I’m on holiday at the moment but when you get the opportunity of an exclusive you don’t turn it down. So I got the train to London from Norwich this morning and went straight to St Ermin’s Hotel to attend Harvey Proctor’s press conference, having persuaded him to give me an exclusive interview afterwards. What he said at the press conference was truly astonishing, and you can read what he said at that conference elsewhere.
So after the press conference he came to LBC’s studios and I recorded a 16 minute interview with him. At one point Mr Proctor became quite emotional.
LBC 97.3: Iain Dale's Sunday Debate: Leveson
Mark Lewis, Professor Stephen Barnet and Jim Fitzpatrick MP debate the imminent Leveson Report.
It seems that most commentators believe Jeremy Corbyn will be announced as the new Labour leader in under three weeks’ time. His views and policies are coming under increasing scrutiny, and a good thing to. Parts of the Labour Party seem to be voting for him on the basis that he is the second Coming of Christ and he has no links with the Blair regime. I wonder how many of them have actually studied his policies in any detail, or looked into his beliefs. It’s all very well to vote for someone who your heart agrees with. It’s when your head tells you something different and you still go ahead and vote for them that you should worry.
The Labour Party resembles a group of hundreds of thousands of lemmings who are about to collectively jump off a cliff and commit suicide. And they’re doing it in the full knowledge that this is going to be the end result. I shake my head in disbelief at the apparently sane people who knowingly ignore the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is simply unelectable as Prime Minister. They know that. I know that. You know that. I suspect even Jeremy Corbyn himself knows that. The thing is, unless you have power, you can’t change anything, and anyone in elected politics is well aware of that simple fact. So why, oh why is he going to win? It’s partly because he has a habit of answering a question, as evidenced in the leaders debate I hosted at LBC. It’s partly because he’s a nice man. It’s partly because of the deluded leadership election system Ed Miliband bequeathed. It’s partly because he appears to represent an anti-politics mood. It’s partly because, despite him being an MP for 32 years, he’s successfully portrayed himself as being apart from the Westminster bubble, something which Andy Burnham has also laughably tried (and failed) to do.
But the simple truth is that he isn’t where the British people are. I have a list of twelve questions for Jeremy Corbyn below. He would answer ‘yes’ to them all. Most British people would answer ‘no’ to all of them. All. Of. Them.
1. Do you think Britain should withdraw from NATO?
2. Do you think Britain should give up its nuclear deterrent?
3. Would you refuse to join the Privy Council as leader of the opposition?
4. Do you think Northern Ireland should become part of the Republic with no referendum?
5. Do you think the railways should be renationalised?
6. Do you think the energy industry should be renationalised?
7. Do you think the top rate of income tax should be above 80p?
8. Do you think the Bank of England should be brought back under political control?
9. Do you think face to face talks with ISIS are the way forward?
10. Would you hold face to face talks with Hezbollah or Hamas?
11. Do you think there should be an inquiry into Jewish influence on government decisions?
12. Should Argentina be given a say in the governance of the Falkland Islands?
Yes, there are a few hundred thousand ultra-lefties who would agree with their messiah, but they don’t win elections. It’s Essex Man, Worcester Woman, it’s middle England who win elections, and assuming they bother looking at Jeremy Corbyn’s views they won’t be putting their cross in the box of any part he leads. Most sensible Labour supporters know that. But it seems they are going to be outvoted by people who seem determined to ignore the political facts of life.
The people to blame for this are not the people who vote for Corbyn. They are in some sort of political trance and they know not what they do. Or perhaps they do. No, the people to blame are Ed Miliband for coming up with this lunatic way of electing a leader, the idiot MPs who nominated Corbyn in the first place, when they certainly won’t be voting for him. Yes, Sadiq Khan, I mean you. Margaret Beckett, you too. I could go on.
But most of all I blame the other three other leadership candidates for having spent the four months since the election talking meaningless bollocks. They haven’t come up with a single memorable policy or quote between them. They have bored us all to death and inspired no one. Not even their own pets.
And it could have been so very different. I leave you with two words. Chuka. Umunna.
Every so often when I’m walking from the LBC studios to Charing Cross Station to get my train home I spy a couple of guys walking down the street hand in hand. And every time I see it, I get a spring in my step. If I saw a man and a woman holding hands I’d think nothing of it, but for two people of the same sex to do it, even in a metropolis like London, sends out a signal that they’re out and proud. And no one bats an eyelid, or at least if they do, they don’t show it. Of course, this is all very well in central London, but imagine it happening in Chipping Sodbury or The Gorbals. Maybe we still have some way to go.
I read recently about a young lesbian couple who had been upbraided by a security guard at a Cardiff Food Festival for kissing in public. Apparently people had complained and he had asked them to stop because it was “offensive” and “disgusting”. Would people have complained, and would he have acted in the same way if the couple had been straight? Well, quite possibly, yes. By all accounts this wasn’t exactly a smack on the lips of a peck on the cheek, the two young ladies were going for it and ticking tonsils in quite an aggressive way. In an official statement Cardiff City Council said that it was tantamount to sexual behaviour and inappropriate at a food festival. I hate myself for it, but I can see their point, not because they were two people of the same sex, but because quite frankly I don’t think anyone wants to see foreplay at a food festival, or indeed any other public arena for that matter, whether it’s two people of the same sex or two people of the opposite sex.
I don’t think this has anything to do with the traditional sense of British puritanism, it’s more to do with what kind of public displays of affection society deems acceptable. People will have very different views about this, but surely it depends on circumstance. What is regarded as de rigeur and wouldn’t make anyone bat an eyelid in a nightclub on a Friday night is surely different to thinking you can do the same thing at a food festival. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, surely there is still such a thing as public decency, even in 2015. I know I sound like an old git, but much as I have no objection to general public displays of affection, everything has its place. Giving your partner a full on snog when you say goodbye to them at a railway station is one thing, but would you really do it at the checkout at Boots? What’s the difference, you may say? I suspect everyone knows the difference, it’s just instinct and knowing the difference between right and wrong.
I tend to be a much more touchy feely person than my partner (I still can’t bring myself to use the word husband – does that make me a bad person?). I’d happily wander around hand in hand depending on the surroundings, but he’d instantly recoil. That’s just the way he is.
When I came out to my family I well remember one of my sisters being worried that my partner and I would be all over each other on the couch watching TV in front of my parents. I suppose I could have felt quite insulted by it but I found it quite funny. I would no more do that than seek to inseminate Kim Kardashian. Now there’s a thought.
In the end we’re all different. We all have different needs and different boundaries. But we also know what boundaries society imposes on us and how far we can push those boundaries without provoking others and upsetting people. Sure, over time those boundaries can be redrawn, but that can done by gentle cajoling and persuasion rather than causing outright shock. Perhaps one day it will be quite acceptable to do a whole range of things which would currently come under the banner of ‘lewd and obscene behaviour’, but until then, behave!
LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to a Rather Repetitive Rachel Reeves
A very on message Rachel Reeves manages to make the same point 8 times in 80 seconds.
A bit of a later start today. Had a coffee with Duncan Brack to talk about doing another book of counterfactuals next year. All ideas welcome. Perhaps we should call it PRIMEMINISTERCORBYNANDOTHERTHINGSTHATWILLNEVERHAPPEN. Boom boom.
The first show of the day was at the Assembly Rooms and was called PLAYINGMAGGIE. It was a one man show starring Pip Utton, a 60 year old male actor from a mining village in Staffordshire. Who was playing Maggie. Really. The fact that he looked nothing like her and sounded very little like her wasn’t really the point. He opened with a bit of a monologue and then took audience questions. The audience played along and addressed him as if he really was her. He actually improvised very well and you could acually imagine her giving some of the answers he gave. He also had some great comic timing. But Utton really needed to put more effort into the voice and her mannerisms. Studying Steve Nallon would have done him no harm at all. I never quite understood whether he was a fan or not, but it was clear that the Iron Lady had played a big part in his family’s life. His father had been a miner and blamed the closure of his pit on her, and everything else for that matter. As people do. Even now. The hour finished with the Lady’s not for turning quote, which Upton got slightly wrong, just as he did with the Where There Is Discord quote. I felt a bit awful at the end for pointing this out to him after the show but he told me my book of Margaret Thatcher quotations is his bible and is by his bedside. As it should be with everyone!
I then made my way up The Mound (and it’s a long time since that’s happened!) to see a one man show starring Simon Cartwright about Bob Monkhouse, called THEMANCALLEDMONKHOUSE. I wouldn’t say this was my highlight of the week, if I’m honest. Cartwright was quite convincing and certainly got his voice right on occasion, but there was something missing. Listening to audience members on the way out they weren’t at all impressed. Several complained that it appeared to finish 15 minutes earlier than scheduled. Others just didn’t like Cartwright’s portrayal at all. I think what was missing was a narrative. I’m not sure what we were supposed to think at the end of it, so in the end we didn’t really think anything. So all in all a bit of a disappointment.
Fred MacAulay on the other hand was the very opposite. Fred is a Scottish comedian and broadcaster. He had been presenting the mid morning programme for BBC Radio Scotland but was removed from the schedule in March after 17 years. His show at the Fringe is called HIMOFFTHERADIO, but this was anything but. Virtually none of his act could have been broadcast on the radio, but so what? This was a laugh a minute show with some hilarious tales from his career and some brilliantly funny observational stuff about his life and travels. When he started talking about the times radio broadcasters had been caught out saying the word c**t on air, I thought he might mention my famous Archbishop of Cunterbury incident, but I guess it hasn’t travelled this far north!
You know what they say about leaving the best till last? Well that’s what I did. My last show today, and indeed of my visit, was MARGARETTHATCHERQUEEN OF SOHO. And it was the best, even edging Gyles Brandreth into second place. The show played in Leicester Square a few months ago but I didn’t manage to get to see it. Oh what I missed out on. This was a joy from beginning to end. A mixture of high campery, slapstick, great music and subtle political messaging, this hit all the right notes, both musically and theatrically. I’d say 90 per cent of the audience weren’t even born when Mrs T was deposed, but they seemed to get even the most obscure references to things that happened in the 1980s. The show revolves around the issue of Section 28 and even hints that Mrs T wasn’t exactly in favour of it herself. Dame Jill Knight, played by a moustachiod man was the baddie of the evening, and Mrs T even has a snog with Peter Tatchell, but it was a scene featuring the ghost of Winston Churchill which stole the show. As Kenny Everett might say, all in the best possible taste. Not. But it was very funny. It was an hour that you never wanted to end. But just as it ended, a wicked thought struck me. Wouldn’t it be fun to hire the cast to perform at the Conservative Party Conference. Watch this space, ladies and gentlemen. Coming to a stage in Manchester… Leave it to me…
LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Benjamin Cohen about Social Media Addiction
What constitutes an addiction to social media? Iain Dale, Benjamin Cohen and Siobhan Benita discuss.
Last week I was put on a new diabetes pill and it’s playing havoc with my ability to sleep. It’s not falling asleep that’s the problem, it’s staying asleep. I keep waking up around 4.30am, and then seemingly every ten minutes or so afterwards. It’s also making me very thirsty. Hmmm. Anyway, enough of my medical problems, let me tell you about my thirs day at the Edinburgh Fesitval.
Today started with a visir to the studios of Shore Radio in Leith to be a guest co-host of the Ewan Spence Edinburgh Fringe Show. You can listen to the podcast HERE . We had various guests from the fringe, all plugging their respective shows, and actually, they were all very entertaining, and if my schedule wasn’t already full I’d have booked to to see all three of them. John Robertson was a real character – an Australian with a voice like Brian Blessed. I did smile when I found that that radio studio was part of the Leith Dockers Social Club. If you wonder why I found it so amusing read THIS
By the time I emerged from Ewan’s show it was raining. I had promised myself that I’d walk everywhere between venues but waling from leith bck into the centre of town is two miles and I’m afraid I wimped out and got a cab. The first show of the afternoon was STEVERICHARDS: ROCK ‘N’ ROLLPOLITICS. This is Steve’s second year at the Festival, and he performs his show in London fairly regularly. It was a sell-out, and there’s clearly an appetite for this sort of thing, given yesterday’s Matt Forde/Ruth Davidson event. It’s set me thinking about possibly putting on some sort of show here some time in the future. Anyway, Steve was a bundle of energy and really engaged the audience. He put two dilemmas to the audience and asked them to imagine they were David Cameron trying to decide the date of the EU Referendum, and to imagine they were Nicola Sturgeon deciding whether to include a manifesto promise for a second referendum. One of his aims was clearly to challenge some of the audience’s preconceptions about the decisions politicians make and why they make them. He did it with humour and self-deprecation, even if some of his impressions were dodgier than others!
So from the Assembly Rooms back to the Pleasance for Gyles Brandreth’s new show WORDPLAY. Gyles has become a bit of a festival institution and always pays to sellout audiences. This was vintage Brandreth – at times hilarious, at times slapstick, at times deep and meaningful, at times informative. I wasn’t sure what to expect as the title of the show was a bit ‘Countdownesque’ but Gyles really delivered a tour de force, ostensibly explaining the power of words, but always willing to go off on a very entertaining tangent. The audience loved it. Perhaps the highlight was when he got us all on our feet to march to the lyrics “Leading with our nipples”. Perhaps you had to be there. A definite five stars.
It was now 5pm and the next show was an hour’s stand up comedy from the presenter of Absolute Radio’s Breakfast Show, Christian O’Connell. He’s been presenting the same show for 17 years, which is a feat in itself. He gets up at twelve minutes past four every day. I just couldn’t do that, but he clearly thrives on what he does. He told some hilariously funny anecdotes about things that have gone wrong over the years, but concentrated on the loons who complain and troll him on Twitter. He even keeps a book of them. A lot of it struck home with me. I’ve only met Christian once, and that was on stage at the Arqiva Radio awards when I won Presenter of the Year in 2013. When I’ve seen him present awards ceremonies he comes over as very cocky and pleased with himself. It’s very different to his radio show or indeed the event this evening, where he showed a much more down to earth and human side. I’d definitely recommend anyone to go and see Christian – you’re guaranteed to laugh a lot and you’ll like what he says about free speech.
The final show of the day was AN AUDIENCEWITHJIMMYSAVILE. I’m going to be honest. I nearly didn’t go. Did I really want to spend an hour thinking about this lowlife? In all honesty I did not, but so many people had said it was a brilliant play that I decided to go after all. It was the right decision. Alistair McGowan was utterly brilliant in his depiction of this monster You’d expect him to get the voice right, but had all Savile’s mannerisms off to a tee too. The script was deft, and the four other actors involved all played their roles to perfection. It was a lovely surprise to see Graham Seed playing the chat show host and he carried it off well. The audience sometimes didn’t know whether to clap or laugh, as it almost felt inappropriate. At the end as McGowan departed the stage it felt totally wrong to clap and there was a moment of silence when we just didn’t know what to do. But as soon as the actors came back on stage they got deserved sustained applause. None of the actors smiled. It would have been wrong.
And so Wednesday is my final day. Looking forward to it already.
What's Life Like for Transsexuals in the UK? Iain Finds Out
To say today was back to back would be an understatement. The day started with a meeting with a Biteback author, and yes I know I am supposed to be on holiday. Strangely it also ended with a Biteback author too. But I’ll come to that later.
My first show of the day, at the Pleasance, was called TONY (BENN’S) LASTTAPE. It was a one man show with the actor Philip Bretherton playing Tony Benn in his twilight days, struggling to cope with the fact that he must now leave the fight to others. It didn’t really work on a number of levels. Bretherton looks nothing like Tony Benn did, which is hardly surprising as I’d guess he was half his age. He also didn’t sound a lot like him. Maybe I am being harsh because I knew Tony Benn and there were quite a few things which I just know Tony Benn would never have thought, let alone said. At 80 minutes it was also twenty minutes too long. That’s not to say that it was unenjoyable, I suppose I was hoping for something a bit more. A bit more emotional. A bit more Bennish.
The next show also involved an actor playing a politician. David Benson is someone I got to know many years ago when we’d both appear on Gyles Brandreth’s LBC radio show on a Sunday afternoon. He rose to fame for his depictions of Kenneth Williams and Frankie Howerd. At Edinburgh he plays Boris Johnson in BORIS: KING OF THEWORLD. By lucky coincience I met Gyles Brandreth and his wife Michele in the queue. Well, more accurately I spotted them in the queue, which enabled me to queue jump! The auditorium was jampacked full, and I was slightly surprised it was so small. David was totally believeable as Boris even though physically and facially he’s nothing like him. He absolutely got his voice and at time it was like listening to Boris himself. It was a very physical performance, sometimes verging on the slapstick. Actually, no. It was slapstick at times. I couldn’t work out at the end how satirical it was meant to be and whether it was meant to serve as a warning as to what a Boris Prime Ministership might entail, or if David Benson was actually being quite affectionate. It was a riproaring hour, and I imagine David lost quite a few pounds as it was incredibly hot, and he was, shall we say, sweating like a pig! If you can get tickets, this is a show not to be missed.
I had only twenty minutes to get to the next venue where I would be seeing UKIP: THEMUSICAL. In some ways this was all rather predictable. Yes, there were funny parts, but the jokes about UKIP being undercover Nazis wore a bit thin after a while. The singing was, however, superb, and it was all very fast moving, with a cast of around a dozen 20-25 year olds. It all got a bit strange when Nigel Farage won a general election but then more or less immediately resigned when he realised that the agenda of his colleaues was to forcibly remove all immigrants from the country. It was called the “Complete Solution”. The only surprise was that the decision wasn’t made at Wannsee. So in some ways it was a very lazy narrative with a lot of easy jokes. I was expecting a little more, to be honest. It was a sellout, though, so they must be doing something right. I deliberately haven’t looked at the reviews for this. Basically, if you’re of a left wing disposition and you think all UKIP supporters live in the past and are closet racists, you’ll probably love this. If you’re on the right or have an open mind, you probably won’t. I didn’t, although it didn’t totally suck.
My next port of call at 5pm was a few minutes walk away in a converted church in Cowgate, where the German comic Christian Schulte-Loh put on a free show. I saw him in Edinburgh on my last visit in 2010 and found him so hilarious that I then booked him to appear at an event I was hosting at that year’s Tory Party conference, where he went down a storm. He was in brilliant form, and if I’m honest, this was the most enjoyable show of the day. He relies on making fun of national stereotypes, not just his own. He picks on members of the audience, but not in an awkward way. This can, however backfire. He told a story of a woman he picked on who, when asked what she did for a living, she said “I work in the Holocaust Centre.” Christian paused for a second, before replying that his Grandfather had done something similar… And that was the last time he performed in Israel. Boom boom. He was also very funny when a member of the audience outed himself as a Greek. Christian told the Greek man not to worry about putting any money in the bucket at the end of the show, as the Germans in the audience would bail him out. If you have a chance, go and see him. He deserves to be a lot more well known than he actually is.
The final event of the evening was back at the Pleasance to see Matt Forde interview Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson. I hadn’t met her before so I was quite keen to see what she’d be like in such an arena. You didn’t have to be a Tory to be impressed by her. Feisty, funny, intelligent, brave. She really wowed the audience and I think convinced everyone that the Tories could be on the verge of a bit of a breakthrough in Scotland. She certainly thinks she can win more seats next May than Labour, and on the current polling you’d have to say she’s not being unrealistic. I liked Matt’s interviewing style, and he managed to tease a lot out of her. This type of event isn’t really designed for a hardhitting political interrogation but it was no the worse for it. It also gave me an idea for an Edinburgh show in future years. I met Ruth for a drink in the bar afterwards and we had a right old gossip with my friend and Biteback author Joe Pike, who’s writing a book (out on September 18th) about the Scottish referendum and the last general election.
It was also good to run into Simon Mayo, Radio 2’s Drivetime host, whose 5 Live show I used to appear on a lot. Lucky devil is broadcasting from the fringe most of this week.
So, tomorrow I’ve got another five events. It’s a bit knackering, this fringe lark!
About five or six years ago I was asked to speak on a panel at the Edinburgh book festival, so I thought while I was there I’d take in a couple of shows on the festival fringe. I remember going to see Gyles Brandreth’s one man show and a German comedian called Christian Schulte-Loh. ‘One day, I’ll come back and do this properly,’ I thought. And that’s what I’m doing for the next three days. I’m seeing 15 different shows before I travel back to Norfolk on Thursday morning. I flew up from Norwich at lunchtime today in a twin propeller plane that only had 30 seats and 20 passengers. I’m not afraid of flying, but I did wonder what this flight would be like. It turned out to be very smooth and nothing to worry about at all.
I arrived in Edinburgh at around 3.30 and my first show was at 7, in a venue which turned out to be directly opposite my hotel on George Street. It was almost as if I had planned it. I went to pick up all my 15 tickets from the Assembly Rooms down the road, had a brief snooze and then crossed the road to queue up for a few minutes. The show was called ALANLONGMUIR: AND I RANWITHTHEGANG. For the uninitiated, Alan Longmuir was a founding member of the Bay City Rollers. I assumed this would be a one man show with the great man telling his life story and doing a bit of singing. I was in for a surprise.
The man on stage was certainly not 67 years old. In short, we were watching an actor, Ewan Petrie, play a young Alan Longmuir, with help from an older actor, John McColl, who dipped into various characters, but mainly the Rollers manager Tam Paton. A third young actor, Rory Speed, played various roles, culminating in playing the lead singer of the Bay City Rollers Les McKeown. Even before the start of the production it was clear that the audience was predominantly made up of women of a certain age who had dragged their reluctant husbands along. Several of them were singing Rollers songs even before the actors took to the stage. It could be a long evening, I thought to myself.
I shouldn’t have worried, however as it was a really engaging hour. Ewan Petrie was superb, with just the right mix of acting, ham acting and humour. You actually came to believe he really was the man he was playing. And then, almost as he had completed the story, the man himself walked through the audience and onto the stage. It was a bizarrely moving moment and I felt myself tearing up. The women of a certain age went mental. There wasn’t a dry seat in the house. Alan turned out to be a man of few words, so the rest of the hour was devoted to Alan, the young Alan and the young Les belting out some of the Bay City Rollers Greatest Hits, culminating in ‘Shang-a-Lang’. OK, it was all a bit karaoke, but enjoyable nonetheless. The whole audience took to their feet and a good time was had by all. Really.
So with that behind me I hotfooted it down Princes Street to the Ghillie Dhu bar to see Belfast singer Brian Kennedy perform an acoustic set. The venue was very atmospheric. It was in a large upstairs room which looked as if it had once been part of a church. Come to think of it, it probably was. Kennedy looks like a cross between David Aaronovitch and Paul Staines but has the banter and wit of his fellow Ulsterman Stephen Nolan. He has a voice to die for and used his range to full effect in the 75 minutes he was on stage. The song which brought him to my attention was the first song he sang – ‘Captured’. Other notables were ‘Carrickfergus’ and ‘You Raise Me Up’, a song which is best known with Westlife singing it, but in fact Kennedy made it a hit when he sang it with Secret Garden. He didn’t actually sing it into the microphone and instead walked among the audience belting it out with no microphone at all. I think he got a shock when he saw Julian Clary sitting in the back row.
So at 9.45pm it was all over and I needed to eat, having not done so all day. Everything seemed to be shutting up, but in the end I found an Italian place just round the coerner from my hotel on Hanover Street, Bar Napoli. It proved to be an inspired choice and proved to be one of the best meals I have had in many a year.
Tomorrow, I’ve got five shows to see. Better get some sleep then.
Video: Iain "persuades" Ed Balls to play the piano
Last week I was asked to fill in for Adam Boulton while he’s on holiday and write a column for the Sunday Times. My mum would have been very proud. It is by far the best Sunday newspaper for comment and opinion pieces and it was the first time I had written a column for the main part of the newspaper, although I had written for the News Review before. It may come as a surprise to you that I have absolutely zero confidence in my ability as comment writer. I had a column on the Daily Telegraph for two years, yet each time I pressed SEND I always expected it to whizz its way back into my InBox with the message “it’s crap, do it again”. It never happened, but right to end I expected it to. Anyway, I duly trotted off 1,100 words on where internal opposition to David Cameron might come from, and sent it off. Then came the anxious wait… And hey presto, no it didn’t come back with any negative comment at all. In fact, apart from one minor fact I got wrong, they didn’t change a word. I almost basked. Anyway, you can read it on my blog HERE [add link http://iaindale.com/posts/2015/08/09/sunday-times-column-cameron-is-lucky-with-labour-and-even-luckier-with-his-tory-rebels ] if you really want to. *
I’ve just booked to go to the Edinburgh Festival next week for four days. I’m flying up on Sunday on a plane from Norwich International Airport – it’s very important to include the word ‘international’ – which seems to have about 16 seats. Propellertastic. I’ve planned my itinerary very carefully and will be seeing fifteen shows, a lot of which have a political tinge. Could you resist seeing ‘UKIP: The Musical’ or ‘Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Soho’? Or ‘Tony Benn’s Last Tape’? Or ‘Boris World?’ Nope, me neither. But in order to try to convince the world I am not wholly obsessed by politics I’m also going to see a talk by one of the Bay City Rollers, a play about Bob Monkhouse and a very funny German comedian called Christian Schulte-Loh. But the highlight will be seeing Gyles Brandreth’s ‘Word Game’. He is such a star and his Edinburgh shows are always sold out. Anyway, I shall report back next week and I warn you now that the whole column will be an ‘Edinburgh special’. Or maybe not so special. Assuming the propeller plane actually gets me there and back in one piece.
So according to reports David Laws has been banned from getting a peerage by the House of Lords Appointments Commission. What a disgrace. OK, he’s a friend of mine, and one of my authors so I am biased, but compared to many existing members of the House of Lords he’s a saint. He paid a heavy price for his expenses misdemeanour, but now he’s being punished for a second time by an unelected committee of the so-called ‘great and good’. Knowing David as I do I suspect he will look back on this in a few years’ time and thank his lucky stars it happened. The sooner we have an elected House of Lords the better, although even I have got to the point of wondering if we shouldn’t just get rid of it altogether and bolster the committee system in the House of Commons. *
Arsenal 0 West Ham 2. What a day. We mullered them. But knowing West Ham as I do, as sure as eggs is eggs, we’ll lose at home to Leicester on Saturday.
You know when you think of someone as a friend and you confide things to them because you trust them and are trying to help them. And then they betray you. Publicly. That happened to me this week. It’s something I find hard to forgive. They say all’s fair in love and politics, but when you have bent over backwards to help someone and they repay you with lies, half-truths and spin, you wonder why you gave them the time of day in the first place. If I never have any contact with this person again, it will be too soon. *
Talking of shits, Jose Mourinho hit the headlines this week for effectively constructively dismissing the Chelsea team doctor. Why? Because she rushed on to the pitch to help an injured Eden Hazard. Perish the thought she should do her job. Mourinho is a bully who whenever Chelsea fail to win starts a defection tactic to keep media attention away from his team’s all too apparent failings. And the media fall for it every time. The shame of it is that in this case a perfectly competent woman has pretty much lost her job over it. He should hang his head in shame and apologise to her. Trouble is, he isn’t man enough. He’s probably got a small dick, too.
The UKIP London mayoral selection may turn out to be rather more interesting than I first thought, as well as one which Vladimir Putin would be proud of. The two leading contenders are Suzanne Evans and their culture spokesman Peter Whittle but there are several others who have thrown their hats into the ring too. In any normal world Suzanne Evans would win the nomination by a country mile, but this is UKIP we are dealing with here. The putative candidates will face a selection panel at the end of the month, and it is they who will decide the winner. Yes, you heard that right. UKIP’s London members will have no say whatsoever. The concept of one member one vote seems to be alien to them. Quite how the UKIP national executive think this is an acceptable way of conducting a London mayoral nomination election is anyone’s guess. From what I hear the selection committee is stuffed full of Nigel Farage’s placemen (and virtually all of them are men) so whoever is chosen will certainly have the Farage rubber stamp. If Suzanne Evans isn’t selected that should tell us all we need to know about what future the party leader thinks Suzanne Evans has in UKIP.
I suppose this is rather more accurately titled ‘It Shouldn’t Happen to a Guest on George Galloway’s Radio Show’. Back in 2010 I was invited to appear on George Galloway’s talkSport show, which I had always enjoyed listening to. You never quite knew what was going to happen and George could fly off the handle at any moment with a caller. It was usually ‘must listen to’ radio. Anyway, I think I was on because it was the twentieth anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s ousting from office and I was supposed to debate her merits or otherwise with George.
The interview didn’t get off to a good start as he introduced me as a ‘better sort of apologist’ for Margaret Thatcher. I took issue with the word ‘apologist’ as I regarded it as a negative word. It went downhill from there and we ended up having a screaming match. He muted my microphone so he could have monologue, something I realised he was doing and I took him to task for it. He didn’t like it. At all. ’Don’t you tell me how to run my radio show’, he shouted. In the end we both recovered our respective equilibriums and carried on.
But it was a good example of how a presenter can control an exchange by judicious use of the fader. I have to say that I very rarely ever deploy that tactic and if I do I warn my interlocutor that if they don’t stop I’ll do it for them. That usually brings them into line.
Anyway, George hasn’t presented on a mainstream channel since he left talkSport in 2012, but that is about to change. On Saturday on LBC he’s covering for Ken Livingstone and David Mellor from 10am until 1pm, and then all next week he is sitting in for James O’Brien. Sadly I won’t see him as I’m off for two week’s holiday. Shame really, as I could then ask why he blocks me on Twitter. [UPDATE: He’s unblocked me and now follows me. Yay!]
I have interviewed George quite a few times in my time at LBC and I always enjoy it. You know you’re going to give as good as you get. You know you can turn it into whatever you want to. If you want a shouting match, he’ll give you one, but what I have found is that if you play it straight, you may not agree with or like what he says, but you actually get more out of him.
I for one will be tuning in on Saturday morning!
Video: Iain & Yasmin Alibhai Brown cross-examine Mark Oaten