Diary

ConHome Diary: Mayoroplane

22 Aug 2014 at 14:25

If each part of this diary column had its own headline, this one would be titled ‘Mayoroplane’. Back in 2008 in those halcyon days when Boris was a virgin mayor of London, he attracted his very own stalker. At every public event, or mayor’s questiontime, the same man would appear, muttering in a rather nasal tone. Boris could never quite make out what he was saying, but every utterance began with the words ‘when I was mayor’. Yes, it was Red Ken himself. Eventually Ken realised he was making a bit of a dick of embarrassing himself and decided to absent himself from encounters with Boris, presumably on the grounds he came across as a bit of a saddo.

So imagine the scene, the entire Johnson clan board their Easyjet flight heading for their summer holiday earlier this week. Finally Boris can relax and stop thinking about the speech he’s going to give to Uxbridge Conservatives in a few weeks. The only thought in his head is the fact that he’s forgotten to pack the Factor 42 suncream. He’s sat in his slightly too small seat – no business class on this flight to the sunshine, looking out the window, leaving Marina to sort out the children. And then… And then… he hears this slightly nasal tone shout out ‘Hello Boris!!!’. He turns round and standing in the aisle in the man who he vanquished twice, yes, it’s Ken Livingstone. It turns out they’re on the same flight, heading to the same Mediterranean island for some sun, sea and, er, probably Sangria. ‘Joy of joys,’ thinks Boris as he mutters some pleasantries before summoning the air steward and ordering a triple vodka. I made that bit up. But these rest is true. Talk about a small world…

I wonder if they are in the same hotel. It would make a great fly on the wall documentary. When Boris met Ken in Magaluf. Hardly bears thinking about.


In 1978 I did my ‘O’ Levels. I got three ‘B’s and 3 ‘C’s. I failed Biology with a ‘D’ and Physics with a ‘U’. Both my parents and I were delighted. Today I’d be considered a failure. Go figure.


Today’s my last day at work before a two week holiday starts. I do love my work but I am very much looking forward to some time to myself. Whether I will be able to completely switch off is a moot point. I have to finish compiling and editing our Guide to the Election and will still be writing this column. I’m spending the first week at our house in Norfolk, but on Monday week I am taking my father, my sisters and their families to Belgium for two days. No, don’t laugh. Recently I found out where the grave of our Great Uncle is. He was killed, at the age of 19, ten days before the end of the First World War. We’re going to pay our respects. A strange way to spend part of your summer holiday, but I’m immensely looking forward to it. I used to go across the channel by car every year, but haven’t been for nearly 20 years. One thing I’m keen to witness is the Last Post being played at the Menin Gate at Ypres, which they do every day at 8pm. I’m sure there won’t be a dry eye in the Dale clan.

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Roger Lewis: "Lezzos all have big chins ... And Iain Dale is a C**t"

21 Aug 2014 at 16:45

Remember THIS blogpost from a week ago when I revealed I had decided to withdraw a book publishing contract from a man called Roger Lewis because of a homophobic review he had written for The Spectator?

Just to remind you what he wrote in a review of a biography of Dusty Springfield…

“Call me a crazy old physiognomist, but my theory is that you can always spot a lesbian by her big thrusting chin. Celebrity Eskimo Sandi Toksvig, Ellen DeGeneres, Jodie Foster, Clare Balding, Vita Sackville-West, God love them: there’s a touch of Desperate Dan in the jaw-bone area, no doubt the better to go bobbing for apples.”

Well if ever I had any doubts about that decision, (Which to be fair I haven’t) they have been well and truly dispelled today. Mr Lewis has written this on the Madame Arcati blog

“I wrote a perfectly fine piece on Dusty Springfield, inter alia making the joke that lezzos all have big chins the better to go bobbing for apples – and this cunt Iain Dale, a man of whom I had never previously heard, comes out of the woodwork accusing me of all sorts! And me the biographer of Charles Hawtrey and the world expert on camp comics! What I hate about the man is his egotistical desire to be morally superior – no sense of humour, hence of proportion, like those Welsh language fanatics I always poke fun at and who foam at the mouth when teased.”

This wretched excuse for a man is also trying to claim that even though he hadn’t actually signed a contract with us we should still pay him his advance and compensate him for lost sales. I can assure you he won’t be getting a penny out of me. Ever.

I don’t think I need to comment any further, do you?

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Personal

Attitude Column: Vanity, Vanity, All Is Vanity

20 Aug 2014 at 21:43

OK, I admit it. I am as vain as the next man. And let’s face it, nowadays men are probably just as vain as women, and in many cases even more so. Whether it’s about our hair, skin, beard trim, or the way our pubes look, we care. Not just care, but care obsessively in many cases. And if the gay stereotype means anything, gay men care just that little bit more than their straight friends. We like to look our best. It’s not about looking good to pick up our next shag, we just like to be admired. Having said that, at the age of 52, it becomes slightly more difficult, unless one is trying to attract the type of man who likes to whisper ‘Daddy’ into your ear.

Trouble is, I can’t actually remember the last time I had a ‘good hair’ day, largely because I haven’t really got enough of it any longer to notice. It’s either fallen out, been shaved down to a number two (that’s a clipper number before your mind goes down a more scatological route), and what has left has gone a rather bracing shade of silver. Believe it or not, I used to have a very full head of brown, slightly curly locks. If I could change one part of the ageing process, it would be to have a glorious head of hair again. When it started going grey in my late thirties I experimented with dying it, but frankly it looked ridiculous so I let nature take its course. But an email I received recently gave me a slight pause for thought.

It came from a leading hair transplant clinic and believe it or not they were offering me a free hair transplant (worth up to £25k, no less) if I would agree to endorse their services in adverts and in columns like this. I did go so far as to check out this wasn’t the equivalent of a Nigerian “You’ve been left £5 million in a will” scam, but they were very reputable and some quite well known people had indeed been treated by them. But my reply was fairly swift and to the point: “Thanks, but not for me.” Perhaps I am not quite as vain as I (or you) thought, after all. The trouble is, I know my own reaction when I see people who try desperately to cover up their hair loss or have transplants. Some are more successful than others but the ones who aren’t successful look frankly ridiculous. I’m not going to name names, but we all know who we’re talking about. In essence, I’d rather be ridiculed for a natural baldy look, than a hair transplant which didn’t go quite to plan.

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. Which is why many men over the age of thirty have invested in a nose and ear hair clipper. Yuk, I can hear the twinks among you saying. Well, don’t worry mates, it’ll come to you all soon enough too. Get to the age of 30, or 40 if you’re lucky, and random hairs start springing out all over the place. Then they multiply. All over the place. This is massively unfair. After all, women have to wait until the menopause to experience anything similar.

Personal grooming for men is now big business in the UK. Whether it’s skin cream, moisturising lotions or grooming kits, more and more of us view these things as part of our daily ablutions. And whether we’re gay or straight we’re not afraid to tell other people about our grooming habits. Even 20 years ago, if a man admitted to using moisturiser everyone would automatically think it was an incredibly camp thing to do. No longer. But we still haven’t reached a time when men wearing even light make-up is considered socially acceptable. Whenever I go on TV, they cake it on. Sky News even have a blow torch instrument which I gather is nicknamed the ‘blow job’. I know I look far better when I am ‘powdered up’ and frankly I’d keep it on all day if it were up to me. But in 2014, that’s still one step too far!

This article first appeared in the August issue of Attitude Magazine

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The BBC's 'Ting Tong' Hypocrisy - I Won't Defend Janice Atkinson But the BBC Need to Answer Questions

19 Aug 2014 at 08:00

Well I never thought I’d see the day when I’d feel sorry for Janice Atkinson. And it still hasn’t happened.

However, the hypocrisy of the BBC never ceases to amaze. Yesterday BBC South East were outraged, outraged I tell you, by UKIP MEP Janice Atkinson calling the Thai wife of one of her party members “Ting Tong from somewhere”. They had recorded her saying it in an unguarded moment off camera. THIS article then appeared on the BBC website and is now all over social media.

Nowhere does the BBC acknowledge in the article that the term originated from …cue drum roll … a BBC TV comedy. So how is it acceptable for it to be used to make fun of Thai transsexuals on LITTLE BRITAIN, and yet when a UKIP politician uses it, the BBC goes into an orgy of attacking UKIP. They even produced Professor Tim Luckhurst on camera to allege that, well, if one of them says it, it’s likely they’d all say it. I ask you.

I point this out not to defend Janice Atkinson (I never like turncoats), who is in many ways a rather ridiculous character, but to point out the BBC’s downright chicanery and double standards. It is the BBC Comedy Department who need to be held to account here for their blatant racism, not just the idiot politician who saw fit to quote them.

It was Janice Atkinson, you will remember, who gave a journalist the finger and told them to eff off during the European Election campaign. I remember when she defected to UKIP and they took her on as their Director of Communications I told Nigel Farage he could expect trouble from her. I didn’t quite realise what a good prediction that was. I wonder how many people expect her to last the full five year term as a UKIP MEP.

When she was in the Tory Party Atkinson (who was then known as Janice Small) was Tim Yeo’s press officer, espousing the virtues of more European integration. But at least she recognised that people didn’t much like her. After failing to get nominated for a Tory marginal in Kent she asked the local party agent: “Why don’t people warm to me?” I think we can now all see why.

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This Is What I Wrote About Julian Assange 4 Years Ago ... Every Word Of it Remains True Today

18 Aug 2014 at 20:12

Four and a half years ago, in December 2010, I was asked by the Mail on Sunday to write a column on Julian Assange. When it appeared I was traduced and slagged off by his many supporters. How could I not understand what a hero he is, I was asked? Very easily, as it happens. Anyway, four and a half years on I am rather proud that every word I wrote then has stood the test of time very well. Read for yourself. (The original can be found HERE)

Over the past five years I, along with thousands of other bloggers, have played a small part in holding the mainstream media and politicians to account.

I’ve tried to encourage public authorities to be more transparent and open about what they do, and often caused them a few headaches when they’ve refused.

So you might think I would be a cheerleader for WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange and his self-styled mission to expose what goes on at the heart of government.

You’d be wrong. Far from being a 21st Century hero, I have come to regard Assange as a dictatorial charlatan whose real agenda is not the furtherance of greater transparency, but the furtherance of Julian Assange and his anti-American agenda.

His ego seems to be without equal and he’s now reached the dangerous point of believing his own publicity. So much so that some of his staunchest supporters, such as the Guardian journalist Nick Davies, have cut off contact with him.

WikiLeaks started off as a noble cause. It sought to shine light into the nooks and crannies of public life which had up until now remained closed off to us mere mortals.
Whistleblowing is often uncomfortable, yet WikiLeaks provided a forum for the powerful to be brought to book.

In journalistic terms, there was a point to it, as their work on scientology and the Trafigura scandal concerning the dumping of toxic waste in Africa showed.

But its ethics and operations are now coming under serious scrutiny, and rightly so.

Whenever anyone – journalist, or otherwise – reveals confidential information there has to be a point to it. By releasing three million random documents, illegally obtained from U.S. government computers, WikiLeaks put paid to its reputation in one fell swoop.

Had Assange and his cohorts sorted through the documents and filtered out those with a genuine public interest, he could have been seen as a modern-day hero.

But he released everything in the name of so-called transparency. He did it because he could – the prerogative of every dictator in history.

Assange is currently fighting efforts to extradite him to Sweden, where he is accused of sexually assaulting two women. It is alleged he raped one of them.

Yet during the past couple of weeks, celebrities including Jemima Khan and Bianca Jagger have stood alongside Leftist journalists such as John Pilger and Tariq Ali, and film director Ken Loach to denounce what they view as a ‘politically motivated show trial’.

But the authorities are not trying to extradite Assange over freedom of expression – they’re trying to extradite him over alleged rape.

For the Left to base their defence of him on ‘fairness’, ‘censorship’ and ‘suspicious timing’ is not only misleading but also very unfair on the women who have come forward with the allegations.

Could you imagine any other scenario where liberals, socialists and other members of the Left would be so cavalier with an allegation as serious as rape? Remember all those headlines about rape anonymity just a few short months ago?

Their hypocrisy stinks. It’s as if they are saying that Assange’s WikiLeaks work trumps any legal charges levelled at him.

The charges of sexual assault against Assange should be fully investigated. For anyone to say otherwise implies that the women are lying and that alleged rape is a trifling charge. It’s not.

Nobody knows if he did it, and that’s why he needs to be extradited and face exactly the same legal process that you or I would face in similar circumstances. The God of WikiLeaks gives the appearance of believing he is above the law. He is not.

Perhaps some of Assange’s defenders have more sinister motivations. Perhaps they are pro-Assange as he and his organisation have become virulently anti-American.
Some people might have more sympathy with him if he ever released any documents from China, or North Korea, or the mafia-controlled state of Russia.

Assange may be a public hero to some. But it is stupid and illogical to absolve him of all alleged criminal activities just because of his work.

A man can do commendable work, but be of bad character. And it is high time we stop judging Assange for his public deeds when, at the moment, it is his private life on trial.
We must ensure the separation of powers prevails. This most controversial of men must be judged by the law, not politics.

Assange has been quick to point the finger at dark forces within the Pentagon or the CIA for his arrest, yet the head of WikiLeaks in Sweden appears to be more sensible.

He says: ‘Let the police find out what actually happened. Of course, the enemies of WikiLeaks may try to use this, but it begins with the two women and Julian. It is not the CIA sending a woman in a short skirt.’

You’d have thought that The Guardian would be the first newspaper to support the concept that he should be judged under the rule of law.

Its journalists are normally the first to assume that men who face court on rape charges are guilty. And yet here, they’ve done a volte-face. Why? Because it would be deeply embarrassing for them if the source of virtually every Guardian front page for the past month turned out to be guilty.

And I say that with no presumption that he is.

It is also deeply ironic also that the newspaper which has been campaigning to bring David Cameron’s media supremo Andy Coulson to book for his alleged role in the News of the World phone hacking affair is the very same one which has no compunction in revealing nuggets of gossip and information to the world obtained illegally by WikiLeaks.

What’s different in the two cases? In the News of the World case, 99 per cent of the illegally obtained, hacked information was prurient gossip with no public interest. In the case of WikiLeaks, 99 per cent of the illegally obtained, hacked information was prurient gossip with no public interest.

But there is one sinister difference. In the WikiLeaks case, lives and national security have been put at risk. But we shouldn’t be surprised. Assange proved he was out of control in August when he demanded $700,000 from Amnesty International which had politely asked him to ensure WikiLeaks did not publish names of Afghan civilians who might then be targeted by the Taliban. Some called it blackmail.

It is, I suppose, possible to argue that every piece of government information should be made publicly available, but anyone who really believes that hasn’t given a thought to the anarchic consequences which would follow. Surely national security, at the very least, has to be a consideration?

Julian Assange purports to believe in total openness – except when it comes to himself.

He delights in asking politicians what they have got to hide. We might ask Mr Assange the same.

There is little in this issue that is about high principle. It is about political motivation and one man’s desire to be treated as a demi-god.

Assange is not a terrorist, as the increasingly ridiculous Sarah Palin suggests. But he is a narcissist and would-be demagogue.

If he was half the man he purports to be, he’d voluntarily get on a flight to Stockholm tomorrow and submit himself to Swedish justice.

If he’s as innocent as he says he is, what has he got to fear?

p.

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ConHome Diary: Shazbot & Why Mark Simmonds is a Moron

15 Aug 2014 at 14:25

Every summer it’s the same. David Cameron disappears on holiday and Nick Clegg then does the same. Do their diary secretaries not talk to each other? The clue is in Clegg’s job title of Deputy Prime Minister. When the PM is away he should deputise. But he never does, because he chooses to go away at the same time. Just when he had an opportunity to shine and lead Britain’s policy over Iraq, he flunks it and buggers off to Spain. Maybe he’s just given up already.
*
I’ve never met Mark Simmonds but honestly, what a moron. Does he seriously think that anyone will have any sympathy for his apparent plight of not being able to survive on £120,000 a year? I ask you. I have some sympathy with his complaint that a parliamentary lifestyle doesn’t really mix with a family life. But my sympathy is tempered by the fact that he must surely have known this before he applied to be a candidate. And if he didn’t, he’s even more of a moron than he appears. Does Mr Simmonds realise how he comes across to a family of four who exist on £30,000 a year? And we wonder why people think politicians are out of touch.
*

The response of the government to developments in Northern Iraq has been little short of pathetic. Compared to David Cameron’s robust stance on Syria, his administration now risks being seen as even more lily-livered than France. At least France has committed itself to supplying arms to the Kurds, so they can defend themselves against ISIS. What have we done? Ah yes, we’ve supplied a couple of helicopters full of bottled water and lanterns. Well woopadedoo. Yes, there is a terrible humanitarian crisis, and we should play a full role in alleviating the suffering of all those who have been forced to leave their homes. But this is dealing with the symptom, not the problem. The problem is that Iraq is a failed state and doesn’t have a functioning government. There is a power vacuum and some terrible people are intent on filling that vacuum. They have to be stopped otherwise the people of Iraq will face a very bleak future indeed. We must support and augment US military strikes against ISIS with strikes of our own. That’s not warmongering. It’s not adopting a neo con stance. It’s being hard-nosed and realistic. The only way to rid Iraq of ISIS is to stand up to them and ensure they understand that if they don’t stop their torture and murders, they will be blown to bits.
*
I see the BBC has started referring to ISIS and IS, i.e. the Islamic State. There is no such thing as the Islamic State and we need to pray to Allah that there never will be. At least not in the form that ISIS intend. Because if we allow it to happen, we shall reap what we sow.
*

I’ve got a book coming out in September titled THE NHS: THINGS THAT NEED TO BE SAID. I got the proofs back from the publishers, Elliott & Thompson a couple of days ago. I expected them to query a lot of what I had written, or for there to be lots of typos and grammatical errors. I was pleasantly surprised to find only four queries and three typos. I wish all my Biteback authors delivered such clean manuscripts!
*
Shazbot.
*

My views on the list of new peers are probably best kept to myself. While there are several good people on the list in general it reinforces the view of many that it’s all about cronyism and dosh. Of course donating to a political party shouldn’t exclude you from getting an honour, but the number of party donors (from all parties) who are getting peerages is beyond all reason. Yet another argument for an elected House of Lords. I’m very pleased to see Sir Stuart Rose become a peer – exactly the sort of person who will make a difference in the Upper House. Karren Brady is a very talented woman but does anyone seriously suppose she’s going to turn up very much? I doubt it. A vote on Clause 2, subsection 3 of the HS2 Bill, or a seat in the directors’ box at West Ham v Liverpool. I know which I’d choose, and I know which she would too. Conservative whips be warned. I could go on. But I won’t.
*

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Is Made to Cry by Sue in Twickenham

During a discussion about living with an alcoholic, Iain is moved to tears by a caller. The call lasted more than 20 minutes - very unusual in talk radio.

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Books

Biteback withdraws book offer to author following 'homophobic' review

14 Aug 2014 at 12:12

From Bookbrunch by Liz Thomson

Biteback has withdrawn the offer of a book contract to Roger Lewis following a homophobic review of a Robson Press [Biteback’s sister imprint] title on the late Dusty Springfield.
Writing in the Spectator, Lewis began: “Call me a crazy old physiognomist, but my theory is that you can always spot a lesbian by her big thrusting chin. Celebrity Eskimo Sandi Toksvig, Ellen DeGeneres, Jodie Foster, Clare Balding, Vita Sackville-West, God love them: there’s a touch of Desperate Dan in the jaw-bone area, no doubt the better to go bobbing for apples.”

In a letter to the Spectator, Dale said: “I’m surprised and appalled by your decision to publish Roger Lewis’ review of our book Dusty: An Intimate Portrait. The reviewer clearly displays homophobic sentiments towards his subject and, indeed, a litany of other celebrity lesbians. The reasoning behind your decision is as incomprehensible to me as his overt homophobia is. We had been discussing with Mr Lewis the possibility of publishing his next book. He has just been told those discussions are at an end.”

Dale told BookBrunch: “I and several members of staff at Biteback, found Roger Lewis’s comments homophobic and totally unacceptable, and we are not prepared to work with someone who holds those views.”

My letter is published in this week’s edition of The Spectator. Mr Lewis has accused me of ‘totalitarianism’ and being obsessed by political correctness. No, Mr Lewis, it’s not political correctness, it’s common decency. Had he expressed any degree of regret or understanding of the offence he has caused we might be in a different place, but we are where we are.

Actions do indeed have consequences, and I am fully aware that he is unlikely to ever give a favourable review to any of our books in the future in The Spectator or the Mail on Sunday. So be it. At least I can look my colleagues in the eye and myself in the mirror.

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A Tribute to Katy Scholes

9 Aug 2014 at 16:40

No, she hasn’t died, but she has left Biteback after five years, and we are all very sad. However, she has got a brilliant new job on Adam Boulton’s programme at Sky News and we all wish her well. I am convinced that within five years I will hear the phrase “This is Katy Scholes, Sky News, Lahore” bellowing out of my TV screen. Katy’s journey with Biteback started when she sent us this rather innovative email back in January 2009…

Hi Emily,

I see online that your team struggles in the department of tea making. Worse. I hear that you spend your valuable time debating its concoction and distribution around the office.

I can help you.
Hear me out.
I am brilliant at making tea.
I basically have a qualification in brewership. (‘basically,’ meaning… not entirely true but still highly talented.)

The plan is, I make tea for you and your colleagues, I work with you doing all manner and mixture of menial and exciting tasks for you and your team. I work my socks off for Total Politics with a little help from you, perhaps a recommendation? perhaps a chance at a meeting with you or someone in need of a ‘professional caffeine handy?’ (decaf permitted, fussiness will go unprejudiced.) The upshot is, with me dishing up great cuppa’s like Mary Poppins, you will be hailed beneath that ever coveted banner of ‘Employee of the Month’ in no time, just purely for having great taste.

I am an aspiring journalist in need of a foot in the door, it would be my pleasure to work with you as I have been reading Total Politics on a monthly basis since last July when I first discovered its juicy glossiness on a shelf in a Dubai Megamart. I have an attentive interest in the media, constantly following the news and am a huge fan of The Guardian newspaper but always read widely from other publications also. My interest in politics from a young age led to my BA from the University of Nottingham in Politics and American Studies. I read numerous magazines, (inc. Focus, The Economist, Weekend, The New African) because I love to learn, I love the process of researching and knowing more about the world. If you would be willing to give me the opportunity to start my career from the grassroots in your office… well, Emily, I will make you tea. Lots and lots of tea.

Thanks for your time, you can contact me at this email address or by phone xxxxxxxx

Kind regards,
Katy Scholes

Well anyone who can write an out of the blue email had to be worth seeing and so we took her on, first of all with Total Politics, then with Biteback Publishing where she developed her skills to take on the role of Marketing Manager.

Katy is one of those people who makes an office tick. She is loud, funny and emotional. Despite having the attention span of a flea (a bit like me) she was brilliant at her job. It was she who put together all the logistics of the Political Book Awards and ran the whole event despite having no experience of running anything like it.

I kind of knew I would lose her this year, though. Had she gone to another publisher I would have moved heaven and earth (by which I mean bribe her with more money) but when she told me what her new job was I knew it was exactly the right thing for her.

At her leaving do on Thursday night it was a tribute to her popularity that virtually everyone who has ever worked for Total Politics and Biteback Publishing turned up to wish her well. Normally at these events I give a little speech, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it because I knew that the waterworks would start. Luckily it was in a pub garden so it didn’t seem appropriate anyway. All I did was give her a big hug and whisper in her ear: “I can’t give a speech, but you know what you mean to me”.

Katy would easily be in the top ten people I have ever employed in my thirty year career and I can’t speak more highly of her than that. Thank you Katy for your time with us, your brilliant work, and above all your friendship. And of course the dirty jokes. It’s been a blast.

PS You can read Katy’s own version of her time at Biteback in her valedictory blogpost HERE

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ConHome Diary: I am Proud to Be a Zionist (If It Means What I Think It Means)

8 Aug 2014 at 13:24

I’ve spent much of the last month being accused on my radio show of being pro-Zionist. It seems there are as many definitions of that word as there are types of baked bean. If it means supporting the right of Israel to exist and defend itself, then I happily plead guilty. The evidence of my pro-Zioninst support, it seems is my “neocon” credentials and my “friendship” with Douglas Murray. I am not, nor ever have been a neocon and although I am an admirer of Douglas Murray’s work, he is not a friend of mine. An acquaintance yes, but can you really be someone’s friend when you have never met them outside of a work situation? Surely a friend must have been to your house or you to theirs or met your family, or at the very least you go out for a meal or drink with them from time to time. I’d happily have Douglas as a friend, as I regard him as a very nice guy, but I find it odd that people on the internet appear to love to judge me by the company I, er, don’t keep.
*
I suppose in some ways Sayeeda Warsi was always a resignation waiting to happen. The only surprise has been that it has taken more than four years to happen. A minister who treated the phrase ‘collective responsibility’ with a degree of caution was always likely to fall on their sword at some point, or face the sack. Some of her fellow ministers were somewhat irritated by the latitude shown to her by the Prime Minister and his team of enforcers. But to them she was a graphic demonstration of the way the party had changed. Female, northern and muslim. In some ways she is irreplaceable, and for a party which has always been challenged by its inability to attract ethnic minority support, her departure is a considerable blow. It is also a blow to the new Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond. I’m told that William Hague made it his business to ‘handle’ the noble Baroness and ensure that she didn’t go off piste too often, whereas Hammond has adopted a different approach. His less inclusive approach to his junior ministers, which he also adopted at the MoD according to my source, did not sit well with Warsi.
*

So Joyce Anelay has replaced Sayeeda Warsi at the FCO. I got to know her when she was the Tory home affairs spokesman in the Lords. Hers is an inspired appointment as not only is she hugely competent she will be immensely popular with diplomats around the world. She’s a bridge builder and someone who has really earned the right to sit round the cabinet table. I welcomed her appointment on twitter by remarking that she has the best hair in the House of Lords, only to be assailed by ‘right on’ lefties who clearly object to any compliment being paid to a woman about her appearance. Frankly, I couldn’t give a monkey’s arse what they think of what I said.
Of course, if justice had anything to do with it (and it rarely does in politics) the job may well have gone to the Chancellor’s former PPS Rob Wilson. He was offered a job in the reshuffle but in the end it went to someone else because his book IN THE EYE OF THE STORM [ add link http://www.amazon.co.uk/Eye-Storm-Centre-Political-Scandal/dp/1849545014/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1407308449&sr=1-1&keywords=rob+wilson+in+the+eye+of+the+storm ] was about to appear, and if you’re a minister you can’t publish a book without Cabinet Office approval. On such threads do ministerial careers hang. So come on Prime Minister, next time there’s a vacancy, do the right thing.
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I’ve never quite understood this fascination with Ed Miliband’s so-called ‘weirdness’ and ‘geekiness’. All politicians are weird to an extent. If they weren’t they wouldn’t be in politics. But people who are weird and geeky are invariably not good when meeting the general public. Miliband isn’t like that at all. I’ve met him on several occasions and each time he’s been great company and lacking any degree of geekiness. I think he is a bit like John Major in that if everyone in the country could meet him face to face he’d be far more likely to win the election. But that’s not possible so he has to try to convey his real personality through the media, and that’s certainly Ed Miliband’s challenge over the next nine months. He’s got to get over this newspaper obsession with his apparent tendency to look odd in photographs. I say apparent, because we all know that in a film roll of 200 pictures of the same incident, there’s bound to be one that makes someone look odd. And that’s the one the photo editors always pick when it comes to the leader of the opposition. It may be unfair but that’s the way it is. Last Friday I did an hour long phone-in with Ed Miliband, in the slightly odd setting of a hotel in the marginal seat of Hastings. Politicians are usually incredibly nervous of these occasions, but Miliband soon got into his stride and answered each question well, avoiding using any of the usual soundbites. There wasn’t a mention of the phrase ‘cost of living crisis’, which is quite some going when you’re on air for the best part of an hour. The only time he was somewhat lost for words – as indeed was I – was when someone asked him which part of Number Ten he would refurbish first if he won the election. I thought he missed a trick on that one. He should have said he’d replace the black door with a red one! Trouble is, the Daily Mail would have probably thought he was being serious and done another double page spread on Red Ed.
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WATCH: The Ed Miliband Phone-in on LBC

1 Aug 2014 at 21:48

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