Friday, 1 May 2009

When you're in a hole....

One surreal week. Having managed to lose a vote on an opposition day debate (the first time a Government has managed that in 30 years) it was perhaps no surprise that Ministers ducked a confrontation on the issue of MPs' second homes.

It was a week, more than any other, when Gordon Brown was compared to John Major, with memories of Norman Lamont's "in office, but not in power" jibe stirred up by the self-inflicted wounds suffered by the current Prime Minister.

It would not be a total shock to discover Gordon Brown tucks his shirt into his underpants. The moment when the Speaker called the PM to make a statement, only for Mr Brown to try to leave the chamber, will be replayed as often on YouTube as last week's statement on expenses delivered to camera with occasional smiles.

The PM may hail the biggest changes to parliamentary expenses in 25 years, but that will count for nothing if some of the receipts to be issued in July are as incriminating as some MPs fear. The most controversial issue - the way MPs are compensated for having to live and work in two places - has not gone away.

Out in the real world, where voters are worried about swine flu and making ends meet, this week's economic news was not universally bleak, with mixed news about house prices and jobs.

It was pretty bleak if you're one of those being made redundant by JCB in Wrexham. Today's FT points out that the company's boss had called for wage subsidies but rejected direct help from the Welsh Assembly Government.

JCB say it couldn't make the WAG scheme work for them. No news yet on whether the company's latest cuts will make it unable to continue to provide helicopter and private plane travel for David Cameron.

One JCB employee appears to have survived the cull. Shadow Foreign Secretary (and former Secretary of State for Wales) William Hague is paid between £45,000-£50,000 as its parliamentary adviser, according to the Commons Register of Members' Interests.

Thanks to last night's Commons votes, we'll soon know precisely how much Mr Hague earns from JCB and what he does for it.

But when it comes to parliamentary advice you don't need a JCB driving licence to know that when you're in a hole, stop digging.

Today's newspapers report yet more disquiet among past and present Ministers about Gordon Brown's leadership.

But on current form, were Mr Brown to be handed the traditional whisky and pearl-handled revolver the only certain outcome would be a bullet in the metatarsal.

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