Radio

It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 12: When a Minister Won't Answer the Question...

9 Sep 2013 at 21:23

This evening I interviewed Treasury Minister Sajid Javid about the state of the economy. He pulled me up on an economic statistic I gave, so when he tried to pull the wool over my eyes, I responded in kind. Again. And again…

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Sarah Teather - A Rather Sad, Pathetic Hypocrite

7 Sep 2013 at 22:16

So Sarah Teather is standing down from Parliament. I can’t say I’m sure she will be missed, even by many in her own party. She’s given a tear-jerking interview to the Observer’s Toby Helm, which you can read HERE, if you have a strong stomach.

She says she’s going because the LibDems no longer stand for social justice, which is a bit of a cheek when you think about it seeing as she voted for cuts in legal aid and against equal marriage. Rather oddly, Toby Helm doesn’t see fit to mention this in his long article. Perhaps Ms Teather set some preconditions for giving him the ‘exclusive’. Perish the thought. No, in reality she’s standing down because she knows she will lose her seat at the next election.

If I was a female MP I’d want to grab her by the lapels, pin her up against the wall and say “Thanks for nothing, sister.”

The truth is that she was never cut out for government. I was told a tale in June 2010 about her first day as a minister at the Department of Education. One of her fellow ministers walked past her ministerial office door, which was ajar. She was sitting at her desk, head in hands, looking a little tearfully at her red box. “What on earth is the matter, Sarah,” said the Tory Minister (OK, it was Tim Loughton). She looked up and rather plaintively sobbed: “I’m a Liberal Democrat. I don’t know what to do. We were never actually supposed to be in government.”

That just about sums her up. Pathetic.

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

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

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Ever Wondered Why You Have to Switch Off Phones on Planes?

7 Sep 2013 at 01:23

Now you know…

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Has a Testy Encounter With Anjem Choudary

Radical cleric Anjem Choudary is taken to task for his extremist views and is questioned about The Sun's sting on him.

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Diary

ConservativeHome Diary Week 21: UKIP - The Bi-Sexuals of British Politics

6 Sep 2013 at 15:46

READER WARNING: There’s more than the usual dose of smut in this week’s column.

This week I have been chairing three panels for the Daily Telegraph with the aim of compiling the Top 100 people on the right, left and the Top 50 Liberal Democrats, all of which will, as usual, be published during the three party conferences. Yes, snigger all you like about the latter. I usually do too. The biggest challenge is to actually find 50 LibDems to choose from.

The panellists are a mixture of MPs, activists and commentators, and believe me, the discussions can become very heated indeed. On the Tory panel there was a particularly spirited discussion about whether Maria Miller should be promoted from 78 in last year’s list. One of the MPs was adamant that she deserved a massive promotion on the basis of her performances at the Despatch Box. “I’ve watched her perform really well with shitty briefs,” she said. After a moment of stunned silence in which we all took time to contemplate the implications of that statement, we all corpsed. “What have I said?” asked the MP in all innocence.

One of the other panellists, an MP’s researcher, proceeded to irritate us all with her precocious certainty about her opinions, interrupting everyone at every possible opportunity. “The Home Office gave me a prison,” she said at one point. “No,” I said. “They built a prison in your MP’s constituency.” But that wasn’t the end of it. It was all about her. It was when she blithely told one of the other panellists he was shit at his job that I am afraid I let my irritation show. “Blimey,” I said to one of the MPs at the end of the meeting. “She’s like what Liz Truss would be like after half an hour on a crack pipe.” She’ll go far.


Someone said to me this week they loved reading my ConservativeHome columns as they couldn’t wait to see how I would deliberately antagonise the site’s UKIP supporting readers or those with a particular issue with homosexuality. As if I would do that. By the way, have you read my column in Attitude Magazine (it’s a magazine for gayers) on bisexuality? No? Well I have helpfully reproduced it on my blog. In a way you could describe many UKIP voters as the bisexuals of UK politics. They don’t quite know whether they are Arthur or Martha. Instinctively they are still Conservatives, but they fancy a walk on the wild side. The question is, once they have satisfied their self-indulgent desires or perversions, will they return to the comforting fleshy folds of the mother party? We may have to wait until 2015 to find out.


For a politics and football obsessed individual like me, transfer deadline day is only ever surpassed by reshuffles. There are quite a few similarities between the two. Think of it this way. Can Manchester United really get rid of Ed Balls or can Ed Miliband really do without Wayne Rooney? Remember all those Labour reshuffles when they couldn’t quite find a paid ministerial job for Carlton Cole? It’s the same at West Ham, who, a day late, found a place for Michael Wills. At every reshuffle David Cameron tries desperately to get rid of Nicholas Bendtner, but never quite succeed. In the same way, Arsenal do the same with John Hayes. Rising Conservative Party star Ricardo Vaz Te demands a transfer, as does West Ham forward Nick Boles. Both end up staying put. And I could go on. But I get the feeling some of you are probably shaking your head in total and utter bemusement. Politics, eh? Bloody hell.


Talking of reshuffles, I gather the Tory reshuffle has yet again been postponed. It was put off originally in July when David Cameron rightly thought that backbenchers were in such a good mood, it seemed a pity to spoil it. But I have learned that the reshuffle was slated for last Monday but was shelved at the last minute on Sunday lunchtime. Why? I have absolutely no idea. If it’s going to happen you’d have thought it would need to happen while Parliament is still sitting and well before the party conferences. Perhaps it might happen today or next Monday.


Talking of gay marriage, which I wasn’t, but I know you want me to, Aussie PM Kevin Rudd had a Jed Bartlett moment on the issue during an election campaign Q&A. What’s a Jed Bartlett moment, I hear you cry? Well, scroll down the homepage of this blog and you’ll see.

If you’ve never seen The West Wing, that short clip demonstrates why it is the greatest political TV series ever made. Anyway, I digress. Have a look at Kevin Rudd’s equivalent. It may be less dramatic, but it is no less effective. That’s also on the front page.

Much as I agree with him, and disagree with his Liberal opponent Tony Abbott on this issue, I could never support Rudd, who is one of the biggest charlatans in world politics. Abbott hardly inspires confidence, but knowing how brutal Australian politics is, he’ll probably win the election and then be overthrown. Bronwyn Bishop for PM!


Last weekend I watched an action film called OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN. The plot is very simple. North Korean terrorists attack the White House. It’s very much in the mode of INDEPENDENCE DAY and if you like your presidential politics and action movies you’ll love this. Apparently there’s a competitor film called WHITE HOUSE DOWN with a similar plot, so I’ll have to make sure I put that on order. The Americans do these apocalyptic type movies so well, and the special effects are out of this world.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Photjournalist Paul Conroy

Paul Conroy talks about his terrible injuries from Syria and his work with Marie Colvin.

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UK Politics

Quote of the day: David Aaronovitch

5 Sep 2013 at 10:45

And in this moment of crisis it became clear — as it does — what Mr Miliband is. A personable man (and he is a very pleasant companion), politically he is not a presence at all, he is an absence. He is Oedipal Ed, the negator of the unpopular actions of the fathers; the anti-Blair, the non-Brown. His technique for victory to is follow behind the leader, wait for a slip-up and exploit his or her mistakes. He did it to his brother. He hopes to do it to David Cameron. He is neither hunter nor prey, he is scavenger. He is a political vulture. Mission creep? His mission is all about creeping.

David Aaronovitch, On Ed Miliband, 5 Sep 2013

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Kevin Rudd Does a Jed Bartlet

5 Sep 2013 at 09:48

I don’t like Kevin Rudd, but you have to hand it to him here. He does a Jed Bartlet on an unsuspecting pastor, who asks him a question on gay marriage. Rudd destroys him. And if you don’t know what I mean by a Jed Bartlett moment click on this and you soon will.

It’s why the West Wing remains the greatest political TV series of all time and will never be surpassed.

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Video: Iain has a go at Michael Portillo

BBC Election Night, May 2008, City Hall

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Personal

Attitude Column: Are You or Have You Ever Been a Bisexual?

3 Sep 2013 at 11:49

Inside the mind of every bisexual is a gay man struggling to get out. At least, that’s the view of many. It’s a widely held view that bisexuals are people who either want the best of both worlds, or, who are still too scared to embrace their inner gayness because they are on hold in some sort of mid-way sexuality transit lounge.

At the end of June, Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski announced to his local constituency party that he was bisexual. So far as I know, no MP has ever done that. To his utter astonishment, the thirty people present rose as one and gave him a standing ovation. I wondered at the time whether they would have done that if he had said he was gay.

It is commonly thought there are degrees of bisexuality. On a scale of sexuality where 0 means completely straight and 100 means completely gay, a bisexual, could, I suppose, be anywhere in between. Are you bisexual if you have had a one off tryst with the same sex? Does that mean you are at 10 on that scale, or can you be bisexual if you are 95% gay but still appreciate the curves of a female? . I can still appreciate a women’s breasts, yet my partner says he never notices them. Does that me more of a bisexual than him?

I suppose a true bisexual is someone who is at 50 on that scale and doesn’t have a particular preference one way or the other.

I always knew I was gay, but I was 28 until I did anything about it. Times were different back then. I had numerous girlfriends, but when it came down to “it”, I pulled away. That’s not to say I didn’t find women sexually attractive or didn’t do anything, short of “it”. I did, but I always knew I didn’t want “it”. I think most gay men have experimented with a woman “just to be sure”, and who can blame them, but experimentation does not a bisexual make.

I think there are comparatively few people who are what I would call ‘genuine’ bisexuals. Simon Hughes may or may not be one of them, but the Liberal Democrat deputy leader seems to be a politician who can’t quite seem to get out of the transit lounge. Should we blame him for that, should gay men criticise him because he can’t bring himself to admit what most people assume he is – gay? Not at all.

In the end sexuality is something very personal. It is something that most people don’t have to speak publicly about and declare their sexuality to the world. Hopefully the day will soon dawn when it is exactly the same for politicians. It would be nice to think that many a shoulder will be shrugged when a politician declares himself or herself to be gay. But even in these days of so-called sexual liberation, politicians’ sexualities are still phenomena which set the media and political worlds a-tittering and a twittering.

Daniel Kawczynski will feel a weight has been lifted from his shoulders. Yes, he will be the subject of gossip at Westminster, but that goes with the territory. There will be members of his family, long term friends who feel let down by the fact that he hasn’t been honest with them. But in the end they will realise that for people of a certain age, these things are incredibly difficult.

I was 40 when I came out to my family, although most of my friends in London knew. Two of my best friends, who I had known since university days didn’t, and it was one of the hardest things I had to do when I told them that I had been lying to them for the best part of twenty years. It turned out that both of them had guessed anyway, but even so, I found it very difficult to get the words out without blubbing.

In twenty years’ time I really believe that no politician will have to come out of the closet, because the closet door will have been open for years. And if there really has been as much progress as I hope, no newspaper will be remotely interested in a politician’s sexual proclivities. I can but live in hope.

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Alastair Campbell talks about his final volume of diaries BURDEN OF POWER

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Media

A Tribute to Sir David Frost

1 Sep 2013 at 13:22

Sir David Frost, who died this morning, will go down in history as one of the greatest interviewers and journalists of his generation – perhaps of all time. His laconic style hid a forensic brain, determined to get to the truth. He didn’t believe in confrontation as a form of interview, he didn’t believe in constant interruption. He believed that if you let your interviewee talk, they might just say something of interest and not put the shutters up. Kay Burley said this morning that he believed the best three questions and interviewer has at his or disposal are “Ah”, “Really?” and “Oh, do go on”. I think he had a point.

Sir David was a risk taker and an innovator. He was as comfortable interviewing Hollywood celebrities as he was prime ministers and presidents. He could host a game show, turn his hand to satire and then the next day present an election programme.

I first got to know Sir David when he would come into Politico’s, buy a few books and want to have a gossip over the counter. He had no airs and graces. He felt a friend from the first minute you met him, and there aren’t many people who can achieve that. I then reviewed the papers a couple of times on ‘Breakfast With Frost’. The first time, I was incredibly nervous. It was the biggest TV programme I had been on at that point, and it was the weekend before the Iraq war started. I was on with Polly Toynbee and Trigger from Only Fools & Horses. As we sat down on the sofa, he leaned over, touched my knee and winked. He said nothing, but that one, thoughtful act did more than any words ever could to calm my nerves. The next time I was on, it was with Helena Kennedy. The programme started at 9, but at 8.45 there was no sign of Sir David. No one seemed to be remotely concerned. Sure enough, five minutes later he arrived looking, it has to be said, rather out of it. But as soon as the red light went on it was “Hello, good morning and welcome” and off we went. He was the ultimate showman.

In 100 years time there is little doubt that his enduring legacy will be the Nixon interviews. He gambled everything, including his own personal fortune, on those interviews. The fact that they were turned into a theatre show and then a movie tells us all we need to know about their historical importance.

Let me leave you with two personal memories. One came early on in my days at LBC. I wish I could remember what it was about, but I found myself interviewing Sir David about something or other. I started by feeling very intimidated, but he immediately put me right at my ease – when it should have been the other way around. And then a few months later I got an email from him (I’ve tried to find it, but can’t). He said he often listened to my programme in the car (he used to present on LBC) and he had liked an interview I’d done the previous night. I could not have been more proud.

I won’t pretend he was a close personal friend, but I can truly say I am proud to have known him.

His interviewing skills are really on show in this 1969 interview with Enoch Powell

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ConservativeHome Diary Week 20: Bomber Clegg

31 Aug 2013 at 10:49

There we were, in the Any Questions Green Room, the panel of four, all cacking ourselves before being called on stage. So we did what anyone would do. We discussed what questions might come up. And to my horror, no matter what the potential subject, we all more or less agreed on the answer. ‘This might be a rather boring programme,’ I thought to myself. So as the programme progressed, I found myself picking a fight with Mark Miodownik, a scientist. I nitpicked and gnawed. The lovely professor Alison Wolf was far too nice to attack, and the NFU President Peter Kendall was so bloody reasonable, I am afraid Mark had to be my target. As it turned out, there was a little more disagreement than I feared. On Syria, I was the only one to oppose military action. It felt a bit odd to be the most left wing panel member. Unaccustomed as I am… But I soon restored my hardline credentials on the badger cull. I got a text afterwards from Owen Paterson in which he expressed his amusement that I had attacked him for pussy footing around! All I will say is that if I were a badger with TB, about to die a long, painful death, with my internal organs failing, I’d happily be shot in a cull.


Seen this week on Facebook: “So, I’ve just sent an Email to an MP with the title being ‘Panel Discussion’, only, in my haste, I missed the ‘P’ off, and my iPad saw fit to change it to something else. Needless to say a correction/apology Email was sent afterwards.”

We’ve all been there. I remember when I was organising a course titled “Public Relations in the Ports Industry”. Only I missed out the L in ‘Public’. I think some of the delegates attended under a slight misapprehension.


My LBC colleague James O’Brien has introduced me to the concept of ‘Newsknitting’, where you knit two stories together. For example, why can’t poor people eat badgers? Should we hold an emergency summit on Kevin Rudd? Basher Al-Assad not convinced by the case for HS2. The list could go on…


Talking of Syria, I can’t say I find it comfortable opposing military action. I’ve never found it necessary before, and I remember all the terrible things I said about people who opposed action in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in the end you have to go with your instincts and argue for what you believe. I won’t rehearse the arguments here – it’s a diary column, after all – but if you want to read my blogpost click HERE [insert link http://iaindale.com/posts/2013/08/28/why-i-oppose-military-action-in-syria ]. Opposing military action on Syria for a Conservative, will, I suspect, not be as lonely a position as it was for John Baron or Richard Bacon to oppose the Iraq war. Of the nine or ten Tory MPs I have spoken to about Syria, only one was unreservedly in favour of military action. Most of the rest couldn’t see what the endgame was. And nor can I. As we approach the anniversary of the First World War, we should perhaps pay more attention to the law of unintended consequences.


Listening to Nick Clegg on his weekly LBC phone in talking about Syria you could be forgiven for thinking it was his colourful predecessor Jeremy Thorpe in the hotseat talking about Rhodesia. Back in 1967 he acquired the nickname of ‘Bomber Thorpe’ for suggesting that the Wilson government should bomb Rhodesia after it declared UDI. Clegg seems to be a complete hawk on Syria, something which won’t go down well with the beard and sandals brigade. He even said he would be in favour of bombing if UN approval isn’t obtained. ‘Bomber’ Clegg. Has a certain ring to it, don’t you think?


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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Nick Harkaway & Simon Hoggart

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World Politics

Why I Oppose Military Action in Syria

28 Aug 2013 at 09:56

I want to explain why I think military action against Syria would be wrong and why the UK should stay out of it at all costs. I am not a natural peacenik. I believe that foreign intervention can often be justified. I supported the invasion of Iraq. I supported the invasion of Aghanistan and I supported helping the rebels in Libya. So why don’t I support any intervention in Syria, especially now that chemical weapons have now been used?

Let’s first address the issue of chemical weapons. I have never understood the argument that a death at the hands of a chemical weapon is somehow worse than at the hands of any other sort of weapon. A death is a death is a death. All deaths in military conflict are gruesome. David Cameron was rightly outraged that 350 people died in the chemical weapons attack. But wouldn’t he be equally outraged by 350 other deaths, caused by the dropping of conventional bombs? The argument for military action centres around the fact that chemical weapons have been deployed and therefore Barack Obama’s red lines have been crossed. Fair enough, but they were also crossed a year ago. Ah, says the Prime Minister, military action will act as a deterrent to them being used again. You reckon? Is that really the basis for launching missiles on Damascus – missiles which will inevitably then kill yet more innocent civilians?

The question to which I haven’t yet heard an answer is this: What is the end game? All wars or military conflicts need a final goal. In Afghanistan it was to rid the country of the Taliban. In Iraq it was to topple Saddam. In Libya it was to help the local population get rid of Gadaffi. Here the endgame is to stop further chemical weapons attacks. Everyone has made it clear that the Syrians will have to topple Assad themselves. If Obama or Cameron said their aim here was to overthrow Assad then at least there would be a valid argument to be had.

So let’s imagine we rain in a few missiles. What then? There will inevitably be calls from hawks in Washington to go further. There always are. It’s called Mission Creep. So we go further. Assad begins to weaken. What then? Ground troops? No one is seriously suggesting that now, but there will come a point when they do. And what then? I was reminded on Twitter last night of an exchange from The West Wing Series 7 Episode 12 over Kazakhstan between Matt Santos and President Bartlett…

Matt Santos: “What’s your exit strategy?”
President Bartlett: “I don’t have one.”

Do we learn nothing from Iraq and Afghanistan? Seemingly not.

Then we come to the question of legality and the UN. As usual, the UN has been as useful as a rice pudding in resolving the situation in Syria. It wrings its hands but those hands of course are tied by the attitudes of the Russians and the Chinese. Whatever the situation with chemical weapons I don’t see those two countries changing their rigid stance. It is to their shame that they remain allies of a man who is butchering his own people, but it isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last. But without UN sanction, it will be argued that any military strike will be illegal. I am not a lawyer and I don’t believe countries should only be able to act with UN approval, but no one can possibly argue a military strike would be in self defence. And surely that is the key issue relating to legality?

We then come to Britain’s own position. Traditionally we have seen ourselves, alongside the Americans, as the policemen of the world, even if we nowadays play the equivalent role of a PCSO. But at a time when our armed forces are being cut to the bone, can we really continue to punch above our weight? I’m not saying we should become an isolationist country. I am proud of the role our soldiers have played in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, but can they really take on yet another foreign role, even one which at the moment might be very limited? Well, if you start a job you’ve got to finish it, even if it takes you down previously unexpected avenues. We got back to mission creep. I don’t for one minute think this involvement would end with a few missiles raining down on Damascus.

I am 95% sure these chemical attacks were instigated by the Assad regime. I am less sure that Assad and the people around him gave the orders. We know that Assad is not necessarily master of his own destiny and that the army has always held the whip hand. It is entirely possible that someone else gave the orders to launch this attack. That does not make it any better, and it doesn’t make the Syrian regime any less accountable, but will we ever get 100% verification that it wasn’t the rebels behind it? Because if not we are back in a WMD situation – where we are told one thing, but at some point later a rather different story emerges. For me WMD was never the only reason to topple Saddam Hussein, but that was then and this is now. If the US wants to make a case for going in and toppling Bashar Al Assad, then they should feel free to make it openly and transparently. They should not use the mask of the use of chemical weapons to hide behind.

Let’s move on to look at the rebels. They are a motley crew and even months on from the start of this civil war we know very little about them. All we seem to know is that they are in part controlled by elements of Al Qaeda. If that doesn’t give us pause for thought, what would? Moderate voices in the Middle East think we have lost our collective marbles by even considering arming the rebels. They’re not wrong. Providing humanitarian aid is one thing. Providing actual weapons is quite another, and we shouldn’t do it.

The consequences of countries like the US, Britain and France involving themselves/ourselves in a civil war in any Middle East country are incalculable. It may be going overboard to say it that makes one think of August 1914, but there are parallels to be drawn if you want to draw them. It’s the law of the unintended consequence. A perfectly reasonable action may be misinterpreted or totally misunderstood, and then BOOM! Does anyone think Iran would just sit by and do nothing? No. Nor do I.

As Professor Stefan Wolf argues at Politics.co.uk

Iraq is experiencing violence at levels similar to the height of its sectarian civil war more than five years ago, Afghanistan remains riddled with violence, and ..Libya resembles anything but a stable, secure and functioning state.

The trajectory of any intervention in Syria would arguably be worse. Assad’s regime and the Alewite community in which it is rooted perceive the current situation as a struggle for survival.

The more desperate the regime would become as a result of military intervention, the more ruthless its response will be.

Apart from the obvious danger of really widespread use of chemical weapons, further regional destabilisation would be on the cards drawing Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and possibly Israel ever deeper into a regional quagmire from which there will be no easy escape and which will be difficult to contain or roll back.

Quite. Do we really want to take that risk?

There is no public appetite in this country or America for intervention in Syria. I think the debate in Parliament will demonstrate that there are splits within our political parties, with some surprising voices being raised in opposition to military intervention. The votes will no doubt be whipped, but on a free vote I think the split in the country would be reflected in Parliament. One poll I saw showed only one in ten Americans believing there is a case for intervention. That in itself is not an argument for non-intervention. Sometimes politicians have to lead public opinion, make their case, and then be held to account for it. This is not one of them.

There is something we can do to make the situation better, and it is to increase the amount of humanitarian aid being provided to the region. More than one million children have been displaced. The camps dotted around the Syrian borders, but mainly in Jordan and Turkey, are huge and growing. They need more of the basic things people need to consume to survive. Those who have visited these camps have some very sorry tales to tell. The least we in the West can do is to ensure they are getting what they need to feed and nourish the people who have been forced out of their homeland.

Contrary to what Burke said, sometimes it is indeed best for ‘good men’ to do nothing. Sometimes you just have to let people get on with it and kill each other, no matter how horrible it might seem at the time. Human nature can be a vicious beast. Our western idea of democracy took hundreds of years to develop, yet somehow we expect Egyptians and Syrians to work it out over a few months. In the end, we can lend a helping hand but they have to get there themselves. But we have to recognise that some never will, and some don’t want to. We can’t impose it on them. Surely that is one lesson from Iraq.

This is the first time I have ever had any doubts about Britain being involved in military action. I find it a profoundly uncomfortable place to be. When I was on Any Questions on Friday, I found myself being the lost meft wing member of the panel on the issue of Syria. The other three thought we had to do something, but seemed unable to express what that something ought to involve. I am sure most of the people I generally agree with politically won’t agree with me. What I think makes very little difference to anyone, but if I remained silent it would be wrong.

I’d be interested in your views.

PS You can donate to the DEC who are coordinating humanitarian aid to the region.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Olivia Newton-John

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