World Politics

A Few Thoughts on Orlando

13 Jun 2016 at 09:39

I don’t go to nightclubs. I can’t say I ever did very much in my youth. But everyone who goes for a night out expects to be safe, and expects to return home at the end of the evening. In Orlando on Saturday night fifty gay people lost their lives just because they made the fateful decision to go to the Pulse nightclub. Fifty three others are injured. It is the biggest loss of life in a single incident in America since 9/11. As the families of the dead grieve for their loved ones, the rest of us seek to find answers to seemingly unanswerable questions.

From what we know, the gunman deliberately chose a gay nightclub to attack. We don’t know how much his religion impacted on his decision, but we know he carried it out in the name of Daesh. It was a homophobic attack of massive proportions. No one is to blame, apart from Omar Mateen himself. Just because he was apparently repulsed by the sight of two men kissing, is no justification for his actions.

The incident again raises issues about American gun laws, but let’s face it, if the US didn’t act after Sandy Hook, nothing is going to change after Orlando. President Obama can talk as much as he likes, but without action, this sort of thing will be repeated.

The great fear now is that there will be copycat attacks. Pride takes place in London later this month. I hope the Met is already reviewing its security protocols. But however much security you deploy, whatever measures you take, a lone attacker always stands a good chance of getting through.

Tonight there are going to be vigils in Soho to remember the dead. This was an attack on America’s gay community and it is important that everyone recognises that it’s felt by every single gay man and woman the world over.

At times like this you often find out the mettle of our political leaders. Their reactions tell you an awful lot about them. Here’s Donald Trump…



I genuinely don’t know how any half intelligent person can support this man’s candidacy.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Hosts a Phone in Dealing With Grief

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Leave Sarah Alone & the Politics of Protest

12 Jun 2016 at 19:40

Sarah Wollaston’s defection from LEAVE to REMAIN has attracted much comment. When she joined LEAVE many were surprised as they had always considered her to be pro-EU. But she eloquently explained her reasons and the LEAVE camp were highly delighted. Some believe she was a REMAIN plant and was always going to defect. That is to insult her intelligence and it is a conspiracy theory too far. Her main reason for ‘re-ratting’ is because she says LEAVE are not telling the truth about the £350 million we sent to the EU each week. She complains about the way the NHS is being used in this argument. I have to say I do wonder why it’s taken her so long to act, given that this detail and argument have not changed in weeks. Nor has this one…


If Sarah Wollaston had criticised Vote Leave’s campaigning tactics and said she didn’t approve of what they were saying about the NHS, fair enough. She isn’t alone in that. But how can you defect to the other side over that one issue? If you believe Britain is ‘Better Off Out’, then that’s presumably for a variety of reasons. You want to protect our sovereignty. You don’t believe in an EU army. You never want to join the euro. I could go on. This is a referendum on a single question. It’s not like someone leaving a political party and joining another one.
But the LEAVE campaign would do well to leave Sarah alone and refrain from attacking her. It won’t gain them a single vote.
*
Another conspiracy theory was launched on the same day as Sarah Wollaston’s departure. And it concerns the government’s motivation for extending the deadline for voter registration. It goes something like this. They deliberately crashed the gov.uk website so they could then extend the deadline in order for hundreds of thousands of young people to vote, and because they are young, they automatically will vote REMAIN. I can sometimes forgive people being slightly paranoid and believing that everything is a conspiracy. Sometimes they might be right. However, I think we should ration conspiracy theories to one a day. More than that and you come across as a complete loon.
*

I do wonder, though, whether the government is leaving themselves open to a legal challenge over the deadline extension for voter registration. In order to do that a new law has had to be passed, and passed quickly. But in effect it is retrospective legislation, something which we don’t ever do. And the fact that there will be several hundred thousand people who register before this legislation has received Royal Assent, is legally highly questionable, I would have thought. Imagine if Remain wins the referendum by 250,000 votes. Just imagine.
*
The ITV debate with Nigel Farage and David Cameron, if you can call it that, was a complete damp squib. At least Sky’s had some spark to it. Downing Street’s demands on the format at ITV meant the programme was never going to sing. I think ITV was too desperate to get the gig that they just acceded to everything Number Ten wanted. Which of course meant we were all bored into submission. Nigel Farage wasn’t quite on top of his game and the Prime Minister just oozed charm. It was a much better performance than his appearance on Sky, which was at best lacklustre. The fact remains he should have agreed to at least one head to head debate, and it’s a disgrace he hasn’t. He told me he wouldn’t do a debate because he didn’t want a ‘Tory psychodrama’. Well I think that ship has well and truly sailed.
*

Well other broadcasters may not be doing head to head debates, but my programme certainly is. Last week we had IDS v Alex Salmond. On Monday we have Yvette Cooper v Chris Grayling. Thursday sees Andrea Leadsom take on Harriet Harman and on the Tuesday before the vote Nigel Farage will be taking on … well, we don’t know quite yet. Next Friday I have John Major on the show for half an hour. I’ve never interviewed him before so I’m looking forward to that.
*
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and I was very pleased to see on the Sunday Politics that they had copied our ‘Ask me Anything’ style of debate where we let politicians go at each other for five minutes without any interruption from the moderator. It’s very revealing when they question each other, and I suspect this format will now be here to stay.
*

Tony Blair is certainly getting his retaliation in first. He is adamant he did nothing wrong in taking this country to war in Iraq. In his latest interview, though, he launched quite a blistering attack on Jeremy Corbyn, calling him out for indulging in the ‘politics of protest’ rather than the politics of power. Labour supporters would do well to remember that Blair won three elections for them. Yet many of them regard him as a war criminal. It’s a funny old world.

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WATCH: Interview With Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian Ambassador to the UK

6 Jun 2016 at 22:44

I think I’ve achieved the impossible. Last week I interviewed Mark Regev, the Israeli Ambassador and today I interviewed his Palestinian counterpart, Manuel Hassassian. Both Jews and Muslims appear to think I was fair and rigorous in both interviews. See, miracles do happen. Perhaps I should become a diplomat … or perhaps not.

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 45: When a Listener Emails...

4 Jun 2016 at 11:06

Last night I made a new friend. Here is an email exchange with an LBC listener which started at around 10.50pm…

LISTENER: 1st time I have listened to your show & I was going to ring in to say that everything I have heard tonight was one sided for the Leave Campaign etc. But I think that you are probably the most obnoxious & Rude Radio Presenter I have ever listened to.I am going to complain to your station about your awful behaviour.Wont be listening to you again.
ME: Seeing as I didn’t even discuss the EU on my show today, good luck with that complaint.
LISTENER: I said tonight in my message,not just your show.I have been listening since I got in from Work at 5pm etc. I noticed that a different presenter took over at 10pm.So I thought I would listen in. But you were rude,obnoxious & condescending to virtually every caller.
ME: My show finished at 7. I did not discuss the EU. I’m intrigued by this because I actually pride myself in not being rude to callers. I take the view that if people take the trouble to pick up the phone the least you can do is give them a fair hearing. In the 5 hour we did Deepcut and in the 6 hour we did Hillary Clinton. I’m genuinely perplexed at how you have come to this conclusion as I don’t recall having a row with any caller apart from the man who thought Hillary shouldn’t be President because she couldn’t keep her man. And I took him on because he was being a dick.
LISTENER: Iain,I am so so sorry.I clicked email the show about an hour ago.The Presenter in Question is Nick Abbot & I just assumed that it was his email to receive. I have listened to you & Nick F etc for a month or so now. Having tired of talksport which I have been a listener for 10-12 years. I am a big fan & have enjoyed every show of yours that I have listened to.I am so embarrassed & apologize again.I will pop a tenner in the Help the Heroes box next time I’m out on your behalf.
ME: All refugees from talkSport are very welcome. We all make mistakes!
LISTENER: I am feeling so guilty m8.I still haven’t 100% got to know you all really well quite yet.But I do completely agree that you are extremely kind polite & understanding to everyone on your show & more importantly very entertaining.I think I saw you on Sky the other night etc.

I think the lesson here is that Nick Abbot’s humour was rather lost on my listener. He will soon come to realise that Nick is one the greatest ever radio hosts.

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ConHome Diary: A Comeback for Dr Fox & Where's Theresa?

3 Jun 2016 at 13:59

Last week I wrote that I thought Andrea Leadsom had been a star of the Leave campaign. Let me this week sing the praises of Liam Fox. In terms of putting the Leave case, he has been calm, assured and believable. He hasn’t indulged in stoking up ‘Project Fear’ and has been excellent in head to head debates. This won’t have gone unnoticed in Downing Street, who, when the referendum is over will surely be looking to unite the party. One way of doing so may be to bring Liam Fox back into the cabinet. I’d say this was a possibility rather than a probability. After all, the way he was treated last time may well mean he’d tell them to sling their collective hooks. For those who don’t remember, having been asked if he would like to return to government he was called by Downing Street – not by the PM himself – and offered a Minister of State job at the Foreign Office. Indeed, it was the same job he had held as a young MP in the early 1990s. A total insult.
*
On the Remain side, people are asking what on earth has happened to Ken Clarke? I expected him to be on the TV 24-7 during this campaign, but I’ve barely seen him. Same for Michael Heseltine. Aren’t these the big beasts of the jungle who are most respected by the electorate. I suppose it’s possible that they are being saved up for the last two weeks, but it’s most odd that they haven’t appeared much so far. And while I think of it, what on earth has happened to Theresa May? Totally invisible in this campaign. Very odd for one of the big three cabinet ministers and someone who aspires to lead the Conservative Party. Perhaps she thinks that it’s least said soonest mended. She may be right,
*

Is the country actually being governed at the moment? I only ask because I can’t actually remember reading a news story about anything else but Brexit in the last two weeks.
*
On Wednesday I did an hour long live interview with Mark Regev, the new Israeli Ambassador to London. I first interviewed him on the late lamented 18 Doughty Street in 2006. I wrote at the time: “Anyone who heard him would have been impressed, regardless of where they stand on the current dispute. Calm, honest and assured he answered every question put to him with a dignity and honesty unusual in Government spin doctors. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have a great future in Israeli politics.” I stand by every word. I may not agree with everything he says – it would be strange if I did – but if every Israeli spokesman had his capabilities, I suspect Israel might have a much better reputation in the world than it currently enjoys. He has a fascinating back story in that he arrived in Israel at the age of 22 to join the Socialist Zionist Movement. Latterly he was a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry and has spent the last eight years as Benjamin Netanyahu’s official spokesman. London is a plumb diplomatic posting and I suspect will be a stepping stone, either to the Ambassadorship in Washington or to going into Israeli politics. It wouldn’t at all surprise me to see Mr Regev reach the top of Israel’s greasy pole.

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Video: Iain has a go at Michael Portillo

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WATCH: Mark Regev Interview

1 Jun 2016 at 21:49

Here’s my 30 minute interview with Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev. We covered a lot of ground!

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Labour Politics

Corbyn 'Fly on the Wall' Illustrates Problem With Seumas Milne's Broadcast Media Strategy

1 Jun 2016 at 09:00

Vice News have been given privileged access to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and the result is this thirty minute documentary. It’s presented by self-confessed Labour Party member and Corbyn supporter Ben Ferguson. It’s all fairly harmless stuff but ultimately tells us little that we didn’t know before, apart from one thing. It tells us an awful lot about Seumus Milne’s media priorities.

If you’re going to grant this kind of access, why would you give it to a little watched website? This film may get several hundred thousand views, but I doubt whether many of them will be floating voters. Most of them will the kind of people who think Jeremy Corbyn represents the second coming. Or they will be professional Corbyn watchers like me. Surely it would have been better to let a proper journalist in – someone like Michael Cockerell – who would have done the job properly.

Ben Ferguson seems like a nice guy, and it’s a perfectly watchable film but he doesn’t ask Corbyn a single searching question which would force Corbyn to provide an answer he hasn’t given several times before. We learn little about Corby as a human being, what motivates him, how he deals with the frustrations of the job. We do get to meet his wife, and we get to know his hapless events officer, Gavin. I suspect poor Gavin will cringe a little when he watches this. “The best way to get Jeremy out is to let him fail in his own time,” was one of his more memorable comments. With friends like these…

We knew that the Corbyn camp operated under a siege mentality, and this was certainly confirmed through his little anti-BBC rant towards the end. Indeed, it seems he and his entire team believe the media is out to get them. That’s why they operate in a bunker, only to peep out occasionally when a friendly journalist promises not to be too nasty.

Seumas Milne has a lot to answer for. It is he who is intent on not allowing Jeremy Corbyn out of the bunker any more than he has to. When he was a backbench MP I would interview Jeremy Corbyn at least once a month, sometimes more. He loved coming into the LBC studio and was a regular guest on my late, lamented Parliament Hour. He knew he would always get a fair hearing and fair treatment. Since Jeremy Corbyn has been leader not only have I not interviewed him once, I don’t think he has ever appeared on LBC – a station which he always regarded as a friend. And it’s not for want of trying.

John McDonnell only ever agreed to appear on Ken Livingstone’s show, and now that that’s gone, I don’t suppose he will talk to any of the rest of us. Our experience is not unique. The thing is, a regular Phone Jeremy programme would do him the world of good, but in Seumas Milne’s world, LBC is no doubt considered a proto-fascist organisation and all part of the capitalist conspiracy. Back in reality, all we want to do is quiz leading politicians on their views and allow our callers to put their questions direct. You’d have thought Jeremy Corbyn would find that “a different way to do politics”.

There will come a time when Jeremy Corbyn’s team realises that it needs to deal with the broadcast media in a very different way. How long it will take is anyone’s guess.

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LISTEN: Gyles Brandreth on the 'Stairway to Heaven'

31 May 2016 at 09:05

My first appearances on LBC were on Gyles Brandreth’s Sunday afternoon arts and culture programme. One of his features was a sort of Desert Islands Discs or This is Your Life feature called ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Well, one week instead of Gyles interviewing a guest, I interviewed him. It was the first interview I had ever done on LBC. I think you’ll find it very entertaining.

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Kofi Klu & I Fall Out Over Slavery Reparations

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LISTEN: Counting Chickens - Great Election Night Moments

30 May 2016 at 22:19

Back in 2001 I was an occasional presenter, with Fi Glover and Charlie Whelan, of Radio 5 Live’s ‘Sunday Service’ programme. I just discovered this recording on an old computer. It’s a documentary I made, which was broadcast on election night in June 2001. It’s a programme about election nights past and great moments that we all remember.

Excuse the background hiss. I promise I didn’t record it off medium wave.

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Iain interviews Jeffrey Archer

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Diary

The Self Indulgence of Some Tory MPs

29 May 2016 at 16:50

All political parties go through spasms, but the Conservative Party seems to suffer from them more than most. It is about to have another one.

It was inevitable that the EU Referendum campaign would divide the party. With 143 Tory MPs defying their leader and supporting Brexit, divisions don’t come much bigger than that. Even so, it was possible to think that both sides could respect that the other had deeply held views. It was possible to think that there could have been a calm debate, lacking in personal insults. OK, maybe it wasn’t.

Instead, Project Fear from both sides has meant that the personal insults from each side have increased as the weeks have dragged on. I won’t bother to list the insults here as I am sure we can all recall them.

But today it’s reached a different level. MPs Andrew Bridgen and Nadine Dorries have called for David Cameron to be overthrown whatever the result of the referendum. Yes, you read that right. The political titans Andrew Bridgen and Nadine Dorries think they know better than the people who voted for David Cameron last May. The irony is that Nadine Dorries actually voted for David Cameron to be Tory leader back in 2005. Indeed, most of the more swivel-eyed Eurosceptics on the Tory backbenches did the same, believing that his Eurosceptic credentials were greater than those of David Davis. They always did have such impeccable judgement.

These two MPs are wallowing in their own self-indulgence in the full knowledge that saying something like this will guarantee them acres of media coverage. Nadine even shared with us that she’s already sent a letter to Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee. She was, however, rather coy about its contents. How funny is that?

Iain Duncan Smith is surely right when he says that everyone should concern themselves with campaigning in the referendum rather than trying to undermine the democratically elected Prime Minister of this country. Any sensible politician should be able to deflect speculation about post-referendum leadership issues. It’s hardly rocket science.

What these two MPs have done is totally undermine the Vote Leave campaign by deflecting discussion onto David Cameron’s (or Boris Johnson’s) future. That’s what will be on tomorrow’s newspaper front pages and what will headline the Today Programme. They’ve given every media outlet an excuse to ignore the issue of the day for the Leave campaign and instead indulge in leadership speculation. Well done guys!

I suppose at least Bridgen and Dorries have the bollocks to say all this on the record, unlike the anonymous Tory MP who is quoted in today’s Sunday Times…

“I don’t want to stab the Prime Minister in the back. I want to stab him in the front so I can see the expression on his face. You’d have to twist the knife, though, because we want it back for Osborne.”

Certifiably insane. Did that MP get off on appearing important to Tim Shipman? Why would you give the media that kind of ammunition if you had any semblance of a brain?

Priti Patel’s comments about some people being “too rich” to care about immigration were also unwise in the extreme. She didn’t name Cameron and Osborne and will no doubt deny she had them in mind, but it’s quite clear to anyone what she meant. And she’s no backbencher, she attends Cabinet. For now.

This referendum is a once in a lifetime event. There are many people for Eurosceptics to blame if it all goes wrong and Remain win by a narrow majority. The leaders of the Leave campaign may be blamed for many strategic mistakes and decisions – not least the decision not to unite with Grassroots Out – but those who indulge in post referendum leadership fantasy will also have blood on their hands and won’t easily be forgiven by many of their colleagues.

On June 24th the leadership issue ought to be quite settled. If Remain win, Cameron wins and stays. If Leave win, Cameron will resign. Yes, there will be deep wounds to heal in either scenario, but if the Prime Minister is on the winning side it is difficult to think the electorate would understand a leadership spill (as the Australian’s delightfully call it).

Having said that, there is part of me that thinks that Cameron’s way out of this may be to do a John Major and put himself up for re-election by his parliamentary party. If he did, I have little doubt he’d win with a bigger majority than John Major had.

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