Thursday 8 October 2009

Poetic licence

Is it a coincidence that on National Poetry Day 2009 a key part of Cameron’s speech will resemble the country’s favourite poem.

Rudyard Kipling’s rousing If reads:

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools...

And Cameron’s speech:

If you put in the effort to bring in a wage, you will be better off.
If you save money your whole life, you will be rewarded.
If you start your own business, we’ll be right behind you.
If you want to raise a family, we’ll support you.
If you…
you get the picture.

Others say the Tory leader’s speech is a little closer to the Sermon on the Mount, a lot will be down to delivery.

What’s for certain is that it will not contain any policy veering instead towards the “personal vision” type of speech.


Yesterday I wrote how an item had gone from the media room at Tory conference and that the cops came in and took prints off our desk.

Amazingly today the hack’s equipment which went was all returned.

Dominic grief

Dominic Grieve has caused a right old spat after mentioning Derbyshire Police in his speech yesterday.

He suggested that in 2006 the force had refused to release pictures of two fugitive murderers – Jason Croft and Michael Nixon – because it could have impinged on their human rights.

That was also what was initially reported in some national papers at the time, but only until the police came out and said they wanted to, “emphatically point out that the human rights of the individuals in question had no bearing on the decision to withhold the pictures, as misreported in the national media.”

As you can imagine, the cops weren’t that happy after Grieve spoke the flasehood again just to make a political point about how the Human Rights Act is bad.

Stamping their feet booted feet they said they’d, “never refused to release photographs on the grounds of the human rights of offenders!”

Wednesday 7 October 2009

A gaffe of the highest order

Unfortunately it was not the Government, but his own party that was doing it!

Cameron's mind wanders

David Cameron made a little Freudian slip while briefing us hacks yesterday.

He was talking about the Lib Dems' spending plans and referred to Boris Johnson’s sound-bite that Vince Cable was about as convincing as Monty Python’s killer rabbit – a reference to the fluffy killer bunny in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

But getting a little distracted, instead of saying killer rabbit, Cameron said “rampant rabbit”.

He called Vince Cable a rampant rabbit!

I’m sure I don’t have to explain to the worldly readers of this blog what a rampant rabbit is. Suffice to say it is an altogether different kind of animal.

Theft at Tory conference

My desk in the media room at Tory conference resembled a scene from CSI earlier – albeit with slightly podgier police officers.

A hack had some equipment go missing and apparently someone was caught on the CCTV system near it.

The cops came in and took fingerprints off the desk and note-books and then took them away in little plastic bags.

And all not that long after Chris Grayling gave his speech on clamping down on crime.

Dannatt and the lesson of goats

I raised an eyebrow when I read this morning about Cameron initiating talks with General Sir Richard Dannatt about a Government role.

It reminded me of Gordon Brown’s GOATS – “Government of all the talents” – which included the likes of Ara Darzi, Shriti Vadera, Sir Mark Malloch-Brown and Sir Digby Jones.

Just as a reminder – Darzi quit in July to commit more time to his clinical role, Vadera quit last month to work with the G20, Malloch Brown quit for “family reasons” and Jones quit “to get his life back”.

When each stepped down rumours persisted that they did not have confidence either in Labour or in Brown himself.

It seems that although the GOATS may have been experts in their field, they disliked acting in the political way required of a ministerial role.

So, though I’m sure Dannatt is a great general, Cameron should remember that the problem with bringing outsiders into political roles is that they are not politicians.

Duncan hits back at stars

Alan Duncan lashed out at the celebs who criticised his party for their connection to the Polish Law and Justice Party.

Stephen Fry and friends accused the poles of being gay-haters. Duncan, who lives with his partner James Dunseath, said:

“It’s just absurd and misleading of these people to suggest that our grouping in the European Parliament in any way endorses or encourages these views.

“These celebrities should really have known better than to make such stark accusations – and I rather resent this attempt to attach guilt to us in the way they have.

“What matters is a grouping that is good for Europe and helps British interests in Europe.”

Tuesday 6 October 2009

I only get overweight on quality food

“After Douglas-Home I wondered whether we could ever really have another old Etonian Prime Minister,” pondered Andrew Rawnsley.

The Observer man was interviewing Ken Clarke just now and was probing around the issue of Eton – Cameron’s old school – to see whether the shadow business secretary might trip up.

Clarke answered: “We’ve removed all the barriers against women, against ethnic minorities and against gays – I think old Etonians deserve a break.”

Brilliant stuff. But can you imagine if any other member, save William Hague perhaps, told a joke like that. They’d be crucified, only Clarke can get away with it.

And that was a thought that kept recurring as I listened to him at the Observer fringe meeting here in Manchester.

He soundly ripped it out of meddling bureaucrats who tell him how many vegetables to eat, campaigners who zealously pursue the anti-smoking agenda – “next we’ll only be able to do it under supervision and if we have counselling afterwards” – and people who jog in the morning.

“I only get overweight on quality food. None of this junk rubbish,” he said.

What was really gripping was the history though, right from the days at Cambridge – where he fell out with Michael Howard after inviting Oswald Mosley to address students.

He said Mosley was a dangerous speaker – but that you couldn’t help respect his oratory talent. Clarke even took him out for dinner once.

Then there were the Thatcher years. When she asked him to take over the Department for Transport he told her he didn’t know the first thing about transport politics.

“My dear boy,” she told him. “You’ll soon pick it up.”

He noted that Thatcher always sent him to the job where an unpopular decision needed to be taken. Nothing he ever did in Government was popular, he said.

He told how in 1981 people hated what the Tories were doing, but by 1983 they had realised that it needed to be done.

Espousing the proper way of Government he said: “You trusted my judgement. Then in four years time if you don’t like what I’ve done it’s your right to throw me out.”

Not a fan of referenda then.

Clarke will chair new star chamber

Ken Clarke will set up a new “star chamber” which will enforce a new “one-in, one-out” system to slash regulation.

Any new laws will require cuts in old laws that amount to a 5% reduction in regulation.

The nifty move will be announced in his speech to the Conference which will start later.

Just in case no-one had noticed the Europe issue yet...

Dear Mr Cameron,

As the Conservative Party gathers in Manchester, just a few weeks after thousands marched for Pride, we want to share our concern that the Conservative conference is lending legitimacy to a group of political parties in Eastern Europe whose views on gay rights are anything but progressive.

We know you say that the Conservative Party’s history of opposing gay rights and supporting Section 28 has been left behind. But if your Conservative Party really cares about equality then you must recognise the need not just to condemn the views of the Polish Law and Justice Party but to stop them from being spread in Manchester and throughout Europe.

It is not just that your new Polish allies oppose gay marriage and adoption but that their vile rhetoric – branding homosexuality as a ‘pathology’, gays as ‘perverts’, and describing ‘the affirmation of homosexuality’ as ‘the downfall of civilisation’ – was used to whip up hate during their election campaign.

Your Party's decision to host an LGBT event at conference is a good step in the right direction. But it will seem empty - a two faced gesture - if in the same week you fawn over allies whose homophobia has no place in modern Manchester, in modern Britain, or in Europe.

Mr Cameron we want to believe the Conservative Party has really changed - please help us by rescinding the invite to the Polish Law and Justice Party and urging them either to change their views or quit your new European group.

Yours sincerely,

Patrick Stewart
Stephen Fry
Jo Brand
Eddie Izzard
Tony Robinson
Arabella Weir
Steve Cram
Roberta Taylor
Angela Mason, OBE
Michael Cashman Labour MEP and President of the European Parliament's Intergroup on LGBT Rights Arlene McCarthy Labour MEP (North West) Glenis Willmott, EPLP Leader Allison Curbishley Amy Lamé Peter Guiness Derek Simpson, Joint General Secretary UNITE Tony Woodley, Joint General Secretary UNITE Billy Hayes, General Secretary CWU Wes Streeting, NUS President Dave Prentis Gen Sec UNISON

Monday 5 October 2009

Tory news flood

The Tory press office has been unrelenting today, like some sort of news army bombarding hacks with stories and announcements from behind their white counter.

It has meant many of us have been far too busy to give our full attention to the story about Tory splits over Europe – which is 'fortunate' for them.

I’ll be hunting down a few MPs to talk about what’s going on behind the scenes later tonight.

I need Andrew Mitchell - in a purely professional sense

After my call earlier, a public spirited Tory came to my desk to hand over a Geoffrey Clifton-Brown sticker, hurrah!

Now I just need an Andrew Mitchell (left) and I’ll have the complete set.

Is anyone out there with an Andrew Mitchell? I've got a Justine Greening and a Syed Kamall to swap.

CLARKE: We must avoid British arrogance

Ken Clarke was lapping up the limelight as a meeting he attended to discuss Europe just now was rammed with onlookers – people couldn’t get in the room.

When he was walking up the stairs he was ambushed by a crowd of reporters asking him about his views on ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

Once inside he trotted out the line that the Tories had a defined policy on Europe that he wouldn’t try to change – and then went on to launch a stiff defence of the European project.

The meeting – entitled Europe means Business: How can the EU best stimulate economic recovery? saw Clarke talking up cooperation on regulation.

He said that the UK must avoid “British arrogance” – words bound to grate on many Tories – in telling France and Germany how to run financial markets.

He added that the British and American systems had undergone a “catastrophic failure” and so it was understandable for Europeans to be reluctant to take lessons from us.

Finally he praised European President Jose Manuel Barroso saying he had made more progress in deregulating markets than any single Government had individually.

Mandelson will be licking his lips knowing Clarke is keeping the European issue live.

It’s the old dilemma for Cameron rearing its head in the ugliest way – as shadow business secretary Clarke cannot say nothing. But there is nothing Clarke can say, given his known views, that wouldn’t cause a storm.

Osborne in the holding role?

The general election next year will share 2010 with the World Cup – getting into the spirit of things the Tories have put out their ‘dream team’ sticker package.

It consists of a sticker book (in the style of those football sticker books you used to try and fill up when you were a kid) complete with stickers of the shadow cabinet which you can collect and swap with other conference delegates.

The formation in the sticker book has Cameron up front, of course, and Osborne in the holding role in midfield – which I’m not sure he is robust enough to perform.

I’ve almost got all the stickers, but unfortunately I have two Justine Greenings – the shadow minister plays on the wing according to the book.

The stickers show the Tories’ heads super imposed on a male football player’s body, which creates a most disturbing spectacle in Greening’s case.

Anyway does someone out there have a Geoffrey Clifton-Brown?

Sunday 4 October 2009

You can't keep a good Mandy down

We all know Cameron is really trying to reach out to the middle classes disaffected with New Labour.

But today he hasn’t just “stolen New Labour’s clothes”, he’s actually got in the back door and cleaned out the house.

I say this because of the press release Tories providing 10,000 extra uni places which was thrust into my hand as I entered the media room in Manchester.

You would have thought shadow universities and skills bod David Willetts would have been the key voice quoted in the release.

But instead none-other than Peter Mandelson was the first person to appear.

As Peter Mandelson has said, the release proudly stated, “Britain gains when every person who is capable can get the chance to go to university, get an apprenticeship or a new skill.”

Maybe Mandy has just gone the whole hog and started working for the Tories already.