Books

Keith Simpson's Summer Reading List

12 Jul 2017 at 21:11

By Keith Simpson MP

The electorate and colleagues are exhausted after a six week election campaign which resulted in no one party achieving an overall majority. The government continues with DUP support with an enthused Labour Party and the SNP licking their wounds. An autumn election prospect enthuses some and depresses many. The summer recess allows parliamentary colleagues to recharge their flat batteries, and what better way than with a good book.

Once again, I have selected a range of political, historical and books on conflict to stimulate the little grey cells. A personal choice but, on the whole, an interesting group.

Margaret Thatcher awaits the third and final volume of Charles Moore’s massive Victorian style biography. For those who want a more condensed biography with excellent analysis then David Cannadine Margaret Thatcher A Life and Legacy (OUP) is just the ticket.

John Major still pops in and out of public debates on politics and a series of essays examining his political beliefs and government can be found in Kevin Hickson and Ben Williams An Unsuccessful Prime Minister? Reappraising John Major (Biteback).

Chris Patten divides Conservative opinion and has produced great criticism from the right wing of the Party. An erudite man, he has written several books and memoirs and in First Confession A Sort of Memoir (Allen Lane) he outlines his philosophy and comments on political contemporaries.

Ann Clwyd has been a doughty parliamentarian and a great advocate of lost causes in foreign policy as well as coping with family tragedy. Her memoir Ann Clwyd Rebel With a Cause (Biteback) is a good read.

It is commonly believed and true in reality that most Prime Ministers become their own Foreign Secretaries. This thesis is examined in Sam Goodman The Imperial Premiership The Role of the Modern Prime Minister in Foreign Policy Making 1964-2015 (Manchester University Press).

The role of the Cabinet Secretary if now one much debated and viewed with suspicion by many politicians. A massive study of theme has been undertaken by Ian Beesley The Official History of the Cabinet Secretaries (Routledge) at great length and at a prodigious price.

At a more reasonable price and looking at a wider and more lengthy period is Anthony Seldon and Jonathan Meakin The Cabinet Office 1916-2016 The Birth of Modern Government (Biteback).

A recent Cabinet Secretary who serviced Thatcher, Major and Blair and is active in the House of Lords is Robin Butler and his biography Robin Butler At the Heart of Power from Heath to Blair (Biteback) is by Michae Jago.

Sacked by Theresa May as Cabinet Secretary for Education and an ardent Remainer is Nicky Morgan whose book Taught Not Caught: Educating for 21st Century Character (John Catt Educational Ltd) is published in September.

Sophie Ridge is a senior reporter and presenter for Sky News and has written a wide ranging book concentrating on the British experience of The Women Who Shaped Politics (Coronet).

Sayeeda Warsi was active in the Coalition Government as a minister and had advised Cameron on ethnic minorities. She has written a thoughtful book The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain (Allen Lane).

Chris Bryant is a Labour MP languishing on the backbenches who is not reluctant to seek publicity. The author of several books including two volumes on parliament, his provocative study Entitled: A Critical History of the British Aristocracy (Doubleday) is published in September and will be on the Momentum reading list.

It does appear that the study of history in our schools comes down to the Tudors and Nazi Germany. Keith Lowe has written many books and has turned his eye on to how the Second World War changed our lives and its long term influence in The Fear and Freedom: How the Second World War Changed Us (Viking).

Winston Churchill met near political death on a number of occasions and a less robust man would never have survived the Dardanelles failure of 1915. Christopher M Bell in Churchill and the Dardanelles (OUP) uses original sources to examine Churchill’s role and then his great literary struggle post-war to justify his actions.

Thomas E Ricks believes that Churchill and Orwell were two men who had the greatest influence and on our understanding of freedom which he outlines in Churchill and Orwell The Fight for Freedom (Gerald Duckworth and Co).

Guy de la Bedoyere is an historian of ancient Rome and has written several very readable books. The role of the Emperor’s Praetorian guard has fascinated historians as well as many dictators, not least their role in legitimising or overthrowing their ministers. Using original sources and written in a lively style is Praetorian: The Rise and Fall of Rome’s Imperial Bodyguard (Yale).

On the whole, Machiavelli has had a bad press as a totally cynical and manipulative adviser and author. A more sympathetic portrait is given by Erica Beamer in Be Like the Fox: Machiavelli’s Lifelong Quest for Freedom (Allen Lane).

That great political survivor of the French Revolutionary, Bonapartist and then Bourbon restoration is Charles de Talleyrand. He ended his long political career as a French diplomat as France’s ambassador to London in the 1830’s. Linda Kelly has written a short admiring book outlining Talleyrand’s merits and achievements in Talleyrand in London: The Master Diplomat’s Last Mission (I.B. Tauris).

In an earlier account the writer John Keay was dismissive of the early nineteenth century traveller and soldier Alexander Gardner who practised his trade in India. Now Keay has recanted and based on new research has written a fascinating biography The Tartan Turban: In Search of Alexander Gardner (Kashri House).

Sadly killed in a car accident having delivered her manuscript, Elisabeth Brown Pryor has already written a critique of Confederate General Robert E Lee before moving to Lincoln. In Six Encounters with Lincoln: A Presidency Confronts Democracy and Its Demons (Viking) Pryor through a series of vignettes gives a real warts and all analysis of President Lincoln.

The Koh-i-Noor diamond is now in the Tower of London but its history has fascinated the public. In Koh-i-Noor The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond (Bloomsbury) William Dalrymple tells the history of the gem and in the second part Anita Anand tracks how the diamond travelled from India to the British Royal Family. A history of beauty, greed, duplicity, murder and deception – everyday experience for the average MP!

As we move between sunshine and rain in today’s London and contemplate the massive structural problems of the Parliamentary estate a good read putting this in perspective is Rosemary Ashton One Hot Summer: Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli and the Great Stink of 1858 (Yale).

Recent Maritime archaeology and technology has found and excavated the remains of the Royal Navy ships Erebus and Terror sent in the middle of the nineteenth century to discover the northwest passage. Coupled with the folk memories of local people a book will accompany an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum – Gillian Hutchinson Sir John Franklin’s Erebus and Terror Expedition (Adlard Coles).

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century impoverished British peers sought wealthy US brides to save their estates. The writer Anne de Courcy has had the original idea of looking at this theme through the experiences of the American brides in The Husband Hunters Social Climbing in London and New York (Weidenfeld and Nicolson).

Lynne Olson has written four books on Britain and the Second World War and now in Last Hope Island: Britain Occupied Europe and the Brotherhood that helped turn the tide (Random House) she describes how Britain was the base for European resistance to the Nazis.

Khrushev’s Secret Speech in February 1956 opened the way for the Russian people to assess Stalin and the Great Terror. In Moscow 1956: The Silenced Spring (Harvard) Kathleen E Smith looks at what this meant for writers, students, scientists and former gulag prisoners.

The Labour Party welcomed the Russian revolution of 1917 and enthusiastically supported the Soviet great experiment. In 1929 the Labour government privately recognised the purges but blocked an inquiry. This sad tale is told by Giles Udy in Labour and the Gulag Russia and the Seduction of the British Left (Biteback).

Peter Clarke has written widely about political history and war and now brings his research together in The Locomotive of War Money, Empire, Power and Guilt (Bloomsbury).

One of the eccentric and brilliant agent runners MI5 had before, during and after the Second World War was Maxwell Knight. He reads like a character from a John le Carré novel and now Henry Hemming has written a fascinating biography M Maxwell Knight, MI5’s Greatest Spymaster (Preface Publishing).

Robert Bickers is an historian of Sino-British relations and has written excellent studies of the old, corrupt Shanghai. In Out of China How the Chinese Ended the Era of Western Domination (Allen Lane) he attempts to correct the Communist Party narrative of Chinese history without undermining the Chinese struggle against foreign domination.

We know about the British double-cross system during the Second World War where captured German agents played the radio game against Berlin. Less well known is how successful the Germans were in Holland, Belgium and France using captured British agents. There was also the threat from Soviet agents in Germany and in occupied Europe. The Gestapo desk officer who coordinated the German fight was then used by MI6 after his capture. Stephen Tyas has written an intriguing study of SS Major Horst Kopkow From the Gestapo to British Intelligence (Fronthill Media).

H.R. McMaster is a serving US three start general and now National Security Adviser to President Trump. Throughout his career he was not afraid to criticise the system and twenty years ago wrote a devastating critique of US Vietnam operations – Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chief of Staff and the Lies that Led to Vietnam (Harper).

US Government and their think tanks use history, not always in the most effective way. Doing the rounds along the Washington Beltway is Graham Allison Destined for War Can America and China Escape Thucydides Trap? (Houghton Miflin) A little reading matter for Boris Johnson?

With British military activity in Iraq and Afghanistan downgraded from a few years ago it is hardly surprising that these no longer dominate the media or political debate. But there are still books being written about these operations and Tim Riply has produced a serious critique of Operation Telic The British Campaign in Iraq 2003-2009 (Telhic-Henrick Publications).

If you want to get away from the nostalgia industry of the merits of the British Empire then Shashi Tharoor’s Inglorious Empire What the British Did to India (C Hirst & Co) pulls no punches.

Elected in 2015 to the surprise of the professionals at CCHQ, the former gunner and marine Johnny Mercer has homed in on how we treat our veterans. He has now written his memoir We Were Warriors One Soldier’s Story of Brutal Combat (Sidgwick and Jackson) which is one of the best personal accounts of soldiering in Afghanistan.

Updating General Sir John Hackett’s The Third World War of forty years ago is Paul Cornish and Kingsley Donaldson 2020 : World of War (Hodder & Stoughton) which is from the RUSI stable.

Maud Russell was the daughter of German Jewish immigrants and married a wealthy banker. They bought Mottisfont Abbey and lovingly restored it. Maud kept a diary and her friends included Duff and Diana Cooper, Cecil Beaton, Rex Whistler and her intimate friend Ian Fleming. Edited by Emily Russell A Constant Heart the War Diaries of Maud Russell 1938-1945 (The Dovecote Press) are a good read.

The centenary commemorations of World War One continue like the attritional battles of the period. For colleagues who want to learn more and indeed visit the battlefields of Belgium and Northern France then there are several useful guides.

An excellent collective history and analysis is provided by Ian Beckett, Timothy Bowman and Mark Connelly in The British Army and the First World War (Cambridge) written in an easy style but bringing together the latest research.

David Stevenson has written several good books on the First World War and in September his 1917 War, Peace and Revolution (Oxford) appears.

Next to the Somme, Passchendaele is a name which appears to epitomise the horrors of the First World War. It was a campaign which intermittently lasted from July through to September 1917 and the best modern account is now Nick Lloyd Passchendaele A New History (Viking).

Studies on the First and Second World War now cover subjects which were once either ignored or marginalised. Stephen Bourne wrote Black Poppies in 2014 which was a history of the contribution of black men and women to World War One. He has written Fighting Proud: The Untold Story of the Gay Men Who Served in Two World Wars (I B Tauris).

The Rt Hon Keith Simpson MP

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ConHome Diary: Bim Afolami, Ignoring David Cameron's Norway Plea & My Weird Few Days

7 Jul 2017 at 21:56

Nick Watt is one of the political broadcasters I always take notice of. He has a keen ear for shifts in government policy and is very good at keeping his ear to the ground. On Wednesday night he made a film about how the government is being urged by “senior Tories” to adopt the “Norway model”, and stay within the Single Market and keep the basics of freedom of movement. The only “senior Tory” interviewed was former Europe Minister and prominent Remainer Francis (now Lord) Maude. What Nick Watt didn’t say is that I gather David Cameron is phoning people putting forward the same case. Now I get that Remainers have their collective tails up at the moment, and some of them think they genuinely have a possibility of putting a stop to Brexit. As Nick Watt said: “I’m hearing that Brexit may not even happen”. If we stay in the Single Market they would be getting their way because we would still be paying billions of pounds a year to Brussels and we’d be accepting freedom of movement will continue. The vote on 23 June 2016 might as well not have happened. Luckily we have a prime minister and a Brexit Secretary who won’t countenance that vote being ignored or overturned. Because if it was, the political consequences for the Conservative Party would be unthinkable.
*
The world of Westminster politics is possibly the most gossipy in the country. Chinese whispers take on a whole new dimension. A baseless rumour can spread like wildfire without any facts intervening whatsoever. And so it has proved over the last 72 hours or so. The government has been without a Director of Communications for two and half months, since Katie Perrior’s resignation in mid April. Fiona Hill effectively took over the role but since her departure in the immediate aftermath of the election there has been a void. It’s becoming clear that this void needs to be filled quickly.
On Tuesday afternoon my phone started buzzing with text after text from Westminster journalists asking if it was true that I was to be Theresa May’s new Comms Director. Well, er no. If I was, I might have had a phone call or something! But the rumours continued to swirl. Guido included me on his list of runners and riders and the Evening Standard then wrote a diary item suggesting the same. In between Tom Newton-Dunn from The Sun had written an online article suggesting that the two front runners were James Landale and Robbie Gibb. Landale then tweeted on Wednesday morning that he was dropping out of the running.
Well, it was certainly flattering to be mentioned as a possible candidate, but it was based on nothing. Just to be clear, and I haven’t made any comment on this elsewhere, there is no truth at all that I have been approached, and I would not expect to be. This job requires a particular skillset, and I’m not at all sure it’s one I possess. In addition, why on earth would I give up my jobs at Biteback and LBC, which I hugely enjoy?
As I write this, Robbie Gibb has confirmed he has accepted the job. I think it would be a great appointment. He’s a political adult and will command the respect of everyone in the media and political worlds.
*

There was an interesting article yesterday on Iain Martin’s ‘Reality Life’ website. Victoria Bateman urged to Tories to rediscover the art of making the case for capitalism. She’s right. There is a populist case for capitalism and there is an intellectual case, but neither are being made by Conservative politicians at the moment. The Left are being allowed to get away with the argument that capitalism is intrinsically evil and designed to exploit the working classes. The truth is that capitalism has enabled the world to enjoy prosperity that would have been unthinkable even a few decades ago. It’s improved the health of millions of people the world over. I could go on. But where are the Conservatives making this case? The Cabinet is even split on whether a public sector pay cap should continue, with some of the weaker minded members apparently forgetting that we still have a £55 billion deficit. Where’s the intellectual case for controlling public expenditure? It’s there, but no one’s making it. Many young people have become disillusioned with capitalism on the basis that they ask why should they be enthusiastic about capitalism if they are prevented from accumulating capital? It’s a reasonable question to ask. And if this question isn’t answered soon, don’t be surprised if Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-capitalism messages start to resonate even more than they are doing now.
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I haven’t seen too many of the new MPs’ maiden speeches, but one which has caught the eye was made by the new Member for Hitchin and Harpenden, Bim Afolami. We Westminster watchers always like to talent spot from a particular intake of MPs,and I suspect we’re going to be hearing a lot more from Mr Afolami.

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ConHome Diary: Golf, Vince & Why the BMA Make Me Sick

1 Jul 2017 at 09:33

On reflection, I was a little harsh of Sajid Javid in last week’s column, where I criticised him for his response to the Grenfell Tower crisis. I still think there were aspects of his department’s immediate response which were lacking, and the PM seemed to endorse this when she apologised for the failings of local and national government in the aftermath. However, I’ve seen two briefing documents he sent to MPs which detail exactly what he did do and it does throw a different light on things. Perception is almost as important as reality in these matters, and while a cabinet minister does indeed need to concentrate on managing the actual crisis, he or she also needs to be front and centre of informing people via the media of what they are actually doing to handle the crisis. That’s the lesson I’d draw from this if I were either Sajid Javid or Theresa May. And it’s a lesson they seem to have learned given that both of them have been much more open and up front about their strategy to handle the crisis.


Imagine this:
“A friend has just told me that on Monday morning Tony Blair was sitting patiently in the queue to see his local GP at a surgery just outside Sedgfield. There was no “don’t you know who I am”, no “queue pushing” and no “special favours”. These type of things show character, but are sadly never reported by press.”
You can’t imagine it, can you, because it never happened. Well, not to Tony Blair anyway. But replace the word “his” with “her”, “Sedgfield” into “Reading” and “Tony Blair” with “Theresa May” and the fiction turns into fact.
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I’ve never had a very high opinion of the British Medical Association. It purports to be a professional trade body whereas in actual fact it is a left wing trade union. This week it surpassed itself by voting to push for abortion on demand up to birth. Yes, you read that right. Up. To. Birth. These are professional doctors. Naturally this has also been supported by the child killers at the completely misnamed British Pregnancy Advisory Service, who never miss an opportunity to support the extinction of young human life. Their leader Ann Furedi is omnipresent on the media when abortion issues are discussed. Apparently it’s all about a woman’s right to choose. That’s right. A woman’s right to choose to terminate a viable life up to birth. Having got this far, you probably think I am totally anti-abortion and would like to see it banned completely. And you’re right. In theory, I would, but I’m not an idiot. I don’t want to go back to the days of illegal abortions. I think our current laws are, by and large, working and should be left alone. Yes, I’d argue that due to the fact that medical advances mean that babies can now survive outside the womb at 20 or 22 weeks, the term limit might come down from 24 weeks, to 22 or 20, but that’s as far as I would go. I cannot understand how professional clinicians could vote to raise the limit to 28 weeks or even full term with a clear conscience.


So Vince Cable is about to be coronated. All his opposition fell by the wayside one by one. In many ways I expect him to be an effective leader, and I think he will offer some surprises. In interviews with me he’s always been rather more Eurosceptic than his colleagues. He’s not one to utter the famous LibDem phrase: “Of course we must respect the result of the referendum, but…”. Unlike most of his fellow LibDems he does seem to be a democrat. He’s spoken out against a second or deal-endorsing referendum in the past, but no one really noticed because he wasn’t an MP at the time. Time will tell if he will change his party’s policy.


There’s still a lot of media chatter surrounding Theresa May’s leadership, yet try as I might, I cannot detect any appetite for a leadership change among the MPs I talk to. There’s certainly no appetite for a putsch and I doubt very much whether Graham Brady has received a single letter from a Tory MP calling for a leadership election. Yet the media is obsessed with the issue, especially the Sunday papers. I can see only two scenarios where there would be a new Tory leader in the next few months. The first is where Theresa May has simply had enough and has grown to hate the job so much that at the beginning of the summer recess she would fall on her sword. The second is if she makes a major f*** up of a new crisis. Say for example there were riots on the streets of our big cities during the summer and for whatever reason her response, and that of the government, were seen to be lacking, the pressure on her could be too much. I still think it’s highly unlikely she will go, but then again, my predictions this year haven’t exactly inspired much confidence so far, have they?!


I’ve spent this week in Norfolk having a few days’ rest. It’s my first week off this year and I don’t pretend that I don’t need it. I tried to wean myself off my computer and phone but it didn’t go well. One thing that did go well was playing golf. I used to be a very keen golfer and got down to a 13 handicap but up until Tuesday I hadn’t played for two years, mainly because of a shoulder issue. But on Tuesday I played at the Royal Cromer course, which if you’ve played there, you will know it’s not easy. But for the first time in thirty years I actually drove the ball straight down the fairway from almost all the tees. Normally I’m a bit of a hooker [insert joke here]. I can’t say my putting was up to scratch, but overall, it’s made me want to play much more regularly. So I’m off to play at Sprowston Manor tomorrow. I first played there in 1986 with the then MP for Norwich South, John Powley, and my then boss, the MP for Norwich North, Patrick Thompson. Powley was a brilliant golfer, but Patrick, well, let’s just say he had the enthusiasm of a beginner. I know he reads this column, so I will spare him any further embarrassment. How unlike me!

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 55: The Fortunately Podcast - Feeling Unworthy of the Garvey/Glover Lovebomb!

25 Jun 2017 at 20:59

One of my favourite podcasts at the moment is the FORTUNATELY podcast, made every week by two of my favourite presenters, Fi Glover and Jane Garvey. It’s all about the world of radio – chiefly Radio 4, although from time to time they stray outside the world of the BBC. I first met Fi when I used to co-present SUNDAY SERVICE on 5 Live with her and Charlie Whelan and I used to appear reasonably regularly on 5 Live Drive with Jane and the superb Peter Allen.

This week Paddy O’Connell joined them, and much to my utter amazement and delight, in the last few minutes they talked about me and my show on LBC. I know I have been doing it for seven years now, and having won a few awards I really ought to have more confidence in myself and my abilities, but to be praised by Fi and Jane for what I do absolutely means the world to me. There is no greater endorsement than that of your peers.

Anyway, download it from iTunes or go to their webpage.

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Iain has a blazing row with George Galloway over Margaret Thatcher (Part 1)

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Who Will The Next Tory Leader Be?

25 Jun 2017 at 16:29

This is an extended (and unedited) version of an article I wrote for today’s Sunday Telegraph.

And they say election campaigns don’t change anything… Only two months ago Theresa May was mistress of all she surveyed – respected by most, liked by many, getting on with the job she had secured only nine months earlier. Two months later she is struggling for political survival. Parts of her parliamentary party are in open revolt, her staff in Number Ten are like the proverbial rats leaving the sinking ship and political pundits wonder whether she’ll be gone within weeks.

If she makes it to the summer recess, she should be safe, barring other unforeseen disasters, but no one believes she will fight the next election.

There are those who believe that she’s hating the job and has only stayed on as PM out of a sense of duty. Some believe she may quit in July and hand over to Boris Johnson or David Davis. Others think that she will soldier on for as long as she can and then hand over later in the parliament to someone from a new generation. It’s a big assumption given that 16 days on from polling day she has still not managed to stitch together a deal with the increasingly greedy DUP. But let’s say it happens. Let’s assume she survives until after we leave the EU on March 29 2019 and let’s assume Jeremy Corbyn is still Labour leader and ahead in the polls. What happens then? What kind of leader would the Tory party look to, to lead them into the next general election?

It’s safe to say that both MPs and party members may well look to a new generation. The likes of Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond could be seen as figures from the past. Given how Jeremy Corbyn has “connected” with young voters, Tory MPs may think a few risks need to be taken and none of the usual suspects will quite cut it.
The 2010 intake of Conservative MPs has been described as the ‘golden intake’, with comparisons made to the 1979 intake which featured Chris Patten, John Major, William Waldegrave and John Patten.

Several of the 2010 intake have already made it into the Cabinet – Amber Rudd, Andrea Leadsom, Sajid Javid, Priti Patel, Karen Bradley, Liz Truss, Brandon Lewis and Jeremy Wright. Conservative MPs will ask themselves: Are any of these election winners? The leading candidate ought to be Home Secretary Amber Rudd. She has shown she has the balls to take on all-comers in a bare-knuckle fight, but with a majority of only 346 in her Hastings & Rye constituency, that is probably enough to rule her out of the running.

As Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom has the chance to increase her media profile as ‘minister for the Today Programme’. She’s a lot cannier than her last leadership campaign might suggest, but question marks remain over her suitability to take the fight to Jeremy Corbyn.

Priti Patel is more of a political streetfighter and certainly looks the part, but does she have the intellectual depth which the job demands? Some of her colleagues seem somewhat doubtful.

If Sajid Javid had stuck to his original Eurosceptic convictions and not ruined his credibility on the right by backing ‘Remain’, I have little doubt he would now be the standout candidate. He still could be. If he plays his cards right over the next two years, he’s certainly one to watch.

If you burrow down into the lower echelons of government there are also some impressive 2010 intake ministers, like Nick Hurd, Dominic Raab, Jo Johnson, Claire Perry and Jesse Norman. But given there isn’t likely to be a major cabinet reshuffle anytime soon, they’re not going to have too many chances to shine.

Outside the government Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan are two other members of the 2010 intake who both have their admirers, but it’s difficult to see either commanding widespread support across the party given their troublesome and often rebellious behaviour. And then there’s Esther McVey who lost her seat in 2015 but is back as MP for Tatton. She wasn’t brought back into government by Theresa May, but that may be a blessing in disguise. If part of the criteria for the job is whether you can imagine her in a TV debate with Jeremy Corbyn, she certainly passes that particular test.

In some ways, it’s quite depressing that from the so-called golden generation there is no stand out candidate. Perhaps the party will skip a whole generation and look to the 2015 intake. Names mentioned include James Cleverly, Rishi Sunak and Ranil Jayawardena.

In the end, none of the names I have mentioned inspire total confidence in their ability to beat Jeremy Corbyn, which is an indictment in itself. But there is another name who would be an ideal candidate for the leadership. There is a record of winning elections, a record of showmanship, a record of appealing to people who are by no means natural Conservatives. There is a candidate who appeals to the youth vote just as much, if not more than Jeremy Corbyn.

Step forward Ruth Elizabeth Davidson. Ignore the fact that she’s not currently an MP. Ignore the fact that she’s intent on wrestling power from Nicola Sturgeon in the 2020 Scottish Parliament elections. Ignore the fact that she is less interested in interminable policy discussions and more interested in taking the Conservative fight to the media. She’s one of the few genuine stars in the Tory firmament. Yes, she has a tendency to shout her mouth off in a style Edwina Currie would be proud of. Yes, she’s unpredictable. Yes, she’s said to be somewhat highly strung in the temper department. But in the end, she’s a winner. And that’s what the Conservative Party is desperately searching for.

Ruth Davidson, your party needs you – in London, not Edinburgh.

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WATCH: This Week's CNNTalk on Brexit & Trump

24 Jun 2017 at 15:13

CNN Talk is thirty minutes of chat about the big events of the week with me, Ayesha Hazaria, Liam Halligan and Max Foster. This week we cover Brexit and Trump. Delighted to say the show’s initial success has meant that we’re now going to a permanent fixture on CNN, every Friday at Noon and 10pm, UK time. Available all over the world!

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ConHome Diary: Remainers Triumph in the Conservative Reshuffle

16 Jun 2017 at 13:35

I write this in light of what has happened at Grenfell Tower in West London and I am fully aware that picking apart a reshuffle after so many people have tragically died, makes the ‘game of politics’ seem rather petty. But writing about politics is what I do, so here goes.
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I don’t think I have experienced a reshuffle, where I’ve thought, “yup, that was a good one”. Timeservers remain in government while talented ministers are inexplicably sacked. This reshuffle was no different. There seems to be little long term planning, little thought of career development or appointment based on expertise. Below cabinet level appointments are generally made by the chief whip, with less involvement from the prime minister. The prime minister’s chief of staff Gavin Barwell will have been involved too. The one theme that runs through this reshuffle at Minister of State and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State level is the advance of Remain supporting Tory MPs. It’s as if the June 23 referendum had never happened. Many are speculating about whether the new arch-Remain supporting First Secretary of State, Damian Green, has also been wielding some reshuffle influence.

So here’s the list of the 12 new ministers/retreads (including recent whips) who supported Remain:

Mark Field
Jackie Doyle-Price
Steve Brine
Claire Perry
Alok Sharma
John Glen
Alistair Burt
Michael Ellis
Chloe Smith
Mel Stride
Anne Milton
Guy Opperman

I can find only four new entrants to the government who supported Brexit…
Steve Baker
Jake Berry
Martin Callanan.
Steve Barclay

Twelve to four. Draw your own conclusions. The question is whether the chief whip Gavin Williamson has done this deliberately off his own bat, or whether it’s due to orders from Number Ten. I can give no insight into this at all, I’m afraid, but it doesn’t bode well for those of us who continue to believe Brexit must mean Brexit.

One of the most concerning things has been the defenestration of David Davis’s Brexit Department. Just six days before the negotiations with the EU are to begin, he was left with one junior minister, Robin Walker. At the weekend his Lords minister, George Bridges resigned, apparently in part because he felt he couldn’t do his job any longer because of the obstruction of Number 10. And this, even though two of the main obstructors had left their jobs. One paper reported that they wouldn’t even show him the draft Article 50 letter. He was in charge of preparing the Great Repeal Bill – one of the most complex piece of legislation ever to be put before Parliament. He was a uniting force and well thought of in the Lords. On Tuesday, the Minister of State in the department, former Welsh Secretary David Jones was summarily fired. It’s been reported elsewhere that David Davis was not informed and no reason was given, although the decision is thought to be related to a slightly disloyal comment Jones is said to have made in the media over the weekend where he emulated RAB Butler’s description of Sir Anthony Eden by describing Theresa May as “the strongest leader we have got at the moment.” Those last three words apparently did for him. How petty can you get? Jones had spent the last year building alliances in the foreign ministries of Europe and had received much praise for his House of Commons performances.
Bizarrely, Secretaries of State are rarely consulted over the appointment of their junior ministers. The replacement for Lord Bridges was Baroness Anelay, an arch remainer and former Foreign Office minister. Joyce Anelay was a valued member of DD’s shadow home affairs team back in the day when I was David’s Chief of Staff, and David had an excellent relationship with her, so in some ways it’s a canny appointment. However, it’s also a provocative one, and quite how she will get up to speed in the time available is one of the more daunting tasks faced by any new ministers. She is a natural conciliator and one of the nicest people in politics.

All eyes then shifted to David Jones’s replacement. Surely they couldn’t appoint another Remainer…. Could they? All sorts of rumours were flying around including one that Sir Alan Duncan would be getting the job. One can only imagine what consequences that might have provoked. In the end Steve Baker, the Eurosceptic’s Eurosceptic was appointed in a last minute bid to calm the concerns of Brexiteers.

But what I just don’t understand here is why would No 10 appear to deliberately provoke David Davis when he was the first to rally around Theresa May in the hours after the election result? It doesn’t take Einstein to work out that it might just be a good idea to consult him over ministerial appointments. I haven’t spoken to him so I have no idea whether he is even happy with the appointment of Steve Baker. On the face of it he might well be, but a more sensible appointment to that post might have been Dominic Raab. Raab succeeded me as his chief of staff and would have been brilliant in the role. In the event, he’s been put back into the Ministry of Justice.

Moving on to other departments, what on earth was behind the sackings of Robert Halfon and Mike Penning? Halfon is one of the most popular Conservative MPs in the Commons with no one having a bad word to say about him. Penning has been a highly impressive minister across several departments. Both illustrated how the Conservative Party had changed and in PR terms were very useful given their own backgrounds. And yet, both were axed. In Penning’s case you could argue that if he was never going to get into Cabinet, maybe it was time for him to go. But if so, how does one explain the survival of a whole host of other Ministers of State? No names, no pack drill. He was the best Roads Minister in living memory, a superb Home Office Minister and did well in every job he was given. And yet he never made it Cabinet, mainly because he was never seen as one of the ‘beautiful people’. Rob Halfon was a key ally of George Osborne. Did this play a part in the decision to sack him? If so, how petty can you get? He really was (and is) the face of working class Conservatism. What message does it send to despatch him summarily to the back benches? Unless there’s something I am missing, it’s an inexplicable decision.

I could go on. But I leave you with a final thought. John Hayes survives yet another reshuffle. Kudos. Respect. I suspect he belongs to the Alistair Burt & Michael Gove category of ministers. Better to have them inside the tent pissing out…
*
Quite why Tim Farron chose to resign on the day when the news was dominated by the Grenfell Tower disaster is anyone’s guess. Reading some of the responses it’s as if he media hounded him out of office for his views on moral issues and his religion. Nothing could be further from the truth. Had Tim Farron given straight answers to straight questions we’d have all respected that. But he didn’t. He equivocated to a point when we all suspected the answers he was giving bore little resemblance to his real views. The point about being a political leader is that you have lead the people, not follow the crowd. If Tim really does believe that homosexuality is a sin, let him come out and declare it. At least we could respect him for his honesty, even if most of us think he would be entirely misguided.

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Iain's award winning interview with James from Woolwich

James witnessed the Woolwich terror incident

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 54: Knowing When Not to Interrupt an Epic Listener Rant

12 Jun 2017 at 21:17

On the day after the election, Mark phoned the show. Normally, if a caller gets three minutes on my show, they’re doing well. It’s Drivetime and it has to be fast paced. But every now and then you get a caller when you think, just let them go, no need to interrupt.

Mark voted Conservative but boy has he thought twice about it. And then there’s Corbyn. And another thing! Brexit!

Someone said after watching this video and listening to Mark, you should watch it again with the sound off and just watch my face.

To be honest, I didn’t even know the cameras were on. This was recorded from the LBC tent on College Green.

I’d say this was one of the best calls I’ve ever taken in my 7 years on LBC. It is certainly one of the most passionate.

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Iain takes on Katie Hopkins

He accuses her of stirring up dark emotions

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Watch: The LBC Election Night Show with Iain Dale & Shelagh Fogarty - All 7 Hours Of It!

9 Jun 2017 at 22:38

As well as on the radio we broadcast LBC’s Election Night Results Show on Facebook Live. The viewing figures were incredible. If watching radio is your thing – and it seems to be for a lot of people – you should love this!

If you prefer just to listen, rather than watch, click HERE

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Simon Mann

Former mercenary Simon Mann discusses his new book.

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UK Politics

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

8 Jun 2017 at 09:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to John Bird & Judith O'Reilly

John Bird discusses his book THE NECESSITY OF POVERTY and 'Wife in the North' Judith O'Reilly talks about A YEAR OF DOING GOOD.

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