Job vacancy: ConservativeHome seeks a Commercial Director

24 Jun

ConservativeHome, publisher of the UK’s most influential Conservative-supporting news and analysis website, seeks a Commercial Director to play a key part in the company’s growth. This is a rare opportunity to take on a senior role at an exciting point in the development of a unique company close to the heart of the political world.

The ideal candidate will be politically engaged and business-minded, pairing the ability to create innovative strategies for commercial growth with the willingness to get hands-on to make them a reality. Those with experience in public affairs and/or media partnerships would be particularly well-suited.

Responsibilities of the role include, but are not limited to:

  • Working with the Chief Executive to design and deliver a strategy for the growth of ConservativeHome’s commercial activity;
  • Creating and capitalising on new commercial opportunities for the business;
  • Managing relationships with existing commercial partners, and identifying and developing new partnerships;
  • Leading on sales for sponsorship of our popular Party Conference events programme and other event sponsorships year-round;
  • Managing the Head of Events and other commercial team members in delivering the ConservativeHome events programme;
  • Developing and growing our ConservativeIntelligence Dining Club, including via the retention and recruitment of members;
  • Liaising with suppliers and agencies who support ConservativeHome’s work, including our advertising agency.

Key skills, experience and qualities

  • Extensive experience and knowledge of politics. You are excited by political events, have excellent contacts and wish to develop further.
  • Public affairs insight and experience. You have a strong understanding of the interests, priorities and business needs of public affairs professionals, both in-house and agency, and great relationships in the sector.
  • Sales and client relationship management. Your track record shows an ability to identify potential business prospects, sell services successfully to them, and subsequently manage client relationships to maintain satisfaction, secure renewals and further sales.
  • Drive and initiative. You are imaginative, creative and ambitious – able to spot and capitalise on new commercial opportunities.
  • Ability to prioritise and work under pressure.
  • Excellent presentation and communication skills, both verbal and written.
  • Sympathy with the values and aims of ConservativeHome.

Desirable skills, experience and qualities

  • Experience of line-managing and supporting colleagues.
  • Marketing experience, through traditional and social media.
  • Experience of developing and running partnerships with or for a media organisation.

Salary

Very competitive, with potential for performance-related rewards. Dependent on experience and ability.

Deadline, interviews and start date

The role would start as soon as possible, dependent upon the successful candidate’s availability. Applications close at 5pm on 6th July 2021, with interviews to take place in London shortly afterwards.

Applications

To apply, please send a one-page cover letter and a CV to development@conservativehome.com

Comments are back online – with a new system

24 Feb

As per our note earlier in the week, the provider of our old comments system suffered a serious technical failure which was beyond our control, leading to the comments on ConservativeHome going offline. Our apologies for the disruption, and thank you to readers for your patience as we’ve worked to find a solution to the problem.

We’re pleased to say that comments are now working again, as you will be able to see below this post.

To ensure a permanent and sustainable solution we have switched from the old system to a new comment system: Vuukle.

To comment, you you can log in using a Twitter, Facebook or Google account, or you can register for a (free) Vuukle account – which you can do directly in our comments section underneath each article, or on the Vuukle site.

This is the same system used by Guido Fawkes and various other blogs, so your account will also work on other sites that use the same comment system.

We are working to transfer the extensive archive of ConservativeHome comments from the old system to the new, but it’s not yet clear when that will be possible. When that does happen, it’ll be in archive format, so comments posted under the old system won’t be linked to accounts on the new system.

As ever, our house Comment Rules apply, and we’ll be moderating the comment section accordingly.

NB: when registering for a Vuukle account, some users initially had an issue with the link in the verification email that the system sends out. This has now been resolved – should it recur, please notify the editors.

Comments down – apologies to our readers

19 Feb

This article is written on one system – like all the other pieces and our newslinks – but a different system altogether hosts our comments.  The first system is up (as usual) but the second is down.

It was also not working for a long period last Tuesday.  We tweeted apologies then but, since the problem is persisting, offer them now on the site too.  We are working to get the problem resolved, and will report back as soon as we can.

10.30 am update Sunday February 21

The system which hosts our comments has not been maintained for a while, and other sites are reporting bugs too. And there seems to be no way to contact a support person.  We are looking for an alternative comments system, but this may take some time.

Again, our apologies: although we’re not in a position to reply to individual enquiries, we will keep you updated – and what’s written in this post covers the essentials.

Our next live event: Truss on ‘Global Britain – navigating the post-Brexit world’

18 Feb

We are very pleased to invite you to ConservativeHome’s next free online event: a timely discussion on “Global Britain – navigating the post-Brexit world“.

At 7pm on Monday 1st March, we’ll be joined (via Zoom) by:

  • Liz Truss MP, Secretary of State for International Trade
  • Professor Anand Menon, Director of UK in a Changing Europe and Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at King’s College London
  • Katy Balls, Deputy Political Editor of The Spectator
  • Paul Goodman, Editor of ConservativeHome (Chairman)

Having left the EU, the UK is embarking on a new period in its political, diplomatic and trading history. Re-establishing an independent trade policy, negotiating new and ambitious trade agreements – including the recent application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – and navigating a competitive and turbulent world bring distinct opportunities and challenges.

In this live online event, our expert panel will be exploring what ‘Global Britain’ means in practice, how the UK is equipping itself to forge this new path, and what the future might hold for a country adapting to such changed circumstances. This event offers the opportunity not just to benefit from our panelists’ unique perspectives inside government, academia and the media, but also for the live audience to put your questions to them directly.

This event is hosted by ConservativeHome, in partnership with UK in a Changing Europe, a research initiative which promotes rigorous, high-quality and independent research into the complex and ever changing relationship between the UK and the EU.

To register for your free ticket, click here.

Why did the BBC broadcast untrue claims about ConservativeHome?

20 Jan

This morning, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Michael Burleigh – the eminent historian of the Third Reich – was introduced for a discussion of the future of Trumpism after Trump. Out of the blue, he announced he didn’t really want to talk about that, and launched instead into an exposition of a somewhat peculiar personal theory about British politics.

A hijack, he claimed, had taken place in the UK via a three-pronged assault identical to that seen in America. First was “dark money and rather sinister ideological think tanks”, second came entryism, “the way in which the equivalent of Africanised bees have invaded decent political parties, so you can see that in the Tea Party or ConservativeHome or other similar movements in this country”, and “third, last but not least, the role of fanatical talk radio”. All this produced a “populist” force which he went on to link to “various anti-lockdown movements” and which he lumped in with “the group of nutters who believe that coronavirus is transmitted by 5G masts or worse”.

Oh dear.

Obviously, this isn’t true. Indeed, just about every discernable ‘fact’ asserted is untrue.

ConservativeHome is a media outlet, not a “movement” of any sort. Hence we feature in the Today programme’s own round-ups of the press on a regular basis.

We aren’t the equivalent of the “Tea Party” or any “similar movement” in this country or any other, but a site with a great reputation, established over 15 years, of expert analysis and insight on conservative politics and the Conservative Party.

Our readership encompasses millions of people, ranging from Conservative members, MPs and ministers of every ideological stripe and tradition, to large numbers of people of many political alignments and none, who are simply interested in reading great writing about politics. The idea they or we are some form of “invader” or entryist force is bizarre and baseless.

As Burleigh was espousing his own conspiracy theories and shoddily trying to draw associations with Covid conspiracy “nutters”, he somehow failed to notice that it is our columnist, Neil O’Brien MP, who is currently the most prominent and vocal Westminster critic of those very people.

I don’t know how we came to feature in his imagination as some sort of sinister entryist campaign group, but – rather by definition – logic and facts are not required components in the architecture of such constructions.

He isn’t alone in finding it hard to reconcile electoral events which he dislikes with his firmly held beliefs about the world, and apparently genuinely buying into elaborate and outlandish theories which seek to explain away the discomforting clash between the two. In recent years, various other eminent public figures, armed with good reputations and media clout, have wrecked the former and misused the latter in a similar way, particularly since the 2016 referendum and 2019 General Election.

Burleigh isn’t the only one at fault. It was odd – to say the least – to hear the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme giving him a national platform to go down the rabbit hole in this way.

It’s bad enough to have a formerly serious historian wibbling on air, but worse that the BBC failed to correct, challenge or even try to balance it for the benefit of listeners. Martha Kearney’s reply to the section which misrepresented ConservativeHome was simply to say “Well that’s a very particular characterisation of populism” – a characterisation which was then implicitly accepted for the rest of the discussion.

We often hear about the BBC’s commitment to accuracy, and its fretting about political misinformation, but this morning it failed its responsibilities and its audience on both fronts. A correction and apology is clearly due; we have contacted Today to request exactly that, but have so far received only a vague “we recognise you are concerned” reply, in keeping with the Corporation’s familiar tradition of non-apologies. We’ll be pursuing it further.

In the meantime, if you would like to enrich your mornings with a daily dose of top-notch news, opinion and analysis – no licence fee required, no peculiar celebrity ramblings involved – you can sign up to our mailing list here.

Hancock bounces bounces bounces back

9 Dec

Matt Hancock came yesterday to the House of Commons and declared:

“At 6.31 this morning, 90 year-old Margaret Keenan from Enniskillen, who lives in Coventry, became the first person in the world to receive a clinically authorised vaccine for covid-19. This marks the start of the NHS’s Herculean task to deploy vaccine right across the UK, in line with its founding mission to support people according to clinical need, not ability to pay. This simple act of vaccination is a tribute to scientific endeavour, human ingenuity and the hard work of so many people. Today marks the start of the fight back against our common enemy, coronavirus.”

Such cheering news was also faintly disconcerting, for we have grown used to Hancock as one of the handful of ministers trusted by Downing Street to take to the airwaves and field question after question about the lethal onward march of the pandemic.

As Health Secretary, he is second only to the Prime Minister as the figure people seek to blame for the many grievous deficiencies in the official response to the crisis, ranging from care homes abandoned to their fate, through shortages of personal protective equipment, to the appalling deficiencies of the track and trace system and the dodgy use of statistics to justify restrictions on personal liberty.

The British media generally proceeds on the assumption that someone in high office has blundered. This is a healthy frame of mind, for it helps to ensure ministerial accountability, and to instill the fear of being found out which is one of the most effectual checks on corruption.

Hancock has proved resilient in the face of ferocious criticism. As a former minister remarks, “He’s got india-rubber bounce back – if you punch him he just gets up again.”

He received his early training in the George Osborne school of politics, which gave Hancock (in the words of Janan Ganesh in George Osborne: The Austerity Chancellor, published in 2012) “a pitiless focus on the political bottom line”.

Unlike many of Osborne’s followers, Hancock survived and flourished in the era of Theresa May, who in the summer of 2018 promoted him to the post of Health Secretary, to fill the gap left by Jeremy Hunt, whom she moved to the Foreign Office, to fill the gap left by the resignation of Boris Johnson.

A year later, May was forced out and Hancock entered the crowded race to succeed her, but after receiving the votes of only 20 MPs in the first round, threw in his lot with Johnson and asked to be made Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Johnson conducted a ruthless purge of May’s Cabinet, but kept Hancock on as Health Secretary, always an arduous role, and during the pandemic far more arduous.

Hancock, who is still only 42, communicates a somewhat gauche decency, but is also a highly professional and intensely ambitious man of government, valued by three successive Prime Ministers for his ability to keep the show on the road where others might crumble.

Neither he nor Johnson is especially popular just now with Conservative Party members: in this site’s most recent Cabinet League Table the two of them were barely above zero.

But the arrival of several vaccines which work, and the world-beating speed with which the first of these is being administered in this country, could well transform those rankings.

The pandemic has led to astonishing advances, for which the Health Secretary deserves a share of the credit, just as he deserved a share of the blame for the many things which went wrong, so that towards the end of April Hancock was in acute danger of becoming, as this site put it, the Scapecock.

It is a mark of the sudden improvement in the country’s prospects that Hancock was yesterday able to tell MPs, without a murmur of criticism, that in only eight months’ time he intends to take some time off:

“It makes me very proud that we have managed to start this vaccination programme sooner than many people anticipated. People told me that it was not going to be possible and that it was all very difficult. It has been difficult, but we have got there, and we did so because of international science, working with German scientists and American pharmaceutical companies, and people right around the world working on this project. I have high confidence that the summer of 2021 will be a bright one, without the sorts of restrictions that made the summer of 2020 more restricted. I have booked my holiday—I am going to Cornwall.”

Dean Godson: It’s easier for the right to a left on economics than for the left to move right on culture. That’s a plus for Johnson.

21 Nov

Dean Godson is the Director of Policy Exchange.

“You have limited time, limited capacity, and limited choices. Where does your focus lie?” asks Rachel Wolf on this site last week. Well, the Conservative Party has been walking and chewing gum since Disraeli’s 1867 Reform Act — and there is no reason why the “reset” triggered by the departure of Dominic Cummings should change that.

Representing a critical mass of both the prosperous and the “Just About Managing” classes and parts of the country is what all successful political parties do in democracies. Since the Tory party became the party of Brexit and expanded – or maybe one should say rediscovered parts of its working class base – it is certainly true that the heterogenous coalition which it represents has spoken with a somewhat different accent.

Indeed, a case can be made that the part of the political class that ascended to power after December 2019 represents a significant break with all governments since the fall of Margaret Thatcher. The governments of John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May (though less so the latter) tended to put global integration before national sovereignty, the metropolitan before the provincial, higher education before further education, trains and planes before buses, diversity before cohesion, the cognitive classes before the artisanal ones.

Their version of the national interest broadly reflected the priorities of what my colleague David Goodhart, who was interviewed recently by this site, has called the people who see the world from Anywhere. And in his most recent book Head, Hand Heart, he describes a narrowing definition of a successful life, as seen by Anywhere Britain, based around academic success, a university education and entry into high-status professional employment. This is the world of the big cities, the university towns and much of the middle and upper public sector, (and certainly of wide swathes of the senior civil service which were at daggers drawn with Dominic Cummings).

But what of that part of the population that cannot achieve or does not want to achieve this version of success? They still want recognition, and to feel able to contribute to the national story and the Brexit vote provided the opportunity for many of them to say ‘no’ to much of that governing class consensus.

The Vote Leave strand of the Johnson Government sought to represent and appeal to this part of the electorate – summed up in the phrase “Levelling up” – in a way that no government, let alone a Conservative government, has done for decades. That has, unavoidably, created tensions with many powerful interests and beliefs, including inside the Tory Party itself, many of which came to be focused on the pugnacious personality of Dominic Cummings.

A more emollient tone can be struck – but to abandon what was termed “Erdington modernisation” (after Nick Timothy’s Birmingham roots) and return to the necessary but not sufficient Notting Hill modernisation (in which the party made its peace with much of modern liberalism) is now very hard.

This is the case for electoral reasons as much as any other – with both Keir Starmer and Nigel Farage both praying for a return to Cameron-Osborne era Conservatism with its implicit assumption that the common good can be achieved through a kind of trickle-down from the most successful and dynamic parts of our society.

There are other reasons for thinking that it would be foolish to switch back now. Politics for most of the post-war period has been dominated by economics. And, of course, a thriving economy is still a sine qua non for any government. But economics is a means not an end, and the economistic bias of the Anywheres gave us the failed cost-benefit analysis of the Remain campaign.

Today’s much higher profile for the security and identity cultural issues ought to be a boon to the centre-right because, as has been pointed out, it is easier for the right to move a bit to the left on economics (as it certainly has done) than for the left to move right on cultural issues (as Starmer would no doubt like to do, but will find his path blocked).

This does not require an aggressive culture war from the right. The cultural offensive has been coming mainly from the left – as exemplified by the controversies over statues and the decolonisation of museums. The right needs to stand up for common sense, and for the large majority who accept the equalities of modern liberalism but do not want their sensibilities constantly undermined.

Conservatives should be the party of value diversity. Go back to the 1950s and the country was often dominated by a conformist, traditional culture that stunted the lives of many people and often punished those who deviated. Over many decades, much higher levels of choice and freedom for women and minorities of various kinds have been achieved.

Part of the Left now wants to impose a degree of progressive conformity comparable to the traditional conformity of earlier decades. Tolerance and pluralism should be the watchwords in these matters — with a strong bed-rock of rights and anti-discrimination legislation, but also an understanding that rights and values often clash and the ratchet should not only turn in a progressive direction.

That all said, walking and chewing gum is possible, and there is space, post-Cummings, for a new tone and a new stress on policy bridges that seek common ground between Anywhere and Somewhere priorities.

The green industrial revolution is clearly one of those policy areas, and should not be seen as a soft bourgeois indulgence. As the Prime Minister said on Tuesday, it is places like Teesside, Port Talbot and Merseyside that are now centres of green technology and jobs. Ben Houchen, the mayor of Tees Valley, underlined the same point in the introduction to Policy Exchange’s recent report on The Future of the North Sea, and on ConservativeHome earlier this week. Research we will soon be publishing on redesigning the national grid should also generate many good, skilled jobs in areas that are sometimes seen as “left behind”.

The re-set seems more likely to be a milder form of reboot. Without Cummings, some of the urgency will go out of parts of the recent agenda, particularly the machinery of government and data in government focus. But many of the priorities of the new conservatism—Brexit, levelling up, higher spending on the NHS and police, social care, boosting further education, immigration reform, restoring some bustle and pride to Britain’s often unloved towns—are owned by a broad range of the people that matter.

The Red Wall voters are likely to prove more complex beasts than in the Vote Leave or Remain caricatures – and no political strategy can focus too much on just one slice of the population but without producing visible, tangible improvements to the lives of people in places like Stoke and Leigh before the next election the Conservatives will not be returned in 2024.

Please register for today’s joint Policy Exchange and ConservativeHome event on One Nation after Covid

15 Nov

The Editor of this site will today chair a joint Policy Exchange/ConservativeHome event on: One Nation conservatism: what does it look like after Covid-19?  The five panellists are:

  • Isaac Levido: 2019 General Election Conservative Campaign Director.
  • Arlene Foster: First Minister of Northern Ireland and Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party.
  • Kirstene Hair: Senior Adviser to Douglas Ross, Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, and former MP for Angus
  • Danny Kruger: former Political Secretary to the Prime Minister and MP for Devizes.
  • Jane Stevenson: MP for Wolverhampton North East.

The event will take place via Zoom at noon today, Monday November 16.  You are welcome to register for it via this link here.

Matthew Elliott: Please apply to invest in Britain’s future and win £10,000

19 Oct

Matthew Elliott was Editor-at-Large of BrexitCentral

Coming from the world of think-tanks and campaign groups, I have a strong interest in the policy ecosystem that surrounds political parties.

Ahead of Tony Blair’s victory in 1997, think-tanks such as Demos and the Institute for Public Policy Research were established. And in the 2000s,a plethora of think-tanks (Centre for Social Justice/Policy Exchange), campaign groups (Business for Sterling/Countryside Alliance) and websites (ConservativeHome/Guido Fawkes) were launched and play an influential role in political discourse.

As well as playing a role in two successful referendum campaigns (NOtoAV and Vote Leave), I helped set up the TaxPayers’ Alliance (2004), Big Brother Watch (2009), Million Jobs (2012), Business for Britain (2013) and BrexitCentral (2016), so policy entrepreneurship is one of my passions. And even though my focus is now more in the private sector, I still enjoy helping and mentoring new policy entrepreneurs who are setting up the next generation of campaign groups and think-tanks.

At the beginning of my career, I was helped by the entrepreneur and philanthropist Stuart Wheeler, who sadly passed away at the end of July. I was 25 when we launched the TaxPayers’Alliance. I didn’t know any potential financial supporters, so I wrote to the signatories of a Business for Sterling advertisement with my ‘Strategy Plan’.

I thought, if they like BfS, there’s a good chance they’ll like the TPA. Stuart was one of the people who very generously sent a contribution which, along with some other donations, gave us the resources to cover my salary for three months, giving me the confidence to leave my position as a researcher to the Conservative MEP (now Lord) Timothy Kirkhope, and go full-time with the TPA.

Seventeen years later, I now find myself in a different position. My most recent project – the news website BrexitCentral – sent out its 1,085th and final daily email bulletin to the tens of thousands of subscribers we had accrued on February 1, the day after the UK formally left the European Union.

Alongside those essential morning emails put together by the indefatigable Jonathan Isaby and his team, we had published more than 2000 articles by over 500 authors, including the current Prime Minister and many of his Cabinet, not to mention Erin O’Toole, the man who was elected leader of the Canadian Conservative Party over the summer.

We are now in the final stages of winding up the company – a task which has been somewhat delayed by babies and Covid-19 – so, along with Georgiana Bristol, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the show on the road, we are left with the issue of what to do with the last remaining funds.

When we were discussing the matter, I thought about the support that Stuart Wheeler and other donors had given me as we launched the TPA, and we decided that it would be very fitting to use those remaining funds to support the young policy and campaigning entrepreneurs of today – people with the ideas that will tackle the policy challenges of the coming years.

We have two cheques for £10,000, and we would like to hear from people under the age of 35 with an exciting idea or contribution to policy debate. It could be:

  • A campaign group or think-tank you have set up, or are hoping to set up;
  • A book proposal that you want to take a sabbatical from your current job to research and draft;
  • A think-tank report you want to take time off from your current position to write;
  • A website or podcast you want to establish, or a short film you wish to make.

That is not an exhaustive list – we are interested in all ideas, the more innovative and entrepreneurial the better. And because Brexit was supported by people from across the political spectrum, we are open to proposals from all policy positions.

To stress, we are not looking for proposals relating to Brexit or Britain’s future relationship with the European Union – we are looking for submissions on any issue, policy or subject that you feel passionate about.

Entries should be emailed to policyentrepreneurs@brexitcentral.com by midnight on Sunday 8th November 2020 and should cover (on no more than two sides of A4) an outline of your plan an dhow you hope to execute it. All submissions will then be sifted and judged by a panel comprising Jonathan and I, plus Kate Andrews, Peter Cruddas, Helena Morrissey, Jon Moynihan and Mark Wallace. And the two winners will be announced by the end of November.

Since I became active in politics, the barriers to entry for policy entrepreneurship have been massively reduced thanks to the Internet. When I interned at the European Foundation whilst at university, it had an office in Pall Mall, it had copies of its European Journal and European Digest professionally printed, which were then posted to subscribers and the opinion formers in Westminster, Whitehall and Fleet Street that it was trying to influence. It sent press releases out by fax, business was conducted on the telephone or by post, and all these costs were before the general overheads and payroll costs that also needed to be covered.

Fast forward twenty years, and the cost of campaigning has fallen significantly. From setting up a website to using social media, broadcasting ideas and opinions to the world is so much cheaper. But there are still financial barriers, so I hope that this small project will help two policy entrepreneurs of the future, just as Stuart Wheeler helped me with the creation of the TaxPayers’ Alliance all those years ago.

I look forward to reading your entries and announcing the recipients later this year.

This article was originally published on ConservativeHome on Monday October 19, and we are re-publishing it during each weekday this week in order to advertise this project.

Iain Dale: If Milling isn’t up to being Party Chairman, why was she appointed in the first place?

9 Oct

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and the For the Many podcast with Jacqui Smith.

I have to admit that I didn’t watch any of the Conservative virtual conference online. Judging by the number of registrations, it can be deemed a success. Twenty thousand people registered, and there were often more than 6,000 people watching.

I’m told fringe meetings proved more popular than the set-piece cabinet minister speeches (wasn’t it ever thus?) with some events, including those hosted by ConHome) attracting online audiences in four figures.

Given that normal fringe meetings might attract a couple of hundred people at most, this ought to give the conference organisers food for thought for the future. CCHQ told me this week that future conferences would almost certainly be hybrid events, and that’s exactly right. The more people who are able to take part, the better.

– – – – – – – – – –

Watching highlights of the US Vice-presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris, it almost seemed like normal politics had returned.

For the most part, the debate was conducted with mutual respect, good humour and dignity from both candidates. Yes, there were some interruptions, but that happens in debates. We had none of the abuse, insults and acrimony that characterised the debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden a week before.

And it wasn’t just the President who was guilty. We don’t know yet whether the next debate, due to take place in Florida next week, will go ahead. If it does, let’s hope that it’s more edifying than the first one.

– – – – – – – – – –

On Tuesday, I deputised for Charles Moore in the Daily Telegraph.  I thought long and hard about writing what I did – but it had to be said.

I wrote about the role of the Party Chairman, and how its importance has diminished over the years, and how the present incumbent, Amanda Milling, was performing no useful role, except to travel the country and eat a few rubber chickens

It gave me no pleasure, and in many ways it’s not her fault. She’s performing the role dictated by Number Ten. She has no power to change anything, and scant little influence. Her co-chairman, Ben Elliot, is the one in control and we all know it.

The one role she could perform, but hasn’t got the experience to do, is to get out there on the media and be a lightning rod for the Prime Minister. That’s what Cecil Parkinson did. It’s what Norman Tebbit used to do. It’s what Brian Mawhinney did for John Major. And it’s what Brandon Lewis did for Theresa May.

Amanda Milling went on Any Questions last Friday, and proceeded to read out lines from her briefing notes. It was buttock-clenchingly embarrassing. A programme insider reckoned she was the worst guest they had had on in recent memory.

Again, in many ways, I don’t blame her for that. Everyone tells me that Milling was an excellent Deputy Chief Whip, but we all know that whips don’t do media, and don’t speak in the chamber.

So to appoint someone with little media experience as co-Party Chairman was bizarre to say the least. It did her no favours whatsoever. By all accounts, the Number Ten machine is frustrated by her performance. No shit, Sherlock. Well, they shouldn’t blame her for it, they should apportion the blame to the person who made the appointment.

– – – – – – – – – –

I was disappointed but not surprised to see Liam Fox fail to reach the final two in the race to become the next director general of the World Trade Organisation.

The EU was always determined to scupper him, which says far about them than it does about him. He is very well qualified to do the job, which will now be a straight fight between candidates from South Korea and Nigeria. Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s Foreign Minister, has spoken out and said the whole charade has not been “to the greater glory of the European Union”.

– – – – – – – – – –

Just as the Conservative Party has had to put its conference online, so have literary festivals – or at least some of them. I’ve done quite a few on Zoom over the last few months, but appeared in person last Saturday at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, as trailed on this site last week.

The event was organised it very well, ensuring that both speakers and audience were safe. Next Friday ,I’m doing the Bristol Festival of Ideas remotely, but the Wells Festival of Literature in person on the same day.

Then on Sunday October 18, I’m in Twickenham being interviewed on stage by LBC’s Steve Allen, and then on  October 24 in Diss, Norfolk.

On that occasion Brandon Lewis will interview me, which I suspect he’s going to relish, given he tells me I always give him such a hard time when he comes on my show. Ticketing details can be found here.