UK Politics

Future Leaders Series 3: Who Will Succeed Ed Miliband?

18 Apr 2015 at 19:17

This is the third in a series looking at the runners and riders in post-election leadership contests. You can read my article about the runners and riders in a post election LibDem leadership contest HERE and UKIP HERE. I’ll be looking at the Conservatives before May 7th.

In the event of an election defeat, it’s usual for a party leader to fall on their sword more or less immediately. People close to Ed Miliband have already briefed that if he doesn’t win on May 7th he intends to stay put. Obviously the scale of the defeat might have a bearing on this, but whether it’s possible at all is very questionable. While there’s a possibility of entering Downing Street Ed Miliband won’t be going anywhere, but if, in the end, David Cameron stays for a second term, it’s difficult to think how Ed Miliband will be able to cling to his position. The ‘one more heave’ argument isn’t likely to cut too much ice.


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If Ed Miliband resigns after May 7th, these are the most likely leadership candidates…


Age: 45
Political Record: MP for Leigh since 2001, Cabinet Minister 2007-10
Likely to Stand: 100%
For: Media friendly, pugnacious, good looking, popular with the unions
Against: Mid Staffs, only came fourth in the 2010 leadership election, can be chippy, arouses suspicion among Labour MPs, performed badly when he was Shadow Education Secretary
Verdict: Has skillfully promoted his prospects with CLPs and trade unions without appearing disloyal. He is undoubtedly one of the top three favourites but his move to the left may be his undoing.
Odds: 6/1


Age: 46
Political Record: MP since 1997, Cabinet Minister 2008-2010
Likely to Stand: 80%
For: Performed well as Shadow Home Secretary, seen as loyal, media friendly, not seen as right or left, good sense of humour
Against: Ed Balls, schoolmarmish tone in interviews, lack of a Labour party following
Verdict: If she wants it badly enough, she’ll be one of the favourites, but she needs to set out her stall early and define herself.
Odds: 6/1


Age: 36
Political Record: MP for Streatham since 2010, Shadow Business Secretary 2011-
Likely to Stand: 100%
For: Articulate, good looking, has defined himself on the social democratic right,
Against: Lack of experience, seen as too Blairite, perhaps a little too smooth at times, will he appeal to the union vote?
Verdict: Can market himself as a fresh start, but must avoid comparisons with Barack Obama. If he can appeal across the party, he could be a very strong contender.
Odds: 6/1


Age: 48
Political Record: MP since 2005, Cabinet Minister 2007-10, Shadow Chancellor 2011-
Likely to Stand: 20%
For: One of the few big beasts on the Labour front bench, instills fear into Tories, much nicer than his reputation might suggest
Against: Reminds people of the Brown government, couldn’t stand against his wife, seen as too machiavellian
Verdict: Would probably be the best leader, but carries too much baggage and is likely to stand down in favour of Yvette Cooper
Odds: 33/1


Age: 64
Political Record: Deputy Leader of the Labour Party 2007-
Likely to Stand: 20%
For: Ability to annoy Tories, solid record as deputy leader, would get union support, could pitch herself as interim candidate to allow younger candidates to get experience
Against: Age, too much political baggage
Verdict: Unlikely to stand, but could come under pressure. Question is, would she be tempted? I suspect she’d prefer a few months as acting leader, as in 2010.
Odds: 33/1


Age: 40
Political Record: MP for Stoke on Trent since 2010, Shadow Education Secretary since April 2013
Likely to Stand: 50%
For: Media friendly (although won’t be interviewed by me, it seems), can be an original thinker but seems constrained by his portfolio
Against: Indifferent record as Shadow Education Secretary, lack of experience, one or two gaffes, seen as a bit aloof by colleagues, unlikely to get the requisite nominations
Verdict: Competing for the same votes as Chuka Umunna, a competition he’s likely to lose.
Odds: 33/1


Age: 43
Political Record: MP for Leicester West since 2010, Shadow Health Minister since 2010
Likely to Stand: 50%
For: Bright, breezy, funny, good record as Shadow health minister, popular, would represent a break to a new generation
Against: Inexperience, untested outside her area of expertise in health, would struggle to get nominations, fishing in the same pond as Umunna and Hunt
Verdict: May put down a marker for the future, but unlikely to be one of the final three
Odds: 25/1


Age: 42
Political Record: MP for Barnsley since 2011, Shadow Minister since October 2011
Likely to Stand: 75%
For: Military background, track record outside politics, would represent a clean break with the Blair/Brown era
Against: Political virgin, no real Labour party or union constituency, could he get the nominations?
Verdict: If he can get 15% of MPs to nominate him, he could be a strong contender. Might well become a media darling, but does he have the political instincts to be a successful political leader
Odds: 16/1


Age: 49
Political Record: MP for South Shields 2001-10, Cabinet Minister 2006-10
Likely to Stand: 10%
For: Bright, articulate, hasn’t undermined Ed, retained his dignity
Against: Lacks the killer instinct, could one Miliband really succeed another? Would have to win a by-election, unions would do anything to defeat him
Verdict: Very unlikely to stand, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
Odds: 25/1


Age: 44
Political Record: MP for Pontypridd since 2010, Shadow Welsh Secretary since 2012.
Likely to Stand: 30%
For: Superb media performer, doesn’t sound like a politician
Against: Inexperience, would Labour elect a Welsh leader? Could he get the nominations?
Verdict: An unknown quantity to most, Smith is one of the most talented of the 2010 intake. Should stand to put a marker down and get a better job.
Odds: 50/1

UPDATE: Several people have asked why I haven’t included Rachel Reeves. It’s because she categorically ruled herself out of ever standing for leader on my radio show a few weeks ago. And she was so definitive, that I believe her!


This would be a very open contest. Assuming David Miliband decides it’s impossible for him to succeed his brother, the most likely top three are Yvette Cooper, Chuka Umunna and Andy Burnham. It’s very difficult to predict who would emerge as the winner from that triumvirate, but I’m assuming it would be Andy Burnham as he would get the majority of the union votes. However, if Labour has failed to win the election there may be an appetite for a complete break with the past. Chuka Umunna might therefore pull through, or even possibly Dan Jarvis. Jarvis has the perfect backstory for Labour but is he made for the cut and thrust and hurly burly of modern day political debate? He’s been tested under fire in a military battleground, but in politics he’s a bit of a virgin.

If it were me, I’d be going for Chuka Umunna or Dan Jarvis on the basis that they would represent a new beginning and present the Conservatives with a real problem. Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper are very talented in many ways, but they both have big political downsides which would be gifts to the Conservatives.



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Video: Iain Reports on the Tories' Project Umubano in Rwanda

18 Doughty Street

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 25: Breaking the Official Secrets Act & Protecting an Interviewee

18 Apr 2015 at 11:22

Back in November I wrote about a phone-in we did on the Vishal Mehrotra case. Vishal’s dismembered body was found in 1981 and he had been a victim of terrible sexual abuse. Towards the end of the hour our collective mouths were left gaping open when we had two calls from ex-policemen, who proceeded to tell us that they were part of investigations into child sex abuse in the 1970s and 1980s and both were inexplicably shut down.

On Wednesday we followed up those calls and talked to one of the police officers again. This sort of interview doesn’t just happen. It involved a lot of preparatory work by my producer Matt Harris and our senior reporter Tom Swarbrick. We decided to change his voice as both he and we knew that by doing the interview, and saying what he was about to say, he would be breaking the Official Secrets Act. In the interview John told us how an investigation he was involved in, which involved Cyril Smith, was shut down after orders came down from on high. He also said that it was well known in police circles that there were illegal activities going on in Dolphin Square. Fairly explosive stuff, although the media takeup on this was fairly minimal as the day was dominated by the news about Greville Janner.

We then interviewed Simon Danczuk and then took a series of calls. Please do have a listen to this forty minutes of explosive radio. Towards the end I took a call from Sarah in Twickenham (we changed her name) who told us how she had been gang raped by 18 men in the early 1970s. It became clear that the likely venue for this terrible event was the Elm Guest House in Barnes, although I didn’t say this on air. My producer talked to Sarah for some time after the interview and needless to say we will be following this up. It’s hours like this that remind me why I am so privileged to do the job I do.

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Video: 18 Doughty Street's Greatest Hits

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The Election Week In Review With Three Wise Men & One Wise Woman

17 Apr 2015 at 23:30

Each Friday night on LBC we are convening a panel of Three Wise Men & One Wise Woman to look back on that week’s developments in the Election Campaign. They are David Davis, Sir Ming Campbell, Neil Hamilton and Margaret Beckett.

You can hear tonight’s episode HERE

And last week’s HERE

And if you like what you’ve heard, tune in at 7pm each Friday for the next three weeks.



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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Alistair Darling

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ConHome Diary: Boris Johnson Is The Scarlet Pimpernel of This Election Campaign

17 Apr 2015 at 13:48

They seek him here, they seek him there, they seek him everybloodywhere. He is the Scarlet Pimpernel of this election campaign. For someone who is without doubt the second best known Conservative in the country, Boris Johnson has been more or less invisible in the election campaign nationally. Yes, he’s been supporting candidates in London, and a few outside, but he’s been far from the national battlefront, which is odd for someone who is supposed to be a huge electoral asset for the Conservatives. Perhaps he is going to be weaponised in the last fortnight. One can but hope.
Nick Clegg will have achieved at least one thing in this campaign before he and the yellow peril are consigned to electoral oblivion (or not, as the case may be). He’s come out with the quote of the campaign so far. At his manifesto launch in some Bordello in Battersea he made the case for the LibDems continuing in coalition with one of the two main parties by declaring “We’ve put a heart into a Conservative government and we’d put a brain into a Labour one.” Boom boom. I asked Harriet Harman about this and she reckoned they might insert an appendix, but that’d be about it.

It’s great to see Nick Robinson back on the News at Ten, giving his insights into the election campaign. Top journalist and top bloke.
This is the first election for thirty two years in which I haven’t been out on the doorknocker canvassing. I kind of miss it. It’s the best way to take the temperature of the electorate and much better than studying polls. So if I can’t do it, the next best thing is to interrogate people who do. I was speaking to a friend over the weekend who has been out in around a dozen Conservative marginal in London and Essex, and what he had to say was quite revealing. In one or two areas he reckons the Labour vote has almost entirely disappeared to UKIP, and that it is very difficult to find firm Labour pledges, even in areas where you’d expect to find them. Now my friend is an experienced canvasser and isn’t someone given to flights of fancy about canvass returns, but he thinks the some of the polls are going to be confounded on election night. I remember having a similar experience in 1992.

I don’t like doing aggressive interviews as I don’t generally think they shed much light. However, in this election campaign I have released my inner Paxman a little more often than I normally do. One of the main accusations against Labour is they are full of uncosted manifesto promises. It’s a charge that has been made against them in every general election I can remember. The boot is on the other foot this time, as no Conservative politician seems to be able to explain where this sudden £8 billion extra for the NHS is going to come from, or where the £12 billion of welfare cuts are going to fall. The answers seem to be “we can afford it through economic growth” and “it will all become clear in the spending review”. Oh, well that’s alright then. They’d never let Labour get away with such evasive and pathetic answers. And I am afraid that as an interviewer I won’t let Conservative representatives get away with it either, as Eric Pickles, Priti Patel and Michael Gove have recently discovered.
I thought the Greens and UKIP both made a big mistake by publishing very detail manifestos with all sorts of unnecessary policies. What they should have done is just said, “Look, you know and we know we’re not going to form a government, so here are three things we believe in and here is our vision for the country.” I don’t care what UKIP’s policy is on regarding VAT on tampons or whether the Greens want to extend this benefit or that. And frankly nor do most people. All they need to know is that UKIP wants to leave the EU and curb immigration and that the Greens want to be nice to the environment and animals.

With that in mind, if you went down Clapham high street and asked people what each party stands for and what their main policy offer is in this election I suspect people would say the Tories want to extend the right to buy, Labour want to axe non doms, UKIP want to curb immigration and the Greens want to curb climate change. But what of the LibDems? Can anyone really articulate a single well-known policy they have at this election? OK, people reading this site might be able to have a good stab at it, but I suspect the good people of Clapham high street might have more difficulty.


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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to James Cracknell & Beverley Turner

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Winning 'Blog of the Year' at the London Press Club Awards

14 Apr 2015 at 21:17

When I got an email from the London Press Club to say that I had been shortlisted in their annual awards I got very excited. I knew Nick Ferrari had won Broadcaster of the Year last year at the same awards, so I thought, wow, that’s quite an accolade. However, I hadn’t been shortlisted for Broadcaster of the Year, I had been shortlisted for Blog of the Year. Shurely shome mishtake. I scratched my head in slight bemusement.

As you will know, my blogging since 2010 has been intermittent to say the least, although admittedly as the election approaches I have tried to up my game a bit. But even I would be hard pressed to say that my blogging output has been as high profile or maybe as influential as it was between 2005 and 2010. But hey, I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth.
So off I trotted to Stationers’ Hall near St Pauls to the London Press Club Award lunch. It was quite a star studded audience, in that anyone who’s anyone in newspapers was there, including most newspaper editors.

The even started with Andrew Lloyd Webber being given the Londoner of the Year awards and then we had a speech from the Director General of MI5 Andrew Cargill. We were told we were to treat it as a confidential briefing, so if I told you anything he said I’d obviously have to kill you. So I won’t.

And then it was onto the awards. I don’t know about you but on those occasions I have ever been shortlisted for an award, I adopt a split personality. Of course I want to win. I’d be inhuman if I didn’t. But there’s also a big part of me that thinks “No, please let it be someone else” as the thought of making a duff acceptance speech fills me with horror.
I was up against Sarah Ditum and David Hepworth. For some reason I kind of guessed I was going to win. I have no idea why, call it instinct, I suppose. Sorry if that sounds arrogant, it isn’t meant to be as there have been plenty of occasions when I have been shortlisted and guessed I wasn’t going to win. And I was right then too!

So what does it all mean? Well, it has made me think about what I do with this blog and whether I should try to up my game a bit. I am going to try. I will never go back to the good old days when I blogged several times a day, but I’m going to try to blog a bit more often. But I’ll only do it when I have got something to say. I gave up the old blog at the end of 2010 because I hadn’t got the time to keep up the volume that people had come to expect.

In 2015 Twitter has taken over the kind of short-form blogging I used to do. My articles on this site are a lot longer than they used to be on the old blog. I’m sure there is a happy medium somewhere.

Anyway, I hope you continue to enjoy what I do on here.



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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Mary Berry

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Interview With Gorkana on Radio & the Election

11 Apr 2015 at 20:58

This is an interview I did a month ago with Gorkana. It’s only just been published on their website, so forgive the tight-lippedness about LBC’s election coverage, as I wasn’t in a position to say anything at the time this was done.

In the first of our Election 2015 special interviews, we speak to Iain Dale, the Drivetime show presenter on LBC Radio, on the importance of broadcast during the campaign, the dangers of ad hominem attacks on politicians and why PRs should avoid a scattergun approach when pitching to the station.

By way of background, tell us about your role at LBC and the remit of your show.
I have been presenting LBC’s Drivetime show for two years now. It’s a four hour show from 4-8pm every weekday. Our remit is to cover the big news stories of the day, and take phone calls from listeners on those stories. We interrogate those in power, and like to think we make the news as well as report it.

Is there anything you can tell us about the kind of content you will be running over the course of the General Election campaign?
I can’t reveal too much at the moment, but LBC has made its name on its political coverage in the last two years so you can be sure that we will be at the very centre of the election campaign. We also have very big plans for election night itself and will give the BBC a run for their money!

How can PRs be of help during this time?
We’ll always be looking for something different, that no one else will be covering. Don’t scattergun us with releases. Respect our format and respect the fact that although we are a newstalk station all the daytime shows have their clear differences.

We are told that the electorate is more disengaged than ever, and yet LBC – with a very political slant – has made a big impact since becoming a national broadcaster in January 2014. What do you put this down to?
It is true that voters seem to be disengaged from party politics, but not politics in general. They relate to issues rather than parties. They are fed up with the way party politicians present themselves and their beliefs. They see them as all the same, even if that accusation is rather unfair. Politicians seem remote from people’s daily lives, but our phone-ins give people the opportunity to give their views and put politicians on the spot.

How have communications around politics changed since the last General Election?
Social media is far more important than in 2010. Twitter will matter in a way it didn’t in 2010. This won’t be the ‘internet’ election – TV will still be far more important, but the internet will help UKIP and the Greens in a way that it won’t the other parties.

In the age of social media, what kind of role can radio broadcasting play in a General Election campaign?
People turn to the radio for breaking news. But our role goes far wider than that. We’re best equipped to do the reaction to the debates. We can be far more nimble than TV and especially on LBC we’re quite willing to throw out plans and start again if the need demands it. Radio is a far more intimate medium and politicians can easily be lulled into a false sense of security. They have longer to explain themselves, especially on LBC and that can lead to the unexpected happening.

What do you see as being the defining issues during the upcoming campaign?
Elections usually come down to the economy, but I think in this election Labour will try to make the future of the NHS the centrepiece of its campaign. I think general dissatisfaction with politicians and the political process will come to the fore during the campaign and any party leader who manages to tap into that is likely to be successful.

How prominent and effective do you think negative campaigning will be?
I think this will be the dirtiest campaign in living memory between the main two parties. Subtle negative campaigning can work but the voter has to buy into it. The Tory Demon Eyes campaign didn’t work in 1997 because no one really saw Blair as the devil. The Tories will portray Miliband as Neil Kinnock reincarnated and Labour will concentrate on a class based campaign. The electorate will be appalled and that’s where the three other parties may well gain support as the campaign progresses.

Is there a danger that increased and ad hominem media scrutiny on politicians dehumanises them and homogenises the political message?
The media really needs to examine its own role in the continuing decline of respect for politicians. Clearly it is the politicians who are mostly to blame but interviewers who go into interviews with the attitude of “why is this bastard lying to me” do themselves and the whole body politic a real disservice. Scrutiny is important but good manners cost nothing in an interviewer.

There’s every likelihood that should there be a decisive winner at the election, they will have in and around 35% of the total vote. Is it time to change the voting system to better reflect our splintered politics?
I think the result of the election will indeed lead to calls for electoral reform, but the trouble is no one has yet come up with a system of PR that really maintains the same kind of constituency relationship MPs and their constituents currently have. But if Labour and the LibDems form a coalition, that may be the LibDem price.

Will fixed-term parliaments remain? Are you in favour of them?
I used to run the Campaign for Fixed Term Parliaments so in principle, yes. However, I think they should be for 4, not 5 years. I don’t think it is democratic for a Prime Minister to call an election at a time of his own choosing, which inevitably means at the point he is most likely to win.

Do you think broadcasters should be able to nail their colours to the mast – as in US – or is it important during an election campaign to be balanced?
I think balance in public service broadcasters is important, but I see no problem at all with commercial broadcasters taking an editorial line, just as newspapers do. However, current Ofcom rules prevent this, so you’ll find LBC adhering strictly to a non partisan stance!

What outcome do you think the country will wake-up to on May 8?
It’s incredibly difficult to predict, but I’ll put my neck on the line and predict that neither of the two largest parties will be able to form a coalition unless they can persuade two other parties to take part. Labour’s biggest nightmare is losing a shed load of seats to the SNP in Scotland and the Tories nightmare is that UKIP hold the balance of power with 5-10 seats. At the moment I think Labour and the Tories will both be on around 280-290 seats, with the LibDems on 20-25. Polls predict the SNP may have up to 45 seats (up from 6!) but I would treat these predictions with extreme caution.

Looking ahead, who are your MPs to watch for the 2020 General Election?
My five Labour stars of the next five years are Chuka Umunna, Stella Creasey, Liz Kendall, Lucy Powell and Owen Smith. On the Tory side I’d pick Nicky Morgan, Sajid Javid, Esther McVey (if she holds on to her seat), Zac Goldsmith and Claire Perry. On the LibDem side, well it depends how many of them are left, but expect Norman Lamb and Julian Huppert to be key players.

Iain was speaking to Gorkana’s Ronan George



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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Ed Miliband

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ConHome Diary: The Pathetic Al Murray

11 Apr 2015 at 09:14

Michael Fallon exudes ‘bottom’. Well, you know what I mean. His article in The Times yesterday filleted the SNP and its leader Nicola Sturgeon and contained a bitterly personal attack on Ed Miliband. He should be used more. He sticks the knife in without appearing to do so, which is a rare talent in any politician. He’s one of the party’s best media performers but is chronically under-deployed.
Nicola Sturgeon is on the verge of overplaying her hand. She’s acting like she already has 50 MPs. Well, there are still 27 days to go, and who’s to say she won’t wipe the floor, but from the way she’s talking you’d think it was she alone that will decide who becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Her performance in the ITV debate was impressive. Her performance in the STV debate less so. And in the BBC Scotland debate in Aberdeen she was not at her best. However, I am greatly looking forward to next Thursday’s so-called ‘Challenger Debate’ where I suspect she and the other three will gang up on Ed Miliband. It should be quite an evening, and one which is an important one for the Leader of the Opposition. He can’t let himself be boxed in by Sturgeon, who will make every effort to get him to commit to some sort of post – election deal. Quite why Ed Miliband has agreed to take part in this debate is a question only he and his advisers can answer. He has everything to lose and very little to gain.

I’m beginning to develop a healthy dislike for Al Murray, the self-styled pub landlord. He’s beginning to get delusions of political grandeur. The Oxford educated, Islington-dwelling man of the people has taken umbrage to something Nigel Farage has written in his book THE PURPLE REVOLUTION. Diddums. Nigel reckoned that Murray may have already exceeded his election expenses by the amount of money he had spent on advertising his comedy tour, and therefore wouldn’t be able to stand in South Thanet. Murray reckons that is libel. No mate, it’s an opinion, which may or may not be correct. That’s what political debate is all about. For Murray to threaten legal action demonstrates how shallow he really is. He should grow up, and save his money, because he knows as well as anyone that if he actually went to court he’d look a complete idiot. Not that he needs much help in that regard. I always thought comedians were supposed to be funny. He’s developing into a pub bore, and should bore off back to Islington.
So Joey Essex has done more interviews with the Prime Minister this year than I have. In fact, I haven’t done any. Something I said?

One of the most common refrains you hear from people is that politicians are all the same and there is very little difference between Labour and the Conservatives so what’s the point in voting. People who say that are guilty of very lazy thought. As every day of this campaign passes, the differences become more stark. This week we had Ed Miliband’s announcement on Non Doms. Then there’s Europe. There’s the mansion tax. I could go on. On virtually every subject you care to think of there’s a difference. The trouble is most people don’t go looking. They turn into ‘Sheeple’ and follow the herd who believe that politicians are the same. It makes me mad.
Ruth Davidson has turned into a political star in the last year. Her performance in the independence referendum campaign impressed people of all parties, and now she has risen to the occasion again with two excellent performances in the Scottish TV leader debates. The Scottish Tories are lucky to have her. I suspect they will get a little bit of a poll bounce after those debates, but will it actually lead to any more Tory seats in Scotland? Even a gain of one would be considered a bit of a triumph. I wonder if at some point Ruth may well tire of the Scottish political scene and enter the Westminster fray. There were rumours that she might throw her hat into the ring for Kensington, but that came too early. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if she stood for Westminster in 2020, though. She’s even being talked about as a future leadership contender.

I wonder how many constituencies will be holding their counts on Friday morning rather than overnight. I guarantee that is about to become a story as electoral registration officers try to lake the lazy way out. Last time many of them were forced into retreat and change their plans, and I hope the same happens this time.
I’m sure every candidate standing in the election will have a host of funny anecdotes to tell after the election. One of my favourite stories from the 1983 election came when I was standing on a doorstep in Norwich North and I asked a voter who she was thinking of voting for. “I’ve got half a mind to vote for the SDP Liberal Alliance,” she mused. “Half a mind is all you need to vote for that lot,” I responded quick as a flash. The result? A door slammed in my face. Made me laugh though!



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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Clare Balding

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UK Politics

It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 24: Hosting an Election Debate

10 Apr 2015 at 11:26

Last night’s LBC Women Leaders’ Debate debate took a lot of planning. It all started back in February when my producer Jagruti Dave sidled up to me and said ’wouldn’t it be a good idea to do a women’s debate during the general election campaign’, seeing as all the other debates would probably only involve men. Well, it hasn’t quite turned out like that as there were three women involved in the debate last week, but that didn’t negate the idea at all. It had never been done before on radio and I thought if we could come up with a new format it would be something which could form a key part of the election campaign.

Anyway, we put the idea to our colleagues and they said ‘go with it’. The original idea was to involve seven female political leaders including Nicola Sturgeon, Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood and to hold it in Edinburgh, but for reasons I won’t bore you with it couldn’t happen. So we then decided to do it with representatives from the four main parties and do it in our brand new, and very glitzy, studios in Leicester Square. Ofcom have classed the Conservatives, Labour, LibDems and UKIP as major parties so they all had to be included. If we included one of the smaller parties, we’d have had to include them all. In any case, they are only four guest mics in the new studio.

So, we then thought about who to invite. Ideally we wanted to have the most senior female politician in each party and that’s by and large what we ended up with. It’s true that Theresa May outranks Nicky Morgan, but Nicky has the equalities and women’s brief. Suzanne Evans was due to take part, as UKIP’s most senior woman, but she had lost her voice and was replaced by the very impressive Diane James, who is an MEP, the UKIP justice spokeswoman and did so well in the Eastleigh by-election. I don’t think anyone would argue that Harriet Harman and Lynne Featherstone aren’t the most senior female politicians in their parties.

Then came the format. I was very keen for it not to be question after question after question. So I came up with the idea that the participants should all be allowed to quiz each other. I’d seen it happen in an American Primary debate many years ago and it worked brilliantly. We called it ‘Ask Me Anything’, where one of the candidates would be quizzed by the other three for five minutes. So we dotted these four sessions throughout the hour and a half and it worked really well, apart from the fact that unlike the callers all four of the candidates have trouble asking concise questions! We did ask them to pre-prepare their questions and let us have sight of them so that we could avoid duplication. Anyway, the consensus afterwards was that this format worked really well and brought something new to the genre of election debates.

Obviously, holding this debate in a radio studio meant that we couldn’t have a live audience, apart from the people listening or watching via the website, so then we had to decide how to pose questions. We set up a page on the LBC website for people to email in questions and loads did. We then phoned them back to arrange a time for them to come on. We did have one or two campaigns try to push their particular causes, but this programme was for ordinary people to ask their questions, not organised campaigns.

The day itself didn’t get off to a good start when we learned that Suzanne Evans had lost her voice. Luckily her UKIP colleague Diane James was available to step in. I’m not quite sure what we’d have done had she not been available. And then in the early afternoon a member of Harriet Harman’s staff phoned to say that Harriet was under the weather and she had gone home to have a rest. Could things get any worse? Anyway, half an hour later a phone call came to say that Harriet would definitley be joining us. She was a real trooper and was clearly suffering a bit, but I thought she did incredibly well all things considering.

So what’s it like hosting a debate like this? Funnily enough, I wasn’t at all nervous. I was confident we had dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s in our preparation and I knew what I wanted to achieve. The fact that I was also hosting my normal show for three hours before the debate started meant that I didn’t really have any time to get nervous. It helped that we covered three topics which provoked some very spiky calls. I also gave our regular caller Cuban Tony a good going over, which was particularly enjoyable.

I had decided that my role should be an incidental one. I am fed up with debate moderators who insert themselves into the format too much because for many of them it will be the highlight of their careers. I thought the moderator of the STV debate on Monday fell into that trap. He seemed to talk almost as much as the politicians. I adopted a very simple rule: allow the candidates to speak and allow them to challenge each other. Only intervene when there’s a reason to, to challenge and press for a more direct answer. I haven’t watched the whole thing back yet, but I hope I achieved that. Presenters of these type of shows should realise they are merely facilitators. It’s not all about them.

Was the whole thin tokenistic? Clearly some people will have thought it was. After all, if we do a women’s debate, why not do a men’s debate. or a gay debate, or an ethnic minority debate? Why not indeed. The whole point is that these debates have traditionally been between men, and men only. I certainly didn’t want to host a debate just on women-only issues as I do think that would be tokenistic. Sure we’d include a couple of questions with a female tinge to them, but otherwisewe wanted to fill the debate with mainstream questions from across the range of subjects you’d expect, and a couple you may not. I think we did that. We started off with Islamic extremism, we covered defence and foreign policy too unlike any of the other debates. And just as I suspected, the dynamic was very different. It may have been nothing to do with the fact the particpants were all female, it may have to been to do with the fact it was in a studio and no studio audience. Whatever the reason was, the dynamic was different and it worked. Several media commentators and journalists confirmed that afterwards.

Overall, I think there were more spicy moments in this than I thought there might have been. The media pickup has centred on Nicky Morgan’s defence of Michael Fallon, Harriet Harman refusing to rule out a rise in fuel duty and Diane James’s praise of Vladimir Putin.

This piece in the Mirror is good, except for the bit about me having a face for radio :).

I have to say, for the Mirror to say that makes me very proud. They haven’t exactly been fans of mine in the past.

A lot of people put in a huge amount of effort into this event, not least my two producers Jagruti Dave and Matt Harris. If this debate is considered a success it really is down to them. And thanks to James Rea and Tom Cheal for believing in the idea and supporting it.

You can watch the whole debate here. Scroll in 4 mins 50 to avoid the adverts.



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LBC 97.3 Book Club: Iain talks to Barbara Taylor Bradford

Best selling novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford discusses her new book SECRETS FROM THE PAST

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UK Politics

WATCH: The LBC Women Leaders' Debate

9 Apr 2015 at 23:04

Scroll in four minutes to miss the adverts…

This is what a proper debate looks like. Even the Daily Mirror agrees. They’ve just published an article headlined: “7 things we learnt from the LBC Radio all-women General Election debate”. Here are their conclusions…

LBC Radio hosted a debate between four of the most prominent women politicians. Around the table were Tory Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, Labour’s Harriet Harman, Lib Dem Lynn Featherstone and Ukip’s Diane James – and it was, at times, a pretty fiery debate.

It had an interesting format, a good level of debate, and a selection of voices you don’t often hear up against each other.

Here’s the 7 most interesting things we learned.

The “Ask Me Anything” sections were a brilliant idea

The internet is often accused of dumbing down political debate but the inclusion of an AMA – Ask Me Anything – section in the radio debate was a great innovation from LBC, possibly taking a cue from the Reddit threads where anybody gets to ask somebody anything. During the course of the 90 minute show, they had four sections where each of the candidates were asked one question from the other three women in the debate. It made for compelling listening, as everybody got the chance to try and focus on what they think is the weakness of their opponent’s campaigns. It was genuinely interesting to listen both to the way the politicians answered, but also to think about the choice of question by their rivals.

Nicky Morgan thinks Ed Miliband “stabbed his brother in the back”

As we understand it, Ed Miliband openly stood for election against his elder brother, and leadership of the Labour Party isn’t a hereditary title. But Nicky Morgan tonight repeated Michael Fallon’s smear that Ed stabbed his brother in the back. Earlier today Ed Miliband said that Fallon had “demeaned himself” with the personal attack.

Suzanne Evans could be Ukip’s first woman leader

Well, that’s what Diane James said anyway. Which was pretty kind of her given that she was only on the show because Suzanne had lost her voice and couldn’t do it.

Nobody mentioned tampons

No, seriously. Tampons are a political issue. Specifically the fact that VAT is levied on them. We’ve calculated that women spend around £114 on tampons each year, and there would be a big saving if they weren’t taxed.

Iain Dale is good at this
He’d probably admit himself that he has a face for radio, but Iain Dale made a good case that next time round they should let him run one of the TV debates.

Diane James admires Vladimir Putin

The Ukip foreign affairs spokesperson said she admired the Russian leader for “standing up for his country” and being “very nationalistic.” Harriet Harman chimed in, noting “You could say that about Idi Amin.” But Diane went on to point out that Putin’s “issues” in Ukraine were all the fault of the EU – which gives him and Ukip some common ground.

Lynn Featherstone favours all-women shortlists

…but her party don’t. She said she thought Labour did “a great thing” bringing in all women shortlists. She added, somewhat disappointedly: “I’ve always been wildly off message in my party, because I thought they made a huge leap forward…I’ve been trying to persuade my party to do that.”



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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to James Graham, Writer of THIS HOUSE

James Graham talks about

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UKIP Politics

Future Leaders Series 2: Who Will Succeed Nigel Farage?

6 Apr 2015 at 21:51

This is the second in a series looking at the runners and riders in post-election leadership contests. You can read my article about the runners and riders in a post election LibDem leadership contest HERE. I’ll be looking at the other two parties over the next few weeks, but now it’s UKIP’s turn.

Nigel Farage has already made clear that if he loses South Thanet he will stand down as party leader. He thinks his position would be untenable, and he hasn’t given himself any wiggle room. Some will say this could well mean the end of UKIP, as it is still seen as a bit of a one man band. That’s a little unfair because over the last 18 months several other leading lights in UKIP have made the grade and appear often in the media. Some are more recognisable than others, but even so it is less likely now that UKIP would implode without Farage. In a potential UKIP leadership contest there is genuinely no front-runner. It really could be any one of half a dozen or so contenders.


A postal ballot of all paid up members of the Party shall elect The Party Leader. The Leader’s term of office shall run for four years. This term may be extended by the NEC passing a motion by a two-thirds majority to enable the Leader to stay in post in order to fight a General Election or European Election.

A leadership election shall be called in the event of the Party Leader’s death, incapacity or resignation; on the passing of a vote of no confidence in the Party Leader by the NEC if this is endorsed by an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Party; and on the Party Leader’s completion of his term of office.

Persons wishing to seek election to the post of Party Leader shall pay to the Party funds a deposit equivalent to that demanded of candidates in elections to the UK Parliament, such deposit being returned to the candidate only if the said candidate obtain a percentage of the votes case similar to that required for return of deposit in UK Parliamentary elections. Nominations for the post of Party Leader shall require the signature of a proposer and 50 assentors, all paid-up full members of the Party who are not subject to disciplinary action, drawn from at least 10 different constituency associations or branches. They must be submitted in writing to the Party Secretary within the time specified by him. A Party Leader wishing to resign must communicate this decision in writing to the Party Chairman, who must then summon an emergency meeting of the NEC.

If there is only one valid nomination for the post of Party Leader the candidate nominated shall be declared Party Leader without the need for a ballot. Any contested election for the leadership shall be decided by a simple majority of the votes cast. Those eligible to vote shall be paid-up members of the Party 14 days before the last date for the receipt of ballot papers.

When a vacancy in the leadership occurs due to the Party Leader’s death, incapacity or resignation the election procedure shall be initiated by the Party Secretary.


If Nigel Farage resigns after May 7th, these are the most likely leadership candidates…

Age: 49
Political Record: MEP for East of England 2015-
Likely to Stand: 85%
For: Knows how to work the media, kept his distance from Farage without being seen as an opponent,
Against: Ridiculed over his idea of a turnover tax, a little uncharismatic, would be seen as UKIP’s John Major to Farage’s Thatcher
Verdict: A serious candidate
Odds: 8/1

Age: Unknown
Political Record: Former Merton councillor, Parliamentary candidate in Shrewsbury & Atcham 2015, Former UKIP Communities Spokesman, now Deputy Chairman
Likely to Stand: 70%
For: UKIP’s best media performer behind Farage, seen as the thinking person’s UKIP leadership probable, on the party’s sensible wing, one of the party’s few thinkers
Against: Maybe too Tory for the party’s northern powerbase for 2020, non-elected status may be a disadvantage
Verdict: If the party want someone who’s the opposite to Farage in almost every way, Suzanne Evans should win. But her lack of elected status may count her out.
Odds: 10/1

Age: 38
Political Record: MEP for the North West of England since 2009, Deputy Leader of UKIP since 2010.
Likely to Stand: 100%
For: Authentic northern voice and perspective, effective media performer, appeal to Labour voters, built a powerful election machine in the north with an eye to 2020
Against: Hasn’t built the national profile he ought to have given his position as Farage’s deputy, not tested under fire
Verdict: Given the fact that UKIP is likely to come second to Labour in most of their northern stronghholds, and become the main opposition to Labour, Paul Nuttall will be a very strong candidate, but how genuinly popular is he within the party? Does he have enough supporters in the right places?
Odds: 6/1

Age: 43
Political Record: MP for Clacton since 2005
Likely to Stand: 20%
For: Clever, knows his own mind, willing to think the unthinkable, knows his own weaknesses and abilities
Against: Doesn’t want the job, odd appearance, would lack the support of Faragistas
Verdict: Unlikely to stand and would hate the job. But he may be UKIP’s only MP and may come under a lot of pressure.
Odds: 25/1

Age: 55
Political Record: Fought Easleigh by-election, MEP for South East England 2014-,
Likely to Stand: 25%
For: Seen as a good media performer, fought a good by-election, like Suzanne Evans she’s seen as the acceptable face of UKIP
Against: Carer for an ill relative it may come at the wrong time for her, slightly chippy and doesn’t suffer fools gladly
Verdict: She’s almost ruled herself out of a contest but left herself some wriggle room in a recent interview. She needs to develop some charisma and smile more if she is to win people to her cause.
Odds: 33/1

Age: 48
Political Record: MEP for the North West since 2014, candidate in Stockport
Likely to Stand: 50%
For: Bright, personable, not afraid to disagree publicly with Nigel Farage, good speaker
Against: Slightly inexperienced, only been involved with the party for five years, seen as a moderniser
Verdict: Could pitch himself as the David Cameron of UKIP i.e. a moderniser who would ditch the party’s authoritarian right tendencies. Could be a dark horse.
Odds: 25/1


In some ways none of these candidates can ever match up to the charisma of Nigel Farage – all could pitch themselved as an antidote to what came before. Each is likely to be more inclusive and less dictatorial. Who will win? It’s very hard to say. Paul Nuttall ought to be the favourite, but in theory any of the others could overtake him. I’ve always rated Suzanne Evans and Diane James, but could they command the grassroots support to mount a serious challenge to Nuttall? Patrick O’Flynn has had a huge amount of publicity in the last eighteen months but hasn’t captured many UKIP hearts, and in the end that counts for a lot.

If it were me, I’d go for Suzanne Evans.



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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Interviews Lord Owen, Col Richard Kemp and Lord Malloch Brown about Mali & Algeria

Three interviews on the current situation in North Africa.

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