Diary

ConHome Diary: Why Theresa May Was Right to Play the Ball, Not the Man

19 Aug 2017 at 12:09

Sarah Champion is one of the more impressive Labour MPs. She is that rarest of people, a Labour front bencher who can actually string a sentence together and conduct a coherent interview without experiencing a car crash. On Wednesday evening she resigned from the front bench (for the third time I think) over an article she wrote last Friday in The Sun. She is the MP for Rotherham who took over when Denis MacShane resigned his seat back in 2012. Her offence? Well, apart from having the temerity to write for The Sun, she dared to confront the fact that most of the men who make up these gangs who target vulnerable white teenagers for sex are from the British Pakistani community. 97% of the girls who are groomed and raped are white. She dared to confront and inconvenient truth. She emphatically was not saying that all child abusers have an Asian background, but those who form these gangs do. Trying to work out why this is does not mean we should ignore an inconvenient truth. Sarah Champion opened her Sun article with these words: “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls. There. I said it. Does that make me a racist? Or am I just prepared to call out this horrifying problem for what it is?” And for that, she’s been drummed out of the Brownies and forced to resign.
Labour candidate Amina Lone, who is a muslim told Newsnight: “I grew up in a Muslim community where these attitudes were common. “White girls are easy” “Nobody cares about them” “They are just slags” “They parents don’t look after them properly” etc were/are still said today. I hear it regularly. Sarah Champion was talking about a particular type of grooming which is carried by men because of their cultural/religious practices. Obvs not all men. She is not a racist but a brave woman speaking out about a politically awkward issue. Labour, bury your heads as much as you like in the black & white purist world you push. The chickens will come home to roost.”
Quite.
However, not everyone goes along with that. Owen Jones told me on LBC he considers that paragraph to be racist. And there, Ladies and Gentlemen, you have a prime example of what is wrong with our politics today.
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This week we marked the 70th anniversary of the partition of India. I don’t know about you, but it made me realise how little I knew about the event and how it came about. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh live with the consequences of partition today, so why don’t we know more about it? India is going to play a massive role in the world in the next twenty years. Perhaps our media might like to give it the same level of coverage it gives to China.
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Why is that on A Level results day TV news reporters only ever seem to interview very good looking girls or show pictures of them jumping up in the air when they open their envelopes? Do boys not count any longer in this weird old world we live in nowadays?
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Last week I wrote the majority of the column about Donal Trump and Kim Jong Un. Seeing as though Kim Jong Un has blinked, let’s concentrate on Trump this week. His reaction to the events in Charlottesville demonstrate why it’s impossible for him ever to unite his country. He called some Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan “very fine people”. In an angry press conference he undid all the fine words he had uttered from an autocue the previous day. He seemed unabl to differentiate between fascists and anti-fascists. On the first day back from her holidays Theresa May rightly condemned this attitude although she was careful to play the ball, not the man. It is right she should speak out, but people have to understand the Realpolitik of the situation. America remains our closest ally and a country with whom we need a free trade agreement. It’s right for the prime Minister to make clear her position, as she’s done, but gratuitous personal insults will help no one. There are, of course, further calls for his State Visit to be cancelled. Wouldn’t it be better for it to go ahead and for people to make their views clear while he is here? The way things are going, I’d be tempted to man the barricades myself, and I count myself as a down the line Americaphile.
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Those who follow political debates on Twitter will have no doubt noticed that James Chapman’s Twitter account was deleted early on Thursday morning. When the truth comes out about what has happened, there ought to be a day of reckoning for some very irresponsible journalists (and others). And that’s all I’m saying on the subject.

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Iain interviews an emotional Suzanne Evans

Suzanne Evans reacts to her suspension by UKIP.

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Sport

Old Blogpost: What if a Footballer Came Out as Gay?

10 Aug 2017 at 16:50

ATTITUDE COLUMN FROM APRIL 2015: WHAT IF A FOOTBALLER CAME OUT? A NOVELLETTE ESSAY!

He hadn’t told anyone. Not even his agent. It was going to be done on his own terms. Adam Ranger hadn’t told his mother what he was about to do, and he especially hadn’t told his gossipy sister. They would all find out like the rest of the country. Had he told any one of them, he knew they would come out with all sorts of reasons why he shouldn’t go ahead with what he knew would affect him for the rest of his life. You see, Adam Ranger, star England central defender, was about to announce to the world he was gay.

He knew the risks. He was prepared for the media storm that would no doubt engulf him. People who do something ‘first’ always become renowned. Adam was prepared for that – what he didn’t want to become was ‘notorious. He calculated that if he did it, others would follow suit. And follow suit quickly. He knew that in every dressing room up and down the land there were men like him. Indeed, he knew of one Premier League team where four of the starting eleven were gay. It wasn’t as if anyone was particularly secret any longer. Looks were exchanged. People just knew, but rarely said anything.

Adam had thought long and hard about how to do it. Press conference? No. Too uncontrollable. Newspaper exclusive. No. The other newspapers which hadn’t had the story would be angry and seek to trash him. TV or radio? Maybe, but would he get the time to say what he wanted to say? Would he be able to control the editing? Probably not. No, Adam decided to do a Tom Daley and record his own Youtube video.

After training one day, he went down to PC World and bought a video camera and tripod. “Alright, Adam?” said the sales assistant. “Got the girls coming round, have we? He joshed, with a deliberate wink. “Yeah, something like that,” smiled Adam. “If only you knew, mate,” he thought to himself.

He went home, set up the camera, sat down and looked straight into the lens. “I’m Adam Ranger. I play for England. And I’ve got something I want to tell you…”

Four weeks later…

It had been a momentous month. The praise, the almost entirely positive reaction from his own teammates who had lined up after training and done a collective moonie while pissing themselves laughing. The phone calls from players from other clubs, his England teammates had been a mixture of hilarious, emotional and highly charged. Tears were shed.
Three other international players followed Adam’s lead in the week after he came out to the world. A dozen lower league players did too. And all to an ever increasing shrug of the shoulders.

In his first game after the video release on Youtube Adam ran out at Upton Park, a difficult place for an opposition player at the best of times, to a standing ovation from most of the crowd. He hadn’t bargained for that and for a moment lost his composure. As the applause died down a chant started from the Bobby Moore Stand of “Does your boyfriend know you’re here?” Adam laughed, grabbed the hand of one of his teammates and bowed. The applause restarted.
Yes, there were problems. He knew there would be. His agent was furious with him. “You’ve jeopardised all your commercial contracts by doing this,” he fumed. Adam suspected the very opposite would be true. And he was right. The offers flooded in. “We want you to be the face of our company,” said the chief exec of a major clothing brand. And there was more. Lots more.

Back in the room…

And that’s how I’d like to think things would be if a professional footballer took that great leap. OK, I might be writing with rose tinted spectacles, but I genuinely think it would be a lot more like this scenario than it was for Justin Fashanu 25 years ago. I have no idea how many professional footballers read Attitude Magazine. Probably more than you think. But if there’s only one, think about the trail you would blaze. Think about what kind of example you would set, not just to your fellow footballers but everyone else. Be proud of who and what you are. And tell the world.

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LBC 97.3 Book Club: Iain talks to Calder Walton

Calder Walton discusses how the intelligence services operated at the end of Empire.

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Radio

It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 57: The Iain Dale LBC Mash Up

4 Aug 2017 at 09:48

Created by @LeRadioGuy

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Michael Dobbs

Michael Dobbs discusses his writing career.

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Radio

It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 56: LBC's Achieves Record Audience Figures

3 Aug 2017 at 11:04

If you don’t work in the Radio industry then you won’t ever have felt that slight empty feeling in your stomach that we all feel four times a year, when the audience listening figures are announced. Inevitably, there are downs as well as ups, and when they’re down it’s almost a matter of feeling ashamed, especially if all your colleagues’ figures have shown a rise. That’s only happened once in my seven years on LBC, and I didn’t enjoy it. Rajar is a very curious way of measuring audience. We all know it can be very erratic, yet it’s all we have to go by. One lesson I have learned is that if you have a dramatic rise, it’s probably a blip, just as a dramatic fall is too. What you have to do is look at the trend over a period of time.

The figures out today are truly outstanding for everyone at LBC. For the first time we have broken through the 2 million listener mark. Our previous record was 1.8 million. This really is a landmark for the station and is the culmination of some very hard work by a lot of people. When we went national in February 2014 I think our highest London audience had been around 1.2 million, but the average was around one million. Since then we have doubled the audience.

Nick Ferrari at Breakfast goes from strength to strength, with a national reach of 1.12 million, a massive increase on this time last year. The breakfast show sets the scene for the rest of the day and if your breakfast show isn’t performing it’s likely that will filter down the schedule. Ferrari really is at the top of his game and long may he remain so.

James O’Brien is also performing extremely well, pulling in an audience of more than 900k nationally. He really has demonstrated that if you have a big reach on social media, those watchers/readers will turn into listeners. Shelagh Fogarty has record figures and Nigel Farage has nearly half a million listeners, which is a huge achiement in that 7pm timeslot, especially as his show is only an hour long.

In my own show’s case, when I took over Drive in March 2013 the show had a London audience of around 320,000. The latest figures show a record London audience of 622,000 and a national audience of 815,000. It’s the first time I have ever pulled in more listeners in London than James O’Brien, but he is still ahead on the national measure. Not that I am being competitive! Perish the thought…

So trebles all round. Well, yes, but we do have to remember that we came into our own in this quarter at least in part because Theresa May called an election. We rose to the challenge and further cemented our reputation in the world of politics and current affairs, but in the current quarter we won’t have had that advantage. So yes, we should celebrate our achiement but recognise that there may be a few bumps in the Rajar road before a 2 million audience happens every quarter without fail.

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Mark Regev Interview

Iain interviews the Israeli Ambassador to London

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Diary

ConHome Diary: A Dispatch From Spain

28 Jul 2017 at 17:47

OK, I admit it, I’m not exactly in the mood to write this column today. Why? I’m sitting by the swimming pool on the side of a Spanish mountain, overlooking a lake, struggling to actually see the screen because of the sun. The water beckons, but I’m determined not to succumb to it until I’ve finished writing my pearls of wisdom. The sacrifices I make on your behalf…
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It was announced on Wednesday that David Davis has at last replaced James Chapman as his chief of staff and appointed his former PPS Stewart Jackson. Stewart had been MP for Peterborough but lost his seat on June 8th, having been the MP there for 12 years. He had set himself up as a Brexit consultant, but he will relish being back at the centre of the action. He will provide an important bridge to the parliamentary party, alongside his replacement as PPS, Gareth Johnson. As many of you know, I was David’s Chief of Staff for six months in 2005. I hope Stewart is more of a success in the role than I was. My one bit of advice to him is this. Looking back, my main failure in that role in the first few weeks was to defer to MPs too much and not assert myself enough. Stewart’s position is very different to mine but in some ways similar. I was the link man between his parliamentary operation and his leadership campaign. One of Stewart’s main challenges will be to be the link man between David and his civil service operation. He has a head start having been David’s PPS, but nevertheless it will not be an easy job, requiring a mixture of charm and hard-nosed determination. He is in effect in charge of making sure DexEU civil servants deliver what DD wants. I wish him the very best of luck in the job. I do hope he keeps a diary…
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I have never knowingly eaten chlorinated chicken. But given the number of times I have been to the United States, it’s very likely I have. It says something about the level of public debate about a possible UK/US trade deal that it has been reduced as to whether we should allow it into this country or not. Liam Fox doesn’t have an issue with it. Michael Gove, (un)helpfully does. Quite why Mr Gove felt it necessary to open up yet another cabinet rift is anyone’s guess. He could have easily finessed it in his Today Programme interview but chose not to. Of course, the whole thing is a non issue. No one will be forced to buy or eat the wretched stuff. It must be properly labelled. I doubt very much there will be any demand for it. In the end, the market will work. But whatever the demerits of chlorinated chicken are, I doubt it is any less healthy than the very cheap chicken we now import from south east asia in vast quantities, and seem to have no problem with as long as we can buy it for 99p down at Chicken Tonite. You get what you pay for.
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Spain has a rather different attitude to public services to us. Fiddle your electricity and they cut you off. Not only that but they never reconnect you and leave you to your own devices. With water being a scarce resource, they have no hesitation at all in cutting off supplies to anyone who fiddles their water meter. They did this to one of my friend’s neighbours who tried to hide how much water he was using. He’s been without a water supply now for three years and now has to pay for it to be delivered by a lorry. If our utility companies ever even threatened such action they would no doubt be sued in the courts for a breach of their human rights.
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Readers of my old blog will recall that there’s nothing I like more than a good list. For the last ten years I have been compiling the Top 100 People on the Right, and Top 100 People on the Left lists, together with the Top 50 Liberal Democrats. It takes a huge amount of work and time to put together the panels to compile these lists and then write them up and write 250 individual biographies. This year will be doubly challenging given the level of inevitable churn that there will be in all three lists. Anyway, I am looking for a new sponsor. If you’re interested, do let me know.
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So, the pool beckons. Adios until next week when I will be writing from the rather different surroundings of the Norfolk countryside.

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Iain interviews Tory Leadership Candidate Andrea Leadsom

At this stage she looked like a contender...

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Interviewing the PM

24 Jul 2017 at 16:57

I imagine The Spectator’s Andrew Neil and Fraser Nelson must have been rather pleased at the ensuing publicity from their annual summer party last Thursday. I arrived rather late on and it was in full swing. Virtually the first two people I clapped eyes on were Robbie Gibb and James Landale. James insisted on a selfie of the three of us, seeing as we had all been tipped for the Downing Street Head of Comms job. Much hilarity all round. We’ve all read about the joshing between David Davis and Boris Johnson, and that’s all it was – joshing. Talk about being totally overwritten by journalists who try to read malice and intrigue into everything, but there you go.

However, a sign of how the cabinet mood has changed since the election was provided by two other cabinet ministers who were going round the Spectator garden telling anyone they encountered that Theresa May’s authority was shot. One of them even asked a journalist: “So, how long before we can topple her?” This was said with Theresa May standing three feet away. It was followed up by: “We can say anything we like now. She can’t do anything to us.” Astonishing, not to say rather grubby. Another cabinet minister, said to have leadership ambitions was criticising the PM to anyone would listen. I know that because I heard the same reports from three separate sources.

As you will read about below, on Wednesday I interviewed the Prime Minister. Given what she told her cabinet on Tuesday about unity and the importance of not leaking, I was severely tempted to warn her about who exactly was briefing against her. I’ll leave it to you to wonder whether I actually did.
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There was nearly a by-election recently, when a Conservative MP and a researcher were nearly asphyxiated. They entered a lift in Portcullis House only to find out that the Labour MP who had just left the lift had clearly left a rather nasty aroma behind. They bailed out on the next floor and walked the next two floors up, rather worried in case the next occupants of the lift blamed it on them.
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On Wednesday afternoon I trotted off to Number Ten to interview with Prime Minister. I interviewed her many times when she was Home Secretary but it was my first time with her as Prime Minister. If I am honest I was a little apprehensive because I have always found her very difficult to interview, despite the fact that the last time I interviewed her she ended the interview by calling me ‘darling’. Long story. You had to be there. Also, the previous interviews had all been quite short. Normally, I prefer not to over-prepare for an interview because it can lead to a stultifying conversation if you just stick to a list of pre-prepared questions. To my mind, an interview has to have a conversational element to it, otherwise it can degenerate into a presenter haranguing an interviewee who then puts up the shutters and resorts to meaningless slogans. Being conversational does not, contrary to popular opinion, mean that you do a ‘soft’ interview. Just because you don’t shout, doesn’t mean you’re not being tough, but I have long given up on the idea that some people will ever accept that.

Anyway, you can judge for yourself by listening to it HERE. I encountered a prime minister who didn’t seem at all brow-beaten, at all lacking in authority. I encountered a prime minister who seemed to have recovered her MoJo.
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I asked the Prime Minister if she thought Chris Evans was worth 12 times her salary, and if Gary Lineker was worth ten Clare Baldings. While I think we are entitled to know what kind of salaries the BBC are paying their top executives and top talent, I don’t believe we need to know the exact salary that individuals are paid. Does it really add to the sum of human knowledge to know that Laura Kuenssberg is paid a third of what Jeremy Vine gets? Well, I suppose it means we know there is a huge gender pay gap at the BBC, but beyond that, it just appeals to the prurient and envious. On my radio show people then felt entitled to demand I reveal my own salary. I’m certainly not embarrassed about the money I earn, but the only people that have a right to know what I earn are my boss, my partner and the tax man. And I think that should apply to John Humphrys, Eddie Mair and anyone else whether they are in the public eye or not. They are not public servants in the way MPs and senior civil servants are. But there is nothing that the BBC likes doing more than self flagellating navel gazing. On Wednesday the first 12 minutes were taken up with this story and they were talking about what their own ten o’clock news presenters were paid. You couldn’t make it up. But the shark was really jumped when Jeremy Vine, on his Radio 2 show, interviewed his boss James Purnell and asked: “Why do you pay me so much?” To which the reply was: “Because you’re fantastic.” Pass the sick bucket. And for the avoidance of doubt, I am a fan of Jeremy Vine and his show. But three Laura Kuenssbergs? Come on.
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Many people think I owe the prime minister an apology for the fact that not only did I not wear a tie for the interview, I wore blue suede shoes. £42 from M&S since you ask. I thought blue suede shoes were wholly appropriate given that she was essentially saying to her cabinet: Well you can knock me down, step in my face, slander my name all over the place, but don’t do it again. Or you’ll be sacked.
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This time next week I will be visiting some friends in Spain. They have a beautiful house with a fantastic pool overlooking a lake. I just want 6 days of R & R. All I intend to do is swim, sunbathe and read. And eat. And write my ConHome Diary, because nothing must stand in the way of that.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Andrew Marr

Andrew Marr talks about his new book A HISTORY OF THE WORLD

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Books

Keith Simpson's Summer Reading List

12 Jul 2017 at 21:11

By Keith Simpson MP

The electorate and colleagues are exhausted after a six week election campaign which resulted in no one party achieving an overall majority. The government continues with DUP support with an enthused Labour Party and the SNP licking their wounds. An autumn election prospect enthuses some and depresses many. The summer recess allows parliamentary colleagues to recharge their flat batteries, and what better way than with a good book.

Once again, I have selected a range of political, historical and books on conflict to stimulate the little grey cells. A personal choice but, on the whole, an interesting group.

Margaret Thatcher awaits the third and final volume of Charles Moore’s massive Victorian style biography. For those who want a more condensed biography with excellent analysis then David Cannadine Margaret Thatcher A Life and Legacy (OUP) is just the ticket.

John Major still pops in and out of public debates on politics and a series of essays examining his political beliefs and government can be found in Kevin Hickson and Ben Williams An Unsuccessful Prime Minister? Reappraising John Major (Biteback).

Chris Patten divides Conservative opinion and has produced great criticism from the right wing of the Party. An erudite man, he has written several books and memoirs and in First Confession A Sort of Memoir (Allen Lane) he outlines his philosophy and comments on political contemporaries.

Ann Clwyd has been a doughty parliamentarian and a great advocate of lost causes in foreign policy as well as coping with family tragedy. Her memoir Ann Clwyd Rebel With a Cause (Biteback) is a good read.

It is commonly believed and true in reality that most Prime Ministers become their own Foreign Secretaries. This thesis is examined in Sam Goodman The Imperial Premiership The Role of the Modern Prime Minister in Foreign Policy Making 1964-2015 (Manchester University Press).

The role of the Cabinet Secretary if now one much debated and viewed with suspicion by many politicians. A massive study of theme has been undertaken by Ian Beesley The Official History of the Cabinet Secretaries (Routledge) at great length and at a prodigious price.

At a more reasonable price and looking at a wider and more lengthy period is Anthony Seldon and Jonathan Meakin The Cabinet Office 1916-2016 The Birth of Modern Government (Biteback).

A recent Cabinet Secretary who serviced Thatcher, Major and Blair and is active in the House of Lords is Robin Butler and his biography Robin Butler At the Heart of Power from Heath to Blair (Biteback) is by Michae Jago.

Sacked by Theresa May as Cabinet Secretary for Education and an ardent Remainer is Nicky Morgan whose book Taught Not Caught: Educating for 21st Century Character (John Catt Educational Ltd) is published in September.

Sophie Ridge is a senior reporter and presenter for Sky News and has written a wide ranging book concentrating on the British experience of The Women Who Shaped Politics (Coronet).

Sayeeda Warsi was active in the Coalition Government as a minister and had advised Cameron on ethnic minorities. She has written a thoughtful book The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain (Allen Lane).

Chris Bryant is a Labour MP languishing on the backbenches who is not reluctant to seek publicity. The author of several books including two volumes on parliament, his provocative study Entitled: A Critical History of the British Aristocracy (Doubleday) is published in September and will be on the Momentum reading list.

It does appear that the study of history in our schools comes down to the Tudors and Nazi Germany. Keith Lowe has written many books and has turned his eye on to how the Second World War changed our lives and its long term influence in The Fear and Freedom: How the Second World War Changed Us (Viking).

Winston Churchill met near political death on a number of occasions and a less robust man would never have survived the Dardanelles failure of 1915. Christopher M Bell in Churchill and the Dardanelles (OUP) uses original sources to examine Churchill’s role and then his great literary struggle post-war to justify his actions.

Thomas E Ricks believes that Churchill and Orwell were two men who had the greatest influence and on our understanding of freedom which he outlines in Churchill and Orwell The Fight for Freedom (Gerald Duckworth and Co).

Guy de la Bedoyere is an historian of ancient Rome and has written several very readable books. The role of the Emperor’s Praetorian guard has fascinated historians as well as many dictators, not least their role in legitimising or overthrowing their ministers. Using original sources and written in a lively style is Praetorian: The Rise and Fall of Rome’s Imperial Bodyguard (Yale).

On the whole, Machiavelli has had a bad press as a totally cynical and manipulative adviser and author. A more sympathetic portrait is given by Erica Beamer in Be Like the Fox: Machiavelli’s Lifelong Quest for Freedom (Allen Lane).

That great political survivor of the French Revolutionary, Bonapartist and then Bourbon restoration is Charles de Talleyrand. He ended his long political career as a French diplomat as France’s ambassador to London in the 1830’s. Linda Kelly has written a short admiring book outlining Talleyrand’s merits and achievements in Talleyrand in London: The Master Diplomat’s Last Mission (I.B. Tauris).

In an earlier account the writer John Keay was dismissive of the early nineteenth century traveller and soldier Alexander Gardner who practised his trade in India. Now Keay has recanted and based on new research has written a fascinating biography The Tartan Turban: In Search of Alexander Gardner (Kashri House).

Sadly killed in a car accident having delivered her manuscript, Elisabeth Brown Pryor has already written a critique of Confederate General Robert E Lee before moving to Lincoln. In Six Encounters with Lincoln: A Presidency Confronts Democracy and Its Demons (Viking) Pryor through a series of vignettes gives a real warts and all analysis of President Lincoln.

The Koh-i-Noor diamond is now in the Tower of London but its history has fascinated the public. In Koh-i-Noor The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond (Bloomsbury) William Dalrymple tells the history of the gem and in the second part Anita Anand tracks how the diamond travelled from India to the British Royal Family. A history of beauty, greed, duplicity, murder and deception – everyday experience for the average MP!

As we move between sunshine and rain in today’s London and contemplate the massive structural problems of the Parliamentary estate a good read putting this in perspective is Rosemary Ashton One Hot Summer: Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli and the Great Stink of 1858 (Yale).

Recent Maritime archaeology and technology has found and excavated the remains of the Royal Navy ships Erebus and Terror sent in the middle of the nineteenth century to discover the northwest passage. Coupled with the folk memories of local people a book will accompany an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum – Gillian Hutchinson Sir John Franklin’s Erebus and Terror Expedition (Adlard Coles).

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century impoverished British peers sought wealthy US brides to save their estates. The writer Anne de Courcy has had the original idea of looking at this theme through the experiences of the American brides in The Husband Hunters Social Climbing in London and New York (Weidenfeld and Nicolson).

Lynne Olson has written four books on Britain and the Second World War and now in Last Hope Island: Britain Occupied Europe and the Brotherhood that helped turn the tide (Random House) she describes how Britain was the base for European resistance to the Nazis.

Khrushev’s Secret Speech in February 1956 opened the way for the Russian people to assess Stalin and the Great Terror. In Moscow 1956: The Silenced Spring (Harvard) Kathleen E Smith looks at what this meant for writers, students, scientists and former gulag prisoners.

The Labour Party welcomed the Russian revolution of 1917 and enthusiastically supported the Soviet great experiment. In 1929 the Labour government privately recognised the purges but blocked an inquiry. This sad tale is told by Giles Udy in Labour and the Gulag Russia and the Seduction of the British Left (Biteback).

Peter Clarke has written widely about political history and war and now brings his research together in The Locomotive of War Money, Empire, Power and Guilt (Bloomsbury).

One of the eccentric and brilliant agent runners MI5 had before, during and after the Second World War was Maxwell Knight. He reads like a character from a John le Carré novel and now Henry Hemming has written a fascinating biography M Maxwell Knight, MI5’s Greatest Spymaster (Preface Publishing).

Robert Bickers is an historian of Sino-British relations and has written excellent studies of the old, corrupt Shanghai. In Out of China How the Chinese Ended the Era of Western Domination (Allen Lane) he attempts to correct the Communist Party narrative of Chinese history without undermining the Chinese struggle against foreign domination.

We know about the British double-cross system during the Second World War where captured German agents played the radio game against Berlin. Less well known is how successful the Germans were in Holland, Belgium and France using captured British agents. There was also the threat from Soviet agents in Germany and in occupied Europe. The Gestapo desk officer who coordinated the German fight was then used by MI6 after his capture. Stephen Tyas has written an intriguing study of SS Major Horst Kopkow From the Gestapo to British Intelligence (Fronthill Media).

H.R. McMaster is a serving US three start general and now National Security Adviser to President Trump. Throughout his career he was not afraid to criticise the system and twenty years ago wrote a devastating critique of US Vietnam operations – Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chief of Staff and the Lies that Led to Vietnam (Harper).

US Government and their think tanks use history, not always in the most effective way. Doing the rounds along the Washington Beltway is Graham Allison Destined for War Can America and China Escape Thucydides Trap? (Houghton Miflin) A little reading matter for Boris Johnson?

With British military activity in Iraq and Afghanistan downgraded from a few years ago it is hardly surprising that these no longer dominate the media or political debate. But there are still books being written about these operations and Tim Riply has produced a serious critique of Operation Telic The British Campaign in Iraq 2003-2009 (Telhic-Henrick Publications).

If you want to get away from the nostalgia industry of the merits of the British Empire then Shashi Tharoor’s Inglorious Empire What the British Did to India (C Hirst & Co) pulls no punches.

Elected in 2015 to the surprise of the professionals at CCHQ, the former gunner and marine Johnny Mercer has homed in on how we treat our veterans. He has now written his memoir We Were Warriors One Soldier’s Story of Brutal Combat (Sidgwick and Jackson) which is one of the best personal accounts of soldiering in Afghanistan.

Updating General Sir John Hackett’s The Third World War of forty years ago is Paul Cornish and Kingsley Donaldson 2020 : World of War (Hodder & Stoughton) which is from the RUSI stable.

Maud Russell was the daughter of German Jewish immigrants and married a wealthy banker. They bought Mottisfont Abbey and lovingly restored it. Maud kept a diary and her friends included Duff and Diana Cooper, Cecil Beaton, Rex Whistler and her intimate friend Ian Fleming. Edited by Emily Russell A Constant Heart the War Diaries of Maud Russell 1938-1945 (The Dovecote Press) are a good read.

The centenary commemorations of World War One continue like the attritional battles of the period. For colleagues who want to learn more and indeed visit the battlefields of Belgium and Northern France then there are several useful guides.

An excellent collective history and analysis is provided by Ian Beckett, Timothy Bowman and Mark Connelly in The British Army and the First World War (Cambridge) written in an easy style but bringing together the latest research.

David Stevenson has written several good books on the First World War and in September his 1917 War, Peace and Revolution (Oxford) appears.

Next to the Somme, Passchendaele is a name which appears to epitomise the horrors of the First World War. It was a campaign which intermittently lasted from July through to September 1917 and the best modern account is now Nick Lloyd Passchendaele A New History (Viking).

Studies on the First and Second World War now cover subjects which were once either ignored or marginalised. Stephen Bourne wrote Black Poppies in 2014 which was a history of the contribution of black men and women to World War One. He has written Fighting Proud: The Untold Story of the Gay Men Who Served in Two World Wars (I B Tauris).

The Rt Hon Keith Simpson MP

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to West Ham Co-Chair David Gold

Iain & David Gold talk about the politics of football.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Bim Afolami, Ignoring David Cameron's Norway Plea & My Weird Few Days

7 Jul 2017 at 21:56

Nick Watt is one of the political broadcasters I always take notice of. He has a keen ear for shifts in government policy and is very good at keeping his ear to the ground. On Wednesday night he made a film about how the government is being urged by “senior Tories” to adopt the “Norway model”, and stay within the Single Market and keep the basics of freedom of movement. The only “senior Tory” interviewed was former Europe Minister and prominent Remainer Francis (now Lord) Maude. What Nick Watt didn’t say is that I gather David Cameron is phoning people putting forward the same case. Now I get that Remainers have their collective tails up at the moment, and some of them think they genuinely have a possibility of putting a stop to Brexit. As Nick Watt said: “I’m hearing that Brexit may not even happen”. If we stay in the Single Market they would be getting their way because we would still be paying billions of pounds a year to Brussels and we’d be accepting freedom of movement will continue. The vote on 23 June 2016 might as well not have happened. Luckily we have a prime minister and a Brexit Secretary who won’t countenance that vote being ignored or overturned. Because if it was, the political consequences for the Conservative Party would be unthinkable.
*
The world of Westminster politics is possibly the most gossipy in the country. Chinese whispers take on a whole new dimension. A baseless rumour can spread like wildfire without any facts intervening whatsoever. And so it has proved over the last 72 hours or so. The government has been without a Director of Communications for two and half months, since Katie Perrior’s resignation in mid April. Fiona Hill effectively took over the role but since her departure in the immediate aftermath of the election there has been a void. It’s becoming clear that this void needs to be filled quickly.
On Tuesday afternoon my phone started buzzing with text after text from Westminster journalists asking if it was true that I was to be Theresa May’s new Comms Director. Well, er no. If I was, I might have had a phone call or something! But the rumours continued to swirl. Guido included me on his list of runners and riders and the Evening Standard then wrote a diary item suggesting the same. In between Tom Newton-Dunn from The Sun had written an online article suggesting that the two front runners were James Landale and Robbie Gibb. Landale then tweeted on Wednesday morning that he was dropping out of the running.
Well, it was certainly flattering to be mentioned as a possible candidate, but it was based on nothing. Just to be clear, and I haven’t made any comment on this elsewhere, there is no truth at all that I have been approached, and I would not expect to be. This job requires a particular skillset, and I’m not at all sure it’s one I possess. In addition, why on earth would I give up my jobs at Biteback and LBC, which I hugely enjoy?
As I write this, Robbie Gibb has confirmed he has accepted the job. I think it would be a great appointment. He’s a political adult and will command the respect of everyone in the media and political worlds.
*

There was an interesting article yesterday on Iain Martin’s ‘Reality Life’ website. Victoria Bateman urged to Tories to rediscover the art of making the case for capitalism. She’s right. There is a populist case for capitalism and there is an intellectual case, but neither are being made by Conservative politicians at the moment. The Left are being allowed to get away with the argument that capitalism is intrinsically evil and designed to exploit the working classes. The truth is that capitalism has enabled the world to enjoy prosperity that would have been unthinkable even a few decades ago. It’s improved the health of millions of people the world over. I could go on. But where are the Conservatives making this case? The Cabinet is even split on whether a public sector pay cap should continue, with some of the weaker minded members apparently forgetting that we still have a £55 billion deficit. Where’s the intellectual case for controlling public expenditure? It’s there, but no one’s making it. Many young people have become disillusioned with capitalism on the basis that they ask why should they be enthusiastic about capitalism if they are prevented from accumulating capital? It’s a reasonable question to ask. And if this question isn’t answered soon, don’t be surprised if Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-capitalism messages start to resonate even more than they are doing now.
*
I haven’t seen too many of the new MPs’ maiden speeches, but one which has caught the eye was made by the new Member for Hitchin and Harpenden, Bim Afolami. We Westminster watchers always like to talent spot from a particular intake of MPs,and I suspect we’re going to be hearing a lot more from Mr Afolami.

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Video: Iain discusses spin with Andrew Neil and Alan Duncan

Daily Politics, October 2007

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Golf, Vince & Why the BMA Make Me Sick

1 Jul 2017 at 09:33

On reflection, I was a little harsh of Sajid Javid in last week’s column, where I criticised him for his response to the Grenfell Tower crisis. I still think there were aspects of his department’s immediate response which were lacking, and the PM seemed to endorse this when she apologised for the failings of local and national government in the aftermath. However, I’ve seen two briefing documents he sent to MPs which detail exactly what he did do and it does throw a different light on things. Perception is almost as important as reality in these matters, and while a cabinet minister does indeed need to concentrate on managing the actual crisis, he or she also needs to be front and centre of informing people via the media of what they are actually doing to handle the crisis. That’s the lesson I’d draw from this if I were either Sajid Javid or Theresa May. And it’s a lesson they seem to have learned given that both of them have been much more open and up front about their strategy to handle the crisis.


Imagine this:
“A friend has just told me that on Monday morning Tony Blair was sitting patiently in the queue to see his local GP at a surgery just outside Sedgfield. There was no “don’t you know who I am”, no “queue pushing” and no “special favours”. These type of things show character, but are sadly never reported by press.”
You can’t imagine it, can you, because it never happened. Well, not to Tony Blair anyway. But replace the word “his” with “her”, “Sedgfield” into “Reading” and “Tony Blair” with “Theresa May” and the fiction turns into fact.
*

I’ve never had a very high opinion of the British Medical Association. It purports to be a professional trade body whereas in actual fact it is a left wing trade union. This week it surpassed itself by voting to push for abortion on demand up to birth. Yes, you read that right. Up. To. Birth. These are professional doctors. Naturally this has also been supported by the child killers at the completely misnamed British Pregnancy Advisory Service, who never miss an opportunity to support the extinction of young human life. Their leader Ann Furedi is omnipresent on the media when abortion issues are discussed. Apparently it’s all about a woman’s right to choose. That’s right. A woman’s right to choose to terminate a viable life up to birth. Having got this far, you probably think I am totally anti-abortion and would like to see it banned completely. And you’re right. In theory, I would, but I’m not an idiot. I don’t want to go back to the days of illegal abortions. I think our current laws are, by and large, working and should be left alone. Yes, I’d argue that due to the fact that medical advances mean that babies can now survive outside the womb at 20 or 22 weeks, the term limit might come down from 24 weeks, to 22 or 20, but that’s as far as I would go. I cannot understand how professional clinicians could vote to raise the limit to 28 weeks or even full term with a clear conscience.


So Vince Cable is about to be coronated. All his opposition fell by the wayside one by one. In many ways I expect him to be an effective leader, and I think he will offer some surprises. In interviews with me he’s always been rather more Eurosceptic than his colleagues. He’s not one to utter the famous LibDem phrase: “Of course we must respect the result of the referendum, but…”. Unlike most of his fellow LibDems he does seem to be a democrat. He’s spoken out against a second or deal-endorsing referendum in the past, but no one really noticed because he wasn’t an MP at the time. Time will tell if he will change his party’s policy.


There’s still a lot of media chatter surrounding Theresa May’s leadership, yet try as I might, I cannot detect any appetite for a leadership change among the MPs I talk to. There’s certainly no appetite for a putsch and I doubt very much whether Graham Brady has received a single letter from a Tory MP calling for a leadership election. Yet the media is obsessed with the issue, especially the Sunday papers. I can see only two scenarios where there would be a new Tory leader in the next few months. The first is where Theresa May has simply had enough and has grown to hate the job so much that at the beginning of the summer recess she would fall on her sword. The second is if she makes a major f*** up of a new crisis. Say for example there were riots on the streets of our big cities during the summer and for whatever reason her response, and that of the government, were seen to be lacking, the pressure on her could be too much. I still think it’s highly unlikely she will go, but then again, my predictions this year haven’t exactly inspired much confidence so far, have they?!


I’ve spent this week in Norfolk having a few days’ rest. It’s my first week off this year and I don’t pretend that I don’t need it. I tried to wean myself off my computer and phone but it didn’t go well. One thing that did go well was playing golf. I used to be a very keen golfer and got down to a 13 handicap but up until Tuesday I hadn’t played for two years, mainly because of a shoulder issue. But on Tuesday I played at the Royal Cromer course, which if you’ve played there, you will know it’s not easy. But for the first time in thirty years I actually drove the ball straight down the fairway from almost all the tees. Normally I’m a bit of a hooker [insert joke here]. I can’t say my putting was up to scratch, but overall, it’s made me want to play much more regularly. So I’m off to play at Sprowston Manor tomorrow. I first played there in 1986 with the then MP for Norwich South, John Powley, and my then boss, the MP for Norwich North, Patrick Thompson. Powley was a brilliant golfer, but Patrick, well, let’s just say he had the enthusiasm of a beginner. I know he reads this column, so I will spare him any further embarrassment. How unlike me!

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When Sajid Javid Couldn't Answer My Question

The Treasury Minister flounders

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 55: The Fortunately Podcast - Feeling Unworthy of the Garvey/Glover Lovebomb!

25 Jun 2017 at 20:59

One of my favourite podcasts at the moment is the FORTUNATELY podcast, made every week by two of my favourite presenters, Fi Glover and Jane Garvey. It’s all about the world of radio – chiefly Radio 4, although from time to time they stray outside the world of the BBC. I first met Fi when I used to co-present SUNDAY SERVICE on 5 Live with her and Charlie Whelan and I used to appear reasonably regularly on 5 Live Drive with Jane and the superb Peter Allen.

This week Paddy O’Connell joined them, and much to my utter amazement and delight, in the last few minutes they talked about me and my show on LBC. I know I have been doing it for seven years now, and having won a few awards I really ought to have more confidence in myself and my abilities, but to be praised by Fi and Jane for what I do absolutely means the world to me. There is no greater endorsement than that of your peers.

Anyway, download it from iTunes or go to their webpage.

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Iain Tells James O'Brien Why he's Wrong on the Tube Strike

Very wrong.

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