TV/Film/Theatre

The Ugly Side of Britain's Got Talent

1 Jun 2013 at 19:03

Like millions of others I am gripped by Britain’s Got Talent. But I do wonder how responsible it is to put very young children on a stage like this. In Tuesday’s semi-final, the first three places were taken by children under the age of 14. There’s no denying that they were all very talented, but are they being judged by the same standards as the adult competitors.

I have never seen Simon Cowell rip a child to shreds in the same way that he does with an adult. I’m not saying he should, but maybe it’s time to separate the kids from the adults. Jack Carroll, a 14 year old comedian with cerebral palsey was indeed funny. He writes his own jokes. Gabz is a 14 year old female rap singer who writes her own material and is genuinely talented. But were they actually better than Alice Fredenham a singer with a voice like liquid gold, according to Cowell? No, but they have the ‘ahhhhh’ factor and she doesn’t.

Think back four years when a young girl – she can’t have been more than 10 – collapsed in tears during a live performance and had to be comforted by Amanda Holden. I repeat, this was live on TV. It was certainly a gripping moment, and the audience was transfixed, but it was exploitative in the extreme. It also leads a generation of children to believe that the way to be successful in life is to appear on TV. In some ways I don’t blame ITV or Simon Cowell for this, I blame the parents who allow their children to be exploited in this way. Some of the parents push their children to the limits so they can bask in their reflected glory. I’m not saying this happens in every case, but it is far too prevalent for my liking. Why would a parent put this kind of pressure on a child? I am sure in many cases it’s the child who is pushing to do it, but most responsible parents know that very often, you just have to say ‘no’.

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Best of Iain's Mental Health Programmes

Half hour compilation of some of the most memorable moments of Iain's emotional discussions on mental health issues.

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Random Thoughts

A Day in The Life Of...

31 May 2013 at 22:07

I sometimes think I lead a very strange kind of life. Today was no exception. Here are a few of the things I did today…

  • My 8th Conservative Home Diary appeared
  • EDP Column published
  • Got recognised at Woolwich Dockyard station with the words: “Hello Mr Whale!”
  • Did a photoshoot for Attitude Magazine
  • Decided to buy the Hugo Boss suit Attitude dressed me in
  • Met two lesbian ‘queens’ at the photoshoot (see the next issue!)
  • Finalised a serialisation for James Wharton’s book OUT IN THE ARMY
  • Was interviewed on Boulton & Co by Adam Boulton
  • Approved a draft cover for David Weir’s autobiography WEIRWOLF
  • Hosted a radio discussion on the badger cull
  • Met Lenny Henry and interviewed him about his new theatre production, FENCES
  • Hosted a radio discussion on the reform to legal aid (and upset lawyers)
  • Interviewed Vince Cable about apprenticeships
  • Met Andy McNab to do a half hour interview about his book BRAVO TWO ZERO
  • Ended the day digging a splinter out of my foot, while watching BRITAIN’S GOT TALENT!

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Lady Pamela Hicks

Iain talks to Lady Pamela Hicks, daughter of Lord Louis Mountbatten, talks about her new book, DAUGHTER OF EMPIRE

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Video: Interview on Sky News on Patrick Mercer

31 May 2013 at 17:37

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Peter Sissons

Peter Sissons discusses his career in journalism and broadcasting.

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ConservativeHome Diary Week 8: So, Vince Cable Has a Point!

31 May 2013 at 17:34

So Vince Cable is at it again – criticising the very government he is a member of. This time, it’s about immigration policy. He thinks that public concerns over immigration have been fanned by the promise of an immigration cap. He also points out that we are losing the fees of thousands of students, particularly from India, who believe the cap applies to them, when it doesn’t. I suppose you could argue that they can’t be very intelligent if they can’t be bothered to look at the facts, but even so, a very mixed message is being sent out. If UK universities don’t take these students they will go to Australia, Canada or the US. Is that really what we want to happen? OK, there are no doubt the odd ones who overstay their visas, but is that really a big enough of a problem that we jeopardise the whole future of some of our universities. And when the visa system throws up examples like this, you do have to wonder what’s going on.

Vince Cable reports: “I was at one of our leading engineering companies a few months ago. I was introduced to the chief engineer, who was making the most sophisticated engines for Formula 1 cars and he happened to be Indian, and he was coming to the end of his visa and under the existing rules he was going to have to go back to India and reapply for admission to the UK, right in the middle of a high-pressure contract. It was completely absurd. But that is the kind of restriction that is introduced in order to placate public panic that does create an economic harm.”
It’s not often I agree with Vince Cable, but he has a point on this occasion, doesn’t he?


Loyalty was said to be the Conservative Party’s secret weapon. That dictum seems to have been ditched circa 1990. There are too many people in today’s Tory Party who appear to believe that UKIP can be won over by appeasing them. They should ‘get real’. There is nothing David Cameron can ever say that wouldn’t prevent Nigel Farage from wanting that little bit more. UKIP is the enemy of the Conservative Party and it’s about time some people at both Conservative grassroots level, and among MPs, realised that. If they don’t realise it now, they certainly will in June next year when UKIP wins the European elections. Then watch the fun really start.


I was going to follow up last week’s piece on the Bow Group, but do you know what? I just can’t be arsed. Judging from the reactions I have had in my Inbox, though, it hit a bit of a raw nerve. Some very interesting things to follow up… More another time. Perhaps.


I see Tim Yeo has done a complete volte-face on climate change, which he now reckons might not be man-made after all. You couldn’t make it up. Last time I wrote about him and his various commercial interests he phoned me up bitterly complaining about what I had written and pointing out that it was all above board and declared. I’m sure it is, I said. Doesn’t make it right, though, does it? How a Member of Parliament can chair the Environment Select Committee and take more than a few shillings from various environmental companies is beyond me. In politics, perception is just as important as reality, and Tim Yeo knows that just as well as the rest of us.


If you’re reading this on Friday morning over your morning cereal, try not to think of what I am doing at this very moment. I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with Attitude Magazine, but it is a lifestyle magazine for the gayers. Anyway, I have been invited to do a photoshoot for them. Before you sick up your cornflakes, there will be no nudity or leopardskin thongs involved. For shame, I hear you cry. It’s all because I am about to start writing a monthly column for them. They want a right of centre perspective in their magazine. Traditionally the gay press has always been a bit leftie, so it’s a departure for them. And for those of you who go a bit queasy whenever the word ‘gay’ is mentioned, think of it this way. If 5-10% of the UK population is gay, isn’t it a good idea for the right to engage properly? In some constituencies the gay vote – if such a thing exists – could decide the outcome. I take the view that there are very few people who vote purely on gay issues, because funnily enough gay people generally lead very ordinary lives and have the same concerns as anyone else.


Politicians rarely do well on Have I Got News For You. Michael Fabricant experienced a car crash a few weeks ago, yet last week Jacob Rees-Mogg triumphed. He charmed his fellow panellists and the audience. He even revealed that host Alexander Armstrong was a descendent of William the Conqueror and thereby his wife’s cousin. I do think the Conservative Party should find a proper role for Mr Mogg. I am just not quite sure what it is. Deputy Chairman for Conservative Future?


Ann Widdecombe’s memoirs are published next week. Despite the title of Strictly Ann, the book does not, contrary to popular rumour, have a picture of her on the cover dressed in Lederhosen brandishing a whip. I am afraid I am responsible for her writing the book. She used to tell me she wouldn’t ever write her autobiography, as she didn’t want a friendless old age. And then she bought a house in the middle of Dartmoor! I told her she owed it to history to write her version of events and being a woman who always does her duty, that seemed to do the trick. Judging by the serialisation in last week’s Mail on Sunday she certainly hasn’t written a book full of caveats. Good. She will be on my LBC show next Friday between 7 and 8pm talking about the book if you’d like to tune in.


I got a call on Wednesday from a PR company asking if I would be covering next week’s announcement on legal aid and reform of the courts service on my radio show. They would be happy to provide a spokesman to denounce the government’s proposals. Not that they knew what they were, natch. And who are you representing, I asked. The Bar Council, came the reply. Ah, I said, a vested interest. Ah, but we have to keep access to justice affordable for all, said the PR. Yes, of course, I replied. I asked him to come back to me when any member of the Bar Council charged a rate of less than £400 an hour. I’m not sure he took the point. In the end I decided to do a phone in on Chris Grayling’s plans to save £1 billion a year by introducing private sector disciplines into the running of our courts. I must admit I expected every single caller to denounce the plans, but not a bit of it. Call after call saying it couldn’t possibly be worse than how the courts are being run at the moment. So if Chris Grayling can fight of the vested interests in the legal profession, and ensure that no contracts are awarded to G4 or Capita, he might well be onto an electoral winner.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Sandi Toksvig

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Books

Book Review: Red by Gary Neville

25 May 2013 at 15:26

I’ve never met Gary Neville. But I’ve never liked him. Until now. His football punditry is excellent, insightful, and he displays a sense of humour we never knew he had. And it’s all present in his autobiography RED. OK, it was co-written with footie journalist Matt Dickinson, but it still carries Neville’s voice. Football auto biographies are very variable and I read a lot of them. I try to steer clear of ghosted books, but this one is better than most.

Neville revels (see what I did there?) in the fact that most non Man U fans can’t stand him. But they should still read this book, as it is a fairly honest and insightful account of twenty years of Manchester United dominating British football. Of particular interest is his relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson. he clearly idolises the man, but they certainly had their differences.

He is especially good at analysing our various international failures. He thinks both Hoddle and Keegan got the job too early. He thought a lot of Sven but it’s clear that he felt he was too weak in his management style.

Anyway, this is a good book, not a great book. Eminently enjoyable sitting on the toilet.

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ConservativeHome Diary Week 7: Here's an Election Winning Idea!

24 May 2013 at 17:26

I’m not quite sure what has happened to the Bow Group. It seems to have disappeared up its own backside, putting out daily press releases which seem designed to undermine the Conservative Party leadership at every opportunity. I remember when it considered itself a pseudo think tank, coming up with worthy (but often very dull) policy proposals, some of which were even adopted by Tory governments. It’s a long time since that happened. The Bow Group has now come under the control of a self-publicist who goes by the name of Ben Harris-Quinney. He doubles as director of Conservative Grassroots. Press releases from the latter organisation are sent from Bow Group email addresses, thereby blurring the two organisations, who, I would have thought, have very different aims. Mr Harris-Quinney’s main aim seems to take the government to task for its stance on gay marriage and his main weapon is to persuade 30 rather elderly Tory constituency chairmen to deliver regular letters to the doorstep of Number 10. Quite how pictures of 30 elderly gentlemen standing outside the Prime Minister’s home is meant to further whatever aim Mr Harris-Quinney has, only he can explain. Former Bow Groupers are said to be horrified at what has happened to a once august and respected organisation.


With less than two years to go before the next election it’s around now that the party starts creating policy groups to think up vote winning wheezes for the next manifesto. Let me suggest one which could help retain several Tory marginal in south Essex and north Kent. It’s a simple one, really. Abolish tolls on the Dartford crossing and remove the toll booths and barriers. Congestion would disappear overnight and local commuters would save money. It would cost a piffling amount of money which could easily be absorbed into the roads budget. This week Transport Minister made the welcome announcement that he is consulting on a new, third crossing, but that wouldn’t be built for another ten years. Long suffering motorists were promised that the tolls would disappear once the bridge was paid for. That happened in 2004, so what happened? Well, the Labour government said it was no longer a toll, it became a congestion charge, thus conveniently ignoring the fact that were it not for the toll barriers, there wouldn’t be any congestion. So if I were Gary Johnson, Mark Reckless, Jackie Doyle-Price, Stephen Metcalfe, Adam Holloway or Tracey Crouch I know what I’d be doing now…


I regard Gerald Howarth as a mate. He’s a distinguished parliamentarian and great company. But when he talks about gay issues the pink mist descends. It’s as if he is having an out of body experience. I hesitate to use the description ‘swivel eyed’ fear of any journalist listening. And so it was on Monday that he warned us that if the “aggressive homosexual community” had its way on marriage law reform it would “be a stepping stone to something even further.” It was a pity he didn’t spell out just what he meant by that. Presumably he thinks it could lead to us forceful gayers demanding the right to sleep with three year olds, or that we should be able to marry our grandfathers, or something even more ridiculous. Actually Gerald, all people want is the same chance that you had. To marry the person you love. And as for the concept of “aggressive homosexuals” I can imagine pink badges already being manufactured, simply festooned with the word ‘boo’. I think I can safely say that the only aggressive demand to be made by the gay community is for the Eurovision Song Contest to be made monthly, rather than annual. It’s not much to ask, is it?


I much enjoy Michael Fabricant’s tweets. They are often hilarious. When he started tweeting I remarked to a friend that it seemed to me his tweets had one aim in mind and that was to be invited on Have I Got News For You. It seems I was right. This week, for lack of anything better to do, I caught up with his appearance a couple of weeks ago on the programme. It was a car crash. Humour never works when you appear to be trying too hard. At times I wanted to hide behind the sofa, it was so cringeworthy. A few years ago I got invited onto the Irish version of HIGFY in Dublin. Imagine it, a British Tory on an Irish comedy programme. It was never going to work, was it? I soon discovered that I wasn’t quite as funny as I thought I was and I couldn’t wait for it to end. I suspect Fab went through a similar epiphany on HIGFY.


Just how does Boris do it? This week we discovered that he had fathered another child out of wedlock. It caused barely a ripple in the press. Even the Daily Mail relegated it to page 5. Is this a post Leveson effect or simply another example of the Mayor of London proving that he can get away with things no other politician could?


Theresa May did a most odd thing when responding to the Woolwich terror attack. She tried to pretend she was being interviewed, but clearly wasn’t. She was looking at someone who was clearly pretending to be a mute interviewer, and she then gave a series of answers to questions which hadn’t actually been asked. It looked very odd indeed. Don’t do it again, Theresa. Either do it straight to camera, or allow yourself to be interviewed. Elementary PR advice.
**********

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to West Ham Co-Chair David Gold

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter: No 10 - Freebies

24 May 2013 at 14:38

Back in the hey-day of music radio, when men were men and children should have been very afraid, I’m told that virtually every day radio presenters would be sent loads of freebies. Free clothes, free food, free whatever. Those days are long gone, and rightly so. But we presenters do still get sent the odd thing. It’s usually food. A couple of weeks ago I got sent a nice mini hamper from Regents Park Open Air theatre.I don’t quite know what they hoped to achieve by it though. Did they really think it would get them a mention on air? Some of us are not so easily bought. I have a policy with these things. I never take them home. I open them and leave them for LBC producers (mainly Carl McQueen) to gannet themselves on. Cos I’m thoughtful like that.

But yesterday, I saw in the Global Radio reception a huge box, measuring about 3×3×3 feet addressed to me from something called a Foodie Festival. Goody, goody I thought. More food for Carl. Anyway, someone had brought it up to LBC when I came off air last night so I decided to open it. Inside this huge box was a white balloon, a bar of chocolate and a small tin of tea. To say it was underwhelming would be an understatement. Carl will now have to starve.

What did the Foodie Festival PR geniuses hope to achieve by leading me to think it was going to be a box of foodie delight? All they achieved was to instil a sense of complete letdown and to encourage me to write a snide blogpost.

What will really be interesting is to find out what happens tomorrow morning when Ken Livingstone and David Mellor fight like ferrets over who is to have the chocolate and who is left with the tea. Probably best if Carl keeps the box for himself. Which he probably would have anyway…

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Ray Davies

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Personal

Dude, I Need a New Laptop!

23 May 2013 at 23:19

Dude , I need a new laptop. And it’s all your fault. In case you think I’ve gone mad, Dude is my Jack Russell, and thanks to him I’m going to have to trot off to the Sony Centre and buy a new Vaio. And before you start, don’t even think of suggesting I get a Mac. Invention of the devil. A few months ago Dude knocked my laptop off the sofa, an event which resulted in the power lead never fitting properly. It keeps dropping out of the hole, if you’ll pardon the expression. Yesterday he surpassed himself by walking across the keyboard, his paws managing to dislodge the Function key in the process. Now I can’t fix it back into its rightful place. Naughty Dude. I think that’s a perfect justification for a new computer, don’t you? I’m sure Dude does.

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter: No 9 - Handling Breaking News of a Potential Terror Incident

22 May 2013 at 20:48

I’m writing this forty five minutes after coming off air from possibly the most challenging four hours of radio I am ever likely to be faced with. So forgive me if this is at all rambling or disjointed.

Sometime after 3pm this afternoon our Classic FM newsreader came over to my producer Matt Harris and said there was an ongoing incident in Woolwich. It looked as if someone had been killed with a machete or samurai sword and that armed police had shot the two people behind the attack. Eavesdropping, it was clear to me that this was a story which would dominate my four hour Drivetime show. At that point it had never entered my head that it could be a terror incident. As details started to come in I tweeted out asking for witnesses to phone our newsroom – frankly it was more in hope than expectation, but at around a quarter to four I noticed Matt was deep in conversation with someone on the phone. As the clock edged toward 4pm I wondered what on earth he could be talking about seeing as we needed to head down to the studio. It soon became clear. “Do a short intro telling people what we know – then get into the call quickly. James was there. He can tell us everything.”

And indeed he did. I’ve done some emotional interviews in my time. As it went on I thought to myself: “He’s still in shock”. It was gripping listening and in some ways very upsetting. I suspect I wasn’t alone in trying to hold my emotions in check. And for once I succeeded. I won’t go through exactly what James told us, but you can listen for yourself. It really is worth listening to the whole thing.

It was clear to me that this was far worse than we had ever contemplated. Calm, I thought. Just keep calm. Stick to what we know and don’t say anything unnecessarily provocative. The thing I hate in breaking news is when presenters hype up a story and keep on giving out unverified information. I was lucky to have my LBC colleague John Cushing in the studio with me, along with security expert Will Geddes. We then took a couple more eyewitness calls, including this one from Lauren, who had been on a bus which arrived at the scene shortly after it had happened.

We were later joined by Robert Fox, the Evening Standard’s defence correspondent and talked on the phone to various police, armed forces and security experts. It soon became clear that the Met and the government were treating it as a terror incident so our coverage needed to change to reflect that, and I hope we transitioned into that in a manner which our listeners found informative.

I then decided to give our muslim listeners an opportunity to tell me their reaction to what had happened. If I were a muslim my heart would have sunk and I’d have been thinking ‘here we go again’. We have a lot of calls, most of which I couldn’t get to, but they all had the same message. Not in our name.

By this time, the Daily Mail were using our interview with James, and Sky News flashed up a giant LBC logo as they replayed part of it. I was being deluged with texts and tweets from other journalists asking or James’s number. I’m afraid I had to say that he was in no condition to do more interviews, especially as I had finished my interview by telling him I thought he could do with talking to someone who could counsel him properly. It was the responsible thing to do, I thought.

So, as I travel on the train back to Tonbridge the professional radio presenter in me was grateful to have been on air during such a major breaking news story, but there’s a small part of me that keeps thinking ‘could I have done that better? Did I strike the right tone? Was I asking the right questions?’ Judging by the reaction on Twitter I did, but I’m sure as my head hits the pillow tonight I will be thinking of that one thing I wanted to say but didn’t.

A quick thank you to the superb LBC team today – Matt, Laura, Chris, John, Tom and Rachel in particular. And that’s what it was. A team effort. Without a cross word! Not bad over four hours. I love live radio!

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ConservativeHome Diary Week 6: Who Are The Harlots of British Politics?

19 May 2013 at 10:25

Back in 2009 I published Nigel Farage’s autobiography. Not a single bookshop chain would stock it. Booksellers have always been of a leftish persuasion and they proved impossible to shift. In late 2011 we published an updated version, called Flying Free, which contained three added chapters, including the full story of his plan crash on election day. He had also regained the leadership of UKIP, but Waterstone’s still weren’t interested. Of all the books I have published, this book has sold the highest per centage on Amazon, largely because bookshops wouldn’t stock it. However, out of the blue last week Waterstone’s have placed a large order and you should now find the book in most of their stores. Even they can now see very clearly which way the wind is blowing. I emailed Nigel to tell him the good news and he replied by saying: “Thank you for the good news. You are now represented by a UKIP councillor.” Which indeed, I am. I will leave it to your imagination to guess which one of the three members of the Dale household helped bring that about.


Unfortunately I missed the party of the week, held in David Davis’s office. I was too busy not winning a Sony Radio Award. The bash was imaginatively titled “the Return of the Prodigal Daughter Party”, and it was to welcome Nadine Dorries back into the fold. Quite unbelievably, people in Number 10 tried their best to ensure a non-attendance from the 2010 intake by making veiled threats like “remember there’s a reshuffle coming up” and the like. They even called a meeting of backbenchers in Number 10 to try to scupper the attendance. Perhaps they should take a leaf out of David Davis’s book and embrace sinners that repent. I well remember the day in October 2005 when Nadine, who had been one of David’s proposers in the first round, came down to his office to tell him face to face she was supporting Cameron in the second round. At least she had the courage to do it to his face, unlike one of her female contemporaries who decided to announce it on the World at One. I remember ringing her and saying it might have been nice to tell David himself before she went on the media. “Oh, really?” she said, it clearly never having crossed her mind. She quickly sent a handwritten note down. I threw it in the bin.


Talking of the “Prodical Daughter”, as she shall henceforth be known, it is very interesting to compare her fortunes over suggesting Tory MPs stand on a joint ticket at the next election, to that of the rising star Nicholas Boles. In his book Which Way’s Up he suggested that at the next election Tory MPs should, in some circumstances stand on a join Conservative/LibDem ticket. Nadine has now suggested that they should stand on a Conservative/UKIP ticket. Nick Boles was promoted, while the usual Tory sources treat Nadine with derision. It is perfectly easy to argue a political case against what Nadine is suggesting (something I have to say I don’t agree with any more than I agreed with Nick Boles), but what is not acceptable is this idea that anything Nadine says or suggests should be dismissed as something coming from a dippy woman.


Have you ever read a column in a newspaper and thought “Damn, I wish I had written that?” I had that moment on Wednesday morning when I read Iain Martin’s Telegraph column “Cameron and his party conspire to create a Euro shambles”. It encapsulated the very thoughts I was too inarticulate to put down on paper. I would truly love to know what the Prime Minister’s real view on Europe is, because after the last few days I am buggered if I know. I would have thought he would have learned from the Major years, but it appears not. John Major’s view was shaped by whatever was said by whoever spoke to him most recently. One moment he was the “most Eurosceptic member of the Cabinet”, the next he wanted to be at heart of Europe. Time to choose, Prime Minister. No one respects someone whose main aim on this issue seems to be to follow public opinion rather than lead it.


Quelle surprise that the BBC has appointed a Guardianista, Ian Katz, to be the new editor of Newsnight. Employing its former political correspondent clearly wasn’t enough for them. What Andrew Marr called the BBC’s ‘liberal mindset’ is clearly alive and well in Broadcasting House. It’s an odd appointment in many ways as Katz has absolutely no experience of working in television. He’s actually a very nice guy and in my experience isn’t particularly lefty and I wish him well. He certainly leaves a hole at The Guardian. Perhaps they might dare to promote a woman to replace him. That would be a first.


The LibDems have always been the harlots of British politics but their stance on a European referendum really has to come under closer scrutiny. They try to pretend that their policy of offering an In/Out referendum was always linked to some dramatic power push by Brussels. No it wasn’t. It was independent of any treaty change. The leaflet that Edward Leigh held up at PMQs was clear. No mention of treaty change. Clegg tried to wriggle out of it, but no reasonable person could interpret their words in any other way than I have. “Only a referendum on British membership of the EU will let the people decide out country’s future.” It continues “Labour don’t want the people to have their say.” No change there then. And this is the next sentence: “The Conservatives only support a limited referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Why won’t they give the people a say in a real referendum?” That’s about as clear as it can be. And it’s why Cameron should have used government time to put his Draft Referendum Bill to Parliament in government time. It would have flushed out the LibDems and also put Ed Miliband in a quandary. But once again the children in Downing Street have flunked it.

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Video: Iain Dale & Mark Pack Assess the Coalition So Far

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