Diary

ConHome Diary: I've Had a LibDem Sympathy Shag

2 Sep 2016 at 14:12

I don’t quite know how I am going to write this in a way which won’t cause confusion, but here goes anyway. There was a LibDem Minister in the coalition government. Let’s call him Sean. That’s not his real name, although I do know his real name. Sean, lucky boy, had his own private ministerial toilet, conveniently (geddit?) located just off his rather nice ministerial office. Sean made good use of this convenience (oops, I did it again). Before a meeting which departmental officials he’d pop in for a quick number two. How do I know this, you may ask? Well, let’s put it this way – and I hope you’re not eating when you read this – when officials walked into his office they were met with a rather pungent aroma. Often. As a consequence, even some time after this particular minister was reshuffled out of this particular department, civil servants there do not refer to ‘doing a number two’, they say they’re just popping to ‘do a Sean’. Or, rather, not Sean…
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What is Theresa May’s gain is LBC Radio’s loss. This week it was announced that my colleague Tom Swarbrick was to leave the station and become Number Ten’s Head of Broadcasting. Tom is one of the most talented broadcasters around and it must have been a difficult decision to give up a glittering career in the media to go into the maelstrom of politics. His job inevitably involves saying ‘no’ an awful lot and we appear to have a prime minister who, quite rightly, isn’t going to go down the path of doing daily media interviews. I’ve always thought that an interview with a prime minister ought to offer a sense of occasion. We don’t need the prime minister to comment on every celebrity death or on the minutiae of government operations. That may be inconvenient for interviewers like me, but I suspect it will lead to better government. The trouble with not giving lots of interviews, and I suspect her cabinet colleagues may follow her lead to an extent, broadcasters have hours to fill, so if government minister don’t do interviews on stations like mine or the 24 hour new channels, we will find other ways of filling the time. And that may not always be what the politicians might like. As an illustration of this, it’s incredibly difficult to get interviews with senior members of the Labour Party, and especially the leader. So therefore we are forced to look outside the upper echelons of the party and interview people who aren’t necessarily friendly to the leadership. We then get accused of being ‘anti Corbyn’ when we are nothing of the sort. But I’m also not going to give the Corbynistas a free ride if they won’t come on and defend themselves and their beliefs.
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The appeal of the Labour Party to the electorate was summed up in this tweet, retweeted by several Labour MPs. “Does anyone really think the public will put Corbyn in charge of our military, John McDonnell in charge of the nation’s finances and Diane Abbott in charge of the NHS?” Another tweet summed up their internal problems… “A tennis club decides to go on a recruitment drive to double its membership. They succeed in doing so by recruiting 101 new members. They then vote to turn it into a netball club.” That’s exactly what’s happened to the Labour Party and no one can do anything about it whatsoever. Let this be a warning to the Conservatives!
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This week I’ve been presenting LBC’s breakfast show. Nick Ferrari must have the constitution of an ox, and given that he rarely takes any time off, my admiration grows for him by the day. I just don’t know how he does it. I’ve had to stay in a hotel all week as there’s no way I could drive in from Kent to get to the studio by 6am. Well, I could, but I’d probably kill myself in the process. Although the programme finishes at 10am you’d think that would give me a free day to do what I want. But as you know, I also have a publishing company to run. Yesterday one of my colleagues at Biteback found me at my desk fast asleep. I bet that never happens to Nick Ferrari.
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This week I’m starting to compile my annual power lists of the top 100 people on the right and left of British politics. But I started yesterday with the Top 50 Liberal Democrats, bless them. Compiling it with my panel of four LibDem enthusiasts felt like indulging in the political equivalent of a ‘sympathy shag’. Whatever that is .
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I have to say I have immensely enjoyed ‘Virgingate’. Jeremy Corbyn has only got himself to blame for the situation he’s got himself into. Or should I say ‘spun’ himself into. For a man who promised us straight talking, honest politics, it’s been a bit of a boo boo. His disciples really believe he is a different kind of politician. His antics on the Virgin train show he is no different from any other politician who wants to use a situation to their advantage. He described the train as ‘ram-packed’. It was nothing of the sort, as he well knew as he had walked through most of the train. But now it is Virgin Trains who are coming under fire for releasing the CCTV pictures – apparently they may have breached some sort of data privacy law. What a mad country we have become if a company cannot release pictures which prove its critics are being economical with the truth.
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I don’t know how many of you will have heard my appearance on Radio 4’s ‘Any Questions’ programme last weekend, but I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was quite a right wing audience, which made a nice change, and they clearly had no time for Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn is a man who clearly polarises opinion. He has his devoted disciples (well, he would, wouldn’t he, given that his initials are JC?) who believe that he is incredibly popular throughout the country. When you point out his actually popularity ratings in the polls and that he is the most unpopular opposition leader since time began, they refuse to accept the validity of any poll. They’ll probably refuse to accept the next general election result as well.
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We know now that Jeremy Corbyn has a very short fuse. There have been too many examples of it for it to be a coincidence. When my LBC colleague Charlotte Wright tried to grab a word with him one morning on the pavement outside his house he was incredibly rude and aggressive to her. This week Sky’s Darren McCaffery had the temerity to ask a question about the train incident at the launch of his health policy. Corbyn snapped at him that it was a health press conference and he wanted a question on health. Darren replied that he was asking the questions and he’d ask what he damn well liked. If looks could have killed. It came across terribly on TV and Corbyn looked like a bully. The mask is slipping.
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Have you noticed that diehard ‘Remainers’ have started referring to the EU Referendum as an ‘advisory referendum’? They cling to the belief that Parliament could still go against the views of the British people and scupper Brexit. Either that or there should be a second referendum. Will these people never learn? It seems they cannot accept that Brexit supporters actually have brains which are functional. They think they know best and the people are peasants. Constitutionally I suppose they have a point in that strictly speaking Parliament doesn’t have the follow the will of the people, but it would be a pretty brave prime minister who agreed to ignore the people. Indeed, it would fracture trust in politicians even more than it is at present. Probably irreparably. Brexit must mean Brexit. It must mean the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act and it must mean that Article 50 is triggered at some point during 2017. And the latter does not need parliamentary approval. It’s a matter for the prime minister, as the courts will no doubt rule in October.
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So Nicolas Sarkozy is back. What an unpleasant little shit he is. His presidential campaign seems to be entirely based on winning back voters from Marine Le Pen’s Fronte National. This week he wrote an article about how France mustn’t be seduced in going down the route of promoting multiculturalism like Britain has. Tell you what, I think most people would rather live in a tolerant, liberal country like Britain which by and large has very good race relations, rather than a country which sends armed police onto a beach to ask a muslim lady to take off her burkini. And Sarkozy would go much further in demonising and alienating France’s massive muslim population. I hope he gets his just desserts.

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