18 May 2018 at 21:58
This is a special edition of CNN Talk on the Royal Wedding live from Windsor. Lovely setting.
18 May 2018 at 21:58
This is a special edition of CNN Talk on the Royal Wedding live from Windsor. Lovely setting.
Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary addresses the horse meat scandal and tells Iain it could contain products "injurious to human health"
18 May 2018 at 14:17
Tory MP Nick Boles wrote a brilliant article for the Jewish Chronicle on Wednesday in which he took Israel to task for the killing of 58 Palestinians on the Gaza border. In it he explained that as a strong supporter of Israel he couldn’t stand by and not question the tactics used by the IDF on Monday and Tuesday. I agreed with every word. If you’re a true friend of Israel you have to hold its government to account when it engages in actions which are so clearly wrong and wholly disproportionate. Yes, we get the fact that Hamas isn’t blameless here but it seems to me quite clear that the actions of the IDF have played into the hands of Hamas, who will be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of yet another generation of youngsters being radicalised into hating the Israelis. Israeli has an absolute right to defend itself and its borders, but if this action had been taken by Iran or Syria, can you imagine the howls of outrage there would be? Democracies don’t behave in this brutal way and ought to be capable of not rising to the bait put in front of them by terror organisations. Having said all that, Nick slightly backtracked a day later following the announcement that of the 59 Palestinians killed, 50 of them were members of Hamas. I have to say, I don’t think Nick needed to backtrack at all. Yes, you can say it meant that the IDF had targeted the people they were shooting, but surely that means that the IDF were operating a blanket shoot to kill policy on anyone they thought was a Hamas member. Loathe them as I do, do I support shoot to kill policy on Hamas supporters. No I do not. Because that reduces us to their level.
There’s been a lot on social media this week about the use of the word ‘gammon’ as an insult to Brexiteers by devout Remainers. Apparently, we’re all red faced, while middle aged men. Some have said the word is being used in a racist way. I wouldn’t quite go that far but it is certainly unpleasant and patronising. I plead guilty to being white and middle aged, although I don’t normally have a red face… It’s typical of these people to look down their noses at people they disagree with, on the basis that they consider themselves far cleverer and better educated than the dunderheads who voted Leave. The moral superiority they seem to have is quite astonishing. They cannot cope with the fact that Brexit has turned their worlds upside down. Both Matthew Parris and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown have written that Brexit has sent them to the edge of madness. Several others clearly fall into that category too. I try to find it amusing, but I don’t. There are two sides to any argument, and while I completely understand that many people disagree with Brexit, I often find the manner of their disagreement to be totally patronising. Many of them haven’t actually moved on from the referendum. They just rehash the same tired old arguments and fight battles which have already been lost. I’m almost at the point of not even engaging in these debates any longer. Anyone who even mentions the word ‘gammon’ deserves to be ignored, or muted on Twitter. And as for the pretentious #FBPE hashtag, well don’t even get me started on that one… I need a lie down.
It is quite remarkable that the Conservatives have established a fairly consistent 3-5% lead in the opinion polls. Given the divided Cabinet on Brexit and all sorts of other government failures, this lead can hardly be explained by the government’s brilliance. I wonder how long it will be before more people in the Labour Party put it down to the failings of their party’s leadership. They should have walked away with hundreds of gains in the local elections. They didn’t. They should be way ahead in all the opinion polls. They aren’t. I wonder when they will ask themselves why that is.
A man and a woman are getting married in Windsor on Saturday. Just thought you should know.
Wednesday marked the 75th anniversary of the Dambusters raid, led by Guy Gibson. Lord Ashcroft wrote about it in the Daily Express [insert link https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/life/960409/dambusters-raid-second-world-war-1943-german-dams-breached ]. Back in the early 1980s I lived a few miles from the Eder Dam in Bad Wildungen. I spent many a happy hour relaxing by the lake. I remember the first time I visited it on a school exchange in 1979. I was walking along the dam wall looking at a postcard of the moment the bomb hit and water fooded into the valley below, when a German man looked over my shoulder and exploded: “You bloody English did that!”. Quick as a flash I looked at him and said: “Yes, and a bloody good job we made of it too…”. It was an astonishing feat of scientific and aviation brilliance, and when news of the successful raids broke in Britain it really lifted people’s spirits. The very opposite happened in Germany. Which was really the point of it all. It also sent a strong message to Stalin, who had begun to doubt Britain’s war effort. Not any longer.
If you live near Bath, Jacqui Smith and I will be appearing at the Bath Literary Festival to record a live edition of our FOR THE MANY podcast on Sunday at 11am. Tickets are available on the festival’s website! Come and say hello!
12 May 2018 at 18:51
Around a year ago I was just finishing my 3.59pm talkup, at the start of my show – the bit where I take over from Shelagh Fogarty. I saw her looking at me rather intently. As the news started she said to me: “You should get that looked at.” I had no clue what she was referring to at first, but it was a black mole type mark on the side of my head. Until I started to shave my head I had no clue that it was there. My GP had never mentioned it, but Shelagh advised me to go to The Mole Clinic, which handily is located in Argyll Street, just around the corner from the CNN studios. It cost £45 I think and to cut a not very long story short, it turned out to be absolutely fine, and nothing to worry about. So far, so good.
In the months since then I’ve had several emails from people saying they saw me on TV and urged me to get my mole checked out. i replied to each one thanking them for their concern, explaining I had already done so and it was fine.
A year later, a few weeks ago, I got a reminder email from The Mole Clinic asking if I’d like them to take another look, and would I like a full body scan. Initially I thought I wouldn’t, but then I thought, well I have got the odd blemish here and there, why not. It involved having to strip off and a nurse examining my skin with some sort of hand held microscope thing. She found three or four moles, including one on my back and one on the back of my left knee. She took photos and sent them off to be analysed.
Three days later I got an UNKNOWN number on my phone. It was the Mole Clinic. I had that slightly empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was informed that the lab reckoned that two moles looked as if they could be pre-cancerous and I needed to urgently come into the clinic again to see a Dermatologist. Gulp.
A few days later I went in and was told that the mole on my back and and mole on the back of my knee needed to be removed. They said it was precautionary. I was given the choice of having it surgically removed or ‘shaved’ off. Both would involve local anaesthetics.
So after CNN Talk on Monday lunchtime and before my LBC show, that’s what I’ll be doing. Having two moles removed.
Why am I telling you all this? For one reason only. To urge you to get yourself checked out too. I nearly didn’t. I don’t know what the consequences would have been had I not done it – possibly none. I didn’t know the moles were there because I couldn’t see them. But they are so small anyway, maybe I wouldn’t have noticed them anyway.
A full body examination costs £145. It’s money well spent.
Visit The Mole Clinic’s website HERE
For the avoidance of doubt I have no commercial relationship with The Mole Clinic and they have not asked me or paid me or offered free treatment. I’ve paid the full rate.
11 May 2018 at 14:53
I was always under the impression that David Willetts had two brains. It seems that he has mislaid at least one of them since he left the House of Commons. Quite how he put his name to a ludicrous proposal from his Resolution Foundation to give every 25 year old £10,000 is one of the mysteries of the week. I know Think Tanks exist to think the unthinkable, but seriously…
I’ve known John Bercow since university days. I was head of UEA Conservatives in Norwich and he was my equivalent at the University of Essex. He was, er, shall we say quite right wing in those days. He was a leading light in the Monday Club and supported voluntary repatriation of immigrants. To say he has been on a political journey since then, is the understatement of the year. Eric Forth had been his great mentor and they formed a formidable double act on the backbenches, holding the government to account and being a royal pain in the arse to their own side on occasion. When he became Speaker he promised to leave after 9 years. That nine years is up on June 22. In some ways he has been a transformative Speaker, but his habit of admonishing MPs in such a rude manner means that his legacy will be seen as mixed. I have no idea whether Bercow will announce he will indeed vacate the post in late June. He hasn’t really got a get-out clause, but we all know how inventive politicians can be. Unfortunately for him, if he does go in June he will leave under the cloud of multiple accusations of workplace bullying. He will no doubt want to clear his name, which is quite understandable. However, this issue shouldn’t really be used as an excuse to prolong his period in office. While I do not stand alongside those who look for any excuse to get rid of Bercow, I do feel his time is now up. He should make the most of standing by his commitment not to serve for more than nine years, and so far as is possible, go out on a high.
I have no idea who his successor will be. No doubt there will be plenty of candidates. Harriet Harman’s name has been mentioned, but some say she has been too tribal in the past and would struggle to be totally independent. Another name doing the rounds is Dominic Grieve, who would command support from across the House. However, as a veteran campaigner and also chairman of the Intelligence & Security Committee, I’m not so sure he’d be interested in the job. It used to be a job that interested Jacob Rees-Mogg. No longer, I suspect…
So farewell, then, Heidi Alexander. Doesn’t it tell us everything we need to know about Corbyn’s Labour that the likes of Tristram Hunt, Andy Burnham, Dan Jarvis and now Heidi Alexander feel that they have brighter futures away from the clutches of Seumus Milne and John McDonnell. Understandable, I suppose, in the circs. It took only two days for Labour to move the writ for the by-election in Lewisham East. Why the hurry? I’ll tell you. Even with a 21000 majority, they are worried about the LibDems getting any sort of foothold there. But in reality they have no reason to worry. If Chris Rennard were still heading up LibDem by-election campaigns they would have every right to be kacking their pants. But he isn’t. So calm down, comrades.
This week has seen Nicky Morgan and Ken Clarke railing against the “Brexit obsessives”. Perhaps they need to look more closely in the mirror. It is they who are obsessed – obsessed with defying the vote of 17.4 million people. However much they like to pretend otherwise, it is they who are in smallish minority in the Conservative Party, which is now firmly Eurosceptic in outlook. It is indeed their absolute right to fight to change the party’s policy, but to dub their opponents as “obsessives” when all they want to do is carry out government policy is pushing it a bit.
8 May 2018 at 09:00
Back in 2009 GQ asked me to write a fake obituary of Peter Mandelson, along with Andrew Roberts, John Kampfner, Stephen Bayley, Matthew D’Ancona and John Rentoul. I decided to make mine rather more tongue in cheek than some of the others did, but they were all hugely entertaining…
Peter Mandelson, who has died at the age of 81, was the last surviving member of the trio who founded ‘New Labour’. Along with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown he developed a political philosophy and election winning techniques that dominated British politics for more than a decade at the cusp of the last century.
Peter Mandelson left government in 2010 in disgrace – for the third time. Two years previously he had made an unexpected return to the front line of British politics, overcoming a decade long feud with the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The three years of Gordon Brown’s premiership were not happy ones for the Labour Party or the country with economic and social breakdown besetting them at every turn. Mandelson, who had made his reputation as the Rasputin of ‘New’ Labour did what he could to prop up a clumsy and faltering Prime Minister, while promoting his own agenda and position at every opportunity. It was in doing this that he committed what later came to be seen as the defining act that finally ruined any chance Labour had of winning re-election. In a TV debate with Shadow Chancellor George Osborne he was filmed slipping an ecstasy pill into Osborne’s glass. Having resigned on two occasions during Tony Blair’s first term of office, his third resignation only weeks before the April 2010 general election plunged the Labour Party into two decades of infighting, from which it only recently recovered fifteen years later with the election of teenage glamour model Princess Tiaamii Andre-Price as leader.
In the years following that defeat for his party and his subsequent retirement from public life Mandelson did much to atone for his actions. He eschewed the lucrative business and consultancy appointments that had once seemed his for the taking, with the concomitant fortune that he would have made. Instead he devoted the rest of his life to quiet acts of practical charity and voluntary work. And there are many who speak now of his kindness and generosity in the help that he gave.
By 2025, the country was teetering on the verge of economic and social chaos, and in June that year, the army stepped in to restore order. It was a ‘very British coup’ with no troops on the street. King William suspended parliament and on military recommendation asked the 72 year old Senator Mandelson to come out of retirement to form a puppet administration. It has been difficult to locate the Senator, who, some years earlier had devoted his life to becoming a Buddhist monk wandering from village to village living off food handouts. He was finally tracked down to a shanty town outside Rio de Janeiro.
Mandelson’s period as Lord Protector lasted barely two weeks before his old rival, George Osborne led a march on Whitehall, and seized power in a final bid to get one over on the man whose summer holiday in the Aegean in 2008 had so very nearly ruined such a promising political career. Senator Mandelson did not go quietly, appearing on Sky News being dragged from Number Ten Downing Street screaming “I’m a fighter, not a quitter.”
4 May 2018 at 13:01
Wednesday’s meeting of the Brexit subcommittee on Brexit could have gone very wrong indeed. If the Prime Minister had tried to force through her unworkable ‘Customs Partnership’ proposal there could have been very serious consequences. If any or all of the ‘four Brexiteers’ had resigned – and I absolutely believe at least two of them would have – and the local election results proved to be worse than expected (remember, I write this on Thursday morning so at the time of writing I have no idea what the results will look like) then Theresa May’s position would yet again have been under threat. And this time, understandably so.
The committee turned out to be 6-5 against the Prime Minister, with both Sajid Javid and Gavin Williamson backing the four Brexiteers. History won’t record how it might have been different had Amber Rudd been there rather than the shiny new Home Secretary. On such vagaries do prime ministerial careers hang.
‘Every Prime Minister needs a Willie’ said Margaret Thatcher. And she was right to acknowledge Willie Whitelaw’s role in giving her wise, and sometimes uncomfortable advice. She also some very trusted political friends who were always there for her in troubled times. She had people she culd turn to, who she could trust and had her back. Theresa May has none of these people. Since her trusted lieutenants Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy departed she has only her husband to turn to. She doesn’t have the same kind of political friends other politicians have. Even those who work closest to her and spend most time with her, Gavin Barwell and Robbie Gibb, aren’t what you would call personally close to her in the way that Hill and Timothy were. When they left Downing Street, she lost two limbs. People who had her back. People who knew which dark arts to deploy to protect the mothership. She must miss them terribly. Being prime minister is a lonely job at the best of times. Taking decisions of the type she has had to take recently must be incredibly difficult and solitary. In interviews she’s very matter of fact about it all and repeats the mantra of ‘just getting on with the job’. Perhaps we will never know the full role Philip May plays in being the Prime Minister’s ‘Willie’, but I suspect it’s a job far more burdensome than Willie Whitelaw ever did.
At 7.30am on Tuesday morning I was just about to get on the train to Charing Cross from Tonbridge when my phone started ringing. It was the Evening Standard Comment Desk asking if I could quickly write 1400 words on the relationship and future rivalry between Sadiq Khan and Sajid Javid, the new Home Secretary. To be honest, I doubted whether I was the right person to write this piece, but I agreed anyway. My partner constantly nags me to learn the art of saying ‘no’, but one of my news resolutions was to write more, and it seemed rude not to take it on. So I started tapping away on the train and by the time I got to Charing Cross I had most of it done. Don’t ask me how. Some people spend hours and hours writing a single column. When I had a fortnightly column on the Telegraph, the best column I ever wrote was one that I dashed off in twenty minutes. However, given the very tight deadline, almost as soon as I got into my office at Biteback I pressed send, and off it went to the Standard. To be honest I wasn’t very happy with it. However, I often find that what I’m not happy with on the screen, reads much better when you read it in the paper. I concluded: “Javid and Khan have the potential to be the new Ted Heath and Harold Wilson of British politics, but with a difference. Javid and Khan don’t just respect each other; they actually like each other.” What I meant by that, is that Heath and Wilson dominated British politics for ten years. These two, if the political stars align, have the potential to do the same.
I am a poetic philistine. I know nothing about poetry, I don’t want to know about poetry and it is a literary genre I couldn’t care less about. However, I have heard of the poet Benjamin Zephaniah. I first came across him when he used to be on Question Time with Robin Day in the 1980s. I always knew he was an out and out Lefty, but he always seemed to have a good sense of humour and had a twinkle in his eye. This week he admitted to beating up his female partner, and he called black Tories ‘animals’. Suddenly that twinkle has turned into something else. Why is it that people on the Left can’t get their heads around any member of an ethnic minority voting Tory? It’s something which is so patronising and condescending – as if individuals aren’t allowed to have minds of their own. It’s the ‘Animal Farm’ mindset – the ruling classes thinking they know better than everyone else. And it stinks.
By midnight tonight (Thursday) I will have been on air on radio or TV for 13 of the previous 20 hours. Even I will have grown very tired of hearing my own voice. I’m looking forward to a media free weekend breathing the fresh Norfolk air. And sleeping.
1 May 2018 at 23:15
The Sajid and Sadiq show: UK’s two most influential British Asian politicians are on the path to greater power. When Sajid Javid was appointed Home Secretary yesterday, Sadiq Khan was the first to congratulate him — now their friendship could turn to political rivalry.
He’s really impressive. Who is he?” said my non-political partner after watching Sajid Javid, the new Home Secretary, at the Despatch Box yesterday. I explained that only six hours before, he had been appointed to a job that had seen his friend Amber Rudd fall on her sword the previous evening. “Well, if he can do that after only a few hours, do you think he could be prime minister?” came the retort. And that’s the question on everyone’s lips in Westminster.
The first to congratulate Javid on his appointment was the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. He tweeted: “I hope we can work together to tackle the tough challenges we face — from making sure our police have the resources they need, urgently dealing with the Windrush scandal, and putting an end to the ‘hostile environment’ for migrants.” Two years earlier it was Javid who was one of the first to congratulate Sadiq on his election as mayor, tweeting: “From one son of a Pakistani bus driver to another, congratulations.”
The two most powerful and influential British Asian politicians are now on the path to greater power. They are both seen as party leader material, and potential prime ministers. There are a lot of “ifs” to get through before that even becomes a possibility, but there is little doubt that both politicians have their eye on the top job. Get ready for the Sadiq & Saj show. It’s the new double act in British politics.
On the surface, Khan and Javid have much in common. Their respective parents came here from Pakistan in the Sixties, they share a religious background and they’ve made it good from humble beginnings. They’ve fulfilled the dreams that their parents must have had for them when they made the decision to emigrate, but there the similarities end.
Their politics and personalities couldn’t be more different. Khan wears his heart on his sleeve, can be emotional and, on occasion, touchy-feely. Javid, on the other hand, is more formal and, some say, robotic. Cool, calm and collected, he finds public displays of emotion come less easily to him. One Tory MP said to me: “Look in his eyes, and there’s nothing there.” Unkind, perhaps, but a weakness for any politician in a world where emoting in public is expected. Khan can take selfies with the best of them while, with Javid, what you see is what you get.
Politically, they are chalk and cheese. Javid is a proud Thatcherite and doesn’t care who knows it. An expensive portrait of her hangs in his ministerial office. He rose quickly up the ministerial ranks, starting as PPS to the Chancellor only 18 months after being elected to the Commons in 2010.
The Chancellor was impressed and Javid then spent two years as a Treasury Minister before David Cameron promoted him to the Cabinet in April 2014 as Culture Secretary. It was a stratospheric rise, but he was a square peg in a round hole. A year later he was promoted to the Business Department and seemed set for great things.
And then Brexit happened. To the consternation of everyone who knew him, Javid came out for Remain despite having been viewed as one of the leading Eurosceptics in the Cabinet. He justified it by declaring his loyalty to Cameron, saying he was worried about the effect of Brexit on British business.
Rather like Theresa May, he didn’t play a huge part in the referendum campaign. With David Cameron gone and the Brexiteers in the ascendancy, Javid disappeared from the lists of future leadership contenders. In a bizarre alliance, he threw in his lot with Stephen Crabb in a brief leadership campaign that fizzled out as quickly as it had been glued together.
If Javid’s rise was meteoric, Khan’s was anything but. Elected in 2005, he had to wait more than three years to be made a minister. He was a young man in a hurry, and only a few months after being elected he was knocking on the door of the Labour chief whip, Jacqui Smith, asking brazenly why he hadn’t been made a minister.
In 2008 he started his rise up the ranks, which culminated in attending the Cabinet as Minister of State for Transport. He became the first Muslim to sit round the Cabinet table.
Unlike Javid, Khan is hard to pigeonhole politically. He does not suffer from ideological certainty and is known for being politically rather flexible. His flip-flopping on supporting (or not) a third runway at Heathrow has become the stuff of legend. But he also has a talent to sniff which way the political wind is blowing. He was the first to spot Ed Miliband’s potential to become Labour leader in 2010 and ended up running his campaign. His political acuity also led him to run for the Labour nomination to be London mayor, seeing off Tessa Jowell and David Lammy in the process, in a contest which became increasingly bitter.
I remember hosting a hustings on LBC in which Khan and Lammy spent the whole time trading insulting barbs. It was further evidence of Khan’s streetfighting abilities.
Both men have love-hate relationships with their leaders. Khan hugs Jeremy Corbyn close when he needs to — controversially nominating him as leader — but generally keeps him at a respectful distance. He knows, however, that if he is ever to lead the Labour Party he will need the support of the Corbynistas, so from time to time will say something designed to keep them on side.
Javid ended up supporting May’s leadership campaign, yet has had a very cool relationship with her since. She demoted him to Communities Secretary and he never really forgave her. Indeed, her supporters accused him of plotting to overthrow her. He narrowly escaped being sacked from the Cabinet in the post-2017 reshuffle after clashing with the Prime Minister in Cabinet. Had May got the majority she expected, there’s little doubt Javid would now be on the backbenches. On such vagaries are political careers saved.
And then came Grenfell. Khan became the voice of London, ever-present on the scene, empathising, hugging, doing interview after interview all the while knowing he didn’t really have many powers to actually do anything. By contrast, Javid stayed in the background, coordinating everything from his ministerial office. He drew a lot of criticism for not being at the forefront of the rescue efforts. In fact he was, but people didn’t see it for themselves. Perception is almost as important as reality in these matters, and while a Cabinet Minister naturally needs to concentrate on managing a crisis, Javid needed to be front and centre of informing people via the media about what he was actually doing to handle the crisis.
There’s no doubt about Javid’s competence and talents. He may be an instinctive Conservative, but he also has some ideological grounding. He’s more likely to be found reading the Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand than Doris Lessing. He’s being painted as a centrist, when nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, he’s got liberal views on same-sex marriage and abortion, but in economic terms he’s a dry-as-dust Thatcherite.
As Home Secretary, he will be judged on crime and immigration. His brother is a Chief Superintendent in the West Midlands, and it will be interesting to see if he adopts a rather more friendly approach to the police than his two immediate predecessors have. Khan laid down a challenge to the new Home Secretary in his congratulatory tweet and it is already evident that he will be striking a very different tone on immigration. The test will be whether he has the courage and political will to force the Prime Minister to abandon her ridiculous and unachievable pledge to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands and to take students out of the immigration figures altogether.
Javid and Khan have the potential to be the new Ted Heath and Harold Wilson of British politics, but with a difference. Javid and Khan don’t just respect each other; they actually like each other.
This article first appeared in the Evening Standard on 1 May 2018
30 Apr 2018 at 08:39
Back in 2006, when he took over from Charles Clarke at the Home Office, John Reid famously declared that the Home Office was “not fit for purpose”. It is hard to escape the conclusion that little has changed in the intervening twelve years.
Amber Rudd’s resignation last night further burnishes the department’s reputation as a political graveyard. She took an honourably course of action, having concluded that there was too much evidence that she had “inadvertently” misled the Home Affairs Select Committee last week on the subject of deportation targets. In any normal political environment she might have weathered the storm, but the almost daily leaks and revelations about the Windrush scandal built up to such an extent that since Thursday her departure seemed more and more inevitable. However, few saw it coming last night. This tweet was posted just four minutes before the resignation was announced…
It’s become easier to imagine the end of the world than a Tory minister resigning for probably lying – we are at peak neoliberalism
— Paul Mason (@paulmasonnews) April 29, 2018
Amber Rudd’s biggest mistake, perhaps, was to indirectly blame Home Office civil servants for the Windrush scandal. That didn’t go down well, and they felt it gave them licence to leak. And leak they did. Almost daily. It was political death by a thousand cuts. It was very reminiscent of the departure of Charles Clarke in 2006. One revelation after another led to pressure which no politician could withstand.
Whoever succeeds Amber Rudd will need to show a much greater attention to detail, and leave no briefing paper unread. Any minister is reliant on their private office to point out what they need to read and what they don’t, and on the face of it she was let down by her civil servants and her special advisers. Theresa May survived for six years as Home Secretary in part because she had three very powerful special advisers who acted as her enforcers and her eyes and ears. Amber Rudd needed the equivalents of Nick Timothy, Fiona Hill and Stephen Parkinson. But in the end the buck stops on the Home Secretary’s desk, and she cops the blame. This shouldn’t deflect from the fact that the new Home Secretary will need to show an iron grip.
The reason most commentators felt that Amber Rudd might well survive was that it was in the Prime Minister’s interest for her to do so. All the policies which Amber Rudd was under attack for were dreamt up during Theresa May’s tenure as Home Secretary. In a sense, Rudd was acting as the Queen Bee’s praetorian guard, or human shield. That shield has now been shattered. The Opposition will now be marshalling its political forces for an all-out attack on the Prime Minister. Although Number Ten may be thanking their lucky stars that Diane Abbott is Shadow Home Secretary rather than Yvette Cooper, but they shouldn’t be too complacent. In the last few weeks Diane Abbott has demonstrated a much overdue ability to get under the skin of the government and to explain her points in media interviews.
Twitter has gone into overdrive predicting who the new Home Secretary will be, with Sajid Javid the overwhelming favourite. He and the PM have not always seen eye to eye, to put it mildly, but he’s an experienced cabinet minister and as Britain’s first ethnic minority Home Secretary it would send out a powerful signal of change. James Brokenshire would be the safe choice, given he spent six years as Theresa May’s deputy and knows the Home Office inside out. However, given that this job would be about as tough as they come, he may well feel he needs a bit longer to recover from his operation in January. David Davis might be an outside bet, given that he and Number Ten seem to be at continual loggerheads over Brexit at the moment. He spent five years as Shadow Home Secretary and would have the toughness to do the job, but a move for him might cause other problems, not least who would replace him?
Whoever is appointed should take the job on one condition – that the prime minister agrees to drop the ridiculous commitment to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands, and agrees to take students our of the immigration figures. The PM is about the only member of the cabinet to still think the target is achievable or even desirable. It is neither, and it should be ditched.
The detail, content and tone of immigration policy needs a complete overhaul. If the Prime Minister fails to realise this, it means that another nail will have been tapped into her political coffin. The lid may not yet be shut, but it’s closing fast.
There are good people in politics and bad people in politics. Amber Rudd was one of the good people. George Osborne tweeted this morning that with her resignation the government has become “a little less human”. I tweeted this last night…
If your best friend sat you down and said: “I’m going to stand for parliament,” would u in all conscience advise them to go ahead? I’m afraid I would not. What a sad state of affairs our politics is in when even I would try to dissuade someone from trying to climb the greasy pole
— Iain Dale (@IainDale) April 29, 2018
It’s not just Amber Rudd’s resignation that makes me feel this way. It’s a growing disillusion with the entire state of our politics and political discourse. Twelve years ago I was proud to stand for political office. Now, I think I’d be mad to do so, and I certainly wouldn’t advise a close friend to do so for a whole raft of reasons. Evil will triumph when good men sit back and do nothing, someone once said. Maybe, but in the end, we get the politicians we deserve. Social media has polluted our entire political debate, whereas it should have enhanced it. It’s not just social media that is to blame, but it exemplifies all that is wrong in the way we conduct ourselves, and I’m just as much to blame as anyone.
All this means that as time goes by, we lose good people from the political world and slowly but surely the House of Commons is being populated by low quality, obsessive, machine politicians. And I see little sign of that trend reversing. There are a few bright lights on both sides of the House, but the party machines ensure that they are never allowed to climb the greasy pole.
God help us all.
27 Apr 2018 at 13:54
Amber Rudd, in her evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee on Monday, declared that she was aware of individual cases related to Windrush children, but hadn’t joined the dots and realised that something systemic had gone wrong. I suppose I would gently ask how many cases does it take for the dots to be joined? Naturally, Labour are calling for her resignation, just as Tories would if they were in Opposition. Amber Rudd is arguing that she’s best placed to sort it out, the very same argument that Gordon Brown used after the financial crisis. He got away with it, will she?
In a week’s time we will know the results of the local elections. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there are elections on, not that you would know it, given the lack of posters on show. I wonder if the day of the political poster is over. It’s getting more and more difficult to persuade voters to display their political affiliations in their window. It’s easy to understand why given the aggression shown on social media who advertise their political wares. I don’t think a poster display ever changed a single vote, but there’s no doubt that seeing a good poster display energises a political tribe and makes them feel good about themselves. It also makes people realise that they are not alone in holding the views they do. I well remember back in 1983 the poster display at the very left wing University of East Anglia, where I was a student. The placed was plastered with Vote Conservative posters, much to the horror of the local Labour Party. It was the first indication that the two Labour MPs in Norwich were about to be beaten by two insurgent Tories.
Given that the BBC is supposed to be the guardian of public service broadcasting I was rather surprised to learn that they will not be doing a full election results programme on either Radio 4 or Radio 5 Live next Thursday. They have also cancelled Andrew Neil’s THIS WEEK programme. They will be doing a local election results show on BBC1, hosted by Huw Edwards, but with no role for Andrew Neil. Bizarre, given that on a night like this, Andrew Neil is surely one voice you really want to hear from. Anyway, the whole point of this is to tell you that I’ll be hosting a six hour long local election night show on LBC with Jacqui Smith from 10pm through until 4am, so I do hope you’ll join us for at least some of it.
One of my jobs this week at Biteback was to convince a best-selling author that they should publish with us rather than the much bigger publisher that they went to for their last two books. Given that our pockets aren’t as deep as the publishing big boys, it’s not necessarily the easiest of tasks, although it was the author that approached me, rather than the other way around. So many authors are now getting tired of the contempt which is displayed towards them by their publisher. Their main complaint is that they can never talk to anyone at their publisher. No one is ever at their desk and the phone always goes to voicemail. It’s almost as if authors are an inconvenience to the publishing process. Even when they are as famous as this particular author, they are made to feel like a small fish in a very large pond. Big publishers need to rediscover the personal touch, otherwise the trickle of authors seeping to independents will become a stampede.
I keep trying to think of a joke to make about Dominic Raab’s ministerial diary secretary who was revealed in Thursday’s Daily Mirror as a £750 a time high class hooker. Unfortunately, even my smutty mind has failed to come up with anything for you. She revealed that Dominic orders exactly the same meal for lunch from Pret every day, seemingly thinking that was very odd. Not half as odd as her activities, I’d say. Takes all sorts, I guess. No one could ever say she wasn’t on her game…
I started with Amber Rudd, so let me finish with her. Timing is everything in politics. Guess who was guest of honour at yesterday’s Lobby Lunch in the press gallery? Yup, Amber Rudd. When it rains, it pours for her at the moment. The thing is, she seems to take it all in her stride. Fortitude counts for a lot in politics. All she can do is take Churchill’s advice and Keep Buggering On.
22 Apr 2018 at 23:20
If you want to read Bridget Jones meets Donald Trump, then this is the book for you. And even if you don’t, it’s for you. It’s a really enjoyable, funny, and mostly insightful book about Donald Trump’s campaign to become President, seen through the eyes of an NBC reporter.
Katy Tur was assigned to the Trump campaign when it wasn’t really a campaign. At the time, she was an NBC correspondent reporting from London. She even had her bijou little flat, and was enjoying life in merry old England very much. She’d even garnered a French boyfriend who was rather unceremoniously dumped when the call came from New York: “We need you back here. Now.”
So back she went, and never really looked back. No one expected Trump to win. Reading between the lines, Katy wondered what she had done to deserve to be assigned to the campaign of a candidate who couldn’t possibly get the nomination. Well, assigned she jolly well was, and she decided she’d better make the best of it.
The book isn’t in chonological form. She flits from the night he won, to episodes on the campaign trail and then back again. But it works. She’s certainly had a good editor, be ause sometimes this way of writing can go seriously wrong.
The joy of the book is her constant encounters with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, commonly known as Donald J Trump. One moment he loves her, the next moment he’s calling her a terrible journalist at a rally. She didn’t sign up to be abused by Trump supporters but that is what happened. At the behest of the candidate. At times she’s horrified by Trump, at times repelled. But there’s a gruding respect too. And it works both ways. In the end he knew she had a job to do and at times he helped her do it. At other times he was just a pain in the ass.
The media’s relationship with Trump is one which has not yet been fully explained, and I think this book actually helped me understand the reporter-candidate dynamic in a way I hadn’t before. Every day there was a real pressure on Tur to deliver a Trump story for the NBC Nightly News. How hard can that be, you may well ask. Well, when the Trump media machine operates in an entirely unpredictable manner and at times would actually obstruct perfectly legitimate stories, you feel a constant empathy towards Tur as she tries, sometimes in vain, to do her job. She also articulates the competitive nature of the job, where she’d do her best to beat CNN or ABC to the interview or story.
Above all this is a very human story, of a reporter trying to do her job and somehow live the semblance of a normal life at the same time. It shows how reporters are entirely at the mercy of their voracious employers for whom the ‘exclusive’ is everything and it shows the toll being a reporter can take on their personal life.
I look forward to reading her next book, given that she is now based in Washington covering the Trump White House.
You can follow Katy Tur on Twitter at @KatyTur.
But her book HERE