DALE Iain Krieg illustration square

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

Listening to the Prime Minister last Friday night, when he announced his EU deal, there’s no doubt that he talked a good game. He did it again on Marr, and he did it yet again in the Commons on Monday. Whatever you think of the content of what he said, he’s at his best when his back is against the wall.

In many ways, David Cameron is a lucky Prime Minister, although some say it’s because he makes his own luck. Tony Blair was the same, and in this way he really is an heir to Blair. Untroubled by deep convictions, both Blair and Cameron have the ability to move effortlessly from policy to policy and give the impression that each one is the most important one in their armoury.

Pundits have often compared David Cameron to Harold Macmillan. I’m beginning to think it’s another Harold that he most resembles – Harold Wilson.

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Just how does he get away with it? At least he was wearing a suit and had a haircut, but could Boris Johnson’s statement outside his house on Sunday night have been any more rambling and incoherent? Did no one think to say: “Boris, at least have some notes”? And yet he did get away with it, and continues to. The media seems to give him a free pass, and adopt the attitude of “Boris will be Boris”. That will change the moment he becomes Conservative leader, assuming that eventuality ever comes to pass. They built him up; they will bring him down.

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Let’s for a moment examine Boris’s stance on the EU, assuming of course it remains what it appeared to be on Sunday. At no point has he actually said the words: “I want to leave the EU”. His position appears to be that we should vote Leave on the basis that it would then mean that we (but he means ‘he’) would then be in a much more powerful position to launch a much more meaningful renegotiation.

Unfortunately, that ship has already sailed on two counts. It is specifically ruled out (at the suggestion of Belgium), which means that a Leave result means just that. However, this idea was something that various politicians (including David Davis) suggested a long time ago – have the referendum first, and then launch the renegotiation. Cameron thought he knew better.

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The fact is that Boris, by his own admission, has never been an ‘Outer’. I have lost count of the number of people who have told me of conversations with him – even during the last few weeks – during which he has made it clear that he has never supported leaving the EU.

I suspect that many of these instances are about to be catalogued publicly by people who feel that Boris has said what he has purely to further his own political career. I’m afraid that it is a conclusion that is hard to avoid. His strategy is predicated on a Leave vote coming to pass on June 23rd. David Cameron resigns the next day (and he’d surely have to), and Boris, having quasi-led the Leave campaign to victory, becomes leader almost by acclamation.

Except it might not quite work out that way. Would he get the support of enough Tory MPs, and to what extent would David Cameron copy his political godfather Michael Howard, and change the rules in a way that turns out to be unfavourable to Boris? Maybe there would be a two year long leadership campaign, giving him enough time to make the mother of all gaffes!

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It’s not been a good few days for Sajid Javid. Potential future leaders should show leadership. He hasn’t. He’s done the exact opposite. He’s ignored what are widely held to be his true beliefs and rowed in behind the Prime Minister’s position. He then wrote a truly pathetic paen for a Sunday newspaper explaining that while he was supporting the Prime Minister he believes that we should never have joined the EU. Well, thanks for that insight.

One wonders what the Prime Minister was able to say to Sajid Javid that persuaded him, which failed to persuade Michael Gove. Perhaps it went something like this: “Support me, Sajid, keep your nose clean – and you’ll be at the top of my list to replace George as Chancellor when I make him Foreign Secretary in the post-referendum reshuffle.”

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What none of the newspapers have picked up on is that the Cabinet is stuffed full of MPs who will support the Remain campaign. But in the parliamentary party itself, the split between so-called ‘Remainiacs’ and ‘Outers’ is roughly 50-50. In the Cabinet it’s more like 80-20 in favour of Remain.

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Michael Gove probably hasn’t enjoyed the last week. His articulation of why he couldn’t support the Prime Minister was the best exposition yet of why Britain should leave the EU. It’s a decision he clearly agonised over but he has displayed leadership and no one seems to hold it against him. I predict a bandwagon is about to roll. And on the side will be a poster which says “Michael Gove for Leader”.

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People of my vintage have grown up with Tony Blackburn. He has been on the radio for 50 years and, whether or not you like or loathe his cheesy style, I think it’s universally agreed that he is brilliant at what he does.

On Wednesday night, TBlackburn announced he had been sacked by the BBC from all his various radio shows on the network, including those on Radio 2, BBC Radio London and Radio Berkshire. Why? Well, read Tony Blackburn’s statement for yourself, and see whether you the BBC are justified in what they have done. His sacking was a tool to draw attention away from Dame Janet Smith report on Savile which was published yesterday morning.

Its main conclusion was that BBC managers and head honchos knew nothing of Jimmy Savile’s activities and that, although floor managers and producers were aware of what was going on, they failed to alert managers. I say bollocks to that. It’s quite clear to any sane person that managers must have known, but chose not to confront the issue. So it turns out that Dame Janet absolves the BBC of any corporate culpability. I find that an astonishing conclusion.

108 comments for: Iain Dale: The bandwagon is beginning to roll. And on its side is a poster proclaiming: “Gove for Leader”

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