Diary

ConHome Diary: Silencing John Humphrys & The Thatcherite Who Believes in Nationalisation

1 Apr 2016 at 11:48

If I was compiling a Top Ten List of Ultra Thatcherites, and you know how I like my lists, Monmouth MP David Davies would be fairly high on it. So when I interviewed him about the steel crisis in Port Talbot, imagine my surprise when he told me he would be in favour of temporary nationalisation of the plant in order to save it, and he agrees with Jeremy Corbyn that Parliament should be recalled.

One other surprise in this whole sorry saga is that the LEAVE campaigns haven’t seized on it as a good example of where EU rules prevent a UK government from saving such an industry even if it wanted to. We seem to be about the only country in the EU that actually obeys State Aid regulations, and given the timetable for approval of applications it’s unlikely that would be any sort of solution. In addition, it’s not within the UK’s power to act unilaterally and impose higher steel tariffs on Chinese imports. It has to be done at EU level. Having said that, it was the UK which vetoed higher tariffs, which were in the end agreed at 24%. In the USA they are levied at 267%.

Anyway, back to David Davies. Monmouth was the first constituency I ever applied for, and I wasn’t that far off from being selected. Canny David Davies organised his supporters to ensure the weakest candidate got through the final round runoff, and the rest is history. Mind you, it’s just as well I didn’t get it. I’m sure the local papers would soon have found out that the first time I visited Wales in my life was for the first round interview!
*
So Donald Trump thinks women who have abortions should be “punished”. I’d have thought the trauma of having an abortion was punishment enough. This comment alone ought to rule him out as the Republican nominee, but he seems to be getting more popular by the day. However, I cannot bring myself to believe that he could actually win the general election in November I just can’t.
*

So the new Newsnight political editor is Nick Watt, currently chief political correspondent of The Guardian. There has been plenty of sighs at Ian Katz (Newsnight editor and formerly deputy editor of The Guardian) appointing yet another Guardianista to the programme, yet they don’t seem to look at this appointment on its merits. Watt is certainly no follower of a Guardian political agenda. I have no idea what his politics are but I’ve seen little evidence of anything but a journalist who calls it as it is. I always felt he should have got the Sky pol ed job, and his entry into broadcasting has been delayed for too long. He’s got that rare talent of reducing a complicated argument into a few sentences which normal mortals like me can understand. He was cruelly overlooked for the Guardian’s political editor’s job and must have felt terribly insulted when it was awarded to two female journalists on a job share. He deserved it on merit but lost out to political correctness and that’s not meant as an insult to the two women who were appointed.
*
On Tuesday I made a rare appearance on the Today programme – the bit at the end that adds a bit of light relief. I know my place. I was asked to comment on Matthew Parris’s evisceration of Boris Johnson in Saturday’s Times. I thought it was a magnificent piece of polemic, even if many thought it went a tad too far on his personal foibles. But if Boris does indeed stand for the leadership, or even becomes prime minister, this sort of scrutiny will appear day in day out in the newspapers. Andrew Gimson was on with me and we jousted for a few minutes about the merits or otherwise of Boris Johnson. At the end John Humphrys asked me: “So what would you say Boris Johnson’s main weakness is?” I replied: “His main strength, is also his main weakness – himself”. In response there was a moment of silence. “You look flummoxed, John,” I said. “Yes, I am,” he replied. “I can’t really respond as there are only nine seconds left in the programme. Good morning!” I shall bask in that moment of being one of the few people ever to silence John Humphrys.
*

I count Jeremy Hunt and Nicky Morgan as personal friends, but my God they made idiots of themselves this week. I have no doubt they were put up to it by their masters at Number Ten, but was it really worth getting a few Downing Street Brownie points to prostrate themselves at the altar of Project Fear? Apparently, according to Jeremy Hunt, the NHS could collapse if we leave the EU. Utter bollocks, of course, and perhaps he’d be better directing his eyes towards TTIP rather than Brexit. TTIP poses far more dangers to the future survival of the NHS, but it is a dog that hasn’t yet barked. Then it was Nicky Morgan’s turn to turn on the taps of Project Fear. Apparently it would be really bad for young people, as they might run the risk of not being able to go interrailing. Honestly. It’s as if it was an EU invention, which of course it wasn’t. Politicians who indulge in this mindless fearmongering deserve our contempt. It happens on the other side of course too. The Leave campaign issued a dossier of 50 European criminals who had committed crimes in this country – all because of the EU apparently. They failed to mention the hundreds of foreign criminals who commit serious crimes, who manage to get here from outside the EU. Again, fear mongering for fear mongering’s sake. Personally I’ve had enough of it. We’ve got 90 more days of this. Surely to God someone can actually put forward some positive reasons as to why we should stay in or leave the EU. I’m not holding my breath.


This will be my last column for ConservativeHome. We all have to make ends meet, and I have been offered a much more lucrative column by Momentum. That’s capitalism, eh? It’s been a great few years writing for you, but I suspect it will be much more fun writing each week for the Corbynistas. It’s the future, innit?

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to JFK's Mistress, Mimi Alford

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Diary

ConHome Diary: The Defenestration of Suzanne Evans & The Rise of Michael Gove

25 Mar 2016 at 18:39

UKIP has finally flipped. On Wednesday morning they suspended Suzanne Evans for six months due to her so-called ‘disloyalty’. The aim of this was twofold – to take her off their GLA candidates list and to prevent her standing for the leadership if Nigel Farage quits after the Referendum. Evans wasn’t taking this lying down and went to the High Court, but her bid to quash the suspension failed as the court couldn’t see how any UKIP rule had been broken. Having seen the court papers, it’s quite clear that ever since Nigel Farage made her ‘interim leader’ for all of several hours on the day after the election there has been a constant campaign within UKIP circles to undermine her. Outsiders scratch their heads and wonder why. She is one of the few UKIP figures to have a media profile, and she is very much seen as the sensible face of the party. She’s also one of the few women in the upper echelons of the party. Yes, she has occasionally had the temerity to disagree with Nigel Farage, but suspending her like this is like IDS suspending Ken Clarke in 2003 for daring to disagree with him.
This suspension is intended to mute Evans. If she holds no official position within UKIP it’s difficult for TV and radio shows to justify inviting her on. And of course having ‘got’ Evans, the Faragistas are unlikely to stop there. Watch out Douglas Carswell, they’re coming for you next.
*
Why is no one suggesting the suspension of Schengen. Surely it is clear as night follows day that reimposing border controls between all European countries would at least make it more difficult for terrorists to move around Europe with the ease that they do at the moment. The suspension need only be temporary, but I just don’t understand why it wasn’t even on the agenda of yesterday’s EU Interior Ministers meeting.
*

So the junior doctors have announced another two day strike and this time they won’t even provide any A&E cover. What an utter disgrace. And their leaders have the temerity to seriously suggest that patient safety won’t be affected. Pull the other one. I had a very sparky exchange on my LBC show on Wednesday night on this subject.

Even if consultants are brought in to provide cover, can anyone seriously believe that patient safety will be unaffected. The Director of Patient Safety for NHS England doesn’t believe so, yet his concerns are dismissed by the BMA as being politically motivated. It is clear that the Hippocratic Oath has come to mean nothing to those who will strike. I don’t pretend that the government has covered itself with glory on this issue. It hasn’t. But given that the only issue outstanding is pay for Saturday working, this strike just cannot be justified in any shape or form.
*
Did you know you are 22 times more likely to be killed by a cow than be killed by a shark. Just thought I would pass that on.
*

I don’t know who it was who said that successful generals are invariably lucky generals. David Cameron is certainly a lucky prime minister. On Monday Jeremy Corbyn had an open goal in front of him and he managed to do a Diana Ross and miss the goal altogether. He didn’t even mention Iain Duncan Smith in his reply to Cameron in the Commons. PMQs should have been an altogether different ball game but that morning The Times published Corbyn’s ‘Little List’, the Nixonian piece of paper which sought to categorise Labour MPs by their loyalty to the leader. Cameron had great fun with it and the look on Labour MPs’ faces was a joy to behold. And five days on the old joke is doing the rounds…
Knock Knock
Who’s there?
IDS
IDS who?
That’s Politics.
*
The media consensus is that George Osborne’s prospects of winning the Conservative leadership were holed below the waterline by the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith. I think people are writing his obituary rather too early. He’s had setbacks before and bounced back. It could well happen again. The trouble is that with George there are few shades of grey. He’s either seen as a political titan or the Conservative equivalent of Eddie the Eagle, with little in between. There’s no doubt that he’s been very damaged by the budget aftermath, but to wrote off his chances of succeeding David Cameron is rather silly. Just as regarding Boris Johnson winning it as a dead cert is equally silly. Yes, he’s in the ascendant, but anyone who saw his performance in front of the Treasury select committee this week will have come away wondering if he is up to it.
*

I remain of the view that Michael Gove might well enter the leadership stakes at some point. He protests that he doesn’t think he’s up to it, but I suspect he might well be persuaded to change his mind. If George Osborne falls by the wayside, like Keith joseph did in 1974, I wonder whether Michael would step up to the mantle like a certain Margaret Hilda Thatcher did, all those years ago. I think he would attract a huge amount of support both with the parliamentary party and among the membership. He’s got a fantastic brain, is politically brave, is a man of conviction and is thoroughly nice. Those four qualities would help him develop into a fine leader.

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Iain interviews Germaine Greer

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 43: Interviewing a Friend Who's Become the Enemy of Another Friend

25 Mar 2016 at 09:30

I was on a panel the other day with Marina Hyde, the Guardian columnist. She said she never goes to media or political parties because she thinks if she speaks to any well known people or becomes friends with them she wouldn’t be able to write what she wants about them in her columns.

One of the reasons LBC took me on was because I take the opposite approach to Marina Hyde. I have an extensive contacts book. Not all the people in it are friends, or even acquaintances, but over the years you get to know people, and inevitably, doing the job I do I have to interview them. I think the most difficult one was when I recently had to interview Donal Blaney about the Conservative bullying scandal. I decided to approach this interview in exactly the same way as I would any other and, as I wrote at the time, I don’t think there was anybody who alleged I hadn’t asked him the difficult questions.

Yesterday I had a more complicated interview. On Wednesday UKIP’s Suzanne Evans was suspended by UKIP. She took them to the High Court to injunct them but lost. I’ve got to know Suzanne a bit over the last year or two and we have become friends. I think she has been one of UKIP’s greatest assets and she has done well to become a national figure in her own right. But over the last year she has been undermined by others within her party and she has fallen out in a big way with Nigel Farage, someone who I also regard as a friend. I am also his publisher – and Suzanne’s come to that matter.

So yesterday I persuaded Suzanne to come into LBC to give me her first broadcast interview since her suspension. It turned out to be a much longer interview than I had anticipated, Normally on a Drivetime show, because of the necessary paciness that’s required, it would be a maximum of ten minutes but this turned out to be 25 minutes. I had prepared a few lines of inquiry but 90% of the interview was adlib. I had to ask difficult questions about Nigel Farage and also some fairly intrusive questions about Suzanne’s own experience and conduct.

I’d like to think that at no time was my line of questioning influenced by my relationship with her or Nigel Farage. I certainly wasn’t aggressive in the questions I asked, but it would have been singularly inappropriate for this type of interview. The Frost approach in these situations is far more likely to yield results than the Paxman approach. There was no pre-agreement about any areas that were off limits and her reaction to the questions about the Breitbart article underlines that she had to deal with some very difficult issues.

On a normal show, I probably do around 12 separate interviews. On average I probably know two of the interviewees. One of them could be classed as a friend. I’d like to think I have never caveated a question or pulled up from asking a difficult one just because I know someone. It’s called being professional, I suppose.

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Conservative Politics

The IDS Fallout: Power Is Ebbing Away From Cameron & Osborne

20 Mar 2016 at 09:01

“What an utter copper-bottomed shit”. Those were the words that greeted me when I took a call from a Tory MP a couple of minutes after Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation was announced on Friday night. My caller fulminated about the self-indulgence of a man who dared to ruin the Chancellor’s less than carefully crafted budget. He even dared to echo the Chancellor’s apparently long held view that the former Welfare Secretary wasn’t quite the full shilling in the intelligence department.

Those of us who inhabit the Westminster village are always prone to ask in these circumstances: ‘what did he mean by that?’ We look for hidden or disguised motives. We assume ulterior motives where there often are none. More often than not, ministerial resignations are not long-planned and are more likely to be the political equivalent of a hissy fit. Alternatively, they are the culmination of a long grinding down by the Prime Minister or the Treasury.

Let’s not beat about the bush. Iain Duncan Smith knew this was his last hurrah in mainstream politics. He was not in it to gain preferment to something greater. Having led the Conservative Party, there wasn’t really anywhere else for him to go. He had no ambition to be Chancellor or Foreign Secretary. This put him in a strong position. Both the Prime Minister and Chancellor both knew that there was only so much they could do to push him down a policy road he didn’t wish to travel.

There was no love lost between him and the Chancellor. They had fought some bitter battles over the years. Unfortunately, George Osborne has always underestimated Iain Duncan Smith and this time there were catastrophic consequences.

On the left, IDS has taken on an iconic status as a hate figure. The myth has grown up that his mission in life was to hurt poor people, by reforming the welfare system so the poor got less. Oh how they misjudged him. Yes, he got religion on welfare reform. He was passionate about it because he had identified how the welfare state had let the poor down over a number of decades. He couldn’t understand why the Tories had ceded this ground to Labour, whose urban councils had presided over decades of decline in council estates all over the country. He saw the client state they had built up. He believed Labour ensured that poverty ruled in certain areas in order to preserve their vote. Glasgow was a prime example. He knew that if he could reform the system, and drag people out of semi-permanent poverty, things could be very different. This underlay his whole approach. Yes, he thought the welfare bill could be reduced. In many ways it had to be if the deficit was to be reduced. But to him reforming the system of welfare was just as important as cutting costs. That’s where he parted company with HM Treasury and the Chancellor. All they cared about – and have ever cared about – is raw numbers. Hang the long term, cut in the short term.

The Treasury has always tried to assert its dominance all over Whitehall. It happened under Nigel Lawson and Gordon Brown. But under this Chancellor, the Treasury’s power is all pervading. Nothing is done without the Treasury’s say-so. David Cameron has effectively ceded control of domestic policy to the Chancellor, and he’s imposing himself in every department. One cabinet minister told me they are not allowed to say or do anything without running it by Osborne’s special advisors. In the end something had to give, and many other cabinet ministers will be silently cheering IDS for exposing what is going on, not just at the DWP but all over government.

People question the timing of this resignation, but is there ever a right time? IDS could have gone at any time over the last two years, but chose to hang on in there in the hope that he might prevail. Nadine Dorries has tweeted her displeasure at IDS’s efforts last week to persuade her to support his welfare cuts. He said it would be a personal betrayal if she didn’t. And why resign on the day when it seemed the Treasury appeared to weaken on the PIP payment proposals? Perhaps it was one battle too far.

Could part of the reason have been Europe? Many Tory MPs suspect that the referendum had more than a little to do with the timing. Up to a point, possibly. There’s little doubt that Duncan Smith has been unhappy at some of the comments the Prime Minister has made about the motivations of the ‘outers’ and his dismissive conduct of the arguments IDS has put forward. Resigning from the government means that IDS will be in a position to take a much more high profile leadership role in the LEAVE campaign and this may well have been a minor factor in his decision.

In the end, however, the language in his resignation letter said it all. It took on a Geoffrey Howe-esque tone and seemed to invite others to search their own consciences too. There is one crucial difference. This wasn’t planned. Priti Patel, IDS’s deputy at the DWP, was at an Asian Business Awards Dinner on Friday night. At around 9.05 her phone buzzed. It was IDS. She rushed out of the hall at London’s Park Plaza hotel to take the call, looking somewhat ashen faced. He hadn’t pre-warned his LEAVE campaign colleague what he was about to do, nor anyone else it seems, probably because he didn’t want anyone to have the chance to persuade him not to do it.

IDS has never been massively popular among his fellow parliamentary colleagues. They regard him as somewhat aloof and above it all. Among the Tory grassroots it is somewhat different. They still feel guilty about his overthrow back in 2003 and he’s incredibly popular at Conservative constituency association events. They are the same people who are highly suspicious of George Osborne, who they’ve never quite warmed to.

One consequence of this resignation is confirmation that the Downing Street fear factor is on the wane. I was at Michael Ashcroft’s 70th birthday party last Saturday where I encountered a Minister who had disobeyed Downing Street’s instruction not to attend. “You’ll be on a little list,” I joshed. “I really couldn’t give a toss,” came the reply. And it was heartfelt.

Yet more evidence that power is gradually ebbing away from Cameron and Osborne. The question is, who is the power ebbing to?

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BBC Radio Berkshire: Andrew Peach interviews Iain about Bracknell

October 2009

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Why Ken Clarke's Publisher Deserves a P45

18 Mar 2016 at 15:48

Apparently my LBC colleague Steve Allen has been broadcasting his wonderment at the fact that I have snapped up Ken Clarke’s memoirs for the eye watering sum of £430,000. Except I haven’t. And I wouldn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to publish Ken Clarke and I am sure he will write a fantastic book. But any publisher who thinks paying £430,000 for a political memoir is off their effing rocker. In this case, its Macmillan. The last publisher to do that was Bloomsbury who paid around £330,000 for David Blunkett’s diaries, and they were so idiotic that the deal didn’t even include newspaper serial rights! There are some bloody stupid people in publishing nowadays. Blunkett’s book sold a mere 5,000 copies. Do the math yourself and you can work out the loss they made. Macmillan will do the same. The top rate for a newspaper serialisation, unless you’re a former prime minister, is around the £150k mark, so Macmillan have got to make £270,000 from books and rights sales. I don’t see that this book has any foreign rights potential at all, so just to break even the book will need to sell around 150,000 copies. Not. Going. To. Happen. The deal was hatched by the same agent that Boris Johnson retains, Natasha Fairweather. She apparently got him £500k for his desperately average book on Churchill. Sadly Biteback was offered neither. These sort of advances belong in the 1990s. Publishing has changed a lot since then, although there are clearly one or two people who continue to play the literary agents’ game. If I was on the board of Macmillan I’d be calling in the commissioning editor and reading them the riot act. And maybe producing a P45. Ken Clarke is a great get, but not at that price. What is the point of commissioning a book when there is a 1% chance it will make a profit? The world’s gone mad. Still, having said that, I can’t wait to read it.
*
So according to Anna Soubry on ‘Any Questions’ if we leave the EU, trade will drop to zero. In case you think I am misquoting here, here’s the exchange with Kate Hoey…
bq. Anna Soubry: “44% of our exports which is £290 billion goes into the EU.”
Kate Hoey: “That has gone down by 10% in the last 8 years.”
Anna Soubry: “But Kate it will go down to almost absolutely zero if we come out of the EU.”

Well on Budget day I interviewed Anna and asked her if that’s what she really believed. Credit to her and she fessed up that it was a ridiculous thing to say and she had made an error. She sounded quite embarrassed about it. Glad she did the right thing and didn’t try to bluster her way out of it.
*
Lord Ashcroft’s 70th birthday party on Saturday night was quite an event. I did wonder how many (and which) politicians would have the balls to attend following the Prime Minister’s displeasure with the Ashcroft/Oakeshott biography of him, CALL ME DAVE. I’m sure Downing Street has, by now, compiled their ‘little list’ of those who will be punished in the next reshuffle, but I am not going to help them by naming names here. I asked one minister if he realised they would find out and this usually totally loyal minister replied that he couldn’t give a toss. Is Number Ten losing the fear factor? Rory Bremner was a superb compere for the evening. He’s really perfected his impressions of both Nigel Farage (who was there) and Boris. Interestingly Boris and Theresa May were both on prime tables – Boris more so than Theresa. He even had Miss World sitting next to him. There was no sign of the Prime Minister, though. Obviously he had a subsequent engagement. He missed out on being serenaded by Michael Buble.
*

And so to the budget. I had thought it would be quite a boring budget, with the Chancellor on the back foot, but how wrong I was. There were lots of eyecatching initiatives and boring it certainly wasn’t. However, the elephant in the room for me was the appalling record of the forecasts that are trotted out on these occasions. Of course economic forecasting isn’t an easy game, but you’d like to think the OBR might get it right more often than they get it wrong. Even their forecasts from the autumn statement at the end of November look way off. This means the economy has been growing more slowly than expected and has left a big black hole in the chancellor’s figures. George Osborne rather glossed over that, although he did have the good grace to admit that the debt to GDP ratio would rise this year – unfortunate for a chancellor who has always trumpeted his fiscal rules.
A lot of commentators saw this budget through the prism of a future leadership contest. I’m not sure this budget changed much at all. I think most Tory MPs were rather impressed by many of the more eyecatching measures, with the possible exception of the sugar levy and also his invocation (after a mere 9 minutes) of Project Fear.
*
On Newsnight on Wednesday Robert Chote from the OBR made an astonishing admission. He said the OBR had done no economic forecasting for what would happen if Britain left the EU. Seeing as it’s 50-50 at the moment I’d have thought that was a major mistake and an abrogation of its responsibilities. If it is true that the Treasury are doing no planning at all, you do have to wonder at that. If the OBR has done no planning, how can the Chancellor at the same time invoke them in his argument that there would be a protracted period of uncertainty? I think we deserve an answer to that.

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LBC 97.3: Interview with Brian Coleman

Brian Coleman tells Iain Boris Johnson is too lazy to be Prime Minister, and he reacts to his expulsion from the Conservative Party.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Zac Rediscovers His Mojo, The Naivety of Dan Jarvis & Could Suzanne Evans Rejoin the Tories?

11 Mar 2016 at 14:29

The London mayoral campaign continues apace, but I feel something has changed over the last few weeks. All the polls have shown Sadiq Khan quite a way ahead of Zac Goldsmith, although the latest one in the Standard shows the gap narrowing. It seems to me this campaign is mirroring last year’s general election campaign, and that by polling day things may be very close indeed. Of course, in the end it will all come down to second or third preferences. Khan remains well ahead on second preferences so the Goldsmith campaign still have a lot of work to do, but you just get the feeling that Zac is now up for the fight in a way he didn’t seem to be a few weeks ago. You may recall that I wrote that he needed to show a bit of fire in his belly and stop looking so depressed in media appearances. Winning elections is all about the candidate having a bit of fire in his belly. In recent times he’s looked much more ‘pumped up’ to coin a phrase and that has given his supporters a much needed boost. There are a lot of undecided voters out there to be had, along with a lot of undecided second preferences. I sense that the Zac campaign have their strategy worked out. It may not involve loud ‘look at me proclamations’ but a lot is going on under the radar. Just like in the general election.
*
So Dan Jarvis has made a speech. A big speech. The speech potential party leaders make. I like him. He’s a man of integrity and may be just what Labour need. However, there were elements of this speech which were too crowdpleasing. He came out with that old canard about important decisions being taken out of the hands of politicians. What a load of bollocks. This all started with the ‘agency’ programme under the Major government and has continued apace ever since. We are now told by politicians of all parties that we must ‘take the politics out of the NHS’, for instance. Why on earth would we do that? I don’t want to give power to a bunch of unelected bureaucrats who are accountable to no one. Look at what’s happened to the Highways Agency. It’s a complete law unto itself. We elect politicians for a reason – to make decisions and choices on our behalf. If they get it wrong and we don’t like what they do, we can chuck them out and elect a new bunch. Agencies just hoard power and try to make their independence from politicians a virtue. I can’t think of a single agency that has performed better as an independent body than it did under political control. The lamentable Border Agency is a good case in point. So when you hear a politician like Dan Jarvis trying to divest themselves of power understand that it is all for cosmetic PR reasons. In reality it never leads to better government.


Stuart Ramsey from Sky News deserves to win broadcast journalist of the year for his investigation into Daesh and the fact that he has procured the details of 22,000 Daesh fighters. It’s a massive story which should have been on the front page of all newspapers and led all broadcast news bulletins. Unfortunately, viewers and readers were short-changed because of journalistic jealousies. The Times put it on their front page, but you had to turn to page 2 to find out it was a Sky News original story. The Daily Mail put it on page 6. Scandalously it didn’t even merit a mention on the BBC website, even under that most annoying of phrases, ‘the BBC has learned’. Inter media competition and rivalry is all very well, but this story is a potential game-changer in the fight against Daesh terrorism. That means it’s news, whoever the originator is. Some editors should look themselves in the mirror and consider what they’re in this game for. Surely it should be for their readers, listeners or viewers. Rather than their own insecurities or vanities.
*
Can it be too long before Suzanne Evans looks Nigel Farage in the eye and tells him he stuff his party where the sun don’t shine? She’s been sacked from yet another position by Farage and yet continues to take it on the chin. Quite why she puts up with it is anyone’s guess. In a similar vein, Farage called Douglas Carswell “an irrelevance” this week. How can UKIP’s only MP be an irrelevance? I like and admire Nigel Farage. I’ve published his books. I’d count him as a friend. But his behaviour towards Suzanne Evans, Douglas Carswell and others is quite outrageous. I suspect that after the referendum things will come to a head. Could it be a matter of months before we see both Suzanne Evans and Douglas Carswell back in the Conservative Party?
*

David Cameron’s announcement that he intends to stand at the next election is a welcome one. The trend for ex PMs to stand down from parliament immediately is a regrettable one. Parliament needs their experience, and you never know when the call might come again. I hear Tony Blair regrets standing down and thinks he could have made a comeback at some point. If that’s the case, you have to give thanks to God that Gordon Brown stood down when he did.

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Tom Swarbrick's News That Nearly Was

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UK Politics

The NHS Can Never Meet All the Demands Made of It & It's Time We Accepted That

10 Mar 2016 at 17:30

The NHS debate will never move on until we accept that in its current form the NHS will never meet all the demands made on it. It’s a 1940s system struggling to cope with 21st century medical advances.

Jeremy Corbyn continues to believe that all NHS treatments must be free at the point of use. That ship has sailed. It’s time for a new approach.

Most funding for the NHS will continue to come from the taxpayer, but it’s time that we also consider the principle that the user should sometimes pay. We conveniently forget that patients already pay prescription charges. From time to time, the issues of charging for hospital food or GP visits are floated, but quickly ditched until the howl of public outrage subsides. We pay for food at home, so why not in hospital?

Other countries (like Ireland) impose charges to see GPs, and let’s face it, the revenue could be used to meet part of the funding shortfall. It would also make people think twice about booking an unnecessary appointment or cancelling with no good reason. Surely a £10 charge wouldn’t be unreasonable, with opt outs for anyone on benefits.
Private sector involvement in the provision of healthcare is nothing new. Most people use private sector dentists. GPs are effectively in the private sector, as are most osteopaths and physiotherapists. A lot of primary care is provided by the private sector – the out of hours service and 111 are prime examples. Drugs are provided by private sector suppliers. Chemists and dispensaries have never been in the public sector and no one has ever suggested they should be.

People also ask why the taxpayer should pay for the treatment of people who bring their own misfortune on themselves – people who binge drink on a Friday night often end up in A&E, for example. But where do you draw the line? Charge smokers for lung cancer treatment? Charge obese people for diabetes drugs?

If a cancer patient should have the temerity to decide to use their life savings to fund their treatment using a drug which for budgetary reasons is not available via the NHS, what does the NHS do? Instead of saying ‘thank you very much for helping us out and paying for your own drugs’, it refuses to continue any treatment for that patient. See? Public good, private bad. It’s the politics of socialist envy and basically says that just because everyone can’t have it, you can’t either. Last week’s announcement that expectant mothers will be given £3,000 to pay for midwifery services. Many will use it to pay private sector midwives. And why on earth not? I hope we see more such initiatives.

This article first appeared in The New Day newspaper. Iain Dale is the author of The NHS: Things That Need to be Said

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Nick Harkaway & Simon Hoggart

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Biteback to Publish the Next 4 Volumes of Alastair Campbell's Diaries

7 Mar 2016 at 10:00

Iain Dale, MD of Biteback Publishing, has acquired world rights to four new volumes of diaries from Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former chief press secretary and director of communications and strategy, and the author of several books, including the number one Sunday Times bestsellers The Blair Years and, more recently, Winners And How They Succeed. World rights were acquired from Ed Victor at Ed Victor Ltd.

The first volume will begin in 2003, where the previous instalment, The Burden of Power, ended, with Campbell’s departure from Downing Street, with subsequent books covering the intervening years until 2015. Despite having left government, Campbell’s level of involvement barely abated: he continued to advise Blair (and later Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband) and played a key role in every election campaign since. It opens as Lord Hutton prepares to publish his report, sparking a huge crisis for the BBC. But any joy in No. 10 is dwarfed by continuing difficulties in Iraq. Meanwhile the Blair–Brown relationship is fracturing almost beyond repair and Campbell is tasked by both with devising a plan that will enable the two men to come together to fight a united election campaign.

Away from politics, the diaries will talk frankly about Campbell’s continued struggles with mental health issues, as well as his work in sport and his return to journalism as he tries to find a new purpose in life.

Iain Dale said: ‘When I heard from Ed Victor that we had agreed terms, I literally punched the air. I’ve read every word of the previous four volumes and, in my opinion, Alastair’s diaries represent the most valuable political historical documents of the last twenty years. There’s no spin, no editing out the awkward bits, just raw politics told in an entertaining and engaging manner. You get a unique perspective from someone who, even after he had left No. 10, was still right at the centre of things. Whether you’re an enemy or a fan of New Labour, if you read these diaries you won’t see Tony Blair, Gordon Brown or the events he covers in the same light ever again. I’ve been trying to entice Alastair to Biteback for some time and I could not be more delighted that we’ve been able to do a deal. It represents a huge long-term commitment from Biteback and I know my colleagues and I are going to enjoy the journey.’

Alastair Campbell said: ‘I am very pleased to be working with Iain Dale – not a bad guy for a Tory – and Biteback on publishing my post-2003 diaries. The first book with Biteback – Volume 5: Never Really Left – will be published in the autumn, and although it begins the day after I left Downing Street, it becomes clear that I never fully left and was centrally involved with Tony Blair up to the election of 2005, where this volume will end. It also, therefore, covers the publication of and fallout from the Hutton Inquiry, and the deal I helped put together to get Tony and Gordon Brown co-operating during the campaign, as well as my attempts – and failures – to adapt to a new kind of life, branching out into different areas, alongside the realisation of continuing mental health issues that required proper attention. I hope the four volumes Iain and Biteback intend to publish in the coming years, added to the four volumes already published by Random House, will be a vivid and essential record of an important period in modern political history.’

The first volume will be published in autumn 2016, with subsequent books over the next three years. The books will be supported by a major publicity campaign.

For more information please contact
victoria.gilder@bitebackpublishing.com or call 020 7091 1260

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Labour Shows Again That It Has Given Up on Winning Elections

4 Mar 2016 at 13:45

Ben Gummer is a very good MP according to many friends of mine. I rather admired him for standing in a seat which is never going to be ‘safe’. He won Ipswich in 2010 by a majority of just over two thousand. Most predicted he would lose the seat to Labour in 2015, but he confounded everyone by increasing his majority to more than 3,700. That’s about as good as it gets in Ipswich. Assiduous locally, he’s also now a minister in the Department of Health, where he is spoken of in glowing terms. But like his Dad, he has a complete blind spot over Europe. On twitter this week he’s been advocating the IN case but mainly by tweeting the usual Project Fear guff. I gently chided him and suggested he might use some positive arguments for a change. Back came a rather pompous reply, so I told him to grow up. He didn’t like that and said I was being very rude. Well, maybe, but if the best any politician on either side of the debate can do is to insult our intelligence and treat us like children, many be they need to be shocked out of their complacency. Project Fear scare tactics may turn out to win the day in the end, but it will be a very sad day for our politics.
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So this week Labour announced that Yanis Varoufakis had been appointed to advise Labour on economic policy and John McDonnell said that winning elections isn’t the most important thing for Labour – creating a social movement is. At least we now know that they’re not serious about winning an election. As if we didn’t before.
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One of my LBC producer colleagues opined to me a couple of weeks ago that it was impossible to support the LEAVE campaign because of the people who were representing them in the media. “They look completely unhinged,” was the remark which hit home. Two weeks on, I wonder if minds are changing on that front. Serious people have now come out to support LEAVE and most of them don’t have flapping white coats or stary eyes. This sort of thing is important. People advocating major change have to be both believable and likeable. That’s why Alan Johnson and Ken Clarke are such powerful advocates for the REMAIN side of the argument. Even if you’re not on their side in party politics, the chances are that you like them and find them believable. LEAVE now have Gisela Stuart, Boris, Gove, Kate Hoey, Michael Howard, Priti Patel, DD and many more. They could still do with a few more, though.
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Kudos to IDS and Priti Patel who have had the balls to stand up to Number Ten and insist that they should receive exactly the same level of support on the EU issue as other government ministers. It is a constitutional outrage that Sir Jeremy Heywood should issue an edit telling civil servants to provide no support or information to government ministers who are supporting LEAVE. He’s overreached himself and it was good to see Bernard Jenkin’s select committee holding the Cabinet Secretary to account. Sir Jeremy put in a typical oily performance and emerged relatively unscathed, but he need be under no illusion that his every action will now come under great scrutiny, and rightly so.
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Assuming the REMAIN side wins, attention will then turn to David Cameron’s next reshuffle, and what he will do with Boris Johnson. In theory he would be within his rights to completely ignore the soon to be ex Mayor of London, but I suspect a job will be found. But which one? Foreign Secretary is certainly out. Northern Ireland might have a certain appeal for the crueller minds in Downing Street, but I suspect they will come up with a suitably middling position which Boris wouldn’t like but would find difficult to turn down. Transport, comes to mind.
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I wonder if the BBC has overreached itself. No I’m not talking about the sacking of Tony Blackburn, I’m talking about the fact that they have hired Wembley Arena to host a Referendum debate and Q&A session in mid June. They haven’t got any star speakers lined up, and it’s difficult to imagine how this whole event would work. Why on earth hire an arena that holds 12,000 people when about ten of them would get to ask a question? I’m hearing that neither side of the debate is keen on this event and would be reluctant to put up their star people. So instead of Boris v Dave, it’s likely to be more like Ken v Liam.
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Gavin Barwell is one of the nicest MPs in Parliament. I can’t think he has any enemies at all. Normally I’d think that was not necessarily a good thing. If you haven’t got enemies, generally you can’t be very effective, but that’s not the case with Gavin. Like Ben Gummer, he won a marginal seat in 2010 and increased his majority in 2015. He’s now written a book about how he did it, which if you’re fighting a marginal seat next time around you really ought to read. It’s called HOW TO WIN A MARGINAL SEAT and is out in a couple of weeks. Preorder it HERE [insert link https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/how-to-win-a-marginal-seat ].
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Rather like the Labour Party, the US Republicans seem to be going through a seemingly neverending nightmare. Although numerically the presidential nomination isn’t yet sewn up for Donald Trump, it’s looking increasingly likely. His popularity is another sign of people’s dissatisfaction with the political elites, although given his wealth it’s nonsense to suggest that he comes from anything other than an ‘elite’. Marco Rubio seems to have vacated the ‘challenger’ position to the somewhat bizarre Ted Cruz. If Rubio can’t even win his home state of Florida in ten days’ time then his campaign is toast. So it really does look like Trump v Clinton. It’ll be some spectacle to watch, but I wonder what it will do to the Republican Party. Perhaps they will finally realise they need to appeal to the whole country and not just a narrow section of it.

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UK Politics

Why Religion Needs to Adapt to a Changing Society

27 Feb 2016 at 19:18

Even when I was a campanologist (no sniggering at the back), ringing the bells at our village church, I didn’t believe in God. Ok, I was only a teenager, and I was only ringing the bells each Sunday as the lesser of two evils. It was that or being a choirboy. You’ll understand why I chose Plain Bob Minor.

I had a typical rural upbringing. I lived in a quiet north Essex village near Saffron Walden, went to the local C of E Primary School, my mother did the church flowers once a month to keep up with the Jones’s, and every so often we’d be dragged along to the Sunday morning service to take Holy Communion. I hated the wafer thin fake bread and loathed the red wine even more.

I remember sitting there willing the hour away. I quite liked the hymns, but I just couldn’t get my head around reciting a whole lot of religious doggerel worshipping some supreme being. By that stage I didn’t believe in Father Christmas or fairies at the bottom of the garden. My father rarely came to church, but on one occasion that he ventured there I remember the vicar saying rather sarcastically how nice it was to see him there. He snapped back: “I don’t need to attend church every Sunday to prove my Christian credentials, I do that every day of the week.”

There are two sorts of Christians – those whose entire life and philosophy is governed by strict adherence to scripture, and those who try to live their life by what they think Jesus Christ would have done, or would have wanted. And this brings me (at long last!) to my point.

The Anglican Church, of which the Church of England is the leading player, is split asunder on the issue of homosexuality. Just recently the leaders of the Anglican Church voted to sanction the US Episcopal Church for its liberal stance on homosexuality in general and gay marriage in particular. It was a murky decision which some felt that their valued they hold vital to Christian empathy and inclusion were sacrificed on the altar of what Bishop Stephen Lowe called the “altar of false unity for Anglican Communion.”

If marriage is such a great institution – and it is – why is it that some of the more recidivist members of various religions find it so wrong that gay people want to access its benefits too. How does my being married to a man, threaten or undermine anyone else’s marriage or relationship?

Some Christians cling on to the fact that the Old Testament is quite clear about the evils of homosexuality. But it’s also clear about the evils of eating shellfish, the evils of wearing mixed fibres, and that the best way to deal with adulterous women was to stone them. However, depending on which translation you read, the New Testament barely mentions homosexuality. Just as importantly, if a ‘New’ New Testament was written today, does anyone seriously think that there would be any condemnation of homosexuality at all?

Those Christians would do well to actually study the life and beliefs of Jesus Christ himself. I may not believe in God, but I do believe Christ existed. And from what I know he would be one of the last people to condemn anyone who found true love. And even if he still abided by the belief than ‘man shall not lie with man’ he would be compassionate and empathetic to those men who did. Or do. He certainly wouldn’t want anyone publicly shamed, stoned or thrown off the top of a building.

I’m afraid there is no way of keeping the Anglican Church united. Women bishops started the fragmentation. Gay vicars and gay marriage is likely to lead to a schism. The dogmatic and recidivist views of the African Anglican Churches will never reconcile with the increasingly liberal attitudes displayed by many in the leadership of the Church of England or the US Episcopal Church.

Chris Bryant, the Labour MP and formerly an ordained Priest, has decided that enough is enough and he has quit the church. Many other gay and lesbian Christians believe that fighting the fight from within is still the best way forward. Time will tell who is right.

This article first appeared in the April edition of ATTITUDE Magazine

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