Not a penny more

1 Jul 2013 at 16:58

It is strange how history has a nasty habit of repeating itself. The row over MP’s pay is going to be boringly predictable. There is an independent review. They compare the salaries of middle management and come to the conclusion that MPs aren’t paid enough. Party leaders go mad. The cabinet and Shadow Cabinet are instructed not to trouser a penny more. There are rumblings of discontent on the backbenches. There is a vote. The payroll vote opposes any increases. The backbench trade unions, the PLP and the 22, organise the snout in the trough lobby. Those with safe seats vote for. Those with marginal seats think of a more important constituency engagement to attend and those who face execution at the next election vote against. The Lib Dems then put on hair shirts and demand that every Tory and Labour PPC swear an oath in blood that they won’t take the extra money.

Whatever happens the public will just feel sick to the stomach.

The trouble is that in the old days the assumed wisdom was that the punters wouldn’t take revenge as they thought everyone was on the take anyway. So despite the horror of the Party Leaders on salaries, they allowed a little leeway on allowances ( the word “expenses” has always been considered beyond the Pale).

So what has changed today? Well, it won’t be MPs who will decide how deep their snouts will go (although the pigs have been complaining for years) but a really, really independent body called IPSA.

As much as I like Keith Vaz I nearly choked on my cornflakes when I heard him on Breakfastime punt the new backbench line which was that it was quite invidious for members to have to vote on something so vulgar as their pay. Let us wait for the report. Let us consider how savings can be made. Let us pass the buck. Let someone else shoulder the blame. As John Junor used to say, “pass the sick bag Alice”.

But surely someone is going to have to take a decision? It is hard to believe that IPSA’s recommendations are automatically put into force. After all most MPs regard them as Satan incarnate. What if there was a recommendation that pay would be reduced? All hell would be let loose.

I have no doubt that one of our faux hair shirted tribunes will force a vote even if it isn’t binding. There will be naming and shaming. It will be the first question on every local reporter’s lips, “did you vote yourself an increase?”

The truth is that IPSA is so independent that they are despised. But they are the enema that was needed to expel the toxins of Tony Blair’s dash for cash in 2005, when doctors, consultants and Parliamentarians were showered with cash to keep them under control. Not so much the liquid cosh as the liquid dosh.

Are MPs paid enough? No. Are the majority hardworking and honest? Of course. Should they be getting an increase when living standards have been plummeting for everybody else? Don’t be daft.

There will be all sorts of quasi compromises floated. A further cut to allowances, higher contributions in a very generous pension scheme. I wouldn’t support either. Allowances are now at the bare minimum and darn difficult to claim, and the pension scheme is generous simply because being an MP is as precarious as being a football manager, but without the perks.

There will be grumblings on all sides of the divide. But surely they must know that none of the Party Leaders can afford to give an inch.

It is all desperately unfair. Welcome to politics, where at the moment you have to take the rough with the rough.

Quite honestly any MP who supports any sort of increase (no matter what other savings are made) will be strung by the goolies from a lamp post. And that’s after the pitch forked mob have run them out of Dodge.

It will be interesting to see how Offshore Farage will play this one as his party has got a Turner prize for excessive trousering . My guess is that he will plug in with the public mood and flog this one for all its worth.



Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Make David Davis Minister For Europe with Cabinet rank and discipline will be restored and talk of a leadership at thing of the past

22 Jun 2013 at 14:09

As the nation is gripped with reshuffle fever (well those poor sados who would sell their own grannies for a job) I suppose I ought to be totally honest and tell you that I haven’t got a clue who will be up or down the greasy pole. I’ll go even better, nobody except Cameron and a handful of trusties have a clue either. So anything that you read about Downing Street insiders and their view is complete speculation usually by those who want to push their own people.

The dilemma that Cameron has is that he has so little talent at the very top but for political reasons he can’t move them. With the exception of Theresa May who is a perfectly adequate Home Secretary, the women are hopeless. Theresa Villiers has sunk without trace. Maria Miller is a catastrophe waiting to happen and Justine Greening is unspeakable. But if Cameron gets rid of them everyone will start accusing him to reverting to an Etonian phallocracy. I suppose he could get rid of one of them (Miller would be the favourite) and replace her with Anna Soubrey but even she has her fishwifery moments.

And the men aren’t that much better. Apart from Osborne, Hague, Gove, Pickles and IDS they don’t actually glitter. O’Patz is living out his fantasy of badger genocide and Grayling has achieved something no other Lord Chancellor could dream off, he has united every judge, barrister and solicitor against his insane reforms. There will be a debate in the Chamber on Thursday when he will be slaughtered by both left and right. Normally I don’t approve of blood sports but I will be there bayoneting the wounded. He would be easy to get rid of. He has no power base and is a dangerous liability. If only he could be replaced by the cerebral and well liked Dominic Grieve who would make the real savings that can be achieved in the totally dysfunctional MOJ. The trouble is Dominic is not all that keen on the idea.

At the moment.

And I am not convinced that George Young will survive. But not through any desire on Cameron’s part who has made it very clear that he would like him to stay. I understand that George has made it clear that he has just had enough. This should be the time to right the wrongs done to Andrew Mitchell. He has been silent, loyal and has shown no bitterness towards Cameron. He should be brought back as Chief Whip.

For what it’s worth I am of the view that there are three people who deserve to be in the Cabinet. Nick Boles, Jesse Norman and David Davis. The former because they have ideas intellect and political nous. But David Davis could be a game changer for Cameron. Yes I know they dislike each other intensely, but if you want a friend in politics buy a dog.

There will be the usual suspects who will say that this would be a mistake as he is not a team player. They would be wrong. Davis may have had his moment of madness by causing a by election for reasons that I still don’t comprehend, but things have moved on. The right just don’t have a respected and seasoned heavyweight who can rally the troops both in Parliament and in the country. They feel unloved, lonely and ignored. Mind you some of them deserve it, but that’s not really the point.

With Labour flatlining and Miliband on his knees this is the time for backbench discipline. No matter what sense Cameron talks on EU renegotiation the right just don’t believe him. And they are so jittery at the moment they are mad enough to launch a coup. I know, I know, it would be utterly insane and a gift to Miliband, but the Tory backbenches are not unlike the Wild West at the moment. They’ll shoot at anything.

So the solution? Give Davis his old job back as Minister of Europe with Cabinet rank. The right would be creaming in their jeans. And Cameron would at last be believed by his enemies. Discipline in the ranks would be restored. Springs will be in steps and chins held high. Europe will be in the news again but in a positive way. And an old bruiser like Davis would take the fight to Labour’s door step and give offshore Farage a run for his money.

The chances of this happening are remote as I suspect Cameron would regard it with distaste. But both are big enough men to rise above it. If Cameron can sup with Clegg the spoon wouldn’t have to be that much longer for Davis. And frenzied talk of leadership challenges would just be the ravings of the deranged.

Oh, and a lot of marginal seats would be saved.

Courage mon Brave!!



Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

No member of any Select Committee should have any paid interests which could cause a conflict

11 Jun 2013 at 19:54

It’s not often that I am shocked to the core, but the Tim Yeo affair has left my gob truly smacked. Did I hear him correctly on tape boasting that he told a business colleague what questions his select committee was going to ask? Forgive me but if that’s not coaching then my cock’s a kipper.

But what is so bollock clenchingly sphincter rattlingly awful is why didn’t the whips office step in years ago, or more worrying, why didn’t the members of the select committee take action? Didn’t anybody think to tell David Cameron that this was a disaster waiting to happen?

It is beyond belief.

Paul Goodman has put forward a very sensible suggestion that select committee chairman should not have paid interests which could conflict with their duties. I would go further. No member of a select committee should have paid interests which could conflict with their duties. In my naïveté I honestly believed that this was the case already. It may not be in the rules, but it is just common sense.

It’s the right thing to do.

What is so remarkable is that Yeo’s interests were well known for years. Guido and Iain Dale have been banging on about it for rather a long time. Yet nobody took a blind bit of notice. What none of us knew was the sheer scale of his trousering. When you add up the share options and cash in hand it is not far off a million quid. Now, Yeo earns about £67k as an MP and an extra £14,582 as a committee chairman. It’s not up to city standards but its hardly up shit creek without a paddle.

And if I hear another MP moaning about the pay I will scream. Yes it’s hardish, dull repetitive work with unsocial hours and precious little thanks from a fickle and ungrateful public. But boys and girls that’s the choice you made. Nobody twisted you arm to be an MP and most of you plotted, schemed and dreamed of nothing else for years.

Oh, and if I hear another little piggy caught on the telly by a journo sting proclaiming innocence because they didn’t break the rules I will bite my own head off.

And here lies the problem. We can have a register of lobbyists, we can tighten the rules, we can have draconian watchdogs, we can even have recall. But it won’t make a shred of difference if people are prepared to think of new dodges. And unless the culture of, " I’m a Parliamentarian I’ve sweated and slaved for my constituents so I’m entitled to make a few few bob on the side" disappears, whatever credibility (which is not a lot) politicians have will be lost and the country will sleepwalk towards the worst sort of shysterism from the likes of UKIP.

But enough of the ghastliness and greed of some of our politicians, there is another agenda which is rather worrying. The press are utterly terrified of a world post Leveson and will do anything to prevent it. So I suspect these stings are a gentle reminder to the public that if there is over regulation of the press these sort of stories would never come to light. Well, up to a point Lord Copper.

What troubles me is that I suspect that the damage to the reputation of politicians is irreparable in the immediate future. There is a danger that there will be a move to select Parliamentary Taleban, humourless squeaky clean zealots of propriety. God it will be dull. And rather scary.

I don’t want our tribunes to live the lives of monks and nuns. I just want them too behave with a little common sense and decency even if it is not in the rules.

If they don’t we might as well just hand the whole show over to big business. Let them sponsor the bloody lot. G4s can fund the Justice Committee. RBS Treasury. And Health? The Cooperative Funeral Service of course.



Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

In the land of the politically blind the swivel eyed loons are kings. A by election in Newark would be a distraction from the Miliband omnishambles

31 May 2013 at 14:53

If I was a Number 10 strategist (discuss) I would be doing my damnedest to prevent Patrick Mercer from causing a by election in Newark. It will be a little while before we know just how daft/venal/pissed he has been, but from reports so far he has been the victim of yet another faux lobby sting.

Perhaps “victim” is not the most appropriate adjective. Most MPs suffer political death by their own hand (not in the Stephen Milligan sense), caused by arrogance, desire, greed or breathtaking naivety.

I suspect the latter in Mercer’s case. He has serious form for shouting his mouth off to the press after a few sherbets, usually in the form of visceral attacks on Cameron. It all goes back to the days when he was a shadow minister and made some vaguely inappropriate remarks about the way people joshed each other about their colour and gingerarity in the army. Well, inappropriate in the bonkerish political correctness that politicians are duty bound to pander to. As a former army officer it was just plainspeak to Mercer, but as a front line politician it was political suicide. And as Cameron was doing his best to de swivel and de loon his party, Mercer was given the order of the hobnail. I suspect if he had towed the line and kept his head down he would be in government.

Sadly it all became very personal, very vocal and usually after closing time. Mercer is in the Mad Nad league of Cameron defenestration. And that is why he is so potentially dangerous.

One of the most depressing things about politics that I encountered, apart from my personal horror of dick swinging partisanship is to witness how rejection can corrode the purist of souls. One moment you are cock of the walk, the next; just a cock. It is a sad sight seeing these lost souls tramping the bars and the tea rooms in search of other bitter kindred spirits and trying to spread the poison.

And this is the problem for Cameron. No matter he tries to connect with his backbenchers, either at Number 10 or just with a pat on the back there are a significant minority who deeply resent him for even trying. The charm offensive has not been a success. What will make the difference in a few months time is when the economy picks up, unemployment regularly falls and business has a spring in its step. Cameron again will look like a winner to even the most disaffected who will slink back into the shadows until another opportunity arises for the poisoned stiletto to be unsheathed.

But never mind the future, lets look at now. In the land of the politically blind the swivel eyed loon is king.

The enemies of the modernisers will see this as an opportunity to strike. Not a fatal blow but enough in their eyes to make the Cameroons see the good sense of doing a deal with the Faragistas. Pressure will be put on Mercer to cause a by election. Not to stand himself but to clear a way for a Kipper victory.

For those of unsound mind having Patrick Mercer as Nigel Farage’s John the Baptist is very attractive. This could panic the Cameroons into making more concessions over the EU (a snap referendum would be a start) and scrapping the wickedness of gay marriage.

Those sentient Conservatives realise that this just won’t happen. Lines have been drawn. There will be no more concessions. They will have scoured the opinion polls and have realised that the two Eds are poison to the voters. The Spending Review is the point of no return for Labour. They are either going to make a massive U turn or accept that they are on a white knuckled ride to oblivion.

I hope that the majority of backbenchers, particularly the ones with marginal seats, appreciate the good sense of keeping their real enemy within their sights.

But if Mercer is not a headache La Belle Dorries could be. I hope it has not escaped anybody’s attention that she comes up for re-selection in her Mid Beds seat in a couple of weeks time. It may not be the triumphant coronation that she expects. I have spoken to a number of people who will be at the meeting who are thoroughly fed up with her antics and want rid of her.

And if she is no longer the Conservative candidate does she cause a by election for the Kippers or does she stand for them at the general?

This could be fun.



Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

When the cat's away the mice will play. The Faragistas must be licking their lips

27 May 2013 at 13:05

I was just about to right an upbeat piece about how proud I was to be British in the aftermath of last week’s horrific events, where the Prime Minister gave a sensible and measured response, how the country came together in restrained grief with that hallmark gritty determination to get on with their lives and stick their Agincourt fingers in defiance of the men of terror. It was as if politics had been put on hold.

Until yesterday morning when it was back to the stunts and positioning that the public so despises.

For the life of me don’t the press realise the lunacy of their antics over the Cameron’s family holiday to Ibiza? One the one hand the SUN and the MAIL laud him for his carry on and keep calm message but now slag him off for going on holiday. The MAIL’s headline over the photo of the Camerons, “is Ibiza chilaxed enough for you Prime Minister?” Followed by another, “Is it really wise to be chill axing in Ibiza, Dave?”

The answer to the second question is a resounding yes.

After flying back from France to set up COBRA, visit the Woolwich barracks and then instigate a task force to report on what extra measures may be needed to combat terrorism and radicalisation off he goes on his hols. To cancel them would contradict his message to keep calm and carry on and play into the hands of the extremists.

But this is just a minor irritation compared to the manoeuvres of the usual suspects in Cabinet. O’Patz is refusing to buckle down to further Treasury savings. The man has gone so native he might as well be dancing around a cooking pot with bones through his nose. What I find so remarkable is the ambition of Philip Hammond which for its sheer vulgarity, pretension for someone of such limited talent, could be up for a Turner prize. It appears that he is quite prepared to resign if Osborne persists with further savings at Defence. And of course at Cabinet he stares at the Chancellor with the skill and interest of an Boot Hill undertaker. Which considering has a smile with all the warmth of a brass plate on a coffin is entirely appropriate.

And then there is Theresa May. An interesting turn. Superficially loyal, utterly ruthless and without mercy. Just the sort of person we need as Home Secretary.

But I do worry about the Home Secretary’s Guild who are desperate to bring in the “Snooper’s Charter”. The trouble is that some of our more excitable backbenchers will see this as a very big stick to beat Clegg, who will unfairly be cast as a wishy washy do gooder who will put our citizens at risk by opposing such libertarian plans for the police to monitor all our phone calls, texts, emails, tweets, web browsing habits and any other communication whether we are suspected of a criminal offence or not. George Orwell eat your heart out you are just twenty five years late.

The law on intercept is perfectly adequate at the moment, if the police have reasonable grounds to suspect that a criminal offence has been or is about to be committed they can apply for a warrant to get all the information they need.

So before back bench knees start jerking it would be a good idea to see what the task force recommends.

And then there is my dear old friend David Ruffley’s outburst in the MAIL today, saying that Cameron has a year to get things sorted or else there will be a coup. Poor old Ruffers has got form for this. Almost to the day this latest musing coincided with a similar piece in the MOS which he anonymously penned a year ago. Like so many other able people he is consumed with bitterness at not being given a job, but it really isn’t worth the heartache. Or the aggravation.

The Faragistas must be smacking their lips.



Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Why I will be demonstrating outside parliament tomorrow to stop the dismantling of our revered criminal justice system

21 May 2013 at 17:22

Tomorrow I am going to Westminster. Not as the victor of a great by election victory. Nor to have a quiet lunch with my friends.

But to demonstrate against the government. My government, whose Prime Minister I support and count as a friend.

This is not against the EU. This is not against same sex marriage. This is about something far more important. The dismantling of our system of justice and access to a fair trial.

Our rule of law is under threat .

I know I have written about this before, but this is the background

It is not often that I am incandescent with rage, but yesterday’s interview with Justice Secretary Chris Grayling in the Law Society Gazette about his legal aid reforms required me to lay down in a darkened room for half an hour before writing this.

Let me just quickly remind you what he intends to do.

Of the 1,600 firms of solicitors only 400 will be left after Price Competitive Tendering hands it over to Stobbards, G4s and Serco and anybody else who can do law on the cheap. Whatever happens, those tendering will have to cut costs by 17.5%. This is on top of a legal aid budget that has shrunk by one third since 2006/7 and advocacy fees cut between 36 to 46% ( depending on the type of case) over the same period. Quality won’t just suffer. It will disappear.

A tier of bureaucracy will decide which solicitor someone charged with a criminal offence may have to represent them. There will be no choice.

There will be a financial incentive for lawyers to advise their clients to plead guilty. This will lead to the courts clogged with appeals due to miscarriages of justice.

This is what Grayling said in his interview parts of which were reproduced in yesterday’s TIMES. My comments are in italics.

The legal reforms will go ahead and denounced critics who warn that price will prevail over quality.
So much for consultation. Quality will be extinct simply because no reputable solicitors can possibly compete for these franchises. Sweatshop lawyers can. As choice has been squeezed out of the system there will be no incentive for the new breed of lawyer to do a quality job.

He defended the abolition of the defendant’s right of a choice of lawyer saying people were not up to making a selection.“I do not believe that most people who find themselves in the criminal justice system are great connoisseurs of legal skills………often come from the the most difficult and challenged backgrounds.”
This is a government who believes in choice in health and in education. Why should people not have the right to quality and experienced representation in court? Grayling supports a lack of choice because people are either too dishonest or stupid.

Too thick to pick.

So what happens when a policeman, a nurse or any of middle England gets accused of a serious offence? They will be denied access to justice and a fair trial. Even the most wicked deserve a fair trial and proper representation.

What happens to those specialist firms and barristers who are experienced in serious frauds, murders rapes and importation of drugs?

Thrown to the wall.

Expertise will count for nothing. Yet reputation and competence have been the drivers of quality. If you’re no good you starve. What incentive will there be do do a quality job? Even in its consultation document the MOJ concedes that ’ the highest that can be aspired to is an “acceptable level of representation”.

Acceptable to whom?

On Saturday I attended a packed meeting of the South Eastern Circuit at Inner Temple. There were CCTV relays for the many who could not get tickets. One thing was very clear, barristers, solicitors and the judiciary are united and unflinching in our opposition to the dismantling of our revered system of justice. And this is what the country and Parliament are sleep walking into.

I would die at the barricades rather than let this happen.

Britain wake up.



Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Whoever made those mad swivel eyed loon remarks should be exposed and given a pat on the back

19 May 2013 at 09:48

Here I was sitting in a little studio in Broadcasting House awaiting the first sheets of the day to review the papers for the splendid Stephen Nolan. It was a pretty slow news day so the Swivel eyed loon story splashed in the Times caught our interest. To be be honest it really isn’t much of a story for those who don’t live and die by writing rebellion and division stories. It’s like the Mail splashing, “close aide to Cameron claims Bears shit in the Woods” or “Ex Cameron nanny says the Pope is a Catholic”, shock.

All these things are rather obvious.

So to be told that there is a non psychiatric theory as to why so many Conservative MPs behave in such a bizarre way over the EU and same sex marriage is rather cheering. And bloody obvious. Somebody selected these people knowing full well that there were rather a lot of bats flapping around their belfries.

So what sort of people select at local level? To be honest, the sort of people that all of us who have been involved in public life are pathetically grateful to. Those dwindling and ageing ranks who raise subscriptions, bang on doors and keep the whole local show on the road. It is a soul destroying job. Needing dedication and unwavering views.

The majority of Tory activists are thoroughly decent people who work damn hard for the party. However there are nests of zealots, as in every party. It is these zealots who attend every meeting and demand a return to the days of the fifties, where we didn’t need the bloody EEC, where criminals were sent to jails not holiday camps and out of control kids were caned. They dream of those halcyon times when the local bobby would cuff a young lad’s ear for not showing respect, where the rope was a deterrent to murder and the birch was a perfectly acceptable method of controlling unruly teenagers. And don’t get them started on immigration.

They are I am afraid to say mad, swivel eyed loons.

But are they any less swivel eyed than Dan Hannan or Simon Heffer? Probably not. But it is a fiction to say that they don’t exist within the ranks of the Conservative Party. These are the sort of people who will be saying to their MPs if you don’t support views similar to mine me and all my similarly bonkers mates will join up with Kippers.

It is a symbiotic relationship. Both feed off each others fears and prejudices. They eat together, drink together and bang on and on about Europe and how awful and posh Cameron and his upper class cronies are. How they are never listened to. How they must do anything at any price to get rid of him. And as for those yellow bastards? They don’t know their place. Why doesn’t Cameron just tell them to like it or leave it. If it means the end of a coalition tomorrow, so be it. We’d have an election which we would win. And then in three weeks time an In/Out referendum which we would also win.

Then Britain would be great again. We would trade with whom we want. The pound would soar.

If that isn’t mad swivel eyed loonery I don’t know what is. And you would be amazed to hear that these views either in full or in part are shared by activists and backbenchers alike. But only a minority. Not that you’d think it from the noise that is generated.

Don’t be lulled into the honeyed words of Cash and Redwood who pretend that they support Cameron’s negotiations. They don’t. They want out. Yesterday.

So day after day the Prime Minister is personally attacked, undermined and politically spat upon by members of his own party, who go totally berserk if there is a whiff or criticism of them or their eccentric views.

And after putting up with all this vitriol, abuse, misinformation and damage to the party some Cameroon tells a journalist off the record what the rest of the country and most of the press thinks.

They are all fucking mad.

Whoever is responsible for the mad swivel eyed remark should be exposed.

And given a pat on the back.



Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Some friendly advice for James Wharton

17 May 2013 at 11:38

Downing Street must be heaving an enormous sigh of relief that the hitherto unknown backbencher, James Wharton, won first place on the ballot for introducing a Bill. Sadly, all we know about the chap is that he has a wafer thin majority of 332, is very young, a commercial solicitor and has some incomprehensible connection with sandstone penises.

But joy of joys he is not on the Broadmoor wing of the Conservative party.

He will not be short of advice. Nevertheless, here is mine.

James, old son, you probably haven’t realised that this is the most important thing you will ever do in Parliament even If you become a junior minister which just means you have a nice red box, the occasional use of a mid range family saloon, sign pointless letters and make lifeless speeches that nobody else wants to make.

Firstly, although this is technically your bill, you are merely the host for a Number 10 political strategy. So take advice from the Chief Whip. He is the guy who will be marching the troops through the lobbies for you. Insist that you have an experienced minder and consult before you utter a word to the press. They are not there to be your friend. They want stories about rebellion and division and what may seem a sensible comment from you will be twisted and deformed as an attack on your leader.

Don’t go on Newsnight and avoid the Today programme like the plague. If you feel that you have to appear on the radio be interviewed by Jeremy Vine. He is not a soft touch, but he is canny enough to know that the housewives would regard turning over a fresh faced lad as akin to child abuse.

You will be invited to lunch by big name journalists. Never go alone. They will eat you for breakfast. Your first point of journalistic contact should be your local press and radio station. By now you should have built up a strong relationship with them. They are less likely to shaft you and will remember that you spoke to them first.

And remember the golden rule. If you are going to give background information which you would rather not see in print say the magic words, “off the record” at the outset.

Next take advice on who will sponsor the Bill. Try and get a good mix of sensible sceptics and Europhiles. You want to show that this is not a rebel Bill but represents all wings of the party.
You will find that you have never had so many friends. Be cautious. You are a dolphin in a sea of sharks. The ambitious and the bitter will want to use you. Keep your counsel close to your chest. But find an experienced hand whom you can trust and don’t let them leave your side.

And when dealing with the Lobby, don’t be clever, bumptious or lie. They won’t forget or forgive. There will be very few members of the lobby you can trust. But they do exist. Nigel Nelson of the PEOPLE is a veteran of the lobby. He has been my friend for over twenty five years. I would trust him with my life. Give him a ring.

Once the euphoria dies down you will be under tremendous stress and pressure. Everyone knows that the Lib Dem and Labour policy on Europe is a shambles. Rise above cheap shots. Don’t worry there will be plenty of others who will put the boot in.

You must be seen as sensible, sane and reasoned giving the British people a chance to cast their vote after Cameron’s negotiations. Of course the Bill will fail. But someone untainted with the past is an asset. Don’t waste it.

Do not make the mistake of answering the hypothetical question of how you would vote if the referendum was tomorrow. And get someone to trawl through your past speeches and election material and have a position. We all say daft things at election times. Remember there is no such thing as a private supper party.

And finally when you steer your Bill through the first stage answer you opponents with courtesy. And don’t accept any amendments without advice.

Oh and if you see Bill Cash approaching with a wedge of papers tied up with string covered in green ink, run for the hills.

Remember the wise words of Alan Clark that when people offer you advice ask yourself, “what’s in it for them?”

If you get this right you will have a grateful Prime Minister.

But if it goes tits up best dust down the law books.

Good luck.



Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

The Queen's Speech amendment is venal act of self indulgence. It could be the beginning of the end of the Tories in government for a very long time

13 May 2013 at 08:23

If you walk down to the basement of Conservative HQ you will be confronted by a locked door with the sign emboldened with a skull and crossbones warning, “Danger enter at your peril.” Those who have been brave enough to cross the threshold tell me that the room is empty save for a glass case which contains a large red button emblazoned with the words “Self Destruct.”

One by one the Parliamentary Party have been filing into the room as relatively normal people, pressing the button and then emerging like extras from Shaun of The Dead by staggering zombielike into the fresh air and infecting other colleagues.

The amendment to the Queen’s Speech could be the beginning of the end of the Conservatives in office. It is an act of venal self indulgence which will horrify those sentient members of the electorate who actually think and care and will antagonise those who fear for their jobs and families.

What is it meant to achieve? No parliament can bind another. But this amendment doesn’t even try to. It is just an expression of regret that the government’s legislative programme doesn’t mention a referendum. Most Labour MPs and all Lib Dems will vote against so it will be defeated.

What a thoroughly futile and pointless exercise. And according to some MPs this is just the beginning.

So apart from making them all look like incompetent fools more interested in a stunt to save their own miserable skins it is a gift to the Faragistas. How long will it be be before the cartoonists show Farage pint in hand, fag in mouth, sitting on the back seat of a second hand Jag giving directions to his chauffeur, David Cameron?

Personally, I don’t give a toss if celebrities like Jamie Oliver and Des Lynam bromance the kippers. It will give me endless hours of amusement when these bandwagoners suddenly realise that there is a very dark side to UKIP.

But what I find so unforgivable is the self preservation and vanity of ministers. What on earth does the normally sensible Michael Gove think he is playing at? What’s happened to collective responsibility? I suspect that one day he will realise that this is the biggest mistake of his political career. Which is a shame as I like and admire him. Of O’Patz and the charisma free zone that is Phillip Hammond I am not surprised. Little people with large ambitions.

However, watch out for Theresa May who is being both loyal and clever. This lady has come a very long way.

Most depressing of all is that voting for this irrelevance will be like a badge of honour. The pressure from local supporters will be mounting on backbenchers and ministers. This will be the time we will find out who are the sheep and who are the wolves.

I sometimes wonder whether Cameron and Osborne are the only members of the cabinet with any balls. They know that it would be an economic catastrophe to leave the EU. Their plan is sensible and realistic. It would be counterproductive to go to other leaders with a set of British demands. Far better to sell reforms as something that will help all member states. More transparency, more democracy. Power not just flowing to Brussels but back to member states.

The repatriation of powers shopping list that the usual suspects have drawn up is a trap that Cameron is too savvy to fall for. It will sour negotiations and fail.

And that is what they want.

But it would be rather nice if someone would have the courage to speak up for the EU. Not as a federal state, a central economic and fiscal policy nor mad delusions of foreign adventures. People want Cameron to protect our interests, in trade, jobs and the City of London as well as promoting growth as well as to claw back social and employment policy from Brussels for all member states.

For a man who has vetoed a treaty, reduced the budget and saved us from the horrors of the Euro bail out mechanism, he is just the man to put the case for reform not just for us but for all members.

Whether his party will let him is another matter. This freak show has got to stop. But it will get worse. This is a gift for Farage giving him a sense of importance that is totally unwarranted.

But this whole farce is just being to gain momentum. The Onanistic wing of the Tory Party are now pressing for a referendum on gay marriage. Completely nuts.

What is so frustrating is that at the weekend Peter Mandelson made a scathing attack on the power and influence the unions have on Labour. A hand grenade into Miliband’s inner sanctum. A gift for Cameron. The Tories should be exploiting this with vigour.

I have been shocked at the language that is privately deployed against Cameron and Osborne. The way some talk you would think that they are serial killers. For reasons beyond my comprehension many are genuinely keen to rid themselves of their only electoral asset before the election. One backbencher told me a few weeks ago that he could easily get seventy signatures on a letter to 1922 Chairman Brady. “The only thing that stops us is that we detest Afriyie even more”, he grinned.

And all this at time when the economy is beginning to move in the right direction. The Footsie is soaring and advertising revenues will be up 2.7% on last year and be predicted to hit a 5% increase next year. This is significant because advertising revenues don’t track GDP they drive it.

But apart from being a KIPPER this is not a good time to be leader of any party. A large section of Labour MPs despise Miliband and would oust him if their party machinery wasn’t so cumbersome and poor old Cleggy will find himself under a lot of perhaps mortal pressure at conference in September.

And that is the added attraction for parties like UKIP. They are fed up with the parlour games, the positioning, the intrigue and the stunts. They don’t like the piss being ripped out of them by the ruling elite.

And this totally daft, meaningless stunt over the Queen’s Speech will only fuel the already bloated ego of Farage’s ego to barrage balloon proportions.

What an absolute shower. This is the only time since 1997 that I wished I was back on those green benches.

I’d give them hell.



Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

The uncomfortable truth about rape

10 May 2013 at 17:28

I seem to have created a furore on twitter about comments I was alleged to make on Question Time last night about rape. I think it only right to put the record straight.

There was a question from the audience asking whether the panel thought the names of those arrested should be released to the press. I was of the view that they should be, but with one exception. Those accused of rape and sexual offences should remain anonymous until conviction unless a judge ruled that it would be in the interests of justice that the name should be revealed. For example to encourage other potential victims to come forward.

Then a lady in the audience commented that there were 95,000 rapes every year yet only 900 prosecutions. I haven’t a clue where those figures came from or whether they are remotely accurate. For the sake of argument let us assume that they are.

What seems to the have caused an avalanche of abuse and misinformation was my remark that if there is no evidence to charge the man cannot be guilty of that rape. Legally this is an accurate assessment. I have been accused of saying that rape victims are liars. Not only did I not say or suggest this, I certainly don’t think it.

Rape is a wicked violation which often leads to shame and guilt. I am of the view that if a woman (or for that matter a man) makes an accusation the police must listen, empathise and leave no stone unturned to mount a prosecution. Rape victims have the right to be heard and taken seriously. It takes a great deal of courage for a victim to go to the police in the first place, particularly if they are in an abusive relationship. Women’s refuges play a vital part in the protection of women.

Let me just explode a few myths and stereotypes. To prosecute and try a rape (or any other sexual offence) the advocate and the judge must have special training and certified competent to do so. The victims are given special support. If they are particularly vulnerable a court may order the use of an intermediary who can intervene in a difficult cross examination. A victim’s character cannot be trashed. The judge, unless there are exceptional circumstances, will not allow evidence or cross examination about past sexual history. The judge will intervene if he takes a view that cross examination is becoming overbearing or irrelevant. The victim will be protected by the court.

But a trial has two sides. The complainant and the defendant. The jury try the case not on assumption or innuendo but on the evidence. The prosecution must prove the case so that they are sure of guilt.

Sometimes this can be very difficult. Sometimes in a failed relationship a defendant will allege that the complainant has made this up out of spite. This may be true or it may be a bare faced lie. But it is his defence and he must be allowed to put it or else there cannot possibly be a fair trial. If there is no supporting evidence such as DNA witnesses or CCTV, the jury have a dilemma. In these sort of cases supporting evidence is rare. Who do they believe? How can they be sure where the truth lies.

But give me the collective common sense of a jury rather than a case hardened judge or tribunal any day.

What I find so depressing is that in some quarters there is a view that whatever the evidence there must be an assumption that the defendant is guilty. This is just plain wrong and as bad as the old stereotype of “her skirt was too short……she was flirty…..what did she expect?” Those stereotypes were ventilated from our courts many years ago.

Women have a right to be heard even if the evidence is weak. It must for a jury to decide. But a defendant must be allowed to put his case.

The day that in trials of a sexual nature the normal rules of evidence are suspended would be a catastrophic day for British Justice.

However I doubt any of this will put an end to vitiolic of twitter abuse. Which says more about them than me.

It appears that a petition condemning me and the BBC is doing the rounds.

From the sort of people who believe that freedom of speech is so precious that it must be rationed. Mr.Mugabe would be very proud.



Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.