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Honesty: The new battleground

Nick Robinson | 10:58 UK time, Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Honesty is the new battleground in British politics. Hence Peter Mandelson's demand that the shadow chancellor withdraw what the first secretary has dubbed a "deliberate untruth" in his interview with me yesterday.

Peter Mandelson and George OsborneGeorge Osborne boasted that that he was being honest about public spending whilst accusing ministers of "lying" (yes, he unlike his leader, used the "L" word). He went on to accuse the prime minister of blocking access to a detailed breakdown of government spending.

So, what are the facts?

In pre-election meetings with the cabinet secretary in January and February, the Tories asked for access to the spending numbers broken down in over 12,000 headings. The answer - which was "No" - came many weeks later in April fuelling the Tories' belief that the prime minister had taken the final decision.

The Cabinet Office insist, however, that it was Sir Gus O'Donnell alone who decided and that, until yesterday, ministers weren't even aware of the request.

So, you might assume, George Osborne is on a sticky wicket. However, long before this row, the Tories committed publicly that they would publish these data if they get into government. Thus, publication, they can argue, is ultimately a matter for ministers.

All this raises the question: why would the government want to stop the data being published?

Whitehall sources tell me that all the information in the COINS database is already in the public domain although they concede that you may have to spend time online collating it.

It is there, they point out, because the government annually publishes to Parliament all the data by which it centrally controls public expenditure so that Parliament can vote on it and through its select committees hold the most senior civil servants to account for it.

It is, they add, published in the manner requested by and agreed with by Parliament, including the breakdown of departmental budgets into the main departmental spending programmes.

They point to the list of existing government publications - Spending Reviews, Budget/PBR, Supply Estimates, Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses, Public Expenditure Outturn White Paper, Supplementary Budgeting Information - which contain the relevant information.

To which the Tories reply - why doesn't the government agree to publish it in a simple, digestible form allowing the public to engage in programme-by-programme scrutiny of what their tax pounds pay for?

There is, of course, an underlying tale here which has nothing whatsoever to do with public spending.

Remember "Yachtgate"? It was triggered when George Osborne was not terribly discreet about a private chat he had with Peter Mandelson before he had any clue that he would be returning to government.

Mandelson did not appreciate that breach of confidentiality. Ministers believe that Osborne has similarly abused the private chats he's had with the governor of the Bank of England and, now, the cabinet secretary.

Update, 12:13PM: Downing Street says the PM had no knowledge of the request from the shadow chancellor George Osborne to see government spending data.

The spokesman said it was a matter for senior civil servants and it would be "completely inappropriate" for the PM to become involved. He said there were normal conventions surrounding information made available to the opposition and the PM believed these should be followed.

But the shadow chancellor says he has written evidence to back up his story that the Tories repeatedly asked for financial information including the COINS database. He also claims that he was told informally that ministers and, in particular, the prime minister would block the request.

Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    Go on, Nick, let us have the Government's angle on all this.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    YachtGate?

    Would that be the one where aluminium magnate Oleg Someone is a close friend of the European Minister for Trade. They obviously had no discussions at all on tariffs for aluminium foil imports to the EU.

    In a completely unrelated development, twice in 3 years said Minister for Trade lowered the tariffs for aluminium imports into the EU.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Even if Osborne did lie who cares he absolutely learned it from the masters.
    What a nerve Mandelson given that a large proportion of the population
    KNOW you and the Labour Party have all been lying since 1997

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    Oh, might as well mention it while we are talking about honesty. Would this be the same Mandelson who had to resign twice? The first time for lying about his mortgage application. The second for "assisting" his friend with a passport application then lying about that too.

  • Comment number 8.

    You're at it again. "Whitehall sources"? Ministers and/or Spin Doctors you mean. Also, why the repeat of the "boasted" description from your interview? No independent observer would see Osborne's answers as boasting, rather there is a lot of anger at the scorched earth policy being practiced by Brown, which we will be paying for for decades.

    Whilst you are right in your assertion that truth and honesty will be an important issue on which this Government will be judged at the ballot box, you cloud it with reference to Yachtgate. Let us not forget that that was a beautifully orchestrated campaign by Mandelbum to smear Osborne and which you followed slavishly.

    The rather more important issue over and above Osborne's naiivety was the underlying unanswered question about Mandelbum and Deripaska and those EU aluminium tariffs. Any answers?

    Call an election

  • Comment number 9.

    So labour are hiding where the publics money is spent and yet its the oppositions fault...

  • Comment number 10.

    Mandy OOOPS,sorry LORD MANDLESON of somewhere.I cant remember,accusing George Osbourne of an untruth,makes me believe George is telling the truth.Keep trying Lord Mandleson,the more you dig the deeper the hole.

  • Comment number 11.

    I assume you no longer read the blogs as you got many requests for further details on why the government will not publish these. Your follow up report is biased. Mandelson is a slick politician. He is someone I wouldn't want to shake hands with as I'd be worried he'd take the arm!!
    It all boils down to mismangement of the economy. The government can spin most things but Joe Public see how bad the economy is. Even if, a big if, the recovery improves we still have debt levels to pay off and high unemployment. Save during the booms. Well there are no booms and busts anymore.
    An election now please.

  • Comment number 12.

    The central argument is a government that will not face up to the enormous debt burden it has wrought on every one of us and is prepared to lie and withold data and oppostion parties that would ike to present an orderly cae for reducin debt.

    How many independent bodies need to warn the UK that this debt needs to be repaid bfore the government gets the fact that only Gordon brown thinks more debt is a good idea.

    Yesterday the OECD warned that steps need to be taken to repay the debt but government ministers happily trot out the standard lines of tory smear and innuendo.

    This won't end badly, it will end catastrophically. But end it will.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 13.

    The Cabinet Office insist, however, that it was Sir Gus O'Donnell alone who decided and that, until yesterday, ministers weren't even aware of the request.


    Do you or anyone else actually believe that something as important as this wouldn't even be discussed by ministers.

    flap oink flap oink

    and Lord Mandelson should be the last person on earth to be attacking anyone over untruth's his record speaks for its self on that matter.

  • Comment number 14.

    Will there be enough "honest" members to form an argument

  • Comment number 15.

    Why don't you get oto the real story Nick,

    This is a convenient smoke screen to turn attention away from the fact that away from Parliament, Peter Mandelson "let slip" that the Governement are postponing this autumn's spending review until after the next election.

    In other words, they can't produce a spending plan which will be financially sound and consistent with their public utterances, and so they have decided to abdicate their responsibility to manage the countries finances.

    The reason is apparently that uncertainty about the future economy makes planning difficult at this time. Doh!!

    Perhaps someone should tell PM that all autumn reviews are based on predictions in an uncertain environment.

  • Comment number 16.

    Sir Gus O'Donnell reports directly to Brown - are we really supposed to believe he makes important decisions on such matters without referring them to his boss? It may be the Cabinet Secretary who tells Osborne he cannot have access to the COINS database, but the decision is surely a political one. Unfortunately, the Cabinet Secretary is not allowed to comment directly on this matter, but we can certain that if Brown instructed him to allow Osborne access to the database, it would happen.

  • Comment number 17.

    From what I understand of Yachtgate from Nick's article, Osborne relayed information about his trip to the yacht to other friends, presumably on the same "private chat" premise that Mandelson claimed (i.e. not explicitly stated but implied).

    I find it difficult to believe that the request for information was a "private chat". It was in relation to information requested as the opposition. Perhaps the finer details should not be for public consumption, but there is surely little harm in there being knowledge that the Conservatives asked for information and refused.

    If the information is in the public domain, what sense is there in saying "you can't have it all in one database"? Was the fact the information was in the public domain made known to Osborne, or should he have known? Surely these are more important in understanding the "wronged" party (if there is any) in this affair.

    The Prime Minister often calls for policy details from the Conservatives. If he'd genuinely like to hear them rather than using them as a now tiresome retort, release the information in the form they want. If they don't come up with anything, you've got a stick to beat them with. I imagine the problem for our Prime Minister is if they come up with sensible sounding policy where he has not he will have hung himself.

    Re: Mervyn King (I was about to type Eddie George!), can anyone point me in the direction of the "betrayal" of a private chat by Osborne?

    Looking forward to PMQs today....

  • Comment number 18.

    In regards to criticism of Nick, I do find it a classic tory voting trait, demonstrated by most right wing newspapers.

    If someone is giving an opinion, that goes against your belief on the subject, you have it in your head that they are biased.

    I think Nick makes a very valid point. And I think Lord Mandelson brought up a very valid point.

    A tory tactic of fighting an election on innuendo, and name calling is getting rather tedious.

    Not that I agree with labour policy 100%, but at least I know what it is.

    This cloak and dagger attempt to get into government, by merely suggesting what you "might" do, is pathetic.

    Most people realise that although there will be cuts on both side, by definition of the party, the bigger cuts will always be Tory.

    On the basis that they have already stated that they will get rid of inheritance tax, and cut top rate tax substancially.

    Meaning they will have a smaller budget. Obviously

  • Comment number 19.

    At what point in 1997 did G.Brown have access to the COINS database?

    Was it before or after Labour won the election and if it was before how many months before the election was access granted?

  • Comment number 20.

    "So labour are hiding where the publics money is spent and yet its the oppositions fault"

    where public money spent, as you put it, is already in the public domain. It's released by parliament, as a matter of law.

    The tories "wanting" the official list is just more PR, and innuendo. As in truth, like all parties, they have all the numbers.

    More than likely using it as an excuse to not releasing any policy of note.

    Mandelson is bang on. One party is talking policy. The other is releasing innuendo and slur.

    It's "this is what we are going to do" vs. "no they are not, they are liars".

    If you notice that the tory party dropped 6 points in the last opinion polls, and Labour gained 2, the public are obviously as bored of it as I am

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    Nick: You say the Tories "boast" but Lord M "demand"s. You might want to be a bit more unbiased.

    There seems to be no dispute that Osborne asked for this information, and his access was blocked. Whether Gus O'D consulted Brown or just realised that Brown would be very displeased if Osborne got the data is rather beside the point.

  • Comment number 23.

    Look - the Civil Servant made the decision here not Gordon. I can't believe there are Tories on this blog pointing fingers at Labour for transparency. Both parties have questionable practices around information and trust. This a practical decision made into a political one by 'Boy George'....I would not trust the Tories anymore than I trust Labour.
    We are moving into the 'battle lines' phase of the Election...no doubt. But let's not get to passionate about 'playing fair' - or we'll be moaning like children for the next year, which will be distracting and dull!

  • Comment number 24.

    "Let us not forget that that was a beautifully orchestrated campaign by Mandelbum to smear Osborne and which you followed slavishly."

    The rather more important issue over and above Osborne's naiivety was the underlying unanswered question about Mandelbum and Deripaska and those EU aluminium tariffs. Any answers?"


    I think you need to get a job as a tory PR spin merchant to be honest. Are you trying to incinuate that Osoborne was whiter than white, and was tricked to go to that meeting!?

    When you come across as that tory, and that biased, you have no argument in criticising the tone of the blog.

    You dislike it, as you don't agree with it. It's nothing to do with impartiality

  • Comment number 25.

    The question is, if this information is so 'freely available', why was Osborne denied it at all? Has no one seen that scene in A Few Good Men; Tom Cruise asks Jack Nicholson for a copy of transfer orders, as he believes that something foul is up, knowing that he could get them from, as Demi Moore later says "...any department at the Pentagon." The reason for asking for them? "You wanted to see [his] reaction."

    Maybe Osborne wanted to see 'his' reaction?

  • Comment number 26.

    I've been relying on this site lately - http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/ - but even that doesn't give half the details or explanations we want does it?

    It's about time people were reminded that it's not the government's money, it's our money.

  • Comment number 27.

    @ Mike_Naylor

    I don't believe someone who is so awful at spelling should actually be permitted so many comments.

    W

  • Comment number 28.

    "Mandelson did not appreciate that breach of confidentiality...."

    Then that simply goes to show how dense the man really is. Did he really expect that him 'dissing' his future government colleagues in full earshot of a member of the shadow cabinet and a political opponent was NOT going to get out!?!?!

    You've got to hand it to Mandelson though....his sense of irony is second to everyone.

  • Comment number 29.

    Whats all this about honesty being the new battleground? We are so used to them lying, and frankly more comfortable with that, than them pretending to be truthful. Radical reform is what we need, then maybe honesty can make a tentative shy appearance after it has been acheived. We seemed to have very quickly slipped back into the old tittletattle politics that got us in this current mess. Ah well, soon be time for summer hols old boy.

  • Comment number 30.

    In truth, the COINs database, is already fully available to the opposition. And to any member of public.

    The tories are arguing that they werent allowed access to it in a specific format.

    Party politics to me. More PR. More innuendo. Just using it as an excuse to further their obvious election tactic chuck some mud and hope that it sticks.

    It appears Brown has set his own PR/Spin attack dog on Osborne in response.

    Many vs. Cameron, in a used car salesman, PR, sales pitch? I think it could go either way.

    I think its a valid point by Mandy though. This red top innuendo campaign of the tories, is slowly getting annoying.

    Labour release huge amounts of policy in the week. The only tory response is to call them liars, and talk about not being allowed to use the COINs database, to the worlds media.

    The problem with spin is that you have to stand by every word you give, as there will be someone trying to trip you up and embarrass you.

    Osborne has maybe made this mistake. Openly stating that The Prime Minister was responsible for what is basically civil service work.

    Unaware that the decision was actually made by someone else.

    Of course, the order may well have come from top, but that matters little. As Osborne said it was Brown.

    Hell have to retract the statement, and correct himself showing the UK that the tories are maybe throwing about a lot of inaccurate statements.

    1-0 Mandy

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    Gordon Brown says there will be rises in public expenditure including a "0% rise".

    I think we have seen all we need to about honesty from Gordon today.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 35.

    I am not at all sure that honesty will get a professional politician very far in pragmatic politics.

    Essentially, most voters do not want to hear the unvarnished truth.

    Especially if it has to involve admitting colossal strategic mistakes made by said politicians, over the past few decades.

    In such cases, 'fessing up' could be professional suicide.

    Far better for the professional politician to peddle aspirations of a golden tomorrow, which is always just over the horizon.

  • Comment number 36.

    "Hell have to retract the statement, and correct himself showing the UK that the tories are maybe throwing about a lot of inaccurate statements."

    Well, before we start accusing people of inaccurate statements, let's be sure of more accurate spelling. Are you asking Beelzebub to retract a statement here?

    "When you come across as that tory, and that biased, you have no argument in criticising the tone of the blog."

    Oh, you mean that they should come across like you? Verbose, ill-written excuses for Mandy, Brown and Co? Blatant Labour flag waving with the pathetic, and barely noticeable disclaimer, "Not that I agree with labour policy 100%"?

  • Comment number 37.

    #3 - wheresMyVote

    Would that be the one where aluminium magnate Oleg Someone is a close friend of the European Minister for Trade.

    Not the same Oleg who is now going cap in hand to this Lord Soandso whose name is similar to the old European Trade Commissioner for a bail out of LDV. Surely not.

    I hear the BOE is issuing nine bob notes especially.

  • Comment number 38.

    "Probably the fact that the civil servants involved had little faith that this information would not end up in The Daily Telegraph 2 days later."

    Yes. Because, for most of the 50 odd million in this country, that would be a terrible thing.

  • Comment number 39.

    18. At 11:49am on 01 Jul 2009, Mike_Naylor wrote:
    In regards to criticism of Nick, I do find it a classic tory voting trait, demonstrated by most right wing newspapers.

    If someone is giving an opinion, that goes against your belief on the subject, you have it in your head that they are biased.

    I think Nick makes a very valid point. And I think Lord Mandelson brought up a very valid point.

    A tory tactic of fighting an election on innuendo, and name calling is getting rather tedious.

    Not that I agree with labour policy 100%, but at least I know what it is.

    This cloak and dagger attempt to get into government, by merely suggesting what you "might" do, is pathetic.

    Most people realise that although there will be cuts on both side, by definition of the party, the bigger cuts will always be Tory.

    On the basis that they have already stated that they will get rid of inheritance tax, and cut top rate tax substancially.

    Meaning they will have a smaller budget. Obviously

    ---------------

    Lets deal with these paragraphs one by one.

    1. Classic Tory voting trait? Eh? Do even you understand what you are trying to imply here?

    2. Bias, dear sir, is favouring one side over another and has nothing to do with disagreeing with a point of principle. Nick in general does a decent job of sticking to the centre dividing line, but his previous two posts have amounted to personal attacks on the shadow chancellor.

    3. Precisely which point? Mandelson demanded a comment be withdrawn, he is not making a point at all. Nick is reporting upon it, implying that Osbourne is at fault.

    4. Yes, the vacuous posh boys, priveleged young men, do nothing party members are definately guildy of name calling. And lets not mention a certain n10 official who was fired for trumping up sleaze campaigns.

    5. What? Investment vs Cuts? Spend more money we dont't have? Please oh please enlighten us as to what Labour policy is beyond this.

    6. Too moronic to even respond to.

    7. Apparently Gordon Brown doesn't.

    8. No they haven't and no they haven't.

    9. Deary me, do try and familiarise yourself with at least the most basic of economic knowledge. Until you do so, there is no point in my trying to educate you.

  • Comment number 40.

    18:Mike Naylor

    [MN]In regards to criticism of Nick, I do find it a classic tory voting trait, demonstrated by most right wing newspapers.

    [27feet]: That would be a gross generalisation.

    [MN]If someone is giving an opinion, that goes against your belief on the subject, you have it in your head that they are biased.

    [27feet]: Again, gross generalisation. If I were to critique Nick's blog I would say that at times it can appear to avoid certain issues in favour of one-side or the other. However, commentary on factual data is by its nature opinion pieces and as such cannot avoid bias.

    [MN]: I think Nick makes a very valid point. And I think Lord Mandelson brought up a very valid point.

    [27feet]: I would argue it was more posturing and scoring a headline by Mandelson (who is more than capable of handling the media), but it is a point worth raising in response to Osborne's statement. Perhaps comparing the 2 side by side would be more appropriate?

    [MB]: A tory tactic of fighting an election on innuendo, and name calling is getting rather tedious.

    [27feet]: As yet there is no election. The most recent use of innuendo and name-calling at an election was the "Tory Toffs" used by the Labour party. You could argue that the (reported) logic of "Let's not have an old etonian as speaker" would be equally so.

    [MN]: Not that I agree with labour policy 100%, but at least I know what it is.

    [27feet]: I would debate that. There is no spending review to assist us, the populus, an extraordinary liberal interpretations required to meet the no spending cuts "policy" by both the PM and Ed Balls. There are more but I hope you see my point. The fact the conservatives have little policy is currently down to (they claim) a lack of information and the fact they are in opposition. They wish to create policy for the future election, but at present there is little or no benefit to them in producing the same and they would rather concentrate on questionning the policies that ARE being put into place by the government.

    [MN]: This cloak and dagger attempt to get into government, by merely suggesting what you "might" do, is pathetic.

    [27feet]: See above. There is no election forthcoming at present. Give away (potentially) vote winning policy now or wait til an election? I know what I'd rather do in their position.

    [MN]: Most people realise that although there will be cuts on both side, by definition of the party, the bigger cuts will always be Tory.

    [27feet]: If I chose credit card "x" over credit card "y" I would have a higher limit and could choose to spend more. However, it's likely that credit card "x" will come with rather weightier interest that's going to take its toll and I may not be able to meet the payments. In that event, I'd rather have the smaller amount to spend knowing I can manage the payments.

    [MN]:On the basis that they have already stated that they will get rid of inheritance tax, and cut top rate tax substancially.

    [MN:]Meaning they will have a smaller budget. Obviously

    [27feet]: There have been mootings of various changes, but (as you referred to earlier) no set policy as yet. Re: the tax, my employers (who I also know socially) pay higher rate tax. None of them used tax avoidance schemes prior to the recent raise - they felt it was "fair enough". They now have put in plans and will be paying less tax than they were under the lower rates. Swings and roundabouts.

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    32

    Gordon Brown says there will be rises in public expenditure including a "0% rise".

    I think we have seen all we need to about honesty from Gordon today.

    ========================================

    I enjoyed that comment from Gordy, not much more you can say about it.

    Presumably, Gordy also believes that the economy increased by -2.4% in the first quarter of this year.

  • Comment number 43.

    they concede that you may have to spend time online collating it.

    If by 'you' you mean 'me', that's an unappealing prospect.

    If, however, you mean 'the almost limitless analytical resources of BBC, widely acknowledged to be the mightiest information processing organisation known in history', then it seems like there might be some homework to be done to inform the voter.

  • Comment number 44.

    Why took so many weeks to say "no".

    Even if it is true that PM did not know till now, now he know. Just say 'yes' since the data is already available in different forms, or is it?

    All seem very slimy ...

  • Comment number 45.

    #34 Mike_Naylor
    "The question is, if this information is so 'freely available', why was Osborne denied it at all? "

    Probably the fact that the civil servants involved had little faith that this information would not end up in The Daily Telegraph 2 days later.


    Nice rant Mike - But why should Osborne need to leak it to the Telegraph, as you infer, if the information is already available, online, in the public domain.

  • Comment number 46.

    ""There is a very unattractive pattern of behaviour that is starting to emerge with George Osborne, of innuendo in pursuit of a smear," Lord Mandelson said."

    So Lord Mandelson, does this ring any bells for you?

    Pots calling kettles black springs to mind!

  • Comment number 47.

    What a tory joker OSborne is and he needs to retract his statement...Im sick of the tories same old cheap rate, cheap skate and out of date tactics of name alling and smoke and mirrors when it comes to cuts. David Cameron you are now looking weaker and weaker in the face of you lack of substance...how cheap are you ...you refuse to invest when WE the people need it shame on YOU

  • Comment number 48.

    Mike Naylor,

    Why shouldn't it appear in the Telegraph - if there is nothing to hide why would Herr Brown (or whoever gave the order), care where it appeared.

    And how can you praise the govt record on announcing policy! It seems that every policy that is announced is unaffordable and if it's slightly controversial then it won't happen until after the election.

    Does Brown really think we are stupid? Why does he refuse to mention cuts when even a 10-year old would know that the debt has to be reduced at some point. Going on and on about how spending is being brought forward just means there'll be an even bigger hole to fill post-election.

    How can his cabinet colleagues sit there and listen to the man without realising their absolute ineptitude in not getting rid of him when they had the chance.

    Bringing spending forward, abandoning a spending review, putting off sorting Royal Mail out, putting off putting taxes up, putting off public spending cuts - all in an effort to save his bacon. You know what - I'm going to vote Labour because whoever comes to power in 12 months time is going to have an abolsoute s-storm to deal with.

  • Comment number 49.

    "Whitehall sources tell me that all the information in the COINS database is already in the public domain although they concede that you may have to spend time online collating it."

    So the government are being difficult because they can. Not a surprise.

  • Comment number 50.

    Regarding the rise of the Surveillance State under this government, we were told "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear."

    So then why are the government hiding the details of the public finances?

    The fact is, based on this government's penchant for spin, sleaze, and lies, things are probably far worse than anyone is letting on.

    And Mandelson getting all uppity about "deliberate untruths" is a bit like Cristiano Ronaldo getting uppity about other players diving to win free kicks.

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

  • Comment number 53.

    ED BALLS TOLD A BLATANT LIE YESTERDAY!

    Talking Balls

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/3725688/talking-balls.thtml


    (still...I suppose he's only following his boss' example)

  • Comment number 54.

    Prefacing the following statement with an apology to the likes of Saga and a few others, this does not apply to you.

    Has anyone else noticed a gap in literacy and clarity of argument between the nulabs on this board and all of the rest?

  • Comment number 55.

    Osbourne is a politician so if he told me rain was wet I would need to check it.

    However on the honesty stakes he is on to a winner up against Lord Mandelsnake after his aluminium antics with Oleg.

  • Comment number 56.

    Of course Mr Brown isnt going to cut spending - not if he increases taxes heavily - experience shows this is something he is remarkedly good at, unfortunately he may not be able to keep to the income tax promises of the past though. As we wont see the detail till after the next election, we, the golden geese, will all be well plucked before we next have a chance to hiss....

  • Comment number 57.

    Yes, I remember "Yachtgate" Nick. On your blogs it was all about Osborne, nothing about Mandelson, a Cabinet Minister enjoying hospitality from a wealthy businessman and friend.

    The friendship with Oleg Deripaska, the aluminium oligarch, raised questions of a possible conflict of interest because he (Mandelson)signed off rule changes that benefited the Russians company while he was European Trade Commissioner.

    Given that and the inconsistencies about the declared length of their friendship one would have thought the focus of your blogs of that period would have shown a greater interest in Mr Mandelson.

    Water under the bridge and all that, but you can see how any of your reporting on Mandelson and Osborne may be viewed with suspicion.

  • Comment number 58.

    'inuendo in pursuit of smear' That was I call rich coming from the dodgy lord .
    If the feud between GO and the acting PM is going to start again , are you going to ask more searching questions about PM relationship with rich russians?

  • Comment number 59.

    This is like the puzzle where you're asked to choose between two paths. One leads to a nasty end, the other to an escape route. There are two guards. One tells nothing but lies, the other nothing but the truth. The puzzle is that you are allowed to ask only one question of both of them so what would be the question?
    The problem here is that the 'guards' seem to be unable to distinguish between what is the 'truth' and what isn't.

  • Comment number 60.

    "And I think Lord Mandelson brought up a very valid point."

    An unelected, twice-disgraced (mortgage and passport irregularities, covering up said irregularities) peer has no place making any points in our government.

    Call an election

  • Comment number 61.

    Obviously there is little point in installing a polygraph in Parliament. We could have a "truth detector" but it would need to be checked every night by the cleaners just to make sure it is still working....

  • Comment number 62.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 63.

    Of course Mandelson won't be playing this up because it might deflect from next year's budget deficit of 17% of GDP, or 245 billon pounds, 10400 pounds per worker in the private sector. It should not distract from the underlying structural budget deficit of 100 billion, or 4000 pounds per worker in the private sector (OECD estimate, I can provide the weblink)

    Of course Brown knew nothing about the conservatives request because he's far from a control freak and O'Donnell is certainly not partisan because he worked with Brown at the Treasury and had good grounds to rule no further inquiry into smeargate was necessary as it is very logic for Balls to have sent up to 20 emails a day to McBride.

    Of course Mandelson should be beleived, since he was only economic with truth about his mortgages, while his old aide Wagg Prosser is beyond doubt depite now being consultant to Deripaska and his old aide Draper is only an online genius rather than a smearer.

  • Comment number 64.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 65.

    #23 "Look - the Civil Servant made the decision here not Gordon."

    How naive are you?

  • Comment number 66.

    So its official straight from the hourses mouth at PMQs, Capital spending is being brough forward (ie in later years will FALL!) and OVERALL spending in 2013-14 will have a 0% increase.

    As Brown knows whats happening in 2013-14 can he speak to Peter who stated the reasion that the spending review was being put off till after the election was because in the current climet it is impossible for do forcasts for 2011-14 the period of the review.

    Its about time Labour got their excuses story correct and they all sing from the same song sheet! Mandalson says you cant do forcasts for 2013-14 yet Brown gives a definative answer (one of the few he has ever given in PMQ's) about spending the very same year.

  • Comment number 67.

    The 0% rise thing announced by Gordon Brown in PMQs today + the charge that The Conservatives were the party of unemployment made Brown look totally pathetic today. The man is out of ideas and out of time!

  • Comment number 68.

    59.


    If you were the other guard...

  • Comment number 69.

    You know something's up when New Labour are talking up truth and honesty. Ever since New Labour came in to power in 1997, they have constantly claimed that under New Labour there would be a new era of politics. Don't really need to follow up that with anything more.

    Then, to top it all off, we have Peter Mandelson heading this new era of truth and honesty. If that doesn't prove that the government live in a different world to the majority of the people in this country then I don't know what does.

    Just another example of New Labour hiding behind closed doors and pretending that everything is fine. I mean, after all these years of New Labour (including Mandelson & Brown) who are the public more likely to believe in this situation? I'm not claiming George Osbourn is the greatest politician but compared to Mandelson & Brown, he's almost worthy of a halo.

    Gordon Brown & New Labour have kept promising the same things since they came to power. What is the main lesson here?

    With Gordon Brown as Chancellor having promised to never repeat boom and bust, we seem to have encountered a boom and bust. Will they admit it?

    Most likely not, because even though New Labour have been in power since 1997, everything that has gone wrong in this country is someone else's fault. If that doesn't demonstrate a completely inept and incapable government I don't know what does. Yet, they still think of themselves as the right people to lead us through the hard times......

    It was they who took us from good times to hard times, now they think they're the only ones who can save us.

    I know there's been a mention of needing thick skin when you're in government but the skin must be so thick it's blinding them from the truth.

    Just remember, "There is no spoon" (From The Matrix movie). What more of a truth do you need?

    Now let's have the new era of politics New Labour have been promising since 1997 and have constantly and consistently failed to deliver to the best of their abilities. I almost think random animals chosen from a zoo could do just as well as New Labour. It's time to remove that thick skin and start taking note of the people. We want an election.

    How can we trust Peter Mandelson & Gordon Brown when we've seen what they've been like for the last 12 years?

    It's at this point I wonder if leopards like them can really change their spots. Mandelson is a slick operator, for that I admire him in a small way, but bringing him back in to government and effectively putting him in charge of giving New Labour a make-over isn't going to cut it.

    All I see is a government effectively running about like headless chickens, they have no idea what to do so they're doing lots of pointless things in the hopes that people will suddenly change their minds and realise that the party who has spoent the last 12 years ruining their lives are whiter than white and purer than pure. I could never see Mandelson or Brown that way. Could you?

  • Comment number 70.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 71.

    During PMQs I,
    Laughed At Brown's Obviously Untrue Remarks.
    As he,
    Brazenly Rattled On With Nonsense.
    On and on he continued,
    Uttering ludicrous statements.
    Refusing to tell the truth

    Lying And Blustering Over Unsubstantiated Rubbish.

  • Comment number 72.

    Who is this Sir Gus O'Donnell who is tell our elected representatives that they can't see the books?

    The real stink is that we have a civil SERVANT obstructing the main opposition 1 year before the election.

    He should be sacked for obstructing the process of democracy.

    Is Gus a member of ZaNuLabour?

    As for milly molly Mandy your puppet master I now assume that if he says something the opposite has to be true.

  • Comment number 73.

    Re Nick's update

    So that's it then - you believe Brown or Osborne. For me its no contest. Osborne all the way. Brown seems incapable of telling the truth. 0% growth indeed.

    As it is Brown was truly appalling in PMQs. Did he answer one question directly? NO. To much to ask for.

    Perhaps our new speaker should insist on answers to direct questions.

  • Comment number 74.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 75.

    Am I alone in thinking that neither Brown or anyone associated with him, including some of the media are capable of giving a balanced view of the current situation my Country is in.

    No, thought not.

  • Comment number 76.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 77.

    " Whitehall sources tell me that all the information in the COINS database is already in the public domain although they concede that you may have to spend time online collating it."
    Try Googling it then you might find out what is necessary to gain Public access (doesn't mean that Tories couldn't spend the money to acquire the software)
    The question is that if it is available why not provide it a manageable format.

  • Comment number 78.

    Power, absolute power and Peter Mandelson, but i cant remember anyone voting for him to represent our views in government

  • Comment number 79.

    Mr Robinson, given that Brown did not use Mandelson's setup during PMQs and that there wasn't a backbench question to facilitate the scoring of a supposedly open goal either, it just may be the case that the decision wasn't taken (in isolation) by O'Donnel and that Osborne was not really lying).

    Therefore, time to move on to ask some not so pressing questions about next year's budget deficit of 245 billion or about that structural budget deficit of 100 billion pounds per annum.

  • Comment number 80.

    62

    Mediocre is the word for both this government and the lead articles for this blog.

    Mediocre in the extreme.

  • Comment number 81.

    #70 Minnsy - If you want to know the details of Yachtgate I suggest you look at post 3.

    It is about an un-named (but recently ennobled) EU Trade Commissioner, who was very good friends with a Russian aluminium magnate, and the reduction in EU import tariffs for alumunium during the tenure if that Commissioner.

    However, our noble Lord insists that they never discussed these tariffs.

    Make of that what you will but I would suggest that Mandy isn't the first person to be questioning the honesty of others.

  • Comment number 82.

    The problem is that so many people have been switched off by the dis-honesty of so many of our politicians, that they no longer care. This means that the likes of Mandelson (the word honesty has a difficult time staying in a sentence with that name), Balls, Hain, Smith and the Archduke of Inconsistency, Brown, will be able to manipulate the media(Hi Nick!)and come election day the plan will work.
    We need to get this out on the streets and let the common man/woman understand the significance and importance to their future way of life and well-being. All politicians have a duty to honesty - but they are so removed from the concept that they cannot behave in any way other than corrupt. This makes them (and us) far worse than any other country of corruption because our parliament was always held up as the example. Not now. The politicians all need replacing and afterwards some serious criminal procedings should take place that allow us to claim back the parliament that we were once proud of and that we should be proud of for tomorrow.
    Honesty? Yeah right.

  • Comment number 83.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 84.

    Just heard Duff state on PMQ's that NuLabour are the party of the many and not the few.

    How refreshingly new!

    What next? Things can only get better.

    Or better still - We will all become stakeholders of UK PLC. Unfortunately we are already, we have all become debtors in NuLabours UK PLC

  • Comment number 85.

    # 47. At 12:43pm on 01 Jul 2009, davidou1234 wrote:

    What a tory joker OSborne is and he needs to retract his statement...Im sick of the tories same old cheap rate, cheap skate and out of date tactics of name alling and smoke and mirrors when it comes to cuts. David Cameron you are now looking weaker and weaker in the face of you lack of substance...how cheap are you ...you refuse to invest when WE the people need it shame on YOU
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    What a deliciously incomprehensible rant! Surely Brown is the joker, with is 0% rise.

    But let's be serious, because of Brown and Labour, the country is in a perilous position - borrowing 20 billion per calendar month is UNSUSTAINABLE!!!!

    There have to be CUTS and tax rises whichever party is in what passes for government these days - they should come before the next election, but we know Brown is committed to bankrupting the country in his hideous quest to be re-elected.

  • Comment number 86.

    Nick

    Your headline: Honesty - the new battleground

    should read: Mud slinging much preferred by MPs to honesty

    And these idiots think the public should respect them?

  • Comment number 87.

    Nick

    if no one is blocking then why can the silly little people in the electorate have the figures are you all protecting us from ourselves?

    Are we just to simple so have to be protected from the nasty news?

  • Comment number 88.

    Mandelson on the High Ground? I am off to the window looking for Flying Pigs

  • Comment number 89.

    There is a problem for the Tories with outlining their spending plans / cuts. If they base their figures on the government predictions for growth which they and most commentators think are highly ambitious then they won't be able to deliver on them, if however they use more modest (albeit accurate) figures they will only support Brown's accusations that they are a cutting party.

    By focussing on not having the information they are justifying not having to commit at this stage.

  • Comment number 90.

    Lets deal with these paragraphs one by one.

    1. Classic Tory voting trait? Eh? Do even you understand what you are trying to imply here?

    2. Bias, dear sir, is favouring one side over another and has nothing to do with disagreeing with a point of principle. Nick in general does a decent job of sticking to the centre dividing line, but his previous two posts have amounted to personal attacks on the shadow chancellor.

    3. Precisely which point? Mandelson demanded a comment be withdrawn, he is not making a point at all. Nick is reporting upon it, implying that Osbourne is at fault.

    4. Yes, the vacuous posh boys, priveleged young men, do nothing party members are definately guildy of name calling. And lets not mention a certain n10 official who was fired for trumping up sleaze campaigns.

    5. What? Investment vs Cuts? Spend more money we dont't have? Please oh please enlighten us as to what Labour policy is beyond this.

    6. Too moronic to even respond to.

    7. Apparently Gordon Brown doesn't.

    8. No they haven't and no they haven't.

    9. Deary me, do try and familiarise yourself with at least the most basic of economic knowledge. Until you do so, there is no point in my trying to educate you.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I will do the same sir:

    1: I was stating that, in regards to tory message boards, newspapers the general tone is, we are right. Anyone disagreeing with this is either:

    A: Socialist
    B: Insane
    C: Unemployed
    D: Biased
    E: Marxist

    2: Nick as a political commentator is entitled to make any opinion he wants on any politician. Nick correctly pointed out that the shadow chancellor had maybe made a slight error in his comments, and Mandelson had rightly jumped on them.

    Again, as above. Do you consider attacks on the PM, in blogs, newspapers and columns, to be politically biased? Of course not.

    Its biased in the basis that it goes against your own opinions.

    3: Did you actually read the article. Mandleson made many points.

    1: Osborne made a false statement.
    2: Making wholly inaccurate statements is wrong, and should be retracted
    3: The tory party are releasing far too many of these inuendos to the media, rather than discussing policy.

    Nick is a political correspondent, and it is his job to report both sides of the political spectrum.

    Like most tory newspapers, you seem to want a censorship of any news stories that arent attacking the present incumbents.

    4: Agreed.

    5: Its very simple. The tory party have made promises involving tax cuts, that the Labour Party havent. Including axing inheritance tax, cutting corporate tax, and cutting top end income tax.

    To explain, this will mean that their government will receive less funding every year.

    The labour argument is that the only way they can afford this it to make more cuts than the current government plan to.

    6: Too moronic to even respond to. Meaning you dont have a charge to the obvious point that the shadow cabinet are possibly trying to get into power by highlighting government failings, while keeping their own plans rather more secretive. As in, getting in because they cant be any worse rule.

    7: As above in point 5. The argument is the fact that Tory cuts would be much more substancial. And why Cameron is in panic mode over it, trying to stem the tide.

    Osborne has already refused to guarantee that the NHS and Comprehensive Schools would be protected from major cuts.

    Something Labour have already done.

    Thats the crux of the matter.

    8. Yes they have. Maybe read up on policy, before you go on the offensive.

    Inheritance tax, corporate tax, and top rate income tax will all be cut under a tory government. Its one of the only policies they have actually revealed.

    9. Having no answer but deary me highlights your entire stance.

    You have no real idea what Tory policy is.

    I can assure you, the entire argument is based around the fact that Labour would have a much bigger budget to work with than any tory government.

    On the basis that they havent promised their corporate friends tax cuts if they get in.

  • Comment number 91.

    Honesty in politics...It'll never catch on!!

    Needless to say most of us are crying out for honesty from our politicians, whatever their reasons may be for consistently lying to us.

    Needless to say Labour are the biggest liars, they wont even stick to manifesto promises so what's the point in them having a manifesto? I've reached the point now where I can only feel pity for their voters.

  • Comment number 92.

    Are you suggesting Mr Robinson that it's the civil service who refused to hand over the data ? Surely not, where does the venerable Sir Gus' loyalties lie, with the taxpayer or with the government ? If it is the latter, then he must tender his resignation or be sacked for misconduct when we have a change of government. Brown coined a new expression at PMQs today " a zero percent rise ? " This from the man who considers himself a financial heavyweight. Heavyweight he is , but the weight is all around his waist, and the financial expertise he gained as a BBC Scotland sports correspondent seems to be letting him down. It is indeed sad for this country that it's prime minister and it's cabinet ministers who are expected , as politicians , to be sparing with the truth , resort to telling blatant and unashamed lies in an attempt to mislead the British people.

  • Comment number 93.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 94.

    47. At 12:43pm on 01 Jul 2009, davidou1234 wrote:
    What a tory joker OSborne is and he needs to retract his statement...Im sick of the tories same old cheap rate, cheap skate and out of date tactics of name alling and smoke and mirrors when it comes to cuts. David Cameron you are now looking weaker and weaker in the face of you lack of substance...how cheap are you ...you refuse to invest when WE the people need it shame on YOU

    ======================================================================

    david, if you want anyone to take your rants seriously perhaps you could type them so they don't come across as a written version of tourettes.

    No offence meant to anyone who really has tourettes, obviously.

  • Comment number 95.

    "I would debate that. There is no spending review to assist us, the populus, an extraordinary liberal interpretations required to meet the no spending cuts "policy" by both the PM and Ed Balls. There are more but I hope you see my point. The fact the conservatives have little policy is currently down to (they claim) a lack of information and the fact they are in opposition. They wish to create policy for the future election, but at present there is little or no benefit to them in producing the same and they would rather concentrate on questionning the policies that ARE being put into place by the government."


    I think the fact that I can go online and get 99% of the COINS information suggests that this is probably the posturing that you so despise.

    Tory policy, on their policy, has been making excuses on why they won't release any.

    The answer more than likely being:

    A: it's not hugely different from New-Labour
    B: there are unpopular (in terms of labour voters they will need to take to overturn the majority) corporate and taxation policies in it.
    C: They feel that they don't have to, to win an election. And bringing policy into it may actually dent their chances.


  • Comment number 96.

    80. At 1:32pm on 01 Jul 2009, mikepko wrote:
    62

    Mediocre is the word for both this government and the lead articles for this blog.

    Mediocre in the extreme.

    ================================================================

    Sorry Mike, but isn't 'Mediocre in the extreme' a bit of an oxymoron?

  • Comment number 97.

    68
    Give that man a cigar!

  • Comment number 98.

    Great spin from Osborne (if it was his idea):

    - Creates the impression that the election is a foregone conclusion
    - Implies that the Tories are actively planning for future of the economy
    - Implies that the government has something to hide
    - Blames the affair on Brown
    - Gives them a cheap answer when the Govt. challenges the details of their policies

    Comments like this show how it works:

    9. At 11:39am on 01 Jul 2009, imdx80 wrote:
    So labour are hiding where the publics money is spent and yet its the oppositions fault...

    Mandleson's response is trying to send a message to the circles that Osborne moves in that he is indiscreet.

  • Comment number 99.

    Labour and Mandy seem to be going to great lengths to dress up and hide the data requested, the simple solution is to hand over the data George wants, as Labour tell us it's in the public domain already. This childish and petty Labour government just don't get it do they? As a hard working tax payer I think I might like access to this data to see where our cash is being wasted, sorry spent. Or is that the real problem for Mandy and his cronies, if this data was presented in a format the oiks who pay for this nation to tick could understand the Labour party would be found out even sooner and unable to remain in office for even less time than the end of this present term?

  • Comment number 100.

    "So its official straight from the hourses mouth at PMQs, Capital spending is being brough forward (ie in later years will FALL!) and OVERALL spending in 2013-14 will have a 0% increase."

    The entire issue is the fact that the Tory party have not released any spending/cuts information either.

    I assure you, a 0% spend pledge is 100% more than we know on Tory spending.

    Can I remind you that a Tory minister has already revealed the notorious 10% number, by accident. And that is the only reason the debate exists.

    People who actually believe they have no policy because of not being allowed to access COINS (even though you can just collate it online) are in la lad land.

    Proof that PR and spin actually does work I guess.

    A tory minister has already, mistakenly, revealed their spending plans in truth. Months ago.

    The entire debate is the faux pas that one of Cameron's men has accidentally revealed spending cuts, and he's trying to imply that Labour will be just as bad.

    As Gordon stated though, and what is quite obvious - tory spending is based on how the economy is now. And not in 12 months time.


    "

 

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