Books

BOOK REVIEW: The NHS - Things That Need to be Said

12 Mar 2015 at 00:56

There’s nothing an author appreciates than when someone writes a nice review of their book. The review below appeared on ARRSE yesterday.

The author presents the drive time show on LBC Radio, the UK’s only national news talk radio station. This short book is one of a series of polemics being published by LBC on contemporary topics. Sensible debate on the NHS is long overdue and this is a welcome start. The prose flows lightly and well and points are tellingly made. Unsurprisingly the tone is chatty rather than learned, but that does not detract. It is a pleasure to read.

Or rather, it would be a pleasure to read were it not for the underlying tale. How on earth in a time of austerity can the NHS (or any other government department) employ over 7,000 people on salaries of £100,000 per year or more while at the same time performing so badly?

The book starts with the political context, notably the high turnover of Health Secretaries (average tenure of two years). It moves on to the question of private versus public provision, where it uncovers the NHS’s institutional loathing of private sector provision and ask why the NHS doesn’t really function at weekends. Further chapters cover funding issues, demographics and the “post code lottery.” Mr Dale then looks at some looming problems, diabetes (of which he has personal experience) and mental health Examples are provided, most often from callers to his show, but also from research. By the end you will be convinced that there is a case to answer, although to whom the question should be addressed remains a mystery.

A polemic is only required to make an argument, which this book does engagingly. The author does not go into great detail, but that is not necessary in a polemic. To his credit, the author then goes further and makes some suggestions of how things may be improved. Sadly he is probably correct in thinking that not much will change in the short term due to a lack of political will power.

This book unlikely to be popular with the medical establishment, which the author correctly points out is effectively a trades union protecting doctors and nurses from the customers (taxpayers and paymasters (taxpayers again). I very much doubt that may actual or would be Health Ministers will be accepting invitations onto Mr Dale’s show.

This is a book that you should read before you vote. So should your friends.

The reviewer gave it 4/5 stars. Thank you!

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Gyles Brandreth

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UK Politics

WATCH: Is Chuka Too Sexy For British Politics?

11 Mar 2015 at 22:07

Hashtag awkward. He enjoyed it really, though :)

Actually, of all the phone-ins I do on my programme, Chuka gets the most positive response from people who text and email in. Yes, he obviously has his detractors, as all politicians do, but a lot of people reckon he comes across really well. Tonight was the last full hour phone-in I’ll be doing with him before the election. Which makes me kind of sad, as he’s been a good sport over the last year and is always an entertaining listen. He’s not afraid to give his views and also not afraid to give credit to politicians from other parties where it is due. Politicians across the parties could learn a lot from how he handles these phone-ins. He does ‘human’ very well.

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse talks about her new novel A LITTLE LOVE

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Music

Concert Review: Mango Groove at the Hammersmith Apollo

8 Mar 2015 at 16:43

Well I have never been mentioned on stage before at a pop concert, but it happened last night when Mango Groove’s lead singer Claire Johnson dedicated the song ANOTHER COUNTRY to me. You could have knocked me down with a feather, but it was hugely appreciated. You see, I reckon I am Mango Groove’s biggest fan in the UK – and if I come across as a bit of a groupie in this piece I make no apology!

I first discovered Mango Groove back in 1994 when I was in a cafe called Aroma in St Martin’s Lane. They always played different types of World Music and suddenly this song came on and I had that hair going up on the back of your neck moments. I think it was Hellfire. Well, I went up to HMV in Oxford Street the next day and bought two of their albums and I’ve never looked back. I can honestly say I like every single song they have ever recorded, and there aren’t many bands anyone can say that about.

Mango Groove hail from South Africa, although the lead singer, Claire Johnston, was born only a few miles from me in Bishops Stortford. They’ve sold over a millon albums in their home country and you could see in what affection they are held by the reaction of the big South African contingent in the audience last night.

The evening started with no fewer than three warm-up acts. Matthew Mole is a young South African singer who could be a big name in the making. I liked his songs so much I have just downloaded his entire back catalogue and that’s also what I have done with The Soil, a three piece South African accapella group who knocked the audience for six with their uniquenese, their energy and their astonishing harmonies. Look them up.

I had dragged eleven friends along in a bit to indoctrinate them into becoming fans of Mango Groove, and I reckon my mission was successful. My sister Tracey (pictured with me and Claire Johnston) and I have very different musical tastes and I was amazed she came along, but she seemed to be hugely impressed by what she heard. Id be surprised if most of them weren’t spending part of today downloading some of Mango Groove’s back catalogue.

They came on stage and started as they meant to go on with two very up tempo numbers, Hellfire and Hometalk. The two highlights for me were Special Star, perhaps their biggest hit, and Dance Sum More. This really got the audience on their feet, even people in the upper circle. The whole show was a spectacle and there was always so much going on on stage that the lighting people sometimes found it difficult to know where to point their spotlights.

They were on stage for a full two hours and the concert didn’t finish till 11pm. I said to Claire at the after-show party that I could die happy now I had seen a Mango Groove concert. I think she thought I was joking! It was a fantastic evening. One of these days I want to see them live in South Africa, a country I have never been to. Hopefully I will put that right before too long.

UPDATE: Earlier this week I interviewed Mango Groove. You can hear it HERE

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Video

DOWNFALL VIDEO: Nick Clegg Says Sorry

6 Mar 2015 at 21:47

Nick Clegg Entschuldigt Sich from Iain Dale on Vimeo.

Miranda Green just asked on Twitter if I was behind this Downfall video, made after Nick Clegg’s apology for the tuition fees promise a couple of years ago. Guilty as charged, Miranda! I haven’t seen it for some time, but having just watched it again I’m rather proud of it. Perhaps I will make one about David Cameron and the election debates debacle… Now there’s an idea….

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Miranda Hart

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Will Col Bob Stewart Resign His Seat?

6 Mar 2015 at 14:31

On Wednesday afternoon I wondered if my eyes and ears had deceived me. I had watched Prime Minister’s Question Time and thought that Ed Miliband had trounced David Cameron. On both immigration and the TV debates Cameron didn’t seem to have any answers and for once Ed Miliband piled home his advantage. So that’s what I tweeted. But many lobby journos thought the opposite. James Chapman of the Mail and Jim Pickard of the FT both felt that Cameron had played a bad hand well. They were in the press gallery but I watched it on TV. But they were not alone. I’ve always marvelled at how different people can watch the same event and draw completely different conclusions.
*
It’s not often an MP threatens to resign his seat in the middle of a live radio interview, but that’s what Col Bob Stewart did when I interviewed him on Wednesday afternoon. He’s very angry at defence cuts and had told leading Generals it would make a huge impact if they resigned their positions in protest. I put it to him that it was politicians, not Generals, who make defence policy and as a member of the Defence Select Committee, maybe it would be better if he took the lead and led by example. Much to my surprise he took up the cudgels and said that not only might he resign from the committee but he was thinking of resigning his seat too. But not now. Of course the last MP to resign his seat on a point of principle won it back, and David Davis will believe till his dying day that he did the right thing. But he ruined his prospects of holding top political office in the process. Will Bob Stewart carry out his threat? I doubt it, but it is indicative of how strongly many Conservative MPs feel about defence spending at the moment.
*

I’ve always thought that Gus O’Donnell was a bit of a dick. This week he’s proved it. He’s made an outspoken attack on politicians, calling them out of touch and much more besides. He attacks them for having chauffeur driven cars, saying they don’t “get” public services. Someone remind me how the former Head of the Civil Service, Sir Gus O’Donnell, got to work every day? Yes, that’s right. In a chauffeur driven car. Effing hypocrite.
*
I went out for dinner on Wednesday night with two members of the South African band Mango Groove. They’re over here to do a concert at the Hammersmith Apollo tomorrow night. I decided to take them to Joe Allen’s in Covent Garden. We placed our orders and I asked the waiter for some bread to tide us over until the main food arrived. A few minutes later he came back and rather shame-facedly told us that they had run out of bread. At 8.30 in the evening! Perhaps he should have let us eat cake instead.
*

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LBC 97.3 Book Club: Iain talks to Nigel Farage

UKIP Leader Nigel Farage tells Iain Dale on LBC 97.3 about being locked in a pub 'for his own safety' on the campaign trail in Scotland. After his event was gatecrashed by 'Scottish nationalists'.

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UK Politics

Counterfactual: Ed Miliband Refuses to Debate with Cameron in Election Campaign

5 Mar 2015 at 12:37

It has just been reported by the BBC that Ed Miliband has refused to take part in any election debates with the Prime Minister during the election campaign. The Leader of the Opposition said that in 2010 the election debates had sucked the life out of the campaign and that he was only willing to take part in one single debate prior to the start of the election campaign proper. Miliband’s decision has drawn ridicule and derision from the other political parties. A spokesman for the Prime Minister accused the Leader of the Opposition of being “frightened, frit and unable to stand up the scrutiny of an election campaign”. Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said Miliband was “taking the electorate for granted and behaving in a high-handed fashion.” He continued: “If he can’t stand up to the rigours of an election debate, how could he possibly think he’s qualified to run the country.”

Obviously, that is all complete fiction. But imagine if it weren’t. Does anyone seriously think David Cameron wouldn’t be making political hay? Now I don’t think Cameron is “frit” of taking on Miliband. His advisers have conducted a risk assessment and decided that it is more advantageous to them politically not to take part in a head to head, or indeed multiple other debates. Cameron often stands accused of not having a strategy and talking decisions for short term political tactical advantage. This is one of those occasions. It’s also an occasion when he should have looked Craig Oliver squarely in the eye and said:

“Advisers advise, ministers decide. I don’t care what your advice is, I’m going to look a hypocrite and a coward if I don’t do these debates. Make them happen.”

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UK Politics

Will the Broadcasters Blink?

5 Mar 2015 at 10:43

Frit. Coward. Hypocrite. Just three of the words being thrown at the Prime Minister over his refusal to debate head to head with the Leader of the Opposition. He’s offered to take part in a single, eight-way, debate but only if it takes place before the election campaign starts at the end of this month. At the time of writing the broadcasters have yet to respond. The question is: will they blink? Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me. If they have any balls they will tell Cameron it’s not for him to veto the rules of engagement, and they’ll say the debates will go ahead with or without the Prime Minister’s participation.

Political expediency shouldn’t come in to the equation here. If you look at David Cameron’s comments in 2009 on the pros and cons of leaders’ debates and compare them to what has happened now, the only conclusion you can draw is that Number 10’s tactics in these negotiations are determined solely by party advantage. That’s no way for a statesman to behave. Bear in mind he said: “These debates will now be a fundamental part of the political process”. He was right then, and he should stick to that now. Elections campaigns are there for politicians to debate each other, whether it be on a constituency level or nationally.

In 2009 it was perfectly possible to argue against leaders’ debates on the basis that we don’t have a presidential system, but that’s not what David Cameron did. The genie is out of the bottle and can’t be put back. Tim Montgomerie has consistently argued that these debates can never advantage a Tory leader. He may well have a point, but I’d like to think we could all rise above narrow party political advantage from time to time. This whole issue is yet another example of blundering by Number 10. It’s all very well for Craig Oliver, the Director of Communications, to send a truculent letter to the broadcasters blaming them for handling the issue very badly. He’d be better off looking in a mirror.

Channel 4 political editor Gary Gibbon disagrees. He writes: “Abandoning consistency and deploying ruthless determination and guile, David Cameron has got his way or something close to it. Some will think that could be an omen for the election itself.” Well, he may be right, but there will be some who will think twice about voting for a prime minister who won’t debate his opponents. But then again, if Ed Miliband fails to make hay out of this, that will be very telling too.

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Personal

Attitude Column: Cucumber Plays Into Far Too Many Gay Stereotypes & Is a Bit Bananas

4 Mar 2015 at 15:23

I wanted to enjoy Cucumber. I really did. I was a massive fan of Queer as Folk back in the late 1990s and expected great things from Cucumber. As someone in his early 50s I thought it would be a really good thing for a new drama to look at life for the slightly older gay man. It would be a risky thing to do bearing in mind our obsessions with youth, but if Cucumber was half as riveting as Queer as Folk we’d all be happy.

But I’m not happy. It’s not that I have found Cucumber boring or totally without its moments. In fact, despite the drab nature of the first episode, I’ve stuck with it and have even enjoyed it. There has even been the odd laugh out loud moment, although these have been far more infrequent than in the often hilarious Queer as Folk.

So why has Cucumber disappointed? People who don’t interact with gay men often have very stereotypical thoughts about them. They’re promiscuous. Obsessed with sex. Older gay men constantly prey on younger models. Penis size is all important. Gay relationships never last. They are never monogamous. I could go on, but you get the picture.

Sadly, Cucumber has fallen into the trap of portraying these stereotypes as if they are truths, and then throw in a few more for good measure. Black men all have large penises, obviously. Well that was a revelation to us all, I’m sure. The storyline where Freddy blackmails his schoolteacher who he happens to bump into after a few years was like something out of the 1950s. Henry filming videos involving his 15 year old nephew wasn’t just weird and uncomfortable, but also something a real life Henry would have run a mile from. Yet people in straightworld were nodding in condemnation, no doubt saying “See Mavis, I told you, they’re all like that – all wanting a bit of underage boy booty”.

Now, I appreciate this is a drama, and that sex sells, but I don’t know anyone in gayworld who is obsessed with sex to the extent that virtually every character in Cucumber is. More or less every storyline within the somewhat shaky plot has some sort of sexual element to it. Life’s not like that, is it?

The only genuinely interesting subplot I can think of is the debate about anal sex. Henry doesn’t like it, and refuses to do it. It lies at the centre of his breakup with Lance who is desperate for a bit of arse action. Henry prefers to stay on the vanilla side of sex. I am sure most non gay men imagine that gay sex has to involve anal sex, and who’s top or bottom. Does it really?

And then we come on to last week’s episode. It came as somewhat of a shock. I’m not going to write about the details as I don’t want to ruin it for those that haven’t seen it. I watched it on my own in our house in Norfolk at about 1am in the morning. I was somewhat traumatised by it. As soon as it had finished I rang my partner who was elsewhere. “Whatever you do, don’t watch Cucumber before you go to bed,” I said.

Naturally,he ignored me and watched it anyway. He has an ability to compartmentalise TV soaps and dramas and tell himself that none of it is real and they are only actors. I am different. I replay things in my mind time and again and then relate them to events in my life and imagine how things might have been different. And not in a good way.
I suppose the fact that I made that phone-call proves that Cucumber has had an impact, and what more do you want from a drama?

One thing Cucumber does achieve, though, is to make young gay men realise that one day, they too will get older. Reaching your thirties, forties, or dare I say it, even your fifties does not mean that your life has come to an end. When you’re 22 you cannot really contemplate being 52. I couldn’t. But as sure as eggs is eggs, one day it will happen. And you know what? It may not be Cucumber, but it’s certainly Bananas.

This article first appeared on the Attitude Website today

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Video: Andrew Marr Paper Review with Iain, Clare Short & Jude Kelly

Hosted by Sophie Raworth

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Books

The Why Vote Books Sales Update: UKIP Voters Are More Computer Friendly & Green Voters Kill More Trees

3 Mar 2015 at 11:40

Back in the autumn Biteback published a series of books called “Why Vote…” covering the four main political parties. In January we added ‘Why Vote Green’ to the list. I’ve calculated sales up until the end of February, and these are the figures.

UKIP 26.7%
Labour 23.5%
Conservative 17.6%
Green 17.5%
LibDem 14.7%

It’s a very good performance for the ‘Why Vote Green’ book as it’s only been on the shelves for a little over a month.

Interestingly, UKIP voters are the most eBook friendly, with 13% of the ‘Why Vote UKIP’ book being downloaded on the Kindle or via iBooks or the Nook. By way of contrast only 2% of the ‘Why Vote Green’ book are eBook sales. How ironic that the Greens kill more trees than their counterparts. However, Green purchasers are more likely to buy direct from the Biteback or Politicos websites than Amazon, so good for them!

I’ll update the figures again at the end of March.

You can buy each of the books at Biteback Publishing’s website or the whole series is available for £37.50 (normal price £50) HERE

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Challenges a Caller Who Thinks People Choose to be Gay

Mosad from Golders Green called Iain's programme to talk about gay marriage. He suggested that people choose to be gay. He got more than he bargained for in return...

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Diary

ConHome Diary: No Dave, I Won't Stand for Kensington (Not That You've Asked!)

27 Feb 2015 at 14:30

My interview with Ed Balls on Wednesday seems to have created a bit of a stir. According to the Huffington Post it was “the most cringeworthy LBC interview in, well, recent days.” Personally, I thought it was a hoot. You see Ed Balls had come top of a Mumsnet survey of sexy MPs. They described him as a “sexy beast”. Whatever floats your boat, I guess. Anyway, we sent our reporter Tom Swarbrick out to see what the good citizens of London thought and then played this out to him. As the Mirror’s Owen Bennett put it, “The Shadow Chancellor was appearing on LBC radio when host Iain Dale surprised him with a small package”. Er, I can honestly say I have never surprised anyone with a small package, but perhaps that’s a story for my column in Attitude Magazine, rather than on ConservativeHome. Anyway, to cut a long story short, Ed Balls waxed lyrical about his sexual prowess – he’s a “long, slow burn” in case you’re at all interested – and it was all good fun, at the end of an hour long phone in which covered heavy economic subjects. Naturally the Daily Mail wrote this up as “excruciating”. In truth, it was nothing of the sort. It was a good laugh which showed Ed Balls has a great sense of humour and in reality is a thoroughly nice guy – far away from the stereotype image that I am sure most of the readers of this column have of him. If we want our politicians to be robots and never show a sense of humour then that’s fine, but I’d rather have politicians like Ed Balls who aren’t afraid to stray off the political path once in a while and be entertaining.
*
All of which brings us to Natalie Bennett and her car crash on LBC. It was an interview when Nick Ferrari appeared to hand her a silver revolver and asked her if she’d like to shoot herself. And the duly did. Ferrari can be quite an aggressive interviewer if he thinks a politician is not on their game, but in this interview he just let Natalie climb on the chair, put the rope around her neck and jump. Now, there’s no doubt that she wasn’t feeling her best and had a massive cold. I have sympathy with her on that score as I too had a massive cold at the beginning of the week, and believe me, presenting a four hour phone in show when you’re not feeling your best is quite a challenge. I wasn’t at the top of my game but I got through it on the basis that the show had to go on. The fact is that Natalie Bennett should never have got out of bed that morning, but as a party leader it’s quite difficult to pull a sickie on the day of your general election campaign launch. But she needed her media adviser to tell her not to do the interviews and just to appear at the launch, then go home and take a hot toddie.

I suspect, however, that there won’t be too many long lasting effects from this “brain fade”. The Greens, like UKIP, has a slight Teflon quality, where bad news bounces off them – a bit like it used to be for the LibDems.

The final thing I would say about this is that this type of Brain Fade happens to Boris Johnson rather often, yet interviews let me get away with it. In future, we should all be far more damning of Boris and not let his bluster and general bon homie mask the fact that on many issues he can appear just as ill-informed as Natalie Bennett. Admittedly, it happens less and less nowadays, but if his political ambitions really are as high as we are led to believe, he will need to be much more on top of complicated policies than he sometimes appears to be.
*
Back in the 1990s there was a great series on ITV starring David Jason called A BIT OF A DO. Every episode revolved around some sort of family “do” like a wedding or funeral and the disasters and rows that happened. Whenever something bad happened David Jason would frown and utter the words “today, of all days…”. I wonder if Nigel Farage had those words on his mind when he woke up in Washington DC to hear the UK’s immigration figures announced. He and his diary planners (not that he has any, as he keeps his own diary) must have been kicking themselves that they were 3,000 miles away when it was announced that the net immigration figure for last year was 298,000, higher than any year under Labour. Talk about an open goal for Farage to score. But he couldn’t. Because he wasn’t here. Instead he had been persuaded by his trusty adviser Matthew Richardson to show his face and speak at the CPAC Conference, which takes place every February in Washington. The Conservative Political Action Conference really is a gathering of the ‘faith, flag and family’ wing of the Republican Party. I don’t mind admitting that my definition of the word ‘conservative’ differs somewhat from theirs. And I suspect that even Nigel Farage might be left feeling a little queasy by it all. I remember one anecdote from my last visit to CPAC in 2008. One afternoon I got talking to a young girl from Alabama at CPAC and was explaining to her the differences between British and American Conservatives. I mentioned that neither abortion or gay rights were big issues in British politics. “Oh,” she said, “I’ve never met anyone who’s gay.” I then offered my hand and said, “well now you have!” She roared with laughter and then added: “We don’t have any gay people in Alabama.” I told her the horrible truth and we then joked that they had all probably left or been driven out of the state.
*

It’s been reported that Sol Campbell is now the official CCHQ choice for the next Conservative Candidate for Mayor of London. I may be accused of partisanship here because of the nasty things he says about West Ham in his recent book, and call me old-fashioned, but exactly what qualities does Sol Campbell possess to make him the standout candidate? Apart from being black, of course. And a pseudo-celebrity. Do we know his views on anything apart from the Mansion Tax? Has he ever shown any aptitude for the cut and thrust of political life? Or an ability to run anything? Now to be fair, Boris Johnson wasn’t actually the ideal candidate back in 2007 when he was selected, and he hasn’t done a bad job, but are we really reduced to choosing a candidate just because of their celebrity or the fact they happen not to be white? The three declared Tory candidates so far are Stephen Greenhalgh, Andrew Boff and the appalling Ivan Massow. How anyone can take Massow seriously is quite beyond me. He’s announced several policies so far, none of which could remotely be called Conservative – hardly a surprise, I suppose bearing in mind his history of political flip-flopping. No doubt when he is rejected, as he surely will be, it will time for another defection. No doubt he will question ‘Is it coz I is gay?’ It’s his habitual excuse for political failure. I may have failed to get elected, but I’ve never trotted out that excuse and never will.
*
Moving on to Kensington, where Sir Malcom Rifkind saw the political writing on the wall and quit before he was pushed, it will be interesting to see how the selection develops. Victoria Borwick has already declared her hand and according to Guido Fawkes has hired Nick Wood’s Media Intelligence Partners to boost her profile.

The front runners for Kensington mostly seem to be a pot pourri of sporting celebs – Andrew Strauss, James Cracknell and Frank Lampard (yes, really). I know nothing about Strauss’s
political ambitions but I do know that James Cracknell has been serious in pursuing a political career and was a Euro candidate. But in Kensington we are told that Number Ten are determined to have a woman selected. The finger is being pointed at Cameron adviser Laura Trott, who has tried for various seats with no luck so far. I’ve no idea how good she is, but isn’t it rather sickening that in virtually every final at the moment, the same nine or ten people are appearing? No one can seriously tell me that this is all down to local decision making.
One name I was very pleased to see on the betting odds for Kensington was that of Tim Montgomerie, late of this parish. Tim and I may not agree on anything but I think he’d make a superb parliamentarian. Thoughtful, passionate and with a strong set of ideological beliefs. Trouble is, he’s having none of it. It’s a sad indictment on our politics that someone like Tim isn’t at all interested in pursuing a career in elected politics. I’d like to think that at some point he might indeed still appear in Parliament. In ermine.

And just for the record, even though my name has appeared at 33/1 on the betting odds for Kensington, I have absolutely no interest either. Not even a flicker. Not a twinge. Just as well seeing as it’s nearly five years since I have been on the candidates list. One of my LBC colleagues reckoned he could make a quick buck by putting some money on me to win and I kept protesting I didn’t want to do it (was he trying to get rid of me?!) and he then said: “What if David Cameron rang you up and told you he wanted you to stand?” I didn’t even need to think. “No, Dave,” I’d say, in the style of a sketch show character whose name I have now forgotten, “It’s not a maverick radio presenter you need in Kensington, it’s a future Prime Minister. I bid you farewell, now get on with running the country.”

His next call would probably be to Katy Hopkins.

Now there’s a thought. I really shouldn’t put these thoughts into people’s heads, should I?

But I am serious. Whoever wins Kensington should be someone who you could imagine in ten years’ time leading the Conservative Party and then the country. If I had a vote there, I wouldn’t even consider shortlisting anyone who didn’t meet that criteria.

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Tony Benn

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