Diary

ConHome Diary: Vote for Widders, The Mancock App & Collective Responsibility

2 Feb 2018 at 13:06

Ann Widdecombe needs your vote. For those of you who don’t watch Celebrity Big Brother, she’s in the final and voting finishes this evening. It would be great to see her win it, and confound her critics. If you want to vote for her dial 090 20 44 24 03.
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I keep trying to put myself in Philip Lee’s brain and imagine what he was thinking of when he sent three tweets out on Wednesday evening questioning how the government could legitimately continue in office if any part of the Treasury Brexit forecasts were true. He’s not a commentator, or even a backbench MP. He’s a government minister. Too many MPs seem to believe they are not active participants in the process of politics or government. Instead they seem to think they are detached from it, and are free to commentate on it. If you can’t bring yourself to accept the concept of collective responsibility you resign. Simple as that. You don’t have a public battle with yourself and your party’s demons on social media. You write to the Prime Minister letter and explain why you can no longer support government policy. I understand the Chief Whip called Philip in for an interview without coffee. I imagine he used some fairly colourful language to explain that any repetition would lead to a very short future in government.
The thing is, Philip is a very nice and honourable man. He, Rory Stewart and I contested the final three for Bracknell back in the autumn of 2009. He was the local GP and I suppose both Rory and I knew he had an inbuilt advantage. When the result was announced we both felt genuinely pleased for him and knew he would go on to be a great constituency representative. We were right. But of the three of us I’d have thought he was the least likely to go ‘off message’. Shows how wrong you can be!
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As I write this, I have just emerged from two hours – yes, two hours – of dental treatment. Last Friday half of my lower back tooth fell off. It didn’t hurt, but I knew instantly it was going to cost. A lot. So I got an emergency appointment first thing on Monday and sure enough was told I needed a crown. The left-hand side of my face is totally numb. I just hope the anaesthetic wears off by 4pm. Doing a live radio show with a numb face is probably not a good idea. Especially as I have to do a half hour live interview with David Miliband. Insert your own joke here.
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What’s the first thing you do when you come out of the dentist? Obvious. Look at your phone. This is the text that greeted me:
“Have you seen the new Mancock App?”
No, not a reference to a new version of Grindr or Gaydar, but after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing the text referred to a new App from the Secretary of State for Culture Media and of course Sport. Oh, and Digital. Matt Hancock is nothing if not an innovator, and rather than sneer at this initiative, some in the Conservative Party ought to take their lead from him. The social media offering from Conservative politicians is generally pretty lamentable. You can count on the fingers of two hands the number of MPs that have a proper social media and digital presence and actually know how to use it. There was a time when the right was streets ahead of the left in this area. No longer. A key test for the new party chairman, Brandon Lewis, will be how quickly he can put this right.
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I was so looking forward to reading Michael Wolff’s ‘Fire and Fury’. It’s been an incredible disappointment. I didn’t even read the newspaper serialisation of it, but still feel I am not really discovering anything I didn’t know before. I’m three quarters of the way through it, but unusually for me, I can’t wait for the book to end. Mind you, next up is Gordon Brown’s autobiography, so I suppose I should be careful what I wish for.

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