Policy

Imagine the Outcry if Stafford Had Been A Private Hospital

6 Feb 2013 at 13:54

I’ve spent the last 90 minutes watching the Prime Minister’s statement on the Francis Report into the terrible goings on at Stafford Hospital. What was allowed to happen there was terrible, and an indictment of all those who sat by and watched this catastrophe developing. Let’s not beat around the bush, this happened because the system allowed it to happen. The NHS is far too obsessed with back-watching, targets and bureaucracy rather than being obsessed with the quality of patient care. Others far more qualified than me will comment on the wider implications of what happened there, but let me leave you with one thought.

Can you imagine the outcry if this had happened at a private hospital? There would be calls for the modern day equivalent of public lynchings and the profit motive would be blamed. This was a massive public sector failure. Typically, the NHS regulators failed. The GMC failed to dismiss anyone. Most of the people there were moved or promoted to other senior jobs in the NHS. An utter disgrace.

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Books

Looking Forward to the Political Book of the Year Awards

6 Feb 2013 at 13:17

Tonight at the IMAX it’s the Political Book of the Year Awards. I have to admit I am getting pre-ceremony nerves. I had the idea for this event in the middle of 2012 and it’s certainly been a challenge to organise everything in such a short time. But my team at Biteback have done a fantastic job and we are very grateful to Paddy Power for their sponsorship and to Lord Ashcroft for donating the £16,000 of prize money. The main award winner will collect a cheque for £10,000 and £3,000 goes to the Young Writer of the year and a further £3,000 to the best debut author of the year.

We’ve got 450 people coming to watch eleven people collect very deserved prizes for their outstanding contributions to political literature. The event was sold out two weeks ago, so any nervousness I had about the likely size of the audience was rather misplaced!

Gyles Brandreth is our compere and we have a whole host of stars to present the awards. I’ll do a full report tomorrow, but I’ll be tweeting the winners throughout the event. You can also follow the @polbookawards Twitter feed or hashtag #pbawards. If you’d like to see the full list of awards, judges and shortlisted books go the Political Book Awards website.

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UK Politics

Well At Least Chris Chope Avoided Referring to a 'Buggers' Muddle'...

6 Feb 2013 at 10:19

A majority of 225 is probably the highest the government has ever achieved at the end of a Second Reading debate. And yet it doesn’t feel like that, does it? And it certainly won’t in Number 10 today. I can’t for a moment imagine that the champagne corks were popping last night. The fact that more Conservative MPs voted against equal marriage than voted for demonstrates that it was hardly a Clause 4 moment for Tory modernisers. Indeed, as Margot James so eloquently said (at least, I think it was her), the Tory modernisation project has some way to go. But the House of Commons spoke, and the Bill progresses. I have little doubt that it will pass into law, but it does need some radical amendments. Some weeks ago I described it as a Dog’s Breakfast, and something which actually does the opposite of what it sets out to. It actually enshrines inequality in law in several pernicious ways, and the clauses about religious freedom need some alteration too.

The debate was actually quite good. I’m bloody glad I don’t live in Northern Ireland though, if the attitudes displayed by various DUP MPs are anything to go by. Bloody hell. But on the plus sides there were some fantastic speeches in favour of the bill. I think Mike Freer (pictured), Stephen Gilbert, Sarah Wollaston, Nick Herbert and Margot James were the pick of the bunch. The least said about Messers Howarth, Chope and Leigh the better. Still, at least we can be grateful that Chris Chope avoided repeating his description of the Civil Partnership Act in 2004 as a “bugger’s muddle”. Idiot.

Last evening, we spent two hours discussing the vote on my LBC show. It proved to be quite an evening, with the highest caller volume of the year so far. One call in particular provoked dozens of others to call in. Mosad from Wembley proclaimed that homosexuality was a choice. I begged to differ and told him that you’re either born gay or you’re not, and to take it from one who knows. I then found myself baring more of my soul than I had ever intended, and went into details of my private life that I would never have normally shared on the airwaves. But, hey, it was great radio and I got the feeling I made Mosad re-evaluate some of his views. And that’s what it’s all about.

I have to say, I am glad it’s over. I’m almost fed up talking and writing about it. So I won’t do either for the foreseeable future, you’ll be pleased to hear.

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UK Politics

A Question for John Redwood: Are MPs Representatives or Delegates?

5 Feb 2013 at 15:49

John Redwood is a man of many opinions. Most of them are ones I agree with. He is a man I have immense respect and admiration for. I regard him as a friend. He’s also a superb blogger. So it was with some degree of horror that I read his blogpost on today’s gay marriage vote. This is how his blogpost ends.

My consultation with constituents has been wide ranging. Some have responded to the website request on the blog, where a majority favour the Bill by a margin of 4 to 1. I have also had 96 letters against and 7 in favour in reply. More have responded to my Parliamentary email, where a large majority have opposed the Bill. In the last two days alone I have had 4 emails in favour and 45 against. I am very conscious that I cannot please everyone when the constituency is so split. I will keep my word and vote for the side that wrote in in larger numbers, which means voting No to the Bill.

This is a very odd way to decide how to cast a vote on an issue like this. Indeed, I would argue that it is wrong on this or any issue. Members of Parliament are elected as representatives not delegates. A cursory knowledge of Burkian writing and constitutional precedent tells us that MPs should act according to their judgement after informing themselves of the facts. Of course an MP should be lobbied by constituents and pressure groups. And an MP should listen to all those interests. But it is then the responsibility of an MP to come to his or her own considered judgement. To delegate this responsibility to pressure groups with the power to mobilise a huge letter writing campaign is surely an abrogation of parliamentary responsibility.

Will it end here? Will John use this way of deciding his vote in future? And if so, why not all the time?

I am all in favour of reforming our system to include more direct forms of democracy. But on this occasion I think John Redwood should have come to his own decision and not passed it off on others. He might just as well have said…

There go my people. I must follow them. I am their leader.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale looks at TWIGHLIGHT & Teenage Obsessions

Are teenage obsessions healthy? Iain Dale interviews his sister Tracey and 13 year old Philly and talks to teenagers waiting for the Premiere of Twighlight who were camping out in Leicester Square.

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Jerry Hayes

5 Feb 2013 at 15:17

Your dad may have hurt you deeply by the way your mother was treated and you have every right to be confused, bitter and angry. But he is still your dad and those texts and letters show that he loves you. In time be at peace with him. If you travel through life full of hatred it will gnaw into your soul and humanity.

Jerry Hayes, Advice to Peter Huhne

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UK Politics

The Trials of Chris Huhne

4 Feb 2013 at 15:17

I’ve sat here for five minutes looking at a blank screen, not quite knowing what to write. You see, when a friend ends up in trouble, the last thing you want to do is stick the boot in. You want to empathise, sympathise and do what friends do. Stick by each other no matter what. I remember when Derek Conway had his troubles, back in 2008, I wrote THIS blogpost. Let me quote from it.

I believe in friendship. I believe that true friends don’t abandon each other in difficult times. I have a track record of standing by my friends when the going gets rough. I’ve done it when I knew it would cost me personally. I went on TV defending the Hamiltons over the rape allegations when people warned me not to as it could damage me politically. I publicly defended Edwina Currie over the publication of her diaries, when it would have been more politically expedient to join the baying throngs. And I have no hesitation in telling you that Derek Conway is a friend of mine. Anything I have to say about his conduct, I will say to his face. I don’t ‘diss’ on my friends in public. End. Of. Story.

I count Chris Huhne as a friend. I did yesterday, and I do today. I cannot imagine the feeling of pain and loss he will be feeling today. He, above anyone else, knows what an idiot he has been and will now have to face the consequences. Resigning from Parliament and facing a jail sentence – well, it doesn’t come a lot worse than that. Of course he was the architect of his own misfortune, and I don’t excuse the offence at all. I suspect quite a few of you reading this blogpost have considered doing what he did – transfer speeding points to your husband or wife. Some of you may have even done it. His first mistake was not to run this through the “how will this look if it gets out?” test. But perhaps his biggest mistake was then to lie about having done it.

Having written THAT blogpost last week about why I am falling out of love with politics, it would be hypocritical of me not to acknowledge that what Chris Huhne has done will further feed growing disillusion with politics among the general public. The fact that Chris Huhne thought he could get away with it, encourages people to believe that all politicians are the same and would have done the same thing. But perhaps those very same people should also ask themselves what they would have done too?

The Eastleigh by-election will be one of the most commented on for years. It’s a big test, not just for the Liberal Democrats, but also for the Conservatives and UKIP. If Nigel Farage doesn’t stand, he will be accused of being ‘frit’. The LibDems have about 90% of the seats on the local council, but they will do well to hold their vote. With the right candidate, it may be possible, but is there such a thing as a ‘right’ candidate for a by-election called in these circumstances? The Conservatives need to put in a heavyweight candidate, ideally a popular personality. An identikit Tory candidate isn’t going to work. It needs someone with a bit of presence and charisma. And someone who is capable of dealing with Nigel Farage.

This is a bitter blow for the LibDems. We all know that had all the ballots been counted, Huhne, not Clegg, would probably have become leader. So I suppose it could have been worse for them. But he was a major talent, a good minister and one of their keenest brains. No doubt he will become persona non grata but his talent will not be easy to replace. Andrew Mitchell once told me that Huhne took to government like a duck to water. If he promised something to a fellow Minister he delivered on it. You could count on his support in Cabinet. There are only three LibDems who will be rejoicing at Huhne’s misfortune – Vince Cable, Tim Farron and Ed Davey. It gives them one fewer opponent in the next LibDem leadership contest, whenever that might be.

Watching Twitter, and one or two blogs, over the last few hours has been a very unedifying experience. There isn’t much milk of human kindness on display. If Twitter were an animal, it would be a wolf – always ready to salivate over and then devour some easy meat. Well, Chris Huhne is easy meat today, but before he is fed to the wolves, think about his state of mind. People sometimes do desperate things in these circumstances.

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Policy

Equal Marriage: An Open Letter to MPs

4 Feb 2013 at 08:53

This is a letter I am emailing to MPs of all parties this morning.

Dear Member of Parliament,

Many of you have already decided to support the Equal Marriage Bill. This letter is addressed to those of you who remain undecided or who intend to oppose it.

Back in 2003 I became the first Conservative candidate to have been selected having already told the selectorate I was gay in advance. The very fact that I was the first inevitably led to a lot of media coverage. I remember a few months later being approached by a 22 year old researcher at the Conservative conference. He walked up to me and said “thank you”. I asked “What for?” He said “For making it easier for the rest of us.” I have never forgotten that.

Constantly being referred to in the media as “the openly gay candidate,” didn’t exactly do me any favours, but there was little I could do about it. So I embraced it, knowing that even if my media profile on this and other issues meant I never made it to the House of Commons I could still do something good, and try to influence debates in a number of areas, You now have the opportunity to do something good for your gay constituents – something which will cost no money to the public purse, and something which will bring joy to many.

The debate about equal marriage has been bogged down in a number of misconceptions and prejudices. First of all, it’s about equal marriage, not gay marriage. Marriage is a very conservative institution and one which Conservatives in particular ought to want to share with everyone. It promotes stability in loving relationships, and gives people more choice. But it is also an evolving institution.

Marriage belongs to us as a civil society. It does not just belong to the church, and while religious institutions have just the same right as anyone else to lobby for or against any change, they cannot be allowed to dictate marriage policy to the rest of us.

Over the years the rules on marriage have changed. Registry office weddings were introduced in 1837. The Peter Bone of his day was no doubt against them, accusing the government of the day of undermining the institution of marriage. In 1994 Gyles Brandreth introduced a Private Members Bill to allow weddings to take place in buildings other than churches. The Paul Murphy of his day accused the Major government of undermining the institution of marriage. The Matrimonial Causes Act changed the law to make divorce easier. The Gordon Birtwhistle of his day accused the Heath government of undermining the institution of marriage. In 2004 the Blair Government enabled same sex couple to enter civil partnerships. Well, you can guess what comes next.

The fact is that none of the then opponents of civil partnerships would now vote to repeal that legislation. Within nine years civil partnerships have become an integral part of our society. Even the then opponents of civil partnerships have come to embrace them. David Davis even shed a tear at mine. He insists he had grit in his eye, but…

Tim Loughton and others insist that equal marriage would undermine the institution of marriage, which has traditionally been between a man and a woman. Er, how exactly? How would me marrying my partner John undermine Tim’s marriage to Mrs Loughton? How would Mrs Bone be undermined by the fact that her husband’s gay constituents might be allowed to commit themselves to each other in a civil marriage? None of the opponents of equal marriage have ever been able to explain this. It may be a good soundbite but it’s a bone with no flesh on.

Yesterday 25 Conservative constituency chairmen (all men, I note), delivered a letter to Number 10 outlining the reasons why they felt that equal marriage should be shelved. Their main arguments appeared to be that it would lose the Conservative Party votes. Their votes, and others. The chairmen argued there was no mandate. Wrong. No one seems to have noticed that it was included in the Tory Equalities Manifesto at the last election.

Sometimes political leaders have to lead, rather than follow, and that is what David Cameron has done here. All the polls I have seen show that a majority of the electorate is actually in favour of equal marriage. It is just a vocal section of the Conservative Party which seems to have an issue with it. Making policy based just on party members’ opinions (in any party) is often a mistake. Policy making needs to be much more nuanced than that.

Some also argue that equal marriage threatens religious freedom. Far from it. Religious freedoms have been protected in the legislation. Indeed, a clause in the bill specifically prohibits the Church of England from conducting civil ceremonies in church. Personally, I think that is wholly wrong, and that they should have allowed the Church the freedom to choose, just like other religions will have. But there you go, you can’t win them all. No religious institution – muslim, jewish, hindu, buddhist, Jedi, whatever – can be forced to conduct gay weddings. It’s. Their. Choice. Ah, say the doubters, but the European Court of Human Rights may say something rather different. Wrong. The Bill has been drafted to ensure that can’t happen.

There is one point where I do agree with the doubters. I see no reason why straight people can’t be offered civil partnerships too. Then we really would have proper equal marriage. I suspect someone is drafting an amendment to that effect, and it would stand a very good chance of passing.

In ten year’s time, when we look back on this debate, I suspect there will be very few people who will want to turn the clock back. Equal marriage has been introduced in many other countries, including Catholic Spain and Protestant Holland. So far as I know it has not undermined straight marriage at all.

Each of you will know someone who is gay. A son or daughter. A work colleague. The guy who owns the shop where you buy your morning paper. Your researcher. Can you really justify saying to any of them: “I am happy to vote to deny you the very same privileges and honour of marriage that I , as a straight man or woman enjoy?” Think on that.

Yours Ever

Iain

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Laura Nyborg-Christiansen

3 Feb 2013 at 21:11

It’s the shit that makes you stronger

Laura Nyborg-Christiansen, Birgitte Nyborg's daghter in Borgen, 3 Feb 2013

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UK Politics

The Question Closet Case Gay MPs Will Have To Answer

2 Feb 2013 at 23:33

I’ve been looking at the Coalition for Equal Marriage’s website, and their list of MPs who intend to vote against allowing gay people to marry on Tuesday. I note with interest the names of several MPs who most people in the Westminster Village know to be closet case gays. And I note also the names of two supposedly straight MPs who I know to be conducting gay affairs at the moment. I don’t believe in ‘outing’ anyone, but because of the rank hypocrisy there will be others who will take a different view.

Adam Lake wrote tonight…

If you can’t be honest about who you are that is your problem. If you try to hypocritically defy my equality that is another issue entirely.

How is it possible to be married yourself, and yet at the same time vote to deny that privilege to someone whose pants you have just pulled down?

UPDATE SUNDAY 4.33pm: This post seems to have caused a right stooshie, with some people deliberately misunderstanding what I have written, or just as bad, trying to put words into my mouth. Let me very clear. I wrote above "I don’t believe in “outing” anyone". It seems many people missed it, so i thought I would repeat it. People seemed to interpret the rest as some sort of veiled threat. It isn’t. It is merely pointing out the blindingly obvious that any apparently straight MP having a gay affair could have to defend themselves against charges of hypocrisy. Others, who are less squeamish about outing others may hold those MPs to account. All I was doing was pointing out to those MPs to be prepared for it.

There is a lot of hypocrisy in this issue. We hear plenty from MPs about the brilliance and sanctity of marriage, and then find out they’ve had an affair.

And people point out that there are plenty of gay people who oppose gay marriage. I know of one. Andrew Pierce. I know plenty who couldn’t care less and are totally ambivalent. I do think it’s odd to be gay and be quite happy to live a life unequal in the eyes of the law, but, hey, each to their own.

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to June Brown

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Random Thoughts

Red Trousers Are Just Plain Wrong

2 Feb 2013 at 20:50

A few days I ago I tweeted about the fact that I had just seen a man wearing red trousers walking through Leicester Square. I’ve never understood how anyone who isn’t over 60 or Hooray Henry could wear them. But there was this seemingly normal looking thirty year old sauntering though central London wearing a pair and not even looking embarrassed about it. I had a big response to the tweet, with most people agreeing with me and most men denying they had ever worn a pair. Someone then alerted me to a website which celebrates the wearing of red trousers – it’s called LOOK AT MY F***ING RED TROUSERS. Enjoy. Or not.

And no, I would never be seen dead in them. Never. Ever.

Er. Never again.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Sue Townsend

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