Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
On reflection, I was a little harsh of Sajid Javid in last week’s column, in which I criticised him for his response to the Grenfell Tower crisis. I still think there were aspects of his department’s immediate response which were lacking, and the Prime Minister seemed to endorse this view when she apologised for the failings of local and national government in the aftermath.
However, I’ve seen two briefing documents that the Communities Secretary sent to MPs which detail exactly what he did do – and they do throw a different light on matters.
But perception is almost as important as reality in these matters, and while a Cabinet Minister indeed needs to concentrate on managing the actual crisis, he or she also needs to be front and centre of informing people via the media of what they are actually doing to handle the crisis.
That’s the lesson I’d draw from this if I were either Javid or Theresa May. And it’s one that they seem to have learned, given that both of them have been much more open and up front recently about their strategy to handle the crisis.
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“A friend has just told me that on Monday morning Tony Blair was sitting patiently in the queue to see his local GP at a surgery just outside Sedgfield. There was no “don’t you know who I am”, no “queue pushing” and no “special favours”. These type of incidents show character, but are sadly never reported by press.”
You can’t imagine it, can you – because it never happened. Well, not to Blair anyway. But replace the words “his” with “her”, “Sedgfield” with “Reading” and “Tony Blair” with “Theresa May” and the fiction turns into fact.
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I’ve never had a very high opinion of the British Medical Association. It purports to be a professional trade body whereas it is more like a left-wing trade union. This week, it surpassed itself by voting to push for abortion on demand up to birth.Yes, you read that right. Up. To. Birth.
These are professional doctors. Naturally, this move has also been supported by British Pregnancy Advisory Service, who never miss an opportunity to support the extinction of young human life. Ann Furedi, their Chief Executive, is omnipresent on the media when abortion issues are discussed.
Apparently, it’s all about a woman’s right to choose. That’s right. A woman’s right to choose to terminate a viable life up to birth. Having got this far, you probably think I am totally anti-abortion, and would like to see it banned completely.
And you’re right – or rather, in theory, I would, but I’m not an idiot. I don’t want to go back to the days of illegal abortions. I think our current laws are, by and large, working and should be left alone.
Yes, I’d argue that because medical advances mean that babies can now survive outside the womb at 20 or 22 weeks, the term limit might come down from 24 weeks, to 22 or 20 – but that’s as far as I would go. I cannot understand how professional clinicians could vote to raise the limit to 28 weeks or even full term with a clear conscience.
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So Vince Cable is about to be coronated. All his opposition fell by the wayside, one by one. In many, ways I expect him to be an effective leader, and I think he will offer some surprises. In interviews with me, he’s always been rather more Eurosceptic than some of his colleagues. He’s not one to utter the famous Liberal Democrat phrase: “Of course we must respect the result of the referendum, but…”.
Unlike most of his fellow LibDems, he seems actually to be a democrat. He’s spoken out against a second or deal-endorsing referendum in the past, but no one really noticed because he wasn’t an MP at the time. Time will tell if he will change his party’s policy.
There’s still a lot of media chatter surrounding May’s leadership yet try, as I might, I cannot detect any appetite for a leadership change among the MPs I talk to.
There’s certainly no appetite for a putsch, and I doubt very much whether Graham Brady has actually received a single letter from a Conservative MP calling for a leadership election. Yet the media is obsessed with the issue, especially the Sunday papers.
I can see only two scenarios whereby there would be a new Tory leader in the next few months. The first is if May has simply had enough, and has grown to hate the job so much that, at the beginning of the summer recess, she falls on her sword.
The second is if she makes a major f*** up of a new crisis. Say, for example, that there were serious disturbances during the summer and that, for whatever reason, her response and that of the Government was seen to be lacking. The pressure on her might then be too much.
I still think it’s highly unlikely she will go…but then again, my predictions this year haven’t exactly inspired much confidence so far, have they?
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I’ve spent this week in Norfolk having a few days’ rest. It’s my first week off this year, and I don’t pretend that it isn’t needed. I tried to wean myself off my computer and phone – but that didn’t go well.
One thing that did go well was playing golf. I used to be a very keen golfer, and got down to a 13 handicap but, up until Tuesda,y I hadn’t played for two years, mainly because of a shoulder issue.
But that day I played at the Royal Cromer course – which, if you’ve played there, you will know iis not easy. But for the first time in 30 years I actually drove the ball straight down the fairway from almost all the tees. Normally I’m a bit of a hooker [insert joke here]. I can’t say my putting was up to scratch but, overall, it’s made me want to play much more regularly.
So I’m off to play at Sprowston Manor tomorrow. I first played there in 1986 with the then MP for Norwich South, John Powley, and my then boss, the MP for Norwich North, Patrick Thompson. Powley was a brilliant golfer, but Patrick…well, let’s just say he had the enthusiasm of a beginner. I know he reads this column, so I will spare him any further embarrassment. How unlike me!