Personal

My First Park Run (And How Greg Clark MP Kicked My Sorry White Ass)

31 Jan 2015 at 12:29

I’ve never done a park run before. And to be honest I wasn’t wholly looking forward to it. I wouldn’t know anyone, no doubt I’d be wearing totally inappropriate gear and I’d be very slow. I set myself a goal of doing it in under 45 minutes, but wasn’t wholly confident I’d do that.

I could hardly believe when I opened my front and found that it had started to snow. Perhaps they’d cancel it. No such luck, though. So off I drove, forgetting that my new car is wheel rear drive. It was a bit of a slippery-slidey drive to Dunorlan Park, just on the edge of Tunbridge Wells. I got there to find a couple of people parking up at the same time so I walked with one of them to the starting line, where there were around 60 people waiting to start. It turned out there were six other newbies. Just before the start I heard someone say hello to me and it was none other than our local MP Greg Clark, who was taking part for the sixth time. More of him later!

So off we went. It didn’t take long for me to trail most of the pack, but then again that came as no surprise. After all, there were only three others in the 50-54 age group and only five people over 54. Anyway, what I hadn’t bargained for is that around half of the distance was on the grass, or in this case the mud. And in parts it was very squelchy and incredibly difficult to run on. The 5km course through the park was divided into two identical laps. I have to admit it was a bit humiliating to be lapped by three runners just before I had completed the first lap, but I’ll get over it!

I started to feel my right leg at the beginning of the second lap. It felt as if it were about to detach itself from the rest of my body. Well, a slight exaggeration, but I was determined to carry on. I just couldn’t face not finishing no matter how long it took.

Several people said to me that the found these runs quite addictive. That was music to my ears. I have a bit of an addictive personality anyway so I hope to get to the point where I get withdrawal symptoms if I don’t go out for a run several times a week. I’ve been out each Saturday and Sunday for the last three weeks so I think i have made a reasonable start. Tomorrow I’m going to go for a run with my ten year old Goddaughter Zoe near Saffron Walden.

Anyway, I did finish, and although I have got some pretty disparaging twitter comments from people asking if I was hopping rather than running, I shall treasure this one from my friend Andrew Kennedy, who is the local Tory Party agent.

He should also be very proud of his local MP. Greg Clark clocked an amazing time of 23 minutes 6 seconds and came 8th. Total respect. Still, he didn’t quite lap me. That would have been the end :).

Next Sunday we’re in Norfolk. I’ve just seen that there is a park run at Blickling which is only a few miles from our house. So I guess that’s a decision then!

I do know that running 5km isn’t a big deal in the wider scheme of things. But today, it is a very big deal to me.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to horror writer James Herbert

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LISTEN: 25 Minutes With Sir Nicholas Soames Talking About His Grandfather, Sir Winston Churchill

30 Jan 2015 at 22:12

Earlier this week I recorded a 25 minute interview with Sir Nicholas Soames. We spent the entire time talking about his grandfather, Sir Winston Churchill. I think you’ll rather enjoy it,

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to David Leigh

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ConHome Diary: Why I Wear Garish Ties on TV

30 Jan 2015 at 14:18

The Political Book Awards have been going for three years now. I started the event three years ago because I felt there was a real gap in the market for it. Political literature has always been seen as the black sheep of the literary family. Publishers tend to shy away from political books because they have bought into the myth that they don’t sell. What I have enjoyed most over the last three years is the fact that the judges really do go for quality, rather than just pick the book or author who is the most famous. In two of the first three years the main award has gone to relatively unknown authors. In 2012 Caroline Shenton won for her book ‘The Day the Parliament Burned Down’. This year it was the turn of Matthew Goodwin and Rob Ford for their book ‘Revolt on the Right’, a book which has charted the rise of UKIP. Both books could have been very offputting academic tomes, but both are far from that. Mary Beard, one of the judges, made the point that political academics are capable of writing books which aren’t as dry as dust and are accessible to those of us who aren’t festooned with PhDs in political science. Goodwin and Ford beat off very strong competition from Chris Bryant, Alan Johnson and Andrew Roberts, among others. It’s a cracking book, so if you haven’t read it yet, get it.
*
People keep commenting on the rather garish ties I wear on TV. To be honest, the only item of clothing I take genuine pleasure in buying is a tie. In my experience, most men just thrown on any old tie, without a thought about whether it matches the shirt or suit. I’ve lost count of the times I have seen a politician wear a stripy tie over a stripy shirt. Just no. In fact, I’d outlaw most stripy ties. David Davis is the worst culprit. For me there are only two brands of tie worth buying – Duchamp and Van Buck. Both are very colourful – the kind of tie Jon Snow wears on Channel 4 News. Van Buck ties have the distinct advantage of being around a third cheaper than their Duchamp equivalents which retail at about £70. I always wear a loud tie when doing political punditry or the Sky Newspaper review. It means that people pay attention to the tie rather than the utter bollocks I sometimes utter on these occasions. Maybe that’s why Jon Snow wears them too.
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So having completed my marathon 650 election predictions I feel I am going to have to back and revise some of them before too long. There are two new factors to compute. How will the rise in the Green vote, if it holds, affect the Labour and LibDem vote in marginal seats? And should I revise some of my forecasts in Con-Lab marginal like Harlow. The trend in the polls is clear to see and it doesn’t seem as though Labour has any ideas to counter it. Standing on the safe ground of ‘defending the NHS’ may be great for their existing voters, but it doesn’t win over many new ones. I know for a fact that opposition strategists are now even conceding a Tory overall majority is something they conceive is possible. I still think we are a very long way from that, but there are so many imponderables, you cannot rule anything out.
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Talking of ruling anything out, one thing I do rule out is the SNP winning 53 of Scotland’s 59 seats. That’s what Sky News are predicting. And by doing so, surely they risk making complete dicks of themselves. I’ve predicted that they will go up from 6 to 18 seats, but even if their poll ratings continue at something near their present levels, I just can’t see them getting many more than that. Of course it’s Ed Miliband’s worst nightmare come true, even if the SNP only win that level of support. Labour need to be making gains in Scotland, not losing a quarter of half their seats. Even in Wales they’re only likely to make two gains, in Cardiff Central and Cardiff North, so to get anything near a total to form the largest party they are going to have to outperform themselves across England.
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Rory Bremner makes a very welcome return to our TV screens next Tuesday night at 10pm on BBC2. I’ve spent a bit of time with him recently and I can tell you that he’s really developed his Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nigel Farage impressions. I don’t think he can do Nick Clegg though. Still, after May, I suppose there won’t be much point… Biting satire, there!
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Yesterday I appeared on the Daily Politics for the third time in ten days. People will talk. I also recorded a short piece for This Week on why there aren’t many female political authors. A Labour MP had put down a PQ asking why the Parliamentary Bookshop didn’t stock more books by female political authors. Simple really. You can’t stock what there isn’t a supply of. Just as there aren’t enough women in elected politics, or the media, there aren’t enough women interested in writing worthy political tomes. But there are certainly enough women Labour MPs interested in wasting £250 of taxpayers’ money asking idiot questions about it. All the Labour MP had to do was pop into the Parliamentary Bookshop and ask to see the manager and ask the question herself. The manager of the Parliamentary Bookshop is, I should point out, a woman.

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

Alastair Campbell discusses he e-Book, THE MANIC DEPRESSIVE

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VIDEO: Rob Ford & I Discussing the Political Books of the Year on the Daily Politics

29 Jan 2015 at 21:37

So this was my third appearance on the Daily Politics in ten days. Doesn’t that merit keeping a Daily Politics mug?!

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LBC97.3 Iain Talks to Dr David Starkey

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Books

We're Looking For a New Office

28 Jan 2015 at 15:28

Biteback Publishing is looking for a new home. We’ve been at Westminster Tower by Lambeth Bridge for several years now but our lease runs out in the summer and we are looking to move to a new abode. We need space for 15 people and require a meeting room and kitchen. I reckon 1500-2250 sq feet would do us nicely. Needless to say that as a publishing company we are looking to get something as cheaply as possible, and we’d consider taking the fag end of a lease if we can’t find our dream office. Although our lease doesn’t run out until the end of August, we’d consider moving earlier depending on the rent free period on offer.

We’d ideally like to be within spitting distance of the Houses of Parliament, north or south bank, but would also consider Charing Cross, Soho, St James’s or Victoria. Beggars can’t be choosers.

So if you have space free or know of an office likely to become free, please do let me know!

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LBC 97.3 Book Club: Iain talks to Fern Britton

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Those Election Predictions Summed Up

27 Jan 2015 at 13:57

LBC have posted a mini version of all my election predictions HERE

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Iain Dale talks to Sir David Attenborough

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ConHome Diary: The Green Manifesto Will Make UKIP's Look Sane

23 Jan 2015 at 14:17

I’m not really sure how any politician can introduce plain paper packaging on cigarette packets and still maintain with a straight face that they are Conservatives. What’s next? Plain packaging on cans of lager? Mars Bars? Packets of crisps? It’s the nanny state writ large. If cigarettes are so terrible then ban them altogether. That’s the only logical thing to do.
*
Five years ago Greece was at the centre of the then Euro crisis, and it is about to be again. Sunday’s general election could provoke yet another crisis for this doomed currency. The left wing, anti-Brussels Syriza Party is likely to emerge as the big winner, although they may have to try to cobble together a coalition before they launch some kind of financial assault on Brussels. Syriza is capitalising on the disillusion and frustration most Greeks feel at the way political establishment has failed them over the past few years. Ring any bells?
*

So in the last four months the Greens have increased their membership from 13,000 to something bordering on 50,000. Quite an achievement, and it means that in membership terms they can now claim to be Britain’s third largest political party without their noses growing longer. They are committed to standing in 75% of seats at this election, far more than they stood in in 2010. This extra revenue that they have gained from their increasing membership should now be devoted to putting up candidates in the remaining 25% of seats. If they made a commitment to do that, it would surely be very difficult for ITV to exclude them from the multi-party debate.
*
With increased profile, comes increased scrutiny, as they are about to find out. Instead of moderating some of their policy positions, the Greens are standing by even their most whacky commitments. I promise you that their manifesto will make UKIP’s look positively sane. What I’ve noticed as an interviewer, though, is that whenever you try to hold a Green politician to account, you get bombarded by tweets and emails which accuse you of giving the said politician a rough ride. The Greens, like UKIP before them, are developing a ‘teflon’ side to them. People are wanting to give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps we should remind ourselves that the good people of Brighton did that, and then suffered the consequences when they elected a Green council. People should be careful what they wish for.
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Last weekend I completed my predictions for the 650 Westminster constituencies. It ended up with a scenario where Labour would win 301 seats, the Conservatives 279, LibDems 24, SNP 18 and UKIP 5. The reaction was huge, and most of it fairly positive. Only the LibDems reacted very badly. Some accused me of Tory bias, rather ignoring the fact that I was predicting Labour to get most seats. Even Nick Clegg, on the Andrew Marr Show, accused me of being “rather silly” by writing in the Independent on Sunday that I was 100% confident the LibDems would lose more than half their seats. I’m pretty sure I’ve read that Nick Clegg himself is only confident of retaining 30 of their 57 seats, so we’re not that far apart in our predictions.
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One other thing that struck me while doing these predictions is that Tory votes are likely to pile up in seats that are already safe for the Conservatives. I think many Tories will see their majorities shoot up as LibDem votes crumble to Labour in seats where Labour has zero chance of winning. This could also mean that the Tories get by far the largest number of votes while being well behind in the seat count. This could be an election which results in many Tories reassessing their long term opposition to any sort of electoral reform.
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It is indeed a disgrace that the Chilcot Report won’t get a public airing until much later in the year. The Whitehall machine has again let down the public who should be able to go into this election with the full knowledge of what happened in 2003. Even Labour politicians appear to agree with that. How on earth it can take four years to compile this report since the last witness was heard from, in February 2011, no one can adequately explain. However, let’s not kid ourselves that Chilcot will change anyone’s view. If you believe Tony Blair is a war criminal, you’ll always believe that. If you believe the war was illegal, there’s not a lot anyone can say to convince you otherwise. The trouble is, I have never yet managed to get anyone to tell me on what basis it was illegal and what law Tony Blair is supposed to have broken. To my mind there is no such thing as an illegal war. Just because it wasn’t wholly sanctioned by the UN (and even that is arguable) does not make it illegal.
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Next Wednesday it’s the Political Book Awards. It’s the third year this event has been run and it’s already established itself in the political calendar. It takes a huge amount of organisation and there’s always a big sigh of relief when it is over and there have been no mishaps. Rory Bremner is presenting the evening this year and we have one or two surprises for the 500 strong audience at the IMAX. Last week we held the ten judges’ lunches, all of which proved to be highly entertaining. There was one category where the judges came to a decision in eight minutes – a record, I think.

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Surely QE in the Eurozone Is BAD News for the UK Economy, Not Good? Eh, Chancellor?

22 Jan 2015 at 22:03

So the European Central Bank has injected one trillion euros into the Eurozone economies, despite the articles of the Eurozone expressly forbidding it. I imagine this was at the insistence of the Germans originally. Needless to say the ECB has found a way around this, as is the wont of Eurocrats.

George Osborne today said that the Eurozone was following the lead of the British economy (£375 billion has been injected into the UK economy so far under the Government’s QE programme). Osborne also said that it was “excellent news for the British economy.” Really?

Doesn’t this all mean that the euro will steadily decline in value over the next year? It’s already at a level which hasn’t been seen for some time – 1.32 to the Pound. How can this be good news for the British economy? I make no pretence at being an economic expert, but if I were a British exporter I’d be viewing this QE programme with mounting horror. Not perhaps with as much horror as Swiss exporters at the moment, but even so.

Am I wrong?

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Video: Iain Interviews Jeffrey Archer

18 Doughty Street, One to One

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Attitude Column: Why Would Anyone Go on a 'Gays Only' Holiday?

20 Jan 2015 at 11:28

Nowadays, I would no more think of going on a gay-only holiday than I would think of going on a beach holiday to North Korea. But then again, perhaps those types of trips aren’t aimed at me. What put me off this type of holiday was a boat trip in Florida I took in 1993. I had driven to Key West from Miami and rather nervously booked into a gay only hotel. I’d never stayed in one before. Let’s put it this way, it was quite an eye-opener to someone not very familiar with the ways of these establishments. I soon got the hang of it, needless to say. Ooh, er.

One day I decided to go on an organised day trip on a boat with around a dozen other gay guys. To say that they mostly fitted a stereotype is to insult stereotypes. It was like Sean off Coronation Street meeting his eleven identical cousins, all preening themselves while talking ten to the dozen in the campest of American accents. Not my ideal way of spending six hours bobbing up and down on water, unable to escape. And then came the thunder and lightning, which usually happens at around 3pm every day in southern Florida. Our boat actually got hit by the lightning, which was quite an experience. The screams had to be heard to be believed. It was a relief in more than one way to get back to the shore without having either been burnt to a cinder or deafened by the constant uber-camp babble.

Not that long afterwards a friend went on a gay-only cruise around the Caribbean for seven days. He described it as a week-long orgy. He reckoned at times he had to lock himself in his cabin. Well, he’s a good looking lad, but I reckon he protested just that little bit too much. I’ve heard similar tales of gay-only skiing trips, where monogamous couples were treated with a diffident air of disdain and contempt because they wouldn’t join in the fun. Perhaps they are the exception, but there does seem to be a common theme to some of these holidays.

And why not? If that’s your thing, it’s a bit like a holiday version of Grindr without needing a phone. I’m certainly not looking down my nose at people who go on what are tantamount to sex holidays. If I were twenty years younger… Oh, and not married [he adds, hastily].

So apart from the distinct possibility of getting your end away on a regular basis, what prompts people to go on gay-only holidays? I reckon it’s a bit like supporting a football team. You’re part of a tribe, and when you’re with your tribe you lose certain inhibitions. You’ve got a lot in common. You can totally be yourself without worrying what certain other members of society will think. You have things in common. Not just a cock. There’s no pressure to conform to society’s norms. The only pressure is to conform to a sort of gay norm, however you define that.

The main drawback is that if you’re going on a sun-based holiday and you don’t have the body beautiful there’s that tremendous temptation to come over all shy and be ashamed to reveal all. This thought is reinforced by the adverts for gay resorts and cruises, where everyone pictured is an adonis with the body beautiful. The reality, I am assured, is somewhat different. I’ve never been on a gay beach holiday but I’m sure there are plenty of love handles to go round.

My only experience of a gay resort holiday was over new year 1994/5 when I booked myself into a gay resort in Palm Springs. I hate new year, so I thought this might be a good antidote to my normally horrendous time on new year’s eve. It wasn’t. I have never felt so uncomfortable in my life. It was full of older gay couples, all of whom seemed determined to have a threesome with me. I even missed the whole midnight celebrations as I had fallen asleep at 8pm! I lasted two days before I drove off to the bright lights of Las Vegas five days earlier than planned. It was almost a relief to re-enter the world of the straights.

This article appeared in the January issue of Attitude Magazine

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Chuka Umunna Was Right to Walk Out of Murnaghan Interview

19 Jan 2015 at 14:17

I have never understood why politicians allow themselves to be walked all over by smart-arse interviewers. They are far more in control of the interview than the interviewer. This morning Dermot Murnaghan was interviewing Chuka Umunna about David Cameron’s economy speech. Near the end he switched to ask Umunna about Eric Pickles’ letter to Britain’s mosques. Umunna quite reasonably explained that he couldn’t really comment as he hadn’t seen the letter and certainly wasn’t going to play party politics with it. But Murnaghan wasn’t going to leave it there and continued to press Chuka, finally alleging that he clearly had to wait to get the official ‘line to take’ briefing before he would say anything. Chuka Umunna then got up from his seat and walked out.

I don’t blame him. There was nothing wrong in Murnaghan asking him about the Pickles letter, but to press it in the way he did (and with a bit of a smirk on his face) was rude, smart-arsish and counter productive.

If a guest walks out of an interview, as a interviewer, it’s you who looks bad, not the guest. If that happened to me, I would think I had failed in my job.

I don’t blame Chuka Umunna at all for doing what he did. I’d have probably done the same in his place. Politicians ought to do this more often with interviewers who are basically being rude (unless they’re being interviewed by me, of course!). It’s unlike Dermot Murngahan, who is a very good interviewer, to behave in this way. He’s a very polite person and I suspect that once all this has quitened down he will do a bit of soul searching. I imagine the two of them will put it behind them and Chuka will be back on his programme before too long.

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to David Jason

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