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Iain Dale

Iain Dale: What on earth is happening to the Bow Group?

Follow Iain on Twitter. Iain also blogs at www.iaindale.com. Iain Dale presents LBC 97.3 Drivetime programme 4-8pm every weekday.

Screen shot 2013-05-24 at 07.41.14I’m not quite sure what has happened to the Bow Group. It seems to have disappeared up its own backside, putting out daily press releases which seem designed to undermine the Conservative Party leadership at every opportunity. I remember when it considered itself a pseudo think tank, coming up with worthy (but often very dull) policy proposals, some of which were even adopted by Tory governments. It’s a long time since that happened. The Bow Group has now come under the control of a self-publicist who goes by the name of Ben Harris-Quinney.  He doubles as director of Conservative Grassroots. Press releases from the latter organisation are sent from Bow Group email addresses, thereby blurring the two organisations, which, I would have thought, have very different aims. Mr Harris-Quinney’s main aim seems to take the government to task for its stance on gay marriage and his main weapon is to persuade 30 rather elderly Tory constituency chairmen to deliver regular letters to the doorstep of Number 10. Quite how pictures of 30 elderly gentlemen standing outside the Prime Minister’s home is meant to further whatever aim Mr Harris-Quinney has, only he can explain. Former Bow Groupers are said to be horrified at what has happened to a once august and respected organisation.


With less than two years to go before the next election it’s around now that the party starts creating policy groups to think up vote winning wheezes for the next manifesto. Let me suggest one which could help retain several Tory marginal in south Essex and north Kent. It’s a simple one, really. Abolish tolls on the Dartford crossing and remove the toll booths and barriers. Congestion would disappear overnight and local commuters would save money. It would cost a piffling amount of money which could easily be absorbed into the roads budget. This week Transport Minister made the welcome announcement that he is consulting on a new, third crossing, but that wouldn’t be built for another ten years. Long suffering motorists were promised that the tolls would disappear once the bridge was paid for. That happened in 2004, so what happened? Well, the Labour government said it was no longer a toll, it became a congestion charge, thus conveniently ignoring the fact that were it not for the toll barriers, there wouldn’t be any congestion. So if I were Gary Johnson, Mark Reckless, Jackie Doyle-Price, Stephen Metcalfe, Adam Holloway or Tracey Crouch I know what I’d be doing now…


I regard Gerald Howarth as a mate. He’s  a distinguished parliamentarian and great company. But when he talks about gay issues the pink mist descends. It’s as if he is having an out of body experience. I hesitate to use the description ‘swivel eyed’ fear of any journalist listening. And so it was on Monday that he warned us that if the “aggressive homosexual community” had its way on marriage law reform it would “be a stepping stone to something even further.” It was a pity he didn’t spell out just what he meant by that. Presumably he thinks it could lead to us forceful gayers demanding the right to sleep with three year olds, or that we should be able to marry our grandfathers, or something even more ridiculous. Actually Gerald, all people want is the same chance that you had. To marry the person you love. And as for the concept of “aggressive homosexuals” I can imagine pink badges already being manufactured, simply festooned with the word ‘boo’.  I think I can safely say that the only aggressive demand to be made by the gay community is for the Eurovision Song Contest to be made monthly, rather than annual. It’s not much to ask, is it?


I much enjoy Michael Fabricant’s tweets. They are often hilarious. When he started tweeting I remarked to a friend that it seemed to me his tweets had one aim in mind and that was to be invited on Have I Got News For You. It seems I was right. This week, for lack of anything better to do, I caught up with his appearance a couple of weeks ago on the programme. It was a car crash. Humour never works when you appear to be trying too hard. At times I wanted to hide behind the sofa, it was so cringeworthy. A few years ago I got invited onto the Irish version of HIGFY in Dublin. Imagine it, a British Tory on an Irish comedy programme. It was never going to work, was it? I soon discovered that I wasn’t quite as funny as I thought I was and I couldn’t wait for it to end. I suspect Fab went through a similar epiphany on HIGFY.


Just how does Boris do it? This week we discovered that he had fathered another child out of wedlock. It caused barely a ripple in the press. Even the Daily Mail relegated it to page 5. Is this a post Leveson effect or simply another example of the Mayor of London proving that he can get away with things no other politician could?


Theresa May did a most odd thing when responding to the Woolwich terror attack. She tried to pretend she was being interviewed, but clearly wasn’t. She was looking at someone who was clearly pretending to be a mute interviewer, and she then gave a series of answers to questions which hadn’t actually been asked. It looked very odd indeed. Don’t do it again, Theresa. Either do it straight to camera, or allow yourself to be interviewed. Elementary PR advice.


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