21 Jun 2013 at 14:25
Whoever chose Lough Erne as the venue for the G8 should get some kind of honour. As a PR exercise it couldn’t be faulted. The countryside backdrops to all the interviews and press conferences were simply stunning. Less stunning, though, was the fact that David Cameron seemed to have a physical aversion to wearing a tie at any point during the event. Orders had clearly gone out from Number Ten that this was a ‘dress down’ G8, although it was rather difficult to tell whether Angela Merkel had got the message, as in all the pictures I saw she seemed to be wearing the same, tired old lime green jacket. I assume she brought a change of underwear.
Paul Goodman wrote a fascinating piece earlier in the week predicting the coming reshuffle will be dominated by promotions for women. I think he may well be right, and most of the names he mentions will really deserve their promotion. What a shame it is, though, that we still write articles about the relative merits of women MPs, as opposed to MPs in general. Perhaps it will ever be thus. But at the reshuffle there will be two female cabinet ministers who will retain their cabinet posts purely because of their gender, rather than the fact that they have been any good. Justine Greening has indulged in a long sulk since her unwanted move from Transport to International Development, while Maria Miller is so out of her depth, it would be kinder just to put her out of her misery. But that won’t happen, I suspect. It would be just too politically embarrassing to have a second successive reshuffle in which two female cabinet ministers were pitched overboard.
I’m really not quite sure why Stephen Twigg made his big speech on schools this week, because I am buggered if I am any wiser as to what Labour’s education policy really is. Is he in favour of free schools or against them? The answer seems to be both. And there was me thinking that sitting on the fence was the preserve of the ‘yellow peril’.
A political acquaintance of mine was wandering home the other night, minding his own business when he encountered a chap with a full Freddie Mercury moustache and a gold, tiger emblazoned jacket. He used the frankly legendary line: “Excuse me, I think you’re quite fit. Can I suck your c**k?” Somehow my friend’s incredibly British response of “I’m actually okay… but thank you…” didn’t seem to quite cut it… Amazing the disguises some MPs will use nowadays…
I’m all in favour of jailing people who break the law and are a danger to society, but this current political fetish for jailing bankers because – well, just because – is getting ridiculous. The Banking Commission, led by the marvellous Andrew Tyrie, has done some sterling work, but it seems to be suggesting that bankers should be jailed for being, er, reckless. Well, if that’s the criteria by which we decide whether to jail people, perhaps a good few politicians might be eligible for a quick sojourn in Wormwood Scrubs. Sometimes politicians should be careful what they wish for.
I see Dr Sarah Wollaston, rapidly becoming one of my favourite MP’s, is accusing David Cameron of reneging on the coalition promise of introducing ‘open primaries’ because they are more likely to result in the selection of ‘outspoken’ candidates. Try as I might, I just cannot think to whom she might be referring.
Something very odd happened on my LBC radio show on Wednesday. I found myself, as the former Tory candidate for North Norfolk, interviewing Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, about the former Conservative MP for North Norfolk, David Prior about the Care Quality Commission scandal. Whoever said things come in threes seems to have had a point. The CQC cover-up is a genuine scandal. The fact that anyone in a regulatory body feels it appropriate to hide incompetence and wrong-doing is worrying enough, but to actually bury a report because it makes their own organisation look bad? Monstrous. To his credit, Norman Lamb was as angry and incredulous as I was and is determined to get to the bottom of it. The CQC is lucky to have someone with David Prior’s managerial and health service experience as its new chairman. He made no effort to defend the organisations past errors and his assessment of its fitness for purpose was castigating. It was good to see such honesty from a public official. It’s all too rare.
My old chum Eric Pickles joined me in the studio on Wednesday evening to take calls from LBC listeners for an hour. He insisted on a hour, saying that Nick Clegg was a wimp only to do 30 minutes. He was in characteristically honest form as he told several listeners that their questions had nothing to do with him as he had devolved various policy areas down to local councils. Other politicians would have tried to fob them off with lovely sounding words which meant nothing. Pickles’s approach was direct and honest, something I think most people appreciate. He also gave a clear hint that within a few weeks he is going to announce a new policy on parking, which local councils certainly won’t like. From what I managed to glean, I/we pop into a shop for a few minutes, and are on a yellow line, we won’t get a ticket, and also local councils will be prevented from using parking tickets as a cash cow. About time too.
We are struggling for a title for the hour with Eric Pickles, and as we are looking at doing this once a month we are soliciting suggestions. “Phone Pickles” doesn’t really work in the same way that “Call Clegg” or “Balls’ Calls” does. How about “Tickle Pickles”? Perhaps you can do better…