The wonderful goatfucking Simon Hoggart

6 Jan 2014 at 18:29

Just a few brief words about the sad death of the Guardian’s Simon Hoggart. Simon was a good friend for many years. A giant amongst journalists and a truly decent, humane and kind human being. Not always qualities that are common amongst the shark pool of seasoned Lobby journalists, who circle the corridors of power in search of the heady smell of political blood.
He was in many ways a renaissance man. A brilliant sketch writer, prolific columnist, author and broadcaster. For years he was the skilful and deftly witty host of the News Quiz. His sketches were not just laugh out loud, but perceptive. Simon could prick the egotistical bubble of the the good and the great not with malice, but with a one liner reducing all of us political anoraks to hysterical laughter. And for many of the the priggish, the ghastly and the most robotic on message drones that infest the Commons, humour, particularly against them, is not a laughing matter. That’s why his Parliamentary Sketch towered above his rivals. Consistently.
He could could also be engagingly off piste. My favourite was when Margaret Thatcher was snapped off guard by a supporter planting her a drooling kiss on the cheek; with his teeth removed.This rather upset her security detail who marched the snapper way. Simon described this in his sketch which was so joyous that it was put on the front page of the Guardian. He wrote of the hapless snapper being frogmarched off from the ‘goatfuck’. Of course as you all know a ‘goatfuck’ is the collective noun for a scrum of journalists and photographers surrounding a political victim. Anyone who can write ‘Margaret Thatcher’ and ‘goatfuck’ in the same sentence on the front page of a national newspaper and get way with it deserves hero status. Although the editor might have thought that it was a famous Guardian typo. But I doubt it.
The word legend is much overused. But not with Simon Hoggart. I will miss his humour, he conviviality and delightfully long lunches. And so will the rest of Fleet Street.
As he enters the pearly gates I wonder if he will be goatfucked. Yes, of course he will.

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How the Tories can have KIPPERS for breakfast

29 Dec 2013 at 18:42

At last I have finished my book, An Unexpected MP, to be published by Biteback on the 25th March. It is now in the hands of the libel lawyers and my splendid editor, Sam Carter, so I can join the happy throng of commentators talking absolute bollocks about what next year has in store for us.

Firstly, let’s shine some light on the Stygian gloom that seems to dominate the Tory press which spends its time warning us about the horrific hordes of marauding Roma and Bulgarians who will be stealing our wallets, raiding our benefits, overcrowding our schools and having their wives’ breasts enhanced on the NHS. It goes without saying that these blonde haired, blue eyed beauties were stolen at birth from God fearing Christian European families.

But they are not the real terror that is stalking Tory politicians. What haunts their waking moments is the Cheshire Cat grin (to be fair it’s more like a camel) of Nigel Farage as he milks every Mail and Express headline of doom. I really do hope that someone brings today’s Observer to the attention of David Cameron as there are two separate polls from different organisations which are quite remarkable. According to ipsos mori 72% of 35 to 44 year olds support the right of Eastern Europeans to live and work here. And more surprisingly, you gov, have found that 81% did not feel that Cameron is talking enough about the benefits of membership of the EU. Couple this with another you gov poll a few weeks ago that 57% would wish to remain in the EU if Cameron renegotiated our position. It is all rather surprising.

This is not a time for celebration at CCHQ, but it would be wise to reassure jittery backbenchers and party workers that the world does not belong to the KIPPERS. They are in a more vulnerable position than they were at the last Euro elections. Then they were the underdogs, now they are expected to sweep the board. Farage has his own problems anyway. A party so overconfident that they are beginning to contemplate clipping his wings. A party driven by the mad, bad and inconsequential. A party not of policy nor principle, but formed out of a primal scream of outrage and venom whose sole purpose is to deliver a kick in the ballots to the political classes. It is the home of the disaffected, the ill informed and the last refuge of those who have given up on conventional politics.

It is the last category that should cause shivers to run down the spines of the Tories. Most recent polling indicates that those are the sort of people who despise everything that Miliband stands for, knows that a vote for UKIP could give him the keys to Number 10 and don’t care.

I haven’t got a clue how to deal with that lot as they are beyond reason as most of us understand it. But the hard line Tories who feel that they have been betrayed by Cameron are not beyond hope. They may whinge and whine, but voting Tory is the only way they will get a referendum, deal sensibly with immigration and eventually reduce taxes. The conundrum for Cameron is how does he woo that lot back and keep the majority happy who want to hear more positive messages about the EU. Matt D’Ancona sums it up rather well in his could in the Sunday telegraph today we should be making our pitch to Mondeo Man. He /she wants to keep their jobs, the standard of living to improve, NHS to work when they need it, their elderly loved ones to live their last few years with dignity and a good education for the kids. It’s not rocket science and all these issues are clear commitments.

The answer is not to try and steal UKIP’s territory. We can’t and wouldn’t want to compete with fascist bile that infects them. That is why I am surprised that some commentators who should know better think that Cameron has moved too far in the KIPPER direction. Not at all. The public do have concerns about immigration, benefits, and to a limited extent the EU. It would be madness not to address them. But that’s as far as it should go. Theresa May, probably the most effective Home Secretary in years was either incredibly badly advised or made an unwise judgement by suggesting a cap on internal EU movement to the UK be limited to a percentage. Unworkable, illegal and anti business. And the latest toe in the water is that we limit the number who travel to us to work be also limited to a percentage. Again, unworkable, illegal and anti business. I suppose it gives joy to certain quarters that this seriously pisses off the Lib Dems and shows clear blue water between us. And I don’t object to the strategy that the nearer the election come we should trade on our differences. But these sort of stunts make us look reactionary and unpleasant.

Although probably not so vindictive and unConservative as Chris Grayling’s repellant new regulations which prevented prisoners receiving presents, magazines and warm clothes from relatives at Christmas. Of course, he is crowing that it is only for prisoners to earn their privileges. I agree. But this is not new. I fact it has been happening since Tony Blair introduced the concept in 2005. The Grayling amendments do nothing more than pander to the worst sort of instincts of those whom I would be uncomfortable being associated with.

God, politics can be depressing from time to time.
I’m of to Genoa for the next few days to forget about it all. But when I get back I hope that the sensible elements of my party would have realised that if they play their cards right they can have the KIPPERS for breakfast.

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50 shades of Grayling and why I've had enough and going on strike.

5 Dec 2013 at 10:03

The former Lord Chief Justice, Igor Judge, has proved to be a remarkably formidable and skilled tactician. In one speech he has given the government a lifeline and Chris Grayling a death threat. The trouble is that our esteemed Lord Chancellor is so dim that he can only identify the lifeline and hasn’t yet noticed the bullet that is travelling in the direction of his head.

First, the lifeline. The government has got itself in a terrible mess over what to do about the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Getting rid of the Human Rights Act has been a mantra for the Lederhosen wing of the Tory party. Mother Theresa promises it and Grayling screams it. But despite the obvious objections by the Lib Dems, which is a very convenient excuse for inaction, nobody has thought it through.

The European Convention on Human Rights is in itself eminently sensible. After all it was drafted by British Jurists after The Nuremberg trials. The right to a fair trial, freedom of expression and the right not to be executed or tortured was designed to prevent the rise of totalitarian regimes. The trouble is that the judges have become too political. They interfere in things that must only be the preserve of a democratically elected Sovereign Parliament. Giving prisoners the vote is a case in issue. It must be for Parliaments to decide and not judges. The Strasbourg court should only interfere where there has been an abuse of power, or there is a democratic deficit.

Well, Cameron did what all sensible politicians do when they are in a hole, he set up a commission. The trouble is, although it has not formally reported, it has come to the view that opting out of the Convention would be a disaster on top of a nightmare. We would have to withdraw from the Council of Europe and set a precedent for other less assiduous upholders of the rule of law. And then we would have the daft situation of introducing our own Human Rights Act which would be exactly the same as the one we opted out of.

So Igor Judge has come up with an ingenious solution. Firstly, stating the obvious that as Parliament makes the law it is eventually a higher authority than our Supreme Court. Secondly, stating the not so obvious, that there is no authority clearly making the Strasbourg court supreme over our law in matters that are political and not judicial.

So the answer is to pass an Act setting this out. Simples.

But to make this work and to send a clear message to Strasbourg there has to be all party support and the likes of Igor Judge would define, as a matter of law, the difference between what is judicial and what is political. Sensible and ingenious.

And now the bullet heading for Grayling’s skull. Judge made it quite clear that he has had to make numerous representations to Cameron over the concerns of the judiciary as nobody represents their interests at the top table any more. This is code for saying that Grayling has absolutely no legal qualifications nor interest and certainly won’t represent to Cabinet that his ‘reforms’ will destroy the most respected criminal justice system in the world. Nor would he warn Cameron that the judiciary are deeply concerned that removing the opportunity for the individual to judicially review ministers when they have acted unlawfully is bordering on the Mugabian.

So Judge makes another sensible proposal. Separate the role of Lord Chancellor from that of Minister of justice, and make sure that they are legally qualified. There is a very good precedent for appointing a senior judge to the job. James MacKay was a very successful Lord Chancellor.

I know that Cameron has enough on his plate, but the time will come when he is going to have to intervene to stop the collapse of our legal system, which is grinding to a halt.

The criminal Bar are portrayed as greedy fat cats. The Legal aid system the most expensive in Europe. Both are plain wrong and it is a disgrace that ministers still trot out these lies. The legal aid budget has shrunk radically over the last few years as our fees have been cut by 40%. And Grayling wants to extract a further 17%. Those of us at the upper end, despite working flat out, are finding it a struggle and those of just a few years call are finding it impossible. The criminal law has become an expensive hobby.

But soon it won’t be even that. High street solicitors will go to the wall, the independent Bar will die and our revered system of justice will be put in the hands of G4s (under investigation), Serco (under investigation), Capita (under investigation) Eddie Stobbard and the Co-op. Perhaps a job for the Reverend Flowers here?

Well, we’ve all had enough. We try to negotiate with Grayling, but he spits in our faces. So for just half a day on the 6th January we will down wigs. No doubt Grayling will relish the chance of comparing us to UNITE and put the boot in.

But we are taking action not for more money, nor to preserve pensions which we don’t have, but to protect the weakest and most vulnerable in society who one day will be represented by inexperienced,low paid youngsters, employed by corporate bloodsuckers who this government is giving a financial incentive to advise their clients to plead guilty.

What a bloody disgrace. Is anyone going to listen?

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Hair Flick, heir to Thatcher; Bozzza!!!!

28 Nov 2013 at 12:25

Good old Bozza!!!! What a man of belief, principle and er, um, um, ambition.
There could not have been a dry gusset at the Centre for Policy Studies when our hero delivered the The Annual Margaret Thatcher Lecture. Might you, they could never spell.
Oh, if only she could be leading us now. If only that pinko slick PR man without a thought in his Old Etonian head, Cameron, would just sit down with some sensible people like John Redwood and Bill Cash, touch hands and ask for advice beyond the grave. ‘What would she have done?’ He sighs? But even better, why not have the next best thing, Hair Flick, heir to Thatcher? Bozza!!!!!!!
I took the trouble of reading dear old Boris’s speech this morning. And it was a Monet or a Matisse in its crafting. Beautifully put together but very blurred and fuzzy.
I don’t want to take away anything that Thatcher achieved in the first three years of government or even beyond. Democratising the unions, rescuing the economy and healing Britain from being the sick man of Europe are just a few of her great achievements. But there are an awful lot of myths about her legacy.
Firstly, she never slashed public expenditure in the way that the Coalition has had to. It increased in real terms every year with two exceptions, Transport and defence which were cut. Precious little was done radically to improve rigour and discipline in our schools. I remember the then Secretary of State, Keith Joseph moaning to me that his civil servants wouldn’t let him reform. And there was no radical changes to the way our benefits system was paid out to to work shy. We were tinkerers not radicals.
Let us not forget either that when she left office in 1990 inflation stood at 9.7% and interest rates nudging 14%.
The most unfortunate part of his speech was when he boasted that she had unleashed the ‘animal spirit of Essex’. And we are still picking up the pieces. Not surprisingly the Guardian headline this morning was, ‘greed is good, Boris invokes the Thatcher spirit’.
No Boris, we don’t want any more Gekkos polluting our boardrooms, their greed took the western world to hell in a hand cart.
These sort of speeches are loved by the worshippers at the Blue Flame of St Margaret, but go down like a rat sandwich with the electorate who are paying the price for other people’s selfishness and greed. Interestingly, the speech came out the same day as a YOUGOV poll indicating that 45% of the electorate don’t believe that the Conservative Party has modernised.
But for Number 10 this is more than an irritation, just when Cameron has gained the moral high ground on immigration. It is a gift for an enfeebled Miliband. And sensible Tory backbenchers who have just begun to understand the meaning of self control will despair. Particularly the ones with marginal seats.
Cometh the hour Cometh the white van man.

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The crystal Methodist's real crime was trashing an ethical brand

22 Nov 2013 at 09:31

Ed Balls takes some beating as the most repulsive man in British politics. Just as I thought that he could sink no lower he now tries to twist the crystal Methodist minister scandal into a ‘did Osborne and Cameron ever take cocaine, we need to be told’ outrage. Do we need to be told? Does anyone give a toss whether any cabinet or Shadow cabinet took drugs while a student? Or did anything that they might be ashamed of now that they are in public office? Of course not. If Theresa May was, as Home Secretary, was taking part in drug fuelled orgies, then she would have to be called to account. But if she was up to naughties whilst at university is it any of our business? Certainly not.

Personally I really don’t care too much whether the not so Reverend Flowers was stuffing himself with drugs and rent boys. What does worry me is that he was arrogant enough to boast about it all on a Cooperative email address. And what makes me really angry is that he was appointed to chair a bank without any knowledge of banking. But what makes me scream with indignation is that he has trashed a brand which was rooted in humane and ethical behaviour.

Many thoroughly decent people took out accounts with the Coop because they believed that their money was going to be spent ethically and wisely. Because they believed in the ethos of the Cooperative movement. They didn’t for one moment think it was going be used as a sweet jar full of cash for the Labour Party to dip in and out of when they felt like it.

What is particularly revolting is how Balls and Miliband are now distancing themselves from Flowers. Surely it stretches credulity that the chairman of a bank that is deeply rooted in the Labour Party had hardly any contact with the leadership? That Balls had hardly any dealings with the man who provided him with fifty grand to fund his private office? Do these guys think that we are all so dim that we can’t tell a whopper when it bites us on the bum?

But Miliband and Balls have got more form than Shergar for this sort of behaviour. Remember Damian MacBride? Well, since he published his very readable but utterly poisonous book about how he headed up Gordon Brown’s black ops department, they didn’t seem to remember having much contact with him at all. Memory loss seems to be contagious in the court of Miliband. But I wonder how long it will be before a disgruntled Coop employee leaks the paper trail? I will take a close interest in this Sundays newspapers.
Flowers’ real crime is not buying class A drugs. It is betraying the trust of ordinary decent people who thought that the Cooperative movement stood out as a beacon of all that could be good in banking. They have been grievously let down. So let’s have a root and branch inquiry into how on earth this fellow glided effortlessly to the top of a bank. Let their be naming and shaming and let anyone who was involved in the appointment of this man and who was meant to keep and check on his stewardship of the bank be shown the door.

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It's the God Cameron versus the nightmare Balls show. Expecting high viewing figures.

17 Nov 2013 at 14:48

There is an eerie silence that nobody is writing about. A silence that is so significant that it could be an election game changer. It is the silence of Conservative rebels. Like turkeys finally working out that voting for Christmas is not a particularly good idea, the swivel eyed loons have declared a moratorium on swivelling.

I suspect that it may even have crossed Adam Afriyie’s mind that the game is up. He is humiliated, friendless and what is so important to any wannabe leader, has proved that he has no judgement. But what has really shocked me about him is that despite all the money he has spent on media training he is a pretty awful performer. To go up against serious attack dog like Andrew Neil and agonise about ‘wrestling with his conscience’ over his amendment was so risible that not even Neil could keep a straight face. And Question Time was even worse. He has that albatross that no politician wants to have tied round his neck; not taken seriously.

But at least he has one supporter left. Nadine Dorries.
It rather says it all.

This has been an excellent week for David Cameron. For starters being called a God by the wickedly oppressed Tamils for championing their cause rather takes the wind out the sails of those who say that he should never have gone to the Commonwealth Conference. But he must have wondered what on earth he was doing with these dreadful shysters, crooks and despots who are publicly committed to ‘good governance, democracy and human rights’ but wouldn’t know what they were if they bit them on the leg. I suspect that when HMQ finally gives up the crown the time will have come to wind up the whole corrupt hypocritical ghastliness that is most of the Commonwealth.

And then there is the economy. Mark Carney, apart from many other talents, is a lucky Governor. The growth and employment figures are remarkably good and unless there is another Eurozone crisis, which should always be in the back of a strategist’s mind, things are looking very encouraging.

But let us not overlook the talents of Jeremy Hunt. After the Treasury he has the most difficult job in government. And yet he has taken to it like a duck to water. He strikes precisely the right tone. Prosecuting staff for wilful neglect of patients, making GPs more patient friendly and shaking up A and E to make them a real emergency service rather than a dumping ground for lazy GPs and dim members of the public is long overdue. This is a good time to do all of this because when the public realise how much their GP really earns and how some A and E consultants can make a small fortune moonlighting from one hospital to another, Hunt will have the moral high ground. If doctors don’t buckle under to more realistic contract they will become the new bankers in public perception.

But of course his greatest asset is Andy Burnham the living embodiment of everything went wrong in the NHS. He is not a bad man, just horribly unlucky and trapped in the tomb of his tenure at the department.

And let’s not forget Theresa May. Unlike that drivelling idiot Grayling who makes guttural sounds to appease the right and then wonders how to translate them into action, May has become a real action heroine, the Laura Croft of the Home Office. When she sets her mind to do something by sheer tenacity and strength of will she damn well does it.

So when Cameron looks around the Cabinet table he can take heart that a few of his ministers can be left alone to get on with it; Osborne Hague , May, Hunt, Gove, Pickles, Mcloughlan and to a limited extent IDS. The rest I wouldn’t give you tuppence for. Harold Macmillan designed the cabinet table so that a Prime Minister could command it. It should not escape the attention of other members that it is in the shape of a coffin.

The cherry on the cake for David Cameron is the mutual loathing of Ed Miliband and Ed Balls. What is it about labour leaders and their Chancellors? The emails revealed in the MAIL on SUNDAY showing that Miliband’s advisors think that Balls and his policies are a ‘nightmare’ is an endless gift for PMQs. Somehow Miliband is going have to live the lie that the two Eds like each other or more important, that they are singing from the same hymn sheet. Apart from a lounging a civil partnership I haven’t a clue how he will sort this.

In a perfect world Balls would be sacked. In the bonkeroony world of Labour politics he is far too dangerous to do anything with except hug him very close and sleep with one eye open and a gun under the pillow.

So it will be ‘God’ Cameron versus ‘nightmare’ Balls. This is going to be fun.

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It is time to break up the energy companies and separate production from sale.

24 Oct 2013 at 11:48

For the very first time in my life I felt sorry for both Norman Tebbit and Simon Heffer. No doubt I will need deep therapy over the months.

What a terrible dilemma these two old Tory dinosaurs face. They despise both John Major and David Cameron and everything they stand for. Both took an almost perverted pleasure in putting the boot into Major when he was Prime Minister, with Tebbit openly campaigning for John Redwood when, in breach of his promise, he left cabinet and stood for the leadership. And they regard monstering Cameron as a scared duty. I always find the Tory loony tunes’s version of party loyalty rather confusing. It has always been a conditional loyalty, “we will support you provided that you do it our way”. In other words, leave Europe, cut taxes and bash the unions and ban the Burka. These fellows support a cult rather than a party with everything viewed through the prism of Thatcher worship. It’s a bit like those who believe in the sanctity of life opposing abortion but gagging for a return of the death penalty.

So the dilemma facing the gruesome twosome after John Major’s energy intervention is whom should the boot kick hardest?

At first I was utterly confused at Major’s press gallery speech. I have known him as a friend for nearly forty years. Although I don’t see a lot of him nowadays I have heard him offer nothing but praise for Cameron, who is doing everything that he would have wanted to do. And I have never ever heard Major be snide about class.

So when I heard his comments about a windfall tax on the energy companies I assumed that this was merely a kite flown at the behest of Number 10. It was even spun (“friends” of John Major which is often the code for what he has been briefing) that he was helping out Osborne. But the Number 10 spokesman was quick to trot out the, “we have no plans” line, which is not a slamming of the door nor leaving it slightly ajar. If you wanted to play political Kremlinology it could be argued that this was a clever Major quote when he said that there were no plans to raise VAT, which he eventually did. Too clever by half I’m afraid.

To be honest, I don’t think a windfall tax is a runner. The view from seasoned hacks at Westminster is that Major was not attacking Cameron at all, rather pointing out two areas where the Conservatives could face serious electoral trouble.

The first is reform of benefits. Have the implications been carefully thought through? The bedroom tax (or bedroom subsidy) is a disaster and apart from the obvious injustices that are bound to result, it may well drive people into the private sector with serious public expenditure hikes when housing benefit clicks in.
And as for changing the criteria for free school meals, has anyone given a thought of the reaction of those families who will lose out? And has anyone considered the cost implications of what other benefits click in with being eligible for free school meals, like free uniforms and subsidised trips? I hope someone has their eye on the ball. The subtext of what Major said is that IDS had better be a genius or very lucky. And I haven’t even mentioned the IT which is a disaster waiting to happen.

But Cameron is going to have to make some swift policy decisions over energy. The reason the public is held to ransom by the big six is that they both produce and sell. It’s an unfair cartel that cannot be effectively regulated. And it squeezes out competition. Smaller companies can’t get a look in.

The answer is to separate generation from sale. And there are two ways of doing it, nationalisation which is unthinkable for Cameron, yet something being considered by Miliband. Politically, I am not entirely sure that this would be particularly unpopular with voters, sick to death of paying enormous energy bills. But it would be a step too far for fractious backbenchers.

The only sensible option is breaking up the companies. Free marketers will go berserk. But a rigged market is hardly a free market. It would also let in smaller companies with the competition reducing prices. But they will have to be heavily regulated to stop the cowboys putting out the lights.

David Cameron is going to have to be quick about this as Miliband wanted to do it when he was energy secretary. The big six will of course howl in indignation. But there is an election riding on this. It is time for action. Now.

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The Police Federation have inadvertently performed a miracle. They have made the public feel sorry for a politician

17 Oct 2013 at 06:17

I really do have to hand it to the Police Federation. They have managed to do what so many spin doctors, strategists, greasers and chancers have been striving to achieve for so many years. The holy grail of spin. The unthinkable. The seemingly impossible.

They have made the public feel sorry for a politician.
And a Tory one.

Mother Theresa, the Home Office’s very own Salome is demanding so many heads on platters that they are running out of platters. No, not so much a Salome as the Blue Queen screaming “off with their heads”.

But this is not the usual ersatz outrage practiced by the political classes. Politicians of all parties and former Home Secretaries in particular, loathe the Police Federation who fight dirtier than even the BMA, and they are never backward at putting the political boot in.

But it gets better. Next week there will be a public humiliation at the hands of the Home Office Select Committee of those police officers who changed their conclusion about their report into the appalling behaviour of those Federation officers who mislead us all into thinking that Andrew Mitchell had been less than forthcoming about what real happened at the gates of Downing Street. For them and who ever set this whole story up, they might well prove to be the gates of hell. And this is just a side show. It won’t be long before the retiring DPP will sending his parting gift to Mother Theresa, a prosecution trial in the run up to a general election.

There will be an awful lot of collateral damage. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner may be pondering what the future holds for him after announcing his total support for officers about to be investigated. And Cabinet Secretary, Jeremy Heywood, whose thoroughness of investigation was more dash than slap, might be pondering whether he wishes to spend more time with his directorships.

But although all of us connected to the Westminster Village maybe enjoying every morsel of this Smorgasbord of shittery, think of the poor bobby on the beat. Every day he or she risk their lives to keep us safe. How must they feel? Let down by the very Federation that is designed to protect their interests. I suspect that this sorry tale will lead to a lot of soul searching and culture change. I certainly hope so.

But there are bigger issues at stake here. I know from working with them every day that the overwhelming majority of police officers are honest, hardworking and don’t make things up to get a conviction. First the Hillsborough cover up and now MitchellGate. If the public lose trust in the police then Britain will start the long journey to hell in a hand cart.

But couple this story with two others that only appeared in the broadsheets yesterday. The President of the Supreme Court warning that cuts to the Justice system will harm access to justice of ordinary folk. That Grayling’s dangerous proposals to curtail the right of judicially reviewing our public bodies, particularly the executive were troubling.

And then couple this to the Chief Magistrate of England and Wales’s comments that because there are so many cautions, penalty notices issued without transparency and behind closed doors that we were in danger of sleepwalking into a police state. Without wishing to generalise, senior magistrates are not often bleeding heart Liberals, and hearing the words ‘Police State’ sent a shiver down my spine.

I do hope that Chris Grayling understood those key messages from two senior members of the Judiciary. But I am not going to hold my breath. Grayling possesses the three most dangerous traits that a politician can have. Ambition, populism and boneheadedness.

I think that it is time for Mother Theresa to ask for another head on a platter.

And what of Andrew Mitchell? Interesting. I don’t pretend to know the answer but will have a punt. I suspect Cameron realises that he wrongly hung him out to dry, feels a little guilty and wants to make amends. And he is brilliant at apologies. Sir George Young, the bicycling baronet (this has become a ‘think bike’ story) is such a gentleman he would happily cycle off into retirement with absolutely no rancour, because like all decent Englishmen he would want to see justice done. And it would strike a chord with the British sense of fair play.

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Chukka Umuna had better watch out for Tristram Hunt

13 Oct 2013 at 10:21

This has been a very strange week in British politics. We had the long awaited reshuffle which I found utterly incomprehensible. Please someone tell me what the point of it was, apart from warning our hopeless women Cabinet ministers (with the exception of Mother Theresa) that they can be replaced by far more effective alternatives.

And then there was the spectacular crash and burn of Adam Afriyie’s carefully orchestrated political ambitions. When a well respected and moderate commentator like Mathew Parris tells you on Question Time that your plans for an early in/out referendum are “raving bonkers” and when all but seven of the 2010 Tory Parliamentary intake urge you to withdraw your amendment, the game is up.

Poor old Adam has been suffering from a severe bout of Mensch Syndrome, which presents itself in those self made people with pots of cash with a sense of entitlement to high office. The poor things just don’t understand that not all of us share their ruthless determination to get to the top. One of the problems with the self made is that they often tend to worship their creators. Afriyie is bright enough to know that politically he is a dead man walking. I would be amazed if he bothers to stand for Windsor again. No doubt he has concluded that politics is only for the Little People.

David Cameron has been very lucky with his enemies. There is nobody of any substance or credibility who will stand against him this side of the election. His problems may come if he doesn’t win an outright majority when the Yellow Bastard haters will try do their very best to destroy any chance of another coalition. And then there are Miliband and Balls. Tainted with Brown and in the clutches of the unions. What a gift. To be fair Miliband has touched a raw nerve over energy prices, but people seem to have forgotten that his last government job was as Secretary of State for Energy. Oh, dear.

However, I did see a ray of hope for Labour after the next election. If you didn’t see Marr today, iplayer his interview with the new Shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt. Personable, bright and more candid than it is perhaps wise for a member of the Shadow Cabinet to be. A few weeks ago I appeared with him on Question Time and found him to be rather good news. I may be wrong but I didn’t detect single a tribal bone in his body. And off camera I found him delightfully honest. I hope that he doesn’t mind me telling this story, but I tell it in his favour. When we were having a drink I congratulated him on his new job at Higher Education.
“Out of curiosity what are your policies”. I asked, expecting the usual dreary five point plan. At this Tristram scratched his head and furrowed his brow.
“Mmm. I haven’t got a fucking clue”.
Hunt is a man to watch. But he must resist the siren calls those who will want to ride on his coat tails for media training. The last thing he wants to happen is to end up like the over hyped and fairly ineffectual Chukka Umuna. Despite his flotilla of advisors, he has been completely out manoeuvred by Cable over the privatisation of the Royal Mail, the most successful privatisation in history.

And as for Tristram? Provided he continues to talk like a human being, rather than be programmed into a male version of Rachel Reeves, the future is bright.

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Calm down dear it's only the Daily Mail

5 Oct 2013 at 16:40

Please may we try and gain a sense of perspective on the the great MAIL versus Miliband war? It has all began to spiral out of control with everyone wanting a piece of the action and both left and right using it for their own political ends. Both are milking as much political capital as they possibly can. And both are plain wrong. Perhaps misguided, but more likely to weasel their way onto the moral high ground.

Unpleasant as it sometimes is, the right to free speech means the right to speak or write deeply offensive things. And freedom of the press is not a matter of taste, nor should it be. That principle has to be immutable.

Most people, apart from the immediate family, really don’t give a damn about the views of Ralph Miliband. Was he an enemy of Britain? I neither know nor care. And it is not of the slightest relevance to modern political debate. Ed Miliband has demonstrated by words and deeds that he is the most left wing leader of the Labour Party since Michael Foot. Linking him to his dad’s views will not help the electorate to make up their minds in 2015.

He was right to feel affronted. He was right to attack the MAIL. But now it has become a political crusade, with websites, petitions and every bleeding heart liberal weeping tears of bile, venom and revenge, but secretly orgasmically happy that they are sticking one into Paul Dacre.

Last night on Nolan, Stephen played the passionate clip of Mehdi Hasan’s vitriolic attack on the MAIL on Question Time. It was passionate, near the knuckle and touched a chord. It denounced in the most lurid terms the very ethos and practices of the newspaper. It received tumultuous applause from the audience. Good old Mehdi. What a man of principle. Until our producer rushed in a copy of a press release of a letter by the great man asking Dacre for a column in his wicked rag. You would thought it would have been a ‘although I thoroughly disagree with your paper’s ethos, I would relish the opportunity of putting an alternative view’.
Not a bit of it. He shoved his head so far up Dacre’s arse that you needed a team of sniffer dogs to remove it. As Hasan is one of the the most self righteous, sanctimonious and priggish of commentators it is worth revisiting some of the highlights which even had an old cynic like me reaching for the sick bag.
“I have always admired the paper’s passion, rigour, boldness and of course news values….I admire your relentless focus on the need for integrity and morality in public life”. He should have gone onto say “and how much I would enjoy the handsome renumeration package that you offer compared to the pittance that I am paid at the New Statesman”.

This is the rankest of hypocrisy simply because this letter was not written when Hasan was a kid, but in 2010 after all those things he had denounced the MAIL for had happened. I suspect we will not be seeing his byline for rather a long time as the left will have regarded him as trying to sell out.

Can you imagine Owen Jones writing such a letter? Of course not.

Poor old Mehdi has hanged himself by his own petard. I won’t be weeping any tears.

But now the right want to have a crack. “This means press censorship” they scream. No it doesn’t. There will be regulation, but it won’t be underpinned by legislation for the simple reason that in terms of providing false information politicians are even worse than Fleet Street. And the only regulation that exists for them is the terror of being caught out.

If Miliband has any sense he should remain rightly aggrieved, but just agree to disagree with the MAIL. And draw a line under it all. Sadly, his advisors will be telling him that this is the time for him to be be vigorous in attacking vested interests. Wrong. As operation Motorman in 2005 has shown no newspaper is without sin. They have all printed at one time or another unfair, unsubstantiated and biased rubbish sometimes gleaned from illegal sources. I hope Miliband’s wise and sensible new strategist, Patrick Hennessy, advises accordingly.

For those who have scores to settle against Paul Dacre (and there are many) the more you put him under attack the longer he will stay. Even Jon Snow posted a joyous tweet this morning that Dacre’s contract was renewed for only a year. But it always has been renewed on a yearly basis.

Sometimes I despair.

So can everyone take a deep breath and calm down so we can read new and interesting stories about the death of Diana masterminded by the SAS, the weather, new clues on Maddie and how coffee can cause your balls to drop off?

Not for a little while I fear.

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