Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.
As I write this on Thursday afternoon, Boris Johnson has announced he will put a motion to Parliament for a general election to be called for December 12th. This would be the first December election since 1923, which produced a hung Parliament. Gulp.
If this is to be a Brexit election, the Conservative strategists need to devise a campaign which cannot be thrown off balance by Labour doing what they did in 2017, and campaign on anything other than Brexit. Admittedly, Theresa May gave them ample excuse to do that.
We keep hearing that the Prime Minister’s advisers were divided on the question of when to hold an election. The traditional Conservatives, led by Sir Eddie Lister, wanted to fight it after Brexit has been delivered whereas the Vote Leave gang, under Dominic Cummings want to make it a People v Parliament election – which by definition is rendered rather pointless if we have already left the EU during any extension which the EU grants.
The Lister argument is not persuasive to many people for the simple reason that no one ever thanks a government for what it has done, no matter how successful it is. They want to know what you’re going to do next.
Winston Churchill found out this political truth the hard way in July 1945. Attlee stormed to victory. I have little doubt that the Tories are currently in a good place to win an immediate election. That opportunity may not arise again for some time.
I have little doubt that many Labour MPs will vote against an election on the basis that turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. Jeremy Corbyn is in a very difficult position, since he keeps saying how much he wants an election, and would definitely vote for one once an extension to Article 50 is granted – which is presumably will be today (Friday).
The only possible reason he could surely give for not agreeing to an election is that a No Deal Brexit can’t be ruled out in December 2020, at the end of the Transition Period. I can’t believe that will wash with anyone apart from diehard Remainers.
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What is a true conservative? And note the small ‘c’. On this week’s Delingpod you’ll find a 75 minute chat between James Delingpole and myself in which he accuses me of not being a proper conservative and being a bit ‘squishy’. I am apparently not ‘sound’ enough on the key issues that matter to ‘proper’ conservatives, apparently.
Who knew? I don’t really like labels, and while I self-identify as a conservative, I also hold a lot of liberal views. I don’t see them as mutually exclusive. You can be a fiscal conservative at the same time as being a social liberal.
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I really should know better. On Tuesday night, I was on a Newsnight panel which included the rather impressive Liam Thorp, political editor of the Liverpool Echo. Emily Maitlis threw him a question about Boris Johnson, and he immediately launched into a little spiel about how the city of Liverpool expects him to apologise for what he published (but didn’t write) about Liverpool 15 years ago.
I interjected. “He already has done; how many apologies would you like him to make?” Liam retorted that since he was now Prime Minister he should apologise again, this time from the Dispatch Box. I’m not sure the camera caught my eye-roll. Anyway, I thought little more of it until my Twitter timeline started to fill up with Outraged of Croxteth calling me all the names under the sun.
Calm down, calm down, I thought, channelling my inner Harry Enfield. (Bugger, I’ve done it again, haven’t I?). The next morning someone alerted me to a follow-up article Liam had written for his newspaper, which carried the headline…
“LBC radio host’s Newsnight jibe at Liverpool over Boris apology call – Iain Dale suggested the Prime Minister doesn’t need to say sorry, but here’s why we say he’s wrong”
Liam publicised it by tweeting: “No offence to Iain – but his comments about Boris Johnson and Liverpool show he doesn’t understand the hurt caused to this fine city.
And all because of one, brief interjection. Bloody hell, he came to a lot of conclusions based on that, didn’t he? I then rather stupidly responded: “Nothing Boris Johnson could ever say would satisfy you. He didn’t even write the editorial, yet you think he should wear sackcloth and ashes 15 years on. You’d do better to write about how a Labour council has consistently failed Liverpool. That’s the real scandal.”
I’ve experienced the wrath of the scouser on a couple of other occasions, so I don’t know why I should be surprised by the reaction. Yesterday morning I even get an email from the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson wanting to debate the whole issue on my radio show.
I politely declined, given what I knew would be the inevitable response. I have absolutely nothing against Liverpool as a city, or indeed its people. But I have the right to express the view that the Adelphi Hotel, when I stayed in it in 2011 was one of the worst hotels I have ever stayed in. I have a right to say that I like Glasgow as a city better than Liverpool.
People can disagree with me, but no one is going to shut me up. And, no, I don’t believe Johnson owes Liverpool a repeated apology. There are plenty in the queue for one ahead of Liverpool, I suspect!
I also suspect that my new book The Big Book of Boris – a collection of Borisisms – might not make it into the Liverpool branch of Waterstone’s.