Never in the field of nostalgia has the anniversary of a prime minister’s death provoked so much anguish from so many. Where, everybody has been fretting in the half-century since Churchill passed away, are we to find the Winstons du jour in the age of the political pygmy?
So it is with exquisite timing that a claimant to his mantle has emerged. I refer to Amjad Bashir, the Pakistan-born, Leeds-raised entrepreneur who has left left Ukip, for which he briefly served as an MEP, for the Conservatives.
The true genesis of this development remains a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Bashir says he was motivated by disgust at Ukip’s racism and amateurishness. Nigel Farage counters that he suspended him, hours before the defection was scheduled to be revealed, over alleged expenses irregularities and claims that he hired illegal immigrants at his restaurant.
One could easily become obsessed with such minutiae as why Bashir took so long to discern any racist undercurrents among his confrères. In 2013, after Michael Heseltine had misinterpreted Godfrey Bloom’s reference to “bongo bongo land” as somehow racist, a cross Bashir appeared on the BBC to bat away the slur. “Look at my ethnicity,” he harrumphed. “Listen, this is silly. Here I am running as an MEP. Where’s the racism? If it was a racist party, would they select me?”
It was nothing more, he added with winning originality, than “political correctness gone mad”. At the time, he had recently left the Tories, in despair at government immigration policy, for a Ukip he praised with no discernible ironic intent as “very disciplined”. Since we may never fully know what explains his epiphany, let us celebrate a political journey that puts his role model in the shade: although Churchill also left the Tories (for the Liberals) and later rejoined them, he was never a Labour Party member, as Bashir was in the 1970s.
What an infinitely supple political mind this is, and it will be scandalous if David Cameron, or the leader of whichever party he joins on Wednesday week, fails to offer him a peerage. Bashir would probably refuse it in further homage to his hero, who turned down the dukedom of London. Even so, anyone who has stated that what most attracted him to Ukip was its discipline deserves a legislative voice.
Ukip’s rising stars
Ukip’s rising stars
1/7 Suzanne Evans
A Tory defector who has only been in the party for a year. She was rapidly appointed national communities spokesman. A former BBC reporter who now runs a PR agency, she has won plaudits within the party for her confidence in front of the camera.
2/7 Steven Woolfe
A barrister from Manchester whose father was mixed-race and mother was white. He was invited to become financial services spokesman before he had even joined Ukip. Now an MEP, his ethnicity and northern upbringing are in strong contrast to the Ukip stereotype.
3/7 Margot Parker
A local businesswoman who impressed Ukip’s hierarchy with her spirited campaign in the Corby and East Northants by-election 18 months ago. She was elected as an MEP for the East Midlands last week. She has a no-nonsense style which party chiefs believe will be persuasive on the national stage.
4/7 Patrick O’Flynn
A former Daily Express journalist who became Ukip’s director of communications and was a strategist behind the Euro-elections campaign. An experienced performer on television who is close to Mr Farage. With his media background he could become a culture spokesman.
5/7 Amjid Bashir
A restaurateur of Pakistani lineage who is one three Ukip MEPs representing Yorkshire and the Humber and currently speaks for the party on small business. After his election he said: “Here I am... of Asian birth, of Asian parentage, Muslim, and I have been selected by this so-called racist party. It disproves that completely.”
6/7 Louise Bours
Until her combative appearance alongside Piers Morgan and Joey Barton on Question Time last Thursday, she was one of Ukip’s lesser-known faces. The new MEP for the north-west is a former actress whose full name is Louise van de Bours. Her northern credentials could come in handy in wooing Labour-leaning voters.
7/7 Paul Nuttall
Long serving activist from Merseyside who became Ukip’s chairman in 2008 and deputy leader two years later. He is a key weapon in the party’s attempts to broaden its appeal to working-class voters in the North of England.
The favoured one to return to Murdoch’s fold?
Rumour arrives, via a well-connected if peccable source, of an imminent announcement from the House of Murdoch. A seemly interval having elapsed since she left a Southwark dock without a stain on her character, Rebekah Brooks could shortly be appointed to a stellar position at 21st Century Fox (News Corporation as was, before some minor embarrassment necessitated a rebranding) in New York. If so, we trust that rejoining the firm she served with such distinction raises no questions about handing back the rumoured £10.8m pay-off with which Rupert Murdoch underlined his surrogate fatherhood of the woman known to him as “this one”.
Missing the storm in a D-Cup already
On the vexing matter of Page 3, and without wishing to brag, there is, or rather there should be, no greater expert than this columnist.
In 1992, during a minor career hiatus, it was my privilege to ghostwrite what remains the seminal work on The Sun’s bare-breasted young lovelies for a leading publisher (no rush, but I’m still awaiting half the fee). Unfortunately, I have never seen the book, and recall nothing of its contents. So if any of you has a well-thumbed copy of Storm in a D-Cup: Page 3 Profiles (nominally authored by the former glamour model Christine Peake), as so many of you will, pop it in the post, and we can reap its timeless wisdom to illuminate this endlessly captivating national debate.
Mr T hits the tone in tribute to patient Saudi moderniser
The loss of the Saudi King Abdullah at the tragically young age of 90 has hit us all very hard, but none harder than Tony Blair. In his most emotionally charged utterance since he wrote to Gaddafi profoundly regretting Britain’s failure to hand the Colonel all the Libyan dissidents his heart desired, Mr Tony expressed his deep sadness on hearing “of the passing of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. I knew him well and admired him greatly. He … was a patient and skilful moderniser of his country.” Oh but he was. Patient, almost, to a fault.
In these troubled times for a former PM still struggling with Gaddafi’s passing, the last thing he needed was to lose another dear friend.
On the day of his memorial service, we honour Abdullah as truly the People’s King, and extend to Mr T not only our sympathies, but our gratitude for speaking for the nation once again.
Bless Sarah for her servant’s heart
A ray of sunshine interrupts the midwinter gloom. Sarah Palin tells the US media that she is “very interested” in running for the presidency in 2016. Asked of her ambitions, Alaska’s Cretina de Vil replies: “Yeah, I mean, of course, when you have a servant’s heart, when you know there is opportunity to do all you can to put yourself forward in the name of offering service …”
Sadly, this might be another of her teases; despite it all she may comprehend that she has less chance of taking the oath of office in January 2017 than Son of Sam, or even Donald Trump, who also hints at another run. But even the remote prospect that the Republican nomination season will be another One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest revival narrows the odds that the White House will stay in Democratic hands, so bless her servant’s heart for that.Reuse content