Do watch Steve Richards’ Leadership Reflections talks on TV

The older readers among you will remember the TV lectures on history, diplomacy and warfare by A J P Taylor. With a map as the background, Taylor stood in front of the camera and expounded his views. These lectures were riveting in their erudition and scope. Other TV lecturers in the same period, Prof Sir Mortimer Wheeler on archaeology, and Lt Gen Sir Brian Horrocks on battles, were as captivating just talking to camera.

This type of TV lecture seems to have gone out of fashion, until now with journalist and columnist Steve Richards’ Leadership Reflections – a series of unscripted talks on the theme of leadership focusing on six prime ministers.

We’ve watched five of the six programmes, only Tony Blair remaining, and have enjoyed Steve Richards talks enormously. Having lived through the era of all six prime ministers his reflections resonated with me.

The, difficult to find, lectures are on the BBC Parliament Channel, and now on they’re on iPlayer, there’s no excuse to not watch them.

Our man is back in GOVErnment*

Our, Surrey Heath MP, Rt Hon Michael Gove is back in government as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

I wondered, as probably might many others, what Boris Johnson might think or say about the appointment. *Me, being no wit, didn’t come up with this response. Boris Johnson did, see his tweet below,

An American magazine sees both sides of the High Court Brexit ruling

Much has been written about the ruling in the High Court that the government must seek a vote in Parliament prior to activating Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. Heck, I’ve written about it HERE, pointing to the variety of opinions on the court’s judgement.

national-reviewIt’s the USA’s National Review magazine that offers two well argued interpretations – one against the ruling, the other for. A famously litigious country that is the USA, and one where Supreme Court judges interpret their constitution, it’s perhaps fitting that two American writers offer their perspective. Both deserve reading in full.

Tom Rogan writes in Brexit: British Judges Defy British People,

Whatever the outcome, this is a deep judicial strike at the democratically enacted will of the British people.

And concludes in his article,

The consequences of yesterday’s ruling are clear. The democratic authority of the British people, burnished by the Blitz and Magna Carta, is now in limbo. Forming cause from arrogance, the judiciary has acted to restrain British freedom. June’s referendum had a commonly understood purpose: to devolve the decision about the U.K.’s future in the EU to British citizens. The outcome of that decision was clear: Brexit. The Supreme Court must remember those whom the High Court has forgotten: its master, the British people.

Meanwhile Andrew Stuttaford, referencing Tom Rogan’s article in Brexit and the Judges, says,

I’m not convinced [at Tom Rogan’s deep judicial strike]. As regular readers around here will know, I have supported Brexit for quite some years. I still do. Nevertheless, I do not support the idea that the referendum result plunges the rest of the British constitution into suspended animation. If Britain is to leave the EU, it must do so according to the law of the land. The EU has done a great deal of damage to the UK’s constitution. It would be ironic if Brexit were to do a bit more.

If you’re a spokesperson for a political party you had better know your party policies

Late yesterday afternoon, I was listening to the Media Show on BBC Radio 4 in the car on my way home. The last item on the programme was an interview with the media spokesperson of the Green Party – Martin Dobson.

I like the presenter – Steve Hewlett, who’s knowledgeable about media. He’s courteous and his interviews are always interesting.

The phrase car crash interview is used to describe those interviews that don’t go well. Steve’s interview with Martin Dobson was more than a car crash – it was an aircraft crash, so spectacularly inept was Martin Dobson, as were the policies he espoused. Guido Fawkes has his own report. You can hear it all here from 22 minutes into the half-hour programme.

CapX – a new website on politics, economics, and popular capitalism

CapxI’m always on the look out for a new source of quality writing about politics and economics. When two of my favourite commentators were axed by the Daily Telegraph, columnist Iain Martin, and blogger Daniel Hannan MEP, they both decamped to CapX, a newly formed online writing platform.

I decided to see how CapX developed. CapX say they’re about being,

“….a new service that brings you the best writing on politics, economics, markets and ideas, underpinned by a commitment to make the case for popular capitalism.”

I’ve decided to follow the site more regularly, and have added it to my blogroll – replacing the now historic sources of articles by Iain Martin and Daniel Hannan. What decided me? Well, here are three quality, and in their own way thought provoking, articles.

A Surrey Heath Discussion Group tackles the future of the NHS

Politicos is a non-party political discussion group in Surrey Heath, with Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat patrons.

They have announced their latest discussion on What Future for the NHS? The event is scheduled for Thursday evening 29th January at Camberley Theatre. Details are,

What Future for the NHS?

You are invited to give your view on the future of the NHS

It is impossible to escape news of the stresses our NHS is under from the news media at the moment. Politicos are pleased to announce its Town Meeting on the health of our health service. Our speakers offer both a local and national perspective on the NHS. Speakers to include,

  • Sir Andrew Morris, Chief Executive, Frimley Park Hospital
  • Roy Lilley, leading writer and consultant on the NHS
  • Dr John Guy, Chairman NHS Surrey Heath Trust – Invited
  • BBC South Political correspondent has been asked to chair the meeting

7:30 pm on Thursday 29th January, Camberley Theatre, Knoll Road, Camberley. Admission £3.

Contact email: for further information

MP’s being in touch with voters, it’s all a matter of balance

How some politicians exhibit being in touch with the lives of their electors, while others do not, is all a matter of balance between being in or out of touch. Perception is all here particularly by the electorate.

I don’t believe that, generally, electors expect politicians to be completely in touch with every aspect of their lives. It’s more a matter of being in touch with the values of the common man. Being ‘in touch’ is a phrase heavily used by Ed Miliband against David Cameron. Probably not for much longer, methinks.

Out of touchness is perfectly exemplified by the Emily Thornberry views of the ordinary elector, as revealed by her ill considered tweet, and expressed view about seeing a house with numerous St George flags, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it before’.

I’ve seen Emily Thornberry on TV political programmes, like Question Time, and not known anything more about her. Trust the press to investigate. Properly known as Lady Nugee, wife of barrister Sir Christopher Nugee, she lives in £3million mansion in Islington. You can read more about her HERE.

As Hazel Blears has said, “People right across the spectrum do feel that politicians who have never done a different job [other than as a career politician] somehow cannot be in touch with their lives.” She is further reported in the Daily Telegraph saying,

Mrs Blears said the public wanted MPs to live in their constituencies, and be seen to use the same shops and buses to show they are in touch with reality and not locked in the Westminster “bubble”.

While this isn’t entirely practical for every constituency, I agree that an MP should have a residence in their constituency. An example of an in touch politician would be Simon Danczuk, he of the councillor wife given to amusing ‘selfies’, who said in the MailOnline:

“Everyone will know exactly what she meant by that comment. I think she was being derogatory and dismissive of the people. We all know what she was trying to imply.

I’ve talked about this previously. It’s like the Labour party has been hijacked by the north London liberal elite and it’s comments like that which reinforce that view. I want to see more people flying the British flag.”

As I say, it’s all a matter of balance. Get it wrong and damnation follows.

St Paul’s Debating Society

Last night I attended a St Paul’s Debating Society event where, among many hundreds of others, we listened to General Lord Richard Dannatt speak about ‘morality and the British armed forces’.

While not yet a proper debating society – embryonic is what they call it – in as much that it, their second event, had only one speaker. 

Fascinating to hear the most recently retired Chief of the General Staff talk about the Army. The General was happy to answer questions, and I did I did manage to ask a question, about how far the armed forces should be involved in nation building. While afterwards, like loads of others, I bought the General’s autobiography, and queued up to get it signed.

Top marks to the organisers for arranging a splendid event. I wish the St Paul’s Debating Society the best of luck. I’m sure, with the quality speakers they’ve obtained so far they’ll have no problem in getting big audiences.

Another magazine on politics enters the market

There’s obviously a market for political magazines as I commented in-depth quite a while back, and not much has changed since then, other that the web and internet matures daily, putting pressure on print-based information. 

This week a new political magazine – ELECTED – was launched by Public Matters. I say that there’s obviously a market, well, I’m not  sure of its size, or of its business model. Elected says it will deliver its first three monthly issues free, to over 22,000 councillors, and other politicians. After that date its subscription only, at £5/month.

We councillors have a huge choice of reading matter. We receive First, a weekly magazine from the Local Government Association, and some political parties issue a quarterly magazine directed at their councillors. Then there’s Total Politics, a monthly from Iain Dale’s stable, and PoliticsHome, a web-based subscription service purely on Westminster politics.

As a councillor I’m expected to have an informed opinion on anything that affects our borough, and that’s a pretty wide range of topics. But at an individual level I put my energies into a smaller range of topics, some of which for me are the economic development of the town and villages in Surrey Heath, issues around leisure, environment, culture, and governance. The printed magazines don’t provide sufficient detail on my ‘hot’ issues. I can pick up on the state of political debate, from the daily press, TV, blogs, websites, or from councillors in neighbouring boroughs.

Therefore I’ll not be subscribing to Elected, although I’m impressed by the quality of its content, and that 20% of the magazine is on developing the expertise of local councillors. It’s becoming a crowded marketplace for political magazines. It’ll be interesting to see who wins.

I must admit that the acquisition by PoliticsHome of the London Evening Standard’s political journo Paul Waugh as its new editor, makes it the more likely that this is the service that I’ll plump for over the printed magazine.

Review: This Week of two weeks ago and political honeymoons

Reviewing old news, what use is that? Well, there are a few useful conclusions from Andrew Neil’s This Week programmes that I’m not sure have been fully commented on.

Two week’s ago one of Andrew’s guests was lead singer with Scouting for Girls, Roy Stride. He was revealing on the thoughts of youngish and keen LibDem supporters. His view was that the coalition is positive development in British politics, and that it should be given a chance to succeed. Roy felt that the coalition has rid the country of the overly tribal nature of British political discourse and reporting.

Know what, I think he’s right. For years the internecine warfare among the Labour hierarchy, and the twisting of the truth by Labour spin doctors, has poisoned the well of goodwill towards politicians of all parties. The other notable thing in the interview with Roy Stride was the strength of his optimism about the coalition. This was said in face of strong political negativity from others on the programme.  

A small point on political honeymoons. I believe this one to be different, in that there’s a separation of honeymoons for individuals in government, from the hopes of what a coalition might be able to achieve that a single party could not. That’s why this honeymoon will be longer than might be normally expected.

Andrew Neil has invited all the Labour leadership candidates onto the sofa with Michael Portillo, and then grills them hard on their political vision. He despatched Diane Abbott’s ambitions with cruel efficiency the week before. In this show it was the turn of Andy Burnham, who fared little better than Diane. Pressed hard about why he should be Labour leader, Burnham’s replies were insipid. Again Neil was a clear and easy winner in the exchanges, leading to the conclusion that another contender had bitten the dust of political disappointment.