By Matthew Barrett
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The annual newspaper index report by Hanover Communications into media coverage of MPs shows that 12 of the top 20 most-mentioned politicians are Conservatives. The index, which measures newspaper coverage over the last year, shows few Labour frontbenchers have media profiles, with only Ed Balls and Ed Miliband featuring in the list.
I list below the top twenty politicians and the number of mentions they received:
By Matthew Barrett
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Below are the winners of the different categories of the Spectator's Parliamentarian of the Year awards, which were held this afternoon.
Three names especially strike me: Jesse Norman, Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May.
Jesse Norman deserves relentless praise for his defence of our constitution against the offensive, mandate-lacking desire of some in the Coalition to see the House of Lords destroyed. But Mr Norman is far from being a mere skilled rebel. He is a serious economic and philosophical thinker, and a remarkable talent on the backbenches. His award is richly deserved.
By Peter Hoskin
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The first featured Michael Gove, and can be watched in its entirety here. The Education Secretary repeated the main points from his Today Programme interview this morning: that he will not intervene in the GCSE marking row as it is a matter for the exams regulator Ofqual, and that he and the government will soon announce their GCSE reform plans, presumably designed to make the exams more rigorous.
The second came after Nick Clegg’s statement about Lords reform, in which the Deputy Prime Minister confirmed — as if confirmation were needed — that the Coalition’s plans for the second chamber are no more. Some Tory MPs cheered as Mr Clegg grumbled through his lines, seemingly delighted at his discomfort. “'I can confirm that the Government has today withdrawn that Bill,” he said, “about which I am not as happy as members behind me are.”
But there was anger, as well as merriment, from the Tory benches — for, after his original statement, Mr Clegg reaffirmed his intention to vote down the boundary changes, claiming once again that they were wrapped up in the same policy package as Lords reform. “Nothing will change my mind,” he added for emphasis, even though there remains speculation that something eventually might.
It was around this point that Eleanor Laing cited Mr Clegg’s previous words on the matter:
“The Deputy Prime Minister has confirmed that on 6 August, he said that, the House of Lords Reform Bill having been withdrawn, his party would no longer support the boundaries legislation. Does he recall that on 19 April, in answer to my questions, he told the Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform that there was ‘no link’ between the two issues? Does he accept that he cannot have been telling the truth on both occasions?”
Soon after, Jacob Rees Mogg asked a question that began in tongue-in-cheek but ended with a rasp:
“May I commend the Deputy Prime Minister on his remarkable statesmanship with regard to the boundary changes? He will be pleased to know that the commission was proposing a North East Somerset that would have been a safe Lib Dem seat, so I am in with a sporting chance of being back after the next election. However, now that he has said that Lib Dem Ministers will vote against Government policy, I wonder what his definition of collective responsibility is within a coalition Government.”
And, before them both, Bernard Jenkin had implied that Mr Clegg’s actions were a “disgrace”:
“My right hon. Friend should comfort himself: he gave it his best shot, with all his sincerity, and we respect him for that. May I draw his attention to the fact that the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 remains in force? Therefore, the boundary commissions remain under a duty to make proposals on a House of 600 Members. Does he have the power to instruct them to stop? No, he does not. Is he therefore not simply going to obstruct a constitutional process for his own party political advantage, which is a disgrace?”
What was particularly striking, apart from these Tory attacks, was the ferocity of the Deputy Prime Minister’s attacks against Labour. At one point he described them as “miserable little party point-scoring politicians,” which will do nothing to invalidate the idea that he could never take his party into Coalition with Miliband & Co. (or, more accurately perhaps, his party could never take him into Coalition with Miliband & Co.).
So, first day back for Nick Clegg, and he already seems to be antagonising MPs on all sides. He’s really only safe in the Cabinet Office now.
By Tim Montgomerie
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"The Conservative Party is not honouring the commitment to Lords reform and, as a result, part of our contract has now been broken... I have told the prime minister that when, in due course, parliament votes on boundary changes for the 2015 election I will be instructing my party to oppose them."
Nick Clegg answering a question from Tory MP Eleanor Laing on 19th April this year (Q179):
"Is it the case that the reports that your party’s support for further progress on boundaries legislation is dependent upon progress on House of Lords reform legislation are wrong?"
Nick Clegg (my emphasis):
"Of course, there is no reliance on our support for a Coalition Agreement commitment for progress on unrelated or other significant parallel constitutional formations. I have said that. There is no link; of course, there is no link."
There is a word for that. Every student in Britain who remembers Nick Clegg's pre-election promises on tuition fees will know what it is. A three letter word. Yet another Liberal Democrat porky pie.
By Jonathan Isaby
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I think it's fair to conclude that the scepticism about meddling with the composition of the second chamber exhibited yesterday from the Tory backbenches is representative of widespread opposition within the parliamentary party.
Here's a selection of the exchanges:
Mel Stride: Given the country’s firm rejection of AV in the recent referendum and the fact that the Government’s proposals include the possibility of some form of proportional representation for election of Members of this Parliament, will my right hon. Friend at least consider giving the people of this country a referendum on this important constitutional change?
The Deputy Prime Minister: The first point of which to remind my hon. Friend is that this was a manifesto commitment of all three parties. It is something that we as a country have been discussing for around 100 years or so, and we have introduced changed electoral systems to a number of Assemblies and Parliaments in the UK without referendums in the past.
At the recent Spectator Awards Nick Clegg joked that he rivalled Lord Mandelson as the figure most hated by Labour MPs and activists. Deputy PMQs - held again yesterday - is always interesting to watch. Perhaps because so many Labour MPs feel betrayed by a party they saw as their natural ally, they launch much more anger towards the Deputy Prime Minister than they do towards David Cameron. Clegg gives back as good as he gets, however. He also appears philosophically very distant from Labour (see his last answer below). I can easily see a LibLab pact after the next General Election but it's harder to envisage a CleggLab pact.
The cold text doesn't quite capture the emotional anger of it all but pasted below are Mr Clegg's critiques of Labour attacks yesterday - some volunteered to Tory MPs.
"In Europe and elsewhere the idea of two parties compromising with each other in the national interest is considered to be a good thing. Only backward-looking Opposition Members regard every compromise as a betrayal."
To Harriet Harman... "For weeks now Opposition Members have refused to tell the House, or the students demonstrating outside, what their policy is. Is it a blank sheet of paper?"
By Tim Montgomerie
Over the last 48 hours - on LeftWatch - I've been documenting the zero to 100mph rhetorical overkill of Labour MPs and left-wing commentators. The infection spread to Labour's frontbench yesterday when the always partisan Chris Bryant put this question to Nick Clegg at Deputy PM's Question Time:
"It is estimated that 200,000 people will be forced out of major metropolitan areas as a result of the Government's niggardly proposals on welfare reform, which will turn London into Paris, with the poor consigned to the outer ring. That is the equivalent of three parliamentary constituencies, according to the Deputy Prime Minister's desiccated calculating machine of a Bill. Would it not be iniquitous if, on top of being socially engineered and sociologically cleansed out of London, the poor were also disfranchised by his Bill? How does he propose to make electoral provision for those displaced people?"
"We all indulge in a bit of hyperbole, but I have to say to the hon. Gentleman quite seriously that to refer to "cleansing" will be deeply offensive to people who have witnessed ethnic cleansing in other parts of the world."
He then went on to calmly explain why Coalition changes to housing benefits policy were justifiable:
"We are saying that it is perfectly reasonable for the Government to say that they will not hand out more in housing benefit than those who go out to work, pay their taxes and play by the rules would pay when looking for housing themselves. We are simply suggesting that there should be a cap for family homes with four bedrooms of £400 a week. That is £21,000 a year. Does the hon. Gentleman really think it is wrong that the state should not subsidise people to the tune of more than £21,000, when people cannot afford to live privately in those areas? I do not think so."
During DPMQs Mr Clegg also confirmed the Coalition's intention to deliver equally-sized seats:
Tory MP Gareth Johnson asked: "Does the Deputy Prime Minister agree that it is vital to have constituencies in which all votes carry equal weight, in order to restore public trust in our democratic process?"
Nick Clegg replied, taunting Labour with the history of the Chartists: "I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. It is one of the founding principles of any democracy that votes should be valued in the same way, wherever they are cast. Over the years, all sorts of anomalies have developed, such that different people's votes are simply not worth the same in elections to this place. That surely cannot be right, and it is worth reminding those Opposition Members who object to the rationale that it was one of the founding tenets of the Chartists-one of the predecessor movements to the Labour party-that all votes should be of equal value."
Mr Clegg also defended his party's u-turn on tuition fees from a Glasgow Labour MP:
Anas Sarwar: "During the election campaign, the Deputy Prime Minister said: "We will resist, vote against, campaign against, any lifting of that cap" on tuition fees. Will he take this opportunity to apologise to the hundreds of thousands of students and families whom he has betrayed since becoming a Tory?"
The Deputy Prime Minister: "Of course I regret - who would not regret? - making a promise and signing a pledge, as happened in this case, that we have now found that we are unable to keep. Of course I wish that the proposal for a graduate tax put forward now by the hon. Gentleman's leader, which comes from a party that introduced tuition fees having previously said that it would not do so, would work and that it was an alternative that we could implement. We looked at it very carefully-it has also been proposed by the National Union of Students-but it is not workable and it is not fair. What we will be doing shortly, when we come forward with our response to the Browne report, is install new measures that will ensure that the way in which students go to university is fairer and less punitive on those who are disadvantaged than the system that we inherited from the Labour party."