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 Once Cable love has been withdrawn darkness descends.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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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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