ConHome Diary: Craig Oliver's Book, A Boost for the Economy & Trump's Unfitness to Govern
29 Jul 2016 at 13:06
“You may have seen I’ve signed a deal with Hodder. Hope all well.” That was a text message I received from Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s former Director of Communications, earlier this week. I hadn’t actually seen that news, so it came as a bit of a surprise to say the least. Two or three weeks ago I had texted Craig to ask if he was thinking of writing a book and we subsequently met for an hour to discuss it. The meeting seemed to go well and I liked his approach. We agreed to talk again soon. I texted him a week later to ask if he had had further thoughts. “Let’s talk more when things settle,” came the reply. Ten days later he had signed up with a literary agent and done a deal with Hodder & Stoughton. Quick work and the best of luck to him with what I am sure will be an excellent book. But this experience has taught me several lessons. I will leave it to you to decide what they are.
So, Turkey has shut down hundreds of media outlets in the wake of the failed coup attempt. Restoration of the death penalty is next. Isn’t it time that Brussels announced that Turkey’s application to join the EU is now in a semi-permanent state of suspension?
As the Democratic Convention moves to a close it will be interesting to see how far apart the two Presidential candidates are in the polls. Donald Trump completely failed to rise to the occasion and delivered a speech full of his usual bile and aggression. But he surpassed himself when, during the Democratic convention he urged Russian hackers to continue their efforts to hack into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Just in case you think I am making this up, here were his exact words: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens." Quite astonishing. The trouble is, if the Clinton campaign uses this in any campaign adverts, then it just reminds the voters of the email problem, so in that sense it was a clever move by Trump. But more generally it shows how unfit he is to be President.
Owen Smith is a likeable cove. He also suffers from a major fault for a politician. He tends to answer a question and give his opinion – a sometime fatal flaw. He’s someone I always look forward to interviewing because he usually avoids and spin or flim-flam. But it’s very risky and also perhaps naïve. We saw that this week with his off the cuff remarks about wanting to “Smash Theresa May back on her heels.” As soon as I heard him say it I knew what would happen next, and sure enough it did. He stuck by his remarks only to then apologise for them a couple of hours later. A more experienced politician wouldn’t have made the remark in the first place. And that’s my point. Politicians nowadays seem to think that four or five years in Parliament qualifies them to lead their parties. There may be the odd exception (David Cameron, for instance), but generally experience shows that candidates with little experience tend to crash and burn. Why does no one quietly witness in their ears ‘have you ever thought you might not be ready?’.
This week the FTSE 100 reached a twelve month high, and the FTSE 250 surpassed its pre-Brexit level. GDP growth was higher than expected at 0.6%. Various international companies who had warned against Britain voting to leave the EU announced multi hundred million pound investments in the UK, including GlaxoSmithKline and Siemens. Wells Fargo Bank is spending £300 million creating a world HQ in London. I could go on. OK, we are only five weeks away from the vote so it’s too early to draw definite conclusions, but I think it is fair to say that the almost immediate implosion of the economy which we were warned about hasn’t happened. That’s not to say there are no stormclouds on the horizon. Retail sales have fallen at their fastest rate for four years and order books are apparently low. The lower Pound has caused foreign suppliers to put their prices up by 10%. Despite what the naysayers continue to warn I have real confidence in British industry to come through this and view the whole scenario as an opportunity rather than a threat. Exporters are already showing that they know the way forward. I was speaking to the owner of a manufacturer of safety equipment who has just announced he’s closing his Chinese operation and bringing it all back to the UK, creating forty jobs. He’s doing this because his costs will be lower. He says he knows quite a few other businesses who are doing the same thing. It’s not because our labour costs are lower, it’s because we have become so technologically advanced. It may be a straw in the wind, but it’s an encouraging one.
President Obama put on his usual polished performance, speaking at the Democratic convention, although he didn’t quite have the emotion of his wife Michelle. But this passage in his speech caught my eye. He said: “Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared saviour promising that he alone can restore order as long as we do things his way.” It was obviously an indirect attack on Donald Trump, but it displayed a distinct lack of self-knowledge on the part of the President. Wasn’t that the whole basis of his 2008 campaign, and isn’t it reminiscent of his own style of government?