Alan Johnson considering standing down to force by-election over PR

From the Telegraph:

Alan Johnson, Labour’s “lost leader”, is considering standing down from his Westminster seat and fighting a by-election on the issue of proportional representation, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.

…Mr Johnson, who was the favoured candidate of many Labour MPs to replace Gordon Brown as prime minister, has always been a passionate advocate of electoral reform.

If he fought, and won, a by-election on the issue in his seat of Hull West and Hessle – next door to Mr Davis’s seat – it would put him in prime position to play a leading role in a referendum campaign to change the way all MPs are elected.

…Sources close to Mr Johnson said a “dramatic statement” on electoral reform remained a “real possibility” for the former home secretary.

NOTW: 'Lord Ashcroft writing a book which will accuse Cameron of being the worst Tory leader for decades'

The News of the World reports that Lord Ashcroft is writing a book which will tear into David Cameron over the 2010 election campaign:

Friends say he will accuse the Prime Minister of being the worst leader for decades – and will blame him for throwing away a 20 point lead in the Polls.
One told the News of the World: “We may have a Conservative Prime Minister, but Lord Ashcroft believes the election campaign was a disaster and that the blame lies with David Cameron and his coterie of advisers.”

The one real star in the Labour leadership race

On both “Any Questions” and “Question Time” it was reported as accepted fact that the Labour leadership contest was artificially rigged by David Miliband so that Diane Abbott got her name on the ballot paper. So, they reckoned that David Miliband, by giving Diane Abbott his nomination, got her onto the ballot artifically. Positive discrimination, in other words, it was reckoned in those programmes.

What nonsense! As of Tuesday night, Diane Abbott had 11 nominations. You need 30 to get on the ballot paper. So David Miliband’s nomination made 12. So Abbott was still 18 nominations short even with Miliband’s nomination. (See timeline of events here on Andrew Sparrow’s diary)

It was the withdrawal of John Mc’Donnell on Wednesday morning, specifically done to “secure a woman on the ballot paper” that freed up his 16 nominations to go, presumably, to Abbott (given that McDonnell and Abbott were seen as the only two left-wingers putting their names forward).

So it was John McDonnell’s withdrawal which substantially led to Abbott’s name on the ballot paper, not Miliband’s vote.

And I would say that O’Donnell’s withdrawal was a totally valid thing to do, given the way the vote was being split by numerous candidates in the ring.

Diane Abbott, for my money, is the most qualified person to be in that leadership race. She has been consistent on her principles for many years, is articulate and entertaining, and has experience as long as your arm, including having worked in the civil service.

It is the other lot, the four sixth form prefects in the race, that are the unqualified ones. They’ve barely cut their teeth in high ranking politics and there is more than a little too much principle-free ambition coursing through their veins. I’m thinking particularly of Ed Balls, whose appalling attempt to capture the Alf Garnett vote last week was a spine-chilling example of outrageous political ambition over-riding decent principles.

'Tiresome', 'boring tripe' of tributes to fallen soldiers at PMQs

-Those words in inverted commas were from a commenter called “Jez” writing below my write-up of Prime Minister’s Questions on Liberal Democrat Voice this week:

There must have been 5 minutes of time used up this PMQs by various MPs banging on about who’d died in Afghanistan this week and how much they respected our ‘heroes’.

Look, I get it. We have a brave army fighting in Afghanistan, and war means that a few people will die every week. But this has gotten so tiresome that I’d like to propose that they hold a 10 minute military worship session before PMQs, so I can then watch PMQs without having this boring tripe mixed in.

I’m perfectly aware of what the military does, and I fail to see why their weekly work should get constant time spent on it every PMQs instead of people actually asking something of the PM. No wodner they want shorter questions – they need more time to opine about the damn military.

While it does seem sometimes that MPs go into “tribute overkill” mode at Prime Minister’s Questions, if someone is willing to die for me (and the rest of the country) I am willing to listen to a tribute to them at PMQs.

We ought to split out cause and effect. The root cause of the tributes is that we’re at war in Afghanistan and losing lots of our soldiers.I think it’s right that we’re reminded of that. If you compare the situation with, say, the 1980s, joining the army, particularly in a Scottish regiment, did not involve the risk it does now. I had a friend who was in the army at that time. The highlights of his career were guarding body parts at Lockerbie (sorry – a lowlight) and dancing with Ladies in Waiting at Balmoral. Being in a Scottish regiment, the IRA gave them a relatively free ride when they went to Northern Ireland (once they were replaced by the Royal Greenjackets and 12 soldiers died in a few weeks as soon as the handover occurred).

So, the root cause of the military tributes at PMQs is the awful fact that we are, unusually for a general time of “peace”, losing a lot of our soldiers, and I for one am happy to sit through tributes to serve as a reminder of this.

I would be uncomfortable if such tributes were restricted to the military. But they aren’t. When two firefighters died in Southampton, there were tributes to them at PMQs. And there was a minute’s silence for the Cumbrian victims yesterday. It is a general tribute convention and perhaps you could say that you either have no tributes or lots of tributes.