Books

Book Review: 'It's All About Clout' by Max Foster

2 Jun 2018 at 19:00

Clout is a strange word. It’s almost slang for a combination of ‘power’ and ‘influence’. If someone has to tell you they have clout, they probably don’t. It’s like charisma. You know it when you see it. You’ve either got it, or you haven’t. It’s difficult to learn how to acquire it. At least, that’s what I thought until I read the last chapter of this book.

This short but perfectly formed book by CNN International news anchor, and presenter of CNNTalk, Max Foster, is a fascinating look into the phenomenon of what he terms ‘cloutology’. He looks at six case studies – all people he’s interviewed or observed at close quarters and then uses the lessons drawn to advise the reader on their own ability to acquire ‘clout’.

Max’s subjects are quite a diverse group – Steve Jobs, Tracey Emin, Stormzy, Holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor, Donald Trump and HM The Queen. He’s interviewed them all, apart from The Queen, who clearly doesn’t do interviews, but as CNN Royal Correspondent Max has observed her up close for many years. He uses his interviews to back up his thesis about how each of these people uses their ‘clout’.

In some ways this could be a seen as a ‘self-help’ book for those who are unsure about their own sense of ‘clout’. Indeed, the last chapter is all about self-analysis, using the six different criteria Max has applied to his six subjects. He thinks they all have 6 ‘C’s in common…

Cause
Credibility
Character
Conversation
Connection
Cachet

Max writes: “I’ve seen how people with clout aren’t held back by convention”, and he’s right. I think of all the people I know who I would say exude ‘clout’ and they’ve all been successful because at some point in their careers or lives they’ve dared to be different or they’ve defied convention. Think Adele. Think J K Rowling. Think Nigel Farage. Think Andrew Neil. Think Piers Morgan. Think Malcolm Turnbull. Think Pierluigi Collina. I could go on. Some of these people you will love and respect. Others you will loathe. But in their own particular fields, no one could deny they have clout.

This is one of those zeitgeisty books that could do rather well. It’s very short, at only 90 pages, but that makes it very digestible. Depending on the reaction to it, I wonder if Max might expand it into something bigger that one of the big publishers might take on. Perhaps I should become his literary agent…

Buy the eBook for £4.99 HERE
Buy the hardback for £19.99 HERE

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ConHome Diary: Desert Island Dicks, How God Injured Mo Salah & Bad Parenting

1 Jun 2018 at 14:03

One of the moments of the week was Good Morning Britain stand-in host Richard Madeley terminating an interview with Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, after he had avoided giving an answer three times as to whether he regretted telling the Russians to “shut up and go away”. When I saw the clip I have to say I wondered what all the fuss was about. When I appeared on GMB the following day Madeley was full of himself, explaining he had never had such a good press and how everyone agreed that he was right to do it. I begged to differ. Live on air I took him to task, looked him straight in the eye and said: “Richard, do you not feel that if you terminate the interview, you have failed as an interviewer?” Being the TV professional that he is, Madeley immediately retorted: “It’s a fair point,” but defended himself by saying it was a perfectly legitimate question because it was Williamson’s first TV interview since making the remark at a Policy Exchange event in April. It was indeed a fair question, and he might have got an answer if he had continued with his line of questioning. From Gavin Williamson’s viewpoint, he maintained a sphinx-like expression as Madeley told him the interview wouldn’t be going any further. However, he can be sure that whoever interviews him next will ask the same question as to whether he regretted the “shut up and go away comment”. All he needs to say is, “well, I could have put it better…” and job done. Issue dealt with.
*
Next week I am recording an edition of ‘Desert Island Dicks’. Yes, you did read that right. It’s a podcast that is the opposite of ‘Desert Island Discs’ in that instead of naming your favourite records etc, you name your least favourite people, records, least favourite food, drink, film, etc. It’s actually more difficult that you think to choose them. One other disadvantage is that all the other people to have appeared on the podcast are comedians. I may think I am funny but not everyone does. I remember once recording a live edition of the Irish equivalent of ‘Have I Got News For You’ in Dublin – me and four Irish comedians who had all week to script their jokes. I’d just turned up as the token English Tory… Well, I quickly discovered that I was not quite as funny as I thought I was!
*

Remember that American preacher who maintained that the New Orleans floods were an act of God designed to punish homosexuals? Well, now we have our muslim equivalent. Liverpool star Mo Salah injured his shoulder during the Champions League final because he broke his Ramadan fast, according to Kuwaiti Imam, Mubarak al Bathali. Apparently, “God punished him” for eating before the game in Kiev against Real Madrid. He said that playing football “is not a legitimate excuse for breakfast” during Ramadan. There was no excuse because jihadists fast despite being “in a state of war and facing the enemy”. Dear oh dear. This is why I despise fundamentalists from whichever religion they hail.
*
The Health Select Committee report on childhood obesity makes for worrying reading. There can be no doubt that we have a huge problem in this country, but will it really be solved by banning Tony the Tiger or The Milky Bar Kid? No. It will only be solved when parents take responsibility for what goes into their children’s mouths. There are too many parents who seem to think they can’t say ‘no’ to their children and want to be their friends rather than be their parent. Solving the childhood obesity crisis is in part and ensuring that parents have the knowledge about which foods are ad for their children, and that has to start in Domestic Science lessons in schools. It’s also about encouraging children to get at least an hour of exercise a day and it’s also about encouraging food manufacturers to be more careful about what they put into processed foods. In short, there’s too much ‘stick’ in the approach of both government and campaigners in this area. There need to be more carrots.
*

A jury took a mere thirty minutes to clear former Conservative press officer and special advisor Richard Holden of a charge of sexual assault last week. The judge said he could walk from the court with his reputation unblemished. In an interview with my LBC colleague Tom Swarbrick on Monday it was clear what a terrible experience this had been for Richard. As he says, the Police and CPS need to be held accountable for this case ever going to court. The Police in particular deliberately ignored the evidence of witnesses which didn’t suit their case. How the case ever passed the CPS evidential test is anyone’s guess. Richard clearly wants to resume is career in politics, and he must be encouraged to do so at the highest levels of the party. He’s a talented guy and I hope he is getting all the support he needs.

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LBC Book Club: Pam Ayres

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Books

ANNOUNCEMENT: After Ten Years, I'm Leaving Biteback Publishing...

22 May 2018 at 10:40

This is a press release I’ve issued this morning. Sad day.

Iain Dale steps down at Biteback and Andy McNab takes on advisory role to guide Biteback into next stage of growth

After ten years, Biteback Publishing Managing Director Iain Dale is to step down from the company in June to concentrate on his broadcasting career. Bestselling author and former SAS soldier Andy McNab will be leading the Biteback team to grow and expand the company’s publishing programme.

Andy McNab commented:

“When I was approached to become involved in Biteback, the opportunity to make Biteback’s range of books more accessible to a wider audience was irresistible. It is a great company with huge potential, and I am looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together.”

Iain Dale said:

“I’m very proud of the independent publishing brand we have created at Biteback, and of the reputation we enjoy in the sector, but now is the right time to hand over the baton whilst I concentrate on my radio and TV work and do more writing. I am delighted that Andy McNab has accepted the role and that Biteback’s further growth and development will be supported by Andy’s considerable talents and experience.”

Notes to Editors:

Biteback Publishing is Britain’s leading publisher of political and current affairs titles. Recent bestselling titles include ‘Betting the House: The Inside Story of the General Election’ by Tim Ross & Tom McTague, ‘Rude’ by Katie Hopkins, and the latest edition of Alastair Campbell’s Diaries. Forthcoming titles include ‘The Briefing’ by Donald Trump’s former spokesman Sean Spicer, ‘Leo’, a biography of Irish Taioseach Leo Varadkar, and a biography of Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader by Andrew Liddle. This year the company will publish books across a number of fields including current affairs, politics, history, economics and football.

Andy McNab CBE DCM MM is a bestselling author and former SAS soldier. Awarded both the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and Military Medal (MM) during his career, McNab was the British Army’s most highly decorated serving soldier when he left the SAS in February 1993. Since then he has become one of the world’s bestselling writers. Bravo Two Zero is the highest selling war book of all time and has sold over 10 million copies in the UK alone. It has been published in 17 countries and translated into 16 languages.
Besides his writing work, McNab sits on the boards of various companies with interests ranging from technology to recruitment. He also lectures to security and intelligence agencies in both the USA and UK, works in the film industry, writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines and campaigns tirelessly as a spokesperson and fundraiser for both military and literacy charities. He was awarded the inaugural Ruth Rendell Award by the National Literacy Trust in 2016 for his tireless championing and advocacy of literacy and was also awarded the CBE, Commander of the British Empire, for his services to literacy and charity, in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2017.

Ends

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Why 2017 Was the Worst Election Campaign Ever

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CNN Talk: A Royal Wedding Special

18 May 2018 at 21:58

This is a special edition of CNN Talk on the Royal Wedding live from Windsor. Lovely setting.

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LBC97.3 Iain Talks to Ann Barnes

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ConHome Diary: Brexit 'Gammon' and Brexit Madness

18 May 2018 at 14:17

Tory MP Nick Boles wrote a brilliant article for the Jewish Chronicle on Wednesday in which he took Israel to task for the killing of 58 Palestinians on the Gaza border. In it he explained that as a strong supporter of Israel he couldn’t stand by and not question the tactics used by the IDF on Monday and Tuesday. I agreed with every word. If you’re a true friend of Israel you have to hold its government to account when it engages in actions which are so clearly wrong and wholly disproportionate. Yes, we get the fact that Hamas isn’t blameless here but it seems to me quite clear that the actions of the IDF have played into the hands of Hamas, who will be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of yet another generation of youngsters being radicalised into hating the Israelis. Israeli has an absolute right to defend itself and its borders, but if this action had been taken by Iran or Syria, can you imagine the howls of outrage there would be? Democracies don’t behave in this brutal way and ought to be capable of not rising to the bait put in front of them by terror organisations. Having said all that, Nick slightly backtracked a day later following the announcement that of the 59 Palestinians killed, 50 of them were members of Hamas. I have to say, I don’t think Nick needed to backtrack at all. Yes, you can say it meant that the IDF had targeted the people they were shooting, but surely that means that the IDF were operating a blanket shoot to kill policy on anyone they thought was a Hamas member. Loathe them as I do, do I support shoot to kill policy on Hamas supporters. No I do not. Because that reduces us to their level.
*
There’s been a lot on social media this week about the use of the word ‘gammon’ as an insult to Brexiteers by devout Remainers. Apparently, we’re all red faced, while middle aged men. Some have said the word is being used in a racist way. I wouldn’t quite go that far but it is certainly unpleasant and patronising. I plead guilty to being white and middle aged, although I don’t normally have a red face… It’s typical of these people to look down their noses at people they disagree with, on the basis that they consider themselves far cleverer and better educated than the dunderheads who voted Leave. The moral superiority they seem to have is quite astonishing. They cannot cope with the fact that Brexit has turned their worlds upside down. Both Matthew Parris and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown have written that Brexit has sent them to the edge of madness. Several others clearly fall into that category too. I try to find it amusing, but I don’t. There are two sides to any argument, and while I completely understand that many people disagree with Brexit, I often find the manner of their disagreement to be totally patronising. Many of them haven’t actually moved on from the referendum. They just rehash the same tired old arguments and fight battles which have already been lost. I’m almost at the point of not even engaging in these debates any longer. Anyone who even mentions the word ‘gammon’ deserves to be ignored, or muted on Twitter. And as for the pretentious #FBPE hashtag, well don’t even get me started on that one… I need a lie down.
*

It is quite remarkable that the Conservatives have established a fairly consistent 3-5% lead in the opinion polls. Given the divided Cabinet on Brexit and all sorts of other government failures, this lead can hardly be explained by the government’s brilliance. I wonder how long it will be before more people in the Labour Party put it down to the failings of their party’s leadership. They should have walked away with hundreds of gains in the local elections. They didn’t. They should be way ahead in all the opinion polls. They aren’t. I wonder when they will ask themselves why that is.
*
A man and a woman are getting married in Windsor on Saturday. Just thought you should know.
*

Wednesday marked the 75th anniversary of the Dambusters raid, led by Guy Gibson. Lord Ashcroft wrote about it in the Daily Express [insert link https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/life/960409/dambusters-raid-second-world-war-1943-german-dams-breached ]. Back in the early 1980s I lived a few miles from the Eder Dam in Bad Wildungen. I spent many a happy hour relaxing by the lake. I remember the first time I visited it on a school exchange in 1979. I was walking along the dam wall looking at a postcard of the moment the bomb hit and water fooded into the valley below, when a German man looked over my shoulder and exploded: “You bloody English did that!”. Quick as a flash I looked at him and said: “Yes, and a bloody good job we made of it too…”. It was an astonishing feat of scientific and aviation brilliance, and when news of the successful raids broke in Britain it really lifted people’s spirits. The very opposite happened in Germany. Which was really the point of it all. It also sent a strong message to Stalin, who had begun to doubt Britain’s war effort. Not any longer.
*
If you live near Bath, Jacqui Smith and I will be appearing at the Bath Literary Festival to record a live edition of our FOR THE MANY podcast on Sunday at 11am. Tickets are available on the festival’s website! Come and say hello!
*

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Iain Clashes with Stephen Green over Tom Daley's Sexuality

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Personal

The Words No One Wants to Hear - "It Could be Pre-Cancerous"

12 May 2018 at 18:51

Around a year ago I was just finishing my 3.59pm talkup, at the start of my show – the bit where I take over from Shelagh Fogarty. I saw her looking at me rather intently. As the news started she said to me: “You should get that looked at.” I had no clue what she was referring to at first, but it was a black mole type mark on the side of my head. Until I started to shave my head I had no clue that it was there. My GP had never mentioned it, but Shelagh advised me to go to The Mole Clinic, which handily is located in Argyll Street, just around the corner from the CNN studios. It cost £45 I think and to cut a not very long story short, it turned out to be absolutely fine, and nothing to worry about. So far, so good.

In the months since then I’ve had several emails from people saying they saw me on TV and urged me to get my mole checked out. i replied to each one thanking them for their concern, explaining I had already done so and it was fine.

A year later, a few weeks ago, I got a reminder email from The Mole Clinic asking if I’d like them to take another look, and would I like a full body scan. Initially I thought I wouldn’t, but then I thought, well I have got the odd blemish here and there, why not. It involved having to strip off and a nurse examining my skin with some sort of hand held microscope thing. She found three or four moles, including one on my back and one on the back of my left knee. She took photos and sent them off to be analysed.

Three days later I got an UNKNOWN number on my phone. It was the Mole Clinic. I had that slightly empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was informed that the lab reckoned that two moles looked as if they could be pre-cancerous and I needed to urgently come into the clinic again to see a Dermatologist. Gulp.

A few days later I went in and was told that the mole on my back and and mole on the back of my knee needed to be removed. They said it was precautionary. I was given the choice of having it surgically removed or ‘shaved’ off. Both would involve local anaesthetics.

So after CNN Talk on Monday lunchtime and before my LBC show, that’s what I’ll be doing. Having two moles removed.

Why am I telling you all this? For one reason only. To urge you to get yourself checked out too. I nearly didn’t. I don’t know what the consequences would have been had I not done it – possibly none. I didn’t know the moles were there because I couldn’t see them. But they are so small anyway, maybe I wouldn’t have noticed them anyway.

A full body examination costs £145. It’s money well spent.

Visit The Mole Clinic’s website HERE

For the avoidance of doubt I have no commercial relationship with The Mole Clinic and they have not asked me or paid me or offered free treatment. I’ve paid the full rate.

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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…
*
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…
*

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.
*
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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Video: Speech to the Microsoft Politics & Technology Forum, Sydney

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UK Politics

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Peter Mandelson: An Obituary

8 May 2018 at 09:00

Back in 2009 GQ asked me to write a fake obituary of Peter Mandelson, along with Andrew Roberts, John Kampfner, Stephen Bayley, Matthew D’Ancona and John Rentoul. I decided to make mine rather more tongue in cheek than some of the others did, but they were all hugely entertaining…

Peter Mandelson, who has died at the age of 81, was the last surviving member of the trio who founded ‘New Labour’. Along with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown he developed a political philosophy and election winning techniques that dominated British politics for more than a decade at the cusp of the last century.

Peter Mandelson left government in 2010 in disgrace – for the third time. Two years previously he had made an unexpected return to the front line of British politics, overcoming a decade long feud with the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The three years of Gordon Brown’s premiership were not happy ones for the Labour Party or the country with economic and social breakdown besetting them at every turn. Mandelson, who had made his reputation as the Rasputin of ‘New’ Labour did what he could to prop up a clumsy and faltering Prime Minister, while promoting his own agenda and position at every opportunity. It was in doing this that he committed what later came to be seen as the defining act that finally ruined any chance Labour had of winning re-election. In a TV debate with Shadow Chancellor George Osborne he was filmed slipping an ecstasy pill into Osborne’s glass. Having resigned on two occasions during Tony Blair’s first term of office, his third resignation only weeks before the April 2010 general election plunged the Labour Party into two decades of infighting, from which it only recently recovered fifteen years later with the election of teenage glamour model Princess Tiaamii Andre-Price as leader.

In the years following that defeat for his party and his subsequent retirement from public life Mandelson did much to atone for his actions. He eschewed the lucrative business and consultancy appointments that had once seemed his for the taking, with the concomitant fortune that he would have made. Instead he devoted the rest of his life to quiet acts of practical charity and voluntary work. And there are many who speak now of his kindness and generosity in the help that he gave.

By 2025, the country was teetering on the verge of economic and social chaos, and in June that year, the army stepped in to restore order. It was a ‘very British coup’ with no troops on the street. King William suspended parliament and on military recommendation asked the 72 year old Senator Mandelson to come out of retirement to form a puppet administration. It has been difficult to locate the Senator, who, some years earlier had devoted his life to becoming a Buddhist monk wandering from village to village living off food handouts. He was finally tracked down to a shanty town outside Rio de Janeiro.

Mandelson’s period as Lord Protector lasted barely two weeks before his old rival, George Osborne led a march on Whitehall, and seized power in a final bid to get one over on the man whose summer holiday in the Aegean in 2008 had so very nearly ruined such a promising political career. Senator Mandelson did not go quietly, appearing on Sky News being dragged from Number Ten Downing Street screaming “I’m a fighter, not a quitter.”

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Alastair Campbell

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ConHome Diary: The Loneliness of a Prime Minister & Why She Needs Some Willies

4 May 2018 at 13:01

Wednesday’s meeting of the Brexit subcommittee on Brexit could have gone very wrong indeed. If the Prime Minister had tried to force through her unworkable ‘Customs Partnership’ proposal there could have been very serious consequences. If any or all of the ‘four Brexiteers’ had resigned – and I absolutely believe at least two of them would have – and the local election results proved to be worse than expected (remember, I write this on Thursday morning so at the time of writing I have no idea what the results will look like) then Theresa May’s position would yet again have been under threat. And this time, understandably so.
The committee turned out to be 6-5 against the Prime Minister, with both Sajid Javid and Gavin Williamson backing the four Brexiteers. History won’t record how it might have been different had Amber Rudd been there rather than the shiny new Home Secretary. On such vagaries do prime ministerial careers hang.
*
‘Every Prime Minister needs a Willie’ said Margaret Thatcher. And she was right to acknowledge Willie Whitelaw’s role in giving her wise, and sometimes uncomfortable advice. She also some very trusted political friends who were always there for her in troubled times. She had people she culd turn to, who she could trust and had her back. Theresa May has none of these people. Since her trusted lieutenants Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy departed she has only her husband to turn to. She doesn’t have the same kind of political friends other politicians have. Even those who work closest to her and spend most time with her, Gavin Barwell and Robbie Gibb, aren’t what you would call personally close to her in the way that Hill and Timothy were. When they left Downing Street, she lost two limbs. People who had her back. People who knew which dark arts to deploy to protect the mothership. She must miss them terribly. Being prime minister is a lonely job at the best of times. Taking decisions of the type she has had to take recently must be incredibly difficult and solitary. In interviews she’s very matter of fact about it all and repeats the mantra of ‘just getting on with the job’. Perhaps we will never know the full role Philip May plays in being the Prime Minister’s ‘Willie’, but I suspect it’s a job far more burdensome than Willie Whitelaw ever did.
*

At 7.30am on Tuesday morning I was just about to get on the train to Charing Cross from Tonbridge when my phone started ringing. It was the Evening Standard Comment Desk asking if I could quickly write 1400 words on the relationship and future rivalry between Sadiq Khan and Sajid Javid, the new Home Secretary. To be honest, I doubted whether I was the right person to write this piece, but I agreed anyway. My partner constantly nags me to learn the art of saying ‘no’, but one of my news resolutions was to write more, and it seemed rude not to take it on. So I started tapping away on the train and by the time I got to Charing Cross I had most of it done. Don’t ask me how. Some people spend hours and hours writing a single column. When I had a fortnightly column on the Telegraph, the best column I ever wrote was one that I dashed off in twenty minutes. However, given the very tight deadline, almost as soon as I got into my office at Biteback I pressed send, and off it went to the Standard. To be honest I wasn’t very happy with it. However, I often find that what I’m not happy with on the screen, reads much better when you read it in the paper. I concluded: “Javid and Khan have the potential to be the new Ted Heath and Harold Wilson of British politics, but with a difference. Javid and Khan don’t just respect each other; they actually like each other.” What I meant by that, is that Heath and Wilson dominated British politics for ten years. These two, if the political stars align, have the potential to do the same.
*
I am a poetic philistine. I know nothing about poetry, I don’t want to know about poetry and it is a literary genre I couldn’t care less about. However, I have heard of the poet Benjamin Zephaniah. I first came across him when he used to be on Question Time with Robin Day in the 1980s. I always knew he was an out and out Lefty, but he always seemed to have a good sense of humour and had a twinkle in his eye. This week he admitted to beating up his female partner, and he called black Tories ‘animals’. Suddenly that twinkle has turned into something else. Why is it that people on the Left can’t get their heads around any member of an ethnic minority voting Tory? It’s something which is so patronising and condescending – as if individuals aren’t allowed to have minds of their own. It’s the ‘Animal Farm’ mindset – the ruling classes thinking they know better than everyone else. And it stinks.
*

By midnight tonight (Thursday) I will have been on air on radio or TV for 13 of the previous 20 hours. Even I will have grown very tired of hearing my own voice. I’m looking forward to a media free weekend breathing the fresh Norfolk air. And sleeping.

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Tory MP Heidi Allen Goes Totally Off Message...

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UK Politics

Evening Standard Column: The Sajid and Sadiq Show

1 May 2018 at 23:15

The Sajid and Sadiq show: UK’s two most influential British Asian politicians are on the path to greater power. When Sajid Javid was appointed Home Secretary yesterday, Sadiq Khan was the first to congratulate him — now their friendship could turn to political rivalry.

He’s really impressive. Who is he?” said my non-political partner after watching Sajid Javid, the new Home Secretary, at the Despatch Box yesterday. I explained that only six hours before, he had been appointed to a job that had seen his friend Amber Rudd fall on her sword the previous evening. “Well, if he can do that after only a few hours, do you think he could be prime minister?” came the retort. And that’s the question on everyone’s lips in Westminster.

The first to congratulate Javid on his appointment was the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. He tweeted: “I hope we can work together to tackle the tough challenges we face — from making sure our police have the resources they need, urgently dealing with the Windrush scandal, and putting an end to the ‘hostile environment’ for migrants.” Two years earlier it was Javid who was one of the first to congratulate Sadiq on his election as mayor, tweeting: “From one son of a Pakistani bus driver to another, congratulations.”

The two most powerful and influential British Asian politicians are now on the path to greater power. They are both seen as party leader material, and potential prime ministers. There are a lot of “ifs” to get through before that even becomes a possibility, but there is little doubt that both politicians have their eye on the top job. Get ready for the Sadiq & Saj show. It’s the new double act in British politics.

On the surface, Khan and Javid have much in common. Their respective parents came here from Pakistan in the Sixties, they share a religious background and they’ve made it good from humble beginnings. They’ve fulfilled the dreams that their parents must have had for them when they made the decision to emigrate, but there the similarities end.

Their politics and personalities couldn’t be more different. Khan wears his heart on his sleeve, can be emotional and, on occasion, touchy-feely. Javid, on the other hand, is more formal and, some say, robotic. Cool, calm and collected, he finds public displays of emotion come less easily to him. One Tory MP said to me: “Look in his eyes, and there’s nothing there.” Unkind, perhaps, but a weakness for any politician in a world where emoting in public is expected. Khan can take selfies with the best of them while, with Javid, what you see is what you get.

Politically, they are chalk and cheese. Javid is a proud Thatcherite and doesn’t care who knows it. An expensive portrait of her hangs in his ministerial office. He rose quickly up the ministerial ranks, starting as PPS to the Chancellor only 18 months after being elected to the Commons in 2010.

The Chancellor was impressed and Javid then spent two years as a Treasury Minister before David Cameron promoted him to the Cabinet in April 2014 as Culture Secretary. It was a stratospheric rise, but he was a square peg in a round hole. A year later he was promoted to the Business Department and seemed set for great things.

And then Brexit happened. To the consternation of everyone who knew him, Javid came out for Remain despite having been viewed as one of the leading Eurosceptics in the Cabinet. He justified it by declaring his loyalty to Cameron, saying he was worried about the effect of Brexit on British business.

Rather like Theresa May, he didn’t play a huge part in the referendum campaign. With David Cameron gone and the Brexiteers in the ascendancy, Javid disappeared from the lists of future leadership contenders. In a bizarre alliance, he threw in his lot with Stephen Crabb in a brief leadership campaign that fizzled out as quickly as it had been glued together.

If Javid’s rise was meteoric, Khan’s was anything but. Elected in 2005, he had to wait more than three years to be made a minister. He was a young man in a hurry, and only a few months after being elected he was knocking on the door of the Labour chief whip, Jacqui Smith, asking brazenly why he hadn’t been made a minister.

In 2008 he started his rise up the ranks, which culminated in attending the Cabinet as Minister of State for Transport. He became the first Muslim to sit round the Cabinet table.

Unlike Javid, Khan is hard to pigeonhole politically. He does not suffer from ideological certainty and is known for being politically rather flexible. His flip-flopping on supporting (or not) a third runway at Heathrow has become the stuff of legend. But he also has a talent to sniff which way the political wind is blowing. He was the first to spot Ed Miliband’s potential to become Labour leader in 2010 and ended up running his campaign. His political acuity also led him to run for the Labour nomination to be London mayor, seeing off Tessa Jowell and David Lammy in the process, in a contest which became increasingly bitter.

I remember hosting a hustings on LBC in which Khan and Lammy spent the whole time trading insulting barbs. It was further evidence of Khan’s streetfighting abilities.

Both men have love-hate relationships with their leaders. Khan hugs Jeremy Corbyn close when he needs to — controversially nominating him as leader — but generally keeps him at a respectful distance. He knows, however, that if he is ever to lead the Labour Party he will need the support of the Corbynistas, so from time to time will say something designed to keep them on side.

Javid ended up supporting May’s leadership campaign, yet has had a very cool relationship with her since. She demoted him to Communities Secretary and he never really forgave her. Indeed, her supporters accused him of plotting to overthrow her. He narrowly escaped being sacked from the Cabinet in the post-2017 reshuffle after clashing with the Prime Minister in Cabinet. Had May got the majority she expected, there’s little doubt Javid would now be on the backbenches. On such vagaries are political careers saved.

And then came Grenfell. Khan became the voice of London, ever-present on the scene, empathising, hugging, doing interview after interview all the while knowing he didn’t really have many powers to actually do anything. By contrast, Javid stayed in the background, coordinating everything from his ministerial office. He drew a lot of criticism for not being at the forefront of the rescue efforts. In fact he was, but people didn’t see it for themselves. Perception is almost as important as reality in these matters, and while a Cabinet Minister naturally needs to concentrate on managing a crisis, Javid needed to be front and centre of informing people via the media about what he was actually doing to handle the crisis.

There’s no doubt about Javid’s competence and talents. He may be an instinctive Conservative, but he also has some ideological grounding. He’s more likely to be found reading the Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand than Doris Lessing. He’s being painted as a centrist, when nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, he’s got liberal views on same-sex marriage and abortion, but in economic terms he’s a dry-as-dust Thatcherite.

As Home Secretary, he will be judged on crime and immigration. His brother is a Chief Superintendent in the West Midlands, and it will be interesting to see if he adopts a rather more friendly approach to the police than his two immediate predecessors have. Khan laid down a challenge to the new Home Secretary in his congratulatory tweet and it is already evident that he will be striking a very different tone on immigration. The test will be whether he has the courage and political will to force the Prime Minister to abandon her ridiculous and unachievable pledge to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands and to take students out of the immigration figures altogether.

Javid and Khan have the potential to be the new Ted Heath and Harold Wilson of British politics, but with a difference. Javid and Khan don’t just respect each other; they actually like each other.

This article first appeared in the Evening Standard on 1 May 2018

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