Diary

ConHome Diary: The Dangers of TTIP, Gove Pillow Talk & How We Have 'Misunderestimated' The Donald

6 May 2016 at 13:43

If I were Dominic Cummings (and there’s a thought) I’d be deploying the acronym TTIP as a major part of the LEAVE campaign. The Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership is a very boring sounding free trade agreement between the US and the EU. From what I know about it, it scares the shit out of me. I have always suspected it was a bad thing, but now we have the proof. If it were just a free trade agreement everyone would support it, but it goes far beyond the realms of free trade. Until this week we only suspected what its contents were. Its drafting was so secret that the European Commission banned any knowledge of the negotiations. Anyone who revealed the contents were threatened with criminal proceedings. This week a draft of the agreement was leaked to Greenpeace and it makes for pretty horrifying reading. One of the main aims of TTIP is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allow companies to sue governments if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profits. In effect it means unelected transnational corporations can dictate the policies of democratically elected governments. For example, if the British government introduce an environmental tax on fracking which affects the profit of a US mining company, they can sue for loss of profits. Totally outrageous. It also forces public sector organisations like the NHS to effectively open up all their services to privatisation. Now that may be a good idea, but it is our government that should decide to do this, not TTIP. US manufactured GM food products will be forced on EU countries who currently ban them. I could go on. It’s an issue which even many Europhiles are uncomfortable with. In essence it’s an affront to democracy. There is some debate about wether national governments have a veto over its final draft. Some say it is subject to Qualified Majority Voting. In my opinion it’s so important there should be a referendum on it in each of the 28 countries.
On Wednesday I interviewed TTIP enthusiast Mike Gapes MP and War on Want’s John Hillary. You might be interested in listening to the discussion.

*
All anyone seems to want to talk to me about nowadays is who I think will be the next Tory leader. Whenever anyone asks the question I inwardly sigh. It’s an impossible question to answer in any meaningful way, mainly because there isn’t actually a vacancy. If there is one on June 24th then it’s clear that Boris Johnson will be in the driving seat. The niggling doubt in his mind, though, is that he might not be able to convince enough of his fellow MPs to vote for him to reach the final two. Like Theresa May he has very few devoted followers and acolytes. Off the top of my head James Cleverly, Ben Wallace and Nadine Dorries are the only three MPs who I have heard being Boris enthusiasts. I am sure there are others, but would they number more than a dozen? But if he gets into the final two, I suspect party members would give him a bigger majority than David Cameron achieved (66-33) against David Davis. The task for people like me is to identify who the outsider candidates might be. Sajid Javid was a good bet up until the moment he inexplicably declared himself to be a supporter of REMAIN. Greater love hath a Cabinet Minister than he lay down his career for beliefs he doth not possess. It’s a funny old world. Nicky Morgan has made clear she wants to stand, but the policy of forced academisation has done her no good among a range of Tory backbenchers. Priti Patel, Andrea Leadsom, Amber Rudd and Penny Mordaunt are four leading female contenders. Indeed, it’s possible there may be more female candidates than male. Anna Soubry has impressed me of late, with some very deft handling of the steel crisis, but would Tory MPs vote for the woman who is possibly the most vocal advocate of Europhilia? My money remains on Michael Gove, who last week topped the ConHome next leader poll. Michael protests he isn’t qualified for the job and wouldn’t want it. Funnily enough I have never heard Mrs Gove back him up on that one. Someone should place a recording device under their respective pillows. I suspect the results would be very revealing. [Get your minds out of the gutter please].
*

So Donald Trump has more or less secured the Republican nomination. Shows how much I know. Can the Republican Party unite around him? Judging from the comments of many Republican commentator and strategists it is doubtful. Most of my republican supporting friends will be holding their noses and voting for Hillary. However, that might not be enough to stop Donald Trump. If he can appeal to people who haven’t voted for years and really burnish his anti-establishment credentials, he could still do it. I wonder whether we in this country have fallen for the same trick that we fell for when many people (not including me, I should say) thought that no way could the Americans vote for that stupid George Bush. We constantly misunderestimated George W Bush and I suspect that we (me included) are now repeating the trick with The Donald.

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What's Life Like for Transsexuals in the UK? Iain Finds Out

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UK Politics

LISTEN: Is the TTIP Really That Bad?

4 May 2016 at 18:54

Make up your own minds, but I think it’s a democratic outrage.

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Iain talks to Julie in Basildon about bad parenting

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UK Politics

My Predictions and Analysis For Thursday's Elections - Will it be "Operation Kenneth Baker" for Labour?

2 May 2016 at 09:01

LOCAL ELECTIONS

Thursday matters. Clearly it matters to the thousands of candidates up and down the country. Win, and their lives change. Lose and they go back to their normal lives. But it’s not through the prism of local candidates that we will judge these elections, it’s through the prism of national politics that we will judge the results. In reality, though, there will be few immediate consequences given that normal service will not be resumed until June 24th, the day after the EU referendum.

There are local elections in England with 2260 seats up for grabs in 128 local councils. In addition to the London mayoral and Greater London Assembly elections there are elections to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly. There are also mayoral elections in Liverpool. Bristol and Salford. Of the 128 local councils 58 are Labour controlled, 42 have a Conservative majority, three are led by the Liberal Democrats, and 25 are under no overall control.

In any normal year, we would all expect Labour to gain several hundred local council seats. It’s mid term and an opposition party worth its salt would be looking to gain seats, especially when a prime minister has been in office for six years. Officially, Labour is playing down expectations and points to the fact that the last time these seats were fought they gained hundreds of seats and it was a high watermark for them. Despite that, various Labour MPs have said that they ought to gain seats on Thursday. Instead, all the talk is how many they will lose.Labour hasn’t lost seats when in opposition since 1985, so if that does indeed turn out to be the eventual result, it will have been a very bad day in the English local elections. It will give encouragement to those who want to initiate a leadership challenge. A lot may depend on turnout. My suspicion is that it will be even lower than usual in the council elections outside London, with many Labour voters simply staying at home.

So what of the other parties? I expect UKIP to make further gains and build its local government base beyond 500 councillors. At the moment it has 490 councillors in Great Britain. A good night for UKIP would mean winning at least another 150 councillors. It will be interesting to see how many of these gains are from Labour, especially in the north.

The Liberal Democrats are defending 330 council seats, a quarter of their total number of 1181 councillors. They have been doing well in local government by-elections and seem confident of not only holding most of their seats but making gains. They will regard any advance on 330 as a breakthrough and the start of their comeback.

So if Labour loses seats it seems inevitable that the Conservatives will be making gains, which in the sixth year of a Tory government would be quite an astonishing achievement. Tory source are playing down expectations, but it would be a major surprise if they weren’t celebrating gains rather than mourning losses on Friday morning. Watch for the number of councils which change hands. It is not unreasonable to predict that at least 8 of Labour’s 58 councils will see the party lose control.

VERDICT

Conservatives
Good night – more than 100 gains
Average night – 50 losses
Bad night – more than 100 losses

Labour
Good night – 200 gains
Average night – 100 gains
Bad night – Net losses

Liberal Democrats
Good night – Net gains
Average night – Status quo
Bad night – Net losses

UKIP
Good night – More than 100 gains
Average night – 50 gains
Bad night – Status quo

LONDON

The London mayoral election may be a lot closer than the opinion polls suggest. Sadiq Khan has run a good campaign and has a a good ground operation. Getting out the Labour vote may be the key for him. Last time there was a 38% turnout but there were two celebrity candidates in Boris and Ken. This time there are two candidates with similar policies and their campaigns haven’t really sparked to life. One wonders if the whole election might have passed people by, so the turnout could be as low as 30%. This would undoubtedly benefit the Conservatives. Their campaign has mirrored the general election campaign and has largely been conducted under the radar. Painting Sadiq Khan as the extremists’ friend may have gone way over the top, but could it have been crucial in encouraging weak Labour voters to stay at home? The recent anti-semitism troubles won’t have helped Labour in London, even though Sadiq Khan came out early to remove Ken Livingstone from the party. However, Zac Goldsmith can only win on second preferences, and it is difficult to see how his second preferences can outperform Saiq’s. In 2012 Boris’s second preferences were far lower than predicted and he only just squeaked home.

The Greater London Assembly elections are very difficult to predict. Currently the lineup is as follows: Labour 12, Conservative 9, Green 2, LibDem 2. It’s likely UKIp will re-enter the Assembly with one or two seats. The LibDems will be pleased to hold onto their two seats but will be targeting a third. Will the antisemitism scandal hit Labour? Could depressed turnout hit Labour?

VERDICT
I expect a narrow Sadiq Khan victory, much narrower than everyone expects. But I do not rule out a Goldsmith surprise. That may appear to be having my cake and eating it, but I don’t think this result is as clearcut as some believe.

In the GLA I predict Labour will get 11-13 seats, the Conservatives 9-11, LibDem 2-3, UKIP 1-2, Green 2-3.

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

In Scotland it is quite clear that the SNP will retain power. They have 69 seats, Labour 37, Conservative 15, LibDems 5, Greens 2 and there is 1 Independent.

UKIP is looking to make a breakthrough and gain representation at Holyrood for the first time. The big story will be if the Conservatives can beat Labour into second place in terms of either vote share or seats. The SNP is polling consistently above 50% for the constituency seats, although slightly lower for regional ones, and it is here where the Conservatives will be looking to make progress. Last time Labour scored 31.7% in the constituency section and 26.3% in the regional contests. The Conservatives scored 13.9 and 12.4. Most people think the Tories will be up to 18-20%, so it all depends on how much Labour’s vote declines and how many seats from them the SNP take in both contests. If the Conservatives do indeed manage to become the main opposition party, it will demonstrate that Kezia Dugdale’s plan has so far come to nothing.

VERDICT
SNP 73-77
Labour 20-25
Conservative 18-22
LibDem 3-5
Greens 4-7
UKIP 1-3

WELSH ASSEMBLY

In the Welsh Assembly elections Labour seems to be doing better in Wales than in any part of the United Kingdom. They hold 30 seats in the Assembly at the moment, compared to the Conservatives on 14, Plaid Cymru on 11 and the LibDems on 5.

Labour is down 12 points in the polls in Wales since the last Assembly election and their poll ratings are on a downward spiral. It appears that they will have to form a coalition to continue in power, but Plaid seem to be the only party they could possibly coalesce with. Polls also show that Plaid may well get more seats that the Conservatives. However, the Tories seem to always outperform the polls in Wales, but they may suffer from losing votes to UKIP, who are likely to win seats in the regional part of the election across all five Welsh constituencies.

VERDICT

Labour 25-28
Plaid 12-15
Conservatives 12-15
UKIP 4-7
LibDem 3-5

There is also a parliamentary by-election in Ogmore on Thursday.

NORTHERN IRELAND

In the Northern Ireland Assembly the DUP has 38 seats, Sinn Fein 29, the UUP 13, SDLP 14, Alliance 8, UKIP 1, Greens 1, Others 4.

Judging by the polls not a lot is going to change in Belfast on Thursday. The UUP appears to be likely to gain at the expense of the DUP with the SDLP possibly going up marginally at the expense of Sinn Fein. Otherwise it is very much as you were. Having said that, I admit to no expertise at all on Northern Ireland politics!

DUP 34-38
Sinn Fein 27-30
SDLP 14-15
UUP 16-18
Alliance 8-10
UKIP 1
Green 1

CONCLUSION

All eyes will be on Labour this Thursday, to the exclusion of virtually everything else. Sadiq Khan holds the key to whether Labour will have anything they can remotely cheer about, If Sadiq Wins, expect Labour to deploy Operation Kenneth Baker. Back in 1990 the Conservatives got a terrible drubbing in the local elections. But they managed to retain control of their flagship councils in Westminster and Wandsworth. And that’s what the media covered. Ken Baker’s grin was wider than ever. UKIP are likely to claim some sort of victory and for the first time have elected members to every regional assembly or Parliament in the UK. The Conservatives will be content to be a non-story, but if they make local election gains and supplant Labour as the main opposition in Scotland they will consider it to have been a very good night indeed. The LibDems will be content with small gains in the local elections and to hold their ground elsewhere. The Greens will be looking to build on their total of 145 councillors, although I doubt whether they will reach 200. They are looking to treble their representation in the Scottish Parliament and could win as many as 8 seats.

All in all this may well be a more than average interesting 24 hours given how uninteresting local elections can sometimes be.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Is the London Mayoral Race Really Over & How Obama Backfired

29 Apr 2016 at 14:13

Well that went well then. President Obama’s visit seems to have turned people marginally against the REMAIN campaign, with the latest batch of polls showing a narrow LEAVE lead. I can’t say I am surprised. Virtually every ‘normal’ person I have spoken to, and by ‘normal’ I mean someone outside the Westminster village and media bubble, has taken great exception to his dire warnings to Britain of the consequences of leaving the EU. One said something along these lines: “Have I got this wrong? He says we have a ‘special relationship’, yet then goes on to tell us what we should do and warns that if we don’t do as he says we’ll be at the back of the queue. That’s a pretty one-sided special relationship’. I couldn’t have put it better myself. This was one of those occasions when LEAVE politicians should have controlled themselves and just laughed it off, rather than speak more in anger than sorrow. Boris went completely OTT in his reaction and rather played into the hands of those who don’t believe he is up to the role of national leader. Sometimes it is least said, soonest mended.
*
Naz Shah was one of the first of the new intake of Labour MPs I interviewed. She struck me as rather refreshing, with an interesting back story. Having beaten George Galloway she stood out from the crowd. She’s been on my show several times and each time I’ve thought that she would go far. She seemed liked someone with some original ideas and who wouldn’t always follow the party line. So when I saw the remarks she had made on Israel, before she was elected, I was rather shocked. There has been a lot of debate about whether her remarks were anti Israeli or anti-Semitic. There’s nothing wrong with making anti-Israeli comments. I’m none too keen on Netanyahu’s government myself, but some people don’t seem to know where to draw the line. This seems to a phenomenon which particularly affects the left. Sure, we all know there have been anti-semites in the Conservative Party but it’s hard to think of many recent examples of the genre. Jeremy Corbyn’s problem is that a few people in his party have taken their lead from him and his Shadow Chancellor. Their perceived anti-Israeli views have given licence to those who wish to go further and think there will be no consequences. Corbyn didn’t want to punish Naz Shah, he was pushed into it. His spokesman was even briefing that even though she wrote those things, she didn’t, er, believe them. Work that one out if you will. This was a great opportunity for Corbyn to immediately deliever on John McDonnell’s promise to take decisive action against anyone in the Labour Party guilty of anti-semitism. He funked it. There may only be a couple of hundred thousand Jewish voters in this country, but many of them live in marginal constituencies. Traditionally they have voted Labour in large numbers. It’s difficult to see why anyone who is Jewish would vote Labour under the current Labour leadership.
*

After two weeks Vodafone finally sent me a replacement iPhone, after mine broke. It would have been just over a week, but their shop in Tunbridge Wells didn’t see fit to tell me it was ready for collection, as they had promised they would. Still, I have it back now and it’s as if my right arm has been stitched back on. To be so addicted to a gadget is truly pathetic, but there you go.
*
There is a growing consensus among political pundits that Sadiq Khan is home and dry and will be the next mayor of London. They are the very same people who assumed a Tory majority was impossible at the general election. Back in May the Conservatives surprised everyone because no one was really aware of the ‘under the radar’ ground campaign Lynton Crosby had been running. I wonder if history is about to repeat itself. I’m certainly not predicting it, but I’m not so sure this is as clearcut as everyone is saying. Sometimes it’s not wise to follow the pundit herd. Just saying…
*

This is my last column before the local elections and the regional ones in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. My gut feeling is that Labour are going to do badly in Wales, Scotland and also in the English council elections. If they really do lose seats, as most people predict, it will say an awful lot about the lack of progress under Jeremy Corbyn. It’s difficult to predict who will be thegainers in English councils. Could the LibDems start a mini revival? Could the Tories even gain seats?

Labour is bound to lose a bit of ground in Wales. The story there is likely to be the breakthrough of UKIP, who will win seats in the Assembly, including Neil Hamilton. In Scotland it’s possible for Ruth Davidson to break through and overtake Labour to become the main opposition. If that happens (and I have to say I’m sceptical) it would be almost as big a story as Zac Goldsmith pulling through. It’s going to be quite a 24 hours, with a lot of political consequences both for all the parties, but also for some individuals. If Zac loses, what next for him? And the same for Sadiq. But most of all, what impact will these results have on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership?

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Video: Iain & Sally Bercow on the Politics Show

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Diary

ConHome Diary: The 'Leave' Campaign Needs to Unite and Up Its Game

23 Apr 2016 at 09:10

If you are part of a campaign to try to say something, you don’t just have to win the argument, you have to win people’s hearts and minds. As usual, the Republican movement got it totally wrong yesterday on the Queen’s 90th birthday. Instead of wishing Her Majesty a happy birthday, they just carped and moaned from the sidelines. Yesterday was not a day for arguing about the future of the monarchy, or lack of it, it was a day for wishing a ninety year old lady a very happy day and thanking her for her service to the nation.
*
So will Jeremy Corbyn be meeting Barack Obama or not? On Monday we were told that “logistics” meant that a meeting might be difficult. On Tuesday it emerged that Obama didn’t actually want to meet Corbyn anyway. I suspect that Corbyn spinners had got to hear that the President might not be making time in his schedule so they got their retaliation in first. It was a pretty bad briefing, but we’re used to that.
*

Talking of the Labour leadership, they have also banned McDonald’s from taking a commercial stand at this year’s Labour Party conference, apparently on the basis that they use zero hour contracts and don’t recognise trade unions. The hand of John McDonnell was probably behind this decision. He has long been a vocal critic of the burger chain. The fact is that McDonald’s employs 85,000 people in this country. They do actually allow their employees to join unions, and they have moved away from zero hour contracts. Perhaps they will also ban the Cuba Solidarity campaign from having their usual stand. After all, the Cuban government bans trade unions. I wait with baited breath.
*
So the EU referendum debate grinds on. I’m actually interested in the subject and it’s already boring me rigid. Every day, the same scare stories, the same threats. And we’ve got nine more weeks of this, God help us. The only politician so far to articulate any kind of positive vision for the future is Michael Gove. And the trouble is, I don’t see it changing. The REMAIN side seem to have no positive vision at all of the opportunities available to Britain if we stay, which for many people says it all. The LEAVE side aren’t a whole lot better, and their problem is that all they can come out with is generalities which don’t have an awful lot of economic data behind them. It’s a bit like believing in God – you have the faith that God exists but you can’t prove it. LEAVE supporters have faith that things will be better but they have no way of proving it, and that is the main weakness of the PR in their campaign. So far REMAIN have proved very adept and scaring people that a plague of locusts will descend if we leave. LEAVE now need to up their game.
*

But what happens if Britain does indeed vote to REMAIN? Will the subject of joining the euro rear its ugly head again? Will we then face arguments for us to join a fully fledged United States of Europe. However much I hate the idea, if we vote to stay, the logic is much deeper integration, rather than maintaining our usual position of grudgingly moving as slowly as we can. Personally, I could never, ever support us joining the euro for all the reasons already articulated over the years. If you don’t have control over your currency, you don’t have control over your economy and by implication your country. William Gladstone put it like this 125 years ago…

“The finance of the Country is intimately associated with the liberties of the Country. It is a powerful leverage by which English liberty has been gradually acquired … It lies at the root of English liberty, and if the House of Commons can by any possibility lose the power of the grants of public money your very liberty will be worth very little in comparison … That powerful leverage has been what is commonly known as the Power of the Purse, the control off the House of Commons over public expenditure, the root of English Liberty.”

Gladstone ended with a final warning:

“If these powers of the House of Commons come to be encroached upon, it will be by tacit and insidious methods, and therefore I say that attention should be called to this.”

Quite. Some truths endure down the years. Like this one.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Jessica Ennis

Jessica Ennis reveals what it was like to win a gold medal 12 hours previously.

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Radio

LISTEN: Sir Nicholas Soames Rips Boris a New One (Time and Time Again)

22 Apr 2016 at 17:09

I interviewed Sir Nicholas Soames this afternoon about Boris Johnson’s article in The Sun this morning. I certainly got more than I bargained for. He ripped Boris a new one, time and time again. “Not fit to be leader,” was one of the kinder comments.

Have a listen.

And here’s a short video of part of that conversation…

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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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Diary

ConHome Diary: SexChem on Sky News, Why Evan Harris is a Twat & Does Yvette Owe Zac's Team An Apology?

15 Apr 2016 at 13:28

I am a Sky News addict. The channel has some excellent presenters but recently the double headed morning show has become compulsive viewing. Colin Brazier and Jayne Secker have an onscreen chemistry which is quite unique. They are very flirtatious and clearly enjoy working together. Their adlibs are delicious and each of them frequently looks to be on the verge of corpsing. Both are very happily married, but the viewers are often left thinking that they’re watching an episode of ‘Moonlighting’ and asking, ‘will they, won’t they?’ A bit like me and Jacqui Smith!
*
The least surprising news of the week came with the announcement that the Electoral Commission chose Vote Leave to be the official ‘Leave’ campaign for the EU Referendum. Their reasoning, I thought, was as hole-ridden as a lump of Emmental. However, if Grassroots Out go ahead with their threat to launch a Judicial Review history may not forgive them. The task of ‘Outers’ is to come together, unite, and fight the campaign of their lives. The time for internecine warfare is now over. This is a once in a generation opportunity and it cannot be sacrificed on the ego of Arron Banks. Nigel Farage has been making efforts behind the scenes to bring everyone together. Now is the time for everyone to respond and take part in a group hug. Vote Leave should embrace Farage as he reaches parts of the electorate that none of their main leaders do or can.
*

The sight of the ludicrous Evan Harris touring the studios talking about John Whittingdale has been a sight to behold. Hacked Off have shown their true colours. They appear to be against any intrusion in a politician’s private life unless of course that politician is a Tory minister. What utter shits. Their complaint seems to be that he might be influenced by newspapers who allegedly did him a favour by not publishing a story about him having a relationship with someone described as a ‘Dominatrix’. Their position is ridiculous. This six month relationship happened a year before his appointment as Culture Secretary. He was a single man. They have absolutely no evidence whatsoever that any of his decisions have been influenced by the position he found himself in in 2013. If they, let them bring it forward. I don’t know how Evan Harris can look himself in the mirror. The question is, when he does, does he see a reflection? Or if he does I imagine he sees the face of a political chancer, despised by every single Liberal Democrat I know, and who seems to have become one of those very sad ex-MPs who spends half their time hanging around the corridors of parliament in a vain effort to remain remotely important or relevant.
*
Wednesday started off so well. I was shortlisted for Radio Presenter of the Year. I won the award in 2013, so never expected to be nominated again. But after that the day got decidedly worse. I had taken the day off work because West Ham were playing Manchester United in a 7pm kick off. I decided I’d show willing and embark on a trip to the Tunbridge Wells dump. I started loading piles of old newspapers into the car, but dropped some. I bent down and my phone dropped out of my shirt pocket onto the ground. The screen shattered and the whole phone was unusable. I spent 90 minutes in 9 separate phonecalls to Vodafone to try to get it sorted. The upshot was that I could upgrade at a cost of £350 and get a replacement phone the next day, or I could claim on the insurance (which I hadn’t realised I’d even got) but it would take a week for a replacement to arrive. As I am sure you can imagine, going a week without a phone would be my idea of purgatory. Even for an hour, it felt as if my right arm had been cut off (no jokes please). Anyway, after being told 5 times that Vodafone couldn’t talk to me because my name wasn’t on their computer as an authorised person to talk to, I finally got it sorted, but it would still be a week before I’d get a replacement. By this time, I was already late leaving for Upton Park. All this game me a tremendous feeling of foreboding. I even thought about staying home and watching it on TV. Well, you know the rest. So I forewent my LBC show fee, broke my phone and West Ham were ousted from the FA Cup. Not a good omen for winning the radio award again, when the awards ceremony comes around in May…
*

While writing this column I am listening to Jeremy Corbyn’s speech on Europe. It’s apparently going to be his only major speech on Europe during the Referendum campaign. I’m not surprised, given that he’s actually as Eurosceptic as me. His current stance on Europe is entirely guided by party management issues. I suspect that in the privacy of the voting booth he may well indeed still vote to leave the EU. If you listened to his speech it was almost entirely a speech about workers’ rights, big business and tax avoiders. The elephant in the room for Corbyn and Labour is something called the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership. This is a fundamentally undemocratic racket designed for global corporations to usurp parliamentary democracy. You can’t be in favour of our continuing membership of the EU without addressing TTIP and its impact on our sovereignty. It’s the dog that hasn’t barked in the referendum campaign so far. But bark it surely must.
*
I did the Andrew Marr paper review last Sunday with Polly Toynbee. I know she is a real hate figure for many readers of this site, and believe me, many of her views repel me too. However, on a personal level she is rather lovely and we always have a very civilised debate, partly because I can’t bring myself to go in for the kill. On Sunday, though, she brought up the subject of housing and how difficult it is for young people to get on the housing ladder. Quick as a flash I responded by saying that seeing as Polly and I were both second home owners we were part of the problem. She moved on quickly to the next story.
*

This week Yvette Cooper hit the headlines for accusing Zac Goldsmith of running a racist campaign against Sadiq Khan. That’s a pretty serious accusation. In her article for The Times Red Box site she said: “What started as a subtle dog-whistle is becoming a full blown racist scream”. As evidence, she says: “They’ve sent leaflets to British Hindus with the outrageous claim that Sadiq wants to take their family jewellery.” Were that the case, she might have a point. Except it isn’t. The leaflet Yvette complains about actually contained this sentence: “Labour will impose a wealth tax on family jewellery”. That is something quite different. She also said it was very wrong for Zac to continually attack Sadiq over his alleged links to extremists. In an interview with me later in the day Yvette appeared to exonerate Zac Goldsmith himself for any racist motives, but instead blamed his campaign team, effectively labelling them as racist. It was, she said, all the fault of the ‘wicked’ Lynton Crosby. Well so far as I know Lynton isn’t involved in the campaign, but what I do know is that many people who are involved in running his campaign are friends of mine. And what I also know is that there isn’t a racist bone in any of their bodies. To accuse someone of racism or racist motives is a big thing, especially when the evidence is somewhat light to say the least. I think Yvette owes several people an apology.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Olivia Newton-John

Olivia Newton John discusses her new cook book and her career in entertainment.

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Books

Sometimes I feel like I’ve Fallen out of Love With the Book Industry

12 Apr 2016 at 11:14

Shall I tell you a secret? Sometimes I feel like I’ve fallen out of love with the book industry.

I mean, across the board it’s generally full of pleasant enough people who mean well but, it seems to me, are often damagingly risk-averse, hidebound by outmoded business practices (returns anyone?) and – whisper it – a general lack of ambition.

I travel a lot, so I spend a lot of time in bookshops, doing the kind of thing Managing Directors of publishing companies should do – like emailing my sales team and demanding to know why book x is not included in promotion y, and so on.

When I look at the new releases section, I’m afraid it leaves me cold. Old ideas continuously repackaged, once-winning formulas repeated to death, backlists mined until they’ve worn thin and a general nostalgia for a ‘better’ age; a pre-Amazon time of four-hour lunches, industry-sponsored jollies to foreign climes and ‘poet’s’ day (Piss Off Early Today) every Thursday and Friday. It’s all just so ‘meh’ – it bores me silly.

I read the trade press and all I seem to see are nicely-turned-out young men and women disguising a lack of imagination behind a barrage of buzzwords, setting out a vision of future publishing in the kind of language they think people working in proper industries might use. I’m afraid it makes me want to grab them, shake them and say, ‘It’s not just about the future, it’s about now. And above all, it’s about the books!’

And that’s what dispels my gloom. The books. When I look at our forward list, lovingly laid out in the Biteback catalogue you are now no doubt downloading HERE , the clouds break and I fall in love all over again. Alastair Campbell’s astonishing new diaries, David Laws’s insider account of the coalition government, political giant Sir Malcolm Rifkind’s extraordinary, epoch-spanning memoirs, and many, many more; these are the bulwarks I set against my disenchantment. These are what I got into publishing for in the first place.

Another thing I can never understand is the time it takes our competitors to publish a book. At Biteback, a part of our success lies in our ability to pick up a book and get it to the consumer in the shortest time possible. The clue is in the category name: surely it’s called current affairs for a reason? Now obviously this brings its own challenges but we are fortunate in that our partners in an increasingly reactive book trade know that we will deliver the support, in the form of publicity, to make our books highly visible.

Finally, there are no books without the people. The authors, of course, but also the team who produce the books. At Biteback, we are a finely-honed (well, sometimes) outfit of publishing guerrilla fighters. Every now and then, one of the big boys will come and poach a team member, and in every case that individual will go on to improve their new company. Really, I’m surprised my competitors never drop me a line and thank me!

DOWNLOAD THE BITEBACK SPRING/SUMMER CATALOGUE HERE

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Play Radio: Iain interviews BNP Deputy Leader Simon Darby

Play Talk, June 2009

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Video

WATCH: Polly And I Review the Sunday Papers on Andrew Marr

10 Apr 2016 at 13:08

ICYMI, here’s the paper review with me and Polly Toynbee on the Andrew Marr Show this morning. We covered tax affairs, Brexit, second homes the muslim survey in the Sunday Times.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Jonathan Dimbleby

Jonathan Dimbleby talks about his new book DESTINY IN THE DESERT

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Diary

ConHome Diary: The Ghost of Jo Moore Lives On, The Hypocrisy of The Guardian and My Frozen Shoulder

8 Apr 2016 at 13:34

On Wednesday afternoon I saw a newsalert flash up on my screen. “Government to spend £9.3 million on sending leaflet to 27 million homes”, it read. No, I thought, that can’t be right. After all David Cameron specifically ruled out the government doing such a thing back in February, after his ‘triumphant’ return from Brussels with his so-called ‘deal’. So before reading out this seemingly astonishing bit of news, I thought I had double check to see if the Press Association had got it wrong. But they hadn’t. It’s hard to describe how angry this has made me. If you believe in any sense of fairness I just cannot see how you defend it. The increasingly hapless Liz Truss was sent out to do just that and the best she could come up with was that people want the facts, so the government is damn well going to give them to them. Except if you actually read the text of the leaflet it is full of opinions, threats and suppositions, with the odd fact thrown in for good measure.

The Government argues that it should be able to set out its position, as if anyone would argue with that. But to spend taxpayers’ money to effectively rig the referendum is an utter disgrace. If it was just a leaflet, it might so be so bad. After all, there is a precedent for this from 1975 and the 2014 Scottish Referendum (as if that’s some kind of defence), but what has slipped under the radar is the fact that £3 million of the £9.3 million is going to be spent on other propaganda on the internet. News outlets report that this money will be spent on a website. It’s almost impossible to spend that kind of money on a website, so what I imagine will be happening is that the money will be spent on Facebook and other social media advertising.

This is a binary referendum. You can either vote LEAVE or REMAIN. Each campaign ought to have the same spending limit. But because of this government leaflet, the REMAIN campaign will have spent £16.3 million, while the LEAVE campaign will be able to spend a maximum of £7 million. On which plant is that fair? I don’t think it matters which side of the argument you are on. This stinks. Conveniently the news was released on the day that the Prime Minister was in a lot of trouble over Panama. The ghost of Jo Moore lives on.
*
I do find it amusing that the Guardian is working itself up into such a lather about the Panama Papers. After all, it isn’t averse to the odd bit of offshore tax planning itself, is it? The hypocrisy is breathtaking. And hypocrisy is about the worst you can accuse the PM of in all of this. Having publicly slated Jimmy Carr for his offshore tax avoiding activities a couple of years ago, David Cameron is now getting it on the chin for his own family’s alleged activities. But so far Jeremy Corbyn’s attacks have fallen slightly flat. He’s made all sorts of insinuations about not paying tax but he has absolutely no evidence on which to base his allegations. He says there needs to be an independent investigation into whether the Prime Minister paid tax on his £300,000 inheritance. Does he really think that any sitting prime minister would be stupid enough to try to fiddle his tax. Ah, say his detractors, we need to know if the PM has benefitted from this offshore money at any time in his life. Are they seriously saying that an eleven year old David Cameron should have asked his father how his school fees were being paid for, and then insisting that offshore money should not be used? That’s the level of this debate. David Cameron has understandably become rather exasperated and demanded that his critics ‘put up or shut up’. Even the normally sensible Labour MP Wes Streeting has got in on the act. Oh well, at least the Labour Party is united on something – being envious of anyone with money.
*

I got a new pair of glasses this week. This is only noteworthy in so far as they’re rather different to my normal narrow lens, Norman Tebbit style eyewear. I’ve always wanted bigger lensed glasses but I’ve never found a pair that in any way suited my slightly odd shaped face. Anyway, last week I found a pair which much to my surprise everyone seems to like. I’m still in the feeling self-conscious faze though. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.
*
I’m reading a gripping account of the downfall of former Australian PM Tony Abbott at the moment. It’s called “The Road to Ruin: How Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin Destroyed Their Own Government”. Peta Credlin was Abbott’s chief of staff, and if this book is to be believed, a nut job of Svengli, who had total control over the Prime Minister. Some of the anecdotes about her screaming matches are truly jawdropping. Abbott’s main aim in life seemed to be to please her and prevent her from losing her temper. And when she did lose her temper he’d run after her to console her and always taker her side even when he knew she was blatantly wrong. If he had taken the advice of all the people who implored him to ditch her, maybe he would still be in post.
*

So Michael Gove is topping the ConHome “Who’s the next Tory leader” poll. Good. I hope he takes encouragement from it and stands when the time comes.
*
I’ve got a frozen shoulder at the moment. Bloody painful. I went to see an Osteopath on Monday. Christ alone knows what people outside the room thought we were doing, as I kept uttering rather loud ooos, ahs and light screams. Best not to speculate.
*

So London will miss out on Winston McKenzie standing for the English Democrats for the mayoralty. He submitted nomination papers which had multiple identical signatures on, and he was two minutes late. This is a man who has been a member of the Conservatives, LibDems, Greens, UKIP and Veritas. The English Democrats had a narrow escape. The man is a perpetual embarrassment with no self-knowledge. It can surely now only be a matter of time before he leaves the English Democrats and joins Labour. They would be welcome to him.

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When Sajid Javid Couldn't Answer My Question

The Treasury Minister flounders

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