There’s a new YouGov study out showing that Labour and the Tories are now running neck and neck….on being old and tired. To be precise, two-thirds of Brit voters now think the major alternatives are ‘old and tired’ in one incarnation or another. With so much still to play for, there’s every chance that by 2015, all three will be seen as knackered.

Which is why the UKIP result at the Feltham By-Election was so disappointing for its supporters. Here we are with a full spectrum of plonkers at Westminster, and nasty foreign persons hoping that being rude about us will disguise the reality of the EU drifting towards the biggest default disaster in recorded history. But the Party alleged to stand for an Independent Britain free from the expensive clutches of Europe gets just….5.5% of the vote in a by-election.

Look at the total turnout, and you will note that the two-thirds who think the big boys are old and tired, understandably, didn’t bother to vote. But to poll fewer votes than the LibDems – a Party which garnered just 675 votes in its last outing – is a disgraceful result for any organisation aspiring to represent a silent mainstream of British feeling.

Almost three in four didn’t vote. If UKIP wants to make real progress, these are the people it has to target at by-elections. Party insiders still insist to me that Farage’s campaigning and canvassing systems are seriously Mickey Mouse. Having seen them in action during last year’s Bercow in Bucks disaster, I believe them.


As predicted confidently here during the week, France’s credit outlook was lowered by Fitch Ratings, citing Europe’s failure to find a “comprehensive solution” to the debt crisis. Belgium – a country 75% dependent on EU admin for its gdp – was lowered two notches, approximately three too few. Next week we should expect S&P to follow suit. Fitch described a solution to the eurozone’s debt problems as ‘beyond reach’, which must come as a disappointment to the 99% of eurocrats who think it’ll all blow over by Christmas.

David Cameron’s botched attempt to split France and Germany by vetoing the idea of a new Treaty may have derived from a chilly lunch he had with Angela Merkel during November, in which Cammers gained the distinct impression that the German Chancellor would be quite happy to give the Brits their own way on financial (ie, City) matters. This is the FT’s version of events, but I don’t buy it.

The Slog’s German sources continue to insist that Schauble and Sarkozy separately convinced Merkel following the lunch that the British were trouble, and should be slapped hard. (At this point, Schauble, Sarkozy and Brussels were still hatching The Big Idea to forgive both silly lending and even sillier borrowing).

Nearer the truth (for me) is that Angela Merkel has an aim in mind – to stop lazy ClubMeds and greedy banks from getting their hands on any more German bailout money – but beyond this, she is quietly enjoying her ability to make others jump. During the lunch, when Cameron at one stage asked what the French view would be, the Fuhrerine replied (without looking up) “Nicolas will agree”. She wasn’t specific about what he’d agree to, because she didn’t feel it mattered.

She is wrong about this, as Frau Doktor Merkel is wrong about many things. I very much doubt if, when push comes to shove, either the Dutch or the French will agree to having unelected pointy-heads in Brussels making fiscal decisions for them. During the same lunch, she apparently confessed to finding UK politics “mystifying”. Given we’re her third biggest trading partner, such ignorance is shocking….although roughly on a par with the FCO’s grasp of European and wider geopolitics.

In many ways, I admire Mrs Merkel: anyone keen to tell the banks to go f**k themselves is fine by me. But in hoping for this – and pressing Prussian financial morality onto latin States – she is a degree in anthropology short of an answer. Unless someone stops Berlin – and soon – it will drag the entire EU down into the vortex with it. That’s also fine by me, but both the UK in particular – and 300 million citizens across the continent – will suffer unnecessarily.


On November 30th this year, people acting for Peter Hain issued the following intriguing press release:

‘Earlier today Peter Hain met with Metropolitan police officers leading Operation Tuleta regarding an investigation into the alleged hacking of his official and personal computers during his time as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I can confirm that Mr Hain has instructed the lawyer Charlotte Harris of Mishcon de Reya to act on his behalf.’

I understand that veteran Newscorp-basher Tom Watson is especially interested in this development: but word reaches me that it may not be as clearcut a case of pc blagging as he hopes.

Hain was indeed being hacked and blagged during his period as Northern Ireland Secretary after 2005. He’s been aware of this for some time, and a fortnight ago had a meeting with Met Plod to discuss what had been going on. Since then he has remained silent on the matter.

Hain resigned as NI Minister on 24th January 2008. He was forced to as a result of information coming to light about him ‘forgetting’ to disclose £100,000 in campaign contributions. I understand this discovery entered the public domain as a direct result of his personal laptop being blagged. The question is, who did it originally – and why?

‘Originally’ is the operative word there. The UK’s security services have never been that keen on Peter Hain. Some elements in both MI5 and 6 remember not just his support for ANC violence, but also his previously strong views about a united Ireland…since of course changed, so that he could carry on up the greasy poll. Hain’s career as a whole has been one long sellout.

When it comes to Irish affairs, there remains the murky question of relations between one Andy Coulson at the News of the World, officers in the security services, and anti-terrorist senior Met Plod Andy Hayman. It remains very unclear indeed as to how Mr Coulson gained access to the numbers of certain security services phones – if indeed he did, as many people allege off the record. What is now accepted by all sides is that at least two senior intelligence officers operating in Northern Ireland at the time of Hain’s NI Secretaryship had their phones hacked.

This is going to give Tom Watson (a man for whom I have a lot of time, by the way) something of a moral dilemma. I’m told Mr Watson holds some dynamite information about this matter, but that both the Labour Party’s spin operation at the time, and of course the Metropolitan Police Force, would be severely embarrassed if the identities of the ‘agents of information’ about Peter Hain’s contribution records on his pc came to light.

It will be interesting to see whether this investigation will lead anywhere. My money is on nowhere. Hain himself, you will recall, did have Plod looking seriously at his alleged electoral fraud for a while. But that too fizzled out unconvincingly. On 3 July 2008, the Metropolitan Police announced that they had referred Peter Hain’s case to the CPS. On 5 December 2008 the CPS announced that the onetime anti-apartheid firebrand would not be charged, because Hain did not control the members’ association Hain4Labour that funded his campaign.

Makes you wonder why he didn’t have any control over an organisation promoting his bid for the Labour Deputy Leadership, but there we are. Plod moves in mysterious ways.