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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Daniel Finkelstein"

Prime Ministers and their health

Boris Johnson’s worsening condition, and his admission to the Intensive Care Unit, come as a profound shock.

Across the nation there is a fervent and spontaneous outpouring of prayers and good wishes for his recovery, in which this site naturally joins.

Party political hostilities stand suspended as we watch the struggle of this most optimistic, energetic and generous-hearted figure.

It is too soon to start drawing any conclusions for the future from such an alarming and unexpected turn of events, but one may perhaps be permitted a glance at the past.

Johnson’s reluctance to relinquish the reins of power as he fell ill is in full accord with past practice, for hardly anyone with the drive to become Prime Minister possesses also the self-effacement needed to step aside on health grounds, except when this becomes absolutely unavoidable.

Theresa May did not step aside after grinding repeatedly to a halt with throat trouble during her party conference speech in 2017, but carried on for almost two more years.

Tony Blair did not regard his heart problems in 2004 as any reason to hand over to Gordon Brown, and only departed in 2006, like May overthrown by his own MPs.

Harold Macmillan did decide to stand down in 1963, unleashing a tremendous battle for the leadership, but soon discovered that although his political standing was already in sharp decline, his medical problems were not as severe as he had supposed, for he lived until 1986.

Winston Churchill had no intention, after suffering a severe stroke in 1953, of handing over to Anthony Eden.

As with Blair, the identity of the likely successor was an additional reason to keep going. Churchill doubted whether Eden – whom he had nominated as his successor in 1942 – would be up to the job, while Blair was anxious to stop Brown taking over.

Eden, who did at length become Prime Minister in 1955, stepped down on health grounds in January 1957, but the real problem was that his reputation had been destroyed in November 1956 by his mishandling of the Suez crisis.

His botched gall bladder operation had taken place in 1953, and left his health permanently impaired, but not to such an extent that he considered himself debarred from taking on the highest office, and one may note in his defence that he lived until 1977.

Andrew Bonar Law, who became Prime Minister after the overthrow by the Conservatives of David Lloyd George in October 1922, began the following year to have trouble with his throat.

In April, his voice grew so weak that he could not make himself heard in the Commons, and his doctor advised a Mediterranean cruise, which had to be broken off at Genoa, for Law was suffering from an acute pain in the side of his face.

His friend Lord Beaverbrook summoned the doctor to meet them in Paris, and here incurable throat cancer was diagnosed, though the word “cancer” was not mentioned in the patient’s presence. Law resigned in May 1923 and died in October.

In December 1905, when Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman became Prime Minister, he was 69, and attempts were made by his Liberal colleagues to persuade him, for the sake of his health, to lead the Government from the House of Lords as a mere figurehead.

He rebuffed these intriguers, and proceeded in January 1906 to win a great election victory over the Conservatives. But his wife soon afterwards became very ill, and would only be nursed by him. Campbell-Bannerman stayed up night after night nursing her, which exhausted him, and in August 1906 she died in Marienbad.

From the summer of 1907, he suffered a series of increasingly serious heart attacks, and on 5th April 1908, by which time he was confined to bed in Downing Street, he composed a letter of resignation to Edward VII.

Campbell Bannerman died 17 days later, still in Downing Street, becoming the only PM or ex-PM to have perished there.

So a mortal illness compels a Prime Minister to step down, but anything less can be weathered as long as he or she continues to command a majority in the House of Commons.

It is encouragingly unusual for a Prime Minister to die in office. The most recent to do so was Lord Palmerston, who won an increased majority at the general election of July 1863, but was carried off by pneumonia in October of that year, two days before his 81st birthday, having caught a chill while out driving in an open carriage.

He was until that point a statesman of amazing vitality, who became Prime Minister at the age of 70, older than anyone else has entered Downing Street for the first time. Florence Nightingale said of him after his death: “He will be a great loss to us. Tho’ he made a joke when asked to do the right thing, he always did it.”

Daniel Finkelstein recently regretted in The Times that “we have never had a clear plan for replacing the prime minister in an emergency”.

But as Lord Lexden pointed out, in a letter of reply, any attempt to devise an emergency plan would itself cause grave difficulties.

One has only to glance across the Atlantic to see the problems which fixed terms, and a fixed line of succession, can bring.

In our parliamentary system, and with our more spontaneous idea of freedom, such matters cannot generally be settled in advance. And we in any case hope and trust we shall very soon see Johnson restored to his usual vigour.

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

Neil O’Brien: There are still weeks to go, but for backbenchers like me, campaign 2019 feels much, much better than 2017

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-11-17-at-21.08.02 Neil O’Brien: There are still weeks to go, but for backbenchers like me, campaign 2019 feels much, much better than 2017 YouGov The North south SNP Scunthorpe Rother Valley Polling police Philip Larkin Peterborough Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls NHS New Labour Midlands Liberal Democrats Law and order Labour immigration Highlights Great Grimsby General Election Fiona Onasanya MP Don Valley Daniel Finkelstein Culture crime Conservatives Columnists Caroline Flint MP Campaigning Brexit Alasdair Rae

Neil O’Brien is MP for Harborough.

The Midlands sky was November grey, and there was the smell of a coal fire from somewhere. I was out delivering leaflets in a council estate in my constituency. Moments after popping one through the door of a bungalow, I heard a door being flung wide open behind me.

A large and angry man appeared. “You can have that back” he said, thrusting the leaflet into my hands. And with that, he swung back into the house and the door thumped shut.

I went on my way. But moments later, I heard the door swing open again. It was the big guy again, and I braced myself for a free and frank exchange of views.

But this time he was in a more sunny mood.

“Sorry. I thought you were Labour,” he said. “Are you the Conservatives? Can I have another one of those?” He told me he was going to vote for us.

It gave me a little taste of what it’s like to be a candidate today for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.I don’t know what it is about life-long terrorist suck-up Jeremy Corbyn, or self-described Marxist John McDonnell, or police-hating Diane Abbott, or their two-faced approach on Brexit… but in many places where Labour might once have done well, they are now regarded with something approaching hatred.

There are still weeks to go till the election, but for backbenchers like me, campaign 2019 feels much, much better than 2017.

The ideas we are putting forward are more popular. The campaign feels better run, including on line. People massively prefer Boris Johnson to Corbyn. The question is whether it is enough.

As Daniel Finkelstein has pointed out, we have to win outright, while others can win even if they lose. Why? Because we will never team up with the SNP – while Labour are already dangling another separation referendum to cosy up with the nationalists. The Liberal Democrats can form a remain alliance with Labour – but not us. If we are going to win, it means pushing deeper into Labour territory in the north, midlands and south west, while holding off Lib Dems in the south east and the SNP up north.

The signs are encouraging. One set of constituency polls this week showed us holding seats in London, while another national poll showed us ahead among working class voters by a margin of nearly two-to-one (YouGov, 11-12 Nov).

For someone who got involved in politics when we were in the relegation zone in the mid 1990s, this is heady stuff.
We’ve already come a long way. Alasdair Rae at Sheffield has a neat chart which ranks constituencies in England from the most deprived on the left, to the most affluent on the right.

In 2001, we had no seats in the poorest 30 per cent, and Labour had most of the middle third. [See chart at top of article.] By 2017, the blue tide had already flowed into some areas Labour used to dominate. I hope this time it will surge further. [See chart at bottom of article.]

As we expand, the centre of gravity of Conservative voters has shifted and the Prime Minister has been the fastest to catch the mood. My leaflets this year feature our pledges of 20,000 more police, £450 million for our local hospital and funding for our local schools going up 4.6 per cent per pupil next year. Other than the fact that we also pledge tougher sentences for criminals, controlled immigration and securing our exit from the EU, much of this is the space New Labour used to occupy.

Rumours in the papers say that our tax policy is also going to be squarely focused on helping those working hard on low incomes. I think that would be the right approach.

It’s funny what pops into your head as we pound the pavements in the autumn rain.

For some reason I’ve been thinking about Philip Larkin’s poem, The Whitsun Weddings, describing his sun-drenched train journey from Hull in the north, down through the industrial Midlands to London:

“We ran /
Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street /
Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence /
The river’s level drifting breadth began, /
Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet. /
All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept  /
    For miles inland, /
A slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.   /
Wide farms went by, short-shadowed cattle, and
Canals with floatings of industrial froth…”

I feel like we as a party are taking the same journey, but in reverse, with the Conservative tide flowing up through the midlands and north.

Today the route from Hull, which goes via Doncaster, would take you past plenty of Labour marginals. Great Grimsby and Scunthorpe across the Humber. Don Valley and Rother Valley in South Yorkshire. Down through Bassetlaw, where sitting Labour MP and fierce Corbyn critic, John Mann has just stood down, then past Lincoln to the east, and down to London through Peterborough, where we hope to replace jailed Labour MP Fiona Onasanya.

I feel like we have a strong leader, good campaign, we stand for the right things, and people are sick of the delay and dither.

But will it be enough. Will our campaign work this time?

It might just.

Time to get back out there.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-11-17-at-21.08.55 Neil O’Brien: There are still weeks to go, but for backbenchers like me, campaign 2019 feels much, much better than 2017 YouGov The North south SNP Scunthorpe Rother Valley Polling police Philip Larkin Peterborough Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls NHS New Labour Midlands Liberal Democrats Law and order Labour immigration Highlights Great Grimsby General Election Fiona Onasanya MP Don Valley Daniel Finkelstein Culture crime Conservatives Columnists Caroline Flint MP Campaigning Brexit Alasdair Rae  Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Neil O’Brien: There are still weeks to go, but for backbenchers like me, campaign 2019 feels much, much better than 2017

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-11-17-at-21.08.02 Neil O’Brien: There are still weeks to go, but for backbenchers like me, campaign 2019 feels much, much better than 2017 YouGov The North south SNP Scunthorpe Rother Valley Polling police Philip Larkin Peterborough Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls NHS New Labour Midlands Liberal Democrats Law and order Labour immigration Highlights Great Grimsby General Election Fiona Onasanya MP Don Valley Daniel Finkelstein Culture crime Conservatives Columnists Caroline Flint MP Campaigning Brexit Alasdair Rae

Neil O’Brien is MP for Harborough.

The Midlands sky was November grey, and there was the smell of a coal fire from somewhere. I was out delivering leaflets in a council estate in my constituency. Moments after popping one through the door of a bungalow, I heard a door being flung wide open behind me.

A large and angry man appeared. “You can have that back” he said, thrusting the leaflet into my hands. And with that, he swung back into the house and the door thumped shut.

I went on my way. But moments later, I heard the door swing open again. It was the big guy again, and I braced myself for a free and frank exchange of views.

But this time he was in a more sunny mood.

“Sorry. I thought you were Labour,” he said. “Are you the Conservatives? Can I have another one of those?” He told me he was going to vote for us.

It gave me a little taste of what it’s like to be a candidate today for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.I don’t know what it is about life-long terrorist suck-up Jeremy Corbyn, or self-described Marxist John McDonnell, or police-hating Diane Abbott, or their two-faced approach on Brexit… but in many places where Labour might once have done well, they are now regarded with something approaching hatred.

There are still weeks to go till the election, but for backbenchers like me, campaign 2019 feels much, much better than 2017.

The ideas we are putting forward are more popular. The campaign feels better run, including on line. People massively prefer Boris Johnson to Corbyn. The question is whether it is enough.

As Daniel Finkelstein has pointed out, we have to win outright, while others can win even if they lose. Why? Because we will never team up with the SNP – while Labour are already dangling another separation referendum to cosy up with the nationalists. The Liberal Democrats can form a remain alliance with Labour – but not us. If we are going to win, it means pushing deeper into Labour territory in the north, midlands and south west, while holding off Lib Dems in the south east and the SNP up north.

The signs are encouraging. One set of constituency polls this week showed us holding seats in London, while another national poll showed us ahead among working class voters by a margin of nearly two-to-one (YouGov, 11-12 Nov).

For someone who got involved in politics when we were in the relegation zone in the mid 1990s, this is heady stuff.
We’ve already come a long way. Alasdair Rae at Sheffield has a neat chart which ranks constituencies in England from the most deprived on the left, to the most affluent on the right.

In 2001, we had no seats in the poorest 30 per cent, and Labour had most of the middle third. [See chart at top of article.] By 2017, the blue tide had already flowed into some areas Labour used to dominate. I hope this time it will surge further. [See chart at bottom of article.]

As we expand, the centre of gravity of Conservative voters has shifted and the Prime Minister has been the fastest to catch the mood. My leaflets this year feature our pledges of 20,000 more police, £450 million for our local hospital and funding for our local schools going up 4.6 per cent per pupil next year. Other than the fact that we also pledge tougher sentences for criminals, controlled immigration and securing our exit from the EU, much of this is the space New Labour used to occupy.

Rumours in the papers say that our tax policy is also going to be squarely focused on helping those working hard on low incomes. I think that would be the right approach.

It’s funny what pops into your head as we pound the pavements in the autumn rain.

For some reason I’ve been thinking about Philip Larkin’s poem, The Whitsun Weddings, describing his sun-drenched train journey from Hull in the north, down through the industrial Midlands to London:

“We ran /
Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street /
Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence /
The river’s level drifting breadth began, /
Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet. /
All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept  /
    For miles inland, /
A slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.   /
Wide farms went by, short-shadowed cattle, and
Canals with floatings of industrial froth…”

I feel like we as a party are taking the same journey, but in reverse, with the Conservative tide flowing up through the midlands and north.

Today the route from Hull, which goes via Doncaster, would take you past plenty of Labour marginals. Great Grimsby and Scunthorpe across the Humber. Don Valley and Rother Valley in South Yorkshire. Down through Bassetlaw, where sitting Labour MP and fierce Corbyn critic, John Mann has just stood down, then past Lincoln to the east, and down to London through Peterborough, where we hope to replace jailed Labour MP Fiona Onasanya.

I feel like we have a strong leader, good campaign, we stand for the right things, and people are sick of the delay and dither.

But will it be enough. Will our campaign work this time?

It might just.

Time to get back out there.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-11-17-at-21.08.55 Neil O’Brien: There are still weeks to go, but for backbenchers like me, campaign 2019 feels much, much better than 2017 YouGov The North south SNP Scunthorpe Rother Valley Polling police Philip Larkin Peterborough Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls NHS New Labour Midlands Liberal Democrats Law and order Labour immigration Highlights Great Grimsby General Election Fiona Onasanya MP Don Valley Daniel Finkelstein Culture crime Conservatives Columnists Caroline Flint MP Campaigning Brexit Alasdair Rae  Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com