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  • 4.00pm The conventions are over, the battle begins. Today is the first day of an American presidential election campaign, the result of which could define the United States for a generation. Who’s your money on, Hilary or The Donald? And what are the dangers of electing either of them?
  • 5.00pm The government has unexpectedly delayed signing an agreement with the French and Chinese over the building of a new Hinckley Point nuclear power station. Should they continue with the project or pull the plug on it?
  • 6.00pm We need to rethink our attitude to money says Stephen Hawking. Why does money matter so much to us, other than the basic need to have enough to survive on. Is it money that really makes the world go around. Is materialism the be all and end all? Surely the definition of wealth should be broadened to not just include money? Can you ever see society developing where we aren’t all so dependent on wealth generation and material things?
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Conservative Politics

The Challenges Facing Theresa May

11 Jul 2016 at 14:13

I tweeted this earlier…


And no, I wasn’t referring to the fact that within six minutes Labour had sent out two press releases, one calling for an immediate general election and the second announcing a Labour Party leadership contest.

As of now, we effectively have a new Prime Minister. With Andrea Leadsom quitting the race Theresa May is about to be crowned leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister. While I feel that Andrea Leadsom has been treated appallingly by a blood-thirsty media I do think she has done the right thing by quitting the race. Yes there will be siren voices among the Conservative Party membership who cannot reconcile themselves to the fact they won’t have been ale to vote in a proper contest, but in the end it’s surely in the national interest to have this settled now.

As I write this, Sky News are speculating that Theresa May could be in Number Ten by the end of the day. It’s possible but unlikely, I’d have thought. Surely it makes sense for her to have a few days to gather her thoughts and plan her administration. I doubt whether she’s thought very deeply about that up to now. Also, it means David Cameron would do a final PMQs on Wednesday as his prime ministerial swansong. So I suspect Theresa May will take over the reins on Thursday or Friday.

So what kind of Prime Minister will Theresa May be, and will she be tempted or pressured into calling an early general election. Let’s deal with that one first. In these circumstances all opposition parties call for an election. Labour did in 1963. The Tories did in 1976. Labour did in 1990. The Tories did in 2007. There is no constitutional precedent for it at all. We all know Gordon Brown nearly called an election in 2007 but chickened out. With the state the Labour Party is in, Theresa May wouldn’t be human if she wasn’t tempted, but there is the small matter of the Fixed Term Parliament Act which slightly gets in the way. There would need to be a 66% vote of MPs for a general election – that is 429 MPs. Would all Labour MPs act like turkeys voting for Christmas? Difficult to say. I’m not sure the SNP would like one, and the LibDems couldn’t afford one. Having said that, Tim Farron has called for one and it’s possible the LibDems could see a mini-revival.

Theresa May will be a very different kind of Prime Minister to David Cameron. While she bought into much of his modernising agenda, she is actually much more of a traditional Conservative than most people think. She is conservative rather than a Conservative, by which I mean she is wary of dramatic change rather than holding socially conservative views. She’s a Baldwin rather than a Thatcher, and I don’t mean that as in insult. She will test a case to destruction before embarking on radical change. Her premiership will be dominated by Brexit and she knows it is what she will be judged upon. This is why her Cabinet appointments are so important, especially the four main roles – Chancellor, Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary and the person who will head up the Brexit negotiations and new trade talks.

As of now I doubt Theresa May has decided herself who she wants to appoint to these roles, and that’s the reason she shouldn’t take over as Prime Minister until later in the week. Appoint in haste, repent at leisure. Predicting what she will do is a mug’s game, but I will make the following observations. I cannot see how either George Osborne or Philip Hammond can be appointed to any of these roles, with the possible exception of Home Secretary. The Sunday newspapers suggested she might offer that role to Michael Gove, but I find that difficult to believe given their history. If Gove remains in the Cabinet at all, it would surely be in his current role as Justice Secretary, where he is doing good work on prison reform. Speculation is rife that both David Davis and Liam Fox might be offered roles in her government. Fox covets the job of Foreign Secretary, while Davis was tipped by several Sunday papers to head up the Brexit negotiations. It seems to me that these three roles – Chancellor, Foreign Secretary & Brexit negotiator – have to be held by Brexiteers. The only exception I would make to that would be if David Cameron would agree to serve as Foreign Secretary. As I wrote on Friday in my ConHome Diary, there is some historical precedent for this, although I don’t think it is at all likely.

Some new Prime Ministers bloom in office, others wither. Gordon Brown had a spectacular first three months and then it all got on top of him. Theresa May needs to learn the art of delegation. It’s something she has never been good at. Ask any minister who has served under her. She’s always been on top of her brief, but has looked less certain when answering questions which are off it. We saw a little of that earlier this morning when she took questions from journalists after her campaign launch in Birmingham. She really does need to become Theresa of all trades rather than mistress of one.

Theresa May has a good team surrounding her. She’s brought back her three former special advisers, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill. They are all deeply loyal to her (read Norman Baker’s book AGAINST THE GRAIN for the proof) and all highly capable. Expect them all to take on senior roles in Number Ten.

Who knows where we will be by the end of the day. For Theresa May it’s the most exciting day of her life. It’s probably also the most frightening. Whenever we step up to a big job we all have moments of self-doubt, and Theresa May will be no different to anyone else. Whatever our political views, everyone should be wishing her all the luck in the world.

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Personal

21 Things I'd Like to Do, But (Almost Certainly) Never Will

9 Jul 2016 at 16:00

I have very few regrets in my life. I don’t really believe in ‘what ifs’ or looking back with a degree of wistfulness, but this ‘bucket list’ with a difference gives a clue to what some of my regrets might be, as well as list a few things that were always going to unfulfilled dreams. I suppose fifteen of them are still theoretically possible, but I’ll leave it to you to work out which they are!

  • Present my own TV Political Chat Show
  • Play for West Ham
  • Work in Washington DC
  • Live in Switzerland
  • Appear on Desert Island Discs
  • Spend a month skiing
  • Attend the White House Correspondents Dinner
  • To make documentaries like Michael Cockerell’s
  • Learn to speak Dutch
  • Write a novel
  • Be Secretary of State for Transport
  • Get a single figure golf handicap
  • Become a director of West Ham United
  • Write a multi-volume biography of a leading politician
  • Spend a month touring all the US Presidential Libraries
  • Buy holiday homes in Germany, Switzerland, France, Florida and Italy
  • Visit the Falkland Islands
  • Perform at the Edinburgh Fringe
  • Have a weekly multi-story column in a national newspaper
  • Host my own own music radio show
  • Play Augusta

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Iain Presents 'Counting Chickens' on Radio 5 Live

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Diary

ConHome Diary: So It's A Tory All Woman Shortlist!

8 Jul 2016 at 13:54

I was at a party on Wednesday night celebrating the 60th birthday of a Tory Party politician. Oh alright then, it was Andrew Mitchell. It was quite a do. I was amused to be approached at one point by a veteran of David Davis’s leadership of 2005 who was looking rather pleased with himself. “Why so happy?” I asked. “Oh, nothing really, it’s just so nice to see Nick Boles get his comeuppance after all these years.” I presumed he was talking about the texts Nick had been sending to Tory MPs in a rather desperate attempt to get Michael Gove onto the ballot, but I couldn’t really work out why this MP thought it was a “comeuppance”. “Don’t you remember?” he asked. “It was Boles who coordinated the spinning effort against David Davis’s conference speech in Blackpool?” I do remember it but hadn’t cottoned on at the time. I remember seeing him with some journalists after the speech but it hadn’t occurred to me just what was being said. I do, however, remember how the Westminster lobby slated what most people initially regarded as a perfectly acceptable speech, if not a spectacular one. Indeed, since then, several lobby journalists have spoken to me about it and admitted they all behaved like sheep. I didn’t carp about it then and I don’t now. It was a brilliant bit of spinning by the Cameron team and it’s hardly their fault if the political lobby acted like sheep. It wasn’t the first time and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
*
Andrea Leadsom has come under scrutiny like no other leadership candidate. Clearly someone is rather afraid of her and her agenda. Some of the media commentary has been astonishing. In some ways she has done well to survive it. The worst that she has been accused of is making some slightly injudicious comments on an old blog, written long before she became an MP, and of slightly embellishing her CV. Jesus, just as well she had never betrayed her best political friend, eh? By contrast, the media has paid very little attention to anything in Theresa May’s past, and concentrated on printing a series of glowing profiles, ignoring any failures in her political career. Now there’s a reason for that. So far as I can see with Theresa what you see is what you get. There’s no side to her, there’s no real failure in her political career. Even in six years as Home Secretary you can’t really put your finger on any major failure of policy. Of course, not everything has gone to plan but compared to her predecessors in that office, everything has run comparatively smoothly. And that is why she’s considered a safe pair of hands. Andrea Leadsom’s main problem is that this leadership election will not result in the next leader of the opposition, with a couple of years to play themselves in, the winner immediately becomes prime minister. Both candidates would be learning on the job to a certain extent, but even her most diehard fan would have to admit that electing Andrea would be a more of a risk than electing Theresa, and that is the primary reason why Theresa is so far ahead in the voting.
*

Tony Blair’s conference on Wednesday, in response to the release of the Chilcot Report, was quite something. It lasted two hours. He answered every question the press wanted to ask, until they were exhausted. It was a typical Blair tour de force. The hand gestures. The furrowed brow. The subliminal message of “I want you to like me” was permanently present. His voice had become almost childlike. Imploring. He sounded almost in tears as he croaked away. His hair had turned a very strange colour. Brown on top, almost totally grey at the sides. But I tell you what, I still believe that if he had been leader of the Labour Party at the last election, they could well have won. The Westminster bubble totally misjudges public opinion on Tony Blair. They’ve bought into this narrative that Jeremy Corbyn has been spinning – that he is public enemy number one. That may be the case in the liberal salons of Islington. Out there in the country he’s still seen as a towering figure.
*
On what planet do Labour MPs think Angela Eagle is the best person to challenge Jeremy Corbyn? I like her. She’s a transparently nice woman, but a party leader? Tough enough to survive three months of abuse from Momentum? I doubt it very much.
*

So Tory MP James Gray, a supporter of Andrea Leadsom, described her to one of my colleagues as “a great girl.” Andrea Leadsom is 53.
*
So as Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom embark on their two month tour of the country to drum up support from party members, political journalists are no doubt going to start imagining what a Theresa May government would look like. Few of them expect anything other than a May victory. Well here are a few suggestions…
1. Cut the size of the Cabinet. Go back to a Cabinet of 22 members and abolish all these people “who have the right to attend Cabinet”.
2. Create a new enhanced Department of Trade, separate from the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills. Appoint a senior Brexiteer to head it up (Peter Lilley, David Davis or the like) and lead the EU negotiations and give it a remit to negotiate as many trade agreements as possible. Make it the department the best civil servants aspire to work in.
3. Abolish the DCMS and include it in a new Department of Business & Industry. Put universities back to the Department of Education.
4. Make sure it is a government of all the talents. Bring back wise old heads and make clear that the 2015 intake will need to wait their turn and earn their promotion. Bring back Dominic Grieve as Attorney General. Appoint Damian Green to the Cabinet. Clear out some of the ‘dead wood’. I’ll leave you to imagine who I am referring to!
The biggest call Theresa May is going to have to make is what to do about George Osborne and Michael Gove. They may decide they don’t wish to serve under her, but if they do she’s got two big decisions to make. Osborne surely wouldn’t accept anything less than Chancellor or Foreign Secretary, but can a Remainer really hold either of those posts if the PM is a Remainer too? If Michael Gove is to stay in the Cabinet, I suggest continuing his innovative prison reforms should be the priority and he should stay at Justice, but I rather fear that Mrs May might well think that she can do without Michael Gove’s talents at all. It would be a big all on her part, and leave a powerful enemy languishing on the back benches, but it’s difficult to see them working well together given their past history. As I say, a big call.
*

In any other circumstances I’d also be suggesting that David Cameron becomes Foreign Secretary, just as Sir Alec Douglas Home did in 1970 under Ted Heath. He’d be very good at the job, but in the current circumstances I doubt whether a) he’d want to stay in someone else’s Cabinet and b) whether Brexiters would be able to stomach it.

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Faisal Shinwari tells Iain why he jumped off Tower Bridge

I felt sorry for him

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Diary

Attitude Column: I'm Just Sooooo Offended!

7 Jul 2016 at 09:40

“I’ve never been so offended in all my life.” How many times have we heard that increasingly irritating phrase in recent times? Being offended has almost become a national sport in this country. The slightest off colour remark can provoke howls of outrage from people who ought to know better. There’s no law to protect people from being offended, and nor should there be if we value free speech.

I doubt there’s a gay man or woman in existence who hasn’t been offended by an homophobic remark that they have been the target of or they’ve heard. But most of us get over it. We shake our heads in sadness that there are still bigots out there, we may sometimes to try educate people out of their ways but in the end we put it down to experience and move on.
In the end we have to make a differentiation between freedom of speech and hate speech. On my LBC radio show I often get a torrent of texts and tweets from people who don’t approve of my lifestyle. I’d love to think there will come a day when this sort of thing doesn’t happen, but I doubt whether I will live to see it. Perhaps I have become immune to it, but none of it offends or upsets me. It just makes me a bit sad. All I can do in my job, is do it to the best of my ability. I always say to people who describe me as a ‘gay radio presenter’ that I’m not. I am a radio presenter who happens to be gay. I don’t resile from my sexuality. It is a part of who I am, but it doesn’t define me or what I do.

Only once have I thought a caller to my show went beyond the norm of what was within the bounds of free speech. She was a muslim who actively supported ISIS killing gay people by throwing them off buildings. What on earth do you say to someone like that? She was 22. I told her that her parents should be ashamed of themselves for bringing her up with that short of set of beliefs. Several of my callers told me I should have reported her to the Police. I suppose what she said was allowable within the bounds of free speech, but clearly many of my listeners were offended. It’s very rare that anyone makes homophobic remarks on air, but on twitter and text it’s quite common.

I could spend most of my life being offended if I wanted to, but in the end, life is too short. The very uttering of the phrase “I find that offensive” effectively means that you want to silence the person who has supposedly offended you. Jews, muslims, gays and feminists may not have much in common but they are often on the same page in demanding retribution in the form of bans, penalties and censorship of those who supposedly hurt their feelings.

I say, grow up. People have died so we can retain some semblance of freedom of speech. Each time politicians pass laws which impinge on freedom of speech a small part of democracy dies.

I’ve just published a short polemical book by Claire Fox, one of the stars of The Moral Maze called “I Find That Offensive”. Anyone who things laws banning offensive remarks are a good idea should read it. Fox takes on those who seem to regard taking offence as a professional pastime. She concludes that we should make a virtue out of the right to offend.
I mean, we’ve even got to the point where students – poor dears – have become obsessed by the idea of ‘safe spaces’, where no one can say anything which another might take exception to. In some universities LGBT students are even demanding LGBT only accommodation. Utter idiocy. What a great way to build more barriers and for gay people to become more isolated. Let’s go the whole hog and have student accommodation blocks only for muslims. Or only for Asians. Total madness.

Tell you what, if I were straight or white, I’d find that damned offensive. And you see, therein lies the conundrum.

This article first appeared in Attitude Magazine

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LBC 97.3 Book Club: Iain talks to Calder Walton

Calder Walton discusses how the intelligence services operated at the end of Empire.

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World Politics

Why I Feel Duped Over Iraq and Why Chilcot Isn't a Whitewash

6 Jul 2016 at 13:11

In twenty short but utterly devastating minutes Sir John Chilcot laid bare the errors of judgement, the errors of policy and errors of implementation that led to what I am now content to say was Britain’s biggest foreign policy misjudgement since Suez.

At the time, I believed in it. I supported the invasion of Iraq. Like many others, I was duped. I was duped because I chose to believe my Prime Minister when he said that he had access to intelligence that I did not. I believe his assessment of that intelligence. Call me a fool if you like, but if we have reached a stage in our public discourse when I, as a citizen of this country, can’t believe the word of our prime minister on matters of intelligence, then we have reached a pretty pass.

Sir John tells us that Tony Blair told George Bush 8 months before the invasion that he would be with him “whatever”. That one small word is a word which a responsible British prime minister would never utter. I am a strong supporter of the transatlantic alliance but the only way a politician utters such a word is when he is a supplicant.

Staying close to a US president to influence him is maybe a good thing. But when that influence translates into supplicancy it leads to the kind of report we have heard today. We also learnt that the UK government went to war without exploring all peaceful means for resolving the conflict. Perhaps Margaret Thatcher could have been accused of that in the Falklands, but that was a war protecting the interests of British people. Was this? Not when we are told that Mr Blair was warned about the terrorist consequences of military action.

Chilcot maintains that policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed assessments of intelligence – the intelligence services weren’t challenged and they should have been. Members of the cabinet did not even question Blair, according to Sir John Chilcot. What kind of supplicant cabinet did we have if they didn’t even question the intelligence of Blair’s conclusions? Sir John accuses Blair of claiming Saddam Hussein had WMD with a certainty that was not justified. That’s the closes he came to accusing Blair of lying.

No one can accuse Sir John Chilcot’s report of being a whitewash. No one can say it’s an establishment stitch up. It is neither of these things. It is a devastating analysis of the failure of the entire British government system and British foreign policy. And I say this only knowing the main conclusions it draws. I say this without having read the executive summary let alone the full 2.6 million words. Those responsible for these failures – and I am talking primarily about Tony Blair and Jack Straw – need to acknowledge their failures and give sincere apologies for their actions. Perhaps then the families of the 179 servicemen and women who died can find it in themselves, maybe not to forgive them, but to have a better understanding of why the politicians acted in the way that they did.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Leon McKenzie about Depression

Former Crystal Palace, Norwich and Fulham Footballer Leon McKenzie joins Iain to discuss depression and his attempt to take his own life, detailed in his book MY FIGHT WITH LIFE

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Conservative Politics

Conservative Leadership Runners & Riders: LIAM FOX

4 Jul 2016 at 23:19

FULL NAME: Liam Fox
BORN: 22 September 1961, East Kilbride
AGE: 54
EDUCATION: St Brides High School, University of Glasgow Medical School
STATUS: Married to Jesme Baird
FIRST ELECTED: 1992
CONSTITUENCY: Woodspring, North Somerset
EXPERIENCE: Government Whip 1993-6, Foreign Office Minister 1996-7, Shadow Cabinet 1998-2010 including Health, Party Chairman and Defence. Secretary of State for Defence May 2010-October 2011.
OTHER EXPERIENCE: General Practitioner 1983-92
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: “Is the flight to Washington on time?”
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY: “We’re spending far too much money on defence.”
FAMOUS QUOTES: “The era of nuclear terrorism has arrived.” “If Iran becomes a nuclear weapon state it is the end of non-proliferation as we know it.” “New Labour was the most short-sighted, self-serving, incompetent, useless, and ineffective government that Britain has ever known. Make no mistake, Labour’s economic policies were a national security liability.”
STRENGTHS: Ideological certainty, public speaking, experience, foreign policy knowledge
WEAKNESSES: Memories of his resignation, lack of public supporters among MPs
MAIN ADVISERS: David Goss
MAIN ALLIES: Robert Goodwill, Sir Gerald Howarth
LADBROKES ODDS: 100/1

SCOREBOARD

Experience: 6.8
Negotiating Skills: 6.0
Star Quality: 5.0
Likeability: 5.2
Ability to take the fight to Labour: 6.3
Economic Competence: 5.8
Intellectual Capacity: 6.6
Ability to Unite the Country: 4.5
Ability to Unite the Party: 5.3
Integrity: 5.2
Courage: 6.0
Leadership: 5.1
National Appeal: 5.2
International Experience: 6.5

OVERALL RATING OUT OF 100: 56.8

The panel scored Liam Fox fairly low compared to the other candidates. He didn’t come first in a single category but was a narrow second on international experience.

MY ANALYSIS

At the end of the 2005 leadership contest, Liam Fox had outperformed expectations. Indeed, everyone felt he was unlucky to finish third. Since his resignation as Defence Secretary on October 2011 he has played his cards well, and has been unlucky not to be recalled to the Cabinet. He also fought a good referendum and appeared the voice of sweet calmness and reason compared to the Project Fear approach of many of his colleagues.

When he first mooted he might run for the leadership most commentators imagined he might do quite well, even if he didn’t win. Unfortunately he has been overtaken by events. He planned to launch his campaign last Friday but in the end this proved impossible amid the Boris/Gove farrago. When he launched today, he disappeared beneath all the fuss about Andrea Leadsom and Nigel Farage’s resignation.

So far he has attracted only nine MPs to his cause. While he will score higher than that in the first ballot, his challenge will be enough to stay in the race.

Read my other profiles…

Theresa May
Andrea Leadsom
Michael Gove
Stephen Crabb

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Conservative Politics

Conservative Leadership Runners & Riders: MICHAEL GOVE

4 Jul 2016 at 10:57

FULL NAME: Michael Gove
BORN: 26 August 1967, Edinburgh
AGE: 48
EDUCATION: Robert Gordon’s College, Aberdeen. Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. 2-1 degree in English.
STATUS: Married to Sarah Vine, 2 children
FIRST ELECTED: 2005
CONSTITUENCY: Surrey Heath
EXPERIENCE: Secretary of State for Education 2010-14, Chief Whip 2014-15, Lord Chancellor 2015-
OTHER EXPERIENCE: Aberdeen Press & Journal 1989-96, The Times 1996-2005
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: “I will never stand for the party leadership.”
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY: "I will never stand for the party leadership.
FAMOUS QUOTES: “You wouldn’t tolerate an underperforming surgeon in an operating theatre, or a underperforming midwife at your child’s birth. Why is it that we tolerate underperforming teachers in the classroom?” “It’s often the case that successful people invite criticism.” “I remember my mum explaining to me what adoption meant when I was still at primary school. ‘Son,’ she said to me, ‘you didn’t grow under my heart, you grew in it’.”
STRENGTHS: Politeness, calmness, ideological certainty, conviction, radicalness
WEAKNESSES: Seen as a backstabber, Neocon views on foreign policy, geekiness
MAIN ADVISERS: Dominic Cummings, Henry Cook, Henry Newman
MAIN ALLIES: Nicholas Boles, Dominic Raab, Ed Vaizey
LADBROKES ODDS: 12/1

SCOREBOARD

Experience: 7.7
Negotiating Skills: 7.3
Star Quality: 7.3
Likeability: 6.6
Ability to take the fight to Labour: 8.0
Economic Competence: 6.8
Intellectual Capacity: 8.2
Ability to Unite the Country: 6.4
Ability to Unite the Party: 6.7
Integrity: 8.5
Courage: 9.3
Leadership: 7.4
National Appeal: 6.0
International Experience: 5.5

Before Boris dropped out of the contest Michael Gove has the second best overall rating. He beats all the other declared candidates in the following categories: Ability to take the fight to Labour, Intellectual capacity, Integrity, Courage & Leadership skills. However, these scores were all given before the Boris defenestration.

OVERALL RATING OUT OF 100: 72.6

MY ANALYSIS

In one act of political ruthlessness Michael Gove transformed his reputation from the politest, nicest person in British politics, to Ed Miliband on steroid. The Conservative Party doesn’t forgive treachery very easily, and certainly not very quickly, so if Michael Gove overcomes his act of regicide on Boris Johnson and goes on to win the leadership contest, it will be not only a massive surprise, but one of the greatest comebacks in a generation.

Michael Gove has consistently said he doesn’t have the qualities to be leader. I have always disagreed with him. He may not have the charisma of Nigel Farage, but he knows his own mind and has clear convictions which he is able to articulate very well. He has shown political bravery and courage at the Department of Education and Ministry of Justice and is a reformer, with a huge degree of success. He has also shown himself willing to take political risks.

Had Michael Gove announced his leadership campaign on his own terms and gone his own way the day after the referendum, I have little doubt he would be vying to be the main candidate to beat Boris Johnson. The way events have turned out, he is going to find it a massive challenge to get into the final two – and even if he does, Theresa May looks almost unassailable now. But in these turbulent times, no one should discount anything.

Read my other profiles

Theresa May
Andrea Leadsom
Stephen Crabb
Liam Fox

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LBC Book Club: Best of 2012 (Part 1)

Part 1 of 2. With Jack Straw, Lady Pamela Hicks, Peter Hennessy and President Mary Robinson.

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WATCH: My Analysis of the Tory Leadership on the Andrew Marr Paper Review

3 Jul 2016 at 16:19

So there I was last night, sitting on the sofa in Norfolk watching Germany win yet another penalty shootout and I get a text from Rob Burley asking if I could do the paper review on the Andrew Marr Show this morning. Someone had dropped out at the last minute – someone, shall we say, with an intimate knowledge of Boris. Now I have a rule. If Andrew Marr asks, I say yes. It’s the show to be on on a Sunday morning. It’s got a huge audience and virtually every opinion former worth their salt tunes in. In short, you’re mad to turn it down. However, when I got up at 4.45am and set out on the two and a half hour drive I must admit to wondering what on earth I was doing.

I was on with Phil Collins from The Times and Corbynista, Rachel Shabi. I’m not sure it was one of my better performances, to be honest. I always find it difficult when there are three paper reviewers rather than two because inevitably everyone is competing for time, which doesn’t really happen when there are two of you. I had so much more to say on the Tory leadership contest, but there just wasn’t time. Anyway, see what you think.

Video hattip @liarpoliticians

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My 'Take of the Week' for THIS WEEK: The Gove/Boris Fallout

2 Jul 2016 at 15:00

Over the years I have appeared many times on the Daily Politics, but never This Week. If I am honest, it rankled a bit and I had always wondered why. It’s funny because everyone, including members of the This Week production team, seemed to think I had been on many times.

Anyway on Thursday afternoon I was preparing for my LBC show when the phone rang. It was a very nice This Week producer who said that given the events of the morning (Gove had ratted on Boris) their plans had been thrown up in the air and they wondered if I would like to make the Take of the Week film and appear live on the programme with Andrew Neil, Michael Portillo and Alan ‘AJ’ Johnson. I decided that on balance I would!

I explained my take on the Boris/Gove fallout and the kind of thing I’d want to say, but also that I couldn’t start doing the film until after my show finished at 7pm – would that be a problem? In the end it turned out not to be and sure enough, just before 7pm the crew turned up at the LBC studio. It took about ninety minutes to do the filming, which was mainly my fault as I couldn’t remember my lines and we had to do lots of retakes!

After we finished, I grabbed a bite to eat then headed over to The Shard to do a turn on Al Jazeera English with Lauren Taylor for their 10pm news programme. Their studios are quite something – far more glitzy than their competitors.

I arrived at the BBC Millbank studios at 10.45 and had a good chinwag with Alan Johnson, one of the nicest people active in politics today. Eventually Michael Portillo arrived in what I can only describe as his ‘elf suit’. Watch the video and you’ll see why. I said that no man of a certain age should appear in public in red trousers. Alan Johnson disagreed. He reckoned no man of any age should appear in them. A fair point. Over the next few minutes David Starkey, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh and Rachel Shabia turned up.

My section was the first on the show so I was soon taken through to the studio, the same one that they film The Daily Politics in. I was delighted how the film turned out. I joked to Andrew Neil half way through that I hadn’t realised the BBC now allowed advertising and product placement. Watch it and you will see what I meant! If LBC had had to buy the advertising in that piece I imagine it would have cost several hundred thousand pounds.

The ensuing discussion was rather longer than they normally allow and was very enjoyable. I thought I might be a bit nervous, but I suppose because I know this subject I inside out, I wasn’t. You can watch the discussion for yourself so I won’t bother rehearsing it here.

And then it was done. I walked out of 4 Millbank to be driven home. There was a phalanx of Mercedes E Class cars waiting. Great, I thought. I won’t have to suffer a Prius. I was wrong. I got a Prius. Obviously cost cutting at the BBC, which, of course, I have to approve of. Even when I’m the victim! Lol.

Andrew Neil tweeted the following morning that the programme attracted a record audience of 1.23 million viewers, which is remarkable when you think the show started five minutes late because Question Time overran. Naturally I take full credit!

Video hattip @liarpoliticians

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Lynda Bellingham

Lynda Bellingham talks about her new book 'Tell Me Tomorrow', surviving cancer and adoption.

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Conservative Politics

Conservative Leadership Runners & Riders: STEPHEN CRABB

30 Jun 2016 at 14:00

FULL NAME: Stephen Crabb
BORN: January 20 1973, Inverness
AGE: 43
EDUCATION: University of Bristol, London Business School
STATUS: Married to Beatrice Monnier, 2 children
FIRST ELECTED: 2005
CONSTITUENCY: Preseli, Pembrokeshire
EXPERIENCE: Junior whip 2010-2012, Welsh Office Minister 2012-14, Secretary of State for Wales 2014-16, Secretary of State for Work & Pensions 2016-
OTHER EXPERIENCE: 199506 Intern, Christian Action Research & Education, 1996-8 National Council for Voluntary Youth Services, 1998-2002 London Chamber of Commerce, 2002-5 Marketing Consultant.
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: “I grew up in a council house and had a state school education.”
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY: “No Boris, whatever job you offer me I still won’t stand down in your favour.”
FAMOUS QUOTES: “Worklessness and dependency is a curse on the Welsh economy.” “When people talk about hard choices between heating or eating or buying clothes, I know what it’s like.” "The huge strategic error that Labour made was equating compassion with how high your spending figures were for welfare.”
STRENGTHS: Fresh face, Blank canvas, Speaking style, Back story
WEAKNESSES: Bearded face, Relatively unknown, alleged controversial views on gay issues
MAIN ADVISERS: Unknown
MAIN ALLIES: Jeremy Wright, Sajid Javid,
LIKELY TO STAND: 100%, already announced
LADBROKES ODDS: 8/1

SCOREBOARD

Experience: 4.5
Negotiating Skills: 5.0
Star Quality: 4.5
Likeability: 5.9
Ability to take the fight to Labour: 5.5
Economic Competence: 6.3
Intellectual Capacity: 5.6
Ability to Unite the Country: 5.6
Ability to Unite the Party: 5.9
Integrity: 5.8
Courage: 4.5
Leadership: 4.9
National Appeal: 5.3
International Experience: 3.2

Stephen Crabb scores relatively lowly in all categories. He only beats Theresa May on likeability. Against Andrea Leadsom he wins in no category. Against Boris Johnson he is tied on ability to unite the party,

OVERALL RATING OUT OF 100: 51.8

MY ANALYSIS

Stephen Crabb is a surprise entrant into this leadership contest. Some say he’s just putting down a marker, but in his own mind he will be in it to win it. There’s a touch of the John Majors about him, and not just because of his background. He’s an engaging politician, not afraid to display a sense of humour and to indulge in self-deprecation.

His challenge is to move beyond his backstory. He can’t just run as a Sadiq Khan soundalike, and count on his council house background to win it for him. There needs to be more to him than that. His launch pitch was quite alluring, but there were too many soundbites and now he has to provide the policy ballast to back them up. Trouble is, he’s only got a few days to do it.

He also remains dogged by his association with a group which advocates ‘gay cure’ therapy. No one can find a quote where he’s ever shown any sympathy for this, but gay pressure groups eagerly point out his vote against equal marriage. This won’t cost him much support in the parliamentary party, but if he gets to the final two, then it’s something he will have to address.

He is a devout Christian and not afraid to talk about it. This will no doubt make some people uncomfortable, but it highlights that he is very different to the rest of the lineup.
So far he has 20 declared MPs supporting him – not a bad total at all. This might indicate a final vote of 40 or 50, which would be very encouraging for him. His initial aim must be to knock Liam Fox off the ballot in the first round of voting – ironic, given that he was a supporter of Fox in 2005. But if he is to continue into the second round he will need to be confident of coming third in the next round. Otherwise there would be little point in continuing.

My other profiles can be read by clicking on these links…

Theresa May
Andrea Leadsom

Coming next: Dr Liam Fox

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

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