Andy McSmith's Diary: Clarification of Sir John Major’s clarification


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Indy Politics

Sir John Major’s warning, delivered before the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, that Britain may leave the EU was an interesting contrast with the previous speech he delivered to that institution.

He mentioned that earlier speech in passing today, saying that it was delivered “22 years ago” and that it was “misinterpreted”. The first of those two statements is wrong, and I am not sure that I agree with the second.

He addressed the institute in March 1991 – that is nearly 24 years ago, Sir John – four months after he had won the Conservative leadership by hoovering up the votes of the Tory right, who thought he was the candidate who would stay true to Margaret Thatcher’s memory. Instead, he went to Germany and delivered a speech reputedly written for him by that arch-Europhile and future EU Commissioner, Chris Patten, which provoked some of his recent supporters into calling him a “federalist”.

He denies that he was ever federalist, yet after he had delivered his call for Britain to be “in the heart of Europe”, he held a press conference with the German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, and declared that the “way ahead” would be “Britain, France and Germany all clearly in the centre of it, working for the future of the community”.

Imagine David Cameron saying all that at a press conference today with Angela Merkel at his side. It would not happen.

Pundit Portillo tips Miliband

A poll this week said that only 13 per cent of voters think that Ed Miliband could be prime minister, yet within that minority there is the unlikely figure of Michael Portillo – who in the 1990s was seen as a future saviour of the Conservatives.

Now a broadcaster, he drew gasps while giving a talk in Malton, in the profoundly Conservative part of North Yorkshire, when he predicted that Miliband will be the prime minister in 2015. He forecast that the Conservatives would get more votes than Labour but that Ukip will take at least 10 per cent, opening the way for a Labour-led government.

He also predicted that the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU won’t happen. “I don’t think there will be a Conservative majority, so there will be no referendum,” he said.

Reputation is a spin of pride

Reputation is everything, Tony Blair’s old spin doctor Alastair Campbell told the Festival of Marketing, and he treated them to an anecdote to illustrate his point.

He had flown into Gatwick from Croatia and was at the front of the queue to leave the plane when the double doors jammed. “Now the other passengers are gathering behind me,” he said, “and I can read their minds: ‘Come on then, Mr Spin Doctor, Mr Fixit, fix this then.’ Reputation all important, the greatest currency of all. I tweeted the official airport account: ‘Just off flight BA-blahblahblah, double doors at ramp not opening,’ then to show I was down with the youth: ‘Wtf!’… Almost instantly, a reply: ‘We’re on it.’ Within a minute or so, a man arrives, smiling and apologetic, presses some buttons, the doors open, I walk through, followed by grateful passengers muttering to each other: ‘Wow, see what he did?’ Reputation intact. Phew.”

Clegg scores Arsenal winner

Nick Clegg is understandably reluctant to talk about the rapist footballer Ched Evans, although his constituency is in the same city as Sheffield United, Evans’s club when he was convicted. During his weekly LBC appearance, the Deputy Prime Minister was asked by Nick Ferrari: “What’s going to happen when you have to shake his hand at a reception in Sheffield?” Sounding put out, Clegg replied: “I’m an avid Arsenal supporter, so I don’t go to United as much as I might do otherwise.”

That got him out of a tight corner, but will not have won him any votes in Sheffield Hallam. Clegg went on to say Evans should not be training with the club.