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Westlake Legal Group > Friday Diary

Iain Dale: Frost’s address on Brexit is just as important as were Thatcher’s words at Bruges

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

Congratulations to Jackson Carlaw for becoming leader of the Scottish Conservative Party. It’s without doubt one of the most demanding jobs in British politics.

And what an act he has to follow. When Ruth Davidson became leader of the party in Scotland, no one rated her chances of success. She was a ‘rookie’. A ‘political knave’. She lacked experience.

Well, everyone was wrong. She was an outstanding success who grabbed the party by the scruff its neck and gave it a good shake. She took the Conservatives to a level of electoral representation they had previously only dreamed of. Their opinion poll ratings are still far higher than anyone could have expected at the time.

So Carlaw starts his tenure with a fantastic legacy. He may not have the charisma of Davidson, but he’s a formidable debator and operator and like his predecessor, her should not be underestimated.

If I were him, I’d do two things. Firstly, do everything to go after the Labour unionist vote and, secondly, articulate the case for the Union better than anyone else.

It’s no good just slagging off the SNP or just undermining their case; Unionists need to win hearts and minds by being positive about Scotland’s role in the UK. And I say this as someone who not wholly opposed to independence for Scotland.

– – – – – – – – – –

Whatever you think about Priti Patel’s new immigration policy, I do not understand why a succession of Government ministers have not been not flooding the nation’s airwaves explaining how the new system is going to work, and why it’s right for the country.

All we had yesterday was Patel doing a morning round – excluding The Today Programme and Good Morning Britain, natch.

The media world has changed. There are many more outlets now, and they all need to be serviced. The Home Office has seven ministers. They should all have been out there selling the policy on any show that would have them.

Instead, so far as I know, only Patel did any interviews at all (though I stand to be corrected). If Ministers aren’t going to explain their policies on the nation’s airwaves, who do they think will do it for them? Message discipline is all very well, but there has to be someone to promulgate that message.

– – – – – – – – – –

Hands up if you’ve read David Frost’s speech in Brussels. If not, do yourself a favour and do so. Future historians will look back on it and regard it as just as significant as Margaret Thatcher’s 1988 Bruges speech.

t’s actually a speech that Boris Johnson should have made, and quite why cameras weren’t allowed to film it, God only knows. It articulated the Government’s plans for a post-Brexit Britain better than anyone else has done. It set down its approach to the free trade deal negotiations in a way that that no one could misunderstand. It set some red lines which Brussels will actually believe we won’t cross.

And if they don’t believe in them, well, yet again they may be in for a big surprise. Barnier and his little helpers are tying themselves up in knots with their utter hypocrisy over their about turn on offering us a Canadian-style deal, and they think we can’t see it.

It’s obvious that both sides do a lot of chest-beating at the start of any negotiation, so this one is no different. There will be an element of compromise on both sides but one thing I don’t see Johnson’s government compromising on is the notion of regulatory alignment. If Britain doesn’t have the right to make its own laws after Brexit and is obliged to mirror EU legislation, despite having no input into its drafting, we might as well not have left.

That doesn’t mean that regulatory equivalence on some (but not all) issues isn’t something that we shouldn’t consider. One other red line that must not be crossed is the arbitration method for resolving disputes. This cannot involve the European Court. The EU has arbitration methods with Canada and Japan which do not involve the supremacy of the European Court. Canada wouldn’t stand for it. Japan wouldn’t stand for it. Nor will we.

The grandstanding of Barnier on proximity demonstrates their fear that Britain will outcompete the EU on the world stage. And they will use any means – fair or foul – to prevent that from happening. Reading David Frost’s speech, it is clear to me that he understand that.

This site has the full text of David Frost’s speech. It’s well worth your time reading it. Once you’ve done so, spread the word on social media about its brilliance.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Reshuffle 2) Iain Dale: It’s a scandal that Housing is now on its tenth Minister in ten years.

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

It seems that the estimable Editor of this fine organ was the only one to foresee the departure of Sajid Javid as chancellor. That’s why he’s on the big bucks. Clearly, Boris Johnson and his team thought that Sajid Javid would cave – just as all the other Ministers did who have been threatened with losing their special advisors.

This is one of those occasions where it’s entirely possible to see both sides of the argument. If I had been Javid, I’d like to think I’d have done the same thing.

But on the other hand, and from Number Ten’s point of view, they want to avoid the Prime Minister-Chancellor rows that have bedevilled various administrations over the years.

We remember the TeeBeeGeeBees of the Tony Blair government. Some of us recall how Margaret Thatcher’s government was partially destroyed by the breakdown between her and her chancellor, Nigel Lawson, over the role of Sir Alan Walters.  And we remember the fallout between Theresa May and her advisers and Philip Hammond and his.

So I get it. I really do. But of course the writeups in all the papers this morning are no doubt all about how Dominic Cummings has triumphed over Javid and his supposed ally, Carrie Symonds.

The pundits will be using phrases like “Classic Dom”. Iain Martin from Reaction commented in a tweet yesterday afternoon that, in the latest piece of reshuffle news, “Boris Johnson has accepted the role of deputy prime minister”. Lols.

The new Number 10 /Treasury liaison unit needs to be staffed very carefully, mindful of the fact that the new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, cannot be allowed to be portrayed as a supplicant. I hope it’s headed up by Eddie Lister. He’s a natural conciliator.

– – – – – – – – – –

The success of this cabinet will depend in large part on which ministers can pull alongside Michael Gove – and earn the description of being ‘transformational’. They all have the opportunity to do it, but which are most likely to succeed?

I have very high hopes of Alok Sharma, the new Business Secretary. He comes into the department with very little baggage and the full backing of the Prime Minister.

Brandon Lewis in Northern Ireland has a huge opportunity to build on Julian Smith’s legacy. Sometimes it pays to be in the right place at the right time. Lewis is a natural coalition builder, and I suspect Northern Ireland will take to him in a way that it hasn’t with some others.

Grant Shapps is building a very positive reputation at Transport and the fate of the Government will depend in some part on his ability to juggle the various transport priorities.

George Eustice at DEFRA has a huge opportunity to make a big impact, but needs to look to Gove as his example. He transformed that department.

But it is Therese Coffey and Matt Hancock, survivors of the shuffle, who have the biggest opportunities to be transformational – Coffey in the field of universal credit and Hancock on social care. I wish them all luck.

– – – – – – – – – –

Reshuffles are a time when old scores can be settled, not just by the Prime Minister of the day, but also by his advisers and by other ministers. Some sackings appear at first sight utterly incomprehensible, but dig a little deeper and there’s always a reason.

Take the case of Nus Ghani, a Transport Minister until yesterday, She was one of the few Jeremy Hunt supporters to survive the cull in when Boris Johnson appointed his first government in July. It could be that she crept under the wire and no one had spotted her support for Hunt.

Unlikely, though. So was her dismissal because she was an incompetent minister? My friends in the Transport sector thought she was rather good in dealing with them in the maritime and aviation sectors. It is possible, I suppose, that a senior Minister put the black spot on her (and indeed on another Transport junior minister, George Freeman).

All in all, it seems very odd to sack a young, BAME minister who has done nothing obviously wrong. But that’s politics, I suppose.

– – – – – – – – – –

With the departure of Esther McVey, we are now on our tenth housing minister in ten years. I’m sorry to see her leave government, but the appointment was never going to work.

For someone who had been a full Cabinet member to later be appointed as number two to the Cabinet’s youngest minister was always going to be a tough ask. Housing is one of the most important jobs in government, and merits a full cabinet position on its own.

Chris Pincher, the new Housing Minister, must stay in the post for the rest of this Parliament. It’s the only way that a housing strategy can be implemented properly.

– – – – – – – – – –

Can you imagine any politician other than Rory Stewart getting away with using a campaign hashtag #comekipwithme?

He’s asking Londoners to let him sleep overnight in their homes. That way, he says, he can really find out what they think. He’s done it before. During his 21 month trek across Afghanistan, he stayed with 500 different families.

Apparently, more than 500 people have offered to put him up for the night and chew his ear. I interviewed him about it on Tuesday, when he recounted his visit to Lorraine in Newham last week. He sat up there late into the night, sitting on the floor in his pyjamas chatting away. Woah. Not weird at all…

The London mayoral campaign hasn’t really sprung into life yet, possibly because everyone believes that Sadiq Khan will romp to victory. Given Labour’s travails at the moment, this ought not to be the case, and you can bet your bottom dollar his campaign will hardly mention Labour.

At least, that’s if his campaign team have any sense. Unfortunately for the Conservatives, Shaun Bailey, the Tory candidate shows no sign of making any breakthrough whatsoever, and with Stewart’s intervention it’s difficult to see how he can win.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: My reshuffle predictions. The Prime Minister believes he has delivered for his supporters – and now owes them nothing.

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

A question that will be asked of many of us over the next few years is this: where were you and what were you doing at the exact moment we left the European Union at 11pm on Friday 31 January?

I wish I could now give you some riveting account of where I was and what I was doing. The simple truth is I was sitting on my sofa at home with Bubba, my miniature schnauzer, squashed against my right leg, and Dude, my Jack Russell, pinned against my left. Both were fast asleep.

Oh, and I was eating a Garibaldi. How very British. All that was missing was a cup of tea. Mainly because I don’t drink tea.

– – – – – – – – – –

By the time I write next week’s column, I imagine that the long-awaited reshuffle will have taken place.

It was originally slotted in for Monday. Number Ten been quite successful so far in not feeding any speculation about who’s in and who’s out. The only information I have gleaned is that the Prime Minister thinks that he delivered for all his supporters in July, and he now owes them nothing. They’ve been given their chance, and if they haven’t performed, they will be out.

While we might not see a dramatic refashioning of government, in terms of departments being merged or abolished, I do hope we will see a reduction in the number of Ministers entitled to attend Cabinet.

It’s ridiculous having 33 people round the cabinet table. Let’s stop this fashion of having ministers “attending”. You’re either a full member of it or you’re not

I’d cut it back to the traditional number of 22. But that would create 11 very unhappy people. And by definition there will be more. I suppose I’d better put my neck on the block. Here are the cabinet ministers I expect to remain in post, or at least remain in the cabinet –

Sajid Javid, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Grant Shapps, Brandon Lewis, Rishi Sunak, Robert Jenrick, Michael Gove, Robert Buckland, Simon Hart, Mark Spencer.

That’s 11. I’d say there are question marks over the future of all the rest to one degree or another – some fairly, some very unfairly.

I can see no reason to get rid of Therese Coffey, given she was only appointed in late August, and has done nothing wrong. Indeed, you could argue that by keeping the DWP out of the headlines since then, it’s job done – yet she appears on virtually every list of people being tipped for the chop.

Liz Truss is also mentioned in similar terms, yet the Prime Minister namechecked her four times in his speech on Monday.

Andrea Leadsom is also being tipped for the chop, yet she tests well with the public and is a great survivor. To my mind, she’s become one of the best media performers in the Cabinet – but that’s not necessarily how she’s seen in Number Ten.

What may save some of the women in the cabinet is the lack of women ready to step up from the junior ranks. I’ve been impressed by Helen Whately, but a full cabinet job now? I’d say she needs to take on a tough Minister of State role first, to test her. Maybe at the DWP.

Both Jacob Rees-Mogg and Ben Wallace have been tipped for the axe and, if that comes to pass, it would be seen as proof that Johnson is a brutal butcher.

Time may have been a bit of a healer. Number Ten were furious with Jacob for his Grenfell comments on LBC during the election and he was consigned to outer Siberia (known as North Somerset) for the rest of the campaign – never to emerge in front of a camera again.

There are currently seven Ministers who attend cabinet but are not full members. Two of them – Rishi Sunak and Brandon Lewis are certainties for promotion, given the profile both of them have been given as media performers. Mark Spencer will presumably also retain his post as chief whip.

When you look at the ranks of Ministers of State, Jesse Norman, Kit Malthouse, Lucy Frazer, Caroline Dinenage are the names that might well be considered for full Cabinet roles. It’s also possible that one or two former cabinet ministers from the Cameron and May eras may well be rehabilitated.

One big question is whether Penny Mordaunt may return to the cabinet. Everyone tells me no -, but if it were me, she’d be the first new name in the jigsaw. She should never have been removed from Defence, and maybe it’s far-fetched to imagine her returning there, but perhaps the DCMS might have her name on it.

We’ll know soon.

– – – – – – – – – –

Think tanks come and go, and those that are here for the long term go through phases when they are hugely influential before they become less so.

Policy Exchange was always seen as David Cameron’s favourite think tank, not least because it was set up by Nick Boles and Michael Gove. I was one of its trustees in its initial few years. I was the token David Davis supporter on its board!

It has survived the transition from Cameron to May and now to Boris Johnson. In fact, I’d say that it is now the pre-eminent think tank in the Westminster village.

It’s also become much more attractive to people on the Left, who often turn up to its events and write papers for it. At an event last week with Dominic Raab and Mike Pompeo I spotted Labour MP Khalid Mahmood in the audience. He also co-wrote a paper last year with Tom Tugendhat on restoring the law of treason.

Trevor Phillips has also written for and is playing a leading role in the think tank. There are few organisations that could attract power players like Mark Carney and Alan Greenspan, or Dominic Raab and Mike Pompeo to appear on its platforms.

Dean Godson, who has been the Director of Policy Exchange since 2013, has skilfully led Policy Exchange through three different Conservative administrations in a way that other think tanks can only marvel at.

The softly-spoken Godson is often thought of as an ideological right winger, yet his pragmatism has enabled Policy Exchange to reach new heights of influence, with dozens of its alumni now sitting on the Conservative benches in Parliament.

If anyone was to draw up a list of the top twenty most influential think tanks in Westminster, can anyone seriously doubt that Policy Exchange would be at number one? And that’s in large part due to Godson’s outstanding leadership of it.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: No gloating, no jingoism, please. Let’s not rub Remainers’ noses in it.

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

I think that like most people I really struggle with the decision to enable Huawei to be a major part of the 5G project.

This country has cosied up to China for too long. I haven’t ever said this before but, given that David Cameron has said it in his memoirs, I don’t feel I’m doing anything wrong by doing so.

Some time ago, I went on a tour of GCHQ and I was shown a live screen which demonstrated where all our incoming cyber attacks came from. A lot came from Russia. Many came from North Korea.  But the majority emanated from China.

Cameron clearly saw the same evidence, as he relates in his book. One assumes that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet have the same information, and yet they have seen fit to give the same country – which is addicted to launching cyber attacks on this country – access to our 5G system.

To say that it will only have peripheral access means very little. We are told that the intelligence agencies are all on board with this. Really? If GCHQ is on board, you have to question the logic of their position, give that they know very well China’s role in cyber attacks.

Decisions like this are all about managing risk. We need to know for certain that in any sort of national emergency China or Huawei would not be in a position to shut down our 5G network.

We’ve already sold the pass in other parts of our national infrastructure, such as water and nuclear power. I find it bizarre that on the face of it, we have now handed over parts of 5G to the Chinese too. Having said that, I also understand the need to roll out fast broadband as quickly as possible. This pledge was of course a key part of Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign.

– – – – – – – – –  –

The Prime Minister has expended a lot of political capital on Huawei. You might say, well, with a majority of 80, he Prime Minister can afford to do that.

But another big decision looms in the next few weeks, and that is whether the government will continue with HS2. All the signs are that it will. I cannot believe that Steve Barclay and Robert Buckland would have said what they’ve said on the media this week about it without having been tipped the wink. If the decision is ‘yes’, that’s yet more political capital up the swannee.

– – – – – – – – – –

Like Steve Baker, I won’t be attending the Brexit shindig in Parliament Square tonight.

He says: “I will not be on Parliament Sq. Bearing in mind our need to unite this country when many people feel great sorrow about leaving the EU, I’m encouraging magnanimity from Brexit supporters. It’s time for big hearts.”

I totally agree. I understand that people who’ve fought for this all their political lives wish to celebrate us leaving. I’m glad we’re leaving the EU too.

But let’s not have any gloating or outrageous jingoism. We’ve already seen some very ugly social media posts from ultra-Remainers this week. Let’s not play their game. Happy Independence Day!

– – – – – – – – – –

The announcement of a Middle East peace plan ought to be a moment of celebration. It ought to enable us to feel optimistic about the future.

However, I am afraid that Donald Trump’s plan does nothing of the sort. It is so one-sided and pro-Israel – and offers virtually nothing to the Palestinians – that it is almost risible. It’s dead on arrival.

The Palestinian reaction to it was, of course, typical. Indeed, they denounced it before they even knew what was in it. The fact that their cynicism was justified is by the by.

The fact remains, however, that each time the Palestinians have been offered the chance of a separate Palestinian state – and there have been eight or nine occasions over the years – they have turned it down.

Until both the Israelis and the Palestinians recognise that neither of them will ever get their perfect scenario, but will have to entertain compromise, a peace agreement will never be possible. I’m depressed to say that I don’t see it happening in my lifetime.

– – – – – – – – – –

As I’ve told you before, I’ve become addicted to the US political drama series, Madam Secretary.

t’s all about a fictional US Secretary of State called Elizabeth McCord, and her battles on US foreign policy and keeping her family on the straight and narrow.

I’m 60 episodes in to the total of 120. I’m trying to restrict myself to one episode a day, but they do rather good cliffhangers. Little did I know that this would coincide with me interviewing the real Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo during his visit to London this week.

At the time of writing, it hasn’t happened yet, but suffice to say that it’s a big deal, both for me and LBC, given he isn’t doing any interviews with the BBC. Or with any other broadcaster to my knowledge.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: The next BBC Chairman. Andrew Neil, anyone? Robbie Gibb? Michael Portillo?

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

It was announced on Wednesday that the award-winning Victoria Derbyshire Show is to be axed by the BBC. Given that the Corporation’s public service remit is to “inform, educate and entertain”, this is a difficult decision to understand.

Its campaigning journalism on important social issues has won the show a raft of industry awards. The decision is reportedly being made on cost grounds, influenced by the fact that it only had 250,000 viewers – hardly surprising given it was on BBC2 and the News Channel.

The writing has been on the wall since the show was cut from two hours to one not that long ago. On the same day, it was also revealed that Brexitcast will broadcast its last edition next Thursday. This kind of makes sense given that we’re not definitely leaving the EU the following day.

The TV version will continue, though, and be rebranded rather awkwardly as Politicscast. And next Wednesday, the BBC’s Head of News, Fran Unsworth, will reveal her plan for the future of the whole of BBC News. Since the News and Current Affairs department has had to find £80 million of cuts, it could be brutal.

Radio 4 is bracing itself, with The World at One reportedly a big target for the cost-cutters. Expect the headlines to be about their online offering and a proliferation of podcasts. This is yet another area where the BBC hopes to dominate its competitors – just as it has tried to do in magazine publishing and radio.

The BBC delights in behaving in an anti-competitive way. Rumour is that tit is about to spend millions on launching music stations to rival Hearts 80s, Absolute 90s and Smooth. The natural question which follows is this: if the corporation continues to try to compete in areas serviced quite well by the commercial sector, how can it bleat about not having enough money to run their core public service remit stations?

All this is happening only days after Tony Hall announced he will be stepping down as Director General in the summer. Some think the timing is to allow the BBC chairman, David Clementi, to choose his successor before he too is replaced when his contract comes up next year. His successor might pick someone more ‘risky’ and ‘uncomfortable’ for the BBC – given that he or she will be chosen by Downing Street.

The corporation is facing huge challenges. Tony Hall may have had some successes in his time at the BBC, but planning for the next ten years is not one of them. He has indulged in the usual BBC bleating about the sanctity of the licence fee, without apparently realising that the broadcasting world has moved on.

We’re all used to paying for our TV by subscription now. If he had been innovative and brave, Hall would have already developed a well worked-out plan which would involve asking BBC viewers and listeners to subscribe to particular channels in the same way that so many of us subscribe to Sky, Netflix or Amazon Prime.

The problem he has is that the licence fee costs each household the best part of £13 per month – way above the monthly subscription for rival services, with the exception of Sky. Would the government be prepared to cover, say, one third of the BBC’s three million pound budget if this was just to cover true public service broadcasting?

But even here, one uncovers a big problem. BBC Radio costs around £700 million to produce. You can’t really separate it out, and it covers a multitude of genres. There’s little doubt that Radio 1 and Radio 2 could be funded by advertising, given their popularity, but Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live and BBC Local Radio are surely what public service broadcasting is all about.

In addition, there is only so much advertising or sponsorship revenue to be had. Distort the market too much, and it would affect the ability of the commercial radio providers like Global, Bauer and Wireless to maintain their current level of service provision.

All eyes will now be on who the BBC board chooses to succeed Hall. The Guardian published a list of the top five female candidates, as if it was to be taken as read that the successful candidate must be a woman.

I couldn’t give a monkey’s arse whether Hall’s successor has a vagina or two low hanging testicles. Surely the criteria has to be that he or she is capable of doing the job and has the ideas to maintain the BBC as a successful broadcaster at an incredibly challenging time in its history.

The next Director General has to be a transformational one – the broadcasting equivalent of Michael Gove, someone who is willing to crack a few eggs to make an omelette. It needs to be someone who can be both inspirational for existing BBC staff, but also able to get a grip on a lumbering bureaucracy.

James Purnell, who used to be Culture Secretary under Gordon Brown, is someone who clearly has ambitions for the job. And understandably so. He is head of BBC Radio, education and the man behind the less than well-beloved BBC Sounds.

He has some radical ideas, but one suspects he will get the job over Dominic Cummings’ twitching corpse. If he is chosen, expect the mother of all battles between the BBC and Johnson’s government. It would guarantee that the appointment of the next BBC Chairman would be something well worth ordering the popcorn in for.

Andrew Neil? Sir Robbie Gibb? Michael Portillo? Oh, what larks.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: Gulp – here’s my prediction for the election result

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

Given my lamentable failure to predict the result of the last election, I have been somewhat nervous about making any kind of prediction this time. I am not alone. I haven’t seen any of the current class of political pundits make any sort of prediction. Well, let me clutch my pearls and get the ball rolling. The MRP/YouGov poll which got it so accurate last time, is this time predicting a Tory majority of 68. One political editor I know is convinced there will be a massive Tory landslide but is too scared to say it in public for fear of being ridiculed – a bit like I was in 2017. I don’t blame him! While there has been a narrowing of the polls in the last ten days, they all show a consistent Tory lead of 7-12 points, mostly around the 9-10 point mark. That is not enough for a landslide, unless there are some very different regional or individual constituency voting patterns. I also think it is still a worry that the Lib Dem vote could collapse even further, and Labour would be the major beneficiary of this. This could be countered by a further reduction in the Brexit Party vote in those very same seats. So as we stand today, with six days to go until polling day my prediction is that there will be a Conservative majority of between 20 and 30. If this comes to pass it will be enough for a full five year term. I suspect the Lib Dems will have been 15 and 25 seats, the SNP 47-52 and Labour around 230-240. In normal circumstances we’d then see Jeremy Corbyn resigning. He’d have lost two general elections and in this one he would have won 20-30 fewer seats than in 2017. How could he possibly cling on? Well, he may try to. Similarly, assuming Jo Swinson wins her seat – and that’s a big assumption – the knives will be out for her. To be frank, they already are. The Lib Dem campaign has been the worst they have fought in their 30 year existence. There are many people to blame for that but the buck stops with the leader, and the Lib Dems are almost as ruthless as the Conservatives at getting rid of failed leaders. If the SNP gets more than 50 seats they will see that as a further mandate for a second independence referendum. And you’d have to say they would have a point.

– – – – – – – – – –

The defection of four Brexit Party MEPs yesterday is a further sign that after only nine months, the Brexit Party has outlived its usefulness. It was a bitter blow to Nigel Farage, who has also had a dreadful election campaign. In fact, he’s been almost invisible. It’s as if he’s lost interest and realises that by standing down more than 330 candidates he made a massive strategic error. As luck would have it I interviewed him last night for an hour. I can’t tell you how it went because I’m writing this in advance of the interview, but you can catch it on the LBC Youtube channel. I suspect it was a pretty robust exchange. It certainly was the last time I did an extended interview with him during the European elections. Farage must be living under a big burden. If the Tories come up short because he has stood candidates in Tory-Labour marginals and let Labour in, he will be accused of losing Brexit. Because you can be sure of one thing. Unless there is a Tory majority government Brexit will be in real jeopardy. Real jeopardy. Wouldn’t it be the supreme irony if the man who did more to bring about Brexit than anyone ended up as the one who scuppered it?

– – – – – – – – – –

I have barely seen a poster in a window or a Correx board in a garden during this election campaign. This may be in part because people are more afraid of getting a stone through their window, but there’s another reason, too. One of the consequences of the Craig Mackinlay court case about election expenses in Thanet in 2017, is that all the parties are looking much more carefully about what they spend and the conventions which were approved of by the Electoral Commission. I am told that the cost of Correx poster boards could be written off over several elections, but now they EC has decreed that the whole cost must be born in a single set of election expenses. Similarly, cabinet ministers who used to go on regional tours, with the cost born by the national campaign, are being abandoned because the cost now has to be allocated to the local campaign. So unless they’re doing media rounds, most cabinet ministers are spending the whole campaign in their constituencies.

– – – – – – – – – –

Election night telly will never be the same again. For the first time in my adult life David Dimbleby will not be fronting the BBC’s coverage. Huw Edwards steps into the breach. On Sky News, Demot Murnaghan takes over the overnight shift from Adam Boulton, and will be joined by, er, John Bercow. Quite whether that will increase their viewing figures only you can guess. I’ll be fronting LBC’s election night programme for the fourth time, partnering Shelagh Fogarty for the third election in a row. This time it will a very visual effort. We’ll have Martin Stanford in a second studio with huge amount of graphics plus Tom Swarbrick and Theo Usherwood on camera too from the newsroom with our pundits. We’ll be streaming the whole thing live from 10pm-6am on the LBC website, Youtube channel, Facebook page and Twitter feeds. I hope you’ll join us for at least part of the night.

– – – – – – – – – –

This Saturday night I am spending the night sleeping in the open air in Trafalgar Square to raise money for homeless charities through the World’s Big Sleepout, which is the brainchild of Josh Littlejohn and former homelessness tsar Dame Louise Casey. Yes, some of you will no doubt accuse me of virtue signalling and worse, but do your worst. It’s like water of a duck’s back. Our rough sleeping crisis is there for all to see in London and other big cities every day of the week. And it’s also spread to many of our market towns, too. The next government needs to develop a proper strategy to alleviate the problem rather than the piecemeal efforts that have been deployed this far. So far I have raised more than £14,700, nearly three times my initial target. If you’d like to sponsor me just click here and donate whatever you can afford. Thank you in advance.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: If everyone hates the Conservatives, why do they lead the polls?

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

A doctor in the NHS called @Hindumonkey has provided an account of a visit by Boris Johnson to a hospital. It’s a rant about how disgusting it is that the Prime Minister of this country should have the temerity to visit an NHS hospital, and how angry all the staff were – so much so that none of them wanted to meet him.

And, how dare he. How. Bloody. Dare. Johnson announced during his visit that the funding the hospital had been asking for five years to move a department from one site to another was being granted. I mean, bloody cruel Tories.

According to this account, not a single patient wanted to see him, either. Isn’t it strange how the Conservatives have a ten point lead in the polls, given how every single person in the country hates them? I have no idea how true this account is but, on the assumption that it is even vaguely so, the vitriol poured over Johnson by this doctor says far more about him and his colleagues than it ever does about the Prime Minister.

Surely logic would dictate that if you feel so strongly about the NHS, you’d grab any opportunity you could to tell the Prime Minister of your concerns. That’s what any normal person would do, rather than just flounce. It’s a funny old world.

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The Yougov/MRP constituency poll brings back unhappy memories from the last election for me. I was confidently predicting a large Conservative majority and ridiculed the same poll, which was predicting a Hung Parliament.

I tweeted that one of us was going to have a large amount of egg on our faces. It turned out to be me. Two weeks out from polling day ,I still think there could be a narrowing of the Conservative poll lead, and this could lead to some definite sphincter tightening in CCHQ on election night. Anyone who thinks a decent Tory majority is in the bag is deluding themselves.

I am pretty sure the Labour Party still has some ammunition to fire, and although like John Curtice I cannot believe Labour can achieve a majority in Parliament, anything else is still possible, including a minority Labour administration. If you need an incentive on a dark December night to go out and deliver that last hundred leaflets, that ought to be all the incentive you need.

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A friend from Spain sends me a Skype message: “I don’t think you are enjoying this election, are you?” In all honesty, she’s right. I find the whole thing depressing.

Elections used to be real events. They were opportunities for a real national debate. Politicians knew their role and they played it well. They would readily agree to appear on TV, radio and at events up and down the country. In this election, only a select group of them are allowed on TV or radio, and the rest stay in their constituencies.

Mass rallies don’t take place because following the South Thanet court case the costs have to be allocated to the local campaign. The costs of posters can’t now be written off across several election campaigns: the full cost has to be allocated to one campaign, hence you don’t see the usual number of Correx poster boards. In most areas, you’d be hard pushed to know there’s an election on.

Back in the day, elections used to be exciting events. No longer. Given the policy divides between the parties, this ought to be the most exciting campaign since 1983. Instead it has failed in every single way to engage voters.

Whatever the result, I hope there is a serious attempt to examine why this is and to make campaign reforms which seek to improve things for next time. It’s the sort of thing the Electoral Commission ought to turn its attention to, but that’s a forlorn hope. Indeed, the Electoral Commission is a big part of the problem.

The post-election cabinet reshuffle should be quite interesting. In theory, we might not expect too many changes given the prime minister has only been in office for a few months. However, I hear he might be thinking of making rather more changes to his top team than might have been anticipated. One or two long time supporters of his might have good reason to feel nervous about continuing in their jobs. Given what he did to Penny Mordaunt and Jeremy Hunt in July, this is not a prime minister who has any qualms about carving the joint, even though he has a reputation for hating personal confrontation. If he has a decent majority on December 13th, that might be the most interesting day of the campaign so far.

 

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Iain Dale: Is Labour’s manifesto the longest suicide note yet?

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

Manifesto launch season is well underway. As I type this, I’m listening to the fag end of Labour’s launch in Birmingham. There’s no doubt that the leak of the party’s manifesto in 2017 transformed their campaign. It was leaked three days before the official launch. Whoever leaked it performed a major service for Labour – although it may not have seemed so to its head honchos at the time.

It will be interesting to see if the 2020 manifesto creates the same sense of momentum and interest. Lightning may not strike twice, but there’s no doubt that Labour have announced a lot of eye-catching promises. Jeremy Corbyn calls it the most “radical” manifesto ever.

What he means it’s the most left-wing manifesto ever. It makes Michael Foot’s 1983 offering look moderately sensible by comparison, and that, of course, was described by Gerald Kaufman as “the longest suicide note in history”.

Time will tell whether this manifesto will go down in political history in the same way, or whether it will be seen as an election campaign changing moment which will propel Corbyn into power. I think I know which my money is on.

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The Liberal Democrats launched their manifesto on Wednesday at the bizarre time of 5pm. It meant that they couldn’t dominate the news agenda for the day, which, had they launched it earlier in the day, they would have. Their luck proved to be really out when, at just after 5pm, Buckingham Palace announced that Prince Andrew would be stepping back from royal duties.

In addition, they didn’t have enough spokespeople lined up to do the media rounds. For our Newshour on LBC, we were initially told we couldn’t have anyone to talk about the manifesto. Eventually, I pulled a few strings and we were given Ed Davey – but the point is that they should have had a whole raft of people available.

In addition, launching it at 5pm meant that their main spokespeople had no time to digest the content. Sam Gyimah, in a phone-in with my colleague Eddie Mair, had a “Nightmair” of a time and was exposed time after time – not having a clue about the manifesto promises or how they would be funded. Alistair Carmichael had a similar car crash with Tom Swarbrick a few hours later.

These were not ‘gotcha’ interviews, but if you go into one not having a clue what you’re talking about, you should expect to be exposed. I’ve had similar interviews with LibDems over the last few weeks – Wera Hobhouse and Luisa Porrit spring to mind – in which they hadn’t done their homework, and I exposed them for it. Hopefully, they will learn the lesson.

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The Conservative manifesto is apparently due to be launched on Sunday, which again seems rather odd. It’s almost as if they want to hide it away.

Can’t think why. There’s no point in trying to ‘outradicalise’ Labour in terms of policy promises. I’d just stick to three or four main ‘retail offerings’ concentrating on delivering Brexit, tax cuts for the lower paid and an ambitious play for housebuilding. Everyone will be looking to see what is said on social care, given the shambles of a social care policy in 2017. I sense the advent of a Royal Commission…

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The ITV leaders’ debate suffered from being far too short. Once you take into account its late start, that there was an ad break, and that it finished at 54 to the hour, it wasn’t an hour long – it was 48 minutes.

The host, Julie Etchingham, felt it necessary to thank both participants after each of their answers, which must have wasted at least another minute. Each of those answers was no more than a minute long.

I know we are all supposed to have the attention span of a gnat, but this led to a very sterile hour in which neither candidate for prime minister really sought to engage with the other. I hope the BBC learn from this for their debate, a week before polling day.

My analysis was that Boris Johnson was the clear winner, but that doesn’t seem to be the consensus in the ‘punditerati’ or in the online polls. The fact is that Corbyn had score a zinger to change the course of the election campaign, and he didn’t. I thought he looked bored, uncomfortable and unnatural throughout the whole thing. He sometimes sounded mean, and couldn’t crack a smile during the whole thing.

The best line of the evening came right at the end when they were asked what they’d give each other for Christmas. Johnson eventually offered Corbyn a jar of Damson jam, which apparently was refused. “He doesn’t even want my Damson Jam” was the Prime Minister’s off-screen moan right at the end, which the microphones picked up.

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We are now three weeks from the morning of the day after. I’m still not confident enough to make a firm prediction, but the polling trends are relatively clear. They show a collapse in the Brexit Party vote and the LibDems on a downward spiral too.

I’m not wholly sure that the latter is a good thing for the Conservatives since, in some constituencies, the Tories need the LibDems to perform well by taking away Labour remain votes. Were polling day tomorrow, the Conservatives appear to have a big enough lead to win an overall majority, but a lot could change in three weeks, especially if tactical voting becomes “a thing” in this election.

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The BBC hasn’t yet announced its election night line-up, although we know what Huw Edwards will be presenting, with Andrew Neil doing the big interviews.

ITV’s coverage will be headed by Tom Bradby, while Sky News has proudly announced that John Bercow will be their main pundit, alongside Dermot Murnaghan.

Channel 4 has gone full tonto with its “Alternative Election Night” which will be fronted by Rylan from the X Factor. In 2017 it was Jeremy Paxman. And who said dumbing down was a thing of the past? Luckily, he will have Krishnan Guru-Murthy to keep him on the straight and narrow. Perhaps on LBC we’ll invite Timmy Mallett to join us… Or maybe not.

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Iain Dale: Now it’s crunch time – will MPs who say they fear No Deal vote for the obvious solution?

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

Well what a day that was. I normally write this column on a Thursday morning, and when I started to type this yesterday I had woken up to the fact that the DUP were refusing to go along with Boris Johnson’s compromise plan with the EU over the Irish border. A few hours later there was white smoke, albeit not from the DUP. Hmmm. Perhaps mention of white smoke and the DUP might cause my old acquaintance Ian Paisley to spin in his grave. Apologies for that. No, the white smoke came from the Berlaymont building in Brussels.

To be honest, I think we were all taken a bit by surprise. But there it was, the deal that no one thought Boris could either get, or frankly ever intended to get. We all have short memories, but I remember during the leadership contest when he would constantly say he intended to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement and abolish the Backstop.

The Withdrawal Agreement, the EU said, could not be reopened. It was.

The Backstop could never be touched or abolished, said the EU. It was.

Regulatory alignment could never be watered down, they said. It has been.

This was a diplomatic and negotiating triumph for a prime minister who has only been in office for 85 days. I doff my cap. I never thought it was achievable, but it was. OK, there are many aspects of the deal which I could criticise, but in this sort of situation you never get all you want. And most sensible people recognise that.

The next crunch time comes tomorrow when the House of Commons meets to decide whether to pass the deal. I keep coming back to the point that if opposition MPs are so fearful of No Deal, why are they still so reluctant to support an actual deal? I know why. It’s because it’s got nothing to do with a deal. It’s all to do with thwarting Brexit. And the general public can smell that a mile off.

The next deadline is Saturday evening when, if the deal hasn’t passed, the Prime Minister is supposed to send a letter to Brussels requesting an extension to Article 50. Hints continue to be dropped by Number 10 that there is some way around this, but we’ll have to wait and see.

If the letter is sent, and a No Deal Brexit really is avoided then the next test must surely come on Monday when Boris Johnson will surely again challenge the opposition parties to agree to an election. They may well try to delay that until 31st October just in case the Prime Minister tried to pull a last minute fast one. There is also much talk of Labour moving towards a position, first articulated by Tom Watson before the Labour conference, whereby there would have to be a confirmatory referendum in advance of an election. This would also mean keeping Boris Johnson in power for another nine months. Is it really a credible position for Labour to describe Boris Johnson and his government in evil terms and yet be the prime movers of keeping him in power for nine months longer than absolutely necessary? As Alastair Campbell might say, this is all tactics and no strategy.

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Sky News have seemingly trolled themselves by opening up a new channel which won’t have any Brexit news on it whatsoever. But it only operates Monday to Friday 5pm-10pm. Utterly baffling. You can just imagine the meeting where some bright spark came up with the idea and no one was prepared to tell the bright spark he or she was talking utter bollocks. It has been glorious to see Adam Boulton treat the idea with the contempt it deserves.

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The race to succeed John Bercow as Speaker of the House of Commons hasn’t really caught light yet and it’s not easy to predict the winner. There are nine candidates but none of them have really pulled ahead of the others. Lindsay Hoyle and Harriet Harman are said to be the two favourites, but it wouldn’t at all surprise me to see Chris Bryant come up on the rails. Lindsay Hoyle’s problem seems to be that while he is very popular among Tories, Labour MPs aren’t flocking to him. It’s a sort of reverse Bercow situation. Harriet Harman, meanwhile, is struggling to attract any Tories at all. Among the Tory candidates, Eleanor Laing would appear to be the frontrunner, but in the LBC hustings last week it was Shailesh Vara who impressed most. Everyone assumes he’s running because he really wants to be a deputy speaker, but in the right circumstances maybe he might come through the middle. Stranger things have happened.

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The fact that Dame Louise Ellman has quit the Labour Party has sent reverberations through what’s left of the right of the party. It’s been a long time coming, but it had a certain inevitability about it. The reaction on the hard left has been predictably disgusting, and if she had any doubts about leaving after 55 years, the comments on Twitter threads will have dispelled them. I just hope she never read them. The question now is what the more moderate voices in the Labour Party do now. The answer is probably nothing. Why? Because they hope that after an election the long nightmare of the Corbyn leadership will be over and things will get back to normal. They won’t, though. The hard left have a vice-like grip on the party machine now, and in any leadership election following Corbyn’s departure, it is almost inevitable that the most hard left candidate would win. Everyone is talking about Angela Rayner, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Laura Pidcock and Emily Thornberry duking it out. Just imagine, though, if Diane Abbott threw her hat into the ring…

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Will Johnson get a Brexit deal done after all?

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

It is still impossible to predict what will happen next week, but whatever it is will be pretty momentous.

It still seems unlikely that a deal will be done before the deadline day of October 31st but, given yesterday’s events on Merseyside, it doesn’t seem as unlikely as it did just hours before. At the time of writing, we don’t know who has conceded what – so it’s impossible to say what the Northern Ireland parties will make of it all, and whether any concessions on the UK side would affect the likelihood of any deal getting through the Commons.

So let’s park that one and look at a somewhat negative scenario.

So Boris Johnson goes to the EU council next Thursday; it ends in chaos; he comes back, addresses the Commons on Saturday week, sends the EU a letter requesting an extension to Article 50 – but also makes clear he doesn’t believe a word of it.

The EU then grants a year-long extension, thus enabling a second referendum to happen and at that point Johnson challenges the opposition parties to agree to an election.

And that is where the fun starts. Labour decides that it will only agree to an election after a second referendum is held, and it says that the options put to voters would be Theresa May’s deal v Remain. It is assailed by the SNP for effectively inflicting another nine months of a Conservative government on the country.

At that point, Johnson resigns as Prime Minister, and attempts are made to form an alternative government – all of which fail. He fights the election on a ‘leave the EU with no deal’ manifesto, which results in dozens of Tory MPs quitting, but the Brexit Party stand down all of their candidates.

Would Johnson win a majority in those circumstances? As the polls stand at the moment, yes, but we all know what can happen in election campaigns. And if you don’t know, just ask May.

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The scenario I paint above shows just how much influence Nigel Farage will have over events. And the core thing to remember is that he doesn’t trust Johnson one iota. I cannot see how the latter could ever agree to a formal electoral pact with the forner and if, he did, it would have to be written in stone.

There’s some talk of the Prime Minister offering the Brexit Party a free run in 50 selected seats, presumably in the north of England, I return for a free run everywhere else. I think it’s completely fanciful. But in this political environment, I suppose stranger things have happened.

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The best news of the week is that Chris Mason is taking over the reins as the new host of Any Questions. Chris is one of the few journalists that is liked by everybody (by which I mean everybody in the political firmament).

This is not because he’s pliant, or soft; it’s because he’s a transparently nice bloke who knows his stuff. I haven’t got a clue what his politics are anymore than anyone else has. It’s a cracking appointment, and even though he has huge shoes to step into, I have absolutely no doubt he’ll do well and bring a freshness and vitality to the show.

I did ponder applying for it myself, but I figured there was little point given I’ve been on the show as an opinionated panellist a dozen times, and the BBC would never appoint someone to a show like that with a previous political background.

The fact that I present a similar show and have proved my hosting abilities would be by the by. Sometimes you have to just accept the reality of a situation. Newsnight quite happily employed James O’Brien as a host, but then of course he is a man of the centre left. Someone on the centre-right would never get a look-in. And if you think that’s me being paranoid, John Humphrys says the exact same thing in his excellent new book.

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For almost this entire year, most of my weekends have involved work of some description or other. Not this one. At least, that’s the intention.

After doing my regular slot on Good Morning Britain, I’ll be driving west to spend three days in North Devon with my Aunt and cousins, who live in Braunton.

No Andrew Marr, no newspaper columns, no Twitter (that one is a lie) – just catching up with family gossip and reminiscing about times gone by. And a walk across Saunton Sands. I have honestly never looked forward to a weekend more. The calm before the storm…

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