Diary

ConHome Diary: Dave Quits, I'm Playing Kofi Annan & Why Sadiq Refused an Upgrade

17 Sep 2016 at 00:03

Brits don’t quit. That’s the quote that came back to bite David Cameron on the arse this week, after he announced his departure from the House of Commons. This decision makes me sad as I have always taken the view that ex-Prime Ministers should continue to play a role in our national life. We should be able to draw on their experience and wisdom and the ideal forum to do that in is Parliament. Unfortunately, the media has now become the chosen forum of e-PMs to contribute to debates. I do understand David Cameron when he says that whatever he said as a backbench MP would be a distraction, but it’s a pretty weak reason to quit Parliament. You only become a distraction if you allow yourself to, and comment on everything. Jim Callaghan hung around for seven years after he quit the Labour leadership. He chose his interventions carefully. I don’t remember John Major becoming a distraction in the 1997-2001 Parliament. Indeed, John Major should be David Cameron’s role model in how to behave in his post Parliament life. He only says something when he has something to say. And because of that, we all take notice of it on the rare occasions he emerges onto the Andrew Marr Show.
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Next week I’m starting the LBC Middle East Process. Yes, really. On my radio show I’ll be hosting an hour long debate between the Israeli Ambassador to London Mark Regev, and the Palestinian Ambassador, Manuel Hassassian. I’ve interviewed them separately before, and I hope we can have at least a partial meeting of minds. Clearly there will be huge differences between them, but in my experience they are both reasonable men who have the ability to see a different point of view from their own. Whatever the outcome, I think I can assure you an hour of gripping radio.
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The fuss about the state of Hillary Clinton’s health has been something to behold. The conspiracy theorists reckon she’s got anything from Parkinson’s disease to dementia or both. If she had, it would undoubtedly be in the public interest for it to be revealed, and she’s no doubt have to step down. But unless I am missing something, she is suffering from a mild dose of pneumonia. By the time you read this column she will be back on the campaign trail. Would she be getting this kind of scrutiny if she were a man? Actually, I think she probably would. Americans are obsessed about the health of their leaders. If you’re of my vintage you’ll remember the furore when President Carter collapsed while out on a jog. I could give you a lot more examples. As the first presidential debate approaches (it’s only ten days away), Hillary’s performance will be examined like never before.
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My company Biteback is publishing a book this week by someone you’ve probably never heard of, a Turkish newspaper editor called Can Dundar. ‘We Are Arrested’ is the dramatic story of the repression of press freedom in Turkey and how he was treated at the hands of the Turkish state. He’s had to flee the country for his own safety and is the most famous journalist on the list of 109 ‘Wanted’ Turkish writers. If anyone now seriously believes that Turkey is now anything other than a semi-fascist state, they want their heads read. And quite why the EU is still entertaining the idea of Turkish membership is beyond a rather sick joke.
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So according to Jean Claude Juncker the EU should now create an EU defence fund and a headquarters for a common military force. Yet another prediction made by Leave supporters (and denied by Remainers) which has come true.
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Imagine you’re on a ten hour long flight to Montreal. You’re the Mayor of London. Journalists are on the plane with you. It’s your first big foreign trip. You’re offered an upgrade from economy. What do you do? Why, you refuse it of course! Well, that’s what Sadiq Khan did on Wednesday. My question is this: why on earth should we expect the Mayor of London to travel economy? Soon we’ll be expecting the Prime Minister to travel cattle class just to prove her hairshirt credentials. Ridiculous.
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So the LEADER OF SCOTTISH TORIES IS THE MOST POPULAR POLITICAL LEADER IN SCOTLAND according to a new poll. And in other most unlikely headlines of the week, OWEN SMITH TO STORM TO VICTORY OVER JEREMY CORBYN IN LABOUR LEADERSHIP ELECTION. Which one of those two do you think is true, and which one is made up?

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