New Jez Honours

By DAVID WOODING

THERE have shocks and surprises galore in the corridors of power during 2015.

The Tories pipped Labour at the election winning post, the Lib Dems collapsed, Scottish nationalism triumphed and a little-known backbencher called Jeremy Corbyn became one of the most talked about politicians in the country.

Like the rest of them, he’s made us chuckle with a host of cock-ups and U-turns.

So let’s chill out and take a light-hearted look at the past year in Parliament with my New Jez Honours.1425551_10153174642391945_7409042168289219243_n

PANTO POLITICS PRIZE: Jeremy Corbyn for his starring role as Aladdin’s pal Wishy-Washy. Will he wear a red poppy on Remembrance Day? Oh, no, he won’t – oh, yes he will! Will he force Labour MPs to vote against air strikes on terrorists in Syria? Oh, yes, he will – oh, no, he won’t! Will he kneel before the Queen when he joins the Privy Council? Oh, no, he won’t – oh, yes, he will!

PANTO VILLAIN: George Osborne plays Baron Hardup by axing tax credits for three million low-paid families. Then the Chancellor pulled a fast one on Labour by giving claimants a last-minute reprieve.

HIS LEWDSHIP: Disgraced Lord Sewel took politics back into the sewer after being caught on film snorting cocaine with a pair of £200-a-night hookers at his flat. The deputy speaker was forced to quit his seat after being exposed by The Sun on Sunday – but will keep his title.

SNOUTS IN THE TROUGH AWARD: Lords Speaker Baroness D’Souza clocked up a £230 bill keeping a chauffeur-driven car waiting four hours while she watched an opera a mile from Parliament. We’d like to see her Rigoletto that one.

TOFF IN THE SNOUTS AWARD: David Cameron for hogging the headlines after a book claimed he put his “private part” into a dead pig’s mouth as part of an outrageous student initiation ceremony. The PM got his own back, branding author Lord Ashcroft “a little p****”.

26560518303_8b33b2e613_oORDER OF THE GREEDY PIG: A special prize goes to aptly-named Tory Douglas Hogg who re-boarded the Westminster gravy train five years after being thrown off. He was forced to quit as an MP after claiming £2,200 expenses to clean his moat – but has been given a seat in the Lords.

LAZARUS PRIZE FOR POLITICAL COMEBACK: Anti-war campaigner Ken Livingstone has a new lease of life co-chairing Labour’s defence review. Now he says he’d accept a seat in the Lords – which he wants to abolish – if Mr Corbyn offers him one.

SHORTEST RESIGNATION: Nigel Farage keeps his promise to quit as Ukip leader if he fails to be elected as an MP – only to re-instate himself three days later, claiming the party’s ruling board refused to accept his resignation.

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PICTURE BY GARY STONE. 15/5/2015. DAVE WOODING INTERVIEWS UKIP LEADER NIGEL FARAGE. NIGEL ENJOYS A DRINK A ND A LAUGH WITH THE SUN’S DAVE WOODING IN THE GUINEA PUB.

REBEL OF THE YEAR: Ukip’s only MP Douglas Carswell made history by staging a one-man backbench rebellion against party leader Nigel Farage. Let’s hope there isn’t a split. He’d find that even more painful.

GOLDEN BLADDER AWARD: Speaker John Bercow, who sat through an 11-hour Commons debate on Syria without a loo break. But then he always was good at stopping government leaks.

GOLDEN BALLS-UP AWARD: Former shadow chancellor Ed Balls urged everyone get a receipt when paying a handyman cash for odd jobs. Then his window cleaner revealed he had never asked for one in 17 years.

GRAVEST MISTAKE: Ed Miliband spent £15,000 on an 8ft “gravestone” carved with six key pledges days before the general election. The Ed Stone made him a laughing stock – and buried his hopes of becoming PM.

KICK A MAN WHEN HE’S DOWN PRIZE: Six-year-old Daniel Miliband for bluntly telling his defeated dad: “You used to be famous.”

BIG BENN CLANGER OF THE YEAR: SNP MP George Kerevan for saying Tony Benn would be “turning in his grave” at his son Hilary’s passionate speech in favour of air strikes in Syria. His remarks enraged the family of the late Leftie icon – who was actually cremated.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS, WAR IS OVER, DIPLOMA:  Diane Abbott, who spent a stormy meeting of Labour MPs, in which her ex-lover Jeremy Corbyn faced a barrage of criticism over his soft stance on terrorism, calmly signing her Christmas cards.

VANITY FAIR AWARD FOR SELFIE-EXPOSURE: SNP foreign affairs spokesman Alex Salmond for missing a Commons debate on whether to launch air strikes on Syria so he could unveil a portrait of himself in Edinburgh. A Labour wag summed it up perfectly: “If Alex Salmond was chocolate, he’d eat himself.”

BOOKER PRIZE FOR BEING WELL RED: Labour’s John McDonnell stunned MP by quoting Chinese communist mass murderer Chairman Mao in the Commons. He pulled out a copy of the despot’s little red book, read a section and threw it to George Osborne. The Chancellor kept it. Expect to see it thrown back at McDonnell in 2016 – or auctioned to raise Tory funds.

GAFFE OF THE YEAR: David Cameron for mixing up the claret and blue of West Ham United with that of Aston Villa – the team he tells us he supports.

TORY OF THE YEAR: Russell Brand for helping David Cameron win the election by telling his army of young fans not to vote – then urging them to back Labour when it was too late to register.

GILLETTE AWARD FOR THE SHARPEST POLITICAL PUTDOWN: Union boss Sir Paul Kenny on George Osborne’s handling of the economy: “He’s claimed more recoveries in the past five years than the RAC.”

BARBIE MEDAL FOR FEMINISM: Harriet Harman for launching a national wide tour to attract more women voters – in a PINK battlebus. A Westminster wag quipped: “I wonder what she thinks of the make-up of the Cabinet? She’d probably say there’s not enough pink lipstick.”

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LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN MEDAL FOR SPORT: London Mayor Boris Johnson’s over-exuberance in a game of touch rugby went wrong when he flattened a poor ten-year-old boy. If you think that’s bad, just wait until the Tory leadership race starts.
PLAIN SPEAKING AWARD: Labour’s Chris Bryant complained there were too many posh people in the arts. Singer James Blunt tweeted: “You classic gimp…it is your populist, envy-based, vote-hunting ideas which make our country c**p, far more than me and my s*** songs and plummy accent.”

ROCKY BELT FOR PARLIAMENTARY PUNCH-UPS: Rookie Labour MP Jessica Phillips for telling Diane Abbott to “f*** off” after she pulled her up for criticising their leader. She revealed: “People said to me they had always wanted to say that to her, and I don’t know why they don’t as the opportunity presents itself every other minute.” Asked how Ms Abbott responded, she replied: “She f***ed off.”

GREENHOUSE GAS GONG:  Leftie singer Charlotte Church produced more hot air than global warming itself by blaming the war in Syria on…climate change.

TWITS OF THE YEAR: Labour MP David Lammy for tweeting: “Good luck to students waiting for there GCSE results today. Rooting for you!” Wonder what grade he got in English? Labour’s Helen Goodman, forced to apologise after tweeting this about the Health Secretary’s Chinese missus: “If China is so great why did Jeremy Hunt’s wife come to England?” The BBC numpty who sent a tweet suggesting Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke was asleep during a Commons debate – when he was leaning close to a speaker because he is partially deaf.

MBE – Mugs of the British Empire: All the pollsters for totally misjudging the mood of the nation – right up to 10pm on election day. At least there’s now someone less trustworthy than our politicians.

Happy New Year everyone, which ever of this bunch you support!

Ed will be held hostage with a £18.4bn SNP ransom, warns Osborne

DAVID WOODING joins Chancellor GEORGE OSBORNE on the campaign trail.
NICOLA Sturgeon would hit working families with a £1,063 tax bill as the price for propping up a Labour government, George Osborne warned yesterday.
He claimed the SNP leader would force Ed Miliband to raid the nation’s pay packets to meet nine hidden spending pledges in her party’s manifesto.
The Chancellor says the new £18.4billion “ransom note” would hurt real people – and trigger a mass exodus of job creators.
Mr Osborne declared: “This is a really stark situation and we are only five days away from it.
“Ed Miliband is not strong enough to win the election outright so we face a toxic combination of a weak Labour PM being held hostage by Scottish Nationalists, night after night, budget clause after budget clause.
“The SNP have only two objectives – one is to get maximum resources for Scotland and the other is to make the government look shambolic to further their cause of independence.
“They have already said they would borrow £148billion to meet their promises and now we’ve found nine more unfunded commitments they would write into Ed Miliband’s Budget.
“We’re talking serious money here. It would add £1,063 a year to the average working family’s tax bill.
“If interest rates go up by one per cent because of all this political chaos, that would add £1,000 to the average mortgage repayment.”
In an exclusive interview, Mr Osborne also warned that businesses and investors who base themselves in Britain could flee abroad – putting thousands of Brits out of work.
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He said: “All this would be put at risk by Ed Miliband’s high tax, anti-business, anti-growth policies that will destroy investment, cost jobs and drive these companies away.
“If we see the economic chaos of a weak Ed Miliband held hostage by the Scottish Nationalists, then jobs and investment will leave Britain.
“We’re in a fight now for our country’s future now. In just a few days time, we could be plunged into political instability and economic chaos with a weak Ed Miliband, who is clearly not up to the job, propped up by the life support machine of the Scottish Nationalists.
“It would be a disaster for our country.”
Mr Osborne added: “We’ve just done some new work on the SNP’s manifesto, which they have made very clear they will demand as their ransom note.
“It would cost an extra £1,063 a year in taxes for the average working family in this country.”
The SNP has already said it would borrow £148billion – and no more – to meet its election promises. But the nine hidden commitments to boost welfare spending at a cost of £18.4billion would have to be paid for with tax rises.
Nicola Sturgeon yesterday scoffed at Ed Miliband’s refusal to do any deals and vowed to derail his government if he didn’t jump to her tune.
She said: “If he’s not prepared to talk and to compromise then he will not get things through.”
Mr Osborne spoke during a campaign visit to Blackpool North and Cleveleys, a key marginal seat where Tory Paul Maynard is defending a 2,150 majority.
He branded Mr Miliband a “spendaholic” who would crash the economy again and “screw it up” for hard-working Brits.
The Chancellor brandished a copy of the note left in the Treasury in 2010 by departing Labour minister Liam Byrne admitting there was no cash left.
“We know he will end up causing everyone a lot of grief because we’ve been through it all before,” he declared.
“Let’s not end up in the situation where we have to wait for another Labour Treasury minister to write another letting telling us they’ve spend all our money.”
Asked what note HE would be leaving on his desk, he replied: “I’m not thinking about writing letters. I want to be back at work on Friday morning bringing jobs and prosperity to towns like this.
“I don’t want to hand over what we’ve achieved over the last five years though the hard work and sacrifice of the British people and businesses to Ed Balls and Ed Miliband for them to smash it against the wall.
“I am fighting with every last breath we’ve got in the next five days to make sure that doesn’t happen. I want to make sure we build on what we’ve achieved and don’t allow these Labour politicians who screwed it up in the past to screw it up in the future.”
Mr Osborne admitted her burst into laughter at Ed Miliband’s stumbling performance in the BBC election debate last week.
But it wasn’t the sight of him tripping up that amused him, but the labour leader’s insistence the last Labour government didn’t overspend.
The Chancellor said: “I think the entire nation laughed out loud. I thought that was a really telling moment, probably the defining moment of the campaign for me.
“He looked like a rabbit in the headlights, unable to convince the audience that Labour didn’t mess up the public finances.
“”The terrifying thing is not his view about history, but that he’d do it all again.
“It wasn’t just that Ed Miliband physically stumbled off the stage. He metaphorically stumbled. He was unable to answer the basic question of whether we can trust him with our money. That’s the most fundamental question for a Prime Minister.
During the campaign, Mr Osborne has become convinced that voters will put the economy at the forefront of their minds when they vote on Thursday.
He said: “These are not abstract ideas for people who read The Sun on Sunday. It means you don’t get that job, or the job you have is lost and the mortgage bill goes up. Your income is cut, you family’s economic opportunities snatched away.
“We have it within our power to have David Cameron back at work on Friday morning, the economy continuing to grow, jobs being created, free childcare and the tax-free minimum wage implemented into law.
“Is a community like this going to get a look in if the Scottish Nationalists have got the whip hand over Ed Miliband? Of course not. So I am seriously worried about the future if we head down that road as a country.”
Mr Cameron hit back at his Lib Dem deputy Danny Alexander who has accused him of claiming all the credit for tax cuts and economic growth.
He declared: “We did some good work together but ultimately they were my budgets and I had to make the big calls about what was in them.
“The Liberal Democrats are probably desperate in this election and they are shouting and screaming to try and get noticed.
“But, to be honest, people know the contest is between David Cameron and the stability of a majority Conservative government or the chaos of Miliband and the Scottish Nationalists. A vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for that chaos.
“If people want David Cameron in Downing Street they have got to vote for David Cameron.”
HE was famously booed at the London’s 2012 Games.
But there’s one fan who’s always pleased to see George Osborne – his new pet pooch Lola.
The cute and fluffy Bison Frise always gives the Chancellor a warm welcome when he arrives at 11 Downing Street, where she has been top dog since December.
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Mr Osborne said: “She’s great and is always pleased to see me, which doesn’t always happen to a politican.
“There’s an unquestioning love there which is reciprocated. I didn’t grow up with a dog. We had cats. So it was quite a big step for us but it’s been brilliant.
“It has really advanced all of our lives. Lola leaps on you and starts tying to lick you. She’s fantastic.”
Lola has even brought new meaning to his job of clearing up the mess “Labour left behind”.
He added: “Even when at 6.30 in the morning I’m downstairs in the Downing Street garden with my little black poop bags chasing around after Lola, I’m still thinking she brings joy to our lives.”
Dad-of-two Mr Osborne admits that when it comes to running the household economy, his author wife Frances has an equal say.
“That is a shared endeavour,” he insists. “Frances and I do it together. She’s a brilliant lady in her own right. She writes great books and she has been brilliant.”
To relax they watch boxed sets and recently he’s spent his spare hour off glued to TV hit Poldark and admits to having a soft spot for heroine Demelza.
The Chancellor  admits 11 Downing Street is an “odd place to grow up” for their kids Luke, 13, and Liberty, 11.
He said: “They are pretty level headed and we try to keep it as real as possible for them. They get pocket money  like other children.”
Luke is into vinyl records and uses “every spare penny” to buy old LPs from the 70s and 80s from groups such as Duran Duran.
Liberty loves cooking and has been watching the Masterchef finals and the Great British Bake Off.
Mr Osborne said: “She’s into cooking and I’m her sous chef, the under chef for her and do what she says. I say ‘Yes, chef!’
“I used to do a slow-cook leg of lamb with macaroni. You put the lamb in the oven with some tomatoes and onioins for about four or five hours and they you add the macoroni for the last 20 minutes. It’s really good.
“But look, there is a big difference between turning up on th weekend, spending an hour in the supermarket geting all your individual ingredients and producing suppoer on a Saturday night and what I call reall cooking, which is producing a meal every night for the kids.”
Which kitchen does he prefer to cook in?
“I just have the one,” he said.
CHILLED George Osborne served ice cream at a seaside shop and admitted: “I’m a bit of a vanilla man”.
He was invited to a few scoops from an array of flavours at the New Yorker sundae parlour in Cleveleys, Lancs, but plumped for the plain and traditional.
The Chancellor said: “You may think it’s boring but there’s a lot to be said for a good, old-fashioned, dependable vanilla. I quite like the look of the cherry and the pistachio but you can’t beat a good vanilla.”
Mr Osborne served The Sun on Sunday an extra large cone and declared: “You get better helpings with the  Cone-servatives.”
But being a vanilla-lover is not as boring as it sounds. An ice cream personality test website describes them as colourful, impulsive risk-takers who set high goals and have high expectations of themselves.
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GEORGE Osborne has made so many factory visits he’s now got his own high-vis jacket and hard hat.
He’s had to wear flourscent safety gear at least 40 times during the election campaign after stepping out of his Treasury “bunker”.
He admits he dug himself in during a “difficult period” but added: “Then, I realised you can’t behave like that when you’re democratically and accountable politician and you’re taking decisions that affect people’s lives.
“You have got to go out there explain yourself. I found that if you’re stuck in the Treasury, you don’t hear anything new and you don’t engage with people.
“So I got myself out and about and I’ve really enjoyed it. A lot of things we’ve done, a lot of initiatives we’ve pursued like the concept of the Northern Powerhouse, came from these conversations and not thinking all the answers like within the square mile of Whitehall.
“Somebody did give me my very own high-vis jacket and hardhat because I was getting out to so many different workplaces.”
The hi-vis Chancellor has also posed for a string of selfies – including one with Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho.
Blues fan Mr Osborne for once the person doing the asking when they met for the first time at an event for football-loving MPs.
He’d like to be at Stamford Bridge tomorrow where Chelsea hope to secure their fifth league title.
But he says: “I don’t know whether people would ask what I’m doing but on the other hand we haven’t won the league for five years – and last time we were in the middle of an election, too.
“I was thrilled to meet Jose. We needed the special one back, didn’t we? Let’s hope we can have a double this week with a win for both blue teams.”ENDS

Minister throws £1m lifeline for struggling pubs – over a pint

By DAVID WOODING

HUNDREDS of pubs facing closure will be thrown a cash lifeline under Tory plans to support struggling communities.

A special £1 million fund will be set up to help local people launch takeover bids to keep their boozers open.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss told me of the plan over a glass at one of Westminster’s favourite watering holes.

The move is part of a package of measures to boost rural areas to be unveiled in the Conservatives’ election manifesto.

It would help protect up to 600 pubs which act as community hubs from being knocked down for developers or turned into housing or takeaways.

Tories will set up a “Last Pub in the Village” fund to help locals step in to save their favourite watering hole.

They will be able to apply for loans to pay for legal fees needed to stage a takeover or win a protection order.

Ms Truss said pubs in rural areas also act as job centres, information hubs and the backbone of sports teams.

She said: “Pubs can be a cornerstone of a community, especially in rural areas where they become an important focal point.

“People form lifelong friendships in village pubs, which bring people from all social backgrounds together.

“It’s important for country pubs to stay and that’s why we’re putting up the money to protect the last pub in the village.”

Ms Truss said a future Tory government would also impose a five-year freeze on licence fees for small community pubs – helping to cut their overheads.

She has by a community rescue of the King’s Arms, at Shouldham, Norfolk,  where villagers bought shares in the pub and volunteers carried out a refurb.

It is now a thriving community hub which provides school meals for local kids and serves pub grub in the evening.

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Sipping a glass of cider in the famous Red Lion on Whitehall, she added: “We’ve already done a lot for the great British pub by cutting beer duty three years in a row.

“This has protected an estimated 16,000 jobs and we want to build on that in the next parliament.

“Pubs are great places to drink responsibly in a social setting. They’re also good for tourism and can provide other services for the areas they serve.”

Last night the plans were welcomed by the pub and beer industry.

Keith Bott, managing director of Titanic Brewery, in Stoke-on-Trent, said: “This would be a massive boost for the pubs which are part and parcel of the British way of life.

“Hundreds of them are struggling so it is vital to do what we can to protect those which are an asset to their local community.

“Freezing licence fees would be a big help, too, as there are fears that some councils are using them as a cash cow at the expense of hard-hit pubs.”

When political prejudice is all in the mind.

By DAVID WOODING

SOMEBODY tweeted me the other day asking why I only posted poll results which showed the Tories in front. 

I then dug out a tweet of mine from a few weeks earlier which began: “Labour surge into a six-point lead…”  Another time I wrote how  Ed Miliband has trounced David Cameron at PMQs. Within seconds, I received a reply from a top Tory asking if I was watching the same debate. On a single day I received tweets from a Leftie calling me a “Tory c*** sucker” and a Ukip supporter branding me a “first class Left-wing p****” who should be working for the Guardian or the Mirror. You see, it is all in the mind, depending on whether you wear blue, red or yellow tinted spectacles. In fact it is YOU the complainant who is biased because you only see it your way and don’t like your side being criticised.

Lots of fellow journalists get the same unwarranted criticism. I stumbled across this short piece by Michael Deacon of the Daily Telegraph which sums up why most of us are NOT biased while many of those who read us and get irate are.

By the way, there’s nothing wrong with a journalist being biased if he or she wants to. My good pal Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror is shamelessly Labour and does a great job of it. Call me simple, but I just like to get political stories, whoever it hurts or boosts – which is why I object to being called biased. Here’s Michael’s piece which you should read before you call foul at us again.

Every football journalist in this country is routinely accused of two things. 1) Being biased towards Manchester United. 2) Being biased against Manchester United.

It’s like that with politics. A lot of people on the Right think the BBC is biased to the Left. And a lot of people on the Left think the BBC is biased to the Right. I’ve been told that I’m biased for and against the Tories, Labour, Lib Dems and Ukip (Ukip opponent: “You treat Farage with kid gloves.” Ukip voter: “You’re racist against Ukip!)

This is why I’ve got no time for the claims by some viewers that Jeremy Paxman and Kay Burley were biased in their treatment of David Cameron and Ed Miliband. Some thought the presenters were nakedly Cameron. And others took them for blatant Lefties.

The truth about claims of media bias is that the claims themselves tend to be biased. People only ever detect bias against their own side.

To go back to football: fans always accuse the referee of being biased, but only in their opponents’ favour. You can start to take claims of bias seriously the day you hear them shout, “Oi, ref! That’s never a penalty! Our striker blatantly dived! Are you taking backhanders from our chairman or what!”

Well said, Michael.So next time you rush to Twitter to hurl abuse, just take a long look in the mirror (the one on your wall not the one that lands on your doormat) and ask who is really the biased one here. And don’t forget to re-tweet me when I land a blow on the other side.

William Hague’s off to Joliewood

By DAVID WOODING

CABINET quitter William Hague is set for a mega pay day – thanks to his friendship with Angelina Jolie.

The former Foreign Secretary has showbiz agents clamouring to sign him.

They are offering fees of at least £25,000 an hour to make after-dinner speeches.

And he is expected to land a series of six-figure book deals when he stands down as an MP in May.

In an exclusive interview, Mr Hague, 53, told me he plans to see much more of Hollywood star Angelina when his 26 years in politics end at the next election.

He also revealls how he gave his wife Ffion power of VETO to end his political career, FORGED a “most unusual” friendship with David Cameron and George Osborne and admits his chances of becoming PM were WRECKED because he won the Tory leadership when he was too young.

Big league

He admits that the world is his oyster when he exits the political stage. He said: “The responsibilities have been there day and night. I am quite looking forward to the change.”

His decision to go was made public when he quit as Foreign Secretary in July’s reshuffle. But he has kept his role fighting rape as a weapon of war alongside fellow campaigner Angelina.

William Hague

He said: “Our campaign will continue. I will do more work with Angelina.

“We are always in touch and the summit we held last month was no way the end of that.”

Asked about the involvement of her husband Brad Pitt in the campaign, he bristled: “Well, he came to show his support. But it’s HER campaign with ME. WE lead the campaign.

“Although some may think we are an unusual combination or alliance, it is an effective one.”

Mr Hague will start his lucrative life outside politics by writing a history book. He has already published two moneyspinners about William Wilberforce and Pitt — that’s William Pitt the Younger, not Brad.

In his last break from front-line politics he earned £820,000 for writing, speaking and TV appearances.

Now he is ready to enter the big league. Leading speakers’ agent JLE said: “He’d be on our top AA rate, where fees start at £25,000. His friendship with Angelina Jolie will only add to his attraction.”

Mr Hague said: “I will write mainly about history. It’s unlikely I’ll write my memoirs but not impossible.

I might write about some of my experiences but I am not one for writing nasty things about colleagues, nor have I noted down every ten minutes.

“But I don’t rule out writing something about my experiences about politics.”

The Yorkshireman is secretly hankering after a move to America. He said: “After Yorkshire, Montana is the next place in the world my spirit is at home … I dream of living on a ranch there.”

He’s also looking forward to spending more time with Ffion.

He said: “Ffion agrees it is time to go but she would have been supportive if I had said I want to be an MP for longer. I have been busy the whole 17 years we’ve been married but she hasn’t been asking me to step down.

“When I went back into front-line politics, I told her, ‘Whenever you want me to stop, I will stop.’ The decision was always in her hands.

“Spending more time with Ffion will be a very good side-effect of this decision.” Mr Hague burst on to the political stage as a 16-year-old, making a speech at a Tory conference. He was an MP before he was 28, in the Cabinet at 34 and party leader at 36. He had to take on Tony Blair when the Labour PM was at the peak of his popularity.

No regrets He reflected: “I was almost certainly too young to do it but I have never regretted taking it.”

William Hague

Despite the 2001 election defeat, he insists he has been proven right on three key issues — Labour DID raise taxes, immigration DID become a problem and joining the euro WOULD have been a disaster.

Mr Hague’s high point was passing the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act in his time as Minister for Disabled People. He said: “I did it all on the back of an envelope. I was on my way from America and I put it together on the plane, took it through Parliament and produced a landmark piece of legislation.”

He added: “From now to next May I am going to lead the House of Commons and help David Cameron win the next election.

“Between David, George Osborne and myself, we have had a most unusual connection and friendship … We are fortunate in the Conservative Party to have a lot of talented new people … which gives me confidence in saying it is time to move on.

“It is always better to step down when people wonder why you’ve done so, than a couple of years later when they wonder why you haven’t.” Continue reading

The Iron Lady – it’s about so much more than just Thatcher

DAVID WOODING reviews the hot new political movie

THIS fascinating movie shows Britain’s most divisive political figure in a new light – as a real human being.

If you’re a nerd, fan or critic expecting a potted history of Margaret Thatcher’s 11 years in power you’ll be disappointed.

This poignant film barely scratches the surface of the real-life dramas which shaped her Premiership. The Falklands War, the poll tax riots, the miners’ strike and the Brighton bomb are all a sub-plot to a rather sad but charming story about getting old.

It vividly depicts how giants of history are really just frail, ordinary people underneath. And Meryl Streep’s incredible portrayal of Mrs Thatcher achieves what the Tory icon often failed to do herself – by winning  our admiration, sympathy and respect.

Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher

The Iron Lady is about so much more than the rise and fall of a legend.

It’s about the tragedy of old age, the struggle by women for equal rights and the rise to power of a grocer’s girl from Lincolnshire.

Thatcher’s amazing life is seen through the prism of an old lady struggling with dementia, mourning the loss of her husband Denis and having flashbacks to the days when she ran the country.

Tories have been swift to express their uneasiness with the subject matter while Lady Thatcher is still alive – and Labour tribalists baulk simply at the idea of a film about a woman whose legacy they detest.

But you must put the political ethics to one side and watch this as a piece of pure cinema. Forget the historical inaccuracies, too. Maggie never wore a hat in the Commons, she was not with Airey Neave in the car park when he was blown up and I’ve never before heard she barked “sink it!” when generals asked  what to do about the Belgrano.

Director Phyllida Lloyd certainly knows how to use artistic licence to great dramatic effect. She once produced a quirky version of Wagner’s Ring cycle at the ENO, in which the Rhinemaidens were mini-skirted, fishnet-stockinged, spiky-heeled pole dancers and the heroine Brunhilde became a suicide bomber. I was sceptical about that – but it worked. Lloyd’s idiosyncratic style works wonders in The Iron Lady, too.

Sadness

There’s also great use of music from  Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Bach to Bellini and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Shall We Dance?”

Meryl Streep’s portrayal spans 40 years and the flashbacks give a balanced picture of the woman – her determination, vision, weaknesses and failings – all in nugget-sized  episodes, rather than detailed analysis. The 90-minute film also takes us  back six decades to Thatcher’s childhood working during wartime in her father’s grocery shop.

The movie sends out a powerful message about the tragedy of dementia – and the sadness of loneliness endured by many in old age.

It may struggle to turn Thatcher’s critics into full-blown admirers. But if they’re honest with themselves, they’ll admit to feeling rather more warm towards her after seeing this.

At the very least, thousands more people will see Lady Thatcher for what she really is – a human being.

EU referendum – a running sore for David Cameron

By DAVID WOODING

DAVID Cameron faced the biggest Tory revolt in modern history tonight in a row that looks set to dog the rest of his Premiership.

Mr Cameron crushed the rebellion thanks to support from Labour and Lib Dem MPs but it left wounded and festering backbenchers vowing never to surrender on the issue.

Up to 80 of Mr Cameron’s own troops opposed him in the Commons tonight and voted in favour of a referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

It was biggest revolt suffered by a Conservative Prime Minister since 41 defied Sir John Major to oppose the Maastricht Treaty in 1993.

Labour leader Ed Miliband taunted: “This massive Tory rebellion is a humiliation for the Prime Minister.”

Some 111 MPs of all parties backed the referendum call, not enough to clinch victory on the issue. Early estimates suggest that about 80 of them were Tories.

Resentment is now mounting not only over the result, but his handling of the issue, with some claiming they were threatened by heavy-handed government whips.

Costly mistake

Two ministerial aides have quit and one private parliamentary secretary is said to have needed medical attention after he fainted during a stern showdown with the PM.

The rebels were given a further boost by two polls tonight which show voters are overwhelmingly on their side

Two-thirds of the public want a straight “in or out” referendum onBritain’s membership of the European Union, according to a ComRes survey for ITV News.

More than half – 54 per cent – believe that joining the union has been a costly mistake, delivering more problems than advantages.

But they are equally divided on full withdrawal – 37 per cent agree and 37 per cent disagree – but 41 per cent want the government to negotiate better membership terms.

And more than half would support pulling out if striking a better deal was not possible.

More than 130,000 have already signed a petition demanding a say on Britain’s future relationship with Europe.

An ICM poll for tomorrow’s Guardian shows 70 per cent want a referendum, with 49 per cent prepared to vote to pull out and only 40 per cent to stay in.

UK Independence Party chief Nigel Farage said: “It is fascinating watching the Conservatives tear themselves apart over this.

Wrong 

“Polls over the last few days have shown clearly that the general public believe MPs should be able to vote how they like regarding an EU referendum.”

But Mr Cameron insisted voting to leave Europe at a time of financial crisis would be like deserting your neighbours when their houses are on fire when you should be helping and stopping it from spreading to your home.

Foreign Secretary William Hague told MPs a referendum on our future in Europe was the “wrong question at the wrong time”.

With the euro in meltdown, and Britain having to stump up billions to keep it afloat, the row looks set to drag on.

After the economy, it could turn out to be one of the biggest issues to dog Mr Cameron’s premiership.

Follow me on Twitter: @davidwooding