Conservative Politics

Conservative Leadership Runners & Riders: ANDREA LEADSOM

29 Jun 2016 at 12:30

FULL NAME: Andrea Jacquline Leadsom
BORN: May 13 1963, Aylesbury
AGE: 53
EDUCATION: Tonbridge Girls Grammar, University of Warwick (Political Science)
STATUS: Married to Ben, 3 children
FIRST ELECTED: May 2010
CONSTITUENCY: South Northamptonshire
EXPERIENCE: Councillor, South Oxfordshire District Council 2003-2007. Contested Knowsley South constituency in 2005. Treasury Select Committee 2010-14. Economic Secretary to the Treasury from April 2014-May 2015. Minister of State for Energy at the Department of Energy and Climate Change May 2015 to present
OTHER EXPERIENCE: Barclays de Zoete Wedd (BZW) 1993-1997, Managing Director of De Putron Fund Management (DPFM) 1997-1999. Chief Investment Officer at Invesco Perpetual from 1999-2009.
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: “Let me see that spreadsheet.”
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY: “I’d like to be driven home by Amber Rudd.”
FAMOUS QUOTES: "My fight against HS2 goes on. Until there is a dramatic rethink about HS2, I will continue to fight for generous compensation and effective mitigation to help those substantially affected by HS2 move on with their lives.” " I expect the governor will be significantly regretting getting involved in politics, destabilising the markets in the exact opposite to the way he should do and I’m quite sure that he will be wishing he hadn’t done it."
STRENGTHS: Conviction, economic expertise, calm under fire
WEAKNESSES: Somewhat unknown, never been a Cabinet minister
MAIN ADVISERS: Luke Graystone
MAIN ALLIES: Unknown
LIKELY TO STAND: 70%
LADBROKES ODDS: 12/1

SCOREBOARD

Experience: 5.1
Negotiating Skills: 6.5
Star Quality: 5.7
Likeability: 6.0
Ability to take the fight to Labour: 6.5
Economic Competence: 8.1
Intellectual Capacity: 6.8
Ability to Unite the Country: 6.1
Ability to Unite the Party: 6.6
Integrity: 7.5
Courage: 8.1
Leadership: 6.0
National Appeal: 6.0
International Experience: 4.5

Andrea Leadsom beats all the other candidates in Economic competence, Ability to unite the country and Integrity. She comes second to Boris Johnson in Intellectual capacity ans second to Theresa May in Ability to unite the party.

OVERALL RATING OUT OF 100: 63.9

MY ANALYSIS

There is little doubt that of all the Leave campaigners, Andrea Leadsom performed brilliantly. She raised her profile immensely and impressed everyone with her calmness, knowledge and determination. Even Remain campaigners admit that she had a good ‘war’.

In this media age, the ability to perform well on TV is a pre-requisite for a leader, and the way she dealt with attacks in the ITV debate from her boss Amber Rudd demonstrated a calmness under fire which few failed to notice.

It is rumoured that she is holding off on a leadership bid announcement on the basis that Boris, or even Theresa May might offer her a job as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Either would be wise to do so. However, it would be a pity, as being a participant in a leadership contest would give her a chance to really shine and come into her own.

Leadsom’s economic expertise is beyond doubt, and probably better than any other potential leadership candidate. Many people think that she is also probably the best negotiator as well. These two qualities mean that she could be the surprise candidate in this election if she articulates a vision that Tory MPs can relate to.

It is said that she is a little cold and lacks a sense of humour. Neither of these accusations holds much water, but the issues need to be addressed if and when she announces her bid.
There’s a touch of the Thatchers about Andrea Leadsom, and indeed a touch of the Theresa Mays. Not a bad combination.

Read my other profiles…

Boris Johnson
Theresa May

Coming next: Stephen Crabb

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Boris Has Fewer Female Supporters Than Old Etonians

29 Jun 2016 at 09:43

You don’t have to have gone to Eton to support Boris Johnson, but it certainly helps.

So far Boris Johnson has attracted the support of 30 MPs. At the last count 6* of them were Old Etonians, including Boris himself. That’s 20%. Astonishingly, it’s also more than the number of female MPs (5) who Boris has attracted – a fact that his rivals will take some glee in pointing out. Not a single Old Etonian has declared for a rival candidate yet.

Back in 2014 Michael Gove said it was “ridiculous” that so many people in Cameron’s circle hailed from Eton. He added: “I don’t know where you can find some such similar situation in a developed economy.” I wonder what he will say about the revelation that nearly a quarter of Boris’s support hails from the same school.

There are 19 Old Etonians in the Parliamentary Conservative Party. One wonders if the Omerta will stick together and all of them will row in behind Boris.

  • Jesse Norman, Sir Nicholas Soames, Boris Johnson, Zac Goldsmith, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Jo Johnson

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Conservative Leadership Runners & Riders: THERESA MAY

28 Jun 2016 at 09:45

FULL NAME: Theresa Mary May
BORN: 1 October 1956, Eastbourne
AGE: 59
EDUCATION: Wheatley Park Comprehensive, St Hugh’s College Oxford (Geography)
STATUS: Married to Philip, no children
FIRST ELECTED: 1997
CONSTITUENCY: Maidenhead
EXPERIENCE: Councillor, London Borough of Merton 1986-94, 1992 Parliamentary Candidate NW Durham, 1994 Parliamentary Candidate in the Barking by-election, MP for Maidenhead 1997 to present, Shadow Education Secretary 1999-2001, Shadow Transport 2001-2003, Conservative Party Chairman 2002-3, Shadow Transport 2003-4, Shadow Culture Media & Sport 2004-5, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 2005-9, Shadow Work & Pensions 2009-10, Home Secretary 2010-present.
OTHER EXPERIENCE: Bank of England 1977-83, Association of Clearing Payment Services 1985-95
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: “I’ll have a quiet night in.”
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY: “I’ve just bought a pair of flat shoes.”
FAMOUS QUOTES: “A lot of men in politics suddenly woke up to the issue of women in politics when they realised: hey, there are votes in this!” “There is nothing inevitable about crime and there is nothing inevitable about anti-social behaviour.” “On gay adoption I have changed my mind.”
STRENGTHS: Economic background, widespread experience of portfolios, courage, singlemindedness, record as Home Secretary
WEAKNESSES: Lack of allies on the Tory benches, not clubbable, little smalltalk
MAIN ADVISERS: Nick Timothy, Fiona Cunningham, Joey Jones, Stephen Parkinson
MAIN ALLIES: Michael Ellis, James Brokenshire, Karen Bradley, George Hollingbery
LIKELY TO STAND: 100%
LADBROKES ODDS: 9/4

SCOREBOARD
(scored by a panel of 50 Conservative activists, politicians and commentators)

Experience: 8.7
Negotiating Skills: 7.3
Star Quality: 6.4
Likeability: 5.5
Ability to take the fight to Labour: 6.8
Economic Competence: 6.8
Intellectual Capacity: 6.7
Ability to Unite the Country: 6.3
Ability to Unite the Party: 7.3
Integrity: 6.5
Courage: 6.2
Leadership: 7.2
National Appeal: 6.8
International Experience: 6.8

Theresa May beats Boris Johnson on Experience, Negotiating Skills, Economic Competence and Ability to Unite the Party, Integrity, Leadership Skills and International Experience. And in the end, these, many people will feel, are by far the most important criteria for the new Tory Party leader.

OVERALL RATING OUT OF 100: 68.1

MY ANALYSIS

Most people expect the final two contestants in the leadership ballot to be Boris Johnson and Theresa May. There is also a supposition that Boris Johnson would beat Theresa May among party members. A Yougov poll in The Times suggests that the reality is rather different and that it is neck and neck.

Theresa May is an atypical Conservative politician and one full of dichotomies. She has no natural constituencies on the Conservative backbenches. She’s not seen as very clubbable, and can sometimes appear rather cold and icy. It’s mainly because she doesn’t cultivate people in the way that ‘greasy pole’ climbers normally have to. At party conferences you’re more likely to find her having dinner with her husband, Philip, than wining and dining with newspaper editors, like most of her rivals. This gives her quite an advantage in that she owes no one anything and if she wins she can operate on her own terms.

In private, she has a waspish sense of humour and is always up for a laugh, but this doesn’t always come over in public.

Theresa May’s wealth of experience across shadow roles, her background in the Bank of England and her record as Home Secretary make her uniquely qualified as a leader. She exudes competence and reliability. She would immediately command the respect of the House of Commons and the other political parties. She may be less flamboyant than her main rival, but her campaign ought to be built on the fact that she’s as tough as old boots, can easily deploy a gimlet stare and has clear direction of travel.

Ah, say her opponents, but she didn’t support Brexit. No she didn’t, but she was hardly very vocal for Remain either. I suspect that she felt that as Home Secretary she had to plough a very difficult furrow. She didn’t do a Sajid Javid and disavow a very strongly held position. She didn’t do a Stephen Crabb and go so over the top with slavish devotion to the Prime Minister’s position. You could argue that if she had come out for Leave that the leadership would now be hers for the asking. I suspect the opposite is true. The very fact that Leavers can happily think of supporting her says a lot in her favour.

One of the main reasons for supporting a particular candidate will be their ability to negotiate our exit with European leaders or to stare down Vladimir Putin. The contrast between Boris Johnson and Theresa May’s respective abilities here may be crucial to the outcome of the leadership contest.

My information is that many Conservative Associations and their members are looking at Theresa May extremely favourably. There is, however, a danger for her. If the Conservative Party establishment is seen to row in behind her purely as a “Stop Boris” candidate, people may react against that. There is a suspicion that the Whips Office is already on manoeuvres in her favour. If that is true she would be well advised to stamp on it and make clear she doesn’t need any help, and she will succeed or fail on her own terms.

Coming Next: Andrea Leadson

Click HERE to read my profile of Boris Johnson.

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Conservative Leadership Runners & Riders: BORIS JOHNSON

27 Jun 2016 at 22:15

FULL NAME: Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson
BORN: June 19, 1964, New York
AGE: 52
EDUCATION: Eton, Balliol College Oxford
STATUS: Married, 6 children
FIRST ELECTED: 2001
CONSTITUENCY: Uxbridge – Majority 10,695
EXPERIENCE: Shadow Arts Minister May-November 2004, Shadow Universities Minister December 2005-July 2007, Mayor of London 2008-16
OTHER EXPERIENCE: Journalist, The Times & Daily Telegraph 1987-1999, Editor, The Spectator 1999-2006
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: “Cripes, I didn’t mean it.”
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY: “Let me give you a detailed analysis of the difference between microfiscal economic policy and macrofiscal strategy.”
FAMOUS QUOTES: “My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.” “The dreadful truth is that when people come to see their MP they have run out of better ideas.” “My friends, as I have discovered myself, there are no disasters, only opportunities. And, indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters.”
STRENGTHS: Huge star quality, charisma, ability to shrug off potential gaffes and scandals, intellect, public speaking
WEAKNESSES: Stormy private life, priapic tendencies, lack of attention to detail, economic expertise, strategic ignorance, not a team player, yet another Old Etonion from Oxford
MAIN ADVISERS: Will Walden
MAIN ALLIES: Jesse Norman, Ben Wallace, Nadhim Zahawi, Nadine Dorries
LIKELY TO STAND: 100%
LADBROKES ODDS: Evens

SCOREBOARD
(scored a panel of 50 Conservative activists, politicians and commentators)

Experience: 7.6
Negotiating Skills: 6.4
Star Quality: 9.1
Likeability: 7.9
Ability to take the fight to Labour: 8.6
Economic Competence: 6.4
Intellectual Capacity: 8.2
Ability to Unite the Country: 7.3
Ability to Unite the Party: 5.9
Integrity: 6.1
Courage: 7.5
Leadership: 6.9
National Appeal: 8.0
International Experience: 6.4

Against all the other potential candidates Boris Johnson top-scored in Star Quality, Likeability, Ability to take the Fight to Labour, Ability to Unite the Country as well as National Appeal. He was joint highest on Intellectual Ability, alongside Michael Gove.

OVERALL RATING OUT OF 100: 73

MY ANALYSIS

Boris suffers from being the front runner. The last time a front runner won the leadership of the Conservative Party was when Ted Heath won in 1965. I have particular cause to remember 2005 when David Davis held that position and then crashed and burned. The longer the timetable, the more likely it is that the same could happen to Boris. Even now there is an “Anyone But Boris” campaign.

Boris’s main weakness is his perceived lack of conviction and the way he flipflopped over the whole issue of EU membership. His apparent expediency may be forgiven by the voluntary party but the parliamentary party may be less forgiving. His main challenge will be to win enough support from his parliamentary colleagues to get on the ballot paper which goes out to the 150,000 Conservative Party members. His older colleagues remember his antics from the 2001 Parliament when he was considered the very antithesis of a team player, and frankly a bit of a joke. Because he has only recently returned to Parliament and therefore isn’t very familiar with the 2010 or 2015 intakes. As Mayor of London he by and large ignored MPs and held very few ‘get to know you’ cocktail parties. These have started in recent months but to more than three quarters of the Parliamentary Party, Boris is ‘that celebrity off the TV’ rather than a colleague.

Having said all that, the man has star quality. You just have to walk to down a street with him to experience it. And his appeal does actually stretch north of Watford. If Tory MPs want to elect someone who is a proven election winner they can do no better than elect Boris Johnson. But that’s not the issue now. Many of them believe that they should be electing a tough negotiator who has a wide range of economic expertise and can think radically. Maybe that candidate is not on offer anyhow, but it’s in those areas that Boris Johnson needs to convince his fellow MPs.

Boris could be a great Prime Minister. Or he could be a disaster. There are no shades of grey with Boris. He would be a very great risk, for a Tory Party which needs unity and direction. But it would be a wonderful period for people like me to cover!

Coming next: Theresa May

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EXCLUSIVE: Boris Aims To Sign Up 150 MPs to Blow Rivals Out of the Water

26 Jun 2016 at 11:49

I was watching Isabel Oakeshott declare on the Sunday Politics that the only leadership team not doing much this weekend was Boris Johnson’s. Oh how I laughed.

The fact of the matter is that Boris’s team have not only been very active, they are trying to sign up as many MPs to their cause as possible in order to put off rivals from even bothering to stand. It’s almost as if they are copying the hymn sheet of the David Davis campaign. Jesse Norman, Nadhim Zahawi and Ben Wallace are trawling all Tory MPs today and asking them if they will support the former mayor. I have no idea how successful they have been in their endeavours, but it has to be said that there are a fair number of Tory MPs who will vote for ABB – Anyone But Boris.

By my reckoning there are 20 Tory MPs who are considering launching a bid. It had been 19 until I heard of the – and I am going to be kind here – rather hopeful ambitions of George Freeman, the minister for life sciences. In the end, I am pretty sure it will boil down to a Boris v Theresa May fight, but as we all know in Tory leadership contests, the front runners rarely triumph. I think Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom have a good chance of breaking through, and if Michael Gove decides to stand he will also garner a fair few votes. My instinct is that Nicky Morgan will be the ‘continuity Cameron’ candidate, while George Osborne may well decide to throw his weight (and supporters) behind Boris or Theresa May depending on which one offers him something meaningful. His PPS spent yesterday sounding people out as to whether the Chancellor should run. I don’t know what he was told, but if MPs were being honest with him, many would have said not to bother. I understand that at least one senior minister, a surefire Osborne supporter, told Osborne’s PPS that he would now be backing Boris. It’s a fickle game, politics, and timing is everything. I fear this is not George Osborne’s time.

Over the next ten days I will be profiling all the potential leadership candidates and analysing their chances of success. Do check back in soon!

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WATCH: LBC's Seven Hour Long Referendum Night Show

25 Jun 2016 at 18:35

This is the video of LBC’s seven hour long Referendum Night show. For the first time we filmed and live-streamed the whole thing on our website via Youtube, and also Facebook Live. There are some quite amusing moments when some of us forgot we were on camera. The programme featured myself and Shelagh Fogarty as hosts and our rolling cast of panellists included Alex Salmond, David Davis, Liam Halligan, Brenda Kelly, Lord Robert Hayward, Alex Donoghue (Ladbrokes), Cordelia Hay (Britain Thinks), Chuka Umunna, Suzanne Evans, Paddy Ashdown and our correspondents around the country.

Thanks to our intrepid producers Matt Harris, Rachel Humphrys, Jagruti Dave, Axel Kacoutie and Chris Humphris.

We’ve had some wonderful comments on the show. Indeed, it’s a very rare occasion that you are part of a show that gets no negative comment on Twitter or Facebook whatsoever. We didn’t get everything right, but we took a light approach, didn’t bamboozle people with statistics. We tried to inform and entertain. For me that’s what a public service broadcaster is supposed to do. And I think we showed that politics and nights like this can be entertaining and dramatic.

Even if you can’t watch the whole 7 hours (and very few people will! I do recognise that) have a dip into it and see what you think. And if you like what you see, Shelagh Fogarty is on LBC 1-4 weekday afternoons and I’m on between 4 and 7pm.

PS The first two minutes, leading up to 10pm were prerecorded, so there are no pictures.

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ConHome Diary: Initial Thoughts on The Most Momentous Day in My Adult Political Life

24 Jun 2016 at 09:04

I sit here in my Leicester Square hotel room. It’s 6.34 in the morning on Friday and a new dawn has broken, has it not? I’ve just had the privilege of presenting LBC’s seven hour referendum results show. I ought to be dead on my feet but I’m not remotely tired. I feel a profound sense of excitement and anticipation. This is the most momentous domestic political event of my adult life. It is more significant than Margaret Thatcher’s election victory in 1979, or her defenestration in November 1990. It’s bigger than Black Wednesday. Or 7/7. The ramifications from today’s vote, both positive and negative, will be felt for generations to come.

I decided to vote Leave a long time ago. Having been a strong advocate of the European Community (as it then was) in the 1980s I even remember attending European Movement meetings in Norwich. I grew more and more disillusioned as I realised that the EU (as it then became) was grabbing ever more power for itself. When the euro was born, I finally realised that the endgame really was a United States of Europe. That was why I always told selection committees that if I ever voted for Britain to join the euro they should deselect me.
They saved themselves the trouble by not selecting me in the first place.

Up until today I have not for one moment regretted deciding to come off the Conservative Candidates list in 2010. But today I have a slight pang of what might have been. Being an MP over the next few years will be fascinating for those were lucky enough to be elected to the House of Commons. They will be at the centre of Britain reasserting itself as a fully independent nation.

A good friend of mine only decided how to vote when he entered the polling booth. After weeks of indecision, he voted Remain. He skyped me at around 3am saying: “I think I must have made the wrong decision, cos I keep cheering when leave gets in the lead and getting anxious when remain goes higher.” I didn’t feel that way. I did wonder how I would feel if it looked like a Brexit, but my reactions when the result became clearer merely confirmed that I was glad that I had voted how I did.

It’s been very frustrating that because of the ludicrous OfCom broadcasting regulations I haven’t been able to declare my hand until after voting had closed. Those who follow me on Twitter won’t have been under any illusion about how I had voted, even though I couldn’t say so in so many words. It’s ludicrous that on polling day that The Sun can tell its readers how to vote, yet I as a broadcaster aren’t even allowed to mention the referendum, let alone tell anyone how I had voted. It’s a mad system.

Sure there are going to be some bumps in the road. Sure it’s going to create havoc in the Conservative Party. But these are mere short term considerations. In the medium to long term I am absolutely convinced Britain has made absolutely the right decision.

In the end, the people have spoken. And it is down to the elected government to listen to the people. It is also up to the 75% of REMAIN supporting MPs to learn that the people have spoken. Any attempt to have a re-referendum or water down the ‘out’ to a ‘out but with a foot left in the door’ just will not do.

Those MPs who don’t have the stomach to make this work should depart the pitch now and let others take the country forward into this new era. Those who think they know better than the people who elect them need to face a reality check. When I saw Keith Vaz on TV basically saying that the people know not what they have done, and then when interviewing Vince Cable hearing him essentially calling the people ‘stupid’, I knew that we were about to say goodbye to a failing set of politicians who have let the people down.

The British people have voted for Brexit for a number of reasons. Europe has been its own worst enemy. The European Commission has been its own worst enemy. Supercilious Remain supporting politicians (and I don’t include them all) who keep banging on about being able to reform the EU from the inside never really believed it. And that’s another of the reasons why I supported LEAVE. The whole institution is unreformable. It’s dictatorial as the Greeks will tell anyone who cares to listen. It’s fundamentally undemocratic and I have the quaint view that we in Britain are better at deciding what’s good for us than unelected EU civil servants.

It’s now 7.43. I keep being interrupted by phone calls. The Prime Minister is expected to address the nation shortly, but it’s time to file this piece. There will be a lot of speculation about the Prime Minister’s future or lack of it. The same can be said for the Chancellor. The same Chancellor who told me on Monday that there were no Treasury plans for Brexit. In that one sentence he displayed such arrogance and a gross dereliction of duty. In some ways I hope he was lying to me. What a sad state of affairs.

The PM and Chancellor may stay in office. After all, Major and Lamont did following the Black Wednesday humiliation in 1992. But it can surely only be temporary. Whether Conservatives admit it or not, they know the Cameron era is all but over. They are looking for the next leader but there’s little agreement on who it should, or could be. I have two, possibly three, leading contenders.

But that’s for another day. I think.

PS: 9.02 – The PM has resigned. I missed it. I was asleep. Someone on Twitter reminds me of this tweet from 20 February…


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Britain Decides: Join Shelagh Fogarty & Me From 10 on LBC For Our Seven Hour Results Marathon

23 Jun 2016 at 11:36

What an important day today is. Will it be Independence Day or no change? I’ll be on air from 4 as usual, but due to ridiculous OfCom rules we can’t even mention the referendum without risking a fine. But the main event starts at 10pm when Shelagh Fogarty and I will be hosting LBC’s seven hour results programme. It promises to be a marathon. I hope you’ll join us for at least part of it. Nick Ferrari will take over at 5am. And then I will be back at 4pm on Friday. I suspect by 7pm on Friday I will be a tad knackered.

We have some cracking guests with us in the studio including Alex Salmond, David Davis, Chuka Umunna, Theresa Villiers, Suzanne Evans, Michael Cockerell, Paddy Ashdown, Brenda Kelly, Liam Halligan, Rob Hayward, Deborah Mattinson and many more. Ian Collins will be at the Manchester Count, Darren Adams will be in Scotland and we have reporters at all the regional counts. We’ll also get reaction from around the world to what’s happening as Britain makes its momentous decision.

If you’ve never listened to LBC or our election coverage before, I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s very different to the BBC. There are all sorts of ways you can listen…

In London on 97.3 FM
Throughout the UK on digital radio (DAB 1)
Sky Channel 0124
Virgin Media Channel 919
Freeview Channel 732
Freesat Channel 734
Via the LBC App for iPhone & Android
On our website lbc.co.uk

We will also be streaming the entire 7 hours in vision in HD on our website and also on Facebook Live, where you can comment on what we are doing as we go along.

Do join us.

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Attitude Column: Why I Love America

23 Jun 2016 at 09:36

I first went to the United States in the summer of 1987 and it’s been a love affair ever since. I feel in love with the country’s vastness, its variety and its people. I admire what it stands for, I admire its history and, yes, I admire its culture.

Because, you see, America may be a relatively young country but it does have a history and it does have an astonishing cultural heritage. Ignore the lazy thinking that portrays America is a cartoon country devoid of cultural seriousness. It is the country of Ernest Hemingway, Harper Lee, Tenessee Williams, F Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain and Edgar Allan Poe. I could go on.

Its hundreds of TV channels give the impression of a country happiest with the lowest common denominator, but imagine a TV world without such classics as Breaking Bad, 24, X-Files, Madmen, The Simpsons. West Wing, Twin Peaks, the Golden Girls – well, where do I stop. OK, At Dallas.

It’s a country which embraces immigrants from all over the world. It’s a country which truly believes in aspiration, in something called The American Dream, where you really do have an opportunity to rise to the top. Of course there are still massive social divisions, but there’s no class structure, the type of which still bedevils this country. You really can be a black boy from a poor ground and grow up to be President.

American attitudes to business and enterprise demonstrate why it remains the world’s most powerful and successful economy. In this country we look down on people who have a business failure in their history. In America, most successful business people have failed at least twice. There’s no envy of people who do well. Reveal that you’re a multi-millionaire and people think “hasn’t he done well, I want to do better.” In this country we revile people like that and look at their riches with pure, unadulterated envy.

America’s constitution, drafted more than two hundred years ago, has stood the test of time. The forefathers of today’s legal and political professions bequeathed a system which protects freedoms and rights like no other in the world.

Throughout my adult life, younger generations in Europe have been hugely critical of American foreign policy, judging it to be too interventionist and war-like. This is to misunderstand US motivations. There is little understanding that without American interventions in both the First and Second World Wars, we’d now be speaking in German in this country. We might like to think that “we” won both these wars, but “we” wouldn’t have had it not been for the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of brave young American soldiers, sailors and airmen. Had it not been for the United States role in standing up to the Soviet Union in the cold war, the only way it would have ended would have been for communism to triumph in western Europe.

Nowadays we judge American through the prism of its interventions in Afghanistan and more especially Iraq. Too many people have come to believe that the world would be a better place if America withdrew into its own borders and took up its more traditional isolationist stance. It’s a huge misjudgement. Without America, there will never be a successful middle eastern peace process. Without America Daesh/ISIS will never be defeated. The weakness of US foreign policy over the last eight years has allowed extremists like Daesh, Al Qaeda and Al Nusra to flourish throughout the middle east and north and eastern Africa. It is a failure of engagement that the world will have to confront over the next decade or so.

Despite the preferences of its core of religious fundamentalists the last two decades have seen huge advances in gay rights in the US, most recently with the Supreme Court judgement confirming that the constitution guarantees a right to gay marriage.

And finally, has there ever been a country (with the possible exception of the UK) which has bequeathed the world a more diverse collection of musicians and songs? Just imagine a world without Glen Miller, Elvis Presley, Jim Reeves, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Miles Davis, Billie Holliday, Bob Dylan, Louis Armstrong or Michael Jackson.

I rest my case.

This article first appeared in Attitude Magazine

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Attitude Column: Can I Persuade You to Become Gay?

22 Jun 2016 at 09:34

One of the questions gay people are often asked is “if you could be turned straight, would you want to be?” My reply is to counter the question with another question: “if you could be turned gay, would you want to be?” Answer comes there none. It’s a preposterous question, assuming one believes that there is a so-called ‘gay gene’ and that we’re all born the way we are.

Trouble is, there are still a huge number of people who believe that being gay is something we choose, or something we’re persuaded into. I get this often on my radio show. I usually ask the people who vehemently believe this whether they could themselves ever be ‘persuaded’ to be gay. “Of course not,” they splutter in indignation. “Well if you couldn’t be persuaded, why do you think anyone else could be?” Again, answer comes there none. Mostly.

I also ask these people why I would have chosen to be gay when my life might well have been much more straightforward and without complications if I had been straight and lived a straight lifestyle. Why would I choose to be something which attracts discrimination, bullying, insults and sniggering? Why? If we believe in the concept of ‘natural choice’ and believe that logic plays a part in our decisions, who, in their right mind would choose a lifestyle which is still seen by many as abhorrent? Far easier to fit into the mainstream.

I should make clear at this point that I regret nothing about being gay. I’m not one of those tortured self-loathing gays who think life is against them because of their inclinations. I’m proud of who I am and what I have done in my life. I am proud that I have married my partner and that last year we celebrated a twenty-year long relationship. Yes, it can be done!
If I could have had my life over again, and if the option were available to me, would I have chosen to be straight? I don’t have a yes/no answer to that question, but I err strongly on the side of ‘no’. In the end I don’t think there’s much point in speculating about it. For me it’s maybe simpler than for others as I have never wanted children. Workwise I only ever had two ambitions – to be an MP and to be a radio presenter. I am as sure as I can be that if I hadn’t been gay I would have achieved the former, but being gay has neither been an advantage or a disadvantage in the latter. But I have absolutely no regrets. By declaring I was gay to various selection committees I blazed a trail for others. It wasn’t something I really gave a lot of thought to until someone came up to me at a Tory conference and said thanks for making it easier for him and others.

Anyway, all this is building up to a plea to the government. A couple of years ago Amy Lame and I were doing a newspaper review on Sky News. Somehow we got to talking about gay conversion therapy. I suggested we should both go to the USA and offer ourselves to a gay conversion clinic and do an undercover documentary about it. We never did anything about it, but I wish we had because these clinics prey on the weak and the vulnerable and need to be closed down.

Nicky Morgan, the Education and Equalities Minister, has said that she wants to eradicate them, but at the time of writing these are just words. She said at the end of last year: “I was shocked to discover that one in 10 social and healthcare staff have heard colleagues express the belief that someone can be cured of being gay. Let me be clear: gay cure therapies have no place in our countries and we must stamp them out.”

Many people attend these clinics under pressure from their parents. You can’t necessarily put all the blame on the parents, who of often believe they are doing the best for their child. They do it out of both love and ignorance. They don’t realise the people who run them are quacks.

So yes, Nicky Morgan, fine words. But in 2016 they need to be turned into action.

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