Diary

ConHome Diary: Initial Thoughts on The Most Momentous Day in My Adult Political Life

24 Jun 2016 at 09:04

I sit here in my Leicester Square hotel room. It’s 6.34 in the morning on Friday and a new dawn has broken, has it not? I’ve just had the privilege of presenting LBC’s seven hour referendum results show. I ought to be dead on my feet but I’m not remotely tired. I feel a profound sense of excitement and anticipation. This is the most momentous domestic political event of my adult life. It is more significant than Margaret Thatcher’s election victory in 1979, or her defenestration in November 1990. It’s bigger than Black Wednesday. Or 7/7. The ramifications from today’s vote, both positive and negative, will be felt for generations to come.

I decided to vote Leave a long time ago. Having been a strong advocate of the European Community (as it then was) in the 1980s I even remember attending European Movement meetings in Norwich. I grew more and more disillusioned as I realised that the EU (as it then became) was grabbing ever more power for itself. When the euro was born, I finally realised that the endgame really was a United States of Europe. That was why I always told selection committees that if I ever voted for Britain to join the euro they should deselect me.
They saved themselves the trouble by not selecting me in the first place.

Up until today I have not for one moment regretted deciding to come off the Conservative Candidates list in 2010. But today I have a slight pang of what might have been. Being an MP over the next few years will be fascinating for those were lucky enough to be elected to the House of Commons. They will be at the centre of Britain reasserting itself as a fully independent nation.

A good friend of mine only decided how to vote when he entered the polling booth. After weeks of indecision, he voted Remain. He skyped me at around 3am saying: “I think I must have made the wrong decision, cos I keep cheering when leave gets in the lead and getting anxious when remain goes higher.” I didn’t feel that way. I did wonder how I would feel if it looked like a Brexit, but my reactions when the result became clearer merely confirmed that I was glad that I had voted how I did.

It’s been very frustrating that because of the ludicrous OfCom broadcasting regulations I haven’t been able to declare my hand until after voting had closed. Those who follow me on Twitter won’t have been under any illusion about how I had voted, even though I couldn’t say so in so many words. It’s ludicrous that on polling day that The Sun can tell its readers how to vote, yet I as a broadcaster aren’t even allowed to mention the referendum, let alone tell anyone how I had voted. It’s a mad system.

Sure there are going to be some bumps in the road. Sure it’s going to create havoc in the Conservative Party. But these are mere short term considerations. In the medium to long term I am absolutely convinced Britain has made absolutely the right decision.

In the end, the people have spoken. And it is down to the elected government to listen to the people. It is also up to the 75% of REMAIN supporting MPs to learn that the people have spoken. Any attempt to have a re-referendum or water down the ‘out’ to a ‘out but with a foot left in the door’ just will not do.

Those MPs who don’t have the stomach to make this work should depart the pitch now and let others take the country forward into this new era. Those who think they know better than the people who elect them need to face a reality check. When I saw Keith Vaz on TV basically saying that the people know not what they have done, and then when interviewing Vince Cable hearing him essentially calling the people ‘stupid’, I knew that we were about to say goodbye to a failing set of politicians who have let the people down.

The British people have voted for Brexit for a number of reasons. Europe has been its own worst enemy. The European Commission has been its own worst enemy. Supercilious Remain supporting politicians (and I don’t include them all) who keep banging on about being able to reform the EU from the inside never really believed it. And that’s another of the reasons why I supported LEAVE. The whole institution is unreformable. It’s dictatorial as the Greeks will tell anyone who cares to listen. It’s fundamentally undemocratic and I have the quaint view that we in Britain are better at deciding what’s good for us than unelected EU civil servants.

It’s now 7.43. I keep being interrupted by phone calls. The Prime Minister is expected to address the nation shortly, but it’s time to file this piece. There will be a lot of speculation about the Prime Minister’s future or lack of it. The same can be said for the Chancellor. The same Chancellor who told me on Monday that there were no Treasury plans for Brexit. In that one sentence he displayed such arrogance and a gross dereliction of duty. In some ways I hope he was lying to me. What a sad state of affairs.

The PM and Chancellor may stay in office. After all, Major and Lamont did following the Black Wednesday humiliation in 1992. But it can surely only be temporary. Whether Conservatives admit it or not, they know the Cameron era is all but over. They are looking for the next leader but there’s little agreement on who it should, or could be. I have two, possibly three, leading contenders.

But that’s for another day. I think.

PS: 9.02 – The PM has resigned. I missed it. I was asleep. Someone on Twitter reminds me of this tweet from 20 February…


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Britain Decides: Join Shelagh Fogarty & Me From 10 on LBC For Our Seven Hour Results Marathon

23 Jun 2016 at 11:36

What an important day today is. Will it be Independence Day or no change? I’ll be on air from 4 as usual, but due to ridiculous OfCom rules we can’t even mention the referendum without risking a fine. But the main event starts at 10pm when Shelagh Fogarty and I will be hosting LBC’s seven hour results programme. It promises to be a marathon. I hope you’ll join us for at least part of it. Nick Ferrari will take over at 5am. And then I will be back at 4pm on Friday. I suspect by 7pm on Friday I will be a tad knackered.

We have some cracking guests with us in the studio including Alex Salmond, David Davis, Chuka Umunna, Theresa Villiers, Suzanne Evans, Michael Cockerell, Paddy Ashdown, Brenda Kelly, Liam Halligan, Rob Hayward, Deborah Mattinson and many more. Ian Collins will be at the Manchester Count, Darren Adams will be in Scotland and we have reporters at all the regional counts. We’ll also get reaction from around the world to what’s happening as Britain makes its momentous decision.

If you’ve never listened to LBC or our election coverage before, I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s very different to the BBC. There are all sorts of ways you can listen…

In London on 97.3 FM
Throughout the UK on digital radio (DAB 1)
Sky Channel 0124
Virgin Media Channel 919
Freeview Channel 732
Freesat Channel 734
Via the LBC App for iPhone & Android
On our website lbc.co.uk

We will also be streaming the entire 7 hours in vision in HD on our website and also on Facebook Live, where you can comment on what we are doing as we go along.

Do join us.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Nick Robinson

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Diary

Attitude Column: Why I Love America

23 Jun 2016 at 09:36

I first went to the United States in the summer of 1987 and it’s been a love affair ever since. I feel in love with the country’s vastness, its variety and its people. I admire what it stands for, I admire its history and, yes, I admire its culture.

Because, you see, America may be a relatively young country but it does have a history and it does have an astonishing cultural heritage. Ignore the lazy thinking that portrays America is a cartoon country devoid of cultural seriousness. It is the country of Ernest Hemingway, Harper Lee, Tenessee Williams, F Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain and Edgar Allan Poe. I could go on.

Its hundreds of TV channels give the impression of a country happiest with the lowest common denominator, but imagine a TV world without such classics as Breaking Bad, 24, X-Files, Madmen, The Simpsons. West Wing, Twin Peaks, the Golden Girls – well, where do I stop. OK, At Dallas.

It’s a country which embraces immigrants from all over the world. It’s a country which truly believes in aspiration, in something called The American Dream, where you really do have an opportunity to rise to the top. Of course there are still massive social divisions, but there’s no class structure, the type of which still bedevils this country. You really can be a black boy from a poor ground and grow up to be President.

American attitudes to business and enterprise demonstrate why it remains the world’s most powerful and successful economy. In this country we look down on people who have a business failure in their history. In America, most successful business people have failed at least twice. There’s no envy of people who do well. Reveal that you’re a multi-millionaire and people think “hasn’t he done well, I want to do better.” In this country we revile people like that and look at their riches with pure, unadulterated envy.

America’s constitution, drafted more than two hundred years ago, has stood the test of time. The forefathers of today’s legal and political professions bequeathed a system which protects freedoms and rights like no other in the world.

Throughout my adult life, younger generations in Europe have been hugely critical of American foreign policy, judging it to be too interventionist and war-like. This is to misunderstand US motivations. There is little understanding that without American interventions in both the First and Second World Wars, we’d now be speaking in German in this country. We might like to think that “we” won both these wars, but “we” wouldn’t have had it not been for the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of brave young American soldiers, sailors and airmen. Had it not been for the United States role in standing up to the Soviet Union in the cold war, the only way it would have ended would have been for communism to triumph in western Europe.

Nowadays we judge American through the prism of its interventions in Afghanistan and more especially Iraq. Too many people have come to believe that the world would be a better place if America withdrew into its own borders and took up its more traditional isolationist stance. It’s a huge misjudgement. Without America, there will never be a successful middle eastern peace process. Without America Daesh/ISIS will never be defeated. The weakness of US foreign policy over the last eight years has allowed extremists like Daesh, Al Qaeda and Al Nusra to flourish throughout the middle east and north and eastern Africa. It is a failure of engagement that the world will have to confront over the next decade or so.

Despite the preferences of its core of religious fundamentalists the last two decades have seen huge advances in gay rights in the US, most recently with the Supreme Court judgement confirming that the constitution guarantees a right to gay marriage.

And finally, has there ever been a country (with the possible exception of the UK) which has bequeathed the world a more diverse collection of musicians and songs? Just imagine a world without Glen Miller, Elvis Presley, Jim Reeves, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Miles Davis, Billie Holliday, Bob Dylan, Louis Armstrong or Michael Jackson.

I rest my case.

This article first appeared in Attitude Magazine

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale interviews Conrad Black

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Diary

Attitude Column: Can I Persuade You to Become Gay?

22 Jun 2016 at 09:34

One of the questions gay people are often asked is “if you could be turned straight, would you want to be?” My reply is to counter the question with another question: “if you could be turned gay, would you want to be?” Answer comes there none. It’s a preposterous question, assuming one believes that there is a so-called ‘gay gene’ and that we’re all born the way we are.

Trouble is, there are still a huge number of people who believe that being gay is something we choose, or something we’re persuaded into. I get this often on my radio show. I usually ask the people who vehemently believe this whether they could themselves ever be ‘persuaded’ to be gay. “Of course not,” they splutter in indignation. “Well if you couldn’t be persuaded, why do you think anyone else could be?” Again, answer comes there none. Mostly.

I also ask these people why I would have chosen to be gay when my life might well have been much more straightforward and without complications if I had been straight and lived a straight lifestyle. Why would I choose to be something which attracts discrimination, bullying, insults and sniggering? Why? If we believe in the concept of ‘natural choice’ and believe that logic plays a part in our decisions, who, in their right mind would choose a lifestyle which is still seen by many as abhorrent? Far easier to fit into the mainstream.

I should make clear at this point that I regret nothing about being gay. I’m not one of those tortured self-loathing gays who think life is against them because of their inclinations. I’m proud of who I am and what I have done in my life. I am proud that I have married my partner and that last year we celebrated a twenty-year long relationship. Yes, it can be done!
If I could have had my life over again, and if the option were available to me, would I have chosen to be straight? I don’t have a yes/no answer to that question, but I err strongly on the side of ‘no’. In the end I don’t think there’s much point in speculating about it. For me it’s maybe simpler than for others as I have never wanted children. Workwise I only ever had two ambitions – to be an MP and to be a radio presenter. I am as sure as I can be that if I hadn’t been gay I would have achieved the former, but being gay has neither been an advantage or a disadvantage in the latter. But I have absolutely no regrets. By declaring I was gay to various selection committees I blazed a trail for others. It wasn’t something I really gave a lot of thought to until someone came up to me at a Tory conference and said thanks for making it easier for him and others.

Anyway, all this is building up to a plea to the government. A couple of years ago Amy Lame and I were doing a newspaper review on Sky News. Somehow we got to talking about gay conversion therapy. I suggested we should both go to the USA and offer ourselves to a gay conversion clinic and do an undercover documentary about it. We never did anything about it, but I wish we had because these clinics prey on the weak and the vulnerable and need to be closed down.

Nicky Morgan, the Education and Equalities Minister, has said that she wants to eradicate them, but at the time of writing these are just words. She said at the end of last year: “I was shocked to discover that one in 10 social and healthcare staff have heard colleagues express the belief that someone can be cured of being gay. Let me be clear: gay cure therapies have no place in our countries and we must stamp them out.”

Many people attend these clinics under pressure from their parents. You can’t necessarily put all the blame on the parents, who of often believe they are doing the best for their child. They do it out of both love and ignorance. They don’t realise the people who run them are quacks.

So yes, Nicky Morgan, fine words. But in 2016 they need to be turned into action.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Peter Hain & Toby Harnden

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 47: Election Night Programme Wins International Radio Award

21 Jun 2016 at 21:00

So, I found out this morning that Shelagh Fogarty and I have won the Gold Award at the New York Radio Festival Awards for Best Coverage of an Ongoing News Story=, for our General Election night programme on LBC. Should you wish to listen to the entire 7 hours again, you can do so here

It was a terrific privilege to co-present the show and there were quite a few memorable moments. Given that we don’t have the resources of the BBC I think we put on a brilliant show, and that’s down to our producers Matt Harris, Jagruti Dave and Rachel Humphreys and everyone else involved.

And on Thursday night from 10pm we’ll be doing it all over again for the EU Referendum. Hope you’ll join us.

Here’s the award entry – a twenty minute highlights package from election night.

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Iain interviews historian Phillipa Gregory

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WATCH: Michael Gove Interview & Farage v Heseltine Debate

21 Jun 2016 at 20:41

Quite a show today on LBC. I started off with a one on one interview with Michael Gove, then it was an hour long debate between Michael Heseltine and Nigel Farage. To say they didn’t hit it off was an understatement. Enjoy.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Simon Mann

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 46: Interviewing George Osborne (The Man With No Post-Brexit Plan)

20 Jun 2016 at 21:32

This evening I did a 30 minute interview with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, on my LBC show. It’s the longest radio interview he’s done in the EU Referendum campaign. It was originally scheduled for last Wednesday but he had to reschedule, which was a pity as it was the day he announced his so-called ‘emergency budget’. Unusually for me, I did a lot of preparation for this interview. Normally I like to treat interviews as conversations but with this one I knew I had to be rather more forensic than my normal style. Listen for yourself, but I think it paid off.

George Osborne has a habit of recognising when an interviewer is about to intervene or interrupt. His voice becomes a little louder and he makes sure he gets out what he had intended to say. He’s actually quite easy to interact with and I rather like interviewing him.

For me there were two main newslines to come out of this interview, but it will be interesting to see what gets the press coverage. For me the biggest revelation was that HM Treasury has done absolutely no planning for a Brexit scenario. Nada. Nichts. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. The polls show Leave and Remain neck and neck, yet the government has done no contingency planning at all? Breathtaking. If you just want to hear that part of the interview, click on the link below.

The other comment which I found most interesting was the section about what would happen on Friday morning. He didn’t seem to rule out redundancy notices being issued almost immediately. He clearly expects there to be some immediate job losses. He will be hoping that his own won’t be the first.

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LBC Parliament: With Hilary Devey, Peter Tatchell & Melanie Philips

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Diary

Attitude Column: Why Gay People Should Vote In Exactly the Same Way As Straights

20 Jun 2016 at 09:26

I hope everyone reading this article realises that if we vote to leave the EU in the June 23rd referendum, anyone with a whiff of a limp wrist will be forced to have sex with the opposite sex, equal marriage will be revoked and bullying of LGBT schoolchildren will be encouraged.

I jest of course, but to listen to some of the so-called ‘Project Fear’-inspired scare stories you could be forgiven for wondering.

This vote is probably the most important one any of us will ever take part in, aside from a general election. It deserves to be taken seriously. At the time of writing, the whole debate has been skewed by ludicrous scare stories on both sides.

Apparently leaving the EU would mean £9 billion less funding for the NHS. Remaining would mean we’d be potentially overrun by 75 million Turks. This sort of argument turns people off. What they want is proper debate and for people on both sides to set out a positive vision of what Britain would look like, and be like if we left or remained within the EU. Fat chance of that happening.

Because I present a daily radio show (on LBC, since you ask) I am not declaring how I will vote in the referendum, but I do intend to spend the next few weeks pointing out the idiocy of ‘Project Fear’, and the scare stories put around by people who should know better in the gay community is as good a place to start as any.

The EU has done many positive things, but for the LBGT sector it has done sweet fanny adams. It’s not the EU’s fault. Simply put, it has no jurisdiction over gay (or even anti-gay) policy. All gay legislation in this country has been passed by Labour or Coalition governments, without any input from Brussels whatsoever. Nigel Farage is no doubt very pleased by this.

This is why various Eastern European countries are free to discriminate in any way they like. And believe me they do.

In the unlikely event that a future British government decided to scrap the Equal Marriage Act, there would be diddly squat that the EU could do about it. Ah, says ‘Project Fear’, we could go to the European Court of Human Rights and they could do something about it. Not true. They have no competence in this area. If they did, do we not think that members of the
Russian LGBT community might have availed themselves of the opportunity to take the Putin government to task?

A myth has grown up that it was the European Convention on Human Rights which forced the Blair government to introduce an equal age of consent and to allow gays in the military. It is true that the European Court did indeed rule on these issues but it has no power to force the British government to do anything. The change in the law came about because of political pressure, not because of pressure from the European Court. I should also make clear that even if we withdrew from the EU, we could still stay within the ECHR if we chose to – just as Russia is. But even if we withdrew from that too, we would still have a new British Bill of Human Rights, which would no doubt include protection for all sorts of minorities.

I don’t know of a single MP in the House of Commons today who would even think about turning back the clock on age of consent, adoption or civil partnerships. Even on Equal Marriage, which a majority of Tory MPs opposed, most MPs I know who opposed it would not seek to reverse the legislation.

I hope everyone reading this article will make their decision on how to vote in the referendum on exactly the same as their straight friends. We’ll all be affected in exactly the same way whether we decide to leave or remain. Let’s hope that by June 23rd ‘Project Fear’ has failed and that our political masters finally cotton on that they would do better to paint a positive vision of our future in or out of Europe. Otherwise there will a record low turnout. Happy voting!

This article first appeared in Attitude Magazine

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ConHome Diary: The Truth About Gove & Health Insurance & What I'll Be Doing on Referendum Night

18 Jun 2016 at 09:48

As I write this I am watching a recording of Michael Gove’s appearance in front of a Question Time audience. One of the questioners was a young woman who asked him about a book he had written more than ten years ago in which he supported an insurance based NHS. This came from an accusation from Sir John Major in an interview with Andrew Marr in which he accused Gove of wanting to privatise the NHS. We keep being asked for the “facts” in this debate. Well let me give them to you. This book was called A BLUE TOMORROW: ESSAYS FOR MODERN CONSERVATIVES. It was published by me, or rather by my then company Politico’s Publishing, in 2001. It was edited by Nicholas Boles and Michael Gove. Edited, not written. It consisted of 21 essays. Not one of the them was written by Michael Gove. The chapter on the health service was written by Justine Greening. It says nothing about funding the NHS through an insurance based system. Instead it says: “Funding should be continued via the taxation system.” I trust that clears it up. And gives you the “facts”.
*

On Tuesday I was supposed to be interviewing George Osborne for half an hour, but unfortunately at the last minute he had to pull out and will now be appearing on my show early next week. Nicky Morgan stepped into the breach, but was on a difficult wicket. She was sent into bat to defend George Osborne’s so-called “Punishment Budget”. Now I often have to interview people I know and who may also be personal friends. I wasn’t looking forward to this as Nicky falls into that category. But I knew I’d be letting my listeners down if I didn’t give her a proper grilling. I usually think a conversational approach to interviewing is the better approach, but there are sometimes you have to go for the jugular in order to test the argument. As you will see from the video, this was one of those occasions. Nicky, however, retained her cool at all times and didn’t allow me to rile her to put her off her stride. Having said that, I found many of her answers on the “Punishment Budget” entirely unconvincing. Defending a line is one thing. Defending the indefensible is another.
*

Since my last column the polls have moved decisively in favour of LEAVE. I still don’t think LEAVE supporters should be too euphoric about that. In the last few days of any campaign there is always a move back to the status quo, and I don’t think this referendum will be any different. The result is on a knife-edge and that should mean a very high turnout. Predicting this referendum is a mug’s game, and I’m not going to predict the result but I do think the turnout will be around 75%. If it’s less than 70% you have to ask what on earth would shake the British public out of their electoral stupor.
*
So Sir Cliff Richard becomes the latest well known person to be cleared of any historic sexual abuse allegations. Any police officer with half a brain could have realised for day one that the allegations were preposterous and fantastical. Yet this has dragged on for 22 months putting Cliff through untold anguish. The police should be ashamed of the way they conduct these sort of inquiries. Having published books by Paul Gambaccini and Harvey Proctor I know in great detail the disgusting way they operate. It’s just not British.
*

So what are the odds of David Cameron being Prime Minister at the end of the month? I have never seen the Tory Party split as much as it is at the moment. People are openly laughing at and ridiculing David Cameron and George Osborne. This is not a good place to be. It’s almost as if they are saying to people “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough”. I’m coming to the view that whatever the result of the referendum, there will probably be 50 letters going into Graham Brady. Too many people have been antagonised. If Remain win, I think it is possible for David Cameron to win a vote of confidence but I suspect the margin of victory would be less than that achieved by John Major against John Redwood in 1995. But if Leave win, then I think all bets are off. I cannot see how David Cameron stays. Even the likes of Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith say that he should stay and see through our exit from the EU, but I just cannot see how this is realistic or possible. If Leave win I’d expect David Cameron to resign on Friday or Saturday, but stay on as Prime Minister until a new leader is elected. And that new leader needs to be elected quickly. This might well necessitate a party rule change. But that maybe an argument for another day.
See you on the other side.
*
Referendum night should be quite something. I’ll be co-presenting LBC’s extravaganza with Shelagh Fogarty. We’ll be joined by Alex Salmond and David Davis for the first few hours. No one really knows when the results will start to trickle into the Count Centre in Manchester, so there’ll be quite a lot of chatting. Unlike other results programmes we will also be involving our listeners in the programme. You’ll also be able to watch it via the LBC website or the LBC Facebook Live page.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale on Brian Haw

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WATCH: Stop Politicising the Death of Jo Cox & Trying to Shut Down Debate

17 Jun 2016 at 18:35

From my LBC show today.

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Video: Iain & Yasmin Alibhai Brown debate new media

Sunday AM with Andrew Marr

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