Iain Dale is an LBC presenter, a commentator with CNN and the author/editor of over 30 books.
On Wednesday, I launched a new political debate show on LBC called Cross Question. Andrew Adonis was one of the guests. He was asked by a caller – Thomas in Worthing – which political party he should vote for as a ‘liberal Brexiteer’.
Adonis’s reply was quite something to hear. He said in essence that anyone who wants Brexit should not vote Labour. I put it to him that 30 to 40 per cent of Labour supporters, and about a quarter of Labour members voted for Brexit. Did he not want their votes? Did he not want all those Labour voters who support Brexit in northern marginals to vote Labour?
No, he replied. He did not. Gisela Stuart was rightly both surprised and appalled. I cannot imagine even the most virulent Remain supporting Conservative MP saying a similar thing.
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Tom Newton Dunn’s Sun exclusive today about Boris Johnson and his wife having split up is notable: it suggests that the story was deliberately put out there in order to avoid it emerging during a leadership contest. Cynical maybe – but also understandable. Whether it will now give licence to other papers to print more stories about Johnson’s ‘dalliances’ remains to be seen.
Given the timing, I was interested to see the results of the latest ConservativeHome Next Tory Leader poll, in which he moved further ahead, and is now supported by 35 per cent of those who took part. Sajid Javid trailed on 15 per cent, Jacob Rees-Mogg on 10 per cent, and everyone else below that.
There must be a temptation in Johnson’s notoriously massive brain to strike while the iron is hot. There may never be a better time for it – unless of course he writes another column suggesting women who wear burqas should be rounded up and sent for compulsory re-education. I’m sure Steve Bannon would think that was a good idea.
But I digress. The trouble is that there isn’t actually a good time to strike and, if Johnson did, he’d have to be very sure that being the assassin that brought down a Prime Minister wouldn’t lead to him being punished.
And therein lies the rub. He would be – maybe not by party members, but by his fellow MPs, among whom he is a popular as a wet weekend in Cleethorpes. I still have severe doubts that he’d make the final two. I can’t prove it, but the Tory MPs I talk to – and maybe I’m talking to the wrong ones – they treat him with contempt and disdain. That’s because they have the advantage (I think) of knowing him. They know what he’s like.
Party members, on the other hand, see electoral stardust, and ignore the total incompetence wit which he ran the Foreign Office, and the series of gaffes that didn’t lead to his departure but should have. Boris sees himself as a latter-day Churchill – biding his time before he can come and save a grateful nation.
Well, that may or may not come to pass, but the challenge now is for another leadership contender to emerge as a credible ‘Stop Boris’ candidate, who can resonate both with MPs and party members. I have no idea who that might be.
But time is short.
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Theresa May’s statement on the latest development on the Salisbury Novichok poisoning was quite a parliamentary moment. It’s rare that a statement from the dispatch box provokes gasps in the Commons, but this one did.
None thele less, there are still people in this country who believe that Russia had nothing to with it, and that the claim is all government propaganda. Nothing to see here, move on. Two blokes from the Russian spy agency just coincidentally decided to pop over to the UK for a two day break, and just happened to visit Salisbury and then fly straight back to Russia. Yup, really. Total coincidence and they wouldn’t have had anything to do with the poisoning.
People who believe this are either mentally deficient or positively dangerous. They are perfectly willing to believe the Russian government over their own. There is a phrase for people like this: delusional traitors.
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This week’s article in the New York Times by an anonymous official in the Trump White House is jawdropping. Not just for the detail of how dysfunctional this administration is, but for the sheer audacity of civil servants thinking they can usurp the authority of the elected president. The official clearly believes he is doing his patriotic duty. But his behaviour is in fact tantamount to launching a soft coup d’etat.