7 Jul 2015 at 18:03
From my LBC show today.
7 Jul 2015 at 18:03
From my LBC show today.
7 Jul 2015 at 08:00
I don’t know if you remember where you were on the morning of the 7th July 2005 when you heard the news of the terrorist bombings in London. It seems a lot longer ago than ten years to be honest. And yet it also seems closer. I remember virtually everything about that day.
I was sitting at my desk in the House of Commons (for the uninitiated, I was working for David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary and Tory leadership candidate as his chief of staff) and a colleague popped his head round the door to say there was something on the radio about a big bang in a tube station. Shortly afterwards Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson from the Daily Telegraph arrived to do a feature interview with David. Gradually news started coming in that there were several incidents. I kept interrupting his interview with news. Once we worked out it was a terror attack, I rang home and rang my parents to reassure them I was OK. I began to get calls from friends.
My work colleague began to get hysterical about her son, who she feared might have been on one of the trains. She rang his school and he had not arrived. As the morning wore on, and she couldn’t make contact with him, even I began to fear the worst. But I had to make a decision. I was trying to coordinate our response and ensure the office ran smoothly, yet my colleague (and very good friend) was becoming hysterical. Did I try to soothe her or did I do my job? I’m slightly ashamed to say I chose the latter and ‘delegated’ the former. Hard bastard, I thought to myself. Her son rang to say he was OK shortly afterwards.
None of us knew what it all meant. The thought ran through my mind that if this was a repeat of 9-11, our office wasn’t exactly the best place to be. It was located almost directly under Big Ben. But you just get on with your job. David Davis was the coolest man in London. If ever I doubted his leadership qualities, they were on full display that day. Alice Thomson and Rachel Sylvester would confirm that. I think they were rather impressed at the way he swung into action. We convened a Shadow Cobra meeting with Michael Howard and other members of the Shadow Home Affairs team. Several calls came in from the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, who was keen to brief David on Privy Council terms about what was going on. He told David he would be making a statement to the Commons, so we all swung into action to prepare David’s response. I seem to remember that Nick Herbert and Paul Goodman were heavily involved, but in the end most of the words were David’s own. They had to be.
David then went down to the chamber to respond to Charles Clarke’s statement in the House of Commons. We were glued to the TV. He caught the mood of the House and gave a speech which even his enemies had to admit was striking.
The next day, I was walking along the Embankment to work with the sound of helicopters and Police sirens ringing through the air. I remember thinking to myself: “This is not the London I love.” I felt as if I was walking along a street in an alien city. I admit that a tear rolled down my face. Would life ever be the same?
Well, life did return to normal for most of us. But for the families of the people who died that day, normal would never exist again.
I got to know one of the victims who survived quite well. I won’t name her here as I know she has moved on in her life. But she spent several years trying to come to terms with what had happened and campaigned for justice for the families of those who died and for the people who were so badly injured. She insisted the 7/7 inquiry was conducted properly and that the correct lessons were learned.
Well have those lessons been learned? There will be a lot of introspection today, not least throughout the day on LBC. The fact is that since July 2005 we haven’t had a major terror attack in London. Perhaps the security services learned some valuable lessons we will never know the details of. Certainly London Underground and the Metropolitan Police will have learned lessons too. Hopefully the right ones.
This time last year some vile idiots defaced the 7/7 Memorial. It showed us once again what evil people there are in our midst. We know that one day there will be another terrorist outrage in our capital city. But the terrorists can never win if we defy them. And defy them we must.
On LBC Drive this afternoon we will have interviews with Tony Blair, Charles Clarke, David Davis, Commander Mark Rowley and a half hour documentary by Tessa Jowell, who played a leading role in the aftermath of 7/7 looking after the interests of victims’ families. Do tune in.
3 Jul 2015 at 19:15
When I first came to Westminster in the mid 1980s there was a restaurant in Marsham Street called ‘Lockets’. As a lowly researcher, it was always a treat to be taken there. At some point it was sold to Michael Caine and it became Shepherds. It then closed down a couple of years ago after having tested its patrons patience with extortionate prices for average fayre served by invariably rude waiting staff. So when I heard that my old friend Lionel Zetter had bought the lease and was reopening it I did wonder if it was the wisest investment he could make. Apparently 80% of restaurants fail within six months. Anyway, on Tuesday I went for a meal for the first time. I actually felt really guilty for not having been before, but because of the timing of my radio show I can’t really do long lunches any more. Anyway, this week I’ve been doing the breakfast show, so long lunches every day. Way hay!
Shepherd’s always had a reputation for being the politico’s favourite restaurant and it hasn’t changed a bit. On the table to the left of us was a Prime Minister’s former chief of staff. On the right of us was a Tory MP lunching with a top lobbyist (who is also a former Tory MP). Lord Ashcroft was there too. The décor is very understated, which is exactly how it should be. There are no over the top pictures or pieces of memorabilia. The seats are made of green leather and the tables are divided by some tasteful dark wood panelling. The service is excellent with the waiting staff only interrupting you when they need to without constant questions about how much you’re enjoying your meal. They are also very knowledgeable about the menu and quite bantery when it’s appropriate.
The menu itself, on first impressions, isn’t that extensive, with about ten starters and then main courses to choose from. But in a way it’s good that it doesn’t offer too much choice. There is something for everyone and it’s a mix of traditional and modern cooking. We skipped the starter (my excuse is I was lunching a LibDem) and headed straight for the main course, and we both plumped for the Shepherd’s Pie. I have to say, it was fabulous. For dessert I chose the Eton Tidy and my lunch companion went for the Apple Crumble. Again, superb. I don’t drink, but my lunch partner downed two or three glasses of red (well, poor love needed it given the LibDem election performance) and the bill came to just over £70. Now I reckon that’s pretty good value for money. I can’t actually think of anything to complain about. The general manager even spotted I had left my bag in the bar and came over with a cloakroom ticket. Little touches like that mean a lot.
So do try it out. I can virtually guarantee that you’ll love it and return again and again. It’s my new lunchtime hangout. Or at least it would be if I was ever able to do lunches properly again.
I’m looking forward to seeing some of you in Finchley on Saturday when I’ll be hosting the hustings for some of the declared London mayoral candidates. Should be fun.
28 Jun 2015 at 16:36
I’m not a great fan of the “something must be done” knee-jerk response to a terror attack or tragedy. It invariably leads to the wrong thing being done and the consequences can be felt for years afterwards. What is needed is calm, cool reflection on what has happened. So what I am about to say isn’t actually in response to what happened on Friday in Tunisia, France, Kuwait and Kobane. It’s something I have been talking about for a long time on my LBC show.
Over the last two years I have grown very concerned by the number of muslims I talk to, not just on my show, but in every day conversation too, who believe that Saudi and Qatari money are funding Wahhabi-ist mosques throughout the country and it is these who are in part to blame for the rise in support for extremist ideas among some British muslims. Along with the spread of extremist websites which promote ISIS and their warped ideology, these mosques are now places many moderate muslims won’t go, having recognised the danger they pose to young minds. This isn’t me asserting something, this is what I hear time and time again from muslims themselves. Some (not all) Imams in these British mosques are starting to turn Sunni against Shia, and the long term consequences of that can only be imagined. The thing is, this is nothing new, yet no one in Britain has confronted the danger despite the warnings.
In 2007 Paul Vallely investigated Saudi funding of Wahhbism in the UK in THIS story in The Independent. It came on the heels of a report written by report by Dr Denis MacEoin, an Islamic studies expert at Newcastle who previously taught at the University of Fez. He discovered a huge amount of “malignant literature” inside as many as a quarter of Britain’s mosques. All of it, according to Vallely, had been published and distributed by agencies linked to the government of King Abdullah. He continues…
Among the more choice recommendations in leaflets, DVDs and journals were statements that homosexuals should be burnt, stoned or thrown from mountains or tall buildings (and then stoned where they fell just to be on the safe side). Those who changed their religion or committed adultery should experience a similar fate. Almost half of the literature was written in English, suggesting it is targeted at younger British Muslims who do not speak Arabic or Urdu. The material, which was openly available in many of the mosques, including the East London Mosque in Whitechapel, which has been visited by Prince Charles, also encourages British Muslims to segregate themselves from non-Muslims. There is, of course, nothing new in such reports. Investigative journalists have over the years uncovered all manner of material emanating from Muslim extremists in various parts of Britain. Earlier this year an undercover reporter for Channel 4 filmed preachers and obtained DVDs and books inside mosques which were filled with hate-filled invective against Christians and Jews. They condemned democracy and called for jihad. They presented women as intellectually congenitally deficient and in need of beating when they transgressed Islamic dress codes. They said that children over the age of 10 should be hit if they did not pray. Again the main mosque chosen for exposure was influenced and funded from Saudi Arabia.
He then quotes Abdal Hakim Murad, the student chaplain at Cambridge University as saying
“I regard what the Saudis are doing in the ghettoes of British Islam as potentially lethal for the future of the community.”
Seven years on we now see the dangers even more clearly. At that time the Saudis were spending $2-3 billion annually on Wahhabist propaganda. That sum is thought to have doubled since then. But it’s not just the Saudi regime which funds huge print runs of extremist books and pamphlets, all designed to end up in British, European and American mosques. Further funding comes from rich Saudi individuals. And not just Saudis. Qataris too. And others. The inflow of such money into UK mosques is at a record high, I am told, and as a consequence the Imams who receive it are expected to toe the Wahhabist or (as they like to describe it) the Salafist line.
The 7/7 suicide bombers Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer were salafis, as was the so-called “shoe bomber” Richard Reid. This is not to say that all salafis support violence and ISIS. They emphatically do not. But there is a real fear among peace loving salafis about pointing out what is going on under their noses in salafi-supporting mosques.
Back in 2007, of the 1528 mosques in Britain only 68 adhered to salafism or wahhabism. That figure has risen by 20% in the last eight years to around 1850 nowadays. Around 110 are thought to be under Wahhabi/Salafi control, and receiving funding from Saudi or allied sources.
I’ve heard from dozens of ordinary muslims over the last year or two who feel that something needs to be done. They’ve withdrawn their children from classes at the mosques and they no longer attend themselves after witnessing some of the extreme messages being promoted. They will talk to me anonymously on my programme, but have an understandable fear of speaking out ‘on the record’. The government needs to listen to these people and then act on what they hear.
In 2010 Panorama showed how young people are targeted for indoctrination by a network of Saudi inspired weekend schools. They discovered 40 such schools which were indoctrinating more than 5,000 British teenagers with what were described as the “warped values of Wahhabism”. The Daily Mail carried an article by a muslim scholar, Dr Taj Hargey, who commented:
Misogyny, separatism and bigotry are all key features of the teaching in these institutions, whereas the Western tradition of free thought and open debate is completely ignored.
It’s worth thinking further about Dr Targey’s conclusions and wondering why the UK government has been so timid in acting on them…
There is a huge element of hypocrisy about the propagation of Wahhabism in Britain, as hardline Muslim regimes are utterly intolerant of any other faith. It is impossible to build a Christian church in Saudi Arabia, yet the same ideologues constantly demand the right to build mosques in Britain.
They want the privileges here that they refuse to accord other faiths when they are in control.
Why do we have to put up with the soundtrack of grievance from these Saudi extremists, endlessly demanding mosques, halal meat, calls to prayer, special schools, gender segregation, removal of Christian symbols and imposition of a tribal dress code?
But perhaps the most disturbing feature of the weekend schools is how they serve as a gateway to extremist theology and political radicalism. This ultimately paves the way to domestic terrorism.
The dogma they promote is permanently hostile to the state in which we live — leading to a dangerous ‘them and us’ mentality, making a mockery of all attempts at real integration and tolerance.
It is no coincidence that since Wahhabism gained a hold on British Muslims, especially on university campuses and in mosques, the threat of terror has intensified.
I totally understand that Britain wants good relations with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but for how much longer can we ignore what both these oil-rich states have been doing, yet pretending otherwise. It’s not enough to ban the odd extremist Wahhabi cleric from entering the country. The government must go much further.
Their bluff needs to be called, and the way to do that is to cut off the funding of these mosques. The government should include a clause in the new Terrorism Bill which would ban any foreign funding of British mosques. Indeed, if it makes it more politically acceptable, I’d say it could be broadened out to include a ban on any funding for any religious institutions. American fundamentalist christian organisations tried in vain to influence the recent Irish gay marriage referendum by pouring money into the No campaign. I’d be quite happy for any law to apply to any religious organisation whether muslim, christian, sikh or mormon.
We would not be trailing a blaze here, either. Earlier in the year Austria banned mosques from receiving any monies from abroad. The new law provided more protection for muslims and muslim organisations but it led to a complete ban on mosques receiving money from outside the country. The Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said at the time that the reforms were a “milestone” for Austria and aimed to stop some Muslim countries using financial means to exert “political influence”.
“What we want is to reduce the political influence and control from abroad and we want to give Islam the chance to develop freely within our society and in line with our common European values.”
The Austrian law does allow for one off payments but disallows continuous funding. In response to criticism that the law did not apply to other religions, Mr Kurz was unabashed in his defence of it…
“We have different laws for every single religious community in Austria. There is a special law for the Jewish community, a special law for the orthodox, and a special law for the Muslim community. In each community we have different needs as for example halal-food or circumcision, but also different problems. For example, the influence of foreign countries is a problem we only have in the Muslim community. We do not have this problem in the other religious communities.”
Our nation’s capital is not known as ‘Londonistan’ for nothing. For far too long we have been too sensitive about dealing with Islamist extremism. I hope that Theresa May and Greg Clark, the new Communities Secretary will resist the siren voices who say he must just continue with the ‘hearts and minds’ Prevent programme. It hasn’t achieved what it set out to. It’s time to adopt a more hardline approach to fight extremists and it needs to start now.
And to those who say that all this is no doubt promoted by someone who hates Islam and hates muslims, all I can say is that all they need to do is listen to my LBC show and they will see that they are very far from the truth. I am regularly criticised for my defence of muslims and my belief that they are unfairly traduced by the media in all sorts of ways. I believe what I have said here is what most muslims would agree with, whether they feel they can say it openly or not. Islamic extremism is as far away from the lives of ordinary British muslims as christianity is from the actions of Anders Brevik.
I hope someone in government may read this and do something about the foreign funding of British mosques. If they don’t, we may all reap the unfortunate consequences.
26 Jun 2015 at 14:04
Listening to Nick Ferrari interview Nick Clegg yesterday, I started to wonder about his future. I doubt very much he will stand at the next election. It must be pure torture for him to sit in the House of Commons struggling for space alongside the hordes from north of the border. The loss of ministerial privileges must be a blow for anyone who loses office, but for a man who was Deputy Prime Minister one minute and an ordinary backbench MP the next, it must have been especially painful, even for a man who doesn’t seem to be particularly hung up on the trappings of office. But what now for Nick Clegg? He’s 48 and clearly still hungry to do something meaningful. It’s not cruel to say that he won’t be able to do that while still a Liberal Democrat MP. I suspect he will end up with a reasonably high profile EU or UN job, but he won’t take it until after 2020 as he won’t want to cause a by-election in Sheffield Hallam his party would almost certainly lose. He knows he owes his party that much.
Good to see Harry Cole going straight and joining The Sun as Westminster Correspondent. He will leave a big gap in the Guido Fawkes team and will be very difficult to replace. When he started with Guido I thought Paul Staines had made a big mistake in taking a step back, and that people read Guido for Paul’s utterings, not other people’s. He turned out to be right, though. Harry has turned into an excellent story-getter and a talented journalist. He is also a very nice guy with an impish sense of humour. Let’s hope the lobby doesn’t knock it out of him!
It was good to catch up with Tim Montgomerie, late of this parish, on Wednesday for a rather nice lunch. Tim should be very proud of what he created with this site and of his contribution in general to the intra-Conservative debate. The party needs more original thinkers like Tim, and even if sometimes his recipes are uncomfortable for the party leadership to hear, and even if one disagrees with his conclusions you can never accuse Tim of being vanilla. I was, however, appalled to find that Tim is on a diet. So no dessert. I always hate that point in a lunch when the waiter comes round and offers the dessert menu. Whoever I am lunching with invariably declines, so of course then I do too. So for future lunch companions, let me say this. Dessert is the part of the lunch I always look forward to most. Which you’d know if you ever bothered to look at my waistline. Best not to, though.
I know this makes me sound as if all I do is lunch and breakfast, but on Wednesday I met a Biteback author, Paul Twivy, for breakfast at the Groucho Club (Sausage bap, since you ask). I’d never been there before and what an odd place it is – nothing like the Reform Club, it has to be said! Paul is one of those people who has an infectious enthusiasm for everything he does. He was one of the architects of the Big Society project and has written a brilliant little polemic called BE YOUR OWN POLITICIAN. In it he argues for massive political reform and shows how voters can take power back for themselves. I’d highly recommend reading this book alongside Steve Hilton’s. In some ways they argue from a similar viewpoint, but offer rather different solutions. It is, however, notable that it’s the right that is driving this agenda at the moment. The left is nowhere to be seen.
Last Friday on my LBC show I thought it’d be interesting to have Tracey Crouch, the new Sports Minister, on the programme to discuss England’s latest World Cup match – in ladies football, natch. After a natter about the importance of women’s football (it didn’t take long) I asked her if she could ever foresee the day when a woman would play in a male professional league. “Well,” she said. It nearly happened two years ago when a female Mexican player almost signed for an Italian second division team.” And she went on to give the full details of the abortive transfer. And then later in the interview she displayed a knowledge of the sport which left me open mouthed. OK, she’s an accredited FA coach, but it showed that she is probably one of the best ministerial appointments of the reshuffle. The proverbial round peg in a round hole. I even forgive her for supporting Tottenham. Well, she has to have a flaw somewhere.
Word on the street is that there won’t be much of an exhibition this year at the LibDem conference in Bournemouth. However, some organisations are tied into three year contracts and the LibDems are making clear that they will insist on full payment for any company or pressure groups which fails to show, having previously booked. Lobbyists are also said to be giving it a miss, and you can understand why. Politics is an unforgiving game, and there’s little sentiment. I have to say I love going to Bournemouth, but I think I will have an uphill climb to persuade my colleagues that there is any merit in joining the yellow peril this year. It would be the equivalent of a sympathy shag. Not, er, that I have any experience in the matter. Ahem.
So Patrick McLoughlin has appointed Sir Peter Hendy to chair Network Rail. For the uninitiated Hendy has been running Transport for London for the last ten years. He’s a complete Ken Livingston acolyte and has basically continued his Transport policies even during Boris Johnson’s mayoralty. When Boris became mayor the first thing I advised him to do was sack Hendy, who has presided over one of the most incompetent transport authorities in Britain. On 3 May 2008, I wrote: “This afternoon Boris Johnson goes to City Hall for the first time as Mayor. He will be meeting Sir Ian Blair and Peter Hendy, the head of Transport for London. He doesn’t have the executive power to fire Sir Ian, but he can get rid of Hendy. He should take the opportunity now, and start as he means to go on. You’re never so powerful as you are in your first hundred days as an elected politician. The people of London voted for real change. It’s up to Boris to ensure that they get it, and it’s not more of the same.”
Sadly Boris kept Hendy on. Boris said to me once: “I don’t understand why you’ve got it in for Hendy. Bloody good bloke”. I beg to differ. When he got a knighthood in 2012 I must admit I nearly selfcombusted. I wrote on my blog: “And then there’s Peter bloody Hendy. He’s also been made a Knight of the Realm. For what? Presiding over one of the worst run and profligate quangos in Britain, Transport for London? Perhaps it’s for continuing to implement a London transport policy dreamt up by Ken Livingstone, and constantly pulling the wool over Boris Johnson’s eyes.” Sir Peter, for it is he, is an inveterate empire builder, hates car drivers, and has presided over an organisation where literally hundreds of people earn more than £100,000, with dozens earning more than the Prime Minister. At TFL Sir Peter earns £650,000 a year. I doubt if he’s taken a pay cut to chair Network Rail. I’ll leave it to you to evaluate whether he’s value for money.
21 Jun 2015 at 12:44
Over the next fortnight Biteback has four cracking books coming onto the market. I don’t normally use this blog to push Biteback books, but I’m going to make an exception here, and you will understand why when you read on…
Tomorrow sees The Times start its serialisation of Roger Mosey’s book GETTING OUT ALIVE: NEWS, SPORT & POLITICS AT THE BBC. Roger held virtually every senior position there is to hold at the BBC without actually becoming Director General. His career culminated in coordinating the BBC’s Olympics coverage, and what a brilliant job he did.
Having commissioned the book and dealt with Roger over the last nine months I am at a loss to know how he had a such a successful career as he seems far too nice to have done any elbowing at all. His transparent decency really comes across in the manuscript, but he’s not shy about telling it how it is nad facing up to the BBC’s failngs. He tells a good story and the book is packed with anecdotes about his life in radio and TV.
Delinquent presenters, controversial executive pay-offs, the Jimmy Savile scandal… The BBC is one of the most successful broadcasters in the world, but its programme triumphs are often accompanied by management crises and high-profile resignations.
One of the most respected figures in the broadcasting industry, Roger Mosey has taken senior roles at the BBC for more than twenty years, including as editor of Radio 4’s Today programme, head of television news and director of the London 2012 Olympic coverage.
Now, in Getting Out Alive, Mosey reveals the hidden underbelly of the BBC, lifting the lid on the angry tirades from politicians and spin doctors, the swirling accusations of bias from left and right alike, and the perils of provoking Margaret Thatcher.
Along the way, this remarkable memoir charts the pleasures and pitfalls of life at the top of an organisation that is variously held up as a treasured British institution and cast down as a lumbering, out-of-control behemoth.
Engaging, candid and very funny, Getting Out Alive is a true insider account of how the BBC works, why it succeeds and where it falls down. If you’re at all interested in the recent past in the broadcasting world you really need to buy this book, which you can HERE.
Owen Bennett is a bright young journalist who has just joined the Huffington Post after a stint on the Daily Express. His new book FOLLOWING FARAGE: ON THE MARCH WITH THE PEOPLE’S ARMY is a travelogue cum political satire and tells the tale of Nigel Farage’s election campaign. Bennett has a very amusing writing style with an eye for the ridiculous, and there was plenty of that to observe in UKIP’s election campaign. While spending a slot of time in South Thanet, Bennett also follows Farage elsewhere throughout the country. This book is far from a Farage love-in but Owen Bennett is brilliant at penning portraits of some of the characters who played key roles in the UKIP campaign. Hunting with Godfrey Bloom; lunching on expenses with Janice Atkinson; talking ‘shock and awful’ campaign tactics with Douglas Carswell – nothing is off the table when you’re on the trail of UKlP’s People’s Army. It’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 meets Louis Theroux, Following Farage recounts one hack’s journey as he follows, drinks with, laughs at and even occasionally defends the phenomenon that is the United Kingdom lndependence Party as it prepares to march upon Westminster. With exclusive interviews and unfettered access to all the disgraced generals, trusty foot soldiers, deserters and dissenters who make up its ranks, Bennett delivers the inside scoop on what makes the People’s Army tick – all the while making the transition from elbowed-out hanger-on to the journalist Farage calls for an honest, post-election run-down of events. From the initial skirmishes and battle plans (the successful and the scuppered) to the explosive events of the battle for No. 10 itself – and the all-out civil war that broke out in its aftermath – Following Farage leaves no stone unturned, avenue untrod or pint undrunk in its quest for the truth about Britain’s newest and most controversial political force.
Buy the book HERE
Also this week sees the launch of THE POLITICOS GUIDE TO THE NEW HOUSE OF COMMONS 2015. In the wake of the most unprecedented election result in recent memory, the question on everyone’s lips is: what just happened to the UK’s political landscape – and why? And who are the 182 new faces on the House of Commons benches?
In The Politicos Guide to the New House of Commons 2015, public affairs consultant Tim Carr teams up with editors of the bestselling Politicos Guide to the 2015 General Election Iain Dale and Robert Waller to present an all-inclusive and essential post-election document for academics, journalists, students and political enthusiasts alike in the wake of the poll-defying 2015 general election.
Wide-ranging and accessible, this essential guide provides, amongst much else:
• Biographies of the class of 2015, alongside details of their majorities and constituencies;
• Demographic analysis by age, gender, ethnic origin, education and background;
• Lists of new marginal constituencies, possible targets seats, defeated MPs, and more;
• Expert commentary from political journalists and pollsters, exploring the role of the media, the historic result in Scotland and the future impact of fixed-term parliaments.
Ranging from the disastrous pre-election polls to the failure of UKIP to make a breakthrough – and the massacre of Scottish Labour – The Politicos Guide to the New House of Commons 2015 is a must-read for anyone eager to know the details of the election result that has so dramatically re-shaped the country’s political landscape.
You can buy the book HERE
On July 2 we publish Faith Clifford’s FIT-UP:FIGHTING THE POLICE TO CLEAR MY HUSBAND’S NAME. Arrested without warning, charged on unjust terms; Fit Up is the harrowing true story of a couple’s ten-year battle to reclaim their lives and integrity after a flawed police inquiry effectively ruined them, both emotionally and financially. From her unique perspective as wife of the accused, Faith Clifford documents the tragic consequences of her husband Jeremy’s wrongful arrest and charges for downloading child porn on the internet, and the subsequent ordeal that nearly drove them both to suicide.
Embroiled in the ill-managed Operation Ore, the most controversial investigation in recent police history, the couple remain the only people in the UK to have successfully sued the police in this type of case, having been finally awarded damages and significant costs of over £750,000.
Lifting the lid on embellished charges and manipulated evidence, Fit Up recounts in heart-wrenching detail how a normal couple were subjected to the stigma and prejudice of being associated with the vilest of crimes, and how, against all the odds, they persevered not only to clear Jeremy’s name, but to get the justice the couple so richly deserved.
When I met Faith and Jeremy I was truly horrified by what they told me. If there’s any justice in this world they will be invited to tell their astonishing story on every media outlet in the country. It’s a very worrying story which raises important questions about how the police and the rest of the justice system operate.
Buy the book HERE
James Purnell is the former cabinet minister and now the Director of Strategy and Digital at the BBC. He is very uncomfortable talking about his £295,000 salary (more than twice what Maria Miller gets as Culture Secretary) and is unable to tell us how much the BBC’s move to Salford cost. Well, at that salary you wouldn’t expect him to be a details man, would you?
19 Jun 2015 at 14:09
Sometimes you wonder how perfectly sensible politicians score such obvious own goals. How David Lidington thought it was at all sensible to try to persuade Tory MPs that the government should be given full authority to rig the EU referendum is anyone’s guess. The surprise was that only 27 Tory MPs had the courage to vote with their consciences. But this was actually far more important than anyone seems to realise. Why? Because there can now be no doubt whatsoever that the whole government machine will covertly support the ‘Yes’ campaign. And there is no doubt that the Prime Minister himself will support staying in, no matter how little he gains from his renegotiation. It’s a bizarre negotiating position for him to adopt vis a vis his European counterparts. What he’s saying is “give me what I want or, er, I’ll recommend we stay in”. Not sure David Cameron would be a good poker player.
I wonder how many Tory supporters have paid their £3 so they can vote in the Labour Party leadership election and throw their weight behind the obvious standout candidate, er, Jeremy Corbyn. Labour Party head honchos must have had their heads in their hands on Monday when it was announced he had scraped onto the final shortlist. It was he who the media talked about for the rest of the day, to the almost total exclusion of the other three. I have to say I lost a lot of respect for Sadiq Khan and Gareth Thomas, who are both running to be London Mayor. They gave their nominations to Jeremy Corbyn in a blatant attempt to curry favour with the left and get their second preferences in the mayoral contest. They may think it was clever politics, but in Sadiq Khan’s case it may well come back to haunt him.
The first Labour leadership hustings were something of a let-down, held in a hall in Nuneaton on a set which must have cost the BBC all of about £5. None of the four candidates really outshone the others, although Liz Kendall had the best line of the night when she had a great put-down for Andy Burnham who had told the audience “The Party must always come first”. Quick as a flash she said, “No, Andy, the country comes first.” Political writer Ian Leslie tweeted yesterday that “Andy Burnham seems comfortable with himself but looks as if he’s never convinced himself that he has something new to say.” It’s a good point. Yvette Cooper didn’t do anything wrong in the debate but she doesn’t half come out with some banalities. Her strategy is clearly to win on second preferences, just like Ed Miliband did. And that went well, didn’t it?
Yesterday the Institute of Economic Affairs celebrated its sixtieth birthday. Happy birthday to everyone associated with a think tank that has done more than any other to promote the benefits of the free market and liberal economics. Long may they thrive.
As well as the IEA’s birthday, yesterday was also the 45th anniversary of the surprise Conservative victory at the 1970 general election and the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. It made me think how little I know about a battle which was one of the more crucial dates of the 19th century. Had Wellington and Bluecher not triumphed it’s a fairly safe bet that we’d all be speaking French now. Sacre bleu! Wouldn’t that have been a domage!?
Remember that spat between David Mellor and a taxi driver. It covered acres of space in the papers at the time. Boris does the same thing and tells a cabbie to “fuck off and die, and preferably not in that order” and he merits only page 7 of both The Sun and the Daily Mail. No calls for him to quit, it was just ‘good old Boris’ standing up for himself. Just how does he get away with it? They said Ronald Reagan had a Teflon quality. Well you can say that in spades about the London mayor. I wonder how long it can last.
Go on Zac, you know your duty…
So a white man is behind the terrible shooting of nine people in South Carolina. I read that he is being described as a “troubled loner”. If he were a muslim he’d be described as a terrorist. People would be calling on all muslims to condemn and apologise for the murderous act as if they had somehow been complicit. The Koran would be called in evidence of Islam being a religion motivated by violence. As proof of how our modern media like to report incidents like this, read this exchange between an American journalist and someone who saw the gunman escape.
“He’s white”. “You sure? Could he not be fair skinned?” “White”. “Did he at least have a beard, work with me here!”
Think on that.
Britain has 1 per cent of the world’s population, 3% of the world’s GDP and pays 7% of the world’s benefits, according to the Chancellor. So if we all went down to a three day week we could cut our benefits bill! Result! It can only be a matter of time before Liz Kendall latches onto this as a winning policy.
12 Jun 2015 at 16:42
Seven years ago on Monday, John and I entered a civil partnership. You can read about the day HERE if you’d like to. It really was a perfect day.
Today we converted our civil partnership into a marriage. In effect it is backdated to 15 June 2008, so we’ve now been married for less than a day, but also for seven years. If you see what I mean.
We had thought about having a bit of a bash, but when we considered it further, we realised that it would seem a bit self-indulgent to do it all over again, especially when we have considered ourselves married all along. So today was all about the legalities and paperwork.
Off we toddled to Norwich Register Office for 2pm. We were asked to wait in a very soulless reception area, replete with photocopier. We then had to spend 45 minutes filling in forms and proving we were who we said we were. And then the registrar suddenly said “Oh, you’re now married.” She then took us back to the reception area to photocopy the marriage certificate and then we were done.
I know it seems weird to have done it like this, with no great fanfare or ceremony, or even witnesses (who, had we invited them, would have had to wait outside, we were told!), but we just felt that it would have rather undermined what we considered to be our real wedding back in June 2008.
We’re having a few friends to dinner at our favourite pub in Blickling, near Aylsham, tomorrow night, and that’s about it.
I did, however, persuade the notoriously photoshy John to have a couple taken today in our garden for posterity.
Finally, when we were sitting in the register office going through the paperwork I had a moment when I thought of Lynne Featherstone. Lynne was the LibDem Home Office minister who, with the backing of Theresa May and David Cameron brought in the Equal Marriage Act. She lost her seat at the election, but she will always be able to look back and think that this was a real political achievement. Just as Roy Jenkins will be remembered for decriminalising homosexuality, she will forever be associated with equal marriage. I can think of worse political legacies. Most ministers go through their careers achieving very little. She set out to do something and had the political courage and nouse to see it through.
12 Jun 2015 at 14:03
On 4 July I am chairing the first Conservative mayoral hustings for Conservative Way Forward. I’m amused that The Spectator’s Steerpike column is building this up as an Iain Dale v Ivan Massow confrontation. Hey ho. I suppose it might sell a few tickets! As well as Ivan Massow, three other candidates have confirmed they are taking part – Stephen Greenhalgh, Andrew Boff and Sol Campbell. I’m hoping Zac Goldsmith will also be there, but he’s waiting for the result of his constituency consultation. It would be nice for a couple of women to take part as well! The hustings takes place somewhere in Finchley – look at the CWF website or Twitter feed for more details.
A few nights ago I dreamt I was helping Nigel Farage with his election expenses. How sad is that? I asked him where his records were. “I didn’t keep any,” he said. Who’d be an agent?
I’m off work this week, so excuse the fact that this column is a little shorter than usual. I’m trying to switch off completely, but as usual it’s not working out like that. I’m on my own with our two dogs at our house in Norfolk, doing sweet F.A. Apart from watching DVD box sets and movies I’ve bought but haven’t watched yet. First up was the latest apocalyptic offering BEYOND. Rubbish. Then a German language offering, FREIER FALL, in which two policemen fall in love. Ein bisschen besser. Then FLIGHT, in which Denzel Washington crashes a plane, but does it well. Disappointing. The week was rescued by series 2 of VEEP and the last ever series of ‘24’, or ’12 as it became as they were obviously too lazy to complete the usual 24 episodes. Oh, and the weather’s been quite nice too.
The Times has taken over from the Telegraph as the broadsheet I turn to first of a morning, although these days I read it on my phone rather than buy a physical copy. I could hardly believe yesterday’s front page which carried a story about Alastair Campbell saying that any new Labour leader should be able to be ousted 18 months before an election if they’re not performing. Why could I hardly believe it? Because Campbell had said the same thing to me in an interview six days earlier and it had received quite a bit of coverage. I gently chided Michael Savage on Twitter who explained that he thought Campbell had gone a bit further and said he would lead any campaign to oust an underperforming leader, so that made it more newsworthy. Hmmm. Clearly a slow news day at The Times!
Nominations for the Labour leadership formally close on Monday, with the deputy leadership nominations closing two days later. It’s interesting that there are five candidates for the leadership and ten for the deputy leadership at the time of writing. It’s slightly mystifying that the deputy leadership is seemingly a more attractive post and has attracted a much more interesting array of candidates. However, because they all need 35 MP nominations, only four or five are likely to make the cut. I imagine they will include Tom Watson, Caroline Flint, Angela Eagle and Ben Bradshaw. Will Stella Creasy make the cut? I’m not sure. For some reason she seems highly unpopular among some of her colleagues. Perhaps it’s because she’s actually rather successful and they’re jealous. Her campaign against payday loan companies was a brilliant example of a backbencher achieving something. She actually won. Clearly something Labour MPs aren’t used to since 2005…
I still can’t work out whether this open letter of congratulation on LabourList to Ed Miliband is a piss take or not. Read it HERE . On balance, I think not. Which just goes to show how far some Labour supporters have to go until they understand why they lost.
Last night I dreamt Norman Lamb tried to enlist me on his campaign for LibDem leader. “We can’t do it without you, Iain,” I remember him saying in the dream. I wonder if a similar thought came to him in 2005…
I’m reading John Campbell’s biography of Roy Jenkins at the moment. I’m less than a third of the way through it, having only reached 1964, but I can already say it’s the best book I’ve read this year. A real tour de force. He was a randy old goat, wasn’t he? It’s always the quiet ones…
Oh, by the way, today is my wedding day. We’re converting our civil partnership into a marriage today in Norwich. No big bash though. We did that eight years ago. We sign a bit of paper, hand over the massive sum of £4, and that’s it. And back to work on Monday. Who said romance was dead?
11 Jun 2015 at 11:06
Seven years ago this month my partner and I got married. Well, at least we thought we did. The reason I say ‘thought’ is that for us, entering a civil partnership was indeed the same as getting married. For us the implications were the same. Yes, it was a legal contract, but it was so much more than that. It declared to the world our hopefully lifelong commitment to each other and it meant something. It meant a lot. And it was a perfect day.
Believe it or not, we held it in a castle. How gay is that!? Admittedly it was quite a small one. It could only take 104 guests, which led to some very difficult decisions on the guest list. To this day there are one or two people who still haven’t forgiven us for not being invited. The sun shone, the formal part of the ceremony went perfectly, the speeches were moving and funny and the food was superb. It was over in a flash, but it is a day neither of us will ever forget.
Seven years later we thought about doing it all over again. Like many other gay and lesbian couples who have entered civil partnerships, we’ve thought about whether and how to convert our civil partnership into a marriage, now that the law allows us to. I say ‘convert’ rather than ‘upgrade’, which is a rather unfeeling and emotionless word to use.
The question we have asked ourselves, though, is this. Why, when we already considered ourselves to be married, would we do it all over again? So we’re not going to. Sort of.
We had thought about doing the full works again – nice venue, invite loads of guests, have a celebrant. Everything. We even looked at a couple of venues in Norfolk. But one evening we both sat down and said to each other, why are we doing this? We’re not American. We’re not renewing our vows, so why go through all of this rigmarole?
So what we are going to do now is nip down to the local registry office on a Friday in June*, sign the conversion papers and pay our £11 – yes, £11, that’s all it costs. And the next day we’re inviting twenty people to dinner in a rather nice pub just up the road from our house near Norwich. No ceremony, no speeches, just sharing it over a meal with some friends. For us that’s the right thing to do. For others, it may be different.
Figures for civil partnerships seem to have stabilised at around 3,500 male and 3,500 female couple per year. That doesn’t seem a lot really bearing in mind there are around 250,000 heterosexual marriages each year. If 10 per cent of the population is gay, you might expect the figure for civil partnerships or gay marriages to be six or seven times the current level. Is this evidence that the 10 per cent figure isn’t right, and that it’s nearer 2 per cent? Or does it mean that gay couples are less likely to want to commit to long term, formalised relationships? It’s certainly food for thought.
Figures for dissolution of civil partnerships i.e. gay divorce are pretty meaningless when civil partnerships have only been around for a decade, but one interesting fact is that lesbians are twice as likely to divorce than gay men. Insert your own joke here.
Around 150,000 gay people are now in civil partnerships or marriages, which is far more than government statistics boffins predicted ten years ago. That should be a matter for rejoicing, not just by gay people, but society as a whole. Stable relationships make for a stable society, and gay people are just as capable of entering into long term, stable relationships as straight people, contrary to popular rumour. Ann Widdecombe once said to me that one of the reasons she opposed gay adoption was that it had been proved that gay relationships generally didn’t last longer than two years. “Really?” I said. “In my experience it’s usually about twenty minutes!” To her credit, after looking shocked, she did laugh. Sadly, she didn’t ask for further details. Maybe just as well.
This article first appeared in the June issue of Attitude Magazine
You can download an eBook of all my Attitude columns via Kindle or iBooks. It’s called GAY SHORTS. And all for only £1.99!