Made my first ever trip to Jersey yesterday. Nice place, nice time, good run, met some old friends and then last night did a speech and q and a at a dinner. It is always interesting to see where questions are coming from especially when, as last night, they come from a mix on onstage interviewer and written questions submitted during the evening by guests.
The onstage interview stuff was as you’d expect – is Labour doomed? (No). Is Alastair Campbell the father of spin? (No – I gave them a history lesson about ‘spin alley’ where supporters of rival candidates gathered after presidential election TV debates back in black and white days?) Peter Mandelson asset or liability? (Asset). Was expenses’gate’ a disaster for politics? (Yes but we still need to defend politics). Credit crunch all the fault of bankers? (Not all but a lot?)
A bit about my own ‘demons’ and future, but after half an hour or so the conference organiser bounded up with her selection of 20 questions from the floor that I had to answer in five minutes. And then later she showed me all the questions that had been submitted, which I read this morning as I made my way to Burnley. (Sorry Alistair McGowan, I really am trying to cut my carbon footprint and doing well in many ways but flying was the only way I could make it on time, and I am committed to seeing every game this year).
Flicking through dozens of questions was quite a pleasant way to spend some of the flight. They went from the serious – Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, the Tories and Europe, public spending – to the less so, such as ‘what colour pants are you wearing?’ That was in fact one of the 20. The answer, I was almost ashamed to say as the Tories gather in Manchester, was blue. I shall wear claret and blue today, red tomorrow. The questioner, from table 12, later asked if she could see proof that they were blue. It was gone midnight by then, so I don’t want to give the wrong impression about the whole evening, even if I did learn Jersey spends more per head on alcohol than anywhere apart from Luxembourg, and another question submitted from table 8 was ‘does my bum look big in this?’.
As almost always happens when the public are asking the questions, the majority were divorced from the prevailing media agenda. So for example there were more about my time w
ith the British and Irish Lions than there were about the Sun’s switch back to the Tories. There were as many on mental health issues as there were on the Labour conference in Brighton, even though it had clearly been followed pretty closely.
Then there is always the usual worst day, best day, funniest moment, tell us about Princess Diana, are you Malcolm Tucker, do you still like Britney Spears (not like I did) and why does Gordon do that thing with his jaw? I quite liked ‘have you ever considered throwing a shoe at George Bush?’ (No).
The one current issue that came ‘top of the pops’, numerically (though still fewer than the combined number of questions on sport) concerned whether I thought TB would become the new President of Europe if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, and a few added a question about whether I would work for him. The second part was easily dealt with. No. I said I was proud and privileged to have worked for him for as long as I did, and as hard as I did, but I do not want to return to any full on, full time communications or political job. Added to which, as readers of my diaries will know, the European summitry scene was never my favourite way of passing time. As to whether I think he will get the job, I said I certainly think he is the best qualified.
When this new position was first devised, it was in part to have in Europe a big figure and a big voice leaders of the major countries of the world outside Europe would contact rather than, as now, having to find out which country holds the rotating presidency. He is also a superb decision-maker, negotiatior and communicator, skills which would all be required in large quantities. But I also know that Europe does not always get the best people into the right positions, and the complex and constantly shifting politics of the place means nothing is too certain for too long.
Meanwhile, I see the Tories have decided he would be a disaster and say they will do everything to stop it from happening. Given their European policy consists of sticking two fingers up to serious leaders so that they can jump into bed with a marginalised, marginalising alliance of racists, homophobes and misfits, I would say that the Tory onslaught is something of a campaign boost for TB, assuming he is up for it.
The tough Tory talk on Europe is being led by William Hague. Mr Cameron is otherwise engaged, busy getting his picture taken by his newly hired personal photographer. If the snapper sees any Cameron policies emerging anywhere, perhaps he could let us know. And maybe Andrew Marr could press Cameron as aggressively on missing policy tomorrow as he pressed GB last week on rumours about his health.
Now you’re starting to frighten me – you really know what colour pants you’ll be wearing two days in advance?! I hope you chose carefully for your visit to Cheltenham, we’re very pernickety in Gloucestershire…
PS were there any questions about how to get rid of tax-havens?
PPS what’s the president of the EU got to do with them? They’re not really part of it are they?
There is an odoius smell up here in the People’s Republic of Mancunia as the tories gather “up North”. (“I thought it would be like Coronation St, all cobbles. Wow! They have a Harvey Nicks here too. Where are all those people going wearing red, white and black scarve, Oh, ManU must be playing….).
Regarding TB, it shows you how good he was to get the Olympics for dat London when the man of the moment failed to get Chicago past the first round.
On Europe and TB being made El Presidente, the tories have two hopes. Bob Hope and no f*8%^ing hope in influencing events. Cameron has showed his inexperince and naivety by putting his MEPs in with the euro nutters as you rightfully say Alastair. If elected Merko and Sarko will do him no favours at all except letting him join the Euro when the pound goes through the floor.
i was there last night and a good time was had by all. The q and a bit was fabulous, much better than the opening bit where the questioner was a bit ponderous. You made a lot of friends by staying around for photos etc and a lot of admirers by being so open and frank
Blair would easily be the best, which means he probably won’t get it. I see Hague’s loony friends are going to be inManchester. By thei friends shall we know them
I cant be bothered to rebut all your statements,( if you really think Mandelson is an asset you are beyond hope!) but I do have a question..Regardless of the result of the Irish referendum, will the EU ask them to vote again?
If the Lisbon Treaty is ratified then an EU President will be appointed. I find it dreadful that a British political party would rather have anyone but a British person as EU president. Why are they so frightened of Tony Blair? Why are they so anti British? I am of course assuming that he will get the job although I know that the former Luxemburg PM is favoured by some. I agree with you also about the wrong decision to associate with extreme right wing groups from Eastern Europe which David Miliband commented on in his conference speech. William Hague has made a fool of himself as everything David Miliband stated can be confirmed from various sources including the US State Department’s website. The German Chancellor has also made her views known on the EU group. William Hague is definitely behind all of this and David Cameron needs to be careful about balancing his core vote with those whose vote he seeks. He needs to reign William Hague in. As before, Europe can be the Tory Party’s downfall.
“The most popular football club in the world” does it again. (Saw the game on tv.) Glad you wore claret and blue, not just blue. But Alex McLeish does not leave Burnley empty-handed – Owen Coyle promised his fellow Scot 12 empty bottles of Irn Bru! Bring on the Rovers!
I was there – great do! Was wondering if the airline charged excess baggage for the cardboard cheque given to you the dinner?
If I were you I would not say no to a job in the EU Presidency. It would be good for your career and your finances?If the Tories get in,and i hope they don’t, you may need a change after campaigning for so long.
I read the FT and Economist and notice how Angela Merkel has such anice smile and likeability factor. I like her style of leadership which is to stay in the middle and find diplomatic solutions. This just make our dog eat dog style of politics feel very stressful for the Politician and member of the public. Gordon Brown and David Cameron do not have the likeability factor.
Vince Cable has it and Peter Mandleson has it in a sort of panto villian sort of way. Tony Blair had it in a way in which on first seeing him you would say there’s that awful Tony Blair and then he would charm you into thinking he was a good guy too-bit of a rotter but in a likeable sort of way!
One of Gordon Brown’s biggest plus’s is that he is not up against a likeable candidate.
Was so pleased to see that Burnley won yesterday! So much positive feedback from Jersey and as for “Brians” comments on offshore tax havens, perhaps he might like to look at the IMF report on how Jersey had received the highest score against the FATF recommnedations? Oh Alastiar, there were some great photos taken – perhaps you might like to use some of them??
The young lady at table 12 was in fact a conservative.
All the images from the night are on line at http://www.kandidprints.com, AC seems to sum his thoughts up well in image 0237 😉