Years ago that wily old chief whip, John Wakeham, gave me some very good advice. " if you are in a fix don"t get anyone to lie for you". It's as good now as it was then

25 Feb 2013 at 13:11

That wily old chief whip John Wakeham gave me some very wise advice many years ago. " If you are in a fix don’t get anyone to lie for you." It is as good now as it was in the 1980s. The Lib Dems have got themselves into an appalling and needless muddle over the allegations against Rennard. What shocked me was the total lack of coordination between senior media appearances by the likes of Clegg, Farron, Browne and Cable. Surely someone from the centre should have worked out a line to take and briefed those who were going to appear on the airwaves? Apparently not. The result makes them all look as shifty as hell when they may well be (shock horror) telling the truth. But the damage has been done just days before the most important by election of this Parliament. The legendary Lib Dem spin guru, Olly Grender, would never have allowed this to happen. The media are going to have a field day and poor old Cleggy will face even more panicky calls for his defenestration. And will it affect the outcome at Eastleigh? I doubt it. The punters thinks most politicians have their snouts in the trough and their hands where they shouldn’t be. Terribly unfair and mostly untrue, but the political classes don’t help themselves. The key to Eastleigh is pretty obvious. Whoever persuades those who promised to vote (and this will shock you, some people tell porkies) to actually brave the weather and tick the box. I have no doubt that there will be the usual post mortems showing that the dogs and the dead have been allowed to vote via our deeply flawed postal system. But hey ho. Anyway, if you are infirm, pissed or on class A drugs you can listen to me and the delightful Owen Jones report on it live from the count on Nolan at 5 Live.

Not surprisingly in the light of our Moody downgrade the usual suspects of the right are calling for George Osborne’s head. Unless he presses that magic button for growth ( which doesn’t exist) and slashes public expenditure even more to fund tax cuts he’s brown bread. To be replaced by…….? Well, General Pinochet is dead and Imelda Marcos is washing her hair.

This analysis of course is quite daft. The message from Art Laffer (always ahead of the curve), Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Roy Greenspan is very clear. Tax cuts do not pay for themselves and must not be funded out of borrowing. The trouble is that a lot of Tory backbenchers don’t like to read economics. And poor old Adam Afriyie rather than keep a low profile is fast becoming a Nadine Dorries with brains. “The government is in the last chance saloon!” his Mail on Sunday piece screamed. Yes matey, where they used to shoot everything that moves. And you are being rather dangerously mobile.

Why don’t these people read The Plan for Growth, updated regularly by the BIS and the Treasury? It sets out how the Coalition is cutting red tape for SMEs, expanding and improving apprenticeships and have approached £310 billion of infrastructure spending, up £45 billion on last year? Too much to hope for.

But the interesting story of the weekend is the report that Michael Ashcroft is no longer going to contribute to the Conservative party. This is rather worrying. His marginal seat campaign was invaluable and his polling of great interest. He is reported to be concerned that the Tories need an extra ten points to win an outright majority and hasn’t a clue where they are going to come from. It would be of serious concern if his army of well placed columnists should turn against Cameron.

A charm offensive is called for.



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Save us from patronising Guardian columnists who think that only clever people should be on juries. What happened at the Pryce trial was a one off aberration

22 Feb 2013 at 10:01

I was wondering how long it was going to be before someone started screaming for the end of jury trials. I was expecting at least a “Juries give you cancer” scare from the Mail", “Juries, just another blow from Brussels” from the Express and “stunning, blonde divorcee juror halts Pryce trial by performing sex act during judge’s summing up”. I was wrong. The prize for the most out of touch, out of mind, sphincter rattling, gonad clenching piece of ignorant nonsense graces today’s Guardian. What makes it so depressing is that it was written by the normally thoughtful Simon Jenkins (Onan Professor of toss pottery pure and applied).

I have been prosecuting and defending at the criminal bar for thirty five years. What happened before Mr Justice Sweeney was so unusual as to be unique. I have wracked by brains and cannot think of another example of a juror asking such literate but daft questions. I am beginning to wonder whether there were wind up merchants determined to wreck the trial. We will never know.

But back to Mr.J. He quotes the killer jury question in full.
Can a juror come to a verdict on a reason not raised in court which has no facts or evidence to support it?

He then comes to the bizarre and totally inaccurate conclusion that “everyone knows that juries do that all the time”. This is dangerous nonsense. Each juror swears an oath or affirms that they will try the case on the evidence. It is the compulsory and standard direction that a judge tells them that they must not speculate about anything that they have not heard in the court room.

Jenkins then comes out with another whopper gleaned, he claims, from the work of Cheryl Thomas (who she?) from UCL. She has reached the conclusion that " finds barristers googling jurors to discover their weaknesses and jurors googling the accused and witnesses". How on earth can we google jurors if we don’t know where they live? Sheer fantasy. And a dangerous one at that as it is totally untrue. Unlike in America our jurors are not screened and interrogated, they are randomly chosen. And before the evidence even begins the judge gives Jurors a very stern warning not to access the internet, nor social media to research anything to do with case on pain of being sent to prison. But the Jenkinsion legal Disneyland seem to know no bounds. “A majority of criminal cases now depend heavily on technical knowledge of DNA and financial law. Conscientious jurors are bound to research such matters. That is why courthouses are full of people gazing at their little screens.” Yeah, on pain of being chucked in the chokey. And Simon, old chum, all mobile phones and laptops are confiscated from jurors.

And just to show that the old boy has finally flipped we have this little gem. “The Huhne case is outrageous ……it is about switching. People do it all the time…..that he should go to prison is crazy”. No Simon, you are the crazy one here. The case is all about lying to evade a criminal prosecution. We quaintly call it peverting the course of public justice. Parliament took rather a dim view of it and legislated that the maximum sentence be life imprisonment.

And the conclusion? “For ordinary citizens to be pressed into services to supply an audience for a legal parlour game is not sensible.” There are no parlour games in court and there haven’t been for many years. The jury system really is the cornerstone of British justice and a protection of the citizen from an over powerful executive. We have highly professional judges who explain the law in a simple way. Then twelve men and women from all backgrounds make an assessment of whether witnesses are telling the truth, lying or just doing their best. But of course, Jenkins, with a brain the size of a Katie Price mammary, looks down on them all. They are too dim. Lawyers are just there for fun and to confuse the dribbling and gurning peasants. How much better it would be for clever people to decide the lives of their inferiors. Clever people like Mr Jenkins who earns a living patronising everyone who is not up to his academic standard.

Personally, I have always like Jenkins. But to read uninformed bollocks written by someone who has as little understanding of our judicial system as I have of astro physics is profoundly depressing.

A few years ago Jenkins asked the grizzled old historian and Mail columnist Paul Johnson, why he thought he was getting more radical with age. Johnson just growled, “perhaps because you are a cunt.”



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We can't go on sending mixed messages about immigration

20 Feb 2013 at 15:48

I have absolutely no evidence for this nor even a snippet of tea room gossip, but my waters tell me that there looks like the beginning of a turf war between Number 10 and the Home Office. Let me explain why.

The control of immigration, or rather lack of it, is an issue that is high on the public’s worry list. It is that, rather than Europe, why the Kippers skim some of the soft Tory vote. Theresa May is all that a Home Secretary should be. Decisive, focused and determined to make her traditionally dysfunctional department do what it says on the tin. She, as a former Party Chairman, understands very well that the public want tight controls. UKBA is a disaster area and she was right to read the riot act to those civil servants who changed policy against her orders. And she is sensible and ambitious enough not to take her eye off the ball of that little nest of vipers.

The trouble is that industry needs skilled and semi skilled immigrants to function efficiently. Add that to the fact that David Cameron is in India trying to encourage their best and their brightest to come over here and you have some mixed messages.

And then there is Gavin Barwell. I have known Gavin for years. He is one of that new breed of Tory backbenchers whom when you chat to him you are not worried if there is a full moon and not concerned at all that you don’t have that string of garlic, crucifix or wooden stake that are a necessity when talking to some of them. And speaking of Nadine Dorries, isn’t silence golden and blissful? Withdrawal of the whip when it is soon to be resection time concentrates the mind wonderfully.

But back to Barwell. He doesn’t shoot from the hip, has common sense views and is rather thoughtful. No wonder he appears on the dart board of the green inkers. Today he has written a well argued piece in the Telegraph about mixed messages over immigration. Since May’s populist views on radically cutting the numbers back he has shown that the number of talented students from India has dropped as has investment. This is a serious problem.

Gavin is no ordinary backbencher. He is the PPS to Michael Gove, another effective and decisive minister who knows what he wants and is determined to get it. He also has a department that has traditionally been hand in glove with the teaching unions and whose civil servants aren’t necessarily the most loyal or obedient. He too is sorting them out to squeals of indignation and horror. Good God the bloody man wants to make exams tougher, raise standards and put children before teachers. The swine.

So for an aide to write such a piece he must have had the blessing from Gove, a man who would rather bite off his right arm than undermine his friend Cameron. So far I have not read any counter briefings. But these are early days.

We all know what is wrong with immigration but feel uncomfortable saying it. We don’t want people coming over here purely as economic migrants, disappearing into closed communities who don’t share our values. And we don’t want hordes of Romanians and Bulgarians flocking to our shores for the sole purpose of collecting handouts or become health service tourists. We want the best, the brightest and the hardest workers who can enrich our cultural lives, work hard and pay taxes. And we don’t want unskilled workers sending child benefit back home. It is insane, unfair and desperately unpopular.

A balance must be struck and a clear policy must be agreed. Quickly. Number 10 and the Home Office must be at one.

Then there is the problem of primary legislation regarding Article 8 (the right to a family life) and criminals. May has been very badly advised on this one. To take a swipe at the independence of the judiciary is bad politics. They just interpret the law that Parliament makes. Former Lord Chief Justice and Master of the Rolls Harry Wolfe is a brilliant jurist and not some mad leftie. He is right to point out that judges don’t just act on what is said in Parliament but the law. The guidelines are the law. They were introduced as delegated legislation on July 15th last year. Primary legislation won’t make a difference at all.

May stated that Criminals have “an unqualified right to remain”. That is just plain wrong. It is worth quoting Article 8 in full:

" 1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except as in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interest of national security, public safety or the economic wellbeing of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Those are my italics. Pretty clear eh?

God they are an absolute shower at the Home Office. Poor old Dominic Grieve, who understands these things rather well, must be tearing his hair out.



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The casual homophobia of David Jones is very depressing. To say that gay couples as are incapable of providing warmth and affection as parents will cause great hurt to a lot of decent people

16 Feb 2013 at 09:33

Some of you may not of heard of David Jones MP. Apparently he is the Secretary of State for Wales. He first crossed my radar on the Stephen Nolan show on 5 Live last night. He is the fellow who quite casually, live on air, uttered the rather chilling words that gay couples are unable to provide “warmth and affection” should they chose to parent children. Surely, not even the most knuckle dragging of our government would utter such offensive nonsense? But Nolan played the tape and that is what the guy said. To be fair he did qualify it by saying that he did not object to gay marriage, which I thought was a little odd as he voted against it.

Imagine if he had said that black couples were unable to provide children with warmth and affection? The world and his wife would be screaming for his resignation. I don’t think that Jones should resign; just get out a bit more.

What saddens me is that intelligent people can have genuinely held beliefs which are so obviously wrong. The gay men and women of Wales who have adopted children and offer them love, affection and a stable home must feel rather hurt. Why does a cabinet minister feel that they are incapable of bringing up a child?

Does Jones think that Elton John and David Furnish don’t love their kids? And if so why? It may well be that Jones is a creationist and genuinely believes that the World is four thousand years old and that we are not descended from apes. It is the delightfully tolerant British way of dealing with things to comment that “we respect those views”. I’m afraid that I don’t. Jones will have caused great hurt to many decent people who have not chosen a lifestyle but just happen to be born the way they are. They have love to give and shouldn’t be denied the opportunity of giving it.

Children desperately need to feel loved and secure. End of story. Why this isn’t so blindingly obvious is a total mystery to me.

Sometimes I look round parliament in total disbelief at the wide range of quirky views and sometimes I think that I inhabit another planet from some of these people. God knows what the electorate think.

Sometimes it is very hard to be a Conservative. But like David Cameron I struggle on.


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That bloody omnivore "I'll eat anything" Paterson better keep away from my cats

15 Feb 2013 at 09:33

Imagine the scene. David Cameron is chill axing in his study at Downing Street. He has just finished a challenging hour of zapping angry birds and has given up trying to slice those pesky coconuts on Fruit Ninja. His PPS pours him another refreshing glass of General Galtieri 1981.
“I say Sam, this Owen Paterson fellow, what’s he actually for?” A frown passes over the handsome ebonied features of the young Oxford graduate destined for higher things. Perhaps one day he would be a parliamentary under secretary in the Welsh Office. Such dreams. But back to the matter in hand.

Paterson? The name did ring a bell. Not that heartthrob vampire? No,no. Hang on, wasn’t he the PPS to Iain Duncan Smith who Cameron had to give a job to to keep the right wing happy? Of course,he’s a bit dim, so he was put in Northern Ireland as he couldn’t do too much harm and then things got a bit iffy and was reshuffled into DEFRA to replace someone even dimmer but was there to keep the quota of women round the cabinet table about right. And then the bloody woman decided to to sell off our forests to the French but forgot to tell us. Jesus!

“I remember”, says Cameron. “He’s the chap who is supposed to keep an eye on what people eat. Didn’t he tell the Daily Mail that he would happily eat a horse, that he is an omnivore and would eat absolutely anything? For God’s sake stop him going on the telly chomping on some pony burger. And don’t let him go to Korea.” The thought of the twerp tucking into puppy fricassee was too much for the Prime Minister. What would the Chipping Norton Pony Club think?
“Best not let him go to China either, I think they eat babies out there. The WI wouldn’t approve at all.
And Sam just tell him to actually do something about our food being contaminated.”

Now O.Patz can’t help being a hoof short of the full horse, but he does have some very bright advisors. What on earth has he being doing since his appointment in September? DEFRA knew there was contamination of the food supply way back in March 2012. You’d have thought they would have asked some very searching questions of the Foods Standard Agency, told them to get grip and perhaps slip in a statutory instrument on a wet Thursday night (nobody would have noticed) to give them more powers.

And what about the big supermarkets? Did anyone call them in, tell them to check and double check how their meat was sourced? Did any officials start inspecting slaughter houses? God knows. It all sounds horribly complacent.

I have a sinking feeling that ministers were terrified of what would happen to the meat industry if this ever came out. They all remember Edwina and eggs and shudder. Yet at least she told the truth.

Most depressing of all is this is just another breach of trust. Can we be sure what we are eating? Do we know what is in our food? Can we be certain that it is safe? I just don’t know.

I suspect that everyone has been so obsessed with salt, fat, sugar and obesity that eyes were taken off the ball. Two years ago it would have been unthinkable to suggest that meat from some drugged up horse could appear in our lasagne. Just how long has this been going on?

And don’t blame the recession and the need for cheap food. The line, which is a gross insult to the poor, that if you pay a few pence for a sausage don’t be surprised if it contains a load of crap. This is fraud and complacency with the whiff of cover up. And it is a national disgrace.

So yet another institution has joined the sorry list of MPs, bankers, the church and the NHS who have lost the public trust. No wonder people are so cynical.

And as for omnivore Paterson? Well, the bloody man better keep away from my cats.


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Jeremy Hunt has learned an important lesson in politics; Who Cares Wins. He must now put it into practice

10 Feb 2013 at 16:05

When Jeremy Hunt was promoted to Health Secretary I was one of the first to write that this was an inspired appointment. Rather a lot of people tweeted suggesting that this was proof that I should be sent off to the Priory for a long holiday. But I might just have been right.

The contrast between Hunt and Lansley is stark. Andrew is a thoroughly decent man who cares about the NHS, but he is a technocrat and speaks like one. His is the world of outcomes, management structures and bureaucracies. On planet Hunt the emphasis is rather different. Care, compassion; getting better. I watched him on Marr this morning. Calm, professional and believable.

Hunt’s great asset is unflappability. A few months ago he was written off as an almost certain piece of reshuffle road kill because of his closeness to Murdoch during the SKY bid. For a while it looked like curtains. But he kept calm, behaved with dignity when the press goat fuck was in full cry and most important of all, kept the heat off of Cameron. Who better humanise the health service?

The trouble is that we have all worshipped at the feet of the NHS for so long that we have become blinded to the harsh reality that in some respects they are made of clay. What horrified and shocked me about the Francis report was an almost an endemic institutionalised lack of compassion. That the old and the frail were left begging for water and being left to fester in the indignity of their own filth is nothing short of a national disgrace. And now it has come to light that this was not just at Staffs but far,far more widespread. Churchill once said that a measure of society’s civilisation was the way they treated their prisoners. That yardstick has changed. If we as a nation were judged on the way we treated our old and vulnerable we would be in the stone ages.

The left would argue that this is because nurses are under resourced because of government cuts. This is a very dangerous lie. The Staffs scandals happened at a time when Brown was throwing money at the NHS with the gay abandon of a drunken sailor. What snookers Andy Burnham the charming but rather ineffective shadow health secretary is that this all happened on Labour’s watch.

I am still of the belief that our health service is wonderful. The care that my ninety two year old mum receives up in Scotland is a model of good practice and compassion. But it is a post code lottery for many.

I suspect that there is no simple solution to the problem unless the ethos is to hire people who put care and compassion above everything else. There is too much box ticking to feed the insatiable Whitehall monster’s lust for statistics. And now for something which will cause the left to squeal and howl and condemn me from the roof tops. So let me take a deep breath. There are too many overseas nurses who regard nursing not as a caring profession but as a handy means to send money back home. They must be weeded out.

I suspect that it is no coincidence that on the back of the Francis report the government has finally plucked up courage and put forward sensible plans to ensure that that our elderly no longer have the fear of losing their cherished homes which they wish to pass on to their loved ones. Why Labour ignored this very obvious reform stills fills me with incredulity.

So what do people want? It really is a no brainer. They want and deserve a health service that works for them when they need it. That they don’t have the terror of finding the cash to pay for it. And that the old and the vulnerable live out the rest of their lives warm, well fed and with dignity. But no matter what policies are put though and no matter the good intentions of ministers, a health service is not worthy of its name unless every thought and every deed of every day and every night has care and compassion at the forefront.

Jeremy Hunt has understood an obvious but long overlooked certainty in politics. Who cares wins.



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A glittering night out with Iain Dale a lake of bubbly,political stars and some wicked gossip

8 Feb 2013 at 13:59

I normally regard attending book awards as a bit of a chore. Sipping warm white wine with intense and and sometimes very dull authors is not my idea of a barrel load of laughs. So trekking over to the Political Book Awards filled my heart with dread. But as it was organised by my mate Iain Dale I loyally went to support the old boy. Thank heavens I did. It was one of the most glittering and enjoyable events that I have ever attended. And being a professional junketeer the bar is set very high.

Anyone of any interest in the world of politics and journalism was there. David Steel, Alastair Campbell, Tony Benn, Edwina Currie, the Hamiltons, Jack Straw, Ann Widecombe, stacks of former cabinet ministers, Dame Ann Lesley, Nick Robinson and anyone who is worth talking to from Her Majesty’s press.

After downing a few bottles of Ashcroftian bubbly we were ushered into the Imex auditorium. The lights went down the screen flickered into life as Royalty’s gentleman’s gentleman, Gyles Brandreth, glided on the stage to host the event. With the delivery of Sir Lawrence Olivier and the looks of Victor Meldrew he oozed professionalism. And came out with some great one liners, my favourite being, Tony Blair’s book, ‘A journey’, isn’t selling well in Germany, perhaps because the title translates as Ein Fart.

Thatcher impersonator, Steve Nallon, came up dressed as the old dear and did a great turn ending with a withering, ‘if I had had wanted John Major’s opinion I’d have given him one.’

Then the splendid Widdecombe appeared. Now I am very fond of Ann but sometimes you get the impression that her outfits were designed by David Blunkett based on an idea by Sir Patrick Moore. She sported a pair of tights that rather than flatter her pins made them look is if they were recovering from major surgery performed by Edward Scisserhands.

And while the stars came out did their turns and won their awards I was treated to the waspish, bitchy and very funny commentary whispered by my neighbour and very old friend Andrew Pierce. It also cheered me to see that two people that I am devoted to, Nick Cohen and Owen Jones won well deserved prizes.

But the pre and after show gossip was priceless. My old mate Ali Campell (despite what some say he is a very nice guy) reminisced how he once punched the Guardian’s Michael White (well who wouldn’t).
“That was bad”, he moaned.
“What hitting Whitey?”
“No. It was a bad punch”.

However a gothic froideur chilled the room when Edwina Currie and Christine Hamilton gazed daggers at each other. And Edwina, I don’t know what you are on but you looked stunning.

And as I staggered off to bed the legendary Ann Leslie informed me that we share the same hairdresser. What a funny old world.

So thanks Iain for a splendid evening. I can’t wait until next year.



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Huhne made Alan B'Stard look like a shining beacon of truth and principle but he doesn't deserve to be separated from the love of his son for the rest of his life

5 Feb 2013 at 09:19

I have long been of the view that ministers of the crown should be made to read one Greek tragedy a month. It would improve their knowledge of history and remind them of their political mortality. For Chris Huhne it may have been his salvation. If he had not humiliated his Greek born wife we may never have known of his dishonesty. But thank heavens we do now. The Lib Dems were a whisker away from electing him as their leader. He could have been Deputy Prime Minister. This would have been not just a catastrophe for the Coalition but for politics.

It is hardly a revelation that the public treat the political classes with contempt. They think that they are lying, cheating, charlatans who abuse our trust to gain power. Huhne has lied to his family, his friends, his party and his Leader. After months of legal wrangling and deceit he now “takes responsibility” for his actions. When I heard him utter those weasel words on the steps of Southwark Crown Court my stomach churned with revulsion. The trouble with self made men is that they so often worship their creator.

I am not here to gloat. For years before this scandal I, like many others, reported his total disregard for Cabinet responsibility. He would brief against Clegg, lie about May and generally make Alan B’Stard look like a shining beacon of truth and principle. He was despised by his Cabinet colleagues of all parties simply because he was regarded by his peers as the worst word in the political lexicon, a shit. If my old mate Alan Clark were alive he would have gone further. “The bloody man’s not just a shit, but a shit’s shit”, he would have drawled with an expensive glass of claret in one hand and a shapely thigh being stroked by the other.

Yet let us be really honest. Can you imagine any other senior politician behaving like Huhne has? Cameron? Clegg? The brothers grim? Even the man that represents everything that is repulsive in politics, Ed Balls? No. It would be unthinkable. But when Huhne is shipped off to prison for a few months, the public will just shrug their shoulders and mutter that that’s where most of them belong. That is untrue, unfair and utterly depressing. But that is how low the political classes have sunk in public esteem.

However I do have a word of advice for his son Peter, whose frank texts scuppered his father. It is this. Your dad may have hurt you deeply by the way your mother was treated and you have every right to be confused, bitter and angry. But he is still your dad and those texts and letters show that he loves you. In time be at peace with him. If you travel through life full of hatred it will gnaw into your soul and humanity. Don’t go to your grave with unfinished business.
As you will have seen I have never had any time for Huhne. But not even he deserves to be separated from his son for the rest of his life.

And finally a word to those who are considering voting against the Gay Marriage legislation tonight. Read Peter Kelner, the president of YouGov. His opinion poll is fascinating. 55% of people in favour, 36% against. Of the most important matters to people, the economy 56%, immigration 42%, NHS 26%. And Gay Marriage? 7%. Most interestingly 4/3 say that they would be more likely to vote for a party that supports it than less likely.

Bit of a no brainer really. But brains don’t seem to be apparent in this debate. I might just pop into the Strangers bar tonight and bayonet the wounded.



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The Huhne trial could have some very interesting repercussions. If a Tory by election candidate can give a clear election commitment not to wank himself to death they could be in with a shout

1 Feb 2013 at 12:50

This has not been a good week for politics or politicians. Both the Lib Dems and Labour were committed to more equal constituency boundaries and for the most venal, partisan and odious reasons they cast whatever principles they might have possessed into the poisoned well of opportunism.

Then the anti gay marriage brigade demand that in return for a sensible reform of the law which is popular amongst the majority of voters but are sending the Tory Taliban into wild eyed frothings of rage, there should be better tax breaks for married couples. But doesn’t that also include same sex marriages too? Sometimes I wish that I was a psychiatrist. But only so I could commit some of this lot to places of safety with lashings of liquid cosh.

And just as we thought that there had been rapprochement between the bothers grim Ed’s lot have been briefing against David. It appears Ed didn’t want to rule out a referendum on the EU at all. Oh, no. It was all the fault of the King Across the Water. It is no wonder the electorate regard our great tribunes of the people as an absolute shower.

However, there was a little light relief. Just to prove that the Kippers are in touch with the pulse of the nation some young lad who was once the head of their youth wing writes a piece positing that having sex with dead people may not such be a bad idea. Rather a messy position to take I would have thought.

But Farage has not had the wooden stake successfully pushed though his heart just yet. And if the Huhne trial goes seriously tits up and there has to be a by election in Eastleigh there could be some surprises. With the Lib Dems flatlining, the Tories, providing they can produce a candidate that can give a clear election commitment that he will not wank himself to death, are in with a shout. Just remember that Farage stood as a candidate there way back. This could be very interesting.

It is time for Sir George to start cracking a few bones. These daft leadership challenge stories still keep appearing. The Telegraph reports that it is not just Cameron who is on probation until 2014 but Osborne too. This really is the politics of the mad house and it is becoming seriously irritating to the majority of Tory backbenchers. I predict that if these stories keep appearing (placed by the usual suspects) there will be an explosion at the 22. I would imagine that Afriyie must be getting very concerned to read reports that he has set up a well funded organisation and will be announcing an alternative economic strategy. After his proclaimed bromance with Cameron I find this very hard to swallow. Every time the poor fellow opens his mouth it will be twisted into an attack on the leadership. For an ambitious young man with a brain this is a perilous situation to find himself in. My advice to the lad is run for the hills, write a piece in the Telegraph saying that all this talk is loose and sign a loyality pledge to the leadership in his own blood. And that is the start. He has now become, probably quite unwittingly, a focus of serious dissent. The trouble is every time he does say something sensible the government is not likely to roll over and have their tummy tickled for fear of being frit of a young pretender.

It is all desperately sad.

But fun.


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The bedroom tax is not about shagging but rather more worrying

29 Jan 2013 at 06:47

When my best mate Nigel Nelson, veteran political editor of the PEOPLE, emailed me about his campaign to water down ‘the bedroom tax’, I thought the old boy had finally flipped. Was this was some mad red top spin that the government had finally started taxing shagging? Such wonderful headlines as, “Katie Price won’t take this laying down, ’I’ll move my three assets offshore’ she pouted”, swam through my mind. And weighty columnists like Simon Heffer and Peter Hitchens, who would rather like Britain to become morally like a rainy Saudi Arabia, would welcome the move as a lesson to a younger generation obsessed and corrupted by sex. On the other hand John Prescott would have to live abroad for a large part of the year and I would be entitled to a massive tax rebate.

But this is not what Nelson was contemplating. This is what he emailed to me, which you may think is rather troubling.

“The plan is to withdraw housing benefit from those couples whose kids have fled the nest but are still living in three and four bedroom council homes. Saves about £500 million. It’s a tax on unoccupied bedrooms designed to get these people to downsize and free up housing stock.

Trouble is the rules don’t take into account individual circumstances. So you hit kidney patients on the transplant list who need a spare room for their dialysis machine, parents whose kids are temporarily away fighting in Afghanistan, foster parents who have rooms free for more than 13 weeks while they wait for their next batch of kids, that kind of thing.

But the real problem is that for most people it’s impossible to downsize. Local authorities just don’t build one bed properties – they think in terms of catering for families – so even if these people are prepared to move they can’t. But they could be losing up to £30 a week. 660,000 households are affected and there are estimates that 40,000 could end up homeless which would negate savings being made.

There’s no way we can reverse the measure which starts in April. So we’re campaigning for upping discretionary housing allowance so local authorities can take individual circumstances into account."

I don’t think for one moment that IDS, a sensible and compassionate fellow, thought that these were going to be the consequences of a proposal to free up housing stock which has considerable merit. It highlights the problem with this government. Their early warning systems don’t seem to work.

Whatever you might think of Damian MacBride as a human being (discuss) his blogs give a fascinating insight into the operation of government. After the pasty and charitable giving budget fiasco he wondered how on earth they could have slipped passed the Treasury scorecard system which is designed to weed out these sort of problems. Recently, he brought our attention to the demise of the grid system. I, like most others, thought that this was just a tool to set the media agenda. Not a bit of it. A stream of announcements would be provided to SPADS with a thirty page briefing so that most the wrinkles could be smoothed out beforehand. According to MacBride this is not happening now. My question is why on earth not. Failing to spot the potential cockups in time has been the Achilles heel of this coalition. It has to be remedied.

So to Nigel Nelson and his campaign, good luck mate.

Finally, may I thank all of you you have sent kind comments about this blog. I haven’t quite worked out how to operate the comments section yet so please don’t think that I am being rude!



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