The biggest talking point at Westminster this
week has been a certain MP’s lack of hair. No, I’m not talking about Nadine
Dorries, I’m talking about the infamously moustachioed Tory MP for Broadland,
Keith Simpson. For the first time in forty years he has shaved off his
resplendent facial hair and now looks positively naked, albeit ten years
younger. “There must be a reshuffle in the air,” commented one Westminster wag.
The truth, however, is disappointingly prosaic. “I was shaving and whipped a
quarter of it off by mistake, so the rest had to follow,” he told me. So what
did his long-suffering wife Pepi make of it? “It took an hour for her to even
notice, despite me giving her a snog,” says Simpson cuttingly. Known for his military
analogies, I think it is safe to say that the atmosphere in the Simpson
household is as cold as the ice inside a German panzer on the Russian front in
This week sees the publication of Harry Mount’s
Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson, which, I have to say, bears a strong
resemblance to my own collection of Boris witticisms, the Bigger Book of Boris.
Still, everybody’s welcome to the Boris party. Sadly Boris’s publishers made a
bit of an error with the launch party, and scheduled it for the night of
Boris’s twentieth wedding anniversary. Boris, keen to avoid a marital dressing
down, decided to forego the delights of the launch party and presumably took
Marina to a swanky restaurant. During the speeches the representative from
Bloomsbury Publishing pointed out the irony that the author of a book extolling
the virtues of Boris Johnson was a cousin of David Cameron. At which point
Harry Mount shouted “distant”. However distant it is, though Harry, you
can’t escape that easily!
So what’s this I hear about Conservative
Grassroots? Apparently there are two of them and they are at daggers drawn. One
is run by the chairman of Wycombe Conservatives Bob Woollard, and I almost
hesitate to mention that the other one is run by Mr Ben Harris-Quinney.
Why am I hesitant? Well last time I had the temerity to pass judgement on his
leadership of (what used to be) a prominent Conservative organisation, the Bow
Group, he threatened to sue for libel. Tragically for him, I hadn’t actually
written anything libellous. Anyway, the chairman of the original Conservative
Grassroots is less than gruntled with the operations of what we might call its
‘provisional wing’. Peace talks have been held but to no avail. The two
organisations have virtually identical logos, but different personnel,
different websites and different Twitter feeds. Come on boys, sort it
The media loves to portray the Tories as
being divided on Europe. That’s sooooooo 1990s, darling. If anything, the
Tories are more united on the subject than they ever have been, albeit in the
Eurosceptic direction. It seems it is now Labour’s turn to experience European
splits. On Tuesday evening a new pressure group was launched – Labour for a
Referendum. There are about thirty Labour MPs who have no issue in describing
themselves as Eurosceptic and proud of it. However, they’ll need to do better if
they are to make an impact. A mere three dozen supporters turned up to
the launch bash at Transport House, half of which ended up in the nearby
Firecracker Karaoke bar. Dan Hodges got things underway by leading a rendition
of Things Can Only Get Better. His
messages to Ed Miliband are usually less subliminal. Back at the launch, former
Europe Minister Keith Vaz was in resplendent form. “When Tony Blair rang me up
to offer me Europe Minister I said "But Prime Minister I know nothing
about Europe". He replied "Perfect. I'm in charge of European policy,
you have to sell it to the public." And what a good job he did. Ahem.
Tweet of the week from @BadgerMeinhof: “Some of
the people commenting at The Telegraph seem to have mistaken The Gay Marriage
Bill for The Compulsory Bumming of Everyone Bill.
I know how the temperature rises on this site
whenever I mention gay marriage. So here we go again. The size of the majority
in favour of same sex marriage in the House of Lords was a surprise to most
people. But the fact is, it could have been even bigger. Having refused to
pilot the Bill through the Lords, Sayeeda Warsi couldn’t actually bring herself
to vote in favour of her own government’s bill. She abstained. OK, it was a
free vote, and perhaps she had found a subsequent engagement, but as the Minister
for Faith and Communities you’d have expected her to be present. I find
abstaining on these issues a total cop-out. Either you’re in favour or you’re
agin. One or the other. There’s no middle way. I can respect people who vote
against, but to abstain is to wimp out. And one thing Sayeeda Warsi isn’t, is a
wimp. I find it perplexing.
On Monday evening on my LBC show we discussed Ed Davey’s outrageous idea
that newspapers and broadcasters should refrain from giving a platform to
climate change sceptics. How very ‘liberal’ of him. Still, at least he didn’t
use the word ‘denier’. One should be thankful for small mercies, I suppose.
I remember at 18 Doughty Street (late of this
parish) back in 2007 I phoned Greenpeace to invite them to take part in a panel
discussion on climate change. They refused on the basis that the argument was
won and there was nothing to debate. It’s attitudes like this that make me very
suspicious of this climate change industry, which is supported by people whose
fanaticism borders on the religious.
The very same people who warned the world in
the 1980s about the coming nuclear apocalypse are now warning about the end of
the planet. In the 1980s we had politicians who were able to expose these
zealots for what they were. We now have cabinet ministers who go along with
them and give them money. And have the cheek to tell people on radio stations
that they shouldn’t be providing platforms for climate change sceptics. If any
of Davey’s staff were listening, they might have been rather worried to
discover than with one exception, every caller expressed some degree of
scepticism about global warming. I’d say that proves that the argument is far
from won and that people like Ed Davey need to up their game. He’d probably say
they were all brainwashed by a climate change sceptical media, of course.
Talking of brainwashing, here’s a text we
received from Justin. Justin is a geography teacher. This is what he had to
“Until two years ago I used to teach both
sides of the climate change debate and invite students to discuss the issue and
reach their own conclusions based on the evidence available, I have now been
stopped from doing this – apparently it confuses the students. I am now only
allowed to teach the “climate change is real” evidence. So therefore I have
moved to teaching students WHAT to think,
rather than to THINK for themselves using
the evidence available.”
How chilling is that? Now, I have no evidence
that what Justin says is true, but it certainly has the ring of truth about it.
Can anyone enlighten us? Is this really the case? Who gave the orders? I feel a
little cause coming on….
And for the avoidance of doubt I don’t deny the existence
of climate change or global warming. Nor do I deny that part of it is due to
man-made influences. But I do deny that the debate is over about the actual
extent of man’s influence. Climate change has happened since time immemorial.
That, it is safe to assume, is something surely everyone can agree on.
Word on the street is that Channel 4’s
‘Dispatches’ is planning a major expose of yet another Tory sex scandal. It’s
like it’s the 1990s all over again. A love affair in Downing Street. A Tory MP
alleged to be in a lesbian threesome, and now this. Excellent. What was that
song again? Let’s party like it’s 1999?
Reshuffle fever is beginning to mount. It’s
always difficult for columnists like me writing about reshuffles. There’s that
temptation to tip your mates to be promoted, followed by the hideous thought
that you also have to tip people for the sack. I well remember a few years ago
I tipped Theresa May for demotion for a reason I can’t now remember. Anyway, it
was the night of the Spectator party, and sure enough, as soon as she walked
through the door she made a beeline for me. I squirmed my way through the next
few minutes as I explained it was just something I had heard from ‘sources’.
‘We must have lunch,’ she said. ‘We should be on the same side’. And with that,
she was off. Well, I’m certainly not tipping her for demotion in any reshuffle
this summer, she will be relieved to hear. As for other tips, I’ll titivate you
with those over the coming weeks. It’s wonderful way to make lots of new
friends. And enemies.