Diary

ConHome Diary: Who are the Real "Obsessives"? Remainers or Brexiteers?

11 May 2018 at 14:53

I was always under the impression that David Willetts had two brains. It seems that he has mislaid at least one of them since he left the House of Commons. Quite how he put his name to a ludicrous proposal from his Resolution Foundation to give every 25 year old £10,000 is one of the mysteries of the week. I know Think Tanks exist to think the unthinkable, but seriously…
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I’ve known John Bercow since university days. I was head of UEA Conservatives in Norwich and he was my equivalent at the University of Essex. He was, er, shall we say quite right wing in those days. He was a leading light in the Monday Club and supported voluntary repatriation of immigrants. To say he has been on a political journey since then, is the understatement of the year. Eric Forth had been his great mentor and they formed a formidable double act on the backbenches, holding the government to account and being a royal pain in the arse to their own side on occasion. When he became Speaker he promised to leave after 9 years. That nine years is up on June 22. In some ways he has been a transformative Speaker, but his habit of admonishing MPs in such a rude manner means that his legacy will be seen as mixed. I have no idea whether Bercow will announce he will indeed vacate the post in late June. He hasn’t really got a get-out clause, but we all know how inventive politicians can be. Unfortunately for him, if he does go in June he will leave under the cloud of multiple accusations of workplace bullying. He will no doubt want to clear his name, which is quite understandable. However, this issue shouldn’t really be used as an excuse to prolong his period in office. While I do not stand alongside those who look for any excuse to get rid of Bercow, I do feel his time is now up. He should make the most of standing by his commitment not to serve for more than nine years, and so far as is possible, go out on a high.
I have no idea who his successor will be. No doubt there will be plenty of candidates. Harriet Harman’s name has been mentioned, but some say she has been too tribal in the past and would struggle to be totally independent. Another name doing the rounds is Dominic Grieve, who would command support from across the House. However, as a veteran campaigner and also chairman of the Intelligence & Security Committee, I’m not so sure he’d be interested in the job. It used to be a job that interested Jacob Rees-Mogg. No longer, I suspect…
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So farewell, then, Heidi Alexander. Doesn’t it tell us everything we need to know about Corbyn’s Labour that the likes of Tristram Hunt, Andy Burnham, Dan Jarvis and now Heidi Alexander feel that they have brighter futures away from the clutches of Seumus Milne and John McDonnell. Understandable, I suppose, in the circs. It took only two days for Labour to move the writ for the by-election in Lewisham East. Why the hurry? I’ll tell you. Even with a 21000 majority, they are worried about the LibDems getting any sort of foothold there. But in reality they have no reason to worry. If Chris Rennard were still heading up LibDem by-election campaigns they would have every right to be kacking their pants. But he isn’t. So calm down, comrades.
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This week has seen Nicky Morgan and Ken Clarke railing against the “Brexit obsessives”. Perhaps they need to look more closely in the mirror. It is they who are obsessed – obsessed with defying the vote of 17.4 million people. However much they like to pretend otherwise, it is they who are in smallish minority in the Conservative Party, which is now firmly Eurosceptic in outlook. It is indeed their absolute right to fight to change the party’s policy, but to dub their opponents as “obsessives” when all they want to do is carry out government policy is pushing it a bit.

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