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DALE Iain KriegAm I alone in feeling queasy at the way David Cameron has been crawling to the Chinese this week in a craven attempt to gain their favour? “We will be the main advocate of China in the West,” he announced on Monday. Pass the sick bag. I completely accept we have to do business with regimes we disapprove of – it’s what Bismarck called “realpolitik”. But what we don’t have to do is prostrate ourselves in front of them and appear to beg them to like us. What we should be doing is recognising their agenda. Their strategy is to buy up key bits of our infrastructure and then in 20 years’ time exert their control and influence over us. It’s what they are doing all over the world. They’re buying up industries and infrastructure which has a common theme – and the theme is that they all revolve around things we need for our everyday life – power, water, sewers. And now I imagine they will buy many of the about to be privatised shares in the Channel Tunnel. We must be mad. The Germans would no more let the Chinese invest in their nuclear facilities than give them control over their armed forces. And let’s remember that the amount of German trade with China dwarfs ours. Regimes like China understand when countries stand up to them and act in their own national interest. They laugh at countries which are so keen to ingratiate themselves that they will do anything to attract inward investment. Are we really that desperate?

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Another one bites the dust. Sir George Young has announced he is quitting his North West Hampshire seat at the next election. He is one of the nicest people in politics and will be a big loss to the House of Commons. But it does mean we have a bit of a lame duck Chief Whip. It seems he is almost certain to be reshuffled out at the next reshuffle. Could this mean a return to that post for Andrew Mitchell? I’d have thought a return to DFID was more likely. The battle to succeed Sir George will be an interesting one to watch. Judging from the shortlists for the latest batch of “safe” seats, there are several contenders who seem to feature in each one. Conspiracy theorists will no doubt maintain that they are CCHQ’s favoured sons and daughters, but perhaps it is as simple as the fact that they just have brilliantly presented CVs? Sometimes these things are that straightforward. I remember back in 2003, when I was looking for a seat, that I applied for about 12 seats in all, and got called for interview in all bar one (yes, Wantage, you bastards!). I reckon it was because I took so much trouble with the presentation of my CV that it stood out from the others, because it was so very different. And that’s what you have to do, stand out from the crowd. Put yourself in the position of the “sift team” who may be looking at 100 or so CVs. If yours looks different (content can sometimes be somewhat secondary!) to the others the natural human reaction of the sifter is to look at it for longer than they do the others. Headlines are important, so is font. The hard part comes when they call you for interview. But even then, it’s down to presentation and how you can differentiate yourself. End of lesson.

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Most of us have verbal tics – words or phrases that we say far too often. I have noticed a new one creeping into the world of radio presenting and reporting and it’s the phrase “if you like”. It’s like “meanwhile”, a word which doesn’t actually mean very much. It’s a padding phrase, which allows the reporter or presenter to gather their thoughts for what they are about to say next. It is, however, bloody annoying when you hear it over and over again. The other morning I heard “if you like” used four times in three minutes by three different people on the Today Programme. Stop it.

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I must be mad. I have just accepted an invitation to give a lecture on the NHS to 50 doctors, surgeons and consultants from a London hospital in late January. Why on earth can’t I just learn to say “no”? I don’t do a lot of speeches nowadays. My job means I don’t do many speeches to local Tory associations, as I used to and because of the hours of I work (my show doesn’t finish till 8pm). I don’t do anything on the after dinner circuit either. So when this invitation came in my instinct was to say “no” on the basis that it would involve too much preparation time, and that I wasn’t enough of an expert on the subject. But then I thought, well, that’s never stopped me before and, frankly, I have learned a huge amount about the NHS from all the time I spend talking to people about it and getting them to give their experiences on my radio show. So I’ve chosen as my title “The NHS: Things That Need to be Said”. That should give me enough rope to hang myself… All ideas welcome.

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I honestly despair of whoever is running the Conservative Party’s internet communications strategy. I critiqued the new party website in a previous diary a couple of weeks ago, but unfortunately the website is not the worst of it. It’s also not the most important. Email is far more important than a fairly static website. Email can be used to engage with people, many of whom may be your natural supporters or party members. They should be mobilised and encouraged into battle. Instead, what we get every week – or every other day at the moment – is a turgid missive totally devoid of interesting content, calls to action or anything else. They’ve even taking to pretending they are replying to an email the recipient has sent them. Perhaps that’s the only way anyone ever opens the wretched things.

Take the latest email from Nicky Morgan, Economic Secretary to the Treasury. It had the subject line of “Re: our Long Term Plan: Investing in Britain’s Future”. Catchy, eh? Earlier in the week we got one from Sajid Javid with the subject line “Re: Our Long Term Plan: Deficit & Jobs”. Neither of the emails has a “Dear Iain” greeting or even a “Dear Friend” line. Both emails have a couple of facts which they would like you to share through Facebook. Which is nice. But where’s the passion, where’s the meat? And frankly, where’s the plan? All these emails have “Our Long Term Plan” in the subject line but there’s precious little sign of any plan at all in the content.

The next election won’t be “the” internet election any more than the last one was, but in marginal seats proper internet campaigning can make the difference between winning and losing. The Conservative Party shows no sign of learning the last election when far too much internet campaigning was started too late in the electoral cycle. As Lynton Crosby has famously said, “you can’t fatten a pig on market day.” The late lamented “MyConservatives.com” was a great idea as a campaigning tool for candidates and party workers, but it was only launched properly a few months ahead of the election. Is an equivalent being planned now? If so, it needs to launch very soon.

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Idiot blog comment of the week goes to this reader… “You only support the campaign to save the Gay Hussar restaurant because it has the word ‘gay’ in the title.” Where do people like this come from? Do they actually have parents who taught them right from wrong, and can they actually read?

89 comments for: Iain Dale: Cameron in China – pass the sick bag

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