Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
Achieving a peace deal in the Middle East would be a crowning achievement for any politician, so the decision by Donald Trump to completely alienate the Palestinian side, and recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, is a difficult one to comprehend.
There are only two explanations. The first is that he is obsessed by fulfilling promises he made during the campaign. In many ways that’s laudable – but if you do it against all the advice, even when you must realise some of the consequences, what does that make you?
The second explanation is that Trump thinks that all past approaches to the peace process have failed, and he wanted to throw the cards up in the air and see how they landed. Well, we’re about to find out.
Much as I think Trump made the wrong decision here, no-one seems to have cottoned on to the fact that the Russians got there first, and recognised West Jerusalem (admittedly not the whole of the city) back in April. Where was the outcry then? Even the BBC reports seem oblivious to this fact, and mention no other country as having recognised any part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
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Just as Theresa May seems to have recovered her ‘Mojo’, something happens to knock it on the head. This week, it was the DUP’s volcanic reaction to the prospect of a deal including words which the Irish government could find acceptable on the border issue.
The Prime Minister was publicly humiliated by having to leave a lunch with Jean-Claude Juncker to phone Arlene Foster. Then later, that day, instead of triumphantly announcing a deal, May made a 49 second-long statement in front of an open-mouthed press corps. She then scuttled back to London, with the prospect of a deal to move on to trade talks slipping through her fingers.
As I write this, there seems little prospect of significant progress with the DUP, which would enable her to return to Brussels over the weekend. It was a total humiliation, both for the Prime Minister and for the nation. While not quite on the scale of Denis Healey’s one at the feet of the IMF in 1976, it was a humiliation nonetheless.
For the first time, I can now see circumstances in which the government could fall, or in which May could be toppled during the coming weeks. I have no idea how many Conservative MPs have written to Graham Brady calling for a vote of confidence, but the events of this week will have hardly stemmed what is still probably a trickle.
But when this turns into something more serious, we will know the Prime Minister is in trouble – except we won’t, because Brady never leaks. I still think any Tory MP that takes this course needs to check in with a doctor and have their mental state examined.
This is not just a view that they should all stick with nurse for fear of worse: they would be turkeys voting for Christmas. Such a move would make a general election much more likely, and they must know that, at the moment, there would only be one winner. And it wouldn’t be the Conservatives.
Yes, polls still show the Tories polling above 40 per cent, but it would be a brave Prime Minister who would voluntarily submit themselves to the electorate at the moment. Were there to be a change in Downing Street, we would be committing an act of national self-harm. We’d look even weaker in the eyes of our EU counterparts – and that’s the very last thing that needs to happen.
How could the Conservative Party justify any form of navel-gazing at a time when the political leadership of the country needs to have its eye on one ball – namely, getting the best trade deal possible with the EU. The Europe issue has destroyed many a Conservative leader. It could still destroy this one, but only if Tory MPs allow themselves the self-indulgence of allowing it to happen. Woe betide them if they do. The country won’t forgive them.
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My new podcast with Jacqui Smith, For the Many, is now four episodes old. If you haven’t tried it, do download this week’s episode from iTunes or wherever you get your podcast. It’s very chatty and very un-Radio 4, but we do talk in detail about the Damian Green controversy, and Jacqui’s role in his original arrest when she was Home Secretary in 2008.
Most comments from this week have come from a segment in which a listener challenged us to play ‘Truth or Dare’. Jacqui chose ‘Dare’ so I asked her which to MPs she fancied. I won’t reveal her answer here, but one of her answers was a prominent Conservative.
Oh, go on then – I will. Apparently when she was first elected she was in a voting lobby, stepped back and trod on someone’s foot. She turned around to apologise and found herself gazing up into the eyes of John Major. She melted. She wasn’t the first to, it has to be said. She then turned the question back on me. You’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear my answer… Such a tease, aren’t I?
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So the Electoral Commission has opened an inquiry into Momentum’s spending during the general election. That could be one to watch…
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We seem to be on at least the 14th different Labour Brexit policy this week. Keir Starmer announced on Wednesday that membership of the Single Market and Customs Union is back on the table.
Given that, only a few weeks ago, Labour’s front bench was whipped to vote against membership of the Customs Union, and three frontbenchers resigned over it, this is an interesting development. Sir Keir always sounds oh-so -easonable, but he is all over the place. So far neither Jeremy Corbyn nor John McDonnell have been asked if they agree with Sir Keir. When they are, it could be interesting.