Diary

ConHome Diary: Are Tory MPs About to Commit Knuckle Dragging Acts of Masturbatory Self Indulgence?

21 Nov 2014 at 14:02

I’ve lost count of the number of people who have come up to me in the last couple of weeks and in whispered tones asked if I think there will be 46 MPs writing to Graham Brady after the Rochester & Strood by-election. I look at them as if they have lost complete leave of their senses, shake my head in a slightly patronising manner and then say “er, no”, and then add for good measure, “not unless the Conservative Party has a collective deathwish”. There may be one or two knuckledraggers who commit a masturbatory act of self-indulgence on a grand scale, but Christ knows what they think the consequence would be, apart from sending a message to the electorate that they don’t care how disunited the Conservative Party appears six months before a general election. There is clearly no helping some people.
*
If you were rather bored by news bulletins yesterday, blame Ofcom. On a by-election day broadcasters aren’t allowed to broadcast any real political news for fear of affecting the result. So I couldn’t do a phone-in asking listeners what they think of UKIP’s immigration policy or the Mansion tax. Instead we have to ask really searching questions like ‘what do you think of the weather this time of year?’ OK, I exaggerate to make a point. But of course the newspapers can print what they like and you can say what you like on social media. Well, at least you can, but I can’t. The rules governing what can be broadcast at election times really do need to be overhauled, along with those which govern political advertising. It is ridiculous that a political commercial can be shown in cinemas, but not on TV, for example. The electorate continue to be taken for fools.
*

Think about this. We keep being told by UKIP that when they have won Rochester & Strood, there are at least two Tory MPs ready to defect. They may well be right, but think about the mentality of someone who waits to see which way the political wind is blowing before they make the leap. Weak, weak, weak. The backbone of a goldfish and the principles of a harridan. Anyone who defects in those circumstances is a political opportunist and would command little respect from their new comrades. Let’s put it this way, they are not people you’d go tiger hunting with, are they?
*
Talking of potential defectors, John Baron’s name seems to come up a lot as a possibility. It was therefore quite nauseating to hear the Prime Minister crawling to him in PMQs this week, going out of his way to say he would take seriously his request for £25 million for veterans of the 1950s nuclear tests. It was so over the top my colleague nearly passed me a sick bag. Needs must, I suppose. Is £25 million the going rate to stop a defection? It seems so. I wonder what little wheezes some of the others have up their sleeves. Philip Hollobone is the bookies 2/1 favourite to be the next defector but I wonder whether he’s got the balls to do it. Of the names being mentioned in despatches, if you want to place a small wager on someone who has demonstrated courage in the past, I suspect you could do no better than Gravesham MP Adam Holloway. I hear he is not a happy boy.
*

I’ve had my new car for two months now, and only this week have I realised that you have to press the remote button twice, rather than once, to set the alarm. So if you wanted to nick the car, you’ve had your chance…
*
This weekend former French First Lady Valerie Trierweiler arrives in the country to promote her book THANK YOU FOR THIS MOMENT, which my company, Biteback, is publishing. There’s been a huge media interest in the book and she will be appearing on Andrew Marr on Sunday and on Newsnight on Monday, with a string of print interviews over the weekend as well, including Saturday’s Times Magazine. Seeing as she has given no interviews whatsoever to the French press, you can imagine the storm this is creating in Paris. It seems the French media is in thrall to the Elysee in a way it would be impossible for Downing Street to control the media here. It is clear to me that an order went out from Hollande’s advisers to “get Valerie”, so you can hardly blame her for not doing any interviews with them. They have blamed her for Hollande’s unpopularity and even for the rise of Marie le Pen. There’s only one person to blame for both – and he lives in the Elysee. Hollande is a very weak and egocentric man. I was about to suggest that before casting aspersions he ought to look himself in the mirror. Trouble is, being very vain, he probably does too much of that anyway.
If you’d like to meet Valerie and happen to be in London on Tuesday she will be doing a booksigning at Hatchards on Piccadilly from 12.30 to 1.30pm. I’ll be there acting as bouncer. Although, on second thoughts, last time I took on that role it didn’t work out too well, did it? If you can’t make it, but would like a signed book, there will be copies for sale on the Biteback Publishing website next week.
*

On Tuesday I spoke to a small fundraising dinner for Lynne Featherstone, the LibDem Home Office Minister. Yes, traitor, turncoat, tosser – throw the insults if you like. I did it because she’s a friend and as a recognition for what she did on equal marriage, and I have no regrets. I also explained at the dinner that I’d also do it for other politicians in all parties who were friends and whose political achievements I respected. Politics is still a very tribal sport, and sometimes tribal loyalties tend to blind us to the fact that there are good people in all parties.

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Radio

An Astonishing Hour of Radio - Two Police Officers Reveal They Were Told To Shut Down Paedo Sex Ring Inquiries in the 1980s

20 Nov 2014 at 21:45

I’ve presented some pretty astonishing hours in my four years on LBC but very few would top our 5 O’Clock hour tonight. We started off with an interview (by Tom Swarbrick) with Vishambar Mehrotra, the father of 11 year old Vishal, who was allegedly murdered as part of a paedophile ring back in 1981. We then talked to Jackie Malton, the inspiration behind Dame Helen Mirren’s character in the ITV series Prime Suspect, who headed the investigation into the murder. Following her I interview Mark Watts from Exaro News, who have led the investigation into the Westminster Paedophile ring and what went on at Elm House in Barnes.

But it was then that our collective mouths were left gaping open when we has two calls from ex-policemen, who proceeded to tell us that they were part of investigations into child sex abuse in the 1970s and 1980s and both were inexplicably shut down.

You can listen to the whole hour HERE (well, it’s 37 minutes minus all the news, travel, ads etc).

Or here are some of the component parts of the hour.

Tom Swarbrick’s interview with Vishambar Mehrotra

Interview with Fmr Met DCI Jackie Malton

Former police officer ‘John’

Former police officer ‘Steve’

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UK Politics

Attitude Column: In Praise Of Lynne Featherstone

18 Nov 2014 at 09:46

Some time ago I got a phone call from the Liberal Democrat MP & International Development Minister, Lynne Featherstone. Would I be the guest speaker at a fundraising dinner she was organising. ‘What’s it for?’ I asked. ‘My re-election campaign war chest’, she replied. Gulp.

Although I am no longer active politically and not a member of a political party, this presented me with something of a moral dilemma. I don’t pretend that my political views don’t remain firmly on the right of centre, with the odd bit of social liberal leftiness thrown in for good measure but presenting a daily radio show on LBC means that I deliberately stay away from any sort of party political endorsement.

Furthermore, wouldn’t it be betraying my old friends and colleagues in the Conservative Party? The very people who had supported me through thick and thin when I was fighting a LibDem MP in a marginal seat in the 2005 election. A real dilemma.

Except in the end it wasn’t. I count Lynne Featherstone as a friend, and you do things like this for friends, don’t you? You wouldn’t be much of one if you didn’t. But apart from the there is another major reason why I would have felt a complete heel if I had said no to Lynne.

Enoch Powell – and I reckon this is the first time he’s ever been mentioned in this esteemed organ – once said that ‘all political careers end in failure’. Well unless she is forced to resign because she is found in bed with the entire Arsenal reserve team, I reckon it is safe to say that when Lynne goes to meet her political maker, she will be able to look back and think, ‘not bad, not bad’.

Her crowning political achievement will have been to be the driving force behind the equal marriage legislation. By the time it was enacted she had been reshuffled from her job in the Home Office to the Department for International Development, but everyone knew that without her it probably wouldn’t have happened. She is living proof that politicians can change things if they have the drive, initiative and persistence.

On only her second day in office, back in May 2010, she attended a meeting of junior ministers where they were told if they had any ideas for doing anything major, they needed to get their ideas in early. She immediately latched onto the idea of introducing same-sex marriage. I suspect even she hadn’t counted for the very vocal opposition she would have to encounter, and I know there were times she thought that it would never see the light of day. But when you have the Home Secretary, Deputy Prime Minister and Prime Minister on your side, you stand a good chance of pulling through.

I remember getting a call from someone in Number Ten at a crucial point in the passage of the bill, wanting to make very clear that this bill was going through only because the prime minister was giving it is personal backing and endorsement. The subliminal message was that they thought Lynne Featherstone was claiming too much of the credit. It’s certainly true that few bills ever go through unless the PM backs them, and on this issue he has form, having backed gay marriage as far back as his first party conference speech as leader in 2006.
But in the end, same-sex marriage will be associated with Lynne Featherstone in the same way that we associate David Steel with the 1967 Abortion Act and Roy Jenkins with the legalisation of homosexuality.

No wonder that in 2012 Lynne was awarded Attitude’s Politician of the Year Award.

Since then she has led the campaign to banish female genital mutilation from this country. At the Home Office she persuaded the Home Secretary to launch a very public campaign against this barbaric practice and talked about it in a way that made the media cover it. Believe me, hosting a radio phone-in on a subject like that isn’t an easy thing to persuade your editor to allow you to do.

So for all those reasons, in mid November, I will be trying to persuade a roomful of monied LibDems to part with it on behalf of Lynne Featherstone – a woman who can truly say she’s changed the world. For us.

This article first appeared in the current issue of Attitude Magazine

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Peter Hennessy

Professor Peter Hennessy discusses his latest book DISTILLING THE FRENZY

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Random Thoughts

Attitude Column: In Praise (And Criticism) Of Peter Tatchell

15 Nov 2014 at 22:44

Seeing as this is Attitude’s Awards issue, let me award my very own Lifetime Achievement Award for service to Gays. And the winner is…. Cue drumroll…. Peter Tatchell. That surprised you, didn’t it?

I have a tremendous admiration for Peter and all that he has achieved since he first came to prominence when he was Labour candidate in the 1983 Bermondsey By-election. His politics are about as far from mine as you can get, but I think it is true to say that without his zestful campaigning and unwillingness to take no for an answer, the cause of gay equality wouldn’t have got as far as it has. I’ve disagreed with aspects of his campaigning tactics, but there’s no doubt that he has been effective not just in raising the profile of issues of gay equality, he has done a lot for human rights more generally. You can sense the ‘but’ coming, can’t you?

Unfortunately I think Peter is in danger of believing that the tactics he used in the 1980s are just as appropriate nowadays. He is in danger of living in a timewarp, where the only way of achieving a reform is to shout about it, demonstrate and basically cause an almighty stink. He decries the fact that the LCBGT community is now seen as “respectable”. He alleges that we’ve “also witnessed a retreat from radical idealism to cautious conformism.” No, Peter, what we’ve witnessed is a growing realism by LBGT campaigners that the tactics of demonstration and resistance, which once might have worked, no longer do, and that equality campaigning needs to take on a more subtle tone.

He laments the fact that “there has been a massive retreat from the ideals and vision of the early LGBT liberation pioneers. “ He says that “most LGBT people no longer question the values, laws and institutions of mainstream society. They are content to settle for equal rights within the status quo – despite its many flaws and failings.”

I’d put it very differently. The early campaigners for sexual liberation delighted in splitting themselves off from mainstream society. But what they ignored or didn’t realise is that most gay men and women actually see themselves as little different from their straight counterparts, apart from the obvious. We go to the same shops, cinemas and restaurants. We drive the same cars, live in the same places, wear the same clothes. 98% of us don’t conform to the stereotype. Put us in an identity parade and you’d never tell us apart. But that’s not what Peter Tatchell wants to hear. We should wear our sexuality on our sleave. Or preferably on our foreheads.

In the end, I suppose it comes down to this. Are you a man who happens to be gay, or a gay who happens to be a man? I suspect that 98% of us would allocate ourselves to the first category. I am defined by who I am. Being gay is part of who I am but it isn’t the defining factor. And nor should it be. Fundamentalist gays will no doubt accuse me of letting the side down, or worse, but I couldn’t give a monkey’s arse.

So when Peter Tatchell writes that “the first Gay Pride marchers saw the family as “a patriarchal prison that enslaves women, gays and children,” I almost want to retch. He says that “four decades later, the focus on safe, cuddly issues like civil partnerships and marriage indicates how LGBT people are increasingly reluctant to rock the boat and are more than happy to embrace traditional heterosexual aspirations.”

It’s got nothing to do with ‘rocking the boat’, it’s all to do with equality and believing in the institution of family. This has little to do with sexual politics, more to do with exteme left wing views about family politics.

In Peter’s view, “the LGBT movement has finally succumbed to the mainstream politics of conformism, respectability and moderation.” Or to put it another way, the LGBT movement has matured into adulthood.

That doesn’t mean I don’t recognise Peter’s brilliant campaigning work or seek to diminish it. Quite the reverse. All I am saying is that present day campaigning isn’t all about shouting and wearing T shirts with offensive slogans. It’s got to be cleverer than that.

This article first appeared in Attitude Magazine

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Andrew Neil Should Have Been Offered 'Newsnight'

14 Nov 2014 at 13:57

I used to do a lot of speaking to local Conservative Associations but since the last election I have only done one – and that was in Witney. Well, when the PM asks, it’s a bit difficult to say no, isn’t it? I thought it was worth at least a Knighthood, but hey, I understand I have to join the queue. Anyway, last Saturday I did another one for my local association in Tunbridge Wells, and it was great fun. Andrew Kennedy, the local agent, is another one who it’s difficult to say no to, so off I toddled to a magnificent house in Calverley Park, which is in the posh bit of Royal Tunbridge Wells, or RTW, as it is known locally. I did a short speech then we opened it up to a discussion and very spirited it was too. But in over an hour, the issue of Europe didn’t come up once. That’s something that would never have happened ten years ago. Next week, shock horror, I’m doing another political fundraiser. Brace yourselves. It’s for LibDem MP Lynne Featherstone. She’s a mate and did sterling work on equal marriage, so I’ve decided to do it and hang the consequences. All I need now is to do one for a Labour and UKIP MP or candidate and I can truly say I have been politically balanced.
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Anyone seen Mo Ansar on TV lately? Nope, me neither. Job well done, there, I think.
*

Sometimes I despair of Tory ministers, particularly those who are mute. One example is Helen Grant. I’ve had most ministers on my radio show at some point but every time we invite her on, the DCMS press office refuse to put her up. Oh, she’s far too busy, they say. Really? Too busy to comment on this outrageous FIFA report? Any minister of sport worth their salt would surely want to express their outrage. Not Helen. In fact, it’s quite difficult to think of a single thing she has ever said or done while in the post. This ought to be one of the most high profile junior ministerial posts. It’s one most MPs would almost kill for. It’s one where you can really make a difference, as Hugh Robertson so ably demonstrated. What’s the point of being in a job where your civil servants’ main task appears to be to keep you off the nation’s airwaves?
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Isn’t it about time we heard from the Bow Group? They’ve been remarkably silent of late. One can but be thankful, I suppose.
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I do sometimes wonder if the producers of the Daily Politics have a plan to keep me and Andrew Neil apart. Every time I go on the programme as their Guest of the Day it’s on a Tuesday, the one day of the week Andrew has off. I quite like it in a way because you get to stay for the whole hour and get more airtime, but I do love Andrew Neil. He is by far and away the best interviewer on TV and has such a huge breadth of knowledge. He has such a brilliant way of phrasing a question, so brilliant that my own producer on LBC sometimes says in my ear when I am interviewing a slippery politician “Do what Andrew Neil would do”. Much as I would hate to lose him from the Daily Politics, it is a scandal he was never offered the main presenter’s job on Newsnight. He would have been brilliant and totally owned the programme. Which is, of course, why he was never offered it.
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Who are these ‘dark forces’ Ed Miliband seems so frightened of? Jason Cowley? Toby Helm? Patrick Wintour? I think we should be told.
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So, six days to go until the Rochester & Strood By-Election – or Stroud as Ed Davey likes to call it. Now there was me thinking that the Prime Minister had promised to throw the kitchen sink at this by-election and do what is now called ‘a Newark’. I have to say I see scant evidence of that having happened. The media have already decided it is a UKIP gain and from the polls, it’s difficult to believe that any other result is a possibility. Labour should hang their heads in collective shame that they haven’t put up a proper fight, though. Admittedly under different boundaries, this was Labour seat from 1997 to 2010. It is the kind of seat that Labour ought to be taking seriously if they want to win a majority. Mind you, it’s also a seat which the Conservatives need to win back in May 2015 if they want to form any kind of government. And my suspicion is that could well happen. And as for the LibDems? Yet another lost deposit, I suspect.
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Sepp Blatter. Twat.
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I hosted a business breakfast for LBC yesterday at which the co-founder of Innocent Smoothies Richard Reed was the guest speaker. I struggle to remember the context in which he related this anecdote, but it doesn’t really matter. He told of an eight year old girl who was flying on Qantas and decided to send a note to the pilot. It read something like this…
“Dear Captain, my name is Nicola and I am 8 years old. This is my first flight but I’m not scared. I like to watch the clouds go by. My mum says the crew is nice. I think your plane is good. Thanks for a nice flight. Don’t fuck up the landing. Luv Nicola.”

With that the audience clapped, I marched on stage and said to Richard Reed: “Make sure you don’t fuck up the Q&A now…”. Perhaps you had to be there…

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Iain has a blazing row with George Galloway over Margaret Thatcher (Part 1)

TalkSport, August 2009

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Theresa May - Buy! Buy! Buy!

7 Nov 2014 at 14:14

I don’t know about you but I find this new trend of MPs reporting each other to the head of the Metropolitan Police absolutely despicable. Labour’s John Mann is the worst offender by far, but this week it was Tory MP Justin Tomlinson who reported Sadiq Khan for allegedly looking at his mobile phone while driving. Naturally, he didn’t witness the offence himself, oh no, but he was outraged. Outraged, I tell you! The level of sanctimony in his explanation has to be read to be believed. I do hope Mr Tomlinson leads a wholly blameless life. Because if he doesn’t, he’s just made himself a number one target for John Mann.
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If you have nothing better to do on December 5th why not toddle down to Queen Mary’s London campus in Mile End and attend a fascinating conference on Tory leaders, which aims to work out who has been the best and worst Tory leader since 1900. Details here [add link http://politicalleadership.org/events/conservative-party-leaders/ ]. A range of academics will be putting their cases. It’s the brainchild of former Home Secretary Charles Clarke, who has already held a similar conference on the Labour Party. For what it’s worth on the Labour side I’d got for Tony Blair as best and as for worst, well I imagine there were a couple in the pre-war period who might be fighting poor old Ed Miliband for that particular accolade. On the Tory side obviously it’s a slugfest between Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill for best, and it’s between Ted Heath and Anthony Eden for the worst. I think. Or would we include William Hague and IDS in that fight. Personally I’d still go for Heath.
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I spent last weekend in Paris, a city I expected to loathe and ended up falling in love with. As I explained last week I was there to have dinner with former French First Lady Valerie Trierweiler, whose book on her seven years with Francois Hollande is being published by Biteback on 25 November. It turned out her English is as poor as my French, although we could both understand rather more than we could speak. Luckily, the conversation still flowed over dinner as her agent was able to translate. When I say, over dinner, it was an eight course affair, which I was rather dreading as it came from what was called the ‘menu plaisir’, effectively a surprise menu. With my conservative eating tastes, I was dreading what might be served. I needn’t have worried. It was the best meal I have ever had in my life. If you find yourself in Paris, do look up a restaurant called ‘Itineraires’ on the rue de Pontoise, just over the river from Notre Dame in the Latin Quarter.
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I hadn’t realised just how popular Francoise Hollande actually is. And not just with Valerie Trierweiler. Whoever you speak to in Paris, his name is almost spat out. He makes Ed Miliband look popular. But then again Mr Miliband told us he wants to do for Britain what Hollande has done for France. Good luck with that, Ed.
*

When the coalition was formed most of us felt it was only a matter of time before Norman Baker resigned over something or other. However, it turned out that he became one of the LibDems’ most effective ministers when he was at the Department of Transport. He had an agenda and carried it out, working collegiately with hi Tory colleagues. Most of us were totally bemused when he was reshuffled to the Home Office. It didn’t take Einstein to work out that he and Theresa May were not a match made in heaven, and with his views on drugs reform it was only a matter of time before they clashed. Well on Monday he sat next to the Home Secretary during her statement of the Historic Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse and looked positively supportive. Later that evening he quit the government telling the world that working with May was like ‘walking through mud’. He clearly thought that his resignation might finish off a Home Secretary who had been wounded by the resignation of Fiona Woolf. Bizarrely, though, it has had the opposite effect. May hasn’t been damaged at all by Baker leaving and finishes the week having clearly developed a Teflon skin. The return of Lynne Featherstone to the Home Office has also bolstered her. She gave me her first interview on Tuesday and proceeded to praise Theresa May to the skies. If there were a market in Theresa Mays at the moment, I’d be buying shares.
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Ed Miliband’s mini-reshuffle, caused by Jim Murphy leaving the Shadow Cabinet, was a sign of his inherent weakness. It was a very limited shuffle, but revealing nevertheless. The promotion of two key allies and the demotion of Mary Creagh to International Development from Transport tells us a lot. Political leaders in trouble circle the wagons, and that is what Ed Miliband has done by promoting Michael Dugher and Lucy Powell. Dugher is an effective bruiser and an old ally of Miliband’s from their days working for Gordon Brown. Lucy Powell used to run the leader’s office and has had a meteoric rise since her election in a 2012 by election. Her appointment as Shadow Cabinet Office Minister will cause all sorts of jealousies on the Labour benches. Watch out for the briefings against her from ‘friends of’ Douglas Alexander, who she is now deputy to on the general election campaign planning. She’s been appointed to that role to watch what he’s doing. There could be fireworks.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Hosts a Phone in on Male Attitues to Rape

Is rape something only a woman can understand? WARNING: Listeners may find some of the content upsetting.

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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.

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Iain Dale talks to Charles Clarke & Julia Neuberger

A 45 minute discussion asking should there be any limits to religious freedoms?

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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

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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.
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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.
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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…
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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Simon Callow & Jane Ridley

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