As I write this I am watching a recording of Michael Gove’s appearance in front of a Question Time audience. One of the questioners was a young woman who asked him about a book he had written more than ten years ago in which he supported an insurance based NHS. This came from an accusation from Sir John Major in an interview with Andrew Marr in which he accused Gove of wanting to privatise the NHS. We keep being asked for the “facts” in this debate. Well let me give them to you. This book was called A BLUE TOMORROW: ESSAYS FORMODERN CONSERVATIVES. It was published by me, or rather by my then company Politico’s Publishing, in 2001. It was edited by Nicholas Boles and Michael Gove. Edited, not written. It consisted of 21 essays. Not one of the them was written by Michael Gove. The chapter on the health service was written by Justine Greening. It says nothing about funding the NHS through an insurance based system. Instead it says: “Funding should be continued via the taxation system.” I trust that clears it up. And gives you the “facts”.
On Tuesday I was supposed to be interviewing George Osborne for half an hour, but unfortunately at the last minute he had to pull out and will now be appearing on my show early next week. Nicky Morgan stepped into the breach, but was on a difficult wicket. She was sent into bat to defend George Osborne’s so-called “Punishment Budget”. Now I often have to interview people I know and who may also be personal friends. I wasn’t looking forward to this as Nicky falls into that category. But I knew I’d be letting my listeners down if I didn’t give her a proper grilling. I usually think a conversational approach to interviewing is the better approach, but there are sometimes you have to go for the jugular in order to test the argument. As you will see from the video, this was one of those occasions. Nicky, however, retained her cool at all times and didn’t allow me to rile her to put her off her stride. Having said that, I found many of her answers on the “Punishment Budget” entirely unconvincing. Defending a line is one thing. Defending the indefensible is another.
Since my last column the polls have moved decisively in favour of LEAVE. I still don’t think LEAVE supporters should be too euphoric about that. In the last few days of any campaign there is always a move back to the status quo, and I don’t think this referendum will be any different. The result is on a knife-edge and that should mean a very high turnout. Predicting this referendum is a mug’s game, and I’m not going to predict the result but I do think the turnout will be around 75%. If it’s less than 70% you have to ask what on earth would shake the British public out of their electoral stupor.
So Sir Cliff Richard becomes the latest well known person to be cleared of any historic sexual abuse allegations. Any police officer with half a brain could have realised for day one that the allegations were preposterous and fantastical. Yet this has dragged on for 22 months putting Cliff through untold anguish. The police should be ashamed of the way they conduct these sort of inquiries. Having published books by Paul Gambaccini and Harvey Proctor I know in great detail the disgusting way they operate. It’s just not British.
So what are the odds of David Cameron being Prime Minister at the end of the month? I have never seen the Tory Party split as much as it is at the moment. People are openly laughing at and ridiculing David Cameron and George Osborne. This is not a good place to be. It’s almost as if they are saying to people “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough”. I’m coming to the view that whatever the result of the referendum, there will probably be 50 letters going into Graham Brady. Too many people have been antagonised. If Remain win, I think it is possible for David Cameron to win a vote of confidence but I suspect the margin of victory would be less than that achieved by John Major against John Redwood in 1995. But if Leave win, then I think all bets are off. I cannot see how David Cameron stays. Even the likes of Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith say that he should stay and see through our exit from the EU, but I just cannot see how this is realistic or possible. If Leave win I’d expect David Cameron to resign on Friday or Saturday, but stay on as Prime Minister until a new leader is elected. And that new leader needs to be elected quickly. This might well necessitate a party rule change. But that maybe an argument for another day.
See you on the other side.
Referendum night should be quite something. I’ll be co-presenting LBC’s extravaganza with Shelagh Fogarty. We’ll be joined by Alex Salmond and David Davis for the first few hours. No one really knows when the results will start to trickle into the Count Centre in Manchester, so there’ll be quite a lot of chatting. Unlike other results programmes we will also be involving our listeners in the programme. You’ll also be able to watch it via the LBC website or the LBC Facebook Live page.