The curse of Wales

Bloggers are in self-congratulatory mood as Peter Hain is dispatched, but is the “Welsh Cabinet curs

In the week Peter Hain finally fell on his sword, Iain Dale salutes his fellow blogfather, Guido Fawkes, for breaking and persisting with the funding scandal story: “Bloggers do not exist to get political scalps. But when a blogger reveals possible law breaking and drives the media debate, as Guido has done, let’s recognise that as a good thing and give him the credit he is due.”

Dale was joined in his blog back slapping by scores of posters on Guido’s blog.

Reflecting on Guido's self-congratulation, Cicero revisits the blog v mainstream media debate. Somewhat stoically, he points out: "Perhaps it is fair to say that people are also recognising the limits of blogs. They do not change the world, they may not be very influential, they are merely a medium."

With William Hill having taken 7-1 that Hain would be out of the cabinet before the end of January, and 2-1 he would be the first to leave the cabinet, plenty of political punters were pleased to see the back of him, according to Political Betting. Five-to-one to see him return by the end of 2008 anyone?

Expecting a heady sense of panic in Westminster, Benedict Borgan is surprised to find: "The MPs, Cabinet ministers, junior ministers and political advisers I've spoken to all afternoon report the same thing: regret for Mr Hain, a sense of inevitability about his departure, and confidence in Mr Brown’s integrity. The political markets seem to have discounted this event."

Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray takes a nostalgic look back at the anti-apartheid campaigner who inspired him. While, Paul Flynn MP makes a case for Hain’s defence. This is derided by Nich Starling.

Mirror hack James Lyons expands on what he terms the "Welsh Cabinet curse". Where once Ron Davies fell foul of Clapham Common, read Hain of Scotland Yard. Maguire also reveals: “Now [Hain’s successor as Wales secretary Paul] Murphy is being tipped to head a new department for regions and nations when Gordon Brown carries out a full reshuffle in the summer.”

The cutest line of the day comes from David Lindsay: “We all know that [Hain] stands no chance of being prosecuted. But just to be certain, he should now call for the police to be paid in full.”

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.