UK Politics

Saturday Diary: A Little 'Present' From Dude

17 Oct 2011 at 20:07

*“Wow, congratulations!” That was the two word text I sent to Norwich North MP Chloe Smith when I heard of her promotion to the dizzying heights of Economic Secretary to the Treasury last Friday. It’s quite a meteoric rise for a 29 year old in only her third year in Parliament. And to be honest I am not sure that in the long term it will do her any favours. Already newspaper articles are appearing littered with anonymous quotes from jealous colleagues who feel that it should be them rather than a female 29 year old who got ministerial preferment. I understand their sense of ‘miffedness’. After all, it was they who did the heavy lifting in opposition only to be shunted into the sidings because of the need to provide 20 ministerial places for the Liberal Democrats. Many of them believe that Justine Greening’s elevation to Transport Secretary and Chloe Smith’s appointment owe more to the Prime Minister’s need to rebuild his popularity among female voters than their inherent political ability. Whatever the truth, Chloe Smith will know that she has something to prove over the next couple of years – to her colleagues, the electorate, and maybe even to herself. She wouldn’t be human if she didn’t approach the job with some degree of trepidation. Most of us are far less confident on the inside than our public persona suggests, and politicians are no different.

*On Monday the Conservative will again tear itself apart over Europe. It’s like it’s 1999 all over again. MPs have the chance to vote on whether there ought to be an In/Out referendum. Eighty MPs have already signed up to a Commons motion supporting the measure, but the Tories and Labour have idiotically imposed a three line whip on what is a backbench motion. Had Cameron allowed his MPs a free vote there wouldn’t be any fuss at all. Instead it is now being seen as a battle between the party leadership and the backbenches. People on the extremes of the argument think Europe is the most important political issue of our age. I agree, it is important, but YouGov polls never place it in the top ten issues people talk about down the Dog & Duck of an evening. Indeed, on my LBC phone in show it is something I discuss regularly. But unlike education, crime or health, it is not a subject which gets the phone lines jammed. Unwittingly, the MP who has drafted the motion for debate has given his colleagues a reason for rejecting it, because he thinks there should be three options in any referendum – stay in, get out, or stay in and repatriate powers. What on earth happens if the vote splits evenly? So if I were an MP who was rather afraid of the reaction of his Eurosceptic local party I could easily turn round and explain that I was going to vote against the motion on Monday because it is drafted badly. And it is.

*I have coined a new law – Dale’s Law. Dale’s Law is simply that whenever there is a big, breaking news story I take a night off from my LBC radio show. Last Friday, the night Liam Fox resigned, I was at the Frankfurt Book Fair and on Thursday night I missed out on covering the death of Gaddafi because I was hosting A Night With Ann Widdecombe in Harpenden. OK, my choice, you might say, and you’d have a point, but the Gods of News really seem to be against me!

*I have spent the last 24 hours shaking my head about the amount of hand ringing on the BBC about the death of Gaddafi. Dear oh dear. Who are we to pass judgement on how the Libyans dealt with him? Frankly, he deserved what had been coming to him for 42 years, and if I were Libyan. I’d have been out on the streets celebrating too. Enough of this cant about not revelling in the death of another human being. Gaddafi lost all rights to human compassion when he sold weapons to the IRA, embraced the murderer of WPC Yvonne Fletcher and ordered the murder of thousands of his own people. Not to mention Lockerbie. No, I can’t feel any smidgeon of sorrow that he was shot instead of tried in a court. If that makes me look hard, compassionless, cold blooded then I am sorry. Because I’m not. I feel huge compassion for his many victims and their families, who still live with the consequences of his thirst for blood. Gaddafi got what was coming to him, and I am proud that we have a government which was willing to support those who sought to overthrow him. It shows that liberal interventionism can work in the right circumstances, but that’s to say we can repeat it everywhere. But just because we can’t intervene everywhere doesn’t mean we shouldn’t intervene anywhere.

*Puppy Update: Dude the Jack Russell has now perfected the art of climbing onto tables. Even if all the chairs are tucked under the table, he manages to clamber up, and then stands proudly on the table until someone removes him with an admonishment. The dogs sleep in the kitchen. One morning this week I walked into the kitchen to find both Dude and Bubba asleep in their baskets. But I also found a little “present” on the kitchen table. Apart from nearly being sick, I did find it quite funny. My partner did not. I don’t think Dude will be doing it again…