Macmillan and Napoleon III were quite good news. Such strange Cummings and goings

16 Jun 2014 at 10:34

“My biggest mistake”, said Norman Tebbit about Margaret Thatcher, his voice aching with irony, “was leaving her to the care of her friends”. Cabinet ministers take note. The moment your SPAD goes on a frolic of their own in madcap briefings to ‘assist’ their charges by denouncing their perceived enemies it is time for them to move on. Fiona Cunningham, May’s in house sieve, paid the price for loose cannonry.

But what of Dominic Cummings? As Churchill might have said, “some bull, some china shop”. He is chewing up newsprint for making a personal attack on David Cameron. “He has a picture of Harold Macmillan on his wall. That says it all”. God, the sheer wickedness of it. Or maybe dear old Dom was taken out of context. Perhaps he really said Harold Shipman. I suspect that the lederhosen wing of the Tory party might have secretly approved of the good doctor’s plans to slim down the Health Service and cut waste.

But as insults go this one rather backfires. Under Macmillan, we had low unemployment and a booming economy. And record house building. He also believed that social welfare was like a game of snakes and ladders. When someone slides down the snake the state should be there to give them a ladder of opportunity. I think that I should have his picture on my wall too.

The cruellest jibe was meant to be the remark attributed to Bismarck about Napoleon III, “a sphinx without a riddle”. Actually apart from a little bit of repression to begin with the old boy was rather enlightened. He modernised the French banking system, encouraged savings, gave workers the right to strike and was a supporter of popular sovereignty. And now for the delicious irony, he introduced a national curriculum involving the teaching of Geography, history, the arts, modern languages and sport. Rather radical for those days.I think that I will get a little picture of him for my wall too.

But what is so remarkable about the story is that Cummings is no longer Gove’s representative on earth or anywhere else. He fell off the perch a while ago. It has long been reported that his spell in Whitehall was ‘divisive’ which is code for a ‘bloody nightmare’. Yet although he may well be a devotee of team Gove he is not doing his former boss any favours. And he has form for it. He was alleged to be responsible for briefing against the LibDem plan (which admittedly is well meaning but a little bonkers) for free school meals. Cleggy hit the roof and was considering (not for very long) having the boy arrested for breach of the Official Secrets Act. Ever so slightly over the top. And then Cummings went all swivel eyed about Cameron asking Gove to write a joint article with David Laws singing the praises of state funded Spam fritters for the many and not the few. But if you really want to know where the real antagonism to Cameron comes from look no further than Andy Coulson’s refusal to countenance Cummings’s appointment as a SPAD. Gove slipped him in under the radar after Coulson’s departure.

I would imagine that Gove is utterly mortified that Cummings has become a low level Lord Oakshott. He really is going to give the boy a public smacking. Such strange Cummings and goings.

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Gove has taught an old dogma new tricks

8 Jun 2014 at 18:34

Well, I wasn’t all that far out in my predictions of what would happen in the May versus Gove skirmish. My only surprise was that Fiona Cunningham got the chop. Of course she deserved it, but I thought that a deal might have been done. But with a Gove apology May would have been mad to fight to the death for one of her ultra loyal tiger cubs.

The interesting thing about Cameron is that once he decides on an execution the head is removed swiftly and cleanly. By and large this pulls the rug from the press provided he gets it right. Sadly, in the Andrew Mitchell case due to less than thorough advice, a questionable sacking was made. I suspect that this is bitterly regretted.

So now is the dilemma for Labour. They want to make a fuss in the Commons on Monday preferably with an Urgent Question. But from and to whom? Let’s look at the politics. Wounding Gove may wing Cameron. He is a believer, loyal and a friend. But he has put his hands up and made rather an inspirational speech about opportunity in education for the disadvantaged. Hunt is bright, ambitious and when it comes to shove coming to push will probably elbow out the over egged Umunna when it comes Miliband’s funeral. Hunt’s strategy will be to accuse Gove of speaking to the wicked Murdoch press, being soft on terrorism in schools and being warned of the Trojan Horse problems in 2010. There are risks in this for Hunt. If Gove was warned in 2010 the problems were obviously grown on the last Labour government’s watch. And as an incoming Tory Secretary of State without the ammunition he would have been accused of anti Muslim political scaremongering. Of playing the race card. If Hunt was wise he’d wait for the Ofsted report to come out later in the week. Miliband will be rather worried that at his all time low a charismatic and clever member of the Shadow Cabinet would be taking the limelight.

And then there is Yvette Cooper another (for reasons totally beyond my comprehension) leadership contender. In the Labour food chain her needs come first. She can only cause May a little surface damage. " Did you leak these reports?"
“Of course not”.
“Were you aware that your spin doctor did?”
“No”.
“But under the code you are responsible for her actions?”
“Yes. That is why she has resigned.”
“Don’t you read the Home Office website?”
“I wish I had the time.”
“Aha, maybe you should.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake”.

So there is not really a lot of mileage in it for Labour. So whom will he choose? A bit on a no brainer. Have a crack at May on Monday, Cameron on Wednesday and then Gove when the Oftsed report comes out. And hubby Balls is a ghastly little man would would not piss on Miliband if he was on fire. Probably because he set the fire in the first place.

And Cameron hasn’t been wounded by this at all. He has quickly broken up a fight on the playground. And there have been no fatal injuries. Gove looks a bit of a twat because he spoke at a ‘private’ meeting with Murdoch executives. But there for the grace of God go most ministers. And after George’s Corfu experience it would be unwise for Cameron to put the boot in purely for that. But from a government perspective this could all be a winner. Flotillas of task forces, Czars and champions will be launched to show that we are committed to drain the swamps of extremism from our schools. There would have been a sharp intake of breath and utter revulsion at the Times revelations that children as young as six are told to regard British girls as ‘white prostitutes’.

Now back to May. This has bruised the bumper sticker of her leadership hopes. But the wheels have not fallen off. The Cameron haters will be sipping their steins of bitterness and will silently whoop for joy that one of his close friends has been embarrassed. But then they have a dilemma. Gove has a popular narrative that crosses party lines. On education he almost has a dogma. Real educational opportunities for everybody. Blimey, isn’t that what St. Margaret aspired to if only she hadn’t closed so many grammar schools? Clever little Gove has taught an old dogma new tricks.

How Cameron must chuckle himself to sleep.

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Secret trials are an aberration of British justice. Trust the judges and not the executive

6 Jun 2014 at 11:29

One of the cornerstones of British justice is that it is transparent. In other words secret trials are an abhorrence. As there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth by the press about a terrorist trial which may be heard in secret it might be helpful to set out the law which is very, very clear.

According to Blackstone’s criminal practice 2014.
“The exercise of the power in common with any other derogation from the principles of open justice should be strictly confined to cases where the public’s presence would frustrate or render impractical the administration of justice.”

In Re TIMES newspapers (2009) it was held that the power should only be used in ‘exceptional circumstances……a last resort’.
And in YAM (2008) Lord Chief Justice Phillips went further,
“Interests of justice can never justify excluding the press and the public if the consequences would be that that trial was unfair”.

In R v Malik (2007) it was held that there is as ‘fundamental presumption of open justice’.

The process for applications are set out in the Criminal Procedure rules. The application will be in private and usually relates to national security, or where a person has assisted in an investigation, ie, a supergrass.

So to make an application the Prosecution has to jump through enormous hoops with a legal presumption against them.

Such trials are a rarity and rightly so. Only the most senior and experienced High Court judges can rule on this.

But there is a danger. The security services are hardly experienced in fair play, nor should they be. Their job is to protect us. But so is an independent judiciary who are not in the pockets of the government of the day. And they have a very good track record. Remember the super gun trial where innocent men were to be hung out to dry? The judiciary intervened. Remember the royal butler Paul Burrell accused of theft where the prosecution did not want to disclose the role of the Queen? The judiciary intervened.

I trust our judges to do the right thing more than any arm of the executive. If this trial is to be held in secret it must not be the beginning of a trend. Pleading national security must be backed by hard evidence

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The Darling SPADS of May

5 Jun 2014 at 17:41

Whoever leaked a private letter from Theresa May to Michael Gove really should be hung out to dry. But I doubt whether they will. I find it hard to believe that someone as politically sure footed and ambitious as May would have signed off such a politically damaging stunt. And in the middle of the most crucial by election the Tories have faced in years.

Whitehall is littered with letters memos and emails with turf wars between departments. What makes the May letter worryingly unique is that it is from Secretary of State to Secretary of State. It would be interesting to see what has passed between officials over the last few months. Even more worrying is that it is alleged that a spin doctor close to May has been briefing the press about other failings in the DFE, particularly concerning the safety of children.
This is a rare skirmish compared to the open warfare in the Blair administration, but it does give an interesting insight into the tensions amongst cabinet colleagues. It does suggest that relations between DFE and the Home Office are not just strained but broken. To be fair, although Gove and May are hardly likely to be off to see the football together after a couple of pints at the Dog and Duck, when two departments are at loggerheads it is the job of officials to clear lines and smooth things over. Jeremy Haywood is going to have to crack the whip. The added complication is that said spin doctor is said to be in a relationship with an official tipped to be the next perm sec at the Home Office. This may cause the poor fellow, who appears to be a complete professional, a few problems.

And what of David Cameron? May is not exactly a card carrying Cameroon but is a superb Home Secretary. Gove, who is a close personal and loyal friend of the PM is an excellent although quirky Secretary of State. And his hands are not sparkling white in this matter. Cameron will have to have the wisdom of Solomon to sort this one out.

But let’s put it into into perspective. This is a Westminster bubble story. The general public don’t give a damn. It is a minor irritation which is at worst embarrassing. Miliband as a Brown crony is not in the strongest position to throw mud. Tomorrow it will be wiped off the front pages by whatever happens at Newark. It will probably get a bit of a rumble in the Sundays, but advisors must take a vow of silence;no briefings, no leaks on pain of dismissal. But the press will be doing an awful lot of digging. This is a story that must not be given legs. Anyhow the reshuffle will bury it for the time being.

Well at least Gove and May are now singing from the same hymn sheet even if they still worship in different churches. There will be lots of nonsense speculation about leadership bids, whose ahead and whose behind. But their isn’t a vacancy. Nor is there likely to be this side of the election. Some backbenchers may have to grit their teeth but Cameron is by far the best bet if they want to hold on to their seats.

So let me have a punt at what will happen. A leak inquiry which will be inconclusive. Gove will eat a slice of humble pie mainly because he is Cameron’s chum. May will be spared any sort of humiliation but will not be happy. Whoever thought they were doing her a good turn must realise that they have made a foolish mistake which rather unfairly puts the Home Secretary in an uncomfortable place. Oh, and everyone will say that lessons have been learned, which of course they haven’t. Stephen Parkinson her highly regarded Special Advisor is going to have to put his shit kicking boots on.

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The Cameroons bedecked in hunting reds have a sporting chance of chasing the Farage fox out of the Westminster hen house.

3 Jun 2014 at 13:58

I am cautiously optimistic about the Newark election. It would take a miracle for the Tories to maintain their sixteen thousand majority for all the obvious reasons in particular the sleazy cloud that hangs over the ghastly Patrick Mercer. Roger Helmer has been an MEP for the area for a long time and is a former Tory of sorts. One of his many drawbacks are that his eccentric views are particularly uncharitable to ethnic minorities and gays. Charisma is a gift that has passed him by. But at least he has worked the turf. Well, as much as any MEP can. It is worth having a close look at the most recent YOUGOV polls. They asked a simple question,

“Do you generally feel positively or negatively about UKIP
In May 2009 the answers were
Positive 28%
Negative 37%
Neither 27%
Don’t know 7%

In May of this year the answer was
Positive 22%
Negative 53%
Neither 19%
Don’t know 6%

This rather explodes the myth that the Kippers are gaining ground. The truth is that at the Euro and county elections only a third bothered to vote. Most didn’t think that it was worth the effort. To be fair to UKIP (God, how that sticks in my throat) their share of the the vote is at its highest at 17%. Interestingly there is a narrow and consistent lead for staying in The EU and a large lead for those who wish to remain if Cameron can negotiate a reformed Brussels.

Then have a look at the latest Ashcroft poll in Newark which gives the Tories a healthy lead. This could be shattered by events. There could be some daft EU ruling or some Cabinet minister could have a serious case of foot in the mouth. But to his credit Shapps has so far successfully buttoned down the operation. Ministers, unless they are on message, so far have adhered to a vow of silence. Of course, like every election, all parties will claim some sort of victory. The Faragistas will claim that they have come from nowhere and given all parties a bloody nose. Labour will squeal that their message that Miliband is not weird, honest, has finally delivered. And the Lib Dems will pray that they don’t lose their deposit. Six years ago they would have a fighting chance of winning a by election in a Tory stronghold.

It’s too early to crack over the Chateau Galtieri 1981,but it appears that the Cameroons in hunting reds may have chased the Farage fox out of the Westminster hen house. But the delicious irony is that Mercer resigned to do the maximum damage to his old foe Cameron. If there is a Tory victory he will have actually shored him up. Politics is a funny old business.

And now for the reshuffle. I have been consistently wrong in predicting the date. But I would be amazed if it is not this weekend. My old friend Nigel Nelson, the veteran political editor of the PEOPLE, has had a very good tip that Shapps will be replaced by as Chairman by Eric Pickles. A straight job swap would cast no shame on Shapps who has been a hyperactive and effective Chairman. But the reassuring, bluff appearance of Pickles on our television screens, whom nobody could accuse of being a member of the ruling classes, would be very god news. More important still he is battle hardened and close to Cameron. He has become a very big beast in the jungle. If there is a Tory win at the general there is no reason why he could not slip effortlessly into the Home Office whilst straight talking May could glide seamlessly into the Foreign Office.

Ken Clarke has had enough as has Sir George Young. It really is time that Michael Fallon is promoted. He is right winger but utterly loyal to Cameron. He would be the perfect Chief Whip to calm jittery Tories. Sadly, Andrew Mitchell is in the middle of a libel action. But hopefully his reward will come.

There are serious mutterings about about the hopeless Graying. He can’t be sacked outright as the right would be biting the carpet. But I am biased. He could be Leader of the House as Lansley prepares for Europe. And the women? If Anna Souberry’s common sense and impressive media performances are not used to the full it would be an act of insanity. Similarly with the splendid Esther McVey. And what about a junior job for Robert Halfon the Treasury’s chief weather vane? But like everybody else I haven’t a clue what will happen.

A few knighthoods would sweeten the sourness of dismissal and would prevent the sacked from falling into the arms of the Cameron haters.

There is a great opportunity to refresh the government. I hope that it is not squandered

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Cable has transformed from Saint to sinner. He has been Oakshott in the foot.

28 May 2014 at 13:48

I won’t have a word said about Lord Oakshott, I want the whole grisly, rat infested library. It has been an open secret that every piece of anti Clegg tittle tattle and every poisonous off the record briefing has resulted in trail of gastropodian slime leading to the good lord. The question that senior LibDems will be pondering is whether he was on a frolic of his own or whether he was doing his good friend Vince Cable’s bidding. Or maybe is was simply a case of ‘who will rid me of this meddlesome leader?’ St Vincent is a canny operator and fearsomely ambitious. His fingerprints won’t be found on any assassin’s knife. But knowing what he knew why did he not distance himself from his friend much earlier? Yesterday from a hotel room in China our minister at the minibar denounced his friend. And today the good lord was forced to resign. Once Cable love has been withdrawn darkness descends. And we still don’t know whether Paddy Ashdown’s promise to remove his head and testicles is still active. Perhaps that is why Oakshott is taking indefinite leave from the Lords. The thought of Ashdown with eyes like slit trenches laying in wait with castration shears in a Lords loo maybe a risk too far.

The serious question for the Clegg camp is will this put and end to the the uncertainty hovering over his leadership? One of the problems of the LibDem modus operandi is that they are a democracy. And in politics democracy is so precious it is wise to ration it. Each branch discusses things, votes on things and agonises about everything. As the Quakers crave silent contemplation the Libdem’s crave noise. Go to a branch meeting and there is hardly a sleeve without a heart on it. And the leadership dare not try and close down leadership discussions as it would be like poking them with a very sharp stick. Angry councillors and MEPs will want their say. They will tell the leadership that the message has to be clearer and blunter. They will want more clear yellow water with the Tories. There of course will be leaks. There will be off the record briefings. And as the political meerkats sniff the air for the main chance Clegg will survive, wounded and personally hurt and rather bewildered. Think Menzies Campbell without the funeral. The headlines in the broadsheets will be that Clegg is on probation. The red tops will be less kind, Cleggless, ‘not a Clegg to stand on’ and any other cliche they can dream up. The poor fellow will be a deadman walking or rather limping towards the dream of another coalition. The trouble is that Tory backbenchers could scupper that unless he agreed to an in/out referendum in 2017. I would not bet my pension on that.

I know politics can be predictably brutal, but I do think Clegg has been treated despicably by his party. At the end of the day he is a decent guy trying to do right for his country and his party. The two are not always the same. But if you can’t ride two horses at once you really shouldn’t be in the circus. At least Clegg has tried. But the Coalition will go on. It has to. The economic news will only get better. It is their only life raft.

And what of Cable? He has flown dangerously close to the sun and his leadership wings have been severely singed. He will forever be viewed with with deep suspicion. His halo has been severely dented. From being a saint to a sinner is an easy transition. He has been Oakshott in the foot. I wonder what the future holds for him. Perhaps he will have time to appear on Strictly Come Dancing after all.

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All credit to Clegg, he has been courageous, but the only party that can really put the boot in to UKIP are the Tories

27 May 2014 at 12:44

Wonders will never cease, it appears that Conservative backbenchers have kept their nerve and discipline; for now. And it is not surprising. According to YOUGOV there has been no bounce in the polls for the Faragistas. The Tories are still neck and neck with labour, the Kippers are still hovering at about 14% and the Lib Dems flatlining at 9%. Yes, their have been calls from the usual suspects for the in/out referendum to be brought forward but that is madness. With the rise of the right (and some of them a very ugly bunch) across Europe there is a mood to democratise the out of touch structure beloved of the Euro fat cats. There is the beginning of a groundswell to restore more powers to national Parliaments and a serious desire for no more political integration. The Cameron reformation plans should now be viewed as having a fighting chance. But they are not a shoe in. Merkel was the real victor in these elections and her coalition partners are luke warm. And as for the Commission? Like the bankers they just don’t get it. Juncker’s plans to seize the Presidency have to be scuppered.

It is not surprising that the rest of Europe have turned to the extremes. The Spanish, Greek, Italian and Portuguese economies are in deep trouble with youth unemployment at dangerously high levels. They see no way out. They have no hope. There will be more violence on the streets. Ditching to Euro and returning to floating currencies would be a gift to the sharks circling the bond markets. At the end of the day someone has to pay back the debt. And it will be a bruised and disenchanted people.

I feel very sorry for Nick Clegg. I carry no brief for him and would never in a million years contemplate voting for him or his party. But for a Liberal Democrat he has behaved with courage and principle. The sort of people who sat on their sandals last week are those who feel that the purity of their party has been despoiled by being involved in government. It was so much more comfortable and conscience salving to vote for the expedient and unworkable. The message that Clegg has been trying to get across is that they are a break on the dogma driven Tory right, that they are the party of fairness, that they want to deal with the excesses of immigration but not in an ugly way. That they are the party of ‘in’. And to his credit he had the guts to take on Farage head on.The sad reality is that is not want people wanted to hear. So who would replace him? St.Vincent whose views on immigration is that by and large it is good for business? Danny Alexander second in command to the wicked Osborne Treasury? Or anyone else who has been touched by government? Jeremy Browne might have a crack, but it would look like (and would be) sour grapes from the unexpectedly sacked. Which leaves the popular and personable Tim Farron. But he is not a fool. To be the assassin would destroy any leadership bids after the election. His time may come, but not yet. I would be amazed if Clegg didn’t hang on. Yet there are question marks as to whether he can get re-elected in his Parliamentary seat.

Labour are in a terrible state. When a year before an election you are neck and neck with the Tories it must send a chill to their hearts and defeat in their eyes. Worse, today’s YOUGOV polls concludes that 56% of voters think that he is out of his depth to become Prime Minister. So they are using Michael Dugher as the scape goat because he was in charge of the grid. That is a shame as well as unfair. I have always considered him to be rather good news.

But what scuppers all the other parties in their response to UKIP is that the Tories are in the best place to answer peoples’ concerns. Theresa May is genuinely committed to getting immigration under control and has been more effective at it than any other Home Secretary. The Cameron plan for a renegotiation with the EU resonates with voters and IDS is seen to have at least tried to tackle the abuses of the benefits system.

On the way to a sunny Norfolk beach yesterday I listened to Vanessa Feltz standing in for Jeremy Vine. Edwina Currie’s analysis was spot on. But then came the callers, a ragbag of former Tory and labour supporters who were now supporting the KIPPERS. The weird thing was that there was no commonality of angst. One thought the country was over run by Eastern Europeans taking our jobs. Another thought that gay marriage was the final straw and one deserted Labour because of the smoking ban.

This morning’s YOUGOV poll was instructive. 54% of former Tory voters would return to the fold at the general election.

So the Tories know how to deal with the ‘message’ that was sent by those who bothered to vote. For Labour and the LibDems this would require massive U turns and further civil war.

If the backbenchers can keep discipline Cameron has everything to play for.

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Strange as it may seem the Faragistas are fucked.

23 May 2014 at 15:46

Liam Fox is quite right in saying that Farage has entered the Westminster chicken house. The trouble is that with all the predictability of a flasher’s mac the chickens that have been rendered headless are Tory and Labour backbenchers. For a change the corporal Jones syndrome is infecting labour more than anyone else. The Tories are edgy but nowhere near self destruct. Labour is in meltdown.

The reasons are fairly simple. The Euro/council elections are in a parallel universe to the Westminster election. The tracking polls for the former have always put Labour and the Kippers head to head. So the stuffing of the main parties has been predictable for a very long time. It had been written off by the press. Oh, and a note to Mr Dacre, remember Nigel’s enlightened comments about locking up the press. We knew the Faragistas would do well simply because most people don’t think the Euro/council elections are worth a bucketful of warm spit. It may be unfair but it is true. The Westminster elections are a whole new ball game. They really affect peoples lives. What must be terrifying for Labour is that their six point lead has gradually evaporated. Not a freak poll but the YOUGOV tracker trend. Worse, Cameron has a serious double point lead on who makes the best Prime Minister and the running of the economy. Poor old Miliband is seen as weird and whatever passes for an economic policy is shot to pieces. Frustratingly, the cost of living line withers on the vine as the growth and job market leads the world. So by May 2015 Labour will enter the election naked and horribly exposed. This election is for the Tories to lose.

But what has seriously discombobulated the command structure of Labour is the shock horror of the UKIP inroad into their northern heartland. Don’t they read the polls? Don’t they realise that people are horrified at their immigration policies? Don’t they realise that the struggling hardworking resent their nudge, nudge wink wink attitude to the work shy?

So here’s the dilemma for Ed. Do I do a Blair and steal the clothes of the centre right? It’s a no brainer. It is not in his DNA let alone his thought process. And the Byzantine structures of their constitution will not allow them to offer a blood sacrifice in time for electoral prize giving. No wonder his backbenchers are going ape. And it will get worse.

But the real election is by no means a shoe in for the Tories. Boundaries are still skewed against them. And this weekend will be a real test of nerve for backbenchers. They will go back to their panic ridden constituency associations and be harangued by councillors who have lost their incomes. Their natural instinct is to enter a pact with UKIP purely for self preservation. Cameron is right to order Shapps to say bollocks. The press is gradually turning against the Faragistas and their sinister snigger in the woodpile politics.

So there is a dilemma for Cameron haters.’ How do we get the bastard out and not lose our seats? ’. The poor dears have a bit of a problem.
But this weekend could be uncomfortable.

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Treachery is never more than a shadow away on the Conservative backbenches

30 Apr 2014 at 14:47

If David Cameron is daft enough to be pondering whether he was wise to have sacked Patrick Mercer from his front bench job all those years ago he should desist at once. On the Conservative backbenches treachery is never more than a shadow away. If it hadn’t been Mercer committing this extraordinary act of social and polititical suicide it would have been somebody else. The list of hardcore Cameron haters is probably about sixteen, the sacked, the slighted, the no hopers and the not so much also rans as those who had never managed to find their way to the race course. If anyone says that revenge is a dish best served cold they don’t understand the simmering rage that often erupts in drunken rants to journalists or bitter flagons of bile penned anonymously in the Sunday Newspapers. There’s nothing new about this.

But politics is not just sticking it to your enemies it is about judgment and timing. If anything is going to unite the Tory backbenches it is someone who puts their seats at risk. And it isn’t Cameron.

I suspect that in the tea room this morning there was controlled anger at Mercer’s clumsy act of betrayal. And relief at Farage’s bottling out of standing in Newark. This may prove to be the biggest mistake of his life. The Kippers have got to find a local candidate who is neither a racist, a nut case nor a homophobe in double quick time. For them this will be a challenge. For the Tories I just hope they don’t try and parachute in an A lister. Best to pick a local who is well known in the area.

The next question is when the writ be moved. I would hope the sooner the better. I doubt whether there is time to hold a by election on the same day as the Euros but hope that they don’t give the Kippers time to dig themselves in. After all they are going to be thinly stretched.

In many ways I feel desperately sorry for Mercer. He was a dead man walking after being caught out in an old fashioned cash for questions sting. But rather than leave the stage with a modicum of dignity he has shown himself to be a man of pique rather than principle.

There is an uncomfortable irony to all of this. The people he has hurt are not the Cameroons, but those who have worked hard for him to be elected. His constituency association. They will be bewildered and seething with anger.

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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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