Diary

ConHome Diary: Quite a Week...

13 Jul 2018 at 13:10

I am still trying to work out why the Prime Minister appointed Dominic Raab to succeed David Davis as Brexit Secretary. He’s a protégé of DD and succeeded me as his chief of staff back in 2006. If anything, he’s more hardline than David on Brexit matters – some call him an intellectual version of his former boss. There’s no doubt that he has a brilliant brain and as a lawyer can argue any case put in front of him. He will certainly be a different kind of interlocutor for Michel Barnier. He has little of Davis’s natural bonhomie, although is very capable of coming up with a stinging one liner, as the BBC’s Sarah Smith found out recently. In addition, you have to wonder why Theresa May keeps appointing senior cabinet ministers who she doesn’t actually like or get on with. Both Sajid Javid and Dominic Raab are people who wouldn’t feature on her dinner party list, and the feeling is mutual.
*
Why are Jacob Rees-Mogg’s four Trade Bill amendments seen as ‘treacherous’ when Dominic Grieve’s and Anna Soubry’s were seen through the prism of deeply held convictions? Double standards, methinks. Since when were MPs not allowed to put down amendments to Bills? It’s yet another example of Brexit motives being seen as dishonourable while Remain motives are seen as honourable. The fact is both sides are doing what they think is right.
*

It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good. Apart from when David Davis resigns. As happened in 2008, my phone became red hot with TV and radio stations wanting my views. They all knew that he has been a friend for 30 years and I was his chief of staff in 2005. On Monday morning I was woken at a quarter to six by the dulcet tones of the Evening Standard’s comment editor, Julian Glover. 950 words by 10am please, was the message. I wasn’t going to be able to get to sleep so I got up and wrote it in my dressing gown with sleeping dogs either side of me on the couch. I’m sure most people spend hours writing political column. I polished it off in not much more than an hour. I’ve learned over the years that the quicker I write a column, the better it normally is. With me it has to be a stream of consciousness, with the vain hope that some sort of theme emerges. The difficulty I had on Monday was that the Telegraph came on the phone too and asked for 600 words. I managed to think of a different theme, but in the end the article was eclipsed by Boris Johnson’s resignation so it was only published on the website.
*
Talking of Boris Johnson’s resignation, I was interviewing David Davis in the LBC studio when I saw my producer crawling on the floor trying to hand me something. I assumed she was trying to tell me to wrap up, which given I’d only been going for about 8 minutes, I thought was a bit odd. As she reached me she handed me her phone with a Sky News alert that Boris had resigned. So I immediately put the news to David and he just sighed, while going on to say why he thought Boris didn’t need to resign. It was quite a moment.
*

The government keeps telling us that the Chequers accord is so good and when people understand what it means they will think so too. That must be why the Prime Minister hasn’t done a single interview about it since Friday.
*
Quote of the week is surely this one from Times columnist David Aaronovitch. Talking of Labour’s stance on Brexit he writes: “Labour’s emphasis changes depending upon who you talk to, and whatever any of them say, it will eventually be contradicted anyway by the strangely sinister shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner, whose soft-voiced reassurances always put me in mind of Harold Shipman.” Burn.
*

Back in 1990 I watched the World Cup Semi Final between England and Germany in Nottingham. I was a financial journalist at the time and was covering an insurance brokers’ conference in Nottingham. All 800 of us cried along with Gazza, and after losing the penalty shootout we were totally distraught. Twenty-eight years later it was a rather different experience. I watched it in a meeting room at LBC along with three four LBC producers. Nigel Farage also popped in during the advert breaks of his show. It was all going so well in the first half, but in the second half we looked tired and listless. At the final whistle I didn’t feel at all emotional. I wonder if it’s the fact that at the age of 55 one tends to take this sort of thing in your stride, more than you do when you’re in your idealistic twenties. This has been a fantastic World Cup in so many ways, not just for England but for football all round. Maybe this will see the rebirth of interest in international football. Many friends of mine don’t really follow England any longer and concentrate on club football. I wonder whether the success of England in the World Cup will change all that. Finally, it would be churlish not to congratulate Russia on putting on a superb World Cup. Fantastic stadia, no sign of the hooliganism or racist chants most of us expected, and a real carnival atmosphere.

Share: