Personal

Good People Doing Nothing...

1 Jan 2013 at 18:17

Before West Ham home games it has become a pre-match ritual for me to visit Ken’s Cafe, just down Green Street from the stadium, for a pre-match fry-up. Jo Phillips and her grandson Marlowe join me, and we catch up on the gossip over Sausage, Beans & Chips. We queue up and our order is taken by the lovely Carole, who seems to be my biggest fan on LBC. She regularly takes me to task if I have been too hard on a caller or an interviewee. Anyway, as we were queuing up today I noticed a slightly surly looking youth take back two cups of tea, which he had ordered. Gradually an argument between the two of them ensued, and it finished with Carol thrusting some coins at him and asking him to leave the cafe. He threw the coins back at her and called her a “fucking old bag”. We all looked on in slight horror, as the cafe turned silent. He then tried to walk past me on his way out. On the spur of the moment I jabbed my finger into his chest and said in the most macho voice I could summon up: “You don’t talk to people like that.” The youth replied: “Yeah, and what are you going to do about it?” “Try me and find out,” I retorted, pulling myself up to my full 6 foot 2 inches. With that he left.

Why was it, though, that no one else said a word? Surely more people should have stood up to defend Carole’s honour? All it takes is for good people to do nothing, and…

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Personal

Happy New Year!

31 Dec 2012 at 23:12

I will be glad to see the back of 2012. It has been without doubt the worst year of my life. I think 2005 is the only year which could compete with 2012 for twelve months of unalloyed personal misery. I failed to win the North Norfolk seat at the election by a massive 10,600 votes after a campaign which nearly bankrupted me, and then I spent six months working on the failed David Davis Tory leadership campaign. I was glad to see the back of 2005. Seven years on I have the same feeling about 2012. Funnily enough, I have never been more financially solvent, I do a job I thoroughly enjoy, and I had the privilege of attending Super Saturday at the Olympics where I witnessed Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and Greg Rutherford win gold for Britain. But all that cannot mask the fact that 2012 will always be the year that I lost my mother. That single event means that this is a year I wish to banish to the furthest recesses of my mind, for my life will never be the same. Only those who have lost their mothers will be able to understand what I mean by that. She meant everything to me, and six months on, there is still a tremendous feeling of emptiness. A void that can never be filled.

I’m determined to make 2013 a very different year indeed. I’m going to get fit, be a better partner to Simmo, become a much better radio broadcaster and publish even more brilliant books. Hold me to it!

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Ten Faces To Look Out For in 2013

31 Dec 2012 at 17:38

ALISTAIR GRIFFIN

Griffin is a singer/songwriter who was behind the Olympics Gamesmakers song ‘I Wish For You The World’ and the Formula 1 theme ‘Just Drive’. His latest album ‘Albion Sky’ is just brilliant and I predict great things for him in 2013.

OLLY MANN

Olly Mann is one half of the Answer Me This podcast, the other being Helen Zaltzman. He’s a broadcaster with an all round talent, with an ability to handle any subject that’s thrown at him. He’s now a colleague on LBC where he covers the overnight show. 2013 will be a very successful year for him.

JESSICA LEE MP

Jessica Lee is Conservative MP for Erewash and PPS to the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve. She’s a regular on my LBC show and is a superb media former for the Tories, if only they recognised it. She walks that fine line between staying loyal but also saying something interesting. As an aside, she used to work for me in the Politico’s coffee shop before she trained as a barrister!

EDDIE MAIR

Is it rash to believe that Eddie Mair will be the new face of a revamped Newsnight? Not if there is any justice in this world. His cover slots towards the end of 2012 earned great plaudits from across the spectrum. But would it spell the end for Jeremy Paxman? My money is on Mr P heading to pastures anew in 2013 leaving the way open for Eddie Mair to make the show his own.

JAMES WHARTON

James Wharton was the first soldier to adorn the front cover of Attitude Magazine. In June I am publishing his autobiography Out in the Army. My prediction is that the media will fall in love with him and his story and he will become quite a star in 2013.

JANE COLLINS

Never heard of Jane Collins? She was UKIP’s candidate in Rotherham and impressed all. As UKIP seek new national faces to take the weight off Nigel Farage, expect to see Ms Collins on our TV screens a lot in 2013. Part of UKIP’s test for success in 2013 is whether they can garner together a group of spokespeople who can all become well know names.

ROB HALL

West Ham’s next big thing. A prolific young striker, currently out on loan to Birmingham, Rob Hall has been tipped for huge success ever since he broke into the youth team at the age of 15. Will he make the grade this year? Let’s hope so.

TOMMY KNIGHT

Tommy Knight has just joined the cast of Waterloo Road, playing the character of Kevin Skelton. He’s a great young actor and even though he is only 19 has an impressive CV. He’s starred in the Sarah Jane Adventures and if he plays his cards right 2013 could be a real breakthrough year for him.

HEIDI ALEXANDER MP

Heidi Alexander is one of those rare breed of MPs who speak ‘normal’ and have a well developed sense of humour. Her seat is as safe as they come, she is great on both radio and TV and Ed Miliband would do well to use her talents on his front bench team. But is she pushy enough?

KELLY EVANS

I met Kelly Evans a few weeks ago doing a Sky News paper review. She came to London a few months ago to be CNBC’s London Bureau Chief. Her range of knowledge on economic issues is hugely impressive and I expect she’ll be widely used to many UK news outlets in 2012.

Feel free to nominate your own faces of 2013 in the comments!

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Rant

McGuinness to Trouser £20k Severance Payout

31 Dec 2012 at 13:01

So Martin McGuinness has announced he is resigning as an MP, causing a by-election in the seat of Mid Ulster. It would be hard for him to be sorely missed seeing as he has never actually taken up his seat. He refuses to swear the oath, yet has claimed millions of pounds in expenses. And here’s something that will stick in our collective throats. Even though he hasn’t taken his seat, he will still be eligible for a severance payment of around £20,0001. Them’s the rules.

What a ridiculous system. We allow a man to take huge amounts of money from a parliament he claims to despise and several of whose members he has played a part in trying to maim and kill. We must be stark raving mad.

1 The Mirror’s James Lyons points out that the sum is actually £50k. It’s called a “Winding Up allowance”. How very appropriate. I am very wound up.

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Radio

The Cruelty of Families

30 Dec 2012 at 18:33

Christmas can be a very lonely time, especially for the elderly. I hear time and time again on my radio show of people whose families just aren’t there for them. They’re too busy with their own lives to worry about their elderly parents, let alone visit them. I just don’t understand why people are so callous to the very ones who brought them into the world. Listen to this call my colleague Petrie Hosken took on her LBC show this afternoon.

Shame on them indeed.

Some people can be very condescending about talk radio. But where else would you hear gut wrenching stories like this, that make you sit down and think about the society we live in and the kind of families we have become? Petrie Hosken is brilliant on these sorts of subjects. When I first started at LBC I never thought I could handle emotional calls like this without having a bit of tear in my eye. And I was right. But I don’t worry about that now, and nor does Petrie. It’s called empathy. And it’s what this woman’s family need to learn the art of.

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UK Politics

Is Paul Goodman Right? Are the Tories a 2015 Write-Off?

30 Dec 2012 at 15:18

It is a brave man who predicts an election result two and a half years away from polling day, but that it what Paul Goodman has done in today’s Sunday Telegraph . Paul is a shrewd observer and one of my favourite pundits. He may have been a loss to the Commons, but he is a must read as a commentator. He reckons the Tories haven’t got a cat in hell’s chance of winning and he predicts a Miliband led government. On the face of it, it’s not a risky call. This year has been little short of a disaster for the Conservatives. They appear out of touch, incompetent and without any sort of direction or strategy. Despite some encouraging inflation and employment figures, growth is weak and manufacturing lingers in the doldrums. Borrowing continues to rise way beyond the levels George Osborne originally forecast.

In addition, the majority of cabinet ministers seem to have been taken prisoner by their civil servants and have forgotten that they are party politicians with a message to sell. Several seem to have forgotten that they are even Conservatives. And then there are the Liberal Democrats, seemingly doing everything they can to destabilise the coalition in a desperate attempt to regain an identity. Yes, you Vince Cable.

But is it really so bleak as Paul Goodman would have us believe? In the short term yes. But a lot can happen in 30 months, and while David Cameron would be very wise not to rely on a Macmillan-esque upturn in ‘events’ things are still at least partially within his control. But he needs to rediscover the sure political touch which was so evident in his first year in power, but which vanished in 2012.

Ed Miliband had a very good 2012 but he and his colleagues still remain an asset for the Conservatives. Ed Balls has developed into a formidable politician in many ways, but as long as he stays Shadow Chancellor the Tory message of “Would you want to let them do it over again?” remains a very powerful one. Ed Miliband’s political strategy in 2013 will go a long way to deciding whether Paul Goodman’s prediction comes true.

Psephologically it is easy to put the case for the Goodman scenario. The death of the boundary changes make it even more difficult for the Tories to win outright. But we are also in a very new electoral game. Depending on how the LibDem vote disintegrates, the Tories could win 20 or 30 extra seats in the south of England without even trying. In seats in the south west, Labour may gain from extra LibDem votes, but it will generally be the Conservatives who gain the seats.This could make up for the loss of the 20-30 seats boundary changes would have given the Tories.

Of course, these gains could all be negated by the UKIP effect. If UKIP win the 2014 European elections (as I currently expect them to do) who knows what might then happen. It would be a foolish commentator who predicted they would actually win any parliamentary seats in 2015, but they could certainly stop the Tories winning a couple of dozen or more. Michael Fabricant recognised this and put together a paper sugggesting some sort of pact with UKIP. What he failed to recognise is that this would necessitate a change of Tory leader. Nigel Farage would never do a deal with Cameron. He dislikes him. He doesn’t trust him, and it’s difficult to see what would be in it for him and his party.

I do not think UKIP could ever be bought off, so there is little point in trying. To develop a whole political strategy around neutering UKIP would be bound to end in failure. No, far better to render them an irrelevance. How does Cameron do that? By legislating for a referendum in advance of the election. Only in that way will Tory-UKIP switchers ever be convinced that such a referendum will actually happen. And even then, they wouldn’t be 1100% sure.

David Cameron’s big European speech has been hyped up so much that it needs to have a very big announcement contained in it. I don’t think just announcing some sort of woolly referendum on renegotiated terms will cut it with that 5% of voters for whom this issue is more important than almost any other.

If I had to put money now on the result of the next election, I’d go along with Paul Goodman and agree that Labour will win. But I am not as sure as he is that this is an inevitable outcome. David Cameron has to prove that there is a lot of political life left in him yet. The next twelve months will go a long way to showing whether that is the case.

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My Top 50 Favourite Tweeters of 2012

30 Dec 2012 at 13:34

Each new year I do a list of people whose tweets I have most enjoyed during the previous 12 months. I follow about 1100 people on Twitter (I think it might be time for a cull, but I know how upset people get when they are unfollowed!) but these are the ones who have entertained, informed, educated, annoyed and, most of all, made me laugh this year. They are, in no particular order…

@AFNeil
@ShippersUnbound
@PaulWaugh
@StephenNolan
@campbellclaret
@50ShadesOfShit
@ZoeqsWilliams
@Smithjj62
@TomHarrisMP
@adamboulton
@TimMontgomerie
@MehdiRHasan
@Brit_Battleaxe
@TheJamesWhale
@JamesWharton
@ThereseCoffey
@StanCollymore
@KerriSackville
@GuidoFawkes
@MichaelLCrick
@NadineDorriesMP
@GrantTucker
@SimonMarksFSN
@NotBigSam
@Conor_BurnsMP
@OwenJones84
@BigBigBen
@GabyHinsliff
@KatyScholes
@TheOllyMann
@JohnRentoul
@ReporterBoy
@DonalBlaney
@TheJamesMax
@NigelFletcher
@JuliaHB1
@SuttonNick
@RobinLustig
@CarltonCole1
@DuncanBarkes
@MrCarlMcQueen
@IanCollinsUK
@CarolineFeraday
@MrJamesOB
@Tony_McNulty
@OFlynnExpress
@BobBallardSport
@MatthewStadlen
@NickyAACampbell
@TweeterAnita
@His_Grace

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Arise Sir Hector, Arise Sir Peter - The Spoils of Failure

29 Dec 2012 at 13:49

At about quarter past midnight last night, I lost it a bit on Twitter…

You see, an honours system is only worth having if it is respected by the people. and not devalued by those responsible for bestowing honours. So who the effing hell thought it ws a good idea to give a Knighthood – a Knighthood FFS! – to the man who presided over banking regulation in the years leading up to the credit crisis of 2008, and was actually chief executive of the FSA when it broke. Yes, step forward Sir Hector bloody Sants. I’ve never met him, I don’t know him, for all I know he is very nice to children and animals, but whatever his qualities, he is surely one of the key people responsible for what happened to our banking system and who failed to see it coming.

So in typical Sir Humphrey style, he isn’t fired,he is rewarded. Oh, and just for good measure he’s about to take up a £3 million a year appointment as Head of Compliance at Barclays. The good old boys network is still very much alive and well in the British Establishment, The Guardian comments…

By recommending Sants for a top honour, ministers are signalling their unequivocal gratitude for his contribution to keeping the banking system from systemic meltdown.

Are they indeed. Well that’s not how the rest of us will see it.

And then there’s Peter bloody Hendy. He’s also been made a Knight of the Realm. For what? Presiding over one of the worst run and profligate quangos in Britain, Transport for London? Perhaps it’s for continuing to implement a London transport policy dreamt up by Ken Livingstone, and constantly pulling the wool over Boris Johnson’s eyes. Oh how I wish I was on LBC tomorrow morning to pour a warm bucket of shit over this Honours List.

Let’s look at the political section of the Honours List. Damehoods are awarded to Margaret Beckett and Angela Watkinson. Delighted for both of them. But isn’t there a little inconsistency here. One has been an MP since 1974. The other since 1997. One has been Leader of a political party and Foreign Secretary. The other has been an Assistant Whip. On the plus side I am delighted Richard Shepherd has been given a Knighthood – a true Parliamentarian. There are also OBEs and CBEs for two LibDem MPs Annette Brooke and Roger Williams, and an OBE for former Tory MP Christopher Fraser – seemingly a consolation for the Peerage which has never been forthcoming. The ever so nice Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the LibDems on the GLA gets an MBE.

Unsurprisingly the odd Tory donor gets a gong too, leading Labour’s Michal Dugher to puff himself up into self righteous indignation…

“By doling out knighthoods and other honours to big money Tory Party donors… David Cameron shows once again how out of out of touch he is and how he always stands up for the wrong people,”

What a short memory he has. LibDem Peer and all round sage on matters related to Vince Cable, Lord Oakeshott is also quick to stick the knife in…

“It’s Arise, Sir Donor, as usual.”

Not a comment from him on the OBE for LibDem money man Andrew Wiseman, though. Funny that.*

There is much comment in the papers about the CBE for Cherie Blair. Frankly, I have no issue with it. She has indeed done a lot for various charities and womens’ issues. At least there is a logic to her gong, unlike many others. So sorry to disappoint, no rant against Cherie from me.

Finally, the Olympics. Actually, I think a good job has been done here, by and large. There has been much comment that Mo Farah should have got a Knighthood and Jessica Ennis a Damehood. I beg to differ. They are mid career, not reaching the end. What happens if in Rio Mo Farah repeats his double gold? Would he then get a Peerage? Shame on anyone who believes their lesser honours are as a result of innate racism in the honours system.

A word on Ken Livingstone. On his LBC show this morning he revealed he had turned down a CBE for his role in securing the London Olympics. Good on him, in some ways, for sticking to his principles.

And finally, many congratulations to my colleague at Global Radio, Darren Henley, who is head of Classic FM. He got an OBE for the work he has done for the government on music in education.

UPDATE: Just seen that Mary Beard got an OBE. Delighted. And deserved.

UPDATE: Oops. I had thought Andrew Wiseman was LibDem Treasurer. Turns out he is their Conference Committee chairman, not Treasurer. Sorry!

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Whatever Happened to Enya?

29 Dec 2012 at 12:44

She’s sold 80 million albums worldwide, is one of Ireland’s leading exports and a massive talent, yet Enya hasn’t released a new album since Amarantine back in 2005. A new album was rumoured in 2011 but nothing has happened. I have every song she has ever released and would love to know why seven years have passed since her last album and whether anything new is on the horizon. Enya is one of those artists some people love to hate. I’ve never understood why. She’s accused of recycling the same song over and over again by people who ought to know better. It’s presumably because she has a very distinctive sound – but so do most successful recording artists. You know a Dire Straits track when you hear one, but they were never accused of rehashing a single song.

So come on Enya, let’s have a new album please. Soon!

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Gerard McCarthy

28 Dec 2012 at 14:03

Worst Xmas Present ever: The Bonnie Tyler Sat Nav. It keeps telling me to turn around & every now and then it falls apart.

Gerard McCarthy

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