So Vince Cable is at it again – criticising the very government he is a member of. This time, it’s about immigration policy. He thinks that public concerns over immigration have been fanned by the promise of an immigration cap. He also points out that we are losing the fees of thousands of students, particularly from India, who believe the cap applies to them, when it doesn’t. I suppose you could argue that they can’t be very intelligent if they can’t be bothered to look at the facts, but even so, a very mixed message is being sent out. If UK universities don’t take these students they will go to Australia, Canada or the US. Is that really what we want to happen? OK, there are no doubt the odd ones who overstay their visas, but is that really a big enough of a problem that we jeopardise the whole future of some of our universities. And when the visa system throws up examples like this, you do have to wonder what’s going on.
Vince Cable reports: “I was at one of our leading engineering companies a few months ago. I was introduced to the chief engineer, who was making the most sophisticated engines for Formula 1 cars and he happened to be Indian, and he was coming to the end of his visa and under the existing rules he was going to have to go back to India and reapply for admission to the UK, right in the middle of a high-pressure contract. It was completely absurd. But that is the kind of restriction that is introduced in order to placate public panic that does create an economic harm.”
It’s not often I agree with Vince Cable, but he has a point on this occasion, doesn’t he?
Loyalty was said to be the Conservative Party’s secret weapon. That dictum seems to have been ditched circa 1990. There are too many people in today’s Tory Party who appear to believe that UKIP can be won over by appeasing them. They should ‘get real’. There is nothing David Cameron can ever say that wouldn’t prevent Nigel Farage from wanting that little bit more. UKIP is the enemy of the Conservative Party and it’s about time some people at both Conservative grassroots level, and among MPs, realised that. If they don’t realise it now, they certainly will in June next year when UKIP wins the European elections. Then watch the fun really start.
I was going to follow up last week’s piece on the Bow Group, but do you know what? I just can’t be arsed. Judging from the reactions I have had in my Inbox, though, it hit a bit of a raw nerve. Some very interesting things to follow up… More another time. Perhaps.
I see Tim Yeo has done a complete volte-face on climate change, which he now reckons might not be man-made after all. You couldn’t make it up. Last time I wrote about him and his various commercial interests he phoned me up bitterly complaining about what I had written and pointing out that it was all above board and declared. I’m sure it is, I said. Doesn’t make it right, though, does it? How a Member of Parliament can chair the Environment Select Committee and take more than a few shillings from various environmental companies is beyond me. In politics, perception is just as important as reality, and Tim Yeo knows that just as well as the rest of us.
If you’re reading this on Friday morning over your morning cereal, try not to think of what I am doing at this very moment. I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with Attitude Magazine, but it is a lifestyle magazine for the gayers. Anyway, I have been invited to do a photoshoot for them. Before you sick up your cornflakes, there will be no nudity or leopardskin thongs involved. For shame, I hear you cry. It’s all because I am about to start writing a monthly column for them. They want a right of centre perspective in their magazine. Traditionally the gay press has always been a bit leftie, so it’s a departure for them. And for those of you who go a bit queasy whenever the word ‘gay’ is mentioned, think of it this way. If 5-10% of the UK population is gay, isn’t it a good idea for the right to engage properly? In some constituencies the gay vote – if such a thing exists – could decide the outcome. I take the view that there are very few people who vote purely on gay issues, because funnily enough gay people generally lead very ordinary lives and have the same concerns as anyone else.
Politicians rarely do well on Have I Got News For You. Michael Fabricant experienced a car crash a few weeks ago, yet last week Jacob Rees-Mogg triumphed. He charmed his fellow panellists and the audience. He even revealed that host Alexander Armstrong was a descendent of William the Conqueror and thereby his wife’s cousin. I do think the Conservative Party should find a proper role for Mr Mogg. I am just not quite sure what it is. Deputy Chairman for Conservative Future?
Ann Widdecombe’s memoirs are published next week. Despite the title of Strictly Ann, the book does not, contrary to popular rumour, have a picture of her on the cover dressed in Lederhosen brandishing a whip. I am afraid I am responsible for her writing the book. She used to tell me she wouldn’t ever write her autobiography, as she didn’t want a friendless old age. And then she bought a house in the middle of Dartmoor! I told her she owed it to history to write her version of events and being a woman who always does her duty, that seemed to do the trick. Judging by the serialisation in last week’s Mail on Sunday she certainly hasn’t written a book full of caveats. Good. She will be on my LBC show next Friday between 7 and 8pm talking about the book if you’d like to tune in.
I got a call on Wednesday from a PR company asking if I would be covering next week’s announcement on legal aid and reform of the courts service on my radio show. They would be happy to provide a spokesman to denounce the government’s proposals. Not that they knew what they were, natch. And who are you representing, I asked. The Bar Council, came the reply. Ah, I said, a vested interest. Ah, but we have to keep access to justice affordable for all, said the PR. Yes, of course, I replied. I asked him to come back to me when any member of the Bar Council charged a rate of less than £400 an hour. I’m not sure he took the point. In the end I decided to do a phone in on Chris Grayling’s plans to save £1 billion a year by introducing private sector disciplines into the running of our courts. I must admit I expected every single caller to denounce the plans, but not a bit of it. Call after call saying it couldn’t possibly be worse than how the courts are being run at the moment. So if Chris Grayling can fight of the vested interests in the legal profession, and ensure that no contracts are awarded to G4 or Capita, he might well be onto an electoral winner.