Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
I don’t know about you, but I find this new trend of MPs reporting each other to the Metropolitan Police absolutely despicable. Labour’s John Mann is the worst offender by far, but this week it was the Conservative MP Justin Tomlinson who reported Sadiq Khan for allegedly looking at his mobile phone while driving.
Naturally, he didn’t witness the offence himself, oh no – but he was outraged. Outraged, I tell you! The level of sanctimony in his explanation has to be read to be believed. I do hope Tomlinson leads a wholly blameless life. Because if he doesn’t, he’s just made himself a number one target for John Mann.
If you have nothing better to do on December 5, why not toddle down to Queen Mary’s London campus in Mile End and attend a fascinating conference on Tory leaders, which aims to work out who has been the best and worst Tory leader since 1900? Details here.
A range of academics will be putting their cases. It’s the brainchild of Charles Clarke, the former Home Secretary, who has already held a similar conference on the Labour Party. For what it’s worth, on the Labour side I went for Tony Blair as best and, as for worst…well, I imagine there were a couple in the pre-war period who might be fighting poor old Ed Miliband for that particular accolade.
On the Conservative side obviously it’s a slugfest between Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill for best, and it’s between Ted Heath and Anthony Eden for the worst. I think. Or would we include William Hague and IDS in that fight? Personally, I’d still go for Heath.
I spent last weekend in Paris, a city I expected to loathe and ended up falling in love with. As I explained last week, I was there to have dinner with Lady Valerie Trierweiler, former French First Lady, whose book on her seven years with Francois Hollande is being published by Biteback on November 25.
It turned out her English is as poor as my French, although we could both understand rather more than we could speak. Luckily, the conversation still flowed over dinner as her agent was able to translate.
When I say, over dinner, it was an eight course affair, which I was rather dreading, as it came from what was called the “menu plaisir” – effectively a surprise menu. With my conservative eating tastes, I was dreading what might be served. I needn’t have worried. It was the best meal I have ever had in my life. If you find yourself in Paris, do look up a restaurant called ‘Itineraires’ on the rue de Pontoise, just over the river from Notre Dame in the Latin Quarter.
I hadn’t realised just how unpopular Francoise Hollande actually is. And not just with Valerie Trierweiler. Whoever you speak to in Paris, his name is almost spat out. He makes Miliband look popular. But then again Miliband told us he wants to do for Britain what Hollande has done for France. Good luck with that, Ed.
When the Coalition was formed, most of us felt it was only a matter of time before Norman Baker resigned over something or other. However, it turned out that he became one of the LibDems’ most effective ministers when he was at the Department of Transport. He had an agenda and carried it out, working collegiately with his Tory colleagues.
Most of us were totally bemused when he was reshuffled to the Home Office. It didn’t take Einstein to work out that he and Theresa May were not a match made in heaven, and with his views on drugs reform it was only a matter of time before they clashed.
Well, on Monday he sat next to the Home Secretary during her statement on the Historic Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse and looked positively supportive. Later that evening, he quit the government telling the world that working with May was like “walking through mud”.
He clearly thought that his resignation might finish off a Home Secretary who had been wounded by the resignation of Fiona Woolf. Bizarrely, though, it has had the opposite effect. May hasn’t been damaged at all by Baker leaving – she’s back on top of this site’s future Tory leader poll – and finishes the week having clearly developed a Teflon skin.
The return of Lynne Featherstone to the Home Office has also bolstered her. She gave me her first interview on Tuesday and proceeded to praise Theresa May to the skies. If there were a market in Mays at the moment, I’d be buying shares.
Miliband’s mini-reshuffle, caused by Jim Murphy leaving the Shadow Cabinet, was a sign of his inherent weakness. It was a very limited shuffle, but revealing nevertheless. The promotion of two key allies, and the demotion of Mary Creagh to International Development from Transport tells us a lot.
Political leaders in trouble circle the wagons, and that is what Ed Miliband has done by promoting Michael Dugher and Lucy Powell. Dugher is an effective bruiser and an old ally of Miliband’s from their days working for Gordon Brown.
Lucy Powell used to run the leader’s office and has had a meteoric rise since her election in a 2012 by election. Her appointment as Shadow Cabinet Office Minister will cause all sorts of jealousies on the Labour benches. Watch out for the briefings against her from “friends of” Douglas Alexander, who she is now deputy to in general election campaign planning. She’s been appointed to that role to watch what he’s doing. There could be fireworks.