ConHome Diary: Doing God's Work with the Devil's Money & Why Life's a Bitch
26 Jan 2018 at 13:41
The Cybernats really are the most vicious trolls on the internet. On Wednesday I highlighted a story which had appeared in most of the day’s newspapers that Nicola Sturgeon had ordered that the Union Jack could only be flown from Scottish Government buildings on Remembrance Sunday, and not at other times. Instead, the Saltire was to take precedence. This was a front page story in the Telegraph, and appeared also in The Times. Sturgeon immediately replied to my tweet saying she had done no such thing. I replied with screenshots of the protocols issued in both 2017 and 2018, and the difference was clear. Her defence seemed to be that she had not issued it personally. Maybe not, but it was issued in the name of the Scottish Government and in the end the buck surely stops with her. Or was she throwing her civil servants under a bus? She would be the first to criticise Tory or Labour politicians who did that. And she’d be quite right to. It turns out that it was Alex Salmond who had ordered it and it had been kept secret for eight years. It is still a disgrace, whoever was behind it.
The irony of the Cybernat attacks on my is that I actually have a lot of sympathy for the idea of Scottish independence. I’m a quarter Scottish myself, and had I been able to vote in the 2014 referendum there’s a fair chance I’d have supported Scotland going its own way. The behaviour of the Cybernats only serves to make me question that view.
UPDATE: See the blogpost below
The brass neck of UKIP’s current leader Henry Bolton has to be admired. To think that you can continue to lead a party when its whole ruling national executive votes to express a lack of confidence, and when you lose at least 16 out of 24 policy spokespeople could only happen in the world of the utterly delusional. I don’t know Mr Bolton, and for all I know he may have some utterly spellbinding personal virtues, but in his three months as UKIP leader we are yet to see any of them. UKIP’s problem is that if he is ousted at their EGM in late February, as he surely must be, who will be ready to try to revive a once great party? Patrick O’Flynn has ruled himself out, as he is not in sympathy with a lot of UKIP’s more socially reactionary policies. The party wouldn’t wear Suzanne Evans, so who else? The smart money may be on Margot Parker MEP – one of the few sensible voices remaining at the top of the party.
I am seriously beginning to believe Ann Widdecombe could win Celebrity Big Brother. Vote Ann!
So, have I got this right? Millionaire politician goes to charity dinner, presumably intending to donate money to a good cause. Said politician stays ninety minutes and then leaves when he feels uncomfortable about what is happening. Said politician then called on to resign for attending event and failing to report his ‘uncomfortableness’. Nadhim Zahawi could be forgiven for thinking people have lost a bit of perspective here. However, that’s nothing compared to the ridiculous reaction of Great Ormond Street and the Eveline Children’s Trust, both of whom have said they will return ALL donations received from the Presidents Trust over the years – the amount totals more than £1 million. As Isabel Oakeshott put it: “I don’t think Great Ormond Street should sacrifice children’s health at the altar of political correctness. No need to return the money.” She said she also knew of one charity that would be forced to axe three staff if they were forced to return the £100k that they have received in donations over the years. Zoe Williams suggested that it’s OK to take the devil’s money to do the Lord’s work. I entirely concur. And quite who they return the money to is anybody’s guess, seeing as the Presidents Club has now been shut down.
I’ve never been to a dinner like this and nor would I wish to, but let’s not pretend that the behaviour here was any worse than is seen in bars and clubs on a Friday night up and down the country. Or, dare I say it at women only events (Butlers in the Buff, anyone?) where the male waiters don’t just get pawed and leered at – they often have to protect their ‘crown jewels’ with their lives.
Boris Johnson must have a death wish. Any fool would have known that to brief in advance of a cabinet meeting that you thought the NHS should get an extra £100 million would blow up in your face. OK, I’m sure Boris didn’t do it himself, but is it really believable that he was totally unaware what his allies were doing it? He endured a very uncomfortable hour at Cabinet when even people who would normally have been his allies let him know their views in no uncertain terms. Many observers now doubt that if there were a leadership election he’d make it to the final two. If the Foreign Secretary wishes to remain in government, he’d do very well to stick to his job and make a success of it, rather than try to trample over other people’s area of responsibility. Coming up with visionary ideas like a cross channel bridge is one thing. Leaking what you’re intending to say in Cabinet is quite another.
I don’t know how many of you saw Tessa Jowell’s moving interview with Nick Robinson, where she talked about her brain cancer. A braver woman you will never meet. I’ve got to know her quite well over the years and I remember the morning she phoned me some months ago to tell me about the tumour the doctors had found. It was 8am and I saw her name on the phone and couldn’t work out why she would be phoning me at such an unearthly hour. The words poured out at such a rate that I didn’t understand at first what she was trying to tell me. And then I did. It’s difficult to know what to say in those circumstances. ‘Be strong’, doesn’t really cut it. I remember putting down the phone and bursting into tears. Life can be such a bitch.