UK Politics

Leave Politicians Told Us Exactly What We'd Be Voting For - It's a Shame Remain Leaders Didn't, But We All Know Why...

19 Feb 2017 at 15:23

The mantra that leading Remain supporters come out with nowadays is that, while “of course” they support the democratic vote on June 23rd, we poor buggers hadn’t got a clue what we were voting for when we voted to Leave. Yes, we voted to leave the EU, but we didn’t know our “destination” because no one had told us what our destination was. This is of course bollocks writ large. Voting to come out of the EU naturally meant leaving the EU and all its associated institutions. We knew we would be leaving the Single Market because we were told this. Not just by the two co-leaders of the Leave campaign, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, but also by Nick Clegg, David Cameron and George Osborne. Don’t believe me? Spend thirty seconds watching this video…

It was clear as night follows day that we’d leave the auspices of the European Court of Justice. If we wanted to negotiate our own bilateral trade deals, by definition we’d need to leave the Customs Union. There was nothing unclear about it. ‘Take Back Control’ meant just that. But politicians like Tony Blair, Tim Farron, Nick Clegg and Peter Mandelson have developed a narrative that the Leave campaign hadn’t told us the truth. It was all lies. And worse than that, they had lied by omission. They didn’t tell us the exact consequences of what leaving would mean. “No one voted to make themselves poorer,” they trill, as if leaving the EU would automatically make us poorer. In actual fact, there is an argument that it’s perfectly logical to vote Leave if sovereignty if more important to you than a percentage point or two onto GDP. Remain leaders by and large take it for granted that leaving the EU must by definition make us poorer, ignoring the fact that they can’t possibly know, any more than I, as a Leave supporter, can 100% guarantee that the opposite is true.

Leading Leave supporters have failed to answer this point. They almost shrug their shoulders as if they don’t care. “We won, so suck it up,” is often the attitude. They don’t even really take on the argument that the £350 million a week “promise” wasn’t in any way a promise. The words on the bus actually said “We send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead.” Now you can argue if you want that this is a promise to spend £350 million extra every week on the NHS, but it didn’t actually say that, did it? “Let’s fund our NHS instead” certainly means more money for the NHS but it doesn’t necessarily mean all of the £350 million would be spent on the NHS. And even if it did, Vote Leave was a campaign, it wasn’t an alternative government. But saying this is, I know, like pissing in the wind. But even if people did take it as a promise, how many people actually voted Leave purely because of this promise. 1%? 2%? Well, given the margin of the final result, maybe it really was that ‘wot won it’. Dominic Cummings certainly thinks so.

But how is this any different to the kinds of pledges and promises made in a general election campaign, which are then later ditched. Student tuition fees, Mr Clegg? To say that we were all gullible and that people voted for all sorts of reasons, including to give David Cameron a kicking, is not only to insult voters, it’s to fail to recognise that people vote in general elections for all sorts of reasons – a lot of them incomprehensible. Some just vote with their gut or their heart. Others study manifestos. Others vote on which party leader they fancy most. believe me, I’ve heard it on the doorstep. Should those people be denied the vote? Is that really what Remain leaders would argue? It just goes to demonstrate why many people now treat mainstream politicians with contempt. It’s in part why Trump won. Political leaders have in large part become an elite, which has lost touch with normal people and their motivations. Don’t believe me? Look at Nick Clegg’s rhetoric at the moment, and then compare it to the language in this leaflet from 2009 when Clegg was an articulate exponent of an In-Out Referendum…

If the LibDems had been successful in pushing the Labour government to hold such a referendum, and then the voters had said OUT, would Clegg then have been arguing what he is now? Trusting the people is something you either believe in or you don’t. If you don’t you go back and ask them again until you are able to scare the voters into giving you the answer you wanted in the first place. Ask the people of Ireland, France or Denmark. Or maybe Scotland.

But that’s all a side issue. Theresa May, David Davis and Boris Johnson need to take on those who argue that we didn’t know the destination when we voted to LEAVE. And they need to throw the argument back on Remainers. Even some ardent Remainers now recognise the Remain campaign was so negative that it put people off. Project Fear was a massive mistake. I remember during the campaign commenting on the fact that there was only one person in Britain Stronger In Europe who was able to articulate a positive case for EU membership, and that was their Head of Press, James McGrory, someone who used to do the same job for Nick Clegg. No one else put forward any vision, and positivity or any idea of what the sunny EU uplands might look like.

So imagine if we had voted Remain on June 23rd. What would we have voted for?…

* A federal Europe?
* A European Army?
* Membership of the Euro?
* More EU?
* Less EU?
* A reformed EU, but in what way?
* EU expansion and if so by how much?

I could go on. The Remain campaign didn’t address most of these issues for obvious reasons. We were told there were no plans for an EU army, despite the fact that there was a meeting the following week in Brussels to take the idea forward. They denied any prospect of Turkey joining the EU, despite the British Embassy employing designated staff to help push forward Turkey’s application, and despite the fact that meetings were scheduled in Brussels in the weeks after the vote to make progress on negotiations. Clearly what happened next with the coup and more crackdowns mean that it will indeed be a long time before Turkey gets membership of the EU, but it looked rather different a year ago. David Cameron kept denying he was in favour of Turkish membership, but this video rather gives the lie to that…

I do understand why Britain Stronger In Europe couldn’t address the issue of ‘more Europe’, an EU army, etc. They couldn’t because even most of their own supporters might have had a pause for thought. But it showed a distinct lack of courage and leadership.

Just because Leave won the referendum that doesn’t mean the arguments are over. I don’t blame Remain supporters for continuing to defend EU membership. Does anyone seriously believe that a 52-48 Remain result would have shut up the Eurosceptics? Of course it wouldn’t. Over the next two years Remain supporters will continue to warn of the dangers of leaving the EU, without seeing any benefits whatsoever. And that’s fine. But the tide is turning against them. 68% of the British people, according to ICM want the government to get on with it. Even 44% of of Remainers support that view (compared to 33% in December).

If the government is frustrated in its wish to trigger Article 50 or to commence negotiations Remain leaders should prepare themselves for a backlash. It would be yet more evidence of the elites dividing themselves from the will of ordinary people.

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ConHome Diary: Michael Gove Wanted to Reform Prisons But Liz Truss Seems More Interested in Headlines

17 Feb 2017 at 16:50

So unemployment is down a further 7,000. Productivity is up 0.3%. Wages up by 2.6%. All this economic good news continues to be reported with hashtag #despitebrexit. In addition, earlier this week the European Commission made a complete fool of itself by being the only organisation to cut Britain’s economic growth forecast by 0.5% to 1.5% this year. And surprise, surprise, they reckon that in 2019, he year we actually leave the EU, growth in the Eurozone economies will overtake that of Britain. Well they couldn’t really say anything else, could they?
*
I found Liz Truss’s speech on prison reform this week disappointing in the extreme. It was as if we had gone back twenty years and were listening to Michael Howard telling us that prison works. The only way prison works at the moment is that people are locked up and not able to commit further crimes. Beyond that, they don’t work at all. Just look at this country’s rate of repeat offending. Liz Truss doesn’t seem at all concerned that our prison population is at an all time high. Indeed, it’s double what it was in 1993, and yet we’re told that crime rates are at an all time low. Something doesn’t compute there, does it? I am very happy to lock up serious offenders, people who are a danger to society. Indeed, I’d lock most of them up for far longer. However, there are thousands of people in prison who don’t need to be there, if only we were able to dream up alternative forms of punishment. What is the point of putting people in prison if they are no danger to society, if their crimes are not serious. What is the point of imprisoning someone for not paying a TV licence fine, or council tax. And of course once people get to prison, they end up on the highway to hell. They’re locked up in their cells for most of the day due to a chronic lack of prison officers to look after them. Educational resources are at a minimum. Sixty per cent of released prisoners can’t read or write. Is it any wonder then, that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to recently released prisons to find a job. And then there are the drugs. Stories are legion of people who go into prison never having taken a drug in their lives but come out addicted to a hard drug. There are constant calls for prison regimes to be tougher and less like a holiday camp. This is short-sighted thinking. If you treat people like animals while they are incarcerated, don’t be surprised if their behaviour doesn’t change when they are released. I’m not saying prisoners should live in the lap of luxury, but surely losing their freedom is punishment enough for the crime they have committed. Imposing Victoria conditions merely means that a violent rebellion is at some point inevitable. I believe Michael Gove understood all this, and was on the point of radically changing our prisons system for the better. Liz Truss seems to be putting all this into reverse gear, purely for the sake of some red meat headlines. Shame.
*

As usual nowadays when a Cabinet Minister makes a big speech, Liz Truss wasn’t available for interview on Monday, so I interviewed her Labour opponent instead, Richard Burgon. It rapidly became clear that he had little alternative policy to present, but he did commit a Labour government to recruiting 6-8,000 new prison officers on top of the 2,500 already being hired by the current government. I reckon, at a conservative estimate that’s a new spending commitment of more than £200 million.
*
Next week’s by-elections could well shape a lot of our domestic politics over the next two or three years. If Labour loses both is it really tenable for Jeremy Corbyn to continue? I cannot see how he or his supporters could explain them away. At the moment, most people seem to think they will hold on to Stoke but lose Copeland to the Conservatives. If this happens it would be the first time a governing party had gained a by-election from the opposition party for thirty five years. Even an Ostrich can now see that Labour can’t possibly win a general election with Jeremy Corbyn in charge. The trouble is, it doesn’t seem to matter to them. Many on the left are far happier going on protest marches against the ‘wicked Tories’ than having the responsibility of power. And long may it remain so.

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ConHome Diary: Black & White Party Time!

10 Feb 2017 at 14:06

I suppose you should try everything once, just to see if you like it, so it was in that spirit that I accepted an invitation to go to the Conservatives’ ‘Black & White Party’ on Monday evening at the Battersea Evolution. Note that it’s degenerated from a ‘ball’ to a party. No dinner jackets, either, which if I’m honest was one of the reasons I thought I’d say yes this year. I hate DJ events. I arrived just as the pre-dinner drinks reception was ending. I spotted the PM and a couple of cabinet ministers but otherwise I was surprised by the fact that I didn’t really know anyone there. Perhaps my years outside active politics are beginning to tell. There were thirty or forty tables in the cavernous building, but there was ample room for many more. Having said that we were told this was the biggest event ever. Apparently, there were tables for so-called ‘ordinary party members’ who were paying just £75 for the privilege of attending. Boris was in much ‘selfie’ demand but all the MPs and cabinet ministers there only stayed until around 8.15, when a minibus collected them all to go back to the Commons to vote in the Committee Stage of the Brexit Bill. Just as well it didn’t crash on the way – imagine the by-elections… The food was unremarkable and not very plentiful. I never understand why anyone in their right minds would have fish as the main course. There were speeches from Patrick McLoughlin and Theresa May and then an auction conducted by the party treasurer Lord Leigh. Let’s put it this way, he’s not exactly in the Jeffrey Archer class of auctioneers. There were several times I thought he could have got a whole lot more money out of the people who were bidding. Hey ho. Some people think this event should not take place because it is too elitist. Well, there are plenty of people who enjoy such events, and to those who want to abandon it, it’s incumbent on them to suggest how the money it raises can be replaced. I have no idea how much this event raises but it must be in the high hundreds of thousands, I’d have thought. Given that the Labour Party is awash with money at the moment, the Tories need to use every opportunity to keep up with them.
*
It is rumoured that Donald Trump is about to appoint Sarah Palin as US Ambassador to Canada. Quite what the Canadians have done to deserve that is anyone’s guess. Still, at least she can see the country from her front window, I imagine.

  • So, the Article 50 Bill has passed its Commons stages completely intact. I suspect that the Lords won’t be able to help themselves and will amend it in some way, setting up a bit of ping pong between the two chambers. It may be a decision they come to regret. However, assuming they don’t get too self-indulgent the Bill is likely to get Royal Assent around 8 March, meaning that in theory Theresa May could trigger Article 50 while attending the EU summit the next day. I see little point in leaving it until right at the end of the month.
    *
    So, a quiet couple of weeks for Mr Corbyn. He’s only managed to lose four Shadow Cabinet members. Result! But there’s no doubt that Clive Lewis is a huge loss. Although only elected in 2015, he’s seen by many as a real star performer. At last year’s party conference he was humiliated by Seumas Milne, who took a section out of his speech on his teleprompter without telling him. He was furious when he discovered what had happened and wasn’t backward in letting people know. I said at the time that although he will have hated what happened, it had given him a national profile and he would look back on that day in a very different light. His resignation is a bitter blow to the Labour leader. Lewis had been a real Corbyn cheerleader, but he’s not stupid and he soon saw that Corbyn could never be the leader he wanted him to be. So what now? Will he now be seen as the King over the Water, or will his resignation have damaged his reputation among those all important 600,000 Labour members. I doubt it, to be honest. Expect him now to spend every possible evening on the rubber chicken circuit, building his support in the party. Many now believe that Corbyn isn’t going to last the course, so Lewis is probably better placed than most to succeed. Does he have it in him to lead the Labour Party? On that, the jury is out, but we may well soon find out.
    *

    I made a mistake on Wednesday evening. Last week I reported that only 7 out of the 9 LibDem MPs supported their leader and voted for the second reading of the Brexit Bill. Norman Lamb and Greg Mulholland abstained. Well on Wednesday the LibDems tried to amend the Bill to include a clause allowing a second referendum. Again, only 7 out of 9 of their MPs voted for the amendment, along with 24 other MPs. So I pointed out that fact on Twitter. Of course, what I had failed to remember was that there would have also been two LibDem tellers, who are not included in the figures. Cue accusations of reporting fake news, and I should have known better. Well, the latter may be true, but sometimes people just make a genuine mistake. This was one of those times. I decided to apologise on Twitter, which I then did. I also deleted the original tweet, as it was getting a lot of retweet action. What really then surprised me was the number of people who tweeted their surprise that I had apologised. Perhaps it’s because on Twitter so few people ever do apologise when they’ve got something wrong. I’ve never had a problem admitting when I’m wrong. I’m human. It happens. Yes, at times it can be embarrassing, but I usually find that few people hold it against you and in many cases think better of you when you do the right thing.

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A Tribute to Gordon Aikman

3 Feb 2017 at 22:40

This was the tribute I paid to my friend Gordon Aikman, whose death was announced this morning. He has raised more than £540,000 for Motor Neurone Disease Research. He was one of the most inspirational people I have ever met.

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ConHome Diary: Donald, Theresa, Jeremy & Another Hapless Sarah Olney Interview

3 Feb 2017 at 13:49

I suspect like many of you, when I heard Theresa May was going to visit Donald Trump, I feared the worst. Although I thought it was right she should go, I doubted whether much good would come of it. I thought also that there was a real risk of it all going wrong, largely because it didn’t seem to me they would get on very well. I was wrong. The visit was a triumph for the Prime Minister. She handled the press conference with great skill and it was a masterstroke for her to make clear the President had backed NATO “100%”. Even those who thought she shouldn’t have gone, had to admit that she had played a blinder. But what a difference 12 hours make… In that 12 hours the President issued his presidential order banning people from seven countries from entering the country for three months. As she arrived in Turkey the next morning, details were sketchy, so when she was asked about it at her press conference with the Turkish prime minister, she didn’t condemn it, merely saying that US immigration policy was for the United States. The media went mental and it took Downing Street a further ten hours for a spokesman to give the baying media some condemnatory words. But even at her press conference with Enda Kenny on Monday, Theresa May didn’t go much further. It was only at PMQs on Wednesday that the Prime Minister called the policy “divisive and wrong”. While I certainly didn’t expect her to lay into Donald Trump all guns blazing, it took her far too long to get to the right place.
*

Sometimes people need to calm down. This is one of them. Let’s put Donald Trump’s refugee ban into a little perspective before we all rush away with the idea that Trump has done something totally unprecedented and proves that he is a modern day incarnation of Hitler. Don’t get me wrong, I do not agree with the ban. I condemn it unreservedly. But people who want to shut down the debate have coined a new phrase – whataboutery. Apparently we’re not allowed to point out any inconvenient facts which might jeopardise their argument. So when asking people to consider the facts, I’m not allowed to point out that President Obama banned refugees for six months – not three – six – back in 2011. But of course the sainted Obama can do no wrong. In addition Sixteen middle eastern nations have a blanket ban on people from Israel entering their countries. Sixteen! They even ban anyone with an Israeli stamp in their passport. Do we hear any outrage on the left about this? Of course we don’t. Israel is fair game for discrimination. The truth is that Trump is using the prospect of refugees turning into terrorists to frighten the American people. If there was any evidence that refugees to America from these seven countries had actually had an involvement in terrorism in the United States over the last decade, then perhaps Trump might be able to cite that in aid of his announcement. But he can’t, because there isn’t any. In fact, the evidence that there is makes one wonder why he’s picked these seven countries rather than Saudi Arabia. My main fear is that this policy will actually encourage a major attack on US soil. Daesh will know that if they manage to perpetrate one, they will almost certainly manage to provoke Trump to take even more extreme measures. The consequences of that are unthinkable.
*
Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron have the same problem. They cannot control their parties. Having enforced a three line whip on the Article 50 vote more than a third of Labour MPs defied the instruction to support it. 47 Labour MPs rebelled. Surprisingly, Tim Farron had a similar problem. 22% of his MPs (admittedly only two!) decided not to obey the party line. Only one Tory MP, Ken Clarke, rebelled against the whip. Corbyn also had to endure the humiliation of three of his shadow cabinet members resigning. Admittedly they were three that few of us had ever heard of, but it demonstrated just how little control he is able to exert over his own parliamentary party. The fact that several junior frontbenchers also voted against a three line whip without resigning or being sacked merely adds to the growing sense of chaos. When the Bill comes to its third reading the Shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis is also likely to quit, as he has said he will vote against if the Bill hasn’t been amended. Interesting times for Mr Corbyn. It’s ironic that an issue that has torn the Labour Party apart from decades, is now doing the same to the Labour Party.
*

Last Saturday morning I sat in for Matt Frei on LBC. We decided to spend an hour on Theresa May’s visit to Turkey. “That new LibDem MP Sarah Olney has written an article on it in The Guardian,” said my producer. “How every interesting. Not,” I replied, rather dismissively. Anyway, I read it and couldn’t believe the sanctimony contained in it. Mr Erdogan is a nasty man so she shouldn’t have gone, was the basic message. There was no recognition that Turkey is a vital ally in the fight against Daesh and that if countries like us didn’t engage with him, he was likely to cancel the agreement which has stemmed the flow of Syrian refugees through Turkey into Europe. Her tone suggested that May was just as evil as Erdogan, mainly because she belongs to the Conservative Party. I then typed “Nick Clegg Turkey visit” into Google. It turned out Clegg had led a trade mission to Turkey, as deputy prime minister, in 2012. “Gotcha,” I thought to myself. On the day after her by-election victory in December Sarah Olney was pulled out of a floundering live radio interview with Julia Hartley-Brewer. Had she had a spin doctor with her on Saturday morning, I suspect the same thing would have happened. Her sole defence seemed to be that Turkey was a nice country in 2012 but it wasn’t anymore. Listen and enjoy ].

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Donald Trump Is So Wrong on Banning Refugees From the Middle East, But The Reaction Has Also Been Ridiculous

28 Jan 2017 at 23:24

A lot of cant has been expended on social media in the last 24 hours about Donald Trump’s Executive Order issuing a three month long temporary ban on citizens of seven middle eastern countries from entering the United States.

I should say from the outset that I do not agree with the ban. It’s meant to look tough and meant to appear as if the President is protecting US citizens, when it does nothing of the sort. I condemn it unreservedly and I think the Prime Minister made a mistake in not doing the same.

But. And there is always a but when you actually dig down into these things. But, let’s put this into a little perspective before we all rush away with the idea that Trump has done something totally wicked, unprecedented and proves that he is a modern day incarnation of Hitler…

Back in 2011 President Obama did exactly the same thing. He banned all refugees from Iraq. Not for three months, but for six. There was not a peep from the media about this. Or if there was, I must have missed it. But that’s because of course Obama could do no wrong.

Sixteen middle eastern nations have a blanket ban on people from Israel entering their countries. Sixteen! They are: Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. They even ban anyone with an Israeli stamp in their passport. Do we hear any outrage on the left about this? Of course we don’t. Israel is fair game for discrimination.

So when we see all the virtue signalling that is going on on Twitter and Facebook about this, let’s just calmly bear these issues in mind.

I cannot see how any modern day, compassionate, democratic country can turn its back on refugees from war zones who are in desperate need. Britain doesn’t do that, and I find it astonishing that any American President would do that.

The truth is that Trump is using the prospect of refugees turning into terrorists to frighten the American people. If there was any evidence that refugees to America from these seven countries had actually had an involvement in terrorism in the United States over the last decade, then perhaps Trump might be able to cite that in aid of his announcement. But he can’t, because there isn’t any. In fact, the evidence that there is makes one wonder why he’s picked these seven countries rather than Saudi Arabia. Nineteen of the 9/11 bombers came from that country, yet it is not on Trump’s little list.

I respect the right of any nation to protect its citizens and to protect its borders. Security is the first duty of any government. But the measures you take to do that surely need to be based on efficacy and reason. This Executive Order is based on neither. It is based on prejudice and fearmongering. It’s not a Fascist measure – unless you’re happy to apply the word to Barack Obama too. It’s not a Nazi measure either, as some of the more unhinged commenters on social media have suggested. But it is deeply unpleasant and should never have been countenanced.

Theresa May had a very successful trip to the United States. Unfortunately she has now given her political opponents a stick to beat her with after she wasn’t fleet of foot enough to offer any critical words at all to Donald Trump during her press conference in Turkey when she was pressed on the issue by Faisal Islam. Just to say that United States immigration policy is up to the United States isn’t good enough. She could easily have made clear she expects all countries, including the US, to live up to their responsibilities when it comes to refugees. Instead, she now looks as if she daren’t make any criticism of the new President for fear of the consequences. I hope very much that this situation will be reversed in the next 48 hours.

Because if it isn’t, Somali born Mo Farah won’t be able to train in the United States and Iraqi born Nadhim Zahawi MP won’t be allowed to travel there either. The ban affects dual citizenship holders too, you see. What an utter travesty.

Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse is bang on the money when he says this…

“The President is right to focus attention on the obvious fact that borders matter. At the same time, while not technically a Muslim ban, this order is too broad. There are two ways to lose our generational battle against jihadism by losing touch with reality. The first is to keep pretending that jihadi terrorism has no connection to Islam or to certain countries. That’s been a disaster. And here’s the second way to fail: If we send a signal to the Middle East that the U.S. sees all Muslims as jihadis, the terrorist recruiters win by telling kids that America is banning Muslims and that this is America versus one religion. Both approaches are wrong, and both will make us less safe. Our generational fight against jihadism requires wisdom.”

My main fear is that this policy will actually encourage a major attack on US soil. Daesh will know that is they manage to perpetrate one, they will almost certainly manage to provoke Trump to take even more extreme measures. The consequences of that are unthinkable.

UPDATE 12.23am: PA is reporting:

“May does “not agree” with Donald Trump’s refugee ban and will make representations if it hits Britons, Downing Street said."

FURTHER READING: David French in the National Review offers a balanced perspective here.

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ConHome Diary: The Worst I Have Ever Felt (And I Don't Mean Listening to Trump's Inauguration Speech)

27 Jan 2017 at 13:46

‘They buried a farmer today’. As I wrote in last week’s column, that’s the title of a poem I found on the internet, and rewrote to read at my Dad’s funeral on Monday. It was written by someone in Iowa and most of it fitted my Dad like a glove. And the bits that didn’t? Well, I took the liberty of adding some of my own words and deleting some of the original. No one looks forward to a funeral, especially when it a parent’s, but I was dreading this. I knew the church would be packed – and it was. Standing room only. But the previous day on the flight back from the Trump inauguration I developed a terrible cough. By the time Monday morning arrived I was coughing every thirty seconds. My head felt as if it had been hit by a sledgehammer. I couldn’t think straight, let alone practice reading my poem. I gave it a quick run-through but broke down every few lines. I even thought at one point that I wouldn’t make it. To be honest I have never felt worse in my life. Anyway, of course I did get through it, and although my voice wavered a few times I finished it without incident. The wake went by in a blur. I was conscious of not infecting anyone else but as the afternoon went on, I felt worse and worse. I even started to lose my sense of balance. I’ve never felt anything like it. And so it went on. I was desperate to go back to work on Tuesday, not least so I could cover the Supreme Court result. But it soon became evident that even having slept for 12 hours I’d be in state to present a live radio show. I spent the day in front of the TV resembling a zombie. And the next.
I’ve now had a cold on and off since the middle of December. As I get older I know it’s taking much longer than it used to to get over this sort of thing. I have never ever pulled a sickie in my life but whenever I have to have a day off sick (which is a rarity) I always feel incredibly guilty even though in my heart I know I have no reason to feel like that. Maybe it’s that hackneyed old phrase, ‘the protestant work ethic’.
*
My prediction that whatever level of detail the government offers on Brexit, the Remainers will always demand more, seems to be coming true. Within minutes of the Prime Minister announcing there will be a white paper Remainers were demanding it should be at least a certain length, MUST be published before the Committee Stage of the Article 50 Bill etc etc. This is why nothing will ever satisfy them. Personally I’ve always felt there ought to be a white paper, which just needs to set out broad objectives. It does not and should go into great detail on whether we should pay to still have membership of the Eurowidget forum or the like. That is part of negotiating our exit and the government can be judged by the electorate at the end of the process. Yes, and I mean the end of the process. The idea which Hillary Benn and many other on the opposition benches are now putting forward that there should be a vote in the latter stages, but before agreement with the EU has agreed terms is so laughable as to be beyond belief. Their argument is that if Parliament rejects the deal, the government can go back and negotiate a better one. Frankly, no deal will ever be good enough for the Remainers unless it means in practical terms that we, er, remain. No, Mr Benn needs to be told that the vote will be at the end of the process and if the deal is voted down there will be a general election on that single issue. One can never be sure, but I suspect I know what the result would be.
*

So the Liberal Democrats have selected a Brexit supporting candidate to fight Andrew Bridgen at the next election. You couldn’t really make it up.
*
I really was going to try to get through this week’s column without mentioning Donald Trump. There’s a small part of me that is enjoying seeing the handwringing left throw their toys out of their collective prams, but even I am horrified by what I’m seeing. His inauguration speech had the tone of Mussolini and the content of Charles Lindbergh. Since that day, he has issued a whirr of executive orders, most of which seem deliberately aimed at dividing an already divided nation. I still cling to the hope that he can’t be as mad as he seems, that he will calm down and learn to be more statesmanlike, but I fear it’s a vain hope. A friend of mine said to me after hearing his inauguration speech “I just can’t go to America while he’s President, I just can’t”. My first reaction was to tell him it was a pathetic bit of virtue signalling. But there’s part of me that thinks he has a point. I love America. Always have, always will. But during my trip there last week to cover the inauguration I felt I was visiting a very different America.
*

Is it really possible that Jeremy Corbyn could remain Labour leader if they lose both the by-elections on February 23rd? Copeland is a seat the Conservatives have eyed for some time, but it’s never fallen their way, even in the landslides of 1983 and 1987. Stoke on Trent Central has never voted anything other than Labour and has never looked likely to. Until now. Some people are suggesting that Labour is about to experience the same kind of meltdown in northern England and the Midlands that it has already gone through in Scotland. I think it’s too early to believe that is likely to happen, but it can’t be ruled out. Labour could soon become a rump of a party centred in London and several other big cities. The question is who will gain the seats Labour will surely inevitably lose if they carry on their current trajectory? The Tories are said to be putting little or no effort into Stoke and they’re concentrating on Copeland, where they think they have a real chance of winning. It’s a decision they may live to regret. If Paul Nuttall becomes the second UKIP MP it will give licence to Labour voters to vote UKIP in ever bigger numbers. There are 7,000 Tory voters in Stoke on Trent Central. If they, en masse, cast their votes for Paul Nuttall, I’d say he’s home and dry.

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Jennifer Saunders

Iain talks to Jennifer Saunders about her new autobiography 'Bonkers'.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Washington in Denial, Theresa May Shows Her Balls & The Fantasies of Trump Supporters

21 Jan 2017 at 14:42

I think it’s called the Law of Sod. Having booked our flights to Washington DC to cover the Trump inaugural, within a matter of minutes it is announced that Theresa May’s big Brexit speech would be on Tuesday. At more or less exactly the time our plane is due to take off from Heathrow. Bugger. So picture the scene. My producer, Jagruti and I, are in our seats when Mrs May starts speaking – each of us with an earpiece in one ear, watching her on the Sky News App, but each of us waiting for a flight attendant to tell us to stop because the plane is about to take off. She a Remainer, I a Leaver. Me cheering from time to time, her grimacing. The plane starts to taxi to the runway. Still no instruction from the trolly dollies (female or male!). We roar down the runway, and we’re still listening to the PM waxing lyrical. We climb into the skies. And just as Mrs May ends her speech, the connection is lost. Serendipity.
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In many ways, Theresa May is proving to be a revelation as prime minister. Her Brexit speech contained far more ‘meat’ than most commentators would have expected, and showed real leadership. Even if you don’t agree with her, it’s impossible to deny that she has shown balls – big fat hairy ones. Excuse the image. She’s thrown down the gauntlet to her opponents and challenged them to provide a realistic alternative. The Labour Party is all over the place with its Shadow Brexit Secretary saying thing, its Shadow Foreign Secretary another and its leader a third. As I write this, we hear that Labour is now considering voting against triggering Article 50, even though its deputy leader said recently it would do no such thing. At least the LibDems, bless them, have been consistent in their denial of what the majority actually voted for. It’s principle of sorts, I suppose. However, in some ways, announcing we’re leaving the single market and also probably the customs union is merely a public recognition of the inevitable. If border control is the most important thing for the government – and it’s been a consistent message that it is – then how could we stay within the single market? And if we’re to negotiate our own trade agreements then leaving the customs union is also inevitable. This has all been clear for some time for those who bother to analyse these things properly, but again, no one in our liberal ‘remain’ establishment seemed able to join the dots. Well they have done so now, and they’re horrified. It’s quite amusing really.
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Much like the Remainers in Britain, it doesn’t take us long to work out that Washington is a city in denial. It’s the most liberal part of the United States and virtually everyone we talk to is clearly horrified at the prospect of a Trump White House. The inauguration is days away but it’s as if the city has stuck its collective fingers in its ears and is shouting ‘la la la, I can’t hear you’. A sort of grieving process is taking place. Trump keeps saying it’s all going to be beautiful, but Washington is closing its ears to him. This is a city where thousands of people rely on an incoming administration to give them a job as Assistant Secretary of State for this or that. Many lifetime Republicans cannot bring themselves to serve Trump, although there are exceptions. Some time ago, 50 leading Republicans signed a letter calling for Anyone but Trump. Since his win, 47 of them have put career over principle and accepted jobs in his administration. Three have held out. At the more junior levels, though expediency may not be winning the day. People who’ve lived in Washington for twenty or thirty years are now considering moving back home and taking up alternative careers. Washington remains a city in shock.
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On Wednesday evening I took my producer, who has never been to the States before, on a little tour of some of the memorials. Sadly my favourite, the Lincoln Memorial was closed as they were building a state at the front of it for the inauguration, so we drove on to the Jefferson Memorial. For those of you who have been there you will know what a majestic feel it has to it. She was bowled over. On our way out we encountered a group of Trump supporting Alabamans, most of whom were in their twenties. Out came our microphone and I did some vox pops with them, and very entertaining it was too. However, once you got past the soundbites of ‘making America great again’ and it’s all going to be ‘beautiful’, you could tell that voting Trump was an instinctive reaction against the way the country has been governed for not just the last eight years but much longer than that. They really think Trump will be different because he’s beholden to no one. It didn’t seem to occur to them that in order to enact change he’ll need Congress on side. Trump’s big problem is that there are now three parties in the US political game now – Democrats, Republicans and Trumpists. Trump is not really a Republican in any conventional sense, and I suspect that before his first 100 days are up, people will have come to realise this.
As I finished my chat with my new friends from Alabama one of the younger ones asked which soccer team I support. When I told him it was West Ham he immediately launched into a riff about the evils of Dimitri Payet’s recent behaviour. If I didn’t know what globalisation meant before, that exchange really brought it home to me.
As they wandered off into the night one of the younger ones turned around and shouted: “Remember, Jesus loves you.” As if I could forget…
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As I write this, we’re 22 hours away from the inauguration. Washington is about to go into lock down as streets are cut off and barriers erected. The whole public transport system will shut down. Getting around the city will be a nightmare. Having said that, despite what the President-Elect seems to believe the crowds expected for the events of tomorrow are likely to be much smaller than usual. It’s a day when America will take a sharp turn, but time will tell whether it’s a turn for the better or worse. Even though I cannot stand Trump, it does make me smile at the completely OTT reactions of Trump’s opponents. In the words of the Dimitri Payet song, “I just don’t think they understand.”
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I fly back to London on Saturday evening, arriving early Sunday morning. It’s going to be a rather morose journey, I suspect as my mind turns from President Trump, to my father Garry Dale. As some of you know, my Dad died just before Christmas, and on Monday it’s his funeral. I did the eulogy at my mother’s funeral four years ago, but this time I’m doing a reading of poem I discovered on the internet called ‘They Buried a Farmer Today’. I had to rewrite several lines to make it more appropriate, but I think the congregation will appreciate it. And I think my Dad would have done so too.

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Iain Hosts a Phone-In on Female on Male Domestic Violence

Breaking another taboo, Iain takes some moving calls on domestic violence.

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WATCH: Why Theresa May Must Accept the Verdict of the High Court & Allow Parliament to Vote on Triggering Article 50

16 Jan 2017 at 15:12

This is a short video I made in advance of the Supreme Court decision on Brexit, due on Monday next week, I believe. In it I urge Theresa May to accept the result, if the government loses, and to immediately introduce a one line Bill into the Commons.

It’s the first of this type of video I’ve done. If you like it, there may be more. Do share it on social media if you like it.

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to David Jason

Iain talks to David Jason about his autobiography.

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ConHome Diary: Washington Beckons, Trumpery & Why Southern Rail Is Not Fit to Run a Franchise

13 Jan 2017 at 13:53

Next week I’ll be writing this diary from my favourite city in the whole world, Washington DC. It’s my first visit there since the autumn of 2012 when I covered the re-election of Barack Obama. This time I’ll be there as Donald Trump will be sworn in as President during my LBC Drivetime show. Washington in January can be a very cold and bleak place, but on a sunny winter’s day it can be very beautiful indeed. My great fear is that we get one of those famous east coast snowfalls, though. Normally I’d regard such a thing as a great adventure, but seeing as my Dad’s funeral takes places on Monday I have this natural fear of not getting back in time.
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Regular readers will know that I don’t have a massively high opinion of America’s new president. However, even I had some sympathy this week when he had to deal with unverified and rather lurid allegations involving Russian and activities which The Sun described as ‘cavorting’ – one of those words beloved by tabloid newspapers but rarely used by normal people in real life. What has it come to when so-called reputable news organisations publish what can only be described as tittle-tattle? The BBC’s Ten O’Clock news programme on Wednesday was among the worst offenders, revelling in providing viewers with full details of all the single-sourced allegations and their reporter Paul Wood sounding as anti-Trump as you could be. Contrast that with the ensuing saccharine-based report from Chicago on President Obama’s farewell speech. It was as if he had died. The reporter did everything but break down in tears at the departure from office of this allegedly titanic figure. The contrast in the respective treatments of Donald Trump and Barack Obama could not be more stark. BBC television news editors should look at their own editorial guidelines, for I am pretty sure they breached them on Wednesday.
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I come into London most days by train, using the Tonbridge line into Charing Cross. It’s run by Southeastern Trains. By and large the service is not bad, with most trains running to time and with relatively modern rolling stock. Southeastern is run by the same company as Southern Rail, Govia. How this company can run one franchise area quite efficiently, while appearing to be completely incompetent in the neighbouring one is something only they can explain. It may well be the case that the two rail unions, ASLEF and the RMT continue to hold them to ransom over the operation of Driver Only Operated Trains, but Southern Rail has been a shambles for some time. Passengers on Southern are at the end of their collective tether. The Transport Secretary is a man who prides himself on being knowledgeable about the railways, and indeed I can vouch for the fact that he is. As a commuter himself, he will also be familiar with the frustrations of passengers who cannot rely on their trains to get themselves to work each day. I think the time is rapidly approaching – and some would say it passed a long time ago – for him to intervene and relieve Govia of the Southern Rail franchise. Their management have proved themselves to be complete and utter failures. The only thing stopping him is the fact that he couldn’t be seen to be giving into the rail unions over DOO trains. But this situation cannot be allowed to continue for much longer, as the local MPs are no doubt telling him.
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Over Christmas we bought a rather large new television. Since then I’ve hardly watched any normal TV and instead have been binging on series via Netflix and Amazon Prime. On Wednesday night I finished watching THE CROWN, a ten episode drama detailing the early years of The Queen’s reign. It’s one of the best things I have seen on TV in years. It must have had a massive budget given the lavish sets. The acting is brilliant, especially on the part of Claire Foy who plays The Queen and Matt Smith who plays the Duke of Edinburgh. The stars of the show in many ways are the two actors who play Princess Margaret and Sir Winston Churchill. It’s worth a subscription to Netflix on its own. The other series I’d recommend is DESIGNATED SURVIVOR, if you like politically themed dramas as much as I do. Kiefer Sutherland is the star, and he plays a junior US cabinet minister who is thrust into the Presidency after the entire US political establishment is killed in a terrorist attack on Capitol Hill during the President’s State of the Union address. Rather like an MP is held hostage during the Queen’s Speech, a member of the US cabinet or Congress has the same experience during the State of the Union, and on this occasion that duty falls to Sutherland. The series then tracks the aftermath and the challenges Kiefer Sutherland faces as a rather hapless and inexperienced politician who has greatness thrust on him. It’s preposterous in many ways, but hugely entertaining. Finally, if you have Amazon Prime, take a look at THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE. It’s a counterfactual drama set in the United States in the early 1960s with Germany having won World War Two. The USA is split into three with Germany occupying the eastern and central US, the Japanese the West Coast and a neutral zone in between. It has a bit of a slow start, but once you get into it, it’s quite gripping. And if you don’t like that there’s always THE GRAND TOUR, starring Jeremy Clarkson and his two mates!
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If you haven’t already done so, do download my weekly BREXT BRIEFING podcast on iTunes. It’s posted each Friday morning and this week features a sparky debate between Nicky Morgan and UKIP leader Paul Nuttall.
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That awkward moment when you’re cabinet minister meeting an ex cabinet minister for breakfast in a posh Westminster eatery, and the waiter decides to sit you at the next table to two of Westminster’s biggest gossips. All I’ll tell you is that Andrew Pierce and I weren’t the cabinet ministers… Suffice to say they insisted on moving to a table over the other side of the restaurant. Was it something we said?!

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Brenda about Dementia

Iain takes a very moving call from Brenda in Chelmsford about how she coped with her husband's dementia.

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