It is no conspiracy against climate science to say we must adapt to changing weather

Age-old methods of controlling our environment need to be retained

One consequence of climate change is a requirement to adapt in order to survive. If there are to be more floods or fires then people need to mitigate their impact or even prevent their happening. It is not to dispute the existence of climate change to argue that changes in environmental practices can exacerbate the effects it is having on our surroundings.

Yet to point out that dredging rivers or clearing away easily flammable undergrowth will help prevent floods or fires is to invite opprobrium from some as a “global warming denier”. The two approaches are not mutually exclusive.

Since we are told by campaigners that it is…

Even at this moment of triumph, the prime minister must remember he can not change the laws of economics

One of the most appealing stories about ancient Rome is that a slave used to hold a crown above the head of a victorious general who was entering the city in triumph whispering in his ear: “Remember, you are a man”. In other words, “not a god”.

Apparently, as Boris doubtless knows better than most of us, the evidence for this story is conflicting. Was it a slave or a comrade? Was it a gold crown or a laurel wreath? There are different versions and some authorities don’t mention the practice at all.

Nevertheless, at this moment of triumph for General Boris, with vast crowds of taxpayers, shareholders, pension-savers, Brexiteers and democrats cheering his victory over General Corbyn (whose attempt…

The Queen’s message of reconciliation

For most of us, Christmas and the period leading up to the start of the New Year is a brief moment of peace, a chance to enjoy time with friends and family before the exigencies of life intrude once again. Suffice it to say, the past year has brought plenty of them, certainly for the country as a whole. For much of 2019, British politics was locked in paralysing dysfunction and the nation appeared to be inescapably mired in the divisions of the 2016 referendum.

What a difference a few weeks make. Just before Christmas, the House of Commons voted for the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement by a large margin, uncertainty has lifted, and now that the Government has a healthy majority, the country…

A system designed to give stability has instead brought election fatigue

Three general elections since 2015 is quite enough for now

The first December election day in almost 100 years was cold and wet in much of the country but that did not seem to dampen enthusiasm for the democratic process. Long queues were reported, especially in London, soon after the polling stations opened, as voters cast their ballots before heading for office Christmas parties, school nativity plays and sundry other diversions of the season. Some voters reported waiting in line for half an hour, busier than at any time since the 1992 election.

This year, however, the ritual of turning up at the polling station has been less in evidence than ever. More than one fifth of all ballots were…

This massive Tory victory spells the death of the disgraceful People’s Vote movement

The battle to prevent Brexit is over. It failed. It was the most scandalous, anti-democratic, reactionary movement since the opposition to the Great Reform Bill of the 1830s. It trampled on our constitutional traditions. It broke the Conservative Party into pieces. It left over 17 million people with the Establishment openly declaring them mentally and morally deficient, incapable and unworthy of making democratic decisions. It was a disgrace and shamed Britain before the world. 

Also defeated is the movement to neuter Brexit, by keeping us in the EU’s customs union and having us follow the EU’s laws and trade policy. That project of Theresa May, Philip Hammond, many civil servants and much of…

In the Tories’ rush for northern Leave seats, their southern support base may crumble

If the current polls are to be believed, Friday will herald the largest Conservative majority since 1992, as Boris Johnson successfully weaponises Brexit to deliver what eluded his predecessor. Paradoxically, it could also deliver one of the greatest upsets, with the real prospect of a ‘Portillo moment’ in which Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab – the occupant of one of the safest Tory seats and one of the hardest line Brexiteers – is rejected by his constituents in favour of the Liberal Democrat candidate.

I grew up in Esher – in Dominic Raab’s Esher and Walton constituency. My parents still live there, and I visit often. Raab has a majority of 23,298. The last time any part of it had a non-Tory MP was in 1906. 

Surrey has some of the safest seats and most prominent MPs in the country. Jeremy Hunt sits for South West Surrey – with a majority of 21,590; Michael Gove represents Surrey Heath (24,943); Chris Grayling is returned by Epsom and Ewell (20,475); and until he was deselected, former Chancellor Philip Hammond represented Runnymede and Weybridge (18,050). Surrey is reliably, bankably, Conservative-voting. Although the Liberal Democrats managed to take Guildford in 1997 and 2001, they have only since managed to gain a foothold through the defection of Sam Gyimah in East Surrey.  

Historically, elections in Esher and Walton – and Surrey more generally – have tended to be sedate affairs. It presumably did happen somewhere, but even in the 1997 and 2001 nadir of Tory fortunes, I don’t ever remember being canvassed in Esher and Walton. The seat is instead a source of activists who are often sent to seats which are more in play. And although I have always voted Conservative, the overwhelming sense was that a vote any other way was in any case wasted. 

No longer. Esher and Walton is at the centre of a contest the ferocity of which it has probably never seen. Despite a lacklustre national campaign, the Liberal Democrat challenge there is real and stands an outside chance of unseating one of the most high-profile members of the current Government. The Liberal Democrat challenger, Monica Harding, is a clear talent. She has managed to cut through in her seat where her leader has so far failed nationally. A source at CCHQ recently told me that no one believes Raab is in trouble; I don’t know how they would know – my parents tell me no one has canvassed them, and no one has visited their friends either. They have also received no Conservative leaflets – but many Liberal Democrat ones. And in a heavily Tory-supporting borough, they are all planning to vote against the incumbent MP.   

The 30 November Deltapoll constituency poll of Esher and Walton suggested that Raab was ahead of his Liberal Democrat challenger by only 5 points – a staggering collapse in his vote and surge for the Liberal Democrats. My guess is that it will be much harder having eroded his majority actually to unseat Raab; I think he will hold on in Esher and Walton, but with a hugely reduced majority. That reduction will be down to two things – Raab being personally so unpopular that if he wants to retain his seat he might be better off staying away from it; and a wider haemorrhaging of the Tory vote in their liberally-inclined, remain-voting, safe seats. 

The latter factor is driving and exacerbating a lot of local ones in individual seats. In Esher and Walton, many people can offer anecdotes of Raab’s inattentiveness as an MP. Videos of him being jeered at hustings are widely shared online; although these undoubtedly reflect audiences packed with opposition supporters, they also reflect local exasperation with the politics and manner of a man popularly seen to take the constituency and its people for granted.

No room in the church for the hustings event. Dozens still outside. Changing: “LET US IN!”, including the family of Harry Dunn who want to speak to Dominic Raab.

— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) November 25, 2019

The revelation over the weekend that Foreign Office mandarins have started referring to him as ‘Dim Dom’ was seized on with glee by his local opponents, who are increasingly weaponising his character rather than his politics.  

Raab’s majority is such that in normal times, this would nevertheless probably not be an issue. But Brexit and the wider positioning of the Tory Party towards socially Conservative leave seats, poses a medium-term danger for the Tory hold in Surrey and the home counties more generally. In Guildford, South West Hertfordshire and Beaconsfield, former Tory MPs from the liberal wing of the party are therefore able to present serious challenges. The message that the party sends in deciding to dispense with the services of MPs like these is part of the problem; this is exacerbated when they are locally popular and nationally known. 

This is a natural consequence of where the Conservatives have gone on Brexit and in their pitch to northern leavers. And there were always going to be some trade-offs if the Tories wanted to take these seats. However, the risk is that if the Tories do not start paying attention to their southern, more liberal, voters, a temporary loss of support may open a real strategic opportunity for the Liberal Democrats in places like Surrey. 

Such an outcome could threaten the Tory ability to form a Government – and make it much easier for Labour to do so. Anecdotally, I know that the fear of a Corbyn Government is stiffening Raab’s vote a bit in Esher and Walton and holding up the Tory remain vote more broadly – Jo Swinson’s 9 December Today programme declaration that she would rather see another General Election than put Corbyn into Government is a clear response to this. But if Labour select a less alarming successor to Corbyn, many more people in places like Surrey who are discontented with the Tory offer may feel able to vote against the Conservative candidate. 

If that happens, the price of winning northern leave seats potentially for only one term may well be to turn bankable seats in Surrey and elsewhere marginal. In that eventuality, at the next election, Surrey could become a serious battleground.       

James Dowling is a former special adviser to David Gauke as Work and Pensions Secretary and Lord Chancellor. He is now board director at Lansons

Sadly for Labour, Jeremy Corbyn just doesn’t wow the crowds like he used to

Somehow, it just doesn’t feel the same. Jeremy Corbyn’s last election campaign, two and a half years ago, climaxed with a series of outdoor rallies to crowds of startling vastness. At one rally in Gateshead, an estimated 10,000 supporters turned up. 

Of course, it’s a lot easier to draw crowds outdoors in June than in December. Even so, there’s no getting away from it: this year’s Labour campaign simply hasn’t generated the same energy as 2017’s, the same fervour, the same wild gusto. Today, Mr Corbyn’s Labour feel like a fading rock band, who once upon a time headlined Glastonbury and stuffed stadiums to bursting – but are now taking one last weary trudge around the country, plodding dutifully…

The choice is simpler than many are making out – vote tactically, stop Sturgeon

It’s almost impossible to understand how much fuss a great many people are making about their choice in this week’s election.

I should have thought that for everyone it was elementary. It surely goes like this: for those who want to perpetuate the threat of another divisive independence referendum and the knock-on effect the possibility of such a vote has on business confidence in Scotland, then vote for Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP candidates.

That’s also the choice for those who want to give the First Minister and her party a vote of thanks for the appalling mess they’ve made of this country’s health service and of our children’s schooling.

Oh yes, if you like the anti-Semitism in Labour that Jeremy…

Winter may be coming for the Conservatives in London

The Liberal Democrats should not be written off yet

We have reached that time in the general election timetable when waves of anxiety sweep through campaign headquarters. It always happens, but it’s easy to see why this time all parties are worried. The Liberals are going backwards, Labour is hurting in its heartlands, and the Conservatives are petrified Labour is closing the gap and may yet deny them a majority. These factors are not entirely unrelated, as the Liberals failure to catch fire  means more of the Remain vote is gently rolling back to Labour.

But in this election, one must look beyond the national polling headlines to get a real sense of what is going on. The Liberal Democrats…

Trying to reform jihadis is straight out of Evelyn Waugh

The deaths inside and outside Fishmongers’ Hall last Friday were tragic. Two good people, and one bad one they had tried to help, died. Others were badly injured.

Yet when I read the extraordinary details of the events – the fact that the attacks were made at an anniversary celebration of a rehabilitation programme backed by Cambridge University, and that the killer, Usman Khan, was himself a star pupil of that programme; the fact that people who were themselves criminals joined in to capture and disarm the murderer – the memory of a satire came into my mind.

Eventually I identified it – it was “the Lucas-Dockery Experiments”. Evelyn Waugh’s first novel, Decline and Fall, is chiefly remembered…