Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, a commentator with CNN and the author/editor of over 30 books.
It’s difficult to know what to write about Boris Johnson. In the end, you can come to one of two conclusions. Either a) he bashed off his column in a hurry (as usual) and thought he was making a bit of a joke when he said burqa-wearing muslim women look like bank robbers or letter boxes. Or b) he knew exactly what he was doing and it was a calculated appeal to the darker side of Conservative Party members. If it was a), you have to wonder why he hasn’t come forward since Monday and explained himself and apologised for any offence caused. Which is why we all have to surely come to the conclusion that it was b). His allies have even doubled down and ridiculed Brandon Lewis for not having the balls to start disciplinary moves against him. I suppose we can all look forward to Boris’s next column on Monday with baited breath.
How this whole farrago will play out in a future leadership contest is anyone’s guess. So let me have a go. Sky had a poll which showed that 58 per cent of younger voters thought Boris should apologise, while 57 per cent of older voters did not. Given the age profile of the Tory membership, Boris’s remarks will have gone down well with many of them. However, apart from Nadine Dorries I have yet to hear a single Tory MP support Boris on the record. In terms of getting more support from the Parliamentary Party, I don’t think the last few days have done Boris any good at all. I still remain of the view that he will find it difficult to get into the final two, but it depends on the circumstances and political atmosphere at the time. It’s all very well being attracted by Boris’s undoubted stardust, but the questions surrounding his judgement will persist.
Just as Labour Party members were unhappy with the media for the amount of time we spent covering Corbyn’s antisemitism scandal, Tories have followed suit by berating us for our coverage of Boris Johnson’s article. I’ve done four hours of phone-ins on my show on it this week. “Storm in a teacup,” and “Nothing to see here, move along please,” are two of the most common comments. The fact is it’s been the number one political story every day this week and given that it’s August there is bugger all other news around. So please forgive us for covering what has been a major news story everywhere. Boris Johnson must be praying that someone else commits news very soon. Or maybe not. Maybe, just maybe, he’s revelling in it. Perish the thought.
As the Transfer Window shut at midnight last night, Boris Johnson’s move to UKIP didn’t materialise, while Labour MP Chris Williamson featured in a last-minute move across the left to the SWP. Despite putting their entire Parliamentary Party up for sale, no offers were received by the LibDems for any of them. The DUP’s Ian Paisley’s contract was cancelled by mutual consent.
It’s holiday time and even though I seem to have developed a reputation as a bit of a non-stop workaholic, even I like to have a bit of time off in August. So, on Saturday I’m off to stay with some friends in central Spain for six days, then it’s back to see West Ham’s first home game of the season before flying up to Edinburgh for a couple of days watching ten shows on the Fringe. If you’re up there, I’m appearing with the Reverend Richard Coles in his Confessions show at 5pm on Sunday 19th August. God alone knows what I’ll come out with. Then it’s a week of R&R in Norfolk. But fear not. I may be on holiday, but my dedication to this column means that I will still be writing it. Mr Goodman is a hard taskmaster.