Goodbye Charlie. The nation loved you, your party shafted you and your voters destroyed you

3 Nov 2015 at 18:22

I have just been to pay my respects to my dear old friend Charlie Kennedy at St Georges Cathedral in Southwark. Built to the glory of God and an homage to Rastafarian mock gothic. The good, the great and the not so great joined hands to see the great man off.

There was a delightful irony that Cameron, Ken Clarke, Gove and many of the cabinet processed in to the swelling of the seventy stop organ, (no, not Mellor, his organ never stopped) booming out Ode to Joy. Or to you an me the European national anthem. The Brexiteers will convulse with fury at this perceived act of treachery. And the piercing fakirs eyes of Dan Hannan will be swivelling in indignation. As for Bill Cash? Matron is with him now.

There were some good jokes. Jim Wallace reminded us of Margaret Thatcher’s query about whom was the young member with pale suit and Nairobi sunset hair newly elected in 1983. ‘Argh’, with a snarl that curdled the milk of human kindness, ‘the thought that Hamish Gray could have been defeated by a man wearing white socks!’ And he wasn’t even from Essex.

Then there was the tale of adoring women screeching, ’ we love you Charlie’. His response was, ‘then keep it quiet, the party is in enough trouble.’ Jim Naughtie came up with a lovely line from Norman St John Stevas who advised a young Kennedy that being in politics was ‘like being a pianist in a whorehouse’. To be fair, I doubt whether Norman had ever been in a whorehouse. But he might have had the odd nine inch pianist.

There was also a fascinating compilation of Kennedy speeches and interviews. In one he was rather disobliging to David Owen. ‘Bullying, vindictive and egotistical’ come to mind. Poor David processed out to the tune of fly me to the moon on the arm of Shirley Williams. Owen had the face of a robber’s dog looking for raw meat.

It was a lovely service. Like all politicians he was vilified in life and beloved after death. But this was a show of genuine affection for a brilliant, kind decent and unaffected man who gained more seats than the Lib Dems have ever had. As Naughtie remarked, ’he was not a policy wonk but he always answered the questions even if it was not entirely accurate. But,my God, he was a great human being.

Kennedy summarised a truth that the public love and the greasers and chancers of Westminster despise. ‘Politics is much too serious to be taken seriously’.

Goodbye old friend. I will miss the the joy of you, the humanity of you and the many evenings on the piss with you. Your beautiful wife Sarah and lovely son Donald have much to be proud of.

And to his credit Tom Watson was there. Corbyn was consulting with Stop the War.

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This is not a constitutional crisis just the lords blowing a pungent fart in the direction of the Commons

28 Oct 2015 at 10:16

I have a horrible sinking feeling that the Tories are about to fuck up again. No, not about tax credits. There was always going to be a tweaking to assist the poorest. What amazed me was that like the omnishambles budget of 2012 nobody seemed to see this one coming. Mixed signals were coming out of Number 10 and 11 when the IFS, Willetts and Frank Field sounded the air raid sirens. Ministers were touring the tea rooms and bars like corporal Jones, warning jittery backbenchers deluged by letters from the hardworking poor, not to panic. But the Treasury gave the impression that they wanted to play hardball. It was. They slavishly followed the wrongheaded Ken Clarke mantra of “get all the bad news out of the way quickly and people will forget”. Well, they will if the public know in their guts that we are taking unpopular but necessary measures which in the end will help them. An end to the low pay, high benefit culture for one. But the punters are sticklers for fairness and they thought that although the policy of eventually weaning working families off of tax credits, provided they were compensated with lower taxes, a living wage, and thirty hours of free child care was fine, hitting the poorest 3 million in one whack was morally indefensible. Economically sound, but a PR political disaster. Good God, it even made that dreadful old man McDonnell seem reasonable. Insane. So there will be a bit of humble pie eaten by Osborne, who needs to effect a bit of humility from time to time even if he doesn’t mean it, in the Autumn Statement. Water under the bridge.

This evening Osborne addresses the 22. There will be much praise, much banging on desks and a snarling anger. The anger will be directed against the unelected Lords. “Their wings must be clipped……constitutional crisis…..how dare they breach convention……we are elected……” There will be the stench of bitterness and retribution polluting committee room 14. It is wrong headed, naive and will play badly with the electorate.

Of course, the Lords is stuffed with placemen (and women) who have greased their way into Parliament by cash bribes and and those who have toadied their way to erminedom by vigorous tongue on leather action. Then there are the political retreads who often bring the worst elements of partisanship to the upper house. But there are good and decent people there too.

On the fatal motion, which sounds a little like death on the lavatory, they over stepped the mark and broke an established convention. Very annoying. But, despite some of the overblown Dickensian arguments, their case was right. This is not a constitutional crisis, just a very pungent fart in the direction of the Commons. Quite sensibly, Cameron has appointed the emollient and pragmatic Tommy Strathclyde to put forward proposals for reform. But best let it hang above them like the sword of Damacles. Anything else will be distraction. For now.

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Oh Heidi Allen your heart is in the right place, but don't become the Great Tory Baked Off

20 Oct 2015 at 18:20

Oh Heidi Allen. Your heart is in exactly the right place but please put your brain into gear! Let me give you some advice as someone who was a serial rebel against some of Margaret Thatcher’s rather more dangerous policies. You are new, you are bright, you are enthusiastic and you have a seat so safe that the Tory votes are weighed. You are the Aga Khan of South Cambridgeshire. But don’t make the mistakes that I did in my early years. If you are really, really incensed by a government policy speak to the Whips and demand to speak to Osborne. If necessary demand to speak to Cameron. They may hear you even if you think that they are not listening. What is happening at the moment is that the ‘line’ is being held. There will be no retreat from a policy where the taxpayer pays the hardworking poor in order for them to be paid slave wages by employers. It helps nobody. And it is right both morally and fiscally. However, when the IFS, David Willetts and the House of Commons Library warn that the figures don’t quite add up the alarm bells, whistles and big whooping sirens will be sounding in Number 10 and 11. There will be a plan to make the transition fairer and stomachable. The trouble is that nobody quite yet knows what it is. Yet it will happen. But not today, probably in a few weeks time when Osborne has a serious statement to make. So work behind the scenes, make your views known privately, but do not wear your heart on your sleeve. It is so easy. I am not saying you should not speak out, of course you should, but make your language less colourful until you are fighting the final battle when fools use the Thatcher ploy of ‘never explain and never apologise’. If that happens let loose the dogs of war.

But we haven’t come to that. Nowhere near it.

So what will happen next? You are now a national treasure to the press. Why? Because they thrive on division. They will fete you with lunch, dinner, drinks. You will be asked for interviews on programmes that will make your ego soar. You will be invited to write columns. Why? Because you will be the great Tory Baked Off. And all the while every word you utter will be used to to undermine a government who really care about the working poor, but just haven’t got it right yet. You really don’t want to be seen shoring up the teetering Corbyn message. My advice? Resist. A period of silence and organisation. If you don’t you will become the Monday morning political editor’s round up as a rent a quote for disaffection. I have been there and what a fool I was.

However there was a rebellion which I have no regrets about. In the 1980s I was put on the standing committee for the Health and Medicines Bill. My job was to be lobby fodder. I read the bill. It was an abomination. Thatcher wanted to save £30 million by abolishing the free sight and dental checks. Thousands of pensioners would go blind and and a key diagnostic tool would be lost. It was insane. But I played the game. I went to the whips, went to the Secretary of State and even the Prime Minister. Nobody listened. So I unleashed the dogs of war, appearing one night simultaneously on every news broadcast. I lost, but it was a close run thing. I even had minor fistycuffs with a whip. They panicked, but I lost by four votes.

And Heidi, one more word of advice, make sure you get the support of your constituency executive all the way. Then you untouchable. Although fairly fucked.

So the next problem you will have will be the Number 10 and 11 rubbish machine. It has been ruthless for every party. It is formidable. Expect a SUN headline Heidi Who? But nobody is beyond redemption.

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Another nail in Grayling's coffin. The solicitors bidding process was a shambles and will be judicially reviewed

19 Oct 2015 at 15:21

Oh dear, I should be jumping for joy that another flagship policy of the Ghastly Grayling has bitten the dust. But his total incompetence in handling the bidding process for the new two tier system of awarding contracts to solicitors is going to lead to a lot of heartache for the unsuccessful firms who will have an agonising wait for judicial review before they decide how many highly qualified professionals will have to be sacked. The whole process has been a total fiasco and many firms were stunned at the eccentricity of the awards which were announced last Friday. There were some very odd decisions. You may recall that before the May election officials warned Grayling that it would be wise to await the outcome before pressing ahead. This was advice that he totally ignored.

Now a very senior whistleblower has blown his whistle. Freddie Hurlston was the bid assessor from July to September. He has complained to the head of the Legal Aid Agency that best practice is to have suitably qualified staff equipped with a timetable. He is the view these were not met. Rather than legal aid professionals, staff at the Brook Street Bureau were employed and told that unless they processed 35 questions a day they would not be paid. All in all 50,000 questions had to be assessed. Hurlston claims that that this could not have been done properly and fairly.

Needless to say that the Law Society is incandescent with rage and will be launching a series of challenges in the High Court. I am told that the Cabinet Office has become involved and are of the view that the process was a complete shambles. Worse, bidders were expressly forbidden to use consultants so that there was a level playing field. This has been flouted with some larger firms spending thousands of pounds on them.

In many ways this is a gift to Michael Gove. He can now abandon the whole ghastly policy without criticising his predecessor publicly. This could be good news to the thousands of family solicitors who would have been thrown onto the scrapheap. And very good news for the weak and vulnerable who would be without adequate representation.

Another nail in Grayling’s coffin

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The sky is black with Grayling turkeys coming home to roost. Mercifully Gove is reloading his shotgun

14 Oct 2015 at 09:05

Once again I am pleased to doff my hat to Michael Gove. While the sky is black with Grayling turkeys coming home to roost, Gove stands in the barren wasteland of the MOJ with his shotgun. The poor fellow hardly has time to reload. Book ban on prisoners? Bang, squawk, thud. Vile abuse of our justice system? Bang, squawk, thud. Selling expertise on Justice to the Saudis? Two barrels for that act of almost criminal stupidity. Turning our prisons to squalid, unsafe dungeons of depravity and despair spawning record levels of suicide? Bang, squawk, thud. And this is just the first wave of turkeys. So little time, so much to do.

I expect the next policy to be thrown overboard will be the quite insane, undebated and unworkable piece of Grayling genius of charging criminals for the use of the courts. Fifty magistrates have resigned already, and most are modifying it to make it almost meaningless. But what has shocked me in a very pleasing way is that many Crown Court judges simply ignore it despite the fact that they have no discretion in the matter. It’s a pretty sorry state of affairs when judges come to the conclusion that a law is so unfair and plain wrong that they refuse to implement it. In my thirty eight years at the bar this is a unique experience.

But can you imagine the Gove response when a report about Justice Solutions International selling our expertise in justice to the Saudis where the veneer of civilisation is as flimsy as a fifty pound note crossed his desk? He would have gone totally Goveshit. Whatever next? Defra exports good old English oak for crucifixions? BIS gives grants to the cutlery industry to become competitive in selling their finest for beheadings and amputations? Pity the poor old Mandarins. They have a minister who thinks, innovates and decides. And so unlike most ministers who load, fire and aim in that order. It must be terrifying for the poor dears.

I would have loved to have been in the room when chuckles Hammond rather loftily suggested Gove was being naive. So wonderfully Foreign Office. Yes, we will upset the Saudis and they will have a bit of a sulk for a while. But can you imagine Cameron trying to justify the policy when pictures of a beheaded and crucified seventeen year old appear on the net? Or when that silly old boy gets three hundred lashes? I say silly because you really are inviting serious trouble if you make any sort of alcohol in Saudi. It is hardly a state secret. All Prime Ministers have to spend a rather long time shaking hands with some despicable people but every now and then it is important to be seen to be holding their noses at the same time.

The Saudis are an odd bunch, living in great comfort in the Middle Ages and utterly terrified of revolution or democracy. But we need them and they need us. Ghastly as it is, their awful regime is the only stable Arab nation. What always amazes me is how out of touch they are with how our government works. I was having lunch a few weeks ago with an old friend who produced Death of a Princess, which caused uproar and calls for the government to ban it. Martin told me that what had so incensed them was not that he had faked up the execution ( I’m sure they might have arranged for a woman of lesser birth to be topped), rather that the documentary actually depicted Saudi Princesses drinking and shagging in night clubs. It’s hard to believe that it caused a major diplomatic incident.

But back to Gove. His conference speech was an excellent demonstration of how far the Conservative Party has embraced humanity, compassion and the real world. For a senior cabinet minister to reject the ‘prison works’ nonsense and speak of the ‘undeserving’ rich sitting on each other’s renumeration committees in the same speech is a cause for celebration. This will no doubt cause Paul Dacre to bite the carpet and utter despair to what is now the shambles named the Labour Party.

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May was unwise to explode a suicide jacket in her speech whilst Boris is Wassererfing his way to mischief

7 Oct 2015 at 11:10

As Boris wasserwerfered his way to the podium he must have been feeling more than a little pleased. The mushroom cloud of Theresa May’s leadership hopes still hung in the air. It was a terrible and deadly explosion. Just why she thought it was a great idea to wear a suicide vest and then press the button remains a mystery. To make a speech that horrified both the Daily Telegraph and the Speccie is quite an achievement. I really don’t think she is a vindictive person. But for someone who branded the Tories as the nasty party, her heartless take on immigration was quite shocking. Compare that to the compassionate Conservatism of Cameron and compare that to the way he movingly dealt with the immigration in his speech. She will go down as one of the great Home Secretarys. But go down she has. Leadership is about judgement and yesterday hers went walkabout. Nothing is impossible in politics, but unless Osborne, for charmingly cynical reasons, bigs her up so she can stop Boris getting on the ballot paper with him I fear her hopes for the big job will be dashed. May just hopelessly misjudged the basic decent of the British people.

As I am in court most of the time I didn’t see Boris’s speech but I read it beforehand. It had obviously not all been written by him. It had been Cameronised and spattered with all the approved buzz lines. Lots of stuff on crime, but no mention of May. Lots of stuff on the economy, but no mention of Osborne. Mmm, so what’s he up to? Well it’s straight out of the Boris playbook. A clue was on the front page of the SUN yesterday where his hounds have been briefing that Osborne has been nicking all of his ideas. His MO is making a rousing speech oozing loyalty whilst at the same time puts it about that Ozzie is a bit of a shit. If he had a power base in the Commons this might play well. But he doesn’t. He seems not to bother about carefully nurturing support. And if he starts now, which he won’t, it will be a bit late. Worse, there are serious concerns amongst backbenchers that Boris is a bit of a whinger. And accusing George of stealing his ideas will go down like a cup of cold sick.

The conundrum that may perplex Ozzie is how to manage Boris. This is his last major conference speech opportunity before Goldsmith takes over and if Boris doesn’t have a major Cabinet job he will be exiled to the fringe. And the devil makes work for idle hands. And you can’t get much more idle that Boris. So in the next reshuffle what could he be given? It can’t be a massive spending department as they are all taken and you can’t displace a woman, even a fairly useless one. But what about Leader of the House? A desperately tedious job, but with half an hour a week to have some fun, shine and be witty. Grayling has the smile of brass plate on a coffin and the humour to match. Angela Eagle was wonderful in subtly taking the piss out of him without him realising. And Chris Bryant is becoming a class act. The Boris and Bryant show would be great fun; you could sell tickets. And with collective responsibility binding him (as much as anyone can) to the party line which is now the Osborne line, might just limit his capacity to make mischief. And nobody is going to miss the awful Grayling.

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The Brexiteers are acrimoniously divided with a psychodrama between Banks & Cummings. The sort of people you would normally lock in an attic

3 Oct 2015 at 08:22

The Conservative party conference in Manchester will no doubt be slammed by the media as being far too stage managed and lacking the fizz of real debate at Labour’s wake. Actually the fizz was more like the fizzle of Corbyn’s rocket failing to take off. Both the Lib Dem and Labour conferences were glumly delusional. Unless there is a miracle or an economic car crash both parties have become an irrelevance for the medium term future. And then there was UKIP. Another sorry mess which is getting messier by the minute. This party appears to only exist to feed Fromage’s insatiable ego. He has trashed and humiliated Suzanne Evans for the second time by blocking her as the Mayoral candidate. He has silenced Patrick Flynn and he has unleashed the ghastly Aaron Banks on the public. Their membership is down and conference numbers were dismal. When will what is left of the membership realise that Fromage is electoral poison?

The EU debate is his last chance to to grab the limelight before he is thrown out with the garbage. But so far his intervention has been a fiasco and to my great joy has divided the Brexiteers. The right are horribly divided but spend more time indulging in insults than trying to gain a narrative with the electorate. It’s just a screaming match and a jockeying for power by some rather unpleasant people. A psycho drama between Dominic Cummings and Aaron Banks who are the sort of relatives whom you would normally lock in the attic. Whether it was wise to put an eighty two year old former chancellor who is a climate change denier, as the heavyweight figurehead to pull us out of the EU, will be hotly debated. Lawson was an innovative and reforming chancellor who deserves respect. But when he cocked up it was really big time. He admitted in 2010 that the unintended consequences of his Big Bang reforms led to the financial crisis of 2007/8. And by dangerously relaxing fiscal controls he stoked up seriously inflationary pressures leading to recession. He resigned after a very public row with Thatcher advisor Sir Alan Walters whom he felt was undermining him, which of course he was. Despite popular myth Lawson did not bring us into the ERM. As Lawson also lives in France there is a lot of baggage revolving around the carrousel. Norman Lamont would be more of a threat, but I don’t think that he would stab Cameron in the back. He is close to Hague who was his PPS who in turn is close to the PM. And Cameron stood loyally by Lamont at the time of his humiliation and eventual downfall after Black Wednesday. I would imagine that they still have a close bond. I may be wrong, but I do not smell betrayal in the air.

So rather than there being a seamless robe of Eurosceptics united in their zeal to remove Britain from the wickedness of Brussels they are a complete shambles. And Cameron’s not so secret weapon is the immigration crisis. Shengen is dead and all of Europe’s borders are going to have to be protected. Merkel’s open door policy has been an electoral disaster with mass protests in the streets. It could be the beginning of her demise. Cameron has played it cannily. Compassion mixed with reality. The other not so secret weapon is that the battle has been effectively won over EU benefit tourists by a helpful European Court decision. So provided Cameron keeps his cards to his chest and doesn’t reveal the details of his negotiating position until a deal is done there is everything to play for.

Now back to the Tory Party conference. Nobody sane will be having a crack at Cameron and Osborne. They are winners. They have delivered an election and some remarkable economic results. But never underestimate Boris’s compulsion to cause mischief and mayhem in pursuit of his pathological ambition to be Prime Minister. He will play on his conference darling skills with witty swipes at those he wishes to destroy. But he has already been publicly humiliated by May and Osborne. Does he want to risk another punishment beating? We’ll know on Monday as Boris, May and Morgan will be addressing the throng. Nicky Morgan? I know. Best not be cruel.

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Corbyn is effective in pootering around like a politics professor but sometime he will have to answer the question,'do you know what is being done in your name'?

27 Sep 2015 at 10:14

I have warned from the outset just how dangerous Jeremy Corbyn could be to the Tories. And his appearance on Marr today should have the alarm bells ringing at Number 10. Some of you will now be shaking your head in despair and and sadly conclude that I have finally lost my marbles. But bear with me. People hate the shallowness, artifice and triangulation that is involved in modern politics. They despise ‘on message’ interviews. The charm of Corbyn is that he is on message in terms of his beliefs and can afford to be unspecific about his policies because in theory they haven’t yet been determined by party members. So this is all mood music to to try and cast off his image as a dangerous leftie who would put national security at risk, clobber the middle classes and bring the country to its knees with industrial action. The truth is he can throw all the real policy decisions into the long grass. And the lawn mowers won’t be clanking into operation until Corbyn’s mob have total control of the party machine. And what a ghastly bunch they are.

What was fascinating about his outing on Marr today that he gave a very good impression of enjoying the political discussion, which he did with wit and a disarming charm. A sort of Nigel Farage with a brain a heart and a soul. The idea that all the big issues like Trident would effectively be a free vote in the Commons is superficially very attractive. That comrades would have intense and brotherly/sisterly discussions and then with their hearts on their sleeves vote in a way that their conscience’s dictate, has punter appeal. Why should the whips force people to vote in a way that they fundamentally disagree with? After all he never did. Go into any pub and ask if that was not profound common sense and the answer would be a resounding thumbs up. It is of course nonsense, but attractive nonsense. A free for all in the division lobbies means that nothing would ever be achieved. In opposition the government would clean up, in government the legislative programme would be a shambles. The whole point of collective responsibility is to ensure that the front bench speak as one.

If Steve Hilton has been reported correctly he is right to say that although the Corbynistas have the wrong answers they certainly have the right questions. The bedroom tax is something that in a policy paper looks like a great idea. In practice it is causing hardship. How can we keep the principle and protect the weak? The weening of working people off of tax credits is profoundly the right thing to do. But if the living wage doesn’t offset income losses then we go back to the old problem of there being a disincentive to go out and work. It is absolutely right that we have tougher trade union laws to stop the manipulation of trade union members who don’t want to strike. It is an abuse that London will be paralysed because just three people on the City Line voted to strike. Most people would support a law change. But most people would also feel very uncomfortable about some of the more Eastern European flavoured proposals such as strikers having to give their names and addresses to the police.

So in many ways all this helps Cameron. He can now water down some of the less compassionate policies that are floating around.

The best approach is to attack Corbyn’s supporters and aides most of whom are an authoritarian and deeply unpleasant bunch. The punishment beatings, smearings and deselections are just beginning. No sensible MPs will be safe. If Neil Kinnock decides not to attend his first party conference in forty eight years there is a clear and very worrying warning. The left are on the march.

So Jeremy Corbyn can pooter around like a benign politics professor enjoying stimulating intellectual arguments while his henchmen ruthlessly cleanse the party of impurity, but the time will come when he will have to be asked, ‘do you know what is being said and done in your name?’ And the answer cannot be cast into the long grass.

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This conference may be not too much of a car crash for Corbyn that will be next year after the left have organised

25 Sep 2015 at 11:07

The golden rule in politics is when you expect a car crash it rarely happens. It’s the unexpected unexpected that tends to screw things up. You can have wonderfully crafted and media friendly speeches drowned out by some junior minister caught with his knob out at the train station toilets (just anyone go just for a pee in these places?). So it’s off piste where spin doctors have no control. And it frightens the life out of them. It’s when the likes of old pros such as Damien McBride come in very useful by punting a bigger story or briefing against the hapless minister who has ‘let himself and his party down…….between you and me he was a waste of space and has saved the PM the job of sacking him……by the way you realise that KH has a serious Columbian marching powder problem….. much better story’.

So what will happen in Brighton? A tricky one. There will be lots of huff and puff about Trident and the lefties will be out in force, not in the main conference hall but at the fringes. A mate of mine who is a lifelong Labour supporter but of the sensible variety, was not too downhearted. ‘It will of course be like off the wall student politics, but remember the delegates with the vote will be councillors and ward worthies. All the vast rump of the Corbynistas would not have had time to apply for conference passes as the deadline expired a couple of months ago.’

And then keep a look out for Tom Watson, the man charged with reorganising the party machine, perhaps in his own image, who will be working behind the scenes and ensuring that there will be a reasonable proportion of speakers who are not raving lunatics will be called in the sensitive debates. So, at the moment it looks like Trident will be not blown out of the water. Well, not at this conference. 2016 will be the real bloodbath conference when the left have had time to marshall their troops and organise. So, this year Corbyn might have the perfect let out. If the really loony ideas are thrown out his supporters can’t accuse him of ratting on his promises as it will be conference who will have decided. A little bit of wriggle room.

The real fun will be had at the fringes which the left will swarm to. Expect, ugliness, arrogance and general nastiness. Pity an Blairite who has the walk the gauntlet. And there will be a lot of despondent delegates who will be crying into their beers to a consoling press who provided the beers in the first place.

This will be a conference of questions. Will Corbyn snub big business? Will he be sharing herbal tea with Gerry Adams? Will he address conference as Comrades? Will he have the wit to craft a speech that is not speaking to the converted but to the country? Will he try and busk it and speak from the heart? And will he have the courage to be interviewed by Andrew Neil?

So Corbyn has some assets. He has the worst first poll rating (-3) of any Labour leader in history. Can it get worse? Probably. But I suspect not at this conference.

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Pig gate. Cui Bono. Who will be ruined

21 Sep 2015 at 20:05

Now that we have pigged and punned out on swine gate it is time for some serious reflection. Michael Ashcroft is a man of judgement and serious discernment, after all he published my book. However……….. The allegations that are made have the potential to be a very serious libel with a prospect of punitive damages. To say that the story is so flaky that it does an injustice to Cadburys is an understatement . The best that Oakshott (niece of the ghastly Lib Dem peer Mathew) can say is that there is no evidence that Cameron was a member of this debauched club as there is no list of members. All the evidence we know of is that a sitting Tory MP stood up the story. This means that at sometime the lawyers would have demanded a Statement of Truth, which in the old days we would have called an affidavit from him or her. It must exist. It will eventually come into the public domain.

I am not going into the law of libel. But can the story stand up to be true, fair comment or justification? Tricky one. The way newspapers work is fairly simple. Is it a libel? If not let’s print. If it is, is the guy going to sue? And no Prime Minister will ever take a libel action to court. It is a side show. It is a distraction. It will lead to digging that could be potentially damaging, although not really relevant to the action. And my God it will sell papers. That, I suspect, was the editorial judgement. It was a seriously wrong one.

And Ashcroft. He did wonders for the Tory party finances. He was brilliant at targeting the marginals. He was an asset to my party. He deserved a big job in government. But then, like so many others, because of the coalition and a whiff of a problem with his non dom status, he wasn’t offered a job in 2010. These things happen.

The trouble with the pig story is that it is so off the wall, so patently wrong and so absolutely daft, that it devalues any proper story in the book. So for the sake of a couple of days of sensationalism the whole ethos of the book, the destruction of Cameron, has been destroyed. All very strange.

Quite sensibly, Corbyn as a decent man won’t touch it with a barge pole. But what about Bercow? If he has any sense he will stop any reference to it in debate. We shall see as both him and Cameron loathe each other.

And what about the alleged MP who ‘broke’ story? He, or she will be ruined. That is the story.

Will it wait until the Sundays? I doubt it

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