This weekend Lady Valerie Trierweiler, France’s former First Lady, arrives in this country to promote her book Thank you for this moment, which my company, Biteback, is publishing.
There’s been a huge media interest in the book, and she will be appearing on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday and on Newsnight on Monday, with a string of print interviews over the weekend as well, including Saturday’s Times Magazine.
Since she has given no interviews whatsoever to the French press, you can imagine the storm this is creating in Paris. It seems that the French media is in thrall to the Elysee in a way that it would be impossible for Downing Street to replicate here. It is clear to me that an order went out from Francois Hollande’s advisers to “get Valerie”, so you can hardly blame her for not doing any interviews with them. They have blamed her for Hollande’s unpopularity and even for the rise of Marie le Pen.
There’s only one person to blame for both – and he lives in the Elysee. Hollande is a very weak and egocentric man. I was about to suggest that before casting aspersions he ought to look himself in the mirror. Trouble is, being very vain, he probably does too much of that anyway.
If you’d like to meet Valerie, and happen to be in London on Tuesday she will be doing a booksigning at Hatchards on Piccadilly from 12.30 to 1.30pm. I’ll be there acting as bouncer. Although, on second thoughts, last time I took on that role it didn’t work out too well, did it? If you can’t make it, but would like a signed book, there will be copies for sale on the Biteback Publishing website next week.
I’ve lost count of the number of people who have come up to me in the last couple of weeks and asked in whispered tones if I think that 46 MPs will write to Graham Brady after the Rochester & Strood by-election.
I look at them as if they have lost complete leave of their senses, shake my head in a slightly patronising manner and then say “er, no”, and then add for good measure, “not unless the Conservative Party has a collective deathwish”.
There may be one or two knuckledraggers who commit a masturbatory act of self-indulgence on a grand scale, but Christ knows what they think the consequence would be – apart from sending a message to the electorate that they don’t care how disunited the Conservative Party appears six months before a general election. There is clearly no helping some people.
If you were rather bored by news bulletins yesterday, blame Ofcom. On a by-election day, broadcasters aren’t allowed to broadcast any real political news for fear of affecting the result. So I couldn’t do a phone-in asking listeners what they think of UKIP’s immigration policy or the mansion tax. Instead we have to ask really searching questions, such as “What do you think of the weather at this time of year?”
OK, I exaggerate to make a point. But of course the newspapers can print what they like, and you can say what you like on social media. Well, at least you can, but I can’t. The rules governing what can be broadcast at election times really do need to be overhauled, along with those which govern political advertising. It is ridiculous that a political commercial can be shown in cinemas, but not on TV, for example. The electorate continue to be taken for fools.
Think about this. We keep being told by UKIP that there are at least two Tory MPs ready to defect after Nigel Farage’s party wins Rochester & Strood. They may well be right, but think about the mentality of someone who waits to see which way the political wind is blowing before they make the leap. Weak, weak, weak. The backbone of a goldfish and the principles of a harridan. Anyone who defects in those circumstances is a political opportunist and would command little respect from their new comrades. Let’s put it this way: they are not people you’d go tiger hunting with, are they?
Talking of potential defectors, John Baron’s name seems to come up a lot as a possibility. It was therefore quite nauseating to hear the Prime Minister crawling to him in PMQs this week, going out of his way to say he would take seriously his request for £25 million for veterans of the 1950s nuclear tests.
It was so over the top that my colleague nearly passed me a sick bag. Needs must, I suppose. Is £25 million the going rate to stop a claimed defection? It seems so. I wonder what little wheezes some of the others have up their sleeves. Philip Hollobone is the bookies 2/1 favourite to be the next defector, but I wonder whether he’s got the balls to do it. Of the names being mentioned in dispatches, if you want to place a small wager on someone who has demonstrated courage in the past, I suspect you could do no better than Adam Holloway, Gravesham’s MP. I hear he is not a happy boy.
I’ve had my new car for two months now, and only this week have I realised that you have to press the remote button twice, rather than once, to set the alarm. So if you wanted to nick the car, you’ve had your chance…
On Tuesday I spoke to a small fundraising dinner for Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat Home Office Minister. Yes, traitor, turncoat, tosser – throw the insults if you like. I did it because she’s a friend and as a recognition for what she did on equal marriage – and I have no regrets. I also explained at the dinner that I’d also do it for other politicians in all parties who were friends and whose political achievements I respected. Politics is still a very tribal sport, and sometimes tribal loyalties tend to blind us to the fact that there are good people in all parties.