UK Politics

Polling Day Seen Through The Eyes of A Losing Candidate - Me (And How to Lose Gracefully)

8 Jun 2017 at 09:00

Twelve years ago I stood as a candidate in the 2005 general election. It seems a very long time ago. It was one of those days which could have changed my life forever, and in some ways did. Eight years ago I wrote a blogpost about polling day and the election count. It got such a reaction, I thought I’d reprise it here. For the uninitiated I was the Conservative candidate in North Norfolk, fighting the incumbent LibDem MP, Norman Lamb. He’s a candidate again today and is facing a real fight to keep his seat.

If I am honest, polling day was a disaster. We had set up a fifteen or so Committee rooms across the constituency and had teams of people knocking up. Time and again I kept being asked the same question: “Are you sure these knocking up slips are right? We seem to be knocking up LibDem voters”. Surely the agent hadn’t printed off the wrong codes? I kept asking myself. She and I had been at daggers drawn since the day of my selection. Let’s put it this way, she had gone out of her way to make clear that she favoured anyone but me. Half the local association wouldn’t work with her, and I seemed to spend much of my time mending fences with people whose noses she had put out of joint. After a row on day one of the campaign, she walked out, only to repeat the exercise later in the campaign. But surely, I thought, she wouldn’t have been so incompetent as to print out the wrong knocking up cards, would she? It was only six months later that I learned that she had gone round telling people she hadn’t even voted for me, that I began to wonder. Anyway, I digress.

I had known for some time that winning was highly unlikely. I remember a day in February 2005 canvassing in the coastal village of Overstrand. Every single house we went to seem to deliver the same message: “Well, we’re really Conservatives but we’re going to vote for that nice Mr Lamb.” I remember going back to my house in Swanton Abbott that night and saying to my partner, John, “That’s it, I know now I can’t win.” If people like that weren’t going to vote for me, the game was up. But I knew that I couldn’t tell that to my supporters who had sweated blood in helping my campaign. The problem was that Norman Lamb was (and is) essentially a Conservative. His and my views were almost indistinguishable on local issues. He was even vaguely Eurosceptic (for a LibDem). He had fought three elections and made it his business to be a good constituency MP.

My strategy had been to play him at his own game, and demonstrate that I too would be a good constituency representative – but one who could get things done by dint of being an MP for one of the two major parties . By the time the election campaign started I had undertaken a huge amount of constituency casework, and had got a very good reputation for taking up local campaigns and getting things done. I probably got more good local publicity in local press and radio than any other candidate in the country. We produced good literature and built up an excellent delivery network, but the fact remained – he was the MP and I was a candidate.

In retrospect I made too much of an effort at name recognition. It was a mistake to book a giant poster site (the only one in the constituency) for the few weeks before the election, and it was also a mistake to make a CD Rom and deliver it to every house. The money spent on those two things would have been far better spent on more newsletters and constituency-wide newspapers.

Two other things worked against me. The fact that I was quite often on TV, I originally thought would be a good thing – name recognition etc. But all it did was give people the impression I was in London all the time and not local. I could witter on about how I lived in the constituency – and I did – while Norman Lamb lived 20 miles away in Norwich, but a fat lot of good it did me.

So I expected to lose. It didn’t help that nationally the party wasn’t making any sort of breakthrough. Although Michael Howard had done his best, people were still in thrall to Tony Blair. Howard hadn’t been able to attract back those soft Conservative voters who had turned North Norfolk LibDem back in 2001. Nor it seemed, had I.

So as I criss-crossed the constituency on polling day, I had a fairly good idea of what was to happen later that night, although not even I could have guessed that the result would be quite so bad.

As the polls closed, I went back to my cottage to change and collect John. I felt strangely numb. I craved that feeling most other candidates in marginal seats would have been feeling at that moment – the feeling that they were hours away from their biggest ever achievement.

I’ve never understood candidates who turn up at their counts after most of the hard work has been done. I wanted to be there to support my counting agents, and to make sure that nothing went wrong. In such a massive constituency it was always going to take a long time to get the ballot boxes in. And so it proved. Just after midnight, the other candidates started to arrive and I made it my business to chat to them all and their aides, many of whom I had got to know over the previous 18 months.

The first few boxes seemed OK from our point of view. For a fleeting moment I let myself wonder if I was being unduly pessimistic. But it was only when I sat down and did some counting myself that I realised that a defeat was definitely on the cards. The counting seemed to be going very slowly. I was keeping touch with outside events on a small hand sized portable TV. I remember Justine Greening winning. I think I even let out a cheer. I was sitting on a bench cradling this small, CD sized TV in my hands. One of the fringe candidates, who was dressed as a circus clown, came over and watched with me. He put his hand on my shoulder. The EDP picture next day was of this touching scene but was captioned: “A tearful Iain Dale is comforted by a clown”. I wasn’t tearful at all, I was watching David Dimbleby!

The moment came when the returning officer asked all the candidates and agents to gather round to go through the questionable votes. He then read out the figures. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Norman Lamb understandably struggled to contain himself. His majority had increased from 500 to 10,600. My initial reaction was to laugh in disbelief. To this day I struggle to believe it. One or two of my people suggested we request a bundle check, just to check that some votes hadn’t been put in the wrong piles. But before that could be requested the Agent had accepted the result. I too was not in a mood to question anything after hearing such a devastating piece of news. To be honest, my only thought was how I was going to get through the concession speech. Some weeks after the count I kept being told by my party workers: “There was something wrong at the count. We didn’t like to say anything at the time.” To this day I don’t know what they think happened.

As we waited for the formalities to begin Norman Lamb apologised to me for some rather nasty, homophobic comments made about me by one of his councillors. I thanked him and said I appreciated that he hadn’t run that sort of campaign.

Norman was then asked to the platform and he gave a gracious speech in which he made clear he had at some points over the previous 18 months feared the worst. It was then my turn. I have inherited my mother’s tendency to have a good cry at the worst possible moment. Even an episode of Emmerdale has been known to set me off, so as I climbed up on to the stage I made sure I breathed very deeply and make sure that I didn’t catch the eye of Deborah Slattery, my campaign manager and loyal friend. I knew she would be howling her eyes out.

It remains a speech I am proud of. I got through it intact, thanked everyone who needed to be thanked and paid tribute to Norman Lamb. I was told afterwards by several LibDem and Labour supporters that they were quite moved by it. As I left the stage I have a vague recollection of Norman Lamb putting his arm around me!

As John and I left Cromer High School to make the short drive to a party worker’s house for some food and drink it all came out. I broke down completely in the car. John said nothing, but just drove. There was nothing he could say. By the time we arrived I had pulled myself together. It was meant to be a party but the atmosphere was simply awful and I couldn’t wait to go home. I made another short speech thanking everyone, but it seemed like going through the motions. It was about 6.30am before we got home. I got about two hours’ sleep.

The next morning was the count for the county council elections. I was determined to go to it. No one was going to accuse me of not being able to show my face. As I walked into the school hall, many people (including LibDems and Labour supporters) spontaneously applauded. At that moment my sister Sheena (the punk rocker) phoned. I had to tell her I couldn’t speak to her as I knew I would break down again.

And that was that. I cleared out my office and started to think about what on earth I would do in the future. If the result had been anywhere near three figures I would have stayed, but this was just one of those occasions when there was little I could have done to change things. Did my sexuality play a role? I wrote an article in the New Statesman immediately after election denying it…

I didn’t lose because North Norfolk rejected a gay candidate. I lost because the Lib Dems ran a relentless campaign to persuade Labour supporters to vote tactically. I lost because our national campaign, though highly professional and slick, did not ignite the fires of optimism among an electorate sick of personal insults and negativity. It may not be racist to talk about immigration, but it is perhaps not clever to put the words “racist” and “Conservative” on the same poster. And I lost because the Lib Dem MP had a huge personal vote, far beyond anything I’ve encountered anywhere else.

A candidate is perhaps not the ideal person to understand fully the reasons for a shattering defeat. Others can judge that, and many have offered their twopennyworth over the last twelve years. All I know is that I can look myself in the mirror and know that I could not have done more. I almost bankrupted myself, put in far more hours than most other candidates I know and in many ways ran a textbook campaign. Of course I made mistakes, and I have alluded to some of them here, but my biggest mistake was not to listen to those who advised me not to go for this particular seat in the first place! LibDem chief executive, Chris Rennard, who knows a thing or two about these things, was one of them. He told me before I was selected that he expected Norman Lamb to get a five figure majority. I thought I knew better. I didn’t.

Other than perhaps the initial decision, I have few regrets. I thoroughly enjoyed the 18 months up to the election, even if I hated the campaign itself. I met some wonderful people and would like to think that even as a candidate I made a bit of a difference to some people’s lives. I’ve just looked up my blogposts from that period. THIS post in particular sums up why, despite some of the terrible things said about me on some websites in the immediate aftermath of the election, I did not totally lose heart.

The most important thing is to learn from what life – and the electorate – throws at you.

In the immediate afermath of this defeat perhaps I didn’t learn the lessons I should have. I was 42 and still wanted to fulfill my life’s ambition to be an MP. But what I should have realised was that after a defeat like that – no matter what the rights and wrongs were – it would be difficult to get selected in another seat. I came close, but for the 2010 election I left it too late. I took two years out of the selection processes and by the time I re-entered the selection race, most of the seats had gone. I got shortlisted for everything I applied for but in the end failed to get selected. Bracknell was the closest I came, and even on the day I was very hopeful of getting it. There were 7 people in the final, and one by one they were eliminated. I knew I had made a good speech and impressed them, but when it got down to the final three I knew I’d be the next one out. Sure enough, I was. Rory Stewart came second and Philip Lee triumphed. He was a local doctor and of the three of us the least risky choice. I was pleased for him, even though I knew it was probably the end of the road for me. There was one other seat – East Surrey, but I made a complete hash of my speech and the local candidate had ensured I would be asked a very difficult question about what happened in North Norfolk. Well, all’s fair in love and political selections!

It was then that I made the decision to end it. By the time of the 2015 election I was 52, and I am old enough and wise enough to know what politics in this country has become a young person’s game. Few constituencies select people in their fifties, so I didn’t see the point in spending five years in the vain hope that I might possibly get selected. It was time to get out. So I did. I was also slightly falling out of love with politics, and having put my partner and family through a lot over the previous seven or eight years, it didn’t seem fair to repeat the process. My mother cheered when I told her I wouldn’t be doing it again. What an indictment of our politics.

If I am honest, I thought I would come to regret the decision, but seven years on I haven’t. Not for a moment. And I mean that. Politics is indeed a drug, and you can never wean yourself off it completely, but my radio career gives me what politics used to give me, and a lot more besides. I’m often asked if I will stand again and I always reply in the same way. Never. And I really mean it. I would have loved to have been an MP, as I think in many ways I would have been good at it and been a very good constituency MP. But I now know (and probably always did) that the parliamentary side of it might well have become incredibly frustrating for me. I suspect I would have been a whips’ nightmare and would have stood no chance of being a minister … not that being a minister ever really mattered. OK, I had a slight flicker of interest when Sir Alan Haselhurst announced he wouldn’t contest Saffron Walden again- it being my seat, but in the end I decided not to go for it. And that, as they say, was that.

Twelve years ago I thought my life had fallen apart. It hadn’t. It just meant that it took a very different turn. And you know what? I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Probably.

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General Election Seat by Seat: My Final Predictions - A Tory Landslide Is Still On

5 Jun 2017 at 23:07

On the day the election was called, I predicted a Conservative majority of 74, but I decided to test this out by going through all 650 seats individually.

Back in early May I completed my Seat by Seat predictions and ended up predicting a Conservative majority of 134. This was made up of 392 Conservative seats, 163 Labour, 16 LibDem. 53 SNP, 5 Plaid and 2 Greens. This was at a time when the opinion polls were showing a Tory lead of 15-24%. Since then the polls have narrowed substantially. As a consequence I have gone through the seats again. However, I haven’t changed the basis on which my predictions are made. I have gone on the premise that turnout will be similar to 2015 and that 50% of the UKIP vote would transfer to the Conservatives. Originally I had assumed that UKIP would stand in all seats, but it turns out they’re only standing in 425. I believe that in seats where they are not standing a lot more than 50% of their votes will go to the Conservatives.

My new prediction is…

Conservative 386 (56)
Labour 178 (-54)
Liberal Democrats 12 (
3)
SNP 47 (-9)
Plaid Cymru 4 (1)
Green 2 (
1)
DUP 8 (-)
UUP 1 (-1)
Sinn Fein 5 (+1)
SDLP 3 (-)
Independent 1 (-)
Speaker 1 (-)

This translates into a Conservative majority of 122.

When I did this exercise in 2015 I came up with a Conservative seat prediction of 323 – only 8 out from what it turned out to be. However, I didn’t publish that because I felt it overestimated the Tory total. So I went back through all 650 seats and cut 33 seats to leave a total of 290. I should have trusted my first instincts.

On that basis I wonder whether I should go back to predicting a 74 seat majority… My gut tells me it will indeed be around that, but my logic and my research tells me it will be higher.

These are the entirety of my changes…

Bath – LibDem gain to Con hold
Batley & Spen – Con gain to Lab hold
Bermondsey – LibDem gain to Lab hold
Bristol South – Con gain to Lab hold
Burnley – LibDem gain to Lab hold
Cardiff Central – LibDem gain to Lab hold
Cardiff South & Penarth – Con gain to Lab hold
Cardiff West – Con gain to Lab hold
Cheltenham – LibDem gain to Con hold
Eastbourne – Con hold to LibDem gain
Edinburgh South – SNP gain to Lab hold
Edinburgh West – SNP hold to LibDem gain
Lewes – LibDem gain to Con hold
Llanelli – Plaid gain to Lab hold
Luton South – Con gain to Lab hold
Newport East – Con gain to Lab hold
North East Fife – SNP hold to LibDem gain
Perth & North Perthshire – SNP hold to Con gain
Stalybridge & Hyde – Con gain to Lab hold
Thornbury & Yate – LibDem gain to Con hold
Walsall South – Con gain to Lab hold
Wirral West – Con gain to Lab hold
Workington – Con gain to Lab hold
Worsley & Eccles South – Con gain to Lab hold

Conservative Gains from Labour

Alyn & Deesside Mark Tami 3343
Barrow in Furness John Woodcock 795
Birmingham Edgbaston Gisela Stuart 2706
Birmingham Erdington Jack Dromey 5129
Birmingham Northfield Richard Burden 2509
Bishop Auckland Helen Goodman 5218
Blackpool South Gordon Marsden 2585
Bolton North East David Crausby 4377
Bristol East Kerry McCarthy 3980
Brentford & Isleworth Ruth Cadbury 465
Bridgend Madeleine Moon 1927
Chorley Lindsay Hoyle 4530
City of Chester Chris Matheson 93
Clwyd South Susan Elan-Jones 2402
Coventry North West Geoffrey Robinson 6288
Coventry South Jim Cunningham 3188
Dagenham & Rainham Jon Cruddas 4980
Darlington Jenny Chapman 3158
Delyn David Hanson 2930
Dewsbury Paula Sherriff 1526
Dudley North Ian Austin 4181
Ealing Central & Acton Rupa Huq 274
Eltham Clive Efford 2693
Enfield North Joan Ryan 1086
Gedling Vernon Coaker 2986
Great Grimsby Melanie Onn 4540
Halifax Holly Lynch 428
Hampstead & Kilburn Tulip Siddiq 1138
Harrow West Gareth Thomas 3143
Hartlepool Iain Wright 3024
Hove Peter Kyle 1236
Hyndburn Graham Jones 4400
Ilford North West Streeting 589
Lancaster & Fleetwood Cat Smith 1265
Mansfield Alan Meale 5315
Middlesbrough S & E Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop 2268
Newcastle under Lyme Paul Farrelly 650
North East Derbyshire Natascha Engel 1883
Penistone & Stockbridge Angela Smith 6723
Scunthorpe Nick Dakin 3134
Southampton Test Alan Whitehead 3810
Stoke on Trent North Ruth Smeeth 4836
Stoke on Trent South Robert Flello 2539
Tooting Rosena Allin-Khan 6357
Wakefield Mary Creagh 2613
Walsall North David Winnick 1937
Westminster North Karen Buck 2126
Wolverhampton North East Emma Reynolds 5495
Wolverhampton South West Rob Marris 801
Wrexham Ian Lucas 1831

Conservative Gains from Liberal Democrats
Carshalton & Wallington Tom Brake 1510
North Norfolk Norman Lamb 4043
Richmond Park Sarah Olney 1872
Southport John Pugh 1322

Conservative Gains from SNP
Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk Calum Kerr 328
Dumfries & Galloway Richard Arkless 6514
Perth & North Perthshire Pete Wishart
West Aberdeenshire & Kinkardine Stuart Donaldson 7033

Conservative Gain from UKIP
Clacton Douglas Carswell 3437

Green Gains from Labour
Bristol West Thangnam Debbonaire 5673

Labour Gains from Conservative
Brighton Kemptown Simon Kirby 690

Liberal Democrat Gains from Conservative
Eastbourne Caroline Ansell
Kingston James Berry 2834
Twickenham Tania Mathias 2017

Liberal Democrat Gains from Labour
Cambridge Daniel Zeichner 599

Liberal Democrat Gains from SNP
East Dunbartonshire John Nicolson
Edinburgh West –
North East Fife – Stephen Gethins

Plaid Cymru Gains from Labour
Yns Mon Albert Owen 229

Sinn Fein Gain From UUP
Fermanagh & South Tyrone Tom Elliot 530

Here are links to the regional breakdowns, and individual seat predictions. Those which have changes are marked with (REVISED). Click on the links for details.

Bedfordshire REVISED
Berkshire
Birmingham
Bristol & Surrounds REVISED
Buckinghamshire
Cambridgeshire
Cheshire
Cornwall
County Durham
Cumbria REVISED
Derbyshire
Devon
Dorset
East Sussex REVISED
Essex
Gloucestershire REVISED
Hampshire
Herefordshire & Worcestershire
Hertfordshire
Kent
Lancashire REVISED
Leicestershire
Lincolnshire
London Central
London East
London North East
London North West
London South
London South East REVISED
London South West
London West
Manchester REVISED
Merseyside REVISED
Norfolk
Northamptonshire
Northern Ireland
Northumberland
Nottinghamshire
Oxfordshire
Scotland: Borders & Ayrshire
Scotland: Central REVISED
Scotland: Edinburgh REVISED
Scotland: Fife REVISED
Scotland: Glasgow
Scotland: Glasgow Surrounds
Scotland: North East
Scotland: Highlands & Islands
Shropshire
Somerset
Staffordshire
Suffolk
Surrey
Teesside
Tyne & Wear
Wales – Clwyd
Wales – Dyfed REVISED
Wales – Gwent REVISED
Wales – Gwynned & Powys
Wales – Mid Glamorgan
Wales – South Glamorgan REVISED
Wales – West Glamorgan
Warwickshire
West Midlands REVISED
West Sussex
Wiltshire
Yorkshire: East & Humberside
Yorkshire: North
Yorkshire South
Yorkshire: West REVISED

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If You Think Labour's Manifesto Is Fully Costed, Read On...

5 Jun 2017 at 09:00

Margaret Thatcher once said: “The trouble with socialism is that you always end up running out of other people’s money.” The Labour Party manifesto is proof of this – well, it would be if it were ever implemented. I came across this little tale on one of my friend’s Facebook page. I’m not sure if the tale is apocrophal or not, but it doesn’t really matter. Read on…

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Corbyn’s vision of socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Corbyn’s ideological plan”. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A…. (substituting grades for £ ’s )something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.
The second test average was a D! No one was happy.

When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.

As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.
To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.

It could not be any simpler than that.

There are five morals to this story:

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!
5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

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Iain Dale & Shelagh Fogarty to Present LBC's Live Election Night Show

4 Jun 2017 at 17:42

LBC TO BROADCAST 12-HOUR ELECTION RESULTS SPECIAL

THURSDAY 8 JUNE FROM 10PM TO FRIDAY 9 JUNE

• Iain Dale and Shelagh Fogarty reunite to anchor election night programme
• Nick Ferrari presents extended breakfast show from 5am
• James O’Brien gives his verdict and opens the lines to the nation from 10am
• LBC’s team of journalists report from across the UK

LBC’s line-up of first-class broadcasters including Iain Dale, Shelagh Fogarty and Nick Ferrari will present twelve hours of non-stop live coverage of the election results next week.

Britain Decides starts at 10pm on Thursday 8th June. With LBC’s listeners taking centre stage, Dale and Fogarty will bring the very latest news and results as-they-happen, along with instant reaction and expert analysis from some of the biggest names in politics including Nigel Farage, Michael Gove, Emily Thornberry and Alex Salmond. The programme will also be broadcast on Facebook Live and via the LBC website

Supported by Global’s network of newsrooms, LBC will broadcast from across the UK:

• Theo Usherwood, LBC’s political editor, will be based in Westminster.
• Throughout the night, LBC reporters will be at the heart of the action alongside the leaders of the seven main political parties.
LBC journalists will report from dozens of constituency counts in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
• There will be reaction from major cities around the world including Brussels, Paris and Washington.

At 5am, Nick Ferrari will continue the live coverage and in-depth analysis with an extended five-hour breakfast programme from Westminster, followed by James O’Brien who will open the phone lines to the nation from 10am.

Do join us!

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ConHome Diary: Who Will Theresa May Reshuffle? Brandon Lewis Is My Tip To Replace Lizz Truss & Other Stories

2 Jun 2017 at 13:24

So it’s the midday on Friday June 9th. The results are in and it may not be quite the landslide she had hoped for but Theresa May is back in Downing Street and sitting down to form her new Cabinet. Reshuffling a cabinet after barely eleven months poses several dilemmas. If you make too many changes it indicates you made some pretty dodgy decisions in the first place. If you make too few you fail to take advantage of the fact that you’re never more powerful than when you have won an election. But, but, is that the situation Theresa May will find herself in? Let’s hope so, but there remains a nagging doubt that this clusterfuck of a campaign will ruin it all. Having said that, lest we forget 2015 when most people thought the Tory campaign had been boring, unimaginative and uninspiring. Everyone thought a defeat was inevitable and that a hung parliament was the best that could be hoped for. Instead, the party won a majority for the first time since 1992.
For our purposes here let is agree that Theresa May won’t carry out a night of the long knives. After all, she did that back in July.
Let’s start at the top. I’m told Boris Johnson is paranoid that he will be sacked or moved. He has surely nothing to fear. I think he has performed relatively well and it would surely be embarrassing for Mrs May to do anything other than keep him in situ.
I am less sure about the Chancellor’s position. It’s clear he has had his issues with Number Ten and has certainly not sung from the same Brexit hymnsheet as the Prime Minister on occasion. In this campaign he has been almost totally invisible. His card is well and truly marked, but let’s remember that he and the Prime Minister go back a long way. If he is to be brutally dispatched, the woman tipped to replace him is Home Secretary Amber Rudd. She has had a ‘good war’ and has successfully played herself into being mentioned as a successor to Theresa May when the time comes.
I’m taking for granted that both David Davis and Liam Fox will remain in post, although it is a little mystifying that Dr Fox has been almost totally absent from this campaign. As a good media performer you’d have thought he’d have had a higher profile. Perhaps it’s to come in the last few days as Brexit takes centre stage.
Jeremy Hunt to move from Health is almost a given. He was never supposed to be reappointed to the job, but when Stephen Crabb decided to leave government Jeremy Hunt was told to put his NHS badge back on and get on with it. He’s a good tip to replace Amber Rudd at the Home Office if she becomes Chancellor, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he called it quits and decided to leave government. He’s got three small children and I just wonder if he might want a break. Stranger things have happened.
In terms of departures from the Cabinet I’m told Sajid Javid has not impressed Number Ten and may be facing an interview without coffee. Liz Truss, according to many of her colleagues, deserves the same fate, but a move to education may be what awaits her, with Justine Greening moving to health.
I think Brandon Lewis is a sure-fire certainty for promotion to the cabinet, possibly to Justice. His Home Office experience would come in handy and he’s a lawyer so would be seen as more acceptable than Liz Truss.
Dominic Raab is another name being mentioned for a ministerial recall. He may have to accept a year as Minister of State, but he’s an effective communicator and could well make the full jump.
Michael Gove is also being tipped for a comeback. Despite having had bad personal relations with Theresa May in government he has been seen earning his passage back and being totally loyal. CCHQ have been offering him to broadcasters throughout the campaign and he’s performed well. It may be a little early for a return, but don’t rule it out. The only problem is where to slot him in. Back to education just to annoy the NUT? I doubt it, but there would be something rather delicious about it. Mark Harper is another refugee from the Cameron government who may well return to high office. He’s another one who could have been difficult, but has been conspicuously loyal. A possible successor to Sajid Javid or even to Jeremy Hunt at health.
A more radical shuffle might see Andrea Leadsom and Chris Grayling fearing for their positions, but surely Theresa May couldn’t be so ruthless as to say goodbye to her erstwhile leadership campaign manager, could she? I think we all know the answer to that one, but she would be well advised not to do it. Grayling loves the job at Transport and is beginning to make a real impact.
Patrick McLoughlin might well have reached the end of the road, but I think David Lidington will survive, partly due to his popularity with his colleagues and opposition MPs. I’d be sorry to see Patrick go. He and I go back a long way. I remember passing him briefing notes during the Committee Stage of the Ports Bill in 1991. Twenty six years ago!
I think there will be widespread changes in the lower ranks with the guiding light being that if a Minister of State has no chance of making cabinet they should make way for someone who will. It’s striking when you look through the list of ministers of state how few you could actually imagine holding down a cabinet job.
Of course, the big question is whether John Hayes can survive yet another reshuffle!
*
There may also be some sort of Downing Street reshuffle as well. Iain Martin has written that he thinks Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy should be fired due to the fact that he thinks they are “drunk on power”. I do not. They are two of the most brilliant political minds of their generation and have formed a formidable partnership. However, you can’t have two ‘chiefs of staff’. The decision Theresa May has to make is whether to let them both do what they are good at, or maintain the status quo. If she does the former, she’ll make Fiona Hill Director of Communications (which she already is, in effect) and Nick Timothy Head of Policy. She could then bring in someone else to take over the more traditional chief of staff role. I have no one in particular in mind, but it needs to be someone with government experience, and a bit of a greybeard who commands respect from all over and doesn’t relish a media spotlight.
*

On Thursday night at 10pm I’ll be co-hosting LBC’s election night coverage with Shelagh Fogarty. We’lll be going through until 5am when Nick Ferrari takes over. We stream the whole thing on Facebook Live and provide somewhat of an antidote to the BBC’s rather more staid coverage. At least we try to. We’re also allowed to be opinionated and the discussions are certainly quite robust at times. As well as politicians like Michael Gove, Emily Thornberry, Eric Pickles and various others we’ll also be joined by our resident psephologists Gareth Knight and Rob Hayward, as well as economics commentator Liam Halligan. I hope you’ll join us for at least part of the night.
*
This is my last column before polling day so I suppose I should try to make an educated prediction as to what will happen. My seat by seat predictions (which seem a long time ago now) added up to a majority of around 130. I still think that’s possible, but perhaps not probable. I could adopt the YouGov approach of giving a range (they gave a range of 270-345 seats in their ridiculous recent survey) but that is a copout. My gut instinct is a majority of somewhere between 80 and 100 but I should perhaps stick to my original prediction of around 388-395 seats for the Tories and around 165-70 seats for Labour. I still think a lot depends on turnout and where the UKIP votes go and what happens to the LibDem vote in Tory Labour marginals. For those reasons and others it’s almost impossible to make a reasoned prediction. All I know is that if there isn’t an increased Tory majority, that’s when things start to get really interesting. And I mean, really interesting.

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What Should the Tories Do to Get their Campaign Back on Track? Answer: Let Lynton be Lynton & (Maybe) Ditch the Social Care Policy Altogether

28 May 2017 at 18:00

There’s nothing the Conservative Party seems to enjoy more than a midcampaign wobble. It usually lasts a couple of days before things get back on an even keel. This one has lasted more than ten days. Election campaign wobbles often happen when the chain of command isn’t clear – when no one knows who is actually in charge. Think back to 1987 when no one in CCHQ was clear whether Lord Young (put in CCO by a prime minister who had doubts about her party chairman) or Norman Tebbit (who had lost Mrs T’s confidence). Think back to 2010 when no one really knew whether it was Lynton Crosby, George Osborne or party chairman Eric Pickles.

So how do the Tories get their campaign back on track? When Sir Lynton Crosby was hired to run this election campaign he will have known that his chief interlocutors would be Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, the Prime Ministers two most trusted lieutenants. Neither of them suffer fools gladly and they expect to get their own way. They are conviction people. They lack self doubt. And they expect their will to be done and Number Ten is run in their image. Number Ten may not be as happy and chilled out as under David Cameron but their iron rule has made it a much more effective operation, even if the written and broadcast media have found the place far more difficult to deal with.

Neither Hill, nor Timothy has been involved in running a general election campaign before. In itself that shouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but when an election is called so unexpectedly it is not surprising that things have been more difficult than they otherwise might have been. Take the manifesto, for example. It is widely reported that the manifesto was almost exclusively written by Nick Timothy. It is said that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wasn’t even consulted about the Social Care policy and was told about it – yes, told – only hours before the media. It was the same for Damian Green. I have no idea what either of those gentlemen thought about the policy. I haven’t asked them. We know, or we think we know, that John Godfrey, the Number Ten Head of Policy and Fiona Hill were both against it, and Theresa May made the final decision to overrule them and include it in the manifesto. As I said on Newsnight on Friday night, ultimately the buck stops with her. Advisers advise, ministers decide.

I have no idea whether Lynton Crosby had any right of veto over any part of the manifesto. He certainly would have had in 2015. I doubt whether he did this time. If he didn’t, he should have.

On Tuesday morning all the leading lights of the campaign will be meeting in London to decide the strategy for the final eight days of the campaign. Leaving aside the fact that this meeting should have been taking place today, there are a number of decisions that meeting should make.

The first is that Lynton Crosby must be given full and absolute control of the campaign. He knows what he is doing. He’s run enough campaigns for everyone to have complete and total trust in him. I know from my own experience back in 2005, he is a leader of men and women and is the sort of person people die in a ditch for. No one should second guess him. He must lay out the strategy and have the power to implement it. He must define the messaging for the next nine days and ensure that everyone sticks to it.

The Conservatives’ media strategy has so far been based around a very select view of politicians who are allowed on TV and radio. This group needs to be expanded. The “When in doubt send for DD, Fallon or Gauke” strategy is OK as far as it goes, but in the current media age they can’t do it all. There are too many outlets to satisfy. Interestingly IDS and Michael Gove are being used, but that very fact has severely hacked off other perfectly competent media performers who happen to be senior ministers. Where on earth is Liam Fox? Greg Clark? Patrick McLoughlin? In any normal campaign the Conservative party chairman would effectively be ‘Minister for the Today Programme’. I may be wrong, but I can’t recall hearing Patrick McLoughlin, one of the Cabinet’s most reassuring voices, give a single broadcast interview since the election was called.

In addition, the women’s vote is haemorraghing to Labour. The lead is down to one point. There are lots of capable Tory women who should be used on the media far more than they have been so far. Justine Greening, Margot James, Andrea Leadsom and many more need to become a much more integral part of the campaign.

Boris Johnson has been allowed out occasionally, but we’ve only seen the Chancellor once. In a war, you deploy your strongest weapons, even if occasionally they might end up aiming in the wrong direction. Just as I am suggesting that the Tories should let Lynton be Lynton, they should also let Boris be Boris. Philip Hammond is also an underrated media performer. Given what I am about to write, he needs to now be front and centre of the campaign.

If we look back to 18 April, the day the PM called the election, we ought to remind ourselves of the reason this election was called. Remember these words from the Prime Minister?

“At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division. The country is coming together, but Westminster is not. In recent weeks Labour has threatened to vote against the deal we reach with the European Union. "The Liberal Democrats have said they want to grind the business of government to a standsill. The Scottish National Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union. And unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way. Our opponents believe that because the Government’s majority is so small, our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course. They are wrong. They under-estimate our determination to get the job done and I am not prepared to let them endanger the security of millions of working people across the country. "Because what they are doing jeopardises the work we must do to prepare for Brexit at home and it weakens the Government’s negotiating position in Europe. If we do not hold a general election now their political game-playing will continue, and the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election. Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country. So we need a general election and we need one now, because we have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done while the European Union agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin. I have only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion. “Since I became Prime Minister I have said that there should be no election until 2020, but now I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions I must take. Every vote for the Conservatives will make it harder for opposition politicians who want to stop me from getting the job done. Every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger when I negotiate for Britain with the prime ministers, presidents and chancellors of the European Union. Every vote for the Conservatives means we can stick to our plan for a stronger Britain and take the right long-term decisions for a more secure future. It was with reluctance that I decided the country needs this election, but it is with strong conviction that I say it is necessary to secure the strong and stable leadership the country needs to see us through Brexit and beyond.”

This was supposed to be a single issue election. It has become anything but. The Manchester terror attack has reenforced that fact. Even before the bombing Labour had managed to seize the initiative. Deliberately leaking their manifesto gave them five days of dominating the news. The Conservatives assumed the electorate would laugh at the manifesto. The electorate did the opposite, finding it eyecatching, radical and bold. By contrast the Tory offering six days later was seen as boring, stale and didn’t have a single eyecatching initiative for Tory canvassers and candidates to go out and sell on the doorstep. And the single policy which did stand out, turned out to be a stinker.

The rest of this election campaign needs to be fought on Tory territory, not Labour’s. There should be four strands to the remainder of the campaign and it’s Lynton Crosby’s task to make sure they become the narrative of the next nine days…

  • Get Brexit back on the agenda
  • Security for all
  • A strong economy
  • Leadership

Getting Brexit back on the agenda won’t be a simple task. Only two pages out of 84 in the manifesto were Brexit. Why? Because there wasn’t anything new to say. There still isn’t. There is no prospect of giving any more details of the government’s negotiating strategy. If Juncker or Tusk say anything stupid over the next few days, it’s job done, but even they aren’t that stupid. What the PM and David Davis must do is look forward to the negotiations starting only eleven days after the election, and contrast their approach to the task in hand with that of the Labour Party.

There is little doubt that a national crisis like the one over the last week plays into the hands of the incumbent prime minister. By definition, it is the PM who is making the decisions and reacting to events. The Leader of the Opposition can do little but to support the actions of the PM. The PM is able to show leadership, something the Leader of the Opposition can’t really do. That’s why it was important for Jeremy Corbyn to make that speech on Friday morning – to hit the ground running and seize back the agenda. Well he did that, but couldn’t resist the self indulgence of talking about issues which he must have known would be a gift to the Tories.

However, there are risks here too for the Tories. They’ve launched an all out initiative to paint Corbyn as a terrorist sympathiser, but in doing so risk going over the top. They certainly have raw material to attack Corbyn in that manner, but sometimes it’s best to be quite subtle about these things rather than completely in voters’ faces. Sometimes you have to trust the people to work it out for themselves, albeit with a little help. Instead of a constant attack on Corbyn I suspect it would be better to concentrate the fire on the prospect of Diane Abbott (sans Afro) becoming Home Secretary. She is both viewed as an extreme left winger and hopelessly incompetent. Her interviews with Nick Ferrari, me on Friday and Andrew Marr today have done nothing to alter that view. The Tories should exploit it.

Most election revolves around whether people think they will be better off or not over the ensuing five years if they vote for one party rather than another. Although this election is somewhat different, there is still time for it to be framed around the concept of ‘stick to nurse for fear of something worse’. Economic competence v Labour’s magic money tree. The trouble is, the media has framed it as ‘More austerity and an uncosted manifesto v Labour’s eyecatching economic proposals’. So far, much of the electorate has bought into that and decided that some tax rises for the rich and penalising big multinational corporations by dramatically increasing business taxes will indeed lead to “our NHS” getting all the extra funding it needs. It’s been a major failure of the campaign so far not to have combatted this narrative. I have no idea why Philip Hammond has barely appeared in this campaign so far, but that needs to change, and change now.

The leadership issue is clearly the easiest and it has already been a running theme, but this needs to be hammered home in all sorts of ways in the runup to June 8th. But when I say ‘hammered home’ there needs to be a subtlety about it. Jeremy Corbyn has a certain zen calmness about him and even under huge pressure he usually manages to suppress his annoyance and anger at the way he’s being questioned. We saw that on Friday in his interview with Andrew Neil. In many ways it ought to have been seen as a car crash for him – and if you’re a Tory watching it, you’ll think it was, but Andrew Neil didn’t really rattle him once despite a very hostile line of questioning. Although his answers were often all over the place, Corbyn just remained in a zen like state. Many elements of the electorate quite like that and they don’t seem him as the ‘pseudo commie terrorist sympathiser’ the Conservatives are portraying him as. The messaging on this has to be very careful. In any normal election May v Corbyn as a leadership contest ought to be a one horse race. The Tories now need to make it one.

A 15-20 point Tory lead has evolved into a 7-14 point lead. The best poll for Labour was a Yougov poll which showed a 5 point lead on Friday. That had increased to 7 points in today’s YouGov poll. I’ve always thought of YouGov and ICM polls to be the most reliable, but the latest ICM poll shows a 14 point lead. They can’t both be right. In some ways a lower poll lead is a good thing for the Tories. I know that sounds odd, but there’s certainly no talk of complacency any longer, and a smaller poll lead will help persuade Tory voters to actually go out and vote. However, a narrative is developing that any majority which isn’t three figures will be seen as a defeat for Theresa May. It’s quite ridiculous, of course, because any majority in excess of 50 would surely justify the Prime Minister’s decision to call the election in the first place. Was Margaret Thatcher’s 44 seat majority in 1979 seen as a defeat for her? Of course it wasn’t.

Earlier in the campaign I predicted that the Conservatives would get around 390 seats and Labour around 165, with the LibDems on 16 and the SNP on 53. I might revisit that in the final week, but I’m not sure I see any real grounds to change it at the moment. Perhaps the LibDems are a little high, given that their campaign hasn’t taken off at all.

So, to sum up, here’s what should happen to the Tory campaign…

1. Let Lynton be Lynton and give him total control
2. Brexit means Brexit, and it needs to be a dominant issue in the last 9 days
3. Widen the circle of ministers appearing on the media
4. Deploy Boris
5. Deploy Philip Hammond and take the fight to Labour on the economy
6. Leadership, leadership, leadership – make the contrast at every available opportunity
7. Constantly raise the prospect of Diane Abbott as Home Secretary
8. Ensure the country sees the Conservatives as the party of security and defence
9. Underplay the poll lead so as not to risk a low turnout
10. Address the issue of the women’s vote disappearing to Labour

And finally [brace yourselves], the most radical shift of all… If the Tory lead was to continue to fall I’d suggest that serious consideration is given to ditching the social care pledge altogether. It would be a complete humiliation but I’m not sure that the party leadership understands what a disaster it has been on the doorstep and on the radio phone-ins. The partial U-turn on Monday meant that the hole digging had been put on hold. But perhaps it may be time to fill the trench back in. A strong and stable Prime Minister might find it a difficult one to sell, but admitting you’re wrong can sometimes be a refreshing lance of the boil. Tony Blair was usually at his most popular when he admitted he’d cocked up. Cameron the same. But if it’s to be done, it needs to be done in the next 48 hours. Better brains than mine need to be thinking about the pros and cons of doing this, and I’m assuming they may have done so already. At least I’m hoping they have…

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ConHome Diary: Diane Abbott's New Nickname & Credit To Donald Trump (Yes, Really)

26 May 2017 at 13:43

Let’s give credit where credit is due. Donald Trump’s first trip broad as President was tipped by everyone to be a disaster. People assumed there would be gaffe and gaffe and he would embarrass himself, his country and his hosts. Well it hasn’t happened, has it? Even his speech on Islam in Saudi Arabia barely caused a feather ruffle. He sailed through two days of potential pitfalls and political icebergs in Israel and even his meeting with the Pope went off without a hitch, even though the Pope, unusually, found it difficult to crack a smile. As I write this Trump has moved on to Brussels where he is attending his first NATO summit. Get through that without controversy and he can rightly regard the last nine days as something of a triumph.
*
UKIP unveiled their election manifesto yesterday. Like anyone cared.
*

I am a massive supporter of the so-called ‘Special Relationship’, although the very mention of the term brings me out in hives. But by definition it has to work both ways. It is outrageous that US intelligence is leaking details of the Manchester bombing to the US media and it is to the UK government’s credit that they are making no secret of the fact that there is a massive degree of fury about it on this side of the Atlantic. Donald Trump has been complaining for months that the US security services leak like a sieve, and here he has his proof. But why is it happening? To cause problems for Trump? Probably. The trouble is that the extent of these leaks seem to indicate that it’s not just one malcontented person that’s doing it. Greater Manchester Police have decided no longer to share information with the Americans. I wonder if MI6 and GCHQ will do the same. When I interviewed Michael Fallon about it on Wednesday evening he described it all as “disappointing”. When I put it to him that what he really meant was “bloody furious” he didn’t say yes, but his answer indicated he didn’t really demur. If you’ve ever seen the film LOVE ACTUALLY, you’ll know what I mean when I say that Theresa May ought to have a ‘LOVE ACTUALLY moment’ and at her next press conference make very clear exactly what she thinks about US behaviour over the last few days. She’d have the whole country behind her.
*
It’s difficult to know what effect the last few days will have on the general election campaign or result. I suspect that the level of debate will be slightly less aggressive than it would have been and that the voting public won’t be in the mood for the usual political games. Will the agenda be dominated by people’s demands that the party react to the terror attack or will other domestic issues creep back up the political agenda. There’s little doubt that the social care debacle seems a distant memory, although it may not remain so. If I were Jeremy Corbyn I’d now concentrate on the cuts to the police which have led to a net fall of 20,000 police officers since 2010. There’s gold to be mined for Labour there and the Conservatives had better have a well thought out response.
*

Words I’ve never said until this week: Alexa, play Ariana Grande
*
So immigration was down 84,000 in 2016 compared to 2015. The net total was 248,880. That’s nearly fifteen tens of thousands away from the much-vaunted target. What those who call for a dramatic fall in net migration don’t seem to be able to compute is that most of the people that come here are absolutely vital to the functioning of our economy. Without them, well, we’d be in a lot of trouble. I’m afraid that anyone thinks that we can reduce immigration to less than 100,000 is either deluded or will be sadly disappointed. It. Will. Never. Happen.
*

Diane Abbott has become the Scarlet Pimpernel of British politics. They seek her here, they seek her there, they seek her everybloodywhere. Since her car crash interview with my LBC colleague Nick Ferrari she has barely been seen. We asked for an interview with her on Wednesday to talk about security issues but were told she wasn’t available. We’ll keep trying, on your behalf, dear reader.

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Number of Gay MPs Likely to Increase to 41 - The Most of Any Parliament in the World

21 May 2017 at 14:30

Last week I posted a blog on the number of female MPs there are likely to be in the new House of Commons. Today, I’m turning my attention towards the number of gay MPs there will be. I am grateful to Tim Carr for providing much of the information.

At the date of the dissolution ahead of the 2015 general election there were 26 LGBTI MPs. At the 2015 election a record 32 were elected. This figure rose to 38 by the end of the Parliament (Justine Greening, David Mundell, Hannah Barden and Nia Griffith all came out during the course of the 2015-17 Parliament). So for the record, these were the 38 LGBTI MPs at dissolution in April 2017. They were…

Stuart Andrew (Con)
Hannah Bardell (SNP)
Clive Betts (Lab)
Mhairi Black (SNP)
Crispin Blunt (Con)
Nicholas Boles (Con)
Ben Bradshaw (Lab)
Nick Brown (Lab)
Chris Bryant (Lab)
Conor Burns (Con)
Joanna Cherry (SNP)
Angela Crawley (SNP)
Martin Docherty (SNP)
Stephen Doughty (Lab)
Sir Alan Duncan (Con)
Angela Eagle (Lab)
Nigel Evans (Con)
Mike Freer (Con)
Nick Gibb (Con)
Justine Greening (Con)
Nia Griffith (Lab)
Nick Herbert (Con)
Ben Howlett (Con)
Margot James (Con)
Gerald Jones (Lab)
Cat Smith (Lab)
Daniel Kawczynski (Con)
Peter Kyle (Lab)
Gordon Marsden (Lab)
Stewart McDonald (SNP)
Mark Menzies (Con)
David Mundell (Con)
John Nicolson (SNP)
Steve Reed (Lab)
Iain Stewart (Con)
Wes Streeting (Lab)
Stephen Twigg (Lab)
William Wragge (Con)

This state of affairs is likely to reenforced on June 8th.

There will be…

  • 41 LGBTI MPs in total – 6.3%, an increase of 9 (28%) since May 2015.

• 30 LGBTI MPs will be re-elected, plus 11 new MPs.

• There will be 34 Male and 7 Female gay MPs, but still none from the transgender community.

• There will be 23 gay Conservative MPs, 9 Labour, 8 SNP MPs and 1 Lib Dem.

• Regionally the breakdown is as follows: Scotland (9), North West (8), South East (6), London (4), West Midlands (4), East Midlands (3), South West (2), Wales (2), Yorkshire and the Humber (2), North East (1), East Anglia (0), Northern Ireland (0)

• There will be eleven newly elected gay MPs: Peter Anthony (Con, Blackpool South), James Bird (Con, Walsall South), Jim Eadie (SNP, Edinburgh South), Toni Giugliano (SNP, Edinburgh West), Paul Holmes (Con, Southampton Test), Simon Hughes (Lib Dem, Bermondsey & Old Southwark), Owen Meredith (Con, Newcastle-under-Lyme), Damian Moore (Con, Southport), Eric Ollerenshaw (Con, Lancaster & Fleetwoood), Lee Rowley (Con, North East Derbyshire) and Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Lab, Brighton Kemptown) [All of these are public/declared]

• According to my seat predictions 7 gay MPs will lose their seats. These are: Ben Howlett (Con, Bath), Gordon Marsden (Lab, Blackpool South), Stephen Doughty (Lab, Cardiff South & Penarth), John Nicolson (SNP, East Dunbartonshire), Dr Peter Kyle (Lab, Hove), Wes Streeting (Lab, Ilford North), Cat Smith (Lab, Lancaster & Fleetwood)

So the list of gay MPs in the next Parliament, assuming a Tory majority of around 130 would be…

Stuart Andrew (Con)
Peter Anthony (Con)
Hannah Bardell (SNP)
Clive Betts (Lab)
James Bird (Con)
Mhairi Black (SNP)
Crispin Blunt (Con)
Nicholas Boles (Con)
Ben Bradshaw (Lab)
Nick Brown (Lab)
Chris Bryant (Lab)
Conor Burns (Con)
Joanna Cherry (SNP)
Angela Crawley (SNP)
Martin Docherty (SNP)
Sir Alan Duncan (Con)
James Eadie (SNP)
Angela Eagle (Lab)
Nigel Evans (Con)
Mike Freer (Con)
Nick Gibb (Con)
Toni Giugliano (SNP)
Justine Greening (Con)
Nick Herbert (Con)
Paul Holmes (Con)
Simon Hughes (LibDem)
Margot James (Con)
Gerald Jones (Lab)
Daniel Kawczynski (Con)
Stewart McDonald (SNP)
Mark Menzies (Con)
Owen Meredith (Con)
Damian Moore (Con)
David Mundell (Con)
Eric Ollerenshaw (Con)
Steve Reed (Lab)
Lee Rowley (Con)
Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Lab)
Iain Stewart (Con)
Stephen Twigg (Lab)
William Wragge (Con)

Professor Andrew Reynolds, director at the LGBT Representation and Rights Research Initiative at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, is the world’s authority on LGBTI representation and based on his work, he stated in 2015 that the UK has more LGBTI elected MPs in the world. Here’s the league table as of December 2015

UK – 34
Sweden – 12
Netherlands – 11
Germany – 10
South Africa – 7
New Zealand – 6
Canada – 6
USA – 6
Denmark – 5
Ireland – 4
Switzerland – 4
Finland – 4
Norway – 3
Spain – 3
Israel – 2
France – 2

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Watch: This Week's CNNTalk

20 May 2017 at 00:43

Every Friday at Noon, I appear on a new CNN show called CNNTalk. This is week 3 and we discuss Trump and the UK election. Presented by Max Foster, the other two guests are Ayesha Hazirika and Liam Halligan. If you like it, do watch it live on CNN next Friday at 12 noon. It’s also streamed live on CNN International’s Facebook page.

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Assange Remains the Sleazebag He Always Was, And Must Be Put On Trial In This Country For Jumping Bail

19 May 2017 at 14:32

Six and a half years ago, in December 2010, I was asked by the Mail on Sunday to write a column on Julian Assange. When it appeared I was traduced and slagged off by his many supporters. How could I not understand what a hero he is, I was asked? Very easily, as it happens. Anyway, six and a half years on I am rather proud that every word I wrote then has stood the test of time very well. It’s just a shame that Swedish prosecutors have let down the woman in question, who, I gather, has rectaed with shock and horror to the fact they have decided not to take the case any further. I hope that British authorities make clear that the moment he steps outside the Equadorian Embassy he will be arrested and put on trial for humping bail.

Anyway, read for yourself. (The original can be found HERE)

Over the past five years I, along with thousands of other bloggers, have played a small part in holding the mainstream media and politicians to account.

I’ve tried to encourage public authorities to be more transparent and open about what they do, and often caused them a few headaches when they’ve refused.

So you might think I would be a cheerleader for WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange and his self-styled mission to expose what goes on at the heart of government.

You’d be wrong. Far from being a 21st Century hero, I have come to regard Assange as a dictatorial charlatan whose real agenda is not the furtherance of greater transparency, but the furtherance of Julian Assange and his anti-American agenda.

His ego seems to be without equal and he’s now reached the dangerous point of believing his own publicity. So much so that some of his staunchest supporters, such as the Guardian journalist Nick Davies, have cut off contact with him.

WikiLeaks started off as a noble cause. It sought to shine light into the nooks and crannies of public life which had up until now remained closed off to us mere mortals.
Whistleblowing is often uncomfortable, yet WikiLeaks provided a forum for the powerful to be brought to book.

In journalistic terms, there was a point to it, as their work on scientology and the Trafigura scandal concerning the dumping of toxic waste in Africa showed.

But its ethics and operations are now coming under serious scrutiny, and rightly so.

Whenever anyone – journalist, or otherwise – reveals confidential information there has to be a point to it. By releasing three million random documents, illegally obtained from U.S. government computers, WikiLeaks put paid to its reputation in one fell swoop.

Had Assange and his cohorts sorted through the documents and filtered out those with a genuine public interest, he could have been seen as a modern-day hero.

But he released everything in the name of so-called transparency. He did it because he could – the prerogative of every dictator in history.

Assange is currently fighting efforts to extradite him to Sweden, where he is accused of sexually assaulting two women. It is alleged he raped one of them.

Yet during the past couple of weeks, celebrities including Jemima Khan and Bianca Jagger have stood alongside Leftist journalists such as John Pilger and Tariq Ali, and film director Ken Loach to denounce what they view as a ‘politically motivated show trial’.

But the authorities are not trying to extradite Assange over freedom of expression – they’re trying to extradite him over alleged rape.

For the Left to base their defence of him on ‘fairness’, ‘censorship’ and ‘suspicious timing’ is not only misleading but also very unfair on the women who have come forward with the allegations.

Could you imagine any other scenario where liberals, socialists and other members of the Left would be so cavalier with an allegation as serious as rape? Remember all those headlines about rape anonymity just a few short months ago?

Their hypocrisy stinks. It’s as if they are saying that Assange’s WikiLeaks work trumps any legal charges levelled at him.

The charges of sexual assault against Assange should be fully investigated. For anyone to say otherwise implies that the women are lying and that alleged rape is a trifling charge. It’s not.

Nobody knows if he did it, and that’s why he needs to be extradited and face exactly the same legal process that you or I would face in similar circumstances. The God of WikiLeaks gives the appearance of believing he is above the law. He is not.

Perhaps some of Assange’s defenders have more sinister motivations. Perhaps they are pro-Assange as he and his organisation have become virulently anti-American.
Some people might have more sympathy with him if he ever released any documents from China, or North Korea, or the mafia-controlled state of Russia.

Assange may be a public hero to some. But it is stupid and illogical to absolve him of all alleged criminal activities just because of his work.

A man can do commendable work, but be of bad character. And it is high time we stop judging Assange for his public deeds when, at the moment, it is his private life on trial.
We must ensure the separation of powers prevails. This most controversial of men must be judged by the law, not politics.

Assange has been quick to point the finger at dark forces within the Pentagon or the CIA for his arrest, yet the head of WikiLeaks in Sweden appears to be more sensible.

He says: ‘Let the police find out what actually happened. Of course, the enemies of WikiLeaks may try to use this, but it begins with the two women and Julian. It is not the CIA sending a woman in a short skirt.’

You’d have thought that The Guardian would be the first newspaper to support the concept that he should be judged under the rule of law.

Its journalists are normally the first to assume that men who face court on rape charges are guilty. And yet here, they’ve done a volte-face. Why? Because it would be deeply embarrassing for them if the source of virtually every Guardian front page for the past month turned out to be guilty.

And I say that with no presumption that he is.

It is also deeply ironic also that the newspaper which has been campaigning to bring David Cameron’s media supremo Andy Coulson to book for his alleged role in the News of the World phone hacking affair is the very same one which has no compunction in revealing nuggets of gossip and information to the world obtained illegally by WikiLeaks.

What’s different in the two cases? In the News of the World case, 99 per cent of the illegally obtained, hacked information was prurient gossip with no public interest. In the case of WikiLeaks, 99 per cent of the illegally obtained, hacked information was prurient gossip with no public interest.

But there is one sinister difference. In the WikiLeaks case, lives and national security have been put at risk. But we shouldn’t be surprised. Assange proved he was out of control in August when he demanded $700,000 from Amnesty International which had politely asked him to ensure WikiLeaks did not publish names of Afghan civilians who might then be targeted by the Taliban. Some called it blackmail.

It is, I suppose, possible to argue that every piece of government information should be made publicly available, but anyone who really believes that hasn’t given a thought to the anarchic consequences which would follow. Surely national security, at the very least, has to be a consideration?

Julian Assange purports to believe in total openness – except when it comes to himself.

He delights in asking politicians what they have got to hide. We might ask Mr Assange the same.

There is little in this issue that is about high principle. It is about political motivation and one man’s desire to be treated as a demi-god.

Assange is not a terrorist, as the increasingly ridiculous Sarah Palin suggests. But he is a narcissist and would-be demagogue.

If he was half the man he purports to be, he’d voluntarily get on a flight to Stockholm tomorrow and submit himself to Swedish justice.

If he’s as innocent as he says he is, what has he got to fear?

p.

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