ConHome Diary: Sajid Javid's Charisma & Why Tom Watson Shouldn't Be Unreservedly Condemned

16 Oct 2015 at 14:12

It was obviously a cunning plan by the Prime Minister to let Jeremy Corbyn get the better of him at PMQs yesterday. A clear sign of the government’s ‘Keep Corbyn in Place’ plan. Clearly.
I’m writing this diary in my hotel room in Frankfurt, the very definition of a soulless city. I hate the place. It’s four years since I’ve been to the annual book fair, which is the largest one of its type anywhere in the world. For a week, Frankfurt gets taken over by booky people, and even that doesn’t really add to its charms. One thing the city authorities have introduced, though, is free train and bus travel for anyone attending the fair. Can you imagine Boris Johnson doing something similar? Me neither. Frankfurt’s taxi drivers are none too impressed, though. They went on strike. Imagine what they will do when Uber comes to Frankfurt.

The cynics will look at Nicky Morgan’s decision to allow a new grammar school in Kent to be opened through the prism of a future leadership campaign. Technically it is not a new school, merely an annexe of an existing one, although the existing one is ten miles away from the new one. With me so far? The decision is a long time coming, and it will certainly do Nicky Morgan’s reputation no harm in certain quarters.
The Prime Minister’s chief of staff Ed Llewelyn is a man of many talents. He’s done the job for ten years now and is undoubtedly one of David Cameron’s most trusted confidantes. Urbane, charming and ultra-clever, he’s just the sort of man you’d want batting for you in a negotiation. But he’s a confirmed Europhile. So the news that he is in charge of EU renegotiations, is, it has to be said, not likely to inspire confidence on the part of those who want a substantial renegotiation, rather than a cosmetic one. The fact that no one can actually identify the issues we’re actually renegotiating says a lot. I belong to the school of thought that these negotiations are pretty irrelevant anyway and that the In-Out referendum will be just that, rather than a vote of confidence or otherwise in what has been negotiated. There is nothing that the Prime Minister can do to satisfy John Redwood or Bill Cash, so there’s little point in trying. The EU will give Cameron one headline success and three or four token concessions that will be enough for him to triumphantly declare them all as a game-changer. But they will amount to little. I hope in two years’ time I will be proven wrong, but I have my doubts.

Credit to Stephen Tall for doing something that Dan Hodges, Danny Alexander and I wimped out of – running down Whitehall naked. Well, almost naked. In doing so he raised … no sniggering at the back … around £8,000 for charity. The thing is, Stephen could get away with it seeing as he has a body which wouldn’t feature on that Channel 4 show ‘Embarrassing Bodies’. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for myself. And let’s be honest, no one wants to see Danny Alexander’s ginger nuts swinging their way down Whitehall, do they? Apart from possibly a rather specialist audience.
Sajid Javid is often accused of lacking the charisma to be next party leader. Well not according to an email correspondent of mine who wrote to me this week. This is what he said: “Just want to mention how impressed I was by Savid Javid who re-opened our local Internet cafe last Friday. Knowing how busy the man must be he took the time to speak to every age group there including my wife and I who are pensioners. We were there to sell our CDs ‘a taste of skiffle’ and he came over to us and bought one in cash. We’re a 4 piece skiffle band who play to raise money for the British lung foundation and we also play at the Internet cafe regularly to raise money for their several youth projects. I’m not normally a Tory voter but I was bowled over by Mr Javid who has charisma by the bucket load and deserves all the success and could be the next prime minister. Many thanks, JD of the ‘6-5 specials’ skiffle band.”

It is entirely right for people to call on Tom Watson to issue a fulsome apology to Lady Brittan. His mistake was to make the accusations in public via Exaro News before actually sending the accusations he had received to the Police. And then he went totally OTT in his remarks in the Commons. However, we should also bear in mind that through the other allegations that Watson sent to the police there have been several convictions. The trouble is that nowadays this whole issue has become rather binary. We either believe the whole establishment were at it and that if someone’s name is mentioned there must be something in it, or we believe the whole thing is a put up job by mentally ill fantasists. It is, of course, neither one thing nor the other. The truth lies somewhere in between. So before we all condemn Tom Watson totally, or like Alice Thomson in The Times, call for him to stand down as an MP, we ought to pause for thought a little.



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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 39: And Over to the Travel

10 Oct 2015 at 09:16

For reasons best known to myself I have always wanted to read a travel bulletin. Well, on Thursday I did! I blackmailed James Rea, Managing Editor of LBC, into letting me do it on Shelagh Fogarty’s show by offering to donate money to the Global Radio Make Some Noise Appeal. He demanded double what I had offered, but we came to a happy compromise… So Jay Louise Knight wrote me a script and off I went. She helpfully included some Welsh names and towns called Weeford and Cockermouth in order to try to make me corpse. Watch the clip above and see how I did.

And as a special treat, here’s the video of me doing Karaoke on Thursday with my two LBC colleagues, Michael Keohan and Chris Hemmings, also to support Make Some Noise. Our rendition of I WANT IT THAT WAY was the hit of the day. Ahem.

Make Some Noise: Iain Dale Does The Backstreet Boys

Iain Dale sings the Backstreet Boys for Global's Make Some Noisehttp://l-bc.co/XHCMmr

Posted by LBC on Thursday, October 8, 2015



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ConHome Diary: The Tory MP Who Imagines Boris & Putin Mudrestling

9 Oct 2015 at 15:02

The Conservative conference was never going to be exciting. Party strategists decided to make it as boring as possible. Yes, there would be the odd big policy announcement, but in general if the Tories could escape Manchester with no adverse headlines, it would be a job well done. Things, however, are never quite that simple.
Most of the media looked at this entire conference through the prism of who will succeed David Cameron when the time comes. It may be four years too early, but hey, it keeps people like me in work.

At the end of the conference we know little more than we did at the start. We know George Osborne is taking on more and more domestic policy responsibilities and that he wants to position the Tories to eat into the working class Labour vote. He gave an accomplished performance on Monday and left no one in any doubt as to whether he sees himself as Cameron’s natural successor.

On Tuesday it was the turn of Boris Johnson and Theresa May to impress. Or not. Theresa May surprised us all by giving a very right wing speech entirely about immigration. Having warned the Tories at their 2002 conference they were in danger of seeing the nasty party, thirteen years on she seemed determined to prove the truth of that remark. It may have gone down well with a certain group of Tory members, but the Westminster media hated it. She’s clearly calculated that neither Boris Johnson nor George Osborne will be the candidates of the right, so she might as well slip her kitten heals into that gap.

Boris Johnson gave the undoubted hit speech of the conference, and he needed to. His stock has fallen since his return to Parliament and in ConservativeHome polls he has dropped to third place in the leadership stakes. He seemed to have lost his MoJo (or possibly BoJo) and has done little to impress. Three or four years out from a leadership election, this is still important. If he is to make the final round, he needs to win the support of his fellow MPs and he knows he has a mountain to climb. The 2015 intake don’t know him and are slightly in awe of him. He’s failed to cultivate the 2010 intake, and those who served with him when he was last in parliament remember his shambolic performance on the front bench and his inability to be part of a team.

But it was David Cameron’s speech that most will remember from this conference. He showed them what they will be missing when he departs in a few years’ time. His articulation of the case for liberal social reform was quite something, especially the passage on equality being the key to opportunity. His forceful denunciation of ‘passive tolerance’ of extremism went down well in the hall, but many [even on the left] will have cheered him out in the country.

What those of us inside the Westminster bubble noticed, though, was the way Cameron bigged up Boris Johnson, George Osborne and Michael Gove. But for Theresa May there was nothing. And after her immigration speech, it was more than she deserved. That may seem cruel, but as someone who has been a fan of hers for many years, I could not have been more disappointed in her.

Heidi Allan is a new MP who hadn’t come across my radar until this week’s conference. Within two minutes of meeting her, she became one of my favourite MPs to interview. She was appearing on my end of day conference panel, when I asked her what she thought of George Osborne’s speech, and whether she thought he could be the next leader. “Nah, too smooth,” she replied. Having picked my jaw up off the floor, I thought I might be on a rich vein of quotery here, so I asked her about her view of Boris. I can’t do her justice by repeating what she said in words, so listen to the clip, but suffice it to say it involved mud wrestling and Vladimir Putin. But then there was more. She compared Theresa May to Edna Mode from the Incredibles. A quite astonishing debut on the radio, but one which has guaranteed repeat bookings! Now, from the feedback I’ve had on social media from listeners, they loved her too. They liked the fact she gave her real views in a humorous way and was unspun. I’m sure the party media managers won’t have been too impressed, but they are living in the wrong era. People want genuineness, and with Heidi Allan they got it. Even Theresa May saw the funny side when I put it to her. Good on her for that. Darling.

So Zac won. That was a surprise, wasn’t it?! How odd, though, for the conference organisers to put Zac and Boris on together. Zac may be many things, but he can’t compete with Boris for oratory. I felt rather sorry for him, although he delivered a perfectly fine speech.

So what’s Nicky Morgan up to, then? That was the question on a lot of people’s minds this week after her hint last week that she would stand in the forthcoming leadership contest. When I interviewed her on Tuesday she went further than a hint. “It would be an honour to lead the Conservative Party,” she told me. Well, it was a straight answer to a straight question. There’s nothing wrong with ambition and seeing as David Cameron has fired the starting gun, why should she be criticised for stating the obvious? When Nicky became Education Secretary I wrote that depending on how she performed in the role, she could go all the way. I still retain that view. She hasn’t showed up yet what kind of Conservative she really is, but there’s time for that. She has time to prove herself. In 2008 I was the first one to tip Ed Miliband as the next leader of the Labour Party, so I have a bit of form here. I’m not ready to say Nicky Morgan WILL be the next leader, but I genuinely believe it’s a possibility if she plays her cards right.

What on earth was Jeremy Corbyn thinking? This week he turned up in Manchester to address the baying mob who had spent the week spitting at, insulting and in a few cases assaulting Conservative conference go-ers. People will have rightly drawn their own conclusions. OK, it was only a small minority who did these things, but there was some pretty nasty stuff going on. Threats of rape. Telling a jewish man to ‘go back to Auschwitz. Scum. But I was appalled by Manchester Police. They were clearly loving watching the wicked Tories running the gauntlet each afternoon, and did little to prevent some of the more unruly scenes. The protesters only every appeared in the afternoon, presumably because they were still in bed in the morning.

Next Tuesday I am going on a speed awareness course, then going to see Cliff Richard at the Royal Albert Hall. Insert your own joke here.



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Conservative Politics

The Top 100 Most Influential People on the Right 2015

6 Oct 2015 at 10:00

1. (+1) David Cameron
Prime Minister
Having won an unexpected majority at the election, David Cameron takes over the top place in this list once again, having lost it to both Nigel Farage and George Osborne in recent years. He now has two to three years to create a lasting political legacy. Will he be the prime minister who leads us out of the EU, or seals our place at the heart of it?

2. (+1) George Osborne
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Like Lynton Crosby, George Osborne is at the height of his powers. His image has been transformed. The economy is on the up. He’s effectively running the government’s domestic policy. He’s also taken over the mantle of favourite to succeed David Cameron, a dangeous position to hold as he well knows.

3. (+2) Lynton Crosby
General Election Campaign Director
Tim Ross’s forthcoming book WHY THE TORIES WON lays bare the contribution Lynton Crosby made to the Tory victory in May. Revered as a God-like figure in CCHQ, Crosby is at the peak of his powers and the next Tory leader will prostrate themselves in front of him, begging him to return to run the campaign in 2020, and rightly so.

4. (-3) Nigel Farage
Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party
It’s been a funny old year for Nigel Farage. Nearly 4 million votes, yet only one MP to show for it. The disaster of his post election non resignation is still a millstone around his neck and he shows little sign of being able to unify his warring forces.

5. (+1) Theresa May
Home Secretary
Now the longest serving Home Secretary for decades, it was in some ways a shame that Theresa May wasn’t made Foreign Secretary in the post election reshuffle, giving her more experience of issues she’d need to be on top of if she succeeds David Cameron. Her weakness is the lack of identifiable ‘Mayites’ on the backbenches. She’s got a couple of years to work on that.

6. (+3) Jeremy Hunt
Secretary of State for Health
On election night, when they thought the Tories would lose, there was a conversation around the Cameron dining table in which he and his colleagues identified Jeremy Hunt as Cameron’s successor. If he discovers a harder political edge, it could still happen. The outsider often wins in the end.

. (+4) Samantha Cameron
Wife of the Prime Minister
Evidence grows by the month of the quiet, behind the scenes influence Samantha Cameron has on her husband. She knows her own mind and she’d not be human if she didn’t use every opportunity to get her husband to do what in her mind is the “right thing”, especially on humanitarian intervention in the Syrian crisis.

8. (-) Sajid Javid
Secretary State for Business, Innovation & Skills
A smooth operator, Javid is being talked about as one of the leading contenders to take over from David Cameron. He’s in a job which will allow him to shine, and his response to the Redcar steel crisis has been impressive. We now need to see more of his personality and personal narrative.

9. (+33) Ruth Davidson
Leader, Scottish Conservatives
Ruth Davidson has had a stonking leader in charge of the Scottish Conservatives. They may only have one MP but she expects to increase the number of MSPs in the Scottish elections next May. If she were in Westminster she’d be a serious candidate to lead the UK party.

10. (-6) Boris Johnson
Mayor of London
Not the best of years for the newly elected MP for Uxbridge, but no one should write him off. Still the darling of rank and file Tories, he’s got time to rebuild his reputation and bounce back, but his main challenge is to convince his fellow MPs that he should be in the final two in a leadership contest.

11. (+1) Michael Gove
Secretary of State for Justice
Gove has shaken himself off and dusted himself down and got on with the job. He’s abandoned some of Chris Grayling’s reforms, and struck a very different tone on prisoner rehabilitation.

12. (-5) Philip Hammond
Foreign Secretary
A rather quiet year for Philip Hammond, which is odd given the situation in the middle east and Europe. If he’s to be a leadership contender he needs to define himself more and market his ideas and appeal. He’s actually got a really funny sense of humour. He should show it more.

13. (-3) Lord Michael Ashcroft
Businessman & Philanthropist
The fuss over Michael Ashcroft’s & Isabel Oakeshott’s book is testament to his continuing influence on matters Conservative. His political business interests and ownership of ConservativeHome mean that he’s unlikely to disappear from the political scene, however much his detractors in Downing Street might relish the prospect.

14. (-) Michael Fallon
Secretary of State for Defence
Mr Dependable, Fallon is often sent onto the airwaves to defend the impossible, but he does it with panache. Can he, though, be the Defence Secretary that finally reverses the defence cuts?

15. (NEW) Mark Harper
Chief Whip
A remarkable renaissence for this very popular Conservative MP and proof that if you play it right there is a way back after a resignation. An inspired appointment, Harper is a uniting force but knows how to be firm and impose party discipline.

16. (+31) Zac Goldsmith
Conservative candidate for Mayor of London
This time next year Zac will either be in the top ten, or a bit of a busted flush. The seven month long campaign will tell us a lot about whether this idealist and original thinker can become a top flight politician or not.

17. (-) Chris Grayling
Leader of the House of Commons
A great survivor, Chris Grayling is revelling in his new role, away from the bed of nails that is the Ministry of Justice. He will be an influential player in the EU referendum campaign, and it’s even rumoured he may even resign to support the ‘No’ campaign – a prelude to a leadership bid as the standardbearer of the right?

18. (-) Iain Duncan Smith
Secretary of State for Work & Pensions
Undoubtedly the most radical reformer in the government, he has taken a huge amount of flak, but it washes him like water off a duck’s back. He has pursued his reforms with a zeal other cabinet ministers could learn a lot from.

19. (-) Nicky Morgan
Secretary of State for Education
If she is to set herself up as the key female rival to Theresa May for the leadership, she will need to define her brand of Conservatism. Constantly underestimated by her rivals, Morgan is a good performer on the broadcast media, but she does need to acquire some idelogical grit.

20. (-4) Edward Llewellyn
_Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister
It had been thought Ed Llewellyn might depart for a diplomatic appointment, but it seems he will stay for the duration, or at least until the EU referendum, in which he will be a key influence on the PM, which is exactly what Eurosceptics fear.

21. (+10) Lord Daniel Finkelstein
Columnist, The Times
Danny Finkelstein is said to form one half of George Osborne’s brain. The two have been inseparable since working together in William Hague’s private office, and if Osborne does inherit the leadership expect Finkelstein to perform a leading role in his adninsitration.

22. (+37) Lord Andrew Feldman
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In many ways it’s quite outrageous that Feldman’s main qualification for this job is that he is David Cameron’s best friend, but he’s been very effective in his roles at CCHQ over the years and is now overseeing a root and branch overhaul of the party machinery, but his detractors maintain that his lack of background in the party means he can’t understand the consequences of some of his recommendations.

23. (NEW) Thea Rogers
Chief of Staff to George Osborne
Thea Rogers has almost singlehandedly managed the transformation of the Chancellor’s image in the last two years, and to great effect. If he becomes leader in 2019 it will be in part due to the fact that he has accepted her PR advice. She’s now taken over Rupert Harrison’s role as chief of staff, but let no one imagine she will be stepping back from advising the Chancellor on his image or media engagements.

24. (-1) Matthew Hancock
Minister for the Cabinet Office
It had been assumed that Hancock would have made the full cabinet, probably as chief secretary, but as with Grant Shapps, his loyalty didn’t quite get its full desserts. He now has to sell the trade union bill to his colleagues and the public, which will be no mean feat considering it’s a bit of a dog’s breakfast.

25. (-3) Graham Brady
Chairman, 1922 Committee
The role of the 1922 committee chairman in a parliament where the Tories have a majority of only 12 is hugely important. The PM needs to know what his backbenchers are thinking and Brady tells him in no uncertain terms.

26. (-5) Oliver Letwin
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
He’s the Scarlet Pimpernel of the government – the media seek him here, they seek him there, but he never seems to give interviews and just gets on with his job of, well, being very quietly very effective.

27. (+19) John Whittingdale
Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport)
An inspired appointment, but he is showing worrying signs of going native on reform of the BBC and recanting on his previously strongly held views that the licence fee is an anachronism.

28. (+21) Robert Halfon
Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party
One of the most popular members of the parliamentary party, Halfon has been given an important role at CCHQ. If he does it well, he’ll be heading for a top ministrial position within a couple of years.

29. (+1) Catherine Fall
Deputy Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister
Said to be the member of his staff that is most trusted by the Prime Minister. Discrete, loyal and never in the public eye, she hasn’t made a single error in ten years working for the PM.

30. (-5) Patrick McLoughlin
Secretary of State for Transport
A great survivor, many expected Cameron to despatch Patrick McLoughlin to the backbenches in the post-election reshuffle, but they underestimated him. He’s the ultimate safe pair of hands.

31. (+12) Greg Clark
Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government
The quietly spoken Clark is now a cabinet minister in his own right and heads a department where he can really make a mark. Some think he could use this position to be a dark horse candidate in the forthcoming leadership race.

32. (-3) Andrew Tyrie
Chairman, Treasury Select Committee
Tyrie has been an excellent chairman of the Treasury Select Committee. He may radiate calmness and niceness, but he has the forensic ability to question a witness which some of his colleagues sadly do not.

33. (+4) Daniel Hannan
MEP for South East England
His articulate advocacy of EU withdrawal will be vital to the Eurosceptic cause as the referendum draws ever closer. Once it’s over many expect him to make a bid to stand for Westminster in 2020.

34. (-) Paul Goodman
_Editor, ConservativeHome.com
One of the few non MPs on this list who can phone up any cabinet minister and they’ll take his call immediately. He seems to have become more radical as the years go by and isn’t afraid to offer constructive criticism where he feels it is merited.

35. (-) Jesse Norman
Chair, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee
Possibly the most talented of the 2010 intake not to be promoted to ministerial office, Jesse Norman doesn’t deserve to continue to be blackballed by No.10 for his rebellion over House of Lords reform. He’s now decided to go in a different direction and won his battle to be chairman of his select commitee over stiff opposition.

36. (-9) Jo Johnson
Minister for Universities
The lesser known of the Johnsons, he drops a little in this year’s list, not least because so many people seem to think his two promotions happened in part because No. 10 knew they would irk Boris. Maybe unfair, but that’s how people think in the Westminster bubble.

37. (+8) Matthew Elliott
_Chief Executive, Business for Britain
Having run the sucessful No2AV campaign, Elliott was a natural to run the Business for Britain campaign, which argues the Eurosceptic case. He’s more back room than front of house but certainly knows how to campaign and lobby.

38. (+1) Lord Stephen Gilbert
Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party
As Head of campaigns, Gilbert oversaw the CCHQ election campaign and was rewarded for it with a deserved peerage. He has been at the centre of things during the reigns o four successive leaders and is popular throughout the party.

39. (-24) Grant Shapps
Minister of State, Dfid
If there were any justice, having helped deliver a general election win, Shapps would have remained in the top 20 in this list. However, following a bout of unwelcome publicity he became too hot to handle, so No. 10 thought a period out of the limelight would be in order. Maybe they were right, but many think Shapps was dealt a raw deal.

40. (+18) Anna Soubry
Minister of State for Small Business
A highly effective media performer it can’t be long before Anna Soubry is promoted to the full cabinet. It was testament to her abilities that she held on to her highly marginal seat and increased her majority to more than 4,200.

41. (-28) William Hague
Former Foreign Secretary
William Hague has been largely silent since the election, adding fuel to the thought that he really has quit politics for good. He will, however, have enduring influence if, like John Major, he picks his time to comment on the great issues of the day.

42. (+31) Greg Hands
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Probably the least well known member of the cabinet, he has made a good start to his new job as George Osborne’s right hand man. Indeed, it is said that he and David Gauke are effectively running the show, while the Chancellor busies himself with gearing up for a leadership bid.

43. (+14) Neil O’Brien
The former head of Policy Exchange, O’Brien is the man behind the Chancellor’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and has come up with many of Osborne’s more populist ideas. Never one to seek the limelight, he’s been a top addition to the Chancellor’s team.

44. (-11) Douglas Carswell
UKIP MEP for Clacton
Nowadays he looks a fish out of water in UKIP and one can’t help wondering whether he has come to regret his defection. However, he still has a following within UKIP among those who have grown tired of Nigel Farage’s leadership.

45. (-9) Tim Montgomerie
Columnist, The Times
About to depart these shores for a sojourn in the United States covering the Presidential election, Montgomerie falls a few places in this year’s list. His work at Legatum and his Times columns, though, mean that he retains a large degree of influence over the direction of right of centre politics.

46. (+4) Donal Blaney
Chairman, Conservative Way Forward & Chief Executive, Young Britons Foundation
Blaney has transformed the fortunes of CWF and recruited hundreds of younge rmembers to its ranks, many of whom weren’t born when Margaret Thatcher left office. He has brought US campaigning methods to the UK and his teams of volunteers player a key role in marginal seats in the election.

47. (NEW) Graeme Wilson
Press Secretary to David Cameron
Wilson has managed never to become the story, and is completely trusted by his former colleagues in the parliamentary lobby.

48. (-4) Nicholas Boles
Minister for Skills
One of the few free thinkers within government, if talent was the only consideration, Boles would be in the cabinet. He carries his think tank history with him and delights in thinking the unthinkable.

49. (+48) Suzanne Evans
UKIP GLA Candidate
Having written the UKIP manifesto, and getting many plaudits for it, Evans was seemingly Nigel Farage’s heir apparent, but since the election he has done everything to undermine her. Despite this she has retained a sense of calmness and humour and remains firmly on the sensible wing of UKIP.

50. (NEW) Brandon Lewis
Minister for Housing
A protege of Eric Pickles, Lewis has performed well in his different roles at the DCLG and is often used as a government spokesman across government policy. Could well be in the cabinet before too long.

51. (-13) Mark Littlewood
Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs
Littlewood has had a successful period in charge of one of the oldest think tanks in the country, which has recently celebrated its 60th birthday. A pugnacious debater, he is one of the best advocates of free market economics.

52. (-14) Sir Edward Lister
Deputy Mayor of London
Eddie Lister is Boris Johnson’s indispensible chief of staff. If you want Boris to do anything you have to get past Eddie first. He’s the real power behind the Johnson throne.

53. (NEW) Fraser Nelson
Editor, The Spectator
Fraser Nelson was appointed editor at a comparitively young age, but he has more than lived up to both Andrew Neil’s and his readers’ expectations. An articulate exponent of right of centre politics, one wonders what his next move will be. Perhaps into elected politics?

54. (+15) Stephen Crabb
Secretary of State for Wales
Stephen Crabb has risen quietly through the Conservative ranks but his first year in the job has certainly been a success. One of the few front line bearded politicians, his challenge will be to be promoted within the cabinet out of the Wales job. It’s unlikely to happen soon, but don’t rule it out before the end of this parliament.

55. (NEW) Sheridan Westlake
_Special Advisor, No 10 Downing Street
Having spent many years working in the CRD and then for Eric Pickles, Sheridan Westlake has taken on a new enforcement role in Downing Street. His job is to read the small print, spot any bear traps or potential cock ups and make the machinery of government work.

56. (-8) Craig Oliver
_Director of Politics & Communications, No 10 Downing Street
One of the Prime Minister’s most trusted aides, Oliver has taken on a beefed up role since the election and now has a strategic role as well as being in charge of communications. Still viewed with suspicion by the print media, but his understanding of how the BBC operates is second to none.

57. (+6) Priti Patel
Minister of State for Employment
An undoubted rising star, she attends cabinet, but has become known for her slavish devotion to the party line, with an uncanny ability to parrot the CCHQ line like no other. If she rediscovers her independent spirit, she will be a force to be reckoned with.

58. (NEW) Amber Rudd
Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change)
A key ally of George Osborne, Amber Rudd has made an impressive start to her cabinet career. Eloquent on the media and able to strike a balance between greenery and economic realism, she did well to hang on to her marginal seat in Hastings.

59. (NEW) Tracey Crouch
Minister for Sport
If ever there was a round peg in a round hole as a minister, it’s Tracey Crouch. A qualified football coach, she has made a blinding start in her new job and is tipped for rapid promotion. The question is, could she bear to leave the one job in politics she’s always wanted.

60. (NEW) James Chapman
Director of Communications to the Chancellor of the Exchquer
Many raised an eyebrow when James Chapman left one of the top jobs in journalism (political editor of the Daily Mail) to move to the Treasury, but he’s clearly identified George Osborne as the next PM, and so far he’s doing a good job, building on the work of Thea Rogers who helped transformed the chancellor’s public image.

61. Dominic Cummings
Communications Director, Business for Britain
Has introduced some rigour into the communications efforts of Business for Britain. He is a brilliant strategist, even if he does have a tendency to become the story. But the ‘Stay’ side of the debate will know that together with Matthew Elliott, Cummings is likely to make their life hell.

62. (+36) Stuart Polak
Director, Conservative Friends of Israel
One of the shrewdest single issue pressure group lobbyists around, Polak is about to join the Conservative benches in the House of Lords.

63. (NEW) Steve Baker
MP for Wycombe
As co-chairman of Conservatives for Britain, Baker has become one of the new faces of the eurosceptic right. Bright and articulate, he has a cavalier attitude to ministerial preferment and is the better politician for it.

64. (+36) Gavin Williamson
PPS to the Prime Minister
Williamson has built up a good reputation among Tory MPs and does his job as the eyes and ears of the PM very well. Is sure to get a ministerial job in the next reshuffle.

65. (NEW) Adam Atashzei
Deputy Political Secretary to the Prime Minister
Atashzai is a highly regarded recruit from CCHQ who is responsible for ‘lines to take’ and the famed Downing Street grid. Respected and trusted by everyone.

66. (-4) Paul Staines
Managing Editor, Guido Fawkes blog
The site everyone in politics loves to read, unless they feature on it. Staines has built up an impressive business and the guest list at last year’s 10th anniversary dinner was testament to his influence. Even the PM sent a video message.

67. (NEW) Katie Hopkins
Columnist, Mail Online
The woman people seem to love to hate, she’s actually quite a pussycat. She may have lost her Sun column, but she immediately bounced back by bagging a role on MailOnline.

68. (+15) David Gauke
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Said to be the real Chancellor, while George Osborne runs the rest of the government. Was one of the key Conservative faces on the media during the general election because he’s trusted to toe a line and not drop the ball.

69. (-41) Liz Truss
_Secretary of State for DEFRA
A square peg in a round hole, Liz Truss hasn’t been allowed to shine in this portfolio and should have been moved in the post-election reshuffle. Her all too obvious leadership ambitions will be thwarted unless she is able to show more of what she is undoubtedly capable of.

70. (+10) Syed Kamall
_Leader of the European Conservatives & Reformists in the European Parliament
Fought a competent campaign to get the nomination for Conservative candidate for London mayor, coming second. The question now, is will he go for a Westminster seat. Having been an MEP for ten years he could be forgiven for thinking his work in the European Parliament is done.

71. (NEW) Christopher Booker
Columnist, Sunday Telegraph
The leading brain on Eurosceptic and climate change-sceptic issues, vastly underrated. He ought to be regarded as one of the top journalists of his generation, but the liberal elites unfairly traduce him and his excellent work. Ought to be a must-read for everyone on the centre right.

72. (-52) Eric Pickles
Conservative MP for Brentwood & Ongar
One of the best performing cabinet ministers in the coalition, Pickles should never have been disposed of. But he’s bounced back by leading a task force on corruption and becoming chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel.

73. (-20) Dean Godson
Director, Policy Exchange
It’s been a slightly quiet year for Policy Exchange, although their influence on government policy remains immense. Perhaps it’s a deliberate policy not to shout about their influence from the rooftops.

74. (+4) Liam Fox
Former Defence Secretary
Even though there seems no way back for him into government while David Cameron is still prime minister, Liam Fox is certainly able to make his presence known. He was one of the leaders of the rebellion over EU referendum rules and given his treatment by No. 10, one suspects his rebellions may become more frequent.

75. (+7) Douglas Murray
Associate Director, Henry Jackson Society
A trenchant exponent of neoconservative views on international issues, and a thoughtful writer on social issues. Softly spoken he is one of the most articulate commentators on the right and doesn’t take any hostages when debating on the media.

76. (NEW) Charles Moore
Author & Columnist
His biography of Margaret Thatcher is superb and is released this week. He’s one of the few must read columnists for everyone on the right and his Spectator Notes are a delight.

77. (-2) Theresa Villiers
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
When she was appointed, many seemed flummoxed but according to some of the key players she has quietly got on with the job and won the respect of the various parties. She’s handled the recent troubles well and taken care not to inflame the situation.

78. (NEW) Simon Heffer
Columnist, Sunday Telegraph
He may not be a modern Conservative’s cup of tea but he’s umissable. A truly brilliant writer he gets to the nub of an argument more quickly than most and his books are unrivalled.

79. (NEW) Matthew Parris
Columnist, The Times & Spectator
For many he is the pre-eminent columnist of his generation. He can write entertainingly about anything and never bores, mainly because of his endearing unpredictability. Probably the most read columnist among Tory MPs.

80. (NEW) Arron Banks
UKIP donor
Banks is an acquired taste for many. A former donor, he switched his allegiances to UKIP and now funds the UKIP Leave.Eu campaign. Liable to shout his mouth of, he is a sworn enemy of Douglas Carswell, who he disgracefully alleged was ‘mentally ill’.

81. (-5) Sarah Wollaston
Chair of the Health Select Committee
The maverick’s maverick many of her fellow MPs don’t regard her as a team player. However, to others she is the exemplification of what a decent MP should be – open minded, willing to speak out against her own party if need be, diligent and honest.

82. (+14) Raheem Kassam
Editor, Breitbart London
Kassam first came to prominence as editor of The Commentator, then he launched Breitbart London. In the autumn of 2014 he became Nigel Farage’s personal press officer and it’s fair to say he became a lightning rod for the UKIP leader. A marmite character, he’s now back in charge of Breitbart.

83. (-6) David Davis
Conservative MP for Haltemprice & Howden
The one time leadership contender is concentrating on fighting the cause of human rights and civil liberties. Regarded as a serial rebel by some, he has shown himself to be adept in holding the executive to account and even won a legal victory over the so-called snoopers’ charter.

84. (NEW) Ameet Gill
Director of Strategy, No 10 Downing Street
In charge of the famous Downing Street ‘grid’, he’s described by some as the No. 10 ‘air traffic controller’.

85. (-21) Paul Nuttall
Deputy Leader, UKIP
He managed to stay out of the post-election leadership travails, but some ask what exactly he does apart from appear on the airwaves as Nigel Farage’s bit of Liverpudlian rough. It’s unfair because he’s an effective backroom operator and doesn’t have the same ego issues as others at the top of UKIP.

86. (NEW) Camilla Cavendish
Head of of the No. 10 Policy Unit
A recent recruit from the comment pages of The Times, Cavendish will bring some rigour to the Downing Street operation, and some much needed political nouse. It was a big mistake to staff the unit with civil servants.

87. (+3) Andrew Mitchell
Former Chief Whip
Mitchell has become an influential voice on the backbenches and has now put Plebgate firmly behind him. Careful to avoid being seen as a serial revel he picks his fights carefully.

88. (NEW) Peter Hitchens
Columnist, Mail on Sunday
A true marmite character, Hitchens has a devoted set of fans, most of him share his somewhat negative view of the prime minister and the Conservative Party. The trouble is his columns are very ‘samey’ with one overriding theme – that the Conservative Party is not conservative at all, and only he has the answers to the nation’s problems.

89. (NEW) Elliott Johnson
Conservative Party activist
Elliott Johnson took his own life on 15 September after allegedly being bullied by senior Conservative Party figures. His inclusion in this list is by way of tribute to a young man who loved Conservative politics but felt suicide was his only way of escaping the bullying. May his memory live long and his family find it in their hearts to forgive those responsible.

90. (+5) Mark Wallace
Executive Editor, ConservativeHome
Wallace brings a bright, pugnacious approach to ConservativeHome and rarely sits on the fence in his writings. He often has some uncomfortable messages for the Conservative Party.

91. (NEW) Paul Abbott
Chief Executive, Conservative Way Forward
Spent years working in CCHQ, latterly as special advisor to Grant Shapps. Donal Blaney recruited him after the election to run Conservative Way Forward and together, the two of them have given CWF a sharper campaigning edge.

92. (NEW) Tim Stanley
Columnist, Daily Telegraph
Tim Stanley is from the new breed of young historians who has brought a very welcome fresh new writing style to the Telegraph. He’s also become a bit of name as a pundit and has made some very impressive appearances on Question Time.

93. (-9) Baroness Tina Stowell
Leader of the House of Lords
A uniting figure, Tina Stowell is very popular with their Lordships and has done well to curtail some potentially serious rebellions.

94. (NEW) Christian Guy_
Number 10 Policy Unit
Recruited from the Centre for Social Justice, where he had done sterling work on welfare reform, Guy’s appointment to the policy unit shows how serious Camilla Cavenish is in recruiting the best talent on the right.

95. (-8) Jonathan Isaby
Director, Taxpayers’ Alliance
Isaby is but a shadow of his former self – not in influence, but in physical weight, having shed seven stones this year. It’s ben a quieter year for the TPA which, one feels, needs a new cause to fight.

96. (NEW) Giles Kenningham
Deputy Press Secretary to the Prime Minister
One of the most talented of his generation of CCHQ press office graduates, Kenningham is both liked and respected by his colleagues and journalists. But he can be tough as nails too.

97. (NEW) Julia Hartley-Brewer
Columnist & Broadcaster
A profilic columnist and broadcaster, Hartley-Brewer has really raised her profile since her departure from LBC nine months ago. She’s unpredictable, feisty and intelligent and some reckon she’d make a great MP.

98. (NEW) Andrew Kennedy
Conservative Party Agent
Acts as agent to a group of constituencies in West Kent and writes a brilliant blog (Voting & Boating) on his life and work. One of the party’s best campaigners, it’s likely CCHQ will tyr to bring him in house before too long, if only to silence his very caustic blog!

99. (NEW) James Marshall
Special Advisor to the Chief Whip
Possibly the most powerful person in this list you’ve never heard of. And with a majority of 12, he becomes an even greater influence on events.

100. Steven Woolfe
UKIP MEP & Migration Spokesman
Very much on the sensible wing of UKIP, Woolfe is seen by many as a good bet to succeed Farage when the time comes. If it comes. His moderate approach on migration issues has won him many admirers outside UKIP, although possibly not so many from within.

This list was first published on Breitbart. Click HERE to read the article in which I explain the rankings.


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Play Radio: Iain interviews BNP Deputy Leader Simon Darby

Play Talk, June 2009

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ConHome Diary: Number Ten Bans Ministers From Ashcroft Book Launch

2 Oct 2015 at 14:18

The Labour conference was an odd experience, but I suspect next year’s will be even odder. Out with the smart suited twenty something men. In with the Trots. That’s if Jeremy Corbyn survives that long. My own view is that he will, but it was astonishing that more or less every single Labour MP I talked to was totally dismissive of their leader. Even on air. Lord Falconer wouldn’t even say he expected Corbyn to be the next Prime Minister, let alone a good one and he’s the Shadow Justice Secretary. Justice for Jeremy, that’s what I say. Any new leader deserves a bedding in period and the benefit of the doubt, but Jeremy Corbyn isn’t being afforded that by his parliamentary colleagues. It’s all very well to talk about “the new politics”, but it’s very difficult when you aren’t able to explain what that means beyond putting off difficult and dividing policy decisions.
Well the “kinder, gentler” politics didn’t last long. Tom Watson, the pugnacious new deputy leader of the party gave a rumbustious closing speech to the conference in the slot previously inhabited by Harriet Harman and before her, John Prescott. He reserved a lot of his ire for the Liberal Democrats. Well, you can’t really blame him, can you? He was forced into an apology… “I did go too far though when I compared the Lib Dems to a Banarama tribute band. Some people were angry, and I accept that I crossed the line. What I said was demeaning, unjustified and wrong. Siobhan, Sara, Keren – I should never have compared your tribute acts to that useless bunch of lying sell-outs, the Lib Dems and I’m sorry.” Boom, boom. He then had a go at the Conservatives, imploring his comrades to “kick the nasty Tories down the road where they belong”. But in a kind and gentle way. Obvs.

I’m told that Craig Oliver has been noticed wandering about Number Ten oinking. What’s that all about then?
Can there be anything more irresponsible that an aspiring prime minister telling our country’s potential enemies that there aren’t any circumstances in which he would press the nuclear button? Doing so undermines the whole thesis of our nuclear deterrent.

Some of you will have seen a rather public spat between me and Louise Mensch on twitter a few days ago. I’ve taken a lot of criticism over Lord Ashcroft’s book, not least on this site last week, and I can take it. But when Louise Mensch tries to take the moral high ground, I’m afraid I just have to laugh. I’ve always been a defender of hers but she has developed a habit of becoming completely obsessed by various causes. Last week her cause was trying to make me apologise for something I had no intention of apologising for. I was evil, so was Isabel Oakeshott, but of course we had led the noble Lord Ashcroft astray and it was all rather a disgrace. Well, it’s a point of view, I suppose. Her tweets became ever more regular and ever more unhinged. In the end I got fed up of reading her bile and poison and blocked her. And still she continued apparently. She’s still at it for all I know. Or care.
At the Labour Party conference I dropped into the News International reception. It was an event devoid of a single Shadow Cabinet member. Except the Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary, Owen Smith. Make of that what you will. I pointed this out to him and he roared with laughter. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. He’s one to watch.

I also ran into my old friend Tony Gallagher at the same reception. He is the new editor of The Sun. “You’ve been nasty to one of my columnists, I see,” he greeted me. “Yes,” I said. “Now that you’ve got rid of Katy Hopkins, you could do us all a favour and do the same with Louise Mensch.” I did laugh as I said it, but Tony didn’t really bite. He was far keener on discussing the merits of our mutual football team, West Ham United. A wise man.
Later this year I’ll be publishing a biography of Jeremy Corbyn, written by top political journalist Rosa Prince. I haven’t dared ask about his university antics…

Dammit. I said last week that all publishers get print runs wrong for any book they publish. I have printed 35,000 copies and as of Wednesday night, we have now sold 34,678, leaving fewer than 300. The books go on sale in shops on Monday, so it looks as if I might have to order a reprint pretty quickly.
I hear an edict has gone out to Conservative ministers that if any of them attend the launch of CALL ME DAVE on Monday week their career prospects might take a nosedive. Indeed, Number Ten have tried to ensure that few Tory MPs attend the event, having scheduled the English Votes for English laws to be debated in the Commons that night. Just as I predicted they would when the date was set several months ago. Predictable. And petty.

If you’re in Manchester on Sunday evening, do pop along to the Liberty fringe meeting at 5.30pm in Manchester Central. Shami Chakrabarti will be chairing a Question Time style panel featuring Dominic Grieve, Peter Oborne and myself. I keep telling Shami human rights is not exactly my area of expertise, but she can be very persuasive. So if you want to hear me make a fool of myself, be my guest.



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Iain Dale asks: Why is the Media so fascinated by Islam

Why the media divides and rules

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 38: When an Interviewee Goes Rogue...

30 Sep 2015 at 12:37

Yesterday on my LBC show I did something I’ve never done before. I terminated an interview because the guest wouldn’t stop ranting and refused to engage with the questions I was putting. We were discussing whether Britain should pay reparations to Jamaica for its part in the slave trade. The guest was Kofi Klu and he was supposed to be putting the case for doing just that.

In some ways, if you have to terminate an interview you feel you’ve failed as a presenter, but in the end you have to think of the listeners. It may be vaguely entertaining to listen to someone rant and rave but when they repeat what they have just said and refuse to engage with you in the way any normal interviewee would, there’s surely little point in carrying on. Perhaps I let my frustration show a little too much, but in the end my judgement was that there was nothing to be gained by continuing the interview. I still think that was the correct conclusion.


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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Amanda Prowse

Novelist Amanda Prowse talks about her new book CLOVER'S CHILD and much else besides!

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Labour Politics

The Top 100 People on the Left 2015

29 Sep 2015 at 09:10

1. (NEW) Jeremy Corbyn
Leader of the Labour Party
There is no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn’s election to Labour’s leadership has changed the political weather. He’s galvanised the Labour left in a way no one has since Tony Benn or Ken Livingstone. But can he stick to his principles agenda without compromising Labour’s chances of electoral success?

2. (+6) Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister of Scotland
She’s taken to power like a duck to water and she’s without doubt the first lady of the left in the UK. Her popularity in Scotland is unchallenged and many in England wish they could vote for her. After next May’s elections she’s likely to be even more powerful.

3. (+32) Tom Watson
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
Some wonder how long it will be before Watson reisgns from this position, like he has from all the other positions of power he has ever held. This is to underestimate him. He protests that he has no interest in eventually becoming leader, but one wonders how he will build and then use his new power base.

4. (NEW) John McDonnell
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Possibly the most unlikely appointment in single Caligula made his horse a senator. McDonnell and his unique brand of economics are loathed politically by almost the entire Parliamentary Labour Party. How long will their patience last?

5. (-3) Len McCluskey
General Secretary, UNITE
Money talks and Len McCluskey has a lot of it to distribute. Jeremy Corbyn may have a lot in common politically with Len McCluskey but can he persuade the UNITE leader to open his wallet. McCluskey won’t want to throw good money after bad, and will certainly exact a price for his munificence.

6. (+75) Simon Fletcher
Chief of Staff to Jeremy Corbyn
One of the few people with executive experience in Jeremy Corbyn’s inner circle, Fletcher performed the same role for Ken Livingstone when he was mayor of London. His performance in this role will in part determine Corbyn’s chances of success.

7. (+36) Angela Eagle
Shadow Business Secretary
The shadow chancellor who never was, Angela Eagle may turn out to be one of the ket voices in the shadow cabinet. She’s popular and perfectly capable of saying ‘no’ if she won’t go along iwth something.

8. (+50) Rosie Winterton
Chief Whip
It’s rumoured that she conducted the reshuffle more or less alone after Jeremy Corbyn made the decision about John McDonnell. She will have the job from hell trying to keep the various factions of the PLP together, but if anyone can do it, she can.

9. (NEW) Hilary Benn
Shadow Foreign Secretary
One of the great survivors of modern politics, Hilary Benn is popular among his colleagues and is more likely to be able to adapt to the new regime than most, and is likely to stand up to any excesses of the Corbyn leadership with both determination and grace.

10. (NEW) Neale Coleman
Director of Policy
A massive appointment for Jeremy Corbyn, and possibly the only one welcomed by all sides of the party. Coleman was a key figure in the Livingstone mayoralty and was so impressive that Boris Johnson kept him on.

11. (+1) Harriet Harman
Former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
Harman grows more popular with age, and although not on the front bench any longer, she will perform the role of ‘wise old owl’ and she will be a very important source of advice behinf the scenes.

12. (+28) Iain McNicol
General Secretary of the Labour Party
McNicol has had a very difficult transition to handle, with a huge turnover of staff. He’s performed his role with a great deal of patience and humour, and although he’s been singled out for criticism for the handling of the general election campaign, yet again he’s proved to be a great survivor.

13. (-7) Owen Jones
Guardian columnist
Having ruled out joining Team Corbyn, Jones has apparently annoyed the Guardian by his overt and initially enthusiastic support for the new leader. He can’t be both a participant and a commentator, though and in the end he will have to decide which road to go down.

14. (+8) Sadiq Khan
Labour candidate for Mayor of London
Khan won his selection in part because of his excellent organisation but also because he benefitted from the rush of new signups who were largely Corbyn supporters. But he’s made very clear he’s his own mad and won’t be beholden to the new leader. A brave move considering he’ll need the party organisation behind him.

15. (_+29) Dave Prentis
General Secretary of UNISON
Another general secretary who will be looking for a more union friendly approach from a Corbyn-led Labour Party. Prentis is a softly spoken moderate and any influence he exerts will be behind the scenes rather than shouted from the ramparts.

16. (-12) Yvette Cooper
Former Labour leadership candidate
Although beaten into third place, she emerged from the leadership campaign with some credit, but will she want to become a focus for rebels and at some stage move against Jeremy Corbyn? Her public pronouncements will be avidly examined.

17. (+17) Sir Paul Kenny
General Secretary of the GMB
Much respected within and outside the union sector he is not one to throw his weight around with good reason, and one suspects the Labour leadership have always listened to him with more respect than a few of his colleagues. That won’t change.

18. (+62) Maria Eagle
Shadow Defence Secretary
A huge promotion for Angela Eagle, even if she clearly wasn’t first choice for the job. her first task will be to navigate the waters of a vote on armed action against ISIS in Syria. This will tell us a lot about her bridge-building capabilities.

19. (NEW) Seema Malhotra
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Calm, erudite and eloquent, this relatively new MP (she was elected in a by-election in the last parliament) has risen with ease into the top echelons of the Labour Party. The test of her influence will bve how many battles she wins with her boss, the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell.

20. (+51) Diane Abbott
Shadow International Development Secretary
One of the few Corbynistas in the Shadow Cabinet, she will be come a huge source of media focus. it’s surprising she wasn’t given a more high profile role in some ways.

21. (-16) Andy Burnham
Shadow Home Secretary
Burnham takes a dive in this year’s list because of the total inept leadership campaign he ran and his unique ability to flip-flop without apparently realising it. Having ruled out ever standing again he is on the wane and it’s slightly suprising he accepted a post in the shadow cabinet.

22. (NEW) Lord Charlie Falconer
Shadow Justice Secretary
One of the great survivors, Falconer is in a powerful position. He’s already made clear he’ll do what he likes and resign if he doesn’t get his way. But watching him try to toe a Corbyn line along the way will provide huge entertainment for everyone.

23. (+2) Frances O’Grady
General Secretary, TUC
O’Grady’s profile has quietly risen in the last twelve months and her advice is likely to be sought more and more from a more trade union friendly Labour Party.

24. (NEW) Jon Trickett
Shadow Communities Secretary
Formerly chief poilitical advisor to Ed Miliband, Jon Trickett has made the transition seemlessly to the new guard. With housing in his brief he will be a key player.

25. (+39) Lisa Nandy
Shadow Energy & Climate Change Secretary
If Jeremy Corbyn were to fall under a bus, the Labour left are looking to Lisa Nandy as the candidate of the left in a future leadership election. She needs to prove herself first, though, and this portfolio gives her the chance to do so.

26. (NEW) John Healey
Shadow Minister for Housing
Housing has been identified as a key area of policy by Jeremy Corbyn. Healey may not have much in common with Corbyn politically but he’s a highly capable politician who has the tenacity to drive things through.

27. (+52) Gloria de Piero
Shadow Minister for Youth Engagement
A key ally of Tom Watson, de Piero was tipped for a big job in the new shadow cabinet but she has been sidelined into a youth engagement portfolio, having apparently turned down defence.

28. (+40) Owen Smith
Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary
A big rise for one of the potential stars of the new shadow cabinet. It’s a difficult brief to master and star in, but if anyone can Owen Smith can. But can he develop policy which his leader can support? On that, the jury is out.

29. (NEW) Alicia Kennedy
Labour Peer
Having run Tom Watson’s deputy leadership campaign Kennedy is guaranteed a position of influence in the new regime. A true party insider, she knows where a lot of bodies are buried.

30. (NEW) Heidi Alexander
Shadow Health Secretary
One of the nicest people in parliament, Alexander has been given a huge promotion. If she rises to the challenge she could become a pivotal player in the Labour Party’s mid term future.

31. (-12) Gordon Brown
Former Prime Minister
Gordon Brown’s role in the Scottish referendum victory has been exaggerated, but there is little doubt that he is still a figure of influence on Labour in Scotland at least. But will he find a new role soon?

32. (-11) Polly Toynbee
Guardian Columnist
Never off our screens, Toynbee has been a surprising Corbyn sympathiser. She has clearly moved a long way left since her days in the SDP but it’s inevitable that at some point she will part company with Corbyn and his team.

33. (-26) Chuka Umunna
Former Shadow Business Secretary
Whither Chuka? We’re not sure if even he’s certain what his future holds. Will his shock withdrawal from the leadership contest do him lasting damage or can he bounce back and become the focus of discontent and carve out a role as ‘King over the water’? So far the jury is out.

34. (NEW) Kat Fletcher
Political Adviser on stakeholder engagement to Jeremy Corbyn
Former NUS head, she played a key role in Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and has now taken on the role of fixer-in-chief. At least we think that’s what ‘stakeholder engagement’ is a euphemism for.

35. (-9) Alex Salmond
SNP Foreign Affairs Spokesman
A big fall after losing the referendum and resigning as First Minister but he’s got a new lease of life in Westminster and is obviously enjoying a huge amount of mischief.

36. (+5) Stella Creasy
Former deputy leadership candidate
Having fought an excellent deputy leadership election campaign in which she came second, Stella Creasy could have had a job of her asking, but instead she decided not to serve.

37. (NEW) Ken Livingstone
Former Mayor of London
You can’t keep a good man down. Ken Livingstone shed a tear when Jeremy Corbyn made his acceptance speech the day he was elected. His former chief of staff is now performing the same role for the Labour leader. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Livingstone taking Ermine before too long and taking on a formal role in the shadow cabinet.

38. (NEW) Cat Smith
Shadow Minister for Women & Equalities
Cat Smith worked for six years in Jeremy Corbyn’s office and knows him better than most. An ultra lefty herself, she was among the first to nominate Corbyn and will continue to be an influence on him. Non-factional, she may prove to be an uniting force. The Labour leader would do well to make him her PPS.

39. (NEW) Andrew Murray
Chief of Staff at UNITE & Chair of the Stop the War Coalition
A deeply divisive figutes, Murray has now succeeded Jeremy Corbyn as chair of the Stop the War Coalition, a position he had previously held. But UNITE is his main powerbase and he is the power behind Len McCluskey’s throne.

40. (-4) Carwyn Jones
Welsh First Minister
The most powerful Labour politician in the land, Jones has never bothered to build a UK wide profile and concentrates on his role in Wales. A nice man, he was shaken by the Tory gains in Wales in May but can he devise a strategy to stop them gaining even more of a foothold in the Welsh Assemby?

41. (NEW) Kezia Dugdale
Leader of the Scottish Labour Party
Who would have Kezia Dugdale’s job? Possibly the most unenviable job in British politics at the moment. But she’s a doughty fighter and will be looking to the long term rather than just the Scottish Parliament elections in May 2016.

42. (NEW) Richard Murphy
Richard Murphy has been wrong about just about everything but is seen as the guru behind anti-austerity Corbynomics. He hasn’t been given a formal role within Team Corbyn but it woudl surprise no one if he had been angling for one.

43. (NEW) John Cryer
Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party
John Cryer has the mother of all tasks in preventing all out civil war within the parliamentary party and his diplomatic skills are likely to be tested to the full, especially if Labour does badly in the various elections next May.

44. (NEW) John Woodcock
Chairman of Progress
Far from retreating into their Blairite blunker, Progress have come out fighting under the leadership of John Woodcock
45. (-22) Michael Dugher
Shadow Culture, Media & Sport Secretary
Some were surprised that Michael Dugher accepted a demotion to shadow the culture brief, but he’s valuable to the Corbyn leadership as a semi trained Borwnite attack dog. He knows where bodies are buried and from time to time is quite willing to exhume them.

46. (-26) Tony Blair
Former Prime Minister
His influence may be on the decline, and some might imagine that he will disappear off next year’s list altogether, but whenever he makes any public utterance people do sit up and take notice. They might think he’s mad or a war criminal, but no one ignores him.

47. (+18) Liz Kendall
Former leadership candidate
She is now the undisputed leader of the Blairite right and showed a lot of courage in putting herself forward the leadership so early. Her campaign was mixed to say the least, but she won a lot of friends and made few enemies.

48. (-39) Rachel Reeves
Former Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary
Another of Labour’s lost generation who refuse to serve under Jeremy Corbyn. She’s a real loss to the frontbench, but she now has an opportunity to make her mark across all areas of policy.

49. (+14) Luciana Berger
Shadow Mental Health Minister
An impressive performer, she is the only jewish member of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow team. She is therefore likely to come under the spotlight more than her portfolio might normally allow.

50. (+35) Lucy Powell
Shadow Education Secretary
Having been an excellent shadow childcare minister Lucy Powell had, shall we say, a less than happy experience as deputy campaign manager of Labour’s general election campaign. In fact, it was disastrous. This new job will make her or break her.

51. (+19) Dan Jarvis
Labour MP for Barnsley
Labour’s lost leader. Had he run for leader this time he may have made a much bigger impression than the three candidates who lost. His reluctance to serve under Jeremy Corbyn may position him well for any ensuing contest.

52. (+3) Caroline Lucas
Green MP for Brighton Pavilion
Lucas did well not only to retain her seat but to massively increase her majority. She has clearly become frustrated by Natalie Bennett’s leadership, or lack of it, and it’s possible that by the time 2020 comes around she will be back in the leadership.

53. (NEW) Annaliese Midgley
Deputy Chief of Staff to Jeremy Corbyn
Some might say her previous position at UNITE gave her more influence than her new job, but we would beg to differ. She could become a leading player if things work out right for her.

54. (-30) Tristram Hunt
Former Shadow Education Secretary
The next twelve months will determine whether Hunt can skilfully lead the anti-Corbyn forces in the Labour Party. If he doesn’t he may well drop out of this list next year, and who knows, even decide to stand down from parliament and go back to academia and books. Who could blame him?

55. (NEW) Jim Kennedy
Chairman of Labour’s NEC
The man who announced Jeremy Corbyn’s victory, his position confers influence over the voluntary party. But can he unite the different factions on the NEC and present a united front?

56. (NEW) Mhaira Black
SNP MP for Paisley & Renfrewshire South
Can Black live up to her maiden speech? She could play a massive part in Scotland’s political future over the next forty or fifty years. A lot of eyes are on her.

57. (+10) Jason Cowley
Editor, New Statesman
Cowley has been considered more of a literary specialist than a political one, but his skilful steering of the New Statesman has resulted in the magazine and its website becoming a required political read across the spectrum.

58. (-13) Helen Lewis
Deputy Editor, New Statesman
Lewis’s profile is graducally on the rise and she is considered one of the more balanced and thoughtful commentators on the centre left.

59. (NEW) Jenny Formby
Political Director, UNITE
It could be argued that Jenny Formby is of even more significance than her general secretary given that she can fund political campaigns across the spectrum and influence candidate selections. Commentators will be looking for early signs of Unite-inspired defections.

60. (NEW) Katherine Viner
Editor, The Guardian
Given that with the exceptions of Owen Jones and Seaumas Milne most of the Guardian’s writers are way to the right of Corbyn & McDonnell it will be interesting to see how the Guardian’s new editor steers her newspaper through some choppy political waters.

61. (NEW) Jon Lansman
Editor, Left Futures
Commonly known as Jeremy Corbyn’s conscience. Unlikely to be awarded a formal role, his job will to try to keep Corbyn to his left wing roots.

62. (NEW) John Swinney
SNP Deputy First Minister of Scotland
Swinney has bounced back role following his lacklustre period as leader. Like his leader he has a well developed sense of humour and provides the ballast in the SNP’s Edinburgh leadership.

63. (NEW) Angus Robertson
Leader of the SNP in Westminster
Each week he has two questions to David Cameron at PMQs. So far he hasn’t made a huge impact in this role, but as leader of the SNP in Westminster his influence can only grow.

64. (+11) Lord David Sainsbury
Philanthropist & Labour donor
A man totally out of sync with the current Labour Party it’s unimaginable he will continue to donate to the national party. Instead, he will concentrate his munificence on Progress and the In campaign.

65. (-6) Kevin Maguire
Assistant Editor, Daily Mirror
Having grown thoroughly disillusioned with Team Miliband it will be interesting to see how Maguire adapts to the Corbyn leadership.

66. (-36) Keith Vaz
Chairman, Home Affairs Select Committee
Rarely off the airwaves, Vaz won his select committee chairmanship re-election with ease and will continue to be one of Labour’s most visible faces and recognisable voices on the media.

67. (-45) Jon Cruddas
Labour MP for Dagenham
A seemingly permanent ‘nearly man’ who always seems reluctant to take on any position of responsibility. He’ll need to buck up his ideas if he to be on this list next year.

68. (NEW) Luke Akehurst
Secretary, Labour First
One of the most talented Labour people never to have become MP. His Labour First group is gaining in influence and he may be a key figure in uniting the right of the party.

69. (+24) Chris Bryant
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
A great survivor, if Chris Bryant could learn to tape up his mouth from time to time he would be a serious player. There’s a deeply serious politician inside a brain that too often looks for the one liner.

70. (-12) Mark Serwotka
General Secretary, PCS
A very popular union leader. Serwotka has courageously struggled with his health in recent times but remains one of the most influential people in the trade union movement.

71. (NEW) Mick Cash
General Secretary, RMT
Cash has had a difficult act to follow, but Bob Crow would have been proud of him with the number of strikes the RMT continues to call. Will they now reaffiliate to the Labour Party? That’s a key decision for Cash to consider.

72. (NEW) Kevin Slocombe
Press Secretary to Jeremy Corbyn
Former head of comms at the Communication Workers Union, Slocombe has an unenviable job. His lack of experience with the lobby may be telling, and according to one of our panel his main danger will be becoming the story himself.

73. (NEW) Paul Mason
Economics Editor, Channel Four News
Has had a very good year with Channel Four News bringing his unqiue brand of economics commentary to a new audience. A journalist, who, while clearly on the left, manages to engage with people across the spectrum.

74. (-23) Simon Danczuk
Labour MP for Rochdale
One of Labour’s most high profile backbenchers and a leading campaigner against child abuse. Annoys some of his colleagues and Labour members with his willingness to speak his mind, often against party policy.

75. (-7) Alan Johnson
Former Home Secretary
The best leader Labour never had? Sadly for Labour his time has been and gone, but he remains in this list as he will be chairing Labour’s ‘In’ campaign in the euro-referendum.

76. (-4) Richard Leese
Leader of Manchester City Council
A shoo-in as Labour candidate for mayor of Manchester, assuming he actually wants the job. One of the few local government leaders with a profile.

77. (-) John Mills
Chairman of JML & party donor
Mills will be a key player in the Euro referendum debate. Contrary to reports he has not ruled out donating to Labour under Corbyn, but it’s clear he is unhappy with the direction the party has taken.

78. (NEW) Lloyd Embley
Editor, Daily Mirror
The Mirror is experiencing something of a renaissence, even if the circulation figures might not reflect it. It is now in a position to influence Labour in a way that was impossible under Blair and Brown.

79. (NEW) Matt Wrack
General Secretary, FBU
Wrack has provided good leadership to his members in the dispute with the government over pay, conditions and pensions, and unusually, he’s got the public on his side.

80. (-33) George Galloway
Respect London mayoral candidate
Galloway’s profile remains high and he has returned to the airwaves on LBC with some cover work. Is his aim now to rejoin the Labour Party, and if so, will he withdraw from the London mayoral race? It can’t be ruled out.

81. (NEW) Baroness Angela Smith
Labour leader in the House of Lords
The role of Labour leader in the House of Lords will be crucial in the parliament and Smith is likely to forge many alliances with the LibDem group and crossbench peers in order to inflict embarrassing defeats on the government.

82. (-23) Jonathan Ashworth
Shadow Minister without portfolio & NEC member
Without a proper policy portfolio, Ashworth is likely to take on the role as Minister for the Today Programme and take over the mantle of ‘attack dog’.

83. (NEW) Pat McFadden
Shadow Europe Minister
The consensual McFadden will do well to keep labour united on Europe, and it’s rumoured he negotiated a hard bargain with Jeremy Corbyn before accepting the job.

84. (NEW) Vernon Coaker
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
As Yvette Cooper’s representative on earth, many were surprised when Coaker accepted a shadow cabinet demotion from defence. But he’s nothing if not a loyal Labour party trooper.

85. (NEW) Will Straw
Executive Director, In Campaign
Straw has bounced back from his election defeat in Rossendale & Darwen and will have a high profile over the coming two years leading the In Campaign in the runup to the Euro-referendum.

86. (-33) Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
_Columnist, The Independent
A surprising drop by our panel considering she’s had two books out this year, both of which have received critical acclaim. Always feisty, never knowingly uncontroversial, she remains a marmite character for people across the political spectrum.

87. (NEW) Sian Berry
Green Party London mayoral candidate
She will hope to improve on her performance as mayoral candidate in 2008, when she got only 3.15% of first preferences, but how far will the London green cause be hit by former green voters who defect to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour?

88. (-55) Nick Pearce
Director, IPPR
The IPPR has been seen as Labour’s think tank, but will their pseudo-Blairite stance count against them with the new regime?

89. (NEW) Clive Lewis
Labour MP for Norwich South
Articulate and eloquent, Lewis is seen as one of the left’s bright hopes for the future. An ex soldier who served in Afghanistan it’s rumoured he turned down the role of Shadow Defence Secretary.

90. (-4) Natalie Bennett
Leader, Green Party
Bennett survived a rather trying election campaign and unlike most party leaders survived to fight another day, but there’s little doubt that green knives are out for her.

91. (NEW) Wes Streeting
Labour MP for Ilford North
Without doubt one of the stars of Labour’s 2015 intake of young MPs. Although he supported Liz Kendall, he is popular across the party and will play a big part in its future.

92. (NEW) Neil Kinnock
Former Leader of the Labour Party
Regarded with affection across the Labour Party, Neil Kinnock has taken on the role of a wise old father figure to Labour politicians from all wings.

93. (+5) Humza Yousaf
SNP Minister for External Affairs
One of the most telegenic of the SNP’s new generation, he is a future leader of the SNP without a shadow of a doubt.

94. (NEW) Jess Phillips
Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley
Anyone who has the balls to tell Diane Abbott to ‘fuck off’ in a PLP meeting deserves to make this list. Phillips is going to be one of the characters of the new Parliament.

95. (NEW) Stuart Hosie
Deputy Leader of the SNP in Westminster
One of the few leading SNP politicians with a well developed sense of humour, the SNP would be wise to use him more on UK-wide media.

96. (NEW) Sir Keir Starmer
Labour MP for Holborn & St Pancras
The most political DPP in a generation, he is tipped for great things in politics, and may well rise to the top if he can keep his giant ego in check.

97. (NEW) Stephen Bush
_Editor of the New Statesman ‘Staggers’ blog
One of the rising stars of a new generation of journalists on the left, he was one of the few to predict the course of the leadership election.

98. (NEW) Jim McMahon
Labour leader on the LGA
Labour has ignored local government leaders for years. McMahon’s task is to change that and influence the party’s policy review.

99. (+1) Leanne Wood
Leader of Plaid Cymru
The election debates gave Wood a recognition boost, but her true test comes next May. Can Plaid break through in the way the SNP have in Scotland? Unlikely, but with the current state of politics anything is possible.

100. (NEW) Ben Chacko
Editor, Morning Star
The grungy looking editor of the Communist daily has kept it afloat and Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader has given the paper a circulation boost, but will it last?

This list was first published on Breitbart



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Book Review: Roy Jenkins - A Well Rounded Life by John Campbell

27 Sep 2015 at 23:47

It’s taken me several months to read this magnificent authorised biography of Roy Jenkins. I thought I knew all there was to know about the man whose tenure as Home Secretary heralded the so-called ‘permissive society’ and went on to lead the SDP, but I was wrong. My bedtimes are no longer things I look forward to as much, now I have completed this wonderful journey which lasted 750 pages. Some say it’s not worth publishing books of that length any longer, as we all have the attention span of a flea. How very wrong. This book has something to savour on virtually every page, whether John Campbell is relating a childhood take or yet another falling out with Dr David Owen.

John Campbell has written biographies of Ted Heath and Margaret Thatcher, but neither of those touches the quality of his latest tome. He is clearly an admirer of Jenkins, but a not uncritical one, as the chapters on the SDP illustrate. He brings his subject to life in a way few would have thought possible, and doesn’t hesitate to include passages which Jenkins, were he still alive, would have found acutely embarrassing.

Like most others I was quite shocked at the extent of Jenkins’ philandering, which he clearly thought quite normal. It makes one wonder how it was kept out of the press, as it was clearly known to many at the time. His wife, Jennifer, seemed to accept it or if she didn’t she treated it with some degree of resignation. It’s not even in the category of ‘what the eye doesn’t see won’t hurt you’. Some of his various conquests even joined the Jenkins’ for regular dinners. Caroline Gilmour, wife of Iain, seems to have been ‘the one’ Jenkins was truly in love with. Even this didn’t phase the ever tolerant Jennifer, who seemed to adopt the line of ‘great men have needs’…

No book is perfect, but this one comes pretty close. I suppose we could have done without the constant references to the details of the numerous book review Jenkins wrote, and a tighter edit could have reduced the page count by 100 pages possibly, but that is to carp unnecessarily.

I don’t know how many copies this book has sold. I suspect not what it should have done, but it ought to go down in the pantheons of political biography as one of the very best. Whoever John Campbell chooses as his next subject will be very lucky indeed.



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Iain Interviews Donal Blaney About the Tory Bullying Scandal

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ConHome Diary: The Truth About Me, Michael Ashcroft, Isabel Oakeshott & THAT Book!

25 Sep 2015 at 09:45

Well, this week certainly has not been dull. And as with any roller coaster ride, it’s had its highs, its lows, and I’m still a bit dazed. I published and was then damned!

Some of you will say, “serves you right, you shouldn’t publish books that question anything about David Cameron or his government”. To that, I say ‘bollocks’.

I run a non-partisan publishing company which publishes current affairs books across the political spectrum. This week I’ve been accused of being a Tory lackey and at the same time totally disloyal for publishing a biography of the prime minister which dares to offer the odd criticism and private revelation.

I got a bit annoyed on Sunday night when I realised that neither the Sky News or BBC newspaper reviews were covering the Daily Mail’s front page with the first extracts from CALL ME DAVE. They always get frit when faced with a contentious story like so-called ‘piggate’. The lawyers go into a frenzy and the editors will always play safe. It’s a shame that the paper reviewers on the two channels didn’t question it. It’s happened to me before and on one occasion I told the producer that we were supposed to be previewing ALL the papers and if we weren’t allowed to even mention a particular story I’d refuse to go on altogether.

I don’t like being censored. And this comes to the crux of the matter on whether the ‘piggate’ story – an anecdote in CALL ME DAVE that caused such a global sensation it almost broke the internet – should have been printed at all. I am still in no doubt it was right to keep it in the book. Whether it would have made the credibility threshold for a newspaper is a side-issue. This is a book, not a newspaper. When I first read it in the manuscript I certainly noticed it was only single-sourced, but the authors were entirely upfront about that. Contrary to much of the sloppy reporting of the story, it was never presented as fact. I was comfortable with the way it was written up and, more to the point, so were the lawyers.
What would the reaction have been had I insisted it were taken out? Had anyone found out, I’d have been accused of censoring something and protecting my so-called ‘Tory mates’. You’d think from the reaction, that Michael and Isabel, aided and abetted by me, had accused the prime minister of murder, or something. It is no more than a tale of student high jinxs, and the authors leave readers to judge for themselves whether it happened or not.

The sight of a former News of the World political editor getting on his high horse amused me greatly. Look in the bloody mirror, mate. The irony seemed to be lost on him.
And you see, I am a great believer that a publisher’s role is to publish, not write the books. I have published many books which say all sorts of things I disagree with, even loathe and abhor. But I am a publisher not a censor.

If something is libellous I will intervene. If I think a fact is wrong, I’ll question it. If I genuinely think something has been misinterpreted, again, I will question an author about it. But a biography has to be a full account of someone’s life, warts and all. That’s what CALL ME DAVE is. The fact that the Daily Mail has chosen to publish more or less only the critical bits is not something I or Michael Ashcroft or Isabel Oakeshott have control of.

This book is a serious work. It is certainly far more than its serializable parts, as those who bother to read the whole 600 pages will no doubt confirm. I guarantee now that several of the reviews will commence with words like these: “I was expecting this book to be full of tabloid trash. Yes, the bits in the Daily Mail are in the book, but it’s a really balanced account of the prime minister’s life.” That’s certainly what the reviews ought to say.
The other thing that has royally pissed me off this week is that this is some sort of vanity publishing exercise subsidised by Michael Ashcroft. Let me lay that one to rest too. Michael has exactly the same terms as any other of our authors. Same royalties. Same terms and conditions. There has been no subsidy to Biteback Publishing. Not a penny. The only difference is that he is giving his royalties to military charities.

Some people have even been to look at our Companies House accounts and, shock horror, discovered that in our first few years we made financial losses. Name me a publishing company that hasn’t. This, apparently, was further evidence that we were just an Ashcroft toy, given that he has invested a seven figure sum in the company. What a pity these people have no idea how business works. This money is not a gift. It is not a subsidy, it is an investment which he expects to recoup. It is now close on two and a half years since he put a penny into Biteback. We were profitable in the last financial year, and we will be in this one too. Michael Ashcroft has got where he is today, not by being a charity, but by investing in businesses he thinks have a good chance of making a profit. I like to think that we are repaying that faith.

Michael is a perfect investor. On not a single occasion has he sought to either influence the direction of the business or dictate whether I publish a book or not. Never have I even consulted him over whether I should commission a book. Indeed, I’ve on several occasions published books by his sworn enemies – Denis MacShane’s ‘Prison Diaries’ being one. The only occasion I can recall when I felt I had to ask his views on something was when Peter Hain and I were being sued by the Attorney General of Northern Ireland. This could have potentially cost the company a lot of money and ended up with Peter and me in prison. While the prospect of visiting us in the Maze amused him no end, he had no hesitation in endorsing my strategy to fight this outrageous case, and in the end we won.

I realise that people have a certain view of how business operates and how a relationship between a businessman and someone like me must operate. As ever, the truth is stranger than fiction. I’m sure people imagine he pulls my every string, with me performing the role of a puppy dog puppet. These people don’t know me very well, and they don’t know Michael.
The first time I met Michael was back in 2003 when he had written a book, DIRTY POLITICS, DIRTY TIMES, on his battles with The Times newspaper. He called me in to read the manuscript and ask what I thought. I was locked in his boardroom for two hours. “Jesus, I thought, what am I going to say if I think it’s total crap?” It wasn’t, but if it had been I’d have told him. When I had finished reading it he asked for my comments. “Two thing,” I said. The first was a minor detail but then I said: “The bit about Tom Baldwin taking cocaine… Your lawyers will tell you to take it out. If you do, you’re not the man I think you are.” He looked me straight in the eye, smiled, and said: “I think you and I are going to get along Mr Dale.” And we have. Famously.
As a publisher I don’t normally give details of print runs for books that I publish, partly because it’s a mug’s game. You never get it right and you virtually always print too many or too few. But in the case of CALL ME DAVE, I’m going to make an exception and give a big ‘fuck you’ gesture with my middle finger to all those who wittered on Twitter about it being in the remainder bins on Day One. Most political biographies do well if they sell 5,000 copies. Some, whisper it, don’t even make it into four figures. But I knew with a serialisation in the Mail, this book was destined to do somewhat better. Our biggest selling book to date was Damian McBride’s. We did an initial print run on that of 5,000 copies but had to reprint on the day of publication such was the demand. In the end it has sold around 24,000 copies in hardback, paperback and eBook. Anyway, back to CALL ME DAVE. My initial intention was to print 6,000 copies and see how it went. But on the first day of the Mail serialisation I doubled it to 12,000. Over the week the orders from bookshops and other outlets (including one major supermarket chain) have flooded in – and I mean, flooded – with the result that on Wednesday morning I counted up the pre-orders which totalled a massive 33,000. So I took a deep breath and told my colleagues to order an initial print run of 35,000. That’s three and a half times more than our previous biggest print run for a book. I don’t believe for a minute all will be sold because all books are subjected to a rate of returns, but 10,000 of these are firm sale, so that’s not a bad start.

An early sign of whether a book is going to do well is to look at the Amazon sales rankings. It’s actually quite rare for any political book to make it into the Amazon Top 100, let alone the top 20. By Tuesday morning the book was at Number 12. This is competing with bestselling novels and cookbooks. Biteback has only twice had books in the top 20 before. Anthony Seldon’s officially approved CAMERON AT TEN peaked, I believe at around 92. Hey ho. Amazon use algorithms to guess how many they’re going to sell of a book pre-publication. Sometimes it panics me because they order huge amounts, and I think to myself “they’ll never sell that many.” But they do. So that’s another 4,000 sold then…
One other amusement for me were the tweets that reckoned I was only publishing this book because I once worked for David Davis and I loathed David Cameron. Oh dear. I’ve never once published a book because of any supposed political agenda I might have. I have no agenda whatsoever with this book except for it to sell as many copies as possible – just like any other book.

David Cameron came up to North Norfolk for a day when I was a candidate there. We maintained good relations during the leadership contest. If we’re in the same room we always have a very jovial chat. Four years ago he rang me to ask if I would go and speak to his patrons club. He rang me the next morning and we had a twenty minute chat. The thought that he and I are enemies is laughable. I am sure there are people in Number Ten who are not exactly gruntled at the events of this week, but I would be very surprised if they, or the prime minister broke off diplomatic relations. They’re bigger than that.



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LibDem Politics

The Top 50 Liberal Democrats 2015

22 Sep 2015 at 14:04

Each year I convene three panels to compile lists of the Top 50 Liberal Democrats, the Top 100 People on the Left and the Top 100 People on the Right. Each list is published to coincide with the three party conferences. This is the eighth year I’ve been doing this, and a cursory look down the lists for 2007 shows how politics changes so quickly.

There are 19 new entries in this year’s Liberal Democrat list, many of them close allies of the new party leader Tim Farron. The LibDem wipeout in May made this almost inevitable, although the changes are largely due to former MPs dropping off the list altogether rather than an amazng amount of new talent forcing its way onto the list.

Nick Clegg has only dropped three places, which may come as a bit of a surprise, but this list is all about influence, and it cannot be denied that Clegg will have an enduring influence over the LibDems, but also in the country. He’s a bit like John Major in that he rations his public pronouncements so everyone pays attention when he decides to hold forth.

One of the big risers in this list is the leader of the Welsh LibDems, Kirsty Williams. The deputy leadership of the party was offered to her but she decided to concentrate on fighting the 2016 Welsh Assembly elections. Even if those don’t go well, and they probably won’t, she’s one of the next generation of LibDem stars.

Many of the LibDem old guard are on the decline. Paddy Ashdown, for instance, has to fall this year even though he remains immensely popular. Vince Cable seems to have opted out of frontline politics and to have become a commentator, while Danny Alexander plummets 36 places and appears to have completely disappeared from view.

Tim Farron’s challenge is to ensure that this time next year I still think it is worthwhile compiling a list of the Top 50 Liberal Democrats, because in all honesty you have to wonder if, after the May local, Welsh, Scottish and London mayoral elections, they will be in any way electorally relevant.

1. (+4) Tim Farron
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Leader of the Liberal Democrats. It’s his job to lead them back from eight MPs to the position they were in 2010.

2. (+28) Sal Brinton
President of the Liberal Democrats

3. (+5) Norman Lamb
Health Spokesman
The Health Spokesman lost to Tim Farron in the leadership election, but still has a lot to offer the party.

4. (-3) Nick Clegg
Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats
The former Leader of the Liberal Democrats may not be Deputy Prime Minister any more, but he’s still an MP and a powerful voice behind the scenes.

5. (+20) Jim Wallace
Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords
A key party powerbroker and given the strength of the LibDems in the Lords, he could, it may be argued, be the most powerful LibDem politician in the land nowadays.

6. (+15) Kirsty Williams
Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
Hugely impressive, she is said to have turned down the chance to be the party’s new deputy leader. Will she stand for Westminster in 2020?

7. (+22) Willie Rennie
_Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
Rennie has a thankless jb and must be dreading the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. The LibDems face wipeout.

8. (NEW) Greg Mulholland
Chair of the Parliamentary Campaigns Team
Highest new entry, and one of only 8 LibDem MPs. A key early supporter of Tim Farron and very much in the same mould.

9. (-2) Lynne Featherstone
Lib Dem Peer-nominee & Spokesperson on Energy & Climate Change
Popular with activists, a stellar record as a minister on issues like gay marriage and FGM. Not sure the DECC portfolio will be a natural home for her, though.

10. (NEW) Ben Rich
Interim Chief of Staff to Tim Farron, Farron leadership campaign director
Will play a key role as Tim Farron’s closest adviser. He has the ability to tell Farron when he’s being a bit of a dick. His organisational abilities will be key.

11. (NEW) Jo Foster
Former special adviser to Nick Clegg, key role in Farron leadership campaign
Jo Foster is another close friend of Tim Farron and has in the past served the party well on the communications front. But can she be persuaded to join Team Farron in a permanent capacity?

12. (NEW) James Palumbo
Lib Dem Peer & major donor
Palumbo’s influence and personality have become every more important. He is one of the few donors to remain true to the LibDems. When he calls LibDems pick up the phone very quickly.

13. (+9) Lord Newby
Lib Dem Chief Whip in the House of Lords
Newby is the power behind Jim Wallace’s throne in the House of Lords.

14. (+26) Caroline Pidgeon AM
Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London
Bright, funny, sassy, intelligent, she is by far the best candidate for London mayor the LibDems have ever had. But she’s in for a tonking and knows it.

15. (+24) Tom Brake
Lib Dem Chief Whip
It comes to something when the LibDem Commons chief whip is rated as less important than the one in the Lords. Brake is popular in the party, if somewhat charismatically challenged.

16. (NEW) Baroness Kate Parminter
Lib Dem Deputy Leader in the Lords
One half of a LibDem power couple (married to Clegg donor/adviser Neil Sherlock) she is a popular member of the LibDem House of Lords leadership team. She also shadows DEFRA.

17. (+10) Baroness Susan Kramer
Lib Dem Peer & Economics Spokesman
Was seen as a good minister at the Department of Transport and will have a high profile in her new economics portfolio. Her public persona belies and wickedly cheeky sense of humour.

18. (-15) Paddy Ashdown
Former Lib Dem leader
Ashdown took one for the team by taking on the role in the last parliament as director of the LibDem general election campaign, where he proved a great leader of the troops. He will never entirely take a back seat, but is likely to speak out more on world affairs.

19. (-8) Sir Vincent Cable
Former Lib Dem Business Secretary
Whither Vince? He refused a peerage so people are asking what level of involvement will he continue to have. Could play a major role in realigning the left, as a bridge between LibDems and moderate Labour supporters.

20. (+6) Duncan Brack
Vice Chair Lib Dem Policy Committee, role in Farron leadership campaign
A popular LibDem backroom boy, who would make a great addition to the LibDem benches in the Lords. A former SPAD to Chris Huhne, he is an original thinker whose talents needs to be used to best effect.

21. (NEW) Catherine Bearder
Member of the European Parliament

22. (-18) David Laws
Former LibDem Schools Minister

23. (+1) Mark Pack
Editor, LibDem Newswire

24. (NEW) Ros Scott
Lib Dem Peer & former party president

25. (-7) Simon Hughes
Former deputy leader of the Lib Dems

26. (-13) Alastair Carmichael
Former Scottish Secretary, MP for Orkney & Shetland

27. (-18) Jo Swinson
Former Business minister

28. (NEW) Neil Fawcett
_Deputy Chair of Federal Executive, key role in Farron leadership campaign _

29. (NEW) Dorothy Thornhill
LibDem mayor of Watford, new peer

30. (+11) Caron Lindsay
Co-editor of LibDem Voice

31. (-1) Tim Gordon
Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats

32. (NEW) Lindsay Northover
peer, former DFID minister, spokesperson on International Development

33. (NEW) Hilary Stephenson
Director of Elections

34. (-18) Julian Huppert
Former Lib Dem MP for Cambridge

35. (-25) Ed Davey
Former Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change

36. (-1) Sir Ming Campbell
_Former leader of the LibDems

37. (-4) Stephen Tall
- Blogger, former Editor, Lib Dem Voice

38. (-36) Danny Alexander
Former Chief Secretary to the Treasury

39. (-33) Jonathan Oates
Former Director of Communications to Nick Clegg, new peer

40. (NEW) John Pugh
MP for Southport, Education spokesperson

41. (NEW) Austin Rathe
Head of Membership Services, Lib Dem HQ

42. (NEW) Mark Williams
_Lib Dems’ only Welsh MP, vice-chairman of the parliamentary campaigns team

43. (NEW) Jane Bonham-Carter
LibDem Culture Spokeswoman in the House of Lords

44. (NEW) James Gurling
Chair, Campaigns and Communications Committee

45. (-11) Gerald Vernon-Jackson
Head of the LibDems on the LGA

46. (NEW) Sarah Ludford
LibDem Peer, former MEP

47. (NEW) David Howarth
Former MP for Cambridge, role in Farron leadership campaign

48. (-3) Maajid Nawaz
Director of the Quilliam Foundation, former LibDem PPC

49. (-) Keith House
Leader, Eastleigh Council

50. (NEW) Merel Hussein-Ece
Lib Dem peer, spokesperson on equalities



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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Michael Fassio

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