Diary

ConHome Diary: Zac Needs To Get Pumped Up

12 Feb 2016 at 13:36

The EU Referendum campaign continues albeit with the Prime Minister still rigging things in his favour. He still feels free to opine on the issue and yet bans any minister who takes a different view from speaking. His ridiculously pathetic attempt to scare us into believing that the Calais Jungle would suddenly become the Folkestone jungle was quite a sight to behold. Good for the French in immediately making clear they wouldn’t seek to rip up the bilateral arrangement, which has absolutely bugger all to do with the EU. The mayor of Calais was no doubt doing her nut.
The latest scare story comes not from Cameron but from Hilary Benn, who yesterday tried to make out that Vladimir Putin would be secretly rather pleased if we left the EU. You’ve got to laugh. As if Putin would give a toss either way.
There is a view that if the Prime Minister recommends we stay in (and let’s face it, he’s not going to do anything else) then that’s game, set and match for the ‘In’ campaign. I take a different view. If you have the political establishment, big business, the BBC, the Church and the beautiful people all advocating one thing, don’t be surprised if the people do the exact opposite. We’ve become a suspicious bunch and far less deferential to those supposedly know better than us.
There is still the leadership problem. Those speaking out in favour of leaving still resemble people attending a John Redwood leadership campaign launch. Where are those who can articulate why we should leave without frothing at the mouth and their eyes resembling the aftermath of a Ketamin intake?
Well, there have been two significant developments in the last few days. First David Davis gave a lengthy ‘death by powerpoint’ lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in which he carefully went through all the positive reasons for leaving, and scotching many of the scare stories. It was immediately interpreted as a bid to lead the ‘LEAVE’ campaign. Whether it was or not (and I genuinely don’t know), they could do far worse.
Secondly, Sarah Wollaston, previously a self-confessed Europhile, wrote a brilliant article on Wednesday’s Times articulating why she had decided we now had to leave. She describes Cameron’s EU deal as a “threadbare offering” and asks “What use are “emergency breaks” when the driver has no control or “red cards” that have no credible chance of being deployed?” She concludes: “If they are to have any hope of persuading the undecideds, the leave campaigns must settle their differences and inspire. We need a clear blueprint for Britain working alongside the EU in a constructive new partnership. We would join as the world’s fifth largest economy, not isolated but confident, outward-looking and open for business.”
And this is the challenge for the ‘LEAVE’ campaign. Unite, inform, inspire. Are they up for the challenge?
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When you’re in a campaign you need to want to win it. You need to look as if you want to win it. You need to have all guns blazing. Radiate optimism. Inspire your campaign workers. At the moment Zac Goldsmith is doing none of these. He looks as if he’d rather be anywhere else but doing what he’s doing. It appears that being in a bathtub with Mrs Brown would be preferable to sitting in a studio answering questions on his vision for London. David Cameron needs to give Zac a lesson on how to appear being ‘pumped up’.
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The common consensus is that Sadiq Khan is having the better of the campaign so far. But all is not lost by any stretch. Assuming Zac discovers his Mojo, he also has a powerful ally. Don’t laugh but his name is George Galloway. Galloway knows he won’t win, but he can inflict some significant damage on Sadiq Khan in some of the inner London Boroughs. I am told that his supporters are encouraging voters just to use their first preference vote, and leave the rest of the ballot paper blank. Neither of the main two candidates is likely to win on the first ballot. If enough Galloway supporters don’t use their second or even third preferences for Sadiq, that could let Zac through the back door. Stranger things have happened.
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In March I am publishing David Laws’ book on the history of the coalition. It’s imaginatively titled ‘Coalition’. I finished reading the unedited manuscript recently. I know I’m the publisher and I am biased, but it certainly doesn’t disappoint. There is one politician who comes out of it very badly indeed and won’t be a happy bunny. Such a tease…
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If you’ve never listened to the Alex Salmond Phone-in (Wednesday at 4 on LBC) you’re missing a treat. This week Mr S couldn’t remember his salary as First Minister and was challenged to a fight on air by a certain Mr William Wallace of Brentwood. Och aye, we even bring back people from the dead on LBC. It’s no doubt part of the reason David Mellor and Ken Livingstone have a show! Just my little joke. I actually think their Saturday morning show is one of the best shows on the station. It ought not to work but it really does. Tune in Saturday mornings from 10 and judge for yourself. Class bantz.

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