Diary

ConHome Diary: Have we Got Leaking Whips & Why I Have Been in Prison

17 Nov 2017 at 12:28

At the weekend I went to prison. Luckily only for a couple of hours, but it was an experience nonetheless. The only time I’d been inside a prison before was to visit someone who was serving 25 years for murder. He wanted to write a book when he came out. For various reasons it never happened.
And so it was on Saturday that I visited a friend who had been sent to prison for a relatively short sentence. I have a policy when a friend is in trouble or falls on hard times – I stand by them. It’s what friends do. What I have found time and time again is that this is when people in trouble really find out who their friends are. Who are the real friends and who are the “friends”?
I well remember the day when I got a phone call from Channel 4 News telling me that Neil and Christine Hamilton were in Ilford ‘nick’ being questioned about a rape they were supposed to have committed. Would I go on their programme and talk about it? It was so preposterous as to be impossible to believe, so I went on the show. I then got quite a few calls telling me I shouldn’t do any more media on it because it could harm my political career. I politely told these well-meaning friends exactly where they could shove their advice.
Neil and Christine were (and are) good friends and I certainly wasn’t going to drop them the way many people did during the events of 1996-7.
Anyway, I digress. I arrived at the prison with a certain degree of trepidation. I suppose I was afraid that the conversation might be a bit stilted and that five months in this rather Victoria prison might have really changed my friend. I queued up in the waiting room along with, shall we say, all forms of human life, the majority of which seemed to be wearing track suit bottoms and answered to the name of Waynetta or kept shrieking “am I bovvered? Do I look bovvered?” It was the small kids who were running around that I felt sorry for. Poor little sods didn’t stand a chance.
My time soon arrived and I was led through three gates to the visiting room. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was led to a numbered table where my friend was waiting. It was all fairly informal with us sitting on a sofa and soft chair. The time flew by and two hours later it was time to leave.
I was glad I went. My friend seemed to really appreciate it. It had been a round trip of 300 miles or so but I am glad I took the time to do it. I know if it had been me, it would have meant a lot. And you know, there really was a feeling of there but for the grace of God go I. I don’t think I have ever done anything which could have merited going to prison, then again, in my opinion, nor had my friend. More of that another time, maybe.
*
I’ve got my iPhone on shuffle at the moment. I’m writing this to the dulcet tones of a Boney M Megamix. For younger readers they were a 1980s popular music neat combo whose biggest hit was a rather soothing song called Rivers of Babylon. It was ‘Daddy Cool’.
*

I don’t know what the Daily Telegraph thought it was trying to achieve by its front page showing mugshots of the 15 Brexit ‘Mutineers’. Still, at least they didn’t call them ‘collaborators’. That was left to the Daily Mail. Why is it that people who hold a minority view are demonised like this? Some of the female MPs named have received the most disgusting abuse on social media following this. Sarah Wollaston told me live on air that she hadn’t told anyone but her whip of her views on the Brexit Bill amendments so she could only conclude that the whips had deliberately leaked these 15 names to the Telegraph. She will never be able to prove it, but if it’s true, it’s a terrible state of affairs. Conversations with whips must remain confidential otherwise the whole system teeters on the verge of collapse.
*
The reaction to the first episode of my FOR THE MANY iTunes podcast, which I record with Jacqui Smith, has been very gratifying. It reached the top 25 overall iTunes chart and was number 3 in the News & Politics category, only beaten by Serial and the Radio 4 Friday night comedy, although how those two podcasts belong in the News & Politics category I don’t quite understand. If you haven’t subscribed, do give it a try. The second episode will be available early Monday morning.
*

It was good to see the PM on fine form in this week’s PMQs. She looked as if she was genuinely enjoying it – which is more than can be said for the Leader of the Opposition, who at one point called the Government benches ‘The Opposition’. It was a truly lamentable performance from Jeremy Corbyn. My LBC colleague James O’Brien, who I normally disagree with on most things, tweeted afterwards that he reckoned we’ve seen ‘Peak Corbyn’. I wonder if there’s something in that. As Tony Blair said, given the divisions which exist in the government and the bad press they’ve had in recent months you might expect Labour to be well ahead in the opinion polls. But still Theresa May is polling above 40%.
*
Philip Hammond faces an impossible task in next week’s budget. Expectations have been set so high that he cannot possibly meet them. So far we haven’t had many leaks about what to expect, and if his Treasury spinners have any sense they’ll leave it that way. If he can produce a couple of positive surprises on the day, all well and good, but otherwise it’s surely likely to be a steady-as-she-goes, tinkering budget. It’s not in the chancellor’s nature to be radical, but now I’ve said that he’ll probably go and abolish stamp duty or something which will have us all scratching our collective heads in utter astonishment. While we are on stamp duty, perhaps we should all acknowledge that it is basically a form of licensed robbery. The trouble is, if you raised the limit for first time buyers to £400k or so, you’d still need to recover the shortfall from elsewhere in the tax system. A Conservative chancellor cannot surely be seen to raise borrowing. That’s Labour’s job, and what a good job they are doing. I think in this week’s PMQs if you add the spending commitments made in Jeremy Corbyn’s six questions, you’d probably add a good £50 billion to the PSBR. Come the next election, this is going to a be a crucial battleground. The dividing lines are already there and they certainly shouldn’t be blurred in the budget.

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Iain Sheds a Tear Listening to Joyce in Erith

Joyce tells Iain about the loss of a child.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Not a Priti Week

10 Nov 2017 at 11:51

On a personal level it is always sad to see a political resignation. I’ve known Priti Patel for the best part of twenty years and she’s one of those people who by nature is an optimist. She always has a twinkle in her eye and is very good company. However, I’ve always thought that being a minister robbed her of her natural bubbliness. Whenever I interviewed her I could almost hear her thinking to herself: “I must stay on message, I must stay on message”. Back in September 2015 I wrote this:
“I really think some politicians are injected with some sort of serum before they go on the broadcast media, and that it turns normally sparkling, interesting people into complete drones whose only intention is to bore us to death about the “long-term economic plan” and “hard-working people”.
Step forward Priti Patel who is an exceptionally rabid addict of this serum. I’ve interviewed her seven or eight times, I suppose, and on each occasion I end the interview wanting to slit my wrists. If I feel like that, God only knows what the listener thinks.
And so it was on Saturday. She and Michael Fallon were doing the media rounds to comment on Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the Labour leadership contest, and both had clearly taken a strong dose. “Britain’s security is in danger,” they chirruped in unison. “So is the security of hard working families.”
Oh, pass the sick bucket.”
It’s ironic, I suppose that both Priti and Michael Fallon have now gone to meet their political maker. Ironic, but a terrible pity, and so avoidable. What on earth was she thinking? Any rookie Minister reads the Ministerial Code and knows that they have to obey it. Priti’s transgressions might have been survivable had she not told the PM on Monday that there were no further revelations to come. There were, and that meant she had to go.
Theresa May showed a bit of human compassion and allowed Priti to resign, but let’s face it, it was a sacking. I am told that the meeting in Downing Street lasted all of six minutes. The PM has never been one for small talk. It was an interview without coffee. Both women knew what the outcome must be.
While today Priti Patel’s political career lies in tatters, she should take comfort from the fact that it is possible to come back from this. She’ll never again be seen as a leadership contender, but it is perfectly possible for her to return to the front bench in the future. Liam Fox’s resignation in 2012 was in vaguely – very vaguely – similar circumstances and Priti can look at his example to see how to return to ministerial office.
In the meantime, I expect Priti to enter a period of relative silence until after Christmas, but after then I hope we see the return of the bubbly, effervescent character that ministerial office somewhat suppressed. If we do, she will be a player again.
*
So where does this leave Theresa May and he government? I don’t see that she or it are any weaker than they were a week or ten days ago. Indeed, it is possible to argue that she is in a slightly stronger position given Boris Johnson’s bad week. There is no plot to get rid of her, mainly because there is no obvious successor. Boris has had a dreadful few months and many people I speak to doubt he’d even get into the final two if there were any leadership contest. The big unknown, though, is how many letters Graham Brady has received calling for a vote of no-confidence in the PM. There needs to be 48 to trigger a vote. I suspect he has got 20-30. However, I doubt if there will be many more, despite some of the disgraceful anonymous briefing that is going on in the papers. Turkeys surely don’t vote for Christmas. Tory MPs need to know what if they continue to show this kind of disloyalty to the Prime Minister they can only help bring a general election closer. And if that happened, many of them would end up with a P45 courtesy of the electorate. And deservedly so.
*

Given the antics of Messrs Patel and Johnson, the sexual harassment scandal has moved to the inside pages from the front pages, unless you live in Wales where former Welsh government minister Carl Sargeant took his own life. The poor man hadn’t even been told what he had been accused of. I’m told Charlie Elphicke still remains ignorant of what is supposed to have done. On a basic human level, surely if someone is accused of committing a crime, or something highly distasteful, they surely ought to have a right to know what it is, even if the identity of the accuser isn’t disclosed. In Carl Sargeant’s case, his family have been robbed of a husband, son and father. They deserve some answers from the political establishment in Wales, and the First Minister Carwyn Jones – a transparently decent man – needs to examine his own conscience about how he handled this and what he said to the media in the immediate aftermath of Sargeant’s suspension.
*
If you like to listen to political podcasts I do hope you’ll give mine a try. It’s called FOR THE MANY and I’m doing it with former Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and the first episode will be available first thing on Monday morning. We’re going to cover political and media issues and have a good old gossip along the way. It will have the tone of our Sky News paper review partnership and will be recorded weekly on a Sunday evening. So do go to iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts and subscribe, so you automatically get it on your phone without having to remember to download! FOR THE MANY has a Facebook page and you can follow us on Twitter @ForTheManyPod.

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Iain Interview the PM in Downing Street

A 14 minute interview with Theresa May on the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

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Watch: CNN Talk - Sutherland Springs & Guntrol

7 Nov 2017 at 12:18

This is a discussion on CNN Talk about the Sutherland Springs shootings and gun control.

I’m on CNN Talk every Friday and Monday at noon on CNN International. Or you can watch it on Facebook Live.

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Video: Iain on why politicians don't answer questions

Daily Politics, BBC2

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Radio

For The Many - A New Weekly Podcast From LBC With Iain Dale & Jacqui Smith

4 Nov 2017 at 15:26

Back in March Jacqui Smith and I left the Sky News Paper Review, where we had established an on-screen partnership over five or six years. I covered the reasons for us leaving HERE. Since then, both of us have been inundated with people asking us when we’re coming back. It’s nice to be missed but on TV it’s not going to happen. However, we are editing a book of biographies of all the female MPs over the last hundred years, HONOURABLE LADIES and from November 20th we’re launching a new podcast, called "FOR THE MANY… We’re doing it with LBC and here’s what the blurb says…

For The Many is a one of a kind 30-minute podcast hosted by the political dream team who have become infamous for their onscreen partnership delivering the Sky News paper review. Containing a mixture of lively debate, analysis, banter and gossip Iain and Jacqui give their perspective on the ever-changing world of politics and media in a way only they could. With no guests or interruptions, expect clashes and arguments as the pair’s big personalities are let loose. The insightful weekly download is perfect for your Monday morning commute, so you can make sure you’re ahead of the game before you step in to the office. For The Many: Subscribe NOW on iTunes or where ever you get your podcasts and be the first to hear episode one on November 20th.

We really want to do conduct it in a very light style with lots of laughs, and it will very much reflect the rapport we built up on Sky. There are a lot of political podcasts out there at the moment and many of them very good indeed. I suppose if anything, we want to reflect the style of Jane Garvey and Fi Glover in the FORTUNATELY podcast. If you haven’t heard that, you’re missing out. We’ll usually record it on a Sunday evening so it will be available for the Monday morning commute. Initially we won’t have guests, it will just be us. I think the best podcasts are those that are simple and are not heavily produced. We’re using some unique software to record it, with me in my sitting room and Jacqui in hers – or maybe her caravan! We then upload it to a producer at LBC who tops and tails it before uploading it to iTunes and all the other podcast platforms. One thing we do want to do also is react to what our listeners want to talk about so we’ve created all sorts of ways of getting in touch with us.

Email: forthemany@global.com
Twitter: @ForTheManyPod
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ForTheManyPodcast/
Website: http://www.lbc.co.uk/radio/presenters/iain-dale/for-the-many-a-brand-new-lbc-podcast-coming-soon/

Please do follow us on Twitter and most important of all, we need to get as many podcast subscribers on iTunes as possible before we launch on November 20th. The more we get the more iTunes will promote us. So please do go to Podcasts on your phone (we’re also on Android too!) search for my name or Jacqui’s and it should come up. For some reason, if you search ‘For the Many’ it doesn’t…. There’s a three minute trailer for the podcast, just as a taster.

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Video: Iain talks about working on his Dad's farm

IOSH channel, October 2009

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UK Politics

Is Jeremy Corbyn a Reincarnation?

4 Nov 2017 at 14:31

Some friends of mine have just returned from a holiday in the Pyranees. They visited a prehistoric cave system, with stunning cave paintings inside. It was near Grotte de Niaux, south of Toulouse at the start of the Pyrenees before Andorra. They were looking at an exhibition and spotted these pictures. Look at the likeness of the man on the right to Jeremy Corbyn! He is only identified as M. Prevot. I wonder if Jezza has some French blood in him!

Spooky!

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Iain Takes on the Man who Egged Ed Miliband

Iain has a testy encounter with Dean Porter, who that day had egged Ed Miliband.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: When Someone Sexually Harassed Me (Spoiler - It Wasn't An MP)

3 Nov 2017 at 13:34

There I was, minding my own business, when suddenly this man approached me. He stood in front of me and without so much as a by your leave, stuck his hand right down my trousers. Now, this happened a long time ago, and before you ask, no it wasn’t an MP. At least I don’t think it was. No, it happened in a gay bar called BRIEF ENCOUNTER in St Martin’s Lane. It’s no longer there. This was my first visit to an establishment of that nature. I was petrified. Would I be recognised? What if someone spread the word that I was, well, gay? It was 1990, after all. This bar was on two levels. On street level it was jam packed with drinkers, virtually all male. Downstairs it was darker and more of a pickup joint. Lots of furtive looks were exchanged. I just stood there, sipping on my vodka and orange, mildly fascinated by what was going on. And then it happened. I suppose it was a novel alternative to asking “do you come here often?”

Was I shocked? Undoubtedly. Did I feel violated? Well, mildly, I suppose, but I had placed myself in an environment where I suppose this sort of thing was almost par for the course. All I remember is removing the hand and saying (rather hilariously) “I don’t think so”. Had this happened in a work environment I would have no doubt felt differently and been completely horrified. Had it happened during the two and a half years I worked in Parliament it might have scarred me in ways I cannot now comprehend.

When I first worked as a researcher (OK, more of a glorified secretary) in the Commons back in 1985 to 1987 I was very naïve. I worked in the next office to Caroline Edmondson, who has hit the headlines this week with her allegations about Mark Garnier. At that point, I had girlfriends. I had a relationship with a Commons Secretary. I genuinely cared for her, but in the end, it was all a front. I knew I was gay but hadn’t ever acted on it. And didn’t do so until I was 28. And if that chance encounter hadn’t happened, I might well have become one of those pitiful men who get married and have children while knowing all along that their real sexual interest lies elsewhere. And believe me, there are a lot of them about.

So, what’s the point of this anecdote? I suppose it is to say that we all react in a very different way to forms of sexual harassment. For some, a mild touch on the knee is an outrageous breach of their personal space and can be something that’s deeply upsetting. For others they can brush it off without a second thought and just get on with their lives. Neither reaction is right or wrong. It just proves that we all have different reactions and deal with things differently.

The problem is that there are some men (and it’s usually men, it has to be said, although I do know of situations where women are the transgressors) who believe that if you approach ten women and signal that you’re after sex, one in ten will agree. If you have the skin of a rhino and can deal with rejection, you probably regard a one in ten hit rate as worth the risk.
I don’t believe men who work in parliament and are any more dangerous in this regard than men in any other workplace. What I do believe is that they are more likely to get away with it and face few consequences for their actions because the personnel systems aren’t in place to deal with such behaviour. No one wants to create a workplace where a man fears asking a woman out for fear of being accused of harassment, but we also can’t tolerate a work environment where women feel they might as well not bother reporting incidents of workplace harassment because it will be swept under the carpet.


On Monday night I was on the phone to a cabinet minister when my phone pinged. A friend had sent me the full unredacted spreadsheet to which Labour supporters have now attached the hashtag #TorySleaze36. It made for some strange reading. It certainly had some surprises on it, but there were quite a few names listed who for the life of me I couldn’t see had done anything wrong. Justin Tomlinson, for example, was listed as dating his researcher. Wow. What a scandal. Not. There were quite a few others who were no doubt furious to see themselves listed. But there are plenty of others who are in for a very difficult few days. There are even one or two who, if the allegations are made public and they have no answers, could be forced out of parliament altogether. The newspapers are becoming more daring by the day and have started to name quite a few of the 36, even if they only print their pictures and a very mild version of the allegations against them. Their problem is that very few of these allegations involve anything that’s illegal – they’re the sort of allegations which emerged in the 1990s after John Major’s ‘Back to Basics’ speech, and now the newspapers have the opportunity to print them, even if it’s only in a redacted form. Naturally some of the more enthusiastic Labour supporters on social media seem to think this sort of thing only happens in the Tory Party. It happens in all parties and in all walks of life. The allegations of rape, made by Labour activist Bex Bailey and the antics of Labour MP Jared O’Mara rather give the lie to that. Oh, and the cabinet minister I was talking to? I rang him back to tell him he didn’t feature on the list. There was no audible sigh of relief.
*
The Bank of England seem to be acting as the Provisional Wing of the Remain campaign. Their latest intervention predicts a loss of 75,000 jobs in financial services if there is no Brexit deal. It’s being so cheerful as keeps ‘em going. Still, at least they didn’t go as far as the deluded head of the London Stock Exchange, Xavier Rolet who reckoned 200,000 jobs would go. FACT: JP Morgan have announced that instead of the 4,000 jobs they threatened to move to Paris, fewer than 1,000 would now be created there. Same with UPS. Not 1,000. 250. And these aren’t jobs that will necessarily move. They’re creating new offices with new positions. The Bank of England report wasn’t actually all bad news. Tucked away were some paragraphs outlining the opportunities that Brexit offers. Strangely, these got hardly any coverage because the media is predominantly interested in reporting apocalyptic bad news rather than anything which points to any optimism about Brexit.


Most political resignations are intrinsically sad. Whatever the circumstances they are a tragedy for the person who’s resigning. One moment you’re one of the most important people in the country. The next, you’re, well, someone who used to be someone. I first met Michael Fallon in March 1983. I worked on his by-election campaign in Darlington. I was still at university and it was the first important election I had worked on. I’ve never been a close friend of his but have always felt a certain bond with him because of Darlington. I always thought he should have been promoted way before he was and I think he’s been a good minister wherever he has served. As I write this only a few hours after his resignation, I’m still not quite clear why he’s gone. Surely not just due to touching Julia Hartley-Brewer’s knee fifteen years ago. Whatever the reasons I hope that he doesn’t wallow in the sadness of what’s happened and that his personal journey over the next few months isn’t too difficult. Politicians are as human as the rest of us and at times like this we would do well to remember that.

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Iain Explains why he hates Rickshaw Drivers

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Diary

ConHome Diary: The Overblown Reputation of Mark Carney, Why John Simpson Has Broken BBC Impartiality Rules & Feeling Sorry for Jared O'Mara

27 Oct 2017 at 15:49

John Simpson has never been one to shy away from his own sense of self-importance. After all, he single-handedly took Baghdad, I seem to remember. On Tuesday he decided he was a big enough name to totally ignore his employer’s guidelines and took to Twitter to denounce Brexit. He wrote: “MP wants details of anti-Brexit univ teachers. Decent folk deported on technicalities. Daily hate in press. Doesn’t feel like my country now.” Well in “my country” a respected BBC news journalist would have dreamt of (and would have known the consequences of) editorialising like this. He is the BBC’s World Affairs Editor. It says so on his Twitter profile, so it’s not really possible for Simpson to explain this away as just a personal account. His job is to report the news around the world, not give his personal opinions on it. He knows that and it’s almost as if he’d challenging the BBC to discipline him, which he could not doubt put forward as further proof that this is not “my country” any longer. And if we deconstruct what he says, yes, Chris Heaton-Harris’s letter was oddly worded to say the least and I still can’t work out what he hoped to achieve by it, but I suspect it was written by a 21 year-old researcher who didn’t quite understand what he/she was supposed to be doing. Simpson talks about decent folk being deported on technicalities. Really? Where are the details? Don’t you think we’d have read about them in the press? Yes, some letters were mistakenly send by the Home Office to 106 people, but Brandon Lewis, the Immigration Minister has explained that and apologised to the people concerned. I know of no one who has been deported. He then talks about the ’daily hate in the press’ as if hate in the press is something that has only occurred since 23 June 2016. It will be interesting to see how the BBC respond to this flagrant breach of their impartiality rules, or whether they’ll take the view of ‘move along, nothing to see’. What a pity the series W1A series has finished. They could have got a couple of episodes worth of material from this.
*
One of my listeners described Mark Carney on Wednesday as an “unreliable boyfriend”. Another described him as a “tease”. I think he omitted the word ‘prick’ deliberately. Since his appointment he has barely got anything right. Virtually every one of his predictions has been way out. Last week I was left scratching my head when he declared that an interest rate rise was imminent. He has one of nine votes on the Monetary Policy Committee. He didn’t even have all the latest economic data available to make that judgement. So why did he do it? He loses no opportunity to talk the economy down and predict doom and gloom after Brexit. Carney’s term was supposed to end next year but I gather he’s extended it by a year. He’s been a disaster and been far too political. We need shot of him.
*

Talking of central bank governors, I suspect Mr Draghi of the ECB is going to be Mr Unpopular soon. We’re constantly told that we have a weak growth rate and we’ve fallen behind the Eurozone countries. Factually, that is true, even despite this quarter’s better than expected growth figure of 0.4%. But the Eurozone economies are only doing better due to the 60 billion Euros every month that the ECB is pumping into their economies. That, I hear, is about to come to a shuddering stop. When it does, it’s highly likely that not only with Eurozone growth figures start to fall, but inflation will catch hold. We currently have a higher inflation rate than those countries. In part it’s due to the lower value of the Pound (although that’s gradually changing), but could it be that the QE chickens are now coming home to roost?
*
Jared O’Mara’s political career seems over before it has really started. He is one of only two MPs yet to make his maiden speech, and I suspect that will now be quite some time in coming. The internet has brought down MPs before, but his defenestration at the hands of Guido Fawkes has been on quite a different scale. Every day there are fresh revelations about his rather colourful comments on various message boards. He’s getting a free pass from some on the left on the basis that they were written many years ago. Hang on a cotton pickin’ moment. He wasn’t 13 or 15, he was in his twenties. And some of the more lurid were written when he was 28. Even so, I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for him. He clearly didn’t expect to win his seat in June, and nor did Labour, otherwise they might have actually interviewed him rather than just appointed him as the candidate in Sheffield Hallam. But even if they had done so, none of this would have emerged at the time, so a lot of cant is being talked about selection processes. When a snap election is called so early in a Parliament all parties will end up selecting candidates who in other circumstances wouldn’t have seen the light of day. Given some of the other incidents reported about Jared O’Mara’s behaviour, one can’t help but wonder if he has broader issues that he needs to deal with. He’s rightly being traduced for his comments and previously held views and it can’t be easy for him at the moment. I hope the Labour Party is looking after him, because anyone caught in the headlines of a national feeding frenzy is in a very vulnerable position.

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Video: Iain's Nick Clegg 'Downfall' Video

Spoof video

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CNNTalk: Has the Spanish Government Overreacted to Catalan Independence?

23 Oct 2017 at 17:38

From today CNN Talk is going twice a week. Today we spent half an hour discussing the constitutional crisis in Catalonia. Enjoy!

You can watch us on CNN International (Sky Channel 506) every Monday & Friday at noon, or on CNNI Facebook page.

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Iain Jousts With a Caller Over Legalising Prostitution

An angry caller thinks prostitution should never be legalised.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Wotcha!

20 Oct 2017 at 13:34

If there is to be a reshuffle before the budget, expect it to happen next Monday. I’m not saying there will definitely be one next week, but if the Chancellor is to feature in it, surely it couldn’t happen within a month of the budget. Again, I’m not saying the Chancellor will feature in it, but surely any new Chancellor would need to have a month before the budget to read him/herself into the job. Downing Street is staying tight-lipped about any possible reshuffle and quite right too. I know for a fact that at the end of last week no decision had been made one way or the other on whether it would happen now, or be put off. If the PM emerges from the EU summit with any sort of victory, she’d be in a good place to carry out as extensive a reshuffle as she’d like, but let’s face it, the odds on the EU saying anything positive to help her are not great.
Back to the fortunes of Philip Hammond. There’s no doubt that he had a pretty awful week last week. It was almost as if he was deliberately trying to wind up Brexiteers with his message of gloom and doom and dismissal of proper preparations for a ‘no deal’ scenario. Clearly someone had a word and by the end of last week Hammond was backtracking like the Lord Chancellor at the State Opening of Parliament. And then he undid it all with his ‘enemies’ comment. It may have been massively overinterpreted by the media, but it was further proof that we have a Chancellor who’s not especially good at politics. It’s often said that Theresa May is one disaster away from being toppled, but the question is: do we have a Chancellor who is one move away from being sacked?
*
On Monday the papers were full of two further policy wheezes by the Chancellor, both ostensibly designed to persuade young people that the Tories hadn’t forgotten them. The first was clearly briefed to George Osborne over lunch last week and appeared on the front page of Monday’s Evening Standard. Apparently young people are going to be getting a cut in stamp duty. Given that stamp duty is a form of licensed robbery, few would disagree with a cut, but all it will do is add to house price inflation, which rather defeats the object. The second idea is to cut pension tax relief for older workers and cut national insurance for the under 30s. Has Philip Hammond learned nothing from the election campaign? You don’t help younger people by penalising older people. All the polls show that younger people react very badly against such policies, not to mention older Conservative voters. Perhaps it was just a bit of policy kite flying. Let’s hope so.
*

I do apologise if I have been somewhat omnipresent on your TV screens lately. It won’t happen again. Well, probably not.
*
Talking of being on TV, last Friday night I was a guest on ITV’s new current affairs show, the very unimaginatively named ‘After the News’. It’s on, well, after the New at Ten’ and hosted on alternate nights by LBC’s Nick Ferrari and 5Live’s Emma Barnett. It’s a very simple format – two guests from opposing standpoints plus a look at the next day’s papers. Someone described it as ‘Newsnight’ without the reports or interviews, which was probably meant to be unkind, but there is something in that. It’s certainly not an innovative format, but its beauty is its simplicity. It’s beating ‘Newsnight’ in audience numbers, but it does have the advantage of inheriting a sizeable audience from ‘News at Ten’. The test for ITV will be whether to extend its initial five week run. It’s about time ITV went back to providing more for its viewers who are interested in politics and current affairs.
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Talking of ITV current affairs shows, ‘Peston on Sunday’ is about the only proper political programme on the channel. Peston gets good guests but it’s a very clunky format, as he has to keep wandering from ‘Croissant corner’ to his big desk interviews. And if he introduces the programme one more time with the word ‘Wotcha’, I’ll want to deck him. On what planet does a presenter of a political interview programme think it appropriate do that? Peston has a book out soon called ‘WTF’. There’s a pattern developing here… I’m interviewing him about it at the beginning of November so I think I’ll ask him about it!

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UK Politics

Sunday Telegraph Column: Would a Reshuffle Solve Theresa May's Problems? (Answer: Probably Not)

15 Oct 2017 at 15:53

This is the full text of the article which appeared in today’s Sunday Telegraph

Reshuffle fever is gripping Westminster, which is not unusual when a government looks as if it’s in trouble. However, a reshuffle rarely solves anything. There has only been one reshuffle in the last fifteen years which has been heralded as a success and you have to go back to the halcyon days of Tony Blair to find it.

One former cabinet minister told me this week: “A third of the cabinet is brilliant but out of control, a third are plodders and a third are useless and aren’t up to it.” Even if the Prime Minister conducts a wide-ranging shuffling and ejected the most ‘useless’ third of her cabinet, her government will still face the same problems as it does now – divisions over Brexit, no parliamentary majority and a faltering domestic agenda.

Move Boris, sack the chancellor by all means, but chief whip Gavin Williamson knows that it’s not just the ministers who are sacked that nurse grievances, it’s all those who weren’t promoted as well. Like the PM, Williamson hates reshuffles, and that’s why it’s by no means certain there will be one. If there is, the chief whip himself could find that he ends up running a department.

When I interviewed Theresa May in July she was adamant that “no minister is unsackable”, however senior – so adamant that she said it twice. Would she dare sack the chancellor? “He’d do well to find a seconder for his leadership campaign,” says one Tory MP, who believes Philip Hammond has few supporters on the Tory benches.

The problem with sacking Philip Hammond is the timing of the budget. It would have to be done in the next two weeks. Some are saying that it might be time to properly ‘uncork the Gauke’ and promote David Gauke to take over. He spent years as Treasury minister, is liked and is a safe pair of hands on the media. Theresa May needs an ally at the Treasury, not someone to lock horns with. The downside is he’s another Remainer

But what to do about Boris? There is a school of thought developing that the Foreign Secretary wouldn’t be averse to becoming party chairman. He wouldn’t be on the taxpayers’ payroll so would be free to (maybe) return to writing for this newspaper and take up various other sinecures. He could schlepp up and down the country building up potential leadership campaign support and subliminally encourage constituency associations to persuade their MPs to support him when the time comes.

The cabinet ministers thought to be most at risk are Liz Truss, Patrick McLoughlin, Andrea Leadsom and Baroness Evans, the totally anonymous Leader of the House of Lords. Former EU commissioner Jonathan Hill could replace her or could it be that George Young might make yet another comeback to steer the Brexit Bill through the Lords? Serious people for serious times.

Having declined a position in her initial government, Dominic Raab accepted a Minister of State role in June and is heavily tipped for promotion. Former Employment Minister Esther McVey, former chief whip Mark Harper and Immigration minister Brandon Lewis are three other probable promotions.

If Boris Johnson refuses to be party chairman, Brandon Lewis is likely to get the job. McVey at least has the advantage of having been a Brexiteer, unlike so many of the current Ministers of State. And therein lies a huge problem for the Prime Minister. Indeed, it’s a rather depressing experience to flick through the list of ministers of state and conclude that it’s impossible to imagine more than a select few serving at cabinet level.

Any new entrants to the ministerial ranks are likely to come from the 2010 and 2015 intakes. Kwasi Kwarteng is due a promotion, but expect Victoria Atkins and Victoria Prentis from the left of the party to join the government, along with Tom Tugendhat, James Cleverly, Nus Ghani, Johnny Mercer, Lucy Frazer and Rishi Sunak. I’m hearing that serious consideration is being given to bringing Jacob Rees-Mogg into the tent, if only to shut him up.

If Theresa May really wanted to make a statement that youth and diversity are what the party needs, she could give very rapid promotions to two of the 2017 intake – Kemi Badenoch and Bim Afolami, both of whom made superb maiden speeches.

Some still think that the biggest reshuffle of all is still on the cards – shuffling Theresa May out of Number 10. It won’t happen. Why? Because the image of a second tearful female prime minister being bundled out of Number 10 by a series of men in grey suits would be too awful for the Tories to contemplate. Who was it again who claimed they were seen as the ‘nasty party’? That very phrase could be Theresa May’s saviour.

You can read the published version HERE

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