UK Politics

EDP Column: On Scottish Independence My Heart Says Yes, My Head Says No

13 Sep 2014 at 09:33

My middle name is Campbell. My Christian name is spelt the Scottish way. I am a quarter Scottish. Believe it or not, I am a direct descendent of Robbie Burns through one of his illegitimate children. Strangely, though, I feel little affinity with the country of my ancestors. Whenever I go there I feel like a foreigner. Indeed I feel more welcome and at home when I visit the United States. So in some ways, if Scotland votes to go independent next Thursday I’ll react with a shrug of the shoulders. And if I had a vote in the referendum I genuinely don’t know which way I would cast it. My heart says I’d vote yes, but my head tells me something different. I think that’s how many native Scots will think too, and my suspicion is that a good proportion of them will vote with their hearts rather than their heads.

Alex Salmond is without doubt the canniest politician in the United Kingdom. He has played the ‘Better Together’ campaign like a fiddle. The panic they displayed after the Yougov poll last Sunday was laughable. Salmond’s greatest strength is exactly the same as George W Bush’s, in that he is constantly ‘misunderestimated’ by his political opponents. The patronising contempt displayed by Alistair Darling towards him in the TV debates achieved nothing except push some doubters into the ‘yes’ camp.

The ‘no’ campaign rivals the ‘Yes to AV’ campaign in its sheer incompetence. To win hearts and minds you need to be positive and optimistic. Better Together have been relentless in their negativity and condescension. They needed to pull at the heart strings, wax lyrical about the benefits of the United Kingdom. Instead all they can do is threaten doom and gloom and give the subliminal message that Scots aren’t capable of managing their own affairs. Only in recent days has this idiotic approach changed, but it’s probably too late.

As I write around 20% of Scots are reported to have sent in their postal votes. Indeed, although the opinion polls show that another 10-15% are still undecided, I find it difficult to imagine that the majority of those will swing towards voting ‘no’. There is little doubt that the ‘Big Mo’ is with the Yes Campaign, and Salmond’s challenge is to maintain this right up until polls close on Thursday.

In many ways the First Minister has got away with blue murder. Better Together have completely failed to exploit his woolly answers on many important issues, not least the question of Scotland’s currency. Alex Salmond blithely says that the Pound’s is Scotland’s as well, ignoring the fact that all three main party leaders have told him that if Scotland goes independent it’s on its own. In theory it could still use the Pound, but it would have no presence on the governing body or the monetary policy committee of the Bank of England. This wouldn’t matter in the good times particularly, but if Scotland hit a financial crisis there would be no lender of last resort. It would mean that Scotland would find it very difficult indeed to attract inward investment and it would have no control over interest rates. If you don’t have control over your fiscal policy you’re not a fully independent country – something which Ireland found to its cost in the euro crisis.

Salmond believes that in the end the government will cave in and allow Scotland to keep the Pound. I suggest that this is very unlikely to happen, not least because of if did I suspect Tory backbenchers would force a leadership election. The way around all this unpleasantness is for there to be a UK-wide (including Scotland) referendum which would take place on the same day as the May 2015 general election. There would be a simple yes/no question: Should Scotland continue to use the Pound Sterling? That way the rest of the United Kingdom would have the say we have been denied so far.

And it’s not just the Pound Sterling Alex Salmond wishes to retain. He wants to keep the Queen and the BBC. It’s a sort of ‘pick and mix independence’.

I don’t think we in the rest of the UK have touched the surface in thinking about the consequences for us if Scotland votes yes. That’s partly because it’s impossible to be definite about what they are. But one thing is for sure, we would be diminished on the world stage. We would no longer count as one of the three major players in the EU. We would be relegated into the second division of European powers alongside Spain and Poland. Our place on the United Nations security council would no doubt be threatened, although there is no formal mechanism to remove us.

There are calls for the 2015 general election to be delayed, as it would be preposterous to elect Scottish MPs who would have to then stand down within a year. It’s even suggested there should be a national government which would govern us between the election and Independence Day in March 2016.

We are in totally uncharted waters. Some of us find it difficult to see how David Cameron could cling to office if the referendum result goes the wrong way. There are even suggestions that both Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband would have to fall on their swords too.

How on earth did we get to a point where the entire political and constitution of the United Kingdom is under threat? Make no mistake, if there’s a ‘yes’ vote on Thursday, it will be the biggest constitutional crisis for centuries – bigger than the 1936 abdication crisis or the1910 House of Lords stalemate. One thing is certain, though. The fallout will be fascinating to watch; rather like one of those unfolding car crashes on Youtube videos, except this time it is all of us who will potentially be victims in one form or another.

This column first appeared in yesterday’s edition of the Eastern Daily Press

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Let's All Have a Referendum on Whether Scotland Should Keep the Pound

12 Sep 2014 at 21:51

So I wonder which crass Damian McBride wannabe in Downing Street was so stupid to send this text to Tim Montgomerie, late of this parish. It read: “Tim, “Just seen your Tweet. Do you want to be a Tory MP? No chance now.” Anyone who knows Tim knows that he has never wanted to be an MP, so his reply was hardly a surprise. “I don’t, and I’ll cope.” Good on him.
Tim had earlier tweeted that he had been Parliament on Tuesday, spoken to 30 Tory MPs and had never known the mood to be so bad. This came as a little bit of a surprise to some of us who remember the dark days of October 2003 in the later days of IDS’s leadership. You may recall who was his chief of staff in those days… Mr Timothy Montgomerie. If Tim really thinks the mood of the parliamentary party is worse now than then, it explains a lot.
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I worked out the other night (because I have nothing better to do) that after next Wednesday I will only be spending five of the next thirty nights in my own bed. [puts on his best Frankie Howerd voice]. No! Stop it! On Thursday I’m off to Scotland to present the stations results coverage and my Drivetime show from there, then it’s straight down to Manchester for the Labour Party conference, the Tory conference in Birmingham, the LibDem conference in Glasgow and then straight off to Frankfurt for the Book Fair, which I haven’t been to for three years. There’s part of me that dreads the party conference season, but obviously once I’m in the thick of it I enjoy it hugely. The best part is meeting up with people who for whatever reason you only see at the conferences. Thank goodness there are no seafronts to encounter this year. Insert your own joke here.
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I guess we’d better get used to the fact that there will be no domestic news other than Scotland for the next week at the very least. It’s only in the last seven days that the London media has woken up to the fact that the United Kingdom is on the verge of breaking up. The speed with which reporters have been quickly dispatched to Edinburgh has been breathtaking. What a shame it’s taken media organisations so long to catch on that the biggest political story for years was happening right under their noses. Only when YouGov published a poll showing a slight majority for support for independence did London editors realise what could happen. English readers, listeners and viewers have been shortchanged by their London-centric media for far too long. Had it not been for the internet, the rest of us wouldn’t have realised what was going on either.
I have said repeatedly that Alex Salmond wasn’t to be underestimated and that’s how it has turned out, because even if there is a narrow ‘no’ vote on Thursday, he’s still won. Whatever happens Scotland will either become totally independent or have a pseudo-independence. And Alex Salmond will be grinning from here to Auchtermuchtie.
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I am a quarter Scottish. My Christian name is spelt the Scottish way and my middle name is Campbell. Believe it or not, I am also a direct descendent of Robbie Burns – at least, that’s what my family tree tells me. I suppose the fact that my writing can be as indecipherable as his poetry adds to the burden of proof. Thought I’d say that before you did. And yet I have never felt remotely Scottish or even had affinity towards the country of my ancestors. Even when I visited the old family homestead in New Cumnock in Ayrshire, there were no twinges of sentimentality at all. Indeed, whenever I visit Scotland I always feel as if I am in a slightly foreign land, totally the opposite of what I feel when I am in the United States, where I feel completely at home. I cannot explain why this should be.
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If Scotland votes yes and Alex Salmond still insists he should be able to keep using the Pound, I have a suggestion. Let’s have a referendum of the whole United Kingdom as to whether his wish should be granted. I shall vote for Scotland to return to the Groat. It’s what Robbie Burns would have wanted.
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At the Conference in Birmingham I am comparing An Audience with Christopher Biggins. With what, I hear you ask? Honestly. You’d have thought well educated Tories might know the difference between the words ‘compare’ and ‘compere’, wouldn’t you? Whenever I spell something incorrectly or use grammar wrongly I always blame the fact I was educated under Shirley Williams. I wonder what the excuse of LGBT Tories is. Best not to ask, I think. I’m told tickets are still available. Surely not.
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World Politics

Remembering 9/11

11 Sep 2014 at 12:44

Thirteen years ago today, Al Qaeda committed a terrible act of terrorism in the United States, something which has gone down in history as 9/11. I think we all remember where we were when we found out about it.

I was sitting at my desk on the balcony at Politico’s talking to my bookkeeper when I suddenly noticed that Sky News had switched to Fox and were showing smoke coming from a tall tower. As the situation became clearer I remember seeing a spec on the skyline coming closer to the tower. I assumed a small light aircraft had hit it. In the corner of the screen I noticed a spec moving across the screen. ‘Jesus, there’s another plane’, I remember saying. ‘Oh my God, it’s going to hit the other tower’. Crash. Fire. Carnage. But it wasn’t until the first tower collapsed that the true horror hit me. People down below in the shop stood watching the bigger screen in silence. Someone rushed out the door saying her sister worked at the World Trade Centre and she had to phone her.

At that moment I thought of my friend Daniel Forrester who I knew worked there from time to time. Indeed his father had a corner office in one of the towers. I tried to ring him. The number didn’t work. I remember helping a customer ring her boyfriend in China to tell him what was happening. His father worked in one of the towers. I kept trying to call Daniel, becoming increasingly frantic. Eventually he called me. The emotion of the day caught up with me and I can remember speaking to him with tears running down my face, trying to keep my voice from breaking up completely.

I remember thinking how brilliantly Sky had coped with the coverage. I think Kay Burley was broadcasting at the time. She had come a long way from her first job on TVAM. That day she came of age. It wasn’t until much later in the day that I started to think about the political implications. I could not understand why President Bush hadn’t sought to immediately reassure his weeping nation. It was not his finest hour.

September 11th 2001 was a day that changed the world. It robbed a generation of its innocence and its consequences will be felt for decades to come.

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Media

Attitude Column: The Idea That Gay Men Are More Likely to be Paedophiles Is Absurd

6 Sep 2014 at 09:40

Here we go again. Back in the 1960s and 1970s most people, bless them, took the view that the words ‘homosexual’ and ‘paedophile’ were more or less interchangeable. If your predilection were of the male on male variety you didn’t particularly differentiate between men and boys. That viewpoint is still shamefully held by many, especially if they write on this subject for the Daily Mail or belong to some sort of religious fundamentalist group.

I remember a time, not so long ago, when I was involved in a discussion with a senior Tory MP about gay adoption. His line of argument was based around the apparently harmless notion that we must always “think of the children”. I got rather angry. “What you’re effectively saying is that gay men are more likely to abuse a child than straight men.” He started blustering, but that was exactly what he meant. He also came out with the old canard that gay parents would inevitably turn their children gay, even if they didn’t mean to. Nice. Despite what feminist writer Julie Bindel might say in her new book ‘Straight Expectations’, if you’re gay you’re born gay. I don’t know any gay parents whose kids have grown up to be gay, although by the law of averages some no doubt do.

It is, of course, nonsense to suggest that gay men have any greater predilection for underage sex than straight men. Or women come to that matter. I’d no more want to have sex with an underage boy than my own grandmother, and she’s been dead for 35 years. Of course there are paedophiles among gay men, just as there are among straight men, yet from the way the issue is still covered in some newspapers you’d think the proportion was 90-10. For some reason newspapers seem titillated (if that’s the right word) by priests or politicians who get caught with young boys. They cover these stories with a sexual prurience which you just don’t find in stories about a builder abusing his 12 year old daughter. The truth is that most abuse occurs in the home or between family members, regardless if it is between family members of the same sex or otherwise.

For some years there have been rumours that MPs and other politicians, as well as entertainers were involved in some sort of child sex ring in the 1970s and 1980s. Various names have been the subject of rumour and gossip for years. And that’s the point; it is all so far rumour and gossip. But a national newspaper – the Sunday Mirror – felt it was justified in publishing all sorts of lurid allegations about various Thatcher government ministers who were supposed to have been present at party conference parties where rent boys were allegedly procured for party goers.

On the basis of a single source, The Mirror saw fit to name various ministers who are now dead and can’t answer back, yet the newspaper shied away from naming anyone who was still alive, using the phrase “The Mirror has chosen not to name him”. So they are quite happy to make dirty insinuations and allegations against the dead, and thereby sully their reputations, yet shy away from doing the same to someone who can answer back. Cowards.

I make no argument against the setting up of inquiries into historic sexual abuse by powerful people. Indeed, I welcome them. All abuse needs to be exposed as publicly as possible and the guilty need to be punished with the full force of the law.

However, I fear we are about to enter a dark period for gay people. Just when we thought we had achieved some sort of quality under the law and in the eyes of society in general, we’re going to have to endure yet more poisonous journalism from people who should know better. I wrote in a previous column about how most of us lead normal, ordinary, blameless lives, way divorced from the debauchery some journalists and religious fundamentalists seem to imagine.

So much has been done since the 1960s to gradually weaken these previously deeply held stereotypes and it is up to every decent gay man or woman to ensure that they do not take hold again.

This article first appeared in the September issue of Attitude Magazine

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Will Cameron Have to Quit Over Scotland?

5 Sep 2014 at 21:45

So, only 13 days until Scotland decides its future. This referendum may have a far wider impact than just north of Hadrian’s Wall. Goldman Sachs are warning that the Pound may go into freefall, but the other impact could be on David Cameron and as a consequence the date of the next election. You may think I am mad, but it is entirely possible that we have just entered the last two weeks of David Cameron’s period of office as Prime Minister. If Scotland votes yes, could a prime minister who had lost Scotland really remain in office? As they say north of the border, ‘I have my doots’. If David Cameron didn’t fall on his sword of his own free will, I suspect there are enough Tory MPs to call a leadership election. The other alternative would be to conduct what the Germans call a ‘constructive vote of no-confidence’ in which he would instruct his own MPs to vote against their own government. That’s the only way an early general election could come about. I’m surprised that so few political commentators are speculating in this manner because make no mistake, this will, if there is a yes vote, be the biggest constitutional crisis since the 1936 Abdication crisis, or maybe the House of Lords crisis of 1910. Of course, it may be just as bad if Scotland votes No, but by the narrowest of margins. Then we get the worst of all worlds.
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I’ve been on holiday for the last two weeks. Well, sort of. It’s a holiday that has been somewhat eclipsed by having to put the finishing touches to the Politicos Guide to the General Election. We want it to come out in time for the party conferences, but it’s been a real labour of love putting it all together, along with my three co-editors. We also have the problem of the fact that we don’t know how the Scottish referendum will go or the result of the Clacton by-election. Books like this will always be slightly out of date on the day they are published, mainly because of what Harold Macmillan would call ‘events dear boy, events’. But for a political geek like me, who loves lists and tables about politics it’s like being in political heaven putting it together. The challenge is also to make it accessible for the normal punter. But if you want to know which constituency has the most muslim voters, or what the top Plaid Cymru target seats are, this is the book for you!
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Next week I’ll be chairing three panels to decide on the Top 100 Most Influential People on the Right, the Left and the Top 50 Most Influential Liberal Democrats. The latter one may provide somewhat of a challenge. This year the lists will be published by The Times throughout the party conferences. Do subscribe to their new Red Box email, compiled each morning by Phil Webster.

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Tribute

Interviewing Joan Rivers

4 Sep 2014 at 20:02

I’m so sad to hear of the death of Joan Rivers. I saw her do a stand-up show in the 1990s but in October 2012 I had the honour of interviewing her on LBC. We decided it might be safest to pre-record (!) but she was absolutely charming. I don’t mind admitting I was petrified. Little old me interviewing a comic legend. Who’d have thought? I needn’t have worried. My strategy of letting Joan be Joan worked liked a treat. I just teed up the lines for her and off she went.

Do have a listen to the interview. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Click HERE to listen

Joan Rivers blazed a trail for female comedians both in the US and the UK. I found her humour cheek-achingly funny. Yes, she could be cruel and acid tongued and I think that kind of humour came as a shock to a lot of Americans who were more used to the likes of Bob Hope.

She was also multi-talented. She wasn’t just a stand-up comedian, she could turn her hand to a lot of other things. You don’t get to report from the red carpet at the Oscars if you’re not good. She was also a great talk-show host. She knew that in that format, it wasn’t all about her.

Joan Rivers is a legend, and that legend will live on through her humour.

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to David Jason

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Travel

Two Days in Belgium

3 Sep 2014 at 23:43

Twenty years ago I took my father on a trip to the Normandy beaches, along with several other family and friends. It was a couple of weeks before the 50th anniversary of D-Day was commemorated. I am not exaggerating when I say it was one of the most memorable and enjoyable weeks of my life. You see my father was born in 1929 and his formative early teenage years were spent during the war. Even now, he is at his happiest when he’s recounting stories from the war. He rebuilds wartime jeeps and military vehicles. He loves going to air shows. He’s not interested in Channel 4. His Channel of choice is the History Channel. He would drive my mother to distraction by watching a war film with the volume turned right up. Back in 2010 I took him on a Battlefields Tour to Arnhem. Again, it was a really memorable trip and it was he who made all the friends, while I looked on and just felt contented that I had given something back to the Dad who has given me so much.

A few weeks ago I decided to research a member of my family who was killed in the First World War. He was my grandmother’s brother, so therefore my Great Uncle, and my father’s uncle. His name was Clifford Norden. And that’s all I knew. The internet is a wonderful thing and within minutes I had found out that he was killed in action in Belgium on October 31 1918, only 11 days before the end of the war. He was only 19 years old. Before too long I had found out where he was buried and had even found a picture of his grave. I then went onto the National Archives website. It’s amazing the detail you can find if you look hard enough. I was hooked. I couldn’t understand why none of us had done this before. I spoke to my Dad about him and then one of my sisters told me we actually had his WW1 medals at home. OK, I said, let’s take Dad and go and pay our respects to him – something we should have frankly done decades ago.

And so it was that on Monday morning, nine of us set out in two cars headed for Dover. Me, my father, my sister Sheena and my goddaughter Zoe in one car, and Tracey and her partner Peter, her two daughters Issy and Ophelia together with Issy’s boyfriend Matt in the other. The advantage of having an 85 year old father who can’t walk very far is that you can be on the ferry first, and drive off first too. And a mere hour and a quarter later we arrived in Kortrijk. And then it all went wrong. I had booked five rooms in the D-Hotel in Kortrijk through Expedia. The rather snotty receptionist informed me they had no booking and they were full. Not my problem, I said. It’s yours. Here are the confirmation numbers. She was having none of it. Eventually she said they did have four rooms but they were suites so we’d have to pay extra. Not a chance, I said. She displayed not an ounce of humility or apology. She just shrugged her shoulders. I told her I’d like to see the manager. She’s on holiday she said. Well who’s in charge then, I asked, slowly becoming very exasperated. Another shrug of the shoulders. Meanwhile Sheena went in search of someone else who might actually be able to help. Believe it or not, it was the barman. To cut a long story short he said, absolutely fine, clearly we’ve made a mistake, you will have five rooms at the price you originally booked them at. Later I learned they had a glitsch in their systems. All the receptionist had to do was be slightly apologetic and try to make amends, but it was beyond her. And to cap it all, when we left she tried to overcharge us (while chewing gum) by around 150 Euros. Despite all that it was a very good hotel, even if they did try too hard to be quirky. All the rooms were different. One of them didn’t even have a separate bathroom. There was a massive bath in the middle of the room, along with the toilet. Not for the faint-hearted.

Anyway, by this time it was almost 4pm, so we headed off to Harlebeke, about ten miles away, to find the British cemetery. And there it was. The grave we had travelled many hours to find. Like all graves in cemeteries run by the Comonwealth War Graves Commission, it was beautifully kept. However, I was strangely unmoved. I’m usually quite emotional on these occasions, but this failed to move me at all. I half jokingly said to Tracey that she should do a service – after all she is qualified funeral celebrant! We signed the visitors book and left, all feeling slightly underwhelmed. We came to the conclusion that after the hotel checking in experience perhaps we weren’t in the right frame of mind, so we decided to come back the next morning with some flowers and Tracey would do a reading.

Our next stop was Ypres, where we wanted to see the Last Post performed at the Menin Gate. We wandered around Ypres for a bit beforehand, with my Dad on his scooter. We had a quick meal in the square and then headed back to the Menin Gate, which for those who don’t know is a memorial to the thousands of troops who had marched past the spot on their way to the front. Each evening at 8pm the Last Post is played.

There were hundreds of people there and at 8pm everyone went silent as the ceremony begun. I was a bit annoyed we hadn’t got there earlier as my Dad couldn’t see a lot. My niece Issy became very emotional when the trumpeters started playing the Last Post. When it had all finished my sister Sheena, never one to hold back, asked the four old boys carrying the flags if they would have their picture taken with my Dad. They formed a guard of honour around him and we all clicked away. My Dad isn’t one to get very emotional, but I could see that he was quite overwhelmed. Sheena then asked the trumpeters to do the same and he had a good old chat with them too. Totally in his element. I said afterwards to Tracey (I think) that if we never did anything for the rest of the trip, it was worth it just to experience that. As we got in the car Dad clasped my hand and said “I don’t know how much this whole thing has cost, but that was fantastic.” And with that we went back to the hotel for a drink in the bar, and so ended Day 1.

The next morning proved to be very disappointing weatherwise. Lots of drizzle. So we went back to Harlebeke where Sheena placed a flower on Clifford Norden’s grave and Tracey read Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier.

IF I should die, think only this of me;
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

We then went to Paschendaele where one of the most bloody battles of WW1 was fought. Looking at the countryside it was almost impossible to imagine what had happened there. We stopped at the Canadian war memorial, when I spotted some Belgian soldiers approaching. Sheena being Sheena went up to them and asked if they would have their photo taken with my Dad. One of them asked what we were doing there. My Dad explained about his Uncle Clifford and the soldier replied “Great respect, sir”. More moist eyes. My nieces were revelling in trying the soldiers helmets on!

From there we headed to Tyne Cot, which is the largest British cemetery anywhere in the world. Again, it was beautifully kept. However, I have to say it was a disgrace that there were few facilities for the disabled. My Dad couldn’t get to part of the memorial where all the names were written on the wall because there were steps and no ramp. Indeed the entrance was a very long walk and when you get to it, again there was no ramp, merely a series of steps. Bearing in mind the majority of visitors are likely to be relatively elderly, it does seem something the Commonwealth War Graves Commission ought to look at.

It was only a short drive to Langemark which is home to the biggest German cemetery in Belgium. 35,000 soldiers were buried there in a series of mass graves. It was a strange place with some very dark statues, and stones in the earth to mark the mass graves. Huge oak trees covered them. I remember studying the significance of the ‘deutsche Eiche’ in my German literature classes. Apparently Hitler visited this cemetery in 1942.

We finished our trip by going back to Ypres for lunch, at the need of which my father grabbed the waitress and gave her a kiss. You can’t keep an old dog down.So after filling Dad’s scooter basket with Belgian chocolates we headed back to Calais to get the ferry back. Shame my SatNav let us down and the journey took half an hour longer than it should have. But if it hadn’t gone wrong we wouldn’t have driven through Wormhout, which has to be the most English looking town in the whole of France.

It may have been a very short hop over the channel but it was worth every minute, just to see the look on our father’s face. I think another trip to Normandy might be in order before too long. Or maybe you have an alternative suggestion as to where we should take him next!

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Entices Ed Balls to Play the Piano

The Shadow Chancellor tinkles the ivories at the Labour Party Conference

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Diary

ConHome Diary: The Day I Said No to Douglas Carswell

29 Aug 2014 at 14:40

Having been on holiday all week in Norfolk I am finding it slightly difficult to think of what to write about this week, so bear with me.
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I am given to understand that while on his summer holidays in France, labour leader Ed Miliband has sprouted facial hair. How I would love it if he retained it. He would be the first party leader since Keir Hardie to sport a beard. Or am I wrong?
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There, that wasn’t a bad starter for ten, was it? Beat that Atticus!
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To be serious for a moment, the Rotherham child abuse scandal is almost too awful to behold. More than 1,400 children were abused and yet no police officer, social worker, council official or politician did anything about it. No one can explain why, and yet no one has accepted responsibility. The truth is, no one person is responsible, but the buck ought to stop with someone. The public expects heads to roll, but few have. Meanwhile, everyone tip-toes around the fact that the perpetrators were virtually all from one racial and religious grouping – Pakistani muslims. Some on the left are using this as an excuse as to why no one came forward. Apparently they couldn’t bring themselves to because they feared they would be dubbed ‘racist’. I doubt that very much. Perhaps we should all listen to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who has been very strong on this. “White experts and officers have for too long been reluctant to confront serious offences committed by black and Asian people. Such extreme tolerance is the result of specious morality, that credo that says investigating such crimes would encourage racism or enrage community activists and leaders, or, worse, make the professionals appear racist. So, instead of saving children who were being gang raped, drugged, assaulted, threatened and terrorised, they chose to protect rapists, abusers, traffickers and drug dealers. And themselves… Yes, racists will have further ammunition after this report. Blame those who did what they did, not those who are brave and just enough to expose them. I will always fight for the rights of minorities. But I will not defend the indefensible.” Think on her wise words.
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If I knew an agony aunt, this is what I’d be writing:
“Dear Deirdre,
A good friend of mine has asked me to speak at a small political fundraiser to raise money for their forthcoming general election campaign. This presents me with a moral dilemma. Why? Because the politician concerned is a member of a political party I don’t support. However, the party I am most likely to support at the election doesn’t stand an earthly of being elected in that constituency. So should I do this for my friend?
Love Iain
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Bloody hell, no one’s resigned from the Foreign Office this week. Put out the flags!
*

I hate to say I told you so, but I always said the Police & Crime Commissioners would prove to be a disaster. Second rate people, often failed politicians, in a job for which they have little aptitude for or knowledge of. What could possibly go wrong? Ann Barnes in Kent is the best example of an incompetent egotist, whose thirst for publicity has made her a complete laughing stock in the county. In the West Midlands there has been a by-election which cost the taxpayer £3.5 million and attracted a turnout of 9%. That works out at £20 a vote. They don’t even pay that in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets! And now we have the example of Sean Wright in South Yorkshire. First he oversaw the Cliff Richard debacle, and now he won’t resign over the child abuse scandal in Rotherham. PCCs may have been introduced for all the right reasons, but they have largely proved themselves to be a shambles. And a costly one at that.
*
So in the year to March immigration was up to 243,000. How ‘s that promise going, Prime Minister? Apparently Nick Clegg wants to take students out of the immigration figures. Amazing. I can finally agree with him on something! I have never understood why students are counted as immigrants when they are nothing of the sort. Similarly, why are students counted as ‘unemployed’ just because they are available for work but haven’t got any. Er, they are students. It’s one of those great mysteries of our time. We are told that there are still 800,000 young people unemployed when actually there are nothing of the sort.
*

Boris for Uxbridge, eh? Now there’s a shock. I’m sure he’ll be selected, possibly because no one else will bother applying. But I’d love to be a fly on the wall at the selection meeting when he explains how his airports policy would make thousands of his constituents unemployed, and when he explains the wonders of HS2 to his constituents who will be badly affected by it. He’s a Teflon politician, but I just wonder if this really is the right constituency for him.
*
Right, back to the holiday. Until next week, amigos.
*

Trust Douglas Carswell to bring me back from my holiday with a judder! I struggle to work out whether his defection will be a flash in the pan or being of more long term significance. Whatever one thinks about what he is done, he has shown courage and principle by resigning his seat to fight a by-election. I can’t think of anyone else who has done that in recent history. Carswell may be seen as a maverick in some ways but he also has a profound belief in the power of people to change things, as evidenced by his superb book, which I had the pleasure of publishing, called THE END OF POLITICS.
I first met Douglas in the mid 1990s when he applied for a job as a lobbyist at the company I was deputy MD of at the time. He didn’t strike me as a people person and I didn’t give him the job. I’ve often wondered how his future might have been different had I done so. Hardly at all, I should imagine. He is a man of great determination. I regard most defectors as chancers, but not Douglas. He’s a one off in so many ways. I suspect he will stand a very good chance of winning the by-election and the Conservative Party machine needs to work out a strategy of fighting him. If I were them I’d run a ‘more in sorry than anger’ type campaign and try to kill him with kindness. But frankly, whatever approach they take, I’m not sure I can see it working.

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Video: Iain & Sally Bercow review the papers

Sky News, August 21 2010

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Video

The Ice Box Challenge Has Run Its Course

26 Aug 2014 at 13:24

This more or less sums up my response to the Ice Box challenge. When it started I thought it was fun, and it was. It raised awareness of Motor Neurone Disease and that is a good thing. But it’s gone on too long now. So enough already. And yes I have donated.

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse talks about her new novel A LITTLE LOVE

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ConHome Diary: Mayoroplane

22 Aug 2014 at 14:25

If each part of this diary column had its own headline, this one would be titled ‘Mayoroplane’. Back in 2008 in those halcyon days when Boris was a virgin mayor of London, he attracted his very own stalker. At every public event, or mayor’s questiontime, the same man would appear, muttering in a rather nasal tone. Boris could never quite make out what he was saying, but every utterance began with the words ‘when I was mayor’. Yes, it was Red Ken himself. Eventually Ken realised he was making a bit of a dick of embarrassing himself and decided to absent himself from encounters with Boris, presumably on the grounds he came across as a bit of a saddo.

So imagine the scene, the entire Johnson clan board their Easyjet flight heading for their summer holiday earlier this week. Finally Boris can relax and stop thinking about the speech he’s going to give to Uxbridge Conservatives in a few weeks. The only thought in his head is the fact that he’s forgotten to pack the Factor 42 suncream. He’s sat in his slightly too small seat – no business class on this flight to the sunshine, looking out the window, leaving Marina to sort out the children. And then… And then… he hears this slightly nasal tone shout out ‘Hello Boris!!!’. He turns round and standing in the aisle in the man who he vanquished twice, yes, it’s Ken Livingstone. It turns out they’re on the same flight, heading to the same Mediterranean island for some sun, sea and, er, probably Sangria. ‘Joy of joys,’ thinks Boris as he mutters some pleasantries before summoning the air steward and ordering a triple vodka. I made that bit up. But these rest is true. Talk about a small world…

I wonder if they are in the same hotel. It would make a great fly on the wall documentary. When Boris met Ken in Magaluf. Hardly bears thinking about.


In 1978 I did my ‘O’ Levels. I got three ‘B’s and 3 ‘C’s. I failed Biology with a ‘D’ and Physics with a ‘U’. Both my parents and I were delighted. Today I’d be considered a failure. Go figure.


Today’s my last day at work before a two week holiday starts. I do love my work but I am very much looking forward to some time to myself. Whether I will be able to completely switch off is a moot point. I have to finish compiling and editing our Guide to the Election and will still be writing this column. I’m spending the first week at our house in Norfolk, but on Monday week I am taking my father, my sisters and their families to Belgium for two days. No, don’t laugh. Recently I found out where the grave of our Great Uncle is. He was killed, at the age of 19, ten days before the end of the First World War. We’re going to pay our respects. A strange way to spend part of your summer holiday, but I’m immensely looking forward to it. I used to go across the channel by car every year, but haven’t been for nearly 20 years. One thing I’m keen to witness is the Last Post being played at the Menin Gate at Ypres, which they do every day at 8pm. I’m sure there won’t be a dry eye in the Dale clan.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Peter Hennessy

Professor Peter Hennessy discusses his latest book DISTILLING THE FRENZY

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