VIDEO: Should the TV Licence be Scrapped?

9 Oct 2014 at 22:11

This is a video of a Freedom Association fringe meeting at the Tory Party Conference which I chaired on the future (or lack of it) of the BBC TV licence. Taking part were Andrew Allison (Campaign Manager, Freedom Association), Dave Atherton (Chairman, Freedom2Choose), Andrew Bridgen MP, Alex Deane CC (Managing Director of Public Affairs, FTI Consulting), and John Whittingdale OBE MP (Chairman, Culture, Media and Sport Committee).



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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to horror writer James Herbert

James Herbert talks about his latest book ASH and his career as Britain's leading horror writer.

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Charity Auction: Join Me in the Directors' Box at West Ham & Help Underprivileged Children

8 Oct 2014 at 18:16

Global Radio, the company which owns LBC, has formed a new charity to help underprivileged children called MAKE SOME NOISE. The big fundraising day is this Thursday, tomorrow, and one of the prizes is one which I asked David Sullivan to put up and he very kindly agreed to do so. It includes…

  • Two tickets to sit with me (ie. 2 tickets for you, sitting next to me) in the Director’s Box at one of the following matches – Aston Villa, Newcastle or Swansea.
  • Passes to the Director’s Guest Lounge complete with complimentary light refreshments. Whilst here you’ll be able to mix with other celebrity West Ham supporters such as Sir Trevor Brooking, Russell Brand or Ray Winstone if they’re at the game.
  • Before and after the match you’ll get to visit pitchside, to the Chairman’s Suite to meet both Chairmen, David Sullivan and David Gold, as well as Karren Brady. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit the player’s tunnel post-match to meet some of the players (manager’s permission permitting).

I realise the attraction of sitting next to me is not that great, but the rest of it is, and I’d like to thank David Sullivan for donating the prize, and indeed also making a personal donation to the charity.

The auction closes on my show at 7.50pm this Thursday. Bidding has already reached £800. I want to get it way above that!

I’ve also got Sir Trevor Brooking on the programme tomorrow, who will be talking about his new autobiography at 6.45pm, so do tune into LBC then. And if you can’t bid on the auction prize, you can donate £5 to Make Some Noise by texting NOISE to 70070.

You can bid HERE. Good luck!



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Video: Iain Comments on the One Way US Extradition Treaty

Sky News paper review

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UK Politics

UPDATED SEAT PREDICTION: LibDems to Win 28 Seats at General Election

5 Oct 2014 at 15:33

On Tuesday lunchtime I am joining Tim Farron and Peter Kellner speaking at an Electoral Reform Society Fringe Meeting at the LibDem Conference in Glasgow. If you’re in Glasgow I hope you will come along.

Title: A prediction of how the Lib Dems will do in 2015, seat by seat
Date: Tuesday, October 7th
Time: 1 PM – 2 PM
Location: Argyll 1, Crowne Plaza
Speakers: Iain Dale, Peter Kellner, Tim Farron MP
Chair: Katie Ghose, ERS

So it seems a good time to revisit the seat by sea predictions I first made in March (see HERE) and then revised on 6 July (see HERE). In March I predicted that the LibDems would win 30-35 seats at the next election. I went through each LibDem seat and predicted what would happen to it. In July that number had come down to 28-30.

Clearly any such exercise is fraught with difficulty, and I freely admitted that many would disagree with the conclusions. Reading through the comments of the original blogpost, the consensus seemed to be that I had been too kind to the LibDems in Scotland but too hard on them in the South West. That was, of course, before the European and local elections, when the LibDems performed far worse than I think even their worst enemy had wished. They came fifth in the popular vote in the European Elections behind the Greens, polling only 6.87% of the popular vote. More than four months on from that disaster, their poll ratings are still in the 8-10% range, even falling behind the Greens in one poll.

In March I predicted that of the 57 seats, 35 would remain LibDem, 14 would fall to the Conservatives and 8 to Labour. But of the 35 LibDem Holds, I reckoned only 13 were dead certs, 9 hot bets, 8 probable and 5 were rated as possible, but by no means definite.

In July my revised forecast was that of the 57 seats, 28 will remain LibDem, 17 would fall to the Conservatives, 11 to Labour and 1 to the SNP.

My updated prediction is identical to the last one, with the LibDems winning 28 seats, losing 17 to the Conservatives, 11 to Labour and 1 to the SNP.

I remain of the view that Labour will be the beneficiaries of most of the decline in LibDem votes across the country but that the Conservatives might benefit a little in the south and south west.

The big unknown factor here is how the size of the UKIP vote might affect existing Conservative vote levels in many of these seats. I have tried not to make these predictions through blue tinted spectacles, but it may be that I will have underestimated the impact of UKIP, especially bearing in mind their performance in the May elections and in opinion polls since. This week’s by-election results may give them a further filip. I have also assumed that the LibDems will not win a single one of their top 20 target seats. Even if that proves to be wrong, looking through the list it is hard to see more than a handful of even remotely possible gains based on the way things look at the moment.

I think the LibDems can only be confident of winning 8 seats for definite. And these are…

Leeds North West
North Norfolk
Orkney & Shetland
Ross, Skye & Lochaber
Sheffield Hallam
Westmorland & Lonsdale

Let me make it clear, I don’t believe the LibDems will only win 8 seats, but these are the only ones I reckon they can be 100% sure of winning.

These are the seats I reckon they can be 100% sure of losing…

Bradford East (to Lab)
Brent Central (to Lab)
Burnley (to Lab)
Manchester Withington (to Lab)
Norwich South (to Lab)
Redcar (to Lab)
Solihull (to Con)

So that’s only 7 seats I reckon the LibDems are dead certain to lose. Which means if you add those to the seats they are dead certain to win, there are 42 which are in doubt. They fall into three categories…


Argyll & Bute
Bermondsey & Old Southwark
Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk
Bristol West
Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross
Edinburgh West
Hazel Grove
Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey
Kingston & Surbiton
North Devon
North East Fife
Thornbury & Yate


Birmingham Yardley
Cardiff Central
East Dunbartonshire
Hornsey & Wood Green


Berwick upon Tweed
Brecon & Radnorshire
Carshalton & Wallington
Mid Dorset & North Poole
North Cornwall
Portsmouth South
Somerton & Frome
St Austell & Newquay
St Ives
Sutton & Cheam
Taunton Deane
West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine



Here are the seat by seat predictions, with commentary.

Alan Reid
Maj: 3,431
A four way marginal, this could go to any of the main parties. If the LibDems lose my guess is that it would go to Labour, even though they were in third place in 2010.

Don Foster (retiring)
Maj: 11,883
Prediction: LIBDEM HOLD
The Conservatives have been desperate to win this seat back since Chris Patten lost it in 1992, but it’s extremely unlikely to revert to the fold despite the fact that Don Foster is standing down.

Simon Hughes
Maj: 8,530
I had thought this would be a dead cert hold for Simon Hughes but increasingly I am wondering if I am right. Labour seem very confident they can take this.

Sir Alan Beith (retiring – Julie Pörksen selected)
Maj: 2,690 over the Conservatives
The Conservative candidate Anne Marie Trevelyan stood in 2010 and if her vote holds up, she only needs Labour to take a small proportion of the LibDem vote. Beith’s incumbency will also disappear.

Michael Moore
Maj: 5,675
David Steel’s old seat – never been 100% safe, but it would be a major shock for the Conservatives to take this seat.

John Hemming
Maj: 3,002
Hemming is a maverick and I wouldn’t bet against him pulling off a surprise, but if Labour is to form a government it’s this kind of seat they need to take back.

David Ward
Maj: 365
One of the nastier LibDem MPs, few will shed tears at his demise.

Roger Williams
Maj: 3,747
A Conservative gain here is possible but not definite. One of the tightest results in 2015, I’d think.

Sarah Teather (retiring)
Maj: 1,345
If the LibDems retain this seat it will be miracle of all miracles.

Stephen Williams
Maj: 11.336
Given the size of Stephen Williams’ majority I had this in the Dead Cert Hold category, but there is a big student vote in this seat and that could prove to be his downfall. So I have relegated this seat to Probable.

Gordon Birtwistle
Maj: 1,818 over Labour
Birtwhistle is a straight talking northerner and speaks out against what he views as wishy washy Liberalism. He’s very popular but it would be a major shock if he held on to the seat he snatched from Labour in 2010.

John Thurso
Maj: 4,828
Prediction: LIBDEM HOLD
A small electorate, Thurso should hold the seat he won in 2001.

Julian Huppert
Maj: 6,792
If you look at the size of the LibDem majority here, Julian Huppert ought to be considered very safe, but this is a seat which swings with the wind, and if the wind is blowing towards Labour you can see it returning to them. It obviously has a high student vote and this may determine the outcome. However Huppert has been a strong performer both locally in Parliament and if anyone can hold this seat for the LibDems, he can. But bearing in mind the LibDems’ calamitous results in May I’ve now changed my mind and think Labour will win here.

Jenny Willott
Maj: 4,576
Labour have their sights in this one. Assuming no LibDem poll bounce, I now think they will take this.

Tom Brake
Maj: 5.260 over the Conservatives
Somewhat charismatically challenged Brake is nevertheless a very good constituency MP and this could seem him through, but the Labour vote here is bound to recover. However, I’d say this was a 50/50 prediction and could easily go the other way. This would be the sixth time Brake has fought the seat and that counts for a lot.

Mark Williams
Maj: 8,324

Mark Hunter
Maj: 3,272
Apart from a narrow majority in 1997 of 33, the LibDems have had a majority of three or four thousand in this seat ever since. As long as the slightly resurgent Labour vote doesn’t gain too much traction, I think Mark Hunter will be safe.

Martin Horwood
Maj: 4.920
A Liberal Democrat seat since 1992, this is one which the Conservatives had expected to take back in both 2005 and 2010, but it wasn’t to be. The Labour vote has been squeezed to just 5%. Martin Horwood is extremely popular and will have built up a high personal vote. On a catastrophic night for the LibDems it’s easy to see Cheltenham falling, but not otherwise.

Duncan Hames
Maj: 2,470
Although is majority isn’t big, Duncan Hames has dug himself in since winning the seat in 2010 and will be difficult to shift. But the Tory candidate Michelle Donelan is a good campaigner. Yet again, her success depends on warding off UKIP and encouraging LibDems to vote Labour.

Sir Bob Russell
Maj: 6,982
Prediction: LIBDEM HOLD
Difficult to see anything other than another home run for Sir Bob!

Jo Swinson
Maj: 2,184
Prediction: LABOUR GAIN
Jo Swinson is popular but all the political portents are against her. She will be a major loss to the LibDems.

Stephen Lloyd
Maj: 3.435
Won in 2010 from Nigel Waterson, Stephen Lloyd may hang on, but I’d expect the Labour vote to at least double at the expense of the LibDems, so yet again, a lot depends on how many votes the Tories lose to UKIP.

Mike Thornton
Maj: 1,771
The Conservatives thought they would win this seat back at each of the last two general elections, but each time Chris Huhne pulled through. At the by-election they came third, with UKIP almost pipping the rather monochrome Mike Thornton. It’s highly unlikely UKIP’s vote will hold up so the outcome of this seat may depend on where UKIP’s voters put their cross. If enough of them return to the Conservative fold, it could be enough to see the Conservative home.

Michael Crockart
Maj: 3,803
This seat went LibDem in 1997 and although the LibDem majority plummeted by 10,000 last time it is difficult to see them losing. Prior to 1997 it was a Tory seat but last time Labour beat the Tories into second place. A Labour victory is not impossible to imagine, but still rather unlikely.

Sir Malcolm Bruce (retiring – Christine Jardine selected)
Maj: 6,748 over the SNP

Andrew Stunell (retiring – Lisa Smart selected)
Maj: 6,371
The LibDem majority has fallen in every election since 1997 but the Tories haven’t been able to capitalise. And I don’t see them bucking the trend in 2015.

Lynne Featherstone
Maj: 6,875
Since 1997 Lynne Featherstone has built up the LibDem vote from 5,000 to 25,000 so as a constituency campaigner she is hard to beat. Meanwhile the Labour vote has declined from 31,000 to 18,000. The Conservatives have gone down to 21,000 to 9,000. This is a difficult one to call, but I now think Labour are edging ahead.

Danny Alexander
Majority: 8,765 over Labour

Edward Davey
Maj: 7,560
Prediction: LIBDEM HOLD
Ed Davey won this seat in 1997 with a wafer thin majority of 56, which rose to more than 15,000 in 2001. But since then the Conservative vote has been on the rise. Davey has only managed to win with such handsome majorities because he has squeezed the Labour vote from 23% down to 9%. If that trend reverses, the Conservatives could squeak it, but it’s highly unlikely.

Greg Mulholland
Maj: 9.103
A Labour seat as recently as 2005, Labour has now slipped to third place. With a classic split opposition situation it would be a brave man who would vote against a third term for Greg Mulholland.

Norman Baker
Maj: 7,647
If Labour takes enough votes from the LibDems it could let the Conservative in, and Lewes used to be a safe Tory seat. Baker’s local popularity should see him through but with a much smaller majority.

John Leech
Maj: 1,894
Although John Leech trebled his majority last time, I fear the bell tolls for him unless UKIP can take a lot of votes from Labour.

Annette Brooke (retiring – Vikki Slade selected)
Maj: 269
It was a shock this seat didn’t go Tory last time. With Annette Brooke standing down the LibDems will have to perform miracles to keep this seat.

Nick Harvey
Maj: 5,821
Ever since this seat was wrested back from the Conservatives in 1992 pundits have predicted it would return to the Tories, but astute constituency campaigning by Nick Harvey has prevented this from happening. I don’t see this changing. This seat has a strong UKIP vote which inevitable depresses that of the Conservatives.

Sir Menzies Campbell (retiring)
Maj: 9.348
Prediction: LIBDEM HOLD
The Conservatives will be targeting this seat but it’s a remote hope for them. The new LibDem candidate may suffer a dent in their majority but unless Ming Campbell’s personal vote is more than the norm, this seat should stay Liberal Democrat.

Dan Rogerson
Maj: 2,981
A seat where the LibDem majority has been on the slide in every election since 1997’s highpoint of more than 13,000. If UKIP hadn’t existed, the Conservatives would have won this seat in 2010. So the key question is whether they will eat further into the Conservative vote in 2015. If so, the LibDems will hang on. Otherwise this is a pretty safe bet for the Tories.

Norman Lamb
Maj: 11,626
Lamb’s majority was even bigger than the one he had over me in 2005. Although I think it will reduce in 2010 due to the crumbling LibDem local organisation and the resurgent North Norfolk Labour Party, he will still win handsomely.

Simon Wright
Maj: 310
Student fees will do for Simon Wright due to the large university vote. Of all the seats the LibDems are slated to lose, this is the deadest certs of dead certs.

Alistair Carmichael
Maj: 9,928
None of the other parties come close, with the LibDems winning 62% of the vote in 2010. Jo Grimond’s legacy is safe!

Mike Hancock (deselected) (Gerald Vernon-Jackson selected)
Maj: 5.200
This seat has never had a huge LibDem majority since it was won by Mike Hancock in 1997. It’s always ranged between three and six thousand. It’s difficult to assess the impact of the groping scandal, but on top of their national woes, it could be that the Tories win back what was once for them a safe seat. Hancock has failed to squeeze the Labour vote as much as some of his colleagues, and not so long ago they managed a healthy 25%. If they return to those levels the Tories will win.

Ian Swales
Maj: 5,214
This was a very surprise result last time and was in large part to massive job losses on Teesside. On that basis the seat may return to its natural fold.

Charles Kennedy
Maj: 13,070
Out on his own, and despite an invisible presence in this Parliament, there would need to be a miracle to shift Charles Kennedy.

Nick Clegg
Maj: 15,284
This used to be a Tory seat, but it would take a political earthquake for them to take it off Nick Clegg. Interestingly the Labour vote has started to rise, but not enough to cause the LibDems to panic.

Lorely Burt
Maj: 175
Lorely Burt did very well to hang onto her seat last time (she won it in 2005 with a majority of 279) and confounded all expectations. The Labour vote has gone down from 25% to 8% and if Labour takes just a thousand votes from the LibDem the Conservatives will win a seat many think they should never have lost.

David Heath (retiring)
Maj: 1,817
LibDem HQ must have bee tearing their hair out when David Heath announced his retirement as he stood the best prospect of retaining this seat. His current majority is the larges he has ever enjoyed, but that is largely because at the last election the UKIP vote doubled to nearly 2,000. If they do the same in 2015 they could deny the Conservatives a gain they thought they had in the bag last time.

John Pugh
Maj: 6,024
Prediction: LIBDEM HOLD
It’s difficult to see this as anything other than a LibDem win.

Stephen Gilbert
Maj: 1,312
This seat could go either way. Labour are nowhere with only 7% of the vote. If UKIP does well in the South West, the LibDems win here, if they don’t, they won’t.

Andrew George
Maj: 1,719
The Tories got a 10.39% swing last time and took a huge chuck out of Andrew George’s 11,000 majority. This time George will be hoping UKIP’s vote reduces Tory potency. His incumbency and local popularity could see Andrew George home, but four months on from my last prediction, I now think the Tories may make it.

Paul Burstow
Maj: 1,608
The Labour vote has halved to 7.7% since 1997 and will inevitably rise in 2015. Paul Burstow is standing again and incumbency could play a vital role if he is to retain his seat, but if the Tory vote holds up, he may have a problem.

Jeremy Browne
Maj: 3,993 over the Conservatives
Boundary changes last time increased Browne’s majority from just over 500. I don’t know how popular he is locally. Seen as a very good minister it was a shock when he was sacked by Clegg. Might he stand down? I’d say this was a 50/50 call.

Steve Webb
Maj: 7,116
I had this down as a Dead Cert LibDem Hold but if Labour perform strongly and take enough votes off the LibDems this seat could go Conservative. I still expect Steve Webb to retain it as he will have built up quite s substantial incumbency vote.

Adrian Sanders
Maj: 4,078
Regarded as a surefire Tory gain in 2010 it didn’t happen, and in all honesty Adrian Sanders has built up a string personal vote which may carry him through once again.

Vince Cable
Maj: 12,140
I have changed this seat from a dead cert LibDem Hold to probable. It’s known that Vince Cable has become very nervous about his prospects and the Tories have become quite active here. Much is dependent on whether Labour will siphon off former LibDem votes, although these could be cancelled out by the UKIP votes lost by the Tories.

Tessa Munt
Maj: 800
The former seat of David Heathcoat-Amory Tessa Munt won Wells in 2010. The Tories will make every effort to regain it and will be devastated if they don’t pull it off.

Sir Robert Smith
Maj: 3.684
The LibDem majority was halved last time, and it’s very possible to see how rises in the Labour and SNP votes could see this seat return to the Conservative fold.

Tim Farron
Maj: 12,264
Tim Farron has 60% of the vote and while the Conservatives held this seat as recently as 2001, they have zero chance of winning it back in 2015. Why? Because it’s a two horse race. In 1997 the Labour vote was more than 20%. In 2010 it was 2%.

David Laws
Maj: 13,036

Please feel free to add your comments below.



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Iain Dale talks to the Fleet Street Fox

Susan Boniface, aka The Fleet Street Fox, joins Iain to discuss her life as a blogger, tweeter and tabloid hack.

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Random Thoughts

Attitude Column: Gay Men Have It Easy Compared to Lesbians

5 Oct 2014 at 11:20

Even in 2014 gay men in Britain still suffer discrimination and insults. It happens more rarely nowadays but there’s little doubt that there are still people around who believe homosexuals should expect to be treated badly because of our ‘perverted’ lifestyle.

But gay men have it easy compared to the nation’s lesbians. When I was a teenager I assumed there were far more lesbians around than gay men mainly because you saw them on TV more. As time went on that changed , but even now a lesbian character in a soap opera causes more negative comment than a gay male one.

Not that long ago I read a review in The Spectator of a biography of Dusty Springfield, which my company Biteback had published earlier in the year. I read the review after our marketing manager, Katy Scholes (herself of the lesbian persuasion) sent me the online link. Her email read: “Have you bloody seen this?” She’s direct is Katy.

The review was written by Roger Lewis, who’s a big shot reviewer for the Mail on Sunday, and someone who my company would want to stay on the right side of. The review started off with this pearl of a paragraph: “Call me a crazy old physiognomist, but my theory is that you can always spot a lesbian by her big thrusting chin. Celebrity Eskimo Sandi Toksvig, Ellen DeGeneres, Jodie Foster, Clare Balding, Vita Sackville-West, God love them: there’s a touch of Desperate Dan in the jaw-bone area, no doubt the better to go bobbing for apples.”

Once I picked my less than chiselled chin off the floor, I read on. There was more… “I myself can recall heaps of furious married dragon-women in Wales, who wore wrinkle-resistant Crimplene trousers and sublimated their feelings working with horses or running Girl Guide camps.”

Obviously Mr Lewis is familiar dealing with stereotypes. He continued: “If actresses, they played tweedy old maids or sour housekeepers, like Agnes Moorehead. Or perhaps they became dog breeders or managed a garden centre. Maybe they became nuns. If you were Noele Gordon, you ran the gamut.”

He concludes with this stonker of a question: “did Dusty really have an affair in Mustique with Princess Margaret? If I am sceptical it is only because Hanoverians have small chins.” No, really.

Katy then reminded me that my company was due to be publishing Mr Lewis’s next book. I replied: “Fuck me gently. Are we really publishing him?” It turned out that contracts had not yet been signed so I decided to tell Mr Lewis to find someone else to publish his book as I didn’t and don’t want to be associated with someone who can write such utter homophobic garbage.

So I’ve burned bridges with one of the Spectator’s and Mail on Sunday’s leading book reviewers. Hey ho. Sometimes commercial considerations have to take a back seat.
Had I not done this I couldn’t have looked myself in the mirror, let alone Katy and several other members of staff who had expressed similar outrage.

Roger Lewis is a highly respected, well-connected and prolific book reviewer. Indeed, he’s reviewed a great many of our books in the past. The decision that I made and the action that was taken could conceivably come back and bite us. But the company’s not called Biteback for nothing.

We naturally informed Lewis that we were pulling his book. His reaction? “I can’t stand political correctness and the denial of freedom of speech that it can (and does) impose. I think Iain Dale sounds an idiot, with no sense of humour. It was a brilliantly written piece, and funny.” Even if he does say so himself.

I don’t like political correctness either and I know something funny when I see it. This wasn’t funny, or even remotely amusing. What I do not understand is why The Spectator saw fit to publish it in the first place.

Homophobia needs to be called out whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head, even at some commercial or public relations cost. If we just ignore such things what kind of people are we?

Writing in that style about jewish people, or ethnic minorities would not be considered acceptable, so how can it be acceptable to write in that manner about lesbians?
By the way, Katy Scholes has a lovely chin. And she thrusts it very well. So she tells me.

This article first appeared in the October edition of Attitude Magazine



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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Joyce in Erith... And Cries

In a discussion about infant deaths, Joyce in Erith's story makes Iain weep.

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WATCH: And Tonight Matthew, I'm Going to Nena!

3 Oct 2014 at 18:04

Global’s Make Some Noise, the new charity supported by LBC, is asking everyone to make a lip sync video and donate £5 to help change young lives. All the LBC presenters will be taking part – and we want you to do your bit too. All you have to do is film yourself lip-syncing to a song, upload it to social media and name three people you challenge to make a video next.

Then the important bit – make sure you text DONATE to 70766 to donate £5 to Global’s Make Some Noise.

Here’s me, bringing some some colour to Global’s Make Some Noise charity, with 99 Red Balloons. You can see Steve Allen, Duncan Barkes, Clive Bull & Julia Hartley-Brewer’s efforts HERE



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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Richard Davenport-Hines

Richard Davenport-Hines talks about his new book AN ENGLISH AFFAIR and the impact of the Profumo scandal on British society.

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VIDEO: Looking Back on Being a Candidate North Norfolk

3 Oct 2014 at 13:41

This is a ten minute interview I did last week with Neil Perry of Mustard TV in Norwich, about my time as candidate in North Norfolk for the 2005 general election.



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Video: Iain & Jeremy Nicholas Discuss Their West Ham Books


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ConHome Diary: A Cock & Bull Story

3 Oct 2014 at 13:40

How quickly we forget. Spied walking into the ICC was Scottish Office Minister David Mundell, who was immediately offered a union jack flag by one of the myriad of people determined to press their wares on unsuspecting conference go-ers. Mundell, however, was having none of it and waved it away. One suspects he wouldn’t have done that a fortnight ago!
Clearly the Mail on Sunday subs desk was on holiday last weekend, and had no one to cast their eye over the text of their George Osborne interview. This passage slipped through the net. “He showed no such inhibition in an extraordinary candid interview with this newspaper. During his extraordinary interview with the Mail on Sunday…”. Truly extraordinary. May one suggest Rojet’s Thesaurus?

So a minister caught in the eye of the storm was replaced by an MP who had written a book called IN THE EYE OF THE STORM, and had originally been blackballed by the Prime Minister for publishing it during the week of the last reshuffle, something which cost him his first step on the ministerial ladder. I am of course talking about Reading East MP Rob Wilson, who was appointed Minister for Civil Society on Saturday night to replace Brooks Newmark. Wilson had originally been appointed Prisons Minister, but when Number Ten realised his book IN THE EYE OF THE STORM was about to be published they told him he had to choose between publishing the book or a job in government. Seeing as the book had already been sent to reviewers, he didn’t have much choice. Cameron promised that he would be first on the list if a Minister resigned, but when he saw two resignations pass with no phone call, he must have wondered if he was right to believe the PM’s pledge. But on Saturday he finally entered the government, two months after he should have done. I sent him a text which contained two words: “Justice prevails”.
Bloody hell. £4.50 for a small egg mayonnaise roll in the ICC. And £8.65 if you add a bottle of Fanta and a Danish pastry. Daylight effin’ robbery. It turns out the ICC had put all their prices up especially for the visit of the rich Tories. Next week the prices go down again. And to think CCHQ has signed up for three conferences in this dire building.

Bournemouth MP Conor Burns was browsing the Blackwells bookshop at the conference and spied a tome called “How to manage your slaves”. Looking up he remarked: “There’s one for the Prime Minister’s reading list”. He was clearly joking. Wasn’t he? Well wasn’t he?!
Tuesday morning arrives and I receive a lovely email from Lord Feldman – he’s the co-chairman of the Conservative Party in case the fact had escaped your notice. It informed everything that was going on at the conference that day. Nicky Morgan is speaking. So is Theresa May, so is Jeremy Hunt. And I can join an exclusive session so he can reveal the party’s innermost general election plans. How exciting! But isn’t it strange how there is absolutely no mention of the fact that Boris Johnson is speaking that morning. Clearly nothing should be read into this. Nothing at all.

At the end of the month my new book comes out. It’s called THE NHS: THINGS THAT NEED TO BE SAID. I was invited this week to make a speech at a conference organised by something called the Westminster Health Forum. According to its website it “aims to provide the premier environment for policymakers in Parliament, Whitehall and government agencies to engage with key stakeholders in timely discussion on public policy relating to health and healthcare.” Basically, it’s a private company seeking to make a profit. Nothing wrong with that, except that it pretends that is something else. Places at their conferences cost £210 pus VAT and they get sponsorship for their events too. Strangely, though, they think that speakers should put in hours of work preparing a speech, and then deliver it for free. They say they don’t pay speakers so they can retain their impartiality. That gave me a good laugh. Just as well media organisations don’t take that ridiculous stance, otherwise I’d be a pauper.
Oh dear, the Bow Group decided to boycott the Conservative Party Conference. How it managed to survive without them, I just don’t know.

Interviewing Lord Ashcroft is always a memorable experience. I particularly remember the time when he came on my evening show and I asked him a question he clearly didn’t want to answer so he asked me about my porn collection (how did he know?!). It’s rare that I am lost for words… On Tuesday it happened again. The good Lord came on my LBC Drivetime show to talk about his polling and the next election. All was going well until he used the word ‘bullshit’ not once but three times within about ten seconds. OK, it’s not ‘f***’ or ‘c***’ but at 5pm you can’t really get away with it in the way you could later in the evening. I found myself uttering words like ‘I think that’s enough of that, if you don’t mind’, as my producer saw his career disappearing in front of him. Still, no mention of the porn collection. Result!
That’s nothing compared to what happened when Sir Christopher Meyer came on to talk about whether Brooks Newmark had been entrapped by the Sunday Mirror. He, of course, is a former chairman of the Press Complaints Commission. The interview was going well until the point when he described what had happened as a “cock and bull story”. I looked at him expecting to see a twinkle in his eye, but he clearly hadn’t realised what he had said. “So to speak…” was the only response I could think of. He then cottoned on and we both dissolved into fits of giggles for a few seconds. Live radio. You can’t beat it.

I caught the obligatory conference cold while in Manchester at Labour and still haven’t shaken it off. But I imagine the joy and delight of travelling up to Glasgow to spend 48 hours with the LibDems next week ought to do it. You can imagine how much I and the whole political lobby are looking forward to the LibDem conference. The phrase ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ doesn’t quite cover it. Still, plenty of opportunity for mischief.



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Julia Hartley-Brewer As You've Never Seen Her Before...

26 Sep 2014 at 14:15

All LBC presenters are doing ‘Fake Some Noise’ for the new Global Radio ‘Make Some Noise’ charity. This is Julia’s.It’s brilliant. I have recorded one as well, but having seen Julia’s I think I might redo it. I’ve done 99 Red Balloons, but in the original German. I’m thinking of redoing it now, and doing my usual karaoke song, ‘I want it that way’ by the Backstreet Boys. Or maybe a Meatloaf song. Decisions, decisions.


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ConHome Diary: Don't Even Ask, to Get On My Top 100 People on the Right List!

26 Sep 2014 at 14:14

I write this on the train back from Manchester having spent three days at the Labour Party conference. It was an odd affair. It was the quietest and most downbeat pre-election conference I think I have ever been to. Try as they might, they just couldn’t get the atmosphere going. The whole thing, including Ed Miliband’s speech was as flat as a pancake. It was like attending a party and after half an hour you whisper to your partner “how quickly do you think we can leave without being noticed?”
One of the more bizarre things I did at the conference was lip-synch, in German to Nena’s ’99 Red Balloons’, while having red balloons poured on to me from above. The things one does for ‘charidee’. The strange thing was, there were no red balloons to be found on any stand at the conference. How times change. So we had to go out and buy some. It was all in aid of Global Radio’s new ‘Make Some Noise’ charity appeal which is raising money for underprivileged children. My contribution came under the heading ‘Fake some noise’. I’ve always been good at that. But the least said about it, the better.

I’ve been attending party conferences since 1985, and Labour conferences since 1998. I’ve heard some pretty rancid leader’s speeches in my time, but this year’s effort from Ed Miliband ranks down there with the worst. His ‘look, no notes!’ approach is superficially impressive, unless of course you end up forgetting to actually say anything about the two issues of most concern to voters – the economy and immigration. Still, at least he didn’t utter any nonsense about ‘being here to stay’ and ‘turning up the volume’. I remember IDS’s 2003 conference speech as if it were yesterday. I had just been selected as a candidate in North Norfolk, so was naturally delighted when Adam Boulton asked if I’d like to do the post speech commentary with him from the Sky box above the conference floor. But after twenty minutes I was thinking, ‘Jesus this is awful, what on earth do I say?’ Adam Boulton kept grinning at me, clearly relishing putting my on the spot. I could see my political career disappearing down the plughole if I said anything remotely honest. Eleven years on I can’t remember what I said, but I think I managed to keep on the tightrope somehow. This is why I always have some sympathy for politicians who tour the TV studios having to pretend that whatever their dear leader had said meant it was the greatest political oration since Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a Dream’ speech. What is great on radio, though, is that you can see that whatever the politicians’ mouths are saying, their eyes and faces are saying something very different. Weren’t they, Tessa Jowell?! Simon Danczuk, the outspoken Labour MP for Rochdale was characteristically honest. He told me: “I wonder if this speech will reach further than left wing Guardian readers.” Even then, I’m not sure many of them will have taken much notice of it.
We’ve just stopped at Stoke on Trent. Not for long, thankfully.

During next week’s Conservative Party conference The Times will be publishing my annual Top 100 People on the Right list. Prepare for a few surprises. Doing these lists each year is a great opportunity to make new friends, and a whole lot of enemies. Luckily, it’s compiled by a panel of people so when I am accosted by someone who has been thrown off the list or demoted by 20 places I can truthfully pass off the blame onto others! It doesn’t always work, though. One former Conservative minister was bereft that he didn’t feature. “But we’ve been friends for years; how could you?” he bleated. “After all, you chair the judges, you could have overruled them,” he continued. “Yes,” I said, “I could have. And if you hadn’t been so bloody useless over the last year, I might have.” End of conversation. The ones I really hate are those who email me in the weeks leading up to the event asking to be included. The shamelessness of it never ceases to amaze me. It almost guarantees exclusion. I’d love to name and shame, but that would be very unfair, wouldn’t it?
Could I just make clear that, unlike Gareth, I have never met Ed Miliband on Hampstead Heath. I thank you. In fact, contrary to popular rumour, I have never actually been to Hampstead Heath.

If you’re in Birmingham next week, do come and say hi on the Global Radio Stand, where I’ll be broadcasting my LBC show from on the Monday and Tuesday. I’ll also be hosting an Audience with Christopher Biggins on the Tuesday night (don’t ask), the Bright Blue fringe on welfare on Sunday at 5.30 (why did I agree to that? The Ryder Cup is on!) and the Freedom Association event on the BBC licence fee on Tuesday lunchtime in the Freedom Zone. I’m also doing a booksigning on the Blackwells stand on Tuesday at 10.30. Enough already. And after all that it’s off to the Liberal Democrats in Glasgow. Joy of joys.



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ConHome: Despite the'No' Vote, Cameron Is Still On The Skids

19 Sep 2014 at 14:42

The devil in me really wanted the Yes Campaign to win. Not because I would necessarily have supported them, but because it would have been fascinating to see the fallout from a Yes result. We’ll never know now, but would the dire warnings of the Better Together campaign really have come true, or would Scotland have surged ahead without the English yoke around its neck. From a journalistic point of view it would have been an astonishing rollercoaster to be able to report and commentate on. Would RBS really have relocated its operation to London? Would supermarket prices really have rocketed? Would George Osborne have stuck by his pledge not to allow Scotland to keep the Pound? Would Alex Salmond have let Trident submarines continue to use Faslane after all? We’ll never know the answer to those questions now.
It’s quite clear to me that David Cameron is now at the most dangerous point in his nine year long leadership of the Conservative Party. His complete mishandling of the Scottish independence issue sits very badly with many MPs and members of the Conservative & Unionist Party. His rather pathetic moist-eyed speeches in the latter part of the campaign didn’t display any leadership whatsoever. They showed a rather pathetic prime minister who thought he’d try to get people to empathise rather than follow. It was like a bad X Factor audition, where the contestant knows they have performed badly and tells Simon Cowell how much “I really want this”. At times I half expected him to get an onion out of his pocket. I said right at the beginning of this campaign that Cameron needed to take the fight to Alex Salmond. He should have taken part in the debates, and taken the unionist cause to the Scots head on. It is complete nonsense that the Tories are toxic in Scotland. Margaret Thatcher got more votes in general elections than the SNP ever has. Even now, the Tory vote share is only four points behind the SNP. Yes, they only have one MP, but their vote share is roughly the same as the LibDems who have 11. Cameron had an opportunity here and he blew it, not just by ruling out a third question on the ballot paper on Devo-Max but by remaining aloof from the fight. By only going up to Scotland three times in the last ten days it was inevitable that there would be accusations of panic. And those accusations were 100% true. The truly pathetic sight of the three Westminster leaders rushing up to Scotland, and then the publication of promise after promise, or bribe after bribe, showed the Westminster elite at their absolute worst. They played right into the hands of Alex Salmond. Time will tell as to how much panic there is among Tory MPs. It’s entirely conceivable that even with a No result more than 46 MPs will sign letters calling for a leadership election. Cameron has been given the benefit of the doubt for a long time. He may now find he has used up all the remaining goodwill he had left. But the question any Tory MP calling for a leadership election must answer is this: If not Cameron, then who? I have to say I have no answer to that question.

You read this after I have just completed a marathon eight hour session presenting LBC’s coverage of the Scottish Independence referendum coverage from the main Edinburgh count. And that comes on top of presenting Drive last night from Glasgow. Indeed, I’m about to start preparing for tonight’s Drivetime show as well. It’s the sort of timetable that gets the adrenalin flowing. There’s only so much you can do to prepare shows like this. In a sense you rely on the drama to get you through it. I revel in these situations and love presenting on breaking news stories – and they don’t come much bigger than this. Yes, it can be a bit rough and ready but listeners quite like that. You can use humour far more than in a normal show, and have a bit of banter with your co-presenter which isn’t possible when you’re on your own. Contrast our show with what the BBC gave us. I had one producer with me at the count, and there were two more back at LBC in London, together with a tech-op and someone answering the phones. I don’t know how many people were working on 5 Live’s coverage, but it would have been several dozen, if not in the hundreds. And I reckon we gave them a run for their money, both with the speed of our response, the guests we interviewed and the analysis we gave. And we gave our listeners the chance to ring in and comment to, and some of the views they imparted really contributed to the evening. I felt we really were ‘leading Britain’s conversation’ throughout the night. Unlike the BBC we weren’t just on broadcast mode – we were on ‘receive’ too.
The reverberations from the result of the Independence Referendum will be felt for many years to come in British politics. Perhaps the main consequence will be the revival of a moderate kind of English nationalism. The three political parties threw the kitchen sink and much else besides in their attempt to bribe the Scots into voting no. And it left many people in England thinking, OK, so we subsidise the Scots, and now our elites want to give them sweeping powers to govern themselves which we in England just don’t have? Where’s the fairness in that? The answer is of course that there is no fairness at all. Scottish MPs will continue to vote on laws which only apply to England, and the astonishing thing is that most of them see nothing wrong with that. Labour’s answer to Scottish devolution is to rehash their proposals for devolution for English regions. I have yet to meet anyone who thinks a regional assembly for East Anglia will improve the governance of Norfolk. Those of us who have long supported the creation of an English Parliament still face an uphill battle to persuade the political elites that its time has come. It doesn’t require more politicians, or even a new building, or more bureaucracy. All it means is that the House of Commons would meet as a whole for two days a week, and in the other two it would meet with only English, or English & Welsh & Northern Irish MPs, to discuss and debate matters pertaining to those three countries. I cannot for the life of me see why that would be difficult to arrange, or that it would be unfair. Yes, it would create two classes of MPs, but so what? If Scottish MPs continue to vote on the English NHS, or the English roads system, when the decisions they are voting on have no relevance to their constituents, there will be trouble ahead. We’ve seen the divisive consequences a resurgent nationalism can have in Scotland. Do we really want to see that in England? Because if our lords and masters aren’t careful, we soon will.

Like many people I have a Google alert on myself. You might think this is yet another example of my giant ego, but frankly I need to see what people are saying about me. Many has been the time when I have been quoted as believing something which is the opposite of what I really think. It enables me to hit back [enough self-justification – ed]. So it was some incredulity that I read an alert on Tuesday from an article in The Economist which said this…
“The loss of Scoland would be very disadvantageous to the Labour party, which has 40 Scottish MPs to one Conservative; the right wing blogger Iain Dale seems to be campaigning quite strongly on this issue, perhaps for that reason.).”
Apart from the fact that The Economist finds it difficult to spell Scotland, I was rather mystified as I couldn’t recall any public utterances from myself on the issue of Labour MPs in Scotland. The mystery was solved when I clicked on the article to find that my name had mysteriously been replaced with the words ‘Guido’ and ‘Fawkes’. You’d have thought that The Economist might have been able to tell the difference. Let me spell it out for them. One is a gossip mongering, Thatcherite blogger who writes some poisonous stuff about politics, and the other is Guido Fawkes. Got it? Er…
Next Monday The Times will be publishing the first instalment of The Top 100 Most Influential People on the Left list. With the help of an expert panel, this is the seventh year I have compiled this list. And I have to say the lobbying to be included on it, or the sister list, The Top 100 People on the Right, has never been stronger. “You are going to include me, aren’t you?” I am regularly asked. The shamelessness of it never ceases to amaze me. Were I on the other side of it it’s not something even my well-developed ego [there’s that word again] would ever dream of asking. At least, I hope I wouldn’t. I have to say, though, that no one has ever lobbied me to be included on the Top 50 Liberal Democrats list. Strange, that. Anyway, do sign up to The Times Red Box email which will carry the 100-51 placings on Monday, followed by the Top 50 in the paper on Tuesday, the day of Ed Miliband’s conference speech. Will he retain his position at the top of the list? Only one way to find out.



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