Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Where Were You Then Tony?

So the Government has lost two key votes on the dreadful Religious Hatred Bill. The second vote was lost by one vote. Strangely, Tony Blair absented himself from that vote. I wonder why? So another Commons victory for the Shadow Home Affairs team. David Davis will be a very happy boy tonight. And so will Shadow Attorney Dominic Grieve, who has done the legwork. He described the defeats as "a victory for Parliament" and said "This has showed tonight that we will stand up for freedom of expression." Sometimes bad legislation gets its just desserts and this is one of those times. Well done to both Opposition parties, and indeed the large band of Labour MPs who rebelled. Credit where its due. The LibDems have been staunch in opposing this Bill. The fact that Mark Oaten returned today ensured the second vote went the right way. At least he's got something to be proud of again. Someone else who can be proud themselves tonight is my friend Michael Gove. By all accounts he made the best speech heard in the Commons for some time.

PS. Anyone give me the odds on Hilary Armstrong keeping her job in the reshuffle?
PPS. Have you voted in the Mark Oaten poll yet? Look to the left hand side of the screen.

UPDATE: The following speeches are now online. Click on this

New MORI Poll Brings More Good News for Cameron

A new MORI poll shows the Conservatives two points ahead of Labour at 40% with the LibDems trailing at 17%, five per cent below their General Election showing. For David Cameron's resurgent Conservatives it's a 7% improvement. You can find full details of the poll together with a commentary on the MORI website HERE. Mike Smithson at PoliticalBetting.com points out that the poll was taken before the Simon Hughes episode and only some of the 2,000 participants will have been interviewed post-Oaten. It's likely therefore that the LibDem support is slightly overstated. Compared to the previous MORI poll 11 days earlier, the Tories are up 1 point, Labour down 1 and the LibDems up 2. David Cameron is rated more favourably than any of his three immediate predecessors two months or so after each had been elected leader. MORI note that Cameron’s 14% plus rating is the same as Blair’s at the same stage of his leadership and say: "Here we see almost identical satisfaction ratings from the public. And in contrast to Conservative leaders post-1997, Tony Blair’s approval ratings rose as the public got to know him and he regularly recorded satisfaction ratings in the high 40s and low 50s in the three years running up to the 1997 General Election."

Interesting stuff.

Cornerstone About to Become Tombstone?

There were no doubt some steely eyes among Conservative Whips this morning as they chomped on their bacon sandwiches while reading Her Majesty's Daily Telegraph. Of particular interest was this rather juicy morsel from the SPY column...

"News reaches me that will alarm David Cameron and his henchmen: the socially conservative Cornerstone faction of the Tory parliamentary party seems to be organising itself as a party within a party. A leaked document - addressed to "supporters and friends of Cornerstone" - has landed on my desk. It urges members to speak in favour of amendments to the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill in the Commons today, and is signed: "Robert Goodwill MP, Cornerstone Whip". "This is reminiscent of the days of the Maastricht debates, when the Tory rebels had their own whip," says my Westminster mole. "On this occasion, Cornerstone is backing the front bench, but I doubt it would have any qualms about turning against Cameron if he starts pursuing too liberal an agenda."

I imagine that Mr Goodwill was called in to see the Chief Whip this morning for an interview without coffee. My spy reports that he would have been well advised to stick an excercise book down the back of his trousers. One suspects a long spell on European Standing Committee B might well be in the offing for Mr Goodwill...

But in all seriousness, quite what the Cornerstone Group, or Tombstone Group as their enemies like to know them, think they are doing, God only knows. Their chief agitator, John Hayes, was very keen to let everybody know that the Cornerstone Group was right behind David Cameron during the leadership contest, but surely they must have known that he wouldn't sign up to their right wing agenda? Whatever the truth, no Party can allow a Party to exist within a Party and to actually have a whipping operation on the go is one step too far. If Tombstone don't watch out they'll be ordered to disband. Anyone care to come up with an epitaph?

Byers Byers Pants on Fire

Sometimes I just despair. And today is one of those times. Earlier on today Stephen Byers was cleared of lying to Parliament by the Committee on Standards & Privileges. Instead they accused him of telling an "untruth". Could someone please explain to me the difference? It's all faithfully reported on the BBC Website. This Committee is one of the few not to have an inbuilt Labour majority. It has 5 Labour members, 3 Conservatives, 1 LibDem and 1 Plaid member. So Byers got away with it because 5 opposition MPs let him. At least, that's how it looks on the face of it. Perhaps someone could tell us whether there was a vote on this report, and if so, how the MPs voted. Stephen Byers has done more than virtually anyone else in the last 8 years to besmirch the honour of Parliament and by association, all of us who stand in Parliamentary elections. If he had any sense of right and wrong he wouldn't have stood at the last election. No doubt he'll be back in Blair's Cabinet when he finally be arsed to conduct his long-awaited reshuffle. That really would be the perfect ending, wouldn't it? Now, let's all take a bet on when Byers will be making his apology to the Commons. Who'll give me Evens on a wet Thursday afternoon with a one line whip?

Mark Oaten is in the House

Spotted this morning in Portcullis House. Mark Oaten with an entourage of about six flunkies. Good to see him back in Parliament. It must have taken some guts to walk through the door. But the House of Commons can be very forgiving to people who've strayed. My suspicion is that his reception will be friendlier from MPs of parties other than his own.

Wilson Calls on Blair to Resign

From the headline of this piece you might think that I had been taking part in a seance and that Harold had got a bit fed up with Tony. But no. Tory MP Rob Wilson has put down an EDM which is bound to attract some publicity, and unlike those mentioned yesterday, it;s an entirely appropriate one. It's number 1509 and reads...

That this House notes with concern the recent remarks of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair belittling the appalling crimes committed at Soham; condemns his thoughtless pursuit of self-publicity; and calls on the Home Secretary to remove him from his position as Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

Strong stuff. Not sure what DD will make of it, but if I were an MP I'd be signing it like a shot. Sir Ian Blair should spend a little more time on his job than appearing on our TV screens. If it is indeed true that the police officers involved in the de Menezes shooting/killing did indeed doctor the evidence then one could reasonably expect Ian Blair to take responsibility and fall on his sword. It'll be very interesting to see how many MPs sign up to this and if it receives any cross-party support.

Are Women the Secret of Dave's Success?

PoliticalBetting.com has an interesting topic of the day. They ask, Is Cameron's Success Built on Women? In evidence, they cite the following ICM polling figures. Looks a pretty good case to me, although I'd like to see the YouGov split to before jubilating too much. Both leadership candidates agreed that winning back the womens' vote was one of the keys to a Tory revival and in seven weeks, David Cameron seems to have pulled the situation round very well. I wonder if it's the more consensual approach that is doing it or if it's something else. I imagine that many women will have been none too impressd by the latest LibDem anticsn so I suspect quite a few of the new women Tory voters are former LibDems. Whatever it is, I hope the Party is doing some detailed private polling to find out.

ICM Tory shares - Gender split

May 05: MALE 37% FEMALE 28% (General Election poll)
JUN 05: MALE 32% FEMALE 31%
JUL 05: MALE 31% FEMALE 31%
AUG 05: MALE 34% FEMALE 27%
SEP 05: MALE 29% FEMALE 32%
OCT 05: MALE 28% FEMALE 36% (Post Tory conference)
NOV 05: MALE 34% FEMALE 33%
DEC 05: MALE 38% FEMALE 36%
JAN 06: MALE 36% FEMALE 41%

CCHQ: Time for Loyalty, Discretion and Secrecy

Andrew Pierce in today's Times has a good scoop on a new initative being undertaken by the Party's new Personnel Director. It's designed to stop the leaks that have bedevilled CCO for decades. He's obviously determined to instill the same kind of Party discipline that New Labour had in Millbank in the mid 1990s. And a very good thing too.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Tony Blair Caption Competition

We haven't had a caption competition for sometime, and I'm feeling in a particularly Frankie Howerd/Kenneth Williams mood tonight. So, all entries in the Comments Section please Matron! No missus!

ID Cards: Arthur or Martha?

Now we've heard all the arguments against ID Cards so I was almost rendered dumbstruck by something a friend just pointed me towards on the BBC's website.

"Transsexuals who have yet to have a sex-change operation will be entitled to two ID cards, Home Office Minister Lady Scotland of Asthal has said. One would be in their gender at birth and the other in their legally-acquired "gender of designation".

Read more HERE. What I don't get is this. If you're a woman and about to become a man, how can you have a concurrent ID card as a man. Won't the photo still be of a woman? Call me old-fashioned...

Widdecombe Welcomes the Return of Rupert the Bear

Two Early Day Motions you needn't be aware of. Firstly, the left wing Birmingham MP Lynne Jones has tabled one that read: That this House considers that the UK theme on BBC Radio 4 is extremely irritating. Number of signatures so far? One. Lynne Jones. And Ann Widdecombe has joined Andrew Rosindell in tabling EDM 1439 welcoming the remake of Rupert the Bear. You really couldn't make it up, could you? MPs should bear in mind that an EDM costs about £250 to table as it is printed in the Order Paper every day. The even more astonishing thing is that they get reported by the media at all. I forget who it was that referred to EDMs as Graffitti on the Walls of Parliament, but there has rarely been a truer word spoken. But if you really want to know why Widders et al (including LibDem Bon Russell and Labour's Lindsay Hoyle) are rejoicing at Rupert's return, read on and weep...

That this House wholeheartedly welcomes the return to British television screens of the much loved Rupert the Bear with his distinctive yellow and black scarf, red jacket and chums, after a 14-year absence; notes the timeless appeal of the adventures of Rupert and his friends as fine examples of traditional British children's entertainment since their debut in 1920; further notes the important portrayal within the animation of a youngster's nature as inherently good, with a love of adventure and the guarantee of a warm and welcoming homecoming; and encourages broadcasters to follow the lead of Channel Five and continue to remember the significant place that traditional British television characters should hold in children's entertainment in the 21st century.

At the risk of prolonging this just that little bit too long, the thing I used to enjoy about Rupert Bear as a child was the theme tune. Rupert, Rupert the Bear, everyone come and join. - n all of his games. Terrific!

Berlusconi Shows LibDems the Way to Abstinencerillo

In an astonishing act of diplomacy, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi today rescued the Liberal Democrats from further sex scandals by urging them to follow his lead and commit themselves to sexual abstinence until their leadership election is concluded in early March. To a crowd of hundreds the socially conservative Prime Minister yesterday took a vow of 12 weeks celibacy until the Italian election results are announced next April. LibDem leadership contender Ming Campbell said today: "I pay tribute to Sr Berlusconi for this selfless act which I shall have no problem in emulating. I'm past it anyway." Chris Huhne said he was far too busy dreaming up new taxes to even think about the subject, while Simon Hughes said: "If only he had suggested this before, it could have saved me a lot of trouble."

Just my little joke.

Rightlinks.co.uk Comes to Hague's Aid on the EPP

Over at Rightlinks they're starting a campaign in support of David Cameron's stated wish to withdraw Conservative MEPs from the EPP. You can see more HERE. I'm told William Hague is meeting MEPs this week to explain to the majority of them that if they refuse to withdraw from the EPP they will not be able to stand for reselection at the next Euro elections. Hague has been playing this one on a slow burner so far because he felt he needed to time to talk to other centre-right parties, especially from Eatsern Europe, about forming a new grouping. Word on the street is that he has been quite successful.He got to know most of them during his time as leader of the International Democratic Union. If he pulls this one off, and keeps most of the more europhile MPs on side it will be quite a coup both for him and for David Cameron, who has essentially let him get on with it.

And the Press Plagiarist Award Goes to the Evening Standard

I don't usually get upset when people nick things off this Blog, but the very least they can do is put them into their own words. So today I nominate the Londoner's Diary in the Evening Standard for the Guido Fawkes Press Plagiarist of the Week Award. Spot the similarity between this and what I posted a couple of days ago about George Galloway's public meetings...

"George Galloway gives the impression that he is abanding showbiz trivia by going on a series of "public meetings" to reach out to the downtrodden. Up to a point. These public meetings are £15 a head affairs for which the Respect MP will be paid £1,000-£2,000 a time."

Would anyone like to suggest a suitable punishment? I think a small invoice in the post is called for at the very least, don't you?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Want to Link Up?

I have added a lot of new Blog Links down the left hand column today. If you have a Blog with a link to mine and I haven't listed you, please say so in the comments section, or email me, and I'll add you to the list. The least I can do, guvnor! And if you haven't got a link to me on your Blog, why not?!

Adam Rickett on Question Time This Week

I see the A List of Conservative Candidates is rearing its head in the press again today. Ann Widdecombe in typical understated fashion calls the whole idea 'diabolical'. David Cameron will be making a speech about it tomorrow at the think tank DEMOS. Apparently we are all getting letters this week outlining the whole procedure and asking us to apply to be on the A List, or Priority List as it's officially called. One interesting dilemma for the Candidates Department will be to decide what to do with the likes of Zak Goldsmith - will he be made to fight an unwinnable seat or drafted immediately onto the A List? He was on Question Time this week and made one of my female friends (who's a leftie) go weak at the knees. This Thursday she'll get another chance to view some male Tory 'totty' when Coronation Street's Adam Rickett gets a runout. He played Gail Platt's son, Nicky Tilsley, who kept going off to Canada. Adam has a very, er, revealing website which you can see HERE. He got onto the candidates list in October. And I'm the proud owner of his hit single I BREATHE AGAIN. It's rather catchy actually!

The Delusions of a West Ham Fan

Having witnessed West Ham's 4-2 drubbing of Blackburn yesterday (what a shame Jack Straw was in Davos...) I dreamt last night that the Hammers reached the FA Cup final and became the first team to play at the New Wembley. It would be fitting for them to do so as they were also the first team to play at the Old Wembley in 1923 when they played Bolton Wanderers in the famous White Horse final. And we all know that the God of football likes coincidences. Imagine the paroxysms it would send John Motson into. "Well yes indeed Gary, the omens are good for West Ham, in 1923 they had a white horse, in 2006 they've got a manager with white hair. The Hamas won an election in Palestine this year, will the Hammers be lucky in the Cup? Gary, they'll be cheering on the streets of Teddy Sheringham on a Christian Dailly basis if the Hammers triumph today. Back to the studio." Sorry, I got a bit carried away there...

But there are other omens...

1. When the Hammers won the Cup in 1975 Alan Taylor scored 6 goals. West Ham's current manager is called Alan.
2. When West Ham won the Cup in 1980 they beat Ipswich along the way. This year they've beaten their East Anglian rivals Norwich.

Desperate? Moi? I'm sure in the end realti will dawn in the line from I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles which reads, "just like my dreams, they fade and die". As a West Ham fan, I'm used to it.

UPDATE 4.15pm: Bloody hell! I've just seen pictures on SKY NEWS of two planes which apparently nearly collided directly above Upton Park while West Ham were playing yesterday! The CAA say it wasn't a near miss, but if you see the pictures, you decide! Looks bloody close to me!

Andrew Rawnsley Sums it Up

"My estimate is that about a tenth of Members of Parliament swing the same way as Simon Hughes. Since his enforced outing in the Sun, accompanied by the gruesome tagline 'Another one bites the pillow', politicians of this persuasion will be even more reluctant to be honest about it. Some will worry how to tell their families. Others will be unsure how it will be treated by the media and received by the voters even in supposedly more enlightened times. After so many horrible headlines and cackling ridicule directed at politicians of this orientation, it will be a brave Member of Parliament who is prepared to declare himself glad to be Liberal Democrat."

LibDem: My Party are Like Intense, Grey-looking Jehovah Witnesses

Which LibDem politician once said the following?

"Liberals are intense, grey-looking people. If you do not happen to be of their political persuasion they can be as bad a Jehovah's Witnesses. One of their advantages is that they are unlikely to be hampered by any formulated policies."

Chris Huhne, hang your head in shame.

Hat-tip to the Mail on Sunday

Saturday, January 28, 2006

New Poll on Mark Oaten's Future

I've finally worked out how to add a polling facility to this Blog and you'll find it in the left hand column. It will only allow you to vote once, so don't even try to rig it! The question this week is


My own view is that he probably shouldn't, but possibly will. He was elected to serve a five year term and it's up to the electorate to judge him at a General Election. However, I suspect that he might well come to the conclusion that his position is untenable. Anyway, it'll be interesting to see what the readers of this Blog think. In the Comments section please let me have your ideas for a new poll starting next Saturday.

New Poll in Sunday Telegraph Puts Tories Ahead Again

Just seen this on the Press Association...

"Four out of 10 Lib Dem voters want Charles Kennedy back as leader,a poll revealed today. Some 39% of people intending to vote Lib Dem at the next electionsaid the party would be better off with Mr Kennedy back in charge. But 47% said the party would be better off with a new leader. The ICM poll for the Sunday Telegraph is the latest indication ofthe plummeting morale of the Lib Dems. Mr Kennedy quit three weeks ago after admitting to a drink problem.But the party has been rocked by further scandals over the pastweek. Married father-of-two Mark Oaten stood down from the front benchafter he admitted having an affair with a rent boy. And leadershiphopeful Simon Hughes this week came out as a bisexual afterrepeatedly denying he was gay. However, the controversies do not appear to have had much of animpact on the wider public. Asked whether the revelations would make them more or less likelyto vote Lib Dem, 80% said it would make no difference. The poll puts the Lib Dems on 18% support nationally, compared tothe 22% they achieved at the last election. The Tories were on 37%,just ahead of Labour on 36%. :: ICM polled 1,041 people between Thursday and Saturday. "

So the Tories are 1% ahead of Labour and the LibDems are down 4 points. If I were them I would consider that a 'result' after the last 7 days. It's certainly rather better than the 13% in the last MORI poll. Or was it YouGov? The other interesting point is that the Conservatives are now consistently in the 36-40% slot rather than 29-34% which they have been for the last 8 years or so. I'd say that was good progress in Cameron's first 7 weeks. Wouldn't you? Sure that figure needs to become 40-44%, but we're heading in the right direction.

George Galloway's Public Meetings: The Truth

George Galloway has been slightly economical with the truth regarding his maunch vaunted "public meetings" he is appearing at around the country in February. He's made it sound as if he's turning up in various towns and cities for the masses to come to hear what he has to say. Yet the truth is somewhat more prosaic. He's actually being paid by a theatre promoter to appear at various theatres. How do I know this? Because it's the same one that promotes the Audience with Ann Widdecombe evenings that I host (coming to Edmonton Theatre on 9 February!). Galloway's fee for each evening will be in the region of £1-2,000 and he gets it even if no one turns up. And from the Telegraph this morning, we learn that only 125 tickets have been sold for his first appearance in Northampton. So come on, admit it George, you're trousering more than £1,000 for each of these events. Still, it'll all no doubt be given to charity. It's not the fact that he is being paid that is the problem, it's that he's given the impression that it's a series of old-style town hall public meetings which people can just turn up at. Well, I suppose they still can if they want to shell out £15 to hear him spout his venom. Me? I think I'd rather stay at home and cut my toenails.

Paddy Ashdown Aide Tears up LibDem Membership after 30 Years

What a great afternoon! West Ham wallop Blackburn 4-2 and another senior LibDem resigns from the Party. Who might this be you ask? Well, I'm not going to name them because of this person's current work, but they worked as a senior adviser (and I mean senior) to Paddy Ashdown in the mid 1990s and had been a Liberal member for 30 years. I also have the pleasure of his/her company in the next seat to me at West Ham home games. So in between goals from Teddy Sheringham & Co we had a good old chinwag about this week's events. I'd better make clear that the person in question is not Alan Leman, another Paddy Ashdown veteran, who sits two rows in front of us! My friend is already toying with the idea of joining the Conservatives as he/she has been very impressed by what DC has achieved in his first seven weeks. You can guess what we'll be talking about next Saturday when Sunderland are the visitors at Upton Park. And it won't just be about Dean Ashton's transfer fee!

Why the LibDems Should Smell the Coffee

To read some of the LibDem postings on this site, or PoliticalBetting.com or various LibDem Blogs you'd think it hadn't really been such an awful week for the yellow peril. They're acting like a businessman who knows he can't pay the bills, yet can't quite bring himself to put his company into liquidation. As Cilla Black used to say, let's have a quick reminder of the last seven days...

SATURDAY Lords Liberal leader Tom McNally confesses to having an alcoholic
SUNDAY Mark Oaten revealed in News of the World as a user of male prostitutes
MONDAY LibDem Dunfermline by-election plans leaked. They admit they may come third
WEDNESDAY LibDem PPC Adrian Graves defects to the Conservatives THURSDAY Simon Hughes 'outed' by The Sun
FRIDAY YouGov poll shows LibDem support down to 13%
FRIDAY Simon Hughes' campaign launch descends into farce when the lights out out, his campaign DVD won't play and he compares himself to Churchill & Lloyd George

SATURDAY Widely respected website Electoral Calculus predicts the LibDems will win 11 seats at the next election.

And who knows what tomorrow's newspapers might bring. Now believe it or not, I say this with no sense of Schadenfreude. It would just be nice, just for once, if the LibDems would admit to the world that they're in the brown stuff (with apologies to you know who) and stop acting as if it were, as Harold Macmillan might say, just a 'little local difficulties'. The only way to get over a problem is to recognise that it exists in the first place. Just as Charles Kennedy has recognised he has a drink problem and is doing something about it, his Party should follow his lead and have a collective reality check. Only then will they be able to move forward. I say this in the spirit of being helpful. Really.

UPDATE: Thanks to all those in the Comments section who pointed out the unintended error on SATURDAY above. I'll leave the mistake there as it's far more entertaining...

Exclusive: Proof that Patricia Hewitt Reads This Blog!

The Daily Telegraph reports this morning on its front page that the Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt wants to introduce MOT health checks for 40-50 year olds. Now far be it from me to be ahead of the times, but do remember on Tuesday I blogged about the Cost of Preventative Healthcare? I am just delighted that Patricia Hewitt not only reads this blog but takes notice of it! Needless to say Simon Heffalump in the Telegraph has already accused her of expanding the Nanny State, but if these tests are designed properly and seek to alert the patient to longer term dangers there ought to be a great cost saving to the NHS - that is, if people take heed of any warnings these healthchecks turn up.

This is what I wrote on Tuesday...

I've always thought that in this country we pay far too little attention to preventative healthcare. It's usually far cheaper than the alternative. Three years ago, when I was 40, I went to see my GP to ask for a full healthcheck, on the basis that having reached 40 I ought to have some sort of "body-MOT". I've always been in good health and had no reason to suspect anything was wrong, but I wanted to be sure. No can do, came the reply. I had a blood test and a cholestorol test but that was about it. So I left it. Someone I know died recently at the age of 38. He found out he had cancer and was dead four weeks later. I don't know if it had been diagnosed earlier anything could have been done, but it made me think. So today I decided to take the plunge and ring BUPA, with whom I have a policy. Yes, they said, they would happily do one for me, albeit not until 27 February. The health check would take two hours and consist of about 30 different tests and scans. And then came the sting. £350! Anyway, I've taken the plunge and booked myself in. If nothing else, I'll have peace of mind. I hope! But I do wonder whether someone might do a cost benefit analysis on giving every 40 or 50 year old a fairly comprehensive healthcheck and weigh up the the longer term costs of not doing so.

The other conclusion to draw from this is that I have obviously been 'Camerooned' as I am now forced to agree with the Government when it is doing something right. Does this signal the end of Punch and Judy political analysis on this blog? Will Eric Forth never speak to me again? The questions are endless... I think I'd better get ready to go and see West Ham v Blackburn...

Friday, January 27, 2006

Dunwoody v Forth - A Ringside Seat

A very amusing exchange from yesterday's Hansard...
GWYNETH DUNWOODY (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab): I am listening carefully to the right hon. Gentleman. I happen to agree with him about the programme, but will he tell me why Conservative Front Benchers do not oppose every programme motion on every Bill? That would at least draw attention to the issue.
ERIC FORTH: I wish they would, but my party’s Front Benchers are in consensual mode at present. They seem to think that we will attract more support from the electorate if we oppose the Government as little as possible rather than as much as possible. This is the new mood of the Conservative party.
MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER (Sylvia Heal): Order. Notwithstanding any new mood in the Conservative party, perhaps we could now address the motion, which is somewhat restrictive.

As our national newspapers have given up on covering Parliament I think I'll try to post regular snippets like this, so if anyone comes across an amusing or meaningful exchange from the Commons or the Lords perhaps they'd email it to me iain AT iaindale.com

Hat-tip to the lovely Andrea who originally posted this on PoliticalBetting.com

Chantelle Wins Big Brother & Wants it Right Now

Now that is funny. A non-celebrity winning Celebrity Big Brother. Bit of a slap in the face for the rest of them, isn't it? I was rather hoping to see Michael Barrymore win just to see how the media would deal with it. So, Chantelle has won. A tremendous victory for the English language. Dja know what I mean, like. Wicked. OH MY GOD, d'ya know what I mean, like? I mean. Wicked. Of course now she'll release the single 'I Want it Right Now'. Her mother's already signed her up with Max Clifford, poor cow.

Meeting the 7/7 Challenge

Oh well, here goes...


1. Get elected
2. Write a proper book
3. Persuade my partner to take more holidays
4. Have enough money so I don't continually worry about it
5. Learn to play the Piano
6. Finish the Robert Caro books on LBJ
7. Learn to speak Dutch


1. Anything slowly
2. Tie my shoelaces properly. Really.
3. Whistle
4. Resist reality TV programmes
5. Make my mobile phone receive email
6. Keep anything tidy for very long
7. Keep a gadget 12 months without replacing it with a newer version


1. The Houses of Parliament
2. The Dickensian feel of the streets around Shad Thames
3. West Ham United
4. The buzz of Soho
5. Gotham City aka Docklands
6. Nightlife, not that I often partake in it.
7. TV & Radio studios


1. You have to be kidding me
2. Das gibt's doch nicht
3. I'm forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air
4. The cheque's in the post
5. Big Mac and large fries please
6. Gio, be a good boy and give it back
7. Jesus wept


1. Animal Farm by George Orwell
2. Watership Down by Richard Adams
3. In the Arena by Richard Nixon
4. The Insider by Piers Morgan
5. The Rats by James Herbert
6. Breaking the Code by Gyles Brandreth
7. Diaries by Alan Clark


1. Airplane
2. Independence Day
3. Strictly Ballroom
4. Muriel's Wedding
5. Back to the Future
6. Thief of Hearts
7. Four Weddings & a Funeral


1. Jonathan Shephard aka The Despatch Box
2. Tom Watson MP
3. Wat Tyler
4. Paul Linford
5. Bob Piper
6. Martin Curtis aka Spinblog
7. Jonathan Calder aka Liberal England

Labour: We've No Idea How Many Kiddy Fiddlers Work in the NHS (and have no intention of finding out...)

I don't know how often you visit NewLabourUnplugged.com, but it's worth a regular butcher's. Here's a taster...

Once upon a time critics used to say that the House of Lords was full of pompous Tories. Not any more. New Labour bulges with 'we know best' elitists like a fatty piling on the pounds with supersize burgers. A few even try and lord it over other peers. How about these classic asides from health minister, Lord ( Norman) Warner, a great pal of Jack Straw’s and a regular jackpot winner of quango appointments and other well paid government employment, for laid back arrogance?

'BARONESS SECCOMBE: Can he tell the House how many of those who have been cautioned for or convicted of a serious sexual offence are in the NHS and what he is doing about it? LORD WARNER: I speak as an ex-director of social services, so I have had some familiarity with the issue for some time.….this is a complex area. I do not have the exact figure that the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, is trying to get me to reveal, but we have done our utmost to ensure that none of those people has access to children.
EARL HOWE: The Minister said …. the Government did not hold information about the number of individuals employed in the NHS and social services whose names appear on the Protection of Children Act list. Would it not be a good idea to remedy that absence of information? Will the Minister take steps to do so?
LORD WARNER: My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary for State for Education made it clear that the Government would follow through on the legislation that they announced in the gracious Speech. We will bring forward the legislation implementing the Bichard recommendations, which will close a number of loopholes and strengthen the arrangements in these areas, by the end of next month.
BARONESS CARNEGY OF LOUR: My Lords, why is it impossible to answer the Question asked by my noble friend Lady Seccombe, which was followed up by my noble friend Lord Howe—how many people on the list are working in the NHS—with a straight answer?
LORD WARNER: My Lords, the noble Baroness may realise that there are 600-odd individual employers in the NHS. I gave the answer that I thought was appropriate to the Question.'

And that's it. Norman clearly thinks it is for him to decide what information is "appropriate" to give to Parliament, rather than actual Parliamentarians themselves. God knows how the kids in his care fared when he was a 'Director of Social Services.'Probably like the rest of us now - bullied and ignored.

Good stuff. Of course, if Her Majesty's Press was doing its job they would be following this up and putting pressure on the Govermment to come clean. So if a journalist is reading this, c'mon, do your duty.

Top Ten Things Which Would Be Different if my Jack Russell, Gio, Was Prime Minister

1. LibDem HQ in Cowley Street replaced by giant fire hydrant
2. Abolition of Pets Means Prizes
3. Capital Punishment restored for Dale Winton
4. Doggy door at the front of Number Ten
5. Dog biscuits on the NHS
6. Compulsory sterilisation for cats
7. Life sentences for tail dockers
8. Battersea Dogs' Home to replace Chequers as PM's country residence (Gio was born there!)
9. First Lady to be renamed First Bitch
10. PM to have mandatory right to shag the legs of all fellow Cabinet Ministers

EXCLUSIVE: Did His Credit Card Statement 'Do' for Simon Hughes?

Something has been bugging me about the Simon Hughes issue. In a post below, I stated that The Sun had got hold of his phone records. However, I now understand that it may have actually been his credit card records which The Sun obtained. I think therefore that Simon Hughes might be entitled to ask just how they did this. But he won't because it would be too risky for him, so maybe others should be asking the question on his behalf. If indeed it was through credit card records, the plot thickens. I am told by a friend who knows about these things that if he did pay by credit card, the word MANTALK would not have appeared on his credit card statement - instead it would be something innocuous so as not to arouse suspicion from anyone who might see the statement (like a girlfriend), I guess. So The Sun would have needed to do quite a bit of research to establish exactly what the company did. It seems therefore likely that someone close to Simon or someone in the know within the LibDems tipped them off. Or he may have thrown the statement away without shredding it and Benjy the Binman happened to pay a call.

In a way it doesn't matter whether it is phone records or a credit card bill. Assuming the records weren't just handed to The Sun I cannot see how they can possibly have obtained them within the rules of data protection or within the bounds of various other laws. I have no knowledge of the remit of the Press Complaints Commission, but I would be interested to know from readers if a complaint to them would be worthwhile someone undertaking. It is entirely proper for a newspaper to expose hypocrisy in public life, but there have to be limits on what they are able to do to facilitate such an exposure. Strangely, the rest of the media has been silent on this. But I remember well how The Guardian forged a letter on House of Commons notepaper which helped bring down Jonathan Aitken. Some will say the outcome justified the method used. My question is, what is an acceptable limit, beyond which a newspaper should not go?

You are Currently 352nd in the Queue...

A friend in North Norfolk just sent me these out-of-office email automatic replies, which I found amusing...

1. I am currently out at a job interview and will reply to you if I fail to get the position. Be prepared for my mood.

2. You are receiving this automatic notification because I am out of the office. If I was in, chances are you wouldn't have received anything at all.

3. I will be unable to delete all the unread, worthless emails you send me until I return from holiday on 4 April. Please be patient and your mail will be deleted in the order it was received.

4. Thank you for your email. Your credit card has been charged £ 5.99 for the first ten words and £ 1.99 for each additional word in your message.

5. The e-mail server is unable to verify your server connection and is unable to deliver this message. Please restart your computer and try sending again.' (The beauty of this is that when you return, you can see how many in-duh-viduals did this over and over).

6. Thank you for your message, which has been added to a queuing system.. You are currently in 352nd place, and can expect to receive a reply in approximately 19 weeks.

7. I've run away to join a different circus.


8. I will be out of the office for the next 2 weeks for medical reasons. When I return, please refer to me as ' Margaret ' instead of 'Steve'.

Now, how can I link this to the Liberal Democrats...

Another Porky from Simon Hughes?

I had decided not to write anything further on Simon Hughes. He performed impressively on Question Time last night and I began to get the feeling he might ride this out. Until I read The Times this morning. David Aaronovitch and Alice Miles interviewed Hughes on Wednesday, when he had again denied being gay. Following yesterday's revelations they re-interviewed him. This passage of the interview caught my eye...

It is important to Mr Hughes to believe — and have us believe — that it was his decision to tell all and that, far from being the passive victim, he was the main player. “I took the initiative and I talked to my campaign team. And it’s much easier just to go in and deal with the central issue and clearly some of the things that were being alleged were completely untrue and beyond my knowledge. There was all sorts of stuff. Almost everything that was being said was untrue.” So his strategy with The Sun was to refuse to talk about the details, but to own up only to his general orientation, thus, he hoped, ending the speculation. As if . . .

Is this really what happened. Are we really supposed to believe that it was Hughes himself who took the initiative with The Sun? I think not. As I understand it, Trevor Kavanagh requested an interview having told Hughes that they had obtained phone records proving he has phoned the gay chatline ManTalk.

So a Liberal Democrat has lied again. Can they not help themselves?

The whole interview in The Times can be read HERE.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Message from our Sponsor

Today, this blog has had more hits than on any other day since it was relaunched at the beginning of December. And this despite me not posting anything until 7pm and Blogspot being down for half an hour this morning. To be honest I am astonished at how many hits it is getting. So thanks to everyone who keeps coming back. I guess it proves I must be doing something right and it gives me the incentive to keep going. I'd quite like to know what you like/don't like about it and have any suggestions you might have for how it should be developed in the future. I've several ideas myself which I hope to act upon in the next month or two. Should I, for example, emulate Guido and the Monkey and enter into the world of Podcasting? Would anyone actually be interested in downloading my weekly words of wisdom?!

PS The photo above was taken on a trip I made to Beirut in 1991. Because I was one of the first Brits to go to the Lebanon after John McCarthy was released I had armed guards the whole time. As you can imagine, I rather enjoyed it! Astonishingly I was there at the invitation of the Lebanese government to talk about transport privatisation. Quite an experience.

Iain Dale Supports Chris Huhne. Or Not...

I bumped into Chris Huhne today at 4 Millbank and said I was forming a group called Conservatives for Huhne. He laughed and asked if that meant he would get free blooks from Politico's. I replied that this might be interpreted as a bit sleazy and more sleaze was the last thing the LibDems needed right now! He roared. And when I got home tonight I found an email from someone asking I am really supporting Chris Huhne, as I am listed on his WEBSITE as a supporter. I think I should perhaps make clear that there is another Iain Dale in Ayrshire who is a LibDem activist and I assume that it's him they list! That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. We wouldn't want any Iain Dale to Defect to LibDems rumours starting, would we?! I also ran into Norman Lamb and we exchanged cheery hellos. His was accompanied by a knowing chuckle.

Simon Hughes and THAT Bermondsey Leaflet

This is Simon Hughes's by-election (or should that be 'bi-election?!) leaflet which caused a storm. Notice the middle of the leaflet which proclaims THIS ELECTION IS A STRAIGHT CHOICE. Imagine if the Conservatives had put out such a leaflet when campaigning against Peter Mandelson. The defence put up by LibDems is that they use this on leaflets all the time. Indeed, someone has posted an example in the Comments section of the story below. But in genera they don't. They use the well worn phrase, IT'S A TWO HORSE RACE. And for one they're probably right. It's now between Huhne and Campbell.

For more on the Bermondsey by-election click HERE. I would also highly recommend Peter Tatchell's book The Battle for Bermondsey. It's a truly horrific tale. Buy it HERE.

Now at the risk of being accused of being in very poor taste I can't resist repeating the LibDem Twelve Days of Christmas as posted on PoliticalBetting.com by Sean Fear. And to any LibDems reading this, please remember that a sense of humour can get you through even the most trying of times.

“On the Twelth Day of Christmas my True Love sent to me……

Twelve Lords imbibing,
Eleven rent boys telling,
Ten gays denying,
Nine journos digging,
Eight hit men missing,
Seven Mayors exposing,
Six MPs plotting,
Five Sexual Deviants.
Four dodgy gifts,
Three jammed guns,
Two drunken Leaders,
And a cartridge in a Great Dane."

Simon Hughes Deserves Both our Condemnation and Understanding

And then there were two. Only Chris Huhne and Ming Campbell remain as serious contenders in the LibDem leadership race following Simon Hughes's outing in today's Sun. It's not the fact that he's gay that's the problem. It's the fact that like Mark Oaten and Charles Kennedy he has lied. Although you wouldn't know it from his comments on the media today. Let's be clear, when questioned by The Independent he didn't hedge around the question, he said quite categorically he was not gay, not once but twice. He repeated the answer in another newspaper. That, in my book, is a lie. I was on Radio Five Live this morning talking about this with gay LibDem MP Stephen Williams. He seemed outraged that Simon Hughes could be accused of lieing. Indeed, he said that Charles Kennedy hadn't lied over his drinking. He must be living on a parallel planet. To people out in the real world the fact that politicians don't tell the truth is far more serious than what they get up to in the bedroom. As I said on 5 Live this morning, the most damaging aspect of the Oaten and Hughes sagas is that young men all round the country who are firmly in the closet, will probably remain there for that bit longer because Simon Hughes's behaviour indicates a feeling of shame. The other aspect to this is Simon Hughes's behaviour during his by-election campaign against Peter Tatchell in 1983. I heard Tatchell on 5 Live Drive this evening and he was quietly impressive in his protection of Simon Hughes. He accepted his apology and praised him for his voting record on gay rights and human rights issues. Hughes was a young man at that time and probably didn't control the direction of his campaign, which included the infamous SIMON HUGHES - THE STRAIGHT CANDIDATE POSTER.

There's no question that Hughes is a man of courage. At great personal risk to himself he appeared in court to give evidence against a gang of thugs and contributed to them being put away for a long time. He received threats of physical violence and I am told death threats. Despite this he persevered and justice prevailed.

We must also remember that he is 54 years old and for him to come out now will have been psychologically trying for him to say the least. I know myself the traumas one goes through when one 'comes out', particularly with regard to the reaction of one's family and friends. When I decided to go into politics I came out before being selected as a candidate. I remember having to tell friends of twenty years standing something they may have suspected but we had never talked about. Without exception their reaction was amazing and it made me think I should have done it years earlier. But I had regarded it as no one's business but my own. But if you go into politics you know what can happen. You know that journalists are always looking out for a saucy story, and being gay still provides them with the salacious headlines they love. I made up my mind that the only way to avoid the 7pm phone call on a Saturday night from the News of the World was to be open. If people couldn't cope with it, well that was their problem. But Simon Hughes couldn't have done that in 1983. Since then he has been circumspect and avoided the issue. Many people in Parliament suspected he was gay and he had been seen in gay bars and night clubs. Apparently in his constituency it was an open secret. And that's how he would have preferred it to stay. He didn't want to worry his ageing mother with it and his Christian activities mitigated against making any form of public statement. I totally understand that. Where he went wrong was to give interviews to two newspapers where he told an untruth. Or perhaps where he went wrong was to stand for the LibDem leadership in the first place, if he wasn't willing to be open. But we also have to face the fact that if Mark Oaten hadn't been outed on Sunday, Simon Hughes probably wouldn't have been today. My great fear now is that the media smell blood. I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were further revelations between now and Sunday. If I were an MP with a personal secret I don't think I'd look forward to answering my phone on Saturday.

So is Simon Hughes finished as a leadership candidate? I think it's difficult to tell, but if I had to fall off the fence, I'd say yes. I am not familiar enough with the grassroots LibDem members who have the vote to make a judgement on whether being gay will lose him any votes. I suspect it may cost him a few in rural areas but the issue of having told a lie will cost him more. Alternatively, depending on how he copes with the next few weeks he made get quite a decent sympathy vote. Time will tell.

But just spare a thought for two other men tonight - firstly, Charles Kennedy. He can be forgiven if he has a slight felling of "serves 'em all right". And finally, Mark Oaten, who has reportedly been told by his wife that their marriage is over. No one can derive any pleasure from seeing a man's life fall apart in the space of 5 days, no matter what he has done. I just hope he has some good friends to count on.

Simon Hughes v Ann Widdecombe on Question Time Tonight

First of all, apologies for not posting anything today. I'm afraid I have been nearer a microphone than to a computer all day. Can't think why. My views on the latest twist in the LibDem leadership contest will appear later on. Be sure and tune in to Question Time tonight. I understand it features Simon Hughes and Ann Widdecombe. Can't wait.

In the meantime, I have just received PopBitch's weekly email in which they say that happy slapping is a thing of the past and the new craze among schoolkids is Seagulling. As the News of the World might say, this is a practice too revolting for a family blog to describe. But feel free to speculate on what it might entail in the Comments section. I might even award a prize to the most entertaining one...

PS 22.15 Bugger, Widders has been replaced by Redwood.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

More LibDem Defection Rumours

For all those LibDems who are slagging me off for promulgating defection rumours read THIS. I am not alone.

Iain Dale's Top 25 Political Blogs

Someone emailed me earlier today asking which blogs I regularly look at, so I thought I'd provide you with the IAIN DALE TOP 25 POLITICAL BLOGS. These are ones that I either look at every day or every couple of days...

1. PoliticalBetting.com - Hugely popular, full of gossip and backbiting
2. ConservativeHome.com - Came into its own during the leadership contest
3. Guido Fawkes - Guido writes all the things I daren't
4. Stephen Pollard - Sharp, witty, opinionated - needs daily updating though
5. Adam Smith Institute - Very 'un-wonky', love the joke of the day
6. New Labour Unplugged - They really hate New Labour. Really!
7. Tom Watson MP - One of the first MPs to blog. Needs more frequent updating
8. Once More Unto the Breach - Right of centre comment and analysis
9. Welfare State We're In - James Bartholomew's views on the welfare state
10. GOP.com Blog - Keeps me up to date with the Republican Party
11. Recess Monkey - Short and pithy. Hilarious graphics sometimes.
12. Nick Robinson - BBC Pol Ed is let loose. Surprisingly free with his views.
13. Burning our Money - Wat Tyler on government waste
14. Drinking from Home - Aggressively witty blog
15. Nile's Blog - LibDem activist Alex Foster. a LibDem with a sense of humour...
16. Liberal England - From Jonathan Calder, aka Lord Bonkers
17. Paul Linford - Political journalist who tells it as it is
18. Despatch Box - incisive and funny but needs daily posts
19. Westminster Village - The odd snippet of insider gossip from the village
20. Wonko's World - very much a right of centre nationalist view of the world
21. LibDem Blogs - A sort of 'best of' site enables me to keep my eye on the yellow peril!
22. Cllr Bob Piper - Brummy Labour councillor. Funny and informative.
23. Jane Griffiths - the mad rantings of a former Labour MP. Barking
24. Tim Worstall - Prolific, thought provoking and comprehensive
25. The Quaequam Blog - One of the best LibDem blogs

Let me know of any blogs you look at regularly which I ought to!

Thank God They've Kept Their Kit On

A special treat now from this month's Gay Times - a full frontal shot of four gay MPs - Alan 'Hunky Dunky' Duncan, David Borrow (Lab), Chris 'keep your knickers on' Bryant (Lab) and Stephen Williams, the only 'out' LibDem MP... well, he was when this was taken.

The Perils of Not Updating a Website - No 94

You'd think the LibDems might have removed THIS story from their WEBSITE by now, wouldn't you? And on Mark Oaten's front page we see the magic words "Prostitution Strategy - an Opportunity Missed" and "It’s been an eventful past couple of weeks". Er, you could say that. And finally, "I’m looking forward to a quiet weekend with my family before making any decisions on what the future may hold." Hmmm. Not quite the quiet weekend he had in mind, I suspect.

Don't Read on if You're Squeamish

New Labour Unplugged has an interesting new angle on the Oaten affair...

Latest reports claim that Mark Oaten met his rent boy ‘half- hour’ after scouring the pages of gaydar, the website that boasts of having, “whatever you are looking for, you’ll find it here.” This is, of course, the same gay sex site which the New Labour MP for Rhondda and former curate at All Saints, High Wycombe, Chris(t) Bryant, used to post images of himself in 2003 wearing nothing more than an over stuffed pair of white Calvin Klein briefs and the brief come-on - “ fit….bright, solvent and single.” For more click HERE. What on earth would have happened, we wonder, if Chris and Mark had inadvertently stumbled upon one another through such small ads? A new definition of Lab – Lib pact perhaps?

Hardly bears thinking about does it?

Owen & Rodgers Reunited at Last

Twenty-five years ago the SDP was born when the famous Gang of Four (Williams, Rodgers, Jenkins & Owen) issued the Limehouse Declaration. Julian Glover brought the three surviving members together for the first time since 1987 in an excellent article in the Guardian, which you can read HERE. One of the best books I published was Bill Rodgers' autobiography, FOURTH AMONG EQUALS. Bill and David Owen hadn't spoken for 18 years before Julian Glover brought them together. Astonishing. Of course, the SDP were the forerunners of New Labour. I still think that's where Shirley Williams and Bill Rodgers would be most at home. David Owen, of course, is more of an enigma. I have always rather liked him. I understand John Major offered him a Cabinet job, but he couldn't bring himself to do it.

Call from North Norfolk Tory to Norman Lamb to Defect

When you're a Parliamentary Candidate you expend quite a lot of effort urging your supporters to write letters to the local newspaper either supporting your candidacy or to criticse the incumbent. One of the more regular correspondents of the Eastern Daily Press is a Conservative Party member called Bernard Cowley, who hails from the beautiful village of Blakeney. I'm sure Bernard won't mind if I share with you the fact that he would often write letters of a slightly unhelpful letter, urging the Conservative Party to adopt rather right wing policies, especially on Europe. I would then send him an email saying, "er, rather unhelpful, old chap." And he would often reply with the email equivalent of sackcloth and ashes saying yes, perhaps he had gone a little far and assuring me he'd be more helpful next time. Well in yesterday's EDP Bernard surpassed himself and came up with a suggestion that would save the local Conservatives the trouble of selecting a candidate at the next election. Here's what he said...

By any standards, Norman Lamb is an excellent constituency MP and, as trade and industry spokesman, a valued member of the Liberal Democrat front bench who has the respect of the House of Commons. There is now no chance of the Liberal Democrats ever forming a government or even becoming part of a coalition. The Conservatives under David Cameron, will almost certainly make a complete recovery over the next two general elections as the frailty and incompetence of New Labour brings about their downfall. I believe Mr Lamb agrees wioth most of the aims of the new Conservative Party - particularly in the areas of social responsibility, the enviornment, Europe, the ecomoy. And when the Conservatives win the next election they will be woefully short of skilled, experienced and talented parliamentarians like himself to form an effective administration. Mr Lamb should cross over to the Conservative Party now - especially as I cannot imagine he would ever be in sympathy with the probable leader of his Party, Simon hughes, who will lurch immediately to the far Left, taking the bulk of the party with him, and leaving Mr Lamb behind. Don't waste your talents Norman -come and join us. You'll be very welcome.

I wonder if a reply from Norman Lamb will be forthcoming...