Diary

ConHome Diary: This Scandal Could Result in Two Resignations

27 Nov 2015 at 14:11

The Mark Clarke scandal has moved from the Sundays to become a nightly stream of stories across the dailies, each more horrific and shocking than the last. My very real concern, as someone who has got to know Elliott Johnson’s father, Ray, through my radio show, is that too many people seem intent on settling old scores that have little if anything to do with the circumstances that gave rise to Elliott’s tragic suicide in September. Some even seem to be getting off on the mayhem they are causing as they unleash grudges they have borne for years. They should be ashamed of themselves.

I am aware of a small number of individuals, none of them alleged victims of physical or sexual bullying by Clarke, who are briefing against those who had the courage to raise complaints with CCHQ and the police after they said were physically or sexually bullied by him – allegations that Clarke strenuously denies. Maybe these score settlers might like to examine their own consciences and reflect on whether their own conduct has been truly blameless. I doubt it. Whose is? And perhaps they might like to remember, as they set about smearing others, that nothing that they are doing is lessening the Johnsons’ grief. If anything their behaviour is compounding it. When some of their wilder allegations are shown to be false, these people need to realise that they risk the success of any proceedings that might ever be brought against anyone who might held responsible for Elliott’s death. And a 21 year-old boy is sadly still dead.


Few people come out of this ongoing nightmare with much credibility. One person who perhaps does deserve some praise, despite the mauling he himself has endured this week in the press, is Grant Shapps’ former Chief of Staff, Paul Abbott. Whatever the rights and wrongs of his tenure as Shapps’ right-hand man, it was Abbott who passed Elliott Johnson’s complaint to CCHQ in August and encouraged other alleged victims to come forward. If it were not for Paul Abbott, Mark Clarke would still be director of RoadTrip 2020.

This inconvenient fact is overlooked by Ben Harris-Quinney – yes him again – the man who famously bellowed “I am the President” during Andrew Neil’s delicious skewering of him on The Daily Politics just days before the election. I have written about the absurd Harris-Quinney many times before in this column. He has turned the Bow Group from a moderate, influential and grandee-stuffed think tank into a socially conservative, impotent and irrelevant vehicle for Harris-Quinney to seek airtime for himself. He speaks for nobody but himself. The Bow Group’s once proud letterhead now only has two Tory grandees on it – Normans Lamont and Tebbit. How long until they see sense and distance themselves from Harris-Quinney? And his committee is all male – something one might refer to as “a sausage fest”.


I understand that the new MP for Bath, Ben Howlett, has not had the easiest of weeks at Westminster. Howlett fingered Sayeeda Warsi, Grant Shapps and Andrew Feldman on Newsnight last week, saying that he had reported instances of bullying to them which they had failed to investigate. The whips are furious. I also suspect he won’t be on Lord Feldman’s Christmas card list this year.

My only previous knowledge of Howlett was when he was seeking adoption in a number of seats prior to the last election. He was sifted for interview in Eastbourne, once represented by Margaret Thatcher’s close friend, Ian Gow. Gow was killed by an IRA car bomb in 1990. Eastbourne Conservatives decided not to select Howlett as their candidate. One reason was that he had publicly announced that the politician he most admired in Northern Ireland was Gerry Adams – well reported at the time on Guido Fawkes. When he was asked why, he said that he admired the courage of his convictions (and no that was not apparently a pun). Howlett assured Newsnight that on his watch there was no bullying and he presided over calm when he chaired Conservative Future. If there is one thing journalists cannot stand, it is cant. Hopefully, for his sake, no bullying incidents come to light.


The Times reported yesterday that a party activist had reported concerns about Mark Clarke a year before CCHQ has admitted to receiving any such email. And this despite a supposedly rigorous search of the party’s email server. If this (and maybe other) emails didn’t show up in this search it can lead to one of two conclusions. Either the search wasn’t very rigorous, or emails have been deleted. The latter is something The Times are alleging. They write: “Reports emerged yesterday that before the general election a senior figure in CCHQ ordered staff to “cleanse” their inboxes frequently by deleting all emails to prevent leaks.” Of course anyone who knows anything about deleting emails will be aware that deleted emails are actually no such thing. They may be deleted from the Inbox, but they still reside somewhere in a dark corner of a server. This is where both the Police and the CCHQ internal inquiry ought to be directing their attention. Or will internal party technogeeks get there first? Paul Abbott has stated that he was ordered to delete emails, but that begs the question, by whom? His immediate boss, Grant Shapps? Lord Feldman? Someone else?


I don’t know where this scandal will end up, but there is more chance of high profile casualties i.e. resignations than there was a week ago. Every single major newspaper and media outlet is investigating and trying to find witnesses or victims who haven’t yet been identified. I imagine both Lord Feldman and Grant Shapps are having a few sleepless nights. If it emerges that either of them knew about allegations and didn’t lift a finger they would be political toast. It’s clear that those at the top of the party are happy to let Shapps swing in the wind for this, whatever the truth really is. All scandals have at least one casualty and they regard him as collateral damage. It’s the second time in six months they have been happy to ‘stiff’ him. What was it Jeremy Thorpe said about ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his life’? Shapps is expendable. Feldman, being a close personal friend of the PM, is not. Isn’t politics a disgusting business sometimes?


I suppose I could now take the piss out of John McDonnell. But why bother. He does it so well himself.

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WATCH: Syria Debate on BBC Sunday Morning Live with Owen Jones, Iain Dale et al

22 Nov 2015 at 13:28

This is a 20 minute debate on whether we should bomb Syria, chaired by Sian Williams on Sunday Morning Live. It features myself, Owen Jones, Bishop Stephen Cottrell and Emily Dyer from the Henry Jackson Society.

Hattip to @liarpoliticians for the video

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Tom Swarbrick's News That Nearly Was

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Reconstruction: Twenty Five Years Ago Today Margaret Thatcher Chaired Her Final Cabinet Meeting Where She Announced Her Resignation

22 Nov 2015 at 13:03

This is a dramatic reconstruction of the Cabinet Meeting which took place on 22 November 1990 – 25 years ago today – at which Margaret Thatcher dramatically announced her resignation. It was intended to be part of a book on her downfall, but in the end I never got around to writing it. This account is fully researched and each event, anecdote and conversation actually happened. I have used reported speech as accurately as I can, based on the memoirs and accounts I have read by those present.

At 6.30am two men arrived at the gates of Downing Street asking to bet let in to see the Prime Minister. The policeman on the gate phoned through to Charles Powell, who was already at his desk. The two turned out to be Tory backbenchers Michael Brown and Edward Leigh. Powell gave them coffee and explained the PM was dressing and asked them to wait. They waited and waited – in vain. They were still there when the Cabinet convened at 9am. They were only put out of their misery when the PM’s Political Secretary John Whittingdale told them what they had already guessed. She was resigning. Tears streamed down Brown’s face as he left Number Ten through a back door, thus avoiding waiting TV cameras in Downing Street.

At 7am Cecil Parkinson was barely awake. The shrilling of the telephone put paid to that. It was one of his junior Ministers and a key member of the No Turning Back Group, Chris Chope. “She’s going,” he said. “You’ve got to do something”. Parkinson had last seen the PM at 6pm the previous evening, before her confidence had been shattered by the meetings with her Cabinet members. So confident was he that she was heading for victory, and that the Cabinet was supporting her, he went out to dinner with his wife and some friends. A few hours earlier, The Sun’s Trevor Kavanagh had got wind of what was about to happen and had rung the Parkinson house to check if he knew anything. Parkinson had already gone to bed and his wife Ann, a close personal friend of the PM, said she didn’t want to waken him. Had she done so, there is little doubt that Parkinson would have hot-footed it to Downing Street.

After Chope’s phone call Parkinson immediately phoned Number Ten, only to be told that the PM was under the hair dryer and that he should phone back in thirty minutes. In desperation he then phoned his friend of twenty years standing Norman Tebbit. Tebbit had been with her until late the previous night working on her speech for the Censure debate. He told Parkinson the game was up and that her mind would not be changed. Parkinson decided it was pointless to phone Number Ten again.

By 7.30am Andrew Turnbull had been at his desk for an hour already. He sat there unable to concentrate. He spoke to the Prime Minister several times a day, but he knew their next conversation would probably be a fairly momentous one. The call came. It was the news he had expected, as the Prime Minister asked him to put in place the formal arrangements for her resignation announcement. The next call he made was to the Palace to arrange for the formalities of an audience with the Queen.

Woodrow Wyatt called to make a last ditch attempt to make the PM change her mind but for once, she wouldn’t take his call. In fact, she didn’t take calls from anyone until after the Vote of Censure debate was over, later in the afternoon.

Peter Morrison phoned Douglas Hurd and John Major to advise them of the Prime Minister’s decision. John Wakeham and Kenneth Baker were also tipped off by Morrison.

Shortly after 8am Denis Thatcher phoned his daughter. “There have been all sorts of consultations and your mother…”. Carol interrupted him. “I know, Dad”. Nothing further was said.

At 8.30 every Thursday morning it was usual for the Prime Minister to hold a short briefing in preparation for Prime Minister’s Question Time. As usual, Bernard Ingham , Charles Powell and John Whittingdale congregated in the ****** room. It was a subdued meeting and no one was really concentrating.

The regular Thursday Cabinet meetings were a matter of routine for most of those who attended them. This one was different. Cabinet meetings normally start at 10.30am but this one had been brought forward so as not to clash with a memorial service for Lady Home, which was to be held later in the morning at St Margaret’s Church, opposite the Houses of Parliament. Normally, the Cabinet would gather for coffee fifteen minutes before the meeting and gossip about the latest political machinations, before the Prime Minister would rush into the room, apparently always in a hurry. That was the signal for the rest of them to take their seats around the famous oval table.

But on this morning the atmosphere was strained to say the least. The few remaining Thatcher loyalists eyed up the rest of their Cabinet colleagues and could barely bring themselves to speak. In her memoirs, Margaret Thatcher recalls: “They stood with their backs against the wall looking in every direction except mine.” According to Cecil Parkinson Kenneth Clarke was the only one who was showing the remotest sign of life, telling “anybody who cared to listen that if the PM did not resign before noon that day, he would do so himself”. (Parkinson book).

Thatcher’s arrival was normally the signal for everyone to file into the room and take their places, but it seemed there was a delay. John MacGregor had been held up in traffic. The awkward silence continued for an unbearable ten minutes. At 9.10 the Cabinet filed in. The PM was in her usual chair, half way along the table in front of the fireplace. They took their places in silence – even the sound of the chairs being pulled back seemed to grate. For the first time in living memory, the woman who had dominated her Cabinet for 11 years seemed powerless. The aura had gone. Still, there was silence. Cecil Parkinson noticed her reddened, swollen eyes. A carton of tissues sat next to her on the table. While the Cabinet were taking their seats she picked a tissue from the box and dabbed her eyes. The dreadful silence continued. Slowly, Margaret Thatcher opened her handbag and pulled out a creased piece of paper. The Cabinet knew what was coming, but the performance had to be played out nonetheless. She read in a slow, halting, and emotional manner:-

“Having consulted widely among my colleagues, I have concluded that the unity of the Party and the prospects of victory in a general election would be better served if I stood down to enable cabinet colleagues to enter the ballot for the leadership. I should like to thank all those in the Cabinet and outside who have given me such dedicated support.”

She faltered several times and broke down sobbing. She wasn’t the only one. David Waddington, Tony Newton, John Gummer, Michael Howard and John Wakeham were all in tears (source Alan Watkins). (Gummer sobbing?). Cecil Parkinson later wondered why Mr Wakeham should be so upset, when it was he, in Parkinson’s opinion, who had largely brought about the events they were witnessing (source Watkins).

Half way through the statement she was so upset that Cecil Parkinson, already on a light fuse, shouted to the Lord Chancellor, who was sitting to her left (check) “For Christ’s sake you read it, James”. Lord Mackay briefly put his arm round her shoulder and said gently, “Let me read it, Prime Minister”. This brief interjection broke the unbearable tension and allowed the Prime Minister a few moments to gather herself. She stiffened both in resolve and body language and said, “No! I can read it myself”.

Norman Lamont recalls her “referring to the events of the last few days and to the advice she had had ‘from so many of you’ that she could not win and should not fight on. The way she put it implied that she did not agree and thought us spineless”. It was after these words that the worst breakdown occurred. (Lamont book)

James MacKay, the Lord Chancellor, then read out a short tribute to the Prime Minister. She listened, eyes glistening and red and broke down again. She regained composure and told the Cabinet they must unite behind a candidate to beat Michael Heseltine. “We must protect what we believe in,” she flashed.

Kenneth Baker then spoke in his capacity as Chairman of the Party. “You have and will always continue to have the love and loyalty of the party. You have a very special place in the heart of the party. You have led us to victory three times and you would have done so again. Those who have served you recognise that they have been in touch with greatness”. He, also, was close to tears.

Douglas Hurd referred to this “whole wretched business” and said he wanted to put on record the superb way in which the Prime Minister had conducted business at the Paris conference, particularly with regard to the pressures of the leadership election on her.

The Prime Minister then called a halt, saying she could deal with routine matters but not sympathy. She was still in a highly emotional state and felt she might lose her composure entirely if such tributes went on for much longer.

She ended proceedings by telling the Cabinet that any new leader would have her total and devoted support. It was assumed this did not include Michael Heseltine. “Well, now that’s out of the way, let’s get on with the rest of the business,” she said.

The meeting then broke for ten minutes and coffee was served while courtesy calls were made to the other party leaders and the Speaker. The atmosphere was considerably lighter than at the preceding the meeting. A formal statement was issued by the Downing Street Press Office at 9.25.

The Cabinet then resumed and quickly skimmed through the rest of the normal agenda by 10.15. The final decision taken was to send an armoured brigade to the Gulf. Douglas Hurd’s mind was elsewhere though. He knew that events would move fast. Kenneth Baker passed a note to Hurd asking if he had come to an agreement with John Major about the candidacy. Hurd sent a note back saying they were issuing a joint statement declaring that they had worked closely together in the past but the best way of uniting the party was to let both their names go forward in the next ballot. He then passed the draft statement to Baker who regarded it as a “perfectly masterful composition”. Hurd then tried to catch Tom King’s eye to as if he would act as his proposer on the second ballot. King didn’t get the hint.

By the close of the meeting the Prime Minister was close to tears again, according to Kenneth Baker. She invited Ministers to stay behind for yet more coffee. By now she was fully composed and was keen to know her colleagues’ views on what might happen in the second ballot.

No one was keen to be the first to leave, although Douglas Hurd didn’t hang around long. Cecil Parkinson’s most vivid memory from the conversation after over coffee was when somebody – allegedly Kenneth Clarke – said “we are going to pin regicide on Heseltine”. For a moment the PM looked puzzled and issued a devastating reply: “Oh no, it wasn’t Heseltine, it was the Cabinet.” Parkinson says this was said without the slightest hint of rancour. “It was, to her, a simple statement of fact”, he says. Douglas Hurd, however, had other things on his mind and left immediately. Norman Lamont caught Michael Howard’s eye. They were both anxious to go. While Heseltine was out there campaigning, important time was being lost. After what seemed an age, Margaret Thatcher sensed what others were thinking and told everyone to leave and “stop Heseltine”.

As the Cabinet trooped out of Downing Street, Kenneth Baker, ever with an eye for the TV cameras, made a short statement outside the door of Number Ten, saying: “This is a typically brave and selfless decision by the Prime Minister. Once again Margaret Thatcher has put her country and the Party’s interests before personal considerations. This will allow the Party to elect a new leader to unite the Party and build upon her immense successes. If I could just add a personal note, I am very saddened that our greatest peace-time Prime Minister has left Government. She is an outstanding leader, not only of our country but also of the world. I do not believe we will see her like again”

John Wakeham followed suit. Asked about her mood, he said “Well, her mood is, like always, she does her duty, she’s – of course she’s sad.” It was rather an understatement.

While Denis attended the memorial service for Lady Home, the Prime Minister – for she still held that office – was driven to Buckingham Palace informing the Queen in person of her decision to resign. It was not a long audience. The Prime Minister was well aware she had the speech of her life to make in the House of Commons in just a few hours time. It was to be an occasion she, and the country, would have cause to remember for many years to come.

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ConHome Diary: Bullying Tories, I say 'Daesh', you say ISIS & More Travails for Mr Corbyn

20 Nov 2015 at 14:11

So Mark Clarke has been expelled from the Conservative Party. For life. Within minutes of that being announced by CCHQ I interviewed the father of Elliott Johnson, the young man who took his own life back in September, and who had made complaints (not acted on) by CCHQ. Ray Johnson firmly believes that a cover-up is underway and that the internal inquiry ordered by Andrew Feldman will be a whitewash. I’d like to think he will be proved wrong and that some sort of justice will prevail. Am I confident about the outcome? No I am not. Ray Johnson is right. This inquiry should have been carried out by someone independent of the Conservative Party, rather than an Old Etonian who is a Friend of Dave.

On Wednesday Newsnight did a film on the whole sorry saga and made a good fist of pretending that it was they who had uncovered all this rather than the Mail on Sunday. However, they did have one new thing and that was the MP for Bath, former Conservative Future chairman Ben Howlett, opining about Mark Clarke and the bullying culture which was endemic within parts of Conservative Future. He made the point that no one acted on it because they didn’t want to rock the boat in advance of a general election. But the question remains why nothing has been done since then and that all complaints were ignored, and it seems there were a lot of them. Strangely CCHQ say they can find no record of them. Well I hope this internal inquiry talks to all those who made complaints and ascertains how they made them. One imagines they were by email. If so, it must be easy to find out who they went to. What is less clear is why no one acted upon them.

Ray Johnson is understandably determined to get justice for his son. Any father would. If anybody reading this has information that will help him do so, they should come forward without delay. At the end of my interview with Ray I told him I had met Elliott a couple of times and offered him my condolences. I found my voice cracking. Even writing this I have moist eyes. The whole thing is such a tragedy. And it may well have happened because supposedly good people did nothing. If so, they should never be allowed to forget it.
*
This is the moment to put a motion to Parliament for it to ratify military action in Syria. Not next month. Not at Christmas. Now. When one of your closest allies asks you for support after a major attack, you at least owe it to them to react and react quickly. Britain is becoming a bit part player in these issues and it’s embarrassing. Either we withdraw into our isolationist shells or we do what we have always done and step up to the plate. Up until now I have had little time for President Hollande but his response to the terror attack last Friday has been exemplary, decisive and timely. It’s time for David Cameron to make clear that Britain will play its part in building an international coalition against Daesh and do what is necessary.
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Yet again, another bad week for Jeremy Corbyn, and yet there are some who think we in the media should ignore his self-inflicted wounds. Some of my listeners genuinely think that we should stop being beastly to the poor man and that he’s doing his best, as if someone he should be beyond scrutiny. Some think no one should question his appointment of Ken Livingstone to co-chair the Labour defence review – something that was done without even consulting the Shadow Defence Secretary Maria Eagle. Quite why she hasn’t told Corby to stuff his job, I do not know. The same goes for her deputy Kevan Jones, who was understandably furious with Ken Livingstone for the outrageous way Livingstone cast doubt on his mental health. If Kevan Jones was so outraged by Livingstone’s appointment, due to his lack of experience of defence issues, why didn’t he fall on his sword? Yet again Labour have been shown to be ferrets fighting in a sack. As Alastair Campbell pointed out, it’s all very well not to be elected because of people’s lack of trust in your economic policies, but if they also doubt you on defence, it’ll be a rout. Just as it was in 1983.
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Tim Farron, bless him, made a speech laying out Liberal Democrat economic policy yesterday. As if it matters.
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What to call, them… IS, ISIS, ISIL? No, we should call them Daesh, just as the French always have done. Some people think I’m being politically correct calling them that, because it doesn’t mention the word ‘Islamic’. No. Even though it’s literal meaning is exactly the same as ISIS, we should call them ‘Daesh’ because apparently they don’t like being called ‘Daesh’. And if it annoys them, that’s good enough for me. So ‘Daesh’ it is.
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The left have clung onto the fact that the passport found by the side of one of the dead terrorists proved to be a fake. Ergo that proves he wasn’t necessarily a Syrian who had got to France via a Greek Island. Ergo none of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have come via that route are terrorists, as Nigel Farage warned they might be. There’s just one problem. The terrorist’s fingerprints prove he did indeed pass through the Greek Island of Leros on October 4th. No doubt they will come up with a reason why that doesn’t really matter.

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Why I call IS 'Daesh' and Will Continue to Do So...

18 Nov 2015 at 16:04

And it’s nothing to do with political correctness!

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Sixteen Things Britain & The World Must Do To Beat ISIS/Daesh

14 Nov 2015 at 10:30

At times like this we all try to think about how we can beat those who seem intent not just on murdering innocent people but on attacking our very way of life. The bombing of the Russian plane and terrible events in Paris and Beirut demonstrate that the policy of trying to contain ISIS isn’t working. So here’s what I would do…

1. Accept this is a war, and act accordingly.
2. Invoke Article 5 of the NATO constitution and make every effort to include Russia in a coalition of interests with a single aim – to defeat ISIS militarily. It will mean parking the issue of Assad’s future.
3. Launch a total war on ISIS targets, initially through huge bombing campaigns, but also using ground forces from as many countries as possible, especially Arab ones.
4. Next week David Cameron should introduce an emergency motion in the House of Commons, which, if passed, would give parliamentary approval for military action in Syria alongside the US and France.
5. Drive a stake through ISIS’s heart by taking Raqqa by force in a surprise strike, using thousands of special forces and paratroopers.
6. Britain and other western countries should follow Austria’s lead and ban the foreign funding of mosques. This may mean having to ban foreign funding of all religious institutions, not just mosques. Immediately follow Tunisia’s lead and shut down any mosque linked to extremism. Ban mosques from employing Imams from Saudi Arabia.
7. Theresa May should massively increase the budget of the UK Border Force and immediately recruit several thousand new border guards. US style border checks should be introduced at key locations, but especially Calais and major airports.
8. The Prime Minister should announce an immediate 33% increase in the funding of the security services, giving them an extra billion pounds a year. This should primarily be used to increase surveillance of terror suspects.
9. Confront Saudi Arabia over its overt and covert support for ISIS and Wahabi extremism. If Saudi Arabia fails to act, impose sanctions and make arms sales to the country illegal.
10. Make London a very uncomfortable place for radical extremists and reverse its reputation as ‘Londonistan’.
11. Encourage muslim role models to go into schools and mosques to launch a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign and explain to muslim teenagers why extremism is wrong.
12. Confront head on the myth that western foreign policy and the invasion of Iraq led to the rise of ISIS.
13. Encourage the EU to abandon Schengen and lead moves to reimpose border controls between each EU country.
14. Build refugee camps along the North African coast. Handle asylum application within the camps. Impose high profile EU coordinated naval patrol along the North African coast and turn back the boats.
15. Develop comprehensive plan to deal with Syrian refugees who arrive from Turkey.
16. Develop a Marshall Plan to enable Syria to rebuild following the end of the conflict, and identify other countries which need a similar plan in order to persuade their citizens not to flee, and in the long term designed to persuade them to return.

I realise this is just scratching at the surface in some ways, but we have to recognise that the terms of the debate have changed. Talk of containing ISIS will no longer wash. They and their unique brand of evil needs to be confronted. In the 1930s we had, in the end, to recognise that the only way to beat Hitler was to stand up to him. We are in a similar position now. You can’t sit down and talk to these people. No amount of appeasement will work. Difficult decisions must now be taken in the full recognition that the world order has changed and that further loss of life will inevitably happen. Time will tell if the British people have the stomach for the fight or if we have the politicians who have the courage to impose the measures needed if we are to pull through.

In writing this, I also recognise I will be called a lot of things, no doubt primarily ‘warmonger’. I’ve said right from the start that ISIS need to be taken on and we are at war so at least I am consistent in that. Let’s have the debate and recognise that although there will be differences of view, the debate can at least be conducted in a civil manner. At least in this country we can still have an open debate, unlike in areas controlled by ISIS. Those who disagree with me will have to explain how they would protect the very freedoms that ISIS is seeking to take away from us.

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Aujourd'hui, nous sommes tous français

14 Nov 2015 at 09:10


This morning I woke up, looked through my Twitter timeline and shed a tear. This morning, we are all French. We imagine if we had been at the France v Germany match and we imagine the thoughts of those who were. We think of those who lost their lives, not just at the match, but at the other incidents in Paris. We think of the hundred or so people slaughtered at a concert venue, whose only crime had been to go out for the evening.

The world changed last night. I feel the same this morning as I did the morning after the 7/7 attacks. As I wandered down the Embankment to my office in the House of Commons, almost directly under Big Ben, listening to the police sirens and the helicopters overhead, I remember thinking “This is not the London I love. Things will never be the same.” I imagine that’s how many Parisians are thinking this morning.

A friend of mine tweeted this, and it reflects how many feel this morning…

What kind of person must you be, and what kind of god do you serve, to believe that massacring innocents finds you favour in the after life?

I imagine that the FA is thinking of cancelling Tuesday’s international friendly match at Wembley against France. Obviously they will be consulting their French colleagues but I really hope they don’t. We simply cannot give in to terror. If we do, the bastards win. Sport is something people that can unite people across borders.

The show must go on.

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ConHome Diary: The Tory MP With Balls of Steel

13 Nov 2015 at 14:11

So, David Cameron’s letter to Donald Tusk… Where to start? Bear in mind that I write as someone who hasn’t yet made up his mind how to vote in the referendum, I find the whole thing a bit of a charade. Cameron’s speech at Chatham House outlining his renegotiation strategy was more of a ramble than a speech. Full of PR bullshit, but little substance. He’s clearly taken the view that he’ll never be able to get enough from Brussels to satisfy Bill Cash so he might as well only ask for things the EU would be a fool not to give him anyway. It’s a motherhood and apple strategy – only go for things you know they’ll agree to because they are more or less meaningless anyway. Brussels bigwigs are happily playing along, muttering about some of his demands being ‘problematic’ and ‘difficult’. Yeah, yeah. I’m not normally into conspiracy theories, but part of me wonders if a deal hasn’t already stitched up. I can just see it now. After the December EU summit, David Cameron gets of the plane at Heston Airport waving a white piece of paper declaring that he brings “an agreement for our time”. He then announces that the referendum will be held in June 2016, a full eighteen months before the end of 2017, his original deadline.
Charades like this push me a little further to planning to vote ‘Leave’. It’s further evidence that the EU can never really bring about proper change in its institutions, structures and aims. It really is a wretched organization and I am already fed up with all the scare stories about what will happen if we leave. The latest was on the front page of Thursday’s Guardian. Apparently a Brexit would wreck all the scientific research carried out in our universities because they wouldn’t have access to EU research funds. No, really. We’ve got another 18 months of this.
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A dozen years ago I published a book of political counterfactuals called PRIME MINISTER PORTILLO & OTHER THINGS THAT NEVER HAPPENED. Since then I’ve brought out two similar collections using AL GORE AND BORIS JOHNSON in the titles. Next year it’s the turn for ‘Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn’ to get the treatment, but we are also looking for twenty or so other subjects for people to write about. So if you fancy yourself as a political fantasist, do get in touch with a suggestion. My favourite one so far is What Would Have Happened if The Anglo-Russian Convention had not been signed in 1907?
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To those on the left who bleat on about the Tories always favouring their mates and refusing to close tax loopholes, clearly they haven’t studied the Chancellor’s last budget very well. There was a measure in it designed to hit freelancers who run service companies. People like me. From April 2016 any dividend income paid will be taxed an extra 7%. This is on top of the fact that he abolished the tax free income allowance for people who earn above a certain amount (I think it’s £100k), so they pay tax on all their income including the first £10,600. And yet the lazy media and left wing politicians just concentrate on the fact that he reduced the top rate of tax to 45p, without mentioning any of the other things he has done to hit the relatively well off. And I use that phrase deliberately. What this government has done is actually penalize the relatively well off, rather than the rich or super-rich. And with the tax credit proposals it seems determined also to penalize the working poor. I absolutely realise austerity affects us all, but the politics of all this may reap their electoral rewards if they’re careful. If only the Liberal Democrats and UKIP realized what an opportunity lies ahead for them.
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Should female MPs be allowed to breastfeed in the chamber of the House of Commons. I spent an hour discussing this major topic of state with my listeners on Wednesday. John Bercow says yes. Therese Coffee says no. I can’t think of any female MP who would actually want to do it, but I suppose in certain circumstances needs must. For example, if there is a debate concerning your constituency and you need to speak in it, you need to be in the chamber for the whole thing otherwise you won’t be called. So why should an MP be prevented from listening to the debate and taking part in it just because she has a sprog? Strangely, it was the majority of my female callers who thought it wouldn’t work. What if the baby started screaming, or projectile vomiting over the MP in front of them? It might not be very decorous if the baby couldn’t latch on immediately. What about the TV cameras? So many questions… I then took a call from a local councilor called Candice who said she had had to breastfeed in the council chamber, and no one had a problem with it. And with that, all the arguments against seemed to deflate. Aren’t you proud of me for getting through this whole section without making a breast joke?
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Stephen McPartland is certainly an MP with balls of steel. Not only has the Tory MP for Stevenage rebelled on tax credits, he had the temerity to boycott a visit to his constituency by the Treasury Minister David Gauke. For an MP in a marginal seat he’s playing with fire, as the traditional response would be for the whips to make very clear to the cheeky bugger that any CCHQ support at the next election might well not be forthcoming. Many modern day MPs, it seems, are quite willing to tell the whips to sling their hook. Oh what joys we are in for during the rest of this parliament.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Joan Rivers

48 minutes of comedy chat with the Queen of Comedy, Joan Rivers.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Another Establishment Snub for Mrs T

6 Nov 2015 at 14:35

You couldn’t make it up. The Egyptian President started his visit to London yesterday, only hours after Britain had angered his government by cancelling all flights to Sharm-Al-Sheik. The resort’s bookings were already well done, with some hotels almost empty. This move will almost guarantee that few British holidaymakers will want to go there in future.
I think it’s rather appalling that President Sisi is having the red carpet rolled out for him. He ousted a democratically elected president and his regime has committed some terrible human rights abuses. I completely understand that ‘realpolitik’ dictates that we have to deal with regimes we don’t much like, but does that really have to involve inviting their leaders to Number 10 Downing Street? I’m not naïve enough to think we can run what Robin Cook used to call an ethical foreign policy, but this visit is surely something which could have been avoided.
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What a shame it is that yet again the British establishment snubs Margaret Thatcher. The V&A obviously can’t look a gift horse in the mouth. It has snubbed the chance to host a collection of Margaret Thatcher’s clothes, and it seems as though the whole lot will now be auctioned off to individual buyers. This is the same museum that thought it relevant to host a collection of Kylie Minogue outfits, so I’m told.
However, it’s not just clothes that will be auctioned. There are some very interesting artefacts including one her red boxes. I might just try to bid for that if I can scrape together the £3-5,000 which is being estimated to sell for. Best not tell my partner, though. Shhhhh.
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Margaret Thatcher used the phrase ‘the enemy within’ to describe the extremists who carried out picket line violence during the miners’ strike. I used the phrase to describe one of my LBC callers this week. His name was Khan from Ilford, and he rang in to accuse me of ‘demonising’ ISIS. I could hardly believe what I was hearing, so I took him on good and proper. The thing with people like this is that they will rarely answer a question you put to them. They always deflect it onto America or Israel, as if they’re somehow to blame for the fact that ISIS commit such terrible atrocities. Have a listen to the call, as you’ll be horrified. I had huge numbers of texts and tweets afterwards urging us to report him to the security services as an ISIS sympathiser. The big question is how many other people in this country would sympathise with his abhorrent views and how many of those would act on them. This growing view that everything that’s wrong in the world is down to America and Israel has to be countered, and so far no one is doing it very well. Even perfectly sane, rational people think there’s something in it.
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I get some astonishing press releases from PR people who seem to think I’ll be remotely interested in putting them on the radio. Today’s missive came from someone who was keen to publicise their research which shows that most of won’t poo at work in case someone hears or smells us. I ask you. I suppose the Today Programme wouldn’t exist without one of their presenters saying every five minutes “a new report out today says…” or “new research shows that…”. Most of it is conducted by left leaning pressure groups or quangos who want to slag off the government or throw some shit at a right leaning politician. See what I did there?
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So Nicola Sturgeon says that changes to the Scotland Bill will give the Scottish government the power to restore changes to tax credits. Fair enough. Just don’t expect English taxpayers to foot the bill, as we usually do.
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The behaviour of the left wing trade union, the British Medical Association, becomes more disgraceful by the day. Jeremy Hunt offers their members an 11% raise on their basic pay and they accuse him of going over their heads directly to their members. Well you can hardly blame him, when the BMA consistently refuses to even talk to him. They accuse him of indulging in “megaphone diplomacy”, which is a bit rich coming from them. The BMA consistently lie about the Health Secretary’s position and it’s about time they were called out on it. If they won’t sit down and talk to him, is it any wonder Hunt is left with little option but to impose a settlement. There is an increasing number of junior doctors who are fed up with the extremists who are running the BMA. Hopefully they will have the courage to make their voices heard.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Jonathan Powell

Tony Blair's Chief of Staff discusses his book on power.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: The Naughty Table at the Margaret Thatcher Centre Dinner

30 Oct 2015 at 14:42

On Tuesday night I went to the Margaret Thatcher Centre dinner at the Guildhall, along with 400 others. What a fabulous venue. I had never been there before. It was quite an occasion and raised a huge amount of money to go towards funding the activities of the Centre. All the tables were named after a Thatcher Cabinet Minister. I requested ours was named after my favourite, Cecil Parkinson. Ah, what might have been. Had he not had to resign in 1983 I reckon he would have been in prime position to succeed Mrs T, but alas it wasn’t to be. Had he become Foreign Secretary in 1983, I suspect many of the events later on in the decade which led to her downfall would not have happened. A nice counterfactual for someone to write.

Tony Abbott, the former Australian Prime Minister, was the guest speaker and he certainly delivered a hard hitting speech, which has been widely reported in the press. His main point concerned immigration and in some ways he out-Faraged Nigel Farage with his rhetoric and approach. He urged EU countries to copy the Australian approach and turn immigrant boats around. Easy to say, but the Med is not the Indian Ocean.

I was on the naughty table, which included Andrew Mitchell, Suzanne Evans and Heidi Allen. I’m not sure whether Stephen Parkinson, who’s just left Theresa May’s employ to campaign for the EU Leave campaign qualifies as ‘naughty’ or not. Seeing as he runs the Conservative History Group he’s probably the very definition of sensible’. Most of the time.

The Margaret Thatcher Centre is the idea of CWF head Donal Blaney. It’s a perfect example of someone making a real difference. Donal has been a leading figure in Conservative activism ever since his YC days and is the brainchild behind the Young Britons Foundation. His idea is to effectively fundraise enough money to build an actual physical Margaret Thatcher Centre as well as run courses to spread the gospel of Thatcherism both in this country and around the world. He’s put together an impressive array of supporters and there is a deep commitment to making this happen. I wish him every success with the project. Donal is one of those people who, as Richard Nixon might say, “makes a difference”. And in the end, isn’t that what we’d all like to do? Look back on our lives and think that in some way we made a difference?
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So a date has finally been set for the publication of the Chilcot Report. It’s been so long in coming that unfortunately everyone has forgotten the evidence that was given back in 2009. The report will be more than 2 million words long, which means if one wants to read the whole thing, it will take more than 120 hours at average reading speed. That’s longer than Charles Moore’s biography of Margaret Thatcher!
In a way it won’t make much difference what Chilcot’s conclusions are. Those who believe Blair to be a war criminal won’t be satisfied with anything less than a recommendation for an indictment at The Hague, and those who think Blair can do no wrong won’t accept any criticism of him anyhow. So we’ll more than likely be back to square one.
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An invitation to a media reception at Number Ten arrives in my Inbox. Ah, so I haven’t been blacklisted following the publication of CALL ME DAVE. Sadly it’s timed from 5-7pm, exactly the time I am on the radio. Obviously a deliberate snub .
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I wonder why it is taking the Daily Mail so long to appoint a new political editor to succeed James Chapman, who left in the summer to take over as George Osborne’s Director of Communications. It’s one of the plum jobs in political journalism, but also one of the most challenging. Surely there can’t be any lack of people interested in it, so why the delay?

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LBC97.3 Iain Talks to Peter Hitchens & Myles Dyer about Occupy London

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