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Follow Iain on Twitter. Iain also blogs at www.iaindale.com. Iain Dale presents LBC 97.3 Drivetime programme 4-8pm every weekday.

Iain Dale GraphicDigby
Jones is someone who knows how to give ‘good interview’. I talked to him about
deficit reduction shortly after George Osborne had sat down on Wednesday. He
was keen to emphasise that ringfencing health, education and aid spending was
fundamentally wrong, especially health. He argued that health spending had
risen faster than any other department in recent years and therefore there was
quite a lot of fat to be cut out. He told me a very illustrative tale. On a
visit to a hospital in Leeds he had been shown a brand new cancer machine which
had cost millions. But it was only being used during working hours for five days a
week. There was a massive waiting list of patients who would benefit from using
it. ‘Why don’t you use it at evenings and weekends’, he asked. ‘Oh no, we
couldn’t possibly do that,’ came the response. On a subsequent visit the
hospital administrators told him with great pride: ‘Weve halved the waiting
list for that machine we showed you, Lord Jones’. ‘How have you done that,’
queried Digby. ‘Do you now use it at weekends and in the evenings?’. ‘No’, came
the response. ‘We bought a second machine.’ Facepalm time. And that, in one
anecdote, shows how health spending is out of control and how it could easily
be cut. That attitude to spending public money is prevalent in the health
service, the BBC and many other public sector bodies. It’s not one you come
across very often in the private sector.

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I
have never understood the fetishisation of a married couple’s tax break. I am
all in favour of the tax system being reformed so it doesn’t discriminate
against married people and I am all in favour of encouraging marriage, but does
anybody really think people will be encouraged to get married, or even stay
married, by a tax bonus of £3 a week? If they do, they should be howling with
the wolves because it is a nutty proposition. David Cameron and George Osborne
keep paying lip service to this idea in the vain hope that it will keep Peter
Bone and Mrs Bone happy if somewhere at the end of the rainbow this promise is
ever introduced, but the truth of the matter is that neither Prime Minister or
Chancellor gives a monkey’s cuss about this policy, as the LibDems have
verified this week. Not once have they asked the LibDems if they would mind
awfully if this allowance were introduced. Good. It’s a waste of public money.
Instead of doing that they would do well to look at the way the tax system
actually rewards people who don’t get married.

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Roll
out the barrel, put out the flags, the government are cutting £11.5 billion
from public spending in 2015-16. Are we really supposed to be impressed by
that? The Chancellor makes out that every spare pound has been squeezed out of
government departments, yet some think he protests a bit too much. Public
spending in 215-16 will total something in excess of £745 billion. A cut of
£11.5 billion amounts to a grand total of 1.54 per cent of total expenditure. Wow, I am
impressed. Not. All this surely has to bring into question the ringfencing of
the health, education and international development budgets, which total around
£250 billion. Anyone that thinks every pound of the £137 billion health budget
needs to take some heavy medication.

**********

Boris
Johnson was in fine form according to a source at the London Pride Gala Dinner. My
spy tells me that the little scamp told an anecdote about the time the Mayor of
Bordeaux came to visit London. He concluded by saying:  “He [Alain Juppé]
may have been Mayor of Bordeaux and Prime Minister at the same time. Shows how
efficient they do things over there.” Naughty, naughty.  Boris, like most
of the politicians there, ignored the dress code of black tie and instead opted
for lounge suit. Vince Cable did the same, but least he was wearing a tie
unlike his coalition colleague Mike Freer. Justine Greening rocked up wearing a
jumper. In fact the only politician who seemed to adhere to the dress code was
Labour MP Chris Bryant. There’ a joke there somewhere, but after last week’s
cock joke
, I’d better not go any further. Two members of the Google table
walked out half way through the speech, muttering loudly about their dislike of
Boris. When they pay tax, they’re entitled to a point of view. Until then, they
know what they can do.

**********

Now
that the dreadful Julia Gillard has been ousted from the Prime Minister’s
office in Canberra, I wonder whether the ‘Dave haters’ will gain inspiration
from it. Gillard was beaten by Kevin Rudd because Australian Labor MPs believed
more of them would retain their seats. You can see where I am going with this.
Leadership chatter has abated in recent weeks, and a good thing too, but it
won’t take much to reignite it. My guess is that crunchtime will occur in
twelve months’ time. If the Tories come third in the Euro elections , which is
a distinct possibility, we enter uncharted waters. David Cameron’s saving grace
is that Boris Johnson is not in the House of Commons. Even now, there is no
credible challenger from within his cabinet, and even if there were, none of
them have Kevin Rudd’s cojones or chutzpah. Do they, Philip? Or Theresa?

**********

Tweet
of the week from the MailOnline’s Matt Chorley: “Somewhere in Ed Miliband’s
office, someone is dropping knitting needles and a ball of wool into a bin.”

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I’m
sure after the events of this week you are all expecting me to have a jab at
the Bow Group again this week. Sorry to disappoint, but I have said all I have
to say about their stupid legal threats here.
Assuming they are not going to go any further, neither will I. And so, peace
breaketh out.

**********

Could
the long-running newspaper review partnership between the Mirror’s Kevin
Maguire and ‘Tory Boy' Andrew Pierce be entering its twilight? Monday nights on
Sky News would never be the same, but it is understood that Sky News
executives were less than impressed to see Mr Maguire spouting his views on the
BBC paper review this week, which, of course is now broadcast at exactly the
same time as Sky’s. Since the BBC moved to Broadcasting House they have decided
to take on Sky’s paper review at 10.30 and 11.30 and effectively copied Sky’s
much more successful format. Kevin’s decision to ride with the horses and hunt
with the hounds has gone down like a cup of cold sick in Osterley. A yellow
card may be about to be issued.

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George
Osborne is, without doubt, the most political chancellor since, er, Gordon
Brown. His spending review was just as much about the politics of the next
election as about deficit reduction. And a good thing too, in many ways. Too
many cabinet ministers don’t get the fact that they are in fact politicians
rather than administrators, and that an election is only 23 months away. It is
very clear now that the Tory strategy is to launch a three pronged attack on
Labour – on the economy, welfare and immigration. Already, the next election is
being fought on Tory turf and at the moment Labour looks as if it doesn’t quite
know how to respond to the dividing lines Cameron and Osborne are drawing.
Their response on the economy was to launch a “me too” response. They will find
this  more difficult to do on welfare. Their only policy at the moment
seems to be to abolish the winter fuel allowance for wealthy pensioners. They,
and the Tories, should go one step further and abolish it altogether and pump
the money back into the state pension, thereby saving millions in
administrative costs.

**********

So
President Obama lands in South Africa today for his state visit. A journalist
friend of mine in Pretoria got in touch yesterday and said to me: “You do
realise that they will keep Mandela alive until Obama gets here, don’t you?” I
spluttered back “Surely no one would be that cynical.” It wasn’t until I
finished the sentence I realised I was asking a rhetorical question.

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It’s not often I am kissed by a male Tory MP,
something I have always been grateful for. But my duck was well and truly
broken on Tuesday night at the launch of James Wharton’s new book Out in the army: my life as a gay soldier.
Just as I was about to depart – there’s only so much Christopher Biggins and
Paul O’Grady a boy can stomach – up bounded Crispin Blunt who did the old
‘mwah, mwah’ trick on me. I’m not a very ‘mwah, mwah’ sort of person, but I
coped manfully, if that’s the right word. Crispin has been on a bit of a
journey, as he would certainly confirm. It’s good to see him finally able to be
himself.

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