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Jerry Hayes

Is it time for the Telegraph to call a moratorium on all old expenses stories?

May 31st, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

I know that this will probably make me about as popular as a ham sandwich in Tehran, but I’m just beginning to wonder whether the Telegraph group should call a moratorium on all expenses stories that took place in the the last Parliament. Yes,yes there should be transparency. Yes, yes the wickedness of our legislators should be exposed. Yes, yes, they should be punished. But now, as we spiral down the plug hole of our financial profligacy and the Euro is on the verge of total melt down, the Barclay brothers should perhaps say enough is enough.

What this country needs is stable government and clarity of commitment to restore the public finances. The Robespierian glee that has greeted MP’s  being bundled to the guillotine and the enthusiastic knitting by the Oompa Loompas who seek to lead the Labour Party, does for public confidence what King Herod did for babysitting. The coalition still has the goodwill of the nation and it is vital that that continues. Squander it and it will be Retsinas all round. And anyway, there are going to be a few show trial to sate the appetite of the mob.

I suppose, there is a vague upside in showing that the LibDems have as many feet of clay as the rest of us, but that’s about as far as it goes. Poor Danny Alexander had better prepare himself for an onslaught on his integrity, his competence and more seriously, the fact that he is a ginger. To lose one Chief Secretary is an accident, another would be a catastrophe.

What has really surprised me has been the luke warm response to the Laws tragedy from unexpected sources. My old chum Ben Summerskill, of Stonewall, has made it known that this an expenses scandal rather than a gay one. Well, up to a point. Laws wouldn’t have got into this mess if he didn’t have to deal with the aversion of coming out. Peter Tatchell’s similar views are more understandable. Peter is as tireless as he is courageous in his campaigning for justice. But he was horribly scarred by the Southwark by election when the Liberal candidate conducted a homophobic campaign against him, urging the electorate to vote for their, “straight candidate”. Ironically it was Simon Hughes. And as for progressive, Labour supporting, Duncan Ballantyne’s tweet yesterday that, ” how could anyone be called honourable if they hide their sexuality?” Nothing more can be said, save that I hope a lot of pink towels will find themselves in other health clubs.

But on an optimistic note, watch out for the rise and rise of Lord Carlisle QC. Now, don’t get him muddled with Tory rightwinger John Carlisle of whom it used to be joked that he used to watch Roots backwards so that there was a happy ending. Alex is a Lib Dem peer whom I happily served three parliaments with in the Commons. He is a wise head and a safe pair of hands. He is the government’s independent advisor on security and has come up with an ingenious plan to deal with the deportation of terrorists without having to abolish the Human Rights Act.  More of that at a later date.

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Call me an old cynic but what is Vince Cable up to?

May 30th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

The personal tragedy of David Laws is not the beginning of the end of the coalition nor even the end of the beginning, but it has diverted attention away from a potential hazard that puzzles me. I can understand why Vince Cable wanted to relinquish the role of Deputy Leader of his party, which is about as relevant and utilitarian as a cat flap in a submarine. To abandon the rubber chicken circuit, administering counselling to a potentially fractious grass roots is a distraction from the enormities of his cabinet job. In fact,nobody in their right mind would want the job, which is probably why Simon Hughes is so keen to get it. But why did Cable anoint him as his successor?

Simon is a lovely chap, delightfully disorganized and brimming with ideas. Yet he does represent the Rampton Wing of his party. In the days when the SDP was just a mischievous glint in David Owen’s eye, Simon was leading the unreconstructed woolly hat brigade. Bizarre compromises would suddenly appear from nowhere. In the emotionally charged debate on the age of sexual equality Simon announced to the House that the age on consent should be seventeen. Why? Heaven knows. And recently, in an almost Whovian strangulation of logic, he came up with the corker of setting up Lib Dem shadows for his own coalition government. Matron! Medication quickly!

So, call me an old cynic, but what is Vince Cable up to? He is a thoroughly able member of the government and committed to the coalition, but every fibre of his cerebral cortex is that of tax and spend. The poor chap has probably had to develop more reverse gears than an Italian tank. Does he want Hughes in place to stoke the flames of Liberalism? To be the tweaker in Chief of consciences? To harrow the government with every crackers idea that slips into the Hughes mind? This may not be the plan but the reality could be a total nightmare. It’s difficult enough getting policy through the department, then Number 10, then the Treasury, then the Commons and Lords without the added factor of Hughesian bonkery validated with some form of democratic mandate.

And then there are the other candidates for the job. Just where are they?  I’m sure Tim Farron is a lovely chap, but when I Googled him, Paris Hilton’s dogs got more column inches. He’s not even a household name in his own household. But there are some perfectly sensible people who could do a sane  and sensible job in helping keep the Lib Dems’ feet on the ground. What about Don Foster, Bob Russell or even bring in old stagers like Alan Beith or Malcolm Bruce. And what about shoving Paul Keetch into the Lords and giving him the job?  The talent is there, it’s just that someone at the top needs to think this through.

And as for Simon Hughes? A challenge. Put him in charge of a commission which will take years to report back, make him President of the Council of Europe. You could even make him Governor of Bermuda. Just keep him busy and out of the way.

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I don’t give a damn that we paid rent to Law’s lover

May 29th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

I don’t give a damn about David Law’s sexuality. I don’t give a damn that we paid rent to his lover. What I do give a damn about is that a perfectly decent human being, doing an impressive job at the Treasury, will be cast through the portals of hell by the Sunday newspapers. And what of his lover? The poor fellow will have the minutiae of his life under the microscope. Bed fellows, real or imagined, will appear from the past, fantasists will hold out greasy little palms to the redtops and Max Clifford will, no doubt, increase the bulge in his wallet. So remember when we tut, when we gasp, when we take some prurient pleasure in the rich and powerful falling from grace, just remember that two intensely private people will be turned into a freak show for our collective entertainment. And when the locusts of the press have finally devoured every last morsel of their dignity and the husks of their lives only appear as small paragraphs adorning Jordan’s latest breast implant, these men, their family and their friends will have to pretend that they are living a normal life. What I find so utterly depressing, so gut wrenchingly nauseating, so mind numbingly wicked, is the glee that some find in the whole affair. Some Labour tweeters seem to think that it is an immense joke, or  just another piece of political artillery  to fire on the coalition. And, of course, the headbangers of the Tory press will relish this as further proof of Cameron’s betrayal of family values and flirting with degeneracy. Well, one day boys, you’re going to have to look at yourselves in the mirror.

So there is just one question that really matters. Has David Laws behaved corruptly? The answer was simply put in a tweet by the Financial Times journalist and serious thinker, Christopher Cook, last night. If Laws had declared his relationship he could have charged the taxpayer for the whole mortgage. So when banner headlines demand a scalp, I hope that David Cameron and Nick Clegg have the compassion and common sense to ride out the storm. Doing the right thing is not always the easy option, but for sleeping at night it’s better than Horlicks.

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Cameron’s first political bomb

May 27th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

While Downing Street officials repair the broken door panels and no longer feel nervous when standing next to their new boss under a full moon, Cameron must be wondering when the first political bomb will explode. Well, it won’t be the election of Graham Brady and his chums to the Chairmanship and executive of the 1922 Committee.

The press will portray this as a blow to his authority from the right. But if anything, it could strengthen the coalition. The Conservative leadership is always at its best when it doesn’t pretend to have unfettered power. Brady is not a head banging loon with the ego of Bill Cash. His views may be out of kilter with the Cameroons, but he is not of the swivel-eyed, Lederhosen tendency, which kept the Conservatives out of government for thirteen years. Many of his thoughts will be as welcome as a cup of cold sick, but they will represent the views some rather confused backbenchers and activists who have had their political compasses removed. The new 22 executive should not be regarded as the enemy, but a useful valve to ease some of the pressure. David Cameron ignores them at his peril.

The first whiff of serious discontent will be over a capital gains tax hike. It’s starting to have traction already. Soon the Daily Mail will be tearing at our heart strings with tales of elderly grannies who have saved all their lives only to be thrown to the wolves by the Cleggeroon Commies. One word of advice. Don’t face people like Redwood and David Davis down. The midwife of this coalition has been and must remain, commonsense pragmatism. Openly consult and debate. If there is wiggle room, shake your political hips like Jordan, as long as people know there has to be a price; the money will have to be found somewhere. This is not a time for the political machismo that destroyed Gordon Brown. If a sensible and costed compromise can be found, let it be done.

Watching the Labour leadership campaign is like a cross between Scrapheap Challenge and Miss World. The Miliblands have sailed through the swimwear round, but are still at that embarrassing stage of drivelling  banality. And as for Ed Balls? It is unfortunate that he always looks like he’s just come back from a seal clubbing holiday in Nova Scotia. As one Labour sage once told me, “Ed is a really nice guy, until you get to know him”. And who’s left? Diane Abbott?For God’s sake, the woman’s got more Me Me Mes than Pavarotti and her head is so far up her backside she needs a team of sniffer dogs to remove it. The only thoroughly  decent man in the contest is John Cruddas, who has had the honesty and humility to say that he doesn’t have that Papal certainty that is a necessary in a leader. And here lies the problem for Labour. They are floating in an eerie vacuum. They have just seen two parties mutate into a socially aware progressive coalition, that actually seems to tap into a primal chord. If Labour go left they are doomed. But if they stay as they are, they will be in political purgatory for eternity. I don’t know the answer. Neither I suspect do the leadership contenders.

And finally. Did anyone read the rather eccentric piece in the Guardian yesterday by David Marquand? He was suggesting that the realignment of British politics should be along the lines of  Caroline Lucas and the Greens. Now I don’t wish to be unkind, but the smile of La Belle Lucas makes Gordon Brown’s look warm and winning.

But was this the David Marquand who was a Labour MP and then fled to Brussels with Roy Jenkins when he became President of the Commission? I fear so. When Woy left he made a parting speech to friends. In full lisp he said,” I leave this house with sadness, but without wrancour”.  To which a wag commented, “But I thought you were taking David Marquand with you”. I think that says it all.

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Hello (This is my first post so go easy on me)

May 26th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Jerry HayesSome of you will have heard of me, others not. From 1983-1997 I was the Tory MP for Harlow, until the New Labour Tsunami swept me aside. Luckily I had a life raft, namely writing, broadcasting and the criminal bar. But best of all, I was helped by some really great journo mates. Some may remember me on the James Whale Show, others as political editor of PUNCH. Sadly, Al Fayed pulled the plug. Now I’m full time at the bar, but really miss my column. So cases permitting, I’m going to have a crack at blogging. For anyone that’s mildly interested I’m on the independent left of the Conservative Party. During the Thatcher years I was regarded as a rebel. Heaven knows why, I just believed in social justice and pragmatism. But in those days that was about as popular as a rat sandwich. On one occasion I reduced our majority from 140 to 4. I was not always popular with the right.

So here it goes.

The fellow who advised David Cameron to take on the 1922 Committee without bothering to read the rules should be easy to spot. He’d be the one hobbling from the Cabinet Office back door with a one way ticket and unlikely to make a donation to the National Sperm Bank for a considerable time. Backbenchers should be hugged close. Clegg and Cameron should learn from the mistakes of Blair, Brown and Heath who treated them with barely concealed contempt. They must wander the bars, the Tea room and the lobbies pressing the flesh. Peter Walker once persuaded Ted Heath to chat to some of the boys in the Smoking room. “You remember Reggie”, said Walker, “made a speech yesterday”. Dear Reggie, a knight of the Shires, a face carved from Spam and whose gene pool you would not drown, leaned forward for a compliment. “Yes”, said Ted “and bloody awful it was too”. Heath was never invited to press the parliamentary flesh again. In politics bullshit only works when you lay it on with at trowel. Cameron and Clegg ooze with charm and bonhomie. There won’t be a dry gusset in the tea room The guys will love it.

An early lesson Cameron must learn is that the right take no prisoners. The corpse may twitch, but it can come to life and bite you in the leg when you least expect it. When John Major was first installed in Downing Street he received a visit from George Gardner, the leader of the powerful 92 group. “Prime Minister if you do things our way your life will be so much easier”. “Thank you George” said an ever polite Major “now kindly fuck off”. The rest is history.

No matter how well this coalition does, the right will feel betrayed and use any excuse to cause trouble. Like the left they need a totem pole to dance round. They need certainty, they need blind faith and most important of all, a craven image to worship. They had all that in Thatcher and their bereavement at her political death still runs deep. So don’t wage war on them, there is no need as the coalition has a good working majority. And don’t treat them like Mrs Duffy. Their views may seem strange, provincial and sometimes bigoted, but quite a lot of the grass roots share them. It’s difficult to teach an old dogma new tricks. But with tender loving care it can be done.

And finally, three words of warning for the twelve newbies who some might say, have had the arrogance and mind blowing stupidity to put themselves up for election to the 22 executive. “You’re being used”. Forget all this nonsense that you are there to be independent minded. That’s Hattie’s line and she is up to mischief. The Whips only want you for your bodies, not your views. They need to get government business through and not be messed around by the kindergarten. My advice to them is if they want to rebel chose the issue carefully, be sure of your facts and consult with everyone, particularly the old hands. If not glittering careers will transform into parliamentary road kill very quickly indeed.