Diary

ConHome Diary: A Dispatch From Spain

28 Jul 2017 at 17:47

OK, I admit it, I’m not exactly in the mood to write this column today. Why? I’m sitting by the swimming pool on the side of a Spanish mountain, overlooking a lake, struggling to actually see the screen because of the sun. The water beckons, but I’m determined not to succumb to it until I’ve finished writing my pearls of wisdom. The sacrifices I make on your behalf…
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It was announced on Wednesday that David Davis has at last replaced James Chapman as his chief of staff and appointed his former PPS Stewart Jackson. Stewart had been MP for Peterborough but lost his seat on June 8th, having been the MP there for 12 years. He had set himself up as a Brexit consultant, but he will relish being back at the centre of the action. He will provide an important bridge to the parliamentary party, alongside his replacement as PPS, Gareth Johnson. As many of you know, I was David’s Chief of Staff for six months in 2005. I hope Stewart is more of a success in the role than I was. My one bit of advice to him is this. Looking back, my main failure in that role in the first few weeks was to defer to MPs too much and not assert myself enough. Stewart’s position is very different to mine but in some ways similar. I was the link man between his parliamentary operation and his leadership campaign. One of Stewart’s main challenges will be to be the link man between David and his civil service operation. He has a head start having been David’s PPS, but nevertheless it will not be an easy job, requiring a mixture of charm and hard-nosed determination. He is in effect in charge of making sure DexEU civil servants deliver what DD wants. I wish him the very best of luck in the job. I do hope he keeps a diary…
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I have never knowingly eaten chlorinated chicken. But given the number of times I have been to the United States, it’s very likely I have. It says something about the level of public debate about a possible UK/US trade deal that it has been reduced as to whether we should allow it into this country or not. Liam Fox doesn’t have an issue with it. Michael Gove, (un)helpfully does. Quite why Mr Gove felt it necessary to open up yet another cabinet rift is anyone’s guess. He could have easily finessed it in his Today Programme interview but chose not to. Of course, the whole thing is a non issue. No one will be forced to buy or eat the wretched stuff. It must be properly labelled. I doubt very much there will be any demand for it. In the end, the market will work. But whatever the demerits of chlorinated chicken are, I doubt it is any less healthy than the very cheap chicken we now import from south east asia in vast quantities, and seem to have no problem with as long as we can buy it for 99p down at Chicken Tonite. You get what you pay for.
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Spain has a rather different attitude to public services to us. Fiddle your electricity and they cut you off. Not only that but they never reconnect you and leave you to your own devices. With water being a scarce resource, they have no hesitation at all in cutting off supplies to anyone who fiddles their water meter. They did this to one of my friend’s neighbours who tried to hide how much water he was using. He’s been without a water supply now for three years and now has to pay for it to be delivered by a lorry. If our utility companies ever even threatened such action they would no doubt be sued in the courts for a breach of their human rights.
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Readers of my old blog will recall that there’s nothing I like more than a good list. For the last ten years I have been compiling the Top 100 People on the Right, and Top 100 People on the Left lists, together with the Top 50 Liberal Democrats. It takes a huge amount of work and time to put together the panels to compile these lists and then write them up and write 250 individual biographies. This year will be doubly challenging given the level of inevitable churn that there will be in all three lists. Anyway, I am looking for a new sponsor. If you’re interested, do let me know.
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So, the pool beckons. Adios until next week when I will be writing from the rather different surroundings of the Norfolk countryside.

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