Radio 4 Any Questions


Provided I recover from the Party Conference – and the trains don’t grind to a halt and shoot the idea to pieces – I will be on Any Questions with Jonathan Dimbleby tonight at 8.00pm

Wish me luck

Best/yours etc


Comments from the Party Conference

Bloggers: here is my latest.


Safety phobia isn’t funny – it can be fatal

You should have seen the way we all laughed yesterday at the conker story.

You know the conker thing: the way some head teacher, probably a Lib Dem, decided to forbid his pupils from playing conkers without first fortifying themselves with safety goggles. Goggles for conkers! Ha ha ha. Ho ho ho.

Everyone in the Bournemouth amphitheatre threw back their chins and howled.

What will they think of next, eh? It’s political correctness gawn mad, I tell yer; and then everyone wiped their eyes, and sobered up, and prepared for the next question – a serious question, we assumed.

And that, I thought, is the problem. We have become so used to this kind of thing, the health and safety fetish, that we kind of bleep it out. Children not allowed to take eggboxes to handicraft classes in school for fear of salmonella.

Ha ha ha. Risk assessments to be carried out before every school trip. Tee hee hee.

Of course, it is mad that a teacher has to go to the proposed destination (the Science Museum), scout it out for paedophiles, highly polished floors and other hazards, and then file a report on these dangers and keep it on the school premises.

Of course, we know that such madnesses are reduplicating at a terrifying rate; and yet somehow they are so numerous, and so mad, that the wells of our indignation are running dry. We treat it as a joke, when the modern obsession of risk is sometimes very far from a joke.

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Conservative Party Conference

Day 2 – 3

**Good ripples of confidence following the Tory Leader’s speech**

This morning gliding in smooth lines against the vast expanse of the sea, Bournemouth seagulls reflect the mood of the day: Michael Howard is soaring like an eagle.

Trust is at the centre of the General Election planning strategy. The Daily Telegraph debate went ahead with gusto as questions flowed from the floor – keeping an eye on regulation, taxation and immigration. Liam Fox highlighted some of our mistakes in the 1997 election. The debate swung to foxes and one voice popped up like a cuckoo in support of the fox, but it was a lone one. Bill Deedes was the acknowledged hero of the day as he arrived in an ambulance from his hospital bed where he is nursing a broken leg. Boris Johnson, who chaired the event, urged members of the panel to “get some Deedesian concision in replies” to questions. Vicki Woods spoke in favour of re-capturing the old vote – as well as re-capturing the young (Why not the whole caboodle, I asked myself?) and made some sensible points about getting more good-lookers in the shape of 30something ladies as potential MPs (a shade of the Blair babe idea?) that could do wonders in making people wake up to politics again. Alice Thomson and Matthew D’Ancona were upbeat about Tories’ hopes for the future and their “pluck and fortitude”.

Michael Howard succeeded in regaining the trust of the people by going back to his roots in a moving reference to his immigrant family origins. He said that while Blair courted a date with destiny most people are looking for a date with the dentist!

The feeling of international community is abroad here. Oodles of Chinese were mingling in the Reception hosted by the Chinese Ambassador and the Conservative Chinese Group. The event was graced with the presence of the stunning Sandra Howard. There was also a breakfast hosted by the BBC World Service reminding us of the value of global communications. At current ratings of 180 million global listeners per week the World Service (news and online) is the largest international broadcaster in the world. Surely they deserve generous financial support from the FCO? Alas, it seems that their future is under threat owing to government cutbacks.

The thunder of a Redwood and Hannan meeting now beckons …


Conservative Party Conference Diary

Day 1

Fizzing with the buzz of friendly faces at every turn, swarming with police – protective bumblebees crawling round the Conference Centre honeypot. There is an oozing sense that the centre of gravity emanates from here.

Liam Fox, Co-Chairman of the Party, gave a rallying cry for *ACTION*

Boris Johnson’s talk on future Arts policy was delivered to an enthusiastic audience who were taken in particular by reference to the American model of sponsorship.

William Hague really did pave the way for his return to the political stage at his packed out event on his book William Pitt the Younger. He spoke of how William Pitt was both Prime Minister and Chancellor at the same time and suggested Blair should read the book to learn a lesson or two. The book is selling like hotcakes. He kindly agreed to have a photo taken especially for this site. He said this morning at his book-signing session: “Wow! for Boris Johnson’s new website!” He was on fantastic form.

The Liverpool European Capital of Culture stand is ringing out with The Beatles’ “All my lovin’…tomorrow I’ll miss you” live music.

The fringe circuit warmed up to a crescendo at the Hilton Hotel last night at the politicians v journalists quiz with Boris chairing in a Have I Got News for You style contest. Champagne, darkness hanging in the room, smoke-swirling atmosphere, suspect goody bag … you get them all at Conference! (photo to follow next week).


Ketchup and Thunder – Seventy Two Virgins

Brilliant book review by Rt Hon Lord Hurd of Westwell…

The Spectator September 18, 2004

Douglas Hurd

SEVENTY TWO VIRGINS : A COMEDY OF ERRORS by Boris Johnson HarperCollins, GBP 17.99, pp. 400, ISBN 0007195907

I have read somewhere that the friends of this author are worried.

Apparently he is an MP, a shadow minister, a performer on chat shows, editor of a weekly magazine, the next prime minister but three and now out pops a novel. How can he manage it all?

They need not worry. On the evidence I would guess that he wrote this in three days, flat out day and night, finishing with the arrival on the fourth morning of what with his Homeric education he would call the rosy-fingered dawn.

And none the worse for that. The rollicking pace and continuous outpouring of comic invention make the book. There is no doubt which master he follows. Several times in P. G Wodehouse the Woosterfigure meets in ambiguous circumstances a police constable, who may hold a torch and say, ‘Ho.’ Boris Johnson has successfully elaborated this simple theme. Here is not one Wooster but two a gormless Conservative MP and the President of the United States, addressing Parliament in Westminster Hall. Here is not a single policeman but the whole array of the British and American forces of order, struggling through mishaps and misunderstandings to save the President from assassination by three Muslim fanatics in a stolen ambulance.

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