ConHome Diary: Ready to Serve, The Honourable Ladies & the Wonders of Octopus
3 Mar 2017 at 13:06
On Wednesday evening I chaired a session at the Jewish Book Festival at King’s Place, which is also home to the Guardian. The guest was Malcolm Rifkind who was there to talk about his memoirs. POWER & PRAGMATISM, which I published last summer. I was delighted that they had to move the event to the big theatre due to the fact that 250 people had bought tickets. They were a really engaged audience and asked really good questions. I think they were surprised at how funny Malcolm was. To me, he is one of the great political speakers of our times, yet he’s never really got the credit he deserves for his ability to make brilliant speeches with no notes, on whatever subject he’s speaking on. I remember when he was Transport Secretary I watch him make a speech in the Commons on some very technical aspect of transport policy, which most ministers would have read out word for word. Not once did he look down at his notes and proceeded to make the house laugh – which isn’t easy when you’re talking about ports privatisation or some such policy.
Over the past two weeks or so I have done something I should have done years ago and switched my energy provider. I switched to a new entrant to the market called ‘Octopus Energy’. They predict I will save more than £850 over a year. Part me thinks, well, I’ll believe that when I see it, but I am very impressed with them so far. I tweeted I had done this and within an hour both the chief executive and their main twitter feed had replied and said they hoped I would be pleased with their service. You’d never get that from Npower or EDF, would you?
So it seems it’s now impossible for Theresa May to trigger Article 50 at the European Summit next week, given that the House of Lords has passed an amendment which will now ping back to the House of Commons. Mid March is now the most likely date for Article 50 to be triggered. It’s immaterial now whether the Lords should have done this, they have, so we need to see what happens next. Assuming the Commons ‘pongs’ the amendment back, you have to assume the Lords will back down. In the unlikely event that they don’t, and the ping-pong continues I suppose it’s possible that the end of March deadline could be missed. This seemed to be recognised in Theresa May’s remarks at PMQs when she said she ‘planned’ to trigger Article 50 by the end of March and used the phrase ‘It is my intention to…’. That’s a bit different to saying ‘I will’. Nuance maybe, but possibly significant. I keep being told that the March 31 deadline was chosen because if it is done after that, the Lisbon Treaty says the only way we would then be allowed to leave I if 14 members of the Council of Ministers voted to allow us to. I have yet been able to discover if this is an urban myth or not. Those that say this would happen have so far been able to give me any proof. Can anyone here do any better? And if this all goes terribly wrong and we end up in a 1910 situation, would Theresa May then be forced to create 100 new peers? Lord Dale of Ashdon in the county of Essex has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?! Haha.
The speech that Donald Trump gave to Congress this week is the one he should have given at his inauguration. Although there were lots of things I disagreed with in it but it was almost statesmanlike in its delivery. Perhaps he should use autocue a little more often. One thing though. He promised to create an Office to Support the Victims of Crime by Immigrants. At least that’s what I thought he said. And indeed he did. The proof is HERE [ADD LINK http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-speech-voice-immigrants-crimes-list-agency-donald-joint-address-congress-a7604836.html ]. Jawdropping.
I’ve got a new book project on the go. Jacqui Smith and I are going to co-edit a two volume set of books marking the 100th anniversary of the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons. Since then 456 women have been elected. In the present day House of Commons there are 455 male MPs, which just goes to show how the chamber is still very male dominated. The first volume will contain biographies of the 168 women elected between 1918 and 1996. The second one will contain profiles of the 288 female MPs elected since 1997. It’s a massive project and we are now contacting potential authors for the various biographical profiles. And they will also be women too. The books have a very Ronseal title – ‘The Honourable Ladies’.