Tag Archives: prime minister

Andy Coulson quits – at last…

Coulson always had to go. You can’t run communications for the Prime Minister when most of the papers are interested in what you did in your former job. Coulson should have left long ago – for months *he* has been the story.

The News of the World phone-tapping scandal just gets bigger and bigger and now with News Editors being confirmed as aware of the hacking of celebrity voicemails, it’s unthinkable that Coulson did not know what was going on.

And if he was really unaware of what his team was doing to get stories then what kind of editor was he anyway?
Election reaction

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How much is too much?

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, earns £142,500 a year. He actually took a 5% pay cut when he took up the position, a political move to show sympathy with those struggling along in tough post-recession times.

Now a new survey has revealed that 9,000 public sector workers earn more than the Prime Minister. But why should anyone be shocked?

The Prime Minister’s salary is artificially low and kept that way for political reasons, because the public don’t like to see elected officials earning too much cash. There is a strong argument for paying them more, because by paying them the market rate for an official with a large responsibility, you remove the potential for fraud. The 2009 expenses scandal shows that expenses were ‘topping up’ MP salaries and countries like Singapore insist on paying their elected officials a high basic rate, with very few additional perks to avoid these kind of issues.

Compare this to the private sector – Chief Executives of major British companies can now expect salaries of above £1m. About a quarter of the FTSE 100 chiefs earn in excess of £5m a year.

Compare these wages to the Prime Minister and it looks more like he is running the country as a hobby, just banking the experience for a future of earning money on the lecture circuit.

So why shouldn’t there be senior public sector officials earning more than the Prime Minister? They are not elected into a position that needs them to constantly pander to voters. They are appointed and given a budget and targets – if they do a good job at managing a huge budget and team of thousands, then why can’t they earn a similar rate to the private sector?

Or should we expect everyone to work in the public sector for peanuts – as a gift to the nation?
Westminster Station

The Pope in Britain

I’m a Catholic because I’m half-Irish-half-English and, as my dad isn’t much of a believer, I ended up getting baptised – not that I actually go to church. My attendance record is pretty much based on weddings and funerals.

But, when I was asked if I would be interested in working with the government Cabinet Office to follow Pope Benedict around the UK during his visit, providing live commentary via Twitter and blogs, I jumped at the chance. Though I’m not a follower, the teachings of his church have permeated their way into my consciousness just because I was always surrounded by Catholics when I was growing up – and who wouldn’t want to be embedded with a head of state providing a live Twitter feed of what really happens ‘backstage’?

But it was the former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who invited the Pope to the UK. And Brown is no longer in office. And the current Prime Minister is either less interested in the Pope visiting, or more attuned to the scandal that will be caused by his visit. Most probably the latter as the child sex scandal furore only seems to be getting worse and the present Pope was previously in charge of handling complaints against the Vatican, and should therefore be acutely aware of the issues – and be handling them rather better.

So the regular media will continue to cover the visit, but all additional nice-to-have coverage (like a live blogger backstage) were all canned.

It’s a shame as I was looking forward to trying to offer some insights. The views of the church often rub directly against my own liberal opinions – I was working in Malta last week and I was surprised to hear that divorce is illegal there because the church won’t allow it. The Catholic church has some way to go to reach the standards considered acceptable in a modern-day society where free expression and respect for Human Rights are considered essential.

But the church has an immense history and tradition and is followed by hundreds of millions of people. I was looking forward to exploring these questions of how faith collides with modernity, but now I won’t get the chance anyway. Another thing I can blame on David Cameron.

What a shame.
Art installation, Central St Martin's

What is Clegg doing? The answer is Mandelson!

This is the Mick Jagger election. None of the parties are getting any satisfaction.

Yet, even though he failed to win as many seats as expected, Nick Clegg and his Lib Dems are now the kingmakers.

He promised to talk first to whoever had the most seats – the Tories – but why would he really take that idea seriously now? The Tory MPs will not want to work closely with the Lib Dems and the Lib Dems I have been reading online are all horrified that there may now be a partnership with Cameron.

It’s a recipe for disaster and Clegg must surely realise this.

Perhaps it is why he is now playing hardball with his demands. As he entered talks with party officials today, Nick Clegg made a statement saying he has four big priorities: 1. Fair tax reform 2. Education 3. Approach to the economy 4. Political reform to the electoral system

I think he might be able to reach agreement with the Tories on points 1 and 2 as their manifesto pledges are not miles apart there, but Clegg has very open views on how to run the economy and it is through transparency and devolving power from the treasury. Plus he wants a root and branch reform of the electoral system, to introduce a system of proportional representation – consigning the first-past-the-post system to history.

The Prime Minister is extremely weak right now. Clegg could do a deal with Labour that gives him control over all four issues and become a reform parliament. Labour and the Liberal Democrats could join together to lead as a minority government, or they could bring the nationalists into the fold – who would almost certainly join a coalition if money was thrown to their regions.

If Clegg could boot out Brown and announce a reform government with an interim Prime Minister (Mandelson or Johnson?) and Vince Cable running the economy then I think a lot of Labour and Lib Dems would be happier than getting into bed with the Tories. And if the focus is on electoral and economic reform then they could pledge to call a new general election as soon as the electoral system is ready for change – let’s say after one year.

One year down the line, with a PR voting system, the Liberal Democrats would stand a very high chance of getting real power – with a lot more seats.

Clegg could get a lot more of his own MPs into parliament, totally reform the electoral system, get his man running the economy, and keep British politics generally focused on liberal values by kicking the Conservatives out for a generation.

So why is he still talking to Cameron?

Down at Downing St

I went to number ten Downing St on Wednesday to attend a meeting with the No 10 communications team. It was my first time visiting Number 10, so I had to get the obligatory photo of me at the door…
Mark at Number 10

One of the things I noticed as I walked up the staircase to the meeting room was that there were pictures on the wall outlining the alphabet. A is for Apple. B is for Brown… etc… and V was for Villain. I wonder if anyone thought about the appropriateness of that for the Prime Minister’s home?

Budget 2010

Social media has been around for a few years now. Not all that long, but a few years. I’ve been uploading a lot of content to places like Flickr and Youtube since 2006, but what’s changed in the past year is the switch between social media as something related to the ‘Web 2.0’ concept of users uploading their own content and the interactive web, as typified by Twitter.

So, even though we have had social tools for the past few years, the budget this year felt different. It was the first time I could see every single major broadcaster assembling experts to analyse the budget online as it was happening. I was following Sky, the BBC, BBC radio, and Computer Weekly online all at the same time while the budget was taking place. There was a phenomenal amount of debate taking place online while the Chancellor was making his speech – proving that this general election is going to be the most interactive and democratic we have ever experienced.

I personally was surprised to hear that there was a difference between something I heard the Prime Minister say on Monday and what I heard the Chancellor say today. I was there in person on Monday and I was listening live on radio today so I know I’m right, but has anyone else noticed the way the Digital Britain broadband penetration targets have changed?

It was a great experience though and I’m looking forward to spending the whole night on May 6 drinking Red Bull and coffee whilst tweeting from central London…

Heading down South

I’m back on the train network again today, this time heading south from London to Southampton, on the Hampshire coast. I’m blogging again for the Department for Children, Schools, and Families – on their FutureStory project.

If you haven’t read any of my earlier blog posts about FutureStory, it’s a programme that aims to help young people understand globalisation. What it really means to them and their future. What it means for their home and community. And what it means for companies that are located near to where they live.

This time is particularly interesting for me because I grew up in Hampshire. Though I was actually born in Frimley, Surrey, I lived in Hampshire (just over the border from Frimley) until I bought my first home in London when I was 22.

FutureStory is delivered by the Talent and Enterprise Taskforce, in collaboration with the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, who selected the cities. The delivery partner, Centre for Cities, is an independent think-tank focused on economic trends in cities/city-regions around the UK. The Talent and Enterprise Taskforce is a cross-government Taskforce chaired by the Prime Minister. It was established in 2007 to engage with influential networks and organisations to raise the profile of talent and skills as a key source of competitiveness in the global age.

Lucy Parker chairs the Talent and Enterprise Taskforce and she will be speaking about FutureStory during the event today in Southampton. I’m hoping to capture her on video giving a summary of why it’s important, and who she is hoping to influence.

The short story is that FutureStory aims to promote a wider understanding of how globalisation is changing everyday lives and jobs for the future in an increasingly competitive global economy.

It aims to provide a narrative to help frame and stimulate a broader, more positive and forward looking debate about the strategic direction and success of the UK’s cities and regions when facing the realities of the global economy.

And more particularly:

  • To create a national framework for discussions around globalisation in the wider context of the Government’s narrative of growth, optimism and the economy.
  • To engage local planners, policy makers and stakeholders in creating development strategies for their towns and cities which take them beyond planning and regeneration, and towards thriving in the global economy.
  • To create a narrative for globalisation that makes it meaningful to people by telling the story through tangible examples close-to-home.

I’m going to be taking part in a debate about FutureStory today. Perhaps I should have worn a suit(!) Still, I have a couple of copies of ‘Who Moved my Job?’ with me and that book is written on exactly the same themes as this project, which is possibly why I am so interested in helping this to work. More later, once I capture a few videos of the action today.