Nigel Evans, speaking outside Preston Crown Court, declared that his “life will never be the same again”. He showed no sign of euphoria after being found not guilty of all the preposterous charges laid against him by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. One reporter told me that in all her years of covering court cases, she had never seen a weaker prosecution case. The fact of the matter is that most of us in the Westminster Village know the identity of the person who accused Nigel Evans of raping him. Yet this person continues his life knowing that for reasons best known to himself he has put Nigel through eleven months of hell. I think he dug himself so deep that he began to believe his own lies. He needs to ask himself some very searching questions. So does Sarah Wollaston MP. She no doubt felt she was exercising a duty of care towards the man who cried rape. She clearly believed his story, but today she must also be asking herself if she acted properly throughout this sorry saga.
But the two institutions who emerge from this will real stains on their reputations are the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. From their public statements they seem to think they did nothing wrong. I and others will not rest until they are made to come to terms with their poisonous agenda, wicked actions and duplicity. How on earth could they bring charges on behalf of four people who didn’t want them brought, didn’t consider themselves victims, and all of whom praised Nigel Evans. One even texted him good luck.
Many parts of our criminal justice system are broken. If their failures in this case are swept under the carpet the same thing will happen to someone else. But we won’t ever hear about it. Because that person won’t be called Nigel Evans. He will be Joe Bloggs.
It’s a pity that the Telegraph has seemingly renewed its vendetta against Nadine Dorries. It had commissioned columnist Cristina Odone to interview Nadine about her debut novel The Four Streets. Odone duly read the book and could hardly contain her enthusiasm for it, tweeting at 6.09pm on Monday: “Just read The Four Streets – Fab first novel by Nadine Dorries. Catholic Liverpool, irish immigrants & black secrets behind net curtains.” Fourteen minutes later she reinforced the point, tweeting: “Well done @NadineDorriesMP on your debut novel The Four Streets – a funny and sometimes shocking saga set in Catholic Liverpool.” How very strange, then, that the following morning instead of publishing Odone’s no doubt very positive interview, they published a damning review by their Head of Stuffiness, Christopher Howse. You just need to look at his photo to know the kind of review he would write of a novel by a female politician. And then you need to take into account that Howse used to be a member of Opus Dei. I doubt he took kindly to the storyline of the Catholic priest abusing a young girl. True to form, he gave it a one star review and called it the worst novel he’d read in ten years. Well, he would, wouldn’t he?
I expect he’d been given a brief, and the reason? I’m told it was because Nadine had the temerity to give two interviews – on GMTV and my LBC show on Tuesday morning – in which she uttered views on MPs’ expenses which weren’t to the Telegraph’s liking. Readers may remember her criticism of the Telegraph and the Barclay Brothers over the original MPs’ expenses scandal. Nadine then upped the ante and withdrew an invitation to the Telegraph’s ‘Head of Bitchery’, Tim Walker (who writes their Mandrake diary column, as well as being an excellent theatre critic), to her booklaunch that evening. He responded in kind with a series of tweets which sought to denigrate both Nadine and her beleaguered publicist. Yesterday morning, he went even further in a vitriolic attack on her. To be honest, he showed himself up. Nadine wasn’t taking any of it and accused him of lying. When he was caught out denying that Cristina had ever been commissioned to write any piece for the Telegraph, Nadine posted a tweet from Odone confirming she had indeed been asked to do just that. “Telegraph asked to interview Nadine – I read the book, couldn’t put it down and told her so.” At that point, Walker retired in a huff, tweeting: “Speaking purely for myself, I am bored to tears of this particular honourable member.” I am sure the feeling is mutual.
On Tuesday evening, I trotted off to the InterContinental Hotel which seems to have become the place to hold book launches in Westminster, where Nadine was hosting the launch of her own. Well, she was supposed to be. I’ve never been at a book launch where the author didn’t turn up until nearly an hour after it started, and then made a speech which can’t have been more than about 14 words long. The shortest in recent political memory, I’d have thought. But then again, Nadine does like to do things differently. And that’s why many of us love her.
I was looking forward to interviewing the winner of the Institute of Economic Affairs’s Brexit prize on Wednesday morning, as I have been covering the LBC Breakfast Show all this week. He would be receiving 100,000 euros for a 10,000 word essay on how the UK could exit the EU. So when I received an email from the IEA on Tuesday night informing me that he wouldn’t do an interview, I admit I blew several gaskets. It turns out he is a Foreign Office diplomat, and “our man” in Manilla. They banned him from talking to the media about it, as his views are not exactly government policy. I wonder if they would have the same if he had written a 10,000 word essay on the advantages for Britain of joining the euro. I think we all know the answer to that one. As they used to say, the Ministry of Agriculture represents the interests of farmers and the Foreign Office represents the interests of foreigners. Little has changed. I imagine the IEA was as furious as I was.
Two stories this week illustrate why fairly moderate people are losing all patience with the EU. New laws are coming into force which could threaten the viability of many thriving small food producing businesses in this country. In February last year, the European Commission proposed that public bodies should be allowed to make a charge every time an official visited food premises to check hygiene practices. It could mean unexpected bills of at least £500 for small artisan food producers and farm shops every time they receive a random inspection. After a concerted lobbying effort, the European Commission’s public health directorate agreed an exemption for businesses with fewer than 10 employees or annual sales below €2 million. However, this exemption was quietly deleted from the proposed rules by MEPs on the ENVI environmental, public health and food safety committee last week. With the European Parliament due to vote on the issue next Monday, the move effectively leaves no time for further consultation. That’s how the EU works, folks. Or doesn’t.
And then we learn that the EU is about to abolish UK number plates in favour of a pan-European system. As if we are not capable of running our own number plate system. Cue Liberal Democrats who will no doubt tell us how it will help us fight crime, or some other ludicrous argument.
I am a Eurosceptic, but I have never been wholly convinced by the argument that we would necessarily be better off out. However, it’s stories like this which might tip me to vote that way when the time comes.
Like most political commentators I’ve never been brilliant at predictions, but I did forecast the timing of Maria Miller’s resignation, and also that Nicky Morgan would be promoted. Well, I got that one half right. She was indeed promoted, but not quite to the position I had tipped! It was yet another Number 10 shambles. I agreed with every word of Peter Oborne’s excellent analysis of the Number 10 machine and its appalling lack of strategic vision or attention to detail. Was Nicky Morgan in the Cabinet, just attending Cabinet or neither? Over a period of a few hours it was all three. Ladyshambles. The moment I knew Miller was doomed was when I realised that she had few allies who were willing to publicly defend her. Her trouble was that she made so few friends and allies on the way up who were willing to defend her in her time of need. Speaking to Andrew Pierce and to Peter, it turned out the three of us had never, ever spoken to her, let alone interviewed her. And from my discussions with various Tory MPs over the last few days, they had a similar experience. On a personal level, I felt for Maria as she nearly broke down during her post resignation interviews with the BBC and Sky. Unfortunately, I see no way back for her, whatever David Cameron may have said in their exchange of letters. The public may have been unfair to her, but I am afraid that her very name has become toxic. And let’s dismiss any talk of a media witch hunt. It was nothing of the sort.