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…
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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!
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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.
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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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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Mary Robinson

The former Irish President discusses her new memoirs.

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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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Video: Iain Reports on the Tories' Project Umubano in Rwanda

18 Doughty Street

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Books

BOOK REVIEW: More Human by Steve Hilton

21 May 2015 at 14:50

You can divide political people into two categories – dreamers and do-ers. The dreamers write idealistic papers for worthy think tanks, write a few comment pieces for newspapers but give them a sniff of power or office and they suddenly become like anyone else, part of the machine. Inevitably, the machine eats them up and spits them out. That’s what happened to Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s besocked adviser who quit Downing Street after two years, fed up with the civil service establishment stymying his every idea before it had even got off the ground. He decided there was little point to staying so he upped sticks to California where he started a family with his wife and former Cameron adviser Rachel Whetstone.

Known as the best Prime Minister we never had, R A Butler once said that politics was the ‘art of the possible’. Hilton, in his new book, rages against the status quo and encourages us to take power back for ourselves. He mixes libertarian individualism with the kind of idealism espoused by Natalie Bennett. He warns of the dangers if we as individuals keep shrugging our shoulders about what is happening in the worlds of politics, business, education and much more besides. And of course he’s right. As citizens we should all take an active part in our democracy. If we lazily leave it to others we end up with the sad state of affairs where less than two thirds of us bother to vote and a fraction of us bother to watch Leader Debates during an election campaign. I asked a twenty year old friend of mine how his friends had voted in the election. He told me that half of them hadn’t, and the others had all used Apps to tell them who they should vote for. And that is the future.

This is the latest in a long line of books which the publishers surely hope will become the next big thing to be talked about by the metropolitan elites. It will have failed if that’s all it achieves. It’s better than that. For a start, it’s readable, something the likes of Nassim Taleb’s ‘The Black Swan’ certainly wasn’t. It exhorts us to be more human, which although not exactly very original, actually gets you thinking about why, as a society, we are becoming less human and more robotic and sclerotic by the decade.

For someone like me who’s more into practice than theory there are times when the narrative descends ‘bollocksy’ prose, which you have to read a couple of times before you finally ‘get it’, but there are some deeply original ideas in this book. The shame of it is that David Cameron is no longer benefitting from them. When Hilton upped and left for California, it wasn’t just because the civil service put barriers in his way at every pass, he had grown disillusioned with the way the Liberal Democrats were determined to do the same. You get the feeling that a small part of him would relish the opportunities a Tory majority would give him. But he’s made his bed and that means he’s lost to Britain for the moment.

If I were a Labour leadership candidate I’d put this book on my summer reading list and fillet it for good ideas, of which there are many. Actually, anyone interested in democracy, reform, challenging conventional thought and how individuals can make a difference ought to read this book.

The challenge for Steve Hilton is to turn his ideas involving more humanity into practice. And he can only do that by following his own advice, and standing for electoral office. There’s soon to be a vacancy for Mayor of London…

More Human by Steve Hilton is published by WH Allen in hardback, £18.99

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Video: Iain takes part in Newsnight Industrial Relations Feature

BBC Newsnight with Nicholas Jones

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WATCH: Emma Sky on Iraq, Syria & Why We've Got it So Wrong

19 May 2015 at 19:46

This is a 20 minute interview I did with Emma Sky on LBC today, author of THE UNRAVELLING: HIGH HOPES & MISSED OPPORTUNITIES IN IRAQ (Atlantic Books, HB, £18.99). I learnt more about Iraq and what has gone wrong in this interview than I have done in the whole of the last ten years.

I’m sure you’ll find her as fascinating as I did.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Leon McKenzie about Depression

Former Crystal Palace, Norwich and Fulham Footballer Leon McKenzie joins Iain to discuss depression and his attempt to take his own life, detailed in his book MY FIGHT WITH LIFE

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Labour Politics

WATCH: My Interview With Harriet Harman

18 May 2015 at 19:45

I interviewed Harriet Harman this evening on LBC for 30 minutes. We covered a lot of ground – why Labour lost, the lessons that can be learned and the current leadership contest.

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LBC 97.3 Book Club: Iain talks to Barbara Taylor Bradford

Best selling novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford discusses her new book SECRETS FROM THE PAST

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UK Politics

Election Predictions: Why Did We Get It So Wrong?

16 May 2015 at 10:09

Let’s face it, it wasn’t just the pollsters who got it wrong. It was the whole political class, including the punditerati and the commentariat. Including me. We have egg on our faces, we were humiliated and we all need to look at why this happened. How could we all – and I mean all – have misjudged it? Well, I say all. I excuse Dan Hodges and LBC Political Editor Theo Usherwood who both predicted a Tory majority.

In an interview with the Telegraph today Lynton Crosby has added his twopennyworth.

“It wasn’t just Ed Miliband’s Labour Party that revealed itself as out of touch and remote from the people who are the backbone of Britain, it was a failure from the Westmister centric ‘Eddie the expert’ and ‘Clarrie the commentator’ who were tested and found wanting. It was a judgement day for them, as it was for Ed Miliband, and they lost. I’ve been around politics a long time. And I’ve seen people entitled to comment as they wish but some of the commentators, who claimed to be Conservative supporters – like Tim Montgomerie from The Times [also Iain Duncan Smith’s former chief of staff] – I think in the end, became slightly gratuitous participants. They say about teachers – those who can do, those who can’t teach. Well I think it’s very unfair – my wife was a teacher and I don’t approve of that. But I do think it’s fair to say in politics – those who can do and those who can’t commentate. The problem with political commentary and punditry in this country is that it’s conducted by a bunch of people most of whom live inside the M25 who could never live on the £26,000 that is the average annual earnings of people in this country. Most went to Oxbridge, talk only to themselves and last time they met a punter was when they picked up their dry cleaning.”

Ouch. Well, let’s face it, I can be included in all of that too. I put my neck on the line and tried to predict the result of the election seat by seat. In the end I predicted that 120 seats would change hands. I’ve just gone through all 120 and I had a 67% hit rate. That’s slightly better than Lord Ashcroft’s polls which I think I saw somewhere had a 63% hit rate, although as he will no doubt point out, his polls were snapshots not predictions. I haven’t got the heart to go through all 650 constituencies but I suspect if I did the hit rate would rise to nearer 85% or even higher, but then again any fool can predict the result in a safe seat.

Do I regret doing the predictions? Not really, because I think those of us who commentate on politics should put our necks and reputations on the line. So many so-called expert pundits refused to give a prediction or just went along with the flow. What I do regret is not following my initial instincts. When I did my first predictions back in January I originally had the Conservatives on 302 seats. I decided that was preposterous given the political climate at the time and what everyone else was saying and if I predicted that I would just be accused of Tory bias and not be taken seriously. So I changed the predictions in 20 seats to reduce the Tory total. What a stupid thing to do. I should have stuck to my guns and taken the four months of abuse that would no doubt have ensued. I genuinely felt that the LibDems would get fewer than 20 seats, yet didn’t have the courage of my convictions to stick to them. That’s a mistake I won’t be making again.

In the end you’re only as good as your last prediction. I may have got the 1992 election result bang on. I may have predicted the 2014 government reshuffle better than anyone. But in the 2015 election I, like virtually everyone else, failed. And I own up to that.

Ten days on from the election I don’t think we are any closer to the truth as to why the polls were wrong than we were on election night. Was there a last minute switch or were the Tories ahead all along? I don’t know. But I look forward to reading all the academic analyses and books that are no doubt all being prepared as you read this.

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LBC Book Club: Best of 2012 (Part 2)

Bruno Tonioli, Sue Townsend, Clare Balding and Joan Rivers talk about their recently published books.

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UK Politics

ConHome Diary: The Curate's Egg Reshuffle

15 May 2015 at 14:02

Overall, I think it has been quite a good and competent reshuffle, albeit with one or two glaring exceptions and none more so than the removal of Grant Shapps from the party chairmanship and his move to the Department for International Development as Minister of State. It’s a bit like Arsene Wenger moving to manage Colchester United. Sort of. There was no one person responsible for the election result but Grant Shapps was part of a triumvirate which can lay claim to adopting the strategy which led to victory. CCHQ ran much more smoothly, Team 2015 was a vital part of the ground war and the target seat operation performed well.

In 1983 the then party Chairman Cecil Parkinson was promoted to the DTI. He was going to be offered the Foreign Office, but we all know what happened to scupper that. In 1992 Chris Patten would not doubt have bene given one of the big offices of state had he not lost his seat. The very least Shapps could have expected was to get the DCLG, a department he had been a Minister of State in before. So why has he been effectively demoted?

The only reason can be that he has become embroiled in one too many embarrassing media stories. That’s as maybe but they are all trivial and hardly his fault. The Wikipedia story, for example, had absolutely nothing to do with him and was cooked up by a LibDem activist. He may have misspoken about not having done other work when he first became an MP, but it’s hardly the crime of the century. Shapps has acted as a very effective lightning rod for Cameron and Osborne on more than one occasion, and if he feels as if that has been a one way street you could well understand it. It may be that a year out of the frontline will be of benefit to Grant, and if I know him he will throw himself into his new job with his typical tiggerish enthusiasm. But he wouldn’t be human if he didn’t feel a bit let down. And he’d be right.
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Before the election Paul O’Grady (aka Lilly Savage) threatened to leave the country if the Conservatives won the election. Matthew Parris wrote a piece in the Times on Wednesday saying he really didn’t need to fulfil his pledge and that we all love him. Er, no we don’t. Some of us think he’s a boring prick and are bewildered at how on earth he ever became famous. Shut the door on your way out, Paul.
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All change at the Treasury where George Osborne’s guru Rupert Harrison is to leave, along with press officer Ramesh Chhabra. Mesh worked with David Davis for a long time and is a big loss to Tory circles. Harrison too, will be much missed by Osborne. He’s been dubbed ‘Osborne’s brain’, which may be overcooking the pudding somewhat, but there’s little doubt that these two leave a big void in the Treasury operation. The big question is, will Thea Rodgers stay? It is she more than anyone who has reshaped the Chancellor’s image and he will move heaven and earth to ensure she stays on. At least, he’d be mad if he didn’t.
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The reshuffle appointment which pleased me more than any other was the appointment of Tracey Crouch as Minister for Sport. A round peg in a round hole. It is rare that expertise plays any part in government appointments but it clearly did here. Tracey is a qualified football coach, and although her support for Spurs ought to preclude her from any role in sport (my little joke), if any of the new ministers are going to be a success, I’d put money on it being her. All she has to do now is to curb her DiCanio-eque rebellious nature, and toe the party line. All I hope is that she doesn’t lose her sense of fun.
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The House of Lords is going to be interesting to watch over the coming years. The government is not going to find it easy to get its legislation through the second chamber, mainly due to the fact that it is vastly outnumbered. With 224 peers to Labour’s 214 and the LibDems 108, it is easy to predict that there will be many lost votes. Much will depend on the 149 Crossbench peers. The crunch will come over the abolition of the Human Rights Act and an EU Referendum Paving Bill. Both policies were in the Tory manifesto so they’d be quite justified in using the Parliament Act. Cameron would also be justified in creating a lot more Tory peers. However, with around 800 peers already in the House of Lords, one can imagine the outcry if he did. It’s always best to do the controversial things early on in a government and get them out of the way quickly.
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A picture of a delivery man outside Number 11 delivering gazzilions of cases of Moet Champagne did the social media rounds on Sunday. The left’s desperation to trash the Tories knows no bounds. Shame for them that it emerged the picture was taken in 2004, when Gordon Brown was Chancellor. Apology came there none, mainly because the deception was deliberate.
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Some of the reshuffle appointments defied credulity. Why put Rory Stewart at Defra, when his expertise lies in foreign policy or defence? Why put John Hayes in the Home Office in charge of security when he will have to pilot through the Terrorism Bill. Hayes may have many qualities but building consensus is not one of them. Why put yet another MP who voted against equal marriage in charge of equalities? Again, love Caroline Dinenage dearly, but did no one think of the consequences?


This was without doubt a FOG reshuffle. FOG stands for Friends of George. Amber Rudd, Greg Hands, Rob Halfon and many other FOGs all got preferment. But there’s one FOG who might consider himself downright unlucky. Matthew Hancock was expecting to get a front rank government department or at the very least become Chief Secretary to the Treasury. In the end he became Paymaster General and Minister of State at the cabinet office. Not quite what he was hoping for or expecting. Hancock is an enigma. One to one, face to face, he is a delight – funny, witty and entertaining and with a real sense of mischief. Put him in front of a TV camera, however, and he becomes something else. He’s also not very popular with Tory MPs. One wag said to me that he himself wasn’t averse to the odd but of Osborne arselicking, but the moment he started he found Hancock already so far up Osborne’s arse he had to be pulled out by his legs. This is a big moment for Matt Hancock. He can sulk or get on with the job and prove his critics wrong. For what it’s worth, I’ve always liked him. People say he’s arrogant. I’ve always found the exact opposite – someone who is actually well aware he isn’t the finished article and someone willing to learn from others. I’ve never understood why that doesn’t come across to his critics in the way it does to me.
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Looking through the election results of all the former Cabinet Ministers, I note that Nicky Morgan had the biggest swing to her of any of them, at 5.25%. Well that put me firmly in my place. In my first round of seat predictions I had her down to lose. I did then revise it, but there’s no doubt this was a sterling performance from Nicky.
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Now, my memory may be defective, but weren’t we told that Ben Harris-Quinney wasn’t a member of the Conservative Party? How strange then that he was elected last Thursday as a Conservative member of East Hertfordshire District Council. (add in graphic attached). After his antics in advance of polling day, isn’t it time that formal disciplinary action against him is taken? I feel a letter to the party’s ethics committee coming on.
*
As if you all needed cheering up, let me encourage you to read THIS article by Stephen Bush of the New Statesman. He shows how it’s almost impossible for Labour to win the 2020 election, and that to do so they would need a 9.45% swing in England, something that even Tony Blair didn’t achieve in 1997. He says: “To win a majority of ten, Labour would have to win Harlow, Shipley, Chingford & Woodford Green, Filton & Bradley Stoke, Basingstoke, Bexleyheath & Crayford, Kensington, Rugby, Leicestershire North West, Forest of Dean and Gillingham & Rainham. Of those ten, four – Chingford, Kensington, Filton & Bradley Stoke and Basingstoke – have never been won by Labour at any point in its history. All are Conservative-held.”
Have a nice day!

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Simon Callow

Simon Callow talks about his new book on Charles Dickens.

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WATCH: The LBC Parliament Hour - An Hour With Four New MPs

14 May 2015 at 21:43

Four new entrants to parliament joined me in the LBC studio’s this evening. They were Stephen Kinnock, Tulip Siddiq, James Cleverly and Tania Mathias. Along with recounting their experiences of becoming MP’s, the four covered the current Labour leadership contest , the possible imminent demise of Nigel Farage, their respective party records over the last 5 years and the Elgin marbles.

The four new MPs:

Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon. Son of former Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, and married to Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Tulip Siddiq, Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn. Worked on Ed Miliband’s campaign to be leader of the Labour party and was a special advisor to Tessa Jowell.

James Cleverly, Conservative MP for Bexley and Bromley. Previously a member of the London Assembly and the Mayor of London’s Youth Ambassador.

Tania Mathia, Conservative MP for Twickenham. She ousted the Liberal Democrat’s Vince Cable from the south west London seat.

Did you like the shirt? :)

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LBC 97.3 Iain talks to David Aaronovitch about Ed Miliband

David Aaronovitch gives his analysis of Ed Miliband's failings

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Radio

LISTEN AGAIN: LBC's Seven Hour Election Night Show

10 May 2015 at 13:33

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On Thursday night, Shelagh Fogarty and I spent seven hours presenting LBC’s election night coverage. Tim Montgomerie, Damian McBride and our resident Elections Analyst Gareth Knight were with us for the whole night and we were also joined for a lot of it by the LibDem pundit Miranda Green, with guest appearances by Peter Hain and Lord Ashcroft.

We all had great fun. The show was pacy, energetic and I think full of insight. I had a lot of people get in touch to say they were listening to us with the sound down on the TV. In fact, during the entire 7 hours we had no negative feedback at all, apart from one bloke who told me to shut up because I was boring, at a time when I hadn’t spoken for ten minutes! I was also very pleased that not a single person accused me of any bias during the seven hours. I admit to cheering when I heard George Galloway had lost his seat, but I think the rest of the country did too.

Shelagh and I were fronting the programme, but the people who did all the hard work behind the scenes were Matt Harris, Jagruti Dave, Rachel Humphreys, Axel Kacoutie, James H Wilson, Talya-Rose Varga, Will Gavin, Adrian Sherling and Neil Brennan. And thanks to our brilliant newsreader Dominic Byrne.

LISTEN HERE

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to David Owen & Ruth Winstone

Ruth Winstone talks about EVENTS DEAR BOY EVENTS and David Owen discusses EUROPE RESTRICTURED.

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Radio

It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 27: Getting Off To a Good Start on Election Night

9 May 2015 at 12:46

Listeners and viewers have a lot of choice on election night, so it’s important to get off to a flying start. We decided to start our show at 9.55 and build up to 10pm when we would get the exit poll flashed onto our screens. I was co-presenting with Sheila Fogarty for the first time since our days on 5Live and the much missed ‘Sunday Service’. I think we both felt that it would be like putting an old glove back on and so it proved to be!

This opener, produced by LBC’s Head of Production, Chris Lowrie, gave us exactly what we needed to get the show off to a flying start. In a couple of days I’ll post a montage of the night’s best moments and take you through what it was like to co-present such a seven hour programme.

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Katie Price

Iain talks to model and novelist Katie Price about the 5th volume of her autobiography.

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