18 Apr 2013 at 16:19
At the Norfolk Show 30 year ago. Thirty years! God I feel old
18 Apr 2013 at 16:19
At the Norfolk Show 30 year ago. Thirty years! God I feel old
18 Apr 2013 at 10:04
The Boston bombing was of course a big news story. But if it had occurred in Jakarta or Seoul, would it have even been reported at all? Similarly, if a fertiliser plant in Malaysia, rather than Texas, had blown up, would it have rated a mention on the BBC or Sky? Our news broadcasters are so obsessed with America that any minor incident involving a shooting or stabbing in a school merits blanket 24/7 coverage. Did you know that there was a major earthquake in Pakistan on Wednesday killing 24? What about the even bigger quake in Iran on Tuesday. Or the 24 Afghans who died in an attack on Tuesday? When was the last time you heard a news story about South America that wasn’t about President Kirchner and the Falklands? These stories should be covered properly by the BBC but they’re not. If you want good, all-encompassing world news you have to go to Al Jazeera English. Try it.
17 Apr 2013 at 20:53
This is a 6 minute montage of LBC’s coverage of Lady Thatcher’s funeral. It’s a bit of a tear jerker. In fact, when I played it at the beginning of today’s show, I then had to do a four minute monologue on my experiences of the day, and I am afraid my voice quavered rather too much for the first minute!
12 Apr 2013 at 18:53
Published in this week’s Bookseller Magazine, article by Tom Tivnan.
Having stood as the Conservative candidate in Norfolk North in 2005 and been on the Tory shortlist in another handful of constituencies, Iain Dale is no stranger to giving speeches.
But the Biteback Publishing founder was perhaps not prepared for the reaction to his tub-thumping keynote speech at the Independent Publishers Guild conference in March. Dale hit out at big booksellers in general and W H Smith in particular for what he said were unfair practices, including taking marketing fees from publishers and “doing nothing in return”.
After the speech, it took Dale about 20 minutes to leave the room as fellow publishers chatted with him, and he has since been inundated by positive emails from the trade.
“I was slightly taken aback,” Dale says from Biteback’s 10th floor office with its stunning views across the Thames of the Houses of Parliament. “I wasn’t saying anything that people in the industry don’t know about. But I guess the positive reaction was because I came out and said it on a public platform.”
One entity that has not gotten in touch with Dale is WHS. “I am completely ambivalent if I sell WHS a single other book,” Dale shrugs. “Any organisation that misleads its customers deserves to be exposed [Dale accused the chain of selling places in its bestseller charts]. I know for a fact that our books come back in the boxes unopened. If you have paid a so-called marketing fee, then you expect the other party to deliver their side of the bargain.”
Dale originally entered the trade in 1997 when he founded Westminster-based political book store Politico’s. He started a publishing arm a year later but left the trade in 2004 largely to concentrate on politics—in addition to standing for Norfolk North, he ran David Davis’ 2005 Tory leadership bid (“neither of which were my finest hours”). He sold Politico’s online bookshop to Harriman House, the publishing business to Methuen, and closed the physical bookshop mostly due to Westminster’s enormous business rates.
He never intended to return to publishing, but started Biteback in 2009 because he thought that big publishers were avoiding non-celebrity political books. He is a “sucker for any political memoir, biography or diary”, and the Biteback list reflects this: new titles include Gillian Shephard’s now timely The Real Iron Lady; 5 Days in May, former Labour minister Andrew Adonis’ insider view at the collapsed Lib Dem/Labour talks after the last election; and long-time Tory MP and minister Brian Mawhinney’s memoir Just a Belfast Boy. Yet, there is scope for out of the ordinary political books. The Speaker of the House John Bercow, for example, will be writing two titles on the greatest tennis players of all time (Bercow was once Britain’s number one ranked junior tennis player).
Biteback expanded in 2011 by launching The Robson Press, Jeremy Robson’s celeb bio, humour and general non-fiction list. “In the end we couldn’t expand this business if it was just politics,” says Dale. “Jeremy is brilliant at publishing general books and this gives us the opportunity to publish whatever we want.”
A big venture this year was the Biteback Paddy Power Political Book Awards. The eight separate prizes were launched with a stellar cast of judges from the media and all sides of the political spectrum, such as Ann Widdecombe, Alastair Campbell and Sky’s chief political reporter Adam Boulton. The ceremony itself was a rare beast in an event’s first year: it made a profit.
The awards were not borne out of a wish to pat politics publishers on the back, but out of the necessity for publishers to diversify. “We had a meeting last year and thought, if in the doomsday scenario of high street collapse, how do we survive? New revenue streams like this are part of it.
“All publishers have to look to forming better relationships with individual customers, and by that I mean people not bookshops. We are going to have to reach out to people, to retail more. That’s not telling booksellers that we want to cut you out of the equation, but if they can’t sell the books, then we have to sell them, in part.”
12 Apr 2013 at 14:45
Each Friday I am writing a diary column for ConservativeHome. It’s posted there at 8.30, and will appear here around 2.30 the same day. I hope you enjoy it. Lovely graphic they’ve come up with, don’t you think? Makes me feel 30 again!
David Cameron seems to be embarking on a much-needed charm offensive with his backbenchers. On Wednesday, he made an appearance in the Stranger’s Dining Room and sat down with a dozen or so Conservative MPs. Keith Simpson entertained him by reading an extract from Gillian Shephard’s book The Real Iron Lady in which she recounts how Harold Macmillan loved to taunt Roy Jenkins about his so-called working class roots, saying: “us working class boys need to stick together, Roy”. Cameron seemed very cheery and relaxed, especially when he noticed Bill Cash couldn’t find a seat and had to plonk himself down at a nearby table.
The Cameron charm offensive continued later that night. After having spent the whole afternoon listening to the Thatcher tributes in the Commons and Lords, the Prime Minister did a rather unusual thing. He decided to repair to the Stranger’s Bar for a swift one. By all accounts it is the first time he has been seen in a Commons bar. By the time he got there, there were only a dozen people left supping. My spy says he downed a pint of Guinness, and spent most of the time being greased up to entertained by Tory MP Mark Pritchard. It was Pritchard who, during a leadership elections hustings at the 1922 Committee asked all the candidates about their drug-taking history, something leading Cameroons have never forgotten. Cameron was regaling Pritchard with stories from his CCO days when a visit from the Leaderene was greeted with total fear and terror. Bizarrely, they were also overheard talking about their favourite musicals. I have to say Mark Pritchard has never struck me as a Friend of Dorothy, but there you go! Oh, sorry, wrong musical. Apparently they were waxing lyrical about ‘Jersey Boys’. At least, I assume they were talking about the musical…
On Monday lunchtime, I was wandering through Charing Cross Station when I got a call from my LBC Producer, Matt. “There are rumours that Margaret Thatcher has died,” he said. “It’ll be another of those Twitter hoaxes,” I said. But instinct kicked in and I wondered if this time it might be for real. Three minutes later the news was officially confirmed. For a moment time stood still. I can be a little lachrymose on occasion. But journalistic professionalism kicked in and not a tear was shed, and I headed straight for LBC to prepare to go on air three hours later. As a broadcaster you want to be on air when these massive news stories break, but there was a part of me which wondered whether I could really do four hours and not become at all emotional.
Why on earth would I get emotional about the death of a politician, I can hear you asking? Well, Margaret Thatcher has been part of my life since I was 16 and first heard her speak. I’ve met her on quite a few occasions, each one of them memorable, and I have recounted several of them in an article on my blog. I’ve also written several books about her. Part of me is slightly uneasy about all the books which appear to be cashing in on someone’s death, but there can be no doubt that there is a tremendous appetite out there, particularly among young people, to find out more about Lady T’s life.
I was in the Daybreak Green Room on Tuesday morning and started talking to Robert Oxley from the Taypayer’s Alliance. He told me an interesting tale. He shares a flat with four other guys in their twenties. None of them have any interest in politics but they all sat down to watch Andrew Marr’s documentary about Margaret Thatcher on Monday night. So gripped were they, that they all decided to go to her funeral procession. She always did appeal to young people, in a way few politicians ever could.
The last time I spoke to Lady Thatcher was in January 2009 ,when I went to the Carlton Club for a drinks party hosted by Liam Fox. I was delighted to see Lady Thatcher arrive and looking absolutely fantastic. For a woman of eighty-three and supposedly in frail health, she looked stunning. I had a couple of minutes talking to her and told her it was 26 years to the day that I first met her at a reception for Conservative students at 10 Downing Street. “I think I remember that,’ she said. ‘It was so nice to see so many young people in the building. That didn’t happen very often.” We talked a little about newspapers and she said: “I never read them. I had Bernard to do it for me.” Everyone needs a Bernard…
As I left the Carlton Club, a thought struck me. If Lady T were in her heyday and had to take over as Prime Minister now, what would she do? If I had asked her, I know exactly what her reply would have been. ‘Restore sound money, dear,’ she would have said. And you know what? She’d have been dead right.
I am privileged to have been invited to the funeral on Wednesday. I’m not a religious person, but I shall say a silent prayer on behalf of all those Norfolk Conservatives who worshipped the ground she walked on. Ernie Horth, who was inspired to work for Norwich North Conservatives on behalf of the then MP, Patrick Thompson ,is one man I shall think of in St Paul’s. Former Tory agents Audrey Barker, Phyllis Reeve and Deborah Slattery will be remembering all their work to turn Norwich Blue in 1983 and 1987. I will think of my good friend Tim Quint, and remember the countless hours tramping the streets of Mile Cross in the 1983 election and uncovering hundreds of Tory voters, much to our delight. I think of Patrick Thompson who won Norwich North in 1983 and held it until 1997, and of John Powley who booted out John Barrett in Norwich South in 1983. The 1980s was a great decade to be a Tory in Norwich. And in Britain!
You’ve got to admire Independent candidates in elections. Most of them have to do everything themselves, with no campaign back-up at all. So when my doorbell rang at the weekend and our local Independent Kent County Council candidate asked for my vote, I thought I’d be nice to him. “I don’t want any more houses built in the village,” he proclaimed. “That’s a shame,” I replied. “I do, and preferably on that field over there,” I said. The field I just happen to own. Nothing like a bit of self-interest. Anyway, I thought I recognised him and sure enough, it turns out he used to be the ward committee of the local Tories. “I don’t like Greg Clark’s position on housing and that Nick Boles is a menace,” he said. Anyway, I sent him on his way thinking he was quite brave for standing at all. That is, until I had it pointed out to me later by a local Tory bigwig that he had tried to get selected as a Tory candidate in several wards and each time came bottom of the poll. Only after he had failed did he resign from the party and decide to stand as an indy. My admiration for him rather disappeared at that point.
Local Conservative Associations do wonders in raising money to keep their parties going. My own in Tunbridge Wells does a sterling job. Indeed, this week I could have attended a lunch with none other than Danny La Rue’s dressmaker, and her friend – a 75 year old drag queen. Strangely, I found a ‘subsequent’ engagement, although I gather the event was unusually well-attended. I wonder if the colonels of Tunbridge Wells were ‘disgusted’ or titillated.
This week marks the centenary of the New Statesman magazine. I suspect I am one of the few readers of this site who has a subscription to it, but it is sometimes rather a good read. The insane rantings of John Pilger are always good for a laugh, while David Blanchflower’s economic prognoses give all Conservatives a clear guide to what not to do to rescue the economy. And Laurie Penny is a must read, but only if you constantly wonder what it must be like to be obsessed with going on demonstrations. Anyway, in their centenary issue they have a debate feature titled “The Left Won the Twentieth Century”. Aside from the fact that it is grammatically impossible to ‘win’ a century, the whole proposition is preposterous. It might not have been were one experiencing Life on Mars in 1974, but looking at the century as a whole, surely it is the right that triumphed in the end? I contributed to this feature and made the point that in the end Socialism and Communism suffered a total defeat in the last quarter of the century. Can anyone really argue against that? After all, Tony Blair was, according to Margaret Thatcher, her greatest legacy. That says it all.
So the Liberal Democrat, I’m sorry, Independent, Police & Crime Commissioner for Kent, Ann Barnes, thinks she bears no responsibility for the shambolic appointment of her Youth Commissioner, Paris Brown. The way she hung this 17 year old out to dry was something to behold. I did a slightly testy interview with her on LBC on Tuesday and she swore blind that none of it was her fault. She also swore blind she hadn’t promised to pay all Paris Brown’s £15,000 salary out of her own. Funny that, as everyone else swears she did. £15k for a third of a week’s work. That really is nice work if you can get it. For a 17 year old to be on the annual equivalent of £45,000 is going some. I’m sure Kent council tax payers think it has been value for money so far. Not.
Each week in this column I’m going to recommend a website I think you all might be interested in. This week, it’s the blog of Andrew Kennedy. He’s Tory Party agent for the three constituencies of Tonbridge & Malling, Tunbridge Wells and Chatham & Aylesford. You might think that it would be rather dry, but it’s the very opposite. In a hugely entertaining manner, he describes the work, trials and tribulations of an agent, and the bizarre characters he deals with. I’m sure CCHQ would love him to shut it down, but he shines a light on a very important aspect of party campaigning. It’s also quite personal. This week he has been talking about how he deals with aspirant parliamentary candidates who are trying to ingratiate themselves with him, and also the duck which has a nest next to his narrow boat. The blog is called Voting & Boating and you can find it HERE.
That’s it for this week. I have written far more than I had intended and most future columns will be rather shorter than this. If you have anything vaguely amusing you think I might include in a future column, stick it on an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for getting this far.
11 Apr 2013 at 16:56
This week marks the centenary of the New Statesman. You might be surprised to know that I have a subscription to the magazine. It usually features some very strong writing, even if I disagree with most of it. They asked me to contribute a piece to a feature they are running in this weeks issue which debates the proposition “The Left won the twentieth century”. Needless to say it’s not something I have any truck with. I was only allowed 300 words, so here is what I sent them. Hopefully it will appear unedited!
If you had posed the statement “The Left won the twentieth century” in the 1970s, then most would have unquestionably agreed. The state was in charge of all the major industries from telecommunications to coal. Trade union leaders were regular visitors at Downing Street, and in the words of the Labour Chancellor at the time, Denis Healey, he was “squeezing the rich until the pips squeaked”. The Soviet Union was at the height of its power and influence throughout the world and the spread of Communism seemed unstoppable.
Then in the space of two years two leaders were elected who were united in the same belief – that not only the strangling influence of socialism in their own countries was wrong, but that the spread of Communism had to be tackled. Their names were Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, and they would go on to change the story of the twentieth century.
Huge, state owned industries were privatised. Trade unions were vanquished, the enterprise economy was encouraged, income tax rates were slashed. On an international scale the reputational malaise suffered by Britain and America was reversed. The Falklands demonstrated to the Soviets that the West might not be the soft touch they had counted on. At last, the Americans stood up to the Communist threat in Latin America and Africa.
Thatcher stood shoulder to shoulder with Reagan and espoused the virtues of a free society, and their voices were heard loud and clear in the capitals of Eastern Europe. Thatcher spotted Gorbachev’s potential as a reformer before anyone one else and ensured that Reagan encouraged his policies of Glasnost and Perestroika. The defeat and fall of Communism and the fall of the Berlin Wall were in no small part down to these three, with more than a walk on part played by Pope John Paul II.
In the late 1990s Margaret Thatcher was asked what her greatest achievement was, she replied “New Labour”. That says all you need to know about who won the twentieth century. Even under ‘Red Ed’ Labour is no longer really a party of what we traditionally mean by ‘the Left’.
11 Apr 2013 at 08:08
Being recognised by your peers is something I suppose we all appreciate, so when I was told today that I had been nominated for a Sony Radio Award, you can imagine how I greeted the news. I’ve been shortlisted for the Speech Radio Programme of the Year award for my LBC show. My LBC colleague Nick Ferrari is also shortlisted for the News & Current Affairs Show of the Year. The winners will be announced on 8 May at a ceremony in the West End hosted by the Radio Academy.
The other shorlisted programmes in my category are
JVS Show on BBC Three Counties
Alan Robson’s Nightowls – Metro Radio
The Listening Project – BBC Radio Documentaries with BBC English Regions & BBC Nations for BBC Radio 4
Witness – BBC News for BBC World Service
My broadcasting hero Stephen Nolan won this award last year and he sent me a lovely congratulatory text. It would be an honour to take it from him, but to be shortlisted is indeed an honour itself. It’s also good to be up against another broadcasting legend, Fi Glover, the voice behind the Listening Project. I used to co-present Sunday Service on 5 Live with her, and she is one of the most talented people on British radio. I don’t know Alan Robson but I’m told he is a radio hero in the north east. JVS, judging by Twitter, is almost as much of a self publicist and media tart as me. I enjoyed listening to him sit in for Mr Nolan last weekend. I don’t know the Witness programme, but I am sure it is superb!
Of course, as a presenter I know more than anyone how important my production team is. Over the last twelve months or so it’s been a pleasure to work with such a brilliant set of people. And in case I don’t win (!) I’m going to name them now – producers Laura Marshall, Matt Harris, Carl McQueen, Joe Pike, Caroline Allen, Christian Mitchell, Rebekah Walker, Raj Pattni and Hollie Atherton. Our reporting team are superb – Tom Cheal (political editor), Dan Freedman, Declan Harvey (now with Newsbeat) and Tom Swarbrick. I have learned so much from my fellow presenters on the station, especially my predecessors on the evening show, Petrie Hosken, and on Drive, the inimitable James Whale.
I will forever be grateful to Richard Park, Jonathan Richards, John Cushing and Chris Lowrie for giving me the chance to host a daily show on LBC. Chris Lowrie continues to keep me on the straight and narrow and isn’t afraid to tell me how I could improve. Louise Birt was an inspiration for the Sunday Show and we had many laughs together, James Rea, LBC’s Managing Editor is a very patient man and I am sure that from time to time I drive him to distraction, but my thanks also go to him for encouraging me to be the best I can be.
I’m sorry if this post reads like am acceptance speech for an award I haven’t actually won, but I’m writing it now as I don’t expect to win and want to acknowledge all those who have played their part in getting me shortlisted for this award. Thank you.
9 Apr 2013 at 21:48
I’m afraid I indulged in a bit of Twitter bullying this evening. There’s nothing I hate more than some idiot know-it-all PR idiot being rude to one the team who produce my Drivetime show. In our first hour tonight we covered the resignation of the Kent Youth Police & Crime Commissioner Paris Brown. “Let’s get Ann Barnes, the actual PCC Commissioner on,” I said as I made my way down to the studio at five to four. “Tell her we’ll take her any time up to 8,” I suggested to my producer Laura.
Half an hour later Laura came down in a break and said “You’ll never believe it, but the press officer put the phone down on me.” Apparently speaking to London’s biggest commercial radio network wasn’t much of a priority for Mr Howard Cox. People often don’t realise that if you speak to LBC you also stand a good chance of appearing in the news bulletins of the Capital, Gold, Heart, Classic FM and XFM networks – 19 million possible listeners. In any case, LBC can be heard in half of Kent.
“We’ll see about that,” I said to Laura. “Watch this…” And so began a Twitter campaign over an hour designed to shame Mrs Barnes into coming on. At one point her press people tried a new tack and told us she was too tired. Having got up at 5,45 today that wasn’t an argument I was likely to entertain. Anyway, at 6pm, they finally relented, and they pleaded with us to stop tweeting. Shaming by Twitter had worked.
So at 6.50 (15 minutes later than they said) Ann Barnes graced our airwaves. It was a slightly testy encounter as you will hear if you click HERE. It lasts around seven minutes.
I didn’t make any reference to the difficulties we had had in the interview, but Mrs Barnes may reflect on the fact that her press advisers did her no good today.
9 Apr 2013 at 09:03
By and large I avoided Twitter yesterday, but when I broadcast I always have it on in front of me as it’s a great resource for ‘breaking news’ stories. I decided to block anyone who appeared in my timeline who was gratuitously insulting Margaret Thatcher. I have no objection to people criticising her, it’s the vile personal abuse I cannot abide. And actually there wasn’t that much yesterday – not that I saw anyway.
But let me reserve a special mention for the semi-tragic comedic figure that is known as George Galloway. This is what he tweeted on hearing of her death.
Tramp the dirt down
And to think he leads a party which is called RESPECT. He has apparently also accused her of befriending murderous dictators. Oh the irony. Look in the mirror George, as we salute your indefatigability.