Diary

ConHome Diary: If the Charleston Shooter Had Been a Muslim...

19 Jun 2015 at 14:09

Sometimes you wonder how perfectly sensible politicians score such obvious own goals. How David Lidington thought it was at all sensible to try to persuade Tory MPs that the government should be given full authority to rig the EU referendum is anyone’s guess. The surprise was that only 27 Tory MPs had the courage to vote with their consciences. But this was actually far more important than anyone seems to realise. Why? Because there can now be no doubt whatsoever that the whole government machine will covertly support the ‘Yes’ campaign. And there is no doubt that the Prime Minister himself will support staying in, no matter how little he gains from his renegotiation. It’s a bizarre negotiating position for him to adopt vis a vis his European counterparts. What he’s saying is “give me what I want or, er, I’ll recommend we stay in”. Not sure David Cameron would be a good poker player.
*
I wonder how many Tory supporters have paid their £3 so they can vote in the Labour Party leadership election and throw their weight behind the obvious standout candidate, er, Jeremy Corbyn. Labour Party head honchos must have had their heads in their hands on Monday when it was announced he had scraped onto the final shortlist. It was he who the media talked about for the rest of the day, to the almost total exclusion of the other three. I have to say I lost a lot of respect for Sadiq Khan and Gareth Thomas, who are both running to be London Mayor. They gave their nominations to Jeremy Corbyn in a blatant attempt to curry favour with the left and get their second preferences in the mayoral contest. They may think it was clever politics, but in Sadiq Khan’s case it may well come back to haunt him.
*

The first Labour leadership hustings were something of a let-down, held in a hall in Nuneaton on a set which must have cost the BBC all of about £5. None of the four candidates really outshone the others, although Liz Kendall had the best line of the night when she had a great put-down for Andy Burnham who had told the audience “The Party must always come first”. Quick as a flash she said, “No, Andy, the country comes first.” Political writer Ian Leslie tweeted yesterday that “Andy Burnham seems comfortable with himself but looks as if he’s never convinced himself that he has something new to say.” It’s a good point. Yvette Cooper didn’t do anything wrong in the debate but she doesn’t half come out with some banalities. Her strategy is clearly to win on second preferences, just like Ed Miliband did. And that went well, didn’t it?
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Yesterday the Institute of Economic Affairs celebrated its sixtieth birthday. Happy birthday to everyone associated with a think tank that has done more than any other to promote the benefits of the free market and liberal economics. Long may they thrive.
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As well as the IEA’s birthday, yesterday was also the 45th anniversary of the surprise Conservative victory at the 1970 general election and the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. It made me think how little I know about a battle which was one of the more crucial dates of the 19th century. Had Wellington and Bluecher not triumphed it’s a fairly safe bet that we’d all be speaking French now. Sacre bleu! Wouldn’t that have been a domage!?
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Remember that spat between David Mellor and a taxi driver. It covered acres of space in the papers at the time. Boris does the same thing and tells a cabbie to “fuck off and die, and preferably not in that order” and he merits only page 7 of both The Sun and the Daily Mail. No calls for him to quit, it was just ‘good old Boris’ standing up for himself. Just how does he get away with it? They said Ronald Reagan had a Teflon quality. Well you can say that in spades about the London mayor. I wonder how long it can last.
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Go on Zac, you know your duty…
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So a white man is behind the terrible shooting of nine people in South Carolina. I read that he is being described as a “troubled loner”. If he were a muslim he’d be described as a terrorist. People would be calling on all muslims to condemn and apologise for the murderous act as if they had somehow been complicit. The Koran would be called in evidence of Islam being a religion motivated by violence. As proof of how our modern media like to report incidents like this, read this exchange between an American journalist and someone who saw the gunman escape.
“He’s white”. “You sure? Could he not be fair skinned?” “White”. “Did he at least have a beard, work with me here!”
Think on that.
*

Britain has 1 per cent of the world’s population, 3% of the world’s GDP and pays 7% of the world’s benefits, according to the Chancellor. So if we all went down to a three day week we could cut our benefits bill! Result! It can only be a matter of time before Liz Kendall latches onto this as a winning policy.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Stan Collymore about Cyberbullying

Former England player Stan Collymore explains what it is like to be bullied on Twitter.

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Personal

On This Day I Got Married

12 Jun 2015 at 16:42

Seven years ago on Monday, John and I entered a civil partnership. You can read about the day HERE if you’d like to. It really was a perfect day.

Today we converted our civil partnership into a marriage. In effect it is backdated to 15 June 2008, so we’ve now been married for less than a day, but also for seven years. If you see what I mean.

We had thought about having a bit of a bash, but when we considered it further, we realised that it would seem a bit self-indulgent to do it all over again, especially when we have considered ourselves married all along. So today was all about the legalities and paperwork.

Off we toddled to Norwich Register Office for 2pm. We were asked to wait in a very soulless reception area, replete with photocopier. We then had to spend 45 minutes filling in forms and proving we were who we said we were. And then the registrar suddenly said “Oh, you’re now married.” She then took us back to the reception area to photocopy the marriage certificate and then we were done.

I know it seems weird to have done it like this, with no great fanfare or ceremony, or even witnesses (who, had we invited them, would have had to wait outside, we were told!), but we just felt that it would have rather undermined what we considered to be our real wedding back in June 2008.

We’re having a few friends to dinner at our favourite pub in Blickling, near Aylsham, tomorrow night, and that’s about it.

I did, however, persuade the notoriously photoshy John to have a couple taken today in our garden for posterity.

Finally, when we were sitting in the register office going through the paperwork I had a moment when I thought of Lynne Featherstone. Lynne was the LibDem Home Office minister who, with the backing of Theresa May and David Cameron brought in the Equal Marriage Act. She lost her seat at the election, but she will always be able to look back and think that this was a real political achievement. Just as Roy Jenkins will be remembered for decriminalising homosexuality, she will forever be associated with equal marriage. I can think of worse political legacies. Most ministers go through their careers achieving very little. She set out to do something and had the political courage and nouse to see it through.

Cheers Lynne.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Peter Hain & Toby Harnden

Peter Hain discusses OUTSIDE IN and Toby Harnden talks about his history of the Welsh Guards.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: My Strange Dreams About Nigel Farage & Norman Lamb

12 Jun 2015 at 14:03

On 4 July I am chairing the first Conservative mayoral hustings for Conservative Way Forward. I’m amused that The Spectator’s Steerpike column is building this up as an Iain Dale v Ivan Massow confrontation. Hey ho. I suppose it might sell a few tickets! As well as Ivan Massow, three other candidates have confirmed they are taking part – Stephen Greenhalgh, Andrew Boff and Sol Campbell. I’m hoping Zac Goldsmith will also be there, but he’s waiting for the result of his constituency consultation. It would be nice for a couple of women to take part as well! The hustings takes place somewhere in Finchley – look at the CWF website or Twitter feed for more details.
*
A few nights ago I dreamt I was helping Nigel Farage with his election expenses. How sad is that? I asked him where his records were. “I didn’t keep any,” he said. Who’d be an agent?
*

I’m off work this week, so excuse the fact that this column is a little shorter than usual. I’m trying to switch off completely, but as usual it’s not working out like that. I’m on my own with our two dogs at our house in Norfolk, doing sweet F.A. Apart from watching DVD box sets and movies I’ve bought but haven’t watched yet. First up was the latest apocalyptic offering BEYOND. Rubbish. Then a German language offering, FREIER FALL, in which two policemen fall in love. Ein bisschen besser. Then FLIGHT, in which Denzel Washington crashes a plane, but does it well. Disappointing. The week was rescued by series 2 of VEEP and the last ever series of ‘24’, or ’12 as it became as they were obviously too lazy to complete the usual 24 episodes. Oh, and the weather’s been quite nice too.
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The Times has taken over from the Telegraph as the broadsheet I turn to first of a morning, although these days I read it on my phone rather than buy a physical copy. I could hardly believe yesterday’s front page which carried a story about Alastair Campbell saying that any new Labour leader should be able to be ousted 18 months before an election if they’re not performing. Why could I hardly believe it? Because Campbell had said the same thing to me in an interview six days earlier and it had received quite a bit of coverage. I gently chided Michael Savage on Twitter who explained that he thought Campbell had gone a bit further and said he would lead any campaign to oust an underperforming leader, so that made it more newsworthy. Hmmm. Clearly a slow news day at The Times!
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Nominations for the Labour leadership formally close on Monday, with the deputy leadership nominations closing two days later. It’s interesting that there are five candidates for the leadership and ten for the deputy leadership at the time of writing. It’s slightly mystifying that the deputy leadership is seemingly a more attractive post and has attracted a much more interesting array of candidates. However, because they all need 35 MP nominations, only four or five are likely to make the cut. I imagine they will include Tom Watson, Caroline Flint, Angela Eagle and Ben Bradshaw. Will Stella Creasy make the cut? I’m not sure. For some reason she seems highly unpopular among some of her colleagues. Perhaps it’s because she’s actually rather successful and they’re jealous. Her campaign against payday loan companies was a brilliant example of a backbencher achieving something. She actually won. Clearly something Labour MPs aren’t used to since 2005…
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I still can’t work out whether this open letter of congratulation on LabourList to Ed Miliband is a piss take or not. Read it HERE . On balance, I think not. Which just goes to show how far some Labour supporters have to go until they understand why they lost.
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Last night I dreamt Norman Lamb tried to enlist me on his campaign for LibDem leader. “We can’t do it without you, Iain,” I remember him saying in the dream. I wonder if a similar thought came to him in 2005…
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I’m reading John Campbell’s biography of Roy Jenkins at the moment. I’m less than a third of the way through it, having only reached 1964, but I can already say it’s the best book I’ve read this year. A real tour de force. He was a randy old goat, wasn’t he? It’s always the quiet ones…
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Oh, by the way, today is my wedding day. We’re converting our civil partnership into a marriage today in Norwich. No big bash though. We did that eight years ago. We sign a bit of paper, hand over the massive sum of £4, and that’s it. And back to work on Monday. Who said romance was dead?

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Miranda Hart

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

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Personal

Attitude Column: The Joys of Equal Marriage

11 Jun 2015 at 11:06

Seven years ago this month my partner and I got married. Well, at least we thought we did. The reason I say ‘thought’ is that for us, entering a civil partnership was indeed the same as getting married. For us the implications were the same. Yes, it was a legal contract, but it was so much more than that. It declared to the world our hopefully lifelong commitment to each other and it meant something. It meant a lot. And it was a perfect day.

Believe it or not, we held it in a castle. How gay is that!? Admittedly it was quite a small one. It could only take 104 guests, which led to some very difficult decisions on the guest list. To this day there are one or two people who still haven’t forgiven us for not being invited. The sun shone, the formal part of the ceremony went perfectly, the speeches were moving and funny and the food was superb. It was over in a flash, but it is a day neither of us will ever forget.

Seven years later we thought about doing it all over again. Like many other gay and lesbian couples who have entered civil partnerships, we’ve thought about whether and how to convert our civil partnership into a marriage, now that the law allows us to. I say ‘convert’ rather than ‘upgrade’, which is a rather unfeeling and emotionless word to use.

The question we have asked ourselves, though, is this. Why, when we already considered ourselves to be married, would we do it all over again? So we’re not going to. Sort of.
We had thought about doing the full works again – nice venue, invite loads of guests, have a celebrant. Everything. We even looked at a couple of venues in Norfolk. But one evening we both sat down and said to each other, why are we doing this? We’re not American. We’re not renewing our vows, so why go through all of this rigmarole?

So what we are going to do now is nip down to the local registry office on a Friday in June*, sign the conversion papers and pay our £11 – yes, £11, that’s all it costs. And the next day we’re inviting twenty people to dinner in a rather nice pub just up the road from our house near Norwich. No ceremony, no speeches, just sharing it over a meal with some friends. For us that’s the right thing to do. For others, it may be different.

Figures for civil partnerships seem to have stabilised at around 3,500 male and 3,500 female couple per year. That doesn’t seem a lot really bearing in mind there are around 250,000 heterosexual marriages each year. If 10 per cent of the population is gay, you might expect the figure for civil partnerships or gay marriages to be six or seven times the current level. Is this evidence that the 10 per cent figure isn’t right, and that it’s nearer 2 per cent? Or does it mean that gay couples are less likely to want to commit to long term, formalised relationships? It’s certainly food for thought.

Figures for dissolution of civil partnerships i.e. gay divorce are pretty meaningless when civil partnerships have only been around for a decade, but one interesting fact is that lesbians are twice as likely to divorce than gay men. Insert your own joke here.

Around 150,000 gay people are now in civil partnerships or marriages, which is far more than government statistics boffins predicted ten years ago. That should be a matter for rejoicing, not just by gay people, but society as a whole. Stable relationships make for a stable society, and gay people are just as capable of entering into long term, stable relationships as straight people, contrary to popular rumour. Ann Widdecombe once said to me that one of the reasons she opposed gay adoption was that it had been proved that gay relationships generally didn’t last longer than two years. “Really?” I said. “In my experience it’s usually about twenty minutes!” To her credit, after looking shocked, she did laugh. Sadly, she didn’t ask for further details. Maybe just as well.

  • We’re actually getting married tomorrow in Norwich.

This article first appeared in the June issue of Attitude Magazine

You can download an eBook of all my Attitude columns via Kindle or iBooks. It’s called GAY SHORTS. And all for only £1.99!

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LBC 97.3: Iain talks to Gyles Brandreth about the Royal Baby

Hilarious.

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LISTEN: LBC's Four Minute Election Night Montage

6 Jun 2015 at 11:06

This is a four minute montage of some of the best bits from LBC’s election night coverage. It’s quite stirring in places. And it brings back a lot of memories. It’s a night which will live with most of us for a very long time.

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LBC Parliament: With Hilary Devey, Peter Tatchell & Melanie Philips

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Why I Will Always Be Grateful to Charles Kennedy

5 Jun 2015 at 14:38

A couple of left wing friends of mine are still literally grieving at the election result. It’s really affected them in a bad way. I keep saying they should move on and get over it but the truth is that their reaction, I think, displays a certain arrogance which is more prevalent on the left than the right. They really think that voters are stupid and that in some way they were hoodwinked to vote Tory rather than “do the right thing” and put Labour into power. They truly think they know better than the electorate. And that in essence is one very big reason why Labour lost. And I see no sign of them learning that lesson.
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ComRes is the first polling company to change their methodology following the pollsters lamentable performance during the election. They’re calling it the “Turnout method”. They say “The model simulates the likelihood of each respondent to vote based on their age and social grade. This has been calculated using actual General Election turnout data on a constituency level and matches it with the known age and social grade profiles of the constituencies taken from the Census. This will provide a more accurate reflection of the actual voting public.” I think the word “will” should be changed to “might”.
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Ben Harris-Quinney. Toast.
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Paul Goodman wrote a piece yesterday on this site suggesting that Zac Goldsmith would be a great candidate for the London mayoralty. As ever he is right. Or “Totes on the money” as a young person might say. He has the sort of cross party appeal needed to win this election and he scares the shit out of Labour in a way that virtually no other Tory candidate would. Even Green Peer Jenny Jones has said she thinks a lot of Greens would vote for him. If you look at the way he has built up a majority of 24,000 in Richmond Park, a LibDem seat from 1997 to 2010, it’s clear he has what it takes to take huge swathes of votes away from Labour in a mayoral election. He has the charisma, name recognition and independence of thought to be a very viable candidate to take on Labour in an election which ought to be theirs for the taking.
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I’m delighted to see Paul Abbott appointed as Director of Conservative Way Forward. I was a founding member of CWF back in 1991 – I think I still have the initial membership card with the number 18 on it somewhere. And no, I won’t be putting it on eBay. CWF, like many Tory pressure groups, has flickered like a lightbulb over the years. Initially its star shone very brightly but it then went through some difficult years and seemed to lose its way. In recent years, however, first under Don Porter and now Donal Blaney it seems to have recovered its mojo. I wish Paul Abbott luck in taking it to the next level.
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Three weeks ago, on the day after the election I interviewed Jeremy Corbyn and found myself urging him to stand for the Labour leadership. It’s taken him three weeks to think about it, but he’s now officially announced his candidacy. I feel I have unwittingly done the Conservative Party a great service! Arise, Sir Iain. Surely only a matter of time.
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If it hadn’t been for Charles Kennedy I often wonder whether my old blog would have taken off in the way that it did. Back in December 2005 I got to hear that the LibDem Parliamentary Party were in open revolt and that a meeting had been planned with the intention of ousting their leader. I wrote it up on my blog as an exclusive and overnight the traffic went from very little to tens of thousands. I had arrived, and over the next five years the blog became hugely popular – at times even overtaking Guido Fawkes – and without it I wouldn’t have got my current job on LBC. So I have every reason to be very grateful to Charles.

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Video: Iain Interviews John Penrose MP

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Tribute

A Tribute to Charles Kennedy

2 Jun 2015 at 08:19

Charles Kennedy was a man beset by grief on two counts. He died grieving for the loss of his father who died in early April, at the start of the general election campaign, but he was also grieving over the loss of his seat after a parliamentary career lasting thirty-two years. For all we know he also continued to grieve over the loss of the leadership of his party back in 2006. Whatever the truth behind his untimely and unbelievably sad death, Charles Kennedy is a huge loss to the body politic.

I don’t pretend to have known Charles Kennedy well, but we were acquainted. He would attend book launches at my bookshop, Politico’s, and was invariably the life and soul of the party. He was also great company. “Ah, Mr Dale, what scurrilous things are you writing about me today?” he’d greet me with, with a larger than life twinkle in his eye. He was rarely without a smile, even in times of great personal adversity. It was his greatest asset, and it enabled him to connect with the public in a way few politicians could – or can. If he was Jewish he’d be called a ‘mensch’ – a character who people could relate to.

And therein lies the tragedy. Had he not had to contend with the demon drink, Charles Kennedy could have gone down in history as one of the greatest Liberal politicians ever. He led the LibDems to their greatest electoral triumph in 2005, when the party won 62 MPs. This was in part to his courageous leadership opposing the Blair government over Iraq. Some accused him of political expediency, but it was unfair – Kennedy believed what he was doing and took on both Paddy Ashdown and Sir Menzies Campbell whose initial inclinations were to support Blair’s strategy. It was an act of political leadership and courage, and he took much of the country with him. In many ways, this single issue ought to define his leadership, but sadly it is likely to be overshadowed by the manner of his defenestration as leader.

I have no idea how long Charles Kennedy had been battling with alcohol, but during the 2005 general election campaign it became apparent how serious the problem was when he appeared drunk at the LibDem campaign launch. Never a brilliantly organised individual or timekeeper, he repeatedly failed to turn up to events or media engagements, including missing appearances on BBC Question Time and Prime Minister’s Questions. His staff tried to cover up what was really going on but it became increasingly difficult. Eventually, his PPS Norman Lamb confronted him and told him enough was enough. This led to a difficult meeting with LibDem MPs in which it was clear support for him was ebbing away. Eventually he was forced out, and he resigned with as much dignity as he could muster. What might have been.

He found happiness in his marriage to Sarah Gurling and they had a son, Donald, now aged 10, who now has to face life without his loving father. The marriage eventually ended in divorce, and Kennedy became more and more lonely, again seeking solace in the bottle. An appearance on Question Time in the run-up to the election on 13 March should never have been allowed to go ahead, and the show’s producers should hang their heads in shame for permitting him to take to the stage. It was apparent to all that all was not well.
Charles Kennedy’s death is said not to be suspicious, but it is not known if he took his own life or whether he, in that time old phrase, succumbed to the demon drink. Either way, everyone in politics will mourn the death of a man who was devoid of political enemies – and there aren’t many of them around. During his three decades in the House of Commons it is fair to say that he was one of – if not the most popular politicians in the country. He was a man of principle, of achievement and stature.

I hesitate to draw on that overused Billy Joel lyric, but to say of Charles Kennedy that he is proof that ‘only the good die young’ would not be an understatement. He may have had his flaws, but he was a good man. A very good man.

As I finish writing this short tribute I think of his family, and especially Sarah. Twenty years ago I interviewed her for a job with my lobbying company. Ever since, we’ve always had a few pleasant words whenever we’ve encountered each other at LibDem conferences or other events. I cannot imagine what she and her son are going through today, but she will have her brother James, a close supporter of and adviser to Charles, to comfort and console her.

What an utter, utter tragedy.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: The Tale of Harriet Harman's Fine Pair (Of Shoulder Pads), Zac Goldsmith for London Mayor & Ben Harris-Quinney Suspended From Tory Party

29 May 2015 at 13:00

There is a growth industry in this country and it is for very expensive lawyers to send out letters threatening to take people to court for libel. Nick Cohen writes about this in this week’s Spectator ]. He’s been threatened by Carter Ruck for writing a thoroughly researched and reasoned criticism of Unite leader Len McCluskey. Carter Ruck will have known that Cohen hadn’t got a case to answer and yet will still have charged their client a huge wodge of wonga for the pleasure. Just so you know, they charge £550 an hour. I run a publishing company and I too have been on the receiving end of these letters from Carter Ruck, Schillings and Bindmans, and various others. What they do is chance their arm that you will be intimidated. They are the legal equivalent of a cold call to an old lady from a double glazing salesman, except far more intimidating. I have a simple policy with these letters. Write a three line ‘fuck off’ reply. I’ve been threatened by Fayed’ lawyers, lawyers for an IRA terrorist (quite how his reputation could have been threatened is a good question) and many others. On not a single occasion has it gone to court. The secret is to be very robust indeed. I cannot, however, deny, that these letters don’t cause concern. They do. You have an empty feeling in the bottom of your stomach when you read them, but that’s what they play on. We need proper libel reform so that these lawyers are deprived of this blood money income. They are beneath scum.
*
I must say Harriet Harman displayed a fine pair at the State opening of Parliament. I’ve always been partial to shoulder pads, and hers were something to behold. It was as if Krystle Carrington or Alexis Carrington-Colby-Dexter had been reincarnated. I was captivated, momentarily imagining a swimming pool fight between her and Theresa May. I interviewed Harriet later and after the usual political sparring I mentioned the shoulderpads. She laughed coquettishly, then said “Well, it’s back to the eighties. The Queen’s speech was back to eighties, so I thought I’d dress like it.” And why not.
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A lot is being made of the fact that the ‘Yes’ campaign will be the one staying in the EU, now that the question has been decided. Apparently it gives the campaign an ‘inbuilt’ advantage. Really? Didn’t quite work out like that in the Scottish referendum did it? People supposedly like to vote for something positive. Really? I think people have brains and can vote for what they believe in.
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I’m sure you all imagine I will mention the Irish referendum on gay marriage. There. You were right.
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Ivan Massow could hardly be more of a joke if he tried. His “performance” on LBC with my colleague Shelagh Fogarty should have disqualified him from the race on its own.

].

He was asked a very simply question: “Why, when you say everyone should pay the living wage, have you advertised for a campaign assistant who will be paid the minimum wage?” He then fell to pieces. Earlier that morning Massow had sent me an email asking to meet so he could explain to me “one to one” why motivated him and his policy platform. Why would I waste my time? He’s a flake candidate with about as much chance of winning as Screaming Lord Sutch would have. A senior Tory asked me the other day why I didn’t put my name forward on the basis that with my radio show I must be very well known in London. I explained that a) I’d be useless at it and b) I had no interest in elected politics any longer. I then thought for a minute and told him that the only way I could be persuaded was if Ivan Massow was the only other option. And I was only half serious.
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The Tory London mayoral race isn’t exactly full of pizzazz and star quality at the moment, with the only two declared candidates apart from Massow being Stephen Greenhalgh and Andrew Boff. Some people regard the 2016 as a shoo-in for Labour. I do not. Yes, Labour gained a few seats at the election but not enough to be wholly confident of winning the mayoral race. My Labour friends tell me they have a nightmayor scenario and that it is that the Tories pick Zac Goldsmith. “We might as well shut up shop if that happens and our candidate is Sadiq Khan,” they said. It could be Sadiq or it could be Tessa Jowell, who are the current frontrunners. But would Zac be interested? I have no idea, but he’d be a very strong candidate and would have huge cross party appeal, and to win the London mayoralty you have to have that, which is why Labour would probably be wise to choose Tessa Jowell. It’s also why, whatever their qualities, neither Greenhalgh or Boff are viable candidates. Both are too unknown and neither has star quality.
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A couple of weeks ago I had newly elected Labour MPs Tulip Siddiq and Stephen Kinnock on my LBC show – both highly impressive. In the middle of the show I interviewed newly declared Labour leadership candidate Mary Creagh. Tell you what, it must have been a brilliant interview as both Kinnock and Siddiq have ended up endorsing Creagh’s campaign. They are two of only five Labour MPs who have done so. Perhaps Mary should come on every day…
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Derek Hatton has rejoined the Labour Party. Yay. Except that they intend to disbar him, explaining that they can’t possibly allow someone to join who has in the past stood against a Labour candidate. Like Ken Livingstone did, you mean. Who is now on their National Executive. Utter hypocrisy.
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So the Liberal Democrats are threatening to ditch the Salisbury Convention and block all government legislation that they don’t like, even if it has been included in the Conservative manifesto. The Prime Minister should make clear that this only needs to happen once and he will immediately create 200 new Tory peers. The LibDems claim that on 37% of the vote he has no mandate. I’d argue that on 8% of the vote the LibDems have no mandate to ditch a major constitutional precedent.
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Pink News carried a story yesterday headlines “Vile ‘homophobe’ Tory Councillor goes on anti-gay rant at the Kremlin”. Who on earth could they be referring to? Imagine my shock and surprise when it turns out to be our Bow Group friend Ben Harris-Quinney (for it is he). Read the full story HERE ]. And yet despite not being a member of the Conservative Party, he was elected as a Conservative councillor on 7 May. I feel a complaint to the Party’s ethics committee coming on.

UPDATE: I wrote this on Thursday morning. I then filed a complaint about Harris-Quinney’s various conducts to Conservative Party chairman Andrew Feldman. This morning CCHQ sent out a statement…

bq.“Ben Harris-Quinney has been suspended from the Party with immediate effect pending an urgent investigation by the Disciplinary Committee on behalf of the Board. The investigation will also cover the circumstances in which he was able to rejoin his local Association on 5th May 2015 having ceased to be a member since April 2013, and stand as a council candidate on behalf of Party.”

It’s good to see the party reacting so quickly. Maybe the Bow Group will now follow suit. No doubt Mr Harris-Quinney will now try to join UKIP. We’ll see about that. I feel a text to Nigel Farage coming on…

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Lord Ashcroft

Michael Ashcroft talks about his new book HEROES OF THE SKIES

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Praise be to Lynton Crosby!

22 May 2015 at 14:51

So James Chapman has been recruited by the Chancellor as his Director of Communications. It’s a big loss for the Daily Mail, where he has been an excellent political editor. It will trigger quite a substantial reshuffle in the lobby, which is always amusing to watch. If I was Paul Dacre I’d be moving heaven and earth to tempt Tim Shipman back from the Sunday Times. A keen cricketer, Shippers might like his Saturdays back…
*
I’ve been thinking a lot about the reasons why David Cameron pulled off the political win of the century so far, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there was one key decision which was probably more important than any other – and that was Lynton Crosby’s decision to prevent the PM taking part in more than one debate, and to insist that it was a 7 way debate. This decision allowed Nicola Sturgeon to gain a much higher profile than she otherwise would have, and it allowed her to shine. It meant the SNP and Scotland came to the fore and as a consequence the Conservatives were able to constantly warn of the threat of a Labour government backed by the SNP. It worked even when Ed Miliband ruled it out. I’m not sure Lynton could have really planned the sequence of events, but he certainly made the most of it. If there had been three three-way debates Sturgeon wouldn’t have got a look-in and I suspect we’d now be in the middle of a big constitutional crisis with no-one able to form a government. All praise Lynton Crosby!
*

So the budget is on 8 July. That seems quite a long way away, until you realise that government departments have only a month to come up with ideas for where the cuts are to fall. And fall they need to. In 2010 the government made the mistake of only cutting by a paltry £6 billion in the first year. The lesson is to do all the unpopular things in your first year. I wonder whether the Chancellor will also take the bull by the horns and reduce the top rate of tax back to 40p. I suspect not, but he should. There is no economic case for it to remain at 45p. At all. Be brave Chancellor.
*
Breitbart looks as if it is about to go through a slightly difficult time as some of its writers hint at a rebellion over the sudden return of the ebullient Raheem Kassam from his stint as gofer/press officer/chief of staff/ to Nigel Farage. Kassam was Breitbart’s start-up editor and he assembled an eclectic and talented group of writers for the site, which has become essential reading for many on the right. But several of them think they have managed quite well without him and have not taken his glorious return well. At all. I’m hearing that two of their bigger name columnists are seriously thinking of abandoning ship, and I’m assuming that means James Delingpole and Milo Yiannopoulos, who have injected a rather lighter touch to the site. Both are talented polemical writers and would be difficult to replace. Asked to comment, Kassam told me “I don’t profess to be a unifying figure.” Peace talks, anyone?

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Video: Iain discusses spin with Andrew Neil and Alan Duncan

Daily Politics, October 2007

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Books

The New Iain Dale Political Books Podcast - Subscribe Now on iTunes!

21 May 2015 at 22:22

I used to host the LBC Book Club hour, which was highly popular. Unfortunately, it was discontinued last year, so I have decided to start a new podcast, called the Iain Dale Political Books Podcast. The idea is to talk to a political author about their own book and maybe also their three favourite books for anything between 20 minutes and three quarters of an hour. The great thing about podcasts is that they can be as long as I like.

I thought I’d start off with Gyles Brandreth. You can never really go wrong with Gyles! I think the sound quality leaves a little to be desired in the first episode but the quality of the conversation hopefully doesn’t! You can listen in a number of ways…

iTunes (press subscribe)
Sticher
Soundcloud
Politicos.co.uk

In the coming weeks you’ll be able to hear me talk to Andrew Marr, Damian Barr, Michael Dobbs, Stanley Johnson, James Bartholomew, Vicky Pryce, Eliza Filby and Neville Thurlbeck. Let me know if there are any authors you’d like me to include in the podcasts.

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Iain has a Testy Encounter with a Member of the Fire Brigades Union

Iain takes Laurie Brightman to task over the Fire Strike.

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