ConHome Diary: Silencing John Humphrys & The Thatcherite Who Believes in Nationalisation

1 Apr 2016 at 11:48

If I was compiling a Top Ten List of Ultra Thatcherites, and you know how I like my lists, Monmouth MP David Davies would be fairly high on it. So when I interviewed him about the steel crisis in Port Talbot, imagine my surprise when he told me he would be in favour of temporary nationalisation of the plant in order to save it, and he agrees with Jeremy Corbyn that Parliament should be recalled.

One other surprise in this whole sorry saga is that the LEAVE campaigns haven’t seized on it as a good example of where EU rules prevent a UK government from saving such an industry even if it wanted to. We seem to be about the only country in the EU that actually obeys State Aid regulations, and given the timetable for approval of applications it’s unlikely that would be any sort of solution. In addition, it’s not within the UK’s power to act unilaterally and impose higher steel tariffs on Chinese imports. It has to be done at EU level. Having said that, it was the UK which vetoed higher tariffs, which were in the end agreed at 24%. In the USA they are levied at 267%.

Anyway, back to David Davies. Monmouth was the first constituency I ever applied for, and I wasn’t that far off from being selected. Canny David Davies organised his supporters to ensure the weakest candidate got through the final round runoff, and the rest is history. Mind you, it’s just as well I didn’t get it. I’m sure the local papers would soon have found out that the first time I visited Wales in my life was for the first round interview!
So Donald Trump thinks women who have abortions should be “punished”. I’d have thought the trauma of having an abortion was punishment enough. This comment alone ought to rule him out as the Republican nominee, but he seems to be getting more popular by the day. However, I cannot bring myself to believe that he could actually win the general election in November I just can’t.

So the new Newsnight political editor is Nick Watt, currently chief political correspondent of The Guardian. There has been plenty of sighs at Ian Katz (Newsnight editor and formerly deputy editor of The Guardian) appointing yet another Guardianista to the programme, yet they don’t seem to look at this appointment on its merits. Watt is certainly no follower of a Guardian political agenda. I have no idea what his politics are but I’ve seen little evidence of anything but a journalist who calls it as it is. I always felt he should have got the Sky pol ed job, and his entry into broadcasting has been delayed for too long. He’s got that rare talent of reducing a complicated argument into a few sentences which normal mortals like me can understand. He was cruelly overlooked for the Guardian’s political editor’s job and must have felt terribly insulted when it was awarded to two female journalists on a job share. He deserved it on merit but lost out to political correctness and that’s not meant as an insult to the two women who were appointed.
On Tuesday I made a rare appearance on the Today programme – the bit at the end that adds a bit of light relief. I know my place. I was asked to comment on Matthew Parris’s evisceration of Boris Johnson in Saturday’s Times. I thought it was a magnificent piece of polemic, even if many thought it went a tad too far on his personal foibles. But if Boris does indeed stand for the leadership, or even becomes prime minister, this sort of scrutiny will appear day in day out in the newspapers. Andrew Gimson was on with me and we jousted for a few minutes about the merits or otherwise of Boris Johnson. At the end John Humphrys asked me: “So what would you say Boris Johnson’s main weakness is?” I replied: “His main strength, is also his main weakness – himself”. In response there was a moment of silence. “You look flummoxed, John,” I said. “Yes, I am,” he replied. “I can’t really respond as there are only nine seconds left in the programme. Good morning!” I shall bask in that moment of being one of the few people ever to silence John Humphrys.

I count Jeremy Hunt and Nicky Morgan as personal friends, but my God they made idiots of themselves this week. I have no doubt they were put up to it by their masters at Number Ten, but was it really worth getting a few Downing Street Brownie points to prostrate themselves at the altar of Project Fear? Apparently, according to Jeremy Hunt, the NHS could collapse if we leave the EU. Utter bollocks, of course, and perhaps he’d be better directing his eyes towards TTIP rather than Brexit. TTIP poses far more dangers to the future survival of the NHS, but it is a dog that hasn’t yet barked. Then it was Nicky Morgan’s turn to turn on the taps of Project Fear. Apparently it would be really bad for young people, as they might run the risk of not being able to go interrailing. Honestly. It’s as if it was an EU invention, which of course it wasn’t. Politicians who indulge in this mindless fearmongering deserve our contempt. It happens on the other side of course too. The Leave campaign issued a dossier of 50 European criminals who had committed crimes in this country – all because of the EU apparently. They failed to mention the hundreds of foreign criminals who commit serious crimes, who manage to get here from outside the EU. Again, fear mongering for fear mongering’s sake. Personally I’ve had enough of it. We’ve got 90 more days of this. Surely to God someone can actually put forward some positive reasons as to why we should stay in or leave the EU. I’m not holding my breath.

This will be my last column for ConservativeHome. We all have to make ends meet, and I have been offered a much more lucrative column by Momentum. That’s capitalism, eh? It’s been a great few years writing for you, but I suspect it will be much more fun writing each week for the Corbynistas. It’s the future, innit?