Monday, 21 May 2007
My week begins mundanely with a news conference by the Leader of the Opposition in the St Stephen’s Club. It is very much a Tory venue, but David Cameron’s Prime Ministerial-style appearance goes off at half-cock. He wants to talk about why Tony Blair should quit immediately to save the NHS, but we want to ask him about Conservative splits over grammar schools. To my satisfaction, a Guardian poll later in the week confirms the notion I put to him: most people (55 per cent) aren’t bothered, and are content to let Blair go in his own time.
Tuesday, 22 May 2007
This summer term in Parliament has prematurely fallen into Dog Days lassitude. Such ministers as Patricia Hewitt, John Reid and Ruth Kelly are ‘flailing around'(as Blair might put it) while cherished policies crash and burn. But then the assumption is they’ll be wiped away anyway when Gordon Brown comes in.
I play truant to chair a breakfast meeting of the corporate social responsibility group. CSR is the new HR. Once a disregarded backwater of business, many bosses now believe behaving as ‘a responsible corporate citizen’is essential to the ‘sustainability’of their businesses. That’s the view of the keynote speaker Paul Skinner, chairman of Rio Tinto. Not so long ago, the then Rio Tinto-Zinc was a notorious mineral extractive company; these days it sponsors Kew Gardens to advise on biodiversity.
Wednesday, 23 May 2007
After a quarter of a century as a member, I’m this year’s chairman of the Parliamentary Lobby. In spite of its sinister reputation, the Lobby is not an old boys’ network in which politicians and hacks conspire to ‘keep it under their hats”. We rarely hear secrets and, if we do, the public is informed pretty soon afterwards.
In practice, it is the main interface between political journalists, the Government and parliamentary institutions. Our privileges are granted by the Speaker and the Serjeant at Arms, not 10 Downing Street – an important safeguard during the bumpy Blair decade. Blair and Alastair Campbell unilaterally trashed the way Government had interacted with political journalists. Brown is bound to have ideas of his own.
We also have to deal with the rise of the blogger. Iain Dale, Guido Fawkes et al want Lobby passes. But do they want to operate as journalists or gossip columnists? It’s up to the Serjeant at Arms whether to let them in.
Thursday, 24 May 2007
The Hay Festival. ‘Greenprint’is a long afternoon of environmental debate. More CSR from Sky and the Guardian. From designer Katharine Hamnett to Zach Goldsmith, there came predictably low marks all round for the Government’s go-nuclear energy White Paper. Then a surprise: a German professor proposes a solution to the world’s energy and climate change problems. CSP – concentrated solar power – would harvest the sun’s heat in deserts, satisfying our power needs without CO2 emissions. Everyone leaves wondering what the catch is.
Commenting, flatteringly, on my workrate, TV critic Victor Lewis-Smith once referred to ‘the Boulton twins”. Now it’s come true. I’ve been cloned. At Hay, Sky News is launching its online presence in ‘Second Life”. My Sunday Live programme is being simulcast in the alternative world inhabited by six million people and rising, complete with an ‘avatar’of me. I resisted the temptation to grow wings and rebrand as ‘SkyStarNewsHawk”.