The Weekly WHIP: 20 April 2012
Boris Johnson and his chief rivals for London mayor appeared before several hundred Christians at the latest hustings before the vote on 3 May. They were challenged to explain how they’d tackle economic inequality, improve relations with churches and all agreed that betting shops are too often a blight on the high street. However, the most serious grilling was reserved for the chair, George Pitcher who was attacked from the floor (somewhat unfairly as the decision was not his), for undermining democracy because not all the candidates were allowed on the panel.
With just two weeks to go until elections take place across the country it’s possible that before too long many other parts of the country will also be choosing mayors to run their cities. Liverpool and Salford are ahead of the game, voting for their leader along with London. Eleven other cities are holding referendums and if they opt for mayors, will elect them in November.
During the mayoral hustings, Brian Paddick talked about his journey from doubt to belief like Thomas as he read the gospel of John. Boris Johnson’s scriptural references were slightly more light hearted, pivoting from quoting Psalm 14, to suggesting that it was neither fear of God nor man that gripped him but fear of his wife.
Labour candidate Ken Livingstone rejected polls showing him losing to Boris. Speaking to the Evening Standard he was on bullish form, suggesting a win is possible despite trailing the mayor. His popularity took a hit when Lord Sugar, a Labour Peer, declared that he would not be supporting Ken for London Mayor.
On top of granny tax, pasty tax, charity tax, the latest tagged tax to threaten the government after their budget last month is the heritage tax, or at that’s how it was tagged by the church mouse. This means that churches could be hit by a double whammy, with their major donors put off by the scrapping of tax relief on big donations, and having to pay VAT on alterations to listed buildings.
The government saw a tight parliamentary vote to get through most of the proposed changes to the tax regime, even though some Conservative MPs rebelled against their party to protect the pasty from extra taxation.
Prime Minister, David Cameron, ruffled a few feathers at PMQs this week after calling on one of his own MPs to develop a sense of humour. Douglas Carswell questioned the Prime Minster during the weekly bout, over when he came to view Yes Minster as true to life, and implicitly questioned whether this included the Sir Humphrey factor of civil servants standing in the way of reform. Several Conservative MPs rallied to Carswell’s defence. Prominent commentator and former MP Paul Goodman warned Cameron against further antagonising right wing MPs.
Is Big Ben to become Elizabeth Tower?
On Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee one of the towers of the Houses of Parliament was renamed the Victoria Tower. A petition signed by MPs is now calling for the tower housing Big Ben to be renamed in honour of our current monarch. While popularly known as Big Ben, the name actually just refers to the bell. In parliament this week Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey said that the final decision would have to lie with Queen Elizabeth II herself.