Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
In the next few weeks we’ll get the results of the UKIP and Labour leadership elections and the SNP’s deputy leadership election. Labour and the SNP have both experienced booming membership growth, but there the similarity seems to end.
Labour is languishing at 27 per cent in the latest opinion poll, while the SNP have double that level of support at 54 per cent, which is the highest rating for any political party in Europe I am reliably informed.
Labour is tearing itself apart and debating just how left the party can go, while the main topic of conversation in the SNP deputy leadership election – which will undoubtedly be won by their Westminster leader Angus Robertson – seems to be the powers the deputy leader should have in deciding the maximum or minimum size of an SNP branch. Strange, I’d have thought that was more up the LibDems’ street.
South Eastern Railway is obviously trying to compete with Southern in order to claim the title of Britain’s most hapless train operator.
My journey home from to Tonbridge on Wednesday was a case in point. We drew out of Charing Cross, only to remain on the bridge over the Thames for thirty minutes. And that was thirty minutes without explanation. No announcement from the guard or the train driver at all.
I tweeted my displeasure to @Se_railway who later replied that due to the delay the train would terminate at Tonbridge rather than Tunbridge Wells. It didn’t affect me, but if I had been going on to Tunbridge Wells I’d have been furious. Needless to say that announcement wasn’t made until the train actually arrived at Tonbridge. What brilliant customer service.
I’m tempted to say it should be privatised, and therein lies the problem. Train companies, like banks, display all the faults and incompetences that we used to complain about in the nationalised industries.
Just for the record, I haven’t spoken to David Davis since his supposed ‘slapping down’ by Number Ten. If I were him I’d be fairly phlegmatic about it. He won’t have enjoyed the headlines, but in actual fact, if you look at what he said it is very similar to what Theresa May has been saying.
In many ways he was stating the bleeding obvious to say that it was “improbable” that we’d remain in the Single Market. How could we, if the EU continues to insist on freedom of movement of labour?
The phrase ‘Brexit means Brexit’ is crystal clear. It means exiting all aspects of the EU, including the Single Market. Some people try to pretend that the Single Market is a separate entity to the EU itself. Total fiction. It’s an integral part of it. The countries that aren’t in the EU but are members of it, like Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland, are all potential members. And frankly, quite how you can compare their economies with ours is anyone’s guess.
Whatever trade agreement we come to with the EU it will be based on our requirements and the fact that we are the fifth largest economy in the world and our imports from the EU are rather more vital to the EU than our exports to the EU are to us. We are in a very strong bargaining position and no doubt Theresa May and David Davis will use that to our advantage.
The Prime Minister says she is not going to give a running commentary on all this but the media will no doubt demand that she does. She’s in a cleft stick because Parliament has every right to question ministers on progress in these areas but on the other hand they are going to have to play the straightest of bats for fear of giving away too much detail about our negotiating position.
So the Conservatives are to go back to the future on grammar schools. Opinion is split on whether they are bastions of social mobility or rather divisive institutions which condemn the less able to failure at the age of eleven.
I couldn’t give a rat’s arse what a school is called. What I do care about though is that we shouldn’t consign a whole generation of children onto an educational scrapheap at such a young age. Having said that we also need to find ways of letting the tallest poppies grown as tall as they can. If comprehensive schools aren’t doing that them we need to find ways of enabling them to do so. To create schools for academically clever kids, and separate schools for the less academically able is surely not the way forward. We already have an educational split in this country between private and state education. Why on earth would we try to create another one?
Just imagine the outcry if someone created an organisation called ‘White Lives Matter’. And it’s perfectly possible, given that white working class youths are now the most underprivileged in both our education system and society in general. They underperform their BME counterparts in many parts of the nation by a country mile. It’s why they have forsaken the Labour Party for UKIP in many parts of the north.
I say this because I am very disturbed the creation of a group calling themselves ‘Black Lives Matter UK’. They have been formed on the back of the BLM movement in the US which seeks to highlight the disgusting number of black people shot by police or who die in police custody. The UK group seem to be saying we face a similar situation in this country. We just don’t. If you look at the number of black or Asian people who die at the hands of the police in this country it is very small. Indeed, in 2016 so far 29 people have died in police custody – two of them black. The proportions are similar, or even lower, for each of the last five years.
Black Lives Matter UK are trying to create division where there is none and fuel the racial divide. And this week we saw the ludicrous spectacle of nine protesters invading the London City Airport runway to protest about how aircraft emissions disproportionately affect black people. The irony that the nine protesters were all white was clearly lost on them. The lesson here is that All Lives Matter - black, white, brown or yellow.