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January 2009

'It would not happen if it was a football match' an irritated fellow Labour MP told me in the Lobby. 

Two minutes into Obama's speech, the division bell rang and we were all dragged from the mesmerising television pictures to vote in the Commons Chamber.  The whips decided these things and their timing stank today.


I was watching the inauguration in the Commons Jubilee Room. The first black woman Minister Dawn Butler had arranged a party for her mostly black and Asian, Brent constituents. It was a glorious romp of an afternoon. We were treated with pictures on a giant TV screen.

After the vote I watched the rest of the speech from a packed Members' Tea Room. The annunciators that inform us what's happening in the Chamber were all tuned in to CNN. There were gasps of admiration for Obama's low key, expectations-lowering speech. He seemed to have adopted the preacher's cadences of Martin Luther King in his delivery.

Dennis Skinner tried to cool my ardour. He said  'Tony Blair once had an approval rating of 90%' That was after his People's Princess, quivering lower lip tribute. But he wasn't black with Hussein as a middle name. Cheer up, Dennis

This has been a deeply satisfying day.


I gave a great whoop of joy when I saw Obama announce his first executive orders.

Only a fortnight ago, the Public Administration Committee (PASC) produced a tough report on Lobbying. The PR industry was knocked sideways. They are still reeling.

Obama-dayInstead of the expected soft compromise PASC produced a demand for root and branch reform. We looked at lobbying in America and were horrified. They are immensely powerful. I told a group of them that we meet that I advised MPs in book on the Commons how to deal with letters from Lobbyists - 'file them in a box marked 'Parasites.'' We took alarming testimony of the wiles of American lobbyists. 

One of Obama's first executive orders is to ban any member of the Bush administration from lobbying their old departments. This will devalue the use of their contact books or links with old pals. It will blunt the corrupting power of an army of former Bush groupies. The order mirrors PASC's call for ban on former Ministers rushing through the revolving doors back into their old departments as born-again lobbyists. 

Obama wants a clean break from 'business as usual'. Lobbying is the sleazy lubricant of Washington. There will stunned lobbyists on the hill fretting about their now useless skills.