UK Politics

My Twenty Pieces of Advice to General Election Candidates

22 Mar 2015 at 20:42

This is a rehash of a blog I wrote at the beginning of the 2010 election campaign, having just re-read my blogposts from the 2005 election, when I was Conservative candidate in North Norfolk. The experience brought back lots of memories – not all of them bad! But it did make me think about the pitfalls of being a candidate and how to get through an election campaign intact. For what it’s worth, here’s my advice to first time candidates…

1. You can’t do everything yourself. Let others take the strain. You are the leader of the campaign. Act like it.
2. Keep your cool. There will be moments in the campaign when you want to scream your head off. Resist the temptation. Count to ten. Then count to twenty. Ignore the temptation to hit your agent when he/she calls you a “legal necessity”.
3. Your campaign workers are volunteers. They don’t have to turn out to help you. They do it because they want to. Motivate them. Treat them well. Make sure you stop for lunch and that they don’t do too much. It’s a long campaign. Don’t wear them out after the first week.
4. Make sure all your literature is proof read. Three times. And not by you.
5. If you have a campaign blog, never write a spontaneous blogpost. Always run it by someone else first. Be incredibly careful what you tweet. Imagine your name in bold print in the Daily Mirror. If you hesitate before pressing SEND, it probably means you shouldn’t.
6. Make sure you keep to your normal sleep patterns. You may think you are Superman/Superwoman, but you’re not. You need your sleep. Make sure you get it.
7. You don’t need to hold a long campaign meeting every morning. Three times a week is usually enough. Make sure that the only people who attend are those who really should. Restrict meetings to half an hour.
8. Posters do not gain extra votes. But they make your local party feel good and give your campaign the appearance of momentum. Do not put them up too early. And do not put them up all at once. And if they get ripped down, make sure your campaign team has a strategy for replacing them within 24 hours.

9. Personalise your Sorry You Were Out Cards. Include your ten campaign pledges on them. And include an apparently handwritten message and signature.
10. Do not drive anywhere yourself. Especially, do not drive your campaign vehicle. Appoint a PA who will drive you everywhere. Think of the bad publicity if you are involved in an accident, or even a broken down car or flat tyre. The last thing your campaign needs is for you to be involved in a public argument with another irate driver. If someone else is driving, you can walk away when another car is arranged for you.
11. Make sure you eat properly, and regularly. McCoys, Coke and Mars Bars do not a healthy diet make. Do not drink any alcohol during the day. Never buy anyone a drink. It’s against electoral law and counts as treating
12. If Party HQ offer you the chance of a visit from a politician even you have barely heard of, turn them down. Even if you have heard of them, consider turning them down. Visits from national politicians use up too many resources and rarely attract a single extra vote.
13. Don’t canvas before 10am or after 8.30pm. It looks desperate and annoys people. And be very careful about canvassing on Sundays. People don’t like it. Use Sundays to catch up on deliveries in areas with no deliverers.

14. Resist the temptation to strangle the next person who asks “How’s it going?” or “Are you going to win?”. They’re only being polite.
15. If you’re in a high profile marginal seat which the media find interesting, avoid spending half your day giving them interviews. Your only media focus is local. Ignore Michael Crick. He’s not there to help you.
16. Avoid the natural desire to believe what voters tell you on the doorstep. Most of them will tell you what you want to hear in order to get you off the doorstep. If they say “I’ll see how I feel on the day” you can safely put them down as a Liberal Democrat.
17. Your Get Out The Vote operation is more important than anything else you do during the campaign. Satisfy yourself that your Agent and Campaign Manager have it in hand and they know what they are doing.
18. Ignore those who tell you not to appear at your count until it is well underway. It’s your moment. Relish it. Prepare your speech. If you lose unexpectedly, you will be remembered for how you react. Act graciously towards your opponents during the counting and in your speech.
19. If you lose, you will be tempted to blame someone. Your party leader. Your local party. Anyone but yourself. Don’t. Whatever your personal thoughts, no one likes a bad loser. Be dignified and take it on the chin. If you win, hubris may take over. It really wasn’t all down to you, you know. And make sure others know you know that.
20. Make sure you write a personal thank you letter – and I mean write, not type – to all those who helped on your campaign. Do it within a week of polling day. You really could not have done it without them.

Good luck, and try to enjoy it!

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UK Politics

Who Would Be in a Cameron Cabinet After 7 May?

22 Mar 2015 at 13:53

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to look at a few post-election scenarios in terms of possible cabinet line-ups and who might stand in any of the various leadership contests the election result might throw up.

Let’s start by looking at a possible Cameron Cabinet. I’m going to compile it on the premise that Cameron is running either a majority or minority administration, with no coalition partner. The first thing to say is that Cameron has little room for manoeuvre in the top jobs. George Osborne made very clear to me in my interview with him on Friday that he wants and expects to stay at the Treasury. Philip Hammond is a relatively new Foreign Secretary and would not expect to be switched. But if he stays put, would Theresa May really expect to start another five year stint at the Home Office? She’s done a remarkably good job, and I reckon she would be moved to the Foreign Office with Philip Hammond maybe moving the other way or moving to Business.

It’s striking how David Cameron has stuffed his Minister of State and Parliamentary Under Secretary jobs with a succession of mediocrities. There are a few brighter lights but by aand large they are people who will never get into the Cabinet. It’s a major mistake. All Minister of States should be people who ought at some stage to be in the Cabinet.

Chancellor of the Exchequer: George Osborne
Foreign Secretary: Theresa May
Home Secretary: Michael Gove
Business Secretary: Philip Hammond
Education Secretary: Sajid Javid
Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Liz Truss
Work & Pensions Secretary: Mark Harper
Transport Secretary: Matthew Hancock
Leader of the House of Commons: Grant Shapps
Defence Secretary: Michael Fallon
Justice Secretary: Nicky Morgan
Energy & Climate Change Secretary: Andrea Leadsom
Culture Secretary: Priti Patel
Health Secretary: Jeremy Hunt
Local Government & Communities Secretary: Nick Boles
International Development: Jo Johnson
Leader of the House of Lords: Baroness Stowell
Chief Whip: Greg Hands
Chariman of the Conservative Party: Claire Perry
Defra Secretary: Greg Clark
Scottish Secretary: David Mundell
Welsh Secretary: Stephen Crabb
Northern Ireland Secretary: Mike Penning
Minister without Portfolio: Boris Johnson

This means that Chris Grayling, Eric Pickles, William Hague, Justine Greening, Patrick McLoughlin, Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa Villiers would all leave the Cabinet. Seven out of 25 Cabinet Ministers would be women. If Esther McVey wins her seat, she would definitely be in a Cameron cabinet, but as I have projected her to lose her seat, as has Lord Ashcroft, I haven’t included her here.

I have to say this isn’t the Cabinet lineup I’d necessarily pick myself, but I think most of the people I have included are ones which David Cameron is likely to, even if they’re not necessarily in the right jobs! I did get more right than other commentators in the last reshuffle, but in this game you’re only as good as your last prediction. If I had the choice I’d keep Grayling and Pickles in the cabinet, but I suspect they will be sacrificed for more women. As for IDS, I don’t think he’d want a different job and I suspect he will think five years of welfare reform is more than enough for anyone.

COMING NEXT: Who would be in a Labour cabinet?

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General Election Predictions

General Election Predictions: My Final Revised Seat Totals Could Lead to a Nightmare for the Country & the Economy

21 Mar 2015 at 22:13

Back in January I released a seat by seat prediction for all 650 parliamentary constituencies at the general election. It attracted a lot of comment, largely because I was the first to do this. “How do you come to those conclusions?” people asked. “What methodology did you use?” The honest answer is that there was no scientific method. I did look at polls, I looked at what other informed commentators were saying, I looked at local government election results since 2010. But in the end, a lot of my predictions were based on good old fashioned political intuition and hunch. Some people may therefore conclude that my predictions are a complete waste of time, and they may turn out to be right if I turn out to be way off beam on May 8th.

I would merely point out that if my predictions are a waste of time, so are the plethora of polls that we are seeing on a daily basis. They are all over the place. I don’t know how much the newspapers pay for these polls but they are a complete and utter waste of their money. With the advent of five party politics it is impossible to take national opinion polls seriously. There will be no national swing. There may not even be a regional swing, so it is important to look at each constituency as an individual polling entity. Michael Ashcroft spotted this very early on in this Parliament and his constituency polls provide an invaluable snapshot of public opinion in that constituency at a particular time. They have certainly informed my seat by seat predictions but I have tried not to be dominated by what those polls project. Where there is less than a five per cent margin, anything is still possible.

Back in January I projected…

Conservative 278 (-29)
Labour 301 (43)
Liberal Democrats 24 (-33)
SNP 18 (
12)
UKIP 5 (5)
Plaid Cymru 3 (-)
Green 1 (-)
Respect 1 (-)
DUP 9 (
1)
Sinn Fein 5 (-)
SDLP 3 (-)
Independent 1 (-)
Speaker 1 (-)

Since then we have seen the emergence of the Greens as a stronger force in the polls and while they won’t gain any extra seats (and if they do, Bristol West and Norwich South would be the two most likely gains) they may well leech some votes from the LibDems or Labour, or be attractive to people seeking to register a protest and who couldn’t stomach voting UKIP.

Back in January, I was convinced that the polls which put the SNP on 45% or thereabouts would not turn out to be sustainable. This is what I wrote…

“In Scotland I just cannot see how the SNP can gain the number of seats many people are predicting. Some pundits predict with straight faces that the SNP will sweep the electoral board and end up with 30 to 40 seats. They have 6 at the moment, and try as I might I can’t get them above 18. If they do achieve more than that that it would be a political earthquake of epic proportions. They would be overturning Labour majorities of 15-20,000.”

Since then, many respected pundits have seriously predicted that the SNP could actually win more than 50 out of the 59 Scottish seats. I’ve had to accept that I have vastly underestimated the impact the SNP will have, not only on seats in Scotland, but in the likely final result.

In my revised predictions, quite a few LibDem seats have changed and this has resulted in a net gain of one seat. It would have been more but I project that they will lose all bar three of their Scottish seats.

With regard to UKIP I have upped my prediction to eight seats from five. This may turn out to be an overestimate but in each of the eight wins I predict (and I don’t include Rochester & Strood in the eight) there are solid reasons for doing so.

So here is my revised prediction

Conservative 275
Labour 275
LibDem 25
UKIP 8
SNP 42
Plaid Cymru 4
DUP 9
Respect 1
Green 1
Sinn Fein 5
SDLP 3
Others 2

So, a dead heat between the two main parties, making it more or less impossible for the Conservatives or Labour to form a coalition with anyone. I have always thought a minority government is the most likely outcome of the next election and I am becoming more convinced of this as every week passes. From a political spectator’s point of view this is very exciting and provides us with acres of talking points. For the country, though, and especially for the economy, it could be a living nightmare.

And for whoever becomes prime minister of a minority government, it’s not going to be like 1974. You can’t just call a quick snap election at a time when you thing it might be advantageous to do so. The Fixed Term Parliament Act makes this quite difficult. But that’s a subject for another time.

Last time I predicted only 94 out of 650 seats would change hands. I am now predicting that has increased to 117 (18%). 37 of them are in Scotland. That’s where the election night action is going to be.

To see my revised predictions here are the links to each region. I identify each seat where I have predicted a change from the one I made in January.

Scotland (SNP + 24, Labour -22 LibDem -2)
North West (LibDem +1, Conservatives -1)
Yorkshire & the North East (UKIP +1, Labour -1)
West Midlands (UKI +1, Labour -1)
Wales (Conservatives +1, Plaid Cymru +1, LibDems -2)
London (LibDems +2, Labour + 1, Conservatives -3)
East Midlands (No change)
South West (No change)
South East (LibDems +2, Conservatives -2)
East Anglia (Conservatives +1, UKIP +1, Conservatives -1. Labour -1)

I shall do a final revision of my predictions in late April.

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General Election Predictions

Revised General Election Predictions for the North West

21 Mar 2015 at 18:28

There are 75 constituencies in the North West, which includes Cheshire, Liverpool, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cumbria.

In my original predictions in January this was the state of the parties…

Conservative 18
Labour 55
LibDem 1
UKIP 1

This is the seats that I am revising…

Southport

2010 Result:
Conservative: 15683 (35.8%)
Labour: 4116 (9.4%)
Lib Dem: 21707 (49.6%)
UKIP: 2251 (5.1%)
MAJORITY: 6024 (13.8%)

Sitting MP: John Pugh (LibDem)
Prediction: Conservative gain
Revised Prediction: LibDem hold

This seat has alternated between the LibDems and Conservatives for years, although the last time the Tories won it was in 1992. Labour are nowhere here. UPDATE: I’ve changed my mind on this. I had missed the Ashcroft poll, which is fairly conclusive, with the LibDems on 37 and the Tories trailing badly on 24.

So the prediction becomes…

Conservative 17
Labour 55
LibDem 2
UKIP 1

Which means my countrywide predictin looks like this…

Conservative 275
Labour 275
LibDem 25
UKIP 8
SNP 42
Plaid Cymru 4
DUP 9
Respect 1
Green 1
Sinn Fein 5
SDLP 3
Others 2

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General Election Predictions

Revised General Election Predictions for Yorkshire & the North East

21 Mar 2015 at 15:47

There are 56 constituencies in Yorkshire, Humberside and the North East. In January I made the following predictions…

Conservative 20
Labour 60
LibDem 2

I have only one change to make to those predictions.

Great Grimsby

Conservative: 10063 (30.5%)
Labour: 10777 (32.7%)
Lib Dem: 7388 (22.4%)
BNP: 1517 (4.6%)
UKIP: 2043 (6.2%)
Independent: 835 (2.5%)
Others: 331 (1%)
MAJORITY: 714 (2.2%)

Sitting MP: Austin Mitchell (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold
Revised Prediction: UKIP gain

A formerly very safe Labour seat this nearly went to the Tories in 2010. Ordinarily they might make a push this time, but there’s the UKIP fly in the ointment. Their candidate, Victoria Ayling, stood here for the Tories last time and is quite high profile. However, I just can’t see them taking this seat or coming anywhere near it to be frank. All I can see here is an increased Labour majority. UPDATE: I think I might have to eat those words. UKIP are putting in a huge effort here. An Ashcroft poll puts them only one per cent behind Labour. Austin Mitchell’s persistent undermining of the Labour candidate and his all female shortlist successor may just tip the balance away from Labour.

So that means the predictions for this region change to…

Conservative 20
Labour 59
LibDem 2
UKIP 1

Which changes the countrywide seat predictions to…

Conservative 276
Labour 275
LibDem 24
UKIP 8
SNP 42
Plaid Cymru 4
DUP 9
Respect 1
Green 1
Sinn Fein 5
SDLP 3
Others 2

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General Election Predictions

Revised General Election Predictions for the West Midlands

21 Mar 2015 at 12:31

There are 59 constituencies in the West Midlands, which includes Birmingham and surrounds, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire.

In January I predicted the parties would end up with…

Conservative 29
Labour 30

This really is a key battleground and Labour needs to win more seats here if Ed Miliband is to become prime minister. I’ve now revisited my January predictions but I’ve only made one revision.

Dudley North

2010 Result:
Conservative: 14274 (37%)
Labour: 14923 (38.7%)
Lib Dem: 4066 (10.5%)
BNP: 1899 (4.9%)
UKIP: 3267 (8.5%)
Others: 173 (0.4%)
MAJORITY: 649 (1.7%)

Sitting MP: Ian Austin (Lab)
Prediction: Increased Labour majority
Revised Prediction: UKIP gain

Ian Austin managed to hold off a strong Tory challenge in 2010 and should do so again if he can benefit from the decline in LibDem voters. However, polls show UKIP doing well here and they have opened a large campaigns office. UPDATE: This was UKIP’s best performance in a Labour seat and their council election performance has been very strong. A lot depends on how the Tory vote holds up. If it peals away to UKIP, they win. If it doesn’t, Ian Austin will pull through. Everyone I talk to in UKIP circles reckons this seat is almost a dead cert for them. I wouldn’t go that far, but all indications are that they have the Big Mo.

So this would mean…

Conservative 29
Labour 29
UKIP 1

And the UK wide predictions are updated to…

Conservative 276
Labour 276
LibDem 24
UKIP 7
SNP 42
Plaid Cymru 4
DUP 9
Respect 1
Green 1
Sinn Fein 5
SDLP 3
Others 2

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Time to Buy Shares in George Osborne?

20 Mar 2015 at 14:27

I remember thinking at the time, “this could be big”. Four months ago I did a phone-in on LBC on the growing rumours of a child sex ring at Westminster and asked why the Met didn’t take any action. I took two completely spontaneous calls from ex Metropolitan Police Officers, both of whom had been investigating child sex abuse involving politicians. Just as arrests were about to be made, orders came down from on high ordering the investigations to be dropped. You can listen to their calls here. I must admit my blood ran cold. We have kept in touch with these two men since and I very much hope they will tell what they know to the new IPCC inquiry. It seems that this insidious activity wasn’t just confined to Cyril Smith, but that there was a lot of it going on. It needs to be uncovered and names need to made public, no matter who they were or how high they had climbed in the political world.
*
Half an hour after I filed my ConHome Diary last week I had to go to A&E. I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it say it was not pleasant. So unpleasant in fact that later that day I had to have a two hour operation under general anaesthetic. I’ve been off work since then, although I managed to crawl back to do my LBC show on Wednesday. I’ve never had to stay overnight in hospital before, and wasn’t looking forward to the experience. Overall, I cannot speak highly enough of the care I received. Waits were kept to a minimum, everything was explained to me in language I understood and everyone seemed genuinely caring. There is nothing I can think of that I could complain about, apart from the egg mayonnaise sandwich that I had for breakfast. Toast is banned, apparently.
One observation, though. I reckon around 80% of the nurses and doctors I saw at the hospital were not from this country. Every single one of them really cared about their work. They came from countries like Bulgaria, Iran, India and the Philippines. The male nurse I saw earlier today when I went back to have my wound dressed was from Portugal. I told several of them I had written a book about the NHS, which led to some very interesting conversations. They were all immensely proud to work at the hospital and they put their all into it. One of the nurses reckoned English people don’t like to do the kind of work they have to do. That may be an over-generalisation but there’s clearly an element of truth in that. The NHS would cease to function without its foreign born staff, although I still think it is rather unethical for us to be taking medical professionals from underdeveloped countries which clearly need them.
*

My erstwhile nemesis in North Norfolk, Norman Lamb, was featured in most of the Sunday newspapers after the Sunday Mirror had the story of how his family were being blackmailed over his son’s alleged use of cocaine. The way he handled this story was an example to any politician who has to deal with a story which intrudes on their family life. Handling this sort of thing without the glare of media publicity is difficult at the best of times. Ten years ago Norman ended my parliamentary ambitions. I hold absolutely no bitterness about that at all. In hindsight maybe he did me a favour. He’s always been a first rate constituency MP and in my opinion has probably been the most effective LibDem minister in the coalition government. If the LibDems have any sense, they’ll elect him to succeed Nick Clegg.
*
This week I have published Nigel Farage’s new book THE PURPLE REVOLUTION. I always had high hopes for the sales of this mighty tome, but even I was surprised that it reached Number 26 on the Amazon bestsellers chart two days before it came out. Indeed, we’ve already sold out of the initial print run and aren’t far off selling out of the reprint. WH Smith have taken more than 5,500 copies, Amazon have sold well into four figures. I have always been totally supportive of Waterstones (together with them we have weathered the recent changes in an absurdly dynamic industry) and enjoy an excellent relationship with what is, after all, Britain’s only proper bookshop chain. However, I can’t help but find it deeply frustrating that they have taken fewer than two copies for each of their 300 branches. It’s had a massive serialisation in the Telegraph and has a proven bestselling sales record on Amazon but we can’t persuade Waterstone’s to treat this book as the bestseller it already is. It’s the kind of thing that makes a publisher want to bang his head against a brick wall – something I am prone to doing every day. Most publishers do, to be honest.
*

There’s little doubt that people are beginning to buy shares in George Osborne again. His political stature has rarely been higher. He’s had his ups and downs over the years, but as the general election approaches there is little doubt that he is a politician at the height of his game. It’s therefore natural that speculation will start about his political future. If there is a Conservative led government after the election what happens to him? Well, I guess there are two alternatives. He stays where he is or he moves to the Foreign Office and handle the EU treaty negotiations. If the Conservatives lose, and Ed Miliband walks into Number Ten things get trickier. He ought to be a leading contender to succeed David Cameron, and may well be, but some will see that he is tainted by the Cameron brand – indeed, some say it is he who more Cameroon than Cameron himself. In a recent Evening Standard interview the Prime Minister told Sarah Sands while he was more of a “traditional” Conservative, George Osborne was more of a “metropolitan market Conservative”. Osborne’s best chances of leading the Conservative Party lay in the Tories winning the election, him moving to be Foreign Secretary and successfully renegotiating Britain’s membership of the EU. It would be a very tricky path to the leadership, but who’s to say it’s impossible? I’ll be interviewing the Chancellor this afternoon on LBC from 5pm. I’ve got him for half an hour, which by my reckoning will be the longest broadcast interview he’s ever done. If you have a DAB radio tune it to LBC, or if you’re near a TV you can listen on Freeview channel 732 or Sky Channel 0112. Or of course via the LBC app or online at www.lbc.co.uk.

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Tom Swarbrick's News That Nearly Was

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Books

Me? A Member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy

19 Mar 2015 at 20:55

I’ve never been a great fan of Will Self. However, I have finally found something written by him which I quite like. It’s a review of Nigel Farage’s book THE PURPLE REVOLUTION, which my company Biteback has published this week. Self has written a typically idiosyncratic review which, while not wholly favourable, is not quite the full scale denunciation I had expected. I was slightly surprised to read that I too got a mention.

Some people on the left, I realise, cleave to the view that Farage’s ascent to the national political stage is little short of extraordinary. I had dinner with one such last night, who assured me The Purple Revolution was part of a careful strategy of manipulation aimed at voters in Thanet, where Farage is standing for Ukip in the general election. She drew my attention to the fact that Biteback, the book’s publisher, is run by Iain Dale, the influential rightwing blogger and former Tory wannabe, and further suggested that the entire Ukip advance over the past couple of years owes more to clever media manipulation than any real upsurge in nationalist feeling. “Granted,” she said, “there’s always 10-15% of the electorate who are prepared to vote for a third party – but 30%? I don’t think so.”

Well that made me laugh. Me. A member of the vast right wing constituency. I don’t think so. I published Nigel’s first book back in 2009 when he was, shall we say, slightly less popular than he is now. Yes, I regard him as a friend, and I am an admirer. But to posit that I would have any great interest in promoting UKIP in South Thanet is as preposterous as it is idiotic. When I take on a book I take it on because I think the author has something to say and hopefully I can turn a profit on it. This book has been in Amazon’s top 100 since Saturday , reaching No 26. That’s quite an achievement for any non fiction book, let alone a political one. In only six years Biteback has established itself as the go-to publisher for political books whether you’re on the left or right. It really does amuse me that some people still look at these things through a prism of party politics. I never have. In these six years here are some of the people on the left who I have published. I imagine every single one of them would find Will Self’s friend’s comments as ridiculous as I do.

Jad Adams, Andrew Adonis, Shahrar Ali, Yasmin Alibihai-Brown, Francis Beckett, Charles Clarke, Simon Danczuk, Parmjit Dhanda, Paul Flynn, Peter Hain, Tom Harris, Mehdi Hasan, John Hutton, Dan Jarvis, David Lipsey, Guy Lodge, James macintyre, Denis Macshane, Deborah Mattinson, Damian McBride, Jim Murphy, Paul Richards, Geoffrey Robertson QC, David Sainsbury, Mark Seddon, David Seymour, Joan Smith, Stuart Thomson, Valerie Trierweiler, Zoe Williams, Tony Wright.

Enough? Or are they merely a deflection tactic designed to throw people off the scent of my vast right wing conspiracy. You decide :)

You can read Will Self’s review HERE and buy THE PURPLE REVOLUTION HERE

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BBC Radio Norfolk: Iain appears on Treasure Quest

On the afternoon of the Lammas village Christmas Fayre, Iain appears live from the village hall on Radio Norfolk's Treasure Quest programme. Aha!

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 21: The Perils of Outside Broadcasts

18 Mar 2015 at 21:11

I love getting out of the studio and broadcasting from different venues. Whether it’s the party conferences, a phone-in with Ed Miliband in a Hastings hotel or in a tent on College Green I love it. The adrenaline flows, it’s different and there’s always an element of seat of your pants flying. Listeners don’t really mind if something goes wrong. It all adds to the fun of the fair.

Which brings me on to today’s events on College Green. Shelagh Fogarty had been presenting our live coverage from 12 noon until 4pm, which is when I went on air. I arrived about an hour before that to find that there were various protesters sited a few yards from our broadcasting point. One was extolling the virtues of Jesus Christ and was fitted with a microphone. Another chanted ‘All Politicians are Liars’ ad nauseum. Shelagh coped with it womanfully but it was clear that listeners at home could hear it all. Last time this happened to me the protesters eventually got bored. This one was more durable. Just before I went on air, Shelagh’s producer tweeted this…

Gave me a laugh, anyway. Anyway, as my show started, he kept chanting. And kept chanting. Just when you thought he was stopping, he’d start up again. As a presenter you don’t even want to acknowledge he’s there or that he’s affecting you. I assumed my headphones would keep him out of my ears, but I was to be disappointed. In truth he didn’t have too much effect on me apart from once when I was interviewing Sir Ming Campbell I couldn’t think what my next question was. But I noticed on Twitter that people were becoming increasingly irritated by what they were hearing. Some were switching channels. One lady emailed: “Can’t you shut the window or something?” Bit difficult when broadcasting from a tent/gazebo. Others were urging me to go over and silence him physically. Well the last time I tackled a protester, it didn’t end very well, did it? So I smiled sweetly and adopted the old showbiz maxim of ‘the show must go on’.

But in the end a decision had to be made. If this guy wasn’t going to go away, we would. There are some fights which just aren’t worth having. So at 5.15 I handed over to my colleague Tom Swarbrick back in Leicester Square, we hopped in a cab, and I was back in the Leicester Square studio and back on air fifteen minutes later. I explained what had happened, but no one seemed to care. It was most certainly the right thing to do.

Our ‘pitch’ was one we have used before but it’s unfortunate it is right near the public exit from College Green onto Great College Street. In future we’re going to have to insist being located further onto the Green. So in a way, it’s just as well this happened now and not in the days after the election. Forewarned is forearmed, and all that.

The lesson here is to make a decision and then buy into it and don’t be afraid to share what is going in with listeners, but in an understated way. They will understand.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to George Galloway

George Galloway says Julian Assange's sexual behaviour does not amount to rape.

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General Election Predictions

Revised General Election Predictions for Wales

17 Mar 2015 at 19:10

There are 40 parliamentary constituencies in Wales. In my original predictions I only predicted two changes in the political make-up, Cardiff Central and Cardiff North, both to Labour from the LibDems and the Conservatives. This is how Wales looked then…

Conservative 7
Labour 28
LibDem 2
Plaid Cymru 3

I am changing my mind on two LibDem held seats…

Ceredigion

2010 Result:
Conservative: 4421 (11.6%)
Labour: 2210 (5.8%)
Lib Dem: 19139 (50%)
Plaid Cymru: 10815 (28.3%)
Green: 696 (1.8%)
UKIP: 977 (2.6%)
MAJORITY: 8324 (21.8%)

Sittting MP: Mark Williams (LibDem)
Prediction: LibDem hold
Revised Prediction: Plaid Cymru gain

Plaid Cymru seem to be very confident they can take back this seat, which they unexpectedly lost in 2005. The LibDems will be badly affected by the loss of the student vote in Aberystwyth and Lampeter, but it’s difficult to work out how badly. I still think it’s a big call to predict anything other than a narrowish LibDem hold here, but I may well be proved wrong. UPDATE: I had a flood of correspondence suggesting I have got this wrong. Looking at some of the Welsh blogs and academic websites I’m tempted to agree.

Brecon & Radnorshire

2010 Result:
Conservative: 14182 (36.5%)
Labour: 4096 (10.5%)
Lib Dem: 17929 (46.2%)
Plaid Cymru: 989 (2.5%)
Green: 341 (0.9%)
UKIP: 876 (2.3%)
Christian: 222 (0.6%)
Others: 210 (0.5%)
MAJORITY: 3747 (9.6%)

Sitting MP: Roger Williams
Prediction: LibDem hold
Revised Prediction: Conservative gain

A Conservative gain here is possible but not definite. One of the tightest results in 2015, I’d think. The LibDems must be hoping that Roger Williams will definitely stand again, because if they hold onto this seat it will be in large part down to his personal vote. A few months ago I tipped this seat to go blue. I’m revising that now to a very narrow LibDem win. The Ashcroft polls show a definite loss to the Tories when people are asked who they will vote for in the election. But when they are asked to think about their own particular constituency the situation is dramatically reversed and the LibDems are ahead by 4%. UPDATE: I’m going to change my mind again. The LibDems have imploded in Wales far more than in England and I now think they will end up with no seats there.

So that changes the Welsh predictions to…

Conservative 8
Labour 28
LibDem 0
Plaid Cymru 4

And the UK wide predictions are updated to…

Conservative 276
Labour 277
LibDem 24
UKIP 6
SNP 42
Plaid Cymru 4
DUP 9
Respect 1
Green 1
Sinn Fein 5
SDLP 3
Others 2*

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LBC Book Club: Pam Ayres

Pam Ayres discusses her autobiography THE NECESSARY APTITUDE

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