Media

What's in a Label?

6 Apr 2013 at 13:50

I’m sure the general reaction to what I am about to write will be ‘get over yourself’, or worse, but in the words of the Beautiful South, I’ll carry on regardless!

Have you noticed that many people in public life, no matter what they have gone on to do, will never escape what made them famous in the first place. I don’t know if it’s sheer laziness on the part of journalists and producers, but Jacqui Smith is always described as “former Labour Home Secretary”. I suspect if she went on to win a Nobel Prize for Literature, Sky News would still introduce her on the paper review as “former Labour Home Secretary”.

I gave up my then political blog in December 2010. I haven’t been a member of the Tory Party for two years, yet I am still constantly described by people as “Tory Blogger Iain Dale” even in stories related to my job at LBC. To be fair, Sky now caption me as LBC Radio Presenter’, but the BBC usually insist on using the term ‘Conservative Political Commentator’. I find this perplexing. Why do pundits on the right always have to have the word ‘Conservative’ attached to them, whereas left wing pundits like Kevin Maguire and Owen Jones don’t have the word ‘Labour’ used? Owen will protest that he is not ‘of’ the Labour Party – maybe not, but he and Kevin are doubtless fully paid up Labour members. I decided to quit Tory Party membership when I became a regular LBC presenter, and I think most people who listen to my show will know what I do not push a Tory agenda in any way shape or form.

I’ve given up making a big deal out of it because I know that I will have the phrase ‘Tory Blogger’ hung around my neck until the day I die. Mind you, I have certainly been called worse.

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Rant

Yet Again the Law is an Ass

6 Apr 2013 at 09:05

Apologies for quoting another story from the Mirror, but this really does take some swallowing.

Last year I was banned from driving for six months. I didn’t mention it at the time because I was rather ashamed of it. I had had four speeding convictions, three times for exceeding a 30mph limit by between 4 and 8 mph, and one for doing 85mph on the M1. That made 12 points, and we all know what points mean… I didn’t contest it. I deserved to be punished. It caused massive inconvenience because it was at the time my mother was dying but I had to live with it.

Today I read on the Mirror website that Newcastle United midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa was caught doing 110mph and driving without insurance. He got a 49 day driving ban.

Could someone explain to me why I got six months and he got 49 days?

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Radio

James Beattie Defends His Osborne Story

5 Apr 2013 at 23:43

Below you will see my little rant about the Daily Mirror’s Jason Beattie’s story about George Osborne and the disabled parking bay. I invited him on to my LBC Drivetime show today and to his credit he accepted. Here’s a six minute excerpt from the interview where he explains why he ran the story.

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UK Politics

Marta Andreassen Continue to Ingratiate herself With Kent Tories - But Can She be Selected?

5 Apr 2013 at 20:46

How heartwarming to see newly defected MEP Marta Andreassen on the stump with Kent Conservatives yesterday, as reported on Andrew Kennedy’s excellent blog. Anyone would think there was a European selection in the offing. Perish the thought.

Of course, to be a Euro candidate in 2014 you actually have to be on the electoral register in the United Kingdom. So far as I understand Ms Andreassen is a resident of Barcelona, which, last time I looked was quite a few hundred miles from the White Cliffs. She will of course want to reassure her South East constituents that she does indeed reside in this country and has been on the electoral role for the last four years. For if she can’t do that, how could the Tories possibly select her?

I have been trying to work out where Ms Andreassen appeared on the UK electoral register in 2009. I was told a scurrilous story, which I won’t repeat here until I can test its veracity with the then UKIP leader Lord Pearson. But if anyone has access to 192.com’s electoral register history they could possibly help me out. I ask only for reasons of openness and transparency of course. I like to be helpful.

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Media

Another Non Story - This Time It's Chuka Umunna's Turn for 'The Treatment'

5 Apr 2013 at 14:22

On the back of the Osborne disabled parking story, I see we have another one today. Labour’s Chuka Umunna is being taken to task for comments he made about West End nightlife. This is what the Daily Mail said…

In public he’s a hard-working man of the people, a rising star from South London tipped to become Labour leader one day. In private, however, it seems Chuka Umunna – hailed by his admirers as Britain’s Barack Obama – is happy to be a man of the social elite, with a distinct taste for the high life. The former DJ, now Labour’s shadow business secretary, belongs to an exclusive online club for so-called ‘jetrosexuals’, where he asked for tips on the best nightspots to avoid the ‘trash and C-list wannabes’ of London’s West End. Fellow members of ASmallWorld, which has been described as MySpace for millionaires, reportedly include Tiger Woods and Naomi Campbell. On ASmallWorld, however, he was bemoaning the lack of ‘decent’ clubs in London’s West End, writing: ‘Is it just me or is there a serious lack of cool places to go in central London at the weekends. ‘Most of the West End haunts seem to be full of trash and C-list wannabes, while other places that should know better opt for the cheesy vibe.’ Praising a club he had recently visited in Kensington, he asked for suggestions for ‘a trash-free, decent night’.

Now, all this might be worth a little comment or two, but these were comments made by Chuka Umunna nearly eight years ago, back in 2006 – four years before he became an MP. Again, is this really a page lead story?

And in any case, so what if an aspiring Labour poltician bemoans the lack of decent clubs in the West End. It’s hardly controversial. I suppose the word ‘trash’ has all sorts of connotations, but again, is a seven year old comment really worth so much fuss? Unfortunately Chuka has been said ‘fair cop, guv’ and apologised ;for any offence caused’. What a pity he didn’t just say ‘yeah? So what? Sod off’.

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Media

And This is What Political Journalism Has Been Reduced To...

4 Apr 2013 at 23:21

God I hate the Daily Mirror. Remember that post that I wrote a few weeks ago about falling out of love with politics? Well THIS story from the Daily Mirror is a perfect example of why no one in their right mind would want to be a politician. They are having a go at George Osborne because someone has sent them a picture of Osborne’s car parked in a disabled space. Perfect. Evil chancellor not only fleeces the disabled, but he steals their parking spaces too. Except…

1. It is a police car.
2. Osborne isn’t driving it
3. A police security officer is driving it
4. He parked it there after dropping Osborne off to buy a McDonald’s.

Now I wonder how many people who sit in a passenger seat get out of a car when it is parked and think to themselves: “Hang on, I must just check if the driver of the car has parked in a disabled space.” Exactly. No one.

Here is what the Mirror’s Political Editor Jason Beattie wrote…

He’s snatched millions of pounds in benefits from those in most need – and it seems that George Osborne could not care less about anyone else. He was branded selfish and arrogant last night after allowing his chauffeur to park his £50,000 Land Rover in a space reserved for the disabled. There were plenty of other places available just a few yards away as the Tory Chancellor was dropped off for a burger at an M4 service station. But Mr Osborne was obviously far too important to waste valuable seconds – and the bright-yellow markings on the restricted bay were brazenly ignored. Last night Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the disability charity Scope claimed the incident “shows how wildly out of touch the Chancellor is with disabled people in the UK”. He said: “They will see this as rubbing salt in their wounds. "Many are already struggling to make ends meet, yet the Chancellor’s response has been to cut vital financial support and squeeze local care budgets.”

Well Richard Hawkes should be ashamed of himself for those comments and if Jason Beattie is proud of this piece of so-called political journalism, I would be very surprised. Indeed I am surprised that he has put his name to such a pile of horseshit.

Ed Balls has been fulminating, conveniently forgetting that during the last election he was photographed on a mobile phone while driving. The normally sensible Owen Smith MP ranted: “Osborne’s arrogant use of a disabled bay was in Magor. Did he think he had feudal rights to them in Wales? See my thoughts in tomo’s Mirror.” Owen is someone I have a lot of time for. He’s better than that.

The Mail’s James Chapman tweets to the morally outraged David Blanchflower and Channel 4 News reader Krishnan Guru-Murty “presumably then you think police driver who reversed into space while Osborne buying McDonalds should be sacked?”

And David Allen Green puts it in perspective: “There really are people on my timeline more angry at Osborne for parking in disabled space than at Philpott for killing 6 children. Bizarre.”

One day a politician will just think, “Sod this for a game of soldiers, they can go **** themselves. I’m quitting.” And I seriously think if I had gone into politics, that politician would probably have been me.

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UK Politics

On North Korea & Trident

4 Apr 2013 at 23:13

We had a corking discussion on North Korea and also whether we should renew Trident on my LBC show tonight. But I was very concerned by the number of people who sincerely appear to believe that America is at the centre of all evil in today’s world. Sure, America isn’t perfect but according to some of my listeners it is the aggressor in the North Korean conflict and intends to invade the country at the first available opportunity. And it isn’t even a full moon! I really wonder where these people get their views from. I had a very tetchy interview with Chris Nineham from the Stop the War Coalition – more commonly known as the Provisional Wing of the Socialist Workers’ Party. He wasn’t at all interested in the bellicose statements emanating from North Korea. Naturally not. No, all he wanted to do was slag off the US. I think he got as good as he gave.

Later on we moved onto discussing whether we should spend £100 bn or so on upgrading Trident. During the cold war I was always an advocate of Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent. It has helped keep the peace for a good few decades, as the NATO Secretary General recognised today in a letter to Philip Hammond. However, I think we now need a year long national debate about Britain’s place in the world, our defence capabilities and whether we really want to commit to a long term international role akin to the one we have had all my adult life. Because if we do, we have to fund it properly. I am horrified by the cuts in our conventional armed forces. They can only be sensible if we are to reduce our international role. And if we do that maybe, just maybe we don’t need Trident. But make no mistake, if we dispense with it, and any sort of nuclear deterrent, we become a national of ever declining world influence and importance. If we want to be another Poland or Spain, that’s fine, but I’m not sure we do.

The North Korean situation makes me lean towards keeping our nuclear deterrent, along with the fact that we have no ideas who our potential enemies might be in twenty years’ time. But if we do, let’s stop bleating about the cost. Defending a nation costs good money. The Liberal Democrat position on this is so hypocritical as to be almost nauseating. Nick Clegg deliberately withdrew LibDem ministers from the FCO and MoD knowing the decision on Trident was approaching. And now he says that while they believe in a nuclear deterrent, they don’t want Trident. Conveniently they have no ready made alternative. So they straddle the fence both sides as usual. Sometimes they really do need to grow a spine.

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Random Thoughts

Mick Philpott: The Blame Game - Is It the Welfare State's Fault?

3 Apr 2013 at 12:10

When terrible things happen, the natural instinct is to seek an explanation, to find a reason for what happened. Sometimes there are no explanations. Sometimes there are no reasons. Sometimes bad things happen purely because evil people are at the centre of them. That is what happened in the case of the Philpott family. Six children lost their lives because of the evil doings of one man, and the inability of his weak and besotted wife to stand up to him.

This morning’s Daily Mail front page surpassed itself. It claimed that the deaths were the VILE PRODUCT OF WELFARE UK. What utter nonsense. It is possible to claim that the lifestyle led by Philpott was encouraged by a warped benefits system, but it is not possible to claim that six lives were lost because of it. That happened because of the evil intent of Mick Philpott. His criminal past demonstrates that it was his character, not the welfare system which led him to commit criminal acts.

The Sun’s first edition editorial went even further than the Mail.

I suppose at least we can rest easy in the knowledge that they have the good grace to amend it in later editions.

If we want to apportion blame, we would do better to look at a legal system which only sentenced him to seven years in prison for stabbing his then girlfriend 13 times. If he had been given Life he would never have met Mairead and never had the children in the first place.

If we want to apportion blame let us look at Mairead. Her blind love for her husband seemed to be a form of enslavement. She did his bidding even though in her heart of hearts she must have known it was wrong. She shared him with another woman. They took it in turns to sleep with him in the family caravan. And that’s not the worst of it. But by all accounts the kids were well cared for, well turned out and never missed a day’s school. Social Services had little reason to place them on a ‘watch’ list. But is the wretched woman to be blamed more than her husband?

Mick Philpott is in some ways a product, not of the Welfare State, but of today’s ‘want it all’ society. He craved his 15 minutes of fame by going on the Jeremy Kyle Show and by appearing on TV spending a week with Ann Widdecombe. He wanted more. He had a dozen children. He wanted more. He ended up with 17, then 11. He wanted to control the women in his life. It was only when he knew he had lost control of his mistress that things went wrong. They went wrong because of his desire to control everything. He wanted full custody of his mistress’s children and came up with the fire plan as a ruse to show himself as a hero, which would enable him to gain custody and then get a bigger house. In the end mick Philpott is an egocentric narcissist who would do anything to get his own way.

When the sentences are handed down later, there will be howls of anger from people who think they should get the death penalty. Clearly that won’t happen but in Mick Philpott’s case I hope he gets Life and that it actually means Life – no parole, no early release, no hope of ever being free. There is no hope that he can ever be rehabilitated. This sentence must all be about punishment and nothing else. In his wife’s case she already has a life sentence. She is sentenced to a life of thinking about how different her life would have been had she stood up to Philpott. By all accounts she is still besotted with him. One day she will wake up and realise what he did, not just to her 6 children, but to her as well.

So yes, the Welfare State allowed Philpott to claim £60k a year in benefits. It allowed him to live a feckless life. But did it kill his children? No.He did that himself, and the only person who helped him was his wife. William Beveridge played no part in it.

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Paolo Di Canio - If He's Good Enough for Swindon...

1 Apr 2013 at 20:11

Oh the hypocrisy of the Left. It was OK for Paolo Di Canio to play for Sheffield Wednesday, Celtic, West Ham and Charlton. It was OK for him to manage little old Swindon Town in League One, but oh no, the thought of him managing Premier League Sunderland is repellent. No, I’ll tell you what is repellent – it’s the so-called ‘liberal left’ deciding who should do what based on whether someone conforms to their own idea of normality or political acceptability. And then, only deciding to enforce their own illiberal ideas when it suits them. Where were the howls of indignation when Di Canio took over at Swindon Town? No one cared, because, well, it was only little old Swindon, wasn’t it?

Only it’s not anymore. Its Sunderland. Big old Premier League Sunderland. And poor ‘ickle’ David Miliband has spat out his dummy and resigned as Board adviser. I’m not surprised. He was paid £75k a year for offering advice, and if the Board asked him for his advice on their new manager, they clearly ignored it. His friends are pointing out that Miliband resigned because his parents were Jews who fled the Nazis. He issued a statement which said…

“In the light of the new manager’s past political statements, I think it right to step down.”

I wonder how much time David Miliband invested in actually researching what Paolo Di Canio believes. Did he actually look beyond the headlines, or did he just write it in blind acceptance that Di Canio believes what he thinks he does? I don’t know if Paolo Di Canio is a Fascist or not, but surely David Miliband understands there are some very marked differences between Fascism and National Socialism. That does not mean that I have any sympathy with anyone who has Fascist leanings, I do not. I regard the ideology as politically repugnant and morally abhorrent. I wouldn’t vote for a political candidate with Fascist leanings, but we’re not talking about an election here, we’re talking about football.

I’d like to think David Miliband might have taken some notice of people who know Di Canio, people who count him as friends. Like Trevor Sinclair and Chris Powell. Like the respected football writer Gabriele Marcotti. He told 5 Live: "I’ve known him very well for the last 15 years. There’s no question that he’s not a racist. His record, his friendships, his relationships pretty much speak for themselves. Marcotti is not some cheap tabloid journalist looking for a headline. He is a serious writer.

Di Canio’s former chairman at Swindon commented today…

“It is a sad knee-jerk response. I doubt David Miliband has ever met Paolo Di Canio. I’ve known him for two years. I don’t think politics was ever discussed once. Paolo will have many strong views. He probably has a strong view on whether Italy should be in the Euro, gay marriage or the endangered Siberian tiger, but I doubt if it’s really relevant to keeping Sunderland in the Premiership. I think anybody’s political views and their private views – as long they’re private and how they conduct themselves away from their job – are pretty irrelevant. Nothing of that was ever discussed during his time at Swindon. He was focused on success for us and that’s what he’ll do for Sunderland.”

Di Canio himself has released THIS statement, defending himself against accusations of political extremism. Here’s an extract…

“I don’t have a problem with anyone. I haven’t had a problem in the past and I don’t know why I have to keep repeating my story, to be defending myself on something that doesn’t belong to me every time I change clubs. “Talk about racism? That is absolutely stupid, stupid and ridiculous. The people who know me can change that idea quickly. When I was in England my best friends were Trevor Sinclair and Chris Powell, the Charlton manager – they can tell you everything about my character. “I don’t want to talk about politics because it’s not my area. We are not in the Houses of Parliament, we are in a football club. I want to talk about sport. I want to talk about football, my players, the Board and the fans. My first priority is my family and my daughters, that’s obvious, and secondly to have the responsibility for thousands of people. This is my priority and I want to be focused on this aspect. I don’t want to talk any more about politics – I am not a politics person.”

Let’s cut out the moralistic crap we’ve heard today from Dan Hodges and others. It’s the politics of the student union to talk about ‘boycotting’ Sunderland. Especially if you’re not a Sunderland supporter. If I were a Man U supporter, would I boycott them because their manager is a devout left wing Socialist? Of course not. Would I boycott West Ham if they appointed a Chinese Communist as manager? No. Because the club is always bigger than any manager or player.

Paolo Di Canio is the greatest player I have ever seen in a West Ham shirt. Some of his goals for the Hammers were truly breathtaking. He was an inspiration. When he comes back to Upton Park nowadays and is spotted in a corporate box, the crowd chant his name to the tune of Rigoletto. He will always be a bit of a hero to us at West Ham. Many would happily have him back as manager if Sam Allardyce comes to grief.

Sunderland fans have every right to question Di Canio’s qualifications to manage their club. He did very well at Swindon but his methods were, shall we say, unconventional. They were methods which may have been acceptable in a League One club, but time will tell how they translate to the Premier League. If West Ham had been in Sunderland’s position – and they very nearly appointed Martin O’Neill two years ago – would I have wanted West Ham to appoint di Canio? The truth is, no I wouldn’t. He would be too much of a risk. But it would have nothing to do with his political views (even if we were certain as to what they were), it would be because of his managerial unpredictability.

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UK Politics

Can John Hayes Be a 'Willie'?

29 Mar 2013 at 17:59

‘Not since Caligula appointed his horse as his chief adviser has such an inappropriate appointment been made’. Those were the words of not one, but two Tory MPs, speaking to me about John Hayes being made the Prime Minister’s chief parliamentary adviser. I wouldn’t quite go that far myself, but I can understand the sentiment. One minister when told the news seriously believed it was an early April Fool. Only when he logged onto the BBC News website did he finally believe it.

I’ve always got on rather well with John Hayes, and I have a sneaking admiration for his utter shamelessness. He really does have the ability to argue that black is white. And he did it today on PM. ‘My kind of Conservatism is the Prime Minister’s kind of Conservatism’ was one of his more memorable quotes from the interview. It may be that he believes it, but if he does he couldn’t be more wrong. His is a kind of Christian fundamentalist conservatism which is about as far removed from David Cameron as you can possibly get. He’s a sort of ‘Kinder, Kueche, Kirche’ Conservative who is viscerally opposed to any form of liberalism. He’s a climate change sceptic, ambivalent about women’s rights and a vocal opponent of gay marriage. Does he sound like a typical Cameroon to you?

Now in itself, holding views like that shouldn’t rule him out from advising David Cameron. It’s good for any Prime Minister to hear different views. But the thought that John Hayes is representative of the Right of the Conservative Party is slightly fanciful. The tensions between him, Edward Leigh and Christopher Chope, the other two leading lights of the Cornerstone Group are palpable. When Cameron made him a Minister there were gasps from various corners of the Tory Right. Why him? That was the question most were asking. The simple explanation is that he enjoys the patronage of Iain Duncan Smith. IDS was quite open that if Cameron didn’t promote several of his proteges, he wouldn’t be joining Cameron’s government.

Hayes was a rather good Minister in charge of vocational education and apprenticeships. He did the Prime Minister’s bidding and his policy area was seen as one of the Coalition’s successes. But most pundits were left open mouthed when he was promoted to the Department of Energy & Climate Change. Everyone knew his non PC views on global warming, so a clash with the LibDem Secretary of State Ed Davey wasn’t difficult to predict. On a personal basis they rubbed along OK, but Davey was furious at his junior minister’s public utterances on wind farms.

There is only one reason for this mini reshuffle, which sees the excellent Michael Fallon take over John Hayes’ responsibilities at DECC. It has to have been because the LibDems insisted on it. I can think of no other reason. So Hayes moved across to Number 10 and is elevated to the Privy Council. That’s how Coalition politics works at the moment. Nick Clegg says jump, and the Prime Minister obeys.

Margaret Thatcher once said that ‘every Prime Minister needs a Willie’. She was right. But is John Hayes a ‘Willie’? The key point of any ‘Willie’ is that they don’t want to be a player. They retain the trust of their master because they have no agenda, no ambition and don’t gossip. Can John Hayes truly be said to have no agenda, no ambition and to lack the desire to gossip?

Ah, say Number 10, he will be a bridge to the right. Up to a point Lord Copper. He is indeed of the right, but he is not massively popular on the right. Liam Fox and David Davis, the two big guns on the right are certainly not massive fans of his. Will he really be able to reflect right wing opinion to the Prime Minister any better than the Prime Minister’s PPS Sam Gyimah? If I were Gyimah I’d regard this as a huge slap in the face.

The trouble is, John Hayes sees himself as an operator, and an operator is not ideally suited for the role of ‘Willie’. Let me tell you a story,…

On my first day working as David Davis’s chief of staff back in May 2005 John Hayes paid me a visit. I had never met him before, but I was greeted like a long lost friend. After some initial pleasantries he got down to business. “I can deliver David 30 votes,” he said with a knowing wink. And with that he departed. Later that day I was in Portcullis House and spied John on the second floor talking to one of David Willett’s key advisers, Mark Fox. I saw Mark later and asked him what John Hayes wanted. “Oh,” he said. “He was telling me how he could deliver 30 MPs for David Willetts.” I roared with laughter at the sheer bravado of the man.

Throughout the next few months I would have some very interesting conversations with John, all of which revolved around how many MPs he personally could deliver, if only DD would ‘play ball’. I enjoyed talking to him. He would always have some snippet of information to divulge and reveled in the inevitable plotting that was going on. He imagined that he was at the centre of most of it. What he failed to realise is that neither we, Liam Fox’s campaign or David Cameron’s campaign operators took him remotely seriously, because he was saying the same things to all of us. Cameron dubbed him ‘Shrek’, which may have seemed unkind, but became a term of endearment.

So to conclude, I would say that John Hayes chances of success in this job depend on his ability to transform himself from being an operator to being a Willie. He will have to learn that keeping his mouth shut and listening is far more important than opening his mouth and trying to be a player.

Not giving interviews to Radio 4 programmes might be a good start.

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