Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
I had to smile when John Major said there should be a free vote on any Brexit deal. As an ex-Whip himself, and someone used to the black arts of the genre, he knows full well that no government could allow such a vote on an issue of this constitutional magnitude.
This is no issue of conscience; it’s one of implementing government policy. I well remember the Maastricht debates and the whipping methods that were used to “persuade” recalcitrant Eurosceptic MPs – or ‘bastards’ as the then prime minister was apt to call some of them – to go through the division lobbies in support of their own government’s policy.
And quite right too. But irony of ironies, it seems to have escaped everyone’s notice who was the whip responsible for getting the bill through Parliament. Have a guess…go on…
Well, it was none other than one David Michael Davis. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when DD next meets JM. Could be quite a conversation!
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I know that what I’m about to write sounds too much like conspiracy theory ,but many people are interpreting Michel Barnier’s press conference remarks this week as a blatant attempt to topple Theresa May’s government.
The theory goes that he and the European Commission are now in league with Labour, and that the release of the EU’s draft legal agreement was timed to coincide with Jeremy Corbyn’s new policy of staying in a Customs Union. And that by in effect trying to annexe Northern Ireland, the Commission is putting forward a legally binding proposal which they know the Prime Minister cannot possibly accept – or more to the point, that the DUP cannot possibly accept.
Why say all this, when you know full well that it amounts to an absolute red line for the UK? I don’t normally buy into conspiracy theories, but this one may have legs.
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On Wednesday evening, May gave a speech at the Westminster Correspondents Dinner. This is a bit like the White House Correspondents Dinner, but about a hundredth of the size. I’ve just seen the first ten minutes of the speech on Facebook, and it was truly funny. Quite why the speech isn’t filmed or televised, I don’t know, because it showed a side of the Prime Minister we rarely see.
She actually has a very well developed and somewhat risqué sense of humour, and Number Ten should let it be seen much more often. One anecdote she relayed was while canvassing in her constituency at the election she knocked on a door, but there was no reply. She knew someone was in because she could see through the window that someone was in – and lying down.
She knocked again. Again, no answer. She then noticed the door ajar, so she pushed it open. It was at this moment that she realised that the person lying down was actually lying down on top of another person. “It brought a new meaning to the term ‘deep and special relationship’…” she said. Boom boom.
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The lazy British media are in full “aren’t we crap because we can’t cope with a bit of snow” mode. Truth is that if we did what they seem to want us to do, and spend a huge amount of money on snow ploughs and gritters and extra equipment to make sure that trains run, it would only be deployed once or twice every five or ten years.
The Germans manage better than us for the very simple reason that snow happens every year there. Germans change their tyres every autumn, and fit special winter grip tyres to all their cars. Can you imagine if we were told to the same? Me neither. Keep calm and carry on.
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Talking of the snow, I nearly didn’t make it into London on Wednesday. We live on a hill and our driveway is at a 30 degree angle. It took five attempts to get my car onto the road.
The trains were running OKish, so job done. Or so I thought. In the middle of my radio show, I saw a text saying that Southeastern Trains were cancelling all their services on Thursday. I checked on TheTrainline.com – and, sure enough, everything was cancelled. I booked myself into a hotel, because I absolutely had to be in London yesterday, as I had to attend the Global Awards in the evening.
Sadly, though, even though I had had the foresight to bring in a change of shirt and undercrackers, it meant that the world would be denied the sight of me in my new red suit.
Yes, you read that correctly. I’ve discovered a website shop called Empire Outlets. I never thought I’d order suits on the internet, but I took the plunge and have now ordered three from them. Cheapish at around £150 and great quality.
I did wonder what the red one would look like, but I’m delighted with it. I’ll wear it on TV one day so you can judge for yourselves. And before anyone asks, no, I have not been paid to write this, or offered a freebie. If I get good customer service, I believe in saying so, just as I would if I had had a bad experience.