How Did My '10 Faces of 2013' Do?

29 Dec 2013 at 13:16

A year ago I rashly predicted that these ten people would all go to bigger and better things during 2013. So, was I right?


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.

VERDICT: Finally got airplay on Radio 2, great gigs and new songs. Correct!


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.

VERDICT: Ten days ago LBC announced Olly is the new permanent host of London’s most listened to overnight show.


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!

VERDICT: Upped her profile but wasn’t promoted in the reshuffle.


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.

VERDICT: A steady year, but also a standstill one. I was a year too early.


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.

VERDICT: The book did indeed do well, and the media loved him.


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.

VERDICT: Never heard of her again, which is probably more down to Nigel Farage’s lack of willingness to let anyone take his limelight!


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.

VERDICT: Now plying his trade at Bolton where he has scored 1 goal in 14 games. Not my best prediction…


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.

VERDICT: Still in Waterloo Road.


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?

VERDICT: Good year for her. Promoted to the front bench.


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.

VERDICT: Went back to CNBC in New Jersey in May 2013. Oh well. Can’t win ’em all.

So, I reckon I got 5 out of 10 right. Or nearly right. I’ll post my list for 2014 shortly.


1 comment

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.


LBC Book Club: Iain talks to James Cracknell & Beverley Turner

James Cracknell and his wife Beverley Turner talk about their new book.

Listen now


Book Review: A Series of Unrelated Events by Richard Bacon

28 Dec 2013 at 10:56

I had intended to write this review last night but decided instead to watch The Inbetweeners movie on Channel Four. Someone suggested on Twitter that I should write this review using words from the Inbetweeners. In theory this would be clungingly possible. [See what I did there]. Indeed, it would also be appropriate, as there is more than a hint of the naughty teenager in this book as Bacon goes on a journey from one disaster to the next embarrassing moment.

The title of the book means that it does what it says on the tin. It’s not an autobiography as such, but it does cover most of the main events in Bacon’s life, starting off with a full, and often very funny, account of how he came to get the sack from Blue Peter. It was a long time ago, but just as I am always likely to remembered (if at all) for the incident on Brighton seafront, Bacon will always be associated with Cocaine and Blue Peter. Such is our lot in life. For many that incident (the cocaine one, not Brighton) would have been career ending, but Bacon is made of sterner stuff. He’s crammed a lot into his 35 years, most lately being the afternoon presenter on 5 Live. He’s been on the Big Breakfast, had shows on Capital and XFM, presented on Top of the Pops and much more besides. And in each incarnation he has some hilarious, and usually very self deprecating stories to tell. In fact, sometimes you wonder if he has been too honest. Writing a whole chapter on how he spent years as a film reviewer for The Sunday People, revealing how he used to get someone else to write the column with neither of them having seen the film, may strike the reader as a rather damaging thing to reveal. But it’s characteristic of the rest of the book. No embarrassing incident from Bacon’s life is spared. Lightning seems to strike more than twice.

We discover rather more about Richard’s sexual predilctions than we might have wanted or expected, although he’s surprisingly vanilla – with the exception of the threesome that never happened because of a swimming pool accident (you’ll have to read the book). By the end of the book, I did wonder if Mrs Bacon had read it before it went off to the publisher.

The great thing about this book is that it is totally genuine. Totally Richard Bacon. No hint of a ghost writer here, unlike so many celebrity books. It’s extremely well written, and there are quite a few ‘laugh out loud’ moments – quite a trick to pull off on the written page. It echoes the spirit of his late lamented 10pm-1am show on 5 Live, a show in which Bacon really came into his own. For me that slot is one of the best on radio and one where you can really build a loyal audience if you play it right, and that’s what Bacon did. He had two very hard acts to follow in Anita Anand and Fi Glover, but for me he became one of the best listens in that slot in 5 Live’s history, and I was sorry when they moved him to the afternoons when Simon Mayo departed for the gentle shores of Radio 2. Listening to his show, you felt you were a member of a club. I used to appear on it quite regularly as a panellist or pundit and each time went away wishing I could present a show like that. His style and modus operandi taught me a lot about building and retaining and audience, and I like to think I managed to deploy a few of those lessons when I started my show on LBC.

The one disappointment in this book is that he doesn’t actually talk that much about his radio career. Perhaps he’ll do that in his next book. it’s a shame because Richard has become a really polished presenter and interviewer in a way that some of critics never thought he could. He’s actually a very strong interviewer and has a knack of getting people to open up. He can also be a tough political interviewer, with a knowledge of politics that often catches out the more unguarded politician. But he has also managed to retain a slight innocence about the political world, which makes him relate to his audience much better than some of the more seasoned political interviewers. He has also retained his slightly childlike tiggerish approach to broadcasting, and although some people don’t like it, for me it means you never quite know what to expect from him. Again, that’s why he’s a good listen. He’s like Stephen Nolan in that respect. They both wear their hearts on their sleeves. They empathise in a way some radio presenters either can’t or sound false when they do. Like Nolan, he also uses silence and pauses very well. Sometimes, it’s best for the presenter to say nothing.

One of the standout chapters in this book deals with the time Bacon’s producer Louise Birt (who also worked with me at LBC and has one of the most innovative brains in current affairs broadcasting) suggested he should do a standup gig at the Edinburgh festival. If she had suggested that to me I too would have been at it like a rat at a trap, and that was Richard’s reaction also. In both our cases I suspect it would have been ego that won. Bacon admits he was a disaster and takes us through the experience blow by blow. It’s a painful read, but also a very funny one. Anyone who can admit they were shit at something they imagined that would be good at is OK in my book.

But what did Richard Bacon want to achieve by writing this book? I’m still not sure. Yes, it entertained, yes it was almost painfully honest, yes it was well written. But what did he want the end result to be? I still don’t really know.

What I do know is that anyone who buys this book can’t fail to enjoy it. And if they don’t, they don’t know a good book when they have read one!

PS. Dreadful cover, though.

* A Series of Unrelated Events by Richard Bacon is published by Century in paperback, price £12.99



Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.


LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Margaret Beckett & John Rentoul

Discussion on Tony Blair's speech on Britain's need to remain at the heart of Europe.

Listen now


20 (Good & Bad) Personal Reasons to Remember 2013

24 Dec 2013 at 11:14

1. I was given the opportunity to present Drive on LBC after two and half years presenting the evening show. More HERE
2. Buying our new house in Lammas in Norfolk.
3. Winning Radio presenter of the year at the Arqiva awards in July.
4. 2013 was the first year without my darling mother, who I miss so much every day.
5. Going to Dubrovnik to speak to the ABTA conference and spending most of the time in bed, ill.
6. Publishing Damian McBride’s book, ‘Power Trip’.
7. Being sacked as an Eastern Daily Press columnist after seven years.
8. Starting a weekly diary column on ConservativeHome.
9. The delight, pleasure and love our dogs Bubba and Dude have given us.
10. August 29th marked the fact that Simmo and I have been together for 18 years and June 15th was our fifth wedding anniversary.
11. The ‘incident’ on Brighton seafront. Enough said.
12. Interviewing Katie Price, Fern Britton and Jennifer Saunders, June Brown, David Jason, Tony Benn, Kate Adie, Joan Collins, HRH Princess Michael of Kent, Harry Redknapp, Ray Davies, Mary Berry, Peter Snow, Amanda Prowse, Jeffrey Archer, Lynda Bellingham, Alan Johnson, Lady Antonia Fraser, James Cracknell, Ann Widdecombe, Barbara Taylor Bradford and many more.. You can listen to them (free) here
13. Starting a monthly column in Attitude Magazine.
14. Starting my Drive show on May 22 by interviewing James, a witness to the Woolwich murder, minutes after it had happened.

15. Beating Spurs 3-0 and 2-1 away, thereby proving that lightning can strike twice.
16. A dear friend of ours was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
17. Missing out on a Sony for Speech programme of the year at the Sony Awards in May.
18. Being shortlisted for Broadcaster of the Year at the Stonewall Awards in November.
19. Interviewing a girl who has had non-stop hiccoughs for two months.

20. Speaking at the Independent Publisher’s Group conference in March and making headlines by attacking W H Smith, Waterstones and Amazon. More HERE.



Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.


LBC 97.3 Iain discusses the Prophet Mohammed with Mo Ansar

LBC 97.3

Listen now


My Top 100 Tweeters of 2013

21 Dec 2013 at 23:48

Each new year I do a list of people whose tweets I have most enjoyed during the previous 12 months. I follow about 1300 people on Twitter but these are the ones who have entertained, informed, educated, annoyed and, most of all, made me laugh most this year. In previous years I did a Top 50, but found it impossible to whittle my 1300 down to 50 this year. So here are my Top 100, in no particular order…


@ChrisDeerin – Comment editor, Daily Telegraph
@ShippersUnbound – Deputy political editor, Daily Mail
@PaulWaugh – Editor, PoliticsHome
@DAaronovitch – Columnist – The Times
@BenedictBrogan – Deputy editor, Daily Telegraph
@ZoesqWilliams – Columnist, the Guardian
@MrMatthewTodd – Editor, Attitude magazine
@TimMontgomerie – Comment editor, The Times
@NeilWallis1 – Media commentator
@MehdiRHasan – Political Director, Huffington Post
@GraemeArcher – Columnist, Daily Telegraph
@IanBirrell – Columnist, Independent, Daily Mail & Evening Standard
@JohnRentoul – Columnist, Independent on Sunday
@Sarah Vine – Columnist, Daily Mail
@Gallaghereditor – Tony Gallagher, Editor, Daily Telegraph
@VinceGraff – Columnist


@AFNeil – BBC presenter
@PiersMorgan – Presenter, CNN
@ReporterBoy – (Giles Dilnot), Reporter, Daily Politics
@MichaelLCrick – Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News
@KayBurley – Sky News presenter
@AdamBoulton – Political editor, Sky News
@IanKatz100 – Editor, Newsnight
@DMcCaffreySKY – Political reporter, Sky News
@SimonMcCoy – Presenter, BBC News Channel
@AlStewITN – Presenter, ITN


@FleetStreetFox – Susie Boniface
@MrHarryCole – Editor, Guido Fawkes blog
@GuidoFawkes – Editor in Chief, Guido Fawkes blog
@JonWorth – Labour leaning Euroblogger
@PaddyBriggs – Sports & politics blogger


@LordAshcroft – Businessman & philanthropist
@Smithjj62 – Former Labour Home Secretary
@LouiseMensch – Former Conservative MP
@TomHarrisMP – Labour MP & Dr Who geek
@Andrew_Kennedy – Conservative Party Agent in Kent
@JohnMcTernan – Former Political Director for Tony Blair
@NadineDorriesMP – Conservative MP
@NichStarling – LibDem leader on Broadland District Council
@Edwina_Currie – Former Conservative MP
@ThereseCoffey – Conservative MP
@Sarah_Hayward – Labour leader of Camden Council
@StewartWood – Labour peer
@Tony_McNulty – Former Labour MP
@Mike_Fabricant – Conservative MP
@Tracey_Crouch – Conservative MP
@EI Jake – Jake Morrison, Liverpool City Councillor
@JerryHayes1 – Former Conservative MP


@HattMarris84 – My producer on LBC
@StephenNolan – 5 Live presenter
@RichardPBacon – 5 Live presenter
@ShelaghFogarty – 5 Live presenter
@JoePike – Reporter, LBC 97.3
@TheJamesMax – BBC London presenter
@JaneGarvey1 – Presenter, Woman’s Hour, Radio 4
@JuliaHB1 – Afternoon presenter, LBC 97.3
@SuttonNick – Editor, World at One, Radio 4
@Rachel_Hump – Producer, LBC 97.3
@RobinLustig – Former Presenter, The World Tonight, Radio 4
@StanCollymore – TalkSport radio host
@CarolineFeraday – Former BBC London presenter
@TheJeremyVine – Presenter, Radio 2
@MrJamesOB – Morning show presenter, LBC 97.3
@Corrie_corfield – Radio 4 announcer
@NickyAACampbell – 5 Live presenter
@Tweeter_Anita – Presenter, Any Answers, Radio 4
@DuncanBarkes – Late show presenter, LBC 97.3
@BroadcastMoose – Ian Abrahams, Talksport presenter
@FiFiGlover – Radio 4 presenter
@JohnMyersTeam – Chairman, Radio Academy
@RajPattniEsq – Ex LBC 97.3 Producer
@MrCarlMcQueen – Sky News producer, Ex LBC 97.3
@DavidLloydRadio – David Lloyd, Orion Radio
@HorneyMedia – Tony Horne, Radio presenter
@PaulEaston – Radio consultant
@CarolynQuinnCQ – Presenter, Westminster Hour, Radio 4


@Dean36Ashton10 – Former Norwich City & West Ham footballer
@Joey7Barton – QPR footballer
@CarltonCole1 – West Ham footballer
@HenryWinter – Football journalist, Daily Telegraph
@BobBallardSport – Radio sports journalist
@AgentLomas – Spoof account of Millwall manager, Steve Lomas
@TonyCottee9 – West Ham legend
@LeeClayton_ – Sports editor, Daily Mail
@NotBigSam – Sam Allardyce spoof account
@DavidGold – Co chairman of West Ham United
@ClareBalding – BBC & BT Sport presenter


@WMaryBeard – Classics academic & author
@Alistairgriffin – Singer, songwriter
@AdamLake – Public Affairs Specialist
@KirstieMAllsopp – Presenter, Location, Location, Location
@Brit_Battleaxe – Christine Hamilton
@JamesWharton – Former Soldier & author of OUT IN THE ARMY
@KatyScholes – Marketing manager, Biteback Publishing
@Joshuwahwah – Politically tuned funny guy
@MarkFoxNews – CEO, Business Services Association
@SallyHitchiner – Vicar
@VickyBeeching – Theologian
@CarolynHarris – Wife of Tom
@GrantTucker – My PA!


1 comment

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.


LBC 97.3: Iain Dale's Tribute to Sir Simon Milton

Sir Simon Milton's death saddened the whole of London. Iain pays tribute to him.

Listen now


BBC News Bloopers Video 2013

21 Dec 2013 at 15:53



Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.


Video: Iain's Nick Clegg 'Downfall' Video

Spoof video

Listen now


ConservativeHome Diary Week 36: Good Year? Bad Year?

20 Dec 2013 at 14:46

I hate the Daily Mirror. Always have. Always will. It employs people who laughingly call themselves journalists but effectively just contribute to a Labour propaganda sheet. And their editor is no better. I hadn’t heard of him until Wednesday evening. His name is Lloyd Embley. He’s the one who constantly calls Cameron a public school toff in his rag of a paper. Mr Embley, it turns out, was educated at top public school, Malvern. Obviously a man of the people himself, and totally in touch with his working class readers. Maybe that’s why the Mirror’s circulation is falling like a stone. I found myself in a Twitter spat with Mr Embley over their front page on Thursday which had a picture of IDS leaving the front bench during a Commons debate on food banks. I had a fairly loud row with Jacqui Smith on the Sky paper review about it, when she said it showed IDS didn’t care about the poor. I am afraid I saw the red mist and let her have it in no uncertain terms. If any Tory politician cares about the plight of the poor it is IDS, as he amply proved in the years following his leadership when he set up the Centre for Social Justice. But back to the Mirror. Why on earth would they have a front page seeking to diminish IDS in the eyes of their readers when a serial paedophile had just been sentenced to 35 years in jail? Strange priorities.
Talking of left wing rags, I had to laugh at The Guardian’s front page yesterday. It had a story on the sharp fall in unemployment, but in typical Guardian fashion, far from giving these statistics an unequivocal welcome it sought to pick out the one possible negative result of falling unemployment – a possible future rise in interest rates. I suppose no one should be surprised. Of course, they are right in the sense that any rise in interest rates will have a negative effect on anyone with a mortgage. But for people with savings an interest rise will be very welcome indeed, after several years where deposit accounts have been made almost redundant. Indeed, I am told that some current accounts now offer higher rates of interest than deposit accounts. That way lies madness.
I see ConservativeHome is running its usual end of year awards. It’s been an odd year in politics in some ways. For Ed Miliband it’s been a very up and down, then up and now down year. For Nick Clegg it’s been a year of treading water without quite sinking below the surface and for David Cameron it’s been a year that he ends in as good a position in the polls as he could have expected. For the Tories in general it is a year in which Plan A finally seems to have brought about some positive economic results. So the overall Tory winner of 2013 may be George Osborne. The Chancellor is a little like Ed Miliband in that his political fortunes swing from one extreme to another, often for no apparent reason. 2014 will be a crucial year for him in determining whether he is a serious candidate to succeed David Cameron when the time comes.
If you appoint a paid up member of the establishment to chair a commission on airport capacity don’t be surprised if he comes up with a classic establishment fudge. I am of course talking about Sir Howard Davies, a man who has slithered up the greasy pole of public life and left little trace. His solution to the ‘Boris Island’ problem was not to include it on the shortlist of possible new runway sites, but not to exclude it either. He needs to think about it further. Presumably while sitting in the long grass. He’s had a year. How much deep thought does it need? The only reason ‘Boris Island’ wasn’t excluded from the shortlist altogether was because Sir Howard knew that it would provoke Boris to launch a judicial review of the decision. Sadly Boris doesn’t seem able to comprehend that his project is a dead duck. Unless of course he becomes Prime Minister…
As the year comes to a close we all start asking ourselves if it’s been a good year or a bad year. I suppose my personal highlight has been the growth of my radio career and being asked to present the LBC Drivetime show. It’s very rare that anyone gets to do what they feel they were put on this earth to do. I know now that I am a far better radio presenter than I ever would have been a politician. Perhaps the good citizens of Bracknell had a narrow escape. I know I’d have loved the constituency side but I now think I’d have been frustrated by what goes on in Parliament.
I hesitate to describe it as a highlight of the year, but the most memorable programme for me this year was where the news of the Woolwich murders broke just before I went on air. It is moments like this where as a presenter you either sink or swim. Bear in mind I have no broadcasting or journalistic training, I will tell you that I was as nervous as a kitten. A minute before I had to utter my first word, I had no idea what I was going to say. But when that red light goes on, the adrenaline kicks in and off you go. I was told that the BBC held some sort of inquiry later questioning why their coverage was so lacklustre and ours was so on the ball. I was proud of what we did that day – four hours of informative breaking news, without, I hope ever becoming sensationalist. As for my worst moment of the year, well, I think we can all guess what that was – what is now referred to as the ‘incident in Brighton’. It’s a weird feeling – and not a nice one – that that scene is what most people will remember me for. If they remember me at all.


1 comment

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.


LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Hosts a Phone in on Male Attitues to Rape

Is rape something only a woman can understand? WARNING: Listeners may find some of the content upsetting.

Listen now


ConservativeHome Diary Week 35: Snogging Jacqui Smith & Other Stories

13 Dec 2013 at 15:16

Can anyone explain what our revered Deputy Prime Minister was doing at the Nelson Mandela Memorial Service on Tuesday? No, me neither. I thought his job was, er, to deputise and run the country in the Prime Minister’s absence. He said he had never met Nelson Mandela so quite why he thought his attendance was necessary is anyone’s guess. Mind you, I’d love to have been earwigging his conversation with Bill Clinton. I can imagine Clinton thinking to himself “Who the hell is this guy. Security!”. Perhaps the saddest sight was seeing Tony Blair sitting on his own with no one talk to. Something which cannot be said of the pushy Danish PM Mrs Helle Kinnock. I cannot imagine Birgitte Nyborg taking a selfie…
David Cameron has put on a bit of weight, hasn’t he? By way of contrast, having lost a stone in the last month I am but a mere shadow of my former self. Weight gain for politicians goes with the territory in some ways and it’s possibly yet another reason why I didn’t succeed in my political ambitions. I’ve always had a tendency to be a fat bastard, but the lifestyle of an MP would have probably meant I’d be 19 or 20 stone by now – the British equivalent of Governor Chris Christie.
It comes to something when the head of a state broadcaster tries to intimidate an elected politician into silence. No, I am not talking about what is happening in Ukraine, I’m talking about BBC chair Chris Patten’s warning to Tory MP Rob Wilson that he might be sued if he makes public a recording of the head of the Pollard Review in which he apparently undermines the conclusions of his own report. Wilson should publish and be damned. There would be many people who would contribute to a legal fighting fund if it ever came to it. Invariably those who issue libel threats are trying to bully people into submission, and they very rarely amount to anything. Do it, Rob. Just do it.

In a naked bit of plugging one of my books, can I recommend an ideal Christmas present for the discerning Thatcherite? In May I published a collection of more than 200 MEMORIES OF MARGARET THATCHER. It’s a doorstop of a book, running to more than 500 pages and Amazon have it on sale for £22.50. But you can get it from Biteback for £15. There, Christmas sorted for you. It’s a particularly good present for a Socialist mother-in-law.
I’d love to shake the hand of the person who thought Norman Tebbit’s birthday was the ideal date to allow same sex couples to get married for the first time. It’s what he would have wanted.
Sir Ian Kennedy, chairman of IPSA, is one of the more ridiculous Quango heads. So full of his own puffed up self-importance is he that he thinks that in constitutional terms he outranks the prime minister – or at least, that’s the impression he gives. In its short existence IPSA has done nearly as much to undermine confidence in parliament as the reason for its creation – the expenses scandal. It uses every opportunity that comes its way to pain MPs as money-grabbing, even going so far as to publish details of claims it has rejected, even if they were simple administrative errors.
I visited IPSA once. It inhabits a suite of offices in Victoria that would befit a monarch. The only office I have visited which has been fitted out more plushly is a merchant bank. IPSA is also very choosy about when it chooses to be accountable for its own actions. I have lost count of the occasions when I have asked Kennedy or one of his minions to come on my show to explain themselves. I think once in three and a half years I have been successful. As I write this my producer has asked Sir Ian Kennedy to come on my show tonight [Thursday]. I am not holding my breath. UPDATE: Just as well I didn’t hold my breath…
Next Wednesday I do my final Sky News paper review before Christmas with Jacqui Smith. Last year, I surprised her with a bunch of mistletoe live on air and gave her a smacker on the lips. I’m debating how I could go one further this time. Tongues? God alone knows what I would then have to do next year. Gulp.
Nothing to do with politics but I thought I’d get it off my chest anyway. The right hand headlight on my Audi went this morning. I phoned up the local dealer and explained I needed a new headlight bulb. No, they said, you need a whole unit. And what’s more you have to replace the one the other side too. That’ll be £850. Oh, I said, hardly surprised but rather resigned. I’ll bring it in now. We haven’t got any in stock, they said. It will take 5-10 working days. At this point I rather lost it. “So you’re a main Audi dealer that doesn’t stock headlights and you can’t get them for 5-10 working days, by which time it’ll be after Christmas. How do you suggest I drive my car at night?” A short silence ensued and the robot continued: “We haven’t got them in stock, Sir. It’ll take 5-10 working days.” That’s what passes for Vorsprung Durch Technik. Half an hour later my local village garage had sourced a pair for £350 and can fit them tomorrow. Job done. Glad I got that off my chest. And I am sure you are too.



Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.


Video: Iain Interviews Jeffrey Archer

18 Doughty Street, One to One

Listen now


The Nelson Mandela Flash Mob

13 Dec 2013 at 15:15



Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.


LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Ed Miliband

Iain talks to the Labour leader at the end of his 2012 conference.

Listen now

UK Politics

Liberty Launches Anti-Tory Advertising Campaign

10 Dec 2013 at 22:45

This is an advert from the civil liberties group Liberty, headed up by Shami Shakrabarti. It appeared as a full page ad in tonight’s London Evening Standard. It is a disgrace. It’s inaccurate and partial and does Liberty a great disservice. It’s so partisan and inaccurate that it deserves to be reported to the ASA.

It quotes Theresa May saying…

The next Conservative manifesto will promise to scrap the Human Rights Act

It is an accurate quote, so far as it goes. Because as Liberty know full well, it’s only half the story. Because far from scrapping all human rights laws, which Liberty try to insinuate, the Human Rights Act would be replaced by a British Bill of Rights.

Frankly Shami, I expect better of you and your organisation. You fought a noble battle against Labour’s various attacks on civil liberties but I don’t recall any similar adverts to these. These are party political and totally misleading.


1 comment

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.


LBC 97.3: Iain talks to Michael Gove Who Reveals if He is a 'Whopper' Man

Michael Gove talks about his love of Burgers

Listen now


Keith Simpson's Christmas Reading List

10 Dec 2013 at 15:41

As we approach the season of good will, which may, of course by pass Parliament, the FCO embassies and high commissions prepare for the panto and nativity as well as catching up on some reading beyond the official diptels. For parliamentary colleagues it is a chance to stretch the little grey cells and do some thinking as well as relaxing.

This has been a bumper year for books on history, politics, military history and literature. The outstanding political biography has been Charles Moore’s first volume Margaret Thatcher The Authorised Biography: Not for Turning (Allen Lane £30). It is in the same class as Robert Caro’s multi volume biography of Lyndon Johnson. Jonathan Aitken journalist, politician and someone who has served at Her Majesty’s pleasure but not in the armed forces, knew Margaret Thatcher and her family and has written perceptively about her in Margaret Thatcher Power and Personality (Bloomsbury £25).

What more can be written about Benjamin Disraeli after biographies such as that written by Robert Blake? Actually quite a lot, and Douglas Hurd and Edward Young have written a wonderful reassessment of the great politician and showman in Disraeli or The Two Lives (Weidenfeld & Nicolson £20) in which they explore the paradoxes at the centre of his character, and how his exotic personality and ability to dazzle his contemporaries overcame his lack of principles, indebtedness and disloyalty. Wickedly, they suggest the only contemporary British politician who can be compared to Disraeli for making politics interesting is Boris Johnson. Their account of myths surrounding Disraeli’s “One Nation” politics should make this a stocking filler for Ed Miliband.

Simon Heffer combines being a prolific journalist and an author, and amongst other publications is his magisterial biography of Enoch Powell. High Minds The Victorians and the Birth of Modern Britain (Random House Books £30) is a polemic, but the author ranges widely over politics, religion, art and personalities and the great Victorian institutions.

T E Lawrence still divides opinion between those who believe he was a romantic fraudster and those who believe he combined the aesthete with the man of action. Amongst other things he played his part in helping to shape the modern Middle East, and it is this that Scott Anderson concentrates on in Lawrence in Arabia Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Doubleday Books £16).

John Julius Norwich is the only son of Diana and Duff Cooper and a distinguished author in his own right. Diana Cooper was considered the most beautiful woman of her age and her husband Duff had a long diplomatic and political career. John Julius was apart from his parents for long periods during and after the war and Diana wrote him the most entertaining and chatty letters about great events as well as astute observations. Darling Monster The Letters of Lady Diana Cooper to Her Son John Julius Norwich 1939-52 (Chatto and Windus £25) reveal the true art of letter writing which now may well be lost in the age of texting and twitter.

Francois Mitterrand, the French Fifth Republic’s first socialist President has long fascinated those interested in French political history and political leadership. As a young man during the war he managed, in the space of a few months, to move seamlessly from being a “Petainist” to being a “Gaullist”. A great survivor, he once observed that the most important attribute for any statesman was “indifference”. Philip Short, a former BBC Paris correspondent, has written a revealing biography in Mitterrand A Study in Ambiguity (The Bodley Head £30).

John Biffen served in Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet as Chief Secretary, Secretary of State for Trade and Leader of the House. A charming, intelligent, thoughtful politician who increasingly questioned some of the policies of the Thatcher Government. Bernard Ingham once notoriously called him “semi-detached”. John Biffen decided to use that phrase as the title of this memoir – Semi-Detached (Biteback Publishing £30). A very honest memoir and Biffen recounts his recurring struggle against bouts of depression.

We are now in the prelude to five years of commemorating the centenary of what my grandparents called “The Great War”. The literary offensive has begun already and I have selected a few which have been published this autumn – a more comprehensive survey will be found in the January edition of Total Politics magazine.

Max Hastings’ Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War in 1914 (Williams Collins £30) is a robust, no nonsense patriotic view of the origins of the war and lays the blame largely with the Germans. Allen Mallinson’s 1914 Fight the Good Fight (Bantam £25) gives a solid British perspective with a traditional account of the role of the British Army.

Margaret Macmillan is a distinguished academic and author of the highly acclaimed Peacemakers The Paris Conference of 1919 and Its Attempts to End the War, and in The War That Ended Peace How Europe Abandoned Peace for the First World War (Profile £25) concentrates on the diplomatic system and the series of crises which preceded the one between Austria-Hungary and Serbia in 1914. More subtle than Max Hastings.

In The Long Shadow The Great War and the Twentieth Century (Simon & Schuster £25) David Reynolds looks at the war’s long term impact up until today and moves beyond individual experience and memorials. A must read.

Understandably, many of the new books concentrate on the military experience and a good corrective is Richard Roberts Saving the City The Great Financial Crisis of 1914 (OUP £20). This is a formidable piece of scholarship and should be in the Christmas stockings of George Osborne, Danny Alexander and Ed Balls.

Without the passion, ruthlessness and politiking of Fabian Ware the system for identifying and burying the dead and memorialising those with no known grave near the battlefields where they fell there would have been no War Graves Commission. This is a fascinating and moving story admirably researched and told by David Crane in Empires of the Dead How One Man’s Vision Led to the Creation of WWI’s War Graves (William Collins £16.99).

David Lindsay, the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, volunteered at the age of forty-four and served as a Private in the RAMC on the Western Front 1915-16. Before succeeding his father in 1913 he had been a Conservative MP from 1895 and was Chief Whip in 1911. His political diaries, including his time serving in the Lloyd George Coalition government, was edited by John Vincent. Now Christopher Arnander, one of his grandson’s, has edited Private Lord Crawford’s Great War Diaries From Medical Orderly to Cabinet Minister (Pen & Sword £19.99). A view from the ranks as a hospital orderly, critical of female nurses and junior officers as well as many of his political contemporaries.

The Blackadder School of Great War History has seriously sent up the reputations of the Public School officers. Anthony Seldon, prolific political writer and now Master of Wellington College, has, along with David Walsh attempted to correct the caricature in Public Schools and The Great War The Generation Lost (Pen & Sword £25). This they admirably do in comprehensively researched book which is based on memoirs, archives and a contemporary literature.

Frequently, what has been missing in collections of letters of men who served on the Western front has been those received from family and friends to provide a comprehensive picture of life both civil and military. In Life, Death and Growing Up on the Western Front (Yale University Press £20) Anthony Fletcher has used the correspondence of 12 officers and five other ranks to give a full picture. A very powerful and moving book.

The First World War produced an extraordinary flowering of poetic talent beyond those who served at the front. Tim Kendall has selected poems from the usual suspects – Sassoon, Brooke, Gurney and Owen – as well as from civilians both men and women. Poetry of the First World War An Anthology (OUP £14.99) is an excellent stocking filler and I was pleased he included a section of “Music-Hall and Trench Songs”, including the marvellous one “The Shit Shute” not attributed, but written by A P Herbert, about his divisional commander.

Under Another Sky Journeys in Roman Britain (Jonathan Cape £20) is an unusual and successful attempt to discover Roman Britain and its legacy by Charlotte Higgins who travelled the length and breadth of our country in an old VW Camper van. Caroline Vout, a classics donette at Cambridge University is fascinated by how the ancient Greeks and Romans used images to present what we would call sex. Her Sex on Show Seeing the Erotic in Greece and Rome (The British Museum Press £25) is a work of scholarship, but its abundant illustrations might prove a by-election special unless handled with care!

Roger Knight is the author of a celebrated biography of Nelson and has immersed himself in the sources of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic period. His Britain Against Napoleon The Organisation of Victory 1793-1815 (Allen Lane £30) is not about military campaigns and battles, or the leadership of Nelson and Wellington. Rather, it is a fundamental analysis of the political financial, industrial, commercial, agricultural and technological organisation required to achieve victory. This is not a dull accountant’s book but a superb study of how Britain faced the challenge of twenty-one years of war. George Osborne on seeing it was much taken by the sub-title “The Organisation of Victory” which is much in his thoughts these days.

For those who are fascinated by the old Habsburg empire then a must read is Simon Winder Danubia A Personal History of Habsburg Europe (Picador £18.99).

Doris Kearns Goodwin has written about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the Kennedys as well as her much acclaimed Team of Rivals The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Now she has written about the friendship and then the breakdown of relations between Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft in The Bully Pit Theodore Roosevelt and the Golden Age of Journalism (Viking £20). But it is not just about personal relationships, but the campaign against cartels and how Roosevelt used the Presidency –“The Bully Pit” – and his close links with journalists.

The strength of American isolationism and a desire not to become involved with Britain’s war effort is the theme throughout Lynne Olson’s Those Angry Days Roosevelt, Lindbergh and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-41 (Random House £24). American public opinion was deeply divided over neutrality and aiding Britain and her account makes sober reading.

There is an impression reflected in many books that the British Army by 1944 was worn out and no match for the Germans. In Monty’s Men The British Army and the Liberation of Europe (Yale University Press £20) John Buckley challenges this thesis in a provocative but convincing way.

Frank Dikotter has published nine books about the history of China, including Mao’s Great Famine. Now in The Tragedy of Liberation A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-57 (Bloomsbury £25) he recounts the way in which Mao Zedong established a ruthless tyranny and killing machine. Uncomfortable reading for the current Chinese elite, not least because the author has had access to party archives and interviewed many participants and survivors.

Sir Lawrence Freedman is at the applied end of the academic war studies genre having written the official history of the Falklands War and as a member of the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War. Critics of Whitehall frequently suggest that minsters and civil servants don’t do “strategy”. Now Lawrence Freedman offers them his reader – Strategy A History (OUP £25) No ponderous theoretical work this which begins with a quote from Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth”. Something for members of our National Security Council.

David Howell served as a Cabinet minister under Thatcher, and more recently a Foreign Office Minister under Cameron. A thoughtful politician interested in how political relationships and networks are changing in the contemporary world which he develops in Old Links and New Ties Power and Persuasion in a Age of Networks (I B Tauris £20).

Civil Wars are often more passionate, brutal and degrading than other kinds of war. Ours was in the seventeenth century and yet still leaves a legacy. When Mussolini was overthrown by a coup d’etat in 1943 and Italy eventually joined the Allies the result was a vicious civil war. Claudio Pavone wrote a fine account in 1991 which has just been translated as A Civil War A History of the Italian Resistance (Verso £35).

Amongst many of Churchill’s attributes was a fascination with machines and inventions, especially if they related to war. He was not a scientist and had little grasp of the details but he did appreciate what science could achieve and hence had his own unofficial scientific adviser in the 1930s. Graham Farnello in Churchill’s Bomb A Hidden History of Science War and Politics (Faber &Faber £25) examines Churchill’s involvement with the development of what became the atomic bomb.

This autumn has seen the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy and there has been an outpouring of books about Kennedy and the assassination. I have accepted the advice of my old friend who is the doyen of the Kennedyistas in parliament, the Rt Hon Simon Burns MP (Chelmsford and Hyannis Port). He suggests three recently published books. Robert Dallek, who has published biographies of Lyndon Johnson and JFK, has written Camelot’s Court Inside the Kennedy White House (Harper £30). Probably the best – and the sanest – book on the assassination is a reprint of Reclaiming History Assassination of JFK by Vincent Bugliosi who forensically examines the evidence and comes to the conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald did assassinate JFK. Finally, Peter Savodnik has written The Interloper Leo Harvey Oswald Inside the Soviet Union (Basic Books £16.99) which examines Oswald’s three years in the Soviet Union and attraction to communism.

Now for the stocking fillers. Jeremy Archer, a retired army officer has written something of a scissors and paste book in A Military Miscellany (Elliott and Thompson Ltd £11.99) which is made up of extracts from letters, diaries, memoirs and humorous military anecdotes. Something for the Whips office.

A wonderfully amusing book is Shaun Usher’s Letters of Note Correspondence Deserving a Wider Audience (Canongate £30). It is a sparklingly eclectic collection with almost all those letters selected being reproduced in facsimile from the good and the great to just ordinary people. My favourite is one that is well known to the FCO sent by Our Man in Moscow in 1943 concerning a new Turkish colleague – Mustapha Kunt.

Travel Books range from those written by people who have really “walked the course” and can write vivid descriptions with a feel for the country, its people and history, to those that read like travel brochures. Tim Cope is definitely in the former category with his On the Tail of Genghis Khan An Epic Journey Through the Land of the Nomads (Bloomsbury £20). One for Rory Stewart Sahib our distinguished parliamentary nomad, and Owen Paterson, the badger culler, who quite recently rode across parts of Central Asia.

Finally, if only one volume of fiction appears on this list it has to be by Robert Harris, he of Enigma and Pompeii amongst others, and who has now written a powerful novel about the Dreyfus Affair in France, An Officer and a Spy (Hutchinson £16). This has recently been the bed time reading of our Prime Minister. Need I say more.



Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.


Iain talks to Julie in Basildon about bad parenting

An emotional call.

Listen now