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Jerry Hayes

Labour, the Marie Celeste of British politics, has hoisted the skull and Crossbones with a whiff of cordite and plunder in the air.

June 27th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

For weeks the Labour Party has been the Marie Celeste of British politics. Some believe they were just a legend and never existed. Wilder folk claim to have stumbled upon them looming out of the mists. Others say they that have clambered aboard the hulk floating aimlessly on the high seas, only to find places set to eat, but not a sign of the crew. This they found an eerie and unsettling experience. Many are still in therapy. But suddenly, a wind has filled those lifeless sails, the skull and crossbones has been hoisted, the gun deck hatches are flying open; there is a whiff of cordite and plunder in the air. At last Labour have found something to fight, to hate, to vilify. In one enormous, united primal scream of loathing, frustration  bitterness and perceived betrayal, they concentrate their fire on the Lib Dems. Of course, they haven’t get locked on to the the fact the the public have always despised Party Politics almost as much  as the politicians.

It is now great sport for a carefully whipped Labour claque to jeer and humiliate these poor devils in the Commons and in the media. This morning even my old chum Tom Watson, tweeted that Clegg was the, “child of Thatcher”. Well, if he  was, she’d have put him out for adoption years ago and handed back the child benefit to some charity in support of General Pinochet. And it will get worse. Ed Balls, spluttering bile and hatred, as only Gordon Brown’s creator could, is organising the mad, bad and deluded to take to the streets to bring down the coalition over its hike in VAT. You wouldn’t have thought that he was a key member of  a government that, two years ago, was going to do exactly the same. Treasury ministers had signed off the increase, but changed their minds a few days before the budget. The trouble is they left it on the website. But don’t let the truth ruin a depressing story.

Yet, our hearts must go out to the Guardian group and the Independent who urged their readers to desert Labour and vote Lib dem in the hope of destroying the Tories. You would have to have a heart of stone not to be hysterical with laughter. Even the splendid Andrew Rawnsley wrote a piece today about the, “worm of anxiety” running through the Lib Dems. Well, that worm has turned. And please, say a prayer for the repose of the political soul on the Sindy, who wrote an appallingly researched confection about a, “secret deal”, with Labour to defeat the Budget. Jane Merrick, very sensibly, kept her byline well clear of that little turkey.

But for anyone who had any niggling fears about cracks in the coalition stories, they should have watched Vince Cable, the weather vane of the Lib Dem conscience, on Andrew Marr. This is the man whom every journo  is desperate to portray as an Osborne hating, Coalition denying, lefty, who can’t wait to extricate himself from this putrid alliance. Not only did Cable give a straight answer to every question, he made it quite clear that his Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes wasn’t going to try and amend the Finance Bill. He was the equivalent to a political breath of fresh air.

It reminded me of a quiz show I helped put together with the legendary broadcaster, Ed Boyle, for Carlton TV. Ed, like most people of genius, is quite mad. He does have a habit of trying to set my hair on fire at social occasions when I am least expecting it. And he is quite mischievous at trying to put broadcasters off their stride. Once, when I was doing a live piece about dangerous dogs, I heard a yelping and barking in the studio and then felt something biting my ankles, it was Ed. I fell apart. And once, when the splendid Peter Spencer, now with SKY, was addressing the nation, Ed did his best to make him corpse. First,he took down his trousers and farted. To no avail. Then he extracted his dick and waved it around. Stoically, Spencer ploughed on.

But, back to the quiz show, “A Kick in the Ballots”. Charlie Kennedy was in the chair, Neil Kinnock and myself on opposing teams. One of the games devised by Ed was, ” U Turn”. Basically, a team member was given a position to argue and then when Charlie shouted, ” U turn” , that’s exactly what they had to do, turn their previous argument on its head. The politicians did it  so utterly seamlessly, it was rather scary to watch. It was taken off air after two episodes.

Yet,  although both members of the Coalition are able to turn an argument on its head, the public don’t find it scary at all. Ironically, if the polls are to be believed, they find it rather reassuring. So come on Labour hopefuls, “U Turn!” You know it will be effortless.

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The Lib Dems, as well as being a welcome conscience to the Tories, have earned power by understanding restraint

June 25th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Despite the fact that some Tory MPs pay good money for it, discipline is not all that popular in the Commons and has never been fashionable with the Lib Dems. But without it, government is paralysed, and leadership is merely running just ahead of the mob. You just have to have a strong Whip’s Office with an effective intelligence service. Gone are the days of the thuggery of the Labour strongmen like Michael Cox and Bob Mellish. They had to deal with tough working men from the Unions who would think nothing of flooring a colleague in argument and would give as good as they got. I can remember, before cctv was installed in the chamber, witnessing the delightfully deranged Ron Brown smashing the mace. In mid debate, Deputy Chief Whip, Don Dixon, an enormous man built like a bull, looked him straight in the eye, thumped him hard in the stomach, threw him over his shoulder in a fireman’s lift and took him into a corridor to give him a good talking to. Nobody batted an eyelid. And then there was the legendary Walter Harrison. He thoroughly disapproved of drunkeness and sexual shenanigans on overseas trips, locking MPs in their hotel rooms after eleven. He once exploded when he heard that someone was abroad when he should have been voting. “Get me the bastard” he screamed. The MP eventually phoned him. “And where the fuck are you son?”   “Well, actually”, said the quivering wretch, “I’m in Crete”. “Well, if you’re not back for the vote lad, you’ll be in fucking concrete”. He returned.

The Tories had their moments too. Sir Spencer Marchant, a delightful and very wealthy drunk, spied one of his charges creeping out of the Stephens, before an important vote. Puce with rage, he chased after the fellow and kicked him down the stairs with a, “don’t you think I don’t know what you’re up to you little shit”. Sadly, it was the Peruvian Ambassador on his way home from dinner with the Foreign Secretary.  And then there was the wonderful, twenty five stone figure of David Lightbown, known as the caring whip. There was a much exaggerated account of fisticuffs between us after I had led a rebellion on a standing committee. What really happened was, after a salty altercation involving talk of sex and travel, he gave me a gentle dig in the ribs and in return I gave him a playful knee in the groin. All very grown up.

But it is all much subtler nowadays. There will always be a Beria like presence at every meeting, every department, the Tea room, the dining rooms, the bars. These shadowy figure will be soaking up the mood, noting the little betrayals, listening to the weasels, flattering the vain and bribing the ambitious. And watching the political Meercats sniffing the air for advantage. There will always be those who will sell their souls for a red box.

I would be lying if I did not admit to stunned amazement at how well The Coalition is holding together. Of course, it’s early days and Labour  is leaderless. My greatest fear was that the Lib Dems would be totally unwhippable and as unpredictable and capricious as Terry Wogan’s toupe . The first real test was newly elected Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes’s bit of bonkery in saying that they could make amendments to the Budget. Well that didn’t last for long. You could almost feel the Chief Whip applying the pressure to his left gonad as, the “clarification” was written within a couple of hours. All a terrible misunderstanding, “No plans to amend…….purely hypothetical….blah, blah,blah”. The Kremlinologists should inspect this with  care. It shows that the Lib Dems are in for the long haul. Not only are they becoming a very welcome conscience for the Tories, but they have shown that they have earned power by understanding the importance of restraint. The Labour leadership contenders should be very, very, worried.

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The horror of loneliness

June 19th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

This morning, I read with utter horror, that my old friend David Ruffley, “had thrown himself under a train.”  Thank heavens his injuries are minor. He is bright, hardworking,  good company and has been slaving away on the Conservative front bench for a decade. Just the sort of person you would expect to be a minister. Sadly, he lost out.

Despite the veneer of conviviality, the House of Commons can be as lonely and desolate as an inner city sink estate. I am not, for one moment, comparing it to the agonies of grey faced mothers driven to despair for their sons by the lure of the drugs gangs, nor the terrified pensioners imprisoned in their homes, nor the stench of poverty, decay and the utter hopelessness. Nothing can be as bad as that. But understand, that when the final division bell tolls, the bars have emptied and the taxi ride home ends with a lonely flat, the demons, the uncertainties and the profound disappointments can gnaw at the soul with a vengeance. And sometimes with mortal consequences.

Because all politicians have to wear a mask of supreme confidence, strut the stage with absolute certainty, show no sign of weakness, be beyond reproach and have the sex life of the Queen Mother, the Commons appears to be the perfect comfort blanket. But don’t be fooled. The disneyland of pretence is the order of the day, because baring of the soul to parliamentary colleagues is like cutting your finger in a shark tank.

Oh, how I wish that the dapper, chirpy little man I used to seat next to had confided in me that he was in deep financial trouble. It may have saved me from reading about his sealing himself in his car with a bottle of whisky and the exhaust hose, and attending his memorial service with his bewildered widow and tearblown children. Oh, how I wish that the tubby Labour MP I used to drink with had told us that he was gay and was being unmercifully bullied by other MPs. I wouldn’t have had to had to read of his distorted body being found with a noose round his neck. Oh, how I wish that the convivial Tory I used to enjoy dinner with had told me that he was desperately unhappy. I wouldn’t   have had to read of his body lying unloved and unattended for three days. We didn’t even notice that he had gone missing for three weeks.

The list is sad and endless. I do hope that what happened to David Ruffley was an accident and that it wasn’t a deliberate act on his part. But let this be a lesson to the new intake. At least find one good friend you can trust and confide in. Don’t be obsessed with the greasy pole, the endless grind, the thankless drudgery. Enjoy the role, no matter how minor, that fate has dealt you. But most important of all, understand that there is more to life than the fantasy of party politics.

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My hairdryer experience with Norman Tebbit

June 17th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

I wonder what my  dear old friend Alan Watkins would have made of this coalition. Sitting in his usual spot at El Vinos, sipping his champagne, it would have probably been, one word, “rum”. Alan was one of that dying breed of journalists of which only Iain Aitkin, Chris Moncrieff, Geoffrey Goodman and Paul Routledge remain, whose breadth of knowledge, people and issues are unrivalled. He was loved by the people he skewered and most important of all, trusted. Lunchtimes with Alan could last into the early evening and he was a renowned three bottler. But what would have shocked him is the speed at which David Cameron has radically reformed the Conservative Party. It will be some time before the Colonel and Mrs Mads who run the coffee mornings and shepherd’s pie evenings in the Shires will fully come to terms with it all, but so far there has been little real complaint. Evena died in the wool Thatcherites, like Lord Young are fully on board. And not too much grinding and gnashing of teeth from Norman Tebbit, who smiles upon Cameron  with the warmth of an undertaker measuring  up a corpse.

Many years ago when Norman Tebbit was Party Chairman, I wandered into the Commons with a spring in my step. The sun was shining, the birds were tweeting and all was well with the world, until a gothic gloom descended as The Chairman alighted from his bullet proof car. “Morning Norman”, I chirped, “lovely day”. Almost in slow motion, the death’s head turned to me, the eyes twinkling like a brass plate on a coffin. “No it’s not”.  ”But why?” Was my cheery enquiry. ”You, you little cu*t. I saw you on tv last night asking the government to spend more on pensioners and the Health Service”.  “But”, says I, ” I was only being reasonable ”. At that I received the full finger jabbing, hair drier bollocking that would make Alex Ferguson look like the Andrex Puppy. “Listen, you little shit. You’re a Tory backbencher. It’s not your job to be reasonable. Your first duty is loyalty to your leader, then your party and nothing else.” And with the smell brimstone and sulphur still lingering in the air, off he went, probably to a seal clubbing weekend in Nova Scotia.

Some years later ,when he made a personal attack on John Major at a fringe meeting at a Party conference I reminded him about his lecture on loyalty. I suspect my witty aside of , “who’s the cu*t now”, did not endear me to him. That and filming his speech in slow motion for channel 4 with the voice of Freddy Mercury singing, “I’m going quietly mad”. Things were never quite the same after that.

But what is so remarkable about Cameron and the coalition is that it oozes reasonableness. Good God, even the cabinet are consulted. And as for Nick Clegg approving the removal of the loan to Forgemasters, right next door to his constituency, it showed a level of political courage and example, I did not think possible from any minister. It is a clear warning to other ministers that if the DPM can make a personal sacrifice, so must they. It will be painful, it will be unpopular, but it hammers home the message of, “We are all in this together”. But Alan would still think it was all a bit rum. He will be sorely missed.

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Cameron will be cracking open the Galtieri 1981: Ashcroft to slag him off in memoirs

June 13th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Like so so many of his predecessors, David Cameron will be wetting his Prime Ministerial Bodens when he opens the News of the World this morning. But not out of fear of some Tory Love Rat Sex Cheat who will have to exit the Cabinet by the back door, with a blanket over his head, to spend more time with Max Clifford. No, no, no. This is a story that will have the champagne corks popping at Number 10 and tears of joy rolling down the palid face of William Hague. Lord Ashcroft will be publishing his memoirs in the autumn and what’s more, will be slagging off David Cameron as a disastrous leader and the election campaign as a fiasco.

Poor old Hague inherited Ashcroft at a time when the Conservative Party’s finances made Iceland look like a booming economy. He came to the rescue, but at an enormous political price The Ashcroft millions and his dodgy non dom status, came close to derailing the election campaign. Cameron did his best to distance himself, but the man’s damaging presence  hung in the air like a fart in a lift. Hague would have preferred a drive with Edward Kennedy or a dip in Michael Barrymore’s swimming pool, than sign that letter to the Cabinet Secretary promising that soon the peer would be paying hundreds of millions to the taxpayer. A document that had the veracity of a mortgage application  by Peter Mandelson.

So now, Ashcroft will finally sever his links with the Cameroons with the disinfectant of Gothic moonlight.There is nothing quite so heartwarming and entertaining as the bile of a bitter man. And the name of of the company publishing this great work? Biteback Media, prop. M Ashcroft. It really is too much. Matron, the incontinence pants, quick!

But if that hasn’t exhausted the Prime Ministerial laughter glands, and gets him opening a bottle of the Galtieri 1981, he should pick up the Sunday Telegraph and read the piece by their splendid Political Editor, Pat Hennessy. Alan Johnson may force a by-election over PR.

Of course, we all know that PR is as popular with Labour and the Conservatives as cocktails on Fred West’s patio. The public scuppering of it by the electorate and prompted by Labour, would ease tensions within the Coaltion and cause the Lib Dems’s new Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes, to return to secure accommodation. Just don’t tell Eric Pickles about any of this. His belly laughs could cause a national disaster.

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Diane Abbott could be the Nick Clegg of the Leadership Election

June 12th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

One of the many pleasures of not being a tribune of the people, is that I don’t have to pretend to have the slightest interest in football. The, “get pally with the lumpen proletariat”,  is a New Labour phenomenon, not to be aped by the Cameroons. This patronising, testosterone fuelled laddism, was designed not just to show how cool and in touch everyone was, but also to exclude. As a member of the press gallery in the heady days of Campbell,  you could see ambitious young journos embracing the culture of the terrace in order to rub shoulders and clunk pints in manly,ersatz chummyness, to grab a story. Now some people did like all this sort of thing. Michael Foot was a genuine supporter and worshipped his team. But he didn’t make a big display of it. We know now that Blair’s interest in football was cynically illusory, with Campbell providing the briefings.

However, before I get too pious, my ego did get a boost when I was asked to play in a charity match at Wembley. The proper one. Not this horrible temple of Rastafarian Gothic, whose turf has been laid more times than Katie Price. And what’s more, I scored a goal. So here we were, proudly marching through the famous tunnel, to find that the cheering crowds were not for us, but the greyhounds, who out of  sheer nerves had turded our graceful exit. What my team had failed to realise was that my knowledge of football is comparable with Paris Hilton’s grasp of Wittgenstein. Halfway through the game, I found myself motoring through player after player and heading for the goal, and to to the back of the net it sailed. Elation! But no hugs for me. Sadly, I hadn’t realised you change ends at half time.

So it is a breath of fresh air that Diane Abbott will not be troubling us with all this football nonsense. I really don’t believe for one moment that she can possibly win the Labour leadership election, but I have a sneaking feeling that she may turn out to be the Nick Clegg of the contest and dynamise the debate. David Miliband may rue the day that in a selfless act of opportunism,  he redistributed some of his lobby fodder so that she could appear on the ballot paper. Perish the thought that any of them will actually vote for her. How refreshing that a white middle class, middle aged  man should give a black woman an opportunity to fail. Although to be fair to Miliband, he probably thought it was equal opportunities for someone from Cambridge to have a crack at it. But the ballpark has radically changed. MPs are now just a small part of the electoral equation and Abbott will grasp the opportunity to show the grass roots that she doesn’t have the baggage of war and the pilfering of the poor. She could portray herself as a radical in the style of Labour’s founding fathers, championing the underclass. Already, serious political commentators like Simon Carr are beginning to take her seriously. Good heavens, she’s even been love bombed by Eric Pickles. Not a pretty sight.

Her advantage is that she stands out from the achingly predictable, monochrome morass of failure and mediocrity. She could resonate with the faithful in such a way that could prompt a “stop Abbott” response from the others. It won’t be long before that Iago of the candidates, the ghastly Balls, will be pouring poison into the ears of the press against her and Charlie Whelan’s Unite phone banks going into meltdown.

Many years ago, when Diane was first elected I saw her on the Terry Wogan Show saying that she was quite prepared to pair with a Tory on uncontentious votes. Swiftly, I penned a charming note with a photo, offering my services. A couple of weeks later the photo was returned. This could be my great chance to end those sleepless nights. Until I noticed two lovingly crafted words scrawled  on it. FUCK OFF. This girl has judgement. She will do well.

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Thatcher goes to Number 10: the return of the mummy

June 8th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Having shared a desk with Enoch Powell, read a Liz Jones column and seen Frankie Boyle live, I am no stranger to psychoanalysis. But what weird mental aberration persuaded officials that it would be a good wheeze to invite Margaret Thatcher to Number 10 to have a chat about her concerns with the Coalition? It’s not going to appease the Tory right, who are spoiling for a fight whatever Cameron does and is a gift to the Rampton Wing of the Labour press. Wheeling the old dear out for a photo call with Cameron and Clegg at a time when the Treasury axe is being taken to public services, doesn’t quite send out the right message. But Thatcher, whatever you think of her, is a symbolic political fetish of great potency. She stands for courage, determination, leadership and singlemindedness. She is also, of course, as mad as a box of frogs. Even, Gordon Brown  invited her over for tea. God knows what they talked about. Perhaps she wondered where all the immigrants were coming from.

The most remarkable thing about Thatcher is that for someone who has become an icon of the Western world, she has absolutely no sense of humour. She could not understand, when being fimed by ITN in 1979,  why the crew collapsed in hysterical laughter when she picked up a Black and Decker drill saying it was the largest tool she’d ever had in her hand. Or the time, when astride a large field gun in the desert, she remarked that she hoped it didn’t jerk her off.

And not only without humour, but also rather unwordly. I’ll never forget the time when Willie Whitelaw slumped into an armchair in the smoking room with a bucket of whisky clamped to his shaking hand at the time of the government AIDS campaign. ”What’s the matter Willie?” we chirped. Ashen faced, he told us that he had tried to explain anal sex to the great lady. I would have loved to have been a fly on that particular wall.

But she did like a drink. I remember being on a large gin palace with her sailing towards a newly refurbished Tower bridge which she was due to light up. The Remembrancer, the City of London’s head flunky, couldn’t undertand why she was spitting tacks. ” Ive been filling her up with the best champagne”, he wailed,”I just don’t understand”. When it was explained to him that her tipple was J and B whisky, a police launch was despatched to Bottoms Up and civility was restored.

Yet Thatcher arouses deep primal feelings. Worshipped  by the right and ferociously hated by the left. When John MacDonnell said that his quip about  assasinating her was a joke, he was sending a very clear gutteral message to his supporters. There was more than just a glint in his eye.

The difference between the coalition and Thatcher is that Clegg and Cameron are only too aware that, drastic as the cuts must be, they must be managed in socially responsible way. I don’t think she had a clue the misery that some of her policies would cause, nor now how divided society would become. The Coalition is not going to make that mistake. Far better to launch it as a blood, sweat and tears national crusade, implemented by consensus rather than brute force.

So when Margaret Thatcher is invited to Tea at Number 10 let let be for no other reason than an act of compassion for a weary old lady wanting to relive old memories through rheumy eyes. But certainly not for advice

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Be afraid, be very afraid, Mandelson is publishing his diaries

June 5th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Be afraid, be very afraid, Peter Mandelson is publishing his diaries. But what is so cheering is that the puffs, which are appearing in newspapers with the speed and dexterity of a flasher’s mac, promise that they will be, ” Frank honest and revealing”. Perhaps, not the three words all of us would associate with the great man.

But what is intriguing, is why he has refused to allow his old friend Hannah Rothschild  to screen the fly on the wall documentary, “the real PM: portrait of the real Peter Mandelson”, at the Hay Festival. According to this morning’s Independent, it was pulled at the last moment at, “Lord Mandelson’s request.

Mandelson does everything for a purpose. He is so cautious that he would take Exlax with his All Bran. He would know that having a camera follow him for the last few months under the editorial control of an old friend, is not going to be a hatchet job. And he is certainly not going to upset a Rothschild, the gateway, to glitter, yachts, country house weekends and his obsession to become filthy rich.

I suspect that it is no coincidence that he is in the middle of a publishing war with his old foe, Alastair Campbell, whom he never forgave for his last sacking, whose diaries, the sexed up version, are to be published shortly.Prepare, preferably with a clove of garlic and a wooden stake, for Mandelson’s weapons of mass distraction to be unleashed.

If ever there is an enigma within a riddle, it is Mandelson. He delights in cloak and dagger mystery and relishes in his title of Prince of Darkness. But forget at your peril the warning of Max Hastings recently in the Mail, “he is a bad, bad, bad man.” His enemies might just see a flash of cloak, but they will never notice the knife, poisoned with malice, slip quietly into their backs. He is a dangerous and unforgiving foe. George Osborne still bears the scars of reporting a private conversation in a Taverna in Corfu. A conversation about Brown and the cabinet laced with carefully placed venom. What Osborne didn’t appreciate was that this was Mandelson’s way of giving baubles to the savages in the hope of some future opportunity if the Tories won. This, “betrayal” of a confidence very nearly destroyed Osborne. Hell was unleashed. Never go tiger shooting with Mandelson, he’d have done a deal with the tiger by teatime.

But he has considerable charm, immense ability and connections that start with Prince Charles. I have never met a senior civil servant who hasn’t said that he was a first class minister, on top of his brief. His skills as a manipulator are legendary. I was reporting the famous Tribune rally where Tony Banks, as minister, made a speech which brought the hall to its feet. “I don’t want to hear a word about Peter Mandelson, I want the the whole bloody library”. You never saw that in mainstream print. It was the story, and a good one. What appeared in the press was Banks’s comment that he thought that the leader of the opposition, William Hague, looked like a foetus. That barely raised a laugh in the hall, but Mandelson’s, threats, charm and promises to the press, turned a  rant against him into an attack on the Tories. Utterly brilliant.

So don’t be surprised that there will be endless press speculation about his motives for pulling the film, nor that it will be screened on the BBC just as the books hit the shelves, which will send Mandelson laughing to the bank and Campbell crying into his smoothie. Oh, and don’t be amazed if he takes over the job of Chairing BP.  Before we know it oil stricken birds will be soaring heavenwards and the coast of Florida a paradise on earth. I recently suggested to an old Labour hand that Mandelson was fast becoming a national treasure. “Quite right, he grunted, “and the evil bastard should be well and truly buried”.

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Putting the Case for Harman

June 3rd, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

As someone who has made a fitness video with Heather Mills, been asked by Mark Thomas to dress up in a Penis suit and absailed across my constituency dressed as a chicken, I feel that I am more than well qualified to comment on the Labour leadership election. Sadly, we are all going to be bombarded with the most pointless drivel from those wanting to,” recapture the heart and soul of the Party, reconnect with the electorate and listen”. Well, the people have spoken. The bastards.

The reason it is so pointless to recite these mantras is because  the only question really worth asking the candidates is who is going to win them the election, or at least, who has the best chance.

Like Thatcher, Blair was regarded as outsider, not really of the Party, but parachuted in as a winner. But like all those with large majorities, after a while they tend to chew carpets, do silly things and equate the national interest with their own. They rarely admit  mistakes, brazen the most stupid of decisions out and dragoon their lobby fodder into defending the indefensible. Remember Thatcher’s proud boast, ” never apologise never explain”?  That’s when mindlessly, ” following the line”, becomes a badge of honour and a pathway to promotion. In 1983, I remember being open mouthed at a new colleague making a speech supporting one of the more bizarre and unpopular parts of policy. I turned to the chap sitting next to me and said, “well, that’s him stuffed”.  ”No, no”, said the old hand, “he’ll get a job in the next reshuffle”. He did. It was Michael Howard.

So how on earth is Labour going to pick a winner when they are fighting a coalition that actually believes in consensus government? What actually do they  home in on to attack?  The cuts that they were going to implement themselves a few months later? Hardly. The trouble is until the candidates present a realistic fiscal policy, they might as well go home and watch the soaps.

So who have they got. Ed Balls, this morning, had the lowest approval rating of any recorded politician, a staggering minus thirty nine percent. Even Saddam Hussein, dead, would do better. He is deeply unpopular with backbenchers, not just as the creator of Brown, but for bully boy arm breaking and knowing where the bodies are buried. Good heavens, he buried most of them. So he will lose.

Ed Miliband is a geek, though deeply popular with the grassroots,  just somehow just doesn’t look or sound quite right. His recent press release asks that,”our party does something that it hasn’t done for decades, have an open and honest discussion about our fundamental direction”. Oh yeah, isn’t that what happened in the eighties? No surprise that Tony Benn supports him. And David? Of course he’ll win, but lacks the killer instinct. Rather than a full frontal attack on Brown he preferred a strategy of nudges and winks. And David is a winker of immense proportions. But it would be delightfully Orwellian to enter an election campaign asking for a Vote for Big Brother. What is so hilarious is that the best website is from James Garner MP, a spoof. Warning. Once the electorate finds you a joke serious trouble is afoot. Remember how Spitting Image destroyed David Steel.

The saddest loss in this election is Harriet Harman. People see her as a stern humourless matron of feminism, but she has achieved more for equality and diversity than just about anyone save Leo Abse. People forget what she has had to put up with. When she was elected there were no women’s lavatories in the Commons, just doors marked “Members Only”, which sounded like the porn mags she tried to ban. Her colleagues tended to be florid faced, dandruff blown, beer sodden trade unionists, whose idea of female emancipation was allowing the missus to watch him and his mates play darts down the pub on a Sunday, before rushing home to cook the joint. Women were patronized and abused in the Commons in those days, not in a deliberate and nasty way, just that some didn’t know any better. Like Edwina Currie, Gill Knight, Elaine Kellett-Bowman, Claire Short and Audrey Wise, they fearlessly blazed a trail to give women a fair crack of the whip. Harman was also a formidable Shadow Health Secretary. We often joined forces. This is a woman of character and belief founded on principle. She’s often wrong. But at least she’s not a mealy mouthed snivelling little aparatchic, sniffing the air like the other Meercats for the main chance. The Labour Party’s loss is ours.

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PMQS:Punch didn’t just hug Judy, he almost rammed his tongue down her throat and rogered her on the back benches

June 2nd, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Can you imagine the air of Gothic gloom that descended upon the Prime Ministerial study when he first heard that cerebral maverick Douglas Carswell, Dan Hannan’s representative on earth, was to ask the first PMQ today? If Cameron dived for the Nokia, it was not to imprint on the brow of his Chief of Staff, Ed Llwellyn, but to call the Chief Whip. “Patrick, it’s bloody Carswell. Sort it, but I don’t want to see any marks”. So off would lumber McLochlan, clutching government issue electrodes, searching for a spare battery and Carswell. As it happened, The Chief Whip did his job beautifully, there was only a hint of mischief in his question about electing the Lords.

But what was so remarkable about this PMQs was that it was so devoid of tribal politics. Punch didn’t just hug Judy, he almost rammed his tongue down her throat, ripped off her knickers and rogered her on the backbenches. Gone was the clunking fist, the recitation of the latest achievements in tractor production, replaced with what appeared to be a genuine attempt to answer questions. Cameron even welcomed new Labour members to their seats. One wonders how long this will last.

But what really must have almost returned Cameron’s Camelot to Brown’s Gormanghast, was a quick read of today’s Carswell blog which disapproved of planted questions. What?  Aaargh! Quick, get the Prozac!  The trouble is whole system relies on planted questions, because  MPs are either too dim or too lazy to put anything of any useful coherence down in writing. Government’s plant questions to showcase their achievements and Oppositions plant questions to show what total tossers the government are. PMQs are one notch up. The government wants to put their PM in the best possible light and the rest just want to dangle his blood soaked genitalia from the chandeliers. And I speak as someone who made  planting questions an art form. And darn hard work it is too. First, patrol the bars like some grubby door to door salesman; buy a few drinks, get some of the guys to agree; draft some helpfuls; draft the supplementary; make sure your guys are in their place in the chamber reasonably sober; follow each line and then write a letter of groveling thanks.

Now I do hope that PMQs remains at 3pm. It will add to the jollity simply because it is after lunch and many MPs will be well refreshed, as will the sketch writers. I couldn’t get a whiff the Johnny Walker aftershave this afternoon as everyone was on their best behavior. But that won’t last for long. Slightly squiffy MPs can get rather excitable and add spice to the sheer unpredictability of the place. I can remember being on my feet asking a question, only to be seized by the arms by two drunken Knights of the Shire and dangled directly above Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson. Sadly, such high jinks were never recorded as this was in the days before Parliament was televised. But the collector can find archived delights such as a comatose fatty Soames snoring away like the Empress of Emsworth and the splendid Nicky Fairbairn collaspsing in a vodka sodden heap after asking Thatcher a question. Although my all time favourite was delightfully drunken Tony Beaumont Dark asking a question with such force that his dentures flew across the chamber and nearly embedded themselves in Dennis Skinner. That was nearly a bridge too far.

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