Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
So: David Cameron’s letter to Donald Tusk…where to start? Bear in mind that I write as someone who hasn’t yet made up his mind how to vote in the referendum, but I find the whole thing a bit of a charade.
The Prime Minister’s speech at Chatham House outlining his renegotiation strategy was more of a ramble than a speech. Full of PR bullshit, but little substance. He’s clearly taken the view that he’ll never be able to get enough from Brussels to satisfy Bill Cash, so he might as well only ask for things the EU would be a fool not to give him anyway.
It’s a motherhood and apple strategy – only go for aims you know they’ll agree to, because they are more or less meaningless anyway. Brussels bigwigs are happily playing along, muttering about some of his demands being ‘problematic’ and ‘difficult’.
Yeah, yeah. I’m not normally into conspiracy theories, but part of me wonders if a deal hasn’t already stitched up. I can just see it now. After this December EU summit, David Cameron gets off the plane at Heston Airport waving a white piece of paper declaring that he brings “an agreement for our time”. He then announces that the referendum will be held in June 2016 – a full eighteen months before the end of 2017, his original deadline.
Charades like this push me a little further to planning to vote ‘Leave’. It’s further evidence that the EU can never really bring about proper change in its institutions, structures and aims. It really is a wretched organisation, and I am already fed up with all the scare stories about what will happen if we leave. The latest was on the front page of Thursday’s Guardian. Apparently a Brexit would wreck all the scientific research carried out in our universities because they wouldn’t have access to EU research funds. No, really. We’ve got another 18 months of this.
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A dozen years ago, I published a book of political counterfactuals called Prime Minister Portillo and other things that never happened. Since then I’ve brought out two similar collections using Al Gore and Boris Johnson in the titles. Next year it’s the turn for ‘Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn’ to get the treatment, but we are also looking for 20 or so other subjects for people to write about. So if you fancy yourself as a political fantasist, do get in touch with a suggestion. My favourite one so far is What Would Have Happened if The Anglo-Russian Convention had not been signed in 1907?
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Those on the left who bleat on about the Tories always favouring their mates and refusing to close tax loopholes clearly they haven’t studied the Chancellor’s last budget very well. There was a measure in it designed to hit freelancers who run service companies. People like me.
From April next year, any dividend income paid will be taxed an extra seven per cent. This is on top of the fact that he abolished the tax free income allowance for people who earn above a certain amount (I think it’s £100,000), so they pay tax on all their income – including the first £10,600.
And yet the lazy media and left-wing politicians simply concentrate on the fact that he reduced the top rate of tax to 45p, without mentioning any of the other things he has done to hit the relatively well-off. And I use that phrase deliberately.
What this Government has done is actually penalize the relatively well off, rather than the rich or super-rich. And with the tax credit proposals it seems determined also to penalize the working poor. I realise austerity must affects us all, but the politics of all this may bring an electoral penalty if they’re careful. If only the Liberal Democrats and UKIP realized what an opportunity lies ahead for them.
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Should women MPs be allowed to breastfeed in the chamber of the House of Commons? I spent an hour discussing this major topic of state with my listeners on Wednesday.
John Bercow says yes. Therese Coffey says no. I can’t think of any female MP who would actually want to do it, but I suppose in certain circumstances needs must. For example, if there is a debate concerning your constituency and you need to speak in it, you need to be in the chamber for the whole thing otherwise you won’t be called.
So why should an MP be prevented from listening to the debate and taking part in it just because she has a sprog? Strangely, it was the majority of my female callers who thought it wouldn’t work. What if the baby started screaming, or projectile vomiting over the MP in front of them? It might not be very decorous if the baby couldn’t latch on immediately. What about the TV cameras? So many questions…
I then took a call from a local councillor called Candice who said she had had to breastfeed in the council chamber, and no one had a problem with it. And with that all the arguments against seemed to deflate. Aren’t you proud of me for getting through this whole section without making a breast joke?
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Stephen McPartland is certainly an MP with balls of steel. Not only has the Conservativ MP for Stevenage rebelled on tax credits, but he has the temerity to boycott a visit to his constituency by David Gauke, the Treasury Minister.
For an MP in a marginal seat he’s playing with fire, as the traditional response would be for the whips to make very clear to the cheeky bugger that any CCHQ support at the next election might well not be forthcoming.
Many modern day MPs, it seems, are quite willing to tell the whips to sling their hook. Oh what joys we are in for during the rest of this Parliament.