06 July 2012
The Weekly WHIP: 6 July 2012
Osborne v Balls
In the last throws of parliamentary theatre before the house breaks for the summer, spectators were gifted a contest with all the aggression of the coliseum as George Osborne and Ed Balls faced off from the despatch box. Recriminations flew in all directions, were repeated in this week's Spectator, and debated ad infinitum on Question Time.
Following last week's revelations about Barclays Bank and their habits of fixing the LIBOR rate to borrow at a more favourable rate, both parties insisted upon an inquiry to get to the bottom of what went wrong. But there are inquiries and there are inquiries. Labour favoured a judge-led independent inquisition, in the model of the Leveson Inquiry into the press, whereas the government proposed a joint committee of both houses of parliament.
Andrew Tyrie, the proposed chair of this committee, insisted he would only take the role if it had cross party support. During the debate this looked far from likely, but following a vote the government won the day and Labour agreed to cooperate.
David Cameron is engaged in his own gladiatorial struggle, but this time with the soul of his own party. At the end of last week 100 Conservative MPs called on the Prime Minister to commit to holding a referendum on Britain's relationship with the EU.
Having resisted such calls in the past, particularly slithering loose of the "cast iron guarantee" he offered ahead of the election, Cameron tried to appease his backbenchers by indicating he was open to the idea, but not now, and only when a clear deal on the table to vote on.
The Times may not quite have reached the point of claiming that black is white but they are quite willing to publish inaccurate information (£). In the week that Lord Falconer published a private member's bill seeking to introduce assisted suicide he told The Times that the British Medical Association (BMA) had changed their position on the issue from opposed to neutral. Whereas in the real world the BMA voted to maintain (£) their opposition to any change in the law.
Reports this week suggested that equality legislation places severe restrictions on how landlords can market their properties and rooms. You might have thought that signs stating 'Whites only' are a thing of the past (they're not), but it is fairly common to see ads appealing for someone of the same religion or gender to share your flat. But apparently these now transgress the law. The WHIP wonders, if asking if a potential buddy has a GSOH is also beyond the pail?
The WHIP also picked up this week that foreign diplomats are dodging the congestion charge in London. Perhaps the British government should take a leaf out of President Bartlett's book in dealing with diplomatic deviants. Slightly ironic given the US have raked up £6million in unpaid charges.