It's time for anonymity for all in sex cases. Thank Evans.

11 Apr 2014 at 08:59

I am utterly delighted that Nigel Evans has been acquitted of serious allegations of sexual assault. He is a good, kind, gentle and decent man and a very old friend. I hope that he will be able to reconstruct his political career. Hope? Well yes. He might have been acquitted but the stigma is still there. The country has been salivating at tales of hands down trousers, drunken gropings and late night romps. And there is vociferous group of militants who believe that whatever the decision of a jury, any man accused of rape must be guilty. So in the eyes of some, Nigel’s acquittal is meaningless. If nothing else this case highlights the need for anonymity of defendants is cases of sexual assault and rape. Ah, some will say, this will prevent other victims coming forward. Not so. Make it a rule that all defendants in sex related cases are automatically granted anonymity but with the prosecution having the right to apply to a judge with a rape ticket to waive this in exceptional circumstances.

The next question is whether there should be a review as to how the CPS bring rape cases to court. I prosecute these sort of cases and there has been flotillas of these reviews. The guidelines in lay terms are that complainanants have a right to be heard and this has to be weighed against the strength of the evidence. And each case is unique. Yet we are all victims of history. The horrors of Savile still resonate. We must never return to the days when those who want to complain are ignored or not taken seriously. This is of particular concern if the allegations are ancient. How does the CPS decide, unless it is gross and obvious, that the complainant is genuine or a vindictive gold digger? If there is supporting evidence, fine. But in most cases involving sex there is no independent evidence. Who do you believe? By and large it must be for a jury to decide.

That is not to say that where there are serious concerns there should not be case by case reviews. As a rule of thumb it is wise never to sound off about a trial unless you have read the court papers as opposed to the newspapers. But I did speak to Nigel after the prosecution case had closed and I commented that I would be amazed if a jury convicted after what had unfolded in court. The question for any review is how much of this was known to officers and reviewing lawyers beforehand or did it all emerge through skilful cross examination. I have a every confidence that Dominic Grieve, the finest Attorney General I have ever known, will refer this to the DPP.

But what does seem a bit daft is the over reaction in Parliament. Everyone is screaming about a new code of conduct. Oh, for God’s sake, MPs are no different from anybody else. Sometimes they will make a pass, drunk or sober. It may be accepted or rejected. If it is accepted fine, off to bed. If not desist. What has to be stamped out is the predatory male who uses his position to prey on young men and women. Sadly, this is not uncommon. There are some horror stories. And there are a group of middle middle aged MPs who had better change their ways or else the only pleasure they enjoy will be Her Majesty’s.

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A game of moans. Thank God for Easter

9 Apr 2014 at 16:46

Well, it’s all over. Poor Maria was done for as soon as Nadine Dorries gave her heartfelt support. And Fleet Street have their scalp, allowing the dust to settle letting the sunshine of economic success warm our souls. Mercifully, we have been spared some bright sprog mouthing the usual fatuous, “there are lessons to be learned”. Of course there are, but politicians never bother to learn them. Firstly, never give a story legs and secondly if you are going to give an apology to the House at least pretend you mean it and bring out the onion. The chamber can be very cruel or very forgiving, treat it with contempt or worse dumb insolence and love is withdrawn.

At first I felt rather sorry for Miller’s bright young PPS, Mary Macleoud. It seemed rather touching that she sent a join the Maria Celeste sunset cruise text to her backbenchers. It was charmingly naive. Only contact MPs you can trust and never leave a trail , so,you can deny it.The blunderbuss approach will always anger some disgruntled devil who will leak. And a herogram to Guido for getting the scoop.

But then I Googled la Belle Mary and nearly fell off my chair. Blimey, she is PR wunderkinder, who has advised the Queen and the Royal Household. Clearly not on crisis management. I do hope she survives as she seems rather pleasant. But when you start blaming the press when clearly this is not a well polished turd,it will take a while to live down. Dacre will regard her as the enemy. Not a position that anyone with ambition would warmly embrace. So Mary it would be good idea to make lots of speeches about how wonderful our press is and how you cherish their freedom and perhaps they will only just torture you rather than the full execution.

The other lesson that is never learned is that David Davis should not go on manoeuvres. I like him tremendously, he is a good bloke and a friend. I can think of nobody I enjoy having a drink and a gossip with. But at this stage of the game it’s all hands on deck to win the election and give the KIPPERS a kick in the ballots. Alright, him and Cameron are not going be friends and cordially despise each other. But now is not the time to be an agony uncle to the disgruntled, dispossessed and deranged. The stuff in the Mail on Sunday about negotiating our exit from Europe was playfully mischievous and only helps the ghastly Faragistas. Today the TIMES says that he is a kingmaker. But to whom? Afriyie is dead in the water, Liam Fox doesn’t want it, and his views on Boris are not enthusiastic. So I suspect that he sees his role as a Kingbreaker. At a time when the opinion polls are looking very encouraging this is rather unwise. A game of moans.

A few weeks ago I had lunch with two old friends. One a former senior Permanent Secretary, another toying with the idea of standing as a UKIP candidate. The former civil servant eyed the KIPPER and told him that to leave the EU is a perfectly respectable argument. But did he realise the consequences on Parliamentary time?
“Well, we’d just pass an Act”.
“But there are about 56 treaties to renegotiate and unravel. It means parliament would discuss nothing else for a full term”.
Loads of money for lawyers for consultants though. Has anyone really thought this through?

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How do you solve a problem like Maria?

5 Apr 2014 at 12:09

How do you solve a problem like Maria? Actually with great ease. She will just sink without trace in the reshuffle, stand down at the election, go and do something worthy and pray for a seat in the Lords which she won’t get.

I know I should be, but I’m really not terribly interested in whatever naughties she was up to with her expenses. What is so shocking, like Watergate, was the sheer brutality and amorality of the cover up. For any politician let alone a minister to threaten a newspaper is profoundly unwise. For a cabinet minister with responsibility for negotiating with a very hostile press over Leveson it is an act of insanity. And to threaten, admittedly via an aide, a reporter, praying in aid the L word is political suicide. As the aide has not been found hanging by a lamp post we can safely assume that she was acting under orders. And I haven’t even mentioned the unpleasant bully girl tactics against a committee of the House, of which the apology delivered from the back benches, where she will shortly be returning, was as insulting as it was brief.

I suspect that Number 10 will be irritated on four counts. Miller has effectively destroyed any deal on Leveson putting her successor in an uncomfortable, if not impossible position. Secondly, this may make a Prime Ministerial U turn inevitable or more likely some very long grass option. This of course plays into the hands of Miliband who will milk it for all its worth and accuse Cameron of being weak at a time when his party are in the middle of a very bloody civil war.

This is the time when all Tory heavy artillery should be bombarding labour, it’s hopeless leader and it’s positively dangerous views on the economy. And that was the point of Cameron’s speech today. But the Miller fiasco has watered the effect down. She has now become the story, which spells death.

I have played her apology back a few times and it is fascinating. Not for her words but from the reaction of colleagues. A cheer? A hear, hear? A squeeze on the shoulder? A pat on the back? Nothing.

And don’t be fooled that having the Chief Whip and the splendid Jeremy Hunt sitting next to her was a show of support. Just look at the body language. It was a scaffold party.

The trouble is will it hasten the reshuffle? No party manager wants this story to run on for too much longer. And more will emerge tomorrow in the Sundays. There is no point in delaying it. And it will seem less panicky than a Miller execution.
But Leveson has to be sorted sooner rather than later. What are the options? Well, Miller could stay on, but that is not really an option at any level of sanity. So who would be her replacement? It has to be a safe pair of hands, trusted by the press and totally supported by Number 10. The under promoted Michael Fallon could be the answer or there could be a radical solution. Lord Black. Now before all of you think that I have finally flipped just ponder for a moment. Guy Black is a well respected former chief executive of the PCC. He plays with a straight bat. He was Cameron’s former boss and is a trusty. He is in charge of corporate affairs for the Telegraph group. Don’t forget they were in the lead on this story. Of course there will be accusations that the government is playing into the hands of the press. But a deal has got to be done. The public demand it. And if anyone can do it is Guy. Whether he wants to is another matter.
And a really big thank you to all those who attended my book launch. I was dreading it but in the end loved every moment because of the real warmth from so many old friends. The PUNCH team were on delightfully mad form. Russell Grant was at his twinkling best. The man has lost eleven stone. Edwina Currie looked as if she had stepped off the front page of Vogue. Alastair Stewart was his usual good fun. And it was lovely to see Zoe Williams and Sarah Sands. Quentin Letts dropped in after putting the boot in to poor old Cleggy. In fact everyone that makes Fleet Street great was there. Thank you all for the bottom of my heart.

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A bad case of premature ejockulation in the Guardian

29 Mar 2014 at 12:22

If you heard two men screaming, “what the Fuck!!???” over breakfast this morning, it would have been the heart warming screech of horror from David Cameron and Nick Clegg reading the front page of the Guardian. For those not yet up to speed, let me give you a thumbnail sketch.

Today’s Guardian splash is by Nick Watt about a minister, “with a central role” in negotiations with Scotland should there be a YES vote. He is reported as saying, “of course there will be currency union”.

Firstly, let’s check the provenance of this. Watt is an experienced, honest and competent journalist working for a serious, although sometimes irritating newspaper. This is not one of those stories where Our Man at the Mini Bar has secretly recorded a minister making a nod, nod, wink, wink speech at a private dinner. Watt refers to the unnamed felon as making a “private admission”. This suggests a good lunch or even more dangerous, one of those horrendous mineral water sipping affairs where our hero has an agenda. Blurting out a, " well, if the jockos are mad enough to want to go it alone there has to be a deal" after a few bottles of Chateau Toynbee (a very expensive nose and getting more full bodied by the day) is vaguely forgivable and can be spun as a misspeak or “taken out of context”. Nobody would believe it but it least it gives Number 10 wriggle room to disown it at PMQS. But if this minister does have an agenda he really has to go. We are reaching a crucial stage before the referendum where the YES camp is building a little momentum. Not much, but enough to cause a few jitters. This sort of crass incompetence or venal vanity can’t be tolerated. Whoever this idiot is, even if they were naive enough to think that they were being helpful, has really got to go. He (or she as I have no firm evidence of who the poor booby is) has just thrown a lifeline to the slippery and totally shameless Salmond who will milk this for all it is worth accusing Osborne and Cameron of deceiving the Scottish people. This is a very bad case of premature ejockulation.

Actually, it’s a bit of a no brainer. If a single currency is going to work you have to have a single fiscal and economic policy. If you don’t? Well just look at the Euro fiasco. But the SNP aren’t interested in a debate about the facts, just exploiting raw emotion.

No doubt there will be the conspiracy theorists suggesting that this is a Coalition plot to assuage those opinion polls that suggest 44% of the Scots disbelieve any pronouncements from Westminster. Now that really is bonkers. You don’t throw a life raft to a man you have just succeeded in throwing overboard. Unless you want to hit him with it. So some deft footwork a quick blood sacrifice is probably needed. All though the Salmond line would be, “sacked for telling the Scottish people the truth”. Certain ministers really should not be allowed out without with a carer.

And now something which will accelerate the pulse of the nation. A reshuffle!!!!! I suppose now is as good as any to dead head the dead heads. These things are really only excite sad people like me. But we are nearly year away from the election and the opinion polls are becoming interesting. For the last year the daily YOUGOV poll has given Labour an average lead of about 6%. The the last two days that lead has been 1%. It is early days but this may not just be a blip but a trend. So how should the momentum be kept going?
Well, remember that in May UKIP will do rather well in the Euro elections due to most people thinking that being an MEP is an expensive irrelevance. So to leave any reshuffle until afterwards looks like a panic measure. So best get it out of the way over Easter when the House is up.

Like everybody else who writes about this sort of musical chairs I haven’t got a clue who is on the up and who is on the down. The gender balance is always an obsession. As a Tory rule of thumb most of the the hopeless women end up in Cabinet and those who are rather good news do not. This may change. The other consideration is the Star Wars element, the Tory right versus the modernisers. I leave Theresa May out of this one because although she is of the right she is an exceptionally effective Home Secretary.

In a perfect world David Cameron should be able to draw up a list of those he would feel uncomfortable standing next too when there is a full moon. Here’s my check list.

Chris Grayling. His department is a shambles with the likes of G4s and Serco under investigation for fraud. The rather vindictive and pointless banning of books and greetings cards being sent to prisoners does not sit well with the public.

O’Patz (Oi, Ann Treneman I thought of this one first!). The Stella Artois of Cabinet as he is “Reassuringly Expensive”. Football playing badgers and the floods fiasco are costing the Treasury a fortune. One of the few ministers who is so dim that not only to you hear the cogs whirring when he answers questions you can actually see them.

Phillip Hammond. Very bright, very ambitious and with the delivery with the charm of a speaking clock, the smile of a brass plate on a coffin and the easy manner of a mortician. The MOD is in lock down and his civil servants despise him. Oh, the stories I could tell!!

Maria Miller. Dear God!!

Theresa Villiers. Jesus!!

I really can’t go on. Matron, my medication please and don’t spare the horses.

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An Unexpected MP

15 Mar 2014 at 12:12

On Monday 17th March my book, An Unexpected MP, will be published by Biteback. It had a brilliant serialisation in The Daily Mail for four days and is mercifully scooping up shed loads of publicity. And for reasons which I cannot fathom it is the number one best seller in Central and South America.

But a word of warning. It is not a political autobiography. Most of these tend to the desperately dull, self serving, rewritings of history where the author is portrayed as the previously unsung hero. What I have tried to do is record what it was really like in the Commons and in the press in one of the most fascinating periods of post war history and make it accessible and entertaining to those who are not political anoraks. It is a romp though the drunkenness, violence and mild debauchery when Westminster really was the Wild West where political gunslingers would shoot it out in the chamber and in the bars, whilst in the shadows the Whips would be measuring up victims for their wooden overcoats.

As much as I liked Tony Benn he got it horribly wrong when he said that politics is about policies rather than personalities. When you throw 650 men and women whom would not normally seek each other’s company into a bear pit fuelled by testosterone, ambition, mutiny, bitterness all floating on a sea of alcohol, hope and disappointment, the outcomes can make a Greek tragedy seem like a teddy bear’s picnic. It is a snapshot of all that is noble, frail and hilariously deranged.

I once asked Lord Bruce of Donnington, who is his youth was Nye Bevan’s PPS, what with is vast experience of the body politic he thought of our breed. He paused, pulled on his pint and smiled and offered these Delphic words.
“Most politicians have feet of clay, many are wankers”.
Those words are as true today as they were then.

So if you are kind enough to read An Unexpected MP be prepared to be shocked a lot and laugh even more. Well, that at least what I hope.

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Is Chris Grayling a sociopath?

8 Mar 2014 at 15:51

I should be gloriously happy. My book has been beautifully serialised in the Daily Mail for four days and will be published on the 17th March. And amazingly it’s creeping up the bestseller charts. But never before have I felt so utterly depressed and miserable. The profession that I adore, the legal system that I revere and the job that I view as the best in the world are being thrown onto the scrapheap of ignominy by a callous, ruthless and dangerously ambitious politician.

Chris Grayling has achieved what many had thought was impossible. He has brought his former profession of public relations into disrepute. And when you look at some of the flim flam merchants, snake oil salesmen, hucksters, greasers and chancers in that tank of sharks, that is a mean feat.

You expect PR guys to be a little smooth and perhaps teensy bit sharp. But it is against even their code of conduct to lie cheat and steal. We even expect politicians to play a little fast and loose with the truth but we are genuinely shocked when they are caught out selling the public more pork pies than Sainsbury.

Let me deal with the lies.
Grayling has consistently told both the press and more seriously, the Commons that the criminal legal aid budget is out of control. Yet he knows that it has been radically reduced since 2008. From £1.2bn to just over £800 million today.
Grayling has told the press and the Commons that barristers are fat cats slurping the taxpayers cream. Yet he knows that our fees have been reduced by over 40% before the new tranche of cuts. My income has been cut by half.
Grayling has told the press and the Commons that the VHCC fees are too high and have to be cut by 30%. Yet he knows the amount spent on the most complicated and costly cases has been falling over the last few years.
Grayling has told the press and the Commons that we have the most expensive criminal legal aid system in Europe. Yet he knows that we are ranked at number ten out of fourteen.

Now let me deal with the cheating. A few years ago we took a cut in fees so that we could be paid within 28 days. The fees were assessed and paid by the Crown Court with the administration costs coming out of the general running of the court. All this has been abandoned and a whole new raft of administration has been created to process and pay our fees. They are incompetent and have an incentive to delay payment which is an average of about 12 weeks. I have been working hard but not been paid a penny since the end of November. The Legal Aid Authority will use any excuse to delay payment. One friend was cut back by £1.50 so the whole process had to start all over again. Another 12 weeks wait for work done. How on earth are we expected to live?

Now let me deal with the stealing. It is the theft of the liberty of the individual and the trashing of our criminal justice system. If these reforms go ahead there will be just 556 firms of high street solicitors left. A further 17.5% cut (worked out to nearer 24%) will throw most of them to the wall. In their place will be cut price corporate blood suckers offering a cheap, inexperienced service for the most serious of cases. Worse, Grayling has offered a financial incentive to lawyers to persuade their clients to plead guilty. A disgrace and a travesty. So when the likes of G4s, Eddie Stobbard, the Co-op get their hands on the criminal justice system what will happen when the young wet behind the ears kid has a list of 5 clients to advise? He will be paid the same for a guilty plea as a 3 day trial what do you really think he will be encouraged to do? The Court of Appeal will be clogged with claims of injustice.

In short the criminal justice system is being dismantled before our eyes with the most vulnerable in our society who will suffer the most. But who will want to come to the Bar when only those with wealthy parents will be able to afford to? Some at the junior end are making do on £12k gross. All those qualifications and all that debt to be paid the same as someone flipping burgers.

What really confuses me is why is Grayling doing this when everyone from the President of the Supreme Court to the Attorney General have warned him that this is a disaster? He won’t even consult. The legal profession have put forward alternatives which would save him the the £220m he needs. At every meeting we are told that it is all set in stone.

At first I thought Grayling was doing this out of a mixture of stupidity and ambition. Now I am not so sure. To go down in history as the man who trashed the British justice system is hardly going improve his chances of leading the Conservative Party.

But the other day I got a clue. I was having a drink with an eminent psychiatrist. I asked him what the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath was. He explained that the latter had boundaries and tended to be achievers with qualifications and status. He gave an example of some consultant surgeons. Then he started talking about politicians. He told me of one particular subject he had been studying with interest. ‘Pure text book. What gives it away is the fluency of repetitive lying’.
I asked who it was.
‘Oh, some fellow called Chris Grayling. Ever heard of him?’
I bought the old boy a drink.

On Friday we went on strike. In the next few weeks we will do everything in our power within the law to stop these dreadful proposals. Too much is at stake. Grayling may be the unspeakable but we are the uneatable.

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Night Mayor or dancing bear? Bozza's circus comes to town

2 Mar 2014 at 10:39

I nearly choked on my porridge when I read that the Times had splashed on a Cameron tells Boris to ‘put up or shut up’ story on Saturday. The splash? When all the other broadsheets were leading on that minor matter of Russian troops pouring into the Crimea? Bonkers.

The thrust of the story was that Cameron has had enough of Boris’s leadership manoeuvrings and the time has come for him to be offered a poisoned olive branch of standing at the next election, calling the the bluff buffer’s bluff. But the more I read the copy the more I realised that this was a total kite. There was not an even a ‘sources close to Cameron’ puff but ‘allies’ which comes near the top of the Richter scale of journalistic bollocks. I claim to have no inside information on this, but I suspect Cameron would have raised an eyebrow and wondered whom the silly little twat was who had been mouthing off to a TIMES journo.

But now my old chum Simon Walters of the Mail on Sunday has put a splendid new spin on it. Walters is one of the shrewdest guys in the lobby. Polish a turd? He could make a cess pit gleam. And this time he thought it would be a a splendid idea to use Johnson’s wax. The best way to give a non story legs is to get a reaction. Dear Boris is a nuclear reactor and duly obliged with a suitable explosion. But where Walters is a mini genius is that whatever BJ and his hounds may say about Cameron in private in public he has to feign utter loyalty and devotion. So this has now become a sinister Osborne plot who is apparently worried that if the election goes tits up Boris would be the one to wrestle after they had stepped over Cameron’s body. This is great copy but delightful silliness. If the election goes tits up so does George. And at the moment I would imagine he has rather more pressing matters to consider such as the Budget.

What will be interesting is how Boris is going to play this. Well, not so much interesting as how depressingly predictable it will be. Paeans of ersatz praise for Cameron and Osborne and lots of photo opps to show what a wonderful leader he might one day be.

Is he going to stand for Parliament before his term ends in 2015? Highly unlikely. He would be seen to break yet another promise. Will he be made Party Chairman? Nadine Dorries has a better chance of growing a penis. I’ve just watched the energetic Shapps on Marr praising Bozza with a charming smile hiding gritted teeth. Getting rid of him at this stage would not be wise. He is rather good news.

So how do you deal with a problem like Boris? Give him something to do yet nothing to do. Make him the official performing bear of the Tory Party. Let him enjoy the adulation when he growls, does a little dance and performs a pirouette on his hind legs. But putting him within striking distance of ever becoming leader is just not going to happen. And remember Boris is not the slightest bit interested in the hard slog of being a leader in Opposition; only to be crowned Prime Minister.

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Come on KIPPERS wake up and smell the fuckoffee

25 Jan 2014 at 11:05

Dear old badger watching Ron Davis had his moment of madness at Gobblers Gulch on Clapham Common. And Gerald Rattner’s witty speech at an Institute of Directors conference that his jewellery company’s products were ‘absolute crap’ went flatter than a trainer bra, destroyed his business, and his reputation. Nigel Farage is following closely in his footsteps. Gerald Rattner’s Mr. libel lawyer, not Ron Davis’s.

By confessing that the 2010 UKIP manifesto ‘was 486 pages of absolute drivel’ which neither he nor his party leader read was an act not of candid bravery but of political suicide. I suppose it is a delicious irony that what will ultimately destroy him was that his remarks were the copper bottomed truth. His problem is how he squares this with the thousands who flocked to his party, who are threatening Tory Marginals and are sending many backbenchers into a blind funk. People don’t like to be told that their hard earned money has been spent on tasteless crap and they will feel angry and humiliated that they have been stupid enough to support a party whose very foundations are laid on a mixture of bile, drivel and mindless prejudice.

It can’t be long before we have the first calls for Farage to go. Let’s wait for a serious hatchet job in the Sundays. And I can hear the whir of YOU GOV’s electoral calculator assessing the impact of it all. UKIP have been hovering around the 12 to 14% mark for over a year. I suspect that there will be a steady flattening over time.

I understand Farage’s strategy. The 2010 manifesto was dangerous and ludicrous nonsense and in the run up to the Euro and general elections the press will have a field day reminding us all of every dopey policy. It had to be jettisoned. The trouble is he wrote the forward to it. ‘Time for straight talking’ and hilariously, ‘Britain will not be fooled’. Sadly, droves of them were.

But not any more.

How can he retain a shred of credibility when he claims that he never read it? It is as if the Pope had denounced the bible and then claimed that he had never even bothered to dip in. It is an insult to our intelligence. I am not sure how long it will take to filter through to the public; but it will.

One of the many insoluble problems is that the KIPPERS are very much a one man band. He is the the ringmaster of their whole ghastly circus, trying to hold it together while the clowns are falling off ladders, throwing custard pies and the performing seals are honking out a discordant national anthem on bicycle horns. And who will take over when he is ousted? Imelda Marcos, General Pinochet or Roger Helmer?

And as for David Campbell Bannerman the author of the manifesto? I knew his was an MEP who re ratted to the Tories, but I discovered yesterday to my mild amusement that he is my MEP. I will not be voting in May.

Gerald Kaufman once said that labour’s 1983 manifesto was the ‘longest suicide note ever written’. It has now been eclipsed.

Come on UKIP voters, wake up and smell the fuckoffee. And those Tories who want to have an alliance with them might just have begun to realise that it would be a death clinch. I wonder how many of them read the manifesto. That strange whiff in the air is of YFronts beginning to fill.

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Ninety five Tory MPs write to Cameron demanding the repatriation of our weather from the EU

12 Jan 2014 at 14:52

Today the Coalition was in disarray as ninety five Tory MPs sent a letter to David Cameron demanding that Britain repatriate its glorious weather from the EU, stolen by an undemocratic conspiracy of fat sweating Belgians and Ted Heath in 1971.
‘Enough is enough’ thundered Bill Cash, veteran of the All Party Group on weather, Europe and general madness. ‘We all remember when our childhood holidays were filled with sunshine. Where is it now? I’ll tell you, it’s all been diverted to the southern part of Europe. The British people are fed up with being handed out the worst of weather when we pay the most money.’

And Nadine Dorries, tanned and fresh from appearing on the popular unreality TV show , Celebrities Bake their Pets on Ice, was incandescent with rage, ‘if only that condescending posh boy Cameron and his arrogant cronies who don’t know the price of a glass of Lambrusco would only listen to the ordinary people of Merseyside on day release. Make no mistake, we want our weather back.’

Lord chancellor Chris Grayling was not shy in coming forward. Speaking at a private dinner in Cockermouth he made it clear that if he was Prime Minister Britain would not be regarded as a business anymore, but as a private home where good God fearing Christian folk could decide whom they wanted to stay with them and not dictated to by a foreign court staffed by judges, some of whom, particularly the Frenchies, have girl’s names. It’s a bloody disgrace’.

But Ed Balls sounded a note of incaution. On a brief retreat at the Gordon Brown School for Charm and Deportment Balls, before returning to his constituency home, Dunsmearin, hit out at Cabinet colleague Douglas Alexander. Sadly the punch connected. Ed Miliband was unavailable for comment as he was awaiting instructions from Len McLuskey who is on a bonding weekend with his executive at a baby seal clubbing experience in Iceland.

However, David Cameron was laid back about it all. Chill axing at Chequers and celebrating the surgical removal of Michael Gove’s strait jacket he said this. ‘It really is nonsense to suggest that I regard a significant minority of my backbenchers as swivel eyed loons. Far from it. Some just need a little re-education. Sir George will be arranging a series of seminars at the Mandelson Institute for Truth Justice and Waterboarding’.

Note for libel lawyers. All these characters are purely fictional.

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A strange week in politics

11 Jan 2014 at 12:30

This has been a very strange week for politics. George Osborne’s careful kettling of Labour and the Lib Dems over the £25 billion black hole in public spending was either an act of strategic genius or a catastrophic political miscalculation which will wrap the Tories in the mantle of ‘the nasty party’ once again.
The politics of it all is intriguing. The Lib Dems are signed up to the fact that £25 billion is going to have to be cut but can’t quite work out where. And Labour is noisily being dragged to the bottom of the pond by the Ballsian millstone clinging to their necks. They really have lost the plot on the economy and public spending and are perceived to be party of the scroungers. Ed Balls is the explosive jacket that Miliband has foolishly chosen to don. Try and remove it and it booby traps. Keep it on and it will detonate Labour into a nuclear winter at the election.

What confuses me is that £12 billion that is to be lopped from benefits. IDS appears to slavishly following the departmental line but is being briefed against by Francis Maude over the fiasco of the roll out of the Universal Credit scheme and the predictable, ruinously expensive and wholly unnecessary IT cock up.

I can see where Osborne is coming from. There is not much else to squeeze. The NHS and Overseas Aid budget are protected, Defence is creaking and Justice is going to become very, very messy with serious toxic fall out. I suspect that is why Cameron appointed Lord Faulks and Simon Hughes to the MOJ. Both men are opponents of the disastrous Grayling legal reforms and that he will be gang banged into some form of a climb down, dressed up as a listening excercise. The next set of barmy and downright dangerous proposals were due to be announced on the seventh of January. So far a deathly silence.

So DWP is a soft target. Provided pensioners are protected, which the Treasury hates, there is a thought that as the Tories are on the right side of the benefits argument we can get away with more cuts. But £12bn is one hell of a thwack unless it is carefully managed. What concerns me is the plan to ‘look at’ removing benefits for the under twenty fives. If it means slapping the vulnerable young who have nowhere to live, this is a turkey which will have to throttled fairly quickly. The Lib Dems were right to oppose it in principle. But it is early days. But the sting in a rather sensible tail is going to have to be removed.

What is even more extraordinary is Tristram Hunt’s plans to licence teachers. He has a point. The worst really do need to be weeded out or retrained. But Gove is doing all of that. Teachers are more under surveillance than ever before. Another raft of bureaucracy will not be cheap and frustrate an already frustrated profession. The unions will be furious.

So why is Tristram on a collision course to antagonise his close allies? I have three theories all of which may well be wrong. Firstly, that he genuinely believes that this is in the best interests of children. Mmm.
Secondly he wants force Gove to say something really, really silly. As much as I like Michael and admire the job he is doing he does sometimes need to lie down in a darkened room with a wet flannel over his forehead before making pronouncements. I understand the thrust of what he meant over the teaching of the First World War, but his intervention just seemed a little quirky. Three, this is the Hunt gauntlet being thrown into the ring for a future leadership bid and showing that, unlike Miliband, he is prepared to stand up to the unions.

It will be interesting to see who briefs against him in the Sundays.

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