LibDem Politics

The Top 50 Liberal Democrats 2016

17 Sep 2016 at 13:56

Each year I convene three panels to compile lists of the Top 50 Liberal Democrats, the Top 100 People on the Left and the Top 100 People on the Right. Each list is published to coincide with the three party conferences. This is the ninth year I’ve been doing this and although I thought that last year’s lists saw an unprecedented degree of change from the previous year, 2016’s are maintaining the momentum. Politics is getting ever more frenetic.

The Liberal Democrats have at least met the challenge I set them in 2015: of remaining relevant enough to warrant their inclusion in this exercise. Although they still seem stuck on 8 to 9 per cent in the polls, the EU referendum result, and Tim Farron’s immediate and instinctive reaction to it, gave them more publicity, another 20,000 or so members and a marked improvement in their local government by-election performance.

After 19 new entries in last year’s Liberal Democrat list, there are 15 new ones, or re-entries, this year. Much of this is due to the firming-up of the leader’s organization – this time last year Farron was a brand new leader, and hadn’t sorted out his office or his advisers. So many of the changes are due to new appointments – notably his widely-respected chief of staff Ben Williams, the highest new entry at number 5 – or to members of his leadership campaign team fading out. A raft of new appointments at party HQ have brought a new energy and professionalism to what was a distinctly battered operation, and the highly competent party president Sal Brinton has overseen an overhaul of the party’s byzantine committee structure.

Still, the Lib Dems lack stars recognizable in the outside world; most of the names here will be familiar only to party activists. Alongside Farron, Nick Clegg – now clawing back a little of the respect he used to have thanks to his expertise on EU matters – and Norman Lamb, plus old warhorses Paddy Ashdown and Vince Cable, are about the only Lib Dems who get any national coverage. There are other good performers, many now in the House of Lords, such as Susan Kramer and Lynne Featherstone, or Scottish leader Willie Rennie or London mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon, but along with the party as a whole, they struggle to be noticed. Welsh leader Kirsty Williams finds herself in the odd, though influential, position of occupying a ministerial post in the Welsh government as part of a coalition between Labour and – herself, as the only surviving Liberal Democrat in the Welsh Assembly.

Labour’s long-drawn-out implosion and UKIP’s disintegration may offer opportunities to the Liberal Democrats over the next twelve months. It’s too early to say they’ve recovered from electoral wipe-out in 2015 – but at least they seem to have hit bottom.

1. (-) Tim Farron
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
One of the more challenging jobs in British politics at the moment. Finding it difficult to get media traction but very popular with the LibDem grassroots. With Labour imploding there are now huge opportunities for the LibDems if Farron can exploit them.

2. (-) Sal Brinton
President of the Liberal Democrats
Brinton has an increasingly high media profile and is a reassuring presence for the LibDem grassroots.

3. (-1) Nick Clegg
Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats
With the publication of his new book and his return to the front bench as Europe Spokesman, expect to hear much more from the former Deputy Prime Minister over the next 12 months.

4. (-1) Norman Lamb
Health Spokesman
A quieter year for Lamb, who is increasingly concentrating on mental health policy.

5. (NEW) Ben Williams
Chief of Staff to Tim Farron
Acts as Tim Farron’s eyes and ears and gatekeeper.

6. (+1) Willie Rennie
Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
Avoiding wipeout in the Scottish Parliament elections in May counted as success in LibDem terms. Much of this was due to Rennie’s unexpectedly good performances in the TV debates.

7. (-1) Kirsty Williams
Former Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
She stood down from the leadership in Wales after losing all the LibDem seats in the Welsh Assembly apart from her own. She is now the only LibDem in a position of power, having accepted a place in the Welsh Executive Cabinet.

8. (+5) Lord Newby
Lib Dem Leader in the House of Lords
Newby has just been elected LibDem leader in the Lords, having previously acted as chief whip.

9. (+17) Alastair Carmichael
Former Scottish Secretary, MP for Orkney & Shetland
Carmichael has recovered from being accused of electoral malpractice and has now one of Tim Farron’s inner circle. A wise old owl figure.

10. (-1) Lynne Featherstone
Lib Dem Peer & Spokesperson on Energy & Climate Change
Popular with activists, a stellar record as a minister on issues like gay marriage and FGM. Kept up her profile with her book on equal marriage, EQUAL EVER AFTER

11. (+3) Caroline Pidgeon AM
Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London
Bright, funny, sassy, intelligent, she fought an excellent campaign for London mayor even if she didn’t get the result she deserved.

12. (+3) Tom Brake
Lib Dem Chief Whip
Brake is popular in the party, if somewhat charismatically challenged. But he herds the LibDem cats well and is trusted.

13. (+4) Baroness Susan Kramer
Lib Dem Peer & Economics Spokesman
Was seen as a good minister at the Department of Transport and has a good profile in her new economics portfolio. Her public persona belies a wickedly cheeky sense of humour.

14. (+2) Baroness Kate Parminter
Lib Dem Deputy Leader in the Lords
One half of a LibDem power couple (married to Clegg donor/adviser Neil Sherlock) she is a popular member of the LibDem House of Lords leadership team. She also shadows DEFRA.

15. (RE-ENTRY) Mike German
Party Treasurer & DWP Spokesman in the House of Lords
Former leader of the LibDems in the Welsh Assembly, he is said to have become very close to Tim Farron and is also responsible for the money side of the party.

16. (+3) Sir Vincent Cable
Former Lib Dem Business Secretary
Kept up a high media profile in the last twelve months and clearly determined to continue to play a leading role in the promotion of LibDemmery. Still handicapped by his reputation for not being a team player, burnished in the Clegg and Laws books.

17. (+1) Paddy Ashdown
Former Lib Dem leader
Still recovering from the 2015 election shambles he remains an important figure behind the scenes and still maintains a high media profile.

18. (NEW) Phil Reilly
Director of Communications for the Liberal Democrats
All round nice guy, Reilly has made the transition from being one of Nick Clegg’s Press team to taking on the whole comms role for Tim Farron. Devout West Ham fan.

19. (+12) Tim Gordon
Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats
Some say he’s more of a Financial Director than a Chief Executive, but whatever he is, he’s doing a great job holding the LibDems’ financial head above water.

20. (NEW) Shaun Roberts
Director of Campaigns & Elections

21. (-1) Duncan Brack
Vice Chair Lib Dem Policy Committee

22. (+1) Mark Pack
Editor, LibDem Newswire

23. (-1) David Laws
Former LibDem Schools Minister

24. (+16) Caron Lindsay
Co-editor of LibDem Voice

25. (NEW) Chris White
Member, Party Executive & Councillor

26. (+18) James Gurling
Chair, Campaigns and Communications Committee

27. (NEW) Giles Derrington
Head, Parliamentary Advisory Unit, Liberal Democrats

28. (+1) Dorothy Thornhill
LibDem mayor of Watford, new peer

29. (-2) Jo Swinson
Former Business minister

30. (NEW) Robin Teverson
LibDem Peer

31. (-6) Sir Simon Hughes
Former deputy leader of the Lib Dems

32. (NEW) Rumi Verjee
LibDem donor

33. (+9) Mark Williams
Lib Dems’ only Welsh MP, vice-chairman of the parliamentary campaigns team

34. (-13) Catherine Bearder
Member of the European Parliament

35. (RE-ENTRY) James McGrory
Co-Director, Open Britain, former Press Secretary to Nick Clegg

36. (NEW) Laura Davies
Director of People, Liberal Democrats

37. (-1) Menzies Campbell
Former leader of the LibDems, LibDem peer

38. (NEW) Tim Pickstone
Chief Executive, Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors

39. (-31) Greg Mulholland
Chair of the Parliamentary Campaigns Team

40. (-1) Jonathan Oates
Former Director of Communications to Nick Clegg, LibDem peer

41. (-31) Ben Rich
Former chief of staff to Tim Farron

42. (-2) John Pugh
MP for Southport, Education spokesperson

43. (NEW) Daisy Cooper
Parliamentary Candidate, St Albans

44. (NEW) Prateek Buch
Federal Policy Committee Member, former Director of the Social Liberal Forum

45. (NEW) John Leech
Former Member of Parliament for Manchester, Withington

46. (+41) Jim Wallace
Outgoing Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords

47. (+1) Maajid Nawaz
Director of the Quilliam Foundation, former LibDem PPC

48. (-2) Sarah Ludford
LibDem Peer, former MEP

49. (NEW) Daisy Benson
Parliamentary Candidate for Yeovil

50. (-5) Gerald Vernon-Jackson
Leader of the LibDems on the LGA



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ConHome Diary: Dave Quits, I'm Playing Kofi Annan & Why Sadiq Refused an Upgrade

17 Sep 2016 at 00:03

Brits don’t quit. That’s the quote that came back to bite David Cameron on the arse this week, after he announced his departure from the House of Commons. This decision makes me sad as I have always taken the view that ex-Prime Ministers should continue to play a role in our national life. We should be able to draw on their experience and wisdom and the ideal forum to do that in is Parliament. Unfortunately, the media has now become the chosen forum of e-PMs to contribute to debates. I do understand David Cameron when he says that whatever he said as a backbench MP would be a distraction, but it’s a pretty weak reason to quit Parliament. You only become a distraction if you allow yourself to, and comment on everything. Jim Callaghan hung around for seven years after he quit the Labour leadership. He chose his interventions carefully. I don’t remember John Major becoming a distraction in the 1997-2001 Parliament. Indeed, John Major should be David Cameron’s role model in how to behave in his post Parliament life. He only says something when he has something to say. And because of that, we all take notice of it on the rare occasions he emerges onto the Andrew Marr Show.
Next week I’m starting the LBC Middle East Process. Yes, really. On my radio show I’ll be hosting an hour long debate between the Israeli Ambassador to London Mark Regev, and the Palestinian Ambassador, Manuel Hassassian. I’ve interviewed them separately before, and I hope we can have at least a partial meeting of minds. Clearly there will be huge differences between them, but in my experience they are both reasonable men who have the ability to see a different point of view from their own. Whatever the outcome, I think I can assure you an hour of gripping radio.

The fuss about the state of Hillary Clinton’s health has been something to behold. The conspiracy theorists reckon she’s got anything from Parkinson’s disease to dementia or both. If she had, it would undoubtedly be in the public interest for it to be revealed, and she’s no doubt have to step down. But unless I am missing something, she is suffering from a mild dose of pneumonia. By the time you read this column she will be back on the campaign trail. Would she be getting this kind of scrutiny if she were a man? Actually, I think she probably would. Americans are obsessed about the health of their leaders. If you’re of my vintage you’ll remember the furore when President Carter collapsed while out on a jog. I could give you a lot more examples. As the first presidential debate approaches (it’s only ten days away), Hillary’s performance will be examined like never before.
My company Biteback is publishing a book this week by someone you’ve probably never heard of, a Turkish newspaper editor called Can Dundar. ‘We Are Arrested’ is the dramatic story of the repression of press freedom in Turkey and how he was treated at the hands of the Turkish state. He’s had to flee the country for his own safety and is the most famous journalist on the list of 109 ‘Wanted’ Turkish writers. If anyone now seriously believes that Turkey is now anything other than a semi-fascist state, they want their heads read. And quite why the EU is still entertaining the idea of Turkish membership is beyond a rather sick joke.

So according to Jean Claude Juncker the EU should now create an EU defence fund and a headquarters for a common military force. Yet another prediction made by Leave supporters (and denied by Remainers) which has come true.
Imagine you’re on a ten hour long flight to Montreal. You’re the Mayor of London. Journalists are on the plane with you. It’s your first big foreign trip. You’re offered an upgrade from economy. What do you do? Why, you refuse it of course! Well, that’s what Sadiq Khan did on Wednesday. My question is this: why on earth should we expect the Mayor of London to travel economy? Soon we’ll be expecting the Prime Minister to travel cattle class just to prove her hairshirt credentials. Ridiculous.

So the LEADER OF SCOTTISH TORIES IS THE MOST POPULAR POLITICAL LEADER IN SCOTLAND according to a new poll. And in other most unlikely headlines of the week, OWEN SMITH TO STORM TO VICTORY OVER JEREMY CORBYN IN LABOUR LEADERSHIP ELECTION. Which one of those two do you think is true, and which one is made up?



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12 Sep 2016 at 20:31

This is hilarious. Ron loves Assad. He loves Putin. He thinks I am a Zionist because I apparently support funding the people (ISIS) who, er, would love to kill all Zionists. It’s not often I tell a caller they are a fool, but in Ron’s case, I made an exception.



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ConHome Diary: Do Some Lives Matter More Than Others?

9 Sep 2016 at 13:31

In the next few weeks we’ll get the results of the UKIP and Labour leadership elections and the SNP’s deputy leadership election. Labour and the SNP have both experienced booming membership growth, but there the similarity seems to end. Labour is languishing at 27% in the latest opinion poll, while the SNP have double that level of support a 54%, which is the highest rating for any political party in Europe I am reliably informed. Labour is tearing itself apart and debating just how left the party can go, while the main topic of conversation in the SNP deputy leadership election – which will undoubtedly be won by their Westminster leader Angus Robertson – seems to be the powers the deputy leader should have in deciding the maximum or minimum size of an SNP branch. Strange, I’d have thought that was more up the LibDems’ street.
South Eastern Railway is obviously trying to compete with Southern in order to claim the title of Britain’s most hapless train operator. My journey home from to Tonbridge on Wednesday was a case in point. We drew out of Charing Cross, only to remain on the bridge over the Thames for thirty minutes. And that was thirty minutes without explanation. No announcement from the guard or the train driver at all. I tweeted my displeasure to @Se_railway who later replied that due to the delay the train would terminate at Tonbridge rather than Tunbridge Wells. It didn’t affect me, but if I had been going on to Tunbridge Wells I’d have been furious. Needless to say that announcement wasn’t made until the train actually arrived at Tonbridge. What brilliant customer service. I’m tempted to say it should be privatised, and therein lies the problem. Train companies, like banks, display all the faults and incompetences that we used to complain about in the nationalised industries.

Just for the record, I haven’t spoken to David Davis since his supposed ‘slapping down’ by Number Ten. If I were him I’d be fairly phlegmatic about it. He won’t have enjoyed the headlines, but in actual fact, if you look at what he said it is very similar to what Theresa May has been saying. In many ways he was stating the bleeding obvious to say that it was “improbable” that we’d remain in the Single Market. How could we, if the EU continues to insist on freedom of movement of labour? The phrase ‘Brexit means Brexit’ is crystal clear. It means exiting all aspects of the EU, including the Single Market. Some people try to pretend that the Single Market is a separate entity to the EU itself. Total fiction. It’s an integral part of it. The countries that aren’t in the EU but are members of it, like Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland, are all potential members. And frankly, quite how you can compare their economies with ours is anyone’s guess. Whatever trade agreement we come to with the EU it will be based on our requirements and the fact that we are the fifth largest economy in the world and our imports from the EU are rather more vital to the EU than our exports to the EU are to us. We are in a very strong bargaining position and no doubt Theresa May and David Davis will use that to our advantage. The PM says she is not going to give a running commentary on all this but the media will no doubt demand that she does. She’s in a cleft stick because Parliament has every right to question ministers on progress in these areas but on the other hand they are going to have to play the straightest of bats for fear of giving away too much detail about our negotiating position.
So the Conservatives are to go back to the future on grammar schools. Opinion is split on whether they are bastions of social mobility or rather divisive institutions which condemn the less able to failure at the age of eleven. I couldn’t give a rat’s arse what a school is called. What I do care about though is that we shouldn’t consign a whole generation of children onto an educational scrapheap at such a young age. Having said that we also need to find ways of letting the tallest poppies grown as tall as they can. If comprehensive schools aren’t doing that them we need to find ways of enabling them to do so. To create schools for academically clever kids, and separate schools for the less academically abled is surely not the way forward. We already have an educational split in this country between private and state education. Why on earth would we try to create another one?

Just imagine the outcry if someone created an organisation called WHITE LIVES MATTER. And it’s perfectly possible given that white working class youths are now the most underprivileged in both our education system and society in general. They underperform their BME counterparts in many parts of the country by a country mile. It’s why they have forsaken the Labour Party for UKIP in many parts of the north. I say this because I am very disturbed the creation of a group calling themselves BLACK LIVES MATTER UK. They have been formed on the back of the BLM movement in the US which seeks to highlight the disgusting number of black people shot by police or who die in police custody. The UK group seem to be saying we face a similar situation in this country. We just don’t. If you look at the number of black or Asian people who die at the hands of the police in this country it is very small. Indeed, in 2016 so far 29 people have died in police custody – two of them black. The proportions are similar, or even lower, for each of the last five years. BLACK LIVES MATTER UK are trying to create division where there is none and fuel the racial divide. And this week we saw the ludicrous spectacle of nine protesters invading the London City Airport runway to protest about how aircraft emissions disproportionately affect black people. The irony that the nine protesters were all white was clearly lost on them. The lesson here is that ALL LIVES MATTER, black, white, brown or yellow.



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Earlier this evening I interviewed Ed Balls for twenty minutes about his new book SPEAKING OUT: LESSONS IN LIFE & POLITICS. I had just finished doing one of my more ‘robust’ interview with the Vice Chairwoman of Momentum, so perhaps that wasn’t the best preparation to have a dignified conversation about a book, but I was really pleased with how it went. Indeed, I think it was one of the best interviews I have done recently, even if I say so myself. There’s a lot more to Ed Balls than his public image as a bit of a political bruiser, and I hope that comes across in this interview.



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This was a discussion I had on Newsnight last night about the Keith Vaz scandal. Ian Dunt from was my fellow guest. I explained why I thought Keith Vaz has to stand down as chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee. Ian disagreed. Emily Maitlis asked the questions and had some lovely shoes.


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Labour Politics

Keith Vaz And Why He Must Quit the Home Affairs Select Committee For Good

5 Sep 2016 at 11:07

On Saturday afternoon, for want of anything better to do, I watched a film called SOFT LAD. It is about a 22 year old lad called David who has an affair with his brother in law, Jules, played by Billy off Coronation Street. David then seeks to break off the relationship when he meets someone his own age, Sam. When David and Sam decide to go serious, Sam wants them to stop using protection and have a monogamous relationship. They both have an HIV test, but it turns out David is HIV positive. He’s only ever slept with Jules and Sam so he knows that it must be his brother in law who has infected him. To cut a long story short, it turns out Jules has also infected his wife.

Little did I know that only a matter of hours later life would imitate art when a married Labour MP would be accused of having unprotected sex. OK, that’s where the analogy ends, because so far as I know Keith Vaz has not had an affair with his brother in law. I’ll come onto the political fallout in a moment, but let’s consider the personal fallout first.

I read a book once called THE MARRYING KIND. I had conducted a phone in on marriages which fall apart when the wife discovers the husband is gay. I could hardly believe the number of calls I got and afterwards was sent this book by Charles Neal. He had interviewed lots of gay or bi men who were married. Believe me, there’s a lot of it about. I suspect that had I been born ten years earlier, I too could have been one of them. Keith Vaz is six years older than me.

Married men, and indeed politicians, have always taken risks to satisfy their sexual urges. In the 1960s and 1970s they would meet men in public toilets. In the 1990s they might visit a gay sauna, miles from where they lived. Nowadays dating apps like Grindr make casual sex with anonymous men all too easy. Gradually the stigma of paying for sex has also gradually dissipated. And when you have an ego the size of Keith Vaz’s, you think you are untouchable and can get away with anything.

The trauma experienced by Mrs Vaz over the last 48 hours can only be imagined. Perhaps she knew of his proclivities, perhaps she didn’t. It’s astonishing how many women acknowledge their partner’s hidden sexuality and deal with it. Sometimes the coping mechanism is to ignore it and not speak about it. Sometimes it is to confront it and accept it. The most horrifying part of this for Mrs Vaz will be the realisation that by having unprotected sex, her husband had put her at risk too. That’s something pretty difficult for a wife, or their children, to forgive. A one night stand can be forgiven. Even an affair can be forgiven. But that? Difficult.

I have long since ceased judging people for what they do in bed. Everyone has a weakness in their sexual makeup and the ones who judge most harshly are usually the ones with something pretty dark in their own private lives. So in theory I don’t want to judge Keith Vaz, at least not from a moralistic point of view. It’s up to him what he does with his private parts, and if he pays someone to help him, so what? As long as it’s all consensual, who are we – if we are not his immediate family – to condemn him?

But, I’m afraid condemn him we must, not just because he is a politician. I have long given up any thought that politicians can be held to a higher moral standard than the rest of us. They are human beings, with all the flaws of their fellow human beings. But when you go into politics and you hold positions of office, you know that you have to be whiter than white in terms of conflicts of interest and hypocrisy. Nowadays you can get away with the odd sexual misdemeanour, but corruption and hypocrisy remain [rightly] unforgiven by the general public.

When you are the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee you are judged by higher standards than a normal backbench MP. You deal with crime enforcement. You deal with drug policy. You deal with prostitution laws. You deal with immigration. Any Home Affairs Select Committee Chairman who thinks he can get away with offering to procure class A drugs (even if they are not for himself) for his rent boys, and pays them through his diabetes charity, is either delusional or just thrives on living on the edge.

Keith Vaz, like anyone else, has a right to a private life. What he does not have is the right to escape public scrutiny into conflicts of interest or rank, outright hypocrisy. This is not a ‘private matter’ as Jeremy Corbyn seems to believe. If Keith Vaz were not chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, perhaps it might be. But he is. So it isn’t.

If he does not voluntarily resign his post as chairman of the Select Committee – not just stand down temporarily – then the Committee members must force him to and withdraw their confidence in him.



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ConHome Diary: I've Had a LibDem Sympathy Shag

2 Sep 2016 at 14:12

I don’t quite know how I am going to write this in a way which won’t cause confusion, but here goes anyway. There was a LibDem Minister in the coalition government. Let’s call him Sean. That’s not his real name, although I do know his real name. Sean, lucky boy, had his own private ministerial toilet, conveniently (geddit?) located just off his rather nice ministerial office. Sean made good use of this convenience (oops, I did it again). Before a meeting which departmental officials he’d pop in for a quick number two. How do I know this, you may ask? Well, let’s put it this way – and I hope you’re not eating when you read this – when officials walked into his office they were met with a rather pungent aroma. Often. As a consequence, even some time after this particular minister was reshuffled out of this particular department, civil servants there do not refer to ‘doing a number two’, they say they’re just popping to ‘do a Sean’. Or, rather, not Sean…
What is Theresa May’s gain is LBC Radio’s loss. This week it was announced that my colleague Tom Swarbrick was to leave the station and become Number Ten’s Head of Broadcasting. Tom is one of the most talented broadcasters around and it must have been a difficult decision to give up a glittering career in the media to go into the maelstrom of politics. His job inevitably involves saying ‘no’ an awful lot and we appear to have a prime minister who, quite rightly, isn’t going to go down the path of doing daily media interviews. I’ve always thought that an interview with a prime minister ought to offer a sense of occasion. We don’t need the prime minister to comment on every celebrity death or on the minutiae of government operations. That may be inconvenient for interviewers like me, but I suspect it will lead to better government. The trouble with not giving lots of interviews, and I suspect her cabinet colleagues may follow her lead to an extent, broadcasters have hours to fill, so if government minister don’t do interviews on stations like mine or the 24 hour new channels, we will find other ways of filling the time. And that may not always be what the politicians might like. As an illustration of this, it’s incredibly difficult to get interviews with senior members of the Labour Party, and especially the leader. So therefore we are forced to look outside the upper echelons of the party and interview people who aren’t necessarily friendly to the leadership. We then get accused of being ‘anti Corbyn’ when we are nothing of the sort. But I’m also not going to give the Corbynistas a free ride if they won’t come on and defend themselves and their beliefs.

The appeal of the Labour Party to the electorate was summed up in this tweet, retweeted by several Labour MPs. “Does anyone really think the public will put Corbyn in charge of our military, John McDonnell in charge of the nation’s finances and Diane Abbott in charge of the NHS?” Another tweet summed up their internal problems… “A tennis club decides to go on a recruitment drive to double its membership. They succeed in doing so by recruiting 101 new members. They then vote to turn it into a netball club.” That’s exactly what’s happened to the Labour Party and no one can do anything about it whatsoever. Let this be a warning to the Conservatives!
This week I’ve been presenting LBC’s breakfast show. Nick Ferrari must have the constitution of an ox, and given that he rarely takes any time off, my admiration grows for him by the day. I just don’t know how he does it. I’ve had to stay in a hotel all week as there’s no way I could drive in from Kent to get to the studio by 6am. Well, I could, but I’d probably kill myself in the process. Although the programme finishes at 10am you’d think that would give me a free day to do what I want. But as you know, I also have a publishing company to run. Yesterday one of my colleagues at Biteback found me at my desk fast asleep. I bet that never happens to Nick Ferrari.

This week I’m starting to compile my annual power lists of the top 100 people on the right and left of British politics. But I started yesterday with the Top 50 Liberal Democrats, bless them. Compiling it with my panel of four LibDem enthusiasts felt like indulging in the political equivalent of a ‘sympathy shag’. Whatever that is .

I have to say I have immensely enjoyed ‘Virgingate’. Jeremy Corbyn has only got himself to blame for the situation he’s got himself into. Or should I say ‘spun’ himself into. For a man who promised us straight talking, honest politics, it’s been a bit of a boo boo. His disciples really believe he is a different kind of politician. His antics on the Virgin train show he is no different from any other politician who wants to use a situation to their advantage. He described the train as ‘ram-packed’. It was nothing of the sort, as he well knew as he had walked through most of the train. But now it is Virgin Trains who are coming under fire for releasing the CCTV pictures – apparently they may have breached some sort of data privacy law. What a mad country we have become if a company cannot release pictures which prove its critics are being economical with the truth.
I don’t know how many of you will have heard my appearance on Radio 4’s ‘Any Questions’ programme last weekend, but I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was quite a right wing audience, which made a nice change, and they clearly had no time for Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn is a man who clearly polarises opinion. He has his devoted disciples (well, he would, wouldn’t he, given that his initials are JC?) who believe that he is incredibly popular throughout the country. When you point out his actually popularity ratings in the polls and that he is the most unpopular opposition leader since time began, they refuse to accept the validity of any poll. They’ll probably refuse to accept the next general election result as well.

We know now that Jeremy Corbyn has a very short fuse. There have been too many examples of it for it to be a coincidence. When my LBC colleague Charlotte Wright tried to grab a word with him one morning on the pavement outside his house he was incredibly rude and aggressive to her. This week Sky’s Darren McCaffery had the temerity to ask a question about the train incident at the launch of his health policy. Corbyn snapped at him that it was a health press conference and he wanted a question on health. Darren replied that he was asking the questions and he’d ask what he damn well liked. If looks could have killed. It came across terribly on TV and Corbyn looked like a bully. The mask is slipping.
Have you noticed that diehard ‘Remainers’ have started referring to the EU Referendum as an ‘advisory referendum’? They cling to the belief that Parliament could still go against the views of the British people and scupper Brexit. Either that or there should be a second referendum. Will these people never learn? It seems they cannot accept that Brexit supporters actually have brains which are functional. They think they know best and the people are peasants. Constitutionally I suppose they have a point in that strictly speaking Parliament doesn’t have the follow the will of the people, but it would be a pretty brave prime minister who agreed to ignore the people. Indeed, it would fracture trust in politicians even more than it is at present. Probably irreparably. Brexit must mean Brexit. It must mean the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act and it must mean that Article 50 is triggered at some point during 2017. And the latter does not need parliamentary approval. It’s a matter for the prime minister, as the courts will no doubt rule in October.

So Nicolas Sarkozy is back. What an unpleasant little shit he is. His presidential campaign seems to be entirely based on winning back voters from Marine Le Pen’s Fronte National. This week he wrote an article about how France mustn’t be seduced in going down the route of promoting multiculturalism like Britain has. Tell you what, I think most people would rather live in a tolerant, liberal country like Britain which by and large has very good race relations, rather than a country which sends armed police onto a beach to ask a muslim lady to take off her burkini. And Sarkozy would go much further in demonising and alienating France’s massive muslim population. I hope he gets his just desserts.



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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 49: When the 14th Most Influential Doctor in the Country Won't Answer a Simple Question

2 Sep 2016 at 11:54

This morning I interviewed Dr Hamed Khan, who sits on the Council of the British Medical Association. It didn’t start well, when he wouldn’t answer a simple question and descended from there. Dr Khan describes himself on his Twitter Feed as the 14th most influential GP in the country. Given that fact I think I had every right to ask him the questions I did, and press him in the manner I did. I don’t specialise in confrontational interviews but from time to time it’s the only way to expose wooliness and downright deception. If someone won’t answer a simple, straight question on my show, then they can be prepared to be taken apart. This isn’t the first time I have had to conduct an interview in this manner with Dr Khan, but I hope it will be the last.


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