ConHome Diary: The Overblown Reputation of Mark Carney, Why John Simpson Has Broken BBC Impartiality Rules & Feeling Sorry for Jared O'Mara

27 Oct 2017 at 15:49

John Simpson has never been one to shy away from his own sense of self-importance. After all, he single-handedly took Baghdad, I seem to remember. On Tuesday he decided he was a big enough name to totally ignore his employer’s guidelines and took to Twitter to denounce Brexit. He wrote: “MP wants details of anti-Brexit univ teachers. Decent folk deported on technicalities. Daily hate in press. Doesn’t feel like my country now.” Well in “my country” a respected BBC news journalist would have dreamt of (and would have known the consequences of) editorialising like this. He is the BBC’s World Affairs Editor. It says so on his Twitter profile, so it’s not really possible for Simpson to explain this away as just a personal account. His job is to report the news around the world, not give his personal opinions on it. He knows that and it’s almost as if he’d challenging the BBC to discipline him, which he could not doubt put forward as further proof that this is not “my country” any longer. And if we deconstruct what he says, yes, Chris Heaton-Harris’s letter was oddly worded to say the least and I still can’t work out what he hoped to achieve by it, but I suspect it was written by a 21 year-old researcher who didn’t quite understand what he/she was supposed to be doing. Simpson talks about decent folk being deported on technicalities. Really? Where are the details? Don’t you think we’d have read about them in the press? Yes, some letters were mistakenly send by the Home Office to 106 people, but Brandon Lewis, the Immigration Minister has explained that and apologised to the people concerned. I know of no one who has been deported. He then talks about the ’daily hate in the press’ as if hate in the press is something that has only occurred since 23 June 2016. It will be interesting to see how the BBC respond to this flagrant breach of their impartiality rules, or whether they’ll take the view of ‘move along, nothing to see’. What a pity the series W1A series has finished. They could have got a couple of episodes worth of material from this.
One of my listeners described Mark Carney on Wednesday as an “unreliable boyfriend”. Another described him as a “tease”. I think he omitted the word ‘prick’ deliberately. Since his appointment he has barely got anything right. Virtually every one of his predictions has been way out. Last week I was left scratching my head when he declared that an interest rate rise was imminent. He has one of nine votes on the Monetary Policy Committee. He didn’t even have all the latest economic data available to make that judgement. So why did he do it? He loses no opportunity to talk the economy down and predict doom and gloom after Brexit. Carney’s term was supposed to end next year but I gather he’s extended it by a year. He’s been a disaster and been far too political. We need shot of him.

Talking of central bank governors, I suspect Mr Draghi of the ECB is going to be Mr Unpopular soon. We’re constantly told that we have a weak growth rate and we’ve fallen behind the Eurozone countries. Factually, that is true, even despite this quarter’s better than expected growth figure of 0.4%. But the Eurozone economies are only doing better due to the 60 billion Euros every month that the ECB is pumping into their economies. That, I hear, is about to come to a shuddering stop. When it does, it’s highly likely that not only with Eurozone growth figures start to fall, but inflation will catch hold. We currently have a higher inflation rate than those countries. In part it’s due to the lower value of the Pound (although that’s gradually changing), but could it be that the QE chickens are now coming home to roost?
Jared O’Mara’s political career seems over before it has really started. He is one of only two MPs yet to make his maiden speech, and I suspect that will now be quite some time in coming. The internet has brought down MPs before, but his defenestration at the hands of Guido Fawkes has been on quite a different scale. Every day there are fresh revelations about his rather colourful comments on various message boards. He’s getting a free pass from some on the left on the basis that they were written many years ago. Hang on a cotton pickin’ moment. He wasn’t 13 or 15, he was in his twenties. And some of the more lurid were written when he was 28. Even so, I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for him. He clearly didn’t expect to win his seat in June, and nor did Labour, otherwise they might have actually interviewed him rather than just appointed him as the candidate in Sheffield Hallam. But even if they had done so, none of this would have emerged at the time, so a lot of cant is being talked about selection processes. When a snap election is called so early in a Parliament all parties will end up selecting candidates who in other circumstances wouldn’t have seen the light of day. Given some of the other incidents reported about Jared O’Mara’s behaviour, one can’t help but wonder if he has broader issues that he needs to deal with. He’s rightly being traduced for his comments and previously held views and it can’t be easy for him at the moment. I hope the Labour Party is looking after him, because anyone caught in the headlines of a national feeding frenzy is in a very vulnerable position.



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Video: Iain Comments on Cameron's Reshuffle

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CNNTalk: Has the Spanish Government Overreacted to Catalan Independence?

23 Oct 2017 at 17:38

From today CNN Talk is going twice a week. Today we spent half an hour discussing the constitutional crisis in Catalonia. Enjoy!

You can watch us on CNN International (Sky Channel 506) every Monday & Friday at noon, or on CNNI Facebook page.



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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to David Jason

Iain talks to David Jason about his autobiography.

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ConHome Diary: Wotcha!

20 Oct 2017 at 13:34

If there is to be a reshuffle before the budget, expect it to happen next Monday. I’m not saying there will definitely be one next week, but if the Chancellor is to feature in it, surely it couldn’t happen within a month of the budget. Again, I’m not saying the Chancellor will feature in it, but surely any new Chancellor would need to have a month before the budget to read him/herself into the job. Downing Street is staying tight-lipped about any possible reshuffle and quite right too. I know for a fact that at the end of last week no decision had been made one way or the other on whether it would happen now, or be put off. If the PM emerges from the EU summit with any sort of victory, she’d be in a good place to carry out as extensive a reshuffle as she’d like, but let’s face it, the odds on the EU saying anything positive to help her are not great.
Back to the fortunes of Philip Hammond. There’s no doubt that he had a pretty awful week last week. It was almost as if he was deliberately trying to wind up Brexiteers with his message of gloom and doom and dismissal of proper preparations for a ‘no deal’ scenario. Clearly someone had a word and by the end of last week Hammond was backtracking like the Lord Chancellor at the State Opening of Parliament. And then he undid it all with his ‘enemies’ comment. It may have been massively overinterpreted by the media, but it was further proof that we have a Chancellor who’s not especially good at politics. It’s often said that Theresa May is one disaster away from being toppled, but the question is: do we have a Chancellor who is one move away from being sacked?
On Monday the papers were full of two further policy wheezes by the Chancellor, both ostensibly designed to persuade young people that the Tories hadn’t forgotten them. The first was clearly briefed to George Osborne over lunch last week and appeared on the front page of Monday’s Evening Standard. Apparently young people are going to be getting a cut in stamp duty. Given that stamp duty is a form of licensed robbery, few would disagree with a cut, but all it will do is add to house price inflation, which rather defeats the object. The second idea is to cut pension tax relief for older workers and cut national insurance for the under 30s. Has Philip Hammond learned nothing from the election campaign? You don’t help younger people by penalising older people. All the polls show that younger people react very badly against such policies, not to mention older Conservative voters. Perhaps it was just a bit of policy kite flying. Let’s hope so.

I do apologise if I have been somewhat omnipresent on your TV screens lately. It won’t happen again. Well, probably not.
Talking of being on TV, last Friday night I was a guest on ITV’s new current affairs show, the very unimaginatively named ‘After the News’. It’s on, well, after the New at Ten’ and hosted on alternate nights by LBC’s Nick Ferrari and 5Live’s Emma Barnett. It’s a very simple format – two guests from opposing standpoints plus a look at the next day’s papers. Someone described it as ‘Newsnight’ without the reports or interviews, which was probably meant to be unkind, but there is something in that. It’s certainly not an innovative format, but its beauty is its simplicity. It’s beating ‘Newsnight’ in audience numbers, but it does have the advantage of inheriting a sizeable audience from ‘News at Ten’. The test for ITV will be whether to extend its initial five week run. It’s about time ITV went back to providing more for its viewers who are interested in politics and current affairs.

Talking of ITV current affairs shows, ‘Peston on Sunday’ is about the only proper political programme on the channel. Peston gets good guests but it’s a very clunky format, as he has to keep wandering from ‘Croissant corner’ to his big desk interviews. And if he introduces the programme one more time with the word ‘Wotcha’, I’ll want to deck him. On what planet does a presenter of a political interview programme think it appropriate do that? Peston has a book out soon called ‘WTF’. There’s a pattern developing here… I’m interviewing him about it at the beginning of November so I think I’ll ask him about it!



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Iain Talks to Nigel Evans MP After His acquittal

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Sunday Telegraph Column: Would a Reshuffle Solve Theresa May's Problems? (Answer: Probably Not)

15 Oct 2017 at 15:53

This is the full text of the article which appeared in today’s Sunday Telegraph

Reshuffle fever is gripping Westminster, which is not unusual when a government looks as if it’s in trouble. However, a reshuffle rarely solves anything. There has only been one reshuffle in the last fifteen years which has been heralded as a success and you have to go back to the halcyon days of Tony Blair to find it.

One former cabinet minister told me this week: “A third of the cabinet is brilliant but out of control, a third are plodders and a third are useless and aren’t up to it.” Even if the Prime Minister conducts a wide-ranging shuffling and ejected the most ‘useless’ third of her cabinet, her government will still face the same problems as it does now – divisions over Brexit, no parliamentary majority and a faltering domestic agenda.

Move Boris, sack the chancellor by all means, but chief whip Gavin Williamson knows that it’s not just the ministers who are sacked that nurse grievances, it’s all those who weren’t promoted as well. Like the PM, Williamson hates reshuffles, and that’s why it’s by no means certain there will be one. If there is, the chief whip himself could find that he ends up running a department.

When I interviewed Theresa May in July she was adamant that “no minister is unsackable”, however senior – so adamant that she said it twice. Would she dare sack the chancellor? “He’d do well to find a seconder for his leadership campaign,” says one Tory MP, who believes Philip Hammond has few supporters on the Tory benches.

The problem with sacking Philip Hammond is the timing of the budget. It would have to be done in the next two weeks. Some are saying that it might be time to properly ‘uncork the Gauke’ and promote David Gauke to take over. He spent years as Treasury minister, is liked and is a safe pair of hands on the media. Theresa May needs an ally at the Treasury, not someone to lock horns with. The downside is he’s another Remainer

But what to do about Boris? There is a school of thought developing that the Foreign Secretary wouldn’t be averse to becoming party chairman. He wouldn’t be on the taxpayers’ payroll so would be free to (maybe) return to writing for this newspaper and take up various other sinecures. He could schlepp up and down the country building up potential leadership campaign support and subliminally encourage constituency associations to persuade their MPs to support him when the time comes.

The cabinet ministers thought to be most at risk are Liz Truss, Patrick McLoughlin, Andrea Leadsom and Baroness Evans, the totally anonymous Leader of the House of Lords. Former EU commissioner Jonathan Hill could replace her or could it be that George Young might make yet another comeback to steer the Brexit Bill through the Lords? Serious people for serious times.

Having declined a position in her initial government, Dominic Raab accepted a Minister of State role in June and is heavily tipped for promotion. Former Employment Minister Esther McVey, former chief whip Mark Harper and Immigration minister Brandon Lewis are three other probable promotions.

If Boris Johnson refuses to be party chairman, Brandon Lewis is likely to get the job. McVey at least has the advantage of having been a Brexiteer, unlike so many of the current Ministers of State. And therein lies a huge problem for the Prime Minister. Indeed, it’s a rather depressing experience to flick through the list of ministers of state and conclude that it’s impossible to imagine more than a select few serving at cabinet level.

Any new entrants to the ministerial ranks are likely to come from the 2010 and 2015 intakes. Kwasi Kwarteng is due a promotion, but expect Victoria Atkins and Victoria Prentis from the left of the party to join the government, along with Tom Tugendhat, James Cleverly, Nus Ghani, Johnny Mercer, Lucy Frazer and Rishi Sunak. I’m hearing that serious consideration is being given to bringing Jacob Rees-Mogg into the tent, if only to shut him up.

If Theresa May really wanted to make a statement that youth and diversity are what the party needs, she could give very rapid promotions to two of the 2017 intake – Kemi Badenoch and Bim Afolami, both of whom made superb maiden speeches.

Some still think that the biggest reshuffle of all is still on the cards – shuffling Theresa May out of Number 10. It won’t happen. Why? Because the image of a second tearful female prime minister being bundled out of Number 10 by a series of men in grey suits would be too awful for the Tories to contemplate. Who was it again who claimed they were seen as the ‘nasty party’? That very phrase could be Theresa May’s saviour.

You can read the published version HERE



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ConHome Diary: Interviewing the PM, Reshuffle Speculation & Corbyn's Momentum

13 Oct 2017 at 11:43

I think enough has been written over the last forty-eight hours about my phone-in with Theresa May on LBC. But here goes anyway. Firstly, all credit to her for doing it. She’s the first prime minister since Tony Blair to do a radio phone-in outside an election period. These things always carry a slight risk for a politician because they can never be sure they will be won’t be tripped up by a member of the public. Interviewers can be tame beasts compared to Jill in Sidcup. Ask Nick Clegg. The main reason for the timing was the publication of the government’s Racial Disparity Audit. It’s clearly something Theresa May feels very strongly about. If you recall she talked about this issue on the steps of Downing Street when she became prime minister. We took several calls on this and spent a third of the time on the subject. The audit is just that – an audit, and at times it makes for some dark reading, but if the problem isn’t properly diagnosed how one earth can anyone come up with some long-term solutions? I thought she dealt with most of the other questions from callers very well, including a Conservative who told her the only way of defeating Jeremy Corbyn was for her to stand down. Not an easy one for any politician to navigate. But it was on Brexit where the headlines emerged from. An EU national phoned in and then I asked her the same question I’d asked Jeremy Hunt a week earlier: If there was a new referendum now, how would she vote? You’ll have read about this elsewhere. Some people think I shouldn’t have asked her such a question – I must have known I wouldn’t get a straight answer. Others seem to think it was the most brilliant question an interviewer has ever asked. It wasn’t. I honestly thought she would follow Jeremy Hunt’s lead and say that knowing what she knows now, she would vote for Brexit. Well, I suppose one positive has emerged from it – now one can ever accuse me of being a Tory patsy interviewer ever again.
Interestingly, the media furore which ensued over this wasn’t really shared by our listeners or on social media. They were largely praising the PM for having the guts to do the phone-in and even if they didn’t agree with everything she said, she had their respect, especially after the week she had endured. She should do a lot more of this sort of thing.
Of course after the ‘have you changed your mind on Brexit’ question, it’s now open season on all the Remainers in the cabinet to be challenged. Damian Green was served up on Newsnight and he tackled it head on and said he didn’t resile from his Remain support one iota. Karen Bradley was skewered by Piers Morgan who asked her eight times if she’d now support Brexit. She, like the PM, trotted out the ‘I don’t answer hypothetical questions’ line, and wasn’t any more convincing. Later on Wednesday Liz Truss went on the Daily Politics to declare that she was now an enthusiastic Brexiteer, having previously been one of the cabinet’s chief Remain cheerleaders. She said when the facts change, you change your mind. Yup, I’m sure Theresa May will have loved that. Could that hasten her departure from the cabinet in a reshuffle? Stranger things have happened.

Talking of reshuffles, the papers last weekend were full of reshuffle speculation. We all have our theories on who should be ditched and who should be promoted, but I wonder whether it will happen at all. Some observers believe it will happen in the week following the EU summit next weekend. I won’t speculate on names here for the moment, but there is only any point in a reshuffle if it actually changes the political weather. Few reshuffles ever do. Surely the main aim of a reshuffle now would be to signal a generational change. Even if the Chancellor and Foreign Secretary retain their jobs, there need to be at least four cabinet departures, together with a whole raft from the Minister of State and junior ranks. Theresa May will inevitably make a lot more new enemies but the truth is that if she is going to be the first PM in a long time to plan her succession properly, she needs to bring on younger MPs who she will tip for greatness.
It’s quite noticeable that Jeremy Corbyn has got a bit of a spring in his step at the moment. He’s far more relaxed and fluent on the rare occasions he does live media interviews and he seems more polished at the Despatch Box. Maybe it’s just that he appears more comfortable in his own skin. I imagine a large part of it is because the election campaign gave a real boost to his self confidence. In the end, politicians are just like the rest of us. If we’re constantly told we’re shit by everyone then we may come to believe it. The ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ phenomenon must have given a renewed sense of self belief and it’s coming over to the public. You don’t find too many Conservatives who underestimate Corbyn any longer. Luckily there is time for Tory High Command to work out a new way of dealing with him, because so far none of their strategies have worked.



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LBC 97.3: Tom Swarbrick with an Amusing Take on Obama's Inauguration

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ICYMI: Watch My Theresa May Phone-in In Full

11 Oct 2017 at 00:16

This is the phone-in/interview that has made the front pages of the FT, Times, Guardian, Telegraph and City AM today.


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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Benjamin Cohen about Social Media Addiction

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ConHome Diary: A Strange Wednesday in Manchester

6 Oct 2017 at 12:00

It’s just gone midnight on Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Normally I write this column on a Thursday morning, but given the day that’s just been gone, I thought I’d put pen to paper now rather than wait until the morning. It’s been one of the oddest days in party conference history. I got up in Manchester imagining quite a calm day, starting with a brisk walk to the conference centre from the rather lovely Malmaison Hotel where LBC had booked us for the conference. Imagine my surprise when I got there on Saturday night to walk into the room to find there was no bed. Except there was, but in the second room. I had been upgraded to a suite. Perhaps it was meant for Nick Ferrari. Oh well, he’ll never know. If you’ve ever stayed in a Malmaison you’ll know what I mean when I say that the décor of the bedrooms are how I imagine a brothel’s bedroom would look. Lots of dark purples and slightly erotic paintings. You get the picture. Anyway, I digress.

Going back to Monday, imagine my surprise to get a call from the Evening Standard at about 10am asking me to write the next day’s Op-Ed column on the state of the Tory Party and the conference. And there was me thinking George Osborne had ignored my talents for so long. I scratched my head. Given they wanted the first draft by 7pm that evening, I couldn’t work out when I would get a chance to write it, given the timing of my LBC show. We settled on a compromise. I’d deliver it at 7.30 the next morning on pain of death (and never being asked to write a column again). Now believe it or not, I don’t particularly enjoy writing, and I have a massive inferiority complex about it. I know I can’t write like Boris or Michael Gove and as soon as I press SEND I always imagine the article will be sent back with a message saying “nice try, now write it properly.” It’s never actually happened, but I still think it will. I wonder if other columnists think like this, or is it just me with a chip on my writing shoulder. I can’t help preferring oral… (ahem).

Anyway, one bit of the article caused a bit of a stir. I wrote:

“If the Tories want to win again – and listening to some of the Cabinet you could be forgiven for wondering if they do – they need to stop the schoolboy games. I was told by one broadcaster who has interviewed the prime minister in recent weeks that he received several texts from cabinet ministers suggesting lines of questioning. And they weren’t meant to be helpful to Theresa May. What utter shits.”

Well on Wednesday things took a turn for the worse. I ambled up to the Convention centre and did a turn on the Daily Politics previewing Theresa May’s speech, then, went over to CNN to broadcast a special edition of CNN Talk with Ayesha Hazirika and Liam Halligan. The three of us normally get on, but this was our sparkiest edition yet. They played a bit of the speech then we started debating whether Britain was still the power in the world it once was. All of a sudden I could tell that something was wrong in the hall because I couldn’t hear the Prime Minister’s voice in the background. A couple of minutes later the so-called comedian – or ‘twat’ as I call him – was being shown the door right behind our broadcasting point. Talk about drama.

I then noticed that Theresa had gulped a glass of water and it seemed to be dribbling down her chin. This was not going well.

It was only once I got back to the LBC stand and watched the rest of the speech live that I realised just how bad her cough had become. But persevere she did, and in the end her nightmare was over.

I was supposed to interview Amber Rudd in a pre-record for my Drivetime show, but I decided to be a team player and suggested she went on live with my colleague Shelagh Fogarty. Much as I’d have liked the interview for myself, it was the right thing to do.

I then had to skidaddle to LBC’s Manchester studio to do my show from there, as the LBC stand was being dismantled. It felt very lonely and I longed to be back in our London studio where my producers could more easily guide me through the show. Interestingly our listeners were far more interested in talking about the energy cap and the housing announcement than talking about twattish comedians and bad coughs.

In the meantime, Newsnight had asked me to go on a panel with Margot James and Times columnist Jenni Russell. I calculated I could just about get there if the train to Euston was on time. It was scheduled to get in at 22.10. I was due on screen at 22.40. I got a text from the producer saying she was tracking the train on an App (whatever next) and it was running ten minutes late. Eeek. Indeed, the train got in at twenty past ten but it was 10.25 by the time I found the car the BBC had booked for me. “Put you foot down, mate,” I pleaded. It was 10.34 by the time I walked through the door of New Broadcasting House. I started to walk through the security door when someone said that I had to put my rucksack and small suitcase through the security thing. “I’m on air in six minutes,” I said. It was to no avail. In the end I sat down on the set with two minutes to spare. Not the ideal preparation for a panel discussion which I hadn’t really thought too much about what I would say. In the end it turned out to be a really good discussion and I think I made all the point’s I’d have wanted to had I actually thought about it properly.

As I sit here at the desk of my Premier Inn hotel room in Euston (yes, when I pay for it myself I do like to economise… but Premier Inn beds are so fabulous I even bought one myself!) I reflect on what Theresa May must be thinking as she puts her head down on the pillow tonight. I’m so glad she has Philip there with her. He will have known what to say and what not to say to her.

You find out a lot about a politician when they face adversity. Where most of us might have recoiled or stepped back when confronted by the P45 twat, she stood resolute and even made a joke of it. When Freddie the Frog first appeared she had a good nine pages to go. Yes, it was a painful watch at times, but she persevered and wasn’t going to let it beat her.

If any Conservative MP is so flaky as to think that a cough ought to deprive Theresa May of the leadership it says a lot more about them than it does about her. I’m told an ex Cameron Cabinet Minister is trying to persuade colleagues to write to Graham Brady urging a vote of no-confidence. How pathetically self-indulging. Then what? What on earth would the European Commission make of this? Our negotiating position would then be weaker than it already is. If I hear one more squeak out of the Foreign Secretary which could be interpreted as a move on Theresa May, it would be final proof that he wouldn’t be fit to lead the Conservative Party. He’s bloody lucky to still be in his job. As is his deputy, Alan Duncan, for his crass comments in Chicago.

Theresa May must have the self confidence to embrace what has happened today. The fact that she tweeted a picture of her red box with Strepsils and medicine beside a copy of her speech, and the word coughs shows she’s doing just that.

“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” said Winston Churchill. Out of threat springs opportunity. It’s now up to Theresa May to turn this unfortunate day into a positive for her.



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Iain Hosts a Phonein on Downs Syndrome

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Evening Standard Column: Tories must stop navel-gazing and take the fight to Labour

5 Oct 2017 at 22:51

I wrote this article on Monday evening for publication as the main ‘Op-Ed’ article in the Evening Standard on Tuesday.

So, there I was, sitting between Theresa May and Andrew Marr on Sunday morning, waiting for Marr to open his show. I was there to do the paper review with Polly Toynbee. Theresa May faced an altogether more challenging task – surviving a half hour grilling. The opening titles started. Marr looked at the camera. “The papers say she’s a broken woman and she has to stand and fight or surrender office to her critics,” he said, thereby setting the tone for the whole Tory conference. And then he followed up witheringly. “Happy birthday, Prime Minister.” Hashtag awkward. I didn’t know where to look.

At party conferences journalists tend to act in concert. They become a herd, looking to confirm a narrative that they have developed between themselves. Perish the thought they should talk to actual conference goers. That would never do.

The narrative at this year’s Conservative conference is that Theresa May is in deep trouble, Boris Johnson is unsackable (but deserves to be, nevertheless) and Jacob Rees-Mogg is an interesting little diversion.

The truth is somewhat different.

It’s true that there’s little excitement at this conference. The atmosphere, if such a thing can be defined. is decidedly muted. The conference hall is sometimes half empty, but that’s because Conservative conferences tend to be rather tedious nowadays, with little meaningful debate from the floor. I can’t remember the last time I actually went into the conference hall.

This event in Manchester is not a conference, it’s a rally. The trouble is that many of the senior politicians addressing the party faithful are too boring to knock a rhetorical skin off a rice pudding, let alone galvanise a genuine standing ovation – Ruth Davidson, excepted, naturally.

This conference should be an opportunity for the Tories to demonstrate they know how to defeat Labour and take the fight to Jeremy Corbyn. Instead it runs the risk of becoming a giant exercise in naval gazing and superfluous leadership speculation.

If the Tories want to win again – and listening to some of the Cabinet you could be forgiven for wondering if they do – they need to stop the schoolboy games. I was told by one broadcaster who has interviewed the prime minister in recent weeks that he received several texts from cabinet ministers suggesting lines of questioning. And they weren’t meant to be helpful to Theresa May. What utter shits.

The correct answer to the question: ‘Do you want Theresa May to lead the Conservatives into the next election?’ is ‘yes’ if you’re a Cabinet minister. If Michael Gove can say the word without hesitation or deviation, why couldn’t Sajid Javid? Instead he protested that his interview had overrun.

Unlike some of her more shifty colleagues, Theresa May is, above all, loyal to her party. She knows the carnage that would be wrought if she did what she must surely want to do, and sack those who continue to brief against her and drop poison into the ears of very receptive journalists.

Some senior Conservative ministers seem to have a collective death wish. They learn nothing from political history, which tells us that divided parties do not win elections.

The Prime Minister is going nowhere. She may not be at ‘peak May’ at the moment, but she knows the Tories need a leadership election like a hole in the head. She’s lucky that there is no King or Queen over the water who could be confident of ousting her. She’s also lucky that Conservative donors are still largely supportive. Theresa May apparently made a rousing speech to the party’s National Convention on Sunday, and several who were there have told me that if she performs like that tomorrow, when she stands before her party to close the conference, she’ll be OK.

It’s time for the Tories to stop licking the wounds inflicted by the election. No amount of naval gazing will help them. There are four and a half years to go until the next election has to be held. That’s plenty of time for them to regroup and take the fight to Labour.

The hubris displayed by Labour in Brighton last week may come back to bite them. They think they’ve already won the next election. Theresa May experienced a very sudden decline in her fortunes at the election. Four years are a long time in politics. Who’s to say the same thing won’t happen to Jeremy Corbyn at some point?

The voluntary party needs to be reformed from top to bottom. A new party pressure group, the Campaign for Conservative Democracy, was launched yesterday. It needs to succeed. The days of the great and the good running the upper echelons need to be banished forever. The party needs a new chairman – someone who can both enthuse the activists, who has ideas about how to recruit new supporters, not just members, and someone who has the organisational and campaigning skills to revitalise the party’s headquarters. And also someone who can totally revamp the party’s conference and give it a sense of purpose. Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis is that man.

But it’s not all about turning around the party’s fortunes, it’s also about taking the philosophical and ideological fight to Labour. Theresa May started that process last week with a long overdue speech defending capitalism and free markets. Philip Hammond followed suit yesterday. In many ways the battles of the 1970s and 1980s are going to have to be refought. It’s Socialism v Freedom: The Sequel. Just when you thought it was safe…

Margaret Thatcher thought she had vanquished socialism. She regarded Tony Blair as her greatest creation, but all politics is indeed cyclical. The question now is this: Can Theresa May articulate the same kind of defences of freedom, free markets and capitalism that Margaret Thatcher did to such great effect? Her speech tomorrow needs to provide an answer to that question.

The original article was published here.



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The Top 100 Most Influential People on the Right 2017

2 Oct 2017 at 08:00

Each year for the last ten years I have convened a panel to compile a list of the Top 100 Most Influential People on the Right. This year our panel was comprised of a national newspaper journalist, two ex-Spads, two online commentators and an ex Conservative MP.

The most difficult thing when deciding who to include an exclude, is to define what ‘influence’ actually means. In the end it means being influential in a combination of national politics, the media, on the Conservative Party and its leader.

In all, there are 31 new entries in the whole list, two down on last year’s record of 33. Out go Liz Truss, Andrew Tyrie, Mark Harper, Matt Hancock, Zac Goldsmith, Suzanne Evans, Douglas Carswell, George Freeman, Donal Blaney and John Hayes.

Robbie Gibb, the new Downing Street Director of Communciations is the highest new entry at number nine, with Dominic Raab and James Brokenshire the next highest entries in the lower twenties. Some will be surprised that Jacob Rees-Mogg isn’t rated higher than 53, but it is his first year on the chart.

UKIP’s presence has declined this year with Suzanne Evans, Paul Nuttall, Douglas Carswell, Stephen Woolfe and Diane James all dropping out. Their new leader Henry Bolton comes in at 86, and Arron banks and Nigel Farage stay in, but that’s it.

Interestingly, the number of the women in this year’s list has dropped one from 24 to 23. However, in the Left list there are a record, so some way to go. The LibDems scored 17 in their list of 50.

It’s quite clear that this has been another year of change and surprise. Who would have predicted that Gavin Barwell, having lost his seat and ministerial position, would climb 63 places to number 7. Who would have thought our panel would eject Liz Truss altogether, having been at 37 last year and still attending Cabinet.

Graham Brady climbs into the top four from No 18 last year, while Damian Green also enters the top ten at number 6, rising 25 places from 31. Our panel put David Davis into second place on the basis that the fortunes of the whole government revolve around him, and he is seen as Theresa May’s closest ally apart from Damian Green. Michael Gove rebounds 26 places up the chart to number 13 after his phoenix like comeback into the cabinet.

Some might find it odd that Boris Johnson has fallen to number 14 given his recent bout of publicity, but our panel felt he had significantly alienated quite a large part of the parliamentary party and his prospects of succeeding Theresa May had implicitly diminished.

The Conservative Party is in a state of fluidity and flux. It is in a state of semi-permanent leadership turmoil. Nothing unusual there, you may think. But if Theresa May is to stay at the top of our list in 2018 she needs to exert leadership and put a stop to the leadership talk.

1. (-) Theresa May
Prime Minister
Last year we described Theresa May as “Mistress of all she surveys”. A year later she is clinging to power like a limpet, having called an unneeded general election which ended with her losing her majority. She’s survived due to the unwillingness of any rival to try to unseat her, and the fact there is no single ready made successor. She’s revamped her Downing Street operation but the loss of her two closest advisers (Fiona Hill & Nick Timothy) has hit her hard. Having said that, of late she’s recovered some of her ‘mojo’, although the Florence speech has done little to counter claims that her authority is still on the wane.

2. (+2) David Davis
Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union
Seen as the natural ‘fall under a bus’ candidate should Theresa May quit, Davis has remained publicly very loyal to the Prime Minister since his appointment in July last year. He was the one to shore up her position in the hours after the election result but is said to remain frustrated by the way Number 10 continues to try to micromanage Brexit. DD has been careful to keep Cabinet ‘remainers’ onside, including the Chancellor, but his relations with the Foreign Secretary are icy to say the least.

3. (+2) Ruth Davidson
Leader, Scottish Conservatives
Theresa May’s position on June 9th was effectively saved by the election of 13 Tory MPs in Scotland and that was largely down to Ruth Davidson’s almost single-handed revitalisation of the Scottish Conservative Party. There’s little doubt that if she had a Westminster seat she’d be seen as the natural successor to Theresa May. However, she has been so vocal in being very anti-Brexit, one wonders whether the wider party would elect her if it came to it. She’s determined to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister, and who could honestly say there isn’t a chance of her pulling it off?

4. (+14) Graham Brady
Chairman, 1922 Committee
The election result has propelled Graham Brady up this list to a stratospheric number four. He is the keeper of the ‘letters’ from Tory MPs expressing no confidence in their leader. No one knows how many there are, but in many ways Theresa May’s job lies in his hands. She should beware if she ever spots him wearing a grey suit…

5. (+1) Philip Hammond
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Tipped for the chop had Theresa May won a landslide, instead Philip Hammond has made the most of his ‘unfireability’ and made clear he expects to be listened to, especially in the debate about the country’s future after Brexit. So far, he has had the best of it. He is said to still harbour ambitions to succeed Theresa May. Contrary to his grey demeanour as John Major Mark 2, he’s actually got a very well developed sense of humour – which he has needed over the last few months.

6. (+25) Damian Green
First Secretary of State
A close friend of Theresa May from their university days, Damian Green was always tipped to return to ministerial office if she became leader, after being fired by David Cameron. So far he is playing the role of Theresa’s ‘Willie’ very well. Urbane, smart and willing to defend a sticky wicket when necessary he’s the glue that holds the government together. Just.

7. (+63) Gavin Barwell
Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister
By common consent one of the nicest people in politics, he bounced back from losing his Croydon seat to replace Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill as the Prime Minister’s chief of staff. He’s made it his business to be approachable and considerate and it is said that Downing Street is a happy place to work under his leadership. He is also said to speak truth unto power. Let’s hope he’s listened to.

8. (+11) Gavin Williamson
Chief Whip
One of the few Cameroons to survive regime change, Williamson’s appointment as chief whip caused more than a few raised eyebrows, given his comparative youth and inexperience. However, he did a sterling job as David Cameron’s PPS and was trusted by Tory MPs to relay their concerns. His negotiations with the DUP proved how close he is to the PM and his ability to sell the deal to the parliamentary party surprised some. Said to harbour much higher ambitions…

9. (NEW) Robbie Gibb
Director of Communications, Number Ten
Robbie Gibb has introduced a much more open and cooperative media strategy and the partial transformation of Theresa May’s public persona is more down to him than anyone else. No one can take a horse to the trough and make it drink, but it’s clear that the Number Ten media strategy has changed from ‘say as little as possible’ to ‘make a case to us as to why this will work and we’ll look at it’. Although he is robust in tackling editorial mistakes or apparent bias by broadcasters he does it in a manner where the journalist comes away feeling good about themselves. A good talent to have.

10. (-) Amber Rudd
Home Secretary
Amber Rudd cemented her reputation as an effective performer in the EU referendum debates. She may have got a lot of criticism for ripping into Boris Johnson, but it made her a contender. She was sent out again to put the Foreign Secretary in his place after his infamous 4000 word Telegraph article. She radiates competence on the media and was rumoured to be considered for a move to the Treasury has the election result been rather better. She could go far, but her slim majority in Hastings & Rye might well hold her back.

11. (-8) Philip May
First Gentleman
There was always a debate in previous years as to whether Samantha Cameron should have been included on this list. There was no debate about the inclusion of Philip May. He is just as much a political animal as his wife, and she consults him on more or less everything. Deeply devoted to Conservative politics, he is also a very, very nice man, and incredibly hard working.

12. (-5) Boris Johnson
Foreign Secretary
Boris Johnson has tried to reassert his authority after a shaky few months but his recent article in the Telegraph on his optimistic vision for a post Brexit Britain went down like a cup of cold sick in Number 10 and most of the parliamentary party. It wasn’t a leadership bid, more of a ‘hey look at me, I’m still here’ piece. When he goes abroad half the politicians he meets love him and the other half scratch their heads in bemusement. His stock in parliament and in the wider voluntary party appears to be on the wane, even if he is the only Conservative still to have rock star status. Well, apart from JRM.

13. (+26) Michael Gove
Secretary of State for DEFRA
As we said last year, when he fell 26 places in this list, “what a difference a year makes”. He kept his nose clear during his wilderness year on the back benches and was used heavily during the election campaign to represent the party on the media. Gove was brought back in an unlikely department but so far has remained totally loyal and not put a foot wrong.

14. (-6) Sir Michael Fallon
Secretary of State for Defence
Michael Fallon is a reassuring figure at Defence. Having come to the Cabinet fairly late in life, he’s been a great survivor. An effective media performer, like Philip Hammond he was a surprisingly firm advocate of Remain, when all his political life we had all viewed him as a trenchant Eurosceptic. Said to harbour ambitions to move to the Foreign Office if Boris falls by the way.

15. (+2) Liam Fox
Secretary of State for International Trade
One of the three Brexiteers, Fox’s job is in some ways more difficult than the other two, because in theory he won’t have anything to show for his endeavours until Brexit is achieved at some point in 2019. All he can do is lay the ground work. So far he has avoided too many turf wars with Johnson and Davis and spoken out very rarely.

16. (-) Nigel Farage
Former Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party
Nigel Farage has certainly not gone quiet. Indeed, quite the reverse. He’s effortlessly made the transition from political leader to talk show host but it’s clear he may well soon return to the political fray if he thinks Brexit is in danger. It’s unlikely to be in the capacity of leader of UKIP, though.

17. (-6) Stephen Parkinson
Political Secretary, Number Ten Downing Street
Parkinson is a popular figure in Conservative Party circles. He left the Home Office to work for Vote Leave and has been Director of the Conservative History Group for some years. His is a crucial role in the Downing Street machine.

18. (+60) David Lidington
Lord Chancellor & Secretary of State for Justice
Popular with MPs on all sides of the House, Lidders – as he is known – had spent six years as Europe Minister and if anyone deserved a move and a promotion it was him. After a year as Leader of the House he replaced the hapless Liz Truss as Justice Secretary in the June reshuffle. Calm and reassuring, Lidington is an important player in the May team.

19. (-7) Greg Clark
Secretary of State for Business, Energy, Innovation & Skills
Greg Clark is seen as hugely competent and likeable and commands great loyalty. However, his ‘industrial strategy’ is seen by some on the right as rather left wing and politically suspect. Furthermore, the energy cap policy is not universally popular either. If he rebuilds some bridges with the right, Clark could well be a big player in Conservative politics for some time to come.

20. (-7) Chris Grayling
Secretary of State for Transport
Chris Grayling is in his dream job. Really. And he wants to stay in it for the duration as he firmly believes he can make a real difference. He’s weathered the ‘Southern Rail storm’ and is now often used as a lightning conductor, being wheeled out on the media to play a straight bat defending various unpopular government policies. He should be used more.

21. (+14) Brandon Lewis
Minister for Immigration
A rising star, and an excellent media performer, Lewis was unlucky not to make full Cabinet, and he will be one of the first knocking on the door in the next reshuffle. We said that last year but mean it even more this year. He’s gradually got a grip on a department which is famous for its incompetent administration. Possibly a successor to Patrick McLoughlin as party chairman.

22. (-8) Jeremy Hunt
Secretary of State for Health
A quieter year for Jeremy Hunt, which is always a good thing for a Conservative minister in the Department of Health. His priority is to ensure that the A&E crisis of last winter isn’t repeated this year. Only eight months until he surpasses Aneurin Bevan as the longest serving Health Secretary in history. Quite an achievement for a Conservative.

23. (+52) Arlene Foster
First Minister of Northern Ireland
A now familiar face on TV screens outside Northern Ireland, she extracted the maximum she could in the deal she and Nigel Dodds negotiated with Gavin Williamson. Many Tory MPs don’t trust Foster or her party and were appalled when they decided recently to vote with Labour in two Opposition Day debates. Her position in the DUP is far from secure, though, and her obstinacy over power sharing in Northern Ireland may end in tears.

24. (-1) David Gauke
Secretary of State for Work & Pensions
Promoted from Chief Secretary in the June reshuffle, Gauke may not be the most exciting of politicians but he exudes competence and is still often sent out on the media during difficult political times. If you want a politician on TV who can be relied on not to drop the proverbial bollock. Gauke is your man. Loved by Tory press officers.

25. (-10) Lord Michael Ashcroft
Businessman & Philanthropist
Michael Ashcroft has been relatively silent over the last year but his influence endures through his writing, his proprietorship of ConservativeHome and his polling operation. His new book – The Lost Majority – will be pored over for lessons the Tories need to learn from the last election.

26. (-1) George Osborne
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer; Editor, London Evening Standard
George Osborne has been very successful in maintaining a high media profile, and his first six months as editor of the Standard have been a success. He has pitched the paper as the chief opposition to Theresa May, losing no opportunity to criticise her, often in a very personal way. If he ever wants to return to frontline politics, he will have quite a lot of bridges to build.

27. (+1) George Hollingbery
PPS to Theresa May
Elected in 2010, George Hollingbery is devoted to Theresa May and is an effective communicator to her of the views of his fellow Tory MPs. He is well aware of her lack of small talk and it’s no exaggeration to say that he is almost as important to Theresa May as Ian Gow was to Margaret Thatcher.

28. (NEW) Dominic Raab
Minister of State for Justice
A protégé of David Davis, Raab refused a jo in Theresa May’s initial team but was persuaded to return to the fold in June after a year of being a very effective advocate of a successful post Brexit Britain. Rather bizarrely, though, instead of joining Davis’s or Fox’s teams he returned to the Ministry of Justice.

29. (NEW) James Brokenshire
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
One of Theresa May’s inner circle of friends, Brokenshire spent five years at May’s side at the Home Office where he had a reputation for being reliable if unexciting. He’s had a baptism of fire at the Northern Ireland office, but his natural ability to bring people together has been put to very good use.

30. (-) Paul Goodman
Editor, ConservativeHome.com
One of the few non MPs on this list who can phone up any cabinet minister and they’ll take his call immediately. He seems to have become more radical as the years go by and isn’t afraid to offer constructive criticism where he feels it is merited. ConHome will become every more important as this parliament develops.

31. (NEW) Nigel Dodds
DUP Deputy Leader and MP for North Belfast
Dodds seems to be relishing his new found position as the man in Westminster who could bring down the government. He never knew he was so popular among senior Conservatives…

32. (NEW) Joanna Penn
Deputy Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister
Known as JoJo, Penn is said to be the other woman in Downing Street who gets things done. A popular figure, she was with Theresa May at the Home Office and has her total trust.

33. (-24) Justine Greening
Secretary of State for Education
The election result had one positive benefit for Justine Greening – it meant all plans for more grammar schools had to be abandoned. She was never keen on them anyway. A quiet first year as Education Secretary has meant a fall in this year’s list, but our panel has high hopes she may rise again next year.

34. (-12) Karen Bradley
Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport
Somewhat of a surprise appointment, Bradley is another of Theresa May’s former Home Office colleagues who has been looked after by her former boss. Hugely popular in the parliamentary party, Bradley is tougher than she may first appear, as Rupert Murdoch has found. She’s the Jack Russell of the Cabinet – once she gets something between her teeth, she doesn’t let go.

35. (NEW) Steve Baker
PUSS, Department for Exiting the European Union & MP for Wycombe
A devout campaigner for Brexit, Baker was appointed to this job in June as a means of reassuring Eurosceptic Tory MPs after the shock sacking of David Jones. He’s proved to be a surefooted parliamentary performer. If ever David Davis should ‘go wobbly’, he can rely on Baker to keep him on the Brexit straight and narrow!

36. (+5) Fraser Nelson
Editor, The Spectator
Fraser Nelson was appointed editor at a comparatively young age, but he has more than lived up to both Andrew Neil’s and his readers’ expectations. He’s now been editor since 2009, a long time in the world of magazines.

37. (+21) Nicky Morgan
Former Secretary of State for Education
Theresa May and Nicky Morgan do not get on. Never have. So Morgan’s sacking came as little surprise to her or others. She quickly became the most outspoken critics of the Prime Minister on the Tory benches. However, she’s been careful not to overegg the criticism and of late has been positively loyal. Almost.

38. (NEW) Shanker Singham
Director of Economic Policy, Legatum Institute
An eloquent advocate of the advantages of free trade, it’s a shame that the government hasn’t been able to lure him to work for Liam Fox or David Davis. One of the small number of economists who has been a trade negotiator, expect to hear a lot from him over the next few years.

39. (-37) Nick Timothy
Former Chief of Staff to Theresa May, Telegraph & Sun columnist
Had the election been won by a landslide there’s a strong case to suggest that Nick Timothy might have even topped this year’s list. Instead, he fell on his sword, along with his co-Chief of Staff Fiona Hill, resigned. Hill has completely disappeared from view, while Timothy has two national newspaper columns and is rumoured to also still feed in his thoughts to Downing Street.

40. (-19) Andrea Leadsom
Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
Andrea Leadsom may have dropped down this list but she is not to be underestimated. In normal times being appointed Leader of the House would be seen as a promotion from Defra, but the job now only entitles Leadsom to ‘attend cabinet’ rather than be a full member of it. She is said to have displeased Number Ten with some media freelancing, but she is someone who should be used more.

41. (-17) Lynton Crosby
Co-owner, Crosby Textor Fullbrook
Lynton Crosby advised the Prime Minister not to hold an election in June as he recognised the dangers. His advice was ignored. Only in the last ten days of the campaign did he have control of the campaign, so he can’t be blamed entirely for what happened. The question now is whether he’s want to return for the next campaign or whether whoever leads the party would think they need a fresh pair of eyes.

42. (-13) Daniel Hannan
MEP for South East England
It was a sign of the ridiculous attitudes prevailing in CCHQ that Hannan didn’t get a safe seat at the June election. He was effectively blackballed from applying for his home seat of Aldershot by party chairman Patrick Mcloughlin, according to informed sources. He is one of the most articulate advocates of Britain in a post-Brexit world and he ought to be listened to.

43. (+12) Anna Soubry
MP for Gedling
Even more of a Remainer than Ken Clarke ‘Soubers’ has been a powerful voice in the Brexit debate, although she has toned it down of late, recognising that Brexit will, in the end, happen. She failed to get elected to the Brexit select committee for the second time, which is odd given that she is actually quite popular among her fellow MPs. She will be a very loud voice during the remaining stages of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.

44. (+1) Baroness Evans
Leader of the House of Lords
Baroness who? That was the response from most people when it was announced she had replaced the popular Baroness Stowell as Leader of the House of Lords. Natalie Evans is a long term friend of Theresa May from her Women2Win days. And that’s (still) about as much as we know!

45. (+1) Mark Littlewood
Director General, Institute of Economic Affairs
Littlewood has had a successful period in charge of one of the oldest think tanks in the country. A pugnacious debater, he is one of the best advocates of free market economics.

46. (-4) Priti Patel
Secretary of State for International Development
Priti Patel needs to be tested in a bigger department. She’s seen by many as a future leader but some of her colleagues think she ought to be given a chance to run a frontline department to test her mettle. International Development is a department where it’s difficult for her to shine.

47. (+19) Paul Staines
Managing Editor, Guido Fawkes blog
The site everyone in politics loves to read, unless they feature on it. Still as incisive and controversial as ever, it’s scored some good exclusives in recent months. Twelve years old now, Guido Fawkes remains the one site that everyone involved in politics reads every day. If that isn’t a sign of influence, we don’t know what is.

48. (-4) Syed Kamall
Leader of the European Conservatives & Reformists in the European Parliament
A quieter year for Syed Kamall. Another MEP who failed to get a seat at the election, but surely it is only a matter of time.

49. (+16) Christian May
Editor, City AM
A former lobbyist at the Institute of Directors, Christian May was a surprise choice to take over the editorship of City AM from Alistair Heath, but boy oh boy was it an inspired one. He has lifted its profile, increased its turnover and distribution. And he’s making a name for himself as a pundit. One to watch.

50. (+8) Robert Halfon
Chairman, Education Select Committee
One of the most popular members of the parliamentary party, many heads were scratched when Halfon was summarily sacked as education minister in June. No one could understand why. We still can’t. However, he has bounced back very quickly and bagged the chairmanship of a very important select committee. He promises to be a very painful thorn in the government’s side.

51. (+9) Katie Hopkins
Columnist, Mail Online
The woman people seem to love to hate, she’s actually quite a pussycat. Despite losing her LBC show Hopkins has retained a high profile and she’s increasingly a fixture on Fox News. With her autobiography out next month, expect to see a lot more of her this year.

52. (-5) Arron Banks
Co-Chairman, Leave.eu
Banks is an acquired taste for many. A former donor to the Conservatives, he switched his allegiances to UKIP and now funds the UKIP Leave.Eu campaign, which continues to campaign to ensure Britain really does leave the EU. Loud, outspoken and brash, he’s vowed to fund UKIP again with the election of its new leader.

53. (NEW) Jacob Rees-Mogg
MP for North East Somerset
Moggmentum shows no sign of abating. Rees-Mogg has proven hugely popular with the public and party members because of his authenticity. However, leadership talk is ridiculous, as he himself has acknowledged. The trouble is, the leadership speculation may have hurt his chances of achieving his real ambition, which is to be Speaker.

54. (NEW) James Marshall
Director, Number Ten Policy Unit
A former teacher, Marshall was special advisor to three chief whips and Lord Strathclyde when he was leader of the House of Lords. Brought back by Gavin Barwell, Marshall is not particularly a policy wonk, which is odd, given his new role. The FT quoted a leading Conservative as saying: “He’s running the policy unit like a whipping operation”.

55. (+26) Greg Hands
Minister of State for International Trade
It will have been a blow to Greg Hands to lose his Cabinet position but at least he survived, unlike many of George Osborne’s close allies. He will be delighted to be at the centre of the Brexit debate, even if he surprised many of his friends by supporting Remain. However, he ‘supported’ Remain in the same way as Theresa May did. An effective operator and he was one of the few people in government to respond to Grenfell appropriately.

56. (RE-ENTRY) Douglas Murray
Author & Associate Director, Henry Jackson Society
A real hate figure for the left, Murray’s new book THE STRANGE DEATH OF EUROPE has been both a bestseller and an important contribution to the debate on immigration, Islam and Europe. It confronts some important questions which many people do their best to avoid discussing.

57. (-6) Jo Johnson
Minister for Universities
Johnson has failed to build on his early promise and his rise up the greasy pole has come to a shuddering halt. He headed the team which wrote the 2015 Conservative manifesto, but that failed to propel his career forward. He’s certainly a tip to join the cabinet, but he needs a few successes first.

58. (-2) William Hague
Former Foreign Secretary
Some of us thought William Hague was a Eurosceptic but his interventions in the EU Referendum campaign proved what many of us suspected – that he went native during his five years as Foreign Secretary. A pity. However, he remains a politician who is listened to whenever he decides to make a pronouncement.

59. (-25) Lord Daniel Finkelstein
Columnist, The Times
Finkelstein drops again in this year’s list even though his Times columns make for compulsory reading. Why? Because he was seen as an arch Cameroon and is George Osborne’s best friend. He’s said to be helping David Cameron write his memoirs. A long term tip as a future leader of the House of Lords.

60. (+4) Lord Stuart Polak
Director, Conservative Friends of Israel
One of the shrewdest single issue pressure group lobbyists around, Polak joined the Conservative benches in the House of Lords in 2015. His influence on Conservative policy towards the Middle East is unlikely to decline.

61. (-25) Sheridan Westlake
Special Advisor, No 10 Downing Street
Having spent many years working in the CRD and then for Eric Pickles, Sheridan Westlake took on a new enforcement role in Downing Street under David Cameron. He is one of the few Cameron Downing Street appointments to be kept on by Theresa May. Basically in charge of delivery and avoiding clusterf**ks.

62. (-8) Sarah Wollaston
Chair of the Health Select Committee
The maverick’s maverick many of her fellow MPs don’t regard her as a team player. However, to others she is the exemplification of what a decent MP should be – open minded, willing to speak out against her own party if need be, diligent and honest. The public like and respect her.

63. (+20) Tracey Crouch
Minister for Sport
If ever there was a round peg in a round hole as a minister, it’s Tracey Crouch. A qualified football coach, she made a blinding start in her new job and has ruffled all sorts of feathers in various sports. She has a refreshing interview style and has done a lot to advance the cause of women in sport.

64. (NEW) Stewart Jackson
Special Advisor to David Davis
Having lost his Peterborough seat in the election, and having been David Davis’s PPS in the last parliament, Jackson set himself up as a Brexit consultant. That didn’t last long and when DD came knocking and asked him to be his SPAD he couldn’t say no. He’s a total believer in not just a hard Brexit but a ‘steel’ one.

65. (NEW) Baroness Joyce Anelay
Minister of State, Department for Exiting the EU
Joyce Anelay may have voted ‘Remain’ but she and David Davis go back a long way (she was in his shadow home affairs team) and he trusts her as a safe pair of hands. A natural conciliator she will be absolutely vital in ensuring the Brexit Bill gets through the House of Lords.

66. (+3) Charles Moore
Columnist, The Spectator
Currently writing the final volume of his biography of Margaret Thatcher, Moore remains an absolute must read in the Spectator and Telegraph.

67. (NEW) Suella Fernandes
MP for Fareham, PPS to Treasury Ministers, Chair, European Research Group of MPs
It’s very odd that Suella Fernandes is a PPS and can also chair the European Research Group, which herds Eurosceptic MPs and puts pressure on the government to get Brexit done as quickly as possible.

68. (-48) Sir Patrick McLoughlin
Chairman of the Conservative Party
Last year we called McLoughlin “a great survivor” and “the ultimate safe pair of hands”. He’s survived the election result, which some in the party are furious about as they hold him, as party chairman, at least partly responsible for the result and the failure of the campaign strategy. Bizarrely, he is the one who’s carried out the internal inquiry (along with Eric Pickles). He is now rumoured to have had enough. And frankly, who could blame him?

69. (-20) Iain Duncan Smith
Former Leader of the Conservative Party
Having played a very prominent part in the election campaign, as one of the few senior Conservative politicians trusted to appear on the media, he might have (and I am told did) expected to return to government. It was not to be. Still retains a high profile, especially on Brexit.

70. (+15) Sir Eric Pickles
Former Party Chairman
Eric Pickles stood down at the election, which is a shame as he is someone respected on all sides of the party. He is the co-author of the party inquest into the election result, and I will be interesting to see if Sir Eric has learned the art of caveating. Let’s hope not, and he says it how it is, because the party as a whole deserves better than a whitewash.

71. Carrie Symonds
Director of Communications, Conservative Party
Carrie Symonds has returned to the CCHQ fold and a good thing too. She’s a formidable and respected operator and will work well with Robbie Gibb.

72. (-9) Tim Montgomerie
Editor, Unherd.com
Tim Montgomerie takes a slight fall in this year’s list but only because his visibility has reduced following his departure from the Times. His new venture, Unherd, is a brave new step into the world of long form, explanatory commentary. The site is not overtly party political, although it does have a rightish tinge to it. Let’s hope it is a huge success as it certainly deserves to be.

73. (+1) Sajid Javid
Secretary State for Communities & Local Government
Oh what might have been. Seen as the most dogged Eurosceptic in the cabinet, everyone was astonished when he came out for Remain. Having been seen as a future leader he instantly lost the trust of everyone on the right and is finding it difficult to recover. Rumour is that he and Theresa May do not get on and she had intended to remove him from the cabinet. He was slow to react to Grenfell but once he galvanised his department, he recovered his position. He now needs to make himself unsackable.

74. (NEW) Tom Tugendhat
Chairman, Foreign Affairs Select Committee & MP for Tonbridge
Charming, urbane and with a slight air of political naivete, Tom Tugendhat ran for the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs select committee, with the aim of putting a marker down. He didn’t expect to win. He ought to have got a junior ministerial position in June. One of a merry band of the 2015 intake who are seen as potential future leaders.

75. (-49) Katie Perrior
Former Director of Communications, Number 10 Downing Street
Katie Perrior resigned her post as soon as the election was called, which everyone thought a little odd. It didn’t take long for her to reveal what a viper’s nest Number Ten had been over the previous year. She’s now returned as chairman of inHouse PR and is pursuing a career in political punditry and has a regular column in The Times.

76. (-27) David Cameron
Former Prime Minister
Totally absent from the public debate over the last twelve months, it’s no surprise that David Cameron falls this year. Busy writing his memoirs, with the help of Danny Finkelstein, he is said to be finding the experience somewhat of a challenge. We’d like to hear more from him.

77. (NEW) Brendan O’Neill
Editor, Spiked Online
Brendan O’Neill has become something of a hero for those who are interested in defending free speech and freedom of expression. He’s not afraid to take on the politically correct brigade and deserves a much higher profile in the next twelve months.

78. (NEW) James Cleverley
MP for Braintree
Last week James Cleverley admitted he’d love to be prime minister. No doubt some will sneer at such an expression of naked political ambition, but why not? Had a baptism of fire on the GLA, and has a sunny outlook and great sense of humour. His army background will do him no harm. But he needs to be given some ministerial experience.

79. (NEW) Lord Taylor of Holbeach
Conservative Chief Whip in the House of Lords
John Taylor makes this year’s list because his role as chief whip in the next twelve months is going to be absolutely crucial. He will need to charm as many Crossbenchers as possible, and he’s just the man to do it.

80. (+17) Julia Hartley-Brewer
Columnist & Broadcaster
A prolific columnist and broadcaster, Hartley-Brewer has really raised her profile since her departure from LBC. She’s unpredictable, feisty and intelligent and some reckon she’d make a great MP. She now presents the morning slot on the new talkRadio.

81. (-13) Dean Godson
Director, Policy Exchange
Policy Exchange is still as prolific as it ever was but has it infiltrated Number Ten in the same way it did during the Cameron years? Steps are being made but not quite.

82. (NEW) Andy Street
Mayor of the West Midlands
Andy Street won by the narrowest of margins in the West Midlands Mayoral election and it will be fascinating to see how he deals with the mostly Labour councils in the area. He had few actual powers and precious little budget, but he does have the gift of the gab, which has taken him a long way.

83. (NEW) Sir Mick Davis
Chief Executive & Co-Treasurer of the Conservative Party
There are mutterings about why one man should hold two very important positions. Indeed, some question why he was appointed chief executive with comparatively little knowledge of the inner workings of the party.

84. (-13) Matthew Parris
Columnist, The Times & Spectator
For many he is the pre-eminent columnist of his generation. He can write entertainingly about anything and never bores, mainly because of his endearing unpredictability. Probably the most read columnist among Tory MPs. Unfortunately, Brexit has rendered him uncharacteristically predictable and his ‘remainiac’ rants can become somewhat tiresome if you’re on the other side of the debate. We still love him, though.

85. (-58) Matthew Elliott
Former Chief Executive, Vote Leave, Founder of Brexit Central
Matthew Elliott falls in this list partly because his public profile has fallen away since the referendum, but also because he hasn’t really carved out a new niche for himself or bagged a high profile job. However, Brexit Central is doing well and has become required reading

86. (-) Henry Bolton
Leader, UKIP
OK, we know nothing about him. So shall we just gloss over this one?

87. (NEW) Allister Heath
Editor, Sunday Telegraph
The Telegraph as a brand is having a tough time. Too many good journalist are leaving/have left, either voluntarily or otherwise. Having said that, the Sunday Telegraph has become readable again under Allister Heath’s editorship. He’s made some good hires but still has some way to go if he’s to steal readers from his competitors.

88. (NEW) Johnny Mercer
MP for Plymouth Moor View
Suffers from the Amber Rudd disease of having a very marginal seat, but Johnny Mercer is another of the 2015 intake who stands out from the crowd, partly due to his armed forces background. Like Tom Tugendhat he exudes an air of political naivete, but that can be harnessed as a positive.

89. (+2) Mark Wallace
Executive Editor, ConservativeHome
Wallace brings a bright, pugnacious approach to ConservativeHome and rarely sits on the fence in his writings. He often has some uncomfortable messages for the Conservative Party, not least since the general election campaign failure.

90. (NEW) Richard Tice & John Longworth
Co-chairmen, Leave Means Leave
Leave Means Leave exists to hold the government’s feet to the fire on Brexit and so far has done a good job in maintaining a good media profile. Tice is the urbane and acceptable face of Arron Banks, while Longworth provides the intellectual and economic heft.

91. (NEW) Geoff Norcott
Said to be the country’s only right wing comedian. He’s made an appearance on Question Time and is actually very funny. In his act he’s a very reasonable Conservative rather than a headbanger and we suspect his profile will only continue to grow.

92. (-3) Toby Young
Columnist & Broadcaster, Director of the New Schools Network
Young has become an almost ever present presence on our screens and radios, giving his views on all sorts of issues. An eloquent broadcaster and combative writer, he’s never knowingly uncontroversial.

93. (NEW) Tom Swarbrick
Head of Broadcasting, Number Ten Downing Street
Former LBC reporter who played the role of poacher turned gamekeeper. Had a nightmare job before the election where his main role was to say ‘no’ to all broadcasters. Liked by the PM, Swarbrick is said to play an increasingly important role in the Number 10 operation, he’s working very well with Robbie Gibb.

94. (NEW) John O’Connell
Chief Executive, Taxpayers’ Alliance
The Taxpayers’ Alliance is a necessary invention and it still plays a very important role in holding those who spend money on our behalf to account. O’Connell started at the TPA as an intern, and now heads the organisation.

95. (NEW) Jonathan Isaby
Editor, BrexitCentral.com
Isaby is one of the Right’s most popular and engaging figures. His latest incarnation is as the editor of Brexit Central, a site which even devout Remainers like James McGrory say is an indispensable part of their morning reading. It’s not just a Brexit cheerleader, its articles are often far more informative and educational than those found in the mainstream press.

96. (NEW) Kemi Badenoch
MP for Saffron Walden
Our panel always likes to talent spot and this year we’re highlighting former GLA member Kemi Badenoch. We think she’s one to watch. Suave, articulate, interested in original policy ideas and ale to articulate them, we’d be surprised if she didn’t get a rapid promotion.

97. (NEW) Gareth Bacon
Leader of the London Assembly Conservative Group
Bacon has made a strong start as leader of a weakened Conservative group on the GLA and he is taking the fight to Sadiq Khan.

98. (+1) Andrew Kennedy
Conservative Party Agent
Acts as agent to a group of constituencies in West Kent and writes a brilliant blog (Voting & Boating) on his life and work. Two years ago, we wrote: “One of the party’s best campaigners, it’s likely CCHQ will try to bring him in house before too long, if only to silence his very caustic blog!” Rather surprisingly, that hasn’t happened yet! Or if they’ve tried, he’s been very adept in resisting their blandishments.

99. (-4) Kate Andrews
News Editor, Institute of Economic Affairs
One of the bright new generations of right of centre thinkers, Andrews has got a high media profile and deservedly so. Dry as dust on economics, she’s rather more liberal on social and foreign policy issues. An interesting mix.

100. (NEW) Dia Chakravarty
Brexit Editor, Daily Telegraph
A regular of BBC’s Question Time, Dia Chakravarty recently left the TPA to join the Telegraph. Working with Brexit Commissioning Editor Asa Bennett she’s making the Telegraph’s Brexit coverage unmissable.



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LBC Book Club: Best of 2012 (Part 1)

Part 1 of 2. With Jack Straw, Lady Pamela Hicks, Peter Hennessy and President Mary Robinson.

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ConHome Diary: These Cabinet Spats Must Stop, Otherwise Corbyn Walks Into Number Ten

29 Sep 2017 at 13:42

Make no mistake, if Labour wins the next election we’ll see the most hard left policy platform ever experienced in Britain. The devil in me would be fascinated to see what would happen and discover how quickly the whole house of cards would fall apart. But the patriot in me is horrified at the prospect of this party ever being allowed near the levers of power. What a shame it is that so few people in the upper echelons of the Conservative Party seem to share that horror. Instead, they continue to turn off the electorate with their self-indulgent grandstanding and betrayal of the very people that voted them in. Yes, I’m talking about half of the cabinet. What a shame none of them could have been in Brighton to see the real face of today’s Labour Party. Had they done so they would make sure that fight on a united front and stop the briefings and stupid media games that they are playing at the moment. Yes, I’m talking to you Boris Johnson. And to you Philip Hammond. I could go on and name half the Cabinet, but these two very senior cabinet ministers are the worst offenders – or their fully authorised SPADs are. One lobby journalist told me in Brighton that many Cabinet ministers are now brazenly doing the briefing themselves and not even bothering to get their SPADs to do it. So when you see “Sources close to…” in a newspaper, the odds are that it is the minister himself (and I mean ‘him’ rather than ‘her’) who are the sources.
Divided parties do not win elections. If there is one lesson from political history, that is it. Any political party is a coalition, and so is any cabinet. People will always disagree on the way forward but if those disagreements become public spats it is never very edifying. Careless talk costs elections. Whoever leads the Conservatives into the next election, whenever it comes, is going to have to crack down on the kind of media briefings that are happening at the moment on an almost daily basis. If that doesn’t happen, all those who are involved in it should look themselves in the mirror when and if they see Jeremy Corbyn walking through the black door in Downing Street.
We’ve seen this week the ugly face of the hard left. What kind of party conference is it where the BBC feel they have to provide security for their female political editor? A friend of mine, who is by no means a Conservative tells me: “The left has a seam of bullying inadequates in its ranks from Hatton to McDonnell who foster the Godfather mindset than intimidates anyone who challenges them – male or female. It’s not hidden. It’s there for all to see. Brutes.” And they say the Tories are the nasty party… Another friend of mine had organised a gin tasting event in Manchester at the weekend but has now had to cancel it after members of the far left intimidated the owner of the premises where the event was due to be held and people who had registered to attend on Facebook. My friend says: “We’re obviously very disappointed that we have had to cancel this event, but due to the intimidation from a number of left-wing groups on Facebook, we have a responsibility to ensure the security of our guests and the venue. There are already a number of pages and events set-up on Facebook which intend on causing disruption to Conservative Party Conference and the police need to get to grips with this before there is a repeat of the disgusting behaviour that was displayed in 2015.”
According to Marketing Manchester, Conservative Party Conference generates £29m for the local economy. That’s money which goes towards employing the many Mancunians who work in the hospitality industry. It is those people who are protesting that are putting people’s businesses and jobs at risk.
My friend continues: “We usually run events prior to conference which we have had no problem at all. Our pre-conference events add a nice little cash boost for our association and we would have made well over £600 from this event.”
So that’s how the hard left wins, and believe me, we’re going to see a lot more of this sort of thing.

On Sunday night I attended a Momentum Rally in Brighton. And that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. I even persuaded them to let Robert Peston in. The main event was a 25 minute speech by Jeremy Corbyn. He was introduced as “the absolute boy”. Yes, really. He gave the kind of speech he’s been giving for 30 years, but could ever do had cameras been allowed in the room. It was a full blown Marxist rant. Down with the rich. Up the workers. Put up taxes. Employers are evil. You know the sort of thing. They lapped it up.
On Tuesday it was Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey’s turn to fire up the left wing. She gave a speech on the conference stage which was in some aspects even more far left than the ones Tony Benn used to give when he held the Industry portfolio for Labour in the 1970s. “We’ll restore the rights of workers – rolling out sectoral collective bargaining and guaranteeing unions access to the workplace,” she said. They will never tell you this, but I suspect the intention is to review and abolish virtually all the trade union legislation passed by the Thatcher government in the 1980s. Bet that won’t be in the manifesto, though. For obvious reasons.
I hope you will come to a couple of fringe meetings I’m chairing in Manchester. On Sunday evening I’ll be ‘In Conversation’ with Liam Fox in the ConservativeHome Marquee, and on Tuesday evening at 7pm I’ll be hosting a debate on an energy price cap, hosted by the lovely people at Octopus Energy in the Business Hub. I switched my energy supply to Octopus about 8 months ago. I hadn’t realised how easy it is to do. It’s certainly been a revelation. Their customer service is superb and I am saving around £600 a year. What’s not to like. Bye bye EDF and National Power. These companies are rip-off merchants who are too big to give a damn about the customer. Octopus are one of the new entrants to the market. They’re big enough to matter but small enough to care about their individual customers. It’s made me think about changing my bank now, as well. The big four banks have had it their way for far too long. They will only ever change if enough people force them to. Then they might understand that the customer really is king.



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Iain's Media Masters Interview

Iain spends an hour talking about his career to Paul Blanchard.

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