Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Daley Dozen: Tuesday

1. Richard Lowe welcomes the return of ideology.
2. Dan Hannan is rather impressed with "Denis Thatcher on speed".
3. Liberal Conspiracy has Caroline Lucas' plans for Parliament.
4. Nadine Dorries' happiness index is rising.
5. David Blackburn outlines his contenders for the GOP nomination.
6. Nick Robinson reckons Gordon got it wrong.
7. Con Coughlin wants women to fight on the frontline.
8. Jason Walsh thinks bust is better.
9. Cicero's Songs doesn't think Estonia will be joining the Euro.
10. Paul Flynn is enjoying the "tyranny of transparency".
11. Dizzy has a question for lefties on the NHS.
12. John Redwood has a few good quotes from the Europhiles.

What's the Point of Rampaging Through London?

Call me old fashioned, but I always thought the idea behind protesting about something was to garner support for your cause. Silly me. Because the way that students are rampaging around London today is achieving the very opposite. Listening to LBC reporters, who are following, the students on their tour of the capital (they're now by Waterloo Bridge apparently) it is apparent that they are offending just about everyone - pedestrians and car drivers alike.

There has been very little violence today, thank goodness, but I just don't see the point of a protest which is designed to hack everyone off and doesn't actually do anything to further their cause with those who will be voting on tuition fees in a few days time.

Most MPs haven't had a single student lobby them in Parliament during the course of any of the protests.

What a bizarre way to lobby. They may be very good at getting on the TV or radio, but I don't know of any MPs who have been persuaded by the manner in which they have conducted their protests.

And while I am at it, what on earth is Vince Cable playing at? He goes on TV to talk about his position and ends up coming across as a doddery old fool. Is it really possible that he won't vote for the legislation which he, as Secretary of State for universities, has drafted and proposed?

Will Willott Go?

So Chris Huhne's PPS Jenny Willott has said she will vote against the government's tuition fees proposals.

I assume her resignation will be on Huhne's desk first thing in the morning, then.

Or not.

Because LibDems appear to have a different view of collective responsibility to the rest of us.

UPDATE: From the BBC website...

Jenny Willott, the Lib Dem MP for Cardiff Central, has said she would not support the plans.

Her local paper, the South Wales Echo, quoted her as saying: "I have said all along I will vote against any rises in tuition fees" and the Guardian also said she had said she would vote against a rise.

Miss Willott told the BBC she had been misquoted and had not said she would definitely vote against the plans. She said her position was that she would "not support a rise in tuition fees. I'm waiting to see what is in the motion before deciding whether to abstain or vote against".

Monday, November 29, 2010

Is Bill Cash's Memory Failing Him

Here's an email I received today. I have withheld the name, but it is someone I know...

Dear Iain,

I was intrigued to read Bill Cash's letter in The Daily Telegraph today. I was particularly interested because I was present in the corridor outside the House of Commons' Library in December, 1991 (the week after the Maastricht agreement had been reached) when Bill Cash asked Graham Bright, then John Major's PPS, to convey his congratulations on the agreement to the Prime Minister. Perhaps Mr Cash has forgotten doing so?

With good wishes,

C

The Daley Dozen: Monday

1. Cranmer reports on the USA's advice to Belguim.
2. Ellee Seymour wants to know who the "sex pest" is.
3. Alex Singleton has a lot of respect for the Swiss.
4. Norman Tebbit thinks John Major is getting his own back.
5. Evan Price airs his thoughts on kettling.
6. Fraser Nelson wants us to learn from Sweden.
7. Brian Landers looks at where the crunch will hit.
8. Political Scrapbook tip Rory Stewart for the next series of Strictly.
9. Matt Wardman thinks Mehdi Hasan can be a tit sometimes.
10. Mark Pack reviews 22 Days in May by David Laws.
11. Walaa Idris wonders how the Lib Dems will vote.
12. Adam Boulton reckons George Osborne is turning into Lawson.

We Await Wikileaks Investigations into Iran. Still Waiting...

On Twitter, John Rentoul is running a series called 'Questions to which the answer is no'. I have another one for him.

Are there any lengths to which Julian Assange will not go to slag off America and compromise the security of the west?

Judicious use of leaks and proper investigative journalism is one thing. To do what he has done on Wikileaks today is quite another.

I might have a little more sympathy with him if he ever used information gained from Iran or North Korea, but all he seems to be interested in is bashing America.

One day he will go too far and endanger lives. That is, if he hasn't done so already.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

We Should Cut Student Numbers

It's not very often I say this. In fact I have never said this before. But Mary Dejevsky has written an article which I can agree with 100%! In yesterday's Independent she seriously suggests cutting the number of students in higher education. Here are her concluding paragraphs...

Employers and others increasingly complain about the calibre of many
graduates, not just in their chosen specialities – but in the basics, such as
standards of written English and the work ethic. They also complain about
professional courses offering too much theory and too little practice. Granted
that employability need not be the sole criterion of educational success, the
value of a British university education does not seem to have increased with the
numbers admitted. So long as selection is according to qualifications and
potential, rather than ability to pay, fewer students should mean better.
Universities will doubtless complain that fewer students would mean that
each has to pay more – but that is only true if the size of departments and
multiplicity of courses on offer remain the same. After a period of such rapid
expansion, it is now time to scythe through duplication and foster a few centres
of excellence. There may also be an argument for developing a two-tier system on
the US model, with four-year courses for some, giving students a first year to
decide where their aptitude lies, and two-year courses for others.

Much of the recent university expansion reflects a dubious "academicisation" of skills, as nursing, accountancy and, yes, journalism have become more and more graduate professions. Reversing this trend, far from lowering standards, could have the effect of producing a workforce that is actually better – more quickly, more
cheaply, and more appropriately – trained.

The Government may hope that higher fees will lead to more of a "market" in courses, with students "shopping around" for a degree that will pay off and universities forced to adapt what they offer accordingly. Perhaps that will happen. In the short term, though, the risk is of graduates weighed down by debt for the sake of degrees worth no more than A-levels. Rather than wait for the market to cut student numbers, the universities should take the initiative and revert to their traditional pursuit of academic excellence. This is still what universities are for.


Hallelujah. At last someone has articulated the case for a smaller, but better higher education sector - and astonishingly it is someone from the left. I really hope this starts a much bigger debate, because it is one which needs to be had. This year 479,000 students commenced university degrees - a 10% rise on 2006. Do we really, in our heart of hearts, believe that there are 479,000 capable of doing a university degree each year? Many have been brainwashed into thinking that unless they go to university they have failed in life. That's ridiculous of course, but it's easy to see why they think that. The trouble is that 25% of them will fall by the wayside during their courses, and drop out once they realise the awful truth. And it is then that they really will feel failures. Most will pick themselves up and dust themselves down but some will never recover from the experience. We are being grossly unfair on a huge number of 18 year olds by pretending that a university education is the be all and end all. It isn't.

In no way am I suggesting we go back to the days when I did my degree in the early 1980s when only 14% or so went to university. But nor do I think 43% should go unless they have the academic ability to do so. What a shame the old polytechnics felt they had to transmogrify themselves into universities. What a pity we have lost much of our technical education colleges and that 18 year olds no longer get the vocational opportunities they once had. What the government needs to do now is to provide a proper alternative to universities, an educational qualification which will be worth the paper it's written on and valued by employers - and is better than getting a bad degree in a third class university.

Read Mary Dejevsky's full article HERE.

Friday, November 26, 2010

On My LBC Show Tonight...



On my LBC show tonight from 7...

7.10pm net immigration is up again to 215,000 in the 12 months to March this year. Should we now accept that as long as we remain in the EU there's little we can do about it? Guest: Nigel Farage

8pm Global warming has slowed down in the last decade according to the Met Office. Further evidence that man made global warming is a myth?

8.30pm Would you eat meat from a cloned animal?

9pm The Dartford Tunnel tolls are rising to £2 in January and £2.50 in January 2012. A fair charge, or fleecing drivers?

9.30pm What are the daftest rules and regulations you've got in your flat lease?

You can listen to LBC on 97.3 FM in Greater London, DAB Radio in the Midlands, parts of the North & North West, Glasgow & Edinburgh, Sky Channel 0112, Virgin Media Channel 973 or stream live at lbc.co.uk

To take part in the programme call 0845 60 60 973, text 84850, Email iain AT lbc DOT co DOT uk or tweet @lbc973

If you miss the programme and want to download it as a podcast (minus the ads!) click HERE. There is a £2 monthly charge but you have access to the entire LBC archive and schedule.

The Killer NHS!

Prospect Magazine reveals this month that 58 per cent of Britons die in an NHS ward.

A statistic that could be open to great misinterpretation!

Government Ministers Can't Have It Both Ways

Is it really conceivable that the 20 LibDem Ministers will be allowed to abstain on the question of tuition fees? Surely all members of the government are obliged to support government legislation, and if they don't they should surely step down. We face the ridiculous prospect of Vince Cable being able to abstain on the legislation he and his department is proposing. To my mind, all Conservative and LibDem MPs must be on a three line whip on this. Sure, backbenchers have every right to vote with their consciences, but for government ministers that is not a luxury they can have.And if they wish to, they should step down.

Because if they don't, this way lies anarchy. What about the MPs whose constituencies will be sliced in two by the high speed rail link? David Lidington, Cherly Gillan and Jeremy Wright know they have the option of voting against it, but they also know the consequences of doing so. Or do we really think they should be allowed to vote against and still remain as part of the government? I think not.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Howard Takes Flight

I'm really beginning to despair about the way we conduct political debate in this country, because very soon we're going to reach the point where no one will say anything of interest for fear of being too controversial. Lord Young learned that last Friday. Today it was Howard Flight's turn. His crime? Stating the bleedin' obvious. Well, maybe his real crime was to use the word 'breed'. How clumsy of him. But really, did it deserve the acres of media coverage? Did it deserve the outbursts of self-righteous indignation we heard from wee Dougie and others? Disagree with Flight by all means, but really, to castigate the man for speaking his mind is a bit rich. And it got worse when Downing Street weighed in too. Flight, seeing the prospect of his peerage disappearing down the swannee then issued a full apology. I understand why he did so, but there's part of me that respects him a little less for doing it.

Because his original contention stands. If you have £1500 a year taken away from you, having a child becomes a little less affordable. If you are given extra benefits having children becomes a little more affordable? As I say, a statement of the bleedin' obvious.

The Daley Dozen: Thursday

1. Guido exposes Ed Byrne's lies.
2. Left Foot Forward thinks trouble lies ahead for the ECR.
3. Dan Hannan defends freedom of speech.
4. Katharine Birbalsingh welcomes Michael Gove's reforms.

5. Better Off Out welcomes a new member, the Daily Express.
6. Stumbling and Mumbling thinks Howard Flight was right.
7. Lightwater has some advice for banking regulators.
8. Jonathan Todd on Tim Farron.
9. Dylan Jones Evans is back from Dublin.
10. Walaa Idris agrees with Lord Ashcroft.
11. Chris Hawes says that violent protest doesn't make sense.
12. Political Betting reckons Con Home may be getting too excited.

On My LBC Show Tonight From 7pm...



On my LBC show tonight from 7...

7.10pm A private sector company is to take over the running of a district general hospital in the East of England. Does this signal the start of the creeping privatisation of the NHS, and if so, why should we be bothered?

8pm What should community service sentences consist of? Do they need to be tougher?

8.30pm What are the daftest rules and regulations you've got in your flat lease?

9pm LBC legal Hour with Daniel Barnett. Phone in your legal questions on 0845 60 60 973.

You can listen to LBC on 97.3 FM in Greater London, DAB Radio in the Midlands, parts of the North & North West, Glasgow & Edinburgh, Sky Channel 0112, Virgin Media Channel 973 or stream live at lbc.co.uk

To take part in the programme call 0845 60 60 973, text 84850, Email iain AT lbc DOT co DOT uk or tweet @lbc973

If you miss the programme and want to download it as a podcast (minus the ads!) click HERE. There is a £2 monthly charge but you have access to the entire LBC archive and schedule.

Questions for Simon Heffer

Next Monday I will be conducting my next IN CONVERSATION interview. This one will be with the Daily Telegraph's Simon Heffer.

Feel free to suggest what I should ask him!

PS Apologies for the lack of blogging this week. Due to pressure of work this is likely to continue until the end of next week. I then come up for breath!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Daley Dozen: Wednesday

1. Spidey reviews last night's "In Conversation with David Laws and Rob Wilson".
2. Lobbydog goes for a sauna with Chris Bryant.
3. Ellee Seymour reports on a rather interesting coalition.
4. Jonathan Isaby thinks David Laws' view on AV is eye opening.
5. Paul Waugh has some jokes from Cameron's Lobby lunch today.
6. Political Scrapbook want Ed Vaizey to keep his hands to himself.
7. Max Atkinson isn't holding his breath for House of Lords reform.
8. Not a Sheep believes the EU Parliament need to tread carefully.
9. Phil Taylor can't believe the BBC gave Claire Soloman a platform.
10. David Osler reckons this could be the opportunity Sinn Fein need.
11. Arthur Baker wants Labour to have a double decapitation strategy.
12. Walaa Idris has two must read books for you.

On My LBC Show Tonight From 7pm...



On my LBC show tonight from 7...

7.10pm The student protests: As they descend into violence again, did the police get their tactics wrong again?

8pm Is early retirement a thing of the past?

9pm LBC Parliament with Stephen Hammond MP, Barry Gardiner MP and Paul Burstow MP.

You can listen to LBC on 97.3 FM in Greater London, DAB Radio in the Midlands, parts of the North & North West, Glasgow & Edinburgh, Sky Channel 0112, Virgin Media Channel 973 or stream live at lbc.co.uk

To take part in the programme call 0845 60 60 973, text 84850, Email iain AT lbc DOT co DOT uk or tweet @lbc973

If you miss the programme and want to download it as a podcast (minus the ads!) click HERE. There is a £2 monthly charge but you have access to the entire LBC archive and schedule.

European Democracy in Action

UPDATE: There seems to be some confusion in the comments section that I endorse the actions of Godfrey Bloom. Let me make it clear, I found the use of the phrase 'Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein F├╝hrer' utterly deplorable. However the way the parliamentary authorities reacted was equally shameful. It appears to be one rule for eurosceptics and another rule for the rest, take for example Martin Schulz, the man on the receiving end of Bloom's insult. He said a few months ago that the way eurosceptics behaved "was how Adolf Hitler behaved". Yet he was dealt no punishment by the authorities. The more worrying aspect of this rather farcical show, was the way the Parliament decided "democratically" to throw out one of its members. That is simply not acceptable in a liberal democracy.

Ed Balls Must Do Better

Shadow Home Secretary Ed Ball’s strong point is supposed to be his mastery of numbers, yet he seems confused.

Yesterday on BBC News Ed Balls said: "The problem is 80% of our migration comes from the EU states, they’re not affected at all by the cap which was announced today by Theresa May.’"

The figure is wrong - of the 528,000 migrants last year 292,000 were non-European - that is 55% of the total (Office of National Statistics, Long-Term International Migration Series).

Secondly, the issue is net migration, not migration. Last year inflows and outflows of British and European citizens largely cancelled each other out and non-European net migration counted for more than 93% of the total!

Perhaps Ed Balls has not quite got up to speed yet with his new brief.


A couple of weeks ago I attended the opening of the Lord Ashcroft gallery at the Imperial War Museum. It was quite an event. Michael himself made a very moving speech, which I have decided to put on here because I think it explains brilliantly why he decided to emark on collecting VC medals. I have to admit that his description of his father's bravery on Sword beach on D-Day brought a tear to my eye, but then I have always been a sucker for wartime bravery. When I saw Michael later in the evening I think he was rather shocked when I told him: "You made me cry, you old bugger!"

Everyone in this life does something which they are proud to share with or bequeath to the nation. Most of us will never be able to compete with what Michael has done here, but the whole country, whatever their political views, ought to be very grateful. So do go along to the Imperial War Museum and marvel at the bravery on display among the VC and GC collection.

* You can see Lord Ashcroft's GEORGE CROSS HEROES series every Thursday at 10pm on Discovery History.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Daley Dozen: Tuesday

1. Helen Duffett interviews David Laws.
2. Ed Staite explains why Charles De Gaulle was wrong.
3. John McTernan thinks Ed Miliband needs an Alastair Campbell.
4. Roger Helmer on why the British loan to Ireland is wrong.
5. Daniel Korski welcomes the end of the Wall Street World.
6. Benedict Brogan reckons the No2AV campaign must be pleased.
7. Harry's Place has some rather shocking figures on hate crime.
8. Nick Robinson analyses the immigration cap.
9. Man in a Shed is worried about the trouble brewing in Korea.
10. Will Somerville recognises that immigration was a factor in the last election.
11. Andrew Neil takes a look at the situation in Ireland.
12. And finally, courtesy of Cardiff Blogger, today's Irish Daily Star...


On My LBC Show Tonight From 7pm...



On my LBC show tonight from 7...

7.10pm Rail fares are going up by 6.2% in January - or by up to 12.8% if you're a commuter. How can that be justified?

8pm Ofsted said today that teachers are giving too many "dull and uninspiring lessons". Is that really a fair assessment?

9pm LBC Medical Hour with Dr Rob Hicks.

You can listen to LBC on 97.3 FM in Greater London, DAB Radio in the Midlands, parts of the North & North West, Glasgow & Edinburgh, Sky Channel 0112, Virgin Media Channel 973 or stream live at lbc.co.uk

To take part in the programme call 0845 60 60 973, text 84850, Email iain AT lbc DOT co DOT uk or tweet @lbc973

If you miss the programme and want to download it as a podcast (minus the ads!) click HERE. There is a £2 monthly charge but you have access to the entire LBC archive and schedule.

Guest Post: In Defefence of Katherine Birbalsingh

Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education is raising money for Katherine Birbalsingh



Since she spoke at the Conservative conference, Katharine Birbalsingh has gone from strength to strength. Hardly a day goes by without her name cropping up in the media. She now writes regularly for the Telegraph and following her recent appearance in front of the Education Select Committee, Quentin Letts described her as 'the most exciting voice on education since Chris Woodhead'. That’s some accolade!

For Miss Birbalsingh, there’s only one dark cloud. Because of what she said, she’s lost her job as deputy head of St Michael and All Angels Church of England Academy in Southwark.

Why? In the eyes of the state educational establishment, she committed two cardinal sins, for which she must be punished. One, as a front-line professional, she spoke the truth without the usual mitigating spin. And two, in doing so, she placed the interests of her pupils, and young people generally, above her own self-interest.

This, above all, is what the system fears: free-thinking insiders who dare to speak out. Too much of this and the whole Stalinist system of ‘progressive’ lies and deceit (including the ideological nonsense disseminated in teacher training colleges) will almost certainly crumble. As Melanie Phillips pointed out in the Daily Mail, Katharine Birbalsingh is not the first such victim of the system.

Almost twenty years ago, two outstanding history teachers in East Sussex, Dr Anthony Freeman and Chris McGovern, headed a steady stream of professional critics who suffered short term persecution for their honesty. Nothing has changed since then.

So what can we, as ordinary citizens, do? Not much, unfortunately. One thing we can all do is to show the totalitarians who dominate state education what a pathetic minority they are – that most people care about free speech, honest debate and above all, the education and welfare of future generations.

So please support the Katharine Birbalsigh Defence Fund. Above all, the right of teachers (and students in teacher training colleges) to speak freely, without fear of recrimination, must be defended and enforced.

If you would like to help, please make cheques payable to the Katharine Birbalsingh Defence Fund, c/o 18 Westlands Grove, York YO31 1EF. Electronic transfers can be made to the Katharine Birbalsingh Defence Fund, HSBC Bank, Account Number 04355970, Sort Code 40-47-31.

‘Kill one, frighten 10,000.’ This old adage still stands, though in state education, they don’t kill people, they just deprive them of their livelihoods and security – a very effective threat. This anti-democratic practice must be stopped. What better time to do it?

Hattip: This article first appeared on ConservativeHome.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Daley Dozen: Monday

1. Biteback has extracts from Gordon Brown's new biography.
2. Paul Waugh reports that Ed M is to address the PLP tonight.
3. Dizzy approves of "Euro-wanking". Ahem.
4. Mark Wallace thinks this is a perfect time for Northern Ireland.
5. Paul Flynn is less than impressed with Flybe.
6. Nick Pearce has 7 test for Ed Miliband.
7. James Corum wants more Reagan from the Republicans.
8. Walaa Idris defends Tom Harris.
9. Gerry Hassan wonders what a Scotland without Thatcher would look like.
10. Steve Baker explains why we need Big Brother Watch.
11. Ministry of Truth believes it is time to scrap Religious Education.
12. Daniel Hannan wants an apology from the guilty men.

On My LBC Show From 7pm...



On my LBC show tonight from 7...

7.10pm Local councils want to double parking fine charges? Another stealth tax or a much needed deterrent.

8pm Twenty Years ago today, Margaret Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister. Has your view of her changed over the last 20 years?

9pm LBC Book Club with Adam Boulton, David Laws MP and Rob Wilson MP talking about their books on the formation of the coalition.

You can listen to LBC on 97.3 FM in Greater London, DAB Radio in the Midlands, parts of the North & North West, Glasgow & Edinburgh, Sky Channel 0112, Virgin Media Channel 973 or stream live at lbc.co.uk

To take part in the programme call 0845 60 60 973, text 84850, Email iain AT lbc DOT co DOT uk or tweet @lbc973

If you miss the programme and want to download it as a podcast (minus the ads!) click HERE. There is a £2 monthly charge but you have access to the entire LBC archive and schedule.

When Irish Lights Aren't Smiling

Twenty odd years ago, when I was working for the British Ports Federation, I was unsuccessful in a campaign to persuade the government to abolish so-called "Light Dues". It was a campaign supported by the port authorities and ship owners. These were the dues paid to Trinity House to pay for lighthouses. Astonishingly, then as now the British Government also sends Ireland a huge wad of public money (currently between £6-8m) to subsidise Irish lighthouses. No-one can really see any reason why this subsidy should be given to the Irish, and in light of current events it seems even more absurd.

• ‘Light dues’ are charges made to shipping companies trading with the UK for use of lighthouses, buoyancy aids etc as they navigate British waters
• Under the previous Government, light dues rose substantially, decreasing our national competitiveness (the charges were far higher than in many other countries)
• Had the previous Government scrapped the Irish subsidy, no increases to light dues would have been necessary – but they refused to scrap it still.

Mike Penning, the shipping Minister, has promised to scrap the Irish arrangement (and has told his Irish counterpart so) and is beginning to formalise arrangements this week. This is a fantastic step from someone who is turning out to be an excellent Minister.

What the government giveth...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

That Peter Mandelson Interview In Full - All 7,500 Words Of It

As you know by now, in the current issue of Total Politics (out today) I have an interview with Peter Mandelson, which has caused a bit of a frisson in political circles over the weekend. Ed Balls called it the "twitchings of a political corpse". Nice. He rather made Peter Mandelson's point for him.

Quite a few years ago I published Peter Mandelson’s book THE BLAIR REVOLUTION REVISITED. At that point he was between jobs, having resigned for the second time from the Blair government. He was a fish looking for water. What impressed me about him then was his complete understanding of what was expected of him as an author. I thought he was a class act then, and I still do.

Ever since then I remained in email contact with him, as I had his private email address. From time to time we’d exchange pleasantries, but one thing I noted was that each time I sent him an email he would reply within minutes. Andrew Neil is another one with the same admirable habit. But our paths didn’t cross again in person until the autumn of 2008, shortly after his surprise return to the cabinet for his third incarnation.

I was in the House of Commons walking up the wide staircase to the committee room corridor when I spied Peter Mandelson coming the other way. I didn’t expect him to remember me, so I affected not to notice him. But he immediately stopped and said hello. “How’s the blog doing,” he asked. “All the better when you feature,” I responded. “As it should be, Iain, as it should be...” And he then glided away. It was a typical Mandelsonian performance. Right, I thought. I’m going to get an interview with you if it’s the last thing I do. And two years later, I eventually succeeded.

There’s no doubt about it, as you will shortly read, Peter Mandelson gives good interview. I haven’t quite worked out yet if he realises what he is saying or whether he does it deliberately, but there were more stories to come out of this interview than any other I have ever done. I don’t think Peter Mandelson has ever knowingly given an uncontroversial issue in his life. And long may it remain so.

You can read the full interview on the Total Politics blog
HERE, but here are a few snippets.

Ed Miliband knew his electorate. He wasn't playing to the country, he was playing to the people who were voting for him. And he was very successful in doing that.
Well, he has a very strong character and personality, as his brother discovered. He has strong personal qualities and something that people don't realise is that when I came back in 2008, the colleague with whom I spent most time in the Cabinet was Ed Miliband. Partly because he was a neighbour in North London and partly because he went out of his way to befriend me. He really wanted to bury the hatchet and to put all that he did for Gordon against Tony and all that he did amongst the Brownites against the Blairites.

People tend to forget him in that. Everyone thinks it was all Ed Balls.
He played his part, but he also wanted to put it behind him, and by befriending me and by spending so much time with me, I think he succeeded in that. I didn't realise he had such strong leadership ambition. For me, the sort of default candidate and next leader was David. To be honest I didn't really think that seriously about Ed as a would-be leader, and I missed that. And as I said I spent much more time with Ed, and Ed was going out of his way to be more friendly towards me when I came back in 2008 than David did. But that again I think shows some of Ed's cleverness.

Or deviousness. But it's interesting that you didn't identify him as a leader. Do you think he actually has what it takes to be a leader?
Well I think the fact that he came forward and challenged his brother, and conducted such a strong campaign, shows that he does have what is needed in politics to be the number one person. I mean, the one piece of advice I gave at the beginning of the leadership contest, was that he shouldn't say anything to win the vote of the party that might make it subsequently more difficult to win the votes of the country.

But he ignored that advice didn't he?
He ignored that advice but he's made up for it since.

Have you found it difficult in the last six months?
Yes, I have, the truth is... Look, I know I should say to you that I've adjusted, I've moved on, I'm happy, I'm looking to the future with confidence. But the truth is that I feel a sense of bereavement for our government. Personally I feel like a rather displaced individual and I'm not coping perfectly. But my word, I would have been in a much, much worse position if I hadn't written a book and had that to talk about and present and do events about. It is a bit of therapy, but I also thought that it was an interesting story and a historical account that needed to be given. I had not just a ring-side seat but I was in the ring for a lot of the time and if you're going to the sort of book I've published on somebody like me, without being vain about it, I think that politics and how we've seen how we can understand the past and see the future would have been the poorer.

Have you ruled out a fourth comeback in terms of being in the frontline of things in politics.
I tend not to rule out of anything in politics, given my career, given my roller coaster career. Would you predict anything? I don't think so. But I'm not going to sit by the telephone. I'm not going to hang around in expectation or with some sort of entitlement. I will find other things to do in my life. Things that I enjoy, things which I think are stimulating or important but also enable me to earn a living. If you were to ask me though, whether fundamentally I'd rather be in public service or the private sector... I'm a public service man. I was brought up in that way and that set of values and motives will never leave me.

But I don't think anybody understands your relationship with Gordon Brown...
They understand it a darn sight better having read my book.

But when you read in your book, and indeed Alastair's book, the things that went on between ‘94 and your second resignation, you clearly thought the man wasn't fit for the job and you advised Tony Blair to get rid of him at one point.
I didn't advise him to get rid of him. I advised him to reshuffle him.

You know what I mean.
No I don't know what you mean, could you please be a little bit more specific.

In Alastair's book, and I thought in yours, but I might be wrong...
Alastair's is not a book, it's a diary. And what you are reading is night after night, the world according to Alastair's mind and head as it was then. Mine is a more reflective and analytical book. Drawing yes, on my experiences and what happened, but I hope giving a balanced account and that's why I include in the book Gordon's own words on how he saw the situation, why he found it so frustrating, why it was driving him so mad. Just as it was totally aggravating for Tony as well. You see it from both sides.

You do, I accept that. But there are so many instances which you catalogue, and so does Alasdair and you don't really disagree on them.
But they happened.

The interesting thing about both yours books is they're on the same hymnsheet. Often two people can attend the same meeting and they have entirely different recollections. That hasn't happened here.
It was quite clear what had happened. It was also clear what Tony was doing during this time.

Being very weak...
No, not being very weak. Managing a situation which he was unable completely to cure.

He could have cured it by being stronger, surely. Every time he seemed to give in to Gordon Brown.
Look, it's very easy for an outsider to say of a PM that he should have done this or that. He had to trade off or balance the frustrations of having a difficult chancellor, but also a good and effective one in many respects. And on the other hand, the risk of disruption, destabilisation of his government and the party if he had shuffled Gordon out of the Treasury. Now, that is a judgement call that only a PM can make and it's easy for an outsider - and we are all outsiders if we're not the PM - to say that he should have done this or could have done that. True, there were options. But his judgement had to be about what was in the broader interests of the government. How was he going to sustain it. And if you contrast Blair with Thatcher, Thatcher's cabinet fell apart at the end of the 1980s. She drove very senior members to resignation. They walked out and finally got rid of her. That didn't happen in Blair's case.

It did in Brown's.
Well, one person resigned.

Hazel Blears, James Purnell, others.
Fine, but I'm talking about Tony Blair now. You asked me a question about Tony Blair. Was he right or wrong? And I'm saying it's very easy for us to say he should have done this, he should have done that. But if he had shuffled Gordon he might have created the same circumstances which saw Thatcher's cabinet breaking up at the end of the ‘80s.


QUICK FIRE

What book are you reading at the moment?
Niall Ferguson's biography of Siegmund Warburg.
What's your favourite view?
The view from Anacapri towards Naples.
Best friend in politics?
Roger Liddle
What food do you most enjoy? Apart from mushy peas obviously.
Unfattening Italian.
What do you do to relax?
Read, run and cycle, and look at DVDs, but very infrequently.
What makes you cry?
Emotion.
Invite four people to a dinner party, living or dead.
In politics they would be people like Hugh Gaitskell, Harold Macmillan, Jack or Bobby Kennedy. What women would I invite? Difficult. Oh, Barbara Castle.
Which period in history would you most liked to have lived through?
The Second World War and the Labour government that followed.
If the producers of Strictly Come Dancing come knocking at your door, what might you say?
They had their opportunity and now they can get lost.


Well if that has tempted you, read the full interview HERE.

Podcast: 7 Days Show: Episode 50


The latest edition of the Seven Days Show is now online. In this week's show (episode 50) we discuss the Royal Wedding; bailing out Ireland; the perils of blogging and why Tom Harris will be missed; Lord Young; some very very forthright views on the list of new peers announced; the new leader of UNITE; Lord Mandelson; and the Pope and condoms. I also have a request for the best apps available for my new I-phone.

To listen to the podcast click HERE, or you can also subscribe to the show in the Tory Radio section in the podcast area of Itunes.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mandelson: I Won't Be Packed Off to an Old Folks Home


The Mail on Sunday have an article tomorrow using extracts of my Peter Mandelson interview which is in the new issue of Total Politics, out on Monday.
You can read the Mail article HERE.
Also today in the Daily Mail today, they printed the first extract of Anthony Seldon and Guy Lodge's new book BROWN AT TEN.
And tomorrow there will be the second part of the David Laws 22 DAYS IN MAY serialisation in the Mail on Sunday, and the Independent on Sunday will be carrying my reconstruction of the final Thatcher cabinet meeting.
Not a bad weekend's work all round!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Daley (Half) Dozen: Friday

1. Peter Oborne believes Margaret Thatcher knew the Euro would devastate Europe.
2. Alastair Campbell on the rebirth of political memoirs.
3. James Forsyth analyses the new peerages.
4. Political Scrapbook reports that Eric Pickles slammed a Tory Councillor.
5. Richard Stay reckons we haven't seen the last of Union militancy.
6. Jon Stone asks whether politicians should wear bow ties?

On My LBC Show Tonight From 7pm...



On my LBC show tonight from 7...

7.10pm Lord Young: Don't we want politicians to speak their minds? Guest: Christopher Hope fromt he Daily Telegraph.

8pm McCoppers: Should we be using private companies to pay for police officers to patrol city centres to control alcohol fuelled violence?

8.30pm Are you keeping down with the Jones's?

9pm Should Camilla be Queen when the time comes?

You can listen to LBC on 97.3 FM in Greater London, DAB Radio in the Midlands, parts of the North & North West, Glasgow & Edinburgh, Sky Channel 0112, Virgin Media Channel 973 or stream live at lbc.co.uk

To take part in the programme call 0845 60 60 973, text 84850, Email iain AT lbc DOT co DOT uk or tweet @lbc973

If you miss the programme and want to download it as a podcast (minus the ads!) click HERE. There is a £2 monthly charge but you have access to the entire LBC archive and schedule.

What Fact Did Lord Young Get Wrong?

It comes to something when a government advisor has to resign for actually stating facts, but there you go. That's modern day politics for you. Perhaps someone could explain to me which bit of what he said was wrong, because I am buggered if I can see it. Yes, he could have put it better but if everyone in politics and government was called to account like that we would have many politicians left. If I were one of the 46 government PPSs I might be feeling a little nervous today. Perhaps this means Vince Cable might now be a little more considered in some of his remarks. Or is one rule for some and one rule for others?

Lord Young, it should be remembered, is not really a party politician. He was brought into government because of his business background, so he can be forgiven for being slightly naive.

However, I was also guilty of being naive in going on Sky News on the phone when the story broke and talking about something I was not fully across. I think I appeared to call into question whether Lord Young knew he was on the record and being recorded. And by saying that I appeared to be impugning the integrity of Chris Hope of the Telegraph. That absolutely wasn't my intention and I apologise to him if anyone was left with that impression. He has made clear that Lord Young knew exactly that everything he said was on the record.

Let's End the Soundbite Interview

Here's a piece I recorded for the Radio 4 Programme Feedback, which was broadcast this lunchtime. It's part of a series about what people want from Radio 4 in the future...

Next time you listen to Today, the World at One or PM just count the number of times you hear the phrase: “I’m sorry, that’s all we have time for”. Time after time nowadays in interviews, politicians or pundits are cut off in their prime just as an interview is getting interesting. Why? Because Radio 4 news producers think their listeners have the attention span of a flea.

Yes, we live in a fast moving society, but how can an interviewer possibly get anything out of a politician when the politician knows full well that he will either be interrupted after ten seconds and will only be on air for a maximum of a couple of minutes. What happens is that the politician decides in advance what he wants to say and will say it whatever John Humphrys might decide to ask. And where does that get us? Nowhere. The listener is shortchanged.

A few months ago I was asked on Today to discuss the David Laws resignation with Kelvin Mackenzie. Evan Davis asked me an initial question. I answered it as briefly as I could. Kelvin then had his go. I assumed I’d get another bite of the cherry, but Evan then tried to draw the interview to a close. I audibly sighed and uttered under my breath ‘for God’s sake’. At least I thought it was under my breath. Evan, to his credit, albeit it with some embarrassment, asked if I had something else to say. I most certainly did and had a go at Kelvin for his criticism of David Laws. Kelvin was provoked, and the listener got a far better deal than they would have done if we had only been allowed one short answer.

It’s time Radio 4 stopped treating its listeners like kids with attention deficit syndrome. Yes, the 8.10 interview on Today can last 10 minutes – on the odd occasion longer, but where has the forensic 30,45 or 60 minute interview gone? You won’t find it on your TV and, unless you’re a non politician, you won’t find it on Radio 4. If we want to hold politicians and others to account the one on one, longer interview is the way to do it. And it’s very cheap radio. So come on, Radio 4.

Arise Lord Lord

The long awaited list of new working peers has just been announced on the Number 10 website.

Looking down the Tory list there are a number of names which will bring on a few cheers within the party, especially the wonderful Alistair Cooke, who is the Tory Party equivalent of a national treasure. I would also congratulate Richard Spring, Sir Patrick Cormack, Michael Dobbs and Anne Jenkin, who I would all count as friends. I'm also pleased to see Howard Flight on the list as he was appallingly treated back in 2005.

My one negative comment on the list is that it contains a number of names who I just can't see turning up much. Does anyone seriously think Michael Grade will turn up for votes?

And an amusing conundrum for the former Deputy Speaker of the Commons Michael Lord. Does he now become Lord Lord? :)

The Ghost of Harold Macmillan Has Never Had It So Good

Conservative politics was rocked to its core today when Lord Old of Gaffeham was sacked as the Government's enterprise adviser after he stated that the world was round, and that in his experience, Popes, more often than not, turned out to be Catholics. Labour Treasury spokeswoman Angela Eagleeyed said the Prime Minister has under-reacted. "It's no good the PM dilly-dallying. He should have sacked Lord Old before he made his comments. Alastair Campbell would have."

Lord Young is 94.

But seriously, folks... what an unbelieveable storm in a teacup. OK, the use of the phrase "never had it so good" was always going to have been a little incendiary, but what part of this paragraph isn't true...

"For the vast majority of people in the country today they have never had it so
good ever since this recession – this so-called recession – started, because
anybody, most people with a mortgage who were paying a lot of money each month,
suddenly started paying very little each month. That could make three, four,
five, six hundred pounds a month difference, free of tax. That is why the retail
sales have kept very good all the way through."

The fact is, that for the vast majority of people in this country life is more prosperous than it has ever been. But of course, for some it isn't. The mistake Lord Young made was not to then add a paragraph pointing out the hardships being suffered by others. At worst this is political naivety on his part, but the reaction to this has been way, way over the top. Angela Eagle's comments are laughable, but then so is Lord Young's mea culpa. One day a politician will actually stand by their words in this situation and say, you know what, I said it, I meant it and if Number Ten wants to sack me, then here's my phone number.

Guess that's the peerage out of the window then...

UPDATE: The Daily Mash gets it spot on.

Your Top 50 Political Journalists & Commentators

A few weeks ago, I asked you to rate a list of 300 political journalists and commentators. Here are the results for readers of this blog.

1. Quentin Letts
2. Andrew Neil
3. Matthew Parris
4. Fraser Nelson
5. Paul Waugh
6. Jeff Randall
7. Ben Brogan
8. Andrew Gilligan
9. Laura Kuenssberg
10. Daniel Hannan
11. James Forsyth
12. Andrew Rawnsley
13. Adam Boulton
14. Matthew D'Ancona
15. Tom Bradby
16. Daniel Finkelstein
17. Trevor Kavanagh
18. John Pienaar
19. Ann Treneman
20. Boris Johnson
21. Iain Martin
22. Andrew Gimson
23. Eddie Mair
24. Joey Jones
25. Jeremy Paxman
26. Nick Ferrari
27. Simon Hoggart
28. Michael Portillo
29. Andrew Pierce
30. Peter Allen
31. Christopher Booker
32. Charles Moore
33. Peter Oborne
34. John Humphrys
35. Evan Davis
36. James Landale
37. Jon Craig
38. Edward Stourton
39. Patrick Hennessy
40. Cathy Newman
41. Gary Gibbon
42. Robin Lustig
43. Richard Littlejohn
44. Nick Robinson
45. Steve Richards
46. Carolyn Quinn-Morris
47. Dominic Lawson
48. Martha Kearney
49. Anne McElvoy
50. Michael Crick

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Daley Dozen: Thursday

1. Total Politics reveal their top 100-51 journalists.
2. It is not often I agree with Paul Krugman.
3. Harry's Place reports that the UN won't helping gays.
4. Ken Clarke was wrong. Norman Tebbit was right.
5. Liberal Conspiracy shows the government how to build 1 million homes.
6. Sir Christopher Meyer reviews George Bush's memoirs.
7. Tim Montgomerie wonders what happened to the fire in Hague's belly.
8. Ed Staite thinks he knows who the next Labour Director of Communications will be.
9. The Daily Maybe believes Brian Coleman is the worst chair of the fire authoirty ever.
10. The ASI have managed to get Michael Caine to explain the Laffer Curve.
11. Sean Haffey tells us how to destroy hundreds of fields.
12. Alex Singleton thinks Bill Cash has become a Europhile.

On My LBC Show Tonight From 7pm...



On my LBC show tonight from 7...

7.10pm White Britons will be in a minoity by 2066 says an Oxford Professor. Why should we care? Guests: Prof David Coleman and Gavin Barwell MP.

8pm Half of young offenders say custody doesn't work. Well, they would, wouldn't they?

9pm LBC Legal Hour. Phone in your questions to Daniel Barnett.

You can listen to LBC on 97.3 FM in Greater London, DAB Radio in the Midlands, parts of the North & North West, Glasgow & Edinburgh, Sky Channel 0112, Virgin Media Channel 973 or stream live at lbc.co.uk

To take part in the programme call 0845 60 60 973, text 84850, Email iain AT lbc DOT co DOT uk or tweet @lbc973

If you miss the programme and want to download it as a podcast (minus the ads!) click HERE. There is a £2 monthly charge but you have access to the entire LBC archive and schedule.

Watch George Cross Heroes Tonight at 10pm

If you like your military history, make a date tonight at 10pm, as Michael Ashcroft's new series GEORGE CROSS HEROES, starts on the Discovery History Channel. It's a four parter with each episode telling the remarkable stories of the highest medal awarded for courage outside military action - The George Cross. The PR blurb says the programme "deftly blends eyewitness testimony, gritty reconstruction and compelling storytelling, taking you on a rollercoater of suspense and jeopardy, right to the heart of each courageous story."

You can also buy the accompanying book by visiting the GCH website. All author royalties go to charity.

EXCLUSIVE: UK Taxpayers Are Funding High Court Case Against Vince Cable Brought by US Death Row Killers

Tonight on my LBC Show we spent an hour of the progamme discussing the judicial review currently taking place in the High Court over the decision by Vince Cable to allow an export licence to be granted to a UK company which exports a drug called sodium thiopental. It's a drug used by US prison authorities to inject prisoners on Death Row. It helps kill them.

An organisation called REPRIEVE is backing a judicial review in the High Court over Cable's decision. On the programme I interviewed a lawyer from REPRIEVE called Sophie Walker. We discussed why she thought Vince Cable's decision was wrong and immoral. She talked about the fact that the case was being brought by two Death Row prisoners, Edmund Zagorski and Ralph Baze and that they were being represented in the High Court by the London law firm Leigh & Day.

I then enquired who was paying their legal costs, as Judicial Reviews lasting four days are not exactly cheap. You could have knocked me down with a feather when she said they were being funded by legal aid. It was a jaw dropping moment. What sort of country allows foreign murderers to bring cases against its own government and funds them through the generosity of their own tax payers? That way lies madness. Well, it's happening. Assuming Sophie Walker, who is a lawyer herself, realised what she was saying and she was right, it's happening right here, right now. Unbelievable. Let me repeat it. UK taxpayers are paying the legal costs of US convicted murderers. On what planet could that be considered a reasonable thing to expect UK taxpayers to do? I'll tell you where. On a planet where our priorities have become so twisted that there will be some warped woolly thinking liberal who will make an attempt to justify it.

Edmund Zagorski was convicted of shooting John Dotson and Jimmy Porter, then slitting their throats and robbing them in Robertson County, Tennessee in April 1983. Ralph Baze shot and killed two Kentucky police officers as they attempted to serve a warrant on him in 1992.

And you're paying their legal costs.

Makes you proud to be British, doesn't it?

I hope questions will be asked in Parliament about this.

UPDATE: Grant has kindly put the interview in Youtube for you to listen to. Scroll in to 7.15 for the bit about legal aid if you want to skip the premable.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Daley Dozen: Wednesday

1. Matthew Sinclair on why we shouldn't be bailing out Ireland.
2. I am not sure if Philip Davies will be drinking Twinings anymore.
3. Boris Backer is being a bit cynical.
4. Guido has some welcome news from the PCC.
5. Lightwater takes a look at the next disasters in Europe.
6. James Delingpole isn't very influential on policy making.
7. EU Referendum agrees with Cranmer, not Benedict.
8. Richard Drax warns us not to meddle with out Constitution.
9. Nanny Knows Best awards Tower Hamlets Homes.
10. Nick Robinson reports that Cameron is in some hot water.
11. Labour Uncut won't get what they want.
12. Stuart Weir thinks it is time to tackle party funding.

Fisking Tom Watson

Tom Watson is clearly obsessed by the concept of 'burying bad news', as well he might be. However, it seems he thinks the government managed to 'bury bad news' yesterday before it even knew what the news event was, under which it could bury bad news.

Ealier this morning on Labour Uncut, Tom wrote ‘David Cameron’s press team didn’t just bury bad news yesterday, they built a mass grave and emptied a juggernaut of trash into it.’ Apparently, ‘The manner in which the announcements poured out yesterday was [a] cynical, determined and ruthless’ attempt to use the announcement of the royal wedding to cover up negative stories.

But Downing Street yesterday confirmed on the record that the first anyone in Number Ten knew of the Royal engagement announcement was when Jeremy Heywood was called mid-morning yesterday, after all the ‘buried bad news’ that Tom Watson lists had broken:

Andy Parsons and Nicky Woodhouse. The news that Parsons and Woodhouse would be removed from the civil service payroll and returned to CCHQ was briefed by Downing Street early on Tuesday morning, before Downing Street was informed about the Royal engagement. According to newspaper reports their contracts were terminated the night before.

• Compensation for Guantanamo prisoners. Ken Clarke’s announcement that the Government would be giving compensation to former Guantanamo prisoners broke on ITV on Monday night (Keir Simmons on ITV News, 15 November 2010) and was widely reported in Tuesday’s papers, including the front pages of the Daily Mail (‘Hush Money’, The Daily Mail, 16 November 2010) and The Guardian (‘Guantanamo detainees win huge payouts’, The Guardian, 16 November 2010).

Governor of the Bank of England letter. The publication date of the letter from the Governor of the Bank of the England to the Chancellor would have been decided months in advance by the Bank of England. Such letters are always written and exchanged the day before the Office for National Statistics publish CPI inflation data and published on the day the data is announced (Letter from Mervyn King to the Chancellor, 15 November 2010).

Greater Manchester police cuts. The news of police cuts in Greater Manchester was already running on Monday’s lunchtime news and was reported in Tuesday’s newspapers (‘Thinner Blue Line’, the Daily Mirror, 16 November 2010). Ed Balls had already given an interview reacting to the announcement on Monday on Sky News. The announcement was made and its date decided by the Greater Manchester Police, not the Government.

Redfern report. This independent review into the harvesting of body parts in the nuclear industry was set up by the last Government, of which Tom Watson was a member. Publication dates would have been decided in consultation with the report team weeks ago in order to print the two-volume, 704 page report in time for the Commons statement yesterday (The Redfern Inquiry: Final Report, 16 November 2010). But more importantly, this is a report about the illegal retention of people’s body parts dating back to the 1960s, a sensitive matter and not something with which to play party politics.

Tom Watson is certainly overestimating the Government’s scope if he thinks they had the ability to predict the exact timing of the royal wedding announcement yesterday, which apparently even Prince Harry didn’t know about until a few hours beforehand, and ‘bury’ all the bad news before it even happened. Burying it so effectively, in fact, that it managed to be widely reported both in the broadcast media and in Tuesday’s newspapers.

Or perhaps Tom thinks that Downing Street managed to orchestrate the date and timing of the announcement and that David Cameron was lying all along when he said that the first he knew about it was in the middle of yesterday's Cabinet meeting. If so, why doesn't he just say so?

Is the Private Sector Doing What Osborne Predicted?

Today's unemployment figures seem, on the face of it, to be very encouraging. The main figures are down by 9,000 and the number of unemployment benefit claimants is also down by 3,700. It had been thought there would be a rise of 5,000. Some pundits will say this is the calm before the storm, and they may well be right, but there is another possibility. Just maybe, just maybe, George Osborne was right and the private sector is taking up the slack. It is far too early to be sure, but the signs are positive.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Daley Dozen: Tuesday

1. Tom Harris writes a second last post.
2. Ben Lodge has five lessons for you to learn.
3. Dizzy Thinks reports that a town council pimps sex toys.
4. David Osler believes that the Guantanamo payouts were right.
5. Harry's Place investigates Harrods internships.
6. Dan Hannan thinks we should be propping up Ireland not the Euro.
7. Jon Craig on the "Big Society" Wedding.
8. Luke Akehurst has some advice for the Labour Party.
9. Political Scrapbook has more Lib Dems bar graph lies.
10. James Cleverly savages Mat Smith.
11. Stumbling and Mumbling defends the 50% tax rate.
12. Tim Worstall questions a leading tax expert.

On My LBC Show Tonight From 7...



On my LBC show tonight from 7...

7.10pm Should Prince William or Prince Charles be our next King?

8pm Will the English bid succeed in bringing the World Cup to England?

9pm LBC Medical Hour with Dr Rob Hicks.

You can listen to LBC on 97.3 FM in Greater London, DAB Radio in the Midlands, parts of the North & North West, Glasgow & Edinburgh, Sky Channel 0112, Virgin Media Channel 973 or stream live at lbc.co.uk

To take part in the programme call 0845 60 60 973, text 84850, Email iain AT lbc DOT co DOT uk or tweet @lbc973

If you miss the programme and want to download it as a podcast (minus the ads!) click HERE. There is a £2 monthly charge but you have access to the entire LBC archive and schedule.

Second Class Employees

I received this from a House of Commons secretary this morning...

I was really excited to read on the Parliamentary intranet that the Speaker was holding two Carol Services in the State Rooms for staff. I applied for tickets and much to my chagrin was advised that this was just for staff of the House of Commons – NOT MPs’ staff. We are also excluded from Health and Safety and Occupational Therapy. Now I learn that there are proposals to cut further dining services and post office services when the House rises ‘as few MPs are around’. No thought is spared for the staff who work regular hours whether the House is sitting or not. I really do wonder why I bother.

I don't blame her. What is it that makes the parliamentary authorities think it can treat MPs' staff like this?

Monday, November 15, 2010

So, Farewell Then Tom Harris

I'm depressed. I've just seen that my friend Tom Harris has decided to give up blogging. Lord knows I understand his reasons, but what does it say about the political blogosphere that it has forced someone like Tom to give up. He's a brilliant writer with a fantastic sense of humour who provides insights into politics that you just don't get elsewhere. I know he was hugely disappointed at not being appointed to Ed Miliband's front bench team - a completely baffling decision, in my opinion. Perhaps he has decided that it is indeed his blog which is holding him back. He may be right, but whatever the real reasons are for his decision to give up, let's just all thank him for the last two years of brilliant blogging. I hope one day he may return.

But he's just the latest in a long line of top class bloggers who have given up since the election. It does make me wonder if real change is afoot in the blogosphere. And one reason is that it is gradually becoming a nastier and nastier place. It's a place I am getting less and less pleasure inhabiting and I can quite see the day I may well follow Tom Harris onto the blogging scrapheap. No doubt my growing legion of enemies out there would cheer that to the rooftops. Which is the main reason I keep going. I don't intend to give them the satisfaction. Yet.

The Daley Dozen: Monday

1. Benedict Brogan thanks John Major for saving us from Ireland's fate.
2. Jonathan Jones thinks we need to take another look at the minimum wage.
3. Cranmer isn't pleased with Conservative Home.
4. Mark Wallace believes that paying ransoms is wrong.
5. Mat Smith on why Nick Clegg hasn't betrayed Lib Dems.
6. Nick Pearce offers an alternative account to David Laws.
7. Paul Waugh points out the faux pas of Eric Joyce.
8. Guido watches the Labour Students line up for Oldham selection.
9. Iain Martin warns Gove that he better be prepared for a fight.
10. John Redwood reckons even the Bank of England gets things wrong.
11. Jules Peck welcomes Cameron's Happiness Index.
12. Burning our Money has brilliant blog on spending, and a video too...


On My LBC Show Tonight From 7pm...



On my LBC show tonight from 7...

7.10pm Does our education system put too much pressure on our children? Guests: Andy Burnham MP & Gillian Low from the Girls' Schools Association

8pm Bankers bonuses: How far should they be cut this year?

9pm LBC Book Hour with Jeffrey Archer, who will be talking about his book of short stories, AND THEREBY HANGS A TALE.

You can listen to LBC on 97.3 FM in Greater London, DAB Radio in the Midlands, parts of the North & North West, Glasgow & Edinburgh, Sky Channel 0112, Virgin Media Channel 973 or stream live at lbc.co.uk

To take part in the programme call 0845 60 60 973, text 84850, Email iain AT lbc DOT co DOT uk or tweet @lbc973

If you miss the programme and want to download it as a podcast (minus the ads!) click HERE. There is a £2 monthly charge but you have access to the entire LBC archive and schedule.

Why I've Donated to the Phil Woolas Appeal

This blogpost will probably lose me a few readers, but, hey, that's life.

Like virtually everyone else, I was appalled by the leaflets Phil Woolas put out during his election campaign. They were wrong, racially inflammatory and totally indefensible. He deserved to lose his seat, and came perilously close to doing so. But he didn't, and that was the decision of the Oldham East & Saddleworth electorate.

His LibDem opponent complained about the tactics to an election court, which found in his favour. It ordered the election to be rerun and Woolas to be banned from parliament for three years.

The longer I have thought about this the more I think this decision is profoundly ill-judged. In my view it is for electors to decide who sits in parliament, not courts. If indeed there was to be a re-run, Phil Woolas should have been able to put his case to the Labour Party for continuing as their candidate.

And then on top of this, he has been told he can't appeal, but may be able to apply for a Judicial Review. Judicial Reviews can be prohibitively expensive and are way beyond the means of most normal people. Woolas has therefore set up an appeal to help fund a Judicial Review. I make no predictions as to what the outcome of this might be, but I do think it is right that he should be allowed to take the legal process to its conclusion, and that he should have the means to do so.

So that's why I have donated £100 today to his appeal. I repeat,I found his leaflets disgusting, and I would never in a million years vote for him, but I do think he has every right to take the legal case to its conclusion.

And after all this is over, we should look at the application of this law, because the long term implciations are quite stark for the way we conduct our election campaigns. We need to ensure that robust debate continues. To my mind, the way these kind of disputes should be resolved is not to take them to 'election courts', but instead through the libel courts. It's interesting that the LibDem candidate didn't go down that route. I wonder why not.

What Happened at Margaret Thatcher's Final Cabinet Meeting

In a week's time, it will be exactly twenty years since Margaret Thatcher resigned as leader of the Conservative Party and that she would also be resigning as Prime Minister.

Some time ago, back in 2006, I had intended to write a book about the month leading up to Margaret Thatcher’s fall from power. Part of the incentive to do so was that there seemed to be so many conflicting accounts of what actually happened. I knew I would be able to get access to all the leading players and was looking forward to the challenge. In order to provide a putative publisher with a sample chapter I set about researching what happened at the meeting of the cabinet on 22 November at which Margaret Thatcher announced her resignation. In the end I never wrote the book as a new job intervened, which meant I did not have the time to continue the project. I came across it again recently on an old computer and included it as a self indulgent appendix in my new book MARGARET THATCHER: IN HER OWN WORDS. It’s deliberately written as a dramatic, rather than a dry, historical account, but the dialogue and events are as accurate as I could make them.


At 6.30am two men arrived at the gates of Downing Street asking to be let in to see the Prime Minister. The policeman on the gate phoned through to Charles Powell, who was already at his desk. The two turned out to be Tory backbenchers Michael Brown and Edward Leigh. Powell gave them coffee and explained the PM was dressing and asked them to wait. They waited and waited – in vain. They were still there when the Cabinet convened at 9am. They were only put out of their misery when the PM’s Political Secretary John Whittingdale told them what they had already guessed. She was resigning. Tears streamed down Brown’s face as he left Number Ten through a back door, thus avoiding waiting TV cameras in Downing Street.

At 7am Cecil Parkinson was barely awake. The shrilling of the telephone put paid to that. It was one of his junior Ministers and a key member of the No Turning Back Group, Chris Chope. “She’s going,” he said. “You’ve got to do something”. Parkinson had last seen the PM at 6pm the previous evening, before her confidence had been shattered by the meetings with her Cabinet members. So confident was he that she was heading for victory, and that the Cabinet was supporting her, he went out to dinner with his wife and some friends. A few hours earlier, The Sun’s Trevor Kavanagh had got wind of what was about to happen and had rung the Parkinson house to check if he knew anything. Parkinson had already gone to bed and his wife Ann, a close personal friend of the PM, said she didn’t want to waken him. Had she done so, there is little doubt that Parkinson would have hot-footed it to Downing Street.

After Chope’s phone call Parkinson immediately phoned Number Ten, only to be told that the PM was under the hair dryer and that he should phone back in thirty minutes. In desperation he then phoned his friend of twenty years standing Norman Tebbit. Tebbit had been with her until late the previous night working on her speech for the Censure debate. He told Parkinson the game was up and that her mind would not be changed. Parkinson decided it was pointless to phone Number Ten again.

By 7.30am Andrew Turnbull had been at his desk for an hour already. He sat there unable to concentrate. He spoke to the Prime Minister several times a day, but he knew their next conversation would probably be a fairly momentous one. The call came. It was the news he had expected, as the Prime Minister asked him to put in place the formal arrangements for her resignation announcement. The next call he made was to the Palace to arrange for the formalities of an audience with the Queen.

Woodrow Wyatt called to make a last ditch attempt to make the PM change her mind but for once, she wouldn’t take his call. In fact, she didn’t take calls from anyone until after the Vote of Censure debate was over, later in the afternoon.

Peter Morrison phoned Douglas Hurd and John Major to advise them of the Prime Minister’s decision. John Wakeham and Kenneth Baker were also tipped off by Morrison.

Shortly after 8am Denis Thatcher phoned his daughter. “There have been all sorts of consultations and your mother…”. Carol interrupted him. “I know, Dad”. Nothing further was said.

At 8.30 every Thursday morning it was usual for the Prime Minister to hold a short briefing in preparation for Prime Minister’s Question Time. As usual, Bernard Ingham , Charles Powell and John Whittingdale were with her. It was a subdued meeting and no one was really concentrating.
The regular Thursday Cabinet meetings were a matter of routine for most of those who attended them. This one was different. Cabinet meetings normally start at 10.30am but this one had been brought forward so as not to clash with a memorial service for Lady Home, which was to be held later in the morning at St Margaret’s Church, opposite the Houses of Parliament. Normally, the Cabinet would gather for coffee fifteen minutes before the meeting and gossip about the latest political machinations, before the Prime Minister would rush into the room, apparently always in a hurry. That was the signal for the rest of them to take their seats around the famous oval table.

But on this morning the atmosphere was strained to say the least. The few remaining Thatcher loyalists eyed up the rest of their Cabinet colleagues and could barely bring themselves to speak. In her memoirs, Margaret Thatcher recalls: “They stood with their backs against the wall looking in every direction except mine.” According to Cecil Parkinson Kenneth Clarke was the only one who was showing the remotest sign of life, telling “anybody who cared to listen that if the PM did not resign before noon that day, he would do so himself”.

Thatcher’s arrival was normally the signal for everyone to file into the room and take their places, but it seemed there was a delay. John MacGregor had been held up in traffic. The awkward silence continued for an unbearable ten minutes. At 9.10 the Cabinet filed in. The PM was in her usual chair, half way along the table in front of the fireplace. They took their places in silence – even the sound of the chairs being pulled back seemed to grate. For the first time in living memory, the woman who had dominated her Cabinet for 11 years seemed powerless. The aura had gone. Still, there was silence. Cecil Parkinson noticed her reddened, swollen eyes. A carton of tissues sat next to her on the table. While the Cabinet were taking their seats she picked a tissue from the box and dabbed her eyes. The dreadful silence continued. Slowly, Margaret Thatcher opened her handbag and pulled out a creased piece of paper. The Cabinet knew what was coming, but the performance had to be played out nonetheless. She read in a slow, halting, and emotional manner:-

“Having consulted widely among my colleagues, I have concluded that the unity of the Party and the prospects of victory in a general election would be better served if I stood down to enable cabinet colleagues to enter the ballot for the leadership. I should like to thank all those in the Cabinet and outside who have given me such dedicated support.”

She faltered several times and broke down sobbing. She wasn’t the only one. David Waddington, Tony Newton, John Gummer, Michael Howard and John Wakeham were all in tears. Cecil Parkinson later wondered why Mr Wakeham should be so upset, when it was he, in Parkinson’s opinion, who had largely brought about the events they were witnessing.

Half way through the statement she was so upset that Cecil Parkinson, already on a light fuse, shouted to the Lord Chancellor, who was sitting to her left: “For Christ’s sake you read it, James”. Lord Mackay briefly put his arm round her shoulder and said gently, “Let me read it, Prime Minister”. This brief interjection broke the unbearable tension and allowed the Prime Minister a few moments to gather herself. She stiffened both in resolve and body language and said, “No! I can read it myself”.

Norman Lamont recalls her “referring to the events of the last few days and to the advice she had had ‘from so many of you’ that she could not win and should not fight on. The way she put it implied that she did not agree and thought us spineless”. It was after these words that the worst breakdown occurred.

James MacKay, the Lord Chancellor, then read out a short tribute to the Prime Minister. She listened, eyes glistening and red and broke down again. She regained composure and told the Cabinet they must unite behind a candidate to beat Michael Heseltine. “We must protect what we believe in,” she flashed.

Kenneth Baker then spoke in his capacity as Chairman of the Party. “You have and will always continue to have the love and loyalty of the party. You have a very special place in the heart of the party. You have led us to victory three times and you would have done so again. Those who have served you recognise that they have been in touch with greatness”. He, also, was close to tears.

Douglas Hurd referred to this “whole wretched business” and said he wanted to put on record the superb way in which the Prime Minister had conducted business at the Paris conference, particularly with regard to the pressures of the leadership election on her.

The Prime Minister then called a halt, saying she could deal with routine matters but not sympathy. She was still in a highly emotional state and felt she might lose her composure entirely if such tributes went on for much longer.

She ended proceedings by telling the Cabinet that any new leader would have her total and devoted support. It was assumed this did not include Michael Heseltine. “Well, now that’s out of the way, let’s get on with the rest of the business,” she said.

The meeting then broke for ten minutes and coffee was served while courtesy calls were made to the other party leaders and the Speaker. The atmosphere was considerably lighter than at the preceding the meeting. A formal statement was issued by the Downing Street Press Office at 9.25.

The Cabinet then resumed and quickly skimmed through the rest of the normal agenda by 10.15. The final decision taken was to send an armoured brigade to the Gulf. Douglas Hurd’s mind was elsewhere though. He knew that events would move fast. Kenneth Baker passed a note to Hurd asking if he had come to an agreement with John Major about the candidacy. Hurd sent a note back saying they were issuing a joint statement declaring that they had worked closely together in the past but the best way of uniting the party was to let both their names go forward in the next ballot. He then passed the draft statement to Baker who regarded it as a “perfectly masterful composition”. Hurd then tried to catch Tom King’s eye to as if he would act as his proposer on the second ballot. King didn’t get the hint.

By the close of the meeting the Prime Minister was close to tears again, according to Kenneth Baker. She invited Ministers to stay behind for yet more coffee. By now she was fully composed and was keen to know her colleagues’ views on what might happen in the second ballot.

No one was keen to be the first to leave, although Douglas Hurd didn’t hang around long. Cecil Parkinson’s most vivid memory from the conversation after over coffee was when somebody – allegedly Kenneth Clarke - said “we are going to pin regicide on Heseltine”. For a moment the PM looked puzzled and issued a devastating reply: “Oh no, it wasn’t Heseltine, it was the Cabinet.” Parkinson says this was said without the slightest hint of rancour. “It was, to her, a simple statement of fact”, he says. Douglas Hurd, however, had other things on his mind and left immediately. Norman Lamont caught Michael Howard’s eye. They were both anxious to go. While Heseltine was out there campaigning, important time was being lost. After what seemed an age, Margaret Thatcher sensed what others were thinking and told everyone to leave and “stop Heseltine”.

As the Cabinet trooped out of Downing Street, Kenneth Baker, ever with an eye for the TV cameras, made a short statement outside the door of Number Ten, saying: “This is a typically brave and selfless decision by the Prime Minister. Once again Margaret Thatcher has put her country and the Party’s interests before personal considerations. This will allow the Party to elect a new leader to unite the Party and build upon her immense successes. If I could just add a personal note, I am very saddened that our greatest peace-time Prime Minister has left Government. She is an outstanding leader, not only of our country but also of the world. I do not believe we will see her like again”

John Wakeham followed suit. Asked about her mood, he said “Well, her mood is, like always, she does her duty, she’s – of course she’s sad.” It was rather an understatement.

While Denis attended the memorial service for Lady Home, the Prime Minister – for she still held that office – was driven to Buckingham Palace informing the Queen in person of her decision to resign. It was not a long audience. The Prime Minister was well aware she had the speech of her life to make in the House of Commons in just a few hours time. It was to be an occasion she, and the country, would have cause to remember for many years to come.

My new book, MARGARET THATCHER: IN HER OWN WORDS is a collection of her speeches, interviews and quotes. It's a rather chunky 436 page paperback is should be in bookshops this week. An ideal Christmas present to your Labour supporting wife or husband :).