Diary

ConHome Diary: A Tale of Two Conferences & I Reveal a Dark Secret

30 Sep 2016 at 14:56

I’ve been to between 50 and 60 party conferences over the years – Conservative, Labour and LibDem. This year’s Labour conference in Liverpool was undoubtedly one of the flattest ever. I’d be surprised if there were more than 40 MPs there. Many of the delegates spent most of their time at the rival Momentum event across town, which meant that at times it felt like tumbleweed was blowing through the conference centre. The commercial exhibition should have been renamed the Affiliated Labour Organisations Exhibition, seeing as most of the stands were organisations like the Cuban Solidarity Campaign, various trade unions and the Anti-Jewish Society. OK, I made that last one up. The only private sector exhibitors were the Royal Mail and Global Radio. Both stands would have cost an arm and a leg, yet on the party leader’s tour of the exhibition, Jeremy Corbyn blanked them both – not necessarily his fault, as he only goes where his staff lead him, I suppose, but even so, it’s yet another example of private business being treated like something they scrape off the bottom of their feet.
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Last time I was in Liverpool, for the Labour conference in 2011, I got into trouble when I wrote a blogpost slagging off the hotel I was staying in (The Adelphi, since you ask) and saying that as a city, well., I just didn’t like it. Suddenly, I knew how Boris Johnson felt. I became public enemy number 1. There were phone-ins on local radio about me, so I was told. Indeed, I was summoned onto Radio City to explain myself. In the circumstances you have a choice. You either apologise fully and explain that you didn’t know what you were thinking and must have been having a bad day. Or you stick to your guns. I chose the latter course of action. Four years on, I have to say I felt things had changed. OK, my hotel may have been a bit dowdy, but it was perfectly acceptable. The docks area had been developed further and is really impressive, and judging from the three evening meals I had, the restaurants are superb. One meal at San Carlo was the best meal I have had this year. Many people confirmed my view that Liverpool ought to be a culinary destination in its own right. Who’d have thought?
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Given that Brexit is the biggest political issue of the time, you might have thought there would have been a lot of time devoted to it at the Labour Conference, but no. Not only was there no debate on the conference floor, it didn’t even figure in any of the eight debates chosen by conference delegates. Jeremy Corbyn spent less than two minutes on it during his hour long speech. Quite incredible. Mind you, I’m not sure it will be a lot different in Birmingham next week. Foreign Affairs is covered on Sunday afternoon, traditionally a dead period in the conference agenda, mainly because half of the representatives won’t have arrived.
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When my panel of experts convened to compile this year’s Top 100 People on the Right, I knew one of the most difficult things would be where to place last year’s number one, David Cameron. And indeed last year’s number two, George Osborne. You’ll be able to find out on Monday morning when the list appears here on ConservativeHome.
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I hope some of you might want to come along to the ConHome Fringe meeting on Tuesday lunchtime, when I’ll be conducting an ‘In Conversation with David Davis’. It’s in Hall 1 of the ICC from 12.45-2pm. I’m also speaking at a FOREST/TMA fringe meeting on Monday evening from 9pm at the Nuvo Bar. It’s titled ‘Eat, Drink, Smoke, Vape’. I’ll be explaining why no one who calls themselves a Conservative can be in favour of things like a sugar tax. Given I don’t drink, smoke or vape, I’ve been mulling over why I’m an appropriate speaker at this event, but maybe that’s the point!
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He’s been a fool and probably worse, but I can’t help feel sorry for Sam Allardyce. One can only imagine the personal humiliation he is feeling. I felt the same emotion towards Keith Vaz. Indeed, I always feel sorry for people involved in humiliating scandals. It’s so easy to join the mob who delight in condemning. It’s so easy to shout from the sidelines but perhaps we would all do better to look at our own lives. Few of us can put our hands on our hearts and say we lead totally blameless lives and that we have never done anything we wouldn’t be happy to see on the front page of a national newspaper. I suppose I should reveal my own dark secret which I would be ashamed to see on the front page of The Sun. Yes, I own 150 Cliff Richard CDs. Go on, do your worst.

I really hope that Theresa May and David Davis stick to their guns and don’t go into any detail at all on their strategy to leave the EU. Only a fool gives away their negotiating position at the beginning of negotiation. You’d have thought that Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke might realise this, but oh no. The three of them helpfully appear on the media to tell the world that the government is in a mess and have no clue what they are doing. Like they’re in any position to know. If they actually had the interests of their country or their party at heart they would shut the **** up. But their desire to remain relevant to the debate trumps every other consideration. Their only relevance to this debate is that they were and are on the wrong side of the argument, and cannot accept that the British people didn’t take their oh so wise advice and vote ‘Remain’. My advice to them is that they should only open their mouths if they have something helpful to say. If they have anything unhelpful to say, maybe they should say it in private to Theresa May or David Davis. And then prepare themselves for the response…

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Labour Politics

The Top 100 People on the Left List 2016

24 Sep 2016 at 09:00

Iain Dale and his panel of experts choose their Top 100 Most Influential People On The Left list – and after a remarkable year for Labour, there have been some dramatic changes.

Each year for the last ten years I have convened a panel to compile a list of the Top 100 Most Influential People on the Left.

Back in 2007, Gordon Brown topped the list, but of the other 99 people included, 87 of them do not figure on the 2016 list.

This year our panel comprised of an MP, a Labour SPAD, a left of centre journalist and a left wing historian and a former Labour adviser. The most difficult thing when deciding who to include an exclude, is to define what ‘influence’ actually means. In the end it means being influential in a combination of national politics, the media, on the Labour Party and its leader.

In all, there are 29 new entries in the whole list, on top of the 45 which appeared last year. Out go Stuart Hosie, Humza Yousaf and Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh from the SNP. Ken Livingstone, Jim Kennedy, Jon Cruddas, Alan Johnson, John Mills and possibly surprisingly George Galloway are all ejected, along with former Shadow Cabinet members Chris Bryant, Seema Malhotra, Maria Eagle, John Healey, Lord Falconer and Vernon Coaker.

In come a whole host of Corbynistas like Richard Burgon, Sam Tarry, Peter Willsman, Rachel Shabi, James Meadway, Andrew Fisher, James Schneider and Karie Murphy. Seumas Milne is the highest new entry at number five. The Greens are represented by their co-leaders Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley, while the SNP surprisingly only take 4 places in the whole list.

The panel also did a bit of star spotting by including newly elected MP Stephen Kinnock and the new mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees.

People always look at individuals on lists like this and sniff the political wind to find out if their heroes are on their way up and their anti-Christs are on their way down or even out. There’s little doubt that following Jeremy Corbyn’s enormous victory the left and their supporters are on the rise, while new Labour establishment figures are on the wane as figures of influence.

One of the highest risers is the Shadow Defence Secretary Clive Lewis (89 to 15). Sadiq Khan rises from 14 to 3 and the chair of Momentum John Lansman enters the top ten at number eight, up from 61. Emily Thornberry’s Lazarus-like rehabilitation sees her come in at number 17, while Paul Mason rises nearly fifty places to 21. Jess Phillips rises up the list, from 94 to 47.

If Jeremy Corbyn persuades a whole host of malcontents to rejoin his front bench team in the next few weeks, this list could be out of date before the ink is dry. But the lesson this year is that the left have well and truly entrenched themselves in the upper echelons of this list and the right is well and truly in retreat. It’s difficult to see that changing any time soon.

Jeremy Corbyn Name Sign

1. (-) Jeremy Corbyn
Leader of the Labour Party
With a new mandate, how will he use it? He says he wants to unite the party but it’s difficult to see how it’s possible. Will he become his own man or remain under the apparent control of McDonnell and Milne?

2. (-) Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister of Scotland
Sturgeon’s reputation will stand or fall on the result of a second independence referendum. Will she have the courage to push for it?

3. (+11) Sadiq Khan
Mayor of London
Having won the mayoralty by a big margin, Khan has got off to a storming start in the job. Much more of this and people will be putting him forward as the next leader of the Labour Party. He would do well to ignore such praise and just carry on with the job.

4. (-) John McDonnell
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Possibly the most unlikely appointment since Caligula made his horse a senator. McDonnell holds huge away over Corbyn. Some say he is Corbyn’s Svengali. There’s no doubt that Corbyn doesn’t do anything without the say so of McDonnell and the next man on this list…

5. (NEW) Seumas Milne
Director of Communications & Strategy
A “tankie” whose strategy is to only allow Corbyn to be interviewed by vaguely sympathetic interviewers if he can get away with it. Like McDonnell, he holds huge influence over Corbyn. The fact that he apparently speaks to George Galloway every day (according to Galloway) tells us a lot.

6. (-3) Tom Watson
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
Watson is one member of the Shadow Cabinet that McDonnell and Milne can’t get rid of. He’s elected and he is there to stay. Gradually he is making his views on Corbyn known and it will be interesting to see if and when his patience snaps.

7. (-2) Len McCluskey
General Secretary, UNITE
McCluskey has stayed loyal to Corbyn, even though it’s clear he is frustrated by his performance. His union continues to fund the party to a massive extent, but if the polls remain as they are, will Unite really fund Labour to the extent that they did at the last election?

8. (+53) Jon Lansman
Founder & Chair, Momentum
Lansman has managed, despite himself, to stay in the background but this may now change with Corbyn’s new mandate. Momentum’s influence is only going to increase and Lansman knows exactly how to ensure that happens.

9. (NEW) Andrew Fisher
Director of Policy
Fisher has a controversial past but is very adept at imposing himself and his views. One of Corbyn’s most trusted lieutenants, he is likely to become even more influential over the next twelve months as he starts drafting some firm policies.

10. (+10) Diane Abbott
Shadow Heath Secretary
Abbott has managed to stay out of trouble and after all the mass resignations she was rewarded with the more profile role of Shadow Health Secretary. She is said to have been disappointed not to have bagged the Foreign Affairs portfolio. Would die in a ditch for her leader.

11. (-3) Rosie Winterton
Chief Whip
Winterton is a great survivor. Corbyn doesn’t trust her an inch, but so far he hasn’t dared to get rid of her. That might change imminently.

12. (+27) Andrew Murray
Chief of Staff at UNITE & Chair of the Stop the War Coalition
A deeply divisive figure, Murray has now succeeded Jeremy Corbyn as chair of the Stop the War Coalition, a position he had previously held. But UNITE is his main powerbase and he is the power behind Len McCluskey’s throne.

13. (+10) Frances O’Grady
General Secretary, TUC
O’Grady’s profile has quietly risen in the last twelve months and her advice is likely to be sought more and more from a more trade union friendly Labour Party. Several of her campaigns have cut through and she had a high profile in the EU referendum campaign.

14. (+1) Dave Prentis
General Secretary of UNISON
Another general secretary who will be looking for a more union friendly approach from a Corbyn-led Labour Party. Prentis is a softly spoken moderate and any influence he exerts will be behind the scenes rather than shouted from the ramparts. A resolute defender of Corbyn in the media.

15. (+74) Clive Lewis
Shadow Defence Secretary
Articulate and eloquent, Lewis is seen as one of the left’s bright hopes for the future. An ex-soldier who served in Afghanistan, he turned down the role of Shadow Defence Secretary on two occasions, before relenting in June. A real candidate to succeed Corbyn.

16. (+9) Lisa Nandy
Former Shadow Energy & Climate Change Secretary
If Jeremy Corbyn were to fall under a bus, some in the Labour left were looking to Lisa Nandy as the candidate of the left in a future leadership election. However, given she resigned from the front bench in June, she may have her work cut out. Co-edited a book on the future of the left with Caroline Lucas called THE ALTERNATIVE.

17. (NEW) Emily Thornberry
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Like a phoenix from the ashes, Thornberry has recovered from her white van moment to rise, almost by accident, to the top of the Shadow Cabinet. Rather gaffe prone in interviews she will have a huge profile over the next 12 months as the party decides its policy on Trident.

18. (-2) Yvette Cooper
Former Labour leadership candidate
Although beaten into third place, she emerged from the 2015 leadership campaign with some credit, and has retained a high media profile. She is a contender for the chairmanship of the Home Affairs select committee.

19. (-12) Angela Eagle
Former Shadow Business Secretary
The shadow chancellor who never was, and the challenger to Jeremy Corbyn that never was. The next 12 months may see her disappear without trace, but many are hoping she will continue to be one of the saner voices in the Labour Party and push her centrist agenda.

20. (+1) Andy Burnham
Shadow Home Secretary & Candidate for Mayor of Greater Manchester
One of the several Labour politicians who now see their future outside the Commons, Burnham will be a shoo-in as Mayor of Greater Manchester. He will surely leave his post as Shadow Home Secretary in the next few weeks.

21. (+52) Paul Mason
Freelance Journalist & Commentator
Some say he is Corbyn’s “Comical Ali”, others see him as a guru. Said to have turned down a senior advisory job with Corbyn, he will be an ever louder voice on the media representing Corbyn’s brand of politics.

22. (+30) Caroline Lucas
Co-Leader of the Green Party
Lucas’s profile will increase once again now that she has taken over the co-leadership of the Green Party.

23. (NEW) Tim Roache
General Secretary, GMB
Roache isn’t the media friendly performer that his predecessor Paul Kenny was, and it will be interesting to see how he tries to influence the Labour leadership given that his union backed Owen Smith in the recent leadership contest.

24. (-9) Owen Jones
Guardian columnist
A year of flip-flopping has seen Owen Jones fall on this year’s list. He knows Corbyn can’t win and has taken a risk by saying so. The resulting opprobrium has damaged his image as the golden boy of the left.

25. (-15) Neale Coleman
Director of Policy for the Mayor of London
Coleman fell out of favour with Seumas Milne and resigned as Corbyn’s policy director, leaving to go to advise the Labour candidate for the Bristol mayoralty. He’s since become Sadiq Khan’s head of policy.

26. (-12) Iain McNicol
General Secretary of the Labour Party
A dead man walking. Corbyn, McDonnell and Milne are determined to get his scalp and in all likelihood they will. He’s had a terrible task over the last twelve months but has performed it with dignity and decorum despite severe provocation.

27. (NEW) Karie Murphy
Office Manager to Jeremy Corbyn
Said to be the oil that lubricates the Corbyn machine, Murphy is one of they key members of his operation.

28. (-5) Chuka Umunna
Former Shadow Business Secretary
Umunna has kept up a high media profile, especially during the referendum campaign but can he succeed in his ambition to become chairman of the Home Affairs select committee. Not if Yvette Cooper has anything to do with it.

29. (+36) Kevin Maguire
Assistant Editor, Daily Mirror
Wisely turned down the job as Corbyn’s Head of Communications, Maguire has become the go to voice for those who want to know what is going on at the top of the Labour Party. Even though he has been critical of Corbyn’s performance, Corbyn’s people know they can’t afford to alienate him.

30. (-1) Alicia Kennedy
Labour Peer
Having run Tom Watson’s deputy leadership campaign Kennedy is the power behind the throne. A true party insider, she knows where a lot of bodies are buried.

31. (-) Gordon Brown
Former Prime Minister
Gordon Brown’s role in the Scottish referendum victory and indeed his attempt to reinvigorate the Remain campaign have kept him high on this list. However, he has so far failed to carve out a real role for himself.

32. (-4) Owen Smith
Former Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary & Leadership Candidate
A high new entry last year, Smith’s profile has been raised by his leadership challenge. However, his campaign never caught fire and was hit by several strategic errors. He is likely to continue to be a thorn in Corbyn’s side, but how bad his bite will be remains to be seen.

33. (NEW) Angela Rayner
Shadow Education Secretary
A rising star, Rayner has found her voice in the fight against Theresa May’s grammar school proposals but the jury is out on how far she will go.

34. (NEW) Kate Osamor
Shadow International Development Secretary
Seen as a competent performer, Osamor needs to develop a higher public profile, which is not easy to do in this role.

35. (NEW) James Schneider
National Organiser, Momentum
Schneider has been adept at carving out a high media profile for himself. How far Momentum’s success is down to his organisational abilities is debateable, but there’s no doubt that he is a very competent, charming public face for the insurgent organisation.

36. (NEW) Shami Charkrabarti
Labour Peer
Shami Chakrabarti will have been horrified by the headlines generated by her peerage. She is so high on this list because we consider a shoo-in for Jeremy Corbyn’s new shadow cabinet, probably as Shadow Justice Secretary, or even Shadow Home Secretary.

37. (-28) Hilary Benn
Former Shadow Foreign Secretary
Last year we wrote: “One of the great survivors of modern politics, Hilary Benn is popular among his colleagues and is likely to stand up to any excesses of the Corbyn leadership with both determination and grace.” He did, and he’s now out. Likely to run to be chair of the new Brexit select committee.

38. (-3) Alex Salmond
SNP Foreign Affairs Spokesman
Retains a huge ability to grab the headlines but you get the feeling he feels his current role is somewhat beneath him. He’s pushing hard for a second referendum before Brexit occurs, and if it does, he will be one of the key figures.

39. (-9) Heidi Alexander
Former Shadow Health Secretary
One of the nicest people in parliament, Alexander was given a huge promotion when she was appointed to the Health portfolio, where she did an excellent job. Her resignation was clearly very painful to her. She ought to be a major player in the Labour Party’s future.

40. (NEW) J K Rowling
Labour Party donor
J K Rowling has developed a knack of speaking out rarely, but effectively. Her donations both to Labour and to the Remain campaign inevitably confer influence.

41. (NEW) Ed Balls
Dancer
His excellent memoir Speaking Out has become a bestseller, and deservedly so. His profile on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ will give him a new platform and although a political comeback is unlikely, never rule anything out.

42. (-2) Carwyn Jones
Welsh First Minister
The most powerful Labour politician in the land, Jones has never bothered to build a UK wide profile and concentrates on his role in Wales.

43. (NEW) Ashuska Asthana/Heather Stewart
Joint Political Editors of The Guardian
They have confounded those who thought a political editor job share could never work. They’ve broken big stories and each developed a good media profile.

44. (-12) Polly Toynbee
Guardian Columnist
Last year we wrote: “Toynbee has been a surprising Corbyn sympathiser…but it’s inevitable that at some point she will part company with Corbyn and his team.” It didn’t take long.

45. (+18) Angus Robertson
Leader of the SNP in Westminster
Consistently asks the questions at PMQs that Jeremy Corbyn fails to. Is standing to be deputy leader of the SNP and should win easily. Has managed to keep Alex Salmond in his box in Westminster. No mean achievement.

46. (+36) Jonathan Ashworth
Shadow Minister without portfolio & NEC member
Has been a critic of Corbyn but has decided to hang on in there in the Shadow Cabinet. Consistently walks a political tightrope, but is an impressive media performer.

47. (+47) Jess Phillips
Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley
Last year we wrote: “Anyone who has the balls to tell Diane Abbott to ‘fuck off’ in a PLP meeting deserves to make this list. Phillips is going to be one of the characters of the new Parliament.” We were right. She’s just ousted Dawn Butler to become chair of the Women’s PLP and is writing a book.

48. (-37) Harriet Harman
Former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
Influential behind the scenes, Harman has become more outspoken as the months go by. She will soon be publishing her memoirs, guaranteeing a continuing high profile.

49. (+10) Jenny Formby
Political Director, UNITE
It could be argued that Jenny Formby is of even more significance than her general secretary given that she can fund political campaigns across the spectrum and influence candidate selections.

50. (-7) John Cryer
Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party
Last year we wrote: “John Cryer has the mother of all tasks in preventing all out civil war within the parliamentary party and his diplomatic skills are likely to be tested to the full, especially if Labour does badly in the various elections next May.” Well, he is still there…

51. (+7) Helen Lewis
Deputy Editor, New Statesman
Lewis’s profile is gradually on the rise and she is considered one of the more balanced and thoughtful commentators on the centre left.

52. (-14) Cat Smith
Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement & Youth Affairs
Cat Smith worked for six years in Jeremy Corbyn’s office and knows him better than most. An ultra-leftie herself, she was among the first to nominate Corbyn and will continue to be an influence on him. Perhaps not been as high profile as we expected last year.

53. (-12) Kezia Dugdale
Leader of the Scottish Labour Party
Who would have Kezia Dugdale’s job? Possibly the most unenviable job in British politics at the moment. She took Labour from 2nd place to 3rd in Scotland in May, or was it Corbyn? Time will tell if she can take Labour forward.

54. (+3) Jason Cowley
Editor, New Statesman
Cowley has been considered more of a literary specialist than a political one, but his skilful steering of the New Statesman has resulted in the magazine and its website becoming a required political read across the spectrum.

55. (-11) John Woodcock
Labour MP for Barrow in Furness
One of the MPs not afraid to confront the Corynistas and tell it like it is, despite the bullying and aggression he has encountered.

56. (-32) Jon Trickett
Shadow Business Secretary
Formerly chief poilitical advisor to Ed Miliband, Jon Trickett has made the transition seemlessly to the new guard. However, he has failed to build a public profile outside the left of the Labour Party.

57. (+11) Luke Akehurst
Secretary, Labour First
One of the most talented Labour people never to have become MP. His Labour First group is gaining in influence and he may be a key figure in uniting the right of the party. Again failed to be elected to the NEC, though.

58. (+12) Mark Serwotka
General Secretary, PCS
A very popular union leader. Serwotka has courageously struggled with his health in recent times but remains one of the most influential people in the trade union movement.

59. (-8) Dan Jarvis
Labour MP for Barnsley
Labour’s lost leader. Had he run for leader in 2015 or indeed 2016 he may have made a much bigger impression than the other candidates who lost. However, he is finding it difficult to carve out a niche for himself. The next twelve months will be vital for him.

60. (+2) John Swinney
SNP Deputy First Minister of Scotland
Swinney has bounced back role following his lacklustre period as leader. Like his leader he has a well developed sense of humour and provides the ballast in the SNP’s Edinburgh leadership.

61. (+10) Mick Cash
General Secretary, RMT
Cash has had a difficult act to follow, but Bob Crow would have been proud of him with the number of strikes the RMT continues to call. The RMT has yet to reaffiliate to the Labour Party but it can surely only be a matter of time.

62. (-15) Liz Kendall
Former leadership candidate
She is now the undisputed leader of the Blairite right and showed a lot of courage in putting herself forward the leadership so early. Her campaign was mixed to say the least, but she won a lot of friends and made few enemies. She continues to be the predominant holder of the Blairite torch.

63. (+20) Pat McFadden
Former Shadow Europe Minister
Pat McFadden has become one of the ringleaders of opposition to the Corbyn leadership. Quietly spoken, he has proved a force around which the anti-Corbyn forces can unite around.

64. (-38) Gloria de Piero
Former Shadow Minister for Youth Engagement
A key ally of Tom Watson, de Piero was tipped for a big job in the new shadow cabinet but she was sidelined into a youth engagement portfolio, having apparently turned down defence. Since she resigned her role she has been an eloquent voice on the media explaining why the PLP needs to be listened to by the leadership.

65. (-5) Katherine Viner
Editor, The Guardian
The Guardian has steered a rather ambivalent course through Jeremy Corbyn’s first year, afraid to be too confrontational (given that Seumas Milne will one day return from his unpaid leave) but clearly sceptical of the Labour leader’s chances of success. You just get the feeling that The Guardian isn’t influencing the debate in the way that it used to.

66. (-20) Tony Blair
Former Prime Minister
Some say Tony Blair is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the future of Labour but given that if you’re even a tad to the right of Jeremy Corbyn you’re denounced as either a ‘Blairite’ or a ‘Tory’, it just shows that the three time election winning former Prime Minister still continues to shape the debate on the left, just as Margaret Thatcher does so on the right.

67. (-3) Lord David Sainsbury
Philanthropist & Labour donor
A man totally out of sync with the current Labour Party it’s unimaginable he will continue to donate to the national party. Instead, he will concentrate his munificence on Progress and other non Corbynite causes.

68. (-34) Kat Fletcher
Political Adviser on stakeholder engagement to Jeremy Corbyn
Former NUS head, she played a key role in Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and has now taken on the role of fixer-in-chief. At least we think that’s what ‘stakeholder engagement’ is a euphemism for.

69. (-13) Mhairi Black
SNP MP for Paisley & Renfrewshire South
Mhairi Black may not quite have lived up to her maiden speech, but she remains an inspirational figure in Scottish politics.

70. (NEW) Marvin Rees
Mayor of Bristol
Wrestled back the mayoralty of Bristol from an Independent and one of the few black figures in the Labour Party in a position of power.

71. (NEW) John Harris
Guardian Journalist
A growing reputation as an insightful political columnist and often a purveyor of some surprising truths.

72. (-22) Lucy Powell
Former Shadow Education Secretary
Although falling on this year’s list, Lucy Powell remains a politician in the public eye, mainly because she isn’t afraid to call a spade a shovel.

73. (-28) Michael Dugher
Former Shadow Culture, Media & Sport Secretary
One of Jeremy Corbyn’s most vocal critics on the backbenches, he will move heaven and earth to undermine the Labour leader. Am arch plotter who is a very effective political operator.

74. (-38) Stella Creasy
Former deputy leadership candidate
Having fought an excellent deputy leadership election campaign in which she came second, Stella Creasy could have had a job of her asking, but instead she decided not to serve. She’s had a quiet year.

75. (+1) Richard Leese
Leader of Manchester City Council
One of the few local government leaders with a profile, he’s about to be usurped by Andy Burnham. He will do well to appear on next year’s list.

76. (+3) Matt Wrack
General Secretary, FBU
Wrack provided good leadership to his members in the dispute with the government over pay, conditions and pensions, and unusually, he got the public on his side. In the last year he has led his union back into Labour Party affiliation.

77. (NEW) Val Shawcross
Deputy Mayor of London
A veteran of London politics, Shawcross is a vital cog in the Khan mayoralty, just as she was in Ken Livingstone’s.

78. (NEW) Kevin Courtney
General Secretary, National Union of Teachers
Just replaced Christine Blower as General Secretary of a traditionally militant and strike-happy union. It’s too early to judge whether he will follow her policies.

79. (+16) Stephen Bush
Editor of the New Statesman ‘Staggers’ blog
One of the rising stars of a new generation of journalists on the left, he was one of the few to predict the course of last year’s leadership election. An increasing broadcast media profile.

80. (-2) Lloyd Embley
Editor, Daily Mirror
The Mirror was an early recogniser of the defects of the Corbyn leadership and is therefore seen as a hostile force by the Corbynistas.

81. (NEW) Stephen Kinnock
Labour MP for Aberavon
One of the more impressive of the new intake of Labour MPs, he has done well to escape his family surname and be seen as a politician in his own right. Had a ‘good war’ over Tata.

82. (NEW) Richard Burgon
Shadow Minister for Justice
Slightly gaffe-prone, Burgon is widely seen as a tad overpromoted, but the reason is obvious. He’s the biggest Corbyn cheerleader in the shadow cabinet. Reportedly spent eight months as Shadow City Minister without ever meeting anyone from the City. Let’s hope that is aprocrophal.

83. (-2) Baroness Angela Smith
Labour leader in the House of Lords
The role of Labour leader in the House of Lords will be crucial in the Parliament and Smith has declared UDI from the Corbyn leadership. She’s determined that any government defeats will be down to her and her colleagues rather than the Corbynistas taking credit.

84. (-36) Rachel Reeves
Former Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary
Another of Labour’s lost generation who refuse to serve under Jeremy Corbyn. She’s a real loss to the frontbench, but she now has an opportunity to make her mark across all areas of policy. A quiet year. About to publish a biography of one of her predecessors in Leeds, Alice Bacon MP.

85. (-36) Luciana Berger
Former Shadow Mental Health Minister
An impressive performer, she was the only jewish member of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow team. It was never going to last, was it? Stood to be mayor of Liverpool but came a very poor third.

86. (NEW) Alison McGovern MP
Chair of Progress
One of the last keepers of the Blairite flame, she remains very close to Gordon Brown, who she latterly served as PPS.

87. (NEW) James Murray
Deputy Mayor of London
Meadway is the new deputy mayor for Housing and has a key influence over policy more widely in the Khan mayoralty.

88. (+4) Neil Kinnock
Former Leader of the Labour Party
Regarded with affection across the Labour Party, Neil Kinnock has taken on the role of a wise old father figure to Labour politicians from all wings. His speech to the PLP about the failures of the Corbyn leadership reminded many of his conference rant against Militant.

89. (NEW) Pete Wilsman
Member, Labour Party NEC
A key supporter of the Corbyn leadership, Willsman is a veteran of far left politics and is an arch plotter against any group considered to the right of the Labour leader.

90. (NEW) Rachel Shabi
Journalist & Commentator
Omnipresent on our screens, the redoubtable Shabi is one of the few Corbyn supporting commentators to be taken seriously by the media.

91. (NEW) Sam Tarry
Political Officer, TSSA & Director of Corby for Leader
A councillor in Barking and Dagenham, despite apparently living in Brighton, Tarry is close to Corbyn and led his team during the second leadership election. An effective operator.

92. (NEW) Matt Forde
Political Commentator & Comedian
An uber-Blairite, Forde has developed a good reputation as a serious political commentator as well as a comedian. His mimicry is astonishingly accurate and he has just bagged a weekly political show on the channel Dave.

93. (NEW) Ayesha Hazirika
Political Commentator & Comedian
Former adviser to Harman and Miliband, Hazirika is now carving out a role for herself in the world of political punditry. She has also revived her stand-up career, appearing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

94. (NEW) Richard Angell
Director, Progress
A key player in the struggle to undermine Jeremy Corbyn, Progress has now become seen by some as the right wing rival to Momentum, when it is actually nothing of the sort.

95. (+3) Jim McMahon
Labour MP for Oldham
McMahon entered this list last year when he was Labour leader on the LGA. Having won the Oldham by-election, he is seen as a future leader of the party by some on the right.

96. (NEW) James Meadway
Economic Adviser to John McDonnell
Meadway has overtaken Richard Murphy as the far left’s favoured economic guru. Came to McDonnell from the New Economics Foundation.

97. (NEW) James Bloodworth
Labour blogger and author
Seen as an insightful commentator on the left. A prolific blogger and author, his book THE MYTH OF MERITOCRACY has been very well received.

98. (NEW) Jonathan Bartley
Co-Leader of the Green Party
Undoubtedly Bartley will play second fiddle to his co-leader Caroline Lucas. She will be the public face of the Greens and it will be interesting to see how Bartley carves out a role for himself.

99. (-) Leanne Wood
Leader of Plaid Cymru
In publicity terms Plaid certainly punches above their weight given their consistent lack of ability to really make a breakthrough in the Welsh Assembley.

100. (NEW) Aaron Bastani
Commentator & Founder of Novaro Media
A controversial figure, Bastani has carved an influential role for him and his social media based company and is held high in the affections of Corbyn and his team.

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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: Hillary Debates The Donald and Why Corbyn Won't be Magnanimous

23 Sep 2016 at 14:45

Over the weekend I head up to the Labour Party conference. It’s my 18th conference, but I suspect this will be different to all the others. I’m expecting a very different clientele to be attending. Gone will be the sharp suited youths of the Blair years, present will be a new breed of the hard left. I suspect the atmosphere will be horrible. The Corbynistas will feel that they are at their most powerful and all this talk of Corbyn being magnanimous and making a peace offering to his critics is for the birds. Even if he wanted to, McDonnell wouldn’t allow it. The Shadow Chancellor sticks firmly by the rules of the Trotskyists handbook. Stamp your opponents into the ground when they are at their weakest. Give no quarter. No compromise. See if I’m not right.
*
This week I convened my panel to compile this year’s Top 100 People on the Right. It consisted of a Conservative MP, a party agent, a prominent Vote Leave campaigner, a broadsheet journalist and a Tory writer. The most enjoyable part of this three hour session was deciding who to eject from last year’s list. It was quite a task given the regime change we’ve been through. Perhaps the most difficult thing to achieve was to agree where David Cameron and George Osborne (last year’s top two) should feature in the list. You will be able to see the results of our deliberations next weekend on ConservativeHome.
*

So Mary Berry has quit the Great British Bakeoff. Give. A. Toss.
*
I suspect the viewing figures for the first Presidential debate early on Tuesday morning will be at an all time high in this country. With the polls narrowing there is an awful lot at stake for both candidates. I’d love to be a fly on the wall as the Trump debate prep team take their candidate through what he should and shouldn’t do. “Be the voice of sweet reason and don’t say anything sexist,” shrills one. “Ground the bitch into the dirt,” says another. “Let Donald be Donald,” says another. It will be very interesting to see which of his advisers wins the day. Hillary’s task is to speak human. She’s not a great speaker or a debator, but her strategy surely has to be to show Trump up for what he is – a racist, sexist bully who has no clue on either domestic or foreign policy. Having said all that, Trump has one strong card in his hand -that of the outsider. Like Nigel Farage, he seems to be inspiring people to vote who haven’t voted in years. I am astonished by the number of Democrats who say they can’t vote for Hillary and will therefore vote Trump. The questions is, can they be outnumbered by the Republicans who can’t stick Trump and will hold their noses and vote for Hillary. And to think, that out of 320 million people, these are the best two candidates the Americans could throw up. And I use that phrase advisedly.
*

The Liberal Democrat conference was held in Brighton this week. Just thought you should know.
*
I’ve always rather liked Diane James. In case you haven’t a clue who I am talking about, she has just been elected Leader of UKIP. I’ve rarely seen a woman more pumped up with adrenaline than when she accepted the job on stage at the UKIP conference. I did think, though, that Nigel Farage shouldn’t have been on stage. It was her moment, and she should have been allowed to enjoy it on her own and bask in the applause from a very excited audience. Diane is transparently nice, but she is also quite steely. The big question against her, though, is can she appeal to voters in northern Labour seats. They are the key to UKIP’s success in 2020 but she won’t appeal to them in the same way that Nigel Farage did. The other question against her is whether she can escape from Nigel Farage’s shadow. The jury is out on that one. There have been several defections of relatively high profile UKIPpers back to the Conservatives in recent days. I doubt whether this trickle will become a flood, but you never know. If Suzanne Evans decided to make the journey back, I suspect she would be followed by quite a few others.

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Iain Hosts a Phonein on Downs Syndrome

Very emotional discussion

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WATCH: The LBC Middle East Process Debate With Mark Regev & Manuel Hassassian

19 Sep 2016 at 21:26

This was an hour long debate I hosted this evening between Mark Regev, the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, and his Palestinian counterpart, Manual Hassassian. I had interviewed them separately back in July and asked if they would debate each other. Somewhat to my surprise they both agreed without any pre-conditions. My aim was to have an hour of conversation rather than heated debate. I wanted to avoid any histrionics on either side and to try to explore what the two sides have in common, as well as what divides them.

I urged people right from the beginning to try to put aside their own prejudices and beliefs and I hope I did that myself. Looking at the social media reaction, it seems I succeeded in that as no one has accused me of being biased towards one side or the other – that must be a first!

I’m really proud of what we did in this hour. I’m told it was the first time that an official representative of the Israeli government and an official representative of the PLO had debated each other in this way. I was delighted to see them shake hands at the end. Symbolically it was important.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale & Lynnette Burrows fall out over Kissing in Public

Fireworks occur over whether two gay people should be allowed to kiss in public. Mrs Burrows thinks not!

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Books

BOOK REVIEW: Speaking Out by Ed Balls - Best Political Book I've Read This Year

18 Sep 2016 at 15:44

Very few political books stand the test of time. Three months after they come out they’re forgotten. Ed Balls can be proud that his book will be different. It’s not a conventional political memoir in that it’s not chronological and doesn’t pretend to be a learned, intellectually based book, which sets out the author’s massive contribution to political history. Instead, it’s set out in a series of themed chapters, each containing many lessons to anyone who is involved in politics at whatever level. There’s a certain therapeutic nature as Balls unburdens himself. It’s almost as if when he got to the end he breathed a massive sigh of relief and muttered to himself in the direction of the reader: “do your worst”.

There is little self-justification contained in this book. In fact, it really is warts and all. Ed Balls is open and honest about a myriad of things he now believes he got wrong, as well as the odd thing he got right. He reckons in retrospect that he knew the financial crash at the time was coming. He and others spotted the fault lines, but somehow failed to join up the dots. Six months before it happened, the Treasury ‘wargamed’ a financial crash in which a northern building society got into financial trouble having over-extended itself. Who’d have thought?

In some ways may of the chapters provide rock hard evidence that most political failures are cock-ups rather than conspiracy. They also show that Ed Balls is very far from the bullying political bruiser he is often portrayed as. He is very far away from the shadowy figure who was Gordon Brown’s enforcer. This book is full of wonderfully human anecdotes, often involving the chaos of the Balls-Cooper family like, and proves that politicians are actually just the same as the rest of us – with the same foibles, aims, ambitions and experiences.

The only place I thought Ed Balls wasn’t quite on top of the actualite, was when he was talking about the TeeBeeGeeBees, which he downplays to the point of unbelievability. Compare his version with the version in Alastair Campbell’s diaries, and I think I know which is the more accurate. He acknowledges that the running battles between Blair and Brown got in the way of the Blair government achieving what it could have, but fails to give the reader the depth of the split between them that clearly existed.

Where Balls is strongest is where he goes into events in which he was intimately involved. The inner contortions he went through over whether to sack Sharon Shoesmith in the Baby P case, is a good example. Damned if he did, damned if he didn’t. Welcome the life of a Secretary of State, where making decisions is often a lonely experience.

We complain loudly nowadays that we have elected a generation of politicians with no hinterland. On the face of it Ed Balls was one of them. Oxford, special adviser, MP, Minister. That’s the career path taken by so many politicians nowadays, a career path barely interrupted by any kind of life outside politics. Ed Balls doesn’t shrink from this. His only job outside politics was as a journalist at the Financial Times. Yet the pages of his book brim with real life experience and many interests outside politics.

Ten years ago I loathed Ed Balls. To me he represented all that was dreadful about politics under New Labour. That was because I failed to look beneath the surface and believed the conventional wisdom.

I now think it’s very sad that he is, for the moment at least, lost to the political world. In fact, I would go so far as to say that losing his seat may well be the best thing that ever happened to him. Serving as a Labour MP under Jeremy Corbyn would have been torture for him.

It’s sad that he’s no longer a leading Labour MP because I think that his experiences over the last few years would have prepared him well for the leadership of his party. Sadly, because of a past from which he could never escape, it was never going to happen. He’s got the intellect, the self-knowledge, the communicative ability and presence to have made a very good prime minister. Never say never, but it’s difficult to imagine the circumstances in which it will now happen, but we certainly haven’t heard the last of Ed Balls.

In fact, I suspect he is having the time of his life – lecturing at Harvard, chairing the board of Norwich City Football Club, Strictly Come Dancing contestant. But all these roles are transient.

Alastair Campbell left Downing Street in August 2003. Thirteen years later he has yet to take on a big role, concentrating instead on writing books, taking on various short term roles and earning money from public speaking. I’ve always thought he yearns for one more big role.

Ed Balls must avoid the danger of being seduced by short term enjoyment. He has a big role left in him, even if neither he nor I have a clue what it might be.

I usually only read political and football biographies. Some time ago I compiled a list of my favourite political books. Were I to compile such a list today I have no doubt that SPEAKING OUT would make the top twenty. It deserves to sell well, and if you are at all interest in the body politic, you should read it. I can almost guarantee you will both enjoy it and learn from it. It’s a book which should be read not only by current cabinet ministers, but everyone involved in politics at whatever level. I can’t recommend it too highly.

Buy can buy SPEAKING OUT from Politicos.co.uk HERE

UPDATE: I interviewed Ed Balls on the day his book was published. Well worth a watch IMHO!

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale's Sunday Debate: Leveson

Mark Lewis, Professor Stephen Barnet and Jim Fitzpatrick MP debate the imminent Leveson Report.

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LibDem Politics

The Top 50 Liberal Democrats 2016

17 Sep 2016 at 13:56

Each year I convene three panels to compile lists of the Top 50 Liberal Democrats, the Top 100 People on the Left and the Top 100 People on the Right. Each list is published to coincide with the three party conferences. This is the ninth year I’ve been doing this and although I thought that last year’s lists saw an unprecedented degree of change from the previous year, 2016’s are maintaining the momentum. Politics is getting ever more frenetic.

The Liberal Democrats have at least met the challenge I set them in 2015: of remaining relevant enough to warrant their inclusion in this exercise. Although they still seem stuck on 8 to 9 per cent in the polls, the EU referendum result, and Tim Farron’s immediate and instinctive reaction to it, gave them more publicity, another 20,000 or so members and a marked improvement in their local government by-election performance.

After 19 new entries in last year’s Liberal Democrat list, there are 15 new ones, or re-entries, this year. Much of this is due to the firming-up of the leader’s organization – this time last year Farron was a brand new leader, and hadn’t sorted out his office or his advisers. So many of the changes are due to new appointments – notably his widely-respected chief of staff Ben Williams, the highest new entry at number 5 – or to members of his leadership campaign team fading out. A raft of new appointments at party HQ have brought a new energy and professionalism to what was a distinctly battered operation, and the highly competent party president Sal Brinton has overseen an overhaul of the party’s byzantine committee structure.

Still, the Lib Dems lack stars recognizable in the outside world; most of the names here will be familiar only to party activists. Alongside Farron, Nick Clegg – now clawing back a little of the respect he used to have thanks to his expertise on EU matters – and Norman Lamb, plus old warhorses Paddy Ashdown and Vince Cable, are about the only Lib Dems who get any national coverage. There are other good performers, many now in the House of Lords, such as Susan Kramer and Lynne Featherstone, or Scottish leader Willie Rennie or London mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon, but along with the party as a whole, they struggle to be noticed. Welsh leader Kirsty Williams finds herself in the odd, though influential, position of occupying a ministerial post in the Welsh government as part of a coalition between Labour and – herself, as the only surviving Liberal Democrat in the Welsh Assembly.

Labour’s long-drawn-out implosion and UKIP’s disintegration may offer opportunities to the Liberal Democrats over the next twelve months. It’s too early to say they’ve recovered from electoral wipe-out in 2015 – but at least they seem to have hit bottom.

1. (-) Tim Farron
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
One of the more challenging jobs in British politics at the moment. Finding it difficult to get media traction but very popular with the LibDem grassroots. With Labour imploding there are now huge opportunities for the LibDems if Farron can exploit them.

2. (-) Sal Brinton
President of the Liberal Democrats
Brinton has an increasingly high media profile and is a reassuring presence for the LibDem grassroots.

3. (-1) Nick Clegg
Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats
With the publication of his new book and his return to the front bench as Europe Spokesman, expect to hear much more from the former Deputy Prime Minister over the next 12 months.

4. (-1) Norman Lamb
Health Spokesman
A quieter year for Lamb, who is increasingly concentrating on mental health policy.

5. (NEW) Ben Williams
Chief of Staff to Tim Farron
Acts as Tim Farron’s eyes and ears and gatekeeper.

6. (+1) Willie Rennie
Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
Avoiding wipeout in the Scottish Parliament elections in May counted as success in LibDem terms. Much of this was due to Rennie’s unexpectedly good performances in the TV debates.

7. (-1) Kirsty Williams
Former Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
She stood down from the leadership in Wales after losing all the LibDem seats in the Welsh Assembly apart from her own. She is now the only LibDem in a position of power, having accepted a place in the Welsh Executive Cabinet.

8. (+5) Lord Newby
Lib Dem Leader in the House of Lords
Newby has just been elected LibDem leader in the Lords, having previously acted as chief whip.

9. (+17) Alastair Carmichael
Former Scottish Secretary, MP for Orkney & Shetland
Carmichael has recovered from being accused of electoral malpractice and has now one of Tim Farron’s inner circle. A wise old owl figure.

10. (-1) Lynne Featherstone
Lib Dem Peer & Spokesperson on Energy & Climate Change
Popular with activists, a stellar record as a minister on issues like gay marriage and FGM. Kept up her profile with her book on equal marriage, EQUAL EVER AFTER

11. (+3) Caroline Pidgeon AM
Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London
Bright, funny, sassy, intelligent, she fought an excellent campaign for London mayor even if she didn’t get the result she deserved.

12. (+3) Tom Brake
Lib Dem Chief Whip
Brake is popular in the party, if somewhat charismatically challenged. But he herds the LibDem cats well and is trusted.

13. (+4) Baroness Susan Kramer
Lib Dem Peer & Economics Spokesman
Was seen as a good minister at the Department of Transport and has a good profile in her new economics portfolio. Her public persona belies a wickedly cheeky sense of humour.

14. (+2) Baroness Kate Parminter
Lib Dem Deputy Leader in the Lords
One half of a LibDem power couple (married to Clegg donor/adviser Neil Sherlock) she is a popular member of the LibDem House of Lords leadership team. She also shadows DEFRA.

15. (RE-ENTRY) Mike German
Party Treasurer & DWP Spokesman in the House of Lords
Former leader of the LibDems in the Welsh Assembly, he is said to have become very close to Tim Farron and is also responsible for the money side of the party.

16. (+3) Sir Vincent Cable
Former Lib Dem Business Secretary
Kept up a high media profile in the last twelve months and clearly determined to continue to play a leading role in the promotion of LibDemmery. Still handicapped by his reputation for not being a team player, burnished in the Clegg and Laws books.

17. (+1) Paddy Ashdown
Former Lib Dem leader
Still recovering from the 2015 election shambles he remains an important figure behind the scenes and still maintains a high media profile.

18. (NEW) Phil Reilly
Director of Communications for the Liberal Democrats
All round nice guy, Reilly has made the transition from being one of Nick Clegg’s Press team to taking on the whole comms role for Tim Farron. Devout West Ham fan.

19. (+12) Tim Gordon
Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats
Some say he’s more of a Financial Director than a Chief Executive, but whatever he is, he’s doing a great job holding the LibDems’ financial head above water.

20. (NEW) Shaun Roberts
Director of Campaigns & Elections

21. (-1) Duncan Brack
Vice Chair Lib Dem Policy Committee

22. (+1) Mark Pack
Editor, LibDem Newswire

23. (-1) David Laws
Former LibDem Schools Minister

24. (+16) Caron Lindsay
Co-editor of LibDem Voice

25. (NEW) Chris White
Member, Party Executive & Councillor

26. (+18) James Gurling
Chair, Campaigns and Communications Committee

27. (NEW) Giles Derrington
Head, Parliamentary Advisory Unit, Liberal Democrats

28. (+1) Dorothy Thornhill
LibDem mayor of Watford, new peer

29. (-2) Jo Swinson
Former Business minister

30. (NEW) Robin Teverson
LibDem Peer

31. (-6) Sir Simon Hughes
Former deputy leader of the Lib Dems

32. (NEW) Rumi Verjee
LibDem donor

33. (+9) Mark Williams
Lib Dems’ only Welsh MP, vice-chairman of the parliamentary campaigns team

34. (-13) Catherine Bearder
Member of the European Parliament

35. (RE-ENTRY) James McGrory
Co-Director, Open Britain, former Press Secretary to Nick Clegg

36. (NEW) Laura Davies
Director of People, Liberal Democrats

37. (-1) Menzies Campbell
Former leader of the LibDems, LibDem peer

38. (NEW) Tim Pickstone
Chief Executive, Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors

39. (-31) Greg Mulholland
Chair of the Parliamentary Campaigns Team

40. (-1) Jonathan Oates
Former Director of Communications to Nick Clegg, LibDem peer

41. (-31) Ben Rich
Former chief of staff to Tim Farron

42. (-2) John Pugh
MP for Southport, Education spokesperson

43. (NEW) Daisy Cooper
Parliamentary Candidate, St Albans

44. (NEW) Prateek Buch
Federal Policy Committee Member, former Director of the Social Liberal Forum

45. (NEW) John Leech
Former Member of Parliament for Manchester, Withington

46. (+41) Jim Wallace
Outgoing Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords

47. (+1) Maajid Nawaz
Director of the Quilliam Foundation, former LibDem PPC

48. (-2) Sarah Ludford
LibDem Peer, former MEP

49. (NEW) Daisy Benson
Parliamentary Candidate for Yeovil

50. (-5) Gerald Vernon-Jackson
Leader of the LibDems on the LGA

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Lady Pamela Hicks

Iain talks to Lady Pamela Hicks, daughter of Lord Louis Mountbatten, talks about her new book, DAUGHTER OF EMPIRE

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WATCH: Iain Dale Interviews Owen Smith

17 Sep 2016 at 00:27

Twenty minutes with the Labour leadership contender.

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Iain interviews an emotional Suzanne Evans

Suzanne Evans reacts to her suspension by UKIP.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Dave Quits, I'm Playing Kofi Annan & Why Sadiq Refused an Upgrade

17 Sep 2016 at 00:03

Brits don’t quit. That’s the quote that came back to bite David Cameron on the arse this week, after he announced his departure from the House of Commons. This decision makes me sad as I have always taken the view that ex-Prime Ministers should continue to play a role in our national life. We should be able to draw on their experience and wisdom and the ideal forum to do that in is Parliament. Unfortunately, the media has now become the chosen forum of e-PMs to contribute to debates. I do understand David Cameron when he says that whatever he said as a backbench MP would be a distraction, but it’s a pretty weak reason to quit Parliament. You only become a distraction if you allow yourself to, and comment on everything. Jim Callaghan hung around for seven years after he quit the Labour leadership. He chose his interventions carefully. I don’t remember John Major becoming a distraction in the 1997-2001 Parliament. Indeed, John Major should be David Cameron’s role model in how to behave in his post Parliament life. He only says something when he has something to say. And because of that, we all take notice of it on the rare occasions he emerges onto the Andrew Marr Show.
*
Next week I’m starting the LBC Middle East Process. Yes, really. On my radio show I’ll be hosting an hour long debate between the Israeli Ambassador to London Mark Regev, and the Palestinian Ambassador, Manuel Hassassian. I’ve interviewed them separately before, and I hope we can have at least a partial meeting of minds. Clearly there will be huge differences between them, but in my experience they are both reasonable men who have the ability to see a different point of view from their own. Whatever the outcome, I think I can assure you an hour of gripping radio.
*

The fuss about the state of Hillary Clinton’s health has been something to behold. The conspiracy theorists reckon she’s got anything from Parkinson’s disease to dementia or both. If she had, it would undoubtedly be in the public interest for it to be revealed, and she’s no doubt have to step down. But unless I am missing something, she is suffering from a mild dose of pneumonia. By the time you read this column she will be back on the campaign trail. Would she be getting this kind of scrutiny if she were a man? Actually, I think she probably would. Americans are obsessed about the health of their leaders. If you’re of my vintage you’ll remember the furore when President Carter collapsed while out on a jog. I could give you a lot more examples. As the first presidential debate approaches (it’s only ten days away), Hillary’s performance will be examined like never before.
*
My company Biteback is publishing a book this week by someone you’ve probably never heard of, a Turkish newspaper editor called Can Dundar. ‘We Are Arrested’ is the dramatic story of the repression of press freedom in Turkey and how he was treated at the hands of the Turkish state. He’s had to flee the country for his own safety and is the most famous journalist on the list of 109 ‘Wanted’ Turkish writers. If anyone now seriously believes that Turkey is now anything other than a semi-fascist state, they want their heads read. And quite why the EU is still entertaining the idea of Turkish membership is beyond a rather sick joke.
*

So according to Jean Claude Juncker the EU should now create an EU defence fund and a headquarters for a common military force. Yet another prediction made by Leave supporters (and denied by Remainers) which has come true.
*
Imagine you’re on a ten hour long flight to Montreal. You’re the Mayor of London. Journalists are on the plane with you. It’s your first big foreign trip. You’re offered an upgrade from economy. What do you do? Why, you refuse it of course! Well, that’s what Sadiq Khan did on Wednesday. My question is this: why on earth should we expect the Mayor of London to travel economy? Soon we’ll be expecting the Prime Minister to travel cattle class just to prove her hairshirt credentials. Ridiculous.
*

So the LEADER OF SCOTTISH TORIES IS THE MOST POPULAR POLITICAL LEADER IN SCOTLAND according to a new poll. And in other most unlikely headlines of the week, OWEN SMITH TO STORM TO VICTORY OVER JEREMY CORBYN IN LABOUR LEADERSHIP ELECTION. Which one of those two do you think is true, and which one is made up?

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Iain interviews Norman Tebbit about his novel

Norman Tebbit's first novel is about a dog.

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Radio

It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 50: When Is It Acceptable to Brand a Caller a "Fool and an Idiot"?

12 Sep 2016 at 20:31

This is hilarious. Ron loves Assad. He loves Putin. He thinks I am a Zionist because I apparently support funding the people (ISIS) who, er, would love to kill all Zionists. It’s not often I tell a caller they are a fool, but in Ron’s case, I made an exception.

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Brenda in Chelmsford tells Iain About Caring for Her Husband Who Has Dementia

Got a Kleenex ready?

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Do Some Lives Matter More Than Others?

9 Sep 2016 at 13:31

In the next few weeks we’ll get the results of the UKIP and Labour leadership elections and the SNP’s deputy leadership election. Labour and the SNP have both experienced booming membership growth, but there the similarity seems to end. Labour is languishing at 27% in the latest opinion poll, while the SNP have double that level of support a 54%, which is the highest rating for any political party in Europe I am reliably informed. Labour is tearing itself apart and debating just how left the party can go, while the main topic of conversation in the SNP deputy leadership election – which will undoubtedly be won by their Westminster leader Angus Robertson – seems to be the powers the deputy leader should have in deciding the maximum or minimum size of an SNP branch. Strange, I’d have thought that was more up the LibDems’ street.
*
South Eastern Railway is obviously trying to compete with Southern in order to claim the title of Britain’s most hapless train operator. My journey home from to Tonbridge on Wednesday was a case in point. We drew out of Charing Cross, only to remain on the bridge over the Thames for thirty minutes. And that was thirty minutes without explanation. No announcement from the guard or the train driver at all. I tweeted my displeasure to @Se_railway who later replied that due to the delay the train would terminate at Tonbridge rather than Tunbridge Wells. It didn’t affect me, but if I had been going on to Tunbridge Wells I’d have been furious. Needless to say that announcement wasn’t made until the train actually arrived at Tonbridge. What brilliant customer service. I’m tempted to say it should be privatised, and therein lies the problem. Train companies, like banks, display all the faults and incompetences that we used to complain about in the nationalised industries.
*

Just for the record, I haven’t spoken to David Davis since his supposed ‘slapping down’ by Number Ten. If I were him I’d be fairly phlegmatic about it. He won’t have enjoyed the headlines, but in actual fact, if you look at what he said it is very similar to what Theresa May has been saying. In many ways he was stating the bleeding obvious to say that it was “improbable” that we’d remain in the Single Market. How could we, if the EU continues to insist on freedom of movement of labour? The phrase ‘Brexit means Brexit’ is crystal clear. It means exiting all aspects of the EU, including the Single Market. Some people try to pretend that the Single Market is a separate entity to the EU itself. Total fiction. It’s an integral part of it. The countries that aren’t in the EU but are members of it, like Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland, are all potential members. And frankly, quite how you can compare their economies with ours is anyone’s guess. Whatever trade agreement we come to with the EU it will be based on our requirements and the fact that we are the fifth largest economy in the world and our imports from the EU are rather more vital to the EU than our exports to the EU are to us. We are in a very strong bargaining position and no doubt Theresa May and David Davis will use that to our advantage. The PM says she is not going to give a running commentary on all this but the media will no doubt demand that she does. She’s in a cleft stick because Parliament has every right to question ministers on progress in these areas but on the other hand they are going to have to play the straightest of bats for fear of giving away too much detail about our negotiating position.
*
So the Conservatives are to go back to the future on grammar schools. Opinion is split on whether they are bastions of social mobility or rather divisive institutions which condemn the less able to failure at the age of eleven. I couldn’t give a rat’s arse what a school is called. What I do care about though is that we shouldn’t consign a whole generation of children onto an educational scrapheap at such a young age. Having said that we also need to find ways of letting the tallest poppies grown as tall as they can. If comprehensive schools aren’t doing that them we need to find ways of enabling them to do so. To create schools for academically clever kids, and separate schools for the less academically abled is surely not the way forward. We already have an educational split in this country between private and state education. Why on earth would we try to create another one?
*

Just imagine the outcry if someone created an organisation called WHITE LIVES MATTER. And it’s perfectly possible given that white working class youths are now the most underprivileged in both our education system and society in general. They underperform their BME counterparts in many parts of the country by a country mile. It’s why they have forsaken the Labour Party for UKIP in many parts of the north. I say this because I am very disturbed the creation of a group calling themselves BLACK LIVES MATTER UK. They have been formed on the back of the BLM movement in the US which seeks to highlight the disgusting number of black people shot by police or who die in police custody. The UK group seem to be saying we face a similar situation in this country. We just don’t. If you look at the number of black or Asian people who die at the hands of the police in this country it is very small. Indeed, in 2016 so far 29 people have died in police custody – two of them black. The proportions are similar, or even lower, for each of the last five years. BLACK LIVES MATTER UK are trying to create division where there is none and fuel the racial divide. And this week we saw the ludicrous spectacle of nine protesters invading the London City Airport runway to protest about how aircraft emissions disproportionately affect black people. The irony that the nine protesters were all white was clearly lost on them. The lesson here is that ALL LIVES MATTER, black, white, brown or yellow.

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