6 Feb 2015 at 14:29
I suspect I am alone here, but I did feel a twinge of sympathy for Ed Balls this week after forgetting the surname of a man he had just spent the evening with at a Labour fundraising dinner, and who runs Labour’s Small Business Advisory Group. I couldn’t believe it became such a huge story in the media. We’ve all done it, haven’t we? I was interviewing someone the other day and I went to thank them at the end of the interview, but my mind drew a complete blank. Luckily I had a screen in front of me with their name on. But the serious point here is that we have such an unforgiving media nowadays and that it isn’t willing to cut politicians any slack for even the slightest apparent gaffe. Ed Balls laughed it off, but if I know him, he will have been distraught at the coverage his moment of forgetfulness generated. You could say that it was typical of a Labour politician to treat business with such contempt and it shows how much importance they place on business, but in Ed Balls’ case, it’s just not true. Unlike some of his colleagues, he actually understands how business operates and isn’t anti-business in any shape or form. Pity he can’t persuade some of his more zealous colleagues. Eh, Mr Miliband?
After Lord Ashcroft’s poll in Scotland I think I might have to go back to my Scottish constituency predictions and revise them. His stats were incredible and confirmed what all the other polls have been showing for some time, that Labour is disintegrating and the SNP is on the march. Even Wee Dougie is predicted to lose his seat, along with his LibDem namesake Danny. Quite astonishing. Of course, what this means is that it’s almost impossible for Labour to gain a majority in May and makes the chances of the Tories remaining the largest party all that more likely. Labour is now adopting the strategy of telling people to vote SNP and get Cameron. It has the merit of being true, but I doubt it will cut through among all their ex working class supporters who have deserted them in droves since September last year. Jim Murphy must wonder what on earth he has let himself in for.
Reading Louise Casey’s report on child sexual abuse in Rotherham isn’t for the faint-hearted. It’s hard to know where to start analysing what went wrong there, but one thing is for sure, it is yet another example of councillors failing to hold their officers to account. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised, though. There are very few councillors who are in any way qualified to oversee child protection, or indeed many other things. That’s not to say there aren’t many qualified and competent councillors, but there are too many who no one would think of putting in charge of a whelk stall, let alone a Childrens’ Services Department of a local authority. I have no hesitation in admitting that if I were put in that position I’d be totally out of my depth. There are also still too many people who think it’s wrong to point out that 98% of the perpetrators of these vile acts were from a Pakistani muslim background. I am sure that virtually every other Pakistani muslim will be as horrified by that fact as the rest of us are, but we can’t ignore that uncomfortable fact. The trouble is, no one seems able to explain it, either. But let’s also point out that in virtually all the cases of historic child sex abuse we are talking about white, middle class and upper class males as the perpetrators too.
And let’s not beat around the bush. If this sort of thing has been uncovered in places like Rotherham, Luton, Oldham and Rochdale, you can bet your bottom dollar that it is going on in many other towns across the country too. This is surely only the tip of the iceberg.
So, a Survation constituency poll in Sheffield Hallam predicts that Nick Clegg is on course to lose his seat to Labour. This ought to be of great concern to the Conservative Party, bearing in mind it was a Tory seat not that long ago. Anyone remember Irvine Patnick? Surely it ought to be the Conservatives challenging here, not Labour? It’s a sign that the Conservative Party’s problems in our big industrial cities are still there and haven’t been addressed properly.
I was very sorry to hear of the death of Sir Martin Gilbert, one of the best historians of his generation. The great thing about being a historian is that you live on through your books. People will be reading his magnificent books on the Second World War and Winston Churchill in two hundred years’ time. I’m not sure that many people will still be reading my collection of Bill Clinton jokes then…
I’ve just published by seat by seat predictions as an eBook, which you can order for just £1.59. It was a commenter on this column (yes, I do read the comments!) who gave me the idea. You can download it from Amazon or Politicos via THIS LINK ].