Iain Dale: Cummings. Why bother giving seven hours of testimony – only to not provide supporting evidence?

11 Jun

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

This is nothing new, I suppose, but the last 48 hours have not been pleasant in the Twittersphere. In fact, it’s become so unpleasant I am seriously considering stepping back from this increasingly ugly form of social media.

Trouble is, it’s very difficult for me to do that given it’s my prime marketing medium for all the things I do, whether it’s advertising what’s on my radio show, promoting my writing, books and other activities. Sometimes it can be a wonderful thing, but oftentimes it is just a sewer, where vicious, nasty people spew their bile and vitriol no doubt getting a hard on along the way. They’re virtually all men.

On Tuesday I had the temerity to tweet praise for Gareth Southgate’s “Dear England” letter. In my opinion he articulated better than anyone has for a long time what it means to be English and how we demonstrate our patriotism.

And then the abuse started. Apparently it was all a justification for the England players supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Utter rubbish. He and they have made clear that they support equality and fairness for everyone, and that they support the slogan Black Lives Matter, not the political organisation. Surely everyone can support that? Apparently not.

I have repeatedly made clear that I would never take the knee to support a Marxist organisation which supports the destruction of the police, closing prisons and dismantling capitalism. But I am quite happy to make clear that I support equality for all people, whether they are white, black or anything else. Surely any reasonable person would?

Oh no, not on Twitter. I’m a shill, a sellout, obeying my paymasters, not a proper conservative, woke and worse. Far worse. Did I support the England players giving the Nazi salute to Hitler in 1936? Do I think England should make a political statement and withdraw from the Qatar world cup in 2022 because of Qatar’s policy on homosexuality? Yes, I’m sure these trolls care deeply about gay equality. Not.

Over 24 hours I lost 200 Twitter followers and had to block around 50 others, many of them racist. Not all, but many. And this is the level of public discourse we are supposed to get used to, is it? Where people comment on a letter they most probably haven’t even read. Where they just believe what other people say it says. And then they launch violent attacks on those who support the sentiments in the letter without even attempting to understand any nuance. Well, I’ve had enough.

The trouble is, until I retire from political commentary and broadcasting, I’m tied into it and have to suck it up. Boo hoo, many of you will think. You’ve made your bed, you lie in it… Fair enough. No one forces me to do the jobs I do, and most of the time I love it. I’ve never experienced problems with my mental health, but I have a real sense that my mental health is now being affected by it all. I don’t expect any sympathy at all, and I know the solution is in my own hands. It doesn’t make it any easier, though.

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I suppose we have always known that Dominic Cummings is a strange cove. Why would anyone spend seven hours giving evidence to a select committee, make all sorts of serious allegations, say he had the paperwork to back them up and he would provide it to the committee, and then fail to do so. The only conclusion to draw from that is that much of his evidence was fantasy and he can’t back it up with documentary evidence. It’s a very good way to undermine your own credibility and reputation, isn’t it?

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Michael McManus has become a bit of a polymath. I first knew him in the late 1990s when he was working for Sir Edward Heath, and they came to Politico’s to do a book signing.

I was nervous as a kitten as I had heard that the former PM could be rather difficult. In fact, he was charm personified and the conversation flowed very well. Michael then wrote a rather good biography of Jo Grimond, the former Liberal leader, and contributed to the Blue Book series I published on future Conservative policy, which Ed Vaizey was editing.

Michael stood for Parliament in 2001 in Watford but was unsuccessful and since then he has come close to getting a number of safe seats, but never quite got the lucky break. He told me in an episode of my All Talk podcast which will be published next Wednesday that he’s now come off the candidates list. It’s a shame as he would have made a good MP.

Over the last few years he has turned his hand to being a playwright. His latest play is called MAGGIE AND TED and has a two night run at the Garrick Theatre in London on June 28 and 29. It’s all about the relationship between the two former Prime Ministers, and from what he told me on the podcast, it is going to be well worth going to.

Putting on a play in a London theatre is a costly business, especially in the pandemic, and I’d encourage anyone who’s got one of those evenings spare to book a ticket and support an up and coming political playwright, and a thoroughly nice man. And a fellow Hammer. Book tickets here.

Virginia Crosbie: The UK is a beacon of hope across the world. We cannot let Coronavirus divide our family of nations.

13 Aug

Virginia Crosbie is the Member of Parliament for Ynys Môn.

The Coronavirus has been used, often cynically, by campaigners to further the cause of the breaking up of the United Kingdom. Each nation of the UK has had full responsibility for health policy for two decades, yet each nation has faced similar challenges. The immense purchasing power of the UK enabled the provision of PPE and ventilators when both were at peak demand on global markets; it now has the most comprehensive testing system globally and, working together, we are leading the world in developing a vaccine and therapeutic treatments for this terrible virus.

The might of the UK Treasury has protected millions of jobs and livelihoods through unprecedented packages of financial support. This has helped to further protect the health systems of each nation, and to save lives, by enabling workers to stay at home. The UK Armed Forces have provided invaluable support in combatting this cruel, yet invisible, enemy. They have built the Nightingale Hospitals, have coordinated the logistics of PPE provision and they have helped to contain local outbreaks, including one in my constituency of Ynys Môn, by supplementing local testing capacity.

Our Armed Forces are among the finest in the world. RAF fast-jet pilots trained at RAF Valley on Anglesey have recently helped to end the genocide of the Yazidi people in Northern Iraq. They protect UK airspace daily from terrorist threats and help to deter an increasingly hostile Russia. RAF Valley is the second largest employer on Anglesey, providing hundreds of high skilled jobs, just as Royal Naval ship construction supports thousands of jobs in Scotland.

With VJ Day approaching, this year marking 75 years since the end of World War II, we should never lose our pride in our shared military history and of our contribution to the vanquishing of tyranny. It was the fighting men of Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland who stood alone against the tyranny of Hitler and Nazi Germany. Together with their allies, they pushed his forces back across Western Europe and ended the greatest manifestation of evil and racism that the world has witnessed.

In the Far East British soldiers, sailors and airmen, many of whom endured the horrors of Japanese imprisonment, helped to roll back the forces of Imperial Japan and to end their brutal conquest of South East Asia.

Our shared economy is the world’s sixth largest economy. Our currency, the world’s fourth most traded, protected the UK from the austerity measures imposed on other countries by the ECB, including on the Republic of Ireland. It gave us the freedom needed to become Europe’s fastest growing economy and fastest jobs creator by 2019. The UK has among the lowest rates of youth unemployment across the G7.

Crucially, the UK has the most ambitious green industrial policies in the world and is the first major economy to enshrine a commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 in legislation. A green recovery is crucial to the rebuilding from the devastation of this pandemic and, working together, the nations of the UK can lead the world in developing the technologies crucial to cutting emissions globally.

The UK is a major power with considerable economic, cultural, military and political influence worldwide. It has a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. If the Union is fragmented, each constituent nation would lose this influence. We have a long-shared history and have a very integrated society. Across the globe the UK is viewed as a beacon of hope, compassion and prosperity. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are equal and cherished partners within a hugely successful political union. Breaking up this family of nations would be a tragedy. It is a family we must fight to protect.