Friday, April 30, 2010

The Downfall of Kerry McCathy

Not for the fainthearted with lost of words I ban on this site. But funny, all the same.

Hattip Red Rag

Jon Stewart on 'Bigotgate'

This is reeally, really funny. It's Jon Stewart's reaction to the debates and also Bigotgate. It's 6 minutes long but well worth seeing through to the end.

Click HERE to watch.

Labour Cuts Border Control Staff at... The Port of Dover!

This story from THIS IS KENT beggars belief...

It has been revealed that all Dover's 24 immigration officer posts will be slashed – despite the team being responsible for almost 40 per cent of all removals in Kent last year. In a bitter second blow, proposals are also being made to shut down the 60-bed detention centre based at the port. The facility is used to detain offenders before deportation and to hold immigrants awaiting interview.

Furious UKBA officers have launched a campaign against the cuts, which will save the agency more than £1 million a year. Under the proposal, two chief immigration officers will also be chopped, taking the number to five, and assistant officers will decrease from 23 to 21. Further cuts in Folkestone take the job losses to 30.

Sue Kendal, branch secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, slammed the decision: "Dover is losing its entire immigration officer team and we are in danger of reverting to the bad old days of mass influxes. We risk leaving the door open for a free-for-all, including people who want to harm the UK.

"The Government talks tough but in reality it is cutting front-line officers." Mrs Kendal said relying on assistant officers was a mistake: "Immigration officers do what we call 'challenging interviews', meaning they can challenge the answers given. "This is a crucial stage but soon it will have gone.

"Assistant immigration officers have far less powers and can't do this, but of course they're much cheaper to employ. They also won't be operating for 24-hours-a-day anymore. "Kent is the UK's frontline for immigration but some posts are being moved to Croydon, which is hardly a hotbed of illegal entry activity."

A spokesman for UKBA said: "We are currently consulting with both unions and staff over the planned restructure of our Kent immigration team. "As a result of the restructure, it is anticipated there will be fewer full-time equivalent positions in Kent, with some of these positions transferring to Sussex.

"It is not proposed the restructure will result in compulsory job losses." All remaining staff will have to reapply for their jobs. UKBA workers are planning to distribute leaflets, circulate a petition around Dover and Folkestone town centres, and hold a demonstration.

I wonder how Phil Woolas can defend this?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cameron Wins, Clegg Stable, Brown Tanks

That was the David Cameron I wanted to see. Passionate, full of conviction, positive, more combative. It wasn't a slam dunk victory, but it was never going to be. But it was a clearcut victory - more so than last week. It was his best performance of the three, whereas I felt that Brown and Clegg put in their weakest performances of the three, although I am not diminishing Clegg's appeal. His was still a comparatively good performance, but I thought he was in danger of overgoing the "two old parties" line in the first twenty minutes. He became irritating. Well, I found it irritating, at least. On two questions he floundered badly - immigration and housing. At the end he was reading notes during his final statement.

Gordon Brown tanked badly. Anyone who thinks he didn't wasn't watching the same debate as me. His closing statement summed up his problem. It was mostly negative and the rictus grin at the end will have put off any floating voter. I was with 40 people in Starbucks at Birmingham University (a 5 Live audience) and they all verbally shuddered when he did that. His makeup was appalling, he looked terrible and his opening remark about his bad day yesterday led to groans all round.

Brown had to do well tonight to show any sign of connecting with the 8 per cent of voters he needs to attract in the last seven days. He completly failed. No doubt Labour spinners are calling it a marvellous victory for him. If so, then they do their trade a disservice.

I know when someone does well or not. I called the first debate for Clegg and made clear I thought Cameron hadn't performed well. In the second I called it a narrow Cameron win, but effectively a score draw. Both those calls were right. So when I call it a Cameron decisive win tonight, I don't do it out of party loyalty, blind obedience, partisansip or anything else. I called it as I saw it. And so, it seems did most of the instant polls.

So, what did you think, dear readers?

* I'll be doing post match commentary on 5 Live when the wretched football finishes, alongside Mark Thompson and Will Straw.

Angus Reid
Cameron 36
Clegg 31
Brown 23

Cameron 41
Clegg 32
Brown 25

Cameron 35
Clegg 33
Brown 26

What Really Happened in Brown's Car

Courtesy of Alison Jackson

Snippets from Birmingham

* Courtesy of those nice people at the BBC, you will be able to watch the Prime Ministerial debate this evening on this blog, through a special embedded player. It will also work for readers who are outside the UK. Just tune in here at 8.25 and the player will automatically launch.

* I've just arrived at the Press Centre at the University after a dreadful five hour journey up the M1 and M6. The journalists here are all complaining about the crampe facilities. Apparently they're not nearly as good as Bristol or Manchester. But there's a very good free buffet. What more do they want! I'm sitting two rows behind Kevin Maguire. I shall ponder how best to use this rather advantageous position. Tory Bear is over to my right, Tim Montgomerie to my left and Sky News taking up the whole back row. I'll report back if I see Adam Boulton and Jon Craig holding hands...

* I see Twitter is abuzz with rumours of the imminent arrest of Kerry McCarthy, Labour candidate for Bristol East, after she revealed details of postal votes in her constituency. She's been reported to Avon & Somerset Police for what is the electoral world will be seen as a serious breach of electoral law. Bracknell Blog has the details.

* Following my earlier blog about the Ten People Who Have Had a Good Election, the first two people I encountered here in the press centre berated me. And one of them is on the list!!! The other complained about the fact that three BBC journalists are in the list... These things always upset people, don't they? Which is all part of the fun.

* For those who like to hear my dulcet tones on the radio, I will be doing the post match commentary on 5 Live with Tony Livesey, alongside Will Straw and Mark Thompson. I think it runs from 10pm through till midnight.

Five Things Gordon Won't Say In the Debate

1. I was talking to a lady in Rochdale yesterday...
2. I blame Sue.
3. I agree with Gillian.
4. Does anyone know how to switch this microphone on?
5. Some of my best friends are from Eastern Europe...

A Labour Candidate Who Wants to Take On the PM

The Eastern Daily Press is running a daily Q & A session with all the candidates standing in Norfolk seats. Manish Sood is the Labour candidate challenging Tory Henry Bellingham in Norfolk NW – a seat Labour gained in 1997, but then lost to the Conservatives in 2001 and 2005. In Mr Sood's Q & A he completed the sentence “If I ruled the world, I would..." with the words, "continue to challenge the government, the prime minister, the Tories and anyone who comes in my way, I will take them down."

Nice to see he gets his priorities right, and challenges his own party and party leader before he takes on the Conservatives. Mind you, having said that, at the moment you can see his point!

More Cancer Lies From Labour Exposed

Remember the GP who emailed me a couple of days ago giving the lie to the disgraceful Labour PEB? Well, he's been in touch again and he ain't pleased....
Hi Iain, I have just listened to a repeat of an earlier showing of the Daily Politics (from Wednesday where Andrew Neil asks Ed Balls about the controversial bit of that PEB (ie the emotive bit relating to the two week cancer wait) –and in reply Ed Balls added a few more embellishments.

He claimed that Labour have promised to treat cancer patients within two weeks! (and of course by inference that the nasty Tories won’t and that this will be ‘bad for people’).

This is, of course, a load of cobblers – there is nothing at present which guarantees cancer treatment in two weeks, and as in my earlier email, the Labour policy on the 2 week wait has caused delays in instigating cancer treatment. Also, the Labour Party manifesto doesn’t guarantee cancer treatment in 2 weeks. There is reference to being able to get treatment in 18 weeks, but frankly even our NHS is presently managing to start cancer treatments in 18 weeks given that it would be clinically negligent not to.

I do resent lies being told about the work I try to do and the public being wilfully misled – and by a government minister. I am not a member of any political party – and in the past have voted for all the major parties! But I have to say I agreed with Michael Gove that it was an appalling PEB and was unimpressed with Balls for his refusal to condemn this sort of campaigning, and particularly his embellishing it with blatant (peppa) porkies.

There you have it.

Ten People Who Are Having a Good Election

Andrew Neil
Ubiquitous. His Daily Politics morning reports have been incisive and entertaining and he always seems to ask the question the politician doesn't want to answer. A pity he isn't chairing the debate tonight.

Michael Gove
The Tory Party's emerging safe pair of hands and an evangelist for free schools. Manages to promote the Conservative cause with a smile on his face.

Stephen Nolan
It takes something to slaughter three politicians on three consecutive nights. But Jeremy Hunt, Harriet Harman and Simon Hughes will bear testament to what an uncomfortable experience it was being grilled by 5 Live's weekend talk show host.

Nick Clegg
He has hardly put a foot wrong in this campaign and has capitalised on a very good performance in the first debate. He's managed to detach himself from the political mainstream and put himself at the head of the anti politician movement. May still trip himself up on hung parliament questions.

Laura Kuennsberg
The BBC News Channel political correspondent is increasingly assured and insightful in her political analysis. Could be an outsider for BBC political editor if and when Nick Robinson moves on. Has a great on screen sense of humour and a wicked laugh.

Will Straw
Has become the media's go to blogger of choice, eclipsing LabourList's Alex Smith, who may now regret standing as a council candidate. Straw comes across as the voice of sweet reason, even when he is being ultra loyal, but has firmly established himself in the media's mind as the top Labour blogger, even if his blog has a fraction of the readership of the right wing blogs.

Jon Sopel
The Campaign Show has allowed Sopel to come into his own, displaying an impish sense of humour, while at the same time giving out some tough questions in one to one interviews. This sort of show should continue after the election.

Sophie Long
The BBC News Channel presenter is usually stuck behind a desk reading an autocue but she has been following Nick Clegg around during the election and has filed some truly excellent reports from inside the Clegg campaign. I suspect her transfer to the Westminster beat may be imminent.

Andrew Hawkins
This election is the one in which ComRes came of age as a pollster. Hawkins, the ComRes chief executive, has also developed into an accomplished media pundit, not afraid to offer an opinion.

Tim Montgomerie
ConservativeHome may have become a little vanilla during the campaign, but Tim Montgomerie is rarely off the airwaves and has now become the unrivalled Tory pundit of choice for most broadcasters. If the Tories win, it's a position he's likely to maintain. If he wants it.

That Quick Reminder

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Daley Dozen: Wednesday

1. Sam MacCrory has a wonderful counterfactual about politics on 2015.
2. Wife in the North wants to see more women involved in the election. Did she get her wish today?
3. Ed Staite on the communications lessons from the election campaign so far.
4. Capitalists@Work think Brown is caught in an iron grid.
5. J'Accuse critiques my Telegraph article on internet politics.
6. Sean Haffey on Labour's economic record.
7. Last Ditch reckons I am not a Conservative.
8. Sunder Katwala isn't impressed by Vince.
9. Vikas Pota's election diary.
10. Peter Bingle thinks Mrs Duffy is owed a peerage.
11. Iain Martin has the exclusive transcript of the Brown apology to Mrs Duffy.
12. Lightwater thinks it's not just Brown who's had a shambolic day. Clegg has too.

Quote of the Day II

"It's not about immigration itself,
it's about respect for what ordinary people think."

Voter in Luton North reacting to Gordon Brown's gaffe

Brown Angers Kirkcaldy Constituents by Debate Refusals

Gordon Brown isn't just in trouble for his gaffe this lunchtime. He's being berated in his own constituency for refusing to attend any of the hustings debate invitations he has had. Perhaps he is taking a leaf out of Gloria de Piero's book...

According to his constituency agent, Alex Rowley, he has received eight hustings invitations but has refused them all. This was explained at a hustings in Kirkcaldy last night organised by the PCS union and the audience did not react well. not well at all.

Brown Drives More Labour Voters to the BNP

I don't know what the fallout from 'bigotgate' will be, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if it resulted in a rise in support from the BNP. And I don't say that lightly. But look at it this way. Brown has not only insulted Mrs Duffy, he has effectively branded everyone in this country who is concerned about immigration a bigot too. Brown and Labour already have a problem with the white working class vote in areas like Dagenham, Barking, Burnley and West Yorkshire. It is those areas where the BNP is already reaping electoral benefit.

They will now make hay out of this gaffe in their GOTV leaflets.

And I wonder how Clegg and Cameron will play it in the leaders' debate tomorrow. I imagine Brown will try to crack some sort of joke of it, but Cameron needs to think of a good rejoinder.

I don't necessarily subscribe to the view that this incident will be the gamechanger Paul Waugh and Ben Brogan are suggesting. But it could be. Labour needs to do something to change the media agenda within the next few hours. Something big.

The Labour Candidate Who Agrees With Mrs Duffy

Now here's a question. If Gordon Brown thinks that people who ask about immigration from Eastern Europe are, by definition, 'bigoted', what does he think of Ian Davidson, his candidate (and former MP) in Glasgow SW who wants EU immigration curtailed? (see graphic above).

Is he a 'bigot' too? If so, should he be removed as a Labour candidate?

Hattip for graphic Leaves on the Line

Brown Calls Voter "Bigoted Woman"

Image Hattip: Tory Rascal

It had to happen. Put Gordon Brown with ordinary members of the public and it was bound to end in tears. He has just been caught on mic calling a woman he had just had an encounter with a "bigoted woman". Her crime was to question him about core Labour party policies. She had always voted Labour but was deeply unhappy. In the clip I heard, she said nothing which could be said to be 'bigoted'. Interestingly, Brown's first instinct was to cast blame to whoever had got him to talk to her. He called it "ridiculous".

It will be interesting to see what fallout there is for this. Sky and the BBC News Channel have gone into overdrive on it, and I am sure the tape of the comments will be repeated hundreds of times over the next twenty four hours.

So, what should Brown do now? Immediately apologise, or take her head on and explain why he made such insulting comments.

We may find out soon as he is now live in Radio 2 with Jeremy Vine, and is being very bad tempered.

Mrs Duffy should go into hiding. She will now have the full force of the Labour lie machine descend on her.

UPDATE: Sky are quoting Mrs Duffy as saying: "If that's what he said, I'm very upset, I'm very annoyed...I thought he was understanding but he wasn't, was he?"

Quote of the Day: David Cameron

"As long as I am Prime Minister, I will not join the Euro."

David Cameron, Morley, 28 April

The Danger of Blinky Balls

Matthew Norman has written the best column of the week in today's Independent. He drops very subtle hints that he might not be Ed Balls' biggest fan...

Cocky, fake, slimy, inelegant, ineloquent, charmless, witless, weird, sinister, glacially cold and luminescently remote, he may be the most chillingly repulsive politician of even this golden generation. If Pixar set out to create a CGI character to embody everything the public has learned to despise about its political class, they'd be thrilled to come up with this lizardy schemer, who may have slipped through a tear in the fabric of space-time himself. Certainly he seems best suited to skulking beneath stone archways, in a purple robe, sibilantly sidling poison into the bloodstream of the medieval Vatican.

For a decade and more, this greyest of eminences has stirred, fixed, briefed and bullied, first to remove Mr Tony Blair; and latterly in the cause – keeping his master in power – that has pushed his party to the edge of the abyss. If he has a political philosophy, it is the domineering, top-down, we-know-best, infantilising statism of Gordon himself, but it's not really about that. For Mr Balls, it is football thug tribalism – a with-us-or-against-us Manichean sensibility next to which Mrs Thatcher seems a proto-Cleggian champion of consensus.

The tribe, small as it may be, is incredibly dangerous for Labour. Leading the provisional wing is Charlie Whelan, who we're told is fixing the chieftainship by using Unite's money and influence to fill safe Labour seats with Blinkyite loyalists (or at worst pliable yeopeople). The propaganda operation is devolved to the amusingly slavish Daily Mirror, while in some subterranean grotto that enchanting smearmeister Damian McBride is said to be stealthily continuing the noble work that brought him to public attention.

If this gruesome cabal hardly strikes you as the A-Team, do not underestimate its power. With Labour traumatised by crushing rejection, they would mobilise on 7 May. Day after day the Mirror would run the Milibanana snap while rubbishing Mr Johnson as Alan Nice-But-Unutterably-Dim and Harriet Harman as a deranged old shrew. Spiteful false rumours about Blinky's rivals will seep through the blogosphere and Twitterati as Mr Balls postured as the great uniter while his Unite trolls execute his plan to divide and conquer.

It will require every ounce of Peter Mandelson's will and cunning to frustrate a show of brutal, machine power politics to turn the least delicate of stomachs, and at just the time Labour would need to be Milk of Magnesia to a bilious electorate on the off-chance of a quick second election. Using the core vote as a Maginot Line, as Mr Balls would instinctively do, would produce a catastrophe more epochal by far than the one under Michael Foot in 1983.

The alternative, far preferable in offering hope of recovery though it is, isn't so peachy either. If Mr Balls thinks he is losing – and assuming that he manages to keep hold of his seat in Yorkshire, which is far from certain – he will threaten his rivals with a Samson Option civil war, because that is his nature. Fight us if you must, will be the message, but know that if we win we will destroy you, and if we lose we will bring the temple down to destroy you at the cost of destroying ourselves. It's the same threat that he and his compadres used to quell at least one Cabinet putsch, and if the Miliband and Johnson livers are as lilyish as ever, it might well work again.

If Labour finishes where the polls put it today, we are in for a staring contest doubling up as a game of ultra-high stakes bluff. To survive as an electable force, alone or as partner in an anti-Tory alliance, it is essential that Mr Balls reverts to form and blinks first. Labour's progressive forces must watch this Weeping Angel like hawks on the all-carrot diet. Take their eyes off him for a second, and he will send the party back almost 30 years to the internecine nightmare that so nearly obliterated it then.

Mandy hardly needs this advice, because he'll have worked it out a year ago, but some of his colleagues perhaps may. Don't look away, don't turn around, don't even blink. Blink and you're dead. Good luck.

Read the full column HERE.

Telegraph Column: Has This Been the Internet Election?

I have a column in today's Telegraph headlined

This was meant to be the internet election. So what happened?

Read it HERE.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Labour's Cancer Scare Exposed As Lies

I've just received this email from a GP. He's asked me to respect his confidentiality, and I am sure you will understand why.

Hi Iain, I am a GP and feel the Labour are misrepresenting the situation regarding the ‘right to see a cancer specialist within two weeks’. As you say, the inference of their campaign is that patients will be disadvantaged should this target be removed and that their health could suffer. In the PPB tonight, it had an anxious patient saying: “But I don’t have time!”, the inference being that he may be beyond helping if he waits more than two weeks. This gives a very inaccurate representation of the facts – indeed I wonder if the ASA could be asked to investigate the message behind this PPB and the campaign leaflets which give the same inference?

The truth is, the effects of this target have been analysed and found to have achieved the opposite effect. Various medical journals have researched the impact of the 2 week wait and have shown it to be counterproductive. This is for the following reasons:

• The majority of people eventually diagnosed with cancer do not meet the strict referral criteria for the 2 week wait – and they are having to wait even longer because of the 2 week waiters taking priority.

• In addition, the wait for results of diagnostics, scans etc and the clinic appointments to discuss them and the start of treatment are also waiting because of the priority for the 2 week wait.

• The main delays in cancer treatment occur at the following stages: 1/ delay between getting symptoms and deciding to go to the GP; 2/ delay between the initial 2 week appointment and the commencement of treatment. The time between the GP referring and the patient being seen are much much less than these times.

Other problems, directly due to Labour government interference are: 1/ the 2 week wait doesn’t allow sufficient flexibility to refer to the consultant of the patient’s choice; indeed because of this new pressure on referrals sometimes the patient is seen by a lesser qualified nurse-practitioner and doesn’t get to see a consultant at all – it is too soon yet to know if this is fully safe. 2/ the constraints on prescribing cancer medications for patients who are incurable or resistant to other treatments (imposed by NICE).

As GP I can tell you that cancer care is an important issue to people and it is true that the 2 week wait is popular as patients understandably worry if the GP refers them because of a risk of cancer. However, more needs to be made that Labour’s populist approach to this very small aspect of the patient experience is not the key thing in what matters: ie getting the patient swiftly treated with a high chance of cure.

Like the present conservative thinking, I feel a greater emphasis needs to be on OUTCOMES (and this applies to all public services), rather than just shovelling money and the unevidenced targets which might well be populist, but ultimately ineffective.

Hope you find the links below useful. And do keep blogging!

Telegraph: Women with signs of breast cancer wait months as Labour breaks manifesto pledge.

And THIS which starts with: “Women with suspected breast cancer are being failed by the Government's waiting time target and it should be scrapped, doctors report today.”

Some relevant studies can be found in: the BMJ.
“The ‘two-week wait rule’ is failing breast cancer patients” “the researchers found the percentage of patients diagnosed with cancer in the 2-week wait group decreased from 12.8% to 7.7% whilst the number of cancers detected in the ‘routine’ group increased from 2.5% to 5.3% over the same time period. In 2005 more than 1 in 4 (27%) patients ultimately diagnosed with cancer in 2005 was referred non-urgently. Dr Potter describes the increase in cancers diagnosed from the routine population as “alarming” and says: “These patients are also potentially being disadvantaged by longer clinic waits and delays in diagnosis as waiting times for routine referrals have increased in the face of increasing service demands from the dramatically increased number of patients referred under the two week rule, over 90% of whom have benign disease.”

And another from the BMJ
- showing only a tiny minority of gastric cancers are picked up by 2 week wait – the majority are found at ‘routine’ endoscopies. (implies the target not helping those most at need)

And yet another from the BMJ
- the conclusion in this paper includes: “The two week standard clinics did not shorten the overall time to treatment or improve the stage of disease because the time lags before referral and after the outpatient appointment are the major causes of delay in the bowel cancer patient’s journey”.

A review in the BMJ of the same paper noted: “Although patients referred to the two week clinics were seen more quickly than patients referred elsewhere, they were not treated any more quickly, nor was their disease caught earlier, the audit showed. Furthermore, referral to a two week clinic had little impact on the length of time patients had to wait for treatment, nor was their disease caught at an earlier stage. This was because the time lags before referral by the family doctor and after the outpatient appointment, which are the major causes of delay in bowel cancer treatment, remained the same. The government should not be deterred from stumping up more money to ensure that all patients with bowel symptoms can be seen promptly, say the authors. But the two week urgent referral is being let down by delays elsewhere in the system. “Ultimately the value of the two week standard is small in the context of a process of care that is slow both before referral and after being seen in outpatients,” they comment.

And THIS...
“resources may be more effectively targeted at reducing the waiting times from diagnosis to treatment than on reducing the time from referral by a general practitioner to diagnosis”.

And finally from the BMJ.

I don't think any comment from me is necessary.

The Daley Dozen: Tuesday

1. Tory Rascal on confessions of a gay Tory.
2. Lobbydog on Gloria de Piero, the scarlet pimpernel of this campaign. They seek her here...
3. Sean Dilley urges Labour to pull its PEB.
4. Tom Harris is a right winger and proud of it.
5. Adrian Short on how the LibDems lie in their barcharts. Example No 94.
6. The Mirrorball on the tribalism of Denis MacShane.
7. Liberal England on how a Plaid Cymru economist gave Paxo a right stuffing.
8. Party Lines on where to party on election night.
9. Stumbling & Mumbling on how to defend FPTP.
10. Iain Martin on the imminent implosion of the Eurozone.
11. Shane Greer on your dorrstep ABC.
12. Stephen Pollard on why he's voting Tory for the first time in his life.

Vote Labour Or Die of Cancer

That's the subliminal message behind this PEB just issued by the Labour Party. And they lie about Tory policy on child tax credits. What a disgusting bunch of shits they really are. No, strike that.

The people who approved this are c***s. And I don't use that word very often.

TalkSport's Sean Dilley
, who is by no means a Tory supporter, is as outraged as I am and has written an impassioned plea to Labour to withdraw this PEB. He might as well whistle in the wind.

Good Riddance to Mr Lardner

Sometimes, you just hold your head in your hands and think 'how on earth did people like this get through the candidate selection procedure?' I could be talking about Labour's candidate in South East Cambs, John Cowan or I could be talking about the idiot Philip Lardner who found himself suspended after some disgusting views on homosexuality were posted on his website. I'm glad the party took a very speedy decision and sacked him. It isn't the first time his views had got him into trouble.

He apparently thinks homosexuality isn't 'normal'. It is in fact quite normal. It's just not the 'norm'. He talks about it as not being an 'equivalent lifestyle choice'. It's not a choice. It's how you're born. And anyone who believes otherwise is an ignorant fool.

Tory Rascal has written a heartfelt post about how it makes him feel, being in the same party as dinosaurs like Mr Lardner. I sympathise with him, but he knows, and I know that people like Lardner are increasingly rare. The party has changed, and it's in no small matter due to David Cameron's leadership. He's called Lardner to account and I hope any Conservative does the same if they encounter people in the party who hold similar distateful, and profoundly unconservative views. They should be chucked out of the party for good - not just suspended. Mr Lardner already had one strike. He's just had his second. I wouldn't bother allowing him a third.

UKIP Goes to Court Over TV Debate

I've just been sent the text of a letter Lord Pearson has written to the Director General of the BBC warning him that unless he gives UKIP a slot in the leaders' debate on Thursday, UKIP will tomorrow seek judicial review. I was going to only post part of the letter, but in fairness, here's the whole thing.

I wrote to Sir Michael Lyons at the BBC Trust on 22 December, asking that UKIP should be allowed to participate in the televised debates between party leaders. Sir Michael wrote explaining that you rather than the Trust were the appropriate point of contact, and you wrote to me on 15 January 2010, conveying to me your decision and that of the BBC to reject my request on the following grounds:

“The basis on which judgements are made about relative levels of coverage rests on past and current electoral support. For the election to the House of Commons in 2010, the starting point is the last General Election, in 2005. Similarly, the starting point for coverage of the 2009 European election was the previous European election of 2004. This means that UKIP – on the basis of its strong performance in 2004 – was given the same level of coverage in the 2009 election as the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. In 2005, however, at the last General Election (notwithstanding its performance at the European election less than a year before), UKIP attracted just over 2% of the vote and won no representation at Westminster.

“It is, therefore, appropriate and consistent for the BBC – and other broadcasters – to offer the opportunity to take part in the Prime Ministerial debates only to those parties which have substantial electoral support in the context of Westminster. There will be additional opportunities across the BBC for other parties to receive appropriate coverage responding to the Prime Ministerial debate.”

We have been given no adequate opportunity to respond to the first two debates. What arrangements is the BBC making to address this? How can the coverage be “appropriate” if we cannot reach the leaders’ audience?

The first two of the party leaders’ debates have been held and, as I feared, have given spectacular prominence to the three parties whom you, ITV and Sky TV allowed to take part. The unfairness in our being excluded from the party leaders’ debates is now all too evident.

Most recently, I wrote to you on 23 April, sending you my recent correspondence with Sky TV, and inviting you to rectify the lack of impartiality which broadcasters have demonstrated in refusing to allow UKIP to participate in the televised leaders’ debates. I have not had a reply to my letter to you. The final leaders’ debate is in just two days’ time. The matter is now urgent, and I have done my best to pursue it timeously.

Since time is now short, I have taken advice, in the light of which I should like to draw your attention to the following provisions in the BBC’s own election guidelines:

“3. Due Impartiality in coverage of parties and issues

“3.1 Coverage of the Parties

“To achieve due impartiality, each bulletin, programme or programme strand, as well as online and interactive services, for each election, must ensure that the parties are covered proportionately over an appropriate period, normally across a week. This means taking into account levels of past and current electoral support.

“Due impartiality must be achieved within these categories:

 “clips;
 “interviews/discussions of up to 10 minutes;
 “longer-form programmes.

“Previous electoral support in equivalent elections is the starting-point for making judgments about the proportionate level of coverage between parties.

“However, other factors can be taken into account where appropriate, including evidence of variation in levels of support in more recent elections, changed political circumstances (e.g. new parties or party splits) as well as other evidence of current support. The number of candidates a party is standing may also be a factor.” [my emphasis]

These election guidelines – as you may know – were approved by Jenny Watson, the chairman of the Electoral Commission, in a letter dated 11 January 2010 to Ric Bailey, the BBC’s Chief Adviser for Politics (Editorial Policy), as follows:

“In addition we are satisfied with the draft Election Guidelines, and the approach taken regarding the participation of candidates in constituency items during the election period.”

In the last “equivalent” election, the 2005 General Election, UKIP won 2.2% of the national vote, as you have pointed out. However, in the more recent European Election of last year, UKIP came second in the UK, with 16.5% of the national vote, compared with 15.7% for Labour and 13.7% for the Liberal Democrats. This surely constitutes compelling “evidence of variation in levels of support in more recent elections”. In the circumstances, I should have expected your correspondence to have referred to this provision within your election guidelines. You have allowed Labour and the Liberal Democrats to participate in the leaders’ debates, though they received smaller shares of the vote than UKIP in the most recent test of national opinion, which was the European Election of last year. Yet you have denied UKIP the chance to participate.

Furthermore, UKIP – as of today – is fielding 560 candidates, a number not far short of those fielded by the three parties whom you are allowing to participate in the leaders’ debate. As your own guidelines say, “The number of candidates a party is standing may also be a factor.” I should have expected your correspondence to have referred to this provision of your electoral guidelines too. Certainly, UKIP – in the number of candidates we are fielding in this General Election – is close to parity with those parties whom you are allowing to participate.

Both these circumstances are directly relevant to any decision whether to allow UKIP to participate in the leaders’ debates. Yet you do not seem to have taken account of them in your decision as conveyed to me, or in any of our subsequent discussions.

There is also the question of the BBC’s obligations under its charter, which has been the subject of correspondence between us on many previous occasions. In the leaders’ debate so far, the question of our EU membership, its lack of democratic accountability and its heavy financial and constitutional cost has not been debated at all. Mr. Brown has been allowed to get away with saying, unchallenged, that three million jobs depend on our membership of the European Union. Nor has there been any discussion of our proposal to introduce binding initiative referenda at local as well as national level, which is the only effective way to allow us, the people, to rule once more, as well as to address the issue of corruption in Parliament, to say nothing of the increasing gulf between government and the governed.

It is reasonable and proportionate, having regard to the election guidelines as cited above, and having regard to the absence of UKIP from the first two leaders’ debates, that UKIP should be allowed to participate fairly and fully in the final leaders’ debate.

Since you did not adopt my original suggestion that UKIP should at least be allowed to participate in some part of each debate, and since all other avenues available to me have been exhausted, and since UKIP has been denied the opportunity to participate at all in either of the first two debates, and since time is running out, I must now ask you to reconsider your refusal to allow UKIP to participate in the third and final leaders’ debate, to be aired on Thursday evening, 29 April 2010.

Should you and the BBC fail to accede to this request by noon tomorrow, Wednesday, 28 April, 2010, please take this letter as notice, in terms of the pre-action protocol in judicial review proceedings under the Civil Procedure Rules, that the United Kingdom Independence Party, of PO Box 480, Newton Abbot, Devon, TQ12 9BG, and I as UKIP’s leader, as claimants, will apply to the Administrative Court at or as soon as practicable after 2 pm tomorrow afternoon for judicial review of your decision and that of the BBC, as defendants, expressed in your letter to me of 15 January 2010, to refuse to allow UKIP to participate in the third and final leaders’ debate, and for an injunction requiring you and the BBC to permit me, as UKIP’s leader, to participate in that debate on an equal footing with all others whom you and the BBC shall have permitted to participate.

I regret that the notice is very short, but time is pressing and I have not had an answer to my letter to you of 23 April.

Details of our legal advisers will be notified to you in due course.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

I don't hold out much hope that the BBC will cave in on this, and to my mind, nor should they. I don't believe Alex Salmond should have a place in this debate and nor do I believe UKIP should either. They are not standing in every seat (unlike the three main parties) - in fact there are 90 seats without a UKIP candidate. At the last Westminster election they scored only 2% and no one could seriously suggest that Lord Pearson is a candidate for Prime Minister - and these are, after all, called the Prime Ministerial Debates. He's also not standing for election himself, unlike the leaders of the three main parties. And if you include UKIP, why not the BNP and the Greens too? Or indeed others?

To my mind the BBC has bent over backwards in its news bulletins and other political programmes to include minority parties - far more than in any previous election.

I just do not believe that UKIP deserves a fourth podium on Thursday, and I suspect the courts will agree.

A Great Advert

Didn't that make you feel warm inside?

If only political adverts could be like this.

Clegg Puts Party Before Country

Today Nick Clegg "said he would be prepared to work with anyone else within Labour [bar Brown] or any other party that was prepared to deliver his aims — including electoral reform, which is an "absolute pre-condition" for renewing British politics."

Yet only 5 days ago Scottish LibDem leader Tavish Scott said on Newsnicht that such a condition would be putting the party rather than the country first...

GORDON BREWER: Yes, you know what I'm asking you and want I am asking you is a perfectly reasonable question for voters is to ask you. Would the LibDems make PR a condition of either supporting or joining any UK government? 

TAVISH SCOTT: Well Nick Clegg hasn't set out any conditions in that way as you know before the election. 


TAVISH SCOTT: Because the condition he set I think rightly for the whole country is the issue we face most of all is the deficit, the dreadful state of the public finances and is the need to tackle that for the whole country. So rather than putting a party first I think Nick Clegg was very clear over many weeks leading up to the start of this general election campaign to say that he would put the country first because that's what people expect. And I think that's why he's done so well in these debates. He's sought to put...make sure the Liberal Democrats are putting the country first rather than maybe something, yes, we feel very dearly about but perhaps others don't.-

So, which is it, Nick? Country or Party?

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Daley Dozen: Monday

1. Nadine Dorries recognises the public meeting stereotypes.
2. Party Lines profiles the marginal seat of Eastbourne.
3. Your Freedom & Ours on a success for the right ... in Hungary.
4. Guido accuses Kerry McCarthy of doing nothing to uncover John Cowan despite warnings.
5. Shane Greer remains optimistic about a Tory majority.
6. Sean Dilley doesn't seem to think much of wee Dougie.
7. Tom Bradby thinks Nick Clegg has made a serious mistake.
8. So does Alastair Campbell.
9. Blue Nation asks what is it with the LibDems and fake public sector workers.
10. Ellee Seymour bemoans the fact we won't be getting more women MPs.
11. Tom Harris finally gets to appear at Question Time.
12. Chaburn's Musings on another UKIP candidate who can't spell his own constituency.

Gordon's Latest EU Brownie

In the debate last week Gordon Brown seemed to pick a figure out of the air when he asserted that 3 million jobs would be at risk if we left the EU. Tony Blair used to use a similar figure, but no one seemed to quite know where it came from.

Thanks to The Times Fact Check, we now know the truth. It's bollocks.

The Labour Candidate Who Doesn't Know Who To Vote For

During an election campaign, candidates get a lot of letters asking about particular policies. Here's a letter sent to Sir George Young.

Sarah Evans
28 xxxx Court

Dear George Young

I am writing to you in your capacity as a parliamentary candidate in the general election to find out your views on a number of issues concerning the "war on terror", and in particular the occupation in Afghanistan. You will be aware that the overwhelming majority of people in the country believe the troops should come home and that the war is counterproductive.
At a time when all the main parties in the election are calling for cuts in public services, I note that this year's budget of £3.8 billion for the Afghan war is almost exactly the amount the government plans to cut from the NHS. In considering how I will cast my vote in the election, I would be interested to receive your replies to the following questions arising from the current government's war policies.

1. Do you support the immediate withdrawal of British and NATO troops from Afghanistan?
2. Did you support the war in Iraq?
3. Will you oppose any military attack on Iran by the United States or Israel?
4. Do you support the immediate closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison?
5. Are you opposed to the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons?
6. Do you oppose the attacks on Muslims and the growing Islamophobia in British society?
7. Do you agree that the use of anti-terrorist laws to restrict the right of protest is an attack on civil liberties?

Yours sincerely
Sarah Evans
Now, why have I highlighted the bit in red? Well, you see Sarah Evans is none other than Sir George Young's Labour opponent in NW Hampshire!

I've also been looking at her blog, where it seems she is completely at odds with many national Labour policies if her statement at the local hustings is anything to go by.

She wants to scrap Trident, bring our troops home from Afghanistan immediately, scrap tuition fees, and end the means testing of benefits.

Does Mandy know how off message some Labour candidates are? I think he should be told. And I have no doubt now that he will be.

Guardian: Labour Could Get Only 18%!

The latest Gaurdian ICM poll is out, and it shows absolutely no change in the last week.

Con 33
Lib 30
Lab 28

However, their analysis then goes into overdrive, with Julian Glover wildly speculating that Labour's vote could plummet to 18%.
Today's poll shows Conservative support is holding firm, with 83% of supporters saying they do not expect to change their mind before polling day.

By contrast, only 69% of Lib Dems and 68% of Labour voters say they will stick with their current choice. Almost a third of people supporting Labour say they might end up backing another party instead.

If that happens, Labour's vote would fall to a minimum of 18%. Its maximum potential vote – all current supporters plus people who say they may decide to back it – is 33%. That is three points lower than the party achieved in 2005.

By contrast, the Tory minimum is 27%, and maximum 37% – a level which would probably give the party a small majority.

The Lib Dems vote is the most volatile: the party's minimum current support is 23% and its maximum 40% – which if achieved would give the party first place in votes if not seats.

Some people who say they support the Lib Dems also say they are far from certain to vote, and some did not vote at the last election. Figures for party support are weighted to reflect the likelihood of each party's supporters actually turning out on the day.

I were him I'd keep taking the pills.

Does Balls Fear Castration?

I see CCHQ have announced that they are following the Twitter feeds of Cabinet Ministers. I should hope so too. Presumably they will have noticed the following from Ed Balls' Twitter feed. In the nine days from the election called to the first debate he spent only two days in his Morley & Outwood constituency. In the ten days since, he has been there on seven days.

Could this have anything to do with the fact that he's now very worried about losing his seat? His Tory opponent, Anthony Calvert, has successfully raised a five figure sum through his video and is giving Balls the fight of his life.

I look forward to publishing a book called "Were You Up When Balls Was Castrated?"

LibDems: Tax Amnesty for Illegals, But Not For Brits

Seeing as though Stephen Nolan gave Harriet Harman such a hard time, I thought I would listen to his interview with Simon Hughes last night. It proved worthwhile.

On the amnesty for illegal immigrants, he struggled big time on whether British citizens would be given the same tax amnesty that illegal immigrants would be granted, by dint of not having oaid tax during their 10 years in the country. He admitted they hadn't thought about it! Bearing in mind that Hughes largely wrote the LibDem immigration policy, he was surprisingly woolly. Bear in mind that the LibDems have said they would bring in another £4 billionby getting tough on tax evasion! You couldn't make it up.

Here is the transcript -

HUGHES: I think that British citizens would be entitled to say that they should be treated evenly. People that have been here all the time.

Nolan: Would the Lib Dems give that guarantee?

HUGHES: It is not in our manifesto but you raise a good point and I think what you would have to do in that case is once people were legitimated and regulated, then if they had been working; part of the process should be working out what they should contribute. So I think that's a perfectly reasonable proposition.
As clear as mud then. They then moved on to discuss PR and coalitions.

Nolan: Even more important then, if you claim Cameron is wobbling, even more important for you to stand up very very tall and tell him what you would insist upon. Would first past the post have to go.

Hughes: I think it would have to go. Yes. I think it would have to go whatever the circumstances of the next parliament if there wasn't a clear overall majority. It would have to go and I think it will go.

So that's pretty clear. But it's further than Clegg has gone.

To listen to the whole interview click HERE and scroll in six minutes.

In Conversation With Adam Boulton

In the latest of my IN CONVERSATION interviews for Total Politics, in this month's issue, I talk to Sky News Political Editor, Adam Boulton.

ID: You've been at Sky News since the beginning. How has your job changed in the years you've been doing it?

AB: Over time, the nature of television news has changed. The formal two or three minute package has become rarer. You do more stuff on the hoof. I've really evolved to doing almost exclusively live stuff; live interviews, presenting programmes and live commentary. We've gone up from four people working in Westminster when we started to about 30 now. It's always changing - we're going to completely rebuild our offices for HD. So it's almost the restless nature of it that's kept me in the same place.

The other thing that happened is that we've gone online. There was a time, in the middle of my period at Sky, there I was practically illiterate. I didn't write anything down. But obviously with the growth of online, I'm now writing much more than I have ever done before in my career. So that's been a rediscovery of a lost art.

Have you ever thought about going to the other side, because a lot of journalists do drift into politics. Has that ever crossed your mind?

No, genuinely it has not crossed my mind. I do see what I'm doing as analogous to being a sport commentator. There aren't many sport commentators who qualify for a Premiership side. Something dies inside me when I see a journalist becoming a candidate.

Do you think the Westminster lobby is an outdated institution?

I don't really. I've been chairman of the lobby, and I've defended it on occasions. We've had to fight continuously for access to the Commons and I feel without it we'd be worse off. It's certainly the case that the whole process got a bit debauched during the New Labour years. There are some people who date that back to Bernard Ingham, although he was a straight operator compared to what followed. There's also a question about who is admitted to the lobby, because you've now got new media appearing. Since I've been in the lobby it's always been a fairly organic institution and people or organisations who were big figures in the lobby have faded away and new ones have come in. A lot of people often think it's a deal between the government and the lobby. It's not. The lobby is a parliamentary institution; it's not a governmental institution. I personally think that is quite important. I am one of those journalists who thinks that in a lot of areas we can afford to lift our game - by which I mean there's quite a significant chunk of my colleagues who are not primarily interested in politics, the decisions which Parliament is taking, how it's going to affect individuals. They're interested in Westminster as a source of gossip and secondary stories. Sometimes we do need to think: "Why are we doing this?"

Couldn't you also argue that 24-hour news channels are to blame because they've got so much time to fill?

Sometimes you get bushfires, but if they're not very significant they tend to burn themselves out quite quickly. What 24/7 media can do is cover things in more depth. Likewise we can show 20 minutes or half an hour of a news conference or a statement to Parliament. That is how we fill the time.

How do you see 24-hours news developing in this country? There are one or two people at Sky who would like it to develop into much more of a Fox News operation - more opinion than straight reporting. Is that a route you'd like to see Sky go down?

There are big questions about television as a whole because the bar to entry has been lowered so much by digital technology. There's a lot of competition coming. If you're going to continue to be influential in the cacophonous marketplace, you need to have very strong relationship with your audience. In America, Fox News has identified a section of the audience and it caters to their needs. Because there isn't one dominant free broadcaster, you can make a great deal of money that way. While people want greater choice, they look to their news providers for authority. Opinion polls show they trust broadcasters. If you just became another voice in this news market, you would rapidly disappear. It's noticeable that - not at Sky - when other people have tried to do very opinionated news, they haven't taken root to the extent that talk radio has in other cultures.

You and Jon Craig in particular have become slightly more opinionated. I don't mean in the party political sense but you do give your own opinions more than you did ten years ago.

There's an element of truth in that. It's partly presuming on the trust you've built up with the audience - they can take it. But one of the problems in political broadcasting is that we've grown up in a culture where balance is a bit from Labour, a bit from the Conservatives and a bit from the Liberals. I'm very conscious of trying to be fair. But sometimes the nature of the debate does involve being more explicit and there are some areas where you can take a different position. Jon Craig is of the old school, 'How can MPs behave like this? Let's expose them. They deserve what they get' approach and that's fine. But when I've been doing commentary, I'm more concerned to try to explain how this happened and relate to it as human beings. How would you behave if you'd been in those circumstances?

Would you agree that the media often operate as a herd? Do you think that's healthy?

I had a very bumpy relationship with Alastair Campbell, but he did say to me once that the difference about me was that if I express an opinion, I try and attribute it. That is quite important. I wouldn't say on air: "I was falling asleep during that David Davis speech." I would say: "I saw quite a lot of people in the audience falling asleep." They amount to pretty much the same thing, but there's a difference. Broadcast political editors work in isolation and we don't actually see that much of each other because television tends to take you away a bit from the pack a lot of the time. But there are certainly occasions during big stories where either side of going live at Downing Street, we just say: "What do you think will happen?"

What's the competition like between you? Because 10 years ago, Sky and the BBC felt they had won if they got a story on the screen quicker than another. Is the competition now a bit more subtle?

We've always wanted to get things on first, but to get them right. We would break a story. But we wanted to qualify it with saying: 'This is the best information we have at the moment' or 'More on that story'. There was a period when Roger Mosey [BBC executive] very much wanted to just compete on who was doing things first and it got slack with people rushing to break things all the time and getting things wrong. I would say the BBC got it wrong more than we did. The BBC News channel is probably less of a priority for the BBC than it was a few years ago and that therefore has given us a bit more space.

How much influence does Rupert Murdoch have in what you do? Does he ever ring you up?

No, I've never been rung up by Rupert Murdoch. I'll be dropped from The Guardian's 100 most influential people in the media now! The truth is that in more than 20 years at Sky, I've probably been in the same room as Rupert Murdoch about half a dozen times. And I've probably had three conversations with him.

Do you ever feel used by politicians?

That's part of the deal, at one level. John Lloyd [contributing editor of the FT] said that journalism has three functions: reporting, analysing and commenting. A lot of 24-hour news is reporting. It's getting to people, finding out what they want to say and pushing them that bit further to say what they really mean. Politicians don't have a right to get on the airwaves, but part of our job is to facilitate them and to say what they're doing. But if politicians lie to me, I do remember it.

Give me an example.

Well, I always resented the fact Nick Raynsford lied to me about running for London mayor. I had asked him in an interview: "If Frank Dobson comes into the race, you'll pull out in his favour, won't you?" He flatly denied it and then eight days later he opened the Frank Dobson campaign with the words: "Everyone's always known I would support Frank if he came into the race." That kind of thing is unnecessary. If someone flatly denies something and subsequently you read in their memoirs "tough interview but I managed to brush him off" that annoys me.

You must get that everyday though? What about Alastair Campbell's briefings? You only need to read his diaries to see how many times he would mislead the lobby.

While I admire much of Alastair Campbell's professionalism, the problem was that he introduced a culture where it was ok to lie. There were occasions when he actually said to me, while in the job, "Oh, sorry about that Adam, but you know why I did it." There are some lines you shouldn't cross. And that became a culture which is satirised brilliantly in The Thick of It. It's not just Labour. There are some people who think the job of press officers, spin doctors or special advisors is to lie. Call me naive, I don't think that is the job and it's corrosive.

The Sky campaign to get the party leaders to debate each other has been a massive success. How did it come about?

It was quite simple. John Ryley, the head of Sky News, is a thinker and he sent round a paper saying that he was concerned about the lack of political engagement, which we can see in the decline in our audiences for elections and obviously you can see it in voter turnout. He canvassed ideas for what we should do about it and we concluded that it wasn't our place to campaign for turnout or to run celebrities saying 'use your vote' because that would be a kind of intrusion in the market place.

We ended up with a campaign which basically was us saying: "Listen, we think there should be a debate. We're going to stage it. Be there or be square." Of course Cameron and Clegg said very quickly they would take part.

Will the debates dominate the whole campaign? Each debate could take up three days' news agenda - so it's nine days out of the campaign.

We'll have to see. But the print boys are quite sulky about the whole thing. I've been surprised talking to the parties how little they are varying their timetable of battle buses and news conferences.

Do you think it's a shame the debate format is so rigid and there are so many rules? Would it not have been better, at least in one of them, just to plonk the three of them on the stage, have no moderator at all and let them have a dialogue with each other and the audience?

Listen, it's taken us 50 years to get here! Certainly for Gordon Brown and David Cameron, it has involved conceding quite a lot of ground or potential advantages certainly passed to Nick Clegg. Therefore, it's only right that there should be a bit of a softly, softly approach this time round. Secondly, there was a strong desire to negotiate with the broadcasters as a block. Therefore it's understandable that people have gone for similar formats. The debates will look and feel very different. ITV, BBC and Sky have very different styles in the way they do things. The big issue that we've had this time around has been of the audience. People are used to BBC Question Time and regional shows which end up pitting the audience against the panel. You don't want them forming a panel against an angry public. So it's a new dynamic which we've got to explore.

You're moderating the Sky debate. Do you still get nervous about these things or do you take them in your stride?

Oh yeah. It certainly gets the adrenaline going. It's a big gig. You always wonder when you first open your mouth if there's going to be a dreadful croak coming out. For me personally, because it's been a Sky campaign and I've been very invested in trying to get debates going, I desperately want the debates to succeed, to be useful and informative. All these things are going to be on your mind.

Do you think it's going to be a very dirty election campaign?

We're going to have a personalised campaign because there is big convergence between the parties in many areas. Where they are most different is in the personal contrasts - David Cameron and George Osborne, Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. I hope there will be less gimmicks because there is a sort of yawn-yawn factor now when there is another poster launch or even a clever internet viral. I hope the debates will engender a culture of people and politicians actually trying to sit down and tell people how it is and what the consequences are going to be. But I'm not sure that is necessarily going to happen.

After the next election, whoever wins, there's probably going to be between 250 and 300 new MPs. How on earth a) will that affect what you do and b) what kind of Parliament do you think it's going to be?

We thrive on change and actually where Sky has been good and where hopefully I've been good as well is actually trying to make sense of what's going on, rather than going by any preconceived notions of who matters and who doesn't matter. It's going to be a bit of a free-for-all - I'm looking forward to that. We do need fresh blood and different types of people. At Sky, we've been meeting quite a lot of PPCs from all parties. There are different types of people coming into politics and that's a good thing. The era of the special advisor becoming a cabinet minister is drawing to a close. In the end, all politicians would be well advised to work towards a system where Parliament and the government are more separated. Parliament should have more of a scrutinising role. I detect that a lot of the new people just won't accept as many three-line whips.

Do you prefer reporting, presenting or interviewing? At the moment you're doing all three. But which do you get the biggest kick out of?

I like all three. What is good about what I do is that it's raw and first hand. We've tended to have this hierarchy - you're a reporter and then you graduate and you become a presenter and an interviewer. I've managed more in the American-style to mix the two and therefore I don't really have that strong a preference. Probably the televisions skill I'm least good at is reading the autocue.

When you married Anji Hunter, did you have a bit of a problem with Conservatives because they felt you were closer to the other side?

Not to my face. When I met Anji, I did have an independent track record. In fact the day that all the gory details were all over the front page of the Mail on Sunday, I was interviewing Iain Duncan Smith, the then Tory leader, and said: "You might want to see this." And he replied: "It doesn't make any difference to me. I know you, I know what you do and I hope it works itself out."

Some people think that Sky News is a New Labour dominated institution and others think it's completely right-wing. The lazy answer is to say that you must be doing something right to have offended both sides...

Yes, that is the lazy answer. Or another answer is that everyone knows that New Labour was very right-wing. I have two answers to that. One is the standard sticks and stones answer. But the other one is when people make criticism of you, at least to entertain it. As I've tried to explain, I don't really think in party political terms personally. My view about New Labour, as I said in the book I wrote about Blair, is that it's been the political story of my lifetime. I've known these people all the way from before they were in Parliament, before they were cabinet ministers and through to when they've become ex-cabinet ministers. And so inevitably I've known a lot of people in that world. Likewise, in terms of my background in public school and Oxford, it's not as if Tories are an unknown species to me - or Liberals. It would have been a bit different if I'd married Alastair Campbell.

When you had that blow up interview with Gordon Brown last year at the Labour conference, when he stomped off in a huff, what went through your mind?

Politicians are interviewed all the time and the last thing you want is them walking out with their advisors and saying: "That went well... there was nothing in it." What you're trying to do is to make a connection which involves pushing them away from the line to take and getting under their skin in your own style. What I want to do is to ask them a question that makes them think and to give me a reply that isn't premeditated. Therefore, with Gordon you could see I'd made a connection and so I was pleased by that. When he said I'd become a campaigner, I was also quite interested in that as well but there is a certain kind of way in which journalists are conniving little bastards. If you're interviewing someone and they're making a fool of themselves, it's not your job to stop them. If they're given the opportunity to express themselves or they're losing their temper, it's probably not good if you lose your temper as well. It's best to keep them calm. In that sense, I just felt that it was an interesting interview. I was sure that there was some outside thing to do with the fact that this was the morning after The Sun had switched its allegiance. If I get a response from someone, I don't blame them for it necessarily.

Did you think you were never going to get an interview with him again?

No. I didn't think he'd think that either. The only person who won't do interviews with me is John Prescott. But in Prescott's case it seems to be more to do with the fact that we broke the story of the punch [in 2001]. I still think that a deputy prime minister shouldn't go around belting the electorate. It still seems to annoy him.

The Election Edition of Total Politics is on Sale now in most branches of W H Smith. You can subscribe to the magazine HERE.

The Menace That is Camilla Long

Could someone explain to me why the Sunday Times employs Camilla Long as an interviewer? Can anyone explain to me why she won interviewer of the year at the British Press Awards?

A month ago she interviewed Nigel Farage and started the interview by poking fun at the fact that having had cancer he has only one testicle. Yeah, really funny that Camilla. Wonder if you'd poke fun at a woman who had lost a breast. Thought not. It was a truly terrible interview, mainly because she had broken the interviewers' code by going into the interview with her mind made up. She was determined to write a hatchet job on Farage and succeeded. The fact that she lied about a conversation with Farage's press officer afterwards sealed her reputation as far as I'm concerned.

Then last week she devoted a whole column to how she failed in her quest to interview Gloria de Piero. Gloria had the good sense to avoid her. This week Long did another hatchet job on Tory candidate Joanne Cash.

The moral of this story is this. If any politician gets a call from Camilla Long in the next couple of weeks, asking for an interview, they should tell her to sling her hook. The woman is a menace. Her interviewing style is appalling, she knows bugger all about politics and is determined to be negative.

Come back Lynn Barber. Now there's a woman who knows how to interview.

Sun Attacks LibDem Policy of 'Porn at 16'

I've just started trawling through the Monday papers and made the mistake of starting with The Sun, which is continuing on its mission to destroy Nick Clegg's reputation. Today he's a "Clegglomaniac". They've also got stuck into the LibDem policy of allowing 16 year olds to watch and star in porn films. I'm not sure that is The Sun's best plan of attack. I suspect many Sun readers would heartily approve.

You Want Ed Balls Castrated

Yesterday I asked you to vote for the Cabinet Minister who you would most like to see suffer a "Were you up for Portillo" moment on 6th May. The results are pretty categoric!

1. Ed Balls - 85%
2. Harriet Harman - 54%
3. Yvette Cooper - 35%
4. Peter Hain - 18%
5. Ben Bradshaw - 17%

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Podcast: The 7 Days Show Episode 21

The latest edition of the Seven Days Show is now online.

In the show this week (episode 21) we discuss the impact of the TV debates on the campaign, including why it can be annoying to party activists; why it’s easier to debate when you have never been in Government; whether the rise of the Lib Dems means the minor parties will be squeezed, and much much more,

Parental advisory. This week we have a competition to find the funniest street name that has been leafleted or canvassed so far. And we want the photographs to prove it. Jonathan's best one is Tom Tit Lane. I'm afraid schoolboy humour took over at this point...

To listen to the podcast click HERE, or you can also subscribe to the show in the Tory Radio section in the podcast area of Itunes.

Quote of the Day

"Has anybody read anything in the Tory manifesto
specifically ruling out stealing my bicycle?
Do I need a new lock?"

Moriarty (commenter)

The Daley (Half) Dozen: Sunday

1. Charles Crawford is angered by what Labour has done to the FCO.
2. Chris Galley asks where Labour's footsoldiers have disappeared to.
3. Red Rag thinks the Labour slogan "Go Fourth" means they're aiming for 4th place.
4. Alex Massie on why Paddy Ashdown is wrong.
5. Nabidana on a tale of two campaign stops.
6. Jonathan Isaby on the strange case of the disappearing UKIP candidates.

The UKIP Candidate Who Can't Spell His Constituency

Now I am not being patronising, but if you are a parliamentary candidate, it's always nice to spell the name of your constituency correctly. It at least shows a little local knowledge...

Emmett, mate, it's Chislehurst.

And take your hands out of your pockets. Your mother can't be blamed for you not being able to spell, but it's a pity she didn't teach you good manners.

Just joshin'.

Hattip: The Straight Choice

Cuts, Cuts, Cuts

This is a short video explaining how Obama is planning to slash government spending. Or not. Perhaps the Taxpaers' Alliance should make a UK equivalent. It's rather effective.

Who Would You Like to See Have a Portillo Moment?

We all have our pet hates in politics. We all know who we would most like to see the back of on May 6th. So I thought I would let my readers vent their spleens and take part in a one question survey.

So, pick the three Labour Cabinet Ministers who you would most like to see lose their seats on 6 May.

Who did I go for? Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper and Ben Bradshaw. My night would be complete if that little threesome were consigned into political history.

Click HERE to vote for your own three choices.

Labour Now Turns Its Scare Stories onto Parents

Ed Balls has just said on Channel 4 News that the Conservatives have promised to cut 1 teacher and teaching assistant from every primary school in Britain and 5 teachers from every secondary school.


UPDATE: Cathy Newman and Channel4 FactCheck appear to agree.

The Real SNP Agenda

I'm getting rather sick of listening to Alex Salmond's bleatings about how much he wants a hung Parliament. Could it be because he and his Welsh colleagues will then be in an ideal position to bribe a new government to send yet more English tax monies north and west?

I may not be able to make many accurate predictions about the consequences of this election result, but I will make one. An English Parliament will be firmly on the political agenda, and this time the main parties won't be able to ignore it.

They Come in Threes

It hasn't been a good weekend for Alastair Campbell. His idea for an Elvis impersonator backfired, his letter to broadcasters urging them to discuss policy was ridiculed. And in the last hour Burnley were relegated from the Premier League.

If I were him, I'd stay away from a keyboard for the rest of the day.

Ten New Blogs: Part 60

Chris & Eddie in London
- LibDem election blog
Half a World Away - A Conservative New Zealand blog
War Without End - Libertarian
Politics Lite UK - Conservative
I Blog Therefore I am - Non aligned
Politics, A View - Conservative
Land of Hype & Tories
Fresh Politics
Looking Across the Atlantic - An American student looks at Britain
Death & Taxes

These blogs aren't necessarily newly created, but I haven't known about them before and they had not, until now, appeared in the TP Blog Directory.

Visit the Total Politics Blog Directory which contains more than 2,000 blogs. If you know of one which isn't there, please fill in the Submit a New Blog form on the left hand side of THIS page.

Gordon is Leaving the Building

Labour wheels out an Elvis impersonator as its "big celebrity" endorsement", who, as Gordon Brown arrives at the event sings "When no one else can understand me, when everything I do is wrong".

Labour demands broadcasters concentrate on policy discussion.

You couldn't make it up.

Their campaign really has become the biggest joke in modern electoral history. They're making Michael Foot's 1983 campaign look professional. Indeed, if Mark Pack is to be believed (and sometimes he is!), Labour is heading for a result worse tham Foot achieved.

Brown's Latest Brownie

In a campaign speech just now, Gordon Brown called the Disability Discrimination Act as "one of my greatest achievements".

FACT: The Disability Discrimination Act was brought in by William Hague during the Major Government. It was amended and updated in 2005, but the original achievement was under a Conservative government. What a shame Brown failed to acknowledge the Act's creator.

So, Brown tells another Brownie. Perhaps at some stage he might like to acknowledge his mistake. Fat chance.

This remark was made, I gather, during yet another Brown speech to a small group of Labour activists. Does he actually ever meet ordinary voters? Meanwhile, David Cameron was speaking to an open audience in the North East. The contrast is stark.