Personal

Knackered, Unfit & Overweight - Something Needs to Change in 2015

19 Dec 2014 at 20:37

Another year’s work complete. Now for two weeks off, and I can’t pretend I don’t need them. Basically, I’m knackered. I remember last Christmas, it wasn’t until I went back on the radio in the new year that I realised how tired I had got in the runup to Christmas. I have tried to pace myself a little better this year, but I can’t pretend that I’m not tired. I haven’t had any time off since August, and I know people must think that sitting there for four hours a day must be easy peasy. I mean, I get paid to talk. How difficult can that be? I don’t blame people for thinking that, but let me tell you that it’s the most knackering thing I have ever done. Not only does it require intense concentration, you have to be thinking and communicating several things at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. I love more or less every minute of it, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that when I get home of an evening all I usually do is fall asleep in front of the TV. Most weeks I start watching Question Time, fall asleep before the end of the first question and then wake up more or less at the end of THIS WEEK. Sorry David, sorry Andrew. No reflection on either of you, I can assure you.

But something has got to change in 2015. I can’t go on like this and let my health suffer. Sitting down for 4 hours a day isn’t good. I bought a pedometer which shows I walk a fraction of the number of steps I should walk each day. I eat the wrong food. I have a sweet tooth, yet I am a diabetic. My work commitments mean I don’t exercise enough. or is that just an excuse?

I have promised myself that things will be different in 2015. I’ve got to make time for things which are important, rather than keep saying yes to everything that comes my way. I have tried to start already. A couple of days ago I was invited to lunch by someone I know vaguely “for a catchup”. I emailed back to ask what was on the agenda. “Oh, nothing in particular,” came the reply. “I just thought it would be good to catch up”. Well I’m not being funny, but with two full time jobs and a home life, I just can’t be as sociable as I might once have been. I felt a bit rude emailing back to say I just couldn’t do it, but I have got to learn to say no. My partner says it’s my biggest weakness. No, Mars Bars are my biggest weakness. But I haven’t bought any chocolate for 13 months now. Or any sweets for 11 months. You see I do have some self control if I choose to exercise it. Sometimes.

I know people always make promises at this time of year to get fit etc once Christmas is out of the way, but I really have got to mean it and stick to it. I’ve been told if I don’t I will have to start injecting insulin and I really don’t want to have to do that, mainly because it apparently makes you put on weight and it can lead to hypoglycaemic attacks. Not good if you are a radio presenter.

So do I join a gym, or take up running? I hate running, but it’s easy to do and doesn’t involve prancing around with a load of muscle marys in front of mirrors. Perhaps I should get a personal trainer. I know somehow I need to force myself to have the discipline to get fit and lose weight. Maybe I’ll make it a feature on the radio show. Maybe a weigh-in every week. Not quite sure that would work on radio!

Anyway, I’ll be sure and let you know. All advice gratefully received.

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Diary

Why I am Jealous of Mehdi Hasan

19 Dec 2014 at 14:58

Mehdi Hasan is someone who most people on the right love to hate. Opinionated, clever, robust and on the left, he has moved from being a talented writer to a brilliant broadcaster on Al Jazeera. It has just been announced that he is leaving the Huffington Post to take up a full time post with Al Jazeera in Washington DC. It’s rare that I am jealous of anyone, but in this case I will make an exception. I don’t have many regrets in my life, but one of them is that I have never worked in Washington. It’s a city I love and I’ve probably been to visit on twenty or thirty occasions. I know it will never happen now, and that’s fine, but it doesn’t stop me becoming wistful. Mehdi will be a big loss to the British political media. I’ve always thought he would end up standing for Parliament and becoming a leading light in the Labour firmament. But maybe like many others he has come to the conclusion it is a fool’s errand and not for someone whose outspoken tendencies would not be tolerated. I wish him all the luck in the world. We may not agree on much, but I’ve valued his friendship and support over the years, and he’s a thoroughly nice guy.

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Rory Bremner is the New Host of the Political Book Awards

19 Dec 2014 at 07:51

Choosing a host for the next year’s Political Book Awards has been a very tortuous process. For the first two years of this event, which takes place at the IMAX on the South Bank each year, we have used the wonderful Gyles Brandreth, and he has been superb. He’s funny, risqué and you have complete confidence that if something goes wrong, he’ll cope. And there aren’t many people who can do that. But you have to keep events like this fresh, so this year we decided to seek a new host. But who? We needed someone who could be funny, who a political and publishing audience could relate to and who could keep the show on the road. Well I’m delighted to announce that Rory Bremner has agreed to host the evening. I had a meeting with him this week and he treated me to some of his new impressions. His David Cameron is absolutely superb. Like others I think Rory found it difficult to “get” Cameron initially, but I can promise you, it’s now spot on. He still finds Nick Clegg a challenge though. My advice was that he just needed to sound permanently indignant and slightly petulant.

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UKIP Politics

What Do You Give Jacqui Smith For Christmas?

18 Dec 2014 at 11:54

On Wednesday I did my fortnightly Sky News paper review with Jacqui Smith. A couple of Christmases ago, live on TV, I pulled out a sprig of mistletoe and gave her a smacker. (The evidence is here. Well it’s best not to revisit the scene of a crime so this year I thought I’d give her a present to unwrap. I thought WHY VOTE UKIP might be an amusing thing to give her. So she unwrapped it live on air. Guess you had to be there, but I enjoyed the moment.

Mark Longhurst, the Sky host, looked on rather quizzically and said “It’s a bit of a slim volume, isn’t it?”

Perhaps I should have written this blogpost under the hashtag #productplacement…

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General Election Predictions

General Election Predictions 2: Norfolk

15 Dec 2014 at 22:56

This is the second in a series of blogposts which will seek to predict the outcome of every seat in the run-up to the next general election. The notion of a universal swing in May 2015 can be totally discounted. Each seat has to be treated on its merits. I’m starting off by trying to analyse the counties I know best, but eventually will turn to ones I know very little about at all. Feel free to add your comments and tell me where you think I have got things wrong. I will return to update each county analysis when and if I get new information.

NORFOLK

Seats: 9
Current State of the Parties: Con 7, LibDem 2
Predicted State of the Parties: Con 6, LibDem 1, Labour 2

Broadland

2010 Result:
Conservative: 24338 (46.2%)
Labour: 7287 (13.8%)
Lib Dem: 17046 (32.4%)
BNP: 871 (1.7%)
Green: 752 (1.4%)
UKIP: 2382 (4.5%)
MAJORITY: 7292 (13.8%)

Sitting MP: Keith Simpson (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative Hold

It would take an earthquake to shift Keith Simpson. The LibDems used to have pretensions here but the so-called ‘North Norfolk effect’ has so far not trickled south of Aylsham.

Great Yarmouth

2010 Result:
Conservative: 18571 (43.1%)
Labour: 14295 (33.2%)
Lib Dem: 6188 (14.4%)
BNP: 1421 (3.3%)
Green: 416 (1%)
UKIP: 2066 (4.8%)
Others: 100 (0.2%)
MAJORITY: 4276 (9.9%)

Sitting MP: Brandon Lewis (Con)
Prediction: Narrow Conservative hold

A genuine three way marginal, this seat ought to swing back to Labour if Ed Miliband is to win a majority. However, much of Labour’s vote has defected to UKIP and this seat is one of their top targets. In local government UKIP has won a swathe of seats on both the borough and county councils. As elsewhere, UKIP has had candidate troubles here and that may count against them. Brandon Lewis, who won the seat with a bigger than expected majority in 2010 and has been quite a high profile junior minister will do well to hang on here, but he may well just do it.

Mid Norfolk

2010 Result:
Conservative: 25123 (49.5%)
Labour: 8857 (17.4%)
Lib Dem: 11267 (22.2%)
BNP: 1261 (2.5%)
Green: 1457 (2.9%)
UKIP: 2800 (5.5%)
MAJORITY: 13856 (27.3%)

Sitting MP: George Freeman (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative hold

North Norfolk

2010 Result:
Conservative: 15928 (32.1%)
Labour: 2896 (5.8%)
Lib Dem: 27554 (55.5%)
Green: 508 (1%)
UKIP: 2680 (5.4%)
Independent: 95 (0.2%)
MAJORITY: 11626 (23.4%)

Sitting MP: Norman Lamb (LibDem)
Prediction: LibDem hold

This was the scene of my electoral defenstration in 2005. Despite adverse boundary changes, which took Fakenham out of the seat, Lamb’s majority increased in 2010 to more than 11,000.. It will probably be cut this time, although UKIP is making a lot of inroads into the Tory vote. Labour has a very active candidate in Denise Burke and it is expected that she will start to build up the almost extinct Labour vote here, almost entirely at the expense of the LibDems.

Norwich North

2010 Result:
Conservative: 17280 (40.6%)
Labour: 13379 (31.4%)
Lib Dem: 7783 (18.3%)
BNP: 747 (1.8%)
Green: 1245 (2.9%)
UKIP: 1878 (4.4%)
Christian: 118 (0.3%)
Independent: 143 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 3901 (9.2%)

Sitting MP: Chloe Smith
Prediction: Labour gain

This is the seat where I cut my political teeth back in the mid 1980s. It hasn’t changed a lot since then, although there are quite a few new build housing estates. This is another seat which goes with the prevailing political wind. If Cameron wins a majority Chloe Smith will hold her seat. If he doesn’t she will face a very tough fight against the impressive Labour candidate Jessica Asato.

Norwich South

2010 Result:
Conservative: 10902 (22.9%)
Labour: 13650 (28.7%)
Lib Dem: 13960 (29.4%)
BNP: 697 (1.5%)
Green: 7095 (14.9%)
UKIP: 1145 (2.4%)
Others: 102 (0.2%)
MAJORITY: 310 (0.7%)

Sitting MP: Simon Wright
Prediction: Labour gain

If there was one definite Labour gain at the election, this would be it. Much to his own surprise Wright won this from Charles Clarke 2010 and since then seems to have remained in a total state of bemusement. Having been Norman Lamb’s campaign manager, Wright knows all there is to know about the LibDem campaign manual for holding a seat once you’ve won it, but he seemed to give up on this seat almost from day 1. The Greens have pretensions here, but usually flatter to deceive in general elections. It’s conceivable that they could gain five percent from both the LibDems and Labour, but in reality it’s difficult to see anything other than a Labour gain.

North West Norfolk

2010 Result:
Conservative: 25916 (54.2%)
Labour: 6353 (13.3%)
Lib Dem: 11106 (23.2%)
BNP: 1839 (3.8%)
Green: 745 (1.6%)
UKIP: 1841 (3.9%)
MAJORITY: 14810 (31%)

Sitting MP: Henry Bellingham (Con)
Prediction: Conservative hold

This seat went Labour for a time under Tony Blair, but it returned to the Conservative fold in 2001 and Henry Bellingham has built a solid majority. This might well increase in May as UKIP slices into the Labour vote, although they might do the same to Bellingham.

South Norfolk

2010 Result:
Conservative: 27133 (49.3%)
Labour: 7252 (13.2%)
Lib Dem: 16193 (29.4%)
BNP: 1086 (2%)
Green: 1000 (1.8%)
UKIP: 2329 (4.2%)
MAJORITY: 10940 (19.9%)

Sitting MP: Richard Bacon (Con)
Prediction: Conservative hold*

The LibDems have done their best here in the past and have controlled one or two local councils, but they have never seriously threatened the Conservative majority, and certainly won’t do this time.

South West Norfolk

2010 Result:
Conservative: 23753 (48.3%)
Labour: 9119 (18.6%)
Lib Dem: 10613 (21.6%)
BNP: 1774 (3.6%)
Green: 830 (1.7%)
UKIP: 3061 (6.2%)
MAJORITY: 13140 (26.7%)

Sitting MP: Liz Truss (Con)
Prediction: Conservative hold

Of all the so-called safe Conservative seats in Norfolk, this one that is most volatile. It has seen a huge demographic change in the last 20 years. It almost went Labour in 1997 but Gillian Shephard just held on. UKIP have got a foothold here, but no one quite knows where their vote might come from.

Coming Next: Suffolk

See also Essex

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General Election Predictions

General Election Predictions 1: Essex

14 Dec 2014 at 20:00

This is the first in a series of blogposts which will seek to predict the outcome of every seat in the run-up to the next general election. The notion of a universal swing in May 2015 can be totally discounted. Each seat has to be treated on its merits. I’m starting off by trying to analyse the counties I know best, but eventually will turn to ones I know very little about at all. Feel free to add your comments and tell me where you think I have got things wrong. I will return to update each county analysis when and if I get new information.

Essex

Seats: 18
Current Political Makeup: Con 16, LibDem 1, UKIP 1
Predicted Political Makeup after May 7: Con 14, UKIP 2, Lab 1, LibDem 1

1. Basildon & Billericay

2010 Result:
Conservative: 21922 (52.7%)
Labour: 9584 (23.1%)
Lib Dem: 6538 (15.7%)
BNP: 1934 (4.7%)
UKIP: 1591 (3.8%)
MAJORITY: 12338 (29.7%)

Sitting MP: John Baron (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative Hold

Assuming John Baron doesn’t defect to UKIP, this seems a safe Conservative hold. For Labour to win, the entire LibDem vote would need to go to Ed Miliband and UKIP would need to take a huge chunk of the Conservative vote.

2. Braintree

2010 Result:
Conservative: 25901 (52.6%)
Labour: 9780 (19.9%)
Lib Dem: 9247 (18.8%)
BNP: 1080 (2.2%)
Green: 718 (1.5%)
UKIP: 2477 (5%)
MAJORITY: 16121 (32.8%)

Sitting MP: Brooks Newmark (Con, standing down)
Prediction: Definite Conservative hold

Despite Brooks Newmark’s fall from grace, it’s difficult to see this north Essex seat as anything other than a Tory hold. However, the LibDem vote is likely to at least halve, with Labour and UKIP being the main beneficiaries. Expect a healthy, but reduced Tory majority.

3. Brentwood & Ongar

2010 Result:
Conservative: 28793 (56.9%)
Labour: 4992 (9.9%)
Lib Dem: 11872 (23.5%)
BNP: 1447 (2.9%)
Green: 584 (1.2%)
UKIP: 2037 (4%)
English Dem: 491 (1%)
Independent: 263 (0.5%)
Others: 113 (0.2%)
MAJORITY: 16921 (33.4%)

Sitting MP: Eric Pickles (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative hold

Eric Pickles has built a huge majority here and he may well increase it as the LibDem vote shrivels. No more comment necessary.

4. Castle Point

2010 Result:
Conservative: 19806 (44%)
Labour: 6609 (14.7%)
Lib Dem: 4232 (9.4%)
BNP: 2205 (4.9%)
Others: 12174 (27%)
MAJORITY: 7632 (17%)

Sitting MP: Rebecca Harris (Con)
Prediction: Narrow Conservative hold

One of the more interesting Essex seats due to its previous MP, Bob Spink. He succeeded Sir Bernard Braine in 1992 but then lost it in the 1997 Labour landslide, before regaining in four years later. He then briefly defected to UKIP before cutting ties with them. He is not standing this time, but the UKIP candidate, Jamie Huntsman, is the UKIP leader on Essex County Council. Canvey Island has the highest proportion of people in England who identified as “English” in the 2011 census. This is part of the reason why many think that behind Clacton and Thurrock, this is UKIP’s third best target seat in Essex. The sitting MP is on the pro-Europe wing of the Tory Party too. An upset could be on the cards here, but the most likely result is a Tory hold.

5. Chelmsford
2010 Result:
Conservative: 25207 (46.2%)
Labour: 5980 (11%)
Lib Dem: 20097 (36.8%)
BNP: 899 (1.6%)
Green: 476 (0.9%)
UKIP: 1527 (2.8%)
English Dem: 254 (0.5%)
Others: 153 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 5110 (9.4%)

Sitting MP: Simon Burns (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative Hold

Chelmsford has been a LibDem target all through my adult life. Yet they’ve never quite managed to unseat either Norman St John Stevas or Simon Burns. Just when they looked as if they might, they were thwarted by boundary changes. Simon Burns will only be in danger if UKIP take a huge chunk of his vote away and the LibDem vote holds up.

6. Clacton

2010 Result:
Conservative: 22867 (53%)
Labour: 10799 (25%)
Lib Dem: 5577 (12.9%)
BNP: 1975 (4.6%)
Green: 535 (1.2%)
Independent: 292 (0.7%)
Others: 1078 (2.5%)
MAJORITY: 12068 (28%)

By-Election Result (Oct 2014)
UKIP: 21113 (59.7%)
Conservative: 8709 (24.6%)
Labour: 3957 (11.2%)
Green: 688 (1.9%
Lib Dem: 483 (1.2%)
Others: 388 (1.2%)
BNP: 1975 (4.6%)
Green: 535 (1.2%)
Independent: 292 (0.7%)
Others: 1078 (2.5%)
MAJORITY: 12068 (28%)

Sitting MP: Douglas Carswell (UKIP)
Prediction: UKIP hold

Douglas Carswell’s win at the by-election on 8 October was by a far larger margin than even he can have imagined. It’s likely that some of his supporters will return to the Tory fold at the general election, but a hell of a lot of them would have to do that for him to be in danger of being a very short-lived UKIP MP. He genuinely seems to have built up a very loyal personal following.

7. Colchester

2010 Result:
Conservative: 15169 (32.9%)
Labour: 5680 (12.3%)
Lib Dem: 22151 (48%)
BNP: 705 (1.5%)
Green: 694 (1.5%)
UKIP: 1350 (2.9%)
English Dem: 335 (0.7%)
Others: 55 (0.1%)
MAJORITY: 6982 (15.1%)

Sitting MP: Sir Bob Russell (LibDem)
Prediction: Narrow LibDem hold

Sir Bob Russell is a popular local man who has seen off many a Tory challenge since he was first elected in 1997. His opponent is Will Quince, who fought the seat in 2010. Local election results since 2010 do not bode particularly well for the Tories, yet this is one of those seats where anything could happen depending on how much the LibDem vote declines and how well UKIP do. But Sir Bob is a doughty campaigner for Colchester and has had 15 years to build up a strong personal vote.

8. Epping Forest

2010 Result:
Conservative: 25148 (54%)
Labour: 6641 (14.3%)
Lib Dem: 10017 (21.5%)
BNP: 1982 (4.3%)
Green: 659 (1.4%)
UKIP: 1852 (4%)
English Dem: 285 (0.6%)
MAJORITY: 15131 (32.5%)

Sitting MP: Eleanor Laing (Con)
Prediction: Conservative hold

No comment necessary. Anything other than a big majority for Eleanor Laing would be considered a political earthquake.

9. Harlow

2010 Result:
Conservative: 19691 (44.9%)
Labour: 14766 (33.7%)
Lib Dem: 5990 (13.7%)
BNP: 1739 (4%)
UKIP: 1591 (3.6%)
Christian: 101 (0.2%)
MAJORITY: 4925 (11.2%)

Sitting MP: Robert Halfon (Con)
Prediction: Very narrow Labour gain

Robert Halfon’s majority in 2010 was far higher than he had ever dreamed, but this is a seat that goes with the prevailing political wind. Halfon has proved himself to be an adept political campaigner but can he really hold off the Labour challenge? He must be hoping that UKIP will chip away at the Labour vote, as well as recognising that he will also lose some white working class votes to Farage’s party too. There are 6,000 LibDem votes up for grabs here too, which will also make the Tories nervous about their chances of retaining this seat. They are right to be.

10. Harwich & North Essex

2010 Result:
Conservative: 23001 (46.9%)
Labour: 9774 (19.9%)
Lib Dem: 11554 (23.6%)
BNP: 1065 (2.2%)
Green: 909 (1.9%)
UKIP: 2527 (5.2%)
Independent: 170 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 11447 (23.4%)

Sitting MP: Bernard Jenkin (Con)
Prediction: Conservative hold

Even if the LibDem fractures here, it’s hard to see Bernard Jenkin being under serious threat.

11. Maldon

2010 Result:
Conservative: 28661 (59.8%)
Labour: 6070 (12.7%)
Lib Dem: 9254 (19.3%)
BNP: 1464 (3.1%)
UKIP: 2446 (5.1%)
MAJORITY: 19407 (40.5%)

Sitting MP: John Whittingdale (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative hold

Unthinkable that this seat could return anything other than a Conservative.

12. Rayleigh & Wickford

2010 Result:
Conservative: 30257 (57.8%)
Labour: 7577 (14.5%)
Lib Dem: 7919 (15.1%)
BNP: 2160 (4.1%)
UKIP: 2211 (4.2%)
English Dem: 2219 (4.2%)
MAJORITY: 22338 (42.7%)

Sitting MP: Mark Francois (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative hold

UKIP may make some inroads to the Tory vote here, but not enough to worry Mark Francois.

13. Rochford & Southend East

2010 Result:
Conservative: 19509 (46.9%)
Labour: 8459 (20.3%)
Lib Dem: 8084 (19.4%)
BNP: 1856 (4.5%)
Green: 707 (1.7%)
UKIP: 2405 (5.8%)
Independent: 611 (1.5%)
MAJORITY: 11050 (26.5%)

Sitting MP: James Duddridge (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative hold

A split opposition here has enabled James Duddridge to maintain a very health majority. The only way it could be threatened is for the LibDem vote to collapse almost entirely to Labour and for UKIP to take 7-10,000 Tory votes. Highly unlikely.

14. Saffron Walden

2010 Result:
Conservative: 30155 (55.5%)
Labour: 5288 (9.7%)
Lib Dem: 14913 (27.4%)
BNP: 1050 (1.9%)
Green: 735 (1.4%)
UKIP: 2228 (4.1%)
MAJORITY: 15242 (28%)

Sitting MP: Sir Alan Haselhurst (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative hold

This seat used to have a reasonable agricultural Labour vote, but that has virtually disappeared now. The LibDems, like in Chelmsford, have flattered to deceive here for years. Any decline in their vote will see Sir Alan Haselhurst increase his majority as UKIP are unlikely to do well here.

15. South Basildon & East Thurrock

2010 Result:
Conservative: 19624 (43.9%)
Labour: 13852 (31%)
Lib Dem: 5977 (13.4%)
BNP: 2518 (5.6%)
UKIP: 2639 (5.9%)
Others: 125 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 5772 (12.9%)

Sitting MP: Stephen Metcalfe (Con)
Prediction: Narrow Conservative hold

A difficult seat to call. Always regarded as a bellweather seat, if Ed Miliband is to win a majority he needs to win seats like this, and with a good majority. UKIP believes this is theirs to win but they have selected a completely inappropriate candidate (Kerry Smith). Their only hope is to take a large chunk of Tory votes, but this will depend on whether the Tory message of ‘Vote UKIP, Get Miliband’ resonates. The Labour candidate, the oddly named Mike Le-Surf, is local to the seat and is a Brentwood councillor. However, Stephen Metcalfe has done the legwork locally and much may depend on how big a personal vote he has managed to build up. Interestingly the Labour vote was 12,000 down on 1997, although it was under rather different boundaries. Much may depend on turnout. A high turnout may well bode well for Labour.

16. Southend West

2010 Result:
Conservative: 20086 (46.1%)
Labour: 5850 (13.4%)
Lib Dem: 12816 (29.4%)
BNP: 1333 (3.1%)
Green: 644 (1.5%)
UKIP: 1714 (3.9%)
English Dem: 546 (1.3%)
Independent: 617 (1.4%)
MAJORITY: 7270 (16.7%)

Sitting MP: David Amess (Con)
Prediction: Increased Conservative majority

A safe Conservative seat which could have an increased majority if the LibDem vote collapses to Labour.

17. Thurrock

2010 Result:
Conservative: 16869 (36.8%)
Labour: 16777 (36.6%)
Lib Dem: 4901 (10.7%)
BNP: 3618 (7.9%)
UKIP: 3390 (7.4%)
Christian: 266 (0.6%)
MAJORITY: 92 (0.2%)

Sitting MP: Jackie Doyle-Price (Con)
Prediction: Narrow UKIP gain

When former Ed Miliband aide Polly Billington was selected as Labour candidate for Thurrock she must have been as confident as she could be that she would be the next MP for Thurrock. Local UKIP candidate (and now MEP) Tim Aker has put a giant spanner in the works. If you look at all the local election results for this constituency you’d be very brave not to bet on him pulling off a major upset. This is the seat Nigel Farage should have fought, and he may well live to regret it. Doyle-Price has been a good local MP, but that may count for little. However, this is one of the few genuine three way marginals, and it may well be that each of the three parties ends up within a couple of percentage points of each other. But on balance, I’m calling this for UKIP.

18. Witham

2010 Result:
Conservative: 24448 (52.2%)
Labour: 8656 (18.5%)
Lib Dem: 9252 (19.8%)
Green: 1419 (3%)
UKIP: 3060 (6.5%)
MAJORITY: 15196 (32.4%)

Sitting MP: Priti Patel (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative hold

A split opposition means Priti Patel is safe, even if much of the LibDem vote goes to Labour. Patel parades her eurosceptism at every opportunity so it’s difficult to imagine UKIP making a massive impact in Witham, even though demographically they probably ought to.

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Labour Politics

Keir Starmer Will Be a Good Addition to Labour's Ranks

14 Dec 2014 at 13:33

The selection of Keir Starmer as Labour’s candidate to succeed Frank Dobson in Holborn & St Pancras is perhaps the least surprising choice since Caligula chose his horse to be a senator (Or is that the other way around?).

He pulled through despite being up against some very strong opposition, including the impressive Sarah Haywood, the leader of Camden Council. One of the losing candidates, Dr Patrick French, complained that Labour had selected yet another lawyer, and it was a disgrace that Labour hasn’t got a single doctor among its MPs. For the so-called party of the NHS that’s quite an embarrassment, bearing in mind there are several on the Tory benches, but the complaints about Starmer’s selection are a bit hollow. He won the selection fair and square. People had the chance to vote for another candidate but they didn’t.

In some ways I am no great fan of Starmer. He was a Director of Public Prosecutions who liked the sound of his own voice a little too much. However, he reached the top of his profession and therefore will surely bring something extra to our parliamentary life. Shouldn’t we be celebrating the fact that someone like him even wants to be an MP? Too many people at the top of their respective professions wouldn’t even consider going into politics and I totally understand why. Far better people like Starmer in parliament than the ranks of serial nonentities whose only achievement is to grease up to the party establishment after serving as a researcher or a special adviser.

So let’s cut Keir Starmer some slack.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to JoJo Moyes

JoJo Moyes discusses her novel, ME BEFORE YOU

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UK Politics

EXCLUSIVE: Paul Sykes to Cease Funding UKIP

12 Dec 2014 at 18:45

I understand that millionaire UKIP donor Paul Sykes has ceased his funding of the party. A source close to the Yorkshire based businessman says that Mr Sykes doesn’t feel it right that the so-called “people’s party” is funded by a couple of millionaires. Mr Sykes paid for UKIP’s £1.6 million advertising campaign at the European elections but I understand that no further money is likely to be forthcoming to fund the UKIP General Election poster campaign or the party’s target seats campaign. Mr Sykes didn’t respond to calls when asked for a comment. It is unclear as to whether he continues to chair the party’s target seats campaign. This comes as a further blow to UKIP following the news that Stuart Wheeler has threatened to withdraw his financial support for the party, although this was slightly tempered by a rumoured £300,000 donation from Richard Desmond, owner of the Express Newspaper Group.

Speaking to ITV two weeks ago Mr Sykes said that rising membership and subscription fees mean that after the general election his help will ‘not be needed’. My sources tell me that over the last fortnight he has decided that help isn’t needed now.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale discusses Transsexualism

Following the controversial article in the Observer by Julie Burchill, Iain discusses what it's like to be a member of the transgender community in the UK today.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Why is Shagging So Popular In Politics?

12 Dec 2014 at 14:20

I’ve never quite worked out why it is that people in politics tend to indulge in inter-political shagging in a way that just doesn’t happen in other sectors. At least, I don’t think it does. Certainly publishing and radio are chaste by comparison. Or maybe it’s just that I’m ignoring the bleeding obvious. UKIP seem to be at it like rabbits. For example, take Roger Bird, the suspended UKIP general secretary. He’s an amiable chap, but not exactly Brad Pitt in the looks department. So how does he do it? As soon as he splits up with the gorgeous Suzanne Evans, he takes up with the equally fragrant Natasha Bolter. Sadly for him, she seems determined to ruin his career. He’s been suspended for his job, but has come out fighting, releasing texts between the two which appear to substantiate his position, that far from sexually harassing her, they were in a loving and sexual relationship. Bolter appeared on Newsnight in what even for Newsnight was a bizarre interview in which she gave several hostages to fortune. Ms Bolter is clearly finding it difficult to dig herself out of the hole she dug for herself. Even so, it will be interesting to see if Mr Bird can survive this. Even if he’s 100% in the right, there will be people in UKIP who will believe he has become a liability. Politics is unfair like that. The lesson for this for everyone, I suppose, is that if you form relationships with people in the workplace or who you hold some degree of power of, be very careful indeed…
*
I see Nigel Farage’s new pitbull press team has hit the ground running. Rumour is, they are the ones behind the anti-Neil Hamilton smear stories which hit the internet on Wednesday evening, the very evening Hamilton was due to appear in front of the South Basildon & East Thurrock selection committee. In the end the former Tory MP withdrew having turned up to the meeting only to find that the previously selected candidate Kerry Smith was also on the ballot paper. He decided to withdraw and Smith was duly selected. I cannot understand why Neil Hamilton continues to be active within UKIP. It’s a party which has done its best to frustrate his ambitions and Nigel Farage clearly wants him nowhere near any position of influence. Some will no doubt be very supportive of Farage’s position, but one day this is all going to blow up in UKIP’s face. And it won’t be pretty.
*

So Nick Clegg has backed calls for a full judicial inquiry into British involvement in torture. Is there any bandwagon he won’t jump on? And yet again he proves himself totally out of touch with public opinion. Most people would happily lynch a terrorist if it meant getting information out of them which might prevent a future terror attack.
*
I’ve just started reading Julia Gillard’s autobiography. Let’s put it this way, she’s a better writer than she was prime minister. Not difficult, it has to be said.
*

Back in September Biteback published a series called ‘Why Vote’? We got Nick Herbert, Suzanne Evans, Jeremy Browne and Dan Jarvis to write the four books, which are guides for undecided voters as to who they should vote for at the election. Waterstones aren’t stocking them until January, but sales figures so far are quite interesting. In percentage terms Labour have marginally overtaken UKIP and are on 31.8%, with UKIP on 31.7%. Trailing in third place is Why Vote Conservative on 20.8%, with Why Vote Liberal Democrat on 15.6%, which, let’s face it, is a bit of a result for them! All four authors are appearing on the Daily Politics on Monday. It’s a wicked thought but if you have a very good friend who is a UKIP supporter, why not buy them Why Vote Liberal Democrat for Christmas? 
*
Ed Miliband made a speech yesterday where at least he remembered to mention the word ‘deficit’. Well he had to really. The whole speech was about the deficit. It was full of fine words and fine commitments to balance the budget. The trouble is, there was no detail of how they are going to do it. It’s all very well promising to increase the top rate of tax and axing the winter fuel benefit for rich pensioners – that gets a few hundred million at best. But what about the rest of the ninety billion? Ed Balls promises that departmental budgets will have to be cut, but how far. Which ones? Will there be any ringfencing of particular departments? They can criticise George Osborne all they like, but at least he has had the balls to lay out where the cuts would fall. Labour simply cannot get away with this sophistry for much longer. Whenever I interview a Labour politician I have to say it is so easy to tie them up in knots over it. They simply don’t have any answers and people can see through it. It’s no good saying the detail will come in the manifesto. By then it will be too late. No wonder Osborne & Cameron continue to outpoll Balls and Miliband on economic competence.
*

Fourth in the league. Four points ahead of Arsenal. Seven ahead of Spurs. Life doesn’t get much better than this for a West Ham supporter. Over Christmas we play Chelsea and then Arsenal. Those two matches may well determine if West Ham’s season comes down with the Christmas decorations.
*
Courtesy of Harry Phibbs we learn that in 1935, state spending was £1.3 billion, the equivalent if £81 billion today. Public spending this year is £731 billion. Yeah, back to the 1930s. A pathetic attempt by Ed Miliband to scaremonger. Or did he just not bother to research the figures?
*

So Alan Rusbridger has stepped down as editor of The Guardian after a mere twenty years in the job. He’s clearly got no staying power. Editorially it can’t be argued that he’s presided over some massive scoops, but as a business, The Guardian is a basket case. If it were a normal private sector company it would have been shut down years ago, and that’s almost entirely due to Rusbridger chasing internet clicks without having any plan to convert them into money. I wonder if he’s getting out just in time. There’s a lot of speculation about his successor. You can get 16/1 on former Guardian deputy editor and current Newsnight editor Ian Katz. Were I a betting man…

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Steve Richards

Steve Richard talks about his one man theatre show, ROCK 'N ROLL POLITICS

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Music

In Praise of Alistair Griffin

10 Dec 2014 at 10:25

Alistair Griffin ought to be a household name if singing and songwriting talented counted for anything in today’s music business. He first came to national attention when he came second to Alex Parks in the second series of ‘Fame Academy’. More recently his song ‘Just Drive’ was used by the BBC as their Formula One intro music, and that’s how I first learnt of Alistair. It was one of those moments when you hear and song and think ’I’ve got to get that’. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I then got hold of all of his back catalogue, and became a real fan.

Twitter is a great thing for bringing people together and over the last few years Alistair and I have met up once or twice and I helped him on a project by introducing him to Boris. He’s a great guy and that’s why I went along to a one-off concert he gave last night in the George IV pub in Chiswick High Road. They have a concert room which has a fantastically intimate atmosphere, even with a couple of hundred people there.

I dragged my partner John along, who, shall we say, is usually a fairly reluctant concert-goer, and I suspect he was regretting agreeing to come when we got stuck in terrible traffic on the way to West London from my LBC studio in Leicester Square. Anyway, we arrived literally two minutes before Alistair took to the stage. Most of the songs he performed were his own compositions, but he also did a few covers – a Springsteen song, an acoustic very slow version of ‘She Loves You’, and towards the end a fantastically haunting acoustic version of Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’.

Alistair is a very self-effacing chap, and his introductions to each song built a very intimate atmosphere with his audience, who you could tell, were all diehard fans. I think everyone left wanting to evangelise about Alistair and his massive talent as a singer songwriter. He’s had a couple of top twenty hits and his albums have received glowing reviews. But in the end, success is all down to airplay, and if you can’t get on the radio it’s so difficult to get traction. Radio 2 have taken on a couple of his songs, but if there are any music radio planners reading this, for goodness sake have a listen to Alistair’s latest work and get behind it!

And for the rest of you, download his latest album ‘From Nowhere’. Promise you won’t regret it!

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Play Radio: Iain interviews BNP Deputy Leader Simon Darby

Play Talk, June 2009

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