UK Politics

Mr Dale's Diary: Houses in Norfolk, Touched by Nick Clegg & My Granny's 117th Birthday

14 Aug 2011 at 20:58

  • I’m back in Norfolk this weekend searching for a cottage to buy. It’s not easy, is it, even in this economic climate? We’d like to buy a cottage on the coast, but it’s not up for auction until mid September and we can’t afford to put all our eggs in that particular basket. So yesterday was spent viewing what, on the face of it, seemed to be very promising prospects in Hevingham and Reepham. But the estate agent’s details are often not quite what they seem from the pictures. We visited one house recently which looked as if it didn’t have any properties either side. In fact it was crammed into a Brookside style estate. The estate agent’s photographer was clearly very inventive. We did in fact discover our perfect house in Wymondham. I lived in Wymondham for a year back in the 1980s. No disrespect to Wymondham or South Norfolk, but we really want to be north of Norwich as that’s where all our friends are. If only you could lift a house out of one area and easily transport it into another! In the end we put in an offer on the Trimingham property, but it is supposed to be sold at auction, so I have very little hope it will be accepted.
  • On Friday my grandmother, Constance Dale, was 117. Well, she would have been, if she hadn’t died in 1979. She was a huge influence on my life and I always think of her on her birthday. She sparked my interest in politics in my early teens. She was a rather regal figure and was known to some as the Queen Mother. She was born in 1894 and was a bit of a feminist. Had she been a teenager today she would have undoubtedly gone to university and had a glittering career. In her younger days she worked for the Post Office and then in 1922 she went to work at Wembley Stadium for a short time. She then married my grandfather, a much older man, who hailed from Ayrshire in Scotland and came down to East Anglia in the early 1920s having grown fed up of life working in the Consett steelworks. I think of her today and remember he telling me that Michael Foot was a communist and that I shouldn’t trust Labour as they always spend more money than the country can afford. Well, she was right on one thing, wasn’t she?
  • Imagine being yelled at by the Prime Minister for being 15 minutes late. Well that’s what happened to Boris Johnson when he arrived late for a Cobra meeting this week. And it was all done in front of other politicians and officials. Boris spent the rest of the meeting seething. I interviewed Boris this week for around ten minutes live on LBC. My interviewing style is less than Paxmanesque it has to be said, but I think Boris was a little surprised that I was a little bit more aggressive than normal. I’m sure I heard him say off mic “has he turned into boody Ferrari too?” The fact is that an interviewer does sometimes need to reflect the mood of his or her audience, and this week many people felt let down by the mayor. So I told him so.
  • I read in today’s Sunday Times that Robert Kilroy-Silk has published an e-novel called Betrayed. This is no doubt because he couldn’t persaude anyone to publish it conventionally. I was sent the manuscript and I have never read anything so crass and badly written. It ostensibly traces parliamentary characters through from 1974 to the present day, using real names. Bizarre wasn’t the word for it. But I do think this is going to be a new phenomenon. It only costs £100 or so to get an e-book published and I suspect it’s going to lead to some right old rubbish coming onto the market. Well, it just has.
  • There’s been some rubbish written about the riots – and most of it in The Guardian, but today Dominic Lawson has written a brilliant column in the Sunday Times taking on the apologists for the riots. He writes…
It’s true that one looter told a reporter: “It’s the government’s fault. Conservatives or something like that, yeah.” But what she seemed to mean was that she and her mates deeply resented the fact that their welfare payments couldn’t meet the cost of every item of gear they coveted, and it was therefore justifiable for them to steal the stuff.

Quite. And he ends with this horrific little tale…

Unfortunately, I was not surprised by this crass equivalence between banking and burglary. A few years ago, I wrote an article about the murder of my wife’s cousin, John Monckton, who was head of Legal & General’s bond investments. He had been knifed to death in his home by a burglar who also attempted to kill his wife in the assault. I then received a letter from a Mr Simon Malloni, which began: “While I appreciate that the loss of a friend of yours to an appalling crime is tragic, how many lives are ruined by investment bankers?” The author of this letter, who attempted to draw moral equivalence between the handiwork of the man who stabbed John to death in front of his family, and the victim’s choice of career, was at the time of writing a member of the Devon and Cornwall police authority. If such an individual is in any way typical of the sort of person to whom policemen are expected to justify their actions, we should have even more sympathy for their predicament.

I have never been in favour of elected police chiefs, but if people like this are on police authorities it makes me wonder whether I am right.

  • As a Reagan Republican I look at the growing field of Republican presidential candidates with sense of despair. Of the ten leading contenders there’s not a single one that I could vote for. Just as well I don’t have one, I suppose. At the last presidential election I ended up supporting the Democratic candidate for the first time ever and it looks as though I will do so again. The Republicans have become a nasty, quasi religious sect. They’re more interested in their own vicious social agendas against gays than developing a narrative which appeals to the whole of America. If they got their act together and realised that like Ronald Reagan did they could build a big tent they could sweep Obama out of the White House. But today’s Republican Party has forgotten the lessons Ronald Reagan taught it. And they will again suffer the consequences.
  • I hadn’t realised how tactile Nick Clegg is. I interviewed him on LBC on Monday night and he constantly kept touching my arm. Quite disconcerting when you’re trying to think of the next killer question. I’ve always liked him. He’s a risk taking politician, and nowadays they aren’t many of those left. I put it to him that I didn’t think he was enjoying the role of Deputy PM as much as David Cameron enjoys his job. He rather lamely said it wasn’t about enjoying it, which indicated to me I had a point.

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