UK Politics

It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 51: When a Scoop Slips Through Your Hands...

5 Nov 2016 at 09:24

I don’t pretend to be a journalist, but there are obviously journalistic aspects to what I do. When my blog was at its height I’d break quite a few stories, and I got a kick out of being first to do so. It happened several times. But there was always that fear that you’d be scooped by someone else if you didn’t press SEND pretty damn quickly. Obviously that has its dangers, in that if you do it too quickly you might not quite have checked it out properly and stand to get a lot of egg on your face. I certainly remember one occasion when I got it very wrong.

On Thursday at around 5.30 I got a tip-off that Conservative MP Stephen Phillips was about to stand down from Parliament. ‘Well that’s a big story,’ I thought, and set about trying to stand it up. Trouble was, I was on air presenting my radio show, so phoning anyone was a bit difficult. Given who my source was (and no it wasn’t David Davis) I was 100% confident that the story was correct, but I wasn’t prepared to go with the story publicly until I had a second source. Just in case.

I have never met Stephen Phillips but quickly got hold of his phone number. No reply. I texted, but no response. My producers did the same. Nothing. We spent an hour and a half on it, getting in touch with anyone we thought might know something. Well, it got to 7pm and still we couldn’t get a second source, so I had to come off air without being able to announce anything. Damn and blast.

Over the course of the evening I spoke to several people who knew Phillips and none of them expressed particular surprise at what I told them. “He’s all over the place at the moment,” said one MP. “A tortured soul,” said another. “He can’t get over the fact that he hasn’t been made a minister,” said someone else. But still, I couldn’t get that second source. And of course the longer that was the case, the more likely it was that someone else would beat me to the story.

The next morning I learned that Stephen Phillips had sent a letter to his Conservative Association explaining his decision. In some ways that ought to have been enough for me to go public, but I still needed some sort of corroboration from a second source. I can’t say how I then got it, but events dictated that it was somewhat delayed. I was in an LBC meeting discussing our latest audience figures and had my phone on silent. When the meeting finished at around 11.10 I sat around chatting to new LBC recruit Maajid Nawaz and only then looked at my phone. MISSED CALL 10.54. I inwardly swore. I rang back. “Yes, it’s true,” said the voice at the other end. I then rushed down the stairs and broke the news on James O’Brien’s show at 11.20.

I saw afterwards that Guido had tweeted at 11am speculating that there was some interesting news surrounding Stephen Phillips and that he might resign. I beat Sky News by one minute but I think PA had got there before me.

Does it matter? Not really, I suppose. But every broadcaster likes to beat their rivals to a story. Do I regret not going with it even though it was only single sourced? Not really, because if it had turned out that he had changed his mind, it would have been highly embarrassing both for me and LBC.

If this had happened in my blogging days, I suspect I would have gone with it because I had 100% trust in my source, but if you work for a national broadcaster you just can’t take those kind of risks.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Miranda Hart

Comedienne Miranda Hart talks about her new book, IS IT ME?

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Interviewing John Howard & Why the Government is Wrong on the Article 50 Court Case

4 Nov 2016 at 13:08

For several years now, I have been trying to entice former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard onto my radio show. This week Dan Hannan kindly invited me to a dinner at the National Gallery where Mr Howard was being awarded this year’s Edmund Burke award. It really was a gathering of Britain’s right of centre clans. I first met John Howard twenty-five years ago when I went to Australia with my colleague from The Waterfront Partnership (a transport lobbying company we had both founded following the abolition of the Dock Labour Scheme) Nick Finney to advise the Australian Liberal Party on their own waterfront labour reform. John Howard was at that time Shadow Industrial Relations Minister. I remember being slightly underwhelmed by the meeting, and would never have predicted he would end up as one of the country’s longest serving prime ministers. In some ways he was Australia’s John Major, and I mean that as a compliment. He was a no frills politician who got on with the job with a great measure of success. I had 20 minutes with him in the studio, which for a Drivetime newsy show is quite a long time. I asked him about Brexit and he immediately declared that he would have voted Leave, had he had a vote. He also believed Britain will make a great success of Brexit, something you don’t often hear from any foreign politician. It was an honour to meet him.
*
On Tuesday I hosted the first live broadcast debate between the four contenders for the UKIP leadership. If I am honest I was a bit gutted when Raheem Kassam pulled out of the contest the day before. I thought without him to liven things up it might turn into a bit of a borefest. Boy was I wrong. If you listened to/saw it, you will know why. The new kid on the block in the contest was a complete unknown quantity. John Rees-Evans, or Jonathan as he used to be called, turned out to be quite something. So unknown is he that the other three – Paul Nuttall, Suzanne Evans and Peter Whittle – had never met him before. One suspects that after an hour with him, they wished it had stayed that way. Nuttall and Evans clearly couldn’t believe what they were hearing from him. As the host of the debate, nor could I. In the end I decided I had to challenge him on the nonsense he was spouting, which led to some people accusing me of treating him differently to the others. Well yes I did, and in retrospect I don’t regret it for one minute. How this man was ever allowed to stand for the leadership, Christ alone knows. He’s living proof that if you have enough money, you can subvert the debate for your own narcissistic means. I didn’t even have to bring up his claim that his horse had been raped by a gay donkey to ridicule him. He ridiculed himself by virtually every word he uttered.
*

I’m a bit of a homebird. Once I finish my radio show I like to go straight home. This week, however, I’ve been out every night. Wednesday night saw the Spectator Parliamentary Awards take place at the Rosewood Hotel (no, me neither) in High Holborn. I have to say it was the most entertaining one of these I have been to. It’s always a bit of an honour to be invited to it, to be honest. The Guest of Honour was George Osborne, who made the funniest speech I have heard this year – full of self-deprecation and jokes at the expense of a whole host of his former Cabinet colleagues. If only he had appeared this human while he was chancellor. The first few awards all went to Labour politicians. I really felt for Rachel Reeves when she picked up the Speech of the Year award for her tribute to the late Jo Cox. It must have been a very hard acceptance speech to make, given that she’d have given anything not to have had to make the original speech which the prize rewarded. I had thought David Davis would win Comeback of the Year, but instead it went to former Spectator Editor Boris Johnson, who made a rather shambolic speech, the highlight of which was when he said ‘Brexit will be a titanic success’. Oh dear. The Prime Minister held her head n her hands. But it was she who stole the whole show, not just by wearing a hard hat and high vis jacket to accept the Politician of the Year award. Her speech was hilarious. She ripped into Sir Craig Oliver, who was sitting a few feet away from the podium. “We all read from Craig Oliver’s book how on hearing the result he went into Whitehall and was physically sick. We all know that feeling Craig. We all had it when we heard about your Knighthood.” Ouch. But she wasn’t finished. Responding to Boris Johnson’s joke about Michael Heseltine killing his dog, she pointed out that the dog was not strangled but put down – by a master who no longer needed it…” Wow. The woman has some balls. And a sense of humour, which I suspect we’re going to experience a lot more. Sometimes you only find out about a politician’s real character when they reach the top job. I’m seeing sides to Theresa May which, despite following her career quite closely, and knowing her (albeit not well) for many years, I never knew existed. And I have to say, I very much like what I am seeing.
*
Next week is going to be a busy one. In the 27 hours from 4pm on Tuesday I’ll be on the radio for 13 of them. I’ll be broadcasting my normal show from 4-7pm on both days, but in between I’ll be co-hosting LBC’s US election night coverage with Shelagh Fogarty from 10pm through until 5am, when Nick Ferrari will take over. It promises to be quite a night. I’m beginning to believe that Donald Trump might actually win. It really is a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. A Trump presidency will be fantastic from a journalistic point of view. Hours of phone-in fun to be had. But oh my God. Pity the poor bloody United States of America if it actually happens.
*

I think the government is making a mistake to appeal the Article 50 court ruling. Theresa May should call the bluff of those who seek to frustrate the Brexit process by immediately tabling a one line Bill to Parliament to trigger Article 50 by next March, and put it to a vote immediately. I suspect there would be fewer than 50 MPs would dare to defy the will of the people, but even if there were, at least they would be flushed out into the open. I doubt very much whether the House of Lords would be in a mood to create a 1910 style constitutional crisis, mainly because it would be signing its own death warrant. The Government should not be afraid of this process or in any way appear to be defensive.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Hosts a Phone in Dealing With Grief

A month after his mother died, Iain asks why we find bereavement so difficult.

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Humour/Satire

A Message to America From Her Majesty The Queen...

31 Oct 2016 at 23:06

To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll

In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. (You should look up ‘revocation’ in the Oxford English Dictionary.)

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except North Dakota, which she does not fancy).
Your new Prime Minister, Theresa May, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections.

Congress and the Senate will be disbanded.

A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you
noticed. To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. The letter ‘U’ will be reinstated in words such as “colour”, ‘’favour,’ ‘labour’ and ‘neighbour.’
Likewise, you will learn to spell ‘doughnut’ withoutskipping half the letters, and the suffix ‘-ize’
will be replaced by the suffix ‘-ise.’ Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (Look up ‘vocabulary’)
2. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as ‘’like’ and ‘you know’ is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U.S. English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter ’u’’ and the replacement of ‘-ize.
3. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.
4. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you’re not quite ready to be independent.Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can’t sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you’re not ready to shoot grouse.
5. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler, although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.
6. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect.At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the new sense of humour.
7. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.
8. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.
9. The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable, as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer.They are also part of the British Commonwealth – see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat’s Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.
10. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Kevin Costner attempt English in Robin Hood was an experience akin to having one’s ears removed with a cheese grater.
11. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).
12. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America.Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.
13.. You must tell us who killed JFK. It’s been driving us mad.
14. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty’s Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).
15. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 p.m. with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season (which is approximately every four years in the motherland) .
God Save the Queen!

I have no idea who wrote this but it is brilliant!

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Tom Bower

Iain talks to Tom Bower about his controversial new book on Richard Branson.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Who Will be UKIP Leader & Why Mark Carney is a Brilliant PR Man ... For Mark Carney

28 Oct 2016 at 14:22

It will be interesting to see the final lineup in the UKIP leadership contest when nominations close on Monday. The three leading candidates are clearly Paul Nuttall, Suzanne Evans and Raheem Kassam, but the question is whether any of the more fringe candidates like David Kurten and Peter Whittle decide to drop out. All candidates have to put down a £5,000 deposit, and the terms for retrieving it are fairly steep. Raheem Kassam will be considered to be the outsider, but his campaign has the support of Arron Banks, whose financial backing could make a very big difference. He was the first to announce and had made quite an impact so far, but will the tacit support of Nigel Farage be enough? Suzanne Evans announced on the Andrew Marr show and she certainly has her fans, but in terms of uniting a fractured party, she is seen by many as as divisive as Raheem. Nigel Farage made his views very clear on her candidacy within minutes of her announcing. It will be interesting to see her strategy for convincing UKIP party members that she can unite all wings of the party. Paul Nuttall is undoubtedly the unity candidate, but there is a big question mark over whether he really wants the job and has been pressured into standing. The last thing UKIP need is another 18 day leader. But if the aim of the party is to appeal to northern Labour seats, then he’s certainly the man to do it. Nuttall and Evans get on well personally and there is a suspicion among Kassam supporters that in effect they’re the same candidate, and if either wins, they will make the other their deputy leader. Stitch up is a phrase often heard in UKIP at the moment. I’ll be hosting a UKIP leadership debate on Tuesday evening from 5-6pm on LBC. Kassam, Evans and Nuttall will all be three. I hope you will be too. Should be fun!
*
It must have been difficulty adapting to life as a backbencher for George Osborne, but last weekend he scored an absolute triumph. He was speaking at the annual dinner of Epping Forest Conservatives, who decided to spice up their evening by entertaining the Chancellor with a pub quiz. The questions were all about previous Chancellors and their record. Osborne’s table won at a canter with the Chancellor really entering into the spirit of it, getting all twenty questions right. And he didn’t even need to deploy Project Fear!
*

Talking of Project Fear, we were supposed to be in recession by now with negative growth. That’s what George Osborne told us would happen in June. Yesterday the growth figures came out and were far higher than any economist had predicted, at 0.5% – annualised at 2.3%. That’s not only very far from recession territory, it puts us at or near the top of the growth league.
*
Just who does Mark Carney think he is? He seems to think he is more powerful than the Prime Minister, and she doesn’t have a right to comment on the performance of the economy in case she questions the record of the Bank of England. If you actually look at his record, he’s been brilliant as a PR man for Mark Carney but if you actually look at his record of economic predictions and forecasting, it’s lamentable. He reckons he has single-handedly saved the British economy. I suggest that his record is very different. Quite a few leading economic commentators seem to agree with that.
*

So now we know who will serve on the Brexit Select Committee. Eight of the ten Conservatives are Leave supporters, but it still means that Remain supporters have a narrow majority, if my calculations are right. 11-9, with the DUP providing the only other Leave supporter. Should make for some interesting reports! It’s very good to see some real heavyweights serving on this committee, like Peter Lilley, John Whittingdale and Michael Gove. In some ways it’s a shame Anna Soubry failed to be elected by her fellow Conservative MPs. She’d have certainly made the questioning of David Davis very entertaining.
*
I’m sure I speak for all of you when I wish Nicholas Boles well in his renewed fight to beat cancer. I was supposed to meet him for a coffee earlier this week but he texted me to tell me the reason he couldn’t make it. Having beaten cancer back in 2007-8, which meant he had to withdraw from the London mayoral race, this latest diagnosis must have come as a bitter blow. I struggled to think how to reply to the text, to be honest. I mean, what on earth do you say in these circumstances beyond tired old clichés? I’m not a religious person, but if you believe in the power of prayer, I hope you’ll deploy it to its maximum extent. No one deserves to go through this twice.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale looks at TWIGHLIGHT & Teenage Obsessions

Are teenage obsessions healthy? Iain Dale interviews his sister Tracey and 13 year old Philly and talks to teenagers waiting for the Premiere of Twighlight who were camping out in Leicester Square.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: The Danger of Hillary & Interviewing Ken Loach

21 Oct 2016 at 13:52

Wednesday’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump didn’t really move things. Trump started well but couldn’t resist becoming Mr Nasty again, leaving the floor for Clinton to wipe the floor with him. For me she won virtually every single section of the debate, with Trump coming across as a total narcissist, unfit to hold the office of President. This contest has ended up as who is the lesser of two evils. Hillary is certainly unpopular, and deservedly so, but surely undecided voters will in the end come down in her favour, for fear of what a Trump Presidency would entail. However, there are still two and a half weeks to go and anything could happen.

The one area I thought Hillary Clinton was on dodgy ground was when she again advocated a no-fly zone over Aleppo. That may have been a valid argument a month or two ago, but the ship has well and truly sailed now. It would only work if the Russians agreed to, and with victory in sight over the rebel forces, why would they do that now? Clinton’s refusal to accept the reality of the situation is worrying. You can’t just impose a no-fly zone on the Syrians and the Russians, because if you do, you have to be prepared for the consequences. And one inevitable consequence is that as President you’d be faced with the awful prospect of ordering a Russian plane to be shot down. And the consequences of that are too awful to contemplate. It’s one thing for Turkey to do it. It’s a very different thing for the United States to do it.
*
Ken Loach films are not my cup of tea, you won’t be surprised to hear. So when my LBC producer said she had arranged for me to interview the far left film director my heart slightly sank. It sank even further when she said he had got two tickets for the Premiere of his latest film, ‘I, Daniel Blake’, in Leicester Square. I grumpily accepted that it was probably a good idea to see the film before I interviewed him so on Tuesday night off we toddled. The place was crammed full of leftiness. I got into a bit of trouble for tweeting that the cinema ‘reeked of leftism’. It was a slightly lame attempt at humour which did not go down well with our besandled friends.

The film itself was rather better than I had anticipated, even if it was a tad predictable. The main thing was that it held my attention for an hour and forty minutes, and believe me, in cinemas I have the attention span of a flea. The aim of the film was to show how awful it is to be on benefits and how terrible the DWP systems are, and the terrible psychological effect they have on individuals. And of course that the Tories are evil. Natch. The main character in the film was a sixtyish Geordie joiner, who had had a heart attack. His doctor had declared him unfit for work, yet according to the ATOS system, he didn’t have enough points and therefore was obliged to look for work or he would lose his benefits. In human terms it pulled at the heart strings, as it was no doubt meant to. There was no acknowledgement in the film that there was any problem at all with people who do try to work the system. Loach had a lot of private information from people who work in the DWP or are members of the PSU union, and he used it to good effect. If the lack of humanity shown by the workers in the job centre scenes bears any relation to reality, it’s a disgrace. The second lead character was a cockney single mother of two called Katy, who had been moved up to Newcastle by a London council, because they couldn’t house her. The actress who played her was in my opinion the star of the film. She descended into so much debt that she couldn’t afford to feed or clothe her two children properly. The most affecting scene was when she visited a food bank, and she was so hungry she ripped open a tin of beans and started eating them raw. She ended up shoplifting and then being pimped out by the shop security officer who caught her stealing. It was all a bit predictable. As you can imagine, there is no happy ending in a film like this.
As the credits rolled, the cinema rose in acclamation, a woman a few rows in front started ranting loudly about the evil Tories and that “c**t Iain Duncan Smith”. This woman was wearing a fur coat.

As we walked out the woman next to us shouted out “We are all Daniel Blake, We are all Daniel Blake”. I felt I was existing in a different universe.

I don’t think you can use the word ‘enjoy’ with regard to a film like this. But I didn’t not enjoy it. Whatever the political motivation behind it, it did have several valid messages and one is that there can be terrible consequences if a state system dehumanises people and makes them lose any semblance of self-respect.

The next day I interviewed Ken Loach, live in the studio. I’d love to say I took him on and had a right old barny, but it wasn’t appropriate. In the end I let him have his say and left it to the audience to judge his views on the ‘evil Tories’.
You can watch the 13 minute here .
*
I actually laughed out loud when I read on Guido Fawkes that David Prescott has been hired as Jeremy Corbyn’s chief speechwriter. Son of John, David couldn’t be further from the Corbynista mindset if he tried. To the outside world it seems like an inspired hire, showing that Team Corbyn is not of one view. But surely a speechwriter has to be able to get inside the head of his boss and be able to write accordingly. However, it’s amazing how the desperation of finding a safe seat can turn one’s head isn’t it? Still, at least it’s not a peerage he’s after… The price for that is rather different.

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Caller Tells me We Should 'Get Over' the Holocaust

Oh dear

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WATCH: My LBC Interview with Ken Loach

20 Oct 2016 at 15:36

Ken Loach talks about his new film ‘I, Daniel Blake’.

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Caller Tells Me Homosexuality is a Salvation Issue

Course it is.

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Books

BOOK REVIEW: Politics - Between the Extremes by Nick Clegg

15 Oct 2016 at 21:02

I like Nick Clegg. Always have. He’s a transparently nice guy. I suspect he’s a very loyal person, and someone who tries to see the best in people. This can sometimes be a fatal flaw in a politician.

I remember seeing Nick Clegg at the 2008 LibDem conference, less than a year after his election as the party’s leader. “You’re a risk taker,” I said. “I like that in a politician.” He wasn’t afraid to take the risk of going into full coalition with the Conservatives and he wasn’t afraid to suffer the consequences. I think history will be much kinder to Nick Clegg than many commentators have been so far. He may have sacrificed his party, but he did it for the right reasons, and the country ought to be grateful to him. It isn’t of course, but that’s just ‘realpolitik’ in today’s unforgiving world of instant political commentary.

When I heard that Nick Clegg was writing a book I must admit I was slightly surprised by the title and totally put off by the marketing press release which his publishers put out. “Politics: Between the Extremes” has to be one of the worst titles ever thought of in the history of book publishing. I’ll read anything political but the blurb describing the book even put off a political geek like me. Well, they bravely stuck with the title…

This book is not an easy read. The first half amounts to one long whinge about how everyone is so beastly to the sainted Liberal Democrats and to the man who took them to power for the first time in eighty years. Up to a point, Lord Copper.

This book might have been better had it been a conventional autobiography. Clegg has a fascinating personal narrative and story, yet we only get to hear about it almost in passing in this book. We hear a little about how his political narrative developed, but he skates over too much.

Throughout the book he jumps from event to event and back again. What you think he’s finished discussing in one chapter then appears again in another. At times the text is almost impenetrable. At others it’s very chatty.

He’s at his best when writing about issues he cares about, like Britain’s role in (or not) Europe. The passion oozes from the page. When he writes about the business of politics and government it’s written with a sense of ennui, as if it’s rather beneath him.

I interviewed Nick Clegg about the book recently, and when we were chatting afterwards I said how nice it was to see him so relaxed. When he was leader of the LibDems he always seemed to live in a state of slight irritation. It came across in interviews and phone-ins. It was as if he was subconsciously sending out a message to people saying: “Why can’t you see that what I am doing is right and give me the credit for doing it?”

Back in March I published David Laws’ book, COALITION. OK, I am biased, but if I wanted to read a book about the coalition, I know which I’d choose. David Laws has his moments when he can’t see the LibDem wood for the Conservative trees, but in Nick Clegg’s book the principled and idealistic LibDems were almost always right, and the beastly unprincipled Conservatives always had malign motives, if they took a line which was different to their coalition partners.

Having said that, at times, Clegg seems to rather admire the sheer ruthlessness of the Conservatives. He makes a lot of this when talking about the AV referendum.

Where Clegg is at his best is when he writes about the perils in being a junior partner. He compares the position of the LibDems to other liberal parties in Europe, like the German FDP, or their Dutch counterparts, and muses whether post government decline is always inevitable for smaller coalition parties.

This is not a bad book, but it could have been better. It adds to our knowledge of contemporary history, but one suspects it’s not the whole truth.

We know that Nick Clegg kept a diary. We don’t know if it was just for his period in government or also the years before. I suspect we’d learn a lot more about Nick Clegg’s motives and beliefs if that diary were ever published. We know that David Laws had access for it for his book, and no doubt Nick Clegg referred back to it for this book, but in the end he should publish the diaries, assuming they amount to more than just a record of events. I suspect they amount to far more than that.

Nick Clegg is still not 50 years old. I hope he doesn’t stand down in 2020. I rather think he might one day return to lead his party, and if he does, it’s entirely possible that at some point they could return to government.

With the decline of Labour, the LibDems have a fantastic opportunity to grow. They might not return to the giddy heights to the Cleggmania of May 2010 and of winning 50 or 60 seats in 2020, but I suspect they will win far more than eight.

When Corbyn stands down in favour of John McDonnell in May 2020 (which is surely more than 50-50 likely), that’s the point that the LibDems can again come to the fore. Tim Farron may be the man to take them forward, or he may not. If he isn’t, then I can think of a man who could, assuming he is still in Parliament – Nicholas William Peter Clegg.

Politics: Between the Extremes by Nick Clegg is published by The Bodley Head in hardback at £20.

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Oneword Radio: Iain Dale interviews Michael Foot

Michael Foot spends an hour with Iain Dale on his 90th birthday

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ConHome Diary: In Defence of Craig Oliver & I Really Don't Hate Wales

14 Oct 2016 at 13:48

Well, Craig Oliver’s book has certainly attracted a degree of animosity from Her Majesty’s Press. Robbie Millen in The Times called it “hastily cobbled together”, while James Kirkup in The Daily Telegraph is crueller.

He suggests that “to read this book is to suffer a form of intellectual claustrophobia.” What utter drivel. It’s not meant to be a book for intellectuals. As Kevin Maguire put it on Twitter (and I’m not given to quoting Maguire that often), “revenge is a dish best served cold”. And that’s exactly what Kirkup and others have done. They appear to relish getting their own back on a Government spin doctor who obviously upset them from time to time.

In some ways, this is not surprising. As I say in my own review of the book “I thought he was too concerned with keeping BBC news programmes happy and didn’t seem to get that there were actually other broadcasters who mattered too.” In the beginning, there was certainly a feeling among print hacks that Oliver didn’t understand their needs, or even care.

Whatever truth there may have been in that view when he started the job, I think it is unfair to characterise him in that way at its end. It is so much easier to write a book review that is negative. I made clear some of my own misgivings about Oliver’s version of events, but at least I tried to be balanced. I’ve yet to read a review written by a print journalist that has made any attempt to do the same. They have short-changed their readers.

- – – – – – – – – -

Talking of current political memoirs, I am around a hundred pages into Nick Clegg’s book. And boy, am I struggling. So far, it’s one long whinge. I’ll write a full review once I get to the end. If I get to the end…

- – – – – – – – – -

It seems I have upset the Welsh. Not difficult with some of them. I saw a tweet from Plaid Cymru saying this: “We have the opportunity in Wales to do things differently – not the ugly politics of British nationalism.”

I responded by tweeting: “The lack of self-awareness in this tweet is incredible. What about the ugly politics of Welsh nationalism?” I thought this was a relatively uncontroversial statement, but from the reaction of some Plaid supporters you’d have thought I’d suggested the complete defenestration of Leanne Wood in Cardiff city centre.

Oh, no they cried, there’s nothing ugly about Welsh nationalism. Why, though, is it OK to be proud of the Welsh nation, but not of the British nation?

Look at the group Balchder Cymru (Pride of Wales), and tell me that a lot of its views and actions aren’t “ugly”. There are plenty examples of Plaid supporters and politicians making exactly the same kind of anti-English comments that some SNP politicians have specialised in over the years. Just do a quick Google search if you don’t believe me.

Caru Cymru, a Plaid-supporting blog, accuses me of being anti Welsh. Nothing could be further from the truth. He judges me on the basis of that single tweet. Let me make it crystal-clear. If I were Welsh or Scottish. I too would be tempted by the nationalist cause. But what would put me off supporting the SNP or Plaid is their blatant anti-British and anti-English rhetoric. It isn’t always “ugly”; but it often is. And that is an indisputable fact.

- – – – – – – – – -

Tonight I’m travelling to Norwich from Liverpool Street. If I go on the 7.30, a first class ticket will cost me all of £27.10. If I take the 8pm train, the price goes up to £103.10. Can I get to Liverpool Street in time, given that my LBC show finishes at 7 and I’m in Leicester Square? I’ll let you know.

- – – – – – – – – -

I don’t know how many of you watch Dave, a channel on Freeview or Sky which specialises in re-running comedy programmes. Well, on Wednesdays at ten there’s a series called Matt Forde Unspun.

Matt is a politically interested comedian and he’s joined by his house band, MP4 – four MPs who are actually rather musically gifted. It’s a political chat show with a series of satirical features, and it’s rapidly becoming a must-watch.

But Dave has done very little to promote it, and I worry that its audience figures won’t be high enough to warrant them commissioning a second series. Forde is a brilliant mimic – indeed, the only one I know who can do David Cameron. Apart from the satire, he also does a lengthy interview with a politician. So far on this series he’s had Anna Soubry, Alan Johnson and Chuka Umunna. Each of them has been witty and irreverent, and Forde manages to get them out of their normal politician mode. Give it a try. Wednesdays at ten on Dave.

- – – – – – – – – -

Can I just refute the rumours that Michael Gove is embarking on a new career as a scary clown?

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Alastair Campbell

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

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World Politics

Tim Farron Just Doesn't Get It - Britain Voted to Leave the EU AND the Single Market

10 Oct 2016 at 18:41

I had the pleasure of interviewing LibDem leader Tim Farron earlier. We were talking about whether Parliament should have a vote on any deal the Government negotiates. Tim just couldn’t get it into his head that the Single Market is an integral part of the EU, and therefore if we don’t leave it we are still subject to EU law, i.e. still members of the EU. He admitted that there was no deal the Government could negotiate that he would recommend his MPs vote for.

He just doesn’t get it. He may protest that he respects the result of the referendum, but on this performance they are just easy words.

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Iain plays umpire in Brooks Newmark v Alexander Nekrassoc

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Books

BOOK REVIEW: Unleashing Demons by Craig Oliver - The Inside Story of the Remain Campaign

9 Oct 2016 at 20:27

I did a 10 minute interview with Craig Oliver about his book, which you can watch HERE

It was around 10am in the morning on a Saturday in December 2012. I was in bed. The previous night I had given a speech to David Cameron’s Conservative Association in Chipping Norton. The bastards had heckled me over my views on gay marriage. I thought I deserved a lie-in.

Suddenly my phone rang. I sat bolt upright in bed. “I have the Prime Minister for you,” said the voice at the other end. And there was I, stark bollock naked in bed.

“I hear you had some fun last night with my lot,” laughed the PM. I retorted: “Clearly your modernising agenda hasn’t worked on them.” After he’d thanked me for doing the speech he suddenly asked me how I thought things were going. I’ve no clue what I said, but I do remember commenting that I thought the Number Ten media operation needed a bit of sharpening. At that, the Prime Minister launched into a staunch defence of Craig Oliver. It turned into a bit of a rant. “I don’t know why people keep having a go at Craig. He’s bloody brilliant.” I hadn’t actually mentioned Oliver, although I do remember saying that I thought he was too concerned with keeping BBC news programmes happy and didn’t seem to get that there were actually other broadcasters who mattered too.

I tell that anecdote to underline the fact that Craig Oliver and David Cameron were as close as close could be. And they remained so until the bitter end. Oliver would have died in a ditch for Cameron, and Cameron wholly trusted his judgement and strategic thinking. When you get to the end of this book you are left wondering whether the former Prime Minister was right to.

UNLEASHING DEMONS is based on the daily diaries Craig Oliver kept from late 2015 until June 23 2016. Given how often he complains about not having any time to do anything, you wonder how he had the time to keep a record, but we should all be very grateful that he did.

This is contemporary history at its best, and it is probably the best account of the Remain campaign we’re likely to get. Yes, it’s instant. Yes, it’s partisan, but he was there – there in all the important meetings. Yes, it does sometimes have the faint echo of a slight rewriting of events to make the best of them. Yes, some of the analysis smacks of being wise after the event, but make no mistake, anyone thinking they should give this book a miss is missing out.

It’s full of juicy anecdotes and riddled with emotion. At times the reader wonders whether Oliver was on the verge of a minor breakdown. By the end of the campaign he was pretty sure his health had been affected. Those of us who have been through a general election campaign know the pressures that come with it, but that generally only lasts for a few weeks. This campaign was full on for six months.

If you hate Michael Gove, you’ll love this book. If you think Theresa May is a bit of a calculating minx, you’ll have your suspicions confirmed. If you think everyone on the Leave side of the debate was an out and out liar, you’ll love it in spades. And if you think the Remain side was full of decent people who were the true patriots, again, this will be right up your street.
According to Oliver, the motives of the Leave campaign were universally dodgy, malign and ignorant. Their tactics were disgusting and it was all the fault of Dominic Cummings. Somewhat bizarrely, the director of Vote Leave, Matthew Elliott, only rates two mentions. Project Fear wasn’t something ‘Stronger In’ indulged in, no Siree. All down to Vote Leave, you see.

If you’re running a campaign you have to be a true believer. You have to believe in your product. But the fact Craig Oliver was even running the ‘Stronger In’ campaign – and this book makes clear he was – came as a bit of a revelation to me. I had always thought it was Will Straw. Even Straw plays only a peripheral role in this book. OK, he rates rather more mentions than Matthew Elliott, but he only appears when he’s agreeing with Craig, or saying something wholly uninteresting. If you believe Oliver, he was setting the strategy and the Prime Minister was signing it off. And this was one of the reasons why the campaign never really sparked. Will Straw is a nice guy, but hardly an inspirational figure. Craig Oliver is a bit more worldy-wise, but he’s from the media. He’s not a political strategist and has never fought an election campaign. What ‘Stronger In’ needed was a Lynton Crosby figure. The only figures remotely involved who could have fulfilled that role were Peter Mandelson and/or Alastair Campbell. But they had too much baggage to play more than a peripheral role.

This book is too instant for Craig Oliver to really understand the mistakes that were made. Not all of them were made in the campaign. The seeds for the Leave victory were sown many, many years ago. Most recently, the failure of the Blair government to restrict Eastern European immigration in the early 2000s set alight the flames of the immigration debate. ‘Stronger In’ failed to engage on the subject, mainly because they didn’t have an answer to it. They bet the house on the economy, and it blew up in their faces. They couldn’t have predicted that Labour would fail to mobilise their voters and seem totally disinterested in the fact that a good many of them had already made the trip to UKIP-land.

The BBC plays a big role in this book. Having come to Number Ten from being editor of the BBC Ten O’Clock News, Oliver comes across as very naïve about the way the BBC operates. He genuinely believed the BBC was biased against ‘Stronger In’ and there are dozens to examples of angry phone-calls to various BBC executives complaining about their coverage. Some of them were legitimate, but his inability to understand that the Leave campaign felt the same and were doing exactly the same thing is rather odd.

I wanted to publish this book, and met Craig Oliver to discuss doing just that. In the end he went with a big publisher, Hodder, and I have to say they’ve done a terrific job in bringing the book out so quickly. Normally, when a book is published in double quick time, it is riddled with errors. I spotted only two – a missing ‘a’ and Robert Syms MP’s name spelled incorrectly.
This book is meant to be a diary, but it’s actually a book based on a diary. It’s a strange way of writing a book, but it works. Alastair Campbell’s diaries are raw and from the day itself. I’d love to read Craig Oliver’s raw diaries. I wonder if by the end of them, I’d have a different understanding of events than the one offered in this book. I hope not, but there’s always the doubt that inconvenient facts and opinions might have been excised from a book like this. In a way it’s inevitable. There are no great prime ministerial temper losses revealed here, but I can’t believe it didn’t happen once. There are no shouting matches at ‘Stronger In’ board meeting. Yeah, right…

Overall, though, this book rivals Ed Balls’ SPEAKING OUT as the most enjoyable political book I have read this year. It has pace, insider info and a bit of chutzpah. As I finished it, I wondered if David Cameron has read it yet. It may be better for him to leave it for a few months… It would be like picking at a scab.

UNLEASHING DEMONS by Craig Oliver is published by Hodder in hardback at £20. You can buy it from Politicos.co.uk HERE

You might also like these other forthcoming books on Brexit…

The Brexit Club by Owen Bennett – More details HERE
Summer Madness: How Brexit Split the Tories by Harry Mount – More details HERE
The Bad Boys of Brexit by Arron Banks – More details HERE
All Out War by Tim Shipman – More details HERE

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Richard Davenport-Hines

Richard Davenport-Hines talks about his new book AN ENGLISH AFFAIR and the impact of the Profumo scandal on British society.

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