UK Politics

Amber Rudd's Resignation, What Her Successor Needs to Do & the Terrible State of Our Politics

30 Apr 2018 at 08:39

Back in 2006, when he took over from Charles Clarke at the Home Office, John Reid famously declared that the Home Office was “not fit for purpose”. It is hard to escape the conclusion that little has changed in the intervening twelve years.

Amber Rudd’s resignation last night further burnishes the department’s reputation as a political graveyard. She took an honourably course of action, having concluded that there was too much evidence that she had “inadvertently” misled the Home Affairs Select Committee last week on the subject of deportation targets. In any normal political environment she might have weathered the storm, but the almost daily leaks and revelations about the Windrush scandal built up to such an extent that since Thursday her departure seemed more and more inevitable. However, few saw it coming last night. This tweet was posted just four minutes before the resignation was announced…


Amber Rudd’s biggest mistake, perhaps, was to indirectly blame Home Office civil servants for the Windrush scandal. That didn’t go down well, and they felt it gave them licence to leak. And leak they did. Almost daily. It was political death by a thousand cuts. It was very reminiscent of the departure of Charles Clarke in 2006. One revelation after another led to pressure which no politician could withstand.

Whoever succeeds Amber Rudd will need to show a much greater attention to detail, and leave no briefing paper unread. Any minister is reliant on their private office to point out what they need to read and what they don’t, and on the face of it she was let down by her civil servants and her special advisers. Theresa May survived for six years as Home Secretary in part because she had three very powerful special advisers who acted as her enforcers and her eyes and ears. Amber Rudd needed the equivalents of Nick Timothy, Fiona Hill and Stephen Parkinson. But in the end the buck stops on the Home Secretary’s desk, and she cops the blame. This shouldn’t deflect from the fact that the new Home Secretary will need to show an iron grip.

The reason most commentators felt that Amber Rudd might well survive was that it was in the Prime Minister’s interest for her to do so. All the policies which Amber Rudd was under attack for were dreamt up during Theresa May’s tenure as Home Secretary. In a sense, Rudd was acting as the Queen Bee’s praetorian guard, or human shield. That shield has now been shattered. The Opposition will now be marshalling its political forces for an all-out attack on the Prime Minister. Although Number Ten may be thanking their lucky stars that Diane Abbott is Shadow Home Secretary rather than Yvette Cooper, but they shouldn’t be too complacent. In the last few weeks Diane Abbott has demonstrated a much overdue ability to get under the skin of the government and to explain her points in media interviews.

Twitter has gone into overdrive predicting who the new Home Secretary will be, with Sajid Javid the overwhelming favourite. He and the PM have not always seen eye to eye, to put it mildly, but he’s an experienced cabinet minister and as Britain’s first ethnic minority Home Secretary it would send out a powerful signal of change. James Brokenshire would be the safe choice, given he spent six years as Theresa May’s deputy and knows the Home Office inside out. However, given that this job would be about as tough as they come, he may well feel he needs a bit longer to recover from his operation in January. David Davis might be an outside bet, given that he and Number Ten seem to be at continual loggerheads over Brexit at the moment. He spent five years as Shadow Home Secretary and would have the toughness to do the job, but a move for him might cause other problems, not least who would replace him?

Whoever is appointed should take the job on one condition – that the prime minister agrees to drop the ridiculous commitment to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands, and agrees to take students our of the immigration figures. The PM is about the only member of the cabinet to still think the target is achievable or even desirable. It is neither, and it should be ditched.

The detail, content and tone of immigration policy needs a complete overhaul. If the Prime Minister fails to realise this, it means that another nail will have been tapped into her political coffin. The lid may not yet be shut, but it’s closing fast.

There are good people in politics and bad people in politics. Amber Rudd was one of the good people. George Osborne tweeted this morning that with her resignation the government has become “a little less human”. I tweeted this last night…


It’s not just Amber Rudd’s resignation that makes me feel this way. It’s a growing disillusion with the entire state of our politics and political discourse. Twelve years ago I was proud to stand for political office. Now, I think I’d be mad to do so, and I certainly wouldn’t advise a close friend to do so for a whole raft of reasons. Evil will triumph when good men sit back and do nothing, someone once said. Maybe, but in the end, we get the politicians we deserve. Social media has polluted our entire political debate, whereas it should have enhanced it. It’s not just social media that is to blame, but it exemplifies all that is wrong in the way we conduct ourselves, and I’m just as much to blame as anyone.

All this means that as time goes by, we lose good people from the political world and slowly but surely the House of Commons is being populated by low quality, obsessive, machine politicians. And I see little sign of that trend reversing. There are a few bright lights on both sides of the House, but the party machines ensure that they are never allowed to climb the greasy pole.

God help us all.

  • This article was written 90 minutes before the announcment of Sajid Javid as the new Home Secretary. Finally I get a prediction right!

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Iain interviews Simon Danzcuk on Sexting

Frank interview and searching questions

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Diary

ConHome Diary: The Death of the Political Poster

27 Apr 2018 at 13:54

Amber Rudd, in her evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee on Monday, declared that she was aware of individual cases related to Windrush children, but hadn’t joined the dots and realised that something systemic had gone wrong. I suppose I would gently ask how many cases does it take for the dots to be joined? Naturally, Labour are calling for her resignation, just as Tories would if they were in Opposition. Amber Rudd is arguing that she’s best placed to sort it out, the very same argument that Gordon Brown used after the financial crisis. He got away with it, will she?
*
In a week’s time we will know the results of the local elections. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there are elections on, not that you would know it, given the lack of posters on show. I wonder if the day of the political poster is over. It’s getting more and more difficult to persuade voters to display their political affiliations in their window. It’s easy to understand why given the aggression shown on social media who advertise their political wares. I don’t think a poster display ever changed a single vote, but there’s no doubt that seeing a good poster display energises a political tribe and makes them feel good about themselves. It also makes people realise that they are not alone in holding the views they do. I well remember back in 1983 the poster display at the very left wing University of East Anglia, where I was a student. The placed was plastered with Vote Conservative posters, much to the horror of the local Labour Party. It was the first indication that the two Labour MPs in Norwich were about to be beaten by two insurgent Tories.
*

Given that the BBC is supposed to be the guardian of public service broadcasting I was rather surprised to learn that they will not be doing a full election results programme on either Radio 4 or Radio 5 Live next Thursday. They have also cancelled Andrew Neil’s THIS WEEK programme. They will be doing a local election results show on BBC1, hosted by Huw Edwards, but with no role for Andrew Neil. Bizarre, given that on a night like this, Andrew Neil is surely one voice you really want to hear from. Anyway, the whole point of this is to tell you that I’ll be hosting a six hour long local election night show on LBC with Jacqui Smith from 10pm through until 4am, so I do hope you’ll join us for at least some of it.
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One of my jobs this week at Biteback was to convince a best-selling author that they should publish with us rather than the much bigger publisher that they went to for their last two books. Given that our pockets aren’t as deep as the publishing big boys, it’s not necessarily the easiest of tasks, although it was the author that approached me, rather than the other way around. So many authors are now getting tired of the contempt which is displayed towards them by their publisher. Their main complaint is that they can never talk to anyone at their publisher. No one is ever at their desk and the phone always goes to voicemail. It’s almost as if authors are an inconvenience to the publishing process. Even when they are as famous as this particular author, they are made to feel like a small fish in a very large pond. Big publishers need to rediscover the personal touch, otherwise the trickle of authors seeping to independents will become a stampede.
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I keep trying to think of a joke to make about Dominic Raab’s ministerial diary secretary who was revealed in Thursday’s Daily Mirror as a £750 a time high class hooker. Unfortunately, even my smutty mind has failed to come up with anything for you. She revealed that Dominic orders exactly the same meal for lunch from Pret every day, seemingly thinking that was very odd. Not half as odd as her activities, I’d say. Takes all sorts, I guess. No one could ever say she wasn’t on her game…
*
I started with Amber Rudd, so let me finish with her. Timing is everything in politics. Guess who was guest of honour at yesterday’s Lobby Lunch in the press gallery? Yup, Amber Rudd. When it rains, it pours for her at the moment. The thing is, she seems to take it all in her stride. Fortitude counts for a lot in politics. All she can do is take Churchill’s advice and Keep Buggering On.

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Iain Talks to Labour MP John Woodock About His Depression

John Woodcock explains his decision to go public on his depression.

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Books

Book Review: Unbelievable - My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History by Katy Tur

22 Apr 2018 at 23:20

If you want to read Bridget Jones meets Donald Trump, then this is the book for you. And even if you don’t, it’s for you. It’s a really enjoyable, funny, and mostly insightful book about Donald Trump’s campaign to become President, seen through the eyes of an NBC reporter.

Katy Tur was assigned to the Trump campaign when it wasn’t really a campaign. At the time, she was an NBC correspondent reporting from London. She even had her bijou little flat, and was enjoying life in merry old England very much. She’d even garnered a French boyfriend who was rather unceremoniously dumped when the call came from New York: “We need you back here. Now.”

So back she went, and never really looked back. No one expected Trump to win. Reading between the lines, Katy wondered what she had done to deserve to be assigned to the campaign of a candidate who couldn’t possibly get the nomination. Well, assigned she jolly well was, and she decided she’d better make the best of it.

The book isn’t in chonological form. She flits from the night he won, to episodes on the campaign trail and then back again. But it works. She’s certainly had a good editor, be ause sometimes this way of writing can go seriously wrong.

The joy of the book is her constant encounters with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, commonly known as Donald J Trump. One moment he loves her, the next moment he’s calling her a terrible journalist at a rally. She didn’t sign up to be abused by Trump supporters but that is what happened. At the behest of the candidate. At times she’s horrified by Trump, at times repelled. But there’s a gruding respect too. And it works both ways. In the end he knew she had a job to do and at times he helped her do it. At other times he was just a pain in the ass.

The media’s relationship with Trump is one which has not yet been fully explained, and I think this book actually helped me understand the reporter-candidate dynamic in a way I hadn’t before. Every day there was a real pressure on Tur to deliver a Trump story for the NBC Nightly News. How hard can that be, you may well ask. Well, when the Trump media machine operates in an entirely unpredictable manner and at times would actually obstruct perfectly legitimate stories, you feel a constant empathy towards Tur as she tries, sometimes in vain, to do her job. She also articulates the competitive nature of the job, where she’d do her best to beat CNN or ABC to the interview or story.

Above all this is a very human story, of a reporter trying to do her job and somehow live the semblance of a normal life at the same time. It shows how reporters are entirely at the mercy of their voracious employers for whom the ‘exclusive’ is everything and it shows the toll being a reporter can take on their personal life.

I look forward to reading her next book, given that she is now based in Washington covering the Trump White House.

You can follow Katy Tur on Twitter at @KatyTur.

But her book HERE

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Sue Townsend

Adrian Mole author discusses her book THE WOMAN WHO WENT TO BED FOR A YEAR.

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Media

What's It Like to be a Guest on Question Time?

21 Apr 2018 at 14:00

So, what was it like? That’s the question I’ve been asked a lot over the last 36 hours. Everyone wants to know what it was like to be a guest on BBC’s Question Time. Well, on Thursday I appeared on it for the first time. I’d done ANY QUESTIONS on Radio 4 quite a few times, but had never been invited onto the TV version before. Given that I’ve been on every other political programme I had often wondered why the invitation for QT had never come. Well, on Tuesday morning I got a text asking if I would be free to do the show on Thursday. I was half excited and half filled with dread. Why dread? Well, quite a few people have made complete arses of themselves on Question Time, in a way that’s more difficult to do on Any Questions. There’s that constant fear of gulping like a goldfish when you get a question that completely throws you. Or you have a row with another panellist and come off worst. However, I talk for three hours every day about subjects I may know very little about or am not interested in personally, so over the years you develop an ability and a confidence to talk reasonably fluently about anything that’s put to you. But you do have to have some self knowledge. For instance, although I could be reasonably confident of doing OK on Question Time, I would certainly not have the confidence to do a show like HAVE I GOT NEWS FOR YOU. I’ve learnt over the years that although I am capable of being funny, I’m not hald as funny as I like to think I am! Would I turn it down? I’d like to think I would, but maybe the ego would get the better of me… Anyway, I digress.

My main problem with saying an immediate Yes to Question Time was were the logistics of doing my radio show and then somehow getting to Chesterfield. We solved that one by me travelling to Nottingham on Thursday morning and doing my show from Global Radio’s Nottingham studio. Nigel Farage kindly took over an hour early, so I could get to Chesterfield for the requested time of 7pm. Or so I thought. Instead of turning up at 6pm, the cab turned up 20 minutes later, with the cab firm having told me at least three lies in that time as to where the driver was. I was not very gruntled. Exactly the wrong mood to be in, 90 minutes before I was to face the TV cameras, where I was determined to be calm at all times!

Anyway, the driver drove rather fast and we arrived at the Winding Wheel venue in Chesterfield, close to the famous crooked spire, at around 7.10. The train carrying the others was running a but late so it turned out I was the first to arrive. The other panellists were Vince Cable, Liz Truss, Emily Thornberry and Guardian columnist Nesrine Malik. It was also Nesrine’s first time.

There then followed an hour of chit chat, briefing from the producers and make-up. David Dimbleby swept into the room at around 7.50 and made a great effort to sit down and talk to Nesrine and I individually. He was incredibly charming and put us at our ease and encouraged us to interact with the audience and the other panellists, and not to be shy to interject.

“Do you know the questions in advance,” is the second most often put question I’ve had and I can categorically say no. However, let’s face it, you have to be a bit of a dunce if you can’t predict the subject areas of at least two or three questions. It was obvious that Syria and Windrush would figure. I didn’t think anti-semitism would, as it had been on the programme last week. I had thought there might be a question on violent crime and the situation between North Korea and the US, and I was right on the first one. I thought the Customs Union might feature and given that HS2 and fracking are big issues in Chesterfield, they were also possibilities. What I hadn’t counted on was the final question on whether the Labour Party might split.

By the time we were called to go into the auditorium I had exactly the same feeling as I always have before ANY QUESTIONS. I become a nervous wreck, convinced that I am totally underprepared and won’t have a thought in my head to express when David Dimbleby calls on me.

Some panellists go on stage with no notes, others have reams. Nesrine didn’t have any noted, which I rather admired. I just took on small cue cards with 5 bullet points on each subject. I also had a newspaper article which I would have used against Vince Cable. had Brexit come up. But it didn’t. The notes are a safety valve. In the end I don’t look at them very often, partly because I have to take my glasses off to do so. If I don’t have the glasses on I can’t see individuals in the audience. If I have them on I can’t read anything. I know someone who was on QT recently and they looked over at their fellow panellist’s notes and every potential answer on every conceivable subject was more or less scripted. Too many notes, Mr Mozart!

And so the time came. We all stood in the wings waiting to be called in by David Dimbleby. I was first, as I was seated on the far side of the stage. I walked in and smiled at the audience before taking my seat. All the others then took theirs. Emily Thornberry got a very loud cheer, which made me think it would be a very pro-Labour audience. In fact, it was a very fair audience and devoid of some of the usual frothing at the mouthers that there have been on the programme in recent months. The whole set is much smaller and more intimate than it seems when watching on TV. You’re much closer to the audience than the TV pictures show.

The warm-up question was a complete surprise. “Was the Derbyshire Chief Constable right to order the Police Male Voice Choir to change its name and include women?” I always think the thing to do in a warm up question is to make the audience laugh, which I tried to do, although I now can’t remember what I said. In fact, to be honest, the audience members gave far better responses than any of the panel. And with that it was off. David Dimbleby pressed his stop-watch, turned to face the camera and introduced the panel.

It flew by. I won’t go into every answer here; you either watched it at the time or can watch it above.

I didn’t go in with any pre-prepared lines because I think it rarely ever works. Having said that, I had thought carefully about what I would say if Liz Truss tried to minimise the Windrush issue and play party politics with it. In the end, her total apology knocked any wind out of those particular sails.

One bit of advice Piers Morgan gave me in advance was to make sure you give a direct answer to the question. He reckoned too many people skirt around the original question, forget what it was within thirty seconds, and then go on a tour of the whole subject. It was good advice and I think I did answer every question directly.

The biggest dilemma is to know when to interrupt another panellist. On a debut show you don’t want to be too much of a shrinking violet, but then again you don’t want to appear too dominating. I know from previous experience of being on a panel that I always come off the stage thinking I didn’t have enough of a say, and yet when I watch it back I’ve probably spoken more than anyone else. Sometimes less is more. If you ramble, you know you’ll be cut off by David Dimbleby. On Thursday I reckon Emily Thornberry got about twice as much air time as Vince Cable, Liz Truss or Nesrine Malik. I think I spoke more than them, but not nearly as much as Emily. She constantly complained about being interrupted by David Dimbleby or me, yet she still got far more airtime than the rest of us. Some people are never satisfied.

I adopted a policy of only interrupting when I really had something to say. I’ll leave it to you to be the judge of whether that worked.

And then it was all over. I had assumed we would stay on and talk to the audience afterwards but we were quickly ushered back stage. I don’t know whether they do that because there have been some bad experiences in the past, but I’d have liked to have had a word with some of them. We then went back to the green room for a few minutes before being whisked off to a local restaurant for a late dinner with the production team. Bear in mind that the programme, contrary to what a lot of people think, isn’t live, it is recorded from 8.30-9.30 or thereabouts. So by the time we were tucking into our main course, the show was just about to go out on BBC1.

At around 11pm the cab arrived to take Emily and me back to London. There has been quite a lot of social media comment about the fact that this must have been a rather uncomfortable journey. I just don’t understand why people think that just because we are individuals with differing political opinions we therefore wouldn’t get on on a personal level. I’ve always liked Emily and got on with her. The journey back took around three and a half hours due to the M1 being closed on one section, and I can assure you there wasn’t a cross word between us. In fact, there were a lot of laughs. We’re adults.

I’m long enough in the tooth to know when I’ve performed well on a programme and when I haven’t. I knew when I came off stage I’d done better than I thought I would, so I was quite content. Reading through the tweets in the car on the way home I was astonished at the praise I was getting. In fact, there was barely any criticism at all. That only started the next morning when the Left decided the best way to bring me down to earth was to retweet the video of my incident on Brighton Beach in 2013 with the anti nuclear protester. And then the abuse really started. Hey ho. All’s fair in love and politics and social media, eh?

All I know is, that I am very sad that my mother didn’t live long enough to see me do Question Time. I know how proud she would have been. And you know, that’s all that matters to me.

PS I genuinely couldn’t decide whether to wear a tie on the programme. I took one with me – a Duchamp, which I felt compelled to show to David Dimbleby! Nicholas Soames was up in arms on Twitter in reaction to my suggestion that I would wear a tie. However, when I ot to the green room I started going the other way. I asked Vince and he was definitely wearing one, but all three women panellists advised me not to. In the end I didn’t want to feel all formal, and given that I very rarely wear a tie to anything nowadays, I thought I’d feel far more relaxed if I didn’t. Decision made.

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Iain interviews Ken Clarke

Ken is in fine form

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Diary

ConHome Diary: The Consequences of Windrush & Spinning the Local Elections

20 Apr 2018 at 10:43

Back in 2006 the then Labour Home Secretary John Reid described his own department as “not fit for purpose”. Twelve years on very little seems to have changed. Even after eight years of Tory occupation, six of which were controlled by Theresa May, it is still the department which is most likely to embarrass the whole government. And so it was this week over the so-called Windrush children. It’s tempting to blame incompetent and cack-handed civil servants in this situation, and to an extent that is true in this scenario. However it is spun, though, in the end the buck has to stop with politicians, who can’t say they weren’t warned. Jeremy Corbyn even raised in in PMQs on 14 March. Didn’t someone bother to actually check what was going on? I know several Tory MPs who say they had also warned that something wasn’t right, but no one pick up the ball. Amber Rudd has always had a reputation as a safe pair of hands. Caroline Nokes made an impressive start in her job with a very feisty interview with Sarah Smith on the Sunday Politics, but both these ministers are now on probation. If they don’t sort out this situation and ensure that the Windrush children are treated properly and with respect, they will suffer the political consequences.
*
As if most of us didn’t know it before, surely the last seven days have proved why Jeremy Corbyn would make a disastrous prime minister. As Theresa May pointed out, he would effectively give Russia a veto over our foreign policy. Even a dolt can see that if you commit to going through the United Nations in every aspect of your foreign policy, you give the Russians a de facto veto. Jeremy Corbyn denies he is a pacifist, yet has never been able to give a single example of where he thought military action was ever justified. I’d have more respect for him if he just came out and declared that he was a pacifist after all. At least that’s an intellectually sustainable position. Sort of.
*

The Pound reached the dizzy heights of $1.43 this week, and EUR 1.16, the highest since the EU referendum. Just so you know, seeing as so many people seem to think it is still 20% lower.
*
There are only 13 days to go until polling day in the local elections. Not that you’d know it. I haven’t seen any local activity at all, either where I live in Kent or in London. Maybe it’s different elsewhere, but I doubt it. The common consensus seems to be that the Conservatives are in for a drubbing in London, including the possibility of losing control of every single council they control already, including Westminster, K & C and Barnet. However, all is not bleak. Academics seem to think that there will be some gains in the Midlands. I wonder how many of us remember 1990, when the Tories had a terrible night but party chairman Ken Baker appeared the next morning with his characteristic beaming smile outside Central Office declaring the night had been a triumph given that against all odds his party had retained control of Westminster and Wandsworth. Amazingly h got away with it, albeit the prime minister resigned five months later. I can see Brandon Lewis learning from history…
*

I’ve been trying to think of a more queasy sight than Emmanuel Macron trying to nose his way as far up Donald Trump’s arse as he can possibly get. And I’ve succeeded. Justin Trudeau dressing him and his family in Indian clothes during their visit to the country. Sick making. Trudeau and Macron are two peas from the same political pod. Ghastly show offs, but with little to show off beyond Colgate smiles and an ability to virtue-signal.
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On Tuesday I interviewed Neville Lawrence. Sunday will mark the 25th anniversary of his son Stephen’s murder. He told me that his rediscovered religious beliefs had given him the ability to forgive his son’s killers. He admitted that he had wanted revenge and was full of anger for a very long time. Who wouldn’t be? But he realised that anger was destructive. He also said he would meet his son’s killers if they wanted to see him. I will admit that I was nervous about doing this interview, but I had no need to be. Dr Lawrence is one of those people with an inner calmness and serenity that is so impressive, you just want to listen rather than interrupt with another question. I will be thinking of him and his family on Sunday.
*

I made my debut on Question Time last night. As I’m writing this a few hours before the programme, let me tell you if I had a brick in my arse, I’d be shitting it. I’ve done ANY QUESTIONS quite a few times, but never Question Time. It’s always rankled in a way, but I have to say I am immensely looking forward to it. My only sorrow is that Diane Abbott has pulled out. Was it something I might have said…?

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Video: Iain Snogs Jacqui Smith under the Sky News Mistletoe

Sky News

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Video

WATCH: Is Trump Morally Fit to be President (Our Most Watched Show So Far)

16 Apr 2018 at 22:54

Is Donald Trump “morally unfit” to be President? That was one of the comments from former FBI Director James Comey.

With me, Afua Hirsch, Liam Halligan, presented by Hannah Vaughan-Jones.

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Interview with Sir Nicholas Soames on Winston Churchill

25 minutes with Nick Soames on the 50th anniversary of his grandfather's funeral

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Interview

FROM THE ARCHIVES: In Conversation with Nigel Farage

16 Apr 2018 at 09:00

This interview took place in October 2008.

It’s actually very hard for Nigel Farage to give a bad interview. He is the kind of character who always has something interesting to say. Indeed sometimes he says far too much for his own good. Politics needs characters like Farage. He clearly adds to the gaiety of our political life, but he’s also the very definition of a conviction politician. Yes, like any other politician, he has an ego, but he is refreshingly honest about the fact that he likes a drink and has an eye for the ladies. I’m not sure if I can think of any other politician who’d front up like that.
Nigel Farage’s trouble is that he is trying to do the political equivalent of herding cats. His party was once described by David Cameron as being full of ‘fruitcakes and nutcases’. Cameron may have been exaggerating for dramatic effect, but there was an element of truth in what he was saying. Fringe parties are always open to fanatics being able to rise to positions of power very quickly, because they are often the only ones with the time and the money to follow their passion. They can be obsessive in pursuing their agendas and can be hugely disruptive and destabilizing. Nigel Farage’s first term as UKIP leader was full of instances where senior UKIP figures tried to destablise him. Eventually, he decided enough was enough and left. There were other reasons too, but that must have been an important consideration.

How do you think the role of UKIP has changed in the last five years?
The increase in MEPs we got was across the water. In terms of what we have done in the European Parliament we are without doubt the leaders of the Eurosceptic movement in the European Parliament. Our two biggest achievements were firstly the French referendum, and secondly the Irish referendum. We played a big part in both. The role in the Irish one was rather bigger than people have yet realized.

In what way?
The eight page info booklet we, as the Independent Democratic Group, sent to every household in Ireland had a big effect. It was very well put together and very strong. While Declan Ganley is being portrayed as the CIA funded bad boy [by the Yes campaign] we’re not terribly popular either. I was quite happy when the Taoiseach got up in the Dail and said that I and my fellow bunch of ‘extremists’ had subverted the political process in Ireland.

So you weren’t part of Ganley’s No Campaign?
No

Doesn’t that illustrate the problem the Eurosceptic movement has always had, in that it is so splintered?
Quite the reverse. For years we have been told that you can’t fight a referendum campaign unless you are all under one big tent. And then there’s the argument about who is the person with the biggest ego who is going to lead the umbrella group. What the Irish campaign proved is that this view could not be more wrong. We had Sinn Fein doing their own thing, getting their vote out on the simple question of Irish nationality, you had Ganley fighting a completely brand new type of campaign in Ireland, talking about an overregulated European model, globalisation, the fact that the Treaty takes things too far and appealing to a business and conservative audience. You had the InDem campaign and we campaigned chiefly on the lack of democracy but we also went into the Charter of Fundamental rights because of the abortion issue. There were lots of different campaigns and degrees of cooperation. Ganley and the InDem group had discussions but they were separate campaigns and it worked a treat.

So in the unlikely event of a UK referendum do you think that would be the model here?
I am convinced now that there is no problem if we have four or five different No campaigns. The PPERA also allows for more than one campaign. What is your prediction about what will happen now to the Lisbon Treaty and what do you make of the Conservative stance on this? It’s funny, isn’t it, that David Cameron is doing what we expect the Conservatives to do – to try and sound skeptical enough to keep people in board.

Do you not believe that he is a Eurosceptic?
God, no. You must be joking! You’ve got to be having a laugh! I remember being on Eurostar when the Tory leadership election campaign was on and Dan Hannan was on the train. I told him I couldn’t believe he would support Cameron. I said we all know what David Davis believes in private and really is on this and many other subjects – localism and liberty etc. I sa ‘why on earth are you backing Cameron?’ He sa ‘Nigel, because Cameron has made the one deliverable promise. Not some vague idea about what might happen when he is PM, but a deliverable promise which will happen within weeks or months. He ratted on it and he’s saying it will happen after 2009.

Which is why David Davis never matched the promise – because he knew it wasn’t deliverable.
It ain’t going to happen after 2009 either. Secondly, we saw Cameron abandoning the Tory pledge to withdraw from the Common Fisheries Policy. Howard had been quite strong about it. I had pointed out that you can’t do it without unanimity, but at least he was strong on it. Apparently, Cameron says we are now going to negotiate the CFP from within. Well, the very best of British to him. He presents again and again things which he would do as Prime Minister, which are completely outside the jurisdiction of the British government and British Parliament. Never once does he ever say that in fact all of this is covered by EU law. So I don’t believe he is Eurosceptic. If he was, then he could kill the Lisbon Treaty today.
I think you are missing the Realpolitik of this. In his heart and in his gut he is indeed a Eurosceptic, but because of all the traumas the Tory Party has gone through over the last 15 years, it is a subject which dare not speak its name. I can understand and sympathise with that. There’s nothing to be gained by him making a big song and dance over it at the moment.

Other than he has the power to kill the Lisbon Treaty. If he had said we do not recognize the legitimacy of it because the Labour government was elected with a specific manifesto pledge to have a referendum, he could kill it.
We can agree on that, but legally it was a different document even though the substance was the same. The Labour manifesto didn’t say the ‘EU Constitution’, it said the ‘EU Constitutional Treaty’. How can anyone argue that this is not a constitutional treaty? Cameron has had the option of killing the treaty available to him for the last six months.

If Cameron wins the next elections with a big majority he will have a mandate to do just that – and be far more trenchant than he could be with a small majority?
Look at his track record and the type of people he has close to him. I see no evidence to have confidence in that point of view whatsoever. He believes in EU membership. That’s where we part company. Your definition of ‘eurosceptic’ means come out of the EU, whereas the normal definition does not mean that. The world has moved on. We could have been having this conversation in 1992 and I would have accepted that view. Nearly two thirds of Britons say no to political union and yes to alternative trading arrangements. If Cameron says we should be part of the EU and says no to alternative trading arrangements, then how is that different to the LibDems or the Labour Party?

If you aim is for Britain to withdraw from the EU you will never achieve that with UKIP. You are never going to form a government and you’re not likely to get MPs.
There are more ways of winning great political battles without forming a government.

But why not admit that UKIP is a pressure group, not a political party? The only way to achieve your aim of withdrawal is to do it from within one of the other political parties.
Oh Lord, that hasn’t worked terribly well, has it? None of the pressure groups in this area have achieved a damn thing. The only person who achieved something was Jimmy Goldsmith. If he had worked from within the Conservative Party we’d have joined the euro in 1999. Because he worked outside the system, he put the fear of God into the Conservative and Labour Parties, got them into a half nelson so they promised there would be a referendum before we joined the euro. It was that, and that alone which kept us out.

I can see the logic of that, but surely you would accept that the Conservative Party overall is a far more Eurosceptic party now than it was in 1992?
If UKIP hadn’t been there, the Conservative Party probably wouldn’t have reached that position. UKIP’s achievement has been to take an argument that was considered to be mad and bad and to turn it into a mainstream political argument.

You talked about the mad and the bad. Were you talking about some of your own MEPs?
When you go from a small number of people to a larger number you attract a few people you would rather not have had.

You mean, 20% of your MEPs? How did they get selected in the first place?
Well, I’d rather we got rid people who have transgressed than do nothing. It’s part of the weakness of being a small, grassroots based party where a con man can come along and con people. We have to accept what the weaknesses are. It’s also the weakness of being a totally democratic party. We are completely one man one vote. There is no preferential treatment for existing MEPs or party officers.

So entryism is quite easy? You face it at the moment with the BNP don’t you?
Entryism is one of the biggest dangers we face and we have to be very alert to it. We have had problems with the BNP but in terms of scale it is minute. If it was greater we would know. There is plenty of intelligence out there. We have been successful in dealing with the problem but it is depressing that the problem keeps coming back.

But people have been quitting UKIP because they say it’s not the party they once joined and has been taken over at a grassroots level by people who do not have views they can associate themselves with.
I haven’t seen much of that. I think I know what’s going on in the party at grassroots level. The BNP issue is there, and I know it’s there. We have made it clear that nobody with any past links or associations with the BNP is going to be a candidate or party officer for UKIP at any level. No exceptions, no exemptions. We have said to a lot of people, no, we’re not having you. End of conversation. We are a non racist, non sectarian, pro libertarian outfit. We are so far away from the image of the authoritarian right on issue after issue.

Apart from Bob Spink [the Conservative MP who defected to UKIP]…
Bob is an individual and that’s fine.

What about the new Libertarian Party? That is a threat to you. You have lost people to it.
[shrugs]. Of course. People join organizations and they think that they are destined to lead these organizations and when it doesn’t work out they seek pastures new. You get thwarted ambition. Outside the three main parties you find this all the time. It tends to be people who have got a lot of time and the reason they have got a lot of time is that they are no use at anything else. They haven’t got a proper job, they have never achieved a damn thing in their lives and they see joining a political party as a way of putting something on their headed paper. It’s human nature. When they find they don’t do as well within UKIP as they ought to do, they are happy to go off somewhere else. You’ll never stop that. We have suffered as a party from the angry old man syndrome – people with too much time on their hands and have a wholly negative view of the world.

But isn’t that a good description of many UKIP members, certainly a few years ago? Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells?
That’s right! When UKIP started, it was exactly that! We were dominated by half colonels and the Second World War generation. They were fantastic people…

But they’re not libertarians, and that’s the point I am making…
And that’s how the party has changed. You go to a UKIP meeting or the conference and you will see that the party has changed in quite a big way, especially in the last two years. Not in terms of numbers, but the type of people. It has become a lot younger and more professional. We have a youth wing now and we’re setting up groups in universities. There will always be a libertarian-authoritarian division. I am encouraged by the quality of the people we are now attracting. I am 44, the chairman is 31 and the General Secretary is 27.

It’s a very male dominated party, isn’t it?
Too much so. I was critical of the Cameron approach to the European candidate selection and I have always felt positive discrimination was demeaning, but when I looked at our results I began to wonder whether we should have done a bit of it ourselves. Marta Andreasson is the one female candidate we have in a winnable position. There are other women on the lists and there are more women on the NEC, so it is changing, but not fast enough… I have tried very hard to get us away from being negative and constantly outraged. I think I have achieved some of it but we have further to go. I have to think about this a bit more.

Is it a problem for you that you are the only recognizable face of UKIP? You’re the only one who gets any media coverage.
Not quite true, but yes, it is a problem. If in the punter thinks it’s a one man band it’s a problem, but it’s also a problem in the organization.

Have you ever thought to yourself since you became leader in 2006: why am I doing this?
Every month when I get my bank statement. What keeps me going is that I genuinely believe in what we are doing. The longer I go on, the more I see the true nature of the EU, the more I feel that someone has to stand up and shout about it. I believe if you want to change things and have an influence over public opinion you won’t do it from within a major party. I could have said to hell with this, I want an easy life and go and rejoin the Conservative Party and bite my lip. But I believe in what I am doing.

Do you get a fair crack from the media?
From the broadcast media, when it’s related to Europe, yes, I think we do. If the News at Ten are doing a European question then they will come to us. They wouldn’t have done that ten years ago. But the media can be very ignorant on European issues. I rang the Today Programme about the European Arrest Warrant recently. The researcher hadn’t a clue what it even was.

What personal strengths have you brought to the role of leader of UKIP?
The ability to work hard, the ability to communicate. Getting round the country doing meeting after meeting is hard work. Being able to enthuse. Hopefully, the ability to speak clearly and put arguments across that people can understand.

What about your weaknesses?
I have many of those [laughs]. I think … er… there are some within UKIP and outside who say that, well, he’s a drinker and a smoker…

You have been in the papers a couple of times with regard to your drinking. Is that an issue?
No, not really. I live the way I live. To hell with it. If people don’t like it… If I can’t go for a pint or two after a hard day’s work, then something’s not right.

If I can delicately point out that there have been stories of it being slightly more than a pint or two…
[giggles] Well, these things happen. There was one incident when I fell asleep in bar, yes, but in my defence I had genuinely not got home until 1am the previous night after a meeting in Hampshire and been up at 3.15am to get the first plane out and I was done for.

Do you get embarrassed by those sort of stories, or just think, oh sod it?
I don’t let it worry me too much.
I can tell. Sticking on the leadership question, there seem to be some plots to oust you at the moment. Is this BNP inspired? Why do people want rid of you.
Not totally. But there are people who think the BNP should move on from the immigration issue to take over the anti Europe argument too. So some people are doing whatever they can to destabilize UKIP. There are many in the BNP who believe that if UKIP disappears the BNP will be the main beneficiary. In truth, it would be the Conservatives, or the Don’t Votes. So there has been a campaign, chiefly through email, to undermine everything we do. And they have managed to pick up one or two useful idiots along the way. It has been a problem and I could give you a couple of names of people who are not UKIP members but they are doing this and fomenting discontent from within. But what do you do when the person causing the problem is an unemployed and unemployable misfit? I have a reputation for ignoring it and getting on with the job, but there are other people in the party who it has really upset.

You were delighted when Bob Spink defected to you, but he doesn’t share all your views, does he?
No. Absolutely not. We had a long conversation before he joined and I wanted to be clear about what we were getting. I knew his stance on 42 days, but we are not a party that wants to whip everybody so there are issues where Bob and I don’t agree, but there are many where we do.

Is he a rival to you?
I don’t know, is he? If he is, that’s great! If we have some proper competition within UKIP, that’s great. We need it.

What are your realistic expectations in the 2009 European elections? You got 16% and 9 MEPs last time. You’re not seriously expecting to beat that, are you?
That depends. The potential to do it is there, because there are a greater number of people out there who agree with the stance that we’ve got. We have been around for a few years, people have seen us in the local papers. It’s too early to say. The biggest single factor is whether we can raise enough money, early enough, to fight the right campaign.

Now, a very important question. Have you and President Medvedev ever been seen in the same room?
This is a great one, isn’t it? I wondered how long it would be. When I first saw him I knew what would happen.

He’s not exactly a libertarian, is he?
Not exactly! Although I am very strongly opposed to the policy we are pursuing towards his country, This desire to expand the EU and NATO to take in the Ukraine and Georgia is mad. I have felt this ever since the wall came down. I am not a supporter of Putin or Medvedev but we shouldn’t be trying to provoke them.

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WATCH: CNN Talk - What Would Military Action in Syria Achieve?

14 Apr 2018 at 11:20

I post this twelve hours after military intervention started, but this was our discussion on CNN yesterday lunchtime.

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UK Politics

On the Gender Pay Gap in Airlines...

12 Apr 2018 at 21:24

In last week’s ConHome column, I wrote about the gender pay gap and used airlines as an example. A reader emailed me afterwards and I thought his email might be interesting for people to read…

On April 6th, in regard to the gender pay gap – specifically airlines – on your regular column on ConservativeHome you wrote,

“…airlines complain that they have a big gap because most of their employees are cabin crew, of which 70 per cent are women, and much lower paid than pilots, only three per cent of whom are women. Perhaps they ought to ask themselves why only three per cent are female, and then do something about it. There’s no intrinsic reason for women to shun the opportunity to train as pilots.”

I feel, as an airline pilot of 15 years, there are intrinsic reasons. As you have commented on the subject, I wish to provide you with more information on my line of work, having flown for both of the top two worst offenders in the airline gender pay averages.

1) It is my position that there is no reason why, if a woman pilot does no take a long time off for any reason and performs to the standards required by the airline, she could not reach the same rank and pay as her male peers. However, women may not wish to become pilots when they research the job, which is their choice to make. Factors that women may wish to consider are as follows;

2) Flying isn’t a particularly good choice if you want a stable lifestyle. It involves highly irregular shift work, extreme early or late starts/finishes, very long (10~12 hour) days cut off from everyone but the person sitting next to you. If more women want to do this line of work that is fantastic, but it really isn’t for everyone, especially if you prefer having a social life and are thinking of having children at some point. I’m not sure how many people go into a job thinking about the long term, but training to be a commercial pilot is a huge commitment, both in terms of time and money. It takes around 18 months to become a pilot and costs the better part of £100,000, with no guarantees of success. In my current airline, a pilot (who by coincidence happens to be female), hit tail first on landing and was let go. She was only just out of training. Try having that incident on your record and looking for a decent job. I may have disagreements over my company’s handling of this, but I raise it to highlight the risk that these trainees are taking on. It is not a free ride – you have to be committed to the career. That means recruits often come in knowing the long term implications and have accepted the risk, (something I’ll come back to later). Most female pilots I have met (they do exist) have had fathers who were also pilots and have accepted the nature of the job; however their careers may not progress as far as a male’s due to the next reason, pregnancy;

2) This is possibly the biggest factor why there will always be a pay disparity between men and women pilots. A pilot who is pregnant cannot medically subject her body to the repeated pressure changes (0-8000-0 ft cabin altitude every sector), the increased cosmic radiation levels at high altitude (which are monitored by the company), and the lower oxygen and humidity levels in the aircraft, possible time-zone transits (fatigue), not to mention the air pumped in from the engine compressors which may contain harmful pollutants (this is still being investigated); to do so would be dangerous for her unborn child. That being so, most airlines find other work for their pregnant pilots, often as gate staff or at check-in, but at reduced pay, which leads to the next associated reason why there will always be an average pay differential between male and female pilots;

3) Commercial airline promotions are based on either seniority, or hours flown, or a mixture of both. While a pregnant pilot is stood down from flying duties, her placement and experience is frozen, which means other pilots – the majority of whom are men – will overtake her for promotion. Unlike most other jobs, in aviation there are few promotional steps and a large pay differential between those steps. For example, in Ryanair, the top offender, there are basically two positions for pilots – First Officer (c. £30,000 rising to £55,000pa), and Captain (c. £100,000 ~ £150,000pa). Someone taking time out from flying, of whatever gender and for whatever reason, will lose the experience needed to apply for captaincy. Once the captain positions are filled there is usually a long wait until another opens, fast expanding airlines being the exception to the norm. Obviously, this affects the career of a pilot who becomes pregnant. I sometimes fly with a female FO who, now having had a child, has decided to take a part-time contract (which makes sense as her husband, who is a Captain, earns more). This means she is on far lower pay, and will build less experience which will further impede her career progression. This is their choice – but a wholly rational one, which is also made by many other female pilots in the same circumstance.

4) Your article regarded getting more women into flying to begin with – may I remind you of the case of James Damore, the Google Software Engineer who was sacked after he proposed more ways of getting women into software engineering and was lambasted by both his company, his colleagues and the media for suggesting men and women often want, and are interested in, different things as a by-product of biology. While on average there is plenty of overlap between men and women, at the extremes there are obvious differences. Flying an airliner is no exception to that. The job is extreme in many ways, and it is a testament to the industry that we make it look as easy as it is (cock-ups at Eurocontrol and baggage handling accepted). Women would be wise to look at the long term implications of losing a social life that they might enjoy outside of work (this goes for men too, but on average we are less sociable creatures – especially in aviation), and the implications of raising a family with the possibility of slipping on the career ladder, which are pronounced in commercial aviation.

5) Plenty of women also fly as cabin crew – so why not pilots? As above, the barriers to entry are high. It takes a lot of commitment and once committed you have to be prepared to sacrifice the career progression for family as a female (less so as a male). Cabin crew take around 2 months to train and the cost, if borne by the individual is anywhere between £1000 and £7000 (no guesses for who charges their crew that last one). Cabin crew also have time out if they become pregnant, but as they are less committed (in general) to staying with the career, they will, in my experience, often take large time-outs to do other similarly paid work that is more suited to raising a family before returning to flying once their children are better able to look after themselves. A pilot, who has constant (and costly) evaluations in the simulator to keep their licence valid, cannot easily do this.

6) Should a woman avoid a well-paid job knowing it has social and familial downsides, and accept a less paid job that avoids these instead? I would say this comes down to the individual, doesn’t it? On top of the social engineering we are already engaging in with these virtue-signalling devices, should we be taking a line that women – or people in general – get into jobs that might not fit them, just for the money? Does having a family and having the time to care for that family mean less than shoe-horning women into roles they might decide aren’t for them?

7) Men, in general (and presumably by nature), are less risk averse. Perhaps another reason why, given the above disincentives to become a pilot, men flock to it while women do not. Even once doing the job, it is still sometimes inherently risky, even though the industry has made great strides to increase safety. Based solely on the few women I have flown with, both Captains and First Officers, empirically I would say women are far more conservative (flying-wise) than men. Often that is a good thing, but in commercial aviation margins mean everything – you can’t be too conservative, but nor can you feel too deficient in your role. Again, from my experience of flying with only six females, I have had two of them hand over control to me (once at the very last second) because they did not feel adequately skilled to perform the landing, compared to zero instances in flying with many, many more males. That isn’t to say those ladies weren’t actually skilled enough – just that they felt they weren’t. If there are not gender differences in risk aversion, then I don’t know quite why this disparity would exist.

I hope this provides more information to you as to why it may not be as simple as promoting the job to women and hoping they come to it. I think it is a fantastic career, even given its downsides, and there is plenty of scope for more women to do it. However, I feel this is less about my industry (which is welcoming to all) and more about the way women see their ability to do these roles in the first place. It seems to be more indentured with psychology (to which I am not qualified to advise) than simply throwing money at the problem or trying to engage in a positively-discriminatory practise, which could negatively affect the industry. Why are there not more female engineers, racing drivers, sailors, oil-rig operators etc, all of which are very well paid? I really don’t think it is up to the industry to tell women they should do it. The question should be, if they know they can do it – why aren’t they?

Kind regards,
(Captain at a fantastic, non-discriminatory, UK airline).

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Alastair Campbell about Depression

Alastair Campbell discusses he e-Book, THE MANIC DEPRESSIVE

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Personal

Twenty Things I Did For the First Time...

11 Apr 2018 at 09:00

First Job
Mucking out my Dad’s pigs on a Saturday morning for 10p an hour

First Real Job
Researcher to Patrick Thompson MP 1985-7

First Role in Politics
Chairman of UEA Conservatives in 1981

First Car
An orange Ford Cortina Mk III, lovingly nicknamed the Big Jaffa. I wrote it off on my 20th birthday.

First Record
Long haired Lover from Liverpool by Jimmy Osmond. The shame lives with me still.

First Football Match
Cambridge Utd v Westham in a 1972 testimonial at the Abbey Stadium

First Concert
Darts at a free concert in Harlow in 1977

First Country Visited
France, on a day trip to Boulogne at the age of 7

First TV Appearance
Multi Coloured Swap Shop in 1978

First Political Speech
April 1982 during a debate on the Falklands at my university. It all started there…

First Girlfriend/Boyfriend
Rachel Elliott at Ashdon County Primary School. She had a runny nose.

First Encounter with a Famous Person
Cyril Fletcher from That’s Life at a pantomime in the Arts Theatre Cambridge ca 1973

First Brush With Death
Hitting a Transit Van head on at 50 mph in the days before seatbelts. The long bonnet of my Cortina Mk III saved me – and my two sisters.

First House/Flat Owned
70 Howard Road, Walthamstow, in July 1988 – probably the worst time ever to buy a flat.

First Film Seen at a Cinema
Sound of Music at Saffron Walden Cinema, which is sadly no longer there.

First Time on the Radio
On the Radio One Breakfast Show with Mike Read in 1981 on Beat the Jock. I didn’t.

First Politician I Met
Shirley Williams who spoke at my school in 1977

First Book I Remember Reading
The Secret of Spiggy Holes by Enid Blyton

First Visit to the London Palladium
1978, to see the reunion of Cliff & the Shadows!

First Election
1985 Norfolk County Council election, Catton Grove Ward. My finals were the next day. Had to be postponed after I suffered from shock having knocked a motorcyclist off his bike on polling day and breaking his leg. He was a Labour voter…

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Iain interview Simon Heffer about English Grammar

Simon Heffer talks about his book on English grammar

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