellor and the passion for tackling poverty and improving education that I've seen at close hand. Gordon is still the man of substance against Cameron's Will o'the Wisp 'I'll be anything you want me to be.' The PM has to think strategically, not tactically, so some of the detail may have to be prised from your hands. It will hurt, but not as much as losing will in 2010.

3 - Ditch some policies. Here's my biggie - let's forget ID cards. They won't work and we'll throw billions down the drain creating Labour's very own poll tax. Also, scrap the discredited 42-day detention - nobody involved with administering it seems to want it very much and we could do with the unity in the parliamentary party.

4 - Rebuild. Literally. Let's take the billions for ID cards and spend some of it on proper social housing. Labour should offer more money ringfenced for local councils to build new directly-owned properties. People want this and this has been one of the key failures of this government - we just haven't delivered on housing.

5 - Tell the story. One of our strengths pre-97 was a clear narrative behind our policies. That went adrift pretty swiftly. We need an overarching story of how we have made the country better and how [insert policy idea here] fits into that pattern. If it doesn't fit, then it probably shouldn't be in our plans. We also need to be clear that there IS a difference between us and the Conservatives and to demonstrate that clearly.

6 - It's the economy, stupid. It is ALWAYS the economy. Don't let people talk us into recession - plenty of commentators like the IMF are still forecasting that the UK economy will grow this year, albeit at 1-2%. If the country slides into recession, then our electoral chances will slide away with it.

Two things to remember are that last summer, things were so different. We can go back there if we work at it and if we are hungry enough for it. The Tories are ready to work and are hungry and we've seen what they can achieve when they do.

We've got a fight on our hands, but it is one worth having. And one we can win.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Within hours of Boris Johnson - BoJo - winning the election, London's hit by a tidal wave. See - vote Tory and it all goes to hell in a handcart.

Boris is undoubtedly a larger than life character, with a carefully cultivated buffoonish image, but he's far from stupid and we're fools if we think that he is. However, he is vulnerable to letting his mouth run away before that brain is fully engaged to filter his words for an audience. He will need an exceptional group of people around him to protect him and to ensure that the 'right' lines are fed to him if the Cameron coalition isn't to be wounded. His speech on Friday evening was an example of what can be done when he is properly channelled, but Conservative HQ will be on tenterhooks over the next few years waiting for Boris to make a mistake.

One thing I'm sure of, though - London does not run through Boris' veins in the same way that it does Ken's. His concession on Friday night was heart-rending, as he apologised for losing while struggling to hold back the tears. I don't believe we'll see the same reaction when Boris leaves office.