Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Dan Hodges

29 Mar 2013 at 12:18

It’s not fair, we didn’t win the election, and you told us we would win the election, and you only had that Gordon Brown to beat, and he’s rubbish, and now we can’t do what we wanted to do, so we’re not getting out of bed!

Dan Hodges, on Tory MPs whinging about David Cameron, 29 Mar 2013

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LBC 97.3: Iain talks to GQ editor Dylan Jones

Dylan Jones talks about his new book about the 1980s and what it's like editing GQ

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Books

Damian McBride & Me: How the Book Came About

28 Mar 2013 at 09:12

Four years ago I appeared on the Today Programme talking about Carol Thatcher and her use of the word ‘gollywog’. She had just been fired from the ‘One Show’ for having the temerity to liken someone’s hair to that of a ‘gollywog’. This is what I wrote on my blog at the time…

Chris Moyles is Radio 1’s star DJ. Two years ago he was involved, on air, in an incident which led to him being accused of racism. Halle Berry, no less, felt that he was indeed being racist. In December 2008 he faced another allegation, after he asserted that “Polish women make good prostitutes”. On neither occasion did the BBC fire him, let alone discipline him or even make him apologise. On both occasions the BBC said he was “poking fun”. Today, despite issuing a full apology, Carol Thatcher was fired by the BBC – not disciplined, but fired – from the One Show, after she likened a tennis player’s hair to that of a golliwog. It was a jokey remark made off air in the Green Room. The logic of the BBC’s argument is that the very mention of the word ‘golliwog’ is considered racist. Utterly preposterous. Whatever Carol Thatcher said off air should not have been made public by the BBC. By firing her in this manner and allowing all this to enter the public domain, they have branded her a racist when she is patently nothing of the sort. When dealing with the BBC, having the surname of Thatcher is not an advantage. However, if you are a fat, loudmouthed git with a surname of Moyles (or Ross, or Brand) you can get away with anything.

At the time, I was one of the country’s three star bloggers, alongside Guido Fawkes and Tim Montgomerie. Deep inside Downing Street, plans were being hatched to help Derek Draper launch a blog to take on the three of us. The Left had been scratching their heads as to why people on the right dominated the blogosphere. What happened next would have massive consequences for him, his blog and a certain Damian McBride, Gordon Brown’s spin doctor in Number 10. Later that day Draper (who I knew and had advised on how to launch his new site, LabourList) saw an opportunity. He effectively called me a racist for going on the Today Programme and trying to explain why a 55 year old woman might use the word without meaning it to be pejorative. This is what he wrote on the fledgling Labour List…

Ashcroft sock puppet Iain Dale has defended Carol Thatcher and the use of the word “Golliwog”. See, even the nice seeming ones are nasty underneath. On the Today programme he said Adrian Chiles must hear much worse every week. No, Iain, he doesn’t. Because he doesn’t make a habit of hanging out with racist Tories. Until Dale thinks again we are suspending his listing on our blogroll. Come on Iain, do the decent thing and admit you got this wrong.

I reacted in my usually calm and measured manner…

As my readers can imagine, I am truly bovvered. Inconsolable. Bereft. My blog won’t be able to survive without the thirty visitors LabourList has sent its way. Believe me, it’s his site which loses out if I don’t link to it, not t’other way around. And with fewer than a thousand visitors a day, he needs all the links he can get. There’s just one thing that Derek might have to explain. Just where, exactly, have I ever said that the use of the word ‘golliwog’ is acceptable. Not here, and not on the Today Programme. I have indeed tried to explain why the BBC is guilty of hypocrisy and has overreacted, but that is not the same as saying the word is nowadays ‘acceptable’.

And so it went on. I was bloody furious. Someone I had helped get his blog off the ground, and knew reasonably well, had smeared me as condoning racism. I shouldn’t have been surprised by these tactics, but I was. Scroll forward two months, to April 2009, when Guido Fawkes rang me up to tell me that Derek Draper had been acting under orders from Number 10, and Gordon Brown’s chief henchman, Damian McBride. Again, I found it difficult to believe, but Guido said he had the emails to back up the claims and would be publishing them. Wow.

Here’s what I wrote on March 27th2009…

On the Daily Politics yesterday, Guido Fawkes made an allegation that McBride had given Derek Draper his marching orders on how to trash my reputation as a blogger, and in particular how he should smear me over the Carol Thatcher golliwog remarks. This wasn’t the first time I had heard the allegation made. I intend now to submit an FOI on this subject as I regard it as a hugely serious breach of McBride’s role as a civil servant – paid for by the taxpayer, if indeed it is true. Several people have warned me off doing this. “Let it lie,” they say. One lobby correspondent advised me: “Don’t get on the wrong side of McBride”. I’m afraid they ‘misunderestimate’ me. But I will say this. I hope Guido’s allegations are wrong and that Damian McBride can truthfully tell me that he gave no such advice to Draper either by email or verbally. But if these emails do exist, they will come to light through an FOI request. Someone else said to me that they will just delete the emails, if they exist. I reminded that person that to do so would constitute a criminal offence. It’s the kind of thing a certain Richard Nixon got into rather a lot of trouble for.

UPDATE: Guido has submitted an FOI request. In the absence of a reply from DM, I have followed suit…

Dear Damian,
This is a Subject Access Request made under the provisions of the Data Protection Act (1998).
Please provide me with copies of all emails, letters or other documents referring to either myself or my publication, “Iain Dale’s Diary”. In particular, but not exclusively, the analysis provided by you to Derek Draper and LabourList.org on the afternoon of Friday 13, February 2009.
I have copied this to the Cabinet Office Freedom of Information Unit. If you require payment of a fee please advise by return.
I should remind you that it would be a criminal offence to destroy the information requested. Please confirm receipt of this email.
Kind regards

On 11 April the whole scandal broke when Guido revealed the contents of emails between McBride and Draper. A day later, I wrote a column for the Daily Telegraph on the subject (read it HERE). This is how it ended…

When you’re a leader in trouble you turn to those whose undying loyalty you know you can count on. That’s why Brown was reluctant to let McBride go last September after he had been found briefing against Ruth Kelly. Instead of firing him, he moved him sideways and out of direct contact with the media. But at the same time he brought back his old ally Charlie Whelan.

Whelan is now political officer for the giant Unite union, and he funds Draper’s website. It was he who persuaded Geoffrey Robinson, the co-proprietor of the New Statesman, to dispense with the services of the magazine’s award-winning political editor Martin Bright, who was considered not onside with Brown. Whelan was also copied in on McBride’s emails to Draper as he had agreed to fund the new Red Rag blog which was to play host to the smears about Tory politicians. I suspect there is far more about to emerge about Whelan’s pivotal role at the heart of the Brown empire. If Gordon Brown really wants to bring about a new era at Downing Street, he can do several things – take away Alastair Campbell’s pass which gives him free access to the building; reshuffle Tom Watson out of Number Ten; but most significantly of all, tell Derek Draper his services as editor of LabourList are no longer required. The trouble is, our Prime Minister is wedded to the notion that seeking political conflict and dividing lines is the be all and end all. And he’s incapable of changing.

So McBride had had to quit, not just over these allegations, but also relating to similar ones against Tory MPs, including Nadine Dorries.

Eighteen months later, out of the blue I got an email from Damian apologising for what had happened. That sparked an exchange in which we both buried the hatchet. Then last year we met up for a coffee. Damian had been out of the political world for three years and was working happily for CAFOD. We met in a Costa Coffee near Waterloo. I had heard on the grapevine that Damian was planning to write a book, and I was determined to publish it. We talked it through, what kind of book it would be etc and the ramifications. We both laughed about the irony of me publishing it after all that had happened. He wasn’t totally sure about doing it but to cut a long story short we have continued discussions over the last year and today I have announced that Biteback has signed up the book and we will be publishing it at the end of September. Judging by the reaction to what Damian writes on his superb blog, it will be a corker.

Here’s the official announcement…

Biteback Publishing today announces the publication in September of Power Trip: A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin, by former government special adviser Damian McBride. It is a book which will send shivers down the back of the Labour establishment as it reveals the truth about life within Gordon Brown’s government. World rights were acquired for a five figure advance in a highly competitive bid.

From 1999-2009, Damian McBride worked at the heart of the Treasury and No10, becoming one of the most controversial political figures of the last decade, before a notorious scandal propelled him onto the front pages and out of Downing Street. In Power Trip, he writes candidly about his experiences at the heart of government, and provides the first genuine insider’s account of Gordon Brown’s time as Chancellor and Prime Minister. He reveals the personal feuds, political plots, and media manipulation which lay at New Labour’s core, and provides a fascinating, funny, and at times shocking account of how government really works. His own journey from naive civil servant to disgraced spin-doctor is also laid bare, with brutal honesty. Power Trip is a riveting memoir and an eye-opening expose of politics in Britain. It is also an intensely personal, and sometimes emotional book. How do you cope with one day being at the centre of power and the next day cast aside, on your own?

Iain Dale, Managing Director of Biteback says: "I have absolute confidence in predicting Damian’s book will be seen as the political memoir of the year. I’ve been chasing this book for at least eighteen months and am delighted to have persuaded Damian to put pen to paper. It confirms Biteback as the ‘go-to’ publisher for political books. Everyone knows from his blog that Damian is a brilliantly incisive writer and that he was in a unique position to expose what being at the centre of power in the Brown government was really like.

Damian McBride comments: “Given that Iain Dale was one of my supposed enemies when I was working in Downing Street, he was the last person I expected to be working with, but his thoughts on what this book should be about exactly matched my own, and I am delighted to be publishing it with him. I hope that, like my blog, this book will be a chance not only to give my account of what happened during Gordon Brown’s time in office, but also to give an insight into what life is like for those working in government today.”

Power Trip: A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin will be published on 23 September in hardback. Price: £20.00

Royalties from sales of the book will be split between Damian McBride’s current employers, CAFOD (the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development), and the appeal by his former employers, Finchley Catholic High School, to build a new sixth form centre.

You can preorder a signed copy HERE

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Iain meets Gordon Aikman

Gordon has MND. He's raised £500k. He's an inspiration.

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Heath & Safety Executive Spokesperson

26 Mar 2013 at 09:16

“We often come across half-baked decisions taken in the name of health and safety, but this one takes the biscuit. The real issue isn’t what shape the flapjacks are, but the fact that pupils are throwing them at each other – and that’s a matter of discipline, and has got nothing to do with health and safety as we know it. We’re happy to make clear that flapjacks of all shapes and sizes continue to have our full backing.”Heath & Safety Executive Spokesperson, commenting on the banning of flapjacks in an Essex school, 26 Mar 2013

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Video: Iain & Andrew Mitchell Debate Rwanda

18 Doughty Street - include 3x15 min documentaries

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Welcome to the Glenda Slagg School of Commentary

24 Mar 2013 at 19:22

What an astonishing reaction there has been to Boris Johnson’s car crash of an interview with Eddie Mair this morning. It’s so typical of our ‘hero to zero’ society. In a way it’s rather pathetic. Some people are seriously positing that after that interview there is no way Boris could ever lead the Tories. It is apparently proof that Boris can’t handle the big time. For Christ’s sake, it is one interview which went spectacularly wrong. And I say this as someone who is not exactly a proponent of a Boris leadership bid.

And on the other side, Eddie Mair is apparently now the greatest interviewer who ever lived. Until, of course, he does a dodgy interview, Then he will be the worst interviewer who ever lived. There is now a clamour for him to take over the Andrew Marr Show permanently. On the basis of one interview, I ask you. I am a huge Eddie Mair fan and love his laid back style. I’d like to see him as a regular presenter on Newsnight, but what will be the reaction when he has a dodgy interview. Well, I imagine those very same people who are eulogising him today will then suggest he should take over the overnight show on Radio Midsomer..

Are you, like me, sick to death of this ‘zero to hero to zero’ school of political and media commentary?

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2015 Highlight: Iain spends an hour discussing the Indian Caste System

A phone in on the Indian caste system

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Books

A Tribute to James Herbert

21 Mar 2013 at 10:02

James Herbert was one of the greatest British novelists of recent times. His death on Wednesday robs us of a truly talented writer. I first started reading his horror novels as a teenager. The Rats and The Fog were masterpieces of their genre. He never really got the recognition he deserved while he was alive so it is good to see the obituaries pay tribute upon his passing at the comparatively young age of 69. He sold more than 42 million books during his career.

I interviewed him last year on my Book Club radio show and was rather shocked by his appearance. It sometimes happens that when you meet a childhood hero, you’re a little disappointed, and I don’t mind admitting that this was the case here, but he was clearly quite ill. At times it was a difficult interview. You can listen to it HERE

For those of you not familiar with his books, here’s a short excerpt from his Wikipedia entry…

His first two books, The Rats and The Fog, are disaster novels with man-eating giant black rats in the first and an accidentally released chemical weapon in the second. Herbert wrote three sequels to The Rats; Lair deals with a second outbreak of the mutants, this time in the countryside around Epping Forest rather than in the first book’s London slums; in Domain, a nuclear war means that the rats have become the dominant species in a devastated city. The third sequel, the graphic novel The City, is an adventure set in the post-nuclear future. With his third novel, the ghost story The Survivor, Herbert used supernatural horror rather than the science fiction horror of his first two books. In Shrine, he explored his Roman Catholic heritage with the story of an apparent miracle which turns out to be something much more sinister. Haunted, the story of a sceptical paranormal investigator taunted by malicious ghosts, began life as a screenplay for the BBC, though this was not the screenplay used in the eventual film version. Its sequel was The Ghosts of Sleath. Others of Herbert’s books, such as Moon, Sepulchre and Portent, are structured as thrillers, and include espionage and detective story elements along with the supernatural. The Jonah is in large part the story of a police investigation, albeit by a policeman whose life is overshadowed by a supernatural presence. The Spear deals with a neo-Nazi cult in Britain and an international conspiracy which includes a right-wing US general and an arms dealer.

I don’t mind admitting that I got far more sex education from James Herbert’s books than I ever did from my parents or my school. And it seems I am not alone. Labour MP Tom Harris tweets

Sad to hear of the death of James Herbert. I recall that certain pages of his books were very well-thumbed by me and school friends.

And Professor Phil Cowley says…

I remember a maths class with that book passed, repeatedly, under the desks. Still don’t know much about algebra.

That gym scene in The Fog is still etched on my mind!

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LBC at 40: Iain talks to Brian Hayes

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UK Politics

Shock Horror! I'm a Right Wing Libertarian!

20 Mar 2013 at 23:10

My Political Views
I am a right social libertarian
Right: 4.78, Libertarian: 3.99

Political Spectrum Quiz

As if I was in any doubt… My LBC producer Matt, who is the son of a Labour politician, thinks I am heading to defect to New Labour. This might give him pause for thought.

My Foreign Policy Views
Score: 3.67

Political Spectrum Quiz

My Culture War Stance
Score: -2.01

Political Spectrum Quiz

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Discusses Page 3 With Tracey Crouch, Margaret Hodge & John Thurso

From the LBC Parliament hour. Should Page 3 be banned?

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Books

A Political Geek's Wet Dream - Coming to you Soon on CD

20 Mar 2013 at 09:21

Later this year, my company Biteback Publishing, will be publishing a mammoth CD Box Set of Great Parliamentary Speeches, 1978-2013 – thirty five years of great parliamentary oratory. It will also hopefully be available as a download on iTunes, and we’re also contemplating an accompanying DVD and book. We’re putting together the running list at the moment and would like to solicit ideas of what should be included. I’m particularly keen to have suggestions since 1997.

We also hope to include some exchanges from various PMQs over the years. Again, please do suggest any magic moments you think we should consider including.

Leave your suggestions in the comments, or drop me an email.

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"Wives Shouldn't Be Allowed to Drive", Orthodox Jewish Caller Tells Iain

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UK Politics

Budget Preview: Don't Expect Anything Radical

20 Mar 2013 at 07:37

Let me predict the headline the Chancellor would like to see in tomorrow’s Daily Mail…

PERSONAL ALLOWANCES RAISED TO £10k A YEAR EARLY

It’s a measure which has the double attraction of keeping the LibDems happy and giving his own activists something to trumpet on the doorstep. What’s not to like. He can go down as the Chancellor who has taken millions out of income tax. Bear in mind that the personal allowance was £6,475 when the Coalition came to power. However, if this is the only tax cut in this budget it will be a travesty.

Politicians and pundits on all sides of the debate are in agreement that this, to coin a phrase, really does need to be a budget for growth, and if that is to be achieved three things needs to be done. There need to be immediate tax cuts – not just ones which filter through over a period of months and years. Government spending needs to be readjusted and redirected towards capital projects, and in addition total government spending needs to be cut further in order to give the markets confidence that the government is still committed to both deficit and debt reduction.

I think we can all confidently predict that the planned fuel duty rise will be cancelled yet again. If he were sensible, George Osborne would just cancel all planned future rises and have done with it, but the political gain from being able to stand up every budget and be the friend of the motorist will no doubt prove to irresistible.

I’d also like to see a commitment to simplifying the tax code. It now runs to 17,000 pages – longer even than when Gordon Brown was Chancellor. No wonder no one understands it. It’s the most complex tax code in the western world and it’s not too much to expect to ask a Conservative chancellor to live up to his manifesto commitment and simplify it.

Something which the Chancellor won’t do, but is long overdue is to extend the threshold of the 40p tax band. Its scope has more or less doubled in the last few years and it’s a scandal that someone earning more than £32,011 will be paying 40p in the pound from this April. It’s a stealth tax Gordon Brown would have been proud of but didn’t dream of implementing.. In his last year as PM the 40p band started at £37,400. Does anyone seriously think that the 40p tax rate shouldn’t start at somewhere north of £60k or £70k? Our tax bands are getting very out of kilter with earning realities.

Mark Littlewood of the IEA has suggested that the deficit can never be brought under control unless welfare spending is slashed. I agree. And this is where reform of the 40p tax band comes in. Why not increase this to, say £40,000 in the first instance and then have a blanket rule that anyone in that band is not entitled to a single welfare benefit? OK, the figures may have to be altered (I don’t have access to the Treasury forecasting model) but surely it is a good principle that people paying a higher rate of tax shouldn’t be entitled to welfare benefits. At least, in any normal tax system and in a society with normal moral values that ought to be the case. The trouble is we have built a society where even people on £50k a year think they have entitlements. I’ve always believed that welfare benefits should go to those who really need it. They should be a form of safety net rather than an automatic right. This is where Gordon Brown’s system of tax credits has been so insidious. It needs to be dismantled and the government should be quite open about the need to do it and do it quickly. Universal Credit goes some way towards achieving this aim, but not the whole way.

The trouble is, virtually none of this will happen. Political considerations will rule these measures out as too radical and ones which would frighten the electoral horses. And that’s why the years of austerity will last for so much longer than they really needed to.

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Is This The Day Oliver Letwin Effectively Shut Down This Blog?

18 Mar 2013 at 22:52

As Catherine Tate’s ‘Nan’ might say: “What a fucking liberty”.

David Cameron was once a daily reader of my blog. Whether he reads it now, I have no idea. If he does, it might not be for much longer. Why? Because if what I read is even 50% correct, I may well be forced to close down this blog for fear of being sued by some vexatious nutter who knows he can do it on a whim because I would be forced to pay his or her costs. And to think, I only restarted it less than three months ago.

It seems to me that blogs may well come under the remit of this new form of regulation despite a Number 10 spokeswoman saying the exact opposite. Paul Waugh tweeted this earlier…

PM’s political spkswmn: @guidofawkes wd not be caught by new internet curbs cos doesn’t hv staff + is “more gossip related than newsrelated”

Except Guido does have staff – Harry Cole and Alex Wickham. I have an assistant, Grant Tucker. Does this Downing Street spokeswoman seriously believe that Guido Fawkes’s site, or mine, for that matter aren’t news related? Guido often breaks news stories. I used to on my old blog. But even in this new incarnation, much of what I write is commenting on the news. I don’t make money out of my blog, but it is all part of Brand Dale. Without it I wouldn’t do all the media stuff I do, so on that basis I could be said to make money out of it. Guido clearly does.

Well, let’s look at what the proposed Royal Charter actually says…

It says:

b) “relevant publisher” means a person (other than a broadcaster) who publishes in the United Kingdom:

i.) a newspaper or magazine containing news-related material, or

ii.) a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper or magazine);

b) “relevant publisher” means a person (other than a broadcaster) who publishes in the United Kingdom:

i.) a newspaper or magazine containing news-related material, or

ii.) a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper or magazine);

Well from that wording I think my blog would certainly fall under the remit. And it stinks. I did not vote Conservative at the last election for a Conservative Prime Minister to inhibit my freedom of speech, and that’s the effect of this. I know I will feel inhibited. I know I wouldn’t take any risks. I couldn’t afford to. Perhaps I should write something, print it out and then just read it on the radio.

Keith Flett put it all in an historical context on Twitter…

Similar to the Stamped/Unstamped press of 1830s; You’ll find out if your blog has too much news when a judge fines you.

Well I for one couldn’t risk that. I am not prepared to risk my or my family’s financial future in this way. Because if I don’t sign up and I am successfully sued, a Judge would award exemplary damages against me. As Archbishop Cranmer tweeted…

Basically, if you say something somebody doesn’t like, they’ll report you. And then you get to pay their costs even if they lose.

This is madness. All that will do is encourage people with a grudge to make a complaint in the full knowledge that they will never be held responsible for what they are doing. Clearly there is still time for this hastily written Royal Charter to be amended, but as it stands I certainly wouldn’t sign up to be regulated and would seriously have to either shut own the blog or make it so anodyne as to make it not worth reading. Or I could go and blog for the Telegraph or another MSM outlet. But why should I have to?

What a depressing thought. Hacked Off have a lot to answer for, for it is they who have driven this ridiculous agenda. A group of jumped up, rich celebrities who pretend to be fighting the cause of Milly Dowler, the McCanns and Christopher Jefferies, but in reality are only concerned with covering their own backs and doing their best to ensure that tabloid newspapers can never again put them on the front pages.

Word on the street is that the major newspaper groups are furious at not even having been consulted before the three party leaders came up with their grubby little deal. It may be that they all reject it and the government has to start again from scratch, but I am not at all sure that will be the outcome.

Very few of the voting public care about this issue. Very few would even consider changing their vote over it. I might well be the exception.

Am I bovvered?

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse talks about her new novel A LITTLE LOVE

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Mark Wallace

18 Mar 2013 at 14:33

Whatever your view on #Leveson, politicians all trying to claim credit is about as productive as urinating into a Dyson hand dryer.

Mark Wallace, 18 Mar 2013

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Harry Wallop & Andrew Martin

Harry Wallop discusses his book CONSUMED and Andrew Martin talks about his book on the Tube, UNDERGROUND, OVERGROUND.

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