Diary

ConHome Diary: Who Will be UKIP Leader & Why Mark Carney is a Brilliant PR Man ... For Mark Carney

28 Oct 2016 at 14:22

It will be interesting to see the final lineup in the UKIP leadership contest when nominations close on Monday. The three leading candidates are clearly Paul Nuttall, Suzanne Evans and Raheem Kassam, but the question is whether any of the more fringe candidates like David Kurten and Peter Whittle decide to drop out. All candidates have to put down a £5,000 deposit, and the terms for retrieving it are fairly steep. Raheem Kassam will be considered to be the outsider, but his campaign has the support of Arron Banks, whose financial backing could make a very big difference. He was the first to announce and had made quite an impact so far, but will the tacit support of Nigel Farage be enough? Suzanne Evans announced on the Andrew Marr show and she certainly has her fans, but in terms of uniting a fractured party, she is seen by many as as divisive as Raheem. Nigel Farage made his views very clear on her candidacy within minutes of her announcing. It will be interesting to see her strategy for convincing UKIP party members that she can unite all wings of the party. Paul Nuttall is undoubtedly the unity candidate, but there is a big question mark over whether he really wants the job and has been pressured into standing. The last thing UKIP need is another 18 day leader. But if the aim of the party is to appeal to northern Labour seats, then he’s certainly the man to do it. Nuttall and Evans get on well personally and there is a suspicion among Kassam supporters that in effect they’re the same candidate, and if either wins, they will make the other their deputy leader. Stitch up is a phrase often heard in UKIP at the moment. I’ll be hosting a UKIP leadership debate on Tuesday evening from 5-6pm on LBC. Kassam, Evans and Nuttall will all be three. I hope you will be too. Should be fun!
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It must have been difficulty adapting to life as a backbencher for George Osborne, but last weekend he scored an absolute triumph. He was speaking at the annual dinner of Epping Forest Conservatives, who decided to spice up their evening by entertaining the Chancellor with a pub quiz. The questions were all about previous Chancellors and their record. Osborne’s table won at a canter with the Chancellor really entering into the spirit of it, getting all twenty questions right. And he didn’t even need to deploy Project Fear!
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Talking of Project Fear, we were supposed to be in recession by now with negative growth. That’s what George Osborne told us would happen in June. Yesterday the growth figures came out and were far higher than any economist had predicted, at 0.5% – annualised at 2.3%. That’s not only very far from recession territory, it puts us at or near the top of the growth league.
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Just who does Mark Carney think he is? He seems to think he is more powerful than the Prime Minister, and she doesn’t have a right to comment on the performance of the economy in case she questions the record of the Bank of England. If you actually look at his record, he’s been brilliant as a PR man for Mark Carney but if you actually look at his record of economic predictions and forecasting, it’s lamentable. He reckons he has single-handedly saved the British economy. I suggest that his record is very different. Quite a few leading economic commentators seem to agree with that.
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So now we know who will serve on the Brexit Select Committee. Eight of the ten Conservatives are Leave supporters, but it still means that Remain supporters have a narrow majority, if my calculations are right. 11-9, with the DUP providing the only other Leave supporter. Should make for some interesting reports! It’s very good to see some real heavyweights serving on this committee, like Peter Lilley, John Whittingdale and Michael Gove. In some ways it’s a shame Anna Soubry failed to be elected by her fellow Conservative MPs. She’d have certainly made the questioning of David Davis very entertaining.
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I’m sure I speak for all of you when I wish Nicholas Boles well in his renewed fight to beat cancer. I was supposed to meet him for a coffee earlier this week but he texted me to tell me the reason he couldn’t make it. Having beaten cancer back in 2007-8, which meant he had to withdraw from the London mayoral race, this latest diagnosis must have come as a bitter blow. I struggled to think how to reply to the text, to be honest. I mean, what on earth do you say in these circumstances beyond tired old clichés? I’m not a religious person, but if you believe in the power of prayer, I hope you’ll deploy it to its maximum extent. No one deserves to go through this twice.

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