Westminster Times
Westminster Times

Lord Freud's supporters have started rallying around, pointing out his remarks about the minimum wage have ensured the issue of some disabled people having trouble finding work is finally being talked about. There has even been a bit of a backlash in his favour.

Which seems to miss two central points. First there are no circumstances under which suggesting any disabled person is "not worth" the minimum wage can be deemed acceptable. It was offensive and he knows it.

But apart from the verbal gaffe (to put it in the most favourable light) is the fact the minister undermined the very basis of the minimum wage, which is to ensure unscrupulous employers don't exploit workers, particularly those desperate to find jobs.

The simple principle is, if an individual is capable of working at all, then they should be paid a minimum hourly rate for their labour. Anything less would be exploitation.

If employers think there should be different levels of pay based on some subjective level of productivity, then they should increase the hourly rate for those they deem more "worthy".

As for the notion that "the market" cannot bear it, that is simply to repeat the sort of nonsense that greeted the introduction of the minimum wage in the first place.

Gordon Brown
Brown could tackle SNPReuters

The comeback kids

With Gordon Brown credited with having saved the Union and Ed Miliband's detractors trying to shame Alan Johnson into offering his services to the party, there is any amount of Westminster speculation about whether these big beasts will return to the front line.

Brown may well be re-writing his legacy with some powerful and passionate interventions in the devolution debate.

And Johnson's name is certainly on the lips of many Labour MPs looking for someone to lift their poll ratings above the "scraping by" level.

The obvious moves would be to see Brown becoming leader of the party in Scotland where he could take on the impressive, Labour-threatening new SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon.

While Johnson would be the perfect "minister for the Today programme" charged with representing Miliband in the media and presenting a more "ordinary" (in a good way) face to voters who think most MPs come from another dimension.

But suggestions they may be on the verge of some sort of comeback are met with a distinct lack of enthusiasm by Labour sources.

Brown is seen as too much of a gift to the Tories while Johnson's oft-repeated lack of ambition, once seen as a bonus, is starting to become a bit self-defeating.

Quote of the week

Former Labour minister Lord Hattersley on the BBC's Daily Politics when referring to the Blair government: "Nobody saw them as a proper Labour government, Blair's years weren't a proper Labour government".

I remember when it was Hattersley and his supporters who were reckoned not to be "real Labour". How the centre of gravity has changed.

Best joke of the week

Danny Dyer
East Enders actor met Miliband at awards ceremonyGetty

Ed Miliband rose in question time and apologised for having a sore throat and rasping voice.

To which Cameron gracefully (?) replied: "I am sure the whole house will want his sore throat to get better soon. I hope that, if he gets a doctor's appointment, he will not forget it. He must make sure he turns up on time."

Silly. Miliband knew that sort of reference to his party conference speech was bound to come and had a great retort.

"(He) obviously noticed that I lost a couple of paragraphs in my speech. I have noticed that since we last met he has lost a couple of his members of parliament."

Geek of the week

Ed Miliband found himself in small talk with TV hard man and professional East Ender, Danny Dyer at an awards ceremony and started regaling the actor with fan-like details about the soap's cast.

Dyer asked if the Labour leader watched the show and was told: "No, I don't have time any more but I've been doing a lot of research about it online."

Why?

Warning of the week

Former Ukip member, Godfrey "bongo bongo land" Bloom to the party's first MP Douglas Carswell.

"I would say, Douglas, watch your back. If you bear in mind we started in 2009 in Europe with 13 MEPs, we ended up with five, so there are dead bodies all over the place with a knife quivering in their back, Douglas. Make sure it's not yours."