Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
Make no mistake: if Labour wins the next election we’ll see the most hard left policy platform ever experienced in Britain.
The devil in me would be fascinated to see what would happen, and discover how quickly the whole house of cards would fall apart. But the patriot in me is horrified at the prospect of this party ever being allowed near the levers of power. What a shame it is that so few people in the upper echelons of the Conservative Party seem to share that horror. Instead, they continue to turn off the electorate with their self-indulgent grandstanding and betrayal of the very people that voted them in.
Yes, I’m talking of about half of the cabinet. What a shame that none of them were in Brighton to see the real face of today’s Labour Party. Had they been, they would make sure that they were now fighting on a united front, and have stopped the briefings and stupid media games that they are playing at the moment.
Yes, I’m talking to you, Boris Johnson. And to you, Philip Hammond. I could go on and name half the Cabinet – but these two very senior cabinet ministers are the worst offenders (or their fully authorised SPADs are). One lobby journalist told me in Brighton that many Cabinet ministers are now brazenly doing the briefing themselves, and not even bothering to get their SPADs to do it. So when you see “Sources close to…” in a newspaper, the odds are that it is the minister himself (and I mean ‘him’ rather than ‘her’) who are the sources.
Divided parties do not win elections. If there is one lesson from political history, that is it. Any political party is a coalition, and so is any Cabinet. People will always disagree on the way forward, but if disagreements become public spats, the consequences are never very edifying.
Careless talk costs elections. Whoever leads the Conservatives into the next election, whenever it comes, is going to have to crack down on the kind of media briefings that are happening at the moment on an almost daily basis. If that doesn’t happen, all those who are involved in them should look themselves in the mirror if they see Jeremy Corbyn walking through the black door into Downing Street afterwards.
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We’ve seen this week the ugly face of the hard left. What kind of party conference is it at which the BBC feels it has to provide security for their female political editor? A friend of mine, who is by no means a Conservative, tells me: “The left has a seam of bullying inadequates in its ranks – from Hatton to McDonnell, who foster the godfather mindset that seeks to intimidate anyone who challenges them – male or female. It’s not hidden. It’s there for all to see. Brutes.”
And they claim that the Tories are the nasty party. Another friend of mine had organised a gin-tasting event in Manchester at the weekend, but has now had to cancel it after members of the far left intimidated the owner of the premises where the event was due to be held, and people who had registered to attend on Facebook.
My friend says: “We’re obviously very disappointed that we have had to cancel this event but, due to the intimidation from a number of left-wing groups on Facebook, we have a responsibility to ensure the security of our guests and the venue. There are already a number of pages and events set-up on Facebook which intend to cause disruption to Conservative conference, and the police need to get to grips with it before there is a repeat of the disgusting behaviour that was displayed in 2015.”
According to Marketing Manchester, Conservative Party Conference generates £29 million for the local economy. That’s money which goes towards employing the many Mancunians who work in the hospitality industry. The people who are protesting are putting the businesses and jobs of others at risk.
My friend continues: “We usually run events prior to conference which we have previously had no problem with at all. Our pre-conference events add a nice little cash boost for our Association, and we would have made well over £600 from this event.”
So that’s how the hard left wins – and believe me, we’re going to see a lot more of this sort of thing.
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On Sunday night, I attended a Momentum Rally in Brighton. (And that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.) I even persuaded the organisers to let Robert Peston in.
The main event was a 25 minute speech by Jeremy Corbyn. He was introduced as “the absolute boy”. Yes, really. He gave the kind of speech he’s been giving for 30 years, but could never do had cameras been allowed in the room.
It was a full blown Marxist rant. Down with the rich. Up the workers. Put up taxes. Employers are evil. You know the sort of thing. They lapped it up.
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On Tuesday, it was Rebecca Long-Bailey’s turn to fire up the left wing. The Shadow Business Secretary gave a speech on the conference stage which was in some aspects even more far left than the ones that Tony Benn used to give when he held the Industry portfolio for Labour in the 1970s.
“We’ll restore the rights of workers – rolling out sectoral collective bargaining and guaranteeing unions access to the workplace,” she said. They will never tell you this, but I suspect the intention is to review and abolish virtually all the trade union legislation passed by the Thatcher government in the 1980s. Bet that won’t be in the manifesto, though. For obvious reasons.
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I hope you will come to a couple of fringe meetings I’m chairing in Manchester.
On Sunday evening at 6pm, I’ll be ‘In Conversation’ with Liam Fox in the ConservativeHome Marquee; and on Tuesday evening at 7pm I’ll be hosting a debate on an energy price cap, hosted by the lovely people at Octopus Energy in the Business Hub.
I switched my energy supply to Octopus about eight months ago. I hadn’t realised how easy it is to do. It’s certainly been a revelation. Their customer service is superb, and I am saving around £600 a year. What’s not to like. Bye bye EDF and National Power. These companies are rip-off merchants who are too big to give a damn about the customer.
Octopus are one of the new entrants to the market. They’re big enough to matter, but small enough to care about their individual customers. It’s made me think about changing my bank now, as well. The big four banks have had it their way for far too long. They will only ever change if enough people force them to. Then they might understand that the customer really is king.