UK Politics

Harman & the NCCL: What Has the BBC Really Learnt?

25 Feb 2014 at 08:17

One of the most irritating phrases you will ever hear on television is “the BBC has learnt”. You’d think it meant that due to an original piece of journalism, the BBC has found out something nobody else has. Invariably it means the BBC has switched on Sky News. Sky use a similar technique by using the phrase “Sky sources have told us.” But in each case it gives the broadcaster cover to hype up a story that might otherwise be considered a little pedestrian. And it perverts the news agenda. But this sort of thing happens every day. Take the current furore about Harriet Harman, the Daily Mail, and the NCCL.

Over the last few days both the BBC and Sky have studiously ignored the front pages of the Daily Mail, which has accused Harriet Harman of, well, I’m not totally sure exactly. It seems they think that because she was legal officer to the NCCL she must have somehow sympathised with the aims and objectives of one of its thousands of members, the Paedophile Information Exchange. It’s a ‘guilt by association’ smear which upon any reasonable examination doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. But day after day the Daily Mail demands that Harman, her husband Jack Dromey and Patricia Hewitt say ‘sorry’. It’s the same kind of tactic they used on Ed Miliband back in September.

Conservatives have up to now attacked the BBC for not even mentioning the issue, understandably believing that if three Tory politicians had been accused of something similar the BBC might not have been so coy. We’ll never know. However, the BBC could defend its position by pointing out that these allegations are nothing new and were first aired back in 2009. That would be a sustainable editorial position.

But yesterday the game changed when Harriet Harman decided to break cover and respond to the allegations by giving the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg an interview. It turned out to be a bad move. Instead of saying that it was a clear mistake for the NCCL to allow the PIE to be an associate member, she prevaricated and appeared a little shifty. Not only that she compounded her error by accusing the Daily Mail of being hypocritical because it publishes pictures of bikini-clad young women on its website. Women, not girls. So instead of closing down the story, it has merely given all other media outlets the excuse to cover it on the basis that if Harriet Harman has spoken about it, it becomes a legitimate story.

Cue BBC overkill. It’s now leading bulletins on the Today Programme and 5 Live. I haven’t seen Sky News yet this morning, so I can’t comment on what they are doing but as it’s the lead story on their website it’s probable that it is leading their bulletins too.

I’ve steered clear of the story on my LBC show, not because of any desire to be politically correct, but because I genuinely don’t see this as a massive story. I see it as a politically motivated smear by a newspaper which is besmirching its own good name by running it day after day after day.

Does anyone seriously believe Harriet Harman, Jack Dromey and Patricia Hewitt have any paedophile sympathies? No, of course not. They worked for a ramshackle organisation which was run in an anarchic way. Just as anyone with dubious views can join a political party, anyone or any organisation with dubious views could join the NCCL. Does anyone seriously think that Harman, a lowly junior legal officer, had the power to expel a member who had legitimately joined? Presumably to do so would have meant changing the NCCL’s constitution. Perhaps she and her husband tried to do that. Who knows? But remember that one of the NCCL’s aims was to promote freedom of speech for everyone, no matter how vile their views.

The biggest mistake Harriet Harman has made was to give that interview to Newsnight. All it succeeded in doing was fanning the story’s flames and giving other media organisations and newspapers to excuse they needed to cover it. Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but the overblown and blanket coverage it is getting is so out of proportion to the lack of coverage it got yesterday, that editors all over the place, but especially the BBC, would do well to examine why they are doing what they are doing. Are they doing this because it is such an important story or because of their collective feeling of guilt that maybe they should have given it some coverage well before today?

When I go into LBC today and we start planning my Drive programme, it will be interesting to see how the story has developed during the day. If I cover it at all – and at the moment my feeling is that I’d rather not – it will be looking at the behaviour of the Daily Mail, more than the behaviour of Harriet Harman. No doubt I will get a shedload of abuse for it, but hey – broad shoulders and all that.

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Attitude Column: It's Not Just Women Who Are Victims of Domestic Violence

23 Feb 2014 at 21:17

I’m lucky. I have been with my partner for more than eighteen years and in that time we have barely exchanged a cross word. We’ve never had a full scale row. ‘Yeah, right’, I can hear you saying. But it’s true. Of course we have the odd disagreement, but I can’t recall a single occasion when we’ve had a full scale screaming match or slammed a door in high dudgeon.

So when I read an article which claimed one in four gay or bisexual couples have experienced some form of domestic violence it took some time to sink in. I know no one, gay or straight, who has been on the receiving end of domestic violence. Yeah right. Who am I kidding? Given those statistics, and I imagine they are no different among straight couples, I must know someone who is carrying a dark secret, it’s just that they haven’t shared it with me – or probably any one else.

Domestic violence comes in many forms. It’s not just about physical violence, it can be about mental torture too.

I’ve often wondered why victims of domestic violence stay in their relationships. I suppose it must be because of unconditional love and they imagine things may get better. But do they ever? Not that I have ever been in the situation, but I have always imagined that if it happened to me it would be the first and last time. I’d quit the relationship with barely a second thought. That’s all very well in theory, but as those who have been in the situation will no doubt confirm, it’s usually a lot more complicated than that.

It’s not necessarily the physical violence that has the deepest effect. It’s the way it can blow your self-confidence and eat into your self-esteem. After a while, it can lead to chronic depression.

I don’t pretend that I am qualified to advise people who are in this situation. I’ve looked up on the internet what the professional advice is and it doesn’t really seem to go very far. Advising people to involve the police is not necessarily the only way forward.

The worst thing one can do is to bottle it up and pretend it isn’t happening. I suspect you have to get over the feeling of embarrassment and acknowledge that because it is happening to you it will inevitably be happening to others. You may feel alone, and on your own but in reality you are not.

The old cliché about a problem shared is a problem halved is something to hang onto. OK, it’s not something to tell an acquaintance, but telling the right person can be an enormous help. Just having someone listen is a start.

In the end domestic violence is about control. One part of the relationship wants to exert physical or mental control over the other. It can be for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the person committing the violence may also suffer from self-esteem issues. This can often happen in relationships where one partner is seen as more successful than the other. Instead of talking it over and admitting to the other what the problem is, literally thrashing it out seems an easier option. It’s followed by tears and contrition, but if it happens once it will inevitably happen again.

Some people still think it’s a myth that domestic violence can ever happen to men. They need to wake up. They still think that to admit, as a man, to being abused by another man is somehow to appear less than masculine. It actually takes a real man to accept there is a problem and ask for help. I’d like to think if it happened to me I’d be able to do that, but if I am honest I suspect I’d be like most others and shut my eyes and hope the issue would go away. Sadly, that rarely happens. It will only ever go away if the issue is confronted. Easy for me to say, more difficult to do, especially if it has been going on for a long time. But with courage, it can be done.

There is a national helpline for LGBT people experiencing domestic violence called Broken Rainbow. Tel 0300 999 5428

This article first appeared in the January issue of Attitude Magazine

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UK Politics

Clegg v Farage Debate: LibDems Must Now Promise to Support an In/Out Referendum

20 Feb 2014 at 09:51

These phone-ins we do at LBC do have a habit of generating a few headlines, and today’s CALL CLEGG was no exception. Nick Clegg has challenged Nigel Farage to a live debate on the EU. As it’s PHONE FARAGE tomorrow morning, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get an answer from the UKIP leader. But I wonder if Nick Clegg might have cause to regret issuing the invitation, as it raises Nigel Farage to the same level as the Deputy Prime Minister. It also could put the general election TV debates in jeopardy as Farage would have a much stronger case for inclusion in those debates this time around. But I suspect David Cameron would rather shove a red hot poker up his backside than take part in a debate with Farage. The two loathe each other.

This is what Nick Clegg said…

“I will challenge Nigel Farage to a public open debate about whether we should be in or out of the European Union, because that is now the choice facing this country and he is the leader of the party of ‘Out’, I am the leader of the party of ‘In’. I think it’s time we now have a proper public debate so the public can listen to the two sides of the argument and judge for themselves. If Nigel Farage is either listening or looking at this programme I hope he would take up my challenge to debate, once and for all, publically, should we be in the European Union – which I believe means that we have more people in work than would otherwise be the case, we keep ourselves safer because we can go after cross-border crime and terrorism, it means we can look after the environment in the way that we can’t on our own or do we do what UKIP want which is to pull ourselves out of the European Union and so jeopardise millions of jobs in this country? “That’s the choice let’s have the debate out in the open and I am very happy and very keen to debate that with Nigel Farage directly.”

If Farage doesn’t say yes to Cleggie, he will come across as a wuss, and I suspect he will say yes because I suspect he will feel he has little to lose and would wipe the floor with the leader of the LibDems.

But has Clegg dropped the ball with his challenge. Read his words again. How can he offer that debate to Farage and then deny a referendum on the same subject to the British people?

I think it’s time we now have a proper public debate so the public can listen to the two sides of the argument and judge for themselves.

And then vote. Because that is what the public will want. And they won’t see an amorphous vote in the European elections as anywhere near enough. Mr Clegg, you have been warned.

UPDATE: Response from UKIP… A UKIP spokesman said:

“Mr Farage would like to thank Mr Clegg for his kind invitation to a debate on the great issue of Britain’s membership of the European Union. Perhaps he could also let us know whether he has invited David Cameron and Ed Miliband too in order that the British people can see all their main political leaders argue their positions. If this challenge means that Mr Clegg is going to restore his backing for an In/Out referendum, which he gave before the last election but then withdrew afterwards, then it could be a significant moment in British politics. Mr Farage will give a full response to this development on LBC tomorrow morning.”

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 15: Going National, New Imaging Music & RAJARS

16 Feb 2014 at 15:36

  • It’s been quite a week for us all at LBC. In case you missed it the station went national on Tuesday on the Digital One DAB platform. If you think about it, it is quite ludicrous that this country has never had a national newstalk station. Talk Radio, in its various incarnations, was indeed a speech radio station, but it wasn’t a phonein station as such. And neither is 5 Live, although there are phonein elements to it with 606 and Nicky Campbell’s Your Call. My point is that there has never been a national radio station where for more or less 24 hours a day listeners can phone in and take part in the conversation. When I went to Sydney a couple of years ago I found out that there are eleven such radio stations in Sydney alone. In the USA they are two a penny. So why not here? Maybe it’s the ludicrous was British radio is regulated, or maybe the industry has been short-sighted enough to believe that advertisers would be reluctant to advertise on a station which would inevitably have presenters with strong opinions and callers with even stronger ones. Maybe they thought the advertisers wouldn’t want to advertise in the middle of a phonein on female genital mutilation.

Actually, the truth is something more prosaic. I suspect it’s more to do with the stranglehold the BBC has always had on speech radio. I remember around 10 years ago I presented a monthly book programme on the late lamented OneWord Radio. After a couple of years the BBC decided that it would replicate OneWord and started BBC 7 (now Radio 4 Extra). Well no one could compete with that and within a matter of months OneWord shut down.

OneWord never had a big backer. It was a startup on a limited budget. LBC is part of Global Radio which also owns Capital, Classic FM, XFM, Heart and Smooth. It’s the UK’s biggest radio group. By enabling LBC to go national Global have made a clear statement of intent and it’s now up to us to repay the confidence and financial investment they have made in us.

LBC – Leading Britain’s Conversation from Cute Kitty on Vimeo.

  • To coincide with us going national, we also have a new Imaging package. I have no idea what it cost, but these things never come cheap, and this new imaging is eyewateringly brilliant. Each segment of the day has its own version of the main package and on Drive, I think we have the best one of all. It gives me goosebumps every time I hear the talkup music or the top of the hour opener. I actually think it has made me a better presenter, as it helps me kick off each hour in a really pacy, upbeat way. My colleague, Chris Lowrie, who has overseen the whole project should be justly proud of himself.

When you go national you want to hit the ground running and demonstrate that what you do is relevant not just to existing listeners but new listeners all over the country. ‘Big names, Iain, big names’ was the mantra from our Managing Editor James Rea. Well, I think between my production team and me, we delivered, with Michael Gove, Harriet Harman, Germaine Greer, Andrew Mitchell, Alastair Campbell, Lord Ashcroft, Danny Alexander, Jeremy Hunt, Ed Balls, Philip Hammond, Natalie Bennett, Zac Goldsmith, David Davis, Helen Mirren and many others gracing our airwaves over the last four days of the week. And we had huge amounts of press coverage with my interviews with Gove, Alexander, Balls and Hammond generating mentions in the Mail, Guardian, Telegraph and Sun throughout the week.

  • On Thursday we had our quarterly meeting where we get the detailed breakdown of our listening figures. It’s a meeting which all presenters and producers approach with some trepidation. But I was pleased to find out that the figures for DRIVE have increased both year on year and quarter on quarter. We now have 427,000 listeners in London compared to 365,000 for the same quarter (September to December) in 2012. The audience share has also increased from 2.7% t0 4.0%, only 0.1% behind Peter Allen on 5Live.

It will be interesting to see how quickly we as a station, and Drive as a programme, can grow a national audience. We’re not changing our editorial content but I don’t think we need to. Very few of our segments are ever exclusively about London anyway. I want to make much more use of the Global newsrooms around the country, but the phonein subjects will remain similar to what we have done in the past. What will gradually change is the number of calls we take from outside London and the South East. Only a fool would predict how many extra national listeners we will have in the first few weeks, but over time there is certainly the potential to at least double the audience.

  • I think LBC has an incredibly bright future ahead of it. If you’ve never tried us out, do tune your digital radio to LBC between 4 and 8pm on a weekday and see what you think. In case you hadn’t worked it out, that’s when I’m on…

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Michael Gove Renews His Banter With Simon Cowell

12 Feb 2014 at 10:13

Last night I interviewed Michael Gove on my LBC show. We covered a lot of ground, but at the end of the interview I asked him about his spat with Simon Cowell, which occurred just before Christmas. He admitted he had instigated it and wasted little time in responding to my question about how Cowell should educate his new baby!

“I issue the challenge to Simon now… he should send his child to a British state school. If Simon wants me to show him round some schools I’d be happy to…”

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My Ten Most Interesting Politicians

9 Feb 2014 at 18:15

You know how I like a Top Ten list. Well today John Rentoul in the Independent on Sunday has compiled his Top Ten Most Interesting Politicians. You’ll have to read it yourself to find out just why Grant Shapps merited inclusion in such a list. Well, anything John Rentoul can do, etc etc. But what does ‘most interesting’ actually mean? Different things to different people, I guess. For me it means they stand out from the crowd, they’re willing to speak their minds, and they make a difference. So here, in no particular order, are ten politicians I find ‘most interesting’…

Jeremy Hunt
Slowly but surely Jeremy Hunt is building a formidable political reputation. He has retained his ‘nice guy’ normality but underneath the niceness is an iron political will. He came into the health job with a clear idea of what he wanted to achieve and isn’t afraid to say the unsayable (witness his speeches on nurses needing to be more caring). He also does a shift in a hospital most weeks, something you can’t imagine many of his predecessors doing.

Humza Yousaf
He is an SNP MSP and Minister for External Relations and International Development in the Scottish Executive. He’s also one of the most fluent and persuasive exponents of Scottish nationalism I have heard. Still under thirty, he truly is a rising star in Scottish politics.

Esther McVey
Tipped for promotion to the cabinet in the next reshuffle, Esther McVey is a tough talking political streetfighter who takes few hostages. She’s got a very different hinterland to most MPs and has made her own success. Not seen as a typical Cameroon, she has overtaken many of her intake and risen without seemingly ingratiating herself with the usual suspects. And good on her.

Julian Huppert
He’s not only a LibDem but he even looks like one. In his short time in Parliament he has made an impact in a number of areas. He’s retained his independence of thought and hasn’t become a backbench drone. If he retains his seat (as I predict he will) I foresee a big role for him in LibDem politics after the next election. The Speaker doesn’t seem to like him and picks on his appearance, which is a little odd to say the least.

Mary Creagh
A lot tougher than she looks, she is an undoubted rising star of Labour politics. Having scored successes over badgers and forests at Defra she was promoted to the more high profile transport brief in the last reshuffle by Ed Miliband. Labour spin-doctors need to give her a lot more of the limelight, and if they do she could well soon become a real mover and shaker in Labour politics.

Mike Penning
If David Cameron wants to introduce some much needed grit into his cabinet, he could do worse than promote Mike Penning, who has been a huge success in each of the three portfolios he has held in the coalition government. A former firefighter, he is a key ally of Iain Duncan Smith.

Sarah Wollaston
The winner of Britain’s first true open primary Sarah Wollaston isn’t used to playing the political game. She speaks her mind and damn the consequences. Her GP background means that she is to be taken seriously on health issues, but she isn’t afraid to speak out on anything if she feels the need to. Her colleagues sometimes don’t understand her and resent her rebelliousness. Good.

Ed Balls
I’ve always found Ed Balls to be charming, witty and someone who loves a good debate. We agree on virtually nothing, but he is a big beast of the political jungle. It’s fascinating to observe his relationship with Ed Miliband and how he comes to terms with the Brown legacy. The big question is will he ever be able to?

Diane James
The ‘real’ winner of the Eastleigh by-election, she should immediately have been made deputy leader of UKIP, but Nigel Farage seems determined to block her rising standing in UKIP circles. She’s only number 4 on their South East list, and stands little chance of election. She’s a superb media performer and if Farage fell under the proverbial bus she would be a red hot favourite as his successor. CORRECTION: She is now number 3 on their list so could possibly get elected, I am told.

John Woodcock
I tipped John Woodcock for the top a long time ago and when he was appointed to the front bench he seemed set for political stardom. But after a couple of health setbacks he went public about the fact he suffers from depression. One of the nicest people in Parliament, his health issues will make him a better politician

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LBC Book Club: Best of 2012 (Part 2)

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UK Politics

The Ugly Face of 'Muslim' & 'Christian' Patrols

7 Feb 2014 at 12:26

Yesterday on my LBC Drivetime Show we talked about the rising tide of extremism in some areas of Tower Hamlets in the East End of London. Last year there was a lot of publicity about the so-called ‘Muslim Patrols’ who were seeking to impose Sharia Law by ordering people to stop holding hands in the street, to stop drinking alcohol etc. Several members of these patrols were arrested and charged. But there is now a worrying development. So-called ‘Christian Patrols’ have now been formed by a man called Paul Golding who says he is the leader of a radical right group called ‘Britain First’. They hang around outside the East London Mosque, holding cans of Stella Artois, trying to provoke confrontations with muslims in the mosque.

On the programme I started off by interviewing Matthew Collins from ‘Hope Not Hate’, which provoked Paul Golding to phone in. A little later we took a call from Abu Remaysah, who says he is the founder of the ‘Muslim Patrols’. Both conversations became a little heated, as you will hear if you listen to these two Audioboos.

All a bit ‘Life of Brian’, if you ask me!

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Are You a Gay Homophobe?

6 Feb 2014 at 08:00

Stick with this till the end.

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UK Politics

Why the LibDem Seats Will Win 30-35 Seats in 2015

5 Feb 2014 at 08:07

There’s a lot of speculation about the number of seats the Liberal Democrats will win at the next election. Some people expect a virtual wipeout, while LibDems themselves cling onto the hope that incumbency will help them win seats they might otherwise lose. The truth will probably lie somewhere in between. So far quite a few very popular LibDem MPs have announced they will stand down, something which could not come at a worse time for the LibDems. The question is how many more there will be.

I got myself into a lot of trouble on election night in 2010 when I promised to run down Whitehall naked if the LibDems only won 59 seats, which was the BBC projection. When I interviewed Danny Alexander he said he’d join me. They actually only won 57, albeit with 23% of the vote. I have yet to fulfill that threat, and won’t be doing so! I think the only way to gauge how many seats the LibDems will win in 2015 is to go through their MPs, seat by seat, and analyse the probable result. So here goes…

Detailed analysis below, but here are the results. Of the 57 seats, I predict 35 will remain LibDem, 14 will fall to the Conservatives and 8 to Labour. But of the 35 LibDem Holds, I reckon only 13 are dead certs, 9 are hot bets, 8 are probable and 5 are rated as possible, but by no means definite.

In the predictions below I have assumed that Labour will be the beneficiaries of most of the decline in LibDem votes across the country but that the Conservatives might benefit a little in the south and south west. The big unknown factor here is how the size of the UKIP vote might affect existing Conservative vote levels in many of these seats. I have tried not to make these predictions through blue tinted spectacles, but it maybe that I will have underestimated the impact of UKIP. I have also assumed that the LibDems will not win a single one of their top 20 target seats. Even if that proves to be wrong, looking through the list it is hard to see more than a handful of even remotely possible gains based on the way things look at the moment.

I wonder how many LibDems would settle for 35 seats now, if they could.

Do leave comments to explain why you disagree with individual seat predictions. Here they are, together with brief explanations.

INVERNESS, NAIRN, BADENOCH & STRATHSPEY
Danny Alexander
Majority: 8,765 over Labour
Prediction: DEAD CERT LIBDEM HOLD

LEWES
Norman Baker
Maj: 7,647
Prediction: PROBABLE LIBDEM HOLD
If Labour takes enough votes from the LibDems it could let the Conservative in, and Lewes used to be a safe Tory seat. Baker’s local popularity should see him through but with a much smaller majority.

BERWICK UPON TWEED
Sir Alan Beith (retiring – Julie Pörksen selected)
Maj: 2,690 over the Conservatives
Prediction: PROBABLE CONSERVATIVE GAIN
The Conservative candidate Anne Marie Trevelyan stood in 2010 and if her vote holds up, she only needs Labour to take a small proportion of the LibDem vote. Beith’s incumbency will also disappear.

BURNLEY
Gordon Birtwistle
Maj: 1,818 over Labour
Prediction: LABOUR GAIN
Birtwhistle is a straight talking northerner and speaks out against what he views as wishy washy Liberalism. He’s very popular but it would be a major shock if he held on to the seat he snatched from Labour in 2010.

CARSHALTON & WALLINGTON
Tom Brake
Maj: 5.260 over the Conservatives
Prediction: POSSIBLE CONSERVATIVE GAIN
Somewhat charismatically challenged Brake is nevertheless a very good constituency MP and this could seem him through, but the Labour vote here is bound to recover. However, I’d say this was a 50/50 prediction and could easily go the other way. This would be the sixth time Brake has fought the seat and that counts for a lot.

MID DORSET & NORTH POOLE
Annette Brooke (retiring – Vikki Slade selected)
Maj: 269
Prediction: CONSERVATIVE GAIN
It was a shock this seat didn’t go Tory last time. With Annette Brooke standing down the LibDems will have to perform miracles to keep this seat.

TAUNTON DEANE
Jeremy Browne
Maj: 3,993 over the Conservatives
Prediction: POSSIBLE CONSERVATIVE GAIN – 50/50
Boundary changes last time increased Browne’s majority from just over 500. I don’t know how popular he is locally. Seen as a very good minister it was a shock when he was sacked by Clegg. Might he stand down? I’d say this was a 50/50 call.

GORDON
Sir Malcolm Bruce (retiring – Christine Jardine selected
Maj: 6,748 over the SNP
Prediction: 100% LIBDEM HOLD

SUTTON & CHEAM
Paul Burstow
Maj: 1,608
Prediction: PROBABLE CONSERVATIVE GAIN
The Labour vote has halved to 7.7% since 1997 and will inevitably rise in 2015. Paul Burstow is standing again and incumbency could play a vital role if he is to retain his seat, but if the Tory vote holds up, he may have a problem.

SOLIHULL
Lorely Burt
Maj: 175
Prediction: CONSERVATIVE GAIN
Lorely Burt did very well to hang onto her seat last time (she won it in 2005 with a majority of 279) and confounded all expectations. The Labour vote has gone down from 25% to 8% and if Labour takes just a thousand votes from the LibDem the Conservatives will win a seat many think they should never have lost.

TWICKENHAM
Vince Cable
Maj: 12,140
Prediction: DEAD CERT LIBDEM HOLD

NORTH EAST FIFE
Sir Menzies Campbell (retiring)
Maj: 9.348
Prediction: LIBDEM HOLD
The Conservatives will be targeting this seat but it’s a remote hope for them. The new LibDem candidate may suffer a dent in their majority but unless Ming Campbell’s personal vote is more than the norm, this seat should stay Liberal Democrat.

ORKNEY & SHETLAND
Alistair Carmichael
Maj: 9,928
Prediction: DEAD CERT LIBDEM HOLD
None of the other parties come close, with the LibDems winning 62% of the vote in 2010. Jo Grimond’s legacy is safe!

SHEFFIELD HALLAM
Nick Clegg
Maj: 15,284
Prediction: DEAD CERT LIBDEM HOLD
This used to be a Tory seat, but it would take a political earthquake for them to take it off Nick Clegg. Interestingly the Labour vote has started to rise, but not enough to cause the LibDems to panic.

EDINBURGH WEST
Michael Crockart
Maj: 3,803
Prediction: PROBABLE LIBDEM HOLD
This seat went LibDem in 1997 and although the LibDem majority plummeted by 10,000 last time it is difficult to see them losing. Prior to 1997 it was a Tory seat but last time Labour beat the Tories into second place. A Labour victory is not impossible to imagine, but still rather unlikely.

KINGSTON & SURBITON
Edward Davey
Maj: 7,560
Prediction: LIBDEM HOLD
Ed Davey won this seat in 1997 with a wafer thin majority of 56, which rose to more than 15,000 in 2001. But since then the Conservative vote has been on the rise. Davey has only managed to win with such handsome majorities because he has squeezed the Labour vote from 23% down to 9%. If that trend reverses, the Conservatives could squeak it, but it’s highly unlikely.

WESTMORLAND & LONSDALE
Tim Farron
Maj: 12,264
Prediction: DEAD CERT LIBDEM HOLD
Tim Farron has 60% of the vote and while the Conservatives held this seat as recently as 2001, they have zero chance of winning it back in 2015. Why? Because it’s a two horse race. In 1997 the Labour vote was more than 20%. In 2010 it was 2%.

HORNSEY & WOOD GREEN
Lynne Featherstone
Maj: 6,875
Prediction: POSSIBLE LIBDEM HOLD
Since 1997 Lynne Featherstone has built up the LibDem vote from 5,000 to 25,000 so as a constituency campaigner she is hard to beat. Meanwhile the Labour vote has declined from 31,000 to 18,000. Meanwhile the Conservatives have gone down to 21,000 to 9,000. This is a difficult one to call, but on balance Lynn Featherstone will probably retain the seat.

BATH
Don Foster (retiring)
Maj: 11,883
Prediction: LIBDEM HOLD
The Conservatives have been desperate to win this seat back since Chris Patten lost it in 1992, but it’s extremely unlikely to revert to the fold despite the fact that Don Foster is standing down.

ST IVES
Andrew George
Maj: 1,719
Prediction: POSSIBLE LIBDEM HOLD
The Tories got a 10.39% swing last time and took a huge chuck out of Andrew George’s 11,000 majority. This time George will be hoping UKIP’s vote reduces Tory potency. His incumbency and local popularity should see Andrew George home, but it may be a close call.

ST AUSTELL & NEWQUAY
Stephen Gilbert
Maj: 1,312
Prediction: POSSIBLE CONSERVATIVE GAIN
This seat could go either way. Labour are nowhere with only 7% of the vote. If UKIP does well in the South West, the LibDems win here, if they don’t, they won’t.

CHELTENHAM
Martin Horwood
Maj: 4.920
Prediction: PROBABLE LIBDEM HOLD
A Liberal Democrat seat since 1992, this is one which the Conservatives had expected to take back in both 2005 and 2010, but it wasn’t to be. The Labour vote has been squeezed to just 5%. Martin Horwood is extremely popular and will have built up a high personal vote. On a catastrophic night for the LibDems it’s easy to see Cheltenham falling, but not otherwise.

PORTSMOUTH SOUTH
Mike Hancock (deselected)
Maj: 5.200
Prediction: POSSIBLE CONSERVATIVE GAIN
This seat has never had a huge LibDem majority since it was won by Mike Hancock in 1997. It’s always ranged between three and six thousand. It’s difficult to assess the impact of the groping scandal, but on top of their national woes, it could be that the Tories win back what was once for them a safe seat. Hancock has failed to squeeze the Labour vote as much as some of his colleagues, and not so long ago they managed a healthy 25%. If they return to those levels the Tories will win.

NORTH DEVON
Nick Harvey
Maj: 5,821
Prediction: PROBABLE LIBDEM HOLD
Ever since this seat was wrested back from the Conservatives in 1992 pundits have predicted it would return to the Tories, but astute constituency campaigning by Nick Harvey has prevented this from happening. I don’t see this changing. This seat has a strong UKIP vote which inevitable depresses that of the Conservatives.

SOMERTON & FROME
David Heath (retiring)
Maj: 1,817
PREDICTION: PROBABLE CONSERVATIVE GAIN
LibDem HQ must have bee tearing their hair out when David Heath announced his retirement as he stood the best prospect of retaining this seat. His current majority is the larges he has ever enjoyed, but that is largely because at the last election the UKIP vote doubled to nearly 2,000. If they do the same in 2015 they could deny the Conservatives a gain they thought they had in the bag last time.

BIRMINGHAM YARDLEY
John Hemming
Maj: 3,002
Prediction: PROBABLE LABOUR GAIN
Hemming is a maverick and I wouldn’t bet against him pulling off a surprise, but if Labour is to form a government it’s this kind of seat they need to take back.

CHIPPENHAM
Duncan Hames
Maj: 2,470
Prediction: POSSIBLE CONSERVATIVE GAIN
Although is majority isn’t big, Duncan Hames has dug himself in since winning the seat in 2010 and will be difficult to shift. But the Tory candidate Michelle Donelan is a good campaigner. Yet again, her success depends on warding off UKIP and encouraging LibDems to vote Labour.

BERMONDSEY & OLD SOUTHWARK
Simon Hughes
Maj: 8,530
Prediction: DEAD CERT LIBDEM HOLD
No comment needed.

EASTLEIGH
Mike Thornton
Maj: 1,771
Prediction: POSSIBLE CONSERVATIVE GAIN
The Conservatives thought they would win this seat back at each of the last two general elections, but each time Chris Huhne pulled through. At the by-election they came third, with UKIP almost pipping the rather monochrome Mike Thornton. It’s highly unlikely UKIP’s vote will hold up so the outcome of this seat may depend on where UKIP’s voters put their cross. If enough of them return to the Conservative fold, it could be enough to see the Conservative home.

CHEADLE
Mark Hunter
Maj: 3,272
Prediction: PROBABLE LIBDEM HOLD
Apart from a narrow majority in 1997 of 33, the LibDems have had a majority of three or four thousand in this seat ever since. As long as the slightly resurgent Labour vote doesn’t gain too much traction, I think Mark Hunter will be safe.

CAMBRIDGE
Julian Huppert
Maj: 6,792
Prediction: POSSIBLE LIBDEM HOLD
If you look at the size of the LibDem majority here, Julian Huppert ought to be considered very safe, but this is a seat which swings with the wind, and if the wind is blowing towards Labour you can see it returning to them. It obviously has a high student vote and this may determine the outcome. However Huppert has been a strong performer both locally in Parliament and if anyone can hold this seat for the LibDems, he can.

ROSS, SKYE AND LOCHABER
Charles Kennedy
Maj: 13,070
Prediction: DEAD CERT LIBDEM HOLD
Out on his own, and despite an invisible presence in this Parliament, there would need to be a miracle to shift Charles Kennedy.

NORTH NORFOLK
Norman Lamb
Maj: 11,626
Prediction: DEAD CERT LIBDEM HOLD
Lamb’s majority was even bigger than the one he had over me in 2005. Although I think it will reduce in 2010 due to the crumbling LibDem local organisation and the resurgent North Norfolk Labour Party, he will still win handsomely.

YEOVIL
David Laws
Maj: 13,036
Prediction: DEAD CERT LIBDEM HOLD

MANCHESTER WITHINGTON
John Leech
Maj: 1,894
Prediction: LABOUR GAIN
Although John leech trebled his majority last time, I fear the bell tolls for him unless UKIP can take a lot of votes from Labour.

EASTBOURNE
Stephen Lloyd
Maj: 3.435
Prediction: PROBABLE CONSERVATIVE GAIN
Won in 2010 from Nigel Wateson, Steohen Lloyd may hang on, but I’d expect the Labour vote to at least double at the expense of the LibDems, so yet again, a lot depends on how many votes the Tories lose to UKIP.

BERWICKSHIRE, ROXBURGH & SELKIRK
Michael Moore
Maj: 5,675
PREDICTION: LIBDEM HOLD
David Steel’s old seat – never been 100% safe, but it would be a major shock for the Conservatives to take this seat.

LEEDS NORTH WEST
Greg Mulholland
Maj: 9.103
Prediction: DEAD CERT LIBDEM HOLD
A Labour seat as recently as 2005, Labour has now slipped to third place. With a classic split opposition situation it would be a brave man who would vote against a third term for Greg Mulholland.

WELLS
Tessa Munt
Maj: 800
Prediction: PROBABLY CONSERVATIVE GAIN
The former seat of David Heathcoat-Amory Tessa Munt won Wells in 2010. The Tories will make every effort to regain it and will be devastated if they don’t pull it off.

SOUTHPORT
John Pugh
Maj: 6,024
Prediction: LIBDEM HOLD
It’s difficult to see this as anything other than a LibDem win.

ARGYLL & BUTE
Alan Reid
Maj: 3,431
Prediction: POSSIBLE LIBDEM HOLD
A four way marginal, this could go to any of the main parties. If the LibDems lose my guess is that it would go to Labour, even though they were in third place in 2010.

NORTH CORNWALL
Dan Rogerson
Maj: 2,981
Prediction: PROBABLY CONSERVATIVE GAIN
A seat where the LibDem majority has been on the slide in every election since 1997’s highpoint of more than 13,000. If UKIP hadn’t existed, the Conservatives would have won this seat in 2010. So the key question is whether they will eat further into the Conservative vote in 2015. If so, the LibDems will hang on. Otherwise this is a pretty safe bet for the Tories.

COLCHESTER
Sir Bob Russell
Maj: 6,982
Prediction: LIBDEM HOLD
Difficult to see anything other than another home run for Sir Bob!

TORBAY
Adrian Sanders
Maj: 4,078
Prediction: POSSIBLE LIBDEM HOLD
Regarded as a surefire Tory gain in 2010 it didn’t happen, and in all honesty Adrian Sanders has built up a string personal vote which may carry him through once again.

WEST ABERDEENSHIRE & KINCARDINE
Sir Robert Smith
Maj: 3.684
Prediction: PROBABLE LIBDEM HOLD
Although the LibDem majority was halved last time, it’s difficult to see anything other than another victory for Sir Robert Smith.

HAZEL GROVE
Andrew Stunell (retiring – Lisa Smart selected)
Maj: 6,371
Prediction: PROBABLE LIBDEM HOLD
The LibDem majority has fallen in every election since 1997 but the Tories haven’t been able to capitalise. And I don’t see them bucking the trend in 2015.

REDCAR
Ian Swales
Maj: 5,214
Prediction: LABOUR GAIN
This was a very surprise result last time and was in large part to massive job losses on Teesside. On that basis the seat may return to its natural fold.

EAST DUNBARTONSHIRE
Jo Swinson
Maj: 2,184
Prediction: LABOUR GAIN
Jo Swinson is popular but all the political portents are against her. She will be a major loss to the LibDems.

BRENT CENTRAL
Sarah Teather (retiring)
Maj: 1,345
Prediction: DEAD CERT LABOUR GAIN
If the LibDems retain this seat it will be miracle of all miracles.

CAITHNESS, SUTHERLAND & EASTER ROSS
John Thurso
Maj: 4,828
Prediction: LIBDEM HOLD
A small electorate, Thurso should hold the seat he won in 2001.

BRADFORD EAST
David Ward
Maj: 365
Prediction: DEAD CERT LABOUR GAIN
One of the nastier LibDem MPs, few will shed tears at his demise.

THORNBURY & YATE
Steve Webb
Maj: 7,116
Prediction: DEAD CERT LIBDEM HOLD

NORWICH SOUTH
Simon Wright
Maj: 310
Prediction: DEAD CERT LABOUR WIN
Student fees will do for Simon Wright due to the large university vote. Of all the seats the LibDems are slated to lose, this is the deadest certs of dead certs.

CEREDIGION
Mark Williams
Maj: 8,324
Prediction: DEAD CERT LIBDEM HOLD

BRECON & RADNORSHIRE
Roger Williams
Maj: 3,747
Prediction: LIBDEM HOLD
A Conservative gain here is not out of the question but it is difficult to work out where their extra votes are going to come from.

BRISTOL WEST
Stephen Williams
Maj: 11.336
Prediction: DEAD CERT LIBDEM HOLD

CARDIFF CENTRAL
Jenny Willott
Maj: 4,576
Prediction: PROBABLE LIBDEM HOLD
Labour have their sights in this one. It may prove out of their reach.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Is Made to Cry by Sue in Twickenham

During a discussion about living with an alcoholic, Iain is moved to tears by a caller. The call lasted more than 20 minutes - very unusual in talk radio.

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Ayn Rand

2 Feb 2014 at 23:37

Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).

Ayn Rand

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale interviews Polar Explorer Dwayne Fields

Dwayne Fields is embarking on a trip to the South Pole. He tells Iain Dale why.

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