11 Oct 2017 at 00:16
This is the phone-in/interview that has made the front pages of the FT, Times, Guardian, Telegraph and City AM today.
11 Oct 2017 at 00:16
This is the phone-in/interview that has made the front pages of the FT, Times, Guardian, Telegraph and City AM today.
6 Oct 2017 at 12:00
It’s just gone midnight on Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Normally I write this column on a Thursday morning, but given the day that’s just been gone, I thought I’d put pen to paper now rather than wait until the morning. It’s been one of the oddest days in party conference history. I got up in Manchester imagining quite a calm day, starting with a brisk walk to the conference centre from the rather lovely Malmaison Hotel where LBC had booked us for the conference. Imagine my surprise when I got there on Saturday night to walk into the room to find there was no bed. Except there was, but in the second room. I had been upgraded to a suite. Perhaps it was meant for Nick Ferrari. Oh well, he’ll never know. If you’ve ever stayed in a Malmaison you’ll know what I mean when I say that the décor of the bedrooms are how I imagine a brothel’s bedroom would look. Lots of dark purples and slightly erotic paintings. You get the picture. Anyway, I digress.
Going back to Monday, imagine my surprise to get a call from the Evening Standard at about 10am asking me to write the next day’s Op-Ed column on the state of the Tory Party and the conference. And there was me thinking George Osborne had ignored my talents for so long. I scratched my head. Given they wanted the first draft by 7pm that evening, I couldn’t work out when I would get a chance to write it, given the timing of my LBC show. We settled on a compromise. I’d deliver it at 7.30 the next morning on pain of death (and never being asked to write a column again). Now believe it or not, I don’t particularly enjoy writing, and I have a massive inferiority complex about it. I know I can’t write like Boris or Michael Gove and as soon as I press SEND I always imagine the article will be sent back with a message saying “nice try, now write it properly.” It’s never actually happened, but I still think it will. I wonder if other columnists think like this, or is it just me with a chip on my writing shoulder. I can’t help preferring oral… (ahem).
Anyway, one bit of the article caused a bit of a stir. I wrote:
“If the Tories want to win again – and listening to some of the Cabinet you could be forgiven for wondering if they do – they need to stop the schoolboy games. I was told by one broadcaster who has interviewed the prime minister in recent weeks that he received several texts from cabinet ministers suggesting lines of questioning. And they weren’t meant to be helpful to Theresa May. What utter shits.”
Well on Wednesday things took a turn for the worse. I ambled up to the Convention centre and did a turn on the Daily Politics previewing Theresa May’s speech, then, went over to CNN to broadcast a special edition of CNN Talk with Ayesha Hazirika and Liam Halligan. The three of us normally get on, but this was our sparkiest edition yet. They played a bit of the speech then we started debating whether Britain was still the power in the world it once was. All of a sudden I could tell that something was wrong in the hall because I couldn’t hear the Prime Minister’s voice in the background. A couple of minutes later the so-called comedian – or ‘twat’ as I call him – was being shown the door right behind our broadcasting point. Talk about drama.
I then noticed that Theresa had gulped a glass of water and it seemed to be dribbling down her chin. This was not going well.
It was only once I got back to the LBC stand and watched the rest of the speech live that I realised just how bad her cough had become. But persevere she did, and in the end her nightmare was over.
I was supposed to interview Amber Rudd in a pre-record for my Drivetime show, but I decided to be a team player and suggested she went on live with my colleague Shelagh Fogarty. Much as I’d have liked the interview for myself, it was the right thing to do.
I then had to skidaddle to LBC’s Manchester studio to do my show from there, as the LBC stand was being dismantled. It felt very lonely and I longed to be back in our London studio where my producers could more easily guide me through the show. Interestingly our listeners were far more interested in talking about the energy cap and the housing announcement than talking about twattish comedians and bad coughs.
In the meantime, Newsnight had asked me to go on a panel with Margot James and Times columnist Jenni Russell. I calculated I could just about get there if the train to Euston was on time. It was scheduled to get in at 22.10. I was due on screen at 22.40. I got a text from the producer saying she was tracking the train on an App (whatever next) and it was running ten minutes late. Eeek. Indeed, the train got in at twenty past ten but it was 10.25 by the time I found the car the BBC had booked for me. “Put you foot down, mate,” I pleaded. It was 10.34 by the time I walked through the door of New Broadcasting House. I started to walk through the security door when someone said that I had to put my rucksack and small suitcase through the security thing. “I’m on air in six minutes,” I said. It was to no avail. In the end I sat down on the set with two minutes to spare. Not the ideal preparation for a panel discussion which I hadn’t really thought too much about what I would say. In the end it turned out to be a really good discussion and I think I made all the point’s I’d have wanted to had I actually thought about it properly.
As I sit here at the desk of my Premier Inn hotel room in Euston (yes, when I pay for it myself I do like to economise… but Premier Inn beds are so fabulous I even bought one myself!) I reflect on what Theresa May must be thinking as she puts her head down on the pillow tonight. I’m so glad she has Philip there with her. He will have known what to say and what not to say to her.
You find out a lot about a politician when they face adversity. Where most of us might have recoiled or stepped back when confronted by the P45 twat, she stood resolute and even made a joke of it. When Freddie the Frog first appeared she had a good nine pages to go. Yes, it was a painful watch at times, but she persevered and wasn’t going to let it beat her.
If any Conservative MP is so flaky as to think that a cough ought to deprive Theresa May of the leadership it says a lot more about them than it does about her. I’m told an ex Cameron Cabinet Minister is trying to persuade colleagues to write to Graham Brady urging a vote of no-confidence. How pathetically self-indulging. Then what? What on earth would the European Commission make of this? Our negotiating position would then be weaker than it already is. If I hear one more squeak out of the Foreign Secretary which could be interpreted as a move on Theresa May, it would be final proof that he wouldn’t be fit to lead the Conservative Party. He’s bloody lucky to still be in his job. As is his deputy, Alan Duncan, for his crass comments in Chicago.
Theresa May must have the self confidence to embrace what has happened today. The fact that she tweeted a picture of her red box with Strepsils and medicine beside a copy of her speech, and the word coughs shows she’s doing just that.
“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” said Winston Churchill. Out of threat springs opportunity. It’s now up to Theresa May to turn this unfortunate day into a positive for her.
5 Oct 2017 at 22:51
I wrote this article on Monday evening for publication as the main ‘Op-Ed’ article in the Evening Standard on Tuesday.
So, there I was, sitting between Theresa May and Andrew Marr on Sunday morning, waiting for Marr to open his show. I was there to do the paper review with Polly Toynbee. Theresa May faced an altogether more challenging task – surviving a half hour grilling. The opening titles started. Marr looked at the camera. “The papers say she’s a broken woman and she has to stand and fight or surrender office to her critics,” he said, thereby setting the tone for the whole Tory conference. And then he followed up witheringly. “Happy birthday, Prime Minister.” Hashtag awkward. I didn’t know where to look.
At party conferences journalists tend to act in concert. They become a herd, looking to confirm a narrative that they have developed between themselves. Perish the thought they should talk to actual conference goers. That would never do.
The narrative at this year’s Conservative conference is that Theresa May is in deep trouble, Boris Johnson is unsackable (but deserves to be, nevertheless) and Jacob Rees-Mogg is an interesting little diversion.
The truth is somewhat different.
It’s true that there’s little excitement at this conference. The atmosphere, if such a thing can be defined. is decidedly muted. The conference hall is sometimes half empty, but that’s because Conservative conferences tend to be rather tedious nowadays, with little meaningful debate from the floor. I can’t remember the last time I actually went into the conference hall.
This event in Manchester is not a conference, it’s a rally. The trouble is that many of the senior politicians addressing the party faithful are too boring to knock a rhetorical skin off a rice pudding, let alone galvanise a genuine standing ovation – Ruth Davidson, excepted, naturally.
This conference should be an opportunity for the Tories to demonstrate they know how to defeat Labour and take the fight to Jeremy Corbyn. Instead it runs the risk of becoming a giant exercise in naval gazing and superfluous leadership speculation.
If the Tories want to win again – and listening to some of the Cabinet you could be forgiven for wondering if they do – they need to stop the schoolboy games. I was told by one broadcaster who has interviewed the prime minister in recent weeks that he received several texts from cabinet ministers suggesting lines of questioning. And they weren’t meant to be helpful to Theresa May. What utter shits.
The correct answer to the question: ‘Do you want Theresa May to lead the Conservatives into the next election?’ is ‘yes’ if you’re a Cabinet minister. If Michael Gove can say the word without hesitation or deviation, why couldn’t Sajid Javid? Instead he protested that his interview had overrun.
Unlike some of her more shifty colleagues, Theresa May is, above all, loyal to her party. She knows the carnage that would be wrought if she did what she must surely want to do, and sack those who continue to brief against her and drop poison into the ears of very receptive journalists.
Some senior Conservative ministers seem to have a collective death wish. They learn nothing from political history, which tells us that divided parties do not win elections.
The Prime Minister is going nowhere. She may not be at ‘peak May’ at the moment, but she knows the Tories need a leadership election like a hole in the head. She’s lucky that there is no King or Queen over the water who could be confident of ousting her. She’s also lucky that Conservative donors are still largely supportive. Theresa May apparently made a rousing speech to the party’s National Convention on Sunday, and several who were there have told me that if she performs like that tomorrow, when she stands before her party to close the conference, she’ll be OK.
It’s time for the Tories to stop licking the wounds inflicted by the election. No amount of naval gazing will help them. There are four and a half years to go until the next election has to be held. That’s plenty of time for them to regroup and take the fight to Labour.
The hubris displayed by Labour in Brighton last week may come back to bite them. They think they’ve already won the next election. Theresa May experienced a very sudden decline in her fortunes at the election. Four years are a long time in politics. Who’s to say the same thing won’t happen to Jeremy Corbyn at some point?
The voluntary party needs to be reformed from top to bottom. A new party pressure group, the Campaign for Conservative Democracy, was launched yesterday. It needs to succeed. The days of the great and the good running the upper echelons need to be banished forever. The party needs a new chairman – someone who can both enthuse the activists, who has ideas about how to recruit new supporters, not just members, and someone who has the organisational and campaigning skills to revitalise the party’s headquarters. And also someone who can totally revamp the party’s conference and give it a sense of purpose. Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis is that man.
But it’s not all about turning around the party’s fortunes, it’s also about taking the philosophical and ideological fight to Labour. Theresa May started that process last week with a long overdue speech defending capitalism and free markets. Philip Hammond followed suit yesterday. In many ways the battles of the 1970s and 1980s are going to have to be refought. It’s Socialism v Freedom: The Sequel. Just when you thought it was safe…
Margaret Thatcher thought she had vanquished socialism. She regarded Tony Blair as her greatest creation, but all politics is indeed cyclical. The question now is this: Can Theresa May articulate the same kind of defences of freedom, free markets and capitalism that Margaret Thatcher did to such great effect? Her speech tomorrow needs to provide an answer to that question.
The original article was published here.
2 Oct 2017 at 08:00
Each year for the last ten years I have convened a panel to compile a list of the Top 100 Most Influential People on the Right. This year our panel was comprised of a national newspaper journalist, two ex-Spads, two online commentators and an ex Conservative MP.
The most difficult thing when deciding who to include an exclude, is to define what ‘influence’ actually means. In the end it means being influential in a combination of national politics, the media, on the Conservative Party and its leader.
In all, there are 31 new entries in the whole list, two down on last year’s record of 33. Out go Liz Truss, Andrew Tyrie, Mark Harper, Matt Hancock, Zac Goldsmith, Suzanne Evans, Douglas Carswell, George Freeman, Donal Blaney and John Hayes.
Robbie Gibb, the new Downing Street Director of Communciations is the highest new entry at number nine, with Dominic Raab and James Brokenshire the next highest entries in the lower twenties. Some will be surprised that Jacob Rees-Mogg isn’t rated higher than 53, but it is his first year on the chart.
UKIP’s presence has declined this year with Suzanne Evans, Paul Nuttall, Douglas Carswell, Stephen Woolfe and Diane James all dropping out. Their new leader Henry Bolton comes in at 86, and Arron banks and Nigel Farage stay in, but that’s it.
Interestingly, the number of the women in this year’s list has dropped one from 24 to 23. However, in the Left list there are a record, so some way to go. The LibDems scored 17 in their list of 50.
It’s quite clear that this has been another year of change and surprise. Who would have predicted that Gavin Barwell, having lost his seat and ministerial position, would climb 63 places to number 7. Who would have thought our panel would eject Liz Truss altogether, having been at 37 last year and still attending Cabinet.
Graham Brady climbs into the top four from No 18 last year, while Damian Green also enters the top ten at number 6, rising 25 places from 31. Our panel put David Davis into second place on the basis that the fortunes of the whole government revolve around him, and he is seen as Theresa May’s closest ally apart from Damian Green. Michael Gove rebounds 26 places up the chart to number 13 after his phoenix like comeback into the cabinet.
Some might find it odd that Boris Johnson has fallen to number 14 given his recent bout of publicity, but our panel felt he had significantly alienated quite a large part of the parliamentary party and his prospects of succeeding Theresa May had implicitly diminished.
The Conservative Party is in a state of fluidity and flux. It is in a state of semi-permanent leadership turmoil. Nothing unusual there, you may think. But if Theresa May is to stay at the top of our list in 2018 she needs to exert leadership and put a stop to the leadership talk.
1. (-) Theresa May
Last year we described Theresa May as “Mistress of all she surveys”. A year later she is clinging to power like a limpet, having called an unneeded general election which ended with her losing her majority. She’s survived due to the unwillingness of any rival to try to unseat her, and the fact there is no single ready made successor. She’s revamped her Downing Street operation but the loss of her two closest advisers (Fiona Hill & Nick Timothy) has hit her hard. Having said that, of late she’s recovered some of her ‘mojo’, although the Florence speech has done little to counter claims that her authority is still on the wane.
2. (+2) David Davis
Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union
Seen as the natural ‘fall under a bus’ candidate should Theresa May quit, Davis has remained publicly very loyal to the Prime Minister since his appointment in July last year. He was the one to shore up her position in the hours after the election result but is said to remain frustrated by the way Number 10 continues to try to micromanage Brexit. DD has been careful to keep Cabinet ‘remainers’ onside, including the Chancellor, but his relations with the Foreign Secretary are icy to say the least.
3. (+2) Ruth Davidson
Leader, Scottish Conservatives
Theresa May’s position on June 9th was effectively saved by the election of 13 Tory MPs in Scotland and that was largely down to Ruth Davidson’s almost single-handed revitalisation of the Scottish Conservative Party. There’s little doubt that if she had a Westminster seat she’d be seen as the natural successor to Theresa May. However, she has been so vocal in being very anti-Brexit, one wonders whether the wider party would elect her if it came to it. She’s determined to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister, and who could honestly say there isn’t a chance of her pulling it off?
4. (+14) Graham Brady
Chairman, 1922 Committee
The election result has propelled Graham Brady up this list to a stratospheric number four. He is the keeper of the ‘letters’ from Tory MPs expressing no confidence in their leader. No one knows how many there are, but in many ways Theresa May’s job lies in his hands. She should beware if she ever spots him wearing a grey suit…
5. (+1) Philip Hammond
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Tipped for the chop had Theresa May won a landslide, instead Philip Hammond has made the most of his ‘unfireability’ and made clear he expects to be listened to, especially in the debate about the country’s future after Brexit. So far, he has had the best of it. He is said to still harbour ambitions to succeed Theresa May. Contrary to his grey demeanour as John Major Mark 2, he’s actually got a very well developed sense of humour – which he has needed over the last few months.
6. (+25) Damian Green
First Secretary of State
A close friend of Theresa May from their university days, Damian Green was always tipped to return to ministerial office if she became leader, after being fired by David Cameron. So far he is playing the role of Theresa’s ‘Willie’ very well. Urbane, smart and willing to defend a sticky wicket when necessary he’s the glue that holds the government together. Just.
7. (+63) Gavin Barwell
Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister
By common consent one of the nicest people in politics, he bounced back from losing his Croydon seat to replace Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill as the Prime Minister’s chief of staff. He’s made it his business to be approachable and considerate and it is said that Downing Street is a happy place to work under his leadership. He is also said to speak truth unto power. Let’s hope he’s listened to.
8. (+11) Gavin Williamson
One of the few Cameroons to survive regime change, Williamson’s appointment as chief whip caused more than a few raised eyebrows, given his comparative youth and inexperience. However, he did a sterling job as David Cameron’s PPS and was trusted by Tory MPs to relay their concerns. His negotiations with the DUP proved how close he is to the PM and his ability to sell the deal to the parliamentary party surprised some. Said to harbour much higher ambitions…
9. (NEW) Robbie Gibb
Director of Communications, Number Ten
Robbie Gibb has introduced a much more open and cooperative media strategy and the partial transformation of Theresa May’s public persona is more down to him than anyone else. No one can take a horse to the trough and make it drink, but it’s clear that the Number Ten media strategy has changed from ‘say as little as possible’ to ‘make a case to us as to why this will work and we’ll look at it’. Although he is robust in tackling editorial mistakes or apparent bias by broadcasters he does it in a manner where the journalist comes away feeling good about themselves. A good talent to have.
10. (-) Amber Rudd
Amber Rudd cemented her reputation as an effective performer in the EU referendum debates. She may have got a lot of criticism for ripping into Boris Johnson, but it made her a contender. She was sent out again to put the Foreign Secretary in his place after his infamous 4000 word Telegraph article. She radiates competence on the media and was rumoured to be considered for a move to the Treasury has the election result been rather better. She could go far, but her slim majority in Hastings & Rye might well hold her back.
11. (-8) Philip May
There was always a debate in previous years as to whether Samantha Cameron should have been included on this list. There was no debate about the inclusion of Philip May. He is just as much a political animal as his wife, and she consults him on more or less everything. Deeply devoted to Conservative politics, he is also a very, very nice man, and incredibly hard working.
12. (-5) Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has tried to reassert his authority after a shaky few months but his recent article in the Telegraph on his optimistic vision for a post Brexit Britain went down like a cup of cold sick in Number 10 and most of the parliamentary party. It wasn’t a leadership bid, more of a ‘hey look at me, I’m still here’ piece. When he goes abroad half the politicians he meets love him and the other half scratch their heads in bemusement. His stock in parliament and in the wider voluntary party appears to be on the wane, even if he is the only Conservative still to have rock star status. Well, apart from JRM.
13. (+26) Michael Gove
Secretary of State for DEFRA
As we said last year, when he fell 26 places in this list, “what a difference a year makes”. He kept his nose clear during his wilderness year on the back benches and was used heavily during the election campaign to represent the party on the media. Gove was brought back in an unlikely department but so far has remained totally loyal and not put a foot wrong.
14. (-6) Sir Michael Fallon
Secretary of State for Defence
Michael Fallon is a reassuring figure at Defence. Having come to the Cabinet fairly late in life, he’s been a great survivor. An effective media performer, like Philip Hammond he was a surprisingly firm advocate of Remain, when all his political life we had all viewed him as a trenchant Eurosceptic. Said to harbour ambitions to move to the Foreign Office if Boris falls by the way.
15. (+2) Liam Fox
Secretary of State for International Trade
One of the three Brexiteers, Fox’s job is in some ways more difficult than the other two, because in theory he won’t have anything to show for his endeavours until Brexit is achieved at some point in 2019. All he can do is lay the ground work. So far he has avoided too many turf wars with Johnson and Davis and spoken out very rarely.
16. (-) Nigel Farage
Former Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party
Nigel Farage has certainly not gone quiet. Indeed, quite the reverse. He’s effortlessly made the transition from political leader to talk show host but it’s clear he may well soon return to the political fray if he thinks Brexit is in danger. It’s unlikely to be in the capacity of leader of UKIP, though.
17. (-6) Stephen Parkinson
Political Secretary, Number Ten Downing Street
Parkinson is a popular figure in Conservative Party circles. He left the Home Office to work for Vote Leave and has been Director of the Conservative History Group for some years. His is a crucial role in the Downing Street machine.
18. (+60) David Lidington
Lord Chancellor & Secretary of State for Justice
Popular with MPs on all sides of the House, Lidders – as he is known – had spent six years as Europe Minister and if anyone deserved a move and a promotion it was him. After a year as Leader of the House he replaced the hapless Liz Truss as Justice Secretary in the June reshuffle. Calm and reassuring, Lidington is an important player in the May team.
19. (-7) Greg Clark
Secretary of State for Business, Energy, Innovation & Skills
Greg Clark is seen as hugely competent and likeable and commands great loyalty. However, his ‘industrial strategy’ is seen by some on the right as rather left wing and politically suspect. Furthermore, the energy cap policy is not universally popular either. If he rebuilds some bridges with the right, Clark could well be a big player in Conservative politics for some time to come.
20. (-7) Chris Grayling
Secretary of State for Transport
Chris Grayling is in his dream job. Really. And he wants to stay in it for the duration as he firmly believes he can make a real difference. He’s weathered the ‘Southern Rail storm’ and is now often used as a lightning conductor, being wheeled out on the media to play a straight bat defending various unpopular government policies. He should be used more.
21. (+14) Brandon Lewis
Minister for Immigration
A rising star, and an excellent media performer, Lewis was unlucky not to make full Cabinet, and he will be one of the first knocking on the door in the next reshuffle. We said that last year but mean it even more this year. He’s gradually got a grip on a department which is famous for its incompetent administration. Possibly a successor to Patrick McLoughlin as party chairman.
22. (-8) Jeremy Hunt
Secretary of State for Health
A quieter year for Jeremy Hunt, which is always a good thing for a Conservative minister in the Department of Health. His priority is to ensure that the A&E crisis of last winter isn’t repeated this year. Only eight months until he surpasses Aneurin Bevan as the longest serving Health Secretary in history. Quite an achievement for a Conservative.
23. (+52) Arlene Foster
First Minister of Northern Ireland
A now familiar face on TV screens outside Northern Ireland, she extracted the maximum she could in the deal she and Nigel Dodds negotiated with Gavin Williamson. Many Tory MPs don’t trust Foster or her party and were appalled when they decided recently to vote with Labour in two Opposition Day debates. Her position in the DUP is far from secure, though, and her obstinacy over power sharing in Northern Ireland may end in tears.
24. (-1) David Gauke
Secretary of State for Work & Pensions
Promoted from Chief Secretary in the June reshuffle, Gauke may not be the most exciting of politicians but he exudes competence and is still often sent out on the media during difficult political times. If you want a politician on TV who can be relied on not to drop the proverbial bollock. Gauke is your man. Loved by Tory press officers.
25. (-10) Lord Michael Ashcroft
Businessman & Philanthropist
Michael Ashcroft has been relatively silent over the last year but his influence endures through his writing, his proprietorship of ConservativeHome and his polling operation. His new book – The Lost Majority – will be pored over for lessons the Tories need to learn from the last election.
26. (-1) George Osborne
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer; Editor, London Evening Standard
George Osborne has been very successful in maintaining a high media profile, and his first six months as editor of the Standard have been a success. He has pitched the paper as the chief opposition to Theresa May, losing no opportunity to criticise her, often in a very personal way. If he ever wants to return to frontline politics, he will have quite a lot of bridges to build.
27. (+1) George Hollingbery
PPS to Theresa May
Elected in 2010, George Hollingbery is devoted to Theresa May and is an effective communicator to her of the views of his fellow Tory MPs. He is well aware of her lack of small talk and it’s no exaggeration to say that he is almost as important to Theresa May as Ian Gow was to Margaret Thatcher.
28. (NEW) Dominic Raab
Minister of State for Justice
A protégé of David Davis, Raab refused a jo in Theresa May’s initial team but was persuaded to return to the fold in June after a year of being a very effective advocate of a successful post Brexit Britain. Rather bizarrely, though, instead of joining Davis’s or Fox’s teams he returned to the Ministry of Justice.
29. (NEW) James Brokenshire
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
One of Theresa May’s inner circle of friends, Brokenshire spent five years at May’s side at the Home Office where he had a reputation for being reliable if unexciting. He’s had a baptism of fire at the Northern Ireland office, but his natural ability to bring people together has been put to very good use.
30. (-) Paul Goodman
One of the few non MPs on this list who can phone up any cabinet minister and they’ll take his call immediately. He seems to have become more radical as the years go by and isn’t afraid to offer constructive criticism where he feels it is merited. ConHome will become every more important as this parliament develops.
31. (NEW) Nigel Dodds
DUP Deputy Leader and MP for North Belfast
Dodds seems to be relishing his new found position as the man in Westminster who could bring down the government. He never knew he was so popular among senior Conservatives…
32. (NEW) Joanna Penn
Deputy Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister
Known as JoJo, Penn is said to be the other woman in Downing Street who gets things done. A popular figure, she was with Theresa May at the Home Office and has her total trust.
33. (-24) Justine Greening
Secretary of State for Education
The election result had one positive benefit for Justine Greening – it meant all plans for more grammar schools had to be abandoned. She was never keen on them anyway. A quiet first year as Education Secretary has meant a fall in this year’s list, but our panel has high hopes she may rise again next year.
34. (-12) Karen Bradley
Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport
Somewhat of a surprise appointment, Bradley is another of Theresa May’s former Home Office colleagues who has been looked after by her former boss. Hugely popular in the parliamentary party, Bradley is tougher than she may first appear, as Rupert Murdoch has found. She’s the Jack Russell of the Cabinet – once she gets something between her teeth, she doesn’t let go.
35. (NEW) Steve Baker
PUSS, Department for Exiting the European Union & MP for Wycombe
A devout campaigner for Brexit, Baker was appointed to this job in June as a means of reassuring Eurosceptic Tory MPs after the shock sacking of David Jones. He’s proved to be a surefooted parliamentary performer. If ever David Davis should ‘go wobbly’, he can rely on Baker to keep him on the Brexit straight and narrow!
36. (+5) Fraser Nelson
Editor, The Spectator
Fraser Nelson was appointed editor at a comparatively young age, but he has more than lived up to both Andrew Neil’s and his readers’ expectations. He’s now been editor since 2009, a long time in the world of magazines.
37. (+21) Nicky Morgan
Former Secretary of State for Education
Theresa May and Nicky Morgan do not get on. Never have. So Morgan’s sacking came as little surprise to her or others. She quickly became the most outspoken critics of the Prime Minister on the Tory benches. However, she’s been careful not to overegg the criticism and of late has been positively loyal. Almost.
38. (NEW) Shanker Singham
Director of Economic Policy, Legatum Institute
An eloquent advocate of the advantages of free trade, it’s a shame that the government hasn’t been able to lure him to work for Liam Fox or David Davis. One of the small number of economists who has been a trade negotiator, expect to hear a lot from him over the next few years.
39. (-37) Nick Timothy
Former Chief of Staff to Theresa May, Telegraph & Sun columnist
Had the election been won by a landslide there’s a strong case to suggest that Nick Timothy might have even topped this year’s list. Instead, he fell on his sword, along with his co-Chief of Staff Fiona Hill, resigned. Hill has completely disappeared from view, while Timothy has two national newspaper columns and is rumoured to also still feed in his thoughts to Downing Street.
40. (-19) Andrea Leadsom
Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
Andrea Leadsom may have dropped down this list but she is not to be underestimated. In normal times being appointed Leader of the House would be seen as a promotion from Defra, but the job now only entitles Leadsom to ‘attend cabinet’ rather than be a full member of it. She is said to have displeased Number Ten with some media freelancing, but she is someone who should be used more.
41. (-17) Lynton Crosby
Co-owner, Crosby Textor Fullbrook
Lynton Crosby advised the Prime Minister not to hold an election in June as he recognised the dangers. His advice was ignored. Only in the last ten days of the campaign did he have control of the campaign, so he can’t be blamed entirely for what happened. The question now is whether he’s want to return for the next campaign or whether whoever leads the party would think they need a fresh pair of eyes.
42. (-13) Daniel Hannan
MEP for South East England
It was a sign of the ridiculous attitudes prevailing in CCHQ that Hannan didn’t get a safe seat at the June election. He was effectively blackballed from applying for his home seat of Aldershot by party chairman Patrick Mcloughlin, according to informed sources. He is one of the most articulate advocates of Britain in a post-Brexit world and he ought to be listened to.
43. (+12) Anna Soubry
MP for Gedling
Even more of a Remainer than Ken Clarke ‘Soubers’ has been a powerful voice in the Brexit debate, although she has toned it down of late, recognising that Brexit will, in the end, happen. She failed to get elected to the Brexit select committee for the second time, which is odd given that she is actually quite popular among her fellow MPs. She will be a very loud voice during the remaining stages of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.
44. (+1) Baroness Evans
Leader of the House of Lords
Baroness who? That was the response from most people when it was announced she had replaced the popular Baroness Stowell as Leader of the House of Lords. Natalie Evans is a long term friend of Theresa May from her Women2Win days. And that’s (still) about as much as we know!
45. (+1) Mark Littlewood
Director General, Institute of Economic Affairs
Littlewood has had a successful period in charge of one of the oldest think tanks in the country. A pugnacious debater, he is one of the best advocates of free market economics.
46. (-4) Priti Patel
Secretary of State for International Development
Priti Patel needs to be tested in a bigger department. She’s seen by many as a future leader but some of her colleagues think she ought to be given a chance to run a frontline department to test her mettle. International Development is a department where it’s difficult for her to shine.
47. (+19) Paul Staines
Managing Editor, Guido Fawkes blog
The site everyone in politics loves to read, unless they feature on it. Still as incisive and controversial as ever, it’s scored some good exclusives in recent months. Twelve years old now, Guido Fawkes remains the one site that everyone involved in politics reads every day. If that isn’t a sign of influence, we don’t know what is.
48. (-4) Syed Kamall
Leader of the European Conservatives & Reformists in the European Parliament
A quieter year for Syed Kamall. Another MEP who failed to get a seat at the election, but surely it is only a matter of time.
49. (+16) Christian May
Editor, City AM
A former lobbyist at the Institute of Directors, Christian May was a surprise choice to take over the editorship of City AM from Alistair Heath, but boy oh boy was it an inspired one. He has lifted its profile, increased its turnover and distribution. And he’s making a name for himself as a pundit. One to watch.
50. (+8) Robert Halfon
Chairman, Education Select Committee
One of the most popular members of the parliamentary party, many heads were scratched when Halfon was summarily sacked as education minister in June. No one could understand why. We still can’t. However, he has bounced back very quickly and bagged the chairmanship of a very important select committee. He promises to be a very painful thorn in the government’s side.
51. (+9) Katie Hopkins
Columnist, Mail Online
The woman people seem to love to hate, she’s actually quite a pussycat. Despite losing her LBC show Hopkins has retained a high profile and she’s increasingly a fixture on Fox News. With her autobiography out next month, expect to see a lot more of her this year.
52. (-5) Arron Banks
Banks is an acquired taste for many. A former donor to the Conservatives, he switched his allegiances to UKIP and now funds the UKIP Leave.Eu campaign, which continues to campaign to ensure Britain really does leave the EU. Loud, outspoken and brash, he’s vowed to fund UKIP again with the election of its new leader.
53. (NEW) Jacob Rees-Mogg
MP for North East Somerset
Moggmentum shows no sign of abating. Rees-Mogg has proven hugely popular with the public and party members because of his authenticity. However, leadership talk is ridiculous, as he himself has acknowledged. The trouble is, the leadership speculation may have hurt his chances of achieving his real ambition, which is to be Speaker.
54. (NEW) James Marshall
Director, Number Ten Policy Unit
A former teacher, Marshall was special advisor to three chief whips and Lord Strathclyde when he was leader of the House of Lords. Brought back by Gavin Barwell, Marshall is not particularly a policy wonk, which is odd, given his new role. The FT quoted a leading Conservative as saying: “He’s running the policy unit like a whipping operation”.
55. (+26) Greg Hands
Minister of State for International Trade
It will have been a blow to Greg Hands to lose his Cabinet position but at least he survived, unlike many of George Osborne’s close allies. He will be delighted to be at the centre of the Brexit debate, even if he surprised many of his friends by supporting Remain. However, he ‘supported’ Remain in the same way as Theresa May did. An effective operator and he was one of the few people in government to respond to Grenfell appropriately.
56. (RE-ENTRY) Douglas Murray
Author & Associate Director, Henry Jackson Society
A real hate figure for the left, Murray’s new book THE STRANGE DEATH OF EUROPE has been both a bestseller and an important contribution to the debate on immigration, Islam and Europe. It confronts some important questions which many people do their best to avoid discussing.
57. (-6) Jo Johnson
Minister for Universities
Johnson has failed to build on his early promise and his rise up the greasy pole has come to a shuddering halt. He headed the team which wrote the 2015 Conservative manifesto, but that failed to propel his career forward. He’s certainly a tip to join the cabinet, but he needs a few successes first.
58. (-2) William Hague
Former Foreign Secretary
Some of us thought William Hague was a Eurosceptic but his interventions in the EU Referendum campaign proved what many of us suspected – that he went native during his five years as Foreign Secretary. A pity. However, he remains a politician who is listened to whenever he decides to make a pronouncement.
59. (-25) Lord Daniel Finkelstein
Columnist, The Times
Finkelstein drops again in this year’s list even though his Times columns make for compulsory reading. Why? Because he was seen as an arch Cameroon and is George Osborne’s best friend. He’s said to be helping David Cameron write his memoirs. A long term tip as a future leader of the House of Lords.
60. (+4) Lord Stuart Polak
Director, Conservative Friends of Israel
One of the shrewdest single issue pressure group lobbyists around, Polak joined the Conservative benches in the House of Lords in 2015. His influence on Conservative policy towards the Middle East is unlikely to decline.
61. (-25) Sheridan Westlake
Special Advisor, No 10 Downing Street
Having spent many years working in the CRD and then for Eric Pickles, Sheridan Westlake took on a new enforcement role in Downing Street under David Cameron. He is one of the few Cameron Downing Street appointments to be kept on by Theresa May. Basically in charge of delivery and avoiding clusterf**ks.
62. (-8) Sarah Wollaston
Chair of the Health Select Committee
The maverick’s maverick many of her fellow MPs don’t regard her as a team player. However, to others she is the exemplification of what a decent MP should be – open minded, willing to speak out against her own party if need be, diligent and honest. The public like and respect her.
63. (+20) Tracey Crouch
Minister for Sport
If ever there was a round peg in a round hole as a minister, it’s Tracey Crouch. A qualified football coach, she made a blinding start in her new job and has ruffled all sorts of feathers in various sports. She has a refreshing interview style and has done a lot to advance the cause of women in sport.
64. (NEW) Stewart Jackson
Special Advisor to David Davis
Having lost his Peterborough seat in the election, and having been David Davis’s PPS in the last parliament, Jackson set himself up as a Brexit consultant. That didn’t last long and when DD came knocking and asked him to be his SPAD he couldn’t say no. He’s a total believer in not just a hard Brexit but a ‘steel’ one.
65. (NEW) Baroness Joyce Anelay
Minister of State, Department for Exiting the EU
Joyce Anelay may have voted ‘Remain’ but she and David Davis go back a long way (she was in his shadow home affairs team) and he trusts her as a safe pair of hands. A natural conciliator she will be absolutely vital in ensuring the Brexit Bill gets through the House of Lords.
66. (+3) Charles Moore
Columnist, The Spectator
Currently writing the final volume of his biography of Margaret Thatcher, Moore remains an absolute must read in the Spectator and Telegraph.
67. (NEW) Suella Fernandes
MP for Fareham, PPS to Treasury Ministers, Chair, European Research Group of MPs
It’s very odd that Suella Fernandes is a PPS and can also chair the European Research Group, which herds Eurosceptic MPs and puts pressure on the government to get Brexit done as quickly as possible.
68. (-48) Sir Patrick McLoughlin
Chairman of the Conservative Party
Last year we called McLoughlin “a great survivor” and “the ultimate safe pair of hands”. He’s survived the election result, which some in the party are furious about as they hold him, as party chairman, at least partly responsible for the result and the failure of the campaign strategy. Bizarrely, he is the one who’s carried out the internal inquiry (along with Eric Pickles). He is now rumoured to have had enough. And frankly, who could blame him?
69. (-20) Iain Duncan Smith
Former Leader of the Conservative Party
Having played a very prominent part in the election campaign, as one of the few senior Conservative politicians trusted to appear on the media, he might have (and I am told did) expected to return to government. It was not to be. Still retains a high profile, especially on Brexit.
70. (+15) Sir Eric Pickles
Former Party Chairman
Eric Pickles stood down at the election, which is a shame as he is someone respected on all sides of the party. He is the co-author of the party inquest into the election result, and I will be interesting to see if Sir Eric has learned the art of caveating. Let’s hope not, and he says it how it is, because the party as a whole deserves better than a whitewash.
71. Carrie Symonds
Director of Communications, Conservative Party
Carrie Symonds has returned to the CCHQ fold and a good thing too. She’s a formidable and respected operator and will work well with Robbie Gibb.
72. (-9) Tim Montgomerie
Tim Montgomerie takes a slight fall in this year’s list but only because his visibility has reduced following his departure from the Times. His new venture, Unherd, is a brave new step into the world of long form, explanatory commentary. The site is not overtly party political, although it does have a rightish tinge to it. Let’s hope it is a huge success as it certainly deserves to be.
73. (+1) Sajid Javid
Secretary State for Communities & Local Government
Oh what might have been. Seen as the most dogged Eurosceptic in the cabinet, everyone was astonished when he came out for Remain. Having been seen as a future leader he instantly lost the trust of everyone on the right and is finding it difficult to recover. Rumour is that he and Theresa May do not get on and she had intended to remove him from the cabinet. He was slow to react to Grenfell but once he galvanised his department, he recovered his position. He now needs to make himself unsackable.
74. (NEW) Tom Tugendhat
Chairman, Foreign Affairs Select Committee & MP for Tonbridge
Charming, urbane and with a slight air of political naivete, Tom Tugendhat ran for the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs select committee, with the aim of putting a marker down. He didn’t expect to win. He ought to have got a junior ministerial position in June. One of a merry band of the 2015 intake who are seen as potential future leaders.
75. (-49) Katie Perrior
Former Director of Communications, Number 10 Downing Street
Katie Perrior resigned her post as soon as the election was called, which everyone thought a little odd. It didn’t take long for her to reveal what a viper’s nest Number Ten had been over the previous year. She’s now returned as chairman of inHouse PR and is pursuing a career in political punditry and has a regular column in The Times.
76. (-27) David Cameron
Former Prime Minister
Totally absent from the public debate over the last twelve months, it’s no surprise that David Cameron falls this year. Busy writing his memoirs, with the help of Danny Finkelstein, he is said to be finding the experience somewhat of a challenge. We’d like to hear more from him.
77. (NEW) Brendan O’Neill
Editor, Spiked Online
Brendan O’Neill has become something of a hero for those who are interested in defending free speech and freedom of expression. He’s not afraid to take on the politically correct brigade and deserves a much higher profile in the next twelve months.
78. (NEW) James Cleverley
MP for Braintree
Last week James Cleverley admitted he’d love to be prime minister. No doubt some will sneer at such an expression of naked political ambition, but why not? Had a baptism of fire on the GLA, and has a sunny outlook and great sense of humour. His army background will do him no harm. But he needs to be given some ministerial experience.
79. (NEW) Lord Taylor of Holbeach
Conservative Chief Whip in the House of Lords
John Taylor makes this year’s list because his role as chief whip in the next twelve months is going to be absolutely crucial. He will need to charm as many Crossbenchers as possible, and he’s just the man to do it.
80. (+17) Julia Hartley-Brewer
Columnist & Broadcaster
A prolific columnist and broadcaster, Hartley-Brewer has really raised her profile since her departure from LBC. She’s unpredictable, feisty and intelligent and some reckon she’d make a great MP. She now presents the morning slot on the new talkRadio.
81. (-13) Dean Godson
Director, Policy Exchange
Policy Exchange is still as prolific as it ever was but has it infiltrated Number Ten in the same way it did during the Cameron years? Steps are being made but not quite.
82. (NEW) Andy Street
Mayor of the West Midlands
Andy Street won by the narrowest of margins in the West Midlands Mayoral election and it will be fascinating to see how he deals with the mostly Labour councils in the area. He had few actual powers and precious little budget, but he does have the gift of the gab, which has taken him a long way.
83. (NEW) Sir Mick Davis
Chief Executive & Co-Treasurer of the Conservative Party
There are mutterings about why one man should hold two very important positions. Indeed, some question why he was appointed chief executive with comparatively little knowledge of the inner workings of the party.
84. (-13) Matthew Parris
Columnist, The Times & Spectator
For many he is the pre-eminent columnist of his generation. He can write entertainingly about anything and never bores, mainly because of his endearing unpredictability. Probably the most read columnist among Tory MPs. Unfortunately, Brexit has rendered him uncharacteristically predictable and his ‘remainiac’ rants can become somewhat tiresome if you’re on the other side of the debate. We still love him, though.
85. (-58) Matthew Elliott
Former Chief Executive, Vote Leave, Founder of Brexit Central
Matthew Elliott falls in this list partly because his public profile has fallen away since the referendum, but also because he hasn’t really carved out a new niche for himself or bagged a high profile job. However, Brexit Central is doing well and has become required reading
86. (-) Henry Bolton
OK, we know nothing about him. So shall we just gloss over this one?
87. (NEW) Allister Heath
Editor, Sunday Telegraph
The Telegraph as a brand is having a tough time. Too many good journalist are leaving/have left, either voluntarily or otherwise. Having said that, the Sunday Telegraph has become readable again under Allister Heath’s editorship. He’s made some good hires but still has some way to go if he’s to steal readers from his competitors.
88. (NEW) Johnny Mercer
MP for Plymouth Moor View
Suffers from the Amber Rudd disease of having a very marginal seat, but Johnny Mercer is another of the 2015 intake who stands out from the crowd, partly due to his armed forces background. Like Tom Tugendhat he exudes an air of political naivete, but that can be harnessed as a positive.
89. (+2) Mark Wallace
Executive Editor, ConservativeHome
Wallace brings a bright, pugnacious approach to ConservativeHome and rarely sits on the fence in his writings. He often has some uncomfortable messages for the Conservative Party, not least since the general election campaign failure.
90. (NEW) Richard Tice & John Longworth
Co-chairmen, Leave Means Leave
Leave Means Leave exists to hold the government’s feet to the fire on Brexit and so far has done a good job in maintaining a good media profile. Tice is the urbane and acceptable face of Arron Banks, while Longworth provides the intellectual and economic heft.
91. (NEW) Geoff Norcott
Said to be the country’s only right wing comedian. He’s made an appearance on Question Time and is actually very funny. In his act he’s a very reasonable Conservative rather than a headbanger and we suspect his profile will only continue to grow.
92. (-3) Toby Young
Columnist & Broadcaster, Director of the New Schools Network
Young has become an almost ever present presence on our screens and radios, giving his views on all sorts of issues. An eloquent broadcaster and combative writer, he’s never knowingly uncontroversial.
93. (NEW) Tom Swarbrick
Head of Broadcasting, Number Ten Downing Street
Former LBC reporter who played the role of poacher turned gamekeeper. Had a nightmare job before the election where his main role was to say ‘no’ to all broadcasters. Liked by the PM, Swarbrick is said to play an increasingly important role in the Number 10 operation, he’s working very well with Robbie Gibb.
94. (NEW) John O’Connell
Chief Executive, Taxpayers’ Alliance
The Taxpayers’ Alliance is a necessary invention and it still plays a very important role in holding those who spend money on our behalf to account. O’Connell started at the TPA as an intern, and now heads the organisation.
95. (NEW) Jonathan Isaby
Isaby is one of the Right’s most popular and engaging figures. His latest incarnation is as the editor of Brexit Central, a site which even devout Remainers like James McGrory say is an indispensable part of their morning reading. It’s not just a Brexit cheerleader, its articles are often far more informative and educational than those found in the mainstream press.
96. (NEW) Kemi Badenoch
MP for Saffron Walden
Our panel always likes to talent spot and this year we’re highlighting former GLA member Kemi Badenoch. We think she’s one to watch. Suave, articulate, interested in original policy ideas and ale to articulate them, we’d be surprised if she didn’t get a rapid promotion.
97. (NEW) Gareth Bacon
Leader of the London Assembly Conservative Group
Bacon has made a strong start as leader of a weakened Conservative group on the GLA and he is taking the fight to Sadiq Khan.
98. (+1) Andrew Kennedy
Conservative Party Agent
Acts as agent to a group of constituencies in West Kent and writes a brilliant blog (Voting & Boating) on his life and work. Two years ago, we wrote: “One of the party’s best campaigners, it’s likely CCHQ will try to bring him in house before too long, if only to silence his very caustic blog!” Rather surprisingly, that hasn’t happened yet! Or if they’ve tried, he’s been very adept in resisting their blandishments.
99. (-4) Kate Andrews
News Editor, Institute of Economic Affairs
One of the bright new generations of right of centre thinkers, Andrews has got a high media profile and deservedly so. Dry as dust on economics, she’s rather more liberal on social and foreign policy issues. An interesting mix.
100. (NEW) Dia Chakravarty
Brexit Editor, Daily Telegraph
A regular of BBC’s Question Time, Dia Chakravarty recently left the TPA to join the Telegraph. Working with Brexit Commissioning Editor Asa Bennett she’s making the Telegraph’s Brexit coverage unmissable.
29 Sep 2017 at 13:42
Make no mistake, if Labour wins the next election we’ll see the most hard left policy platform ever experienced in Britain. The devil in me would be fascinated to see what would happen and discover how quickly the whole house of cards would fall apart. But the patriot in me is horrified at the prospect of this party ever being allowed near the levers of power. What a shame it is that so few people in the upper echelons of the Conservative Party seem to share that horror. Instead, they continue to turn off the electorate with their self-indulgent grandstanding and betrayal of the very people that voted them in. Yes, I’m talking about half of the cabinet. What a shame none of them could have been in Brighton to see the real face of today’s Labour Party. Had they done so they would make sure that fight on a united front and stop the briefings and stupid media games that they are playing at the moment. Yes, I’m talking to you Boris Johnson. And to you Philip Hammond. I could go on and name half the Cabinet, but these two very senior cabinet ministers are the worst offenders – or their fully authorised SPADs are. One lobby journalist told me in Brighton that many Cabinet ministers are now brazenly doing the briefing themselves and not even bothering to get their SPADs to do it. So when you see “Sources close to…” in a newspaper, the odds are that it is the minister himself (and I mean ‘him’ rather than ‘her’) who are the sources.
Divided parties do not win elections. If there is one lesson from political history, that is it. Any political party is a coalition, and so is any cabinet. People will always disagree on the way forward but if those disagreements become public spats it is never very edifying. Careless talk costs elections. Whoever leads the Conservatives into the next election, whenever it comes, is going to have to crack down on the kind of media briefings that are happening at the moment on an almost daily basis. If that doesn’t happen, all those who are involved in it should look themselves in the mirror when and if they see Jeremy Corbyn walking through the black door in Downing Street.
We’ve seen this week the ugly face of the hard left. What kind of party conference is it where the BBC feel they have to provide security for their female political editor? A friend of mine, who is by no means a Conservative tells me: “The left has a seam of bullying inadequates in its ranks from Hatton to McDonnell who foster the Godfather mindset than intimidates anyone who challenges them – male or female. It’s not hidden. It’s there for all to see. Brutes.” And they say the Tories are the nasty party… Another friend of mine had organised a gin tasting event in Manchester at the weekend but has now had to cancel it after members of the far left intimidated the owner of the premises where the event was due to be held and people who had registered to attend on Facebook. My friend says: “We’re obviously very disappointed that we have had to cancel this event, but due to the intimidation from a number of left-wing groups on Facebook, we have a responsibility to ensure the security of our guests and the venue. There are already a number of pages and events set-up on Facebook which intend on causing disruption to Conservative Party Conference and the police need to get to grips with this before there is a repeat of the disgusting behaviour that was displayed in 2015.”
According to Marketing Manchester, Conservative Party Conference generates £29m for the local economy. That’s money which goes towards employing the many Mancunians who work in the hospitality industry. It is those people who are protesting that are putting people’s businesses and jobs at risk.
My friend continues: “We usually run events prior to conference which we have had no problem at all. Our pre-conference events add a nice little cash boost for our association and we would have made well over £600 from this event.”
So that’s how the hard left wins, and believe me, we’re going to see a lot more of this sort of thing.
On Sunday night I attended a Momentum Rally in Brighton. And that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. I even persuaded them to let Robert Peston in. The main event was a 25 minute speech by Jeremy Corbyn. He was introduced as “the absolute boy”. Yes, really. He gave the kind of speech he’s been giving for 30 years, but could ever do had cameras been allowed in the room. It was a full blown Marxist rant. Down with the rich. Up the workers. Put up taxes. Employers are evil. You know the sort of thing. They lapped it up.
On Tuesday it was Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey’s turn to fire up the left wing. She gave a speech on the conference stage which was in some aspects even more far left than the ones Tony Benn used to give when he held the Industry portfolio for Labour in the 1970s. “We’ll restore the rights of workers – rolling out sectoral collective bargaining and guaranteeing unions access to the workplace,” she said. They will never tell you this, but I suspect the intention is to review and abolish virtually all the trade union legislation passed by the Thatcher government in the 1980s. Bet that won’t be in the manifesto, though. For obvious reasons.
I hope you will come to a couple of fringe meetings I’m chairing in Manchester. On Sunday evening I’ll be ‘In Conversation’ with Liam Fox in the ConservativeHome Marquee, and on Tuesday evening at 7pm I’ll be hosting a debate on an energy price cap, hosted by the lovely people at Octopus Energy in the Business Hub. I switched my energy supply to Octopus about 8 months ago. I hadn’t realised how easy it is to do. It’s certainly been a revelation. Their customer service is superb and I am saving around £600 a year. What’s not to like. Bye bye EDF and National Power. These companies are rip-off merchants who are too big to give a damn about the customer. Octopus are one of the new entrants to the market. They’re big enough to matter but small enough to care about their individual customers. It’s made me think about changing my bank now, as well. The big four banks have had it their way for far too long. They will only ever change if enough people force them to. Then they might understand that the customer really is king.
25 Sep 2017 at 09:00
This is the tenth year in a row that I have convened a panel to compile a list of the Top 100 Most Influential People on the Left. Back in 2008, Gordon Brown topped the list, but of the other 99 people included, 84 of them do not figure on the 2017 list.
This year’s panel was made up of two devout Corbynistas, one proud Blairite and a national newspaper political correspondent. The most difficult thing when deciding who to include an exclude, is to define what ‘influence’ actually means. In the end it means being influential in a combination of national politics, the media, on the Labour Party and its leader.
In all, there are 26 new entries in the whole list, on top of the 29 which appeared last year. Out go Gordon Brown, Angela Eagle, Neil Kinnock, Pat McFadden, Dan Jarvis, Rosie Winterton, Owen Smith, Kexia Dugdale and David Sainsbury, among others. From the SNP we lose Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson. Indeed, the SNP only occupy two slots on this list.
As in the 2016 list, in come a whole host of Corbynistas like Ellie Mae O’Hagan, Matt Zarb-Cousin, The Canary’s Kerry-Anne Mendoza, Matt Turner from Evolve Politics, Faiza Shaheen and Emma Rees from Momentum. Sir Keir Starmer is the highest new entry at number thirteen. The Greens are represented by their co-leader Caroline Lucas.
The panel also did a bit of star spotting by including the young leader writer on The Guardian Randeep Ramesh and Faiza Shaheen, the Corbynista director of the Centre for Labour and Social Studies.
People always look at individuals on lists like this and sniff the political wind to find out if their heroes are on their way up and their anti-Christs are on their way down or even out. There’s little doubt that following the general election Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters have entrenched their position and rising up the list. Thirty seven people on this list could loosely be described as Corbynistas, an increase from 29 last year. It’s wholly possible that next year there might be a majority of Corbynistas.
One of the highest risers last year, the former Shadow Defence Secretary Clive Lewis (89 to 15) has plummeted this year down to 52. Journalist Rachel Shabi is the highest riser from 90 to 30, while the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush rises 30 places to 49.
The top ten makes for interesting reading, and there was a lot of debate about the placings on our panel. Karie Murphy, who runs the Leader’s office crashes in at number five, while Owen Jones re-enters the top ten at number 9, up from 24 last year.
All in all, it’s clear that Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are on the rise and the right of party is still in retreat – much the same as last year. The election result has solidified Corbyn’s own position and it’s difficult to see any challenge to his authority coming forward in the next twelve months. Sadiq Khan is the most likely source of trouble, but until he can demonstrate real achievement in London, he’s unlikely to risk upsetting the ship.
So a year of achievement for Jeremy Corbyn. If we can say the same next year, it is clear that the majority of this list will be supporters of his – something which few would have bet on even two years ago.
1. (-) Jeremy Corbyn
Leader of the Labour Party
Even though the Labour Party lost the election, somehow it didn’t feel like it. Corbyn’s tenuous hold on the leadership solidified overnight and the party now feels he has earned the right to fight the next election on his own terms. His increased power was exemplified by the fact that he didn’t need to bring any (bar one, Owen Smith) of his old adversaries back into the Shadow Cabinet.
2. (+1) Sadiq Khan
Mayor of London
He may not have a speaking slot at the Labour Party conference, but he’s the most powerful elected Labour politician in the country. A cute media performer, he talks a good game, but the proof of the pudding will be in solid policy achievements. So far they are scarce. Housing is where he can really make a mark, but so far the jury’s out on whether he can meet his ambitious housebuilding targets.
3. (+1) John McDonnell
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
John McDonnell holds huge away over Corbyn. Some say he is Corbyn’s Svengali, although he’s in competition with our Number 4 for that title. Milne and McDonnell are said to be the ones pulling Corbyn’s strings and he doesn’t do much without their say-so.
4. (+1) Seumas Milne
Director of Communications & Strategy
Seumas Milne’s grip on power around the leader has grown hugely in the last twelve months. He’s created a powerful media team which is effective at rationing media appearances and keeps interviews with interviewers thought to be unfriendly to a minimum.
5. (+22) Karie Murphy
Head of the Leader’s Office
Said to be the oil that lubricates the Corbyn machine, Murphy is one of they key members of his operation. The leader’s office is said to be much more tightly organised and this is largely down to Murphy’s abilities.
6. (-4) Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister of Scotland
Last year we said: “Sturgeon’s reputation will stand or fall on the result of a second independence referendum. Will she have the courage to push for it?” It’s now off the agenda for the foreseeable future and the loss of SNP seats in June further tarnished the reputation of Scotland’s First Minister. Have we already seen ‘peak Sturgeon’?
7. (-1) Tom Watson
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
Some argued for Tom Watson to drop much further in this list. He tried to get rid of Corbyn by failed and now seems a somewhat diminished and somewhat anonymous figure. However, he has tentacles which reach into all parts of the party and remains an ultimate fixer.
8. (+4) Andrew Murray
Chief of Staff at UNITE
It may seem odd to place Andrew Murray ahead of Len McCluskey in this list but he makes the top ten due to his closeness to Jeremy Corbyn. He was drafted in to effectively run the general election campaign. He’s often accused of being a Stalinist, but this character trait served him well in running a well oiled election machine. He may be back at Unite, but his influence is still felt around Jeremy Corbyn.
9. (+15) Owen Jones
You can’t keep Owen Jones down for long and he rises in this year’s list, not just due to his media omnipresence but also his tours of the country inspiring activists in marginal seats. His prolific writings and tweets make him by far and away the most influential left of centre commentator.
10. (-1) Andrew Fisher
Director of Policy
Fisher has a controversial past but is very adept at imposing himself and his views. One of Corbyn’s most trusted lieutenants, he wrote the party’s election manifesto which was widely praised by all and sundry. He now has time to put some flesh on the policy bones.
11. (-4) Len McCluskey
General Secretary, UNITE
McCluskey has gone from mild criticism of Corbyn to his chief cheerleader in the Union movement. His union continues to fund the party to a massive extent and that’s unlikely to change.
12. (+5) Emily Thornberry
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Like a phoenix from the ashes, Thornberry has recovered from her white van moment to rise, almost by accident, to the top of the Shadow Cabinet. Now seen as a serious potential successor to Corbyn she has almost effortlessly become one of his key lieutenants even if she is far from being on his wing of the party.
13. (Re-Entry) Sir Keir Starmer
Shadow Brexit Secretary
Having managed to convincingly hold half a dozen positions on Brexit in the space of a year, Sir Keir is this year’s highest new entry. Seen as a potential leader, some say he is overhyped, but given the breadth of opinion on Brexit in the party he’s done well, and done well across the Despatch box too.
14. (-4) Diane Abbott
Shadow Home Secretary
Would die in a ditch for her leader. Promoted to the Home Affairs portfolio, she ought to have shone, but she falls in this year’s list because of a series of gaffes, one of which nearly derailed the election campaign. Needs to work her passage back to a position of real influence.
15. (-5) Frances O’Grady
General Secretary, TUC
O’Grady’s profile has fallen in the last twelve months although she has lately been outspoken on Brexit. Her weakness as a platform speaker holds her back, although she is much more effective in one to one media interviews.
16. (+17) Angela Rayner
Shadow Education Secretary
A rising star, Rayner has found her voice in the fight against Theresa May’s grammar school proposals. Last year we said “the jury is out on how far she will go.” The jury’s in and she’s now seen as a serious leadership contender.
17. (New) Barry Gardiner
Shadow International Trade Secretary
Said to be the Housewives’ favourite Labour politician, Barry Gardiner achieved a huge profile during the general election given his willingness to appear on any media outlet at any time. One of the five politicians trusted to do so by Seumas Milne. The Labour equivalent of the LibDems’ Tom Brake. And that’s meant as a compliment.
18. (-10) Jon Lansman
Founder & Chair, Momentum
Lansman has started to appear on the media and does a good job when he does, and he’s largely stayed out of trouble. He’s quietly developed Momentum into a powerful activist force and this was evident in the election where he was able to deploy activists to marginal seats.
19. (New) Andrew Gwynne
Shadow Communities & Local Government Secretary, Campaigns Co-ordinator
Gwynne has become a key lieutenant to Jeremy Corbyn and has become a very effective media performer. Combative but with an obvious sense of humour. Rewarded for his loyalty and media achievements in the election campaign with an important shadow cabinet role.
20. (+8) Chuka Umunna
Former Shadow Business Secretary, Founder VoteLeaveWatch
Umunna has kept up a high media profile, despite no formal position in the party or in Parliament. A redoubtable Remainer, his main objective is now to fight Brexit from a position sometimes out of kilter with his party’s.
21. (-1) Andy Burnham
Mayor, Greater Manchester
He walked his election in Manchester and has maintained a reasonably high national profile. Handled the terror attack well and was a unifying factor. However, there’s clearly little love lost between him and his party leader.
22. (-) Caroline Lucas
Co-Leader of the Green Party
Won her seat with ease at the election and still really the only Green with a huge public recognition factor. A resonant voice in the Brexit debate, her challenge now, with her co-leader Jonathan Bartley is to take the Greens to the next level.
23. (New) Nick Brown
Nick Brown has huge experience as a whip and he knows the task ahead of him, particularly in keeping his parliamentary flock together over Brexit.
24. (New) Ian Lavery
Chair of the Labour Party
Like Andrew Gwynne, Lavery was thought to have had a good election and was therefore promoted to replace Tom Watson as Labour Party chair. Liked by people on all wings of the party he is seen as a unifying force.
25. (-7) Yvette Cooper
Chair, Home Affairs Select Committee
Although beaten into third place, she emerged from the 2015 leadership campaign with some credit, and has retained a high media profile. She has made a strong start as chair of the Home Affairs select committee and is respected across the House.
26. (-3) Tim Roache
General Secretary, GMB
Roache isn’t the media friendly performer that his predecessor Paul Kenny was, and he hasn’t quite got his gift of the gab. But then again, few have.
27. (-1) Iain McNicol
General Secretary of the Labour Party
Described in this list last year as “a dead man walking”, McNichol has proved to be a great survivor. Although his authority was usurped by Andrew Murray in the election campaign, he still there and gives little sign of falling on his sword.
28. (+7) James Schneider
Head of Strategic Communications, Leader’s Office
Schneider was adept at carving out a high media profile for himself in his job as national organiser for Momentum, but since his appointment to Corbyn’s team he has had to eschew appearing on the broadcast media. A shame really as he became the acceptable face of the left.
29. (New) Matt Zarb-Cousin
Former press office to Jeremy Corbyn, Political Pundit
Since he left working for Corbyn Zarb-Cousin has developed a strong presence in the political broadcast media. A total believer in the Corbyn project he’s happy to put forward the party line in any forum, and has gained a lot of respect for his media appearances.
30. (+60) Rachel Shabi
Journalist & Commentator
Omnipresent on our screens, the redoubtable Shabi is one of the few Corbyn supporting commentators to be taken seriously by the media. Thoughtful and fluent, she deserves her massive rise in this year’s list.
31. (-10) Paul Mason
Freelance Journalist & Commentator
Some say he is Corbyn’s ‘Chemical Ali’, others see him as a guru. Our panel felt that his influence in the Corbyn inner circle is overstated but his projection of the Corbyn project in the media means his influence on the wider left remains strong.
32. (-16) Lisa Nandy
Former Shadow Energy & Climate Change Secretary
If Jeremy Corbyn were to fall under a bus, some in the Labour left were looking to Lisa Nandy as the candidate of the left in a future leadership election. However, she’s had a very quiet year for her, with just her appearances on THIS WEEK keeping up her public profile.
33. (+14) Jess Phillips
Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, Chair of the Womens’ PLP
We predicted in 2015 that Phillips would be “one of the characters of the new Parliament.” We were right. Outspoken, funny and able to take the fight to the enemy, Jess Phillips is hugely talented but it’s difficult to see her accepting a front bench position, even if it were offered.
34. (New) Kerry-Anne Mendoza
Editor in Chief, The Canary
If anything can be described as Alt-Left it is The Canary, which has a distant relationship to factual reporting, even though it describes itself as a news site. In fact, it is no more than a Corbynista propaganda site, but has been hugely successful in attracting clicks. Kerry-Anne Mendoza is its public face and is in much demand in the hated MSM.
35. (-12) Dave Prentis
General Secretary of UNISON
Prentis is a softly spoken moderate and any influence he exerts will be behind the scenes rather than shouted from the ramparts. A resolute defender of Corbyn in the media. Another union leader who has had a quietish year.
36. (-6) Baroness Alicia Kennedy
Having run Tom Watson’s deputy leadership campaign Kennedy is the power behind the throne. A true party insider, she knows where a lot of bodies are buried. But as Tom Watson’s star wanes, so does Kennedy’s.
37. (-5) Carwyn Jones
Welsh First Minister
Carwyn Jones has struggle to build a UK wide profile and certainly comes a poor second to Nicola Sturgeon in the self publicity stakes. However, he is a powerful advocate of Wales’s interests in Westminster and is becoming more vocal on Brexit.
38. (+28) Tony Blair
Former Prime Minister
Some say Tony Blair is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the future of Labour but given that if you’re even a tad to the right of Jeremy Corbyn you’re denounced as either a ‘Blairite’ or a ‘Tory’, it just shows that the three time election winning former prime minister still continues to shape the debate on the left, just as Margaret Thatcher does so on the right. His stance on Brexit helps him rise up the list this year.
39. (-2) Hilary Benn
Former Shadow Foreign Secretary, Chair, Brexit Select Committee
It was thought that Hilary Benn would be a real thorn in the side of the government on Brexit when he took over as chair of the Brexit Select Committee. It hasn’t really turned out like that due to the many competing voices on the issue. The next twelve months could be somewhat different, even if controlling the many different voices on his select committee is like herding disobedient cats.
40. (-1) Heidi Alexander
Former Shadow Health Secretary
One of the nicest people in parliament, Alexander was given a huge promotion when she was appointed to the Health portfolio, where she did an excellent job. Her resignation was clearly very painful to her. She ought to be a major player in the Labour Party’s future. She’s concentrating on chairing a new initiative promoting Britain’s continued membership of the Single Market.
41. (-1) J K Rowling
Labour Party donor
J K Rowling has developed a knack of speaking out rarely, but effectively. Her donations both to Labour and to the Remain campaign inevitably confer influence.
42. (-11) Kevin Maguire
Assistant Editor, Daily Mirror
Wisely turned down the job as Corbyn’s Head of Communications, Maguire has become the go to voice for those who want to know what is going on at the top of the Labour Party. Even though he has been critical of Corbyn’s performance, Corbyn’s people know they can’t afford to alienate him.
43. (-9) Kate Osamor
Shadow International Development Secretary
Last year we said: “Seen as a competent performer, Osamor needs to develop a higher public profile, which is not easy to do in this role.” It wasn’t. She didn’t. Hence her fall.
44. (-1) Anushka Asthana/Heather Stewart
Joint Political Editors, The Guardian
They have confounded those who thought a political editor job share could never work. They’ve broken big stories and each developed a good media profile.
45. (-1) Polly Toynbee
In 2015 we wrote: “Toynbee has been a surprising Corbyn sympathiser…but it’s inevitable that at some point she will part company with Corbyn and his team.” Last year we wrote: “It didn’t take long.” She’s now done a bit of a reverse ferret and seems again to be more supportive of the Labour leader. In danger of being out-influenced by the new generation of left of centre writers.
46. (New) Rebecca Long-Bailey
Shadow Business Secretary
Said to be Jeremy Corbyn’s favoured successor Long-Bailey didn’t feature in last year’s list but none of our panel could work out why. She’s in at 46 but in reality should be a lot higher given the opportunities to make political hay in this portfolio.
47. (-11) Baroness Shami Charkrabarti
Labour Peer & Shadow Attorney General
Last year we said we considered her a shoo-in to Jeremy Corbyn’s new shadow cabinet. We were right. However, she continues to be dogged by accusations that the conclusions of her June 2016 inquiry into antisemitism in the Labour Party were tepid to say the least. Seems rather uncomfortable in the rough and tumble of party politics.
48. (New) Emma Rees
National Organiser, Momentum
A bright and media friendly successor to James Schneider, Rees is responsible for growing the activist base of Momentum. Said to enjoy good relations with the Corbyn team, she is likely to be a star of the future.
49. (+30) Stephen Bush
Editor, New Statesman ‘Staggers’ blog
One of the rising stars of a new generation of journalists on the left, he was one of the few to predict the course of Corbyn’s election as Labour leader. He is getting an increasing broadcast media profile and if he continues in this vein will next year outrank many of his older rivals.
50. (-4) Jonathan Ashworth
Shadow Health Secretary
Has been a critic of Corbyn but has decided to hang on in there in the Shadow Cabinet. Consistently walks a political tightrope, but is an impressive media performer. He’s done a very good job in this portfolio, which hasn’t restricted him speaking out on other subjects too.
51. (-3) Harriet Harman
Former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
Publishing her memoirs kept her profile up, and she continue to be influential on women’s issues.
52. (-37) Clive Lewis
Labour MP for Norwich South, Former Shadow Defence Secretary
His resignation from the shadow cabinet now looks to have been a major tactical mistake. Been very quiet of late.
53. (-3) John Cryer
Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party
A popular chair of the PLP, Cryer has had a difficult task in keeping the party together in parliament. Deserves a medal.
54. (-3) Helen Lewis
Deputy Editor, New Statesman
Lewis’s profile has been maintained and she is considered one of the more balanced and thoughtful commentators on the centre left.
55. (-) John Woodcock
Labour MP for Barrow in Furness
One of the MPs not afraid to confront the Corynistas and tell it like it is, despite the bullying and aggression he has encountered. Everyone, including him, was astonished he retained his seat. Has had to temper his anti-Corbynism.
56. (New) Glenys Willmott
Leader, Labour Group of MEPs
Brexit has given Willmott a higher profile, but it is likely to be shortlived if we do indeed leave in March 2019.
57. (Re-entry) Anas Sarwar
Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament
Standing for the leadership of Scottish Labour, even if he doesn’t win, he’s going to be a key player in reviving Labour’s fortunes north of the border.
58. (-6) Cat Smith
Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement, Youth Affairs & Local Transport
Cat Smith has been as close as anyone to the Labour leader yet she hasn’t really fulfilled her early promise. Possibly because she has a rather low profile portfolio in the shadow cabinet.
59. (-3) Jon Trickett
Shadow Cabinet Office Minister
Formerly chief political advisor to Ed Miliband, Jon Trickett has made the transition seemlessly to the new guard. However, he made little impact as campaign coordinator and although he is a reliable media performer for Corbyn, he has been shunted off into one of the more obscure portfolios.
60. (New) Richard Leonard
Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament
Competing with Anas Sarwar for the Labour leadership in Scotland, he is thought to be Jeremy Corbyn’s favoured candidate, but it remains to be seen whether his Englishness holds him back.
61. (New) Manuel Cortes
General Secretary, TSSA
One of the more cerebral trade union leaders, he is listened to across the party.
62. (New) Ellie Mae O’Hagan
Ultra Corbynista, O’Hagan’s writings are pored over by others for signs of where the left of the party is heading.
63. (-9) Jason Cowley
Editor, New Statesman
The New Statesman has agonised over its role as a left of centre magazine during Corbyn’s leadership, but it goes from strength the strength, particularly in its online offering.
64. (+22) Alison McGovern MP
One of the last keepers of the Blairite flame, she is an increasingly important voice for the right of the party, especially on Brexit.
65. (-2) John Swinney
SNP Deputy First Minister of Scotland & Education Secretary
Has moved from the Finance to Education portfolio, a traditional bed of thorns in Scotland. His performance here could signal more success for the SNP, but if he fails…
66. (-5) Mick Cash
General Secretary, RMT
The RMT continues to call more strikes than any other union, or it appears to, but for a change it seems to enjoy a lot of public support for doing so on Southern Rail.
67. (-5) Liz Kendall
Former leadership candidate
A disappointing year from Liz Kendall, despite her regular appearances on THIS WEEK. She ought to be the main spokeswoman for the right of the Labour Party but hasn’t maintained the profile she gained in 2015-16.
68. (Re-entry) Chris Leslie
Labour MP for Nottingham East
Chris Leslie re-enters this list entirely due to his profile on the issue of Brexit and his media appearances on behalf of Open Britain. An effective performer and a loss to the front bench.
69. (Re-entry) Alastair Campbell
Editor at Large, The New European, Diarist
Alastair Campbell may be the devil to many Corbynistas but he makes a dramatic re-entry to this list because he has become one of the most high profile and eloquent exponents of the case to remain in the EU. It’s not a left wing cause per se, but he’s constantly putting lead in the pencil of those on the left who believe in it.
70. (-6) Gloria de Piero
Labour MP for Ashfield
In any rational world Gloria de Piero would be one of the faces of the Labour Party, but politics is rarely rational. Her time will come.
71. (+12) Baroness Angela Smith
Labour leader in the House of Lords
The role of Labour leader in the House of Lords is crucial in the parliament, especially given the Great Repeal Bill. The question is how independent from the party leadership Smith will prove to be.
72. (-7) Katherine Viner
Editor, The Guardian
Last year we said: “You just get the feeling that The Guardian isn’t influencing the debate in the way that it used to.” There’s a distinct lack of innovation in either its print or online offering and we see no reason to change our view this year. It needs to be more than Owen Jones and Polly Toynbee.
73. (New) Steve Rotheram
Mayor of Liverpool
Rotheram has some work to do in reunifying the Liverpool Labour Party following his unsurprising victory in May. He’s an effective operator and will do well as an advocate for the city.
74. (-33) Ed Balls
Now entering the ‘post Strictly’ phase of his life, it’s difficult to see a return to frontline politics for this talented politician. It will be interesting to see where his career takes him next.
75. (+18) Ayesha Hazirika
Political Commentator & Comedian
Former adviser to Harman and Miliband, Hazirika is now carving out a role for herself in the world of political punditry and broadcasting. She has also revived her stand-up career with a sell-out comedy tour.
76. (+20) James Meadway
Economic Adviser to John McDonnell
Meadway has overtaken Richard Murphy as the far left’s favoured economic guru. Came to McDonnell from the New Economics Foundation.
77. (-18) Mhairi Black
SNP MP for Paisley & Renfrewshire South
Mhaira Black may not quite have lived up to her maiden speech, but she remains an inspirational figure in Scottish politics. Her second year in Parliament has been quieter than her first. It was even rumoured she might stand down at the June election.
78. (-8) Marvin Rees
Mayor of Bristol
Wrestled back the mayoralty of Britain from an Independent and one of the few black figures in the Labour Party in a position of power. However, unlike other city mayors he hasn’t achieved much of a national profile.
79. (+1) Lloyd Embley
Editor, Daily Mirror
The Mirror was an early critic of Jeremy Corbyn but Embley has carefully repositioned the paper and some bridges have recently been built.
80. (New) Randeep Ramesh
Chief Leader Writer, The Guardian
A talented writer, Ramesh is seen as one of the most influential voices on The Guardian and is tipped for bigger things.
81. (-9) Lucy Powell
Former Shadow Education Secretary
A good communicator, Powell ought to be found a role which doesn’t involve languishing on the backbenches. It’s a thorough waste of her talents.
82. (New) Dawn Foster
Columnist, The Guardian
One of the new breed of columnists on the left who offer a refreshing new slant on the issues of the day. She’s becoming a bit of a feminist icon.
83. (-39) Stella Creasy
Labour MP for Walthamstow, Former deputy leadership candidate
A great champion of single issue causes, Creasy is a one woman lobbying machine. In any other world she’d be a shoo-in for the shadow cabinet.
84. (New) Andrew Harrop
General Secretary, Fabian Society
The Fabian Society has traditionally been seen as a bit fusty but under Harrop’s leadership it has seen something of a renaissance, publishing uncharacteristically controversial research papers.
85. (-28) Luke Akehurst
Secretary, Labour First
One of the most talented Labour people never to have become MP. His Labour First group is influential in the party. One of the party’s troopers.
86. (-4) Richard Burgon
Shadow Secretary of State for Justice
Described by some as Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘Comical Ali’ Burgon is certainly a true believer. He’s got a very high profile portfolio but more often than not appears on the media talking on subjects way outside his brief. And it invariably doesn’t go well. His favourite answer to a question is “Well a better question would be…”
87. (-11) Matt Wrack
General Secretary, FBU
Wrack provided good leadership to his members in the dispute with the government over pay, conditions and pensions, and unusually, he got the public on his side. Last year he has led his union back into Labour Party affiliation.
88. (+6) Richard Angell
A key player in the struggle to undermine Jeremy Corbyn, Progress has now become seen by some as the right wing rival to Momentum, when it is actually nothing of the sort. Angell’s profile is on the rise.
89. (New) Dr Faiza Shaheen
Another of the new breed of Corbyn supporting commentators, who’s an original thinker on Labour and social issues.
90. (New) Matt Turner
Editor, Evolve Politics
Turner has just been given a lobby pass and although Evolve isn’t as well known as The Canary, it’s infinitely more readable. Expect him to rise dramatically up next year’s list.
91. (+1) Matt Forde
Political Commentator & Comedian
An uber-Blairite Forde has developed a good reputation as a serious political commentator as well as a comedian. His mimicry is astonishingly accurate and his weekly political show on the channel DAVE has become a must-watch for viewers of all political persuasions.
92. (New) Sarah Champion
Labour MP for Rotherham
Champion has been outspoken on the issue protecting children from sexually motivated gangs and it cost her her shadow cabinet job. She’s unlikely to remain silent for long.
93. (New) David Babbs
Executive Director, 38 Degrees
38 Degrees has established itself as one of the more influential left of centre campaigning organisations, even if its effectiveness is a little hit and miss. Babbs has been a big part of its growth.
94. (-10) Rachel Reeves
Chair, Business Select Committee
Another of Labour’s lost generation who refuse to serve under Jeremy Corbyn. She’s a real loss to the frontbench, but she now has a renewed opportunity to make her mark as a select committee chair.
95. (Re-entry) Damian McBride
Special Advisor to Emily Thornberry
McBride more than anyone has helped Emily Thornberry to rise up this chart this year. And for that he deserves to return to this list.
96. (+4) Aaron Bastani
Commentator & Founder of Novara Media
A controversial figure, Bastani has carved an influential role for himself and his social media based company and is held high in the affections of Corbyn and his team. He’s been slightly usurped by The Canary and Evolve, though in terms of influence.
97. (-6) Sam Tarry
Political Officer, TSSA & Director of Corbyn for Leader
Tarry is close to Corbyn and led his team during the second leadership election. An effective operator but rumour is he has made some enemies and is being slowly edged out. Failed to get a seat at the election.
98. (-13) Luciana Berger
Former Shadow Mental Health Minister
An impressive performer, she was the only Jewish member of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow team. It was never going to last, was it? Stood to be mayor of Liverpool but came a very poor third in the selection. Still retains a high profile on mental health.
99. (-) Leanne Wood
Leader of Plaid Cymru
In publicity terms Plaid certainly punches above their weight given their consistent lack of ability to really make a breakthrough in the Welsh Assembly or indeed the Westminster parliament. They did get one extra seat but it feels as if Leanne Wood has taken Plaid as far as she can.
100. (New) Stormzy
Corbs’ favourite Grime artist. His support for the Labour leader helps him get down wiv da kidz.
15 Sep 2017 at 21:00
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 tenth year I’ve been doing this and despite two referendums and two general elections in the past three years the pace of change is, if anything, increasing – perhaps not surprising, given the stresses of Brexit and a hung parliament.
The Liberal Democrats have demonstrated the frenetic nature of politics today probably more than the two other parties, with no less than a third of the names on the list not featuring on last year’s. Out goes Tim Farron and his team after a deeply disappointing election campaign, fatally undermined by Farron’s failure to deal with the gay sex question, together with Labour’s ability to portray itself as simultaneously pro-Brexit and anti-Brexit. Still, at least the departing leader has an increase in seats, together with a surge in membership to a record level, to his credit.
And Farron remains popular with the grassroots, so he stays (just) in the top ten of our list. But the biggest movements are of course amongst the new leadership team: naturally Vince Cable shoots straight to number 1, closely followed by the party’s first woman Deputy Leader, Jo Swinson, at number 2. Others who were lined up to work on his leadership campaign (had there been an election) have climbed up or appeared for the first time: Tom Brake (now the only Commons survivor of the 1997 intake), Lib Dem peer Dee Doocey, advisers Chris Bones and David Howarth, veteran activists Duncan Brack and Mark Pack. Straight in at number 11 goes by-election victor Sarah Olney, MP for Richmond Park for only six months, and Cable’s new chief of staff, despite not even being a party member three years ago. Such are the opportunities available in a small party …
The other main group of new entrants, or re-entrants, are of course the party’s new MPs, some returning after their 2015 defeats. Watch out in particular for Layla Moran, new MP for Oxford West & Abingdon, the party’s first-ever female BAME MP and, judging by the number of conference fringe meetings she’s addressing, already a conference darling. The main Liberal Democrat speakers on Europe and Brexit – Tom Brake, Sarah Ludford, Catherine Bearder, and, now out of Parliament, Nick Clegg – also show perform well. And straight in at number 5 – the highest new entrant – is former MP Nick Harvey, now filling the (probably thankless) task of party chief executive.
The Lib Dems still, however, lack stars recognisable in the outside world; most of the names here will be familiar only to party activists. But Cable has had a good start in terms of media appearances (and he’s published a novel), and the return of some coalition ministerial talent should help. If the new leadership is canny enough to navigate the shoals and torrents of Brexit, and exploit the divisions all too evident in Labour and Tory ranks, the party still has a future.
1. (+15) Sir Vince Cable
MP for Twickenham, Leader
Vince Cable won the leadership unchallenged but journalists will continue to speculate how long he will last. Will he give up the leadership mid Parliament? My guess is, don’t bet on it. He will define the LibDems as a pro European party but success will depend on whether he can rebuild the LibDems’ dwindling local government base.
2. (+27) Jo Swinson
MP for East Dunbartonshire, Deputy Leader
The leader in waiting, Jo Swinson has had a quiet time since taking over the deputy leadership in July. A feisty campaigner, she will be no doubt touring the country but she ought to build a very prominent media profile. The LibDems have been a very male dominated party and it’s her task to counter that perception.
3. (-1) Nick Clegg
He may have lost his seat but Nick Clegg is still very popular within his own party, and is one of the party’s most recognisable faces. He is concentrating on fighting Brexit and his new book, out next month, will give him an even higher profile on the issue.
4. (-1) Sal Brinton
Sal Brinton has been a very unifying figure at a difficult time for the LibDems. An inveterate gossip, she makes it her business to know what’s going on in the party and to calm people down in times of crisis. She identified the ‘Farron problem’ before most others.
5. (REENTRY) Sir Nick Harvey
Interim Chief Executive, LibDems
Having failed to win back his North Devon seat at the election, few expected Nick Harvey to return to the political fray. However, the party needed a new face to run it day to day and as a well-known and respected figure he will carry much more weight than maybe some of his more non-political predecessors have done.
6. (+6) Tom Brake
MP for Carshalton & Wallington, Exiting the European Union Spokesman
Omnipresent on the media, Brake is one of the party’s most reliable, if not most exciting, performers. Even though he has only a dozen MPs to herd, being LibDem Chief Whip is never an easy job. Popular with the party’s press officers because he’s willing to go on any media outlet on a difficult wicket at the drop of a hat.
7. (-) 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, however, the only LibDem in a position of power, having accepted a place in the Welsh Executive Cabinet – hence her high position in this list.
8. (-2) Willie Rennie
Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
Avoiding wipeout in last year’s Scottish Parliament elections in 2016 counted as success in LibDem terms. Much of this was due to Rennie’s unexpectedly good performances in the TV debates. He built on this and in the June general election the LibDems gained three seats north of the border.
9. (-1) Lord Newby
Lib Dem Leader in the House of Lords
Given the LibDems’ strength in the House of Lords and likely impact on the passage of the EU Withdrawal Bill, Newby will have a crucial role to play. He also coordinated the party’s 2017 manifesto. A calm, urbane man, Newby is an underrated media performer. Expect to see a lot more of him.
10. (-9) Tim Farron
MP for Westmorland & Lonsdale, Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Tim Farron will remain an important voice in the Liberal Democrats. His party never completely took him to their hearts, especially in Westminster, where he was the subject of several whispering campaigns. In 2015 the party needed a rabble rouser to take over and they got one. Maybe if he’d had the full five years he could have made more of an impact.
11. (NEW) Sarah Olney
Chief of Staff to Vince Cable
Having lost her Richmond Park seat after only six months in Parliament, Sarah Olney might have disappeared from view, but in early September she was recruited to run Vince Cable’s office. Having no long background in the party, it’ll be interesting to see how she handles all of the conflicting demands on a leader’s office.
12. (-8) Norman Lamb
MP for Norfolk North, Chair of the Commons Science & Technology Committee
Norman Lamb fully expected to lose his seat in June but didn’t. He then had to decide whether to challenge for the leadership. He didn’t. Still a widely respected voice, especially on health issues, he is now chair of the Science & Technology Committee. Also possibly the most Eurosceptic LibDem in Parliament. Not a high bar to cross, it has to be said.
13. (-4) Alastair Carmichael
Former Scottish Secretary, MP for Orkney & Shetland
Formerly very close to Tim Farron, it will be interesting to see what niche Carmichael carves out for himself in this parliament. He has bounced back from his encounter with the Standards & Privileges Committee and remains a popular figure in the party.
14. (REENTRY) Ed Davey
LibDem MP for Kingston & Surbiton, Home Affairs Spokesman
It had been widely thought that Ed Davey would stand against Vince Cable for the party leadership but in the end he decided to put his family first. If Cable flounders, expect Davey to lead the opposition to him. In the interim, he will be seen as a wise owl figure, but crucial in the struggle to re-establish the Liberal Democrats as a viable parliamentary party.
15. (NEW) Layla Moran
LibDem MP for Oxford West & Abingdon, Education Spokesperson
The party’s first-ever female BAME MP, and appropriately for the Liberal Democrats someone who went to school in Brussels, Layla Moran has already been tipped as a future Liberal Democrat leader. This isn’t quite the kiss of death which it is in other parties, and with her deep interest in science and education she is likely to be a major figure in the party’s future – provided she can hold on to her seat.
16. (+2) 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 the party. He has really grown into the role and commands respect from all those who encounter him. Devout West Ham fan.
17. (+3) Shaun Roberts
Director of Campaigns & Elections
Having returned to Liberal Democrat employment after a spell working for Which? just before the Brexit referendum, Shaun has barely had chance to catch breath in his role. He’s overseen the return of the party to successful Parliamentary by-election ways – first winning a fierce internal debate over taking Witney seriously (securing a huge swing as a result) and then the dramatic victory in Richmond Park. The more modest general election result, however, means the jury is still out on whether his attempts to modernise the party’s campaigning will turn out to be successful.
18. (+3) Duncan Brack
Vice Chair Lib Dem Policy Committee
The more important or difficult a policy document is in the Liberal Democrats, the sooner the call goes in to Duncan Brack, former policy director for the party and now Vice Chair of the party’s Federal Policy Committee. A bearded environmentalist, Duncan hasn’t been spotted wearing sandals but is otherwise the perfect example of a committed, expert political activist who makes the party’s wheels run smoothly behind the scenes.
19. (+3) Mark Pack
Editor, LibDem Newswire
The activists’ activist. Former Campaigns Officer in party HQ, indefatigable trainer and author of several guides to campaigning, what Mark Pack doesn’t know about campaigning isn’t worth knowing. Editor of the most widely-read Lib Dem newsletter/blog, he is aiming to use his massive profile within the party and his place on the ruling Federal Board to push for a more consistent party strategy, including building a core vote: a tough challenge.
20. (-9) Caroline Pidgeon AM
Lib Dem leader on the GLA
Bright, funny, sassy, intelligent, she fought an excellent campaign for London mayor in 2016 even if she didn’t get the result she deserved. She now concentrates her fire on Sadiq Khan as a leading light on the Greater London Assembly.
21. (-6) Mike German
Party Treasurer & DWP Spokesman in the House of Lords
22. (+12) Catherine Bearder
Member of the European Parliament
23. (NEW) Baroness Doocey
LibDem Peer and adviser to Vince Cable
24. (+24) Baroness Ludford
LibDem Peer, former MEP
25. (NEW) Chris Bones
Adviser to Vince Cable
26. (-9) Paddy Ashdown
LibDem Peer, former Lib Dem leader
27. (-3) Caron Lindsay
Co-editor of LibDem Voice
28. (-15) Baroness Susan Kramer
Lib Dem Peer & Economics Spokesperson
29. (-3) James Gurling
Chair, Campaigns and Communications Committee
30. (+5) James McGrory
Co-Director, Open Britain, former Press Secretary to Nick Clegg
31. (-21) Lynne Featherstone
Lib Dem Peer & Spokesperson on Energy & Climate Change
32. (-18) Baroness Parminter
LibDem Deputy Leader, House of Lords
33. Lord Stoneham
LibDem Chief Whip, House of Lords
34. (+4) Tim Pickstone
Chief Executive, Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors
35. (-12) David Laws
Former LibDem Schools Minister
36. (REENTRY) Polly Mackenzie
LibDem Commentator, former spad to Nick Clegg
37. (NEW) Joe Zammit-Lucia
LibDem donor, helped to set up Radix think tank
38. Christine Jardine
LibDem MP for Edinburgh West
39. (+8) Maajid Nawaz
Director of the Quilliam Foundation, former LibDem PPC
40. (NEW) Lord Paddick
LibDem Home Affairs Spokesman in the Lords
41. (NEW) Andrew Wiseman
Chair, Federal Conference Committee
42. (NEW) Jim Williams
Originator of Your Liberal Britain policy discussion initiative
43. (NEW) Alex Cole-Hamilton
Member of the Scottish Parliament for Edinburgh Western
44. (NEW) Bess Mayhew
Chief Executive, More United
45. (NEW) Stephen Lloyd
LibDem MP for Eastbourne
46. (NEW) Wera Hobhouse
LibDem MP for Bath
47. (-15) Rumi Verjee
48. (NEW) Jamie Stone
MP (and former MSP) for Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross.
49. (REENTRY) David Howarth
Former MP for Cambridge and member of the Electoral Commission.
50. (-13) Menzies Campbell
Former leader of the LibDems, LibDem peer
COMING NEXT: The Top 100 Most Influential People on the Left
15 Sep 2017 at 13:56
Sometimes you look at the way government works – or doesn’t – and you scratch your head in bewilderment. It has been revealed that any money we provided to Caribbean Islands to help them rebuild after Hurricane Irma cannot come out of the International Development budget, it has to come out of the Treasury’s contingency fund. It is because it cannot be classed as Overseas Aid because the British Virgin Islands, Barbuda and Anguilla are British Overseas Territories. There’s that word again – ‘Overseas’. This is one of those occasions where Cabinet Ministers need to get a grip of civil servants and the government machine. And if Cabinet Ministers can’t then the Prime Minister should. The Department for International Development has enough trouble spending its budget each year on projects which are worthwhile. Come the end of the financial year they’re still literally throwing money at projects like the Ethiopian Spice Girls in order to meet the 0.7% of GDP commitment. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of the fact that we are what Andrew Mitchell calls an ‘International Aid Superpower’, but this department’s operation have still not been brought under control. And frankly, given her well known views on the subject if Priti Patel can’t do it, no one can.
Yesterday Sir Martin Moore-Bick opened the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster. I am afraid it is quite clear that there is nothing he can say or conclude which will satisfy the political activists who purport to speak for the Grenfell survivors and residents. Anything short of saying it was all the wicked Tories’ fault will be portrayed as a whitewash. And the gullible media will no doubt fall for it. Yes, there were undoubtedly huge failures on the part of the Tenant Management Organisation (on which the new Labour MP for Kensington sat for several years) and there were also failures by Kensington & Chelsea Borough Council, especially in the immediate aftermath of the fire. There seems to have been little accountability for major decisions and little notice taken of warnings which were given in advance on various blogs.
When the Blair government insisted on housing associations being formed to take the housing stock out of direct local authority control in 2003, I remember thinking this was an odd way to run things. I remember it because I was a candidate in North Norfolk at the time and the same thing happened there. I am not saying that this decision brought about the disaster at Grenfell, but these housing organisations in some areas became a law unto themselves, with direct democratic accountability disappearing.
Social housing has been a low political priority for decades. I’m not just talking about the lack of new council houses being built, I am talking about the maintenance of existing housing stock. For decades Labour councils all over the country, have regarded voters in social housing as a client state – people who wouldn’t consider voting for anyone else. Year after year, they’d vote in Labour councils who lamentably failed to make council estates fit and proper places to live in. Not all Labour councils, but especially those in big cities. Take Glasgow, for example. Iain Duncan Smith wasn’t alone in being appalled by what he found on the Easterhouse Estate all those years ago. But the same thing was happening in Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, London and Liverpool. To govern is to choose and Labour councils chose to ignore run down estates in favour of other projects.
Some Conservative councils were no better either. Even during the Blair/Brown years when money was literally chucked at Labour councils, they did little to improve their housing stock. Shame on them all. Why should we be surprised that people who live in these areas have become totally disillusioned, not only with politics but society in general. There are too many people who live in conditions the rest of us would find appalling and unacceptable. We should not therefore be surprised when some of them fall into ways and live lifestyles the rest of us can never relate to or understand.
My point is this. Whatever failings there were in Kensington, Grenfell was not one of these estates. The fire cannot just – if at all – be blamed on long term failings of wider housing policy, in my opinion. It can, however, be blamed on decisions made locally by people who were either uninformed or should have known better. It happened because of failings in the building design and the materials used. Surely that much is clear. From the way this terrible disaster has been described by some people, it’s as if the Prime Minister herself had lit the match. Politicians are to blame for many failings in housing policy over the years, but surely we have to hope that Sir Martin Moore-Bick ignores the siren voices who just seek to blame local and national politicians. The blame for this terrible event lies in many places, but surely primarily on failings in design and materials are the most obvious immediate causes. Hopefully, we will soon know for definite.
I’m going to make a confession. I miss going to the LibDem conference. Call me a masochist, but I always enjoyed going. However, for the last three years I’ve missed out, if that’s the right phrase. I miss the beards. I miss the sandals. I miss the intensity on the faces of people who really felt their debates mattered. I miss the little exhibition stands for all the different LibDem pressure groups who were usually completely barking mad, but vehemently believed in their cause. I miss the white haired old lady on a motability scooter who would scoot around the conference centre running down anyone in her path, daring people not to get out of her way. I miss the LibDem delegates, who, when I was running the conference bookshop, would think nothing of asking for a discount on a 50p postcard. Actually, I don’t miss them at all. But the LibDem conference is the only one of the three conference which actually decides party policy. The event actually matters. You can’t say that for either of the other two. Which to be honest, may be for the best.
9 Sep 2017 at 18:47
Arms sales are worth about £8 billion every year to the Uk economy. All arms exports have to be licensed through the BEIS Department and have to be signed off by the Secretary of State. Arms exports are a controversial subject and understandably so. Opposition politicians take delight in criticising the government for exporting arms to various countries with dodgy human rights records. In 2016 58% of our defence exports went to the Middle East. Between 2010 and 2015 our arms sales to Saudi Arabia amounted to £3.523 bn. [source: House of Commons Library]. They grew year on year from £550m in 2010 to £808m in 2015.
This week Vince Cable waded into the debate, something which he might come to regret. He said that if he were in government he would have stopped arms sales to Saudi Arabia a long time ago. He was, and didn’t. He was Business Secretary between 2010 and 2015. At best Vince is virtue signalling, at worst he is, to quote Zac Goldsmith, being “slippery”. I’ll leave you to judge which.
There was a lot of chatter about a reshuffle last week, although it seems to have died down now. We in the Westminster bubble love nothing better than a bit of reshuffle speculation. It fills column inches and hours of fun on the 24 hour news channels. It seems it’s now not going to happen, so the prospect of Jacob Rees Mogg joining the government must wait a little longer. I’m intrigued by Jacob. He’s one of my favourite interviewees, partly because he always has something interesting to say and can also be very funny. I’ve always thought his ambitions lay in acquiring the rights to sit in the Speaker’s chair rather than join the government but I wonder if his mind has been turned a little by the Moggmentum phenomenon. On Wednesday, however, something went very wrong. Jacob went on Good Morning Britain with Susanna Reid and Piers Morgan and said he was against abortion in any circumstances (including rape and incest) and was also against gay marriage. Personally, I applaud any politician who gives their honest views, and he is of course entitled to them. I disagree with both, as you’d expect, but at least he was honest, rather than do what Tim Farron did and equivocate (and even lie). The real question is this: can someone with such conservative views ever take on a leading government role? He is the Ann Widdecombe de nos jours. Ann’s abortive leadership bid in 2001 failed, ostensibly because her parliamentary colleagues couldn’t stomach her social conservatism. She was hugely popular among Tory members, and had she reached the last two in the contest she may have won. Sixteen years on, the Tory Parliamentary Party has changed a lot and I’d say it’s become massively more socially liberal.
I’m sorry to say that these remarks also put the Speaker’s Chair further from Jacob’s reach. I’m sorry because I think he’d be a brilliant Speaker. But Labour MPs will come under a lot of pressure not to support someone with such conservatives views. Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle will be smiling to himself thinking, another opponent bites the dust…
There’s a lot of cant – yes cant – being talked about the so-called Henry VIIi clauses in the Great Repeal Bill. Isn’t the purpose of this Bill to repeal a single giant Henry VIII clause? Peter Lilley, who knows a lot about these things, has written an article pointing out “for 44 years the European Communities Act 1972 which implemented our membership of the European Community has meant EU legislation has become binding on UK citizens with no power for Parliament to amend or reject it. Once a law was agreed in Brussels, even if every single British MP voted against it, it still became law. The Repeal Bill will end that.”
Peter is offering a bottle of champagne to the first person reporting a BBC interviewer challenging a Euro-enthusiast about why they are concerned about Henry VIII clauses in this Bill but are happy with the father of all Henry VIII clauses in the Act it repeals?
I suspect he deserves to be drinking the champagne himself.
Only eight days until the LibDem conference starts. Contain your collective excitement please.
It is a mystery to me as to why Nadhim Zahawi has never been made a minister. He’s an excellent media performer and keeps coming up with interesting and sometimes radical policy ideas. This week he is suggesting that as part of a wider policy to attract back the youth vote, under 25s should be given an income tax break, where they pay a rate of 15% or even 10%. On the face of it, something serious to consider. However, I’m told the LibDems had this idea before the 2015 election, as they needed to do something to make up for their embarrassing volte face on tuition fees. However, when they polled and focus grouped the policy, it bombed among all age groups including young people. They felt it was fundamentally unfair to older generations. So the LibDems dropped the policy.
1 Sep 2017 at 13:43
So Theresa May has announced she intends to fight the next election. Cue a legion of the usual suspects appearing on radio and TV questioning the likelihood of that actually happening. It was an audacious announcement for the PM to make, as she knew what the reaction might be. And given her wording to ITV News it looked to me as if it was pre-planned, rather than a spontaneous answer to a question. It is a measure of the way she has recovered her position that she felt confident enough to do this. That’s partly because there is no obvious challenger to her – no one who people could rally behind. And frankly, I don’t see that changing for a very long time. The time to challenge her was in the immediate aftermath of the election result, yet no one had the cojones to do it. And they still don’t. There will now be some inevitable speculation about whether the Prime Minister will have the courage to conduct the reshuffle she daren’t do just after the election. I wouldn’t bet against it. It would result in her creating a few more enemies on the backbenches, but she’s never particularly worried about that. She seems to be saying, ‘come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’. Nicky Morgan has helpfully appeared on the BBC saying she won’t fight the next election, and Grant Shapps, even more helpfully, gave us the benefit of his views on the Today Programme. Of course, the “senior Tory MPs” have been at it too, giving anonymous quotes (aren’t they courageous) to journalists like this one to Sky’s Lewis Goodall: “My concern is that she actually believes what she is saying. She is delusional.” They just can’t help themselves. At least Morgan and Shapps have the balls to go on the record.
Well the Brexit talks are going incredibly well aren’t they? The attitude of Barnier and Juncker stinks. Their patronising condescension just reinforces all the reasons I voted to leave the EU. If ever I had any doubts about my decision (and I didn’t) the way they talk down to us as if were some recalcitrant child has allayed them. I’d love David Davis to look Barnier in the eye at one of their press conferences and call him out on it. It would be quite a moment.
I’ve been most amused by this new so-called Tory equivalent of Momentum, which is called Activate. Judging from some of the Whatsapp conversations reported on Guido Fawkes it’s populated by a group of spotty youths, who probably spend too much time in their bedrooms indulging in semi-permanent onanistic activities. In any case, Activate sounds more like a dermatological face cream. How very appropriate.
It’s sad to see Michael Heseltine on the decline. Yesterday on Sky News he was asked about the fact that hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created since the Brexit vote. He replied that they had been created through credit and debt. Er, excuse me? Tell that to Aston Martin, Nissan, Toyota, Siemens etc. They have created jobs because of their confidence in Britain and the British economy. It’s strange that Michael Heseltine can’t bring himself to acknowledge that fact.
Next week my panel meets to compile this year’s Top 100 Most Influential People on the Right. If you have any suggestions for new entries or high climbers, please do leave them in the comments and we’ll consider your ideas.
There are many things I regret about the way we consume our news and politics at the moment, but the most important is that most people now seem to consume news through the prism of journalists, commentators or news programmes whose editorial line they generally agree with. I suppose it’s always been to an extent, but the phenomenon is becoming worse. Lefties read the Guardian, righties read the Telegraph. In the US righties was Fox, lefties watch CNN. And you can extrapolate this to all forms of media. I’ve seen this this week on twitter with people saying they won’t listen to my show this week because Nigel Farage is presenting it. Ridiculous. Know thine enemy, would be my advice. If you refuse to listen to or read the people you disagree with, how can you possibly be informed enough to know how to argue against them. One of the biggest compliments I can receive is for someone to contact me saying: “I disagree with you on almost everything, but…” They’ve actually taken the time to listen and then to work out how and why they disagree. That’s public discourse at its best. I much prefer to have a phone-in where most of the callers disagree. It makes for an interesting conversation rather than the kind of echo chamber you get on some shows. Some presenters take great delight in ridiculing people they disagree with. Nigel Farage has a different approach. He charms them. And it makes for good radio. I’m back on the air on Monday after my break in Norfolk.