Diary

ConservativeHome Diary Week 21: UKIP - The Bi-Sexuals of British Politics

6 Sep 2013 at 15:46

READER WARNING: There’s more than the usual dose of smut in this week’s column.

This week I have been chairing three panels for the Daily Telegraph with the aim of compiling the Top 100 people on the right, left and the Top 50 Liberal Democrats, all of which will, as usual, be published during the three party conferences. Yes, snigger all you like about the latter. I usually do too. The biggest challenge is to actually find 50 LibDems to choose from.

The panellists are a mixture of MPs, activists and commentators, and believe me, the discussions can become very heated indeed. On the Tory panel there was a particularly spirited discussion about whether Maria Miller should be promoted from 78 in last year’s list. One of the MPs was adamant that she deserved a massive promotion on the basis of her performances at the Despatch Box. “I’ve watched her perform really well with shitty briefs,” she said. After a moment of stunned silence in which we all took time to contemplate the implications of that statement, we all corpsed. “What have I said?” asked the MP in all innocence.

One of the other panellists, an MP’s researcher, proceeded to irritate us all with her precocious certainty about her opinions, interrupting everyone at every possible opportunity. “The Home Office gave me a prison,” she said at one point. “No,” I said. “They built a prison in your MP’s constituency.” But that wasn’t the end of it. It was all about her. It was when she blithely told one of the other panellists he was shit at his job that I am afraid I let my irritation show. “Blimey,” I said to one of the MPs at the end of the meeting. “She’s like what Liz Truss would be like after half an hour on a crack pipe.” She’ll go far.


Someone said to me this week they loved reading my ConservativeHome columns as they couldn’t wait to see how I would deliberately antagonise the site’s UKIP supporting readers or those with a particular issue with homosexuality. As if I would do that. By the way, have you read my column in Attitude Magazine (it’s a magazine for gayers) on bisexuality? No? Well I have helpfully reproduced it on my blog. In a way you could describe many UKIP voters as the bisexuals of UK politics. They don’t quite know whether they are Arthur or Martha. Instinctively they are still Conservatives, but they fancy a walk on the wild side. The question is, once they have satisfied their self-indulgent desires or perversions, will they return to the comforting fleshy folds of the mother party? We may have to wait until 2015 to find out.


For a politics and football obsessed individual like me, transfer deadline day is only ever surpassed by reshuffles. There are quite a few similarities between the two. Think of it this way. Can Manchester United really get rid of Ed Balls or can Ed Miliband really do without Wayne Rooney? Remember all those Labour reshuffles when they couldn’t quite find a paid ministerial job for Carlton Cole? It’s the same at West Ham, who, a day late, found a place for Michael Wills. At every reshuffle David Cameron tries desperately to get rid of Nicholas Bendtner, but never quite succeed. In the same way, Arsenal do the same with John Hayes. Rising Conservative Party star Ricardo Vaz Te demands a transfer, as does West Ham forward Nick Boles. Both end up staying put. And I could go on. But I get the feeling some of you are probably shaking your head in total and utter bemusement. Politics, eh? Bloody hell.


Talking of reshuffles, I gather the Tory reshuffle has yet again been postponed. It was put off originally in July when David Cameron rightly thought that backbenchers were in such a good mood, it seemed a pity to spoil it. But I have learned that the reshuffle was slated for last Monday but was shelved at the last minute on Sunday lunchtime. Why? I have absolutely no idea. If it’s going to happen you’d have thought it would need to happen while Parliament is still sitting and well before the party conferences. Perhaps it might happen today or next Monday.


Talking of gay marriage, which I wasn’t, but I know you want me to, Aussie PM Kevin Rudd had a Jed Bartlett moment on the issue during an election campaign Q&A. What’s a Jed Bartlett moment, I hear you cry? Well, scroll down the homepage of this blog and you’ll see.

If you’ve never seen The West Wing, that short clip demonstrates why it is the greatest political TV series ever made. Anyway, I digress. Have a look at Kevin Rudd’s equivalent. It may be less dramatic, but it is no less effective. That’s also on the front page.

Much as I agree with him, and disagree with his Liberal opponent Tony Abbott on this issue, I could never support Rudd, who is one of the biggest charlatans in world politics. Abbott hardly inspires confidence, but knowing how brutal Australian politics is, he’ll probably win the election and then be overthrown. Bronwyn Bishop for PM!


Last weekend I watched an action film called OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN. The plot is very simple. North Korean terrorists attack the White House. It’s very much in the mode of INDEPENDENCE DAY and if you like your presidential politics and action movies you’ll love this. Apparently there’s a competitor film called WHITE HOUSE DOWN with a similar plot, so I’ll have to make sure I put that on order. The Americans do these apocalyptic type movies so well, and the special effects are out of this world.

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UK Politics

Quote of the day: David Aaronovitch

5 Sep 2013 at 10:45

And in this moment of crisis it became clear — as it does — what Mr Miliband is. A personable man (and he is a very pleasant companion), politically he is not a presence at all, he is an absence. He is Oedipal Ed, the negator of the unpopular actions of the fathers; the anti-Blair, the non-Brown. His technique for victory to is follow behind the leader, wait for a slip-up and exploit his or her mistakes. He did it to his brother. He hopes to do it to David Cameron. He is neither hunter nor prey, he is scavenger. He is a political vulture. Mission creep? His mission is all about creeping.

David Aaronovitch, On Ed Miliband, 5 Sep 2013

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Video

Kevin Rudd Does a Jed Bartlet

5 Sep 2013 at 09:48

I don’t like Kevin Rudd, but you have to hand it to him here. He does a Jed Bartlet on an unsuspecting pastor, who asks him a question on gay marriage. Rudd destroys him. And if you don’t know what I mean by a Jed Bartlett moment click on this and you soon will.

It’s why the West Wing remains the greatest political TV series of all time and will never be surpassed.

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Personal

Attitude Column: Are You or Have You Ever Been a Bisexual?

3 Sep 2013 at 11:49

Inside the mind of every bisexual is a gay man struggling to get out. At least, that’s the view of many. It’s a widely held view that bisexuals are people who either want the best of both worlds, or, who are still too scared to embrace their inner gayness because they are on hold in some sort of mid-way sexuality transit lounge.

At the end of June, Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski announced to his local constituency party that he was bisexual. So far as I know, no MP has ever done that. To his utter astonishment, the thirty people present rose as one and gave him a standing ovation. I wondered at the time whether they would have done that if he had said he was gay.

It is commonly thought there are degrees of bisexuality. On a scale of sexuality where 0 means completely straight and 100 means completely gay, a bisexual, could, I suppose, be anywhere in between. Are you bisexual if you have had a one off tryst with the same sex? Does that mean you are at 10 on that scale, or can you be bisexual if you are 95% gay but still appreciate the curves of a female? . I can still appreciate a women’s breasts, yet my partner says he never notices them. Does that me more of a bisexual than him?

I suppose a true bisexual is someone who is at 50 on that scale and doesn’t have a particular preference one way or the other.

I always knew I was gay, but I was 28 until I did anything about it. Times were different back then. I had numerous girlfriends, but when it came down to “it”, I pulled away. That’s not to say I didn’t find women sexually attractive or didn’t do anything, short of “it”. I did, but I always knew I didn’t want “it”. I think most gay men have experimented with a woman “just to be sure”, and who can blame them, but experimentation does not a bisexual make.

I think there are comparatively few people who are what I would call ‘genuine’ bisexuals. Simon Hughes may or may not be one of them, but the Liberal Democrat deputy leader seems to be a politician who can’t quite seem to get out of the transit lounge. Should we blame him for that, should gay men criticise him because he can’t bring himself to admit what most people assume he is – gay? Not at all.

In the end sexuality is something very personal. It is something that most people don’t have to speak publicly about and declare their sexuality to the world. Hopefully the day will soon dawn when it is exactly the same for politicians. It would be nice to think that many a shoulder will be shrugged when a politician declares himself or herself to be gay. But even in these days of so-called sexual liberation, politicians’ sexualities are still phenomena which set the media and political worlds a-tittering and a twittering.

Daniel Kawczynski will feel a weight has been lifted from his shoulders. Yes, he will be the subject of gossip at Westminster, but that goes with the territory. There will be members of his family, long term friends who feel let down by the fact that he hasn’t been honest with them. But in the end they will realise that for people of a certain age, these things are incredibly difficult.

I was 40 when I came out to my family, although most of my friends in London knew. Two of my best friends, who I had known since university days didn’t, and it was one of the hardest things I had to do when I told them that I had been lying to them for the best part of twenty years. It turned out that both of them had guessed anyway, but even so, I found it very difficult to get the words out without blubbing.

In twenty years’ time I really believe that no politician will have to come out of the closet, because the closet door will have been open for years. And if there really has been as much progress as I hope, no newspaper will be remotely interested in a politician’s sexual proclivities. I can but live in hope.

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Media

A Tribute to Sir David Frost

1 Sep 2013 at 13:22

Sir David Frost, who died this morning, will go down in history as one of the greatest interviewers and journalists of his generation – perhaps of all time. His laconic style hid a forensic brain, determined to get to the truth. He didn’t believe in confrontation as a form of interview, he didn’t believe in constant interruption. He believed that if you let your interviewee talk, they might just say something of interest and not put the shutters up. Kay Burley said this morning that he believed the best three questions and interviewer has at his or disposal are “Ah”, “Really?” and “Oh, do go on”. I think he had a point.

Sir David was a risk taker and an innovator. He was as comfortable interviewing Hollywood celebrities as he was prime ministers and presidents. He could host a game show, turn his hand to satire and then the next day present an election programme.

I first got to know Sir David when he would come into Politico’s, buy a few books and want to have a gossip over the counter. He had no airs and graces. He felt a friend from the first minute you met him, and there aren’t many people who can achieve that. I then reviewed the papers a couple of times on ‘Breakfast With Frost’. The first time, I was incredibly nervous. It was the biggest TV programme I had been on at that point, and it was the weekend before the Iraq war started. I was on with Polly Toynbee and Trigger from Only Fools & Horses. As we sat down on the sofa, he leaned over, touched my knee and winked. He said nothing, but that one, thoughtful act did more than any words ever could to calm my nerves. The next time I was on, it was with Helena Kennedy. The programme started at 9, but at 8.45 there was no sign of Sir David. No one seemed to be remotely concerned. Sure enough, five minutes later he arrived looking, it has to be said, rather out of it. But as soon as the red light went on it was “Hello, good morning and welcome” and off we went. He was the ultimate showman.

In 100 years time there is little doubt that his enduring legacy will be the Nixon interviews. He gambled everything, including his own personal fortune, on those interviews. The fact that they were turned into a theatre show and then a movie tells us all we need to know about their historical importance.

Let me leave you with two personal memories. One came early on in my days at LBC. I wish I could remember what it was about, but I found myself interviewing Sir David about something or other. I started by feeling very intimidated, but he immediately put me right at my ease – when it should have been the other way around. And then a few months later I got an email from him (I’ve tried to find it, but can’t). He said he often listened to my programme in the car (he used to present on LBC) and he had liked an interview I’d done the previous night. I could not have been more proud.

I won’t pretend he was a close personal friend, but I can truly say I am proud to have known him.

His interviewing skills are really on show in this 1969 interview with Enoch Powell

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ConservativeHome Diary Week 20: Bomber Clegg

31 Aug 2013 at 10:49

There we were, in the Any Questions Green Room, the panel of four, all cacking ourselves before being called on stage. So we did what anyone would do. We discussed what questions might come up. And to my horror, no matter what the potential subject, we all more or less agreed on the answer. ‘This might be a rather boring programme,’ I thought to myself. So as the programme progressed, I found myself picking a fight with Mark Miodownik, a scientist. I nitpicked and gnawed. The lovely professor Alison Wolf was far too nice to attack, and the NFU President Peter Kendall was so bloody reasonable, I am afraid Mark had to be my target. As it turned out, there was a little more disagreement than I feared. On Syria, I was the only one to oppose military action. It felt a bit odd to be the most left wing panel member. Unaccustomed as I am… But I soon restored my hardline credentials on the badger cull. I got a text afterwards from Owen Paterson in which he expressed his amusement that I had attacked him for pussy footing around! All I will say is that if I were a badger with TB, about to die a long, painful death, with my internal organs failing, I’d happily be shot in a cull.


Seen this week on Facebook: “So, I’ve just sent an Email to an MP with the title being ‘Panel Discussion’, only, in my haste, I missed the ‘P’ off, and my iPad saw fit to change it to something else. Needless to say a correction/apology Email was sent afterwards.”

We’ve all been there. I remember when I was organising a course titled “Public Relations in the Ports Industry”. Only I missed out the L in ‘Public’. I think some of the delegates attended under a slight misapprehension.


My LBC colleague James O’Brien has introduced me to the concept of ‘Newsknitting’, where you knit two stories together. For example, why can’t poor people eat badgers? Should we hold an emergency summit on Kevin Rudd? Basher Al-Assad not convinced by the case for HS2. The list could go on…


Talking of Syria, I can’t say I find it comfortable opposing military action. I’ve never found it necessary before, and I remember all the terrible things I said about people who opposed action in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in the end you have to go with your instincts and argue for what you believe. I won’t rehearse the arguments here – it’s a diary column, after all – but if you want to read my blogpost click HERE [insert link http://iaindale.com/posts/2013/08/28/why-i-oppose-military-action-in-syria ]. Opposing military action on Syria for a Conservative, will, I suspect, not be as lonely a position as it was for John Baron or Richard Bacon to oppose the Iraq war. Of the nine or ten Tory MPs I have spoken to about Syria, only one was unreservedly in favour of military action. Most of the rest couldn’t see what the endgame was. And nor can I. As we approach the anniversary of the First World War, we should perhaps pay more attention to the law of unintended consequences.


Listening to Nick Clegg on his weekly LBC phone in talking about Syria you could be forgiven for thinking it was his colourful predecessor Jeremy Thorpe in the hotseat talking about Rhodesia. Back in 1967 he acquired the nickname of ‘Bomber Thorpe’ for suggesting that the Wilson government should bomb Rhodesia after it declared UDI. Clegg seems to be a complete hawk on Syria, something which won’t go down well with the beard and sandals brigade. He even said he would be in favour of bombing if UN approval isn’t obtained. ‘Bomber’ Clegg. Has a certain ring to it, don’t you think?


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World Politics

Why I Oppose Military Action in Syria

28 Aug 2013 at 09:56

I want to explain why I think military action against Syria would be wrong and why the UK should stay out of it at all costs. I am not a natural peacenik. I believe that foreign intervention can often be justified. I supported the invasion of Iraq. I supported the invasion of Aghanistan and I supported helping the rebels in Libya. So why don’t I support any intervention in Syria, especially now that chemical weapons have now been used?

Let’s first address the issue of chemical weapons. I have never understood the argument that a death at the hands of a chemical weapon is somehow worse than at the hands of any other sort of weapon. A death is a death is a death. All deaths in military conflict are gruesome. David Cameron was rightly outraged that 350 people died in the chemical weapons attack. But wouldn’t he be equally outraged by 350 other deaths, caused by the dropping of conventional bombs? The argument for military action centres around the fact that chemical weapons have been deployed and therefore Barack Obama’s red lines have been crossed. Fair enough, but they were also crossed a year ago. Ah, says the Prime Minister, military action will act as a deterrent to them being used again. You reckon? Is that really the basis for launching missiles on Damascus – missiles which will inevitably then kill yet more innocent civilians?

The question to which I haven’t yet heard an answer is this: What is the end game? All wars or military conflicts need a final goal. In Afghanistan it was to rid the country of the Taliban. In Iraq it was to topple Saddam. In Libya it was to help the local population get rid of Gadaffi. Here the endgame is to stop further chemical weapons attacks. Everyone has made it clear that the Syrians will have to topple Assad themselves. If Obama or Cameron said their aim here was to overthrow Assad then at least there would be a valid argument to be had.

So let’s imagine we rain in a few missiles. What then? There will inevitably be calls from hawks in Washington to go further. There always are. It’s called Mission Creep. So we go further. Assad begins to weaken. What then? Ground troops? No one is seriously suggesting that now, but there will come a point when they do. And what then? I was reminded on Twitter last night of an exchange from The West Wing Series 7 Episode 12 over Kazakhstan between Matt Santos and President Bartlett…

Matt Santos: “What’s your exit strategy?”
President Bartlett: “I don’t have one.”

Do we learn nothing from Iraq and Afghanistan? Seemingly not.

Then we come to the question of legality and the UN. As usual, the UN has been as useful as a rice pudding in resolving the situation in Syria. It wrings its hands but those hands of course are tied by the attitudes of the Russians and the Chinese. Whatever the situation with chemical weapons I don’t see those two countries changing their rigid stance. It is to their shame that they remain allies of a man who is butchering his own people, but it isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last. But without UN sanction, it will be argued that any military strike will be illegal. I am not a lawyer and I don’t believe countries should only be able to act with UN approval, but no one can possibly argue a military strike would be in self defence. And surely that is the key issue relating to legality?

We then come to Britain’s own position. Traditionally we have seen ourselves, alongside the Americans, as the policemen of the world, even if we nowadays play the equivalent role of a PCSO. But at a time when our armed forces are being cut to the bone, can we really continue to punch above our weight? I’m not saying we should become an isolationist country. I am proud of the role our soldiers have played in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, but can they really take on yet another foreign role, even one which at the moment might be very limited? Well, if you start a job you’ve got to finish it, even if it takes you down previously unexpected avenues. We got back to mission creep. I don’t for one minute think this involvement would end with a few missiles raining down on Damascus.

I am 95% sure these chemical attacks were instigated by the Assad regime. I am less sure that Assad and the people around him gave the orders. We know that Assad is not necessarily master of his own destiny and that the army has always held the whip hand. It is entirely possible that someone else gave the orders to launch this attack. That does not make it any better, and it doesn’t make the Syrian regime any less accountable, but will we ever get 100% verification that it wasn’t the rebels behind it? Because if not we are back in a WMD situation – where we are told one thing, but at some point later a rather different story emerges. For me WMD was never the only reason to topple Saddam Hussein, but that was then and this is now. If the US wants to make a case for going in and toppling Bashar Al Assad, then they should feel free to make it openly and transparently. They should not use the mask of the use of chemical weapons to hide behind.

Let’s move on to look at the rebels. They are a motley crew and even months on from the start of this civil war we know very little about them. All we seem to know is that they are in part controlled by elements of Al Qaeda. If that doesn’t give us pause for thought, what would? Moderate voices in the Middle East think we have lost our collective marbles by even considering arming the rebels. They’re not wrong. Providing humanitarian aid is one thing. Providing actual weapons is quite another, and we shouldn’t do it.

The consequences of countries like the US, Britain and France involving themselves/ourselves in a civil war in any Middle East country are incalculable. It may be going overboard to say it that makes one think of August 1914, but there are parallels to be drawn if you want to draw them. It’s the law of the unintended consequence. A perfectly reasonable action may be misinterpreted or totally misunderstood, and then BOOM! Does anyone think Iran would just sit by and do nothing? No. Nor do I.

As Professor Stefan Wolf argues at Politics.co.uk

Iraq is experiencing violence at levels similar to the height of its sectarian civil war more than five years ago, Afghanistan remains riddled with violence, and ..Libya resembles anything but a stable, secure and functioning state.

The trajectory of any intervention in Syria would arguably be worse. Assad’s regime and the Alewite community in which it is rooted perceive the current situation as a struggle for survival.

The more desperate the regime would become as a result of military intervention, the more ruthless its response will be.

Apart from the obvious danger of really widespread use of chemical weapons, further regional destabilisation would be on the cards drawing Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and possibly Israel ever deeper into a regional quagmire from which there will be no easy escape and which will be difficult to contain or roll back.

Quite. Do we really want to take that risk?

There is no public appetite in this country or America for intervention in Syria. I think the debate in Parliament will demonstrate that there are splits within our political parties, with some surprising voices being raised in opposition to military intervention. The votes will no doubt be whipped, but on a free vote I think the split in the country would be reflected in Parliament. One poll I saw showed only one in ten Americans believing there is a case for intervention. That in itself is not an argument for non-intervention. Sometimes politicians have to lead public opinion, make their case, and then be held to account for it. This is not one of them.

There is something we can do to make the situation better, and it is to increase the amount of humanitarian aid being provided to the region. More than one million children have been displaced. The camps dotted around the Syrian borders, but mainly in Jordan and Turkey, are huge and growing. They need more of the basic things people need to consume to survive. Those who have visited these camps have some very sorry tales to tell. The least we in the West can do is to ensure they are getting what they need to feed and nourish the people who have been forced out of their homeland.

Contrary to what Burke said, sometimes it is indeed best for ‘good men’ to do nothing. Sometimes you just have to let people get on with it and kill each other, no matter how horrible it might seem at the time. Human nature can be a vicious beast. Our western idea of democracy took hundreds of years to develop, yet somehow we expect Egyptians and Syrians to work it out over a few months. In the end, we can lend a helping hand but they have to get there themselves. But we have to recognise that some never will, and some don’t want to. We can’t impose it on them. Surely that is one lesson from Iraq.

This is the first time I have ever had any doubts about Britain being involved in military action. I find it a profoundly uncomfortable place to be. When I was on Any Questions on Friday, I found myself being the lost meft wing member of the panel on the issue of Syria. The other three thought we had to do something, but seemed unable to express what that something ought to involve. I am sure most of the people I generally agree with politically won’t agree with me. What I think makes very little difference to anyone, but if I remained silent it would be wrong.

I’d be interested in your views.

PS You can donate to the DEC who are coordinating humanitarian aid to the region.

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Books

Book Review: Don't Bite the Apple by Luke Bozier

26 Aug 2013 at 20:45

This is a book about sex addiction and computer hacking, and how those two things led to one man’s life imploding in front of his eyes. That man is Luke Bozier, a digital politics specialist who advised Tony Blair but then incurred the wrath of the New Labour establishment by defecting to the Tories. He made them even angrier when he set up a putative rival to Twitter with the then Conservative MP, Lousie Mensch, called Menschn. He and Mensch no longer talk.

But this is not just Luke’s story, it’s also a book that explores the whys and wherefores of sex addiction and how damaging it can be. A friend once blurted out to be that he was a sex addict and attended Sexaholics Anonymous meetings. I resisted the temptation to snigger and wondered what the definition of sex addiction actually was. Surely, I thought, it was just that some people like more sex than others. What on earth is odd about that? It appears I was wrong. This book explores how addiction to pornography can lead to a very perverted view of natural sex. Dr Michael Herkov defines sex addiction in the following terms…

Sexual addiction is best described as a progressive intimacy disorder characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts. Like all addictions, its negative impact on the addict and on family members increases as the disorder progresses. Over time, the addict usually has to intensify the addictive behavior to achieve the same results. For some sex addicts, behavior does not progress beyond compulsive masturbation or the extensive use of pornography or phone or computer sex services. For others, addiction can involve illegal activities such as exhibitionism, voyeurism, obscene phone calls, child molestation or rape. Sex addicts do not necessarily become sex offenders. Moreover, not all sex offenders are sex addicts. Roughly 55 percent of convicted sex offenders can be considered sex addicts. About 71 percent of child molesters are sex addicts. For many, their problems are so severe that imprisonment is the only way to ensure society’s safety against them. Society has accepted that sex offenders act not for sexual gratification, but rather out of a disturbed need for power, dominance, control or revenge, or a perverted expression of anger. More recently, however, an awareness of brain changes and brain reward associated with sexual behavior has led us to understand that there are also powerful sexual drives that motivate sex offenses.

So that’s clear then.

Luke was in New York when someone hacked into his computer and started posting naked pictures of him online, together with messages he had been sending random people setting up sex dates. He was literally stripped naked online. One of the pictures was of his erect penis. One of the emails concerned his apparent liking for looking at pictures of 16 year old girls. Other emails related to gay encounters. The prurient had a field day. Meanwhile Luke’s world had collapsed in on him. He was 3,000 miles away and being accused of being a pervert and a sub-paedophile. He did what most of us would do. Think about ending it all. He phoned his business partner Louise Mensch expecting a shoulder to cry on and her moral support. Instead, she told him she was phoning the Metropolitan Police and proceeded to drop him like a stone. (EDIT: I should say Louise Mensch disputes this version of events and says she was very supportive up until the moment she a picture of a girl on his hacked emails.)

He had to phone his partner to tell her what had happened. He was 27. His life in ruins. How do you recover from that?

I know Luke a little. Not well. We’ve met two or three times. I liked him. I still like him. When I read what had happened to him I texted him in the way that you do when people you know are in the middle of a crisis. It was a ‘if there’s anything I can do’ type of text. We ended up having a long conversation. Sometimes that’s the best thing you can offer in these situations – an ear. I’m not sure I said anything especially helpful, but he seemed to appreciate that someone cared enough to listen. I suspect it was a period when he found out exactly who his real friends were.

A few months later, he sent me a draft manuscript of this book. It was hot stuff. Brutally honest, searingly anecdotal, but also hugely well researched. Luke wanted to know what I thought of it – did it work as a book? It certainly did, although I could foresee a few legal problems on the horizon. My heart wanted to publish it, but my head told me that a firm like mine couldn’t possibly do it justice. We publish politics, not books about sex. Well, usually. I mentioned it to a couple of colleagues without showing them the manuscript but they were so dead against it, I didn’t pursue it any further. Now I wish I had. Luke was very happy to self-publish it and that’s what he has done, both as a paperback and as an eBook. And I am glad he did.

There’s a rawness to this book that sometimes causes the reader to wince out loud, if you know what I mean. There are also, if most readers are honest with themselves, a few ‘yup, that could be me’ moments. It’s an uncomfortable read at times, and there are other times when you want to give the author a slap and say ‘how could you be so stupid’, or ‘how did you think no one would ever find out?’ But that’s the thing about sex addiction – it’s that element of danger, the feeling that you’re living on the edge, that provides part of the thrill. Not, er, that I would know, naturally!

’Don’t Bite the Apple’ is available in paperback at £7.99 and as an eBook at £4.11

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ConservativeHome Diary Week 19: The Perils of Appearing on 'Any Questions'

23 Aug 2013 at 16:38

Tonight I’ll be on Radio 4’s Any Questions. It’s the fourth time I’ll have appeared on the programme, so you’d think I would be used to it, but not a bit of it. It’s one of those programmes where there’s a tremendous opportunity to make a complete idiot of yourself. I have a real fear of opening my mouth and nothing coming out. It’s never happened yet, but you never know. It’s a politician free zone tonight with my fellow guests being an economist, a scientist and the head of the National Farmers Union. I guess I am the light relief!
People always ask if we have any clue as to what the questions are going to be, but no matter how many times I protest that the first time we hear the question is when we are on air, people give you a knowing look. In fact, of the six or seven questions asked, if you have half a brain you can normally guess the subject area of three or four of them due to the week’’ news. It doesn’t take Einstein to work out there will almost certainly be a question on the detention of David Miranda, and also on the fracking protests. But there’s always a googly that they like to throw at you – something so unexpected that provokes a reaction similar to that of a gulping goldfish. Each panelist is desperate to come out with the answer that makes the audience laugh loudest but you have only a split second to formulate your hopefully incisive and witty answer. It’s that question we all dread the most.
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The stupidity of the fracking protesters in Balcombe knows no bounds. The usual professional green activists, who we no doubt fund through the benefits system, have gathered at a site where no fracking is taking place, nor is it likely to. These are the same people who no doubt pitched their tents at Greenham Common, supported Swampy and have hitched their skirts to the great global warming swindle. If they think fracking is so terrible, why haven’t they protested at the hundreds of other sites in the country where it has been going on for years? I’ll tell you why. Because they don’t give a damn about fracking. All they care about is rebelling against society and attaching them to the latest leftist-green cause. They’re the true watermelons- green on the outside, red on the inside. And Caroline Lucas is the perfect exemplification of this. I’m all in favour of people’s right to protest, but at least have the decency to have the vaguest idea what you’re protesting about.
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The resignation of UKIP’s chief executive after only eight months in the job tells us a lot. It got a lot of media coverage, which shows how far UKIP has come. If this had happened a year ago it would have barely merited a line in the Telegraph. But it also tells us UKIP is still a ragtag and bobtail pressure group of well-intentioned and enthusiastic amateurs. There’s a lot to be said for harnessing a revolutionary spirit and appearing slightly disporganised, and you can get away with it when you are recording a couple of per centage points in the polls. But when you’re in double figures people’s expectations change. I like Nigel Farage and admire him, but he continues to treat UKIP as his personal, private property and despite protesting that he has let go the control he has traditionally exerted, you get the feeling that he protesteth too much. UKIP’s biggest problem has always been that it is nothing with out Farage, but if he is to show true leadership he has got to allow other people to get on the with the job. If, as is rumoured, Neil Hamilton, takes over as chief executive, he’ll need to assert himself very vigorously right from the start. I don’t envy him, or anyone else, the job.
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Talking of UKIP I have been looking through their MEP candidates. The challenge for UKIP MEPs is to actually last the course of a parliament without being put in prison or defecting. So far, 20-30% of their MEPs seem to do one or the other. There is quite a bit of scrapping going on following the publication of the shortlists and now those on the lists are at the mercy of the UKIP membership who will cast their vote so there’s lots of grievous self-promotion going on. What are we to make of the fact that rent-a-gob Jon Gaunt didn’t even make it onto the shortlist, or indeed outspoken columnist James Delingpole? But it is those who make it that bear a bit of scrutiny. Many are scratching their heads as to how Tory Europhile turncoat Janice Atkinson (nee Small) is seen as the third most competent MEP candidate behind Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. She spent years working for Tim Yeo and was always seen as on the dripping wet side of the Tory Party, and yet here she is, a dead cert to become a UKIP MEP. It’s a funny old world. She is two places above Easteligh by-election candidate Diane James, widely considered to be the best candidate UKIP has ever put forward.

In London, current incumbent Gerard Batten is placed second on the shortlist behind Paul Oakley – Oakley is a former chairman of the London Young Conservatives. Batten will not be happy. Daily Express political commentator Paddy O’Flynn is top of the Eastern shortlist and many believe rightly so. The man who helped mastermind the paper’s ‘UK out of the EU’ campaign is a solid and decent bloke and would do UKIP proud. Michael Heaver, a 23 year old, also makes it onto the Eastern shortlist in fourth place. The feeling is he should be placed higher as he is exactly what the party needs – a young, fresh face, who is informed, intelligent and does very well with his radio and TV appearances. The membership would be foolish not to back this lad.

Finally, will UKIP get a MEP in Scotland? In 2009 they got around 5% of the vote, to get an MEP in 2014 they need 10%. The Tory vote is in a political coma in Scotland. Ccould UKIP benefit in the year of the Scottish independence referendum? The party is opposed to independence. Top of the Scotland shortlist is the inimitable David Coburn. A born and bred Scot, gay, and with the ability to give very good media and public speaking performances, He is the best hope UKIP have of getting a MEP in Scotland, though will Farage’s recent troubles north of Hadrian’s Wall provide him with a handicap?

It’s now up to the membership to cast their votes. Closing date is the day before the start of UKIP’s Autumn Conference. The stringent assessment programme has meant some good characters have made the shortlists, but will the talent be enough to give a UKIP victory in the European Elections?


On Wednesday night I went onto the Broadland District Council website to order a garden waste wheelie bin. Unbelievably, there didn’t seem to be a way to do it online so I emailed them to ask how I could do it. I then got an autoreply which said they would do their best to reply within ten working days – ie. Two weeks. Well, thanks a lot for that. If I answered emails after two weeks, my company would go down the pan. What gives local councils the idea they can treat their customers with such contempt? I expressed my displeasure on Twitter, and to be fair, they responded by tweeting that they are reviewing their ‘auto-replies’. Well at least I have achieved something. Still haven’t got an answer on the bin, though.

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ConservativeHome Diary Week 18: My Perky Buttocks & Why I Won't Be Voting For Dan Hannan

16 Aug 2013 at 19:41

I’m afraid Dan Hannan will have to do without my vote in next year’s Euro-elections. I can’t and won’t vote for a list that has Marta Andreasen on it. She’s not a Conservative, never has been and never will be. I’m not even sure that she is eligible to stand. Has she really got a proper UK residence? I shall be looking at her nomination paper very closely. Having said that, she’s not alone in being a Conservative MEP without being a conservative, is she? The whole selection system for MEPs is so corrupt as to be totally appropriate for a banana republic. If the selection systems for selecting local government candidates have been reformed to make them more democratic, why has the Conservative Party insisted on sticking with this outrageous system which guarantees the incumbents have a job for life if they want it? He may be a nice guy, but didn’t Tim Kirkhope outlive his natural usefulness quite a few years ago? And yet he tops the Yorkshire list. In case you think I am going over to the dark side in these elections, I’m not – well, not unless I get a sniff that David Cameron doesn’t really mean it on his referendum promise. I will instead cast my vote in East Anglia and vote for the very hard-working and delightful Vicky Ford, even though I could sorely be tempted to vote for my friend Patrick O’Flynn who heads the UKIP list in the region. If I ever had any temptation to do that, I just have to look at the names below him to know that way lies madness.


One story I forgot to mention last week from my phone-in with Eric Pickles is that I can now explain his desperate desire to cultivate the petrolhead vote. It is he, after all, who is behind the moves to allow us all to park on double yellow lines. And all power to his considerable elbow. I can now reveal that Mr P has a secret desire to appear on TOP GEAR and be the star in a reasonably priced car. Surely an invitation from Jeremy Clarkson and his lads can only be a matter of weeks away?


Being egged is almost a rite of passage for most politicians. But it was particularly bad luck for it to happen to Ed Miliband on his first day back following his three week Scarlet Pimpernelish disappearing act. You could call it an Omniscrambles. My egging initiation came nearly 20 years ago when I was chairing a speaker meeting at the then very left-wing University of East Anglia (or University of Easy Access, as it was known). I was chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students at UEA at the time, and no, I never wore (nor even knew one existed) a Hang Nelson Mandela T-Shirt). Cecil Parkinson was the guest speaker. It was only a year after the Sara Keays affair and his resignation from the cabinet. His wife Ann and local Tory MP John Powley were on the platform with me, facing an audience of 900 students. The lecture theatre was packed to overflowing. Anyway, Cecil started giving a rather dull but worthy speech on trade. After about ten minutes, I could tell out of the corner of my eye trouble was brewing. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a couple of well-known Trots making signals to each other, then the eggs starting raining in. Splat. One hit my me. Damn. My only suit was ruined. Then another. Then a couple hit Ann. All in all a dozen or so eggs were thrown before our security contingent (commonly known as the Rugby Club First Eleven) intervened. All I remember hearing was Cecil shouting “Which of you dirty, lefty rats threw that at my wife?” Calmness was eventually restored and it was only when Cecil resumed his speech that I realised he had escaped scot-free. Not a single egg had hit him. He was as Teflon as his hair. Lefties never were very good at hitting targets.


The whole row over who was to blame for the fact that the Tories and LibDems trousered £520,000 of a widow’s request to the nation was nothing if not unseemly. It fed the conspiracy theory-like brains of those who want to believe that all politicians are on the take. But I reckon it was more cock-up than conspiracy. Michael Crick suggested that it all happened because her solicitors didn’t appear to know that the Treasury Solicitors are not in fact the Treasury’s solicitors. And on such lack of knowledge is a Daily Mail front page based. Good August story, though.


OK, 500 words written, 500 to go. Tell you what, writing a political diary column in August is bloody difficult. Consider yourselves privileged that I don’t do a Kevin Maguire and just bugger off for the whole of August.


Having learned more than I ever needed to about Andrew Pierce’s follically-challenged head, in Saturday’s Daily Mail he regaled us with tales of how he injects botox into his armpits to stop him sweating so profusely. Can you imagine if any politician had written about such things? Piercey would have spent his entire column ridiculing them. Did I ever tell you about the time I felt my buttocks needed to be a bit perkier? No? Well…. [enough, Ed].


I would like to apologise for the lack of innuendo and double-entendres in last week’s column, which was remarked upon by a valued reader called ExToryAgent. You want a double-entrendre? OK, I’ll give you one. The old ones are the best, eh?


I would also like to apologise to those of you who feel unable to leave a comment when I don’t mention gay marriage in a column. There. Happy now?


This is the time of year when I start turning my head to preparing to compile the Daily Telegraph’s Top 100 People on the Right list, which is published during the party conference each year. This will be its sixth year and inclusion in it has become highly prized, particularly by greasy young men on the up. They will shamelessly say to me: “I think I should be included in your list”. Er, OK. Thanks for the advice, but I think I and my panel will be the judge of that! I keep trying to think of a cutting response to such pleas, but I usually just respond with an enigmatic “Do you? I’ll bear that in mind.” Drawing up these lists is an easy way to make new friends and lose existing ones. There’s one MP, who had better remain nameless, who is always a candidate for relegation but I always save at the last minute. Frankly I just couldn’t bear the shrieks of anguish if he were allowed to drop out completely. This year, though, even I doubt I’ll be able to save him.

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