Diary

ConHome Diary: Grappling With Sadiq Khan in a Dark Room (And Other Stories)

31 Oct 2014 at 14:02

I don’t know what Ed Miliband thinks he’s playing at but he seems to be subliminally, and probably unintentionally, urging Labour voters in Rochester & Strood to vote UKIP. As a short terms strategy it might well be a jolly jape to give the Tories a bloody nose, but he should be careful what he wishes for. If UKIP win this by-election (and I fully expect them to), they will have what George Bush Snr used to call “The Big Mo”. Miliband should remind himself that in the Euro elections UKIP got 27% of the vote, which is only three or four per cent less than the two major parties are polling at the moment. It is not outside the realms of possibility that with a fair wind, wafted by the incompetence of the three main parties, that they could poll far higher on May 7th than they currently are. There are millions of white, working class voters ripe for the picking by Nigel Farage. Ed Miliband would do well to remember than when he fans the flames of the immigration debate as he so shamelessly did in PMQs this week. As Michael Deacon wrote in his Telegraph sketch…
bq. “He might want to apologise for the mess that Labour left!” shouted Mr Cameron.
“There’s only one person who should be apologising on immigration, and that’s him!” shouted Mr Miliband.
“I ask him again, get up and apologise for your record!” shouted Mr Cameron.
“Why doesn’t he just admit it, on immigration he has failed!” shouted Mr Miliband.
“What have we heard today? Not a single word of apology!” shouted Mr Cameron.

How very edifying. Another 50,000 UKIP votes sewn up. Somewhere in Brussels Nigel Farage was lighting up a cigar and raising a class to both Miliband and Cameron. He was the real winner of PMQs this week.
*
I spent Monday lunchtime grappling with Sadiq Khan in a dark room in Clerkenwell. Perhaps I should rephrase that. We were invited to take part in a political panel discussion, chaired by Matt Forde, which took place in a restaurant called ‘Dans le Noir’, and it does what it says on the tin. The whole place is in complete darkness. And I mean complete. You literally can’t see a thing. Even the person next to you, or the food in front of you. The idea is that it gives you an idea what it’s like to be a blind person. It was all a bit weird. Debating Sadiq when I couldn’t see his facial expressions or when he was about to interrupt was odd. I found myself being slightly more aggressive in the debate than I otherwise would normally be. It’s certainly not a restaurant you would take someone on a first date, just in case your hand went somewhere it shouldn’t. Best leave it till at least a third date!
*

So Russia Today has started a UK TV service. Or should I say propaganda service. There are two TV stations I refuse to appear on. Press TV is one and Russia Today is another. Guido Fawkes disagrees. He happily goes on the Iranian broadcaster and in his own subversive way names dissident bloggers and then asks for his fee to be paid to Conservative Friends of Israel. That’s my boy.
*
So the BBC has refused to include the Greens in the election debates on the grounds that they haven’t become discernibly more popular in recent times. I’d say having an MP, three MEPs and running a council and sometimes outscoring the LibDems in the opinion polls refutes that typically conservative BBC stance. I think the Greens are one stop short of Dagenham in many of their policies, but that doesn’t mean they can be ignored in the way that they have been in the past.
*

Jonathan Jones is a twat. He’s the art critic of The Guardian and wrote this week that the poppy display in the Tower of London was “fake, trite and inward looking – and a UKIP style memorial”. In a typically elitist Guardian manner he also criticised the sculpture’s (for that is what it is) “mass appeal”. The man is an idiot. Naturally he refused to come on my radio show to defend himself or his stance, which seemed more designed to court publicity than anything else. I have never seen the point of art critics. They sit in their ivory towers and take issue with anything that normal people tend to appreciate. Instead, they laud praise on modern art which the rest of us regard as a joke. On my LBC show I am launching a campaign to persuade the Tower of London to keep the poppies there until 11 November 2018, the hundredth anniversary of the armistice, assuming that the poppies can stand the weather. I wonder what Mr Jones would say about that. But then again, who gives a monkey’s arse what he thinks.
*
Tomorrow I’m nipping over to Paris to have dinner with former French First Lady Valerie Trierweiler, whose memoirs I am publishing on 25 November. The book has now been translated into English and I finished a light edit yesterday. It’s true to say she doesn’t hold back in her feelings! Francois Hollande comes over as an egocentric weak, vain man, totally unsuited for presidential office. Even now he texts her every day begging her to come back to him. So far, Valerie hasn’t done any interviews in France to publicise the book. She didn’t really need to, seeing as it’s already sold 600,000 copies and has been the fastest ever selling book in France. Some leftist bookshops refused to stock it, which tells you a lot. Will she come and do interviews in London? Well put it this way. I may not speak very good French, but I can be very persuasive when I put my mind to it. N’est ce pas?
*

I’ve signed up another memoir this week for Biteback – by tabloid journalist Neville Thurlbeck. It will come out in early April next year. Suffice to say he knows where a lot of political and media bodies are buried, and he’s not going to be shy in telling us where. Cue certain people shifting nervously in their seats. As well they might.

Share:

0 comments

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_ap-mccoy-2011_2565939

LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to A P McCoy

Champion Jockey A P McCoy discusses his career in horseracing.

Listen now

Books

Keith Simpson's Parliamentary Away Day Reading List

27 Oct 2014 at 17:21

With the prospect of another away day and the chance to catch up on some reading between presentations here are a few recently published books which may stimulate colleagues little grey cells.

The political publication of the month is Winston Churchill The Boris Factor How One Man Made History (Hodder & Stoughton £25). This is one of Mr Churchill’s “quickies” in which he explains with brio the life and career of a remarkable up and coming politician, writer, wit and all round good egg. Naturally the author has reservations about Mr Johnson – Eton rather than Harrow, turbulent relations with editors, a careless relationship with parliamentary colleagues, no military experience, and at times a life style more in keeping with that of Mr Churchill’s friends David Lloyd George and F E Smith. Mr Churchill concludes that he respects Mr Johnson for his dedicated, single-minded and ruthless ambition, so unlike his own.

In fact Boris Johnson’s The Churchill Factor How One Man Made History (Hodder and Stoughton) has been written in conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of the great man’s death next January, but if the reader wants a traditional biography then he should turn to Roy Jenkins, the best of the crop. This book is very much a personal view and is about personality. It is a rollicking good “Bojo” read which ducks and weaves through Churchill’s life, and its publication provides a back story to the author himself.

Boris is generous with his acknowledgement of those who have helped him, including “David Cameron [who] did some invaluable delving into the exact locations of the pivotal meetings in May 1940”. An image in mind of the Prime Minister being hauled out of a meeting of the National Security Council to go and search in the archives.

In politics, art sometimes imitates life and vice-versa. This is magnificently on display in Graham McCann A Very Courageous Decision The Inside Story of Yes Minister (Aurum Press £20). The author looks at the origins of the series, the way in which the authors brought together ministers and civil servants in the plots, and how the issues – such as freedom of information – are timeless and repetitive.

Unusually, as the newly appointed Chief Whip, Michael Gove began to read as much as he could about the history, organisation, modus operandi and culture of the Whips Office. He soon discovered that it is a myth that whips never wrote memoirs or kept diaries – they did long before Tim Renton, and Gyles Brandreth Breaking the Code Westminster Diaries (Biteback £25) originally published in 1998 and now republished, expanded and updated from 1990-2007. The core of the diaries relate to his time in John Major’s Whips Office, and although history, it makes for sobering reading as similar controversies and personalities have come back to haunt David Cameron.

Would They Lie to You How to Spin Friends and Manipulate People (Elliott & Thompson Ltd £10.44) is written by Robert Hutton who is political correspondent of Bloomburg. It is essentially a book of political and management “uncommunication” and “double speak” familiar to Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell and to some of our thrusting young ministers and aspirants.

Engel’s England Thirty-nine Counties, one capital and one man (Profile Books £20) is a very personal travel book about England, and follows in the footsteps of Defoe, Cobbett and Priestley. Mathew Engel is a journalist on the Financial Times and began in 2011 to visit all the English counties, and London, to discover what we now call localism but also about history, culture and roots. Every county is covered and if his chapter on Norfolk my home, and home county, is anything to go by, captures the distinctiveness of each even in these days of uniformity and local government reorganisation. A must for Eric Pickles.

The period of European history from 1789 to 1848 covers the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the counter-revolution and then the revolutions of 1848. But Phantom Terror The Threat of Revolution and the Repression of Liberty 1789-1848 (William Collins £30) by Adam Zamoyski is not yet another history of this turbulent period in history, but rather an analysis of why governments overreact to the slightest peril and resort to repression through armies, police and informers and spies. Something for our own age.

The Bodleian Library Oxford has vast collections of papers, including those which either wholly or partially relate to the First World War. Mike Webb, the curator of historical manuscripts has made a selection covering the period 1914-1916 in From Downing Street to the Trenches First Hand Accounts from the Great War (Bodleian Press £19) Overwhelmingly male, the extracts include those from Cabinet ministers, the military, academic and literary figures – Henry and Margot Asquith, Clement Attlee, Harold Macmillan, Andrew Clarke, W Yeats, T E Lawrence and Bertrand Russell, to name just a few. Sensitively and imaginatively edited, one of the best of the recently published collections of contemporary sources on the First World War.

The centenary of the Waterloo Campaign Commemorations in 1915 had to be postponed because of another war. The great irony was that in 1915 the British were allied with the French fighting the Germans whilst in 1815 the opposite was true. It is still possible to find contemporary Brits – some in parliament – who are reluctant to recognise that the Duke of Wellington commanded a coalition army with European partners. Over sixty per cent of Wellington’s army were Germans, Dutch and Belgian troops even before Marshal Blucher’s army arrived in the nick of time. Wellington’s German troops were in the King’s German Legion, Nassauers, Brunswickers and Hanoverians. A combination of the subjects from the Hanoverian dynastic possessions of the British royal family and Germans who had fled from Napoleon. Brendan Simms in The Longest Afternoon the 400 Men Who Decided the Battle of Waterloo (Allen Lane £14.99) examines the German dimension to British military power of the period and more specifically the role of the 2nd Light Battalion of the King’s German Legion in its valiant defence of the crucial La Haye Sainte farmhouse in the centre of the allied line – a kind of German Rorke’s Drift. Now there is something for David Cameron and Angela Merkel to commemorate.

Keith Simpson MP
Broadland

Share:

0 comments

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_watch

Video: Iain has a go at Michael Portillo

BBC Election Night, May 2008, City Hall

Listen now

Diary

ConHome Column: Happy Birthday Guido!

24 Oct 2014 at 14:11

Tuesday night saw the tenth anniversary dinner party to celebrate ten years of the Guido Fawkes blog. There was something rather incongruous about the fact that it was held deep in the heart of clubland and that those attending were a rather good sample of the Westminster establishment. Quite how the Prime Minister was persuaded to send a video message, God alone knows. I’d love to have been present during the discussions. Craig Oliver must have taken leave of his senses. Having said that, David Cameron did it very well, although not quite as well as Boris, who was there live in person to kick the event off before trying to leave through a door which led into a cupboard. He has so much in common with George W Bush, does Boris.
*
The evening was compered by Paul Staines and Harry Cole. I’m still not sure which of them was in the Amanda Holden role, but it’s probably best not to think about that too much. Watching Harry introduce Boris Johnson was like watching an adopted son realise he was in the presence of his real father. The only difference was the Harry had had a very dapper haircut. I have to say I rather miss the carefully cultivated unkempt look which he used to such good effect with the ladies. I’m delighted to see Harry doing so well. He doesn’t just write for Guido, he also writes for the Spectator and GQ and has become an accomplished broadcaster too. When he first joined Guido I was a bit cruel to him, believing that watering down the Guido brand wouldn’t work and that no one could emulate the original. I was wrong.
*

Clearly Paul and Harry had had a good lunch when they drew up the seating plan. The first people I saw at a table when I walked in were Lynton Crosby and Douglas Carswell. Sitting next to each other. Awkward. Rumour has it that Paul tried to persuade Lynton to present Douglas’s award to him, but if that’s true, Lynton wasn’t for persuading. He remained stubbornly stuck to his seat, unlike Stewart Wood, Ed Miliband’s chief adviser, who somehow found himself on the stage accepting Damian McBride’s prize for something or other. He seemed rather lost for words. Which is probably just as well, because anything he had said would no doubt be taken down and used in evidence…
*
The excellent UKGENERALELECTION 2015 blog [add link http://ukgeneralelection2015.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/octobers-political-pop-chart.html] informs us that in September UKIP was the most visited political party website, followed by the SNP, with the Conservatives in third place and the LibDems trailing back in sixth behind the Greens. It doesn’t mean a lot, but I just thought you’d like to know. Another sign of which way the political winds are blowing.
*

I am sick and tired of people spotting racism where none exists. The furore over Mike Read’s UKIP supporting Calypso showed the left in their true colours. There was nothing remotely racist about it. Yes, it was shockingly bad, but not racist. I’ve got to know Mike Read a bit over the last few years. My first encounter with him was when he was doing the Radio 1 Breakfast Show in about 1979 and I took part in his BEAT THE JOCK competition. I didn’t. Beat the jock, I mean. I next met him about 8 years ago when he was considering running for London mayor and I interviewed him for an hour on 18 Doughty Street. And a few months ago my company published his autobiography [add link https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/seize-the-day ]. His accusers say he’s racist for singing the Calypso in a fake West Indian accent. I ask you. A calypso is not a calypso unless it is sung in a West Indian accent. If I sing ‘Je t’aime’ in a French accent am I being racist against the French? Of course not. If I fake a German accent, am I being xenophobic against the Germans? Natuerlich nicht. If I tell an Irish joke and use an Irish accent, am I being paddyphobic (cue pc insults)? No. This is an anti-UKIP storm in a teacup, and Mike Read has been used by the left to try to reinforce in people’s minds that there is something a bit whiffy about UKIP. Yes, UKIP does indeed have its so-called closet racists and fruitcakes. But so does every political party. But the left know the political media loves to highlight those belonging to UKIP. That’s what this stupid incident is all about. Also, shame on the British Red Cross for saying they won’t accept any money that was raised via the sales of the Mike Read song on iTunes. I look forward to them explaining to the children that money could have helped, that they won’t be helped any longer. Political correctness at its worst.
*
Conservative MEPs have always been flaky, with very few of them showing any sort of spine whatsoever. This week they did a LibDem and voted three ways on the ratification of Jean-Claude Drunker as head of the European Commission. Six of their number voted to ratify him. Shame on them. Several of the six are first time MEPs. Didn’t take them long to go native, did it? I’d have expected Richard Ashworth and Tim Kirkhope to vote that way – they have form. But shame on Julie Girling, Kay Swinburne and four others (whose names I have been unable to unearth) who betrayed the very people who selected them in the first place. I look forward to the next European selections where they can held accountable for that vote. Perhaps by then the party will have come up with a selection system which isn’t stacked in favour of the incumbents. I won’t hold my breath, though.

Share:

1 comment

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_lbclogo

LBC97.3 Iain Talks to Peter Hitchens & Myles Dyer about Occupy London

LBC Discussion

Listen now

Interview

My Interview With Lynda Bellingham

20 Oct 2014 at 10:21

A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynda Bellingham, who sadly died today of cancer. The great think about Lynda was she was just how I imagined she would be – full of fun, flirts and laughter.

Do have a listen to the 20 minute LBC interview HERE – it will cheer you up on a very sad day.

Share:

0 comments

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_twilight-saga-breakdown-art-crpped-

LBC 97.3: Iain Dale looks at TWIGHLIGHT & Teenage Obsessions

Are teenage obsessions healthy? Iain Dale interviews his sister Tracey and 13 year old Philly and talks to teenagers waiting for the Premiere of Twighlight who were camping out in Leicester Square.

Listen now

Diary

ConHome Diary: What Lady T Said About Heseltine's Maiden Speech

17 Oct 2014 at 14:00

Our national broadcasters have done something I never thought possible. They’ve re-created the ‘closed shop’ and told the political parties to comply with their general debate wishes or else. Not that they have defined the ‘else’. They’ve more or less presented the party leaders with a fait accompli. The only person who’s happy seems to be Ed Miliband. Draw your own conclusions.

It is said that Lynton Crosby doesn’t want the debates at all. I have no idea if that is true or not, but I can see no way the Prime Minister can duck the debates having made such a big thing about how important they were in 2010.

I think David Cameron has a point when he says there needs to be more space between the debates and that one of them should take place before the campaign gets underway. As to who should participate in which debates, no one is ever going to agree on that. Clegg bleats that as a party of government he should be included in all three. The Greens reckon they should get a look in too. Even the SNP appear to think they should be included. Well if they are, why not include Plaid and the DUP too. Or go the whole hog and bring in the Shinners?

Or Uncle Tom Cobley too.

This really is very simple. Why not agree that any party who fights at least 90% of the seats in the United Kingdom and has at least one MP should be entitled to field their leader in a debate? That debate should take place after nominations close. Either side of it there should be two prime ministerial debates between the leaders of the two parties who got most seats at the previous election.

Simples.

Oh, and each debate should last two hours. In the first prime ministerial debate there should be no moderator. The two leaders should conduct it themselves by taking questions from the audience. We’d learn more about them in that format than with an interrogator.
*
I’ve heard it all now. Some anti-smoking nanny stater is seriously suggesting that smoking should be banned in Parliament Square, Trafalgar Square and some London parks. Why don’t these people just come and out say that their real agenda is to ban smoking altogether. At least that would be an honest position to take. Instead, we have a ratchet effect. First it was in pubs, restaurants and the workplace. Next it was in cars where children are present. Soon it will be in your house. I don’t smoke, and I hate the smell of cigarette smoke, but I defend people’s right to smoke so long as it is legal to do so. It’s the only logical position.
*

I’ve been offered five or six books giving a retrospective on the Scottish referendum. I have turned them all down on the basis that these kind of books have to be special to work. But this week I was sent a chapter from a diary of the campaign by the editor of the Scottish Telegraph, Alan Cochrane. It took me all of five minutes to recognise that I had something special on my hands so I immediately signed it up and it will be published by Biteback in mid-November, coincidentally in the same week that Alex Salmond leaves office. Choosing a title was not quite so straightforward. We considered putting the word ‘Eck’ in the title, but then figured that it wouldn’t be picked up in the search engines. Anyway, it’s a gripping and very entertaining read, and I reckon we might just have a surprise bestseller on our hands. Oh, in the end we chose ALEX SALMOND: MY PART IN HIS DOUNFALLTHE COCHRANE DIARIES. OK, not very snappy, but it does what it says on the tin. You can preorder the book HERE [insert link https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/alex-salmond ]
*
The New Statesman informs us that Sadiq Khan has been appointed by Ed Miliband to head up a unit to stop the Green Party stealing Labour votes. I asked him on LBC who was heading up Labour’s anti-UKIP unit. There was a sort of gulping goldfish sound at the other end of the line. Labour really don’t seem to understand that UKIP are a massive threat to them, especially in northern marginal seats.
*

Grant Shapps has adopted exactly the right strategy in putting forward two female candidates for the Rochester & Strood Open Primary. Both are fairly local to the seat and both have a track record. I don’t know either of them, and I don’t envy them in what one of them will face over the next four weeks, but if they can hold off the UKIP surge they will become instant folk heroes in the Tory Party. Since his defection Mark Reckless has hardly put a foot right, and clearly doesn’t enjoy the sort of local popular support that Douglas Carswell did in Clacton. However, UKIP are on the crest of a wave and must go into this by-election as favourites. What is interesting is the fact that Labour have clearly decided to sit this one out, even though they held the seat until 2010. Surely a party with pretensions to government should be throwing the kitchen sink at a seat like this. It’s the kind of seat they need to win if they are to form a majority government.
*
On Wednesday I had the great pleasure of attending the inaugural Margaret Thatcher Centre lecture and reception at the Carlton Club. Donal Blaney and his colleagues have raised more than £2 million so far in their quest to open the Centre. It’s a fantastic project and all true Thatcherites ought to support it. Conor Burns made a fantastic speech, full of wit, insight and ideology. Conor told the gathered throng that the Centre had the full support of the Cabinet, then added for good measure, “Well, the sounder ones.” “Name them!” cried Sir Gerald Howarth. I suspect it wouldn’t have taken long.

The vote of thanks to Conor was proposed by Jeffrey Archer who told a great anecdote about Lady T and the House of Lords. Archer had told her there were ten peers who had never made a maiden speech in the House of Lords. “Well who are they?” she wanted to know. Knowing full well the one name which would provoke a response he told her that one of them was Michael Heseltine. Pausing for dramatic effect, Lady T retorted; “Well, look on the bright side. At least we haven’t had to listen to it.”

Share:

1 comment

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_marymary

LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Duke Safo

Duke Safo explains why he has turned to the internet to raise funds to pay for his mother's funeral.

Listen now

Diary

ConHome Diary: The LibDems Seem To Think It'll be Alright On The Night

10 Oct 2014 at 13:57

Well thank God that’s over. Three weeks of party conferences, plus the Scottish Referendum, is quite enough even for someone as politically geeky as your humble servant. Whatever the plural of knackered is, that’s how most political journalists feel. I’ve done 39 hours of broadcasting from the conferences and the referendum, and having caught the obligatory conference cold, my voice is now beginning to sound like a watered down version of Rod Stewart. It wasn’t even as if we could save the best till last. The LibDems were in Glasgow, which has the worst conference centre of them all. Cavernous, hot, lacking in atmosphere, it almost swallowed up the LibDems. Bearing in mind they’re politically f***** they seemed in remarkably good humour, as if they had a collective belief that it would all come right in the end. Sorry guys. It won’t. I spoke at a fringe meeting where I went through all their constituencies and told them if they retained more than half of them I’d be very surprised indeed. I thought I might be lynched, but no, not a bit of it. There were 250 people there and it was standing room only. After I told them my joyful analysis Peter Kellner from YouGov went on to tell them they were destined to become a party of 8%-12% of the vote for some generations to come. It was then Tim Farron’s turn to tell us we were both wrong, but you could tell that in his heart of hearts he knew what we were saying had some basis to it. Poor sods. It all reminded me of my childhood, when I would stand by and watch the calves being loaded into the cattle truth to be taken to the abattoir. They cheerfully trotted up the ramp, probably knowing what their fate was, but remaining quite cheerful nonetheless.
*
The LibDem conference was the whitest conference I have ever been to. At the fringe meeting I addressed I counted only five non-white faces in the audience of 250. Walking round the conference centre you almost stared if you saw anyone who wasn’t white. It’s a real problem for the LibDems. No one quite knows why it is, or what they can do about it. It was also quite an elderly conference. One thing many people remarked upon in Birmingham was how many young people were there. You certainly couldn’t say the same about Glasgow.
*

Sir Ming Campbell told me on Wednesday evening that he thinks there should be an immediate parliamentary vote on Britain intervening in northern Syria against ISIS. Furthermore, he’d vote for it. He’s right. I was against action in Syria last year but taking action against ISIS in Iraq and not Syria just isn’t logical. If you want to kill a snake, go for its head, and its head is in Syria. According to Michael Fallon the vote would be lost. That is no reason for not holding it.
*
So it’s alleged that the hapless Police & Crime Commissioner for Kent, Ann Barkes (for it is she) was driving uninsured when she had an accident. Is this woman for real? She seems to have that bit of her brain removed which controls her embarrassment threshold. If you saw the fly on the wall documentary about her then you’ll know she’s not fit to hold the post. She is the living personification of all that is wrong with politics. If she had any self-knowledge she’d quit and then hide away, never to be heard from again.
*

I write this before the result of the Clacton by-election has emerged. Assuming Douglas Carswell has won, it will be very interesting to see where he takes his seat when he returns to the House of Commons. I assume he will sit on the opposition benches with the SNP and Northern Irish MPs, but I suppose old habits may die hard and he might make for the Tory benches after all. I suspect his old muckers might forcibly tell him politely where he can go.
*
I’ve just booked a trip to Paris at the beginning of November to visit Valerie Trierweiler, the former first lady of the Elysee. I’m publishing her book THANK YOU FOR THE MOMENT, which tells the story of her life with Francois Hollande. I don’t speak French so it’s the first time I have ever bought a book without having read a page of it. It’s twenty years since I went to Paris so I’m really looking forward to it, but isn’t Eurostar unbelievably expensive?! It was so expensive that I’m thinking of driving instead. Well, I was seriously considering it until everyone I know tells me I am mad to even consider driving in Paris. Zut alors!

Share:

0 comments

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_conhomepic

BBC Radio Berkshire: Andrew Peach interviews Iain about Bracknell

October 2009

Listen now

Video

VIDEO: Should the TV Licence be Scrapped?

9 Oct 2014 at 22:11

This is a video of a Freedom Association fringe meeting at the Tory Party Conference which I chaired on the future (or lack of it) of the BBC TV licence. Taking part were Andrew Allison (Campaign Manager, Freedom Association), Dave Atherton (Chairman, Freedom2Choose), Andrew Bridgen MP, Alex Deane CC (Managing Director of Public Affairs, FTI Consulting), and John Whittingdale OBE MP (Chairman, Culture, Media and Sport Committee).

Share:

0 comments

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_alastair-campbell-c-avalon-web

LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Alastair Campbell about Depression

Alastair Campbell discusses he e-Book, THE MANIC DEPRESSIVE

Listen now

Personal

Charity Auction: Join Me in the Directors' Box at West Ham & Help Underprivileged Children

8 Oct 2014 at 18:16

Global Radio, the company which owns LBC, has formed a new charity to help underprivileged children called MAKE SOME NOISE. The big fundraising day is this Thursday, tomorrow, and one of the prizes is one which I asked David Sullivan to put up and he very kindly agreed to do so. It includes…

  • Two tickets to sit with me (ie. 2 tickets for you, sitting next to me) in the Director’s Box at one of the following matches – Aston Villa, Newcastle or Swansea.
  • Passes to the Director’s Guest Lounge complete with complimentary light refreshments. Whilst here you’ll be able to mix with other celebrity West Ham supporters such as Sir Trevor Brooking, Russell Brand or Ray Winstone if they’re at the game.
  • Before and after the match you’ll get to visit pitchside, to the Chairman’s Suite to meet both Chairmen, David Sullivan and David Gold, as well as Karren Brady. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit the player’s tunnel post-match to meet some of the players (manager’s permission permitting).

I realise the attraction of sitting next to me is not that great, but the rest of it is, and I’d like to thank David Sullivan for donating the prize, and indeed also making a personal donation to the charity.

The auction closes on my show at 7.50pm this Thursday. Bidding has already reached £800. I want to get it way above that!

I’ve also got Sir Trevor Brooking on the programme tomorrow, who will be talking about his new autobiography at 6.45pm, so do tune into LBC then. And if you can’t bid on the auction prize, you can donate £5 to Make Some Noise by texting NOISE to 70070.

You can bid HERE. Good luck!

Share:

0 comments

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_maryr

LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Mary Robinson

The former Irish President discusses her new memoirs.

Listen now

UK Politics

UPDATED SEAT PREDICTION: LibDems to Win 28 Seats at General Election

5 Oct 2014 at 15:33

On Tuesday lunchtime I am joining Tim Farron and Peter Kellner speaking at an Electoral Reform Society Fringe Meeting at the LibDem Conference in Glasgow. If you’re in Glasgow I hope you will come along.

Title: A prediction of how the Lib Dems will do in 2015, seat by seat
Date: Tuesday, October 7th
Time: 1 PM – 2 PM
Location: Argyll 1, Crowne Plaza
Speakers: Iain Dale, Peter Kellner, Tim Farron MP
Chair: Katie Ghose, ERS

So it seems a good time to revisit the seat by sea predictions I first made in March (see HERE) and then revised on 6 July (see HERE). In March I predicted that the LibDems would win 30-35 seats at the next election. I went through each LibDem seat and predicted what would happen to it. In July that number had come down to 28-30.

Clearly any such exercise is fraught with difficulty, and I freely admitted that many would disagree with the conclusions. Reading through the comments of the original blogpost, the consensus seemed to be that I had been too kind to the LibDems in Scotland but too hard on them in the South West. That was, of course, before the European and local elections, when the LibDems performed far worse than I think even their worst enemy had wished. They came fifth in the popular vote in the European Elections behind the Greens, polling only 6.87% of the popular vote. More than four months on from that disaster, their poll ratings are still in the 8-10% range, even falling behind the Greens in one poll.

In March I predicted that of the 57 seats, 35 would remain LibDem, 14 would fall to the Conservatives and 8 to Labour. But of the 35 LibDem Holds, I reckoned only 13 were dead certs, 9 hot bets, 8 probable and 5 were rated as possible, but by no means definite.

In July my revised forecast was that of the 57 seats, 28 will remain LibDem, 17 would fall to the Conservatives, 11 to Labour and 1 to the SNP.

My updated prediction is identical to the last one, with the LibDems winning 28 seats, losing 17 to the Conservatives, 11 to Labour and 1 to the SNP.

I remain of the view 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 may be that I will have underestimated the impact of UKIP, especially bearing in mind their performance in the May elections and in opinion polls since. This week’s by-election results may give them a further filip. 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 think the LibDems can only be confident of winning 8 seats for definite. And these are…

Ceredigion
Leeds North West
North Norfolk
Orkney & Shetland
Ross, Skye & Lochaber
Sheffield Hallam
Westmorland & Lonsdale
Yeovil

Let me make it clear, I don’t believe the LibDems will only win 8 seats, but these are the only ones I reckon they can be 100% sure of winning.

These are the seats I reckon they can be 100% sure of losing…

Bradford East (to Lab)
Brent Central (to Lab)
Burnley (to Lab)
Manchester Withington (to Lab)
Norwich South (to Lab)
Redcar (to Lab)
Solihull (to Con)

So that’s only 7 seats I reckon the LibDems are dead certain to lose. Which means if you add those to the seats they are dead certain to win, there are 42 which are in doubt. They fall into three categories…

LIBDEM PROBABLE/POSSIBLE HOLDS (20)

Argyll & Bute
Bath
Bermondsey & Old Southwark
Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk
Bristol West
Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross
Cheadle
Cheltenham
Colchester
Edinburgh West
Hazel Grove
Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey
Kingston & Surbiton
Lewes
North Devon
North East Fife
Southport
Thornbury & Yate
Torbay
Twickenham

POSSIBLE OR PROBABLE LOSSES TO LABOUR (5)

Birmingham Yardley
Cambridge
Cardiff Central
East Dunbartonshire
Hornsey & Wood Green

POSSIBLE OR PROBABLY CONSERVATIVE GAINS (16)

Berwick upon Tweed
Brecon & Radnorshire
Carshalton & Wallington
Chippenham
Eastbourne
Eastleigh
Mid Dorset & North Poole
North Cornwall
Portsmouth South
Somerton & Frome
St Austell & Newquay
St Ives
Sutton & Cheam
Taunton Deane
Wells
West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine

POSSIBLE OR PROBABLE LOSSES TO THE SNP (1)

Gordon

Here are the seat by seat predictions, with commentary.

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.

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.

BERMONDSEY & OLD SOUTHWARK
Simon Hughes
Maj: 8,530
Prediction: PROBABLE LIBDEM HOLD
I had thought this would be a dead cert hold for Simon Hughes but increasingly I am wondering if I am right. Labour seem very confident they can take this.

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.

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.

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.

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

BRECON & RADNORSHIRE
Roger Williams
Maj: 3,747
Prediction: POSSIBLE CON GAIN
A Conservative gain here is possible but not definite. One of the tightest results in 2015, I’d think.

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.

BRISTOL WEST
Stephen Williams
Maj: 11.336
Prediction: PROBABLE LIBDEM HOLD
Given the size of Stephen Williams’ majority I had this in the Dead Cert Hold category, but there is a big student vote in this seat and that could prove to be his downfall. So I have relegated this seat to Probable.

BURNLEY
Gordon Birtwistle
Maj: 1,818 over Labour
Prediction: DEAD CERT 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.

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

CAMBRIDGE
Julian Huppert
Maj: 6,792
Prediction: PROBABLE LABOUR GAIN
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. But bearing in mind the LibDems’ calamitous results in May I’ve now changed my mind and think Labour will win here.

CARDIFF CENTRAL
Jenny Willott
Maj: 4,576
Prediction: PROBABLE LABOUR GAIN
Labour have their sights in this one. Assuming no LibDem poll bounce, I now think they will take this.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

EASTBOURNE
Stephen Lloyd
Maj: 3.435
Prediction: PROBABLE CONSERVATIVE GAIN
Won in 2010 from Nigel Waterson, Stephen 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.

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.

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.

GORDON
Sir Malcolm Bruce (retiring – Christine Jardine selected)
Maj: 6,748 over the SNP
Prediction: PROBABLE SNP GAIN

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.

HORNSEY & WOOD GREEN
Lynne Featherstone
Maj: 6,875
Prediction: POSSIBLE LABOUR GAIN
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. The Conservatives have gone down to 21,000 to 9,000. This is a difficult one to call, but I now think Labour are edging ahead.

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

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.

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.

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.

MANCHESTER WITHINGTON
John Leech
Maj: 1,894
Prediction: DEAD CERT 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.

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.

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.

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.

NORTH CORNWALL
Dan Rogerson
Maj: 2,981
Prediction: PROBABLE 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.

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.

NORWICH SOUTH
Simon Wright
Maj: 310
Prediction: DEAD CERT LABOUR GAIN
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.

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!

PORTSMOUTH SOUTH
Mike Hancock (deselected) (Gerald Vernon-Jackson selected)
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.

REDCAR
Ian Swales
Maj: 5,214
Prediction: DEAD CERT 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.

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.

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.

SOLIHULL
Lorely Burt
Maj: 175
Prediction: DEAD CERT 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.

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.

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

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.

ST IVES
Andrew George
Maj: 1,719
Prediction: POSSIBLE CON GAIN
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 could see Andrew George home, but four months on from my last prediction, I now think the Tories may make it.

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.

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.

THORNBURY & YATE
Steve Webb
Maj: 7,116
Prediction: PROBABLE LIBDEM HOLD
I had this down as a Dead Cert LibDem Hold but if Labour perform strongly and take enough votes off the LibDems this seat could go Conservative. I still expect Steve Webb to retain it as he will have built up quite s substantial incumbency vote.

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.

TWICKENHAM
Vince Cable
Maj: 12,140
Prediction: PROBABLE LIBDEM HOLD
I have changed this seat from a dead cert LibDem Hold to probable. It’s known that Vince Cable has become very nervous about his prospects and the Tories have become quite active here. Much is dependent on whether Labour will siphon off former LibDem votes, although these could be cancelled out by the UKIP votes lost by the Tories.

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.

WEST ABERDEENSHIRE & KINCARDINE
Sir Robert Smith
Maj: 3.684
Prediction: POSSIBLE CONSERVATIVE GAIN
The LibDem majority was halved last time, and it’s very possible to see how rises in the Labour and SNP votes could see this seat return to the Conservative fold.

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%.

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

Please feel free to add your comments below.

Share:

13 comments

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_tear-eye-278x225

LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Joyce in Erith... And Cries

In a discussion about infant deaths, Joyce in Erith's story makes Iain weep.

Listen now

Random Thoughts

Attitude Column: Gay Men Have It Easy Compared to Lesbians

5 Oct 2014 at 11:20

Even in 2014 gay men in Britain still suffer discrimination and insults. It happens more rarely nowadays but there’s little doubt that there are still people around who believe homosexuals should expect to be treated badly because of our ‘perverted’ lifestyle.

But gay men have it easy compared to the nation’s lesbians. When I was a teenager I assumed there were far more lesbians around than gay men mainly because you saw them on TV more. As time went on that changed , but even now a lesbian character in a soap opera causes more negative comment than a gay male one.

Not that long ago I read a review in The Spectator of a biography of Dusty Springfield, which my company Biteback had published earlier in the year. I read the review after our marketing manager, Katy Scholes (herself of the lesbian persuasion) sent me the online link. Her email read: “Have you bloody seen this?” She’s direct is Katy.

The review was written by Roger Lewis, who’s a big shot reviewer for the Mail on Sunday, and someone who my company would want to stay on the right side of. The review started off with this pearl of a paragraph: “Call me a crazy old physiognomist, but my theory is that you can always spot a lesbian by her big thrusting chin. Celebrity Eskimo Sandi Toksvig, Ellen DeGeneres, Jodie Foster, Clare Balding, Vita Sackville-West, God love them: there’s a touch of Desperate Dan in the jaw-bone area, no doubt the better to go bobbing for apples.”

Once I picked my less than chiselled chin off the floor, I read on. There was more… “I myself can recall heaps of furious married dragon-women in Wales, who wore wrinkle-resistant Crimplene trousers and sublimated their feelings working with horses or running Girl Guide camps.”

Obviously Mr Lewis is familiar dealing with stereotypes. He continued: “If actresses, they played tweedy old maids or sour housekeepers, like Agnes Moorehead. Or perhaps they became dog breeders or managed a garden centre. Maybe they became nuns. If you were Noele Gordon, you ran the gamut.”

He concludes with this stonker of a question: “did Dusty really have an affair in Mustique with Princess Margaret? If I am sceptical it is only because Hanoverians have small chins.” No, really.

Katy then reminded me that my company was due to be publishing Mr Lewis’s next book. I replied: “Fuck me gently. Are we really publishing him?” It turned out that contracts had not yet been signed so I decided to tell Mr Lewis to find someone else to publish his book as I didn’t and don’t want to be associated with someone who can write such utter homophobic garbage.

So I’ve burned bridges with one of the Spectator’s and Mail on Sunday’s leading book reviewers. Hey ho. Sometimes commercial considerations have to take a back seat.
Had I not done this I couldn’t have looked myself in the mirror, let alone Katy and several other members of staff who had expressed similar outrage.

Roger Lewis is a highly respected, well-connected and prolific book reviewer. Indeed, he’s reviewed a great many of our books in the past. The decision that I made and the action that was taken could conceivably come back and bite us. But the company’s not called Biteback for nothing.

We naturally informed Lewis that we were pulling his book. His reaction? “I can’t stand political correctness and the denial of freedom of speech that it can (and does) impose. I think Iain Dale sounds an idiot, with no sense of humour. It was a brilliantly written piece, and funny.” Even if he does say so himself.

I don’t like political correctness either and I know something funny when I see it. This wasn’t funny, or even remotely amusing. What I do not understand is why The Spectator saw fit to publish it in the first place.

Homophobia needs to be called out whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head, even at some commercial or public relations cost. If we just ignore such things what kind of people are we?

Writing in that style about jewish people, or ethnic minorities would not be considered acceptable, so how can it be acceptable to write in that manner about lesbians?
By the way, Katy Scholes has a lovely chin. And she thrusts it very well. So she tells me.

This article first appeared in the October edition of Attitude Magazine

Share:

0 comments

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_mimi

LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to JFK's Mistress, Mimi Alford

How do you ask a 69 year old if she gave the President's aide a blow job? Find out...

Listen now