The mystery of Ian Blair’s portrait – solved

My earlier post about the disappearance of Sir (now Lord) Ian Blair’s portrait from the rogues’ gallery of former Commissioners was picked up earlier this week by the Guardian Diary.

Today they report the results of their inquiries:

“the answer from Scotland Yard is that they have been forced to take the painting into protective custody. Vulnerable to accidents or perhaps to the whims of the malicious, it needs a covering, officials say. Thus, it will be missing for a few more weeks. But here’s the thing. While most of the portraits of commissioners, from Robert Peel to Lord Blair’s predecessor Lord Stevens, have glass coverings of different descriptions, the portrait of Lord Condon, who stepped down in 2000 and survived the turbulence of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, has no apparent covering and yet would appear to have survived the years unmarked and untroubled. But then, few there speak ill of him.”

Kit Malthouse gets “snappy”, declares himself as the D(u)MP and denies any involvement in getting a police inquiry into an off-street parking in Westminster dropped

The Metropolitan Police Authority is in session and Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse AM is in the Chair.  He set the tone by announcing that there was a lot on the agenda and he wanted everyone to be “snappy”.  He assured the Authority that that was the way he would chair the meeting – so nothing new there.  He’s always “snappy”, as John Biggs AM discovered when he had the temerity to ask how questions to the Commissioner would be handled and got told rather tersely “I was just about to tell you that”.

It is also apparent that Kit Malthouse is irritated when he is called the DCiC (Dog-Catcher-in-Chief).  Today, he offered Authority members his own preferred acronym and let them know that in future he wants to be called the DMP (Deputy Mayor for Policing).  This has a snappy feel to it and he clearly likes it.  Someone (well, actually it was me) suggested that he should now be call the DuMP.  It will come in very handy, as in the phrases “City Hall DuMP”, “DuMP and DuMPer” or “The Deputy Mayor takes a ….”.

Another source of irritation for the DuMP is usually Jenny Jones AM.  Indeed before she had even opened her mouth his snappiness over her asking him at a previous session what meetings he’d been to led to him telling the Authority that in the last three months “he’d had literally dozens of meetings with people ranging from Secretaries of State to community groups, so -Jenny – I’ve been busy”.

However, he kept his irritation in check when Jenny Jones did speak and asked about what he could tell the Authority about the sudden dropping of a police inquiry into off-street parking in Westminster.  He immediately said he didn’t know anything about it and it would have been quite improper for him to have been involved in the dropping of such an inquiry, whether as DuMP, Chair of the Police Authority or in any other capacity.  A comprehensive answer that left unanswered what Jenny Jones was getting at.  Either it was an inept attempt to smear him or we are going to hear a lot more about it soon.

Labour Conference 2010 observations 9: Ed Miliband “appoints” his Chief Whip

Those who follow these things (members of the Parliamentary Labour Party and about four others) will know that the PLP voted earlier this month to revert to the historic practice of electing its Chief Whip (and as a bonus the person elected would hold office for the whole Parliament).

This was seen by some as a manouevre to ensure that Nick Brown would continue to wield his considerable influence whoever was the new Party leader.  And by others as a move to strengthen the hand of the PLP vis a vis the Party Leader.

However, with a touch of striking ruthlessness, Ed Miliband told Nick Brown earlier today that he did not wish him to stand.  Nick Brown withdrew, as did his putative challenger Jim Fitzpatrick (I don’t know whether he was also told not to stand), and as a result the new Leader’s candidate, Rosie Winterton, has been elected unopposed.

So the score so far:  Party Leader one; PLP nil  (or – if you count the Leadership election itself: Party Leader two; PLP nil).

Labour Conference 2010 observations 8: Ed Miliband sets the tone

Ed Miliband’s speech this afternoon set the tone for his leadership:
‘Freedom and opportunity are precious gifts and the purpose of our politics is to expand them, for all our people.’
He wants Labour to be ‘reforming, restless and radical.’
But Labour must change:
‘We need to learn some painful truths about where we went wrong and how we lost touch.’
And he warned the Party:
‘This will require strong leadership. It won’t always be easy. You might not always like what I have to say. But you’ve elected me leader and lead I will.’
‘The hard truth for all of us in this hall is that a party that started out taking on old thinking became the prisoner of its own certainties.’
Labour must be a force that ‘speaks for the majority and shapes the centre ground of politics’.
‘I believe strongly that we need to reduce the deficit. There will be cuts and there would have been if we had been in government.’
‘No plan for growth means no credible plan for deficit reduction.’
‘No truck with overblown rhetoric about waves of irresponsible strikes.’
‘We can’t be imprisoned by focus groups. Politics has to be about leadership or it is about nothing.’

It was all good stuff.
My only plea is that we don’t start calling ourselves ‘New Generation Labour’.

Labour Conference 2010 observations 7: The fantasy Shadow Cabinet

As my previous post reported, there is jus a little uncertainty about what the detailed outcome will be of the Shadow Cabinet elections that are about to take place. However, I have spoken to a large number of delegates today about how they would like the top few jobs distributed.
There was unanimity that people want to see David Miliband remain in the Shadow Cabinet and after much discussion the following consensus emerged on the ideal line-up.
And here are the top four posts:
Shadow Foreign Secretary – David Miliband;
Shadow Chancellor – Yvette Cooper;
Shadow Home Secretary – Ed Balls;
Shadow Costitutional Affairs (opposite Nick Clegg) – Alan Johnson.

Labour Conference 2010 observations 6: The Shadow Cabinet ‘funnel’ effect

Virtually every Labour MP I speak to seems to be standing for the Shadow Cabinet. And if they are not standing they are being bombarded by emails, letters, leaflets and pamphlets from those who are.
In some cases, the efforts are being counter-productive: ‘Did you see the size of his picture in his leaflet?’ or ‘They were very nice pictures of her on the doorstep or speaking in the chamber, but doesn’t she realise that’s what we all do?’
Or in another instance an existing member of the Shadow Cabinet clambered over a newly-elected MP to get to a longer-established colleague, prompting the wry comment ‘He hasn’t recognised me; he doesn’t realise that I’ve got a vote too.’
One candidate has just button-holed me and explained to me (in more detail than I really wanted) how the new system for electing the Shadow Cabinet would elect a higher proportion of women than his colleagues realised when they rejected the 50% and 40% options. As he put it: the men must vote for at least six women and will have to choose between, perhaps, fifteen female candidates – so there are over 1000 votes from male MPs to share out with each woman starting with a male ‘bonus’ of 70 votes; whereas although women MPs have to vote for at least six men there will be perhaps 60 candidates chasing less than 500 votes – an average of 8 or 9 each. As a result, he predicts that maybe half the Shadow Cabinet being women as a result of this arithmetic.
Interesting, if true.

Labour Conference 2010 observations 5: Did leaks from the Leadership count produce the late switch in the betting odds?

I gather a lot of people are looking with interest at the late change in the betting odds offered on which Miliband would win the Leadership. I am told that large sums were placed backing Ed Miliband after the count was completed by the Electoral Reform Society but before anyone in the Labour Party was told the result.
Some people are asking whether some of those counting cashed in with their privileged information by placing bets on what they by then knew was a certainty.
And as one person said to me: ‘What do you expect? Isn’t the Electoral Reform Society entirely populated by unreconstructed pre-Clegg Liberal Democrats?’

Labour Conference 2010 observations 4: Oveheard at breakfast

At a hotel in Manchester, surrounded by hung-over Labour Conference goers, a blissfully unaware couple.
One says to the other: ‘Hey, did you see the younger brother won the Labour leadership thing.’
A reminder, if one were needed, that most people don’t take that much interest in politics.

Labour Conference 2010 observations 2: Don’t get too excited by the narrowness of Ed Miliband’s victory

Predictably, the tight election victory of Ed Miliband over his brother David has already got the Tory twitterati and the media pundits frothing at the mouth. Yes, David won in the MPs’ section and in the individual members’ section of the electoral college, but Ed’s very clear lead in the votes of the (far more numerous) Labour supporting members of affiliated organisations gave him the edge.
So what’s the story? That is the system and has been for thirty years. The electoral college has three parts. That’s the way it works.
Moreover, members of trade unions and affiliated organisations are not sheep. They don’t just vote as their leaders tell them. Their votes – several hundred thousand of them – reflect their perception of who will make the best Party leader.
And for many of those who voted – like me – for David, it was a close run thing. From the outset I knew I was going to vote for one of the Miliband brothers and only decided finally after the contest had been running for several weeks. And many – if not most – of those who gave David their first preference will have given their second preference to Ed.
So the Labour Party will unite behind its new leader and the Tories and the LibDems will be making a big mistake if they underestimate him or the support he will have.