BBC BLOGS - Newsnight: Michael Crick

Archives for February 2011

Commons new boy Craig Oliver learns the ropes

Michael Crick | 16:30 UK time, Monday, 28 February 2011

It was good to see David Cameron's new communications chief Craig Oliver in the Commons press gallery on his first day at work, listening to the PM's statement on Libya this afternoon.

Just before Mr Oliver went into the gallery, a colleague saved him from potential embarrassment, by pointing out that no men are allowed into the gallery without a tie.

So Mr Oliver quickly "borrowed" a blue and white striped tie from the coat racks outside.

A case - almost literally perhaps - of quickly learning the ropes.

Quote of the Week?

Michael Crick | 15:02 UK time, Monday, 28 February 2011

"I have not the remotest idea where I am," Eric Pickles just admitted in the Commons.

The Communities Secretary was lost as to what question he was meant to be answering.

The House took it well.

Proof of low key Tory campaign in by-election

Michael Crick | 18:44 UK time, Friday, 18 February 2011

The Conservative's spent less than £40,000 on their campaign in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election last month, less than half as much as either Labour or the Liberal Democrats.

Spending figures released by Oldham council tonight support accusations that the Conservatives ran a low key campaign in the by-election in order to help their Lib Dem coalition colleagues.

The figures submitted by each of the major parties to the local election authorities by the deadline of today (Friday) show that each of the major parties spent as follows:

Cons £39,432
Lab £97, 085
Lib Dem £94,540
UKIP £43,855

These figures show that while Labour (who won) and the Liberal Democrats (who came second) both spent close to the legal spending limit for a by-election of £100,000, the Conservatives spent less than 40% of what they were legally entitled to.

Throughout the campaign the Conservatives denied accusations that they were not taking the by-election seriously.

Rivals campaigns and journalists (including myself for Newsnight) observed that the Conservative organisation in Oldham East and Saddleworth was not on the scale one would traditionally expects in a by-election in which the party had a good chance of winning.

Tonight's figures show that even UKIP spent £4000 more than the Conservatives.

Another solution if Parliament can't agree AV bill in time...

Michael Crick | 14:23 UK time, Friday, 11 February 2011

Everybody is saying that if the AV referendum is to go ahead then Parliament must pass the necessary legislation for it by Wednesday 16 February 2011. But strictly speaking that is not true.

Under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act the legislation for a referendum must receive royal assent a full 10 weeks before the proposed vote.

In this case, to hold the referendum of Thursday 5 May 2011 would mean passing the bill by Thursday 24 February 2011.

The only problem is that Parliament isn't meant to be sitting then. MPs and peers start their mid-winter break next Thursday, hence the presumed deadline of Wednesday 16 February 2011.

But if Parliament can't agree the bill in time, there is another solution, of course. They could cancel their holiday.

New EU rules on accepting Oligarch hospitality

Michael Crick | 11:09 UK time, Friday, 11 February 2011

I see that the European Union announced new rules yesterday to ban top officials from accepting hospitality from oligarchs and top businessmen on their yachts and private jets.

I wonder whom they had in mind when they dreamt that up? Not our old friend Peter Mandelson, surely?

Lord Mandelson, you will recall, got into some trouble in the summer of 2008, when he was still an EU Commissioner. He was found to have spent a holiday on a 238-foot yacht belonging to the Russian aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska.

Bercow bed sheet picture latest blow to Speaker's support

Michael Crick | 18:37 UK time, Friday, 4 February 2011

John Bercow has long been pretty unpopular with Conservative MPs, of course, and his wife's notorious photo has made his Tory critics even more angry.

The interesting question is whether he is in danger of losing support among Labour MPs - after all, it was they who got him elected in the first place.

Many MPs admire the way he has reformed Commons procedures, speeded up debates, and allowed more urgent questions.

Indeed, the Shadow Leader of the House Hilary Benn was very complimentary towards Bercow in the chamber yesterday.

But some experienced Labour members to whom I spoke today were very angry with the latest developments.

One said the Sally Bercow photo made her look like a prostitute. Another told me it was "outrageous", adding that "she has brought the office into disrepute and is undermining her husband at a rate of knots".

Many Labour MPs, especially women members, voted for him in the expectation that he would be the champion of MPs with families.

They feel Bercow has been no help in the ongoing disputes between MPs and the new Parliamentary expenses authority, Ipsa.

"People are fed up," says one Labour front-bencher. "He has let us down with Ipsa."

Yelland: Communications mix-up

Michael Crick | 17:26 UK time, Wednesday, 2 February 2011

So David Cameron has found a successor to Andy Coulson as his director of communications. He is the BBC Director of Global News Craig Oliver, who also worked for ITN in the not too distant past.

I understand that whilst Downing Street was considering the various options they considered at one point David Yelland, the former editor of The Sun newspaper.

Er, that was until somebody pointed out a slight problem with his candidature. Mr Yelland is a member of the Labour Party.

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