ConHome Diary: Weebles Wobble But They Don't Fall Down

15 Dec 2017 at 14:16

It’s difficult to know what the consequences of Wednesday evening’s government defeat in the Commons will be. It certainly undermines Theresa May as she goes into the next stage of negotiations and probably means that an agreement needs to be reached a little earlier than before in order to allow time for all the parliamentary processes to be conducted. The European Commission will be licking their lips. Guy Verhofstadt’s glee on twitter was barf-inducing. However, these things are rarely as significant as they appear in the immediate aftermath.
The whole process proves what I said on the Andrew Marr Show was right. “OMG, you called the PM a weeble,” texted a friend in Number Ten. And it’s true I did. It was meant as a compliment! Those of you of a middle-aged vintage will recall the 1970s children’s toy which was promoted in an advert by a little ditty which went “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.” Let’s face it, even her most loyal supporter would admit that the Prime Minister has had her odd wobbly moment since April. But no one has yet managed to floor her. She may wobble but she always comes back to surprise her critics. Her resilience is astounding. Last Friday, she was again mistress of all she surveyed, having managed to get the DUP and her cabinet onside. She pulled victory from last Monday’s jaw of defeat. But as ever, this week has been a long time in politics and she headed off to Brussels yesterday knowing that her EU colleagues would again consider her to be in a weaker position than the last time they saw her.
The eleven Conservative rebels will be very conscious of what they did on Wednesday night and won’t be allowed to forget it. I’d like to think that all eleven of them did what they did for the best of reasons. They say they did it to ‘take back control’ and promote the interests of Parliament against the executive. I’m all in favour of the Executive losing some of its grip on the law-making process and ordinarily I’d support any move to do that. However, the suspicion remains that this was less about the interests of parliament, more about an underhand means of trying to scupper Brexit. Hardline Brexiteers will certainly accuse the ‘eleven’ of that. I guess we’ll never know the truth.

Another measure the government seem keen on is to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600. This is parliamentary madness. I presume in the end this will come to a Commons vote at some point and I just can’t see turkeys voting for Christmas. However, if they do they must do it on the condition that the government reduces the number of ministers, something they have so far refused to commit to. If you get rid of 8.3% of MPs, surely you ought to be obliged to reduce the number of ministers by the same percentage, otherwise the Executive is able to tighten its grip on the parliamentary process. If it happened, there would be eight fewer ministers. The question is: would anyone notice?
Steve Baker really does have a fine head of hair, doesn’t he? Not that I am at all jealous. Never let it be said.

As you read this I’ll be in Brussels for the EU summit. We’re doing CNN Talk (on CNN International at noon) from the Commission building and then I’ll be doing my LBC show from there. It’s my first visit to Brussels since the early 1990s, when I thought it would be a good idea to go and see what it was like. I remember attending a meeting of the European Parliament’s transport committee and having all my anti-EU prejudices confirmed. It was total chaos. You had lobbyists sitting in amongst the MPs and chatting to them as the committee proceedings went on. I remember coming back to London and hoping beyond hope that my work wouldn’t take me to Brussels ever again. Well, I’ve lasted 27 years, and hopefully this visit will be my second and last. I’m sure Brussels feels the same.
Last Saturday I wrote an article in the ‘I’ Newspaper about the declining art of political interviewing. You can read it “HERE”:https://inews.co.uk/opinion/columnists/iain-dale-weve-lost-the-art-of-the-political-interview/ ]. It seems to have caused quite a stir with several journalists getting in touch to ask what I thought of their interviewing style! I deliberately didn’t name many names, apart from praising Andrew Neil, who I regard as the best interviewer in the world of political broadcast journalism. Jeremy Paxman was none too pleased and got in touch to say he had never said he had in his mind while interviewing a politician the phrase “why is this bastard lying to me?” He said he was quoting someone else.


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Keith Simpson's Christmas Reading List

12 Dec 2017 at 15:09

By Keith Simpson MP

Over the past few weeks as the EU (Withdrawal) Bill grinds its way slowly through the Chamber of the House of Commons it has been noticeable that many MPs take refuge in the library to read and to sleep. This litany will continue for many, many months.

Christmas is a time to catch up on reading and to spot purchases for family and friends. Once again this is a personal list of books, mainly politics, history and war – the latter a good antidote for Brexit.

David Laws was a Liberal Democrat minister in the Coalition government and has already published a well received book Coalition. Now he has edited his diaries which give a perceptive and amusing account of life as a minister – Coalition Diaries 2012-2015 (Biteback).

Bernard Donoughue was head of the policy unit in No 10 under both Wilson and Callaghan and a decade ago published two volumes of diaries. Under Blair in the Lords he served as a junior MAFF minister for two years and his Westminster Diary Volumes 1 and 2 show not only his old Labour sympathies but his love of the arts and the turf.

It has taken Gordon Brown seven years to write his memoirs which attempt to explain his political ambition but sit oddly with all the other accounts of his emotional instability as Chancellor and Prime Minister – Gordon Brown My Life, Our Times (Bodley Head).

The Times has been publishing guides to the House of Commons since the 1880s and they have expanded beyond a statistical listing of candidates and constituencies. The Times Guide to the House of Commons 2017 is rather thin fare and at an outrageous price.

The General Election is now months ago, and we have seen several books written which combine gossip and facts to explain what happened. Tim Ross and Tom McTague Betting The House The Inside Story of the 2017 Election (Biteback) does just that.

Tim Shipman had already established his journalistic reputation with All Out War The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class. Now he has written a further volume Fall Out A Year of Political Mayhem (William Collins) which makes for depressing reading for the political establishment. Shipman has increased his book sales by not providing an index so ambitious people have to buy it.

Oliver Letwin is a national treasure and like David Willetts a serious thinker and political practitioner. In the Coalition government he was Cameron’s “odd job man” and general fixer. Letwin hasn’t written a traditional biography; but he mixes his political experience with narrating the challenges faced in Hearts and Minds The Battle for the Conservative Party from Thatcher to the Present (Biteback).

Robert Peston is a marmite journalist and can annoy many people but he is a stimulating journalist and for those wanting to stretch the little grey cells then WTF (Hodder and Stoughton) is for them.

This autumn we have seen two books published on Churchill and the crisis of May 1940. The most substantial and readable is by the author Nicholas Shakespeare Six Minutes in May How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister (Harvill Secker). Shakespeare goes back to original sources and is very critical of Churchill and the Norway Campaign.

Coinciding with the film of the same title is the screen writer Anthony McCarten’s Darkest Hour How Churchill Brought Us Back from the Brink (Penguin) in which he proposes that Churchill did not rule out some form of Peace agreement with Hitler; but only after the defeat of an invasion.

Churchill‘s political career barely survived the Gallipoli Campaign and was one of the factors which made people reluctant to support him in May 1940. Barry Gough has written a fascinating study Churchill and Fisher: Titans at the Admiralty (Seaforth Publishing) which shows that Fisher was close to being deranged.

David Cannadine has written some superbly stimulating books on British history and his Victorious Century The United Kingdom 1800-1906 (Allen Lane) ranks with the best.

A provocative and rather tendentious analysis is offered by the Labour MP Chris Bryant Entitled A Critical History of the British Aristocracy (Doubleday) which at times has touches of Monty Python about the script.

David Kynaston has written a multi-volume history of the Bank of England and he has now edited the volumes and compressed them into one massive item Till Times Last Sand A History of the Bank of England 1694-2013 (Bloomsbury).

Recently we have seen two members of May’s Cabinet resigning and there could be more at a later date. In Fighters and Quitters Great Political Resignations (Biteback). Theo Barcley writes an overview of modern political resignations from those who jumped to those who were pushed.

Chris Skidmore, a Cabinet Office Minister, is a well-respected historian of the fifteenth century and has now brought together the archival and archaeological research into Richard III Brother, Protector, King (Weidenfeld & Nicolson).

Based upon limited archival and literary sources Miranda Kaufmann has written a fascinating study of a number of Black Tudors The Untold Story (One World). There was prejudice but in a different way and we underestimate the widespread movements of people across Europe and Africa.

Ulysses S Grant’s reputation has swung from Civil War criticism and then adulation to the same a century later. His time as President has come in for a lot of criticism but Charles W Calhoun has attempted to write a judicious account of The Presidency of Ulysses S Grant in the excellent series published by the University Press of Kansas.

Images of British troops and civilians in the Second World War frequently refer to the importance of a cup of tea. The cultural, commercial and historical aspects is well covered in Erika Rappaport A Thirst for Empire How Tea Shaped the World (Princeton University Press).

One for Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. In 1932-33 nearly four million Ukrainians died of a starvation due to Stalin’s policy. Anne Applebaum has written extensively on Stalin‘s Russia and in Red Famine Stalin’s War on Ukraine (Allen Lane) documents the politics and the immense human suffering. Not a book one suspects that is on V Putin’s reading list.

Thomas Weber wrote a fascinating book on Hitler’s First World War experiences and his soldiering in the List Regiment. Now he documents Hitler’s radical right wing politics and early days in the tiny Nazi Party in Becoming Hitler The Making of a Nazi (OUP).

The massive three or four volume Victorian biographies are rarely seen these days but Stephen Kotkin is past his half way mark in the first two volumes of a massive life and times biography of Stalin. The first volume was published last year and now we can read Stalin Waiting for Hitler 1928-1946 (Allen Lane).

Simon Heffer is an independently minded Conservative journalist and commentator and author of several fine books. He has written an excellent book on the British experience of the late nineteenth century The Age of Decadence Britain 1880-1914 (Random House).

In the Second World War Gibraltar was very vulnerable to Franco’s Spain and Hitler’s’ Germany. It was a crucial fortress and listening post and much of its population was evacuated to Britain. Nicholas Rankin examines this in Defending the Rock How Gibraltar Defeated Hitler (Faber & Faber).

It could be argued that the Second World War was the BBC’s finest hour – it informed and entertained the Empire and was a crucial link with the population of the occupied territories. Edward Stourton is a well respected BBC journalist and has written an informative and wonderfully entertaining book in Auntie’s War The BBC During the Second World War (Doubleday).

Christopher Mallaby is an old style British mandarin whose memoir Living the Cold War Memoirs of a British Diplomat (Amberley Publishing) are of a different world but well written, incisive and amusing. Another diplomat of that era is Patrick R H Wright and he has used his diaries in Behind Diplomatic Lines Relations With Ministers (Biteback).

Michael Burleigh is both an historian and journalist and much of his latter work is meant to be provocative and to make one think. In The Best of Times, The Worst of Times A History of Now (Macmillan) he ranges across contemporary politics and conflict.

Nicky Morgan, former Cameron Cabinet minister “let go” by Mrs May, Chair of the Treasury Select Committee and leading Remainer. A former Education minister she feels strongly about the subject which she writes about in Taught Not Caught Educating for the 20th Century Character (John Catt Educational).

Despite great political experience and a fine mind David Willetts never made it to the Cabinet. A pamphleteer and author he is struck by the need to redefine the role and structure of our universities, not least Oxford and Cambridge, and his thoughts are laid out in A University Education (OUP)).

The impact and role of the internet and social media is the great game danger today, and David Patrikarakos in War in 140 Characters How Social Media is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century (Basic Books ) isn’t Karl von Clausewitz but jolly stimulating.

Despite maintaining limited British military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan the conflicts that lasted a decade are almost forgotten history. But it is important to look back on the decisions made and the mistakes perpetuated and this is what Theo Farrel does in Unwinnable Britain’s War in Afghanistan 2001-2014 (Bodley Head).

Lawrence Freedman has been a distinguished historian of conflict and adviser to government, not least to Tony Blair. In The Future of War A History (Allen Lane) he attempts to bring together his writing and thoughts which is a useful bluffer’s guide but offers little for the future.

Niall Fergusson is a formidable historian whose research and thinking is both stimulating and provocative. One doesn’t have to be totally convinced of his arguments not to admire The Square and the Tower Networks, Hierarchies and the Struggle for Global Power (Allen Lane).

A book based on editing and recycling previous volumes, James Owen’s The Times Great Letters A Century of Notable Correspondence (Times Books) is a good standby for long Brexit debates.

For those of us who, despite the temptations of Amazon still love to browse in secondhand bookshops then Shaun Bythell The Diary of a Bookseller (Profile Books) is a must. He is the owner of a second hand bookshop in Wigtown and his diary entries cover the usual list of eccentric, annoying, delightful and bloody awful browsers.

I have always loved the cynical Vichy Police officer, Captain Renault, played by Claude Rains in the film Casablanca – “round up the usual suspects” could be the motto of the whips. For those who want to read about the making and aftermath then We’ll Always Have Casablanca The Life, Legend and After Life of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie (Faber & Faber) is a must for Boxing Day.

The doyen of the Press Gallery and Parliamentary Sketch Writers must be the Daily Mail’s Quentin Letts. Acerbic and amusing his Patronising Bastards How the Elites Betrayed Britain (Constable) will delight Brexiteers and enrage Remainers.

Finally, a wonderful stocking filler for the Labour PLP is the tongue in cheek The Unofficial Jeremy Corbyn Annual 2018 (Portico). Happy memories of the Beano and the Eagle!



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Political Interviewing: It Shouldn't Be About Confrontation & Newslines - We're Shortchanging the Public

10 Dec 2017 at 17:34

This is an article I wrote for the Saturday edition of the ‘i’ newspaper on Saturday. It was published HERE.

‘It’s all about you, isn’t it?’ wrote the rather angry listener who texted my LBC radio show. ‘How dare you question the Prime Minister like that!’ How dare I, indeed. And there was me thinking that I was doing my job.

Back in early October, Theresa May came to my studio to take calls from our listeners. It was her first interview after THAT speech. She was doing rather well until I asked the Prime Minister if she would now vote Leave if there were another referendum. She failed to give me an answer, so I pushed her.

And then pushed her again. And again.

Each time I did it politely, with no sense of haranguing. That part of the interview was analysed on virtually every political and news show in the country over the next 48 hours. Piers Morgan reckoned it was the best question anyone had ever asked any politician this year. Stroke my ego as it might, it did leave me thinking a lot about the state of political interviewing in this country.

Back in the 1980s prime ministers only ever gave four or five set piece interviews a year. They had a sense of occasion about them, and they each lasted between 30 minutes and an hour. The advent of twenty-four hour news channels changed all that. Tony Blair and David Cameron would be interviewed on radio or television virtually every day. The provision of news on the internet changed things even more. Ninety second clips are de rigueur and news producers assume their audiences have the attention span of a flea.

All this has fed into a ‘gotcha’ narrative where news organisations feel that if they haven’t skewered a politician in an interview, the interviewer has somehow failed. If there isn’t a ‘news line’ from an interview, what was the point of it? interviewing is not a contact sport, or at least it shouldn’t be. The idea that interviews should primarily be about eliciting information to educate and inform the viewer/listener is for the birds nowadays.

Yes, of course it’s about holding politicians to account, but to go into every interview and intend to score points, as so many interviewers (or their producers) seem to want to do, is to short-change the listener.

Nick Ferrari has a reputation as a dogged interviewer, but many of his most newsworthy interviews have come when he has allowed the politician to commit hara-kari, as Diane Abbott knows only too well. LBC’s Shelagh Fogarty has a unique talent of appearing to question in a softly-softly manner, but boy oh boy, if she feels she’s being played, watch her bare her teeth. And that’s how it should be.

Compare that to one famous interviewer told me recently, when he was about to interview a senior politician: “I’m going to give them the most aggressive interview they’ve ever had”. ‘Really?’ I thought. ‘Is that really the best way to go into an interview?’

It illustrated for me the different way we approach political interviews nowadays. I suppose it reflects Jeremy Paxman’s famous approach where before he would interview anyone he’d think to himself “why is this bastard lying to me?” I don’t believe that shouting at someone is likely to elicit anything meaningful from them. They just shut up shop and repeat political mantras.

Too many interviewers think it’s all about them. Social media has encouraged a cult of media personality. It seems that some interviewers want to be heroes in their own echo chamber. The reaction to my Theresa May interview was an interesting case-study. It certainly stroked my ego but it underlined to me my theory that a conversational approach works far better than a confrontational one.

I mourn the apparent death of the long-form political interview. I know from experience that if you interview a politician for three or four minutes you won’t get anything interesting out of them. They have two points they want to make and they will make them regardless of the question you ask.

If you interview a politician for more than ten minutes, eventually they run out of their pre-prepared lines and they are then forced to say something more interesting. David Frost was a master of this. Fern Britton got more out of Tony Blair in an hour-long interview than any of the ‘star’ political interviewers had managed in fifteen years. Nick Ferrari’s hour with Ed Miliband in the 2015 election was the best interview of the campaign.

Last week ITV announced three new hour-long interview programmes, albeit online only. I detect a growing, if niche, appetite for longer form interviews. Come back Robin Day, Brian Walden or Jonathan Dimbleby. These three interviewers were brilliant exponents of the genre. In today’s world, Andrew Neil is a master of it.

If it were my decision, I would make him the new editor and chief presenter of a revamped Newsnight. That won’t happen, of course.

What I’ve Been…

I’m a huge Gogglebox addict so I’ve been reading the DIARY OF TWO NOBODIES by Giles and Mary, the slightly quirky middle-aged couple who live in a cottage in Wiltshire. They really are as charming and odd as they appear on screen. I’m also reading is Tim Shipman’s FALL OUT. It is the sequel to ALL OUT WAR and covers the Brexit talks and the general election. It’s undoubtedly one of the political books of the year. I wish I had published it.

I’ve started a new weekly podcast with Jacqui Smith called FOR THE MANY, which is 45 minutes of political banter. We were inspired by excellent and hugely gossipy FORTUNATELY podcast by Jane Garvey and Fi Glover. I’ve also started listening to podcasts in the car on journeys to Norfolk, and have become rather addicted to the CHRIS MOYLES SHOW weekly podcast. Laugh out loud funny.

Listening to
I’ve turned into a massive radio geek since being on LBC and love discovering new shows and stations. My most recent discovery is HEART 80s, which does what it says on the tin. TOBY TARRANT’s early breakfast show on Radio X is a show I only get to listen to for the last half an hour, but it’s got that crucial quality in a radio show – you don’t want to switch off in case you miss something.

I rarely watch live TV nowadays. Netflix has become my new TV home and I can’t wait for the second series of THE CROWN. DESIGNATED SURVIVOR and SHOOTER have been my two most recent binges – both have an echo of ‘24’, which I still miss. I used to be a SKY NEWS addict, but increasingly find myself watching AL JAZEERA ENGLISH and CNN.



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ConHome Diary: Would You Like a '**** Jeremy Corbyn' T Shirt?

1 Dec 2017 at 13:18

Following his ill-judged retweets of three Britain First tweets, Donald Trump is now turning his ire onto Theresa May. He tweeted yesterday: “@Theresa_May don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive radical Islamic terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!”. Further evidence if we needed it of the President’s warped narcissism. The basic trouble is, the man has so little respect for the office he holds. Theresa May was absolutely right to call him out on his tweets. As Piers Morgan told me, either he tweeted them because he didn’t know who Britain First was or he knew exactly who they were. If it was the former he is an idiot. If it’s the latter it is a clear sign that he is Islamophobic. I’d say in either case it demonstrates that America has a president who provides succour to racists, Islamophobes and white supremicists. Furthermore, one of the videos has been proved to be a fake, and the perpetrator of violence in one of the others was sentenced to death for his actions. Tweeting three videos like this is clearly designed to cause division between muslims and the rest of the community. It’s meant to persuade Americans that because one radical muslim cleric deliberately smashes a statue of the Virgin Mary, then all muslims would approve of that. It’s just despicable that a man who holds the office of President should do this. We don’t solve the problems we have with radical Islam by playing into the hands of those who would do us damage.
Theresa May was quite right to call Trump’s action wrong. She could have gone further and called it words like ‘despicable’ and ‘contemptible’ but diplomatic niceties mean that she didn’t. At least she is someone who respects the office in President, but I suspect like most of us, she has little respect for the man.
Sajid Javid, a muslim himself, went much further than the Prime Minister, and I suspect he didn’t get any permission for his tweet.

I think he was entirely justified to go that little bit further. Good on him.
On Monday evening I took part in a panel in Norwich which sought to answer the question: “What does it mean to be English?” Former Labour minister John Denham, who now leads the Centre for English Identity at the University of Winchester was one of my co-interlocutors and did a far better job of answering the question than I did. Indeed, we agreed on so much (like believing in creating an English Parliament, for example) we nearly formed our own political party there and then. The event took place at the Forum in the centre of Norwich and there were around 120 people there. It was a very engaged audience who asked some quite challenging questions. However, I’m still not sure I answered the question very well…

Over the last months arch-remainers have made the point that Britain must agree to pay the EU what it owes in a divorce payment. On Wednesday evening the Telegraph’s Peter Foster revealed that the UK government and the European Commission had reached an agreement on this issue, and the UK had indeed agreed to pay a fee of somewhere between £35 billion and £45 billion. And what do those same arch-remainers say now? That the government has been totally humiliated!!! Typical. I’d love to have paid the wretched organisation nothing at all, but in the end, all negotiations are pragmatic compromises. However, before we all rush away with the thought that the trade negotiations will now be easy, I suspect the very opposite is true. Remember, any trade deal will have to be ratified by the national parliaments of all 27 member states. I still reckon no-deal is a distinct possibility. In which case, it must be made clear that the EU won’t be getting any money at all. I see Barnier is trying to make out the two things aren’t linked. If the government gives way on that, we might as well give away on everything else now.
I’m half way through reading Tim Shipman’s new book, FALL OUT. It carries on from his first book, ALL OUT WAR and is just as good. The level of detail is astonishing. It’s the sort of book I’d like to have written myself but know I couldn’t. It details the Brexit negotiations and the election campaign and finishes in October. I saw Tim on Tuesday and told him he would have to write a third, taking the story up to Brexit Day on 29 March 2019. He visibly blanched. I’d say it was his public duty. He can console himself by knowing that he will have written The Shipman Trilogy – the British equivalent of Robert Caro’s series of biographies of Lyndon Johnson. And I can’t give his books any higher praise than that.

That famous political philosopher Noel Gallagher is someone you might think would be rather impressed by Jeremy Corbyn. Not a bit of it. He’s given an interview to the NME in which he rather endearingly talks about the Labour leader. He says: “Fuck Jeremy Corbyn. He’s a Communist”. I think that would make a rather good selling T-Shirt, don’t you? Maybe one for CCHQ…



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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Benjamin Cohen about Social Media Addiction

What constitutes an addiction to social media? Iain Dale, Benjamin Cohen and Siobhan Benita discuss.

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ConHome Diary: The Housing Minister Should Be In The Cabinet & Why Brexiteers Need to Up Their Game in Exposing Remain Lies

24 Nov 2017 at 13:21

Well that wasn’t exactly a knicker-gripping budget, was it? In a week’s time if you asked people if they could remember one measure announced in a budget, the abolition of stamp duty for first time buyers for properties under £300k is probably all that they will remember. There were lots of itty-bitty minor measures and reform announced, but there was little coherence to the budget. Radical and bold it was not. The best thing you can say about this budget is that it hasn’t unravelled. That’s a pretty low bar for success.

The best budgets are ones that follow a vision or narrative. Nigel Lawson did that, and disagree with him though I did, so did Gordon Brown. So did George Osborne to an extent. I’m afraid Philip Hammond’s main vision was ‘how can I avoid a budget gaffe and how can I best keep my job’. There was very little, if anything, for the so-called ‘Just About Managings’. That was supposed to be the theme of this government’s domestic agenda, but so far as I can recall there wasn’t even a mention of it in the budget speech. You could argue that keeping alcohol duties static would help the JAMS, but if so, why not say it? Still at least he recoiled from cutting the VAT threshold for small businesses from £83k to £20k. This would have been a political disaster of epic proportions, and been a far worse error than his NI mistake last year proved to be. Thankfully he stepped back from the brink.

Philip Hammond was right to make housing the centrepiece of the budget. It’s just a pity that the measures he announced will do very little to address the real issue – which is lack of supply. He was looking through the wrong end of the housing telescope. Encouraging first time buyers is all very well, and many will be very encouraged by the cut in stamp duty. But he was undermined in the Red Book by the OBR who rightly pointed out that the cut will inevitably lead to a rise in house prices, thus not benefiting the first-time buyer but benefiting the vendor. What he needed to do was face up to the big housebuilders who are constantly trying to rig the housing market in their favour. What he also needed to do was encourage small and medium sized builders, many of whom have got out of housebuilding in the last few years, partly because the planning system mitigates against them. What we need is a Housing Minister who will trample over all the vested interests and do for housing what Michael Heseltine did with development corporations in the 1980s. I’m impressed by Alok Sharma, but he is relatively new to the job and will take time to gain political ‘weight’. The government should send a big signal and promote the Housing Minister to the rank of attending cabinet. This issue, more than most, could determine the outcome in a lot of marginal seats at the next election.
Every morning five or six emails pop into my inbox, each competing for my attention and telling me what’s happening in the political word. They include Matt Chorley’s Red Box email and Paul Waugh’s from the Huffington Post. The latest one is from Politico and is written by Jack Blanchard, and is well worth subscribing to. It has a lot more detail about the upcoming events of the day and which politicians are going to appear on the various political programmes. It’s become indispensable to my day and I highly recommend it.

One of the failures of those who support Brexit is to expose the lies of those who continue to bang the Remain drum. We keep being told that EU nationals are all going home. As I write this, Sky’s Adam Boulton is interviewing Theresa Villers and has asked her how we can build more houses if all the EU builders are leaving the country. Just for the record, a week ago the ONS announced that there are now 2.38 million EU nationals working in the UK, a rise of 112,000 on a year ago. Don’t believe me? Click on THIS [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/11/15/number-eu-nationals-working-britain-reaches-record-level-official/ ] link.

Over the last year we’ve also constantly been told that doctors and nurses from the EU are flooding out of the NHS and going back to their home nations. It’s become a narrative which has been accepted all across the media. My LBC colleague James O’Brien speaks of little else. And yet it’s total bollocks. It is a lie. The latest figures show that there are actually more EU doctors and nurses in the NHS a year on from the referendum than there were on June 23 2016. Just for the record, here are the figures:

Doctors in the NHS June 2016 – 9695
Doctors in the NHS June 2017 – 10136 (a rise of 4.5%)
Registrars 2016 June 2016 – 3190
Registrars June 2016 – 3215
Trainee doctors June 2016 – 779
Trainee doctors June 2017 – 950
Midwives June 2016 – 1220
Midwives June 2017 – 1247
Ambulance staff June 2016 – 250
Ambulance staff June 2017 – 386
Scientific, therapeutic, technical staff June 2016 – 6112
Scientific, therapeutic, technical staff June 2017 – 6957
Nurses and health visitors June 2016 – 20907
Nurses and health visitors June 2017 – 20618

So, yes a very slight decline of 1.38% in the number of nurses, but not overall statistically very significant. If you add all those figures up you find…

Total number of EU nationals in the NHS in June 2016 – 42,153
Total number of EU nationals in the NHS in June 2017 – 43,509

So, a 3.22% rise over a year. And in case you think I have made these figures up, they were quoted in The Spectator and come from NHS Digitial.
Similarly, people like Michael White tweet that the trade gap has widened since we voted to leave the EU. A simple look at ONS figures shows this is an utter lie.

2015 Q4-33681
2016 Q1-31169
2016 Q2-28440
2016 Q3-33034
2016 Q4-22812
2017 Q1-22256
2017 Q2-23182

We keep being told that it’s the Brexiteers who are guilty of telling ‘porkies’ with the red bus being cited constantly, but those who put the public case for Brexit need to be fully aware of the lies that are being told on the other side and be prepared to expose them whenever they are able to.



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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Ed Miliband

Iain talks to the Labour leader at the end of his 2012 conference.

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Settling the Account - A Tale of Davis & Barnier

23 Nov 2017 at 21:22

I was sent this earlier today. No doubt it’s doing the rounds, but it has a few echoes of truth, doesn’t it?!

David Davis is at the golf club returning his locker key when Mr Barnier the membership secretary sees him.

“Hello Mr Davis”, says Mr Barnier. “I’m sorry to hear you are no longer renewing your club membership, if you would like to come to my office we can settle your account”.

“I have settled my bar bill” says Mr Davis..

“Ah yes Mr Davis”, says Mr Barnier, “but there are other matters that need settlement”

In Mr Barnier’s office Mr Davis explains that he has settled his bar bill so wonders what else he can possibly owe the Golf Club? “Well Mr Davis” begins Mr Barnier, “you did agree to buy one of our Club Jackets”.

“Yes” agrees Mr Davis “I did agree to buy a jacket but I haven’t received it yet”. “As soon as you supply the jacket I will send you a cheque for the full amount”.

“That will not be possible” explains Mr Barnier. “As you are no longer a club member you will not be entitled to buy one of our jackets”!

“But you still want me to pay for it” exclaims Mr Davis.

“Yes” says Mr Barnier, "That will be £500 for the jacket. “There is also your bar bill”.

“But I’ve already settled my bar bill” says Mr Davis.

“Yes” says Mr Barnier, “but as you can appreciate, we need to place our orders from the Brewery in advance to ensure our bar is properly stocked”.. “You regularly used to spend at least £50 a week in the bar so we have placed orders with the brewery accordingly for the coming year”. “You therefore owe us £2600 for the year”..

“Will you still allow me to have these drinks?” asks Mr Davis. “No of course not Mr Davis”. “You are no longer a club member!” says Mr Barnier.

“Next is your restaurant bill” continues Mr Barnier. “In the same manner we have to make arrangements in advance with our catering suppliers”. “Your average restaurant bill was in the order of £300 a month, so we’ll require payment of £3600 for the next year”.

“I don’t suppose you’ll be letting me have these meals either” asks Mr Davis.

“No, of course not” says an irritated Mr Barnier, “you are no longer a club member!”

“Then of course” Mr Barnier continues, “there are repairs to the clubhouse roof”.

“Clubhouse roof” exclaims Mr Davis, “What’s that got to do with me?”

“Well it still needs to be repaired and the builders are coming in next week”, your share of the bill is £2000".

“I see” says Mr Davis, “anything else?”.

“Now you mention it” says Mr Barnier, “there is Fred the Barman’s pension”. “We would like you to pay £5 a week towards Fred’s pension when he retires next month”. “He’s not well you know so I doubt we’ll need to ask you for payment for longer than about five years, so £1300 should do it”. “This brings your total bill to £10,000” says Mr Barnier.

“Let me get this straight” says Mr Davis, “you want me to pay £500 for a jacket you won’t let me have, £2600 for beverages you won’t let me drink and £3600 for food you won’t let me eat, all under a roof I won’t be allowed under and not served by a bloke who’s going to retire next month!”

“Yes, it’s all perfectly clear and quite reasonable” says Mr Barnier.

“Pxxs off!” says Mr Davis

Now we understand what Brexit is all about.



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LBC 97.3 Book Club: Iain talks to Ann Widdecombe

Ann talks to Iain about her memoirs, STRICTLY ANN

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ConHome Diary: Have we Got Leaking Whips & Why I Have Been in Prison

17 Nov 2017 at 12:28

At the weekend I went to prison. Luckily only for a couple of hours, but it was an experience nonetheless. The only time I’d been inside a prison before was to visit someone who was serving 25 years for murder. He wanted to write a book when he came out. For various reasons it never happened.
And so it was on Saturday that I visited a friend who had been sent to prison for a relatively short sentence. I have a policy when a friend is in trouble or falls on hard times – I stand by them. It’s what friends do. What I have found time and time again is that this is when people in trouble really find out who their friends are. Who are the real friends and who are the “friends”?
I well remember the day when I got a phone call from Channel 4 News telling me that Neil and Christine Hamilton were in Ilford ‘nick’ being questioned about a rape they were supposed to have committed. Would I go on their programme and talk about it? It was so preposterous as to be impossible to believe, so I went on the show. I then got quite a few calls telling me I shouldn’t do any more media on it because it could harm my political career. I politely told these well-meaning friends exactly where they could shove their advice.
Neil and Christine were (and are) good friends and I certainly wasn’t going to drop them the way many people did during the events of 1996-7.
Anyway, I digress. I arrived at the prison with a certain degree of trepidation. I suppose I was afraid that the conversation might be a bit stilted and that five months in this rather Victoria prison might have really changed my friend. I queued up in the waiting room along with, shall we say, all forms of human life, the majority of which seemed to be wearing track suit bottoms and answered to the name of Waynetta or kept shrieking “am I bovvered? Do I look bovvered?” It was the small kids who were running around that I felt sorry for. Poor little sods didn’t stand a chance.
My time soon arrived and I was led through three gates to the visiting room. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was led to a numbered table where my friend was waiting. It was all fairly informal with us sitting on a sofa and soft chair. The time flew by and two hours later it was time to leave.
I was glad I went. My friend seemed to really appreciate it. It had been a round trip of 300 miles or so but I am glad I took the time to do it. I know if it had been me, it would have meant a lot. And you know, there really was a feeling of there but for the grace of God go I. I don’t think I have ever done anything which could have merited going to prison, then again, in my opinion, nor had my friend. More of that another time, maybe.
I’ve got my iPhone on shuffle at the moment. I’m writing this to the dulcet tones of a Boney M Megamix. For younger readers they were a 1980s popular music neat combo whose biggest hit was a rather soothing song called Rivers of Babylon. It was ‘Daddy Cool’.

I don’t know what the Daily Telegraph thought it was trying to achieve by its front page showing mugshots of the 15 Brexit ‘Mutineers’. Still, at least they didn’t call them ‘collaborators’. That was left to the Daily Mail. Why is it that people who hold a minority view are demonised like this? Some of the female MPs named have received the most disgusting abuse on social media following this. Sarah Wollaston told me live on air that she hadn’t told anyone but her whip of her views on the Brexit Bill amendments so she could only conclude that the whips had deliberately leaked these 15 names to the Telegraph. She will never be able to prove it, but if it’s true, it’s a terrible state of affairs. Conversations with whips must remain confidential otherwise the whole system teeters on the verge of collapse.
The reaction to the first episode of my FOR THE MANY iTunes podcast, which I record with Jacqui Smith, has been very gratifying. It reached the top 25 overall iTunes chart and was number 3 in the News & Politics category, only beaten by Serial and the Radio 4 Friday night comedy, although how those two podcasts belong in the News & Politics category I don’t quite understand. If you haven’t subscribed, do give it a try. The second episode will be available early Monday morning.

It was good to see the PM on fine form in this week’s PMQs. She looked as if she was genuinely enjoying it – which is more than can be said for the Leader of the Opposition, who at one point called the Government benches ‘The Opposition’. It was a truly lamentable performance from Jeremy Corbyn. My LBC colleague James O’Brien, who I normally disagree with on most things, tweeted afterwards that he reckoned we’ve seen ‘Peak Corbyn’. I wonder if there’s something in that. As Tony Blair said, given the divisions which exist in the government and the bad press they’ve had in recent months you might expect Labour to be well ahead in the opinion polls. But still Theresa May is polling above 40%.
Philip Hammond faces an impossible task in next week’s budget. Expectations have been set so high that he cannot possibly meet them. So far we haven’t had many leaks about what to expect, and if his Treasury spinners have any sense they’ll leave it that way. If he can produce a couple of positive surprises on the day, all well and good, but otherwise it’s surely likely to be a steady-as-she-goes, tinkering budget. It’s not in the chancellor’s nature to be radical, but now I’ve said that he’ll probably go and abolish stamp duty or something which will have us all scratching our collective heads in utter astonishment. While we are on stamp duty, perhaps we should all acknowledge that it is basically a form of licensed robbery. The trouble is, if you raised the limit for first time buyers to £400k or so, you’d still need to recover the shortfall from elsewhere in the tax system. A Conservative chancellor cannot surely be seen to raise borrowing. That’s Labour’s job, and what a good job they are doing. I think in this week’s PMQs if you add the spending commitments made in Jeremy Corbyn’s six questions, you’d probably add a good £50 billion to the PSBR. Come the next election, this is going to a be a crucial battleground. The dividing lines are already there and they certainly shouldn’t be blurred in the budget.



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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Richard Davenport-Hines

Richard Davenport-Hines talks about his new book AN ENGLISH AFFAIR and the impact of the Profumo scandal on British society.

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ConHome Diary: Not a Priti Week

10 Nov 2017 at 11:51

On a personal level it is always sad to see a political resignation. I’ve known Priti Patel for the best part of twenty years and she’s one of those people who by nature is an optimist. She always has a twinkle in her eye and is very good company. However, I’ve always thought that being a minister robbed her of her natural bubbliness. Whenever I interviewed her I could almost hear her thinking to herself: “I must stay on message, I must stay on message”. Back in September 2015 I wrote this:
“I really think some politicians are injected with some sort of serum before they go on the broadcast media, and that it turns normally sparkling, interesting people into complete drones whose only intention is to bore us to death about the “long-term economic plan” and “hard-working people”.
Step forward Priti Patel who is an exceptionally rabid addict of this serum. I’ve interviewed her seven or eight times, I suppose, and on each occasion I end the interview wanting to slit my wrists. If I feel like that, God only knows what the listener thinks.
And so it was on Saturday. She and Michael Fallon were doing the media rounds to comment on Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the Labour leadership contest, and both had clearly taken a strong dose. “Britain’s security is in danger,” they chirruped in unison. “So is the security of hard working families.”
Oh, pass the sick bucket.”
It’s ironic, I suppose that both Priti and Michael Fallon have now gone to meet their political maker. Ironic, but a terrible pity, and so avoidable. What on earth was she thinking? Any rookie Minister reads the Ministerial Code and knows that they have to obey it. Priti’s transgressions might have been survivable had she not told the PM on Monday that there were no further revelations to come. There were, and that meant she had to go.
Theresa May showed a bit of human compassion and allowed Priti to resign, but let’s face it, it was a sacking. I am told that the meeting in Downing Street lasted all of six minutes. The PM has never been one for small talk. It was an interview without coffee. Both women knew what the outcome must be.
While today Priti Patel’s political career lies in tatters, she should take comfort from the fact that it is possible to come back from this. She’ll never again be seen as a leadership contender, but it is perfectly possible for her to return to the front bench in the future. Liam Fox’s resignation in 2012 was in vaguely – very vaguely – similar circumstances and Priti can look at his example to see how to return to ministerial office.
In the meantime, I expect Priti to enter a period of relative silence until after Christmas, but after then I hope we see the return of the bubbly, effervescent character that ministerial office somewhat suppressed. If we do, she will be a player again.
So where does this leave Theresa May and he government? I don’t see that she or it are any weaker than they were a week or ten days ago. Indeed, it is possible to argue that she is in a slightly stronger position given Boris Johnson’s bad week. There is no plot to get rid of her, mainly because there is no obvious successor. Boris has had a dreadful few months and many people I speak to doubt he’d even get into the final two if there were any leadership contest. The big unknown, though, is how many letters Graham Brady has received calling for a vote of no-confidence in the PM. There needs to be 48 to trigger a vote. I suspect he has got 20-30. However, I doubt if there will be many more, despite some of the disgraceful anonymous briefing that is going on in the papers. Turkeys surely don’t vote for Christmas. Tory MPs need to know what if they continue to show this kind of disloyalty to the Prime Minister they can only help bring a general election closer. And if that happened, many of them would end up with a P45 courtesy of the electorate. And deservedly so.

Given the antics of Messrs Patel and Johnson, the sexual harassment scandal has moved to the inside pages from the front pages, unless you live in Wales where former Welsh government minister Carl Sargeant took his own life. The poor man hadn’t even been told what he had been accused of. I’m told Charlie Elphicke still remains ignorant of what is supposed to have done. On a basic human level, surely if someone is accused of committing a crime, or something highly distasteful, they surely ought to have a right to know what it is, even if the identity of the accuser isn’t disclosed. In Carl Sargeant’s case, his family have been robbed of a husband, son and father. They deserve some answers from the political establishment in Wales, and the First Minister Carwyn Jones – a transparently decent man – needs to examine his own conscience about how he handled this and what he said to the media in the immediate aftermath of Sargeant’s suspension.
If you like to listen to political podcasts I do hope you’ll give mine a try. It’s called FOR THE MANY and I’m doing it with former Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and the first episode will be available first thing on Monday morning. We’re going to cover political and media issues and have a good old gossip along the way. It will have the tone of our Sky News paper review partnership and will be recorded weekly on a Sunday evening. So do go to iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts and subscribe, so you automatically get it on your phone without having to remember to download! FOR THE MANY has a Facebook page and you can follow us on Twitter @ForTheManyPod.



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Iain Talks to Nigel Evans MP After His acquittal

Nigel Evans tells all.

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Watch: CNN Talk - Sutherland Springs & Guntrol

7 Nov 2017 at 12:18

This is a discussion on CNN Talk about the Sutherland Springs shootings and gun control.

I’m on CNN Talk every Friday and Monday at noon on CNN International. Or you can watch it on Facebook Live.



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Video: Iain & Jag Singh debate early electioneering

Sky News

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For The Many - A New Weekly Podcast From LBC With Iain Dale & Jacqui Smith

4 Nov 2017 at 15:26

Back in March Jacqui Smith and I left the Sky News Paper Review, where we had established an on-screen partnership over five or six years. I covered the reasons for us leaving HERE. Since then, both of us have been inundated with people asking us when we’re coming back. It’s nice to be missed but on TV it’s not going to happen. However, we are editing a book of biographies of all the female MPs over the last hundred years, HONOURABLE LADIES and from November 20th we’re launching a new podcast, called "FOR THE MANY… We’re doing it with LBC and here’s what the blurb says…

For The Many is a one of a kind 30-minute podcast hosted by the political dream team who have become infamous for their onscreen partnership delivering the Sky News paper review. Containing a mixture of lively debate, analysis, banter and gossip Iain and Jacqui give their perspective on the ever-changing world of politics and media in a way only they could. With no guests or interruptions, expect clashes and arguments as the pair’s big personalities are let loose. The insightful weekly download is perfect for your Monday morning commute, so you can make sure you’re ahead of the game before you step in to the office. For The Many: Subscribe NOW on iTunes or where ever you get your podcasts and be the first to hear episode one on November 20th.

We really want to do conduct it in a very light style with lots of laughs, and it will very much reflect the rapport we built up on Sky. There are a lot of political podcasts out there at the moment and many of them very good indeed. I suppose if anything, we want to reflect the style of Jane Garvey and Fi Glover in the FORTUNATELY podcast. If you haven’t heard that, you’re missing out. We’ll usually record it on a Sunday evening so it will be available for the Monday morning commute. Initially we won’t have guests, it will just be us. I think the best podcasts are those that are simple and are not heavily produced. We’re using some unique software to record it, with me in my sitting room and Jacqui in hers – or maybe her caravan! We then upload it to a producer at LBC who tops and tails it before uploading it to iTunes and all the other podcast platforms. One thing we do want to do also is react to what our listeners want to talk about so we’ve created all sorts of ways of getting in touch with us.

Email: forthemany@global.com
Twitter: @ForTheManyPod
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ForTheManyPodcast/
Website: http://www.lbc.co.uk/radio/presenters/iain-dale/for-the-many-a-brand-new-lbc-podcast-coming-soon/

Please do follow us on Twitter and most important of all, we need to get as many podcast subscribers on iTunes as possible before we launch on November 20th. The more we get the more iTunes will promote us. So please do go to Podcasts on your phone (we’re also on Android too!) search for my name or Jacqui’s and it should come up. For some reason, if you search ‘For the Many’ it doesn’t…. There’s a three minute trailer for the podcast, just as a taster.



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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Nick Harkaway & Simon Hoggart

Iain talks to Nick Harkaway about surviving in the digital age and to The Guardian's parliamentary sketchwriter Simon Hoggart

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