13 Jan 2013 at 17:07
Get your Kleenex ready…
13 Jan 2013 at 17:07
Get your Kleenex ready…
12 Jan 2013 at 21:21
Excuse the self indulgence, but I’ve never read a book review of any of my books which “gets” what I was I was trying to achieve with a book like this one. It’s written by Alex Marsh, Professor or Public Policy at the University of Bristol, and originally appeared on his blog, Alex’s Archives HERE
To coincide with the relaunch of Iain Dale’s Diary, one of the most successful UK political blogs of all time, Biteback have published a selection of Iain Dale’s posts from the period 2004 to 2012 under the title The Blogfather. The majority of the posts come from Iain Dale’s Diary in its original incarnation, which shut up shop at the end of 2010. A smaller selection of posts come from Dale’s contributions at Dale&Co, the megablog he launched in July 2011 and contributed to until it was discontinued in December 2012.
One point worth clarifying is that, while I was a contributor at Dale&Co, I wouldn’t claim to know Iain Dale. Indeed, we’ve only met in person once. And that was a very brief conversation in a corridor at the Brighton Metropole hotel a few months ago, while waiting for the Liberal Democrat Voice Blog of the Year awards to kick off.
A second point is more of a confession on my part. I only started to engage regularly with the political blogosphere at the tail end of 2010, so I only encountered Iain Dale’s Diary in the last couple of months of its existence. The same applies to Tom Harris’s popular blog And another thing …
So that means I know Iain Dale’s original blog largely by reputation. I came to the vast majority of the material in this book for the first time. And I’ve motored through it over the course of the last three days.
Dale’s writing style means that the journey was a pleasure. The posts have an easy intimacy – someone sat next to you in the pub or the coffee bar sharing the day’s gossip – that is truly engaging. You come to feel like you know him well. Even though I’m sure in reality you don’t. And despite the easy style many of the posts can convey a point sharply or provoke genuine reflection.
There was pleasure simply in being reminded of some events in recent political history that had slipped my mind, particularly when Dale is in a position to offer a gloss on an incident or a nugget of information that would not have been gleaned from the mainstream press at the time. Dale’s account, from 2009, of his youthful role in the downfall of the Dock Labour Scheme was particularly intriguing. There were one or two occasions when I disagreed quite sharply with the argument being advanced, but not perhaps as often as I had anticipated, given that high on Dale’s list of political heroes are Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
The perspective from which the political posts speak clearly shifts over time. The earlier posts are the product of someone fully engaged with the Conservative party and an insider in the Westminster Village. The various instalments in the story of Dale’s ultimately unsuccessful attempts to enter Parliament as an MP unfold over a number of posts and a number of years. There is a sense of Dale moving from being close to the heart of the action in the Conservative party to being a still committed, but slightly more detached observer. This is in part because other activities and interests start to occupy more time. And it is in part because over the years, as the likelihood of be selected to fight a winnable Parliamentary seat diminished, Dale reconciled himself to the idea that his political ambitious are not going to be realised.
Dale is particular good in reflecting upon some of the obsessions of contemporary Westminster politics and the media circus that surrounds it. His comments on the obsession with youth are spot on. If those over 40 or 45 years of age are considered too old to commence a political career, which seems increasingly to be the case, then politics is depriving itself of immense stocks of wisdom and experience. Similarly, his posts following David Laws’ resignation highlight the dangers of driving anyone with any sort of hinterland away from the public eye. Politics will be – is being – diminished if straight and straight-laced, monogamous, non-transgressors are the only people considered suitable for public office. It seems to me that if someone has been, since their teens, routinely managing their public and private persona simply in order to avoid any whiff of scandal and in search of political preferment then they are, almost by definition, rather odd. And if they don’t do that – and risk being pilloried by the press – then they are all too frequently driven to hypocrisy.
Dale makes some acute predictions over the course of the years. For example, he identifying early that Nick Clegg was a likely leader of the Liberal Democrats. He was early to call the seriousness of the financial crisis. He was relatively early to speculate about the frailties and failings of Gordon Brown. Subsequent memoirs from members of the Labour inner circle have laid out the problems in sometimes gruesome detail. But Dale is to be commended for including a selection of posts that indicate his success rate in political prognostication was rather less than 100%. Occasionally he was wide of the mark. Reading the runes is a hazardous business. And making those predictions public even more so.
I’ve no idea how well the balance of this selection of posts reflects the balance of the material covered in the blog, but it was considerably more personal than I had anticipated. Dale is at times searingly honest about personal issues or in laying out his feelings in response to events as they unfold. Sometimes that response is joy, occasionally it is anger – which he himself describes as “volcanic” – but more often than not it is sadness or grief. There is considerable lachrymosity. There is a sense of wistfulness – for times past and the passing of time – about many of the posts.
Reading the blog posts in book form offers a different type of experience to reading them online. For one thing it is not interactive or hyperlinked and you do not have access to the comments thread. But for another thing themes and obsessions emerge more clearly than when reading in daily bitesize instalments.
Dale’s support for West Ham United is well-known. As his tendency to get into the odd spat. But it is also clear that he is very conscious of his formative influences – in childhood, at University, via international travel during youth. His devotion to Margaret Thatcher, Audis and dogs (but not necessarily in that order) emerges clearly. He is a huge fan of Cliff Richard and Abba. He is scathing about the performance of frontline policing and not much more impressed with customer service at a number of well-known retailers and service providers. But he will give praise where he feels praise is due, including to political opponents. He is consistent in advocating and defending a position on personal liberty, equality and anti-discrimination that perhaps sits uncomfortably with the direction in which the contemporary Conservative party appears to be heading. This links to a concern about tendencies in the media to play the man rather than the ball when it comes to politics. A focus on problems and policies, rather than ad hominem attacks would be welcome. His stance on the need reassert the paramount importance of integrity and probity among politicians is admirable. It was an established theme of his writing that increased in salience in the aftermath of the expenses scandal. And he is a great one for lists.
One further recurrent theme is Dale’s admiration for Richard Nixon’s book In the arena. I have to confess this is a book that I’ve never come across before. But I will definitely be checking it out.
This book provides an enjoyable overview of Dale’s blogging to date. It will be interesting to see how the new incarnation of Iain Dale’s Diary evolves. I didn’t follow it last time. But I will certainly be doing so this time around.
Alex Marsh’s blog is HERE.
11 Jan 2013 at 13:26
I first met David Campbell-Bannerman when he was head of the Bow Group, and an aspiring Conservative MP. He then defected to UKIP and became a UKIP MEP. Not that long ago he left UKIP and re-defected to the Conservatives, and now sits as a Tory Euro MP for East Anglia. Having come from UKIP it’s clear where his sympathies lie in the European debate. A few minutes ago I received an email from his media chappy, alerting me to what Mr Campbell-Bannerman will say in response to David Cameron’s long-awaited European speech to be given in Holland in a couple of weeks. How very odd, seeing as nobody, let alone Mr CB knows what’s in it. The very fact that he is trying to get his retaliation in first signals how toxic this speech could be for the Conservative Party.
For an interesting interview when Cameron finally makes his speech on Britain’s future with the EU, it’s worth getting in touch with tory Euro-sceptic MEP, David Campbell Bannerman. The UKIP turned tory MEP will not shy away from criticising any form of fudge from the PM on the issue, and is prepared to fully express his disappointment and his concerns that supporters will leave and join UKIP in droves – sealing Cameron’s fate as a one-term PM. Below is an example of what the MEP is likely to say, if Cameron’s announcement fails to impress.
Please let me know if you have any questions you would like addressing. He will be available for interview.
I am very disappointed that we still don’t have the promise of a genuine in/out referendum, that will give Britain the option of leaving the constraints of the EU. The announcement means that even if renegotiation is ‘successful’, most of the irritations of EU membership (including those pesky directives) will remain. There’ll be no relief for ministers who feel emasculated by EU procurement rules, no escape from regulations aimed at the heart of the City of London. Britain will only be able to open up its markets to the new economies of the east at a pace set by Brussels.
It is not over yet! The British people will not forgive us for this fudge. They must be given a clear choice, and I will carry on trying to convince the Prime Minister that it is they that should be heard above that of officials from the US State Dept, or a small number of a money minded business clique.
I have spoken to Mr Cameron about this, on a number of occasions, and I know the strength of feeling in the party and in the country over this issue. 2018 is much too late for this vital issue to be decided. We need to leave now, so we can start our economic recovery. At a rate of £50million a day, by the time we get to any sort of referendum in 2018 we will have sent them £73billion. We could do an awful lot here with that money, and that’s one of the reasons the public want a say in whether we should stay or go.
I had hoped that this announcement, which has been trailered for weeks, would signal the start of the end of Tory infighting over Europe, and supporters leaving us, to join UKIP.
Sadly, this non-announcement will only lead to the opposite.
They used to say that loyalty was the Tory Party’s secret weapon. I think we are about to find out just how outdated that maxim is.
I don’t know who the press release has been sent to, but if it has been sent to me, it’s presumably gone out to others. And before anyone asks, there was no embargo on it, nothing to say ‘Not for use before the speech’ so I have no qualms in making it public now. This is what the email says…
11 Jan 2013 at 12:16
Earlier this year I got a letter from A & C Black, the publishers of Who’s Who to say they wanted to include me in their 2013 edition. To be honest I had mixed feelings about it. Why? because there’s an assumption that if you’re in Who’s Who, you’re definitely part of the establishment. And I’ve never seen myself in that way. I remember taking the letter to show my mother, who was ill in hospital, hoping it would cheer her up, and I knew it would make her very proud. Today I was sent the book, and there I am on page 550. I feel rather sad because I would love to have shown it to my Mum, who would in turn have loved telling all her friends and family about it.
I have, however, maintained a slightly rebellious streak. This is the final part of the entry…
Clubs: West Ham United
Makes a change from all the other entries who list their clubs as ’White’s’ or ‘The Garrick’. I always feel slightly uncomfortable in these places.. Whenever I have lunch with someone in one of them I usually think I am going to do something my mother would frown at. You can take the boy out of Essex, but you can’t take the Essex out of the boy. A few months ago I had lunch a St James’s club with a Biteback author. It was a very nice lunch, but half way through I noticed that there wasn’t a single woman in the room. I blurted out…
This isn’t one of those awful places that bans women, is it?
‘Oh, yes, came the reply, and a good thing too.’ After a few seconds of shock I informed my lunch companion that it was a good job he hadn’t told me women weren’t allowed otherwise I’d have insisted on a change of venue. That may sound a bit pious, but I spent many years refusing to go to the Carlton Club for the same reason. OK, they’re private clubs so in theory I suppose they can do what they like. Assuming they want to stay in the 19th century, that is…
10 Jan 2013 at 11:18
If you missed Call Clegg on LBC 97.3 this morning, I’m going to repeat it from 7pm on my evening show
Those of you who don’t listen to talk radio much may well wonder what all the fuss is about. But for a Deputy Prime Minister to commit to doing a half hour radio phone in every week signals several things. It’s obviously a great coup for LBC, and the publicity it has generated for the station has been massive. I suspect there were tens, if not hundreds of thousands of new listeners this morning when Nick Clegg squared up to Nick Ferrari at 9am. I gather Sky News filmed the whole thing and transmitted it live too. A radio station couldn’t buy such publicity.
But why has Nick Clegg done it? What’s in it for him? Some will say that it’s a sign of desperation to do this. I disagree. Nick Clegg said to me once that he delighted in taking political risks. I would say this is a calculated risk on his part, but no more than that. He’s good at thinking on his feet, he’s got a good sense of humour and doesn’t mind taking some flak along the way. I think his advisers that a repeat of Tony Blair’s masochism strategy is called for, and I think I probably agree with them. An example of this occurred during today’s programme when a LibDem councillor, John in Woking, called in and explained why he had torn up his LibDem membership card. Clegg dealt with it as well as he could. He was never going to change John’s mind, but possibly he made him think. And that’s all a politician can do in these circumstances.
Other questions revolved around welfare reform, student fees, benefit cuts and the military. Clegg dealt with them all very well. Looking at the Twitter reaction it’s clear that Clegg achieved what he sought to do. Many people were saying the equivalent of ‘good on him for facing the music’, and I don’t really think it is realistic to expect any more than that. This is a long term commitment from Clegg and his media advisers and the true test of whether it has worked for him will come in 4-6 months time. Will people’s opinion of him have changed, or not?
And the test for LBC will be whether the Breakfast Show audience has been maintained or expanded. My suspicion is that Call Clegg will help grow the figures, partly because there’s a car crash rubbernecking element to this. People know that at some point a politician is going to cock up on a phone in. It’s happened several times over the years and in six months Clegg is bound to say something injudicious, hilariously funny, or be taken to the cleaners by a caller. But as in most programmes on LBC, the callers are the key to this. I’m told the switchboard was in meltdown this morning.
In the end the success of the programme will be measured by the quality of the calls that are put through. Today’s programme showed quite a good mix. I liked the lighter ‘onesie’ question at the end. You need to have a lighter element to these type of programmes too, and that’s where the host is key. Nick Ferrari played his role perfectly this morning I thought, following up Clegg’s answers to callers and probing him a little bit more. Nick has a very different presenting and interviewing style to me. I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other – you may disagree! – but in this format I think Nick’s approach is spot on. Clegg knows that if he gives a pat answer, Ferrari just won’t stand for it.
Some people have suggested that Nick Clegg should be doing his job rather than take part in radio phone-ins. A completely fatuous point. It is surely part of any politician’s job to be held accountable by the public, and the radio phone-in is a great way of doing this. Other politicians should take note. Another criticism is that it is biased to have one politician on every week. Well, I’m sure I’d happily host a Call Cameron or Call Miliband phone-in on my programme. Over to you Craig Oliver and Bob Roberts! Indeed, this Sunday I shall have Sadiq Khan in the studio for an hour taking calls.
You can listen to a free podcast of Call Clegg HERE, or tune in at 7pm this evening and we’ll replay it in the first half hour of my show tonight, and then get listeners’ reaction.
9 Jan 2013 at 18:32
Twelve or so years ago I started doing late night paper reviews on Sky and the BBC News Channel. I gave up doing the BBC ones two years ago, when I started doing my LBC show because the timings didn’t work. Earlier I tweeted that tonight, at 11.30pm, I will be doing my final ever regular paper review on Sky. Some people have asked why. Well, from next week Sky want their paper reviewers to do both the 10.30 and 11.30 slots. I’m afraid it is physically impossible for me to get from Leicester Square (where the LBC studios are) to Osterley for 10.30, so I have no alternative but to stop. I shall miss my weekly jousts and flirtations with Jacqui Smith and Zoe Williams but all good things come to an end. I shall especially miss Anna Botting, Anna Jones and Steve Dixon and the Sky News make-up ladies. They have a very difficult job to do in my case. They usually try what is known as the ‘blow job machine’ on me and before you get any ideas, it’s the machine that sprays makeup on your face. I loathe it and usually insist on powder. Such a delicate little flower, you see. I’ll also miss Kay Burley’s eggs. I’ll leave you pondering that one.
Anyway, do tune in tonight at 11.30pm for my final appearance on a Wednesday night. Tonight, for one night only, my partner will be the effervescent MP for Devizes Claire Perry.
8 Jan 2013 at 22:15
Twitter was abuzz with rumour and counter rumour about the sacking of UKIP’s youth wing leader Oliver Neville tonight. The story was apparently that he had been sacked because he dared to oppose the official UKIP line on gay marriage. In other words he was being the true libertarian and backing it, while the UKIP leadership were displaying distinctly authoritarian tendencies by telling him that if he didn’t obey the party line they would sack him – and then duly did. The truth, it seems is rather more prosaic and that Mr Neville has cleverly got his spin in first.
Mr Neville has made public an email from the UKIP chairman, Steve Crowther which does seem to lend some weight to his point of view.
However, as usual in youth politics, it seems all is not quite so straightforward. According to a UKIP source who I have been in touch with this evening, Oliver Neville has been the subject of numerous complaints by UKIP members both for his behaviour and his public utterances. The source told me…
He was not actually elected in the first place only appointed but following recent events the NEC did not want him representing Young Independence and have suspended him pending further developments.
YBF chairman Donal Blaney (a former head of Conservative Future) has just tweeted…
Ever since FCS was abolished, right-wing youth wings have been neutered by party machines; counter-productive, stifles activism & fun
He’s right, but speaking as someone involved with FCS at the time of its neutering, it had to be done!
I sense a full on mudslinging battle about to commence. [sits back with tub of popcorn]
8 Jan 2013 at 18:03
Look, I just don’t like him, OK? It’s a free country. We’re all entitled to our opinion. I thought I’d get that out of the way before I come to my main point. Cue the drum roll…
I really don’t like David Bowie. I’m sure he is a very nice man but I can’t stand his music and never have been able to. His voice grates and his songs are particularly unmemorable. Indeed, Changes is the only one which I actually like. Some of you will think that indicates particularly bad taste on my part but so be it. He’s not a patch on Sparks, Roxette, Meat Loaf and Sir Cliff. Just my humble opinion!
And judging from the dirge that he has released today I’m absolutely right. I can’t think that even his biggest fans will think it’s great, although there is a tendency for avid fans of a particular artists are sometimes blind to the lack of quality of some of their songs. Come on Bowie fans, admit it. The song he has released today is pants.
7 Jan 2013 at 19:12
This is the video of a discussion I had with Mark Pack this afternoon on Sky News, reacting to the Coalition mid-term review.
courtesy of @liarpoliticians
7 Jan 2013 at 17:42
There was something a little underwhelming about the event at Downing Street this afternoon. There they were, the bride and groom (I’ll let you decide who’s screwing who) renewing their vows after only two and a half years, both leaving the impression that they had very few tender words to say to each other. It was very much like that old ITV drama ‘A Bit of a Do’, where the cast spent each episode going to different family weddings and funerals. It was very much keeping up appearances for the sake of the children.
There’s an old truth in politics that if you haven’t got much to say, don’t bother making much of an effort to say it.Cameron and Clegg clearly failed to learn that lesson. They were oh so keen to appear friendly and as if you couldn’t put a piece of paper between them. but the longer the charade went on, the more you started thinking about the reality of the situation they find themselves in. I say this in a caring way, as I was wholly in favour of a full blown coalition right from the start. I thought it was the only way for stable government, and I still think I am right. But for Cameron and Clegg to pretend that the coalition will continue as it is right up to the general election was both fatuous and unbelievable. Even if we discount the need for the Conservatives to define themselves, the LibDems certainly have to – otherwise they face electoral oblivion. Can they really do that in an unchanged coalition? It will be interesting to see them try.
Apart from reeling off a lot of tractor statistics, did either Cameron or Clegg actually say anything of substance? Did they announce anything new? With the exception of a new Freedom Bill (commonly known as a sop to the LibDems) I can’t think of anything that hadn’t already been trailed in the media prior to today. And what about the economy? Nothing new at all.
Indeed, the only think I remember from this ‘relaunch’ was David Cameron committing himself to a TV debate during the next election campaign. That just about says it all.