Diary

ConHome Diary: Labour Shows Again That It Has Given Up on Winning Elections

4 Mar 2016 at 13:45

Ben Gummer is a very good MP according to many friends of mine. I rather admired him for standing in a seat which is never going to be ‘safe’. He won Ipswich in 2010 by a majority of just over two thousand. Most predicted he would lose the seat to Labour in 2015, but he confounded everyone by increasing his majority to more than 3,700. That’s about as good as it gets in Ipswich. Assiduous locally, he’s also now a minister in the Department of Health, where he is spoken of in glowing terms. But like his Dad, he has a complete blind spot over Europe. On twitter this week he’s been advocating the IN case but mainly by tweeting the usual Project Fear guff. I gently chided him and suggested he might use some positive arguments for a change. Back came a rather pompous reply, so I told him to grow up. He didn’t like that and said I was being very rude. Well, maybe, but if the best any politician on either side of the debate can do is to insult our intelligence and treat us like children, many be they need to be shocked out of their complacency. Project Fear scare tactics may turn out to win the day in the end, but it will be a very sad day for our politics.
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So this week Labour announced that Yanis Varoufakis had been appointed to advise Labour on economic policy and John McDonnell said that winning elections isn’t the most important thing for Labour – creating a social movement is. At least we now know that they’re not serious about winning an election. As if we didn’t before.
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One of my LBC producer colleagues opined to me a couple of weeks ago that it was impossible to support the LEAVE campaign because of the people who were representing them in the media. “They look completely unhinged,” was the remark which hit home. Two weeks on, I wonder if minds are changing on that front. Serious people have now come out to support LEAVE and most of them don’t have flapping white coats or stary eyes. This sort of thing is important. People advocating major change have to be both believable and likeable. That’s why Alan Johnson and Ken Clarke are such powerful advocates for the REMAIN side of the argument. Even if you’re not on their side in party politics, the chances are that you like them and find them believable. LEAVE now have Gisela Stuart, Boris, Gove, Kate Hoey, Michael Howard, Priti Patel, DD and many more. They could still do with a few more, though.
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Kudos to IDS and Priti Patel who have had the balls to stand up to Number Ten and insist that they should receive exactly the same level of support on the EU issue as other government ministers. It is a constitutional outrage that Sir Jeremy Heywood should issue an edit telling civil servants to provide no support or information to government ministers who are supporting LEAVE. He’s overreached himself and it was good to see Bernard Jenkin’s select committee holding the Cabinet Secretary to account. Sir Jeremy put in a typical oily performance and emerged relatively unscathed, but he need be under no illusion that his every action will now come under great scrutiny, and rightly so.
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Assuming the REMAIN side wins, attention will then turn to David Cameron’s next reshuffle, and what he will do with Boris Johnson. In theory he would be within his rights to completely ignore the soon to be ex Mayor of London, but I suspect a job will be found. But which one? Foreign Secretary is certainly out. Northern Ireland might have a certain appeal for the crueller minds in Downing Street, but I suspect they will come up with a suitably middling position which Boris wouldn’t like but would find difficult to turn down. Transport, comes to mind.
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I wonder if the BBC has overreached itself. No I’m not talking about the sacking of Tony Blackburn, I’m talking about the fact that they have hired Wembley Arena to host a Referendum debate and Q&A session in mid June. They haven’t got any star speakers lined up, and it’s difficult to imagine how this whole event would work. Why on earth hire an arena that holds 12,000 people when about ten of them would get to ask a question? I’m hearing that neither side of the debate is keen on this event and would be reluctant to put up their star people. So instead of Boris v Dave, it’s likely to be more like Ken v Liam.
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Gavin Barwell is one of the nicest MPs in Parliament. I can’t think he has any enemies at all. Normally I’d think that was not necessarily a good thing. If you haven’t got enemies, generally you can’t be very effective, but that’s not the case with Gavin. Like Ben Gummer, he won a marginal seat in 2010 and increased his majority in 2015. He’s now written a book about how he did it, which if you’re fighting a marginal seat next time around you really ought to read. It’s called HOW TO WIN A MARGINAL SEAT and is out in a couple of weeks. Preorder it HERE [insert link https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/how-to-win-a-marginal-seat ].
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Rather like the Labour Party, the US Republicans seem to be going through a seemingly neverending nightmare. Although numerically the presidential nomination isn’t yet sewn up for Donald Trump, it’s looking increasingly likely. His popularity is another sign of people’s dissatisfaction with the political elites, although given his wealth it’s nonsense to suggest that he comes from anything other than an ‘elite’. Marco Rubio seems to have vacated the ‘challenger’ position to the somewhat bizarre Ted Cruz. If Rubio can’t even win his home state of Florida in ten days’ time then his campaign is toast. So it really does look like Trump v Clinton. It’ll be some spectacle to watch, but I wonder what it will do to the Republican Party. Perhaps they will finally realise they need to appeal to the whole country and not just a narrow section of it.

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