ConHome Diary: Is the London Mayoral Race Really Over & How Obama Backfired
29 Apr 2016 at 14:13
Well that went well then. President Obama’s visit seems to have turned people marginally against the REMAIN campaign, with the latest batch of polls showing a narrow LEAVE lead. I can’t say I am surprised. Virtually every ‘normal’ person I have spoken to, and by ‘normal’ I mean someone outside the Westminster village and media bubble, has taken great exception to his dire warnings to Britain of the consequences of leaving the EU. One said something along these lines: “Have I got this wrong? He says we have a ‘special relationship’, yet then goes on to tell us what we should do and warns that if we don’t do as he says we’ll be at the back of the queue. That’s a pretty one-sided special relationship’. I couldn’t have put it better myself. This was one of those occasions when LEAVE politicians should have controlled themselves and just laughed it off, rather than speak more in anger than sorrow. Boris went completely OTT in his reaction and rather played into the hands of those who don’t believe he is up to the role of national leader. Sometimes it is least said, soonest mended.
Naz Shah was one of the first of the new intake of Labour MPs I interviewed. She struck me as rather refreshing, with an interesting back story. Having beaten George Galloway she stood out from the crowd. She’s been on my show several times and each time I’ve thought that she would go far. She seemed liked someone with some original ideas and who wouldn’t always follow the party line. So when I saw the remarks she had made on Israel, before she was elected, I was rather shocked. There has been a lot of debate about whether her remarks were anti Israeli or anti-Semitic. There’s nothing wrong with making anti-Israeli comments. I’m none too keen on Netanyahu’s government myself, but some people don’t seem to know where to draw the line. This seems to a phenomenon which particularly affects the left. Sure, we all know there have been anti-semites in the Conservative Party but it’s hard to think of many recent examples of the genre. Jeremy Corbyn’s problem is that a few people in his party have taken their lead from him and his Shadow Chancellor. Their perceived anti-Israeli views have given licence to those who wish to go further and think there will be no consequences. Corbyn didn’t want to punish Naz Shah, he was pushed into it. His spokesman was even briefing that even though she wrote those things, she didn’t, er, believe them. Work that one out if you will. This was a great opportunity for Corbyn to immediately deliever on John McDonnell’s promise to take decisive action against anyone in the Labour Party guilty of anti-semitism. He funked it. There may only be a couple of hundred thousand Jewish voters in this country, but many of them live in marginal constituencies. Traditionally they have voted Labour in large numbers. It’s difficult to see why anyone who is Jewish would vote Labour under the current Labour leadership.
After two weeks Vodafone finally sent me a replacement iPhone, after mine broke. It would have been just over a week, but their shop in Tunbridge Wells didn’t see fit to tell me it was ready for collection, as they had promised they would. Still, I have it back now and it’s as if my right arm has been stitched back on. To be so addicted to a gadget is truly pathetic, but there you go.
There is a growing consensus among political pundits that Sadiq Khan is home and dry and will be the next mayor of London. They are the very same people who assumed a Tory majority was impossible at the general election. Back in May the Conservatives surprised everyone because no one was really aware of the ‘under the radar’ ground campaign Lynton Crosby had been running. I wonder if history is about to repeat itself. I’m certainly not predicting it, but I’m not so sure this is as clearcut as everyone is saying. Sometimes it’s not wise to follow the pundit herd. Just saying…
This is my last column before the local elections and the regional ones in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. My gut feeling is that Labour are going to do badly in Wales, Scotland and also in the English council elections. If they really do lose seats, as most people predict, it will say an awful lot about the lack of progress under Jeremy Corbyn. It’s difficult to predict who will be thegainers in English councils. Could the LibDems start a mini revival? Could the Tories even gain seats?
Labour is bound to lose a bit of ground in Wales. The story there is likely to be the breakthrough of UKIP, who will win seats in the Assembly, including Neil Hamilton. In Scotland it’s possible for Ruth Davidson to break through and overtake Labour to become the main opposition. If that happens (and I have to say I’m sceptical) it would be almost as big a story as Zac Goldsmith pulling through. It’s going to be quite a 24 hours, with a lot of political consequences both for all the parties, but also for some individuals. If Zac loses, what next for him? And the same for Sadiq. But most of all, what impact will these results have on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership?