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!

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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

Chris Huhne quits as he admits “smears” were true

By DAVID WOODING

FEW things are ever clear-cut when trying to get to the truth in politics. We encounter spin, twisting the facts and downright lies.

Then there’s Chris Huhne.

The former Cabinet minister who oozes self-belief has been lying through his teeth for nearly two years.  He swore blind the he would prove the newspapers wrong after they exposed how he made his wife take his speeding points so he wouldn’t get a driving ban.

The deception dates back to March 12, 2003 when Mr Huhne’s car was caught by a speed camera on the M11 near Stansted Airport.

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Chris Huhne: Waving goodbye to politics?

But now he faces a possible jail sentence after today admitting perverting the court of justice. Mr Huhne also announced he will resign as MP for Eastleigh in Hampshire.

The 58-year-old Lib Dem had vehemently denied the claims when he was first charged last February, and repeated the denials in court as recently as last week.

He was represented by John Kelsey-Fry QC, one of the country’s most sought after barristers during the proceedings at Southwark Crown Court.

It is always sad to see anybody’s career ruined. This tragedy was so needless when it was over a driving ban which would have been a one-day wonder in the papers at the time.

But let’s not forget that he was a contender for his party’s leadership when he stood against Nick Clegg in 2007.

It’s another shining example of how “lies” in the media so often turn out to be the truth.

And why we must not allow politicians like Mr Huhne to shackle the Press any more than it already is.

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.

Welcome to GB…I’m GB!

By DAVID WOODING

DAVID Cameron’s glamorous aide Gabby Bertin turned strike-buster today as she helped man Britain’s borders at Heathrow.

Political hacks feared she had joined the walk-out by civil servants when she failed to take her usual seat in the Commons gallery for PM’s questions.

But it later emerged his Press Secretary was among the army of volunteers checking passports and running immigration controls at the country’s top airport.

Gabby Bertin with Mr Cameron.

Dark-haired Gabby, 32, a popular figure in Westminster, would no doubt grant a welcoming smile to those arriving in the UK for the first time.
But journalists can vouch she is also a tough cookie who would have no truck with anyone who steps out of line.

During her single shift, she had cause to quiz one arriving passenger over her travel documents.

A colleague revealed: “She pressed this woman quite closely because she felt her passport didn’t pass the Bertin test.”

Gabby Bertin – affectionately known as “Berters” in the lobby – joined Tory campaign HQ straight from university and has worked for Mr Cameron since his leadership campaign in 2005.

She has worked for David Cameron since his leadership campaign in 2005 and has since been described as one of the most powerful women in Whitehall.

Number 10 confirmed “a handful” of staff working directly for the PM were among 125,000 civil servants who joined the strike over pensions.

Low risk

Mr Cameron asked members of his policy unit to do their bit to keep Britain’s gateway open during the 24-hour stoppage.

Later there were reports that Gabby had been spotted manning a passport control desk at Terminal One. She was given two days’ training in border security last week and learned how to check passports of passengers arriving on “low risk” flights.

Mr Cameron told the Commons the signs were that contingency measures were minimising the impact of the strike and branded the action a “damp squib”.

Passengers arriving told how they expected long queues but waltzed through the airport in minutes.
It’s not clear how senior a role Gabby was given but she’s renowned for her calm efficiency. Downing Street said it was unlikely she would accept a shift payment even if she was offered it.

Gabby’s used to working in the top-flight – and is definitely here for the long haul.

Poppy pride…or posing?

By DAVID WOODING

REMEMBRANCE Sunday is 17 days away and already politicians seem to be racing each other to be first to wear a poppy.

A host of MPs were proudly – and perhaps a little ostentatiously – sporting one in their lapels during Prime Minister’s question time in the Commons today.

They are sold to honour brave troops killed in action since the First World War – and raise millions for the Royal British Legion’s charitable work.

But in recent years, the well-observed tradition seems to have taken on an unfortunate political edge.

Etiquette dictates that the poppy should be worn in the week leading up to Remembrance Sunday – on November 13 this year.

But Labour MPs today stole a march on the Tories with nothing short of a sea poppies on Opposition benches during Prime Minister’s questions in the Commons.

Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham chided: “Not a Tory on the front bench with a poppy.”

He tweeted: “They have been on sale in Parliament for days and large numbers have them. Surely wearing them encourages others.”

Isn’t this all a little unseemly? Nobody is forced to wear a poppy yet 26 million are sold every year raising an estimated £35 million for ex-servicemen, women and their families.

I’m sure that David Cameron and his MPs will all have bought and worn one before he lays a wreath at the Cenotaph next month.

Demanding the PM pins one to his jacket now is a bit like complaining he hasn’t sent his Christmas cards out by mid November.

No doubt nervous TV presenters will be pinning on a poppy fast lest they get a dressing down from righteous MPs.

Twisted

Channel 4 News man Jon Snow fiercely refuses to give in to what he calls the “poppy fascists” and appears on screen with bare lapels all year round.

While some may find his stance a little extreme, many believe it is unfair to criticise MPs for being poppy-free in October.

Mr Cunningham’s followers accused him of a “petty partisan attack” and “twisted point-scoring”.

Amy Jackson declared: “My father spent 37 years in the Army and always taught me to start wearing poppies on November 1.”

Blogger Harry Cole added: “You used the war dead to try to score a point against the government.”

So what is poppy etiquette? A quick check in Debrett’s guide to good manners says poppies can be worn from the end of October to Remembrance Sunday – but adds it is acceptable to wear them from November 1 or just the week leading up to that day.

The Royal British Legion would probably settle for that – and scowl at the blatant politicisation of the biggest event in their calendar. Besides, the vets’ organization hasn’t even launched this year’s poppy appeal yet.

What is your view on the “poppy police” and “poppy etiquette?” Please leave your comments below.