18 May 2015 at 19:45
I interviewed Harriet Harman this evening on LBC for 30 minutes. We covered a lot of ground – why Labour lost, the lessons that can be learned and the current leadership contest.
18 May 2015 at 19:45
I interviewed Harriet Harman this evening on LBC for 30 minutes. We covered a lot of ground – why Labour lost, the lessons that can be learned and the current leadership contest.
16 May 2015 at 10:09
Let’s face it, it wasn’t just the pollsters who got it wrong. It was the whole political class, including the punditerati and the commentariat. Including me. We have egg on our faces, we were humiliated and we all need to look at why this happened. How could we all – and I mean all – have misjudged it? Well, I say all. I excuse Dan Hodges and LBC Political Editor Theo Usherwood who both predicted a Tory majority.
In an interview with the Telegraph today Lynton Crosby has added his twopennyworth.
“It wasn’t just Ed Miliband’s Labour Party that revealed itself as out of touch and remote from the people who are the backbone of Britain, it was a failure from the Westmister centric ‘Eddie the expert’ and ‘Clarrie the commentator’ who were tested and found wanting. It was a judgement day for them, as it was for Ed Miliband, and they lost. I’ve been around politics a long time. And I’ve seen people entitled to comment as they wish but some of the commentators, who claimed to be Conservative supporters – like Tim Montgomerie from The Times [also Iain Duncan Smith’s former chief of staff] – I think in the end, became slightly gratuitous participants. They say about teachers – those who can do, those who can’t teach. Well I think it’s very unfair – my wife was a teacher and I don’t approve of that. But I do think it’s fair to say in politics – those who can do and those who can’t commentate. The problem with political commentary and punditry in this country is that it’s conducted by a bunch of people most of whom live inside the M25 who could never live on the £26,000 that is the average annual earnings of people in this country. Most went to Oxbridge, talk only to themselves and last time they met a punter was when they picked up their dry cleaning.”
Ouch. Well, let’s face it, I can be included in all of that too. I put my neck on the line and tried to predict the result of the election seat by seat. In the end I predicted that 120 seats would change hands. I’ve just gone through all 120 and I had a 67% hit rate. That’s slightly better than Lord Ashcroft’s polls which I think I saw somewhere had a 63% hit rate, although as he will no doubt point out, his polls were snapshots not predictions. I haven’t got the heart to go through all 650 constituencies but I suspect if I did the hit rate would rise to nearer 85% or even higher, but then again any fool can predict the result in a safe seat.
Do I regret doing the predictions? Not really, because I think those of us who commentate on politics should put our necks and reputations on the line. So many so-called expert pundits refused to give a prediction or just went along with the flow. What I do regret is not following my initial instincts. When I did my first predictions back in January I originally had the Conservatives on 302 seats. I decided that was preposterous given the political climate at the time and what everyone else was saying and if I predicted that I would just be accused of Tory bias and not be taken seriously. So I changed the predictions in 20 seats to reduce the Tory total. What a stupid thing to do. I should have stuck to my guns and taken the four months of abuse that would no doubt have ensued. I genuinely felt that the LibDems would get fewer than 20 seats, yet didn’t have the courage of my convictions to stick to them. That’s a mistake I won’t be making again.
In the end you’re only as good as your last prediction. I may have got the 1992 election result bang on. I may have predicted the 2014 government reshuffle better than anyone. But in the 2015 election I, like virtually everyone else, failed. And I own up to that.
Ten days on from the election I don’t think we are any closer to the truth as to why the polls were wrong than we were on election night. Was there a last minute switch or were the Tories ahead all along? I don’t know. But I look forward to reading all the academic analyses and books that are no doubt all being prepared as you read this.
15 May 2015 at 14:02
Overall, I think it has been quite a good and competent reshuffle, albeit with one or two glaring exceptions and none more so than the removal of Grant Shapps from the party chairmanship and his move to the Department for International Development as Minister of State. It’s a bit like Arsene Wenger moving to manage Colchester United. Sort of. There was no one person responsible for the election result but Grant Shapps was part of a triumvirate which can lay claim to adopting the strategy which led to victory. CCHQ ran much more smoothly, Team 2015 was a vital part of the ground war and the target seat operation performed well.
In 1983 the then party Chairman Cecil Parkinson was promoted to the DTI. He was going to be offered the Foreign Office, but we all know what happened to scupper that. In 1992 Chris Patten would not doubt have bene given one of the big offices of state had he not lost his seat. The very least Shapps could have expected was to get the DCLG, a department he had been a Minister of State in before. So why has he been effectively demoted?
The only reason can be that he has become embroiled in one too many embarrassing media stories. That’s as maybe but they are all trivial and hardly his fault. The Wikipedia story, for example, had absolutely nothing to do with him and was cooked up by a LibDem activist. He may have misspoken about not having done other work when he first became an MP, but it’s hardly the crime of the century. Shapps has acted as a very effective lightning rod for Cameron and Osborne on more than one occasion, and if he feels as if that has been a one way street you could well understand it. It may be that a year out of the frontline will be of benefit to Grant, and if I know him he will throw himself into his new job with his typical tiggerish enthusiasm. But he wouldn’t be human if he didn’t feel a bit let down. And he’d be right.
Before the election Paul O’Grady (aka Lilly Savage) threatened to leave the country if the Conservatives won the election. Matthew Parris wrote a piece in the Times on Wednesday saying he really didn’t need to fulfil his pledge and that we all love him. Er, no we don’t. Some of us think he’s a boring prick and are bewildered at how on earth he ever became famous. Shut the door on your way out, Paul.
All change at the Treasury where George Osborne’s guru Rupert Harrison is to leave, along with press officer Ramesh Chhabra. Mesh worked with David Davis for a long time and is a big loss to Tory circles. Harrison too, will be much missed by Osborne. He’s been dubbed ‘Osborne’s brain’, which may be overcooking the pudding somewhat, but there’s little doubt that these two leave a big void in the Treasury operation. The big question is, will Thea Rodgers stay? It is she more than anyone who has reshaped the Chancellor’s image and he will move heaven and earth to ensure she stays on. At least, he’d be mad if he didn’t.
The reshuffle appointment which pleased me more than any other was the appointment of Tracey Crouch as Minister for Sport. A round peg in a round hole. It is rare that expertise plays any part in government appointments but it clearly did here. Tracey is a qualified football coach, and although her support for Spurs ought to preclude her from any role in sport (my little joke), if any of the new ministers are going to be a success, I’d put money on it being her. All she has to do now is to curb her DiCanio-eque rebellious nature, and toe the party line. All I hope is that she doesn’t lose her sense of fun.
The House of Lords is going to be interesting to watch over the coming years. The government is not going to find it easy to get its legislation through the second chamber, mainly due to the fact that it is vastly outnumbered. With 224 peers to Labour’s 214 and the LibDems 108, it is easy to predict that there will be many lost votes. Much will depend on the 149 Crossbench peers. The crunch will come over the abolition of the Human Rights Act and an EU Referendum Paving Bill. Both policies were in the Tory manifesto so they’d be quite justified in using the Parliament Act. Cameron would also be justified in creating a lot more Tory peers. However, with around 800 peers already in the House of Lords, one can imagine the outcry if he did. It’s always best to do the controversial things early on in a government and get them out of the way quickly.
A picture of a delivery man outside Number 11 delivering gazzilions of cases of Moet Champagne did the social media rounds on Sunday. The left’s desperation to trash the Tories knows no bounds. Shame for them that it emerged the picture was taken in 2004, when Gordon Brown was Chancellor. Apology came there none, mainly because the deception was deliberate.
Some of the reshuffle appointments defied credulity. Why put Rory Stewart at Defra, when his expertise lies in foreign policy or defence? Why put John Hayes in the Home Office in charge of security when he will have to pilot through the Terrorism Bill. Hayes may have many qualities but building consensus is not one of them. Why put yet another MP who voted against equal marriage in charge of equalities? Again, love Caroline Dinenage dearly, but did no one think of the consequences?
This was without doubt a FOG reshuffle. FOG stands for Friends of George. Amber Rudd, Greg Hands, Rob Halfon and many other FOGs all got preferment. But there’s one FOG who might consider himself downright unlucky. Matthew Hancock was expecting to get a front rank government department or at the very least become Chief Secretary to the Treasury. In the end he became Paymaster General and Minister of State at the cabinet office. Not quite what he was hoping for or expecting. Hancock is an enigma. One to one, face to face, he is a delight – funny, witty and entertaining and with a real sense of mischief. Put him in front of a TV camera, however, and he becomes something else. He’s also not very popular with Tory MPs. One wag said to me that he himself wasn’t averse to the odd but of Osborne arselicking, but the moment he started he found Hancock already so far up Osborne’s arse he had to be pulled out by his legs. This is a big moment for Matt Hancock. He can sulk or get on with the job and prove his critics wrong. For what it’s worth, I’ve always liked him. People say he’s arrogant. I’ve always found the exact opposite – someone who is actually well aware he isn’t the finished article and someone willing to learn from others. I’ve never understood why that doesn’t come across to his critics in the way it does to me.
Looking through the election results of all the former Cabinet Ministers, I note that Nicky Morgan had the biggest swing to her of any of them, at 5.25%. Well that put me firmly in my place. In my first round of seat predictions I had her down to lose. I did then revise it, but there’s no doubt this was a sterling performance from Nicky.
Now, my memory may be defective, but weren’t we told that Ben Harris-Quinney wasn’t a member of the Conservative Party? How strange then that he was elected last Thursday as a Conservative member of East Hertfordshire District Council. (add in graphic attached). After his antics in advance of polling day, isn’t it time that formal disciplinary action against him is taken? I feel a letter to the party’s ethics committee coming on.
As if you all needed cheering up, let me encourage you to read THIS article by Stephen Bush of the New Statesman. He shows how it’s almost impossible for Labour to win the 2020 election, and that to do so they would need a 9.45% swing in England, something that even Tony Blair didn’t achieve in 1997. He says: “To win a majority of ten, Labour would have to win Harlow, Shipley, Chingford & Woodford Green, Filton & Bradley Stoke, Basingstoke, Bexleyheath & Crayford, Kensington, Rugby, Leicestershire North West, Forest of Dean and Gillingham & Rainham. Of those ten, four – Chingford, Kensington, Filton & Bradley Stoke and Basingstoke – have never been won by Labour at any point in its history. All are Conservative-held.”
Have a nice day!
14 May 2015 at 21:43
Four new entrants to parliament joined me in the LBC studio’s this evening. They were Stephen Kinnock, Tulip Siddiq, James Cleverly and Tania Mathias. Along with recounting their experiences of becoming MP’s, the four covered the current Labour leadership contest , the possible imminent demise of Nigel Farage, their respective party records over the last 5 years and the Elgin marbles.
The four new MPs:
Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon. Son of former Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, and married to Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
Tulip Siddiq, Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn. Worked on Ed Miliband’s campaign to be leader of the Labour party and was a special advisor to Tessa Jowell.
James Cleverly, Conservative MP for Bexley and Bromley. Previously a member of the London Assembly and the Mayor of London’s Youth Ambassador.
Tania Mathia, Conservative MP for Twickenham. She ousted the Liberal Democrat’s Vince Cable from the south west London seat.
Did you like the shirt? :)
10 May 2015 at 13:33
On Thursday night, Shelagh Fogarty and I spent seven hours presenting LBC’s election night coverage. Tim Montgomerie, Damian McBride and our resident Elections Analyst Gareth Knight were with us for the whole night and we were also joined for a lot of it by the LibDem pundit Miranda Green, with guest appearances by Peter Hain and Lord Ashcroft.
We all had great fun. The show was pacy, energetic and I think full of insight. I had a lot of people get in touch to say they were listening to us with the sound down on the TV. In fact, during the entire 7 hours we had no negative feedback at all, apart from one bloke who told me to shut up because I was boring, at a time when I hadn’t spoken for ten minutes! I was also very pleased that not a single person accused me of any bias during the seven hours. I admit to cheering when I heard George Galloway had lost his seat, but I think the rest of the country did too.
Shelagh and I were fronting the programme, but the people who did all the hard work behind the scenes were Matt Harris, Jagruti Dave, Rachel Humphreys, Axel Kacoutie, James H Wilson, Talya-Rose Varga, Will Gavin, Adrian Sherling and Neil Brennan. And thanks to our brilliant newsreader Dominic Byrne.
9 May 2015 at 12:46
Listeners and viewers have a lot of choice on election night, so it’s important to get off to a flying start. We decided to start our show at 9.55 and build up to 10pm when we would get the exit poll flashed onto our screens. I was co-presenting with Sheila Fogarty for the first time since our days on 5Live and the much missed ‘Sunday Service’. I think we both felt that it would be like putting an old glove back on and so it proved to be!
This opener, produced by LBC’s Head of Production, Chris Lowrie, gave us exactly what we needed to get the show off to a flying start. In a couple of days I’ll post a montage of the night’s best moments and take you through what it was like to co-present such a seven hour programme.
8 May 2015 at 14:11
Party leaders say some very odd things. Ed Miliband was interviewed by my LBC colleague Theo Usherwood on the last day of campaigning and was very keen to explain his priorities as prime minister. He said he wouldn’t be thinking of hedge fund managers every day, “I’d be thinking of your family.” I’m sure Theo and his wife were very touched.
Oh dear, it would seem wrong of me not to return to the subject of Mr Benjamin Harris-Quinney. For new readers, Mr H-Q and I have history. Google us if you’re interested. Mr Harris-Quinney has single-handedly brought the Bow Group into disrepute over the last couple of years. He has transformed it into a much respected Conservative Party supporting thinktank/pressure group into an organisation nobody apart from his diminishing band of admirers has any time for. He’s used it to trash the Conservative Party at every available opportunity and covertly provide succour for UKIP. Harris-Quinney hasn’t been a Conservative for some time, and I am told didn’t go to last year’s Tory conference but did go to UKIP’s. Draw your own conclusions. Now, though, BHQ has surpassed himself by authoring a so-called Bow Group paper which urges Conservatives in hopeless seats to vote UKIP. This was released only a few days before election day. Never able to refuse an opportunity to put the knife into the Conservative Party, he accepted an invitation to appear on the Daily Politics to explain himself. Oh whaddamistakeadamakea. He was spit-roasted by Andrew Neil and Michael Heseltine, and it wasn’t pretty. He ended up gulping like an out of breath goldfish. Rarely have I seen anyone skewered so beautifully. Andrew Neil called him a Walter Mitty character, something he rejected even though he professed not to know what that meant. It doesn’t make for pretty viewing, but here is the full interview for your delight and delectation.
Every single patron the Bow Group has now denounced Harris-Quinney. Surely to God he ought to have the good grace to fall on his sword and resign. And if he doesn’t, surely the Bow Group Council should convene a meeting to remove him. And if they don’t, the patrons should all not just denounce Harris-Quinney, they should resign in protest.
How this narcissistic fantasist has ever been allowed to get control of the Bow Group and use it to promote his own personal agenda is a question which I cannot answer. He should be sacked, and not before time.
It’s quite difficult writing this at midday on election day as I can’t really write anything about the election results, which you now know, but I don’t. So I won’t bother… Much. One thing I will say though is that it is already clear that thousands of people have been denied their democratic right to vote through the incompetence of various local authority electoral registration departments. They only have one thing to get right, and that is to conduct an election every five years. In Hackney, 3,000 postal votes weren’t sent out. The same thing has happened in Barnet, where there are two key marginal seats. The councils blame the new IER system of voter registration. Typical. Always pass the blame onto someone else. I remember the days when councils actually ran elections competently. We didn’t have an Electoral Commission in those days. Perhaps if it were abolished, our system of electoral administration might actually improve. Something for a majority Conservative Government. Oh look, here’s one along in just a minute!
So who have been the stars of this election campaign? I’ve tried to pick five but in fact I’ve only come up with two – Nicola Sturgeon and Andrew Neil. I can’t think of a single Tory, LibDem or Labour politician who I could say has unreservedly covered themselves with glory. Having said that, I could think of plenty who haven’t.
Oh how I enjoyed presenting LBC’s election coverage. It was one of the most exciting election nights of my life. I write this at 8am, having just returned to my hotel. I’ve had no sleep in 26 hours so forgive me if this doesn’t make much sense. Where do I start? I think I’ll just make 20 observations.
1. My ‘Portillo’ moment wasn’t Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander or Ed Davey. It was Vince Cable. I didn’t cheer on air because that would have been unprofessional. But I did punch the air.
2. Having said that, I did feel a twinge of remorse when I heard about David Laws, Jo Swinson and Lynne Featherstone.
3. I can’t go through all of the losses on the Labour side but some good people lost. Tom Harris, in particular, is a loss to Parliament.
4. And on the Tory side? My biggest regret is Nick de Bois. To be beaten by the expenses cheat Joan Ryan must be a bitter pill to swallow. He’s a great guy and I hope he will bounce back.
5. Credit to Lynton Crosby. He stuck to his plan and it worked. All of us who doubted the strategy have egg on our collective face.
6. Not as much as the pollsters though. How on earth did they get it so wrong? Most of u doubted the exit poll, but it wasn’t that far out, was it?
7. Labour seems to be blaming David Cameron for the rise of the SNP. Incredible. No. It started when Tony Blair let the devolution genie out of the bottle. It continued with Labour taking its vote in Scotland for granted, and culminated in the terrible Better Together campaign. This is a problem of their own making and it’s about time someone said it.
8. Chuka Umunna was uncharacteristically quiet on election night. He wasn’t to be seen anywhere. Lost his voice? Can’t think why.
9. We may be seeing the return of traditional two party politics in England.
10. Nigel Farage’s result isn’t in yet but many sources tell me he has come third. He will now presumably deliver on his promise to resign. Cue a UKIP leadership bloodbath. The ferrets will be in the sack by the end of the evening.
11. The Tories have never had so many seats in Wales. That’s thanks in large part to the work of their former national director, Matthew Lane, who now works at CCHQ.
12. Tweet of the night goes to Claire Perry. “Hallelujah. Mark Reckless out. Don’t let the door shut on your fat arse.”
13. Ed Balls and Jim Murphy get the prize for most gracious concession speeches.
14. Dan Jarvis. Your time has come.
15. Norman Lamb v Tim Farron for the LibDems
16. Suzanne Evans v Paul Nuttall v Patrick O’Flynn v Stephen Woolfe for UKIP.
17. Sorry Boris. You have five years to wait.
18. I’ll see how much egg I have on my face regarding my own seat by seat predictions. I owe a few people some apologies. But at least I had the balls to put my neck on the line. Still smarting a bit though.
19. What money on Boris for Foreign Secretary? Nah. Theresa May. Handed the poisoned chalice of EU renegotiation.
20. David Cameron. It’s your victory. You’ve never been stronger. Congratulations. Be bold in your Cabinet appointments and reward some of your 1997, 2001 and 2005 footsoldiers in the junior ranks too. It’s the right thing to do.
It’s now 8.30am. I’m done in. Zzzzzzzzzzz.
7 May 2015 at 15:32
I hope you will join me and Shelagh Fogarty from 9.55pm until 5am for LBC’s election night coverage. We’re intending to have some fun and give the BBC a run for their money. We have reporters at 100 counts, we’ll get the results on air as soon as they are announced and we’ll have some brilliant pundits analysing what will happen.
Throughout the night we’re joined by Tim Montgomerie, Times columnist and former editor of ConservativeHome. as well as Damian McBride, former spin doctor to Gordon Brown. Miranda Green, star of This Week and former LibDem spindoctor and Alexandra Swann, an expert on UKIP will also be with us. Rory Bremner will be providing some satire and Lord Ashcroft will be joining us at midnight.
There will be a few surprises too along the way.
You can listen to LBC on DAB thoughout the country. You can stream the programme via www.lbc.co.uk, use Tunein Radio or the LBC App, now also available on Android. or you can listen via your TV on Freeview Channel 732 or Sky Channel 0112. Or in London on 97.3 FM.
7 May 2015 at 09:19
Earlier this week I did a phonein on gender segregation after 7 Labour candidates spoke at a meeting in Birmingham where the women had to sit separate from the men. Among those candidates were Jack Dromey, Tom Watson, Khalid Mahmood and Liam Byrne. Now it’s one thing for this to happen in a mosque, but for politicians to go along with it is an outrage. You wouldn’t segregate by colour or sexuality, so why on earth would anyone in 21st century Britain think it was OK for it to happen in this context? I did a phone-in on this on my LBC show, and started off by interviewing two feminists. I was flabberghasted by their responses. How on earth can a feminist approve of this? The calls from the public were also fascinating. I had several female muslim callers who tried to justify it, but I am afraid there is nothing that anyone could say that would change my mind on this. I’d have refused to address a meeting that refused to treat men and women equally. That makes me more of a feminist than those who try to justify it.
Listen to the show HERE (40 mins)
5 May 2015 at 21:29
Tonight I hosted an hour long Business & Economy debate on LBC with Vince Cable, Chuka Umunna, Matt Hancock and Neil Hamilton. It was quite sparky at times, and I reckon was one of the best debates of the election campaign. The ‘Ask me Anything’ sections, where the candidates quizzed each other, were particularly good. At least, I thought so!
Let me know what you think.