Diary

ConHome Diary: Signing Farage, The Worst Christmas of my Life & Interviewing the PM

6 Jan 2017 at 20:58

LBC announced a new signing for its presenter line-up yesterday. From Monday Nigel Farage will be presenting an evening show from 7-8pm Monday to Thursday. Given his other interests the show will often be broadcast from Brussels, Strasburg or America. The reaction from the left has been hilarious to watch. You’d have thought we’d offered a show to Mussolini. Mind you, these are people who seem to believe that anyone right of Tony Blair is automatically a fascist, and for them Blair himself comes quite close. This is the voice of the intolerant left – unable to entertain the thought that anyone who has alternative views might sometimes have a point. My instinct is to laugh at people like that, but the truth is that they are very dangerous and enemies of democracy. The truth is that Nigel Farage is a very good broadcaster. He’s eloquent, handles all the junctions well and interacts with callers well, even when they have rung up to profoundly disagree with him. He’s actually very charming with people, and even very hostile callers seem to find it difficult to have a real go at him, given that’s what they had intended to do when they pick up the phone. It will be a fascinating listen.
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Talking of one of the ‘Bad Boys of Brexit’, Arron Banks’ book may be turned into a Hollywood movie according to various press reports. The ratings successes of House of Cards, 24 and Designated Survivor mean there’s a lot of appetite in the US for politically inspired stories, and they don’t come much bigger than Brexit. The question is, who would play Arron Banks and Nigel Farage? Answers in the comments please…
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I wonder how many of us had heard of Sir Ivan Rogers before his resignation on Tuesday. Very few, I suspect. And yet his departure was treated by the BBC as if there had been a senior death in the cabinet. Admittedly there was no other news that day, or the next, so it took on an importance it didn’t really merit. Downing Street moved at lightning pace to replace him with Sir Tim Barrow, who most people seem to think is a very good thing indeed, even if, given his Foreign Office career, he is bound to have supported Remain. I don’t subscribe to the theory that a civil servant or politician can’t deliver on Brexit if they voted Remain, but I do think it is preferable where possible to fill posts with people whose heart will definitely be in what they do. I don’t know Sir Tim, but I’ve spoken to several people I respect who do, and they are unanimous in their view that he will do everything he can to deliver the best deal possible. He is said to get on very well with Boris Johnson, and knows his way around Brussels. Time will tell whether this is a good appointment or not, but the first signs seem positive.
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I’m not going to lie, this was the worst Christmas I have ever had. On the Wednesday before Christmas my father died. The death of a parent is a very private thing, and those who have experienced it will know what I mean by that. It can be a very lonely thing too. At the age of 54, having lost both my parents, I suppose I have become an orphan. That may seem a flippant comment in the circumstances, but it’s a point in your life at which you know things will never be the same again. On top of that, I then contracted a terrible cold which meant on Christmas Day I actually lost my voice. Even now, ten days later, it hasn’t fully come back, as listeners to my radio show can hear! This is something I have noticed about getting older – it becomes more difficult to shake off minor ailments. I’m sure there are positive things about the ageing process, but at the moment I can’t think of many.
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In two weeks’ time Donald Trump will be inaugurated as President of the United States of America. This week he has spent his time denouncing the FBI and CIA while at the same time praising Julian Assange. I find it incredible that he is feeding the post-truth fantasists. He bases his antipathy to the security services on the fact that their intelligence was wrong on Iraq. It’s quite incredible that the man who is about to become the most powerful man in the free world thinks that one mistake means they inevitably get everything else wrong. He’s refused security briefings from the CIA and FBI since the election, too. As a president he’s certainly going to be very different from any of his predecessors. We’ll soon see whether he’s the disaster many predict, or if he will surprise us all. I hope it’s the latter, but I fear it’s the former.
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Talking of doing things differently, let’s take a look at the Number Ten media operation. It emerged on Wednesday night that instead of giving her traditional new year interview to Andrew Marr – as is the custom, Theresa May will instead be guest of honour on Sophy Ridge’s new Sunday morning show on Sky News. It’s certainly an interesting move, which will mean that Ridge’s show will get off to a fantastic start, so good on her and the Sky News interviews team for landing the big one. Naturally Twitter has gone mental about it, with the usual suspects suggesting that it’s all because May wants to be nice to Rupert Murdoch. Ridiculous. I suspect it’s more about sending a powerful message to the BBC and others the message that “a change is going to come”, and nowhere is this more apparent that in the granting of prime ministerial and cabinet ministerial interviews. The BBC is said to be “in shock” with senior editors wandering around the building wailing “How could they do it to us?”

Gone seem to be the days when a cabinet minister or junior minister would appear on a news show on any channel at the drop of a hat. It’s sending production staff apoplectic with rage. And this on top of the fact that it’s also quite difficult for news programmes to get any senior Labour Shadow Minister to appear on the media either. 2017 could well be a very difficult year for the political broadcast media.

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