Diary

Attitude Column: I'm Just Sooooo Offended!

7 Jul 2016 at 09:40

“I’ve never been so offended in all my life.” How many times have we heard that increasingly irritating phrase in recent times? Being offended has almost become a national sport in this country. The slightest off colour remark can provoke howls of outrage from people who ought to know better. There’s no law to protect people from being offended, and nor should there be if we value free speech.

I doubt there’s a gay man or woman in existence who hasn’t been offended by an homophobic remark that they have been the target of or they’ve heard. But most of us get over it. We shake our heads in sadness that there are still bigots out there, we may sometimes to try educate people out of their ways but in the end we put it down to experience and move on.
In the end we have to make a differentiation between freedom of speech and hate speech. On my LBC radio show I often get a torrent of texts and tweets from people who don’t approve of my lifestyle. I’d love to think there will come a day when this sort of thing doesn’t happen, but I doubt whether I will live to see it. Perhaps I have become immune to it, but none of it offends or upsets me. It just makes me a bit sad. All I can do in my job, is do it to the best of my ability. I always say to people who describe me as a ‘gay radio presenter’ that I’m not. I am a radio presenter who happens to be gay. I don’t resile from my sexuality. It is a part of who I am, but it doesn’t define me or what I do.

Only once have I thought a caller to my show went beyond the norm of what was within the bounds of free speech. She was a muslim who actively supported ISIS killing gay people by throwing them off buildings. What on earth do you say to someone like that? She was 22. I told her that her parents should be ashamed of themselves for bringing her up with that short of set of beliefs. Several of my callers told me I should have reported her to the Police. I suppose what she said was allowable within the bounds of free speech, but clearly many of my listeners were offended. It’s very rare that anyone makes homophobic remarks on air, but on twitter and text it’s quite common.

I could spend most of my life being offended if I wanted to, but in the end, life is too short. The very uttering of the phrase “I find that offensive” effectively means that you want to silence the person who has supposedly offended you. Jews, muslims, gays and feminists may not have much in common but they are often on the same page in demanding retribution in the form of bans, penalties and censorship of those who supposedly hurt their feelings.

I say, grow up. People have died so we can retain some semblance of freedom of speech. Each time politicians pass laws which impinge on freedom of speech a small part of democracy dies.

I’ve just published a short polemical book by Claire Fox, one of the stars of The Moral Maze called “I Find That Offensive”. Anyone who things laws banning offensive remarks are a good idea should read it. Fox takes on those who seem to regard taking offence as a professional pastime. She concludes that we should make a virtue out of the right to offend.
I mean, we’ve even got to the point where students – poor dears – have become obsessed by the idea of ‘safe spaces’, where no one can say anything which another might take exception to. In some universities LGBT students are even demanding LGBT only accommodation. Utter idiocy. What a great way to build more barriers and for gay people to become more isolated. Let’s go the whole hog and have student accommodation blocks only for muslims. Or only for Asians. Total madness.

Tell you what, if I were straight or white, I’d find that damned offensive. And you see, therein lies the conundrum.

This article first appeared in Attitude Magazine

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Why I Feel Duped Over Iraq and Why Chilcot Isn't a Whitewash

6 Jul 2016 at 13:11

In twenty short but utterly devastating minutes Sir John Chilcot laid bare the errors of judgement, the errors of policy and errors of implementation that led to what I am now content to say was Britain’s biggest foreign policy misjudgement since Suez.

At the time, I believed in it. I supported the invasion of Iraq. Like many others, I was duped. I was duped because I chose to believe my Prime Minister when he said that he had access to intelligence that I did not. I believe his assessment of that intelligence. Call me a fool if you like, but if we have reached a stage in our public discourse when I, as a citizen of this country, can’t believe the word of our prime minister on matters of intelligence, then we have reached a pretty pass.

Sir John tells us that Tony Blair told George Bush 8 months before the invasion that he would be with him “whatever”. That one small word is a word which a responsible British prime minister would never utter. I am a strong supporter of the transatlantic alliance but the only way a politician utters such a word is when he is a supplicant.

Staying close to a US president to influence him is maybe a good thing. But when that influence translates into supplicancy it leads to the kind of report we have heard today. We also learnt that the UK government went to war without exploring all peaceful means for resolving the conflict. Perhaps Margaret Thatcher could have been accused of that in the Falklands, but that was a war protecting the interests of British people. Was this? Not when we are told that Mr Blair was warned about the terrorist consequences of military action.

Chilcot maintains that policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed assessments of intelligence – the intelligence services weren’t challenged and they should have been. Members of the cabinet did not even question Blair, according to Sir John Chilcot. What kind of supplicant cabinet did we have if they didn’t even question the intelligence of Blair’s conclusions? Sir John accuses Blair of claiming Saddam Hussein had WMD with a certainty that was not justified. That’s the closes he came to accusing Blair of lying.

No one can accuse Sir John Chilcot’s report of being a whitewash. No one can say it’s an establishment stitch up. It is neither of these things. It is a devastating analysis of the failure of the entire British government system and British foreign policy. And I say this only knowing the main conclusions it draws. I say this without having read the executive summary let alone the full 2.6 million words. Those responsible for these failures – and I am talking primarily about Tony Blair and Jack Straw – need to acknowledge their failures and give sincere apologies for their actions. Perhaps then the families of the 179 servicemen and women who died can find it in themselves, maybe not to forgive them, but to have a better understanding of why the politicians acted in the way that they did.

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Conservative Leadership Runners & Riders: LIAM FOX

4 Jul 2016 at 23:19

FULL NAME: Liam Fox
BORN: 22 September 1961, East Kilbride
AGE: 54
EDUCATION: St Brides High School, University of Glasgow Medical School
STATUS: Married to Jesme Baird
FIRST ELECTED: 1992
CONSTITUENCY: Woodspring, North Somerset
EXPERIENCE: Government Whip 1993-6, Foreign Office Minister 1996-7, Shadow Cabinet 1998-2010 including Health, Party Chairman and Defence. Secretary of State for Defence May 2010-October 2011.
OTHER EXPERIENCE: General Practitioner 1983-92
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: “Is the flight to Washington on time?”
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY: “We’re spending far too much money on defence.”
FAMOUS QUOTES: “The era of nuclear terrorism has arrived.” “If Iran becomes a nuclear weapon state it is the end of non-proliferation as we know it.” “New Labour was the most short-sighted, self-serving, incompetent, useless, and ineffective government that Britain has ever known. Make no mistake, Labour’s economic policies were a national security liability.”
STRENGTHS: Ideological certainty, public speaking, experience, foreign policy knowledge
WEAKNESSES: Memories of his resignation, lack of public supporters among MPs
MAIN ADVISERS: David Goss
MAIN ALLIES: Robert Goodwill, Sir Gerald Howarth
LADBROKES ODDS: 100/1

SCOREBOARD

Experience: 6.8
Negotiating Skills: 6.0
Star Quality: 5.0
Likeability: 5.2
Ability to take the fight to Labour: 6.3
Economic Competence: 5.8
Intellectual Capacity: 6.6
Ability to Unite the Country: 4.5
Ability to Unite the Party: 5.3
Integrity: 5.2
Courage: 6.0
Leadership: 5.1
National Appeal: 5.2
International Experience: 6.5

OVERALL RATING OUT OF 100: 56.8

The panel scored Liam Fox fairly low compared to the other candidates. He didn’t come first in a single category but was a narrow second on international experience.

MY ANALYSIS

At the end of the 2005 leadership contest, Liam Fox had outperformed expectations. Indeed, everyone felt he was unlucky to finish third. Since his resignation as Defence Secretary on October 2011 he has played his cards well, and has been unlucky not to be recalled to the Cabinet. He also fought a good referendum and appeared the voice of sweet calmness and reason compared to the Project Fear approach of many of his colleagues.

When he first mooted he might run for the leadership most commentators imagined he might do quite well, even if he didn’t win. Unfortunately he has been overtaken by events. He planned to launch his campaign last Friday but in the end this proved impossible amid the Boris/Gove farrago. When he launched today, he disappeared beneath all the fuss about Andrea Leadsom and Nigel Farage’s resignation.

So far he has attracted only nine MPs to his cause. While he will score higher than that in the first ballot, his challenge will be enough to stay in the race.

Read my other profiles…

Theresa May
Andrea Leadsom
Michael Gove
Stephen Crabb

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Conservative Leadership Runners & Riders: MICHAEL GOVE

4 Jul 2016 at 10:57

FULL NAME: Michael Gove
BORN: 26 August 1967, Edinburgh
AGE: 48
EDUCATION: Robert Gordon’s College, Aberdeen. Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. 2-1 degree in English.
STATUS: Married to Sarah Vine, 2 children
FIRST ELECTED: 2005
CONSTITUENCY: Surrey Heath
EXPERIENCE: Secretary of State for Education 2010-14, Chief Whip 2014-15, Lord Chancellor 2015-
OTHER EXPERIENCE: Aberdeen Press & Journal 1989-96, The Times 1996-2005
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: “I will never stand for the party leadership.”
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY: "I will never stand for the party leadership.
FAMOUS QUOTES: “You wouldn’t tolerate an underperforming surgeon in an operating theatre, or a underperforming midwife at your child’s birth. Why is it that we tolerate underperforming teachers in the classroom?” “It’s often the case that successful people invite criticism.” “I remember my mum explaining to me what adoption meant when I was still at primary school. ‘Son,’ she said to me, ‘you didn’t grow under my heart, you grew in it’.”
STRENGTHS: Politeness, calmness, ideological certainty, conviction, radicalness
WEAKNESSES: Seen as a backstabber, Neocon views on foreign policy, geekiness
MAIN ADVISERS: Dominic Cummings, Henry Cook, Henry Newman
MAIN ALLIES: Nicholas Boles, Dominic Raab, Ed Vaizey
LADBROKES ODDS: 12/1

SCOREBOARD

Experience: 7.7
Negotiating Skills: 7.3
Star Quality: 7.3
Likeability: 6.6
Ability to take the fight to Labour: 8.0
Economic Competence: 6.8
Intellectual Capacity: 8.2
Ability to Unite the Country: 6.4
Ability to Unite the Party: 6.7
Integrity: 8.5
Courage: 9.3
Leadership: 7.4
National Appeal: 6.0
International Experience: 5.5

Before Boris dropped out of the contest Michael Gove has the second best overall rating. He beats all the other declared candidates in the following categories: Ability to take the fight to Labour, Intellectual capacity, Integrity, Courage & Leadership skills. However, these scores were all given before the Boris defenestration.

OVERALL RATING OUT OF 100: 72.6

MY ANALYSIS

In one act of political ruthlessness Michael Gove transformed his reputation from the politest, nicest person in British politics, to Ed Miliband on steroid. The Conservative Party doesn’t forgive treachery very easily, and certainly not very quickly, so if Michael Gove overcomes his act of regicide on Boris Johnson and goes on to win the leadership contest, it will be not only a massive surprise, but one of the greatest comebacks in a generation.

Michael Gove has consistently said he doesn’t have the qualities to be leader. I have always disagreed with him. He may not have the charisma of Nigel Farage, but he knows his own mind and has clear convictions which he is able to articulate very well. He has shown political bravery and courage at the Department of Education and Ministry of Justice and is a reformer, with a huge degree of success. He has also shown himself willing to take political risks.

Had Michael Gove announced his leadership campaign on his own terms and gone his own way the day after the referendum, I have little doubt he would be vying to be the main candidate to beat Boris Johnson. The way events have turned out, he is going to find it a massive challenge to get into the final two – and even if he does, Theresa May looks almost unassailable now. But in these turbulent times, no one should discount anything.

Read my other profiles

Theresa May
Andrea Leadsom
Stephen Crabb
Liam Fox

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WATCH: My Analysis of the Tory Leadership on the Andrew Marr Paper Review

3 Jul 2016 at 16:19

So there I was last night, sitting on the sofa in Norfolk watching Germany win yet another penalty shootout and I get a text from Rob Burley asking if I could do the paper review on the Andrew Marr Show this morning. Someone had dropped out at the last minute – someone, shall we say, with an intimate knowledge of Boris. Now I have a rule. If Andrew Marr asks, I say yes. It’s the show to be on on a Sunday morning. It’s got a huge audience and virtually every opinion former worth their salt tunes in. In short, you’re mad to turn it down. However, when I got up at 4.45am and set out on the two and a half hour drive I must admit to wondering what on earth I was doing.

I was on with Phil Collins from The Times and Corbynista, Rachel Shabi. I’m not sure it was one of my better performances, to be honest. I always find it difficult when there are three paper reviewers rather than two because inevitably everyone is competing for time, which doesn’t really happen when there are two of you. I had so much more to say on the Tory leadership contest, but there just wasn’t time. Anyway, see what you think.

Video hattip @liarpoliticians

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My 'Take of the Week' for THIS WEEK: The Gove/Boris Fallout

2 Jul 2016 at 15:00

Over the years I have appeared many times on the Daily Politics, but never This Week. If I am honest, it rankled a bit and I had always wondered why. It’s funny because everyone, including members of the This Week production team, seemed to think I had been on many times.

Anyway on Thursday afternoon I was preparing for my LBC show when the phone rang. It was a very nice This Week producer who said that given the events of the morning (Gove had ratted on Boris) their plans had been thrown up in the air and they wondered if I would like to make the Take of the Week film and appear live on the programme with Andrew Neil, Michael Portillo and Alan ‘AJ’ Johnson. I decided that on balance I would!

I explained my take on the Boris/Gove fallout and the kind of thing I’d want to say, but also that I couldn’t start doing the film until after my show finished at 7pm – would that be a problem? In the end it turned out not to be and sure enough, just before 7pm the crew turned up at the LBC studio. It took about ninety minutes to do the filming, which was mainly my fault as I couldn’t remember my lines and we had to do lots of retakes!

After we finished, I grabbed a bite to eat then headed over to The Shard to do a turn on Al Jazeera English with Lauren Taylor for their 10pm news programme. Their studios are quite something – far more glitzy than their competitors.

I arrived at the BBC Millbank studios at 10.45 and had a good chinwag with Alan Johnson, one of the nicest people active in politics today. Eventually Michael Portillo arrived in what I can only describe as his ‘elf suit’. Watch the video and you’ll see why. I said that no man of a certain age should appear in public in red trousers. Alan Johnson disagreed. He reckoned no man of any age should appear in them. A fair point. Over the next few minutes David Starkey, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh and Rachel Shabia turned up.

My section was the first on the show so I was soon taken through to the studio, the same one that they film The Daily Politics in. I was delighted how the film turned out. I joked to Andrew Neil half way through that I hadn’t realised the BBC now allowed advertising and product placement. Watch it and you will see what I meant! If LBC had had to buy the advertising in that piece I imagine it would have cost several hundred thousand pounds.

The ensuing discussion was rather longer than they normally allow and was very enjoyable. I thought I might be a bit nervous, but I suppose because I know this subject I inside out, I wasn’t. You can watch the discussion for yourself so I won’t bother rehearsing it here.

And then it was done. I walked out of 4 Millbank to be driven home. There was a phalanx of Mercedes E Class cars waiting. Great, I thought. I won’t have to suffer a Prius. I was wrong. I got a Prius. Obviously cost cutting at the BBC, which, of course, I have to approve of. Even when I’m the victim! Lol.

Andrew Neil tweeted the following morning that the programme attracted a record audience of 1.23 million viewers, which is remarkable when you think the show started five minutes late because Question Time overran. Naturally I take full credit!

Video hattip @liarpoliticians

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Conservative Politics

Conservative Leadership Runners & Riders: STEPHEN CRABB

30 Jun 2016 at 14:00

FULL NAME: Stephen Crabb
BORN: January 20 1973, Inverness
AGE: 43
EDUCATION: University of Bristol, London Business School
STATUS: Married to Beatrice Monnier, 2 children
FIRST ELECTED: 2005
CONSTITUENCY: Preseli, Pembrokeshire
EXPERIENCE: Junior whip 2010-2012, Welsh Office Minister 2012-14, Secretary of State for Wales 2014-16, Secretary of State for Work & Pensions 2016-
OTHER EXPERIENCE: 199506 Intern, Christian Action Research & Education, 1996-8 National Council for Voluntary Youth Services, 1998-2002 London Chamber of Commerce, 2002-5 Marketing Consultant.
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: “I grew up in a council house and had a state school education.”
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY: “No Boris, whatever job you offer me I still won’t stand down in your favour.”
FAMOUS QUOTES: “Worklessness and dependency is a curse on the Welsh economy.” “When people talk about hard choices between heating or eating or buying clothes, I know what it’s like.” "The huge strategic error that Labour made was equating compassion with how high your spending figures were for welfare.”
STRENGTHS: Fresh face, Blank canvas, Speaking style, Back story
WEAKNESSES: Bearded face, Relatively unknown, alleged controversial views on gay issues
MAIN ADVISERS: Unknown
MAIN ALLIES: Jeremy Wright, Sajid Javid,
LIKELY TO STAND: 100%, already announced
LADBROKES ODDS: 8/1

SCOREBOARD

Experience: 4.5
Negotiating Skills: 5.0
Star Quality: 4.5
Likeability: 5.9
Ability to take the fight to Labour: 5.5
Economic Competence: 6.3
Intellectual Capacity: 5.6
Ability to Unite the Country: 5.6
Ability to Unite the Party: 5.9
Integrity: 5.8
Courage: 4.5
Leadership: 4.9
National Appeal: 5.3
International Experience: 3.2

Stephen Crabb scores relatively lowly in all categories. He only beats Theresa May on likeability. Against Andrea Leadsom he wins in no category. Against Boris Johnson he is tied on ability to unite the party,

OVERALL RATING OUT OF 100: 51.8

MY ANALYSIS

Stephen Crabb is a surprise entrant into this leadership contest. Some say he’s just putting down a marker, but in his own mind he will be in it to win it. There’s a touch of the John Majors about him, and not just because of his background. He’s an engaging politician, not afraid to display a sense of humour and to indulge in self-deprecation.

His challenge is to move beyond his backstory. He can’t just run as a Sadiq Khan soundalike, and count on his council house background to win it for him. There needs to be more to him than that. His launch pitch was quite alluring, but there were too many soundbites and now he has to provide the policy ballast to back them up. Trouble is, he’s only got a few days to do it.

He also remains dogged by his association with a group which advocates ‘gay cure’ therapy. No one can find a quote where he’s ever shown any sympathy for this, but gay pressure groups eagerly point out his vote against equal marriage. This won’t cost him much support in the parliamentary party, but if he gets to the final two, then it’s something he will have to address.

He is a devout Christian and not afraid to talk about it. This will no doubt make some people uncomfortable, but it highlights that he is very different to the rest of the lineup.
So far he has 20 declared MPs supporting him – not a bad total at all. This might indicate a final vote of 40 or 50, which would be very encouraging for him. His initial aim must be to knock Liam Fox off the ballot in the first round of voting – ironic, given that he was a supporter of Fox in 2005. But if he is to continue into the second round he will need to be confident of coming third in the next round. Otherwise there would be little point in continuing.

My other profiles can be read by clicking on these links…

Theresa May
Andrea Leadsom

Coming next: Dr Liam Fox

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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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Conservative Politics

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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