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Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publications, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.

Those of you of a certain vintage will remember Sir Anthony Garner, the formidable Director of Campaigning in Central Office during the 1980s. I am very sad to tell you that he has died. I remember attending a Saturday campaigning seminar at Conservative Central Office, as it then was,  in Smith Square back in 1986. Sir Anthony had invited me to give a presentation about how Norwich North, where I was working, was pioneering the use of targeted Direct Mail.

So there I was, in front of all the party’s leading agents and campaigning bigwigs, essentially telling them how to do their job. Direct Mail seems a bit old hat nowadays but, believe me, in those days it was cutting edge stuff. Sir Anthony was genuinely feared and respected in equal quantity. In those days, I suppose I had ambitions of working in the Campaigns Department at CCO and when Sir Anthony told me I had done very well and “done myself a lot of good” it genuinely meant a lot.

Thirty years on the professional side of the party has become a husk of what it used to be. The number of professionally trained agents is pitiful. Their decline since 1992 has been shameful. It also coincides with the period when the Conservative Party has failed to win a single election. Funny that. Sir Anthony’s son Chris tells me there will be a memorial service for the great man after the election. I will let you know details when I have them.

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Simon Jenkins is an archetypal member of the establishment. He is a former editor of The Times. As a prime example of ‘the great and the good’, he moves smoothly from one public appointment to another with graceless ease. He pops up on our TV screens to impart his wisdom on whatever subject he has a view on – even those about which he apparently has very little expertise.

He’s eloquent and often very interesting, but I’m afraid I found his appearance on Newsnight, up against Admiral Lord West of Spithead, excruciating. He was there to talk about increased funding for the defence of the Falkland Islands. To be honest, his views were all over the place and Alan West wiped the floor with his Guardianista views on defence spending. When Jenkins said “Frankly, I’d spend next to nothing on defence,” my jaw almost hit the floor. What a cock. Surely maintaining the nation’s defences is the first priority of any government, whatever colour?

There’s much discussion about NATO’s recommended defence spending level of two per cent of GDP. It is frankly astonishing that we have a Conservative Party which can’t even commit to this, despite it having been agreed at the recent NATO summit in Wales. In 2016, our spending is set to fall below that level.

It’s a cause for national shame and embarrassment. We’re happy to commit to 0.7 per cent of GDP being spent on international aid – an aim I should say I fully agree with – but we can’t make that kind of commitment to defence spending. No wonder we won’t have an operational aircraft carrier until 2020. If the Argentinians did decide to launch an attack on the Falklands, an aircraft carrier would be necessary to retake the islands. I know that. You know that. And so, no doubt, does the Argentinian military.

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This week I was introduced to the delights of OneMinuteFox.com by the man himself, Liam Fox. I was having a gossip with him in his Commons office (which is massive, by the way) when I noticed some business cards with the website address www.oneminutefox.com written on the front.

It turns out to be a Youtube Channel on which Liam records one minute videos on any subject which takes his fancy – local to his constituency or of national importance. I picked up on the business cards and said “I’m not sure if I were you I’d want to be known as One Minute Fox,” raising a double entendre-tastic eyebrow. “No, indeed,” he replied without blinking. “My wife says I’m boasting.” Ba Dum Tsh.

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Enough has been written about David Cameron’s blurt-out about not seeking a third term, so I won’t detain you long. Some people, believe it or not, genuinely think it was all part of a cunning plan and that James Landale was encouraged to ask the question.

What utter bollocks. Landale got himself a first class scoop, and that’s all there is to it. He asked a question and the Prime Minister answered it rather more directly than Landale expected him to – and then compounded it by speculating about his successor. Unprecedented.

When I heard about it, I thought Cameron had taken leave of his senses. My LBC listeners took a rather different view. “He was asked a question and he answered it. Isn’t that what we want of politicians?” seemed to be the general consensus.

Lucky generals win wars. Perhaps lucky politicians win elections, and you have to say that Cameron is a politician who sometimes rides his luck. What I think he should do now, though, is to make very clear that he will serve a completely full second term, if he returns to Downing Street as Prime Minister, and stay in post until the day of the 2020 election, rather than hand over mid- term to someone else.

The party could still hold a leadership election, maybe in the autumn of 2019, and the winner would become party leader designate. This would mirror the American system in some ways. There might, however, be a constitutional reason why this would be impossible. If a new leader was elected, even as a designate, wouldn’t the Queen have to immediately invite that person to immediately become Prime Minister? Perhaps greater constitutional brains than mine might give some thought to that.

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Nice kitchen, by the way, Prime Minister.

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Nigel Farage’s book, The Purple Revolution, is threatening to become a bestseller and my company, Biteback, is about to press the button on a second reprint. Twelve thousand copies of it have flown out of our warehouse near Oxford, and thousands more have been downloaded as an eBook. Could it overtake Damian McBride’s book as our best-ever seller? I wouldn’t bet against it. Like Damian’s book, it benefits from being a bloody good read.

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I see that overtly aspirant LibDem leadership wannabe Vince Cable has fraternally been laying into overtly aspirant LibDem leadership wannabe Tim Farron. Vince has never been one for self-awareness. The thing is, neither of them realise that out there in the wider world, no one gives a monkey’s arse about either of them and their ambitions.

One thing I will say for Farron, though, is that he is a very likeable chap, even if the “I’m a blunt northerner who tells it like it is” act wears a bit thin from time to time. By way of contract, Vince Cable is the most disliked member of the whole Cabinet, including by his own side. He’s not as cheerful as he looks, you know.

51 comments for: Iain Dale: Simon Jenkins – what a cock

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