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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Iain hosts a Women Leaders' Debate during the General election campaign

Harriet Harman, Nicky Morgan, Diane James & Lynne Featherstone

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Media

Confused of Tunbridge Wells

18 Mar 2013 at 12:05

Sophy Ridge reports that a deal on press regulation was struck in the early hours of the morning. Present, she says, were Ed Miliband. Oliver Letwin, and four members of Hack Off. If that is true, just watch it unravel this afternoon. Tory MPs don’t trust Oliver Letwin’s backbone one iota. Nice guy, and all that, bit not someone to go into the jungle with. The deal that has been agreed remains unclear but it seems that there is some sort of statutory underpinning to it. David Cameron is saying that the Labour Party has moved some distance from its original position. That may be, but so has he. It’s no good saying it’s just a tad of statutory underpinning. It either is or it isn’t. Just has you can’t be a tad pregnant, you either have statutory underpinning or you don’t.

I don’t mind admitting I am finding it hard to get my head round this. Why? Because all the commentators and pundits I trust are far too partisan from one perspective or the other. So if I can’t trust the words of the politicians or the commentators, where do I get the facts so I can make up my mind what in reality this deal means?

Confused of Tunbridge Wells.

UPDATE: Tory MP Tracey Crouch has just tweete: "I hate going to bed a loyalist and then wake up a rebel #pressregulation

So it’s clear who she thinks has triumphed.

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World Politics

Cyprus: Could There Now be a Run on Spanish, Italian & Greek Banks?

17 Mar 2013 at 21:02

Well if I lived in Spain. Greece or Italy, do you know what I would be doing tomorrow? Trotting off down to my local bank and withdrawing all my savings and then either stuffing it under my mattress, putting it into a German bank, or buying property or gold with it.

Future historians may look back on today and decide it was the day which marked the beginning of the end for the euro, or the European banking system. I could hardly believe my ears when I heard last night that the Cypriots were being forced to levy money from savings accounts by Brussels. Even if you ignore the fact that it is totally unfair on people who have saved up money for their retirements (or other purposes) and they have already paid tax on it, it is surely economically stupid too. The only conclusion will be that savers in other countries will take the hint and launch a stampede on their own banks. Frankly, if they don’t they will be acting irrationally. It might not happen tomorrow or next week, but the next time there is any future crisis with the euro, you can bet your bottom euro it will happen.

Thank God we are not part of it. And that may well turn out to be Gordon Brown’s biggest legacy.

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

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Radio

My First Week on Iain Dale at Drive

16 Mar 2013 at 18:53

Radio listeners are a very conservative bunch. They are fairly resistant to change. Whenever a programme director makes a change to a schedule he or she knows there will be howls of disapproval. I remember the furore that was caused when Jeni Barnett left LBC after her contract wasn’t renewed a couple of years ago. She had a very loyal band of listeners who were outraged at her removal from the afternoon show. Months later they were still making their feelings felt. There’s one certainty for radio presenters – nothing is forever. We all know that at some point the game will be up and our face will no longer fit. It can happen after a bad set of listening figures (RAJARS), or even a good set. Sometimes, to the outside world, or indeed the inside world, there can seem to be no rhyme nor reason.

Last Monday I took over LBC’s Drivetime show from the legendary James Whale. Yesterday I completed my first week in the chair, so I thought I’d write a bit about what the experience has been like. Taking over from a radio legend was never going to be easy. James has a very loyal fan base, and rightly so. He is a phenomenon – a wonderfully eloquent and forceful broadcaster. He’s been very kind to me since I have been at LBC and no one will ever hear me say a bad word about him. I regard him as a friend and I hope he feels the same way.

During the period between the announcement that James’s contract hadn’t been renewed and me taking over, suffice to say Twitter went wild with people bemoaning the change. I understand that. But I can’t say it was pleasant to read. Apparently I had stabbed James in the back by agreeing to take over the show. Total, utter rubbish.

Name me a presenter who wouldn’t say yes when offered a Drivetime show. If anyone ever did, they frankly didn’t deserve to be on the radio. I loved doing my evening show, and I miss it, but had I said no to Drivetime two things would have happened. I’d have spent the rest of my career wondering what would have happened if I had taken it, and as sure as night follows day, I’d never have been offered it again – or anything else, I imagine.

The thing is, whenever you take over a show, it means someone else has to make way. One day it will happen to me. I won’t like it. but that’s life. Last year, when I took over the Sunday morning show it meant the departure of two friends of mine – Andrew Pierce and Kevin Maguire. I didn’t look forward to making those phone calls, any more than I looked forward to phoning James Whale a fortnight ago. But I made those phone calls because I wanted them to hear that I was their replacement directly from me. There were no hard feelings on the part of any of them, because they all know that this happens in the industry we work in. I hope whoever takes over from me when I eventually get canned will do the same, and I have the same reaction!

So how has the last week been? Well, hugely challenging, hugely enjoyable and very, very different. For one thing, it’s now a four hour show, whereas my previous shows have all been three hours long. Most people think that presenting a radio show must be a piece of cake. After all, what can be so difficult about sitting in front of a microphone for a few hours, listening and talking? I can see why people think that, but if only it were that simple. A Drivetime show is far more pacey and bitty than a leisurely evening show. You have to hit news/travel junctions on time. People expect it. They want their travel at quarter past, not 17 minutes past. There are far more adverts, so you sometimes only have 8 or 9 minutes a quarter, so interviews and phone calls have to be much, much tighter.

All in all, you have to concentrate much more and that makes it incredibly tiring, At least this didn’t come as a total shock, as I have stood in for Nick Ferrari on his breakfast show a few times, and the same disciplines apply. On Monday, when I got home at 9.15pm, I sat down to watch TV but immediately fell asleep and didn’t wake for a couple of hours.

Monday’s show turned out to be rather different from the norm as it was dominated by the Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce sentencing. I love shows with breaking news as the adrenaline really flows. It really tests you as a broadcaster as you’re flying by the seat of your pants. OK, on this, I knew the story inside out, but on other occasions I have had to handle stories about which I knew next to nothing, Emerging from that knowing you did well, is one of the best feelings you can have in broadcasting. Because of the Breaking News we had to delay our broadcast of a 12 minute interview with the new Archbishop of Canterbury, which was a pity, but it still made some headlines the next day, over his comments on bankers’ bonuses. It also made headlines for other reasons, which you can read about HERE! Monday went well, but I knew I hadn’t quite found my voice yet.

Tuesday’s show got off to a dodgy start when I was interviewing Ann Widdecombe in Rome about the Papal Election. She had a very dodgy mobile signal, and it all went downhill from there. The rest of the show was fine, but being me I beat myself up about the first hour, which was definitely not up to scratch. Even though the other three hours were fine, I started to wonder if I was ever going to enjoy this as much as my evening show. All presenters, I suspect, have moments of self doubt, and this was mine. But I soon got over it. I looked back to the hour we did on Dementia Care. Actor Keith Allen came in for the last 15 minutes, ostensibly to talk about his new film VINYL, but he ended up talking incredibly movingly about caring for his father, who suffers from Dementia.

Wednesday was Pope day, and again all our plans went out the window as we reverted to breaking news mode. And I think we did brilliant job, even if i say so myself. I think we made it all very accessible, fun and had some great people commentating on what was going on. Former Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay had been on my evening show a few weeks before and he described himself as an ‘Amateur Pope Watcher’. Well, he turned out to be a revelation. And then somehow we managed to combine the subjects of the election of a new Pope and Minimum Alcohol Pricing in our last hour. Somehow it seemed to work.

So far so good. But it was interesting to note that people were still coming out with the view that my somewhat laid back style of presenting couldn’t possibly work in a Drivetime show and that it was bound to be a disaster, Two words. Eddie Mair. Just because a presenter doesn’t shout at interviewees or callers, or interrupt all the time, doesn’t mean they can’t present a Drivetime show. I certainly agree you have to make it more pacey, but I like to presume I have been asked to do this show because of my style rather than despite it.

On Thursday I felt I was getting used to it all and that everything started to feel much more smooth. We had full switchboards of callers for every hour of the programme, even though we spent an hour on Leveson and press regulation – a subject which usually sends tumbleweed across a phone-in switchboard. The last hour was exactly what I want the 7pm hour to be like. We had former Intelligence Officer Charles Shoebridge and a cousin on President Assad in the studio talking about whether we and the French should arm Syrian rebels. We were flooded with calls and I genuinely believe we did something other stations would struggle to do. In the previous hour we had former Dragon’s Den star James Caan taking calls from small business owners. I reckon it was cracking radio.

Friday came and I was really keen to finish the week on a high note. We really don’t want to make the show all about heavy politics. Human interest stories have to be at the core of any phone-in programme and ours is now different. But this is especially true on a Friday. No one wants heavy politics at 6 or 7 o’clock on a Friday night. In the first two hours we covered the School Places story and HS2, and also had a quick chat with actress Niamh Cusack about the new play she is in, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’. But at 6 we turned to the Eric Joyce story and I made the slightly tongue in cheek proposal that we should all have Alcohol licences, without which we wouldn’t be allowed to purchase alcohol. It went down a storm with the audience.

In the middle of the hour we got David Starkey on to talk about the Black Death pit unearthed by the Crossrail project. I also asked him about the fact that he have always had a problem with alcohol in this country. “Yes,” he said. “We have always been a nation of pissheads”. He’s a radio broadcaster’s dream interviewee.[Listen to the interview HERE] Then at 7 we played bits of politicians trying to speak foreign languages, sparked off by Boris’s heroics speaking French that lunchtime. The reaction was massive with people calling in keen to display their own linguistic prowess. And then at 730 we had half an hour with John Barrowman and his sister Carole, talking about their new book BONE QUILL.

I will admit, on Friday I did something different. When I used to write my Telegraph column, I started off by writing it how I thought a column ought to be written. But I was never happy with what I had written. Only when I let myself be me was I happy with the resulting copy. And on Friday I let myself be myself. I did my silly little asides and all the rest. I stopped presenting in a style I thought befitted a Drivetime presenter. In short, I feel I found my voice.

As I said above, change is never easy, especially for a radio audience. Callers will always be at the heart of what we do at Drivetime. We are a phone-in station, after all. But we also want to reflect the priorities of Londoners. We’ve introduced two business and markets slots at 5.30 and 6.30. We’ve introduced regular arts/culture slots. Our 7 o’clock hours will invariably have a studio guest who will take calls from listeners. There will be other innovations too over the coming months.

I know not everyone will like change. Inevitably there will be some who will never be reconciled to it, but I have to say I am heartened by those who have been in touch to say they have enjoyed the first week. Let’s hope the second week goes even better.

And if you haven’t managed to listen this week, give us a try next week!

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Dogs

Dogging in Tunbridge Wells

16 Mar 2013 at 17:14

How to spend a Saturday afternoon dogging in Tunbridge Wells... on Twitpic

This is how I spent Saturday afternoon. Me, Bubba, and some much needed zzzzzzs.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Has a Row With an Argie Apologist

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UK Politics

Cameron's Motherhood & Apple Pie Speech Lacked Red Meat

16 Mar 2013 at 12:18

Watching David Cameron’s speech at the Conservative Spring Conference was a slightly strange experience. The words came out but they were just that – words. There was an absence of passion, and only at the end, when there was a desultory attack on Labour did he become at all passionate and animated. But even then you got the feeling that the Prime Minister was going through the motions. He was making the speech because he had to rather than because he really wanted to. I have never seen a Conservative leader make a speech on the morning of a Saturday of the Spring conference. He would normally make the closing speech. It bore all the hallmarks of “let’s get this over with and then get the hell outta here”.

The main part of the speech was an appeal for Britain to become an “aspiration nation”, a country where everyone can reach there potential. It doesn’t matter where you’ve come from – blah, blah blah. All fine, as far as it goes. The trouble is that we have heard it all before from the likes of John Major and Iain Duncan Smith, so he’s hardly being original. And the other observation I would make is that virtually every word of the passage on aspiration could have been uttered by Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband. No politician is ever going to say aspiration is a bad thing, so it was a speech laden with motherhood and apple pie. What Conservative activists want is to hear how their party is different from the other two. They want a message they can spread on the doorstep. Telling Mrs Miggins at 32 Acacia Avenue that Conservatives believe in aspiration is not the sort of thing which will get her juices flowing, or get her down the polling station in May 2015.

If you asked 100 people what aspiration means, how many of them could tell you without hesitating? It’s an awkward word. Alex Smith said on Twitter that he should use the word ‘hope’ instead. He may have a point.

But if David Cameron wants to get his activists back on side and ready for the fight, he’ll need to do a damn sight better than he did this morning.

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Iain interviews Kirsty Wark

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Joss Wheldon

15 Mar 2013 at 22:23

There are two things that interest me – and they’re both power. One is not having it and one is abusing it.

Joss Wheldon, 15 Mar 2013

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UK Politics

Archbishop Softens Line on Gay Marriage

12 Mar 2013 at 10:43

Several of the papers have picked up my interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday, but they have concentrated on what he said about bankers’ bonuses. I think they missed the main story, and that was on gay marriage. It seemed to me that His Grace really softened his previously hard line on gay issues and gay marriage. Being an evangelical and heavily under the influence of Holy Trinity Brompton, he has never appeared to be especially engaged in these issues, and if he has been, it has been in a wholly negative way. Here’s what he had to say…

ID: You said once that you’re always averse to the language of exclusion and what we’re called to do is love in the same way as Jesus Christ loves us, how do you reconcile that with the church’s attitude on gay marriage?
JW: I think that the problem with the gay marriage proposals is that they don’t actually include people equally, it’s called equal marriage, but the proposals in the Bill don’t do that. I think that where there is… I mean I know plenty of gay couples whose relationships are an example to plenty of other people and that’s something that’s very important, I’m not saying that gay relationships are in some way… you know that the love that there is is less than the love there is between straight couples, that would be a completely absurd thing to say. And civil partnership is a pretty… I understand why people want that to be strengthened and made more dignified, somehow more honourable in a good way. It’s not the same as marriage…

ID: But if it could be made to work in a way that’s acceptable to the church you would be open to discussions on that?
JW: We are always open to discussions, we’ve been open to discussion, we’re discussing at the moment. The historic teaching of the church around the world, and this is where I remember that I’ve got 80 million people round the world who are Anglicans, not just the one million in this country, has been that marriage in the traditional sense is between a man and woman for life. And it’s such a radical change to change that I think we need to find ways of affirming the value of the love that is in other relationships without taking away from the value of marriage as an institution.

I think that is a significant softening of his position.

You can listen to the audio HERE

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Iain interviews Kirsty Wark

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Radio

It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter: No 5 - Turbulent Priests

11 Mar 2013 at 21:16

And yes it’s true, I did say it. As someone tweeted…

Not many people can claim to have said that on their first day in a new job. Good work!

Hey ho. At least it gave people a laugh, I suppose. I thought I had rescued it and corrected myself having only said the ‘cu’ bit. But apparently not. Some might say that there was something going on in my subconscious because the interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury had not quite gone according to plan. I had to pre-record it this morning and we had intended to put it out as our main interview at 5pm, but that was scuppered by the Huhne/Pryce sentencing. In the end we broadcast it at 5.45 (you can hear some of it HERE)

But that wasn’t the problem. I walked into the studio and said hello to the Archbishop and his press officer. After the initial pleasantries I was suddenly told that there were to be no questions on the Bishops’ letter to the Sunday Telegraph on welfare cuts. “Not even one,” I asked. “No, we’ve said what we have got to say,” said His Grace. Now, put yourself in my position. What would you have done? Essentially there were three options…

1. Agree to it
2. Say no and refuse to conduct the interview
3. Slip a question in anyway

Although it was not said directly, I was pretty sure that if I had taken option 3 they would have stopped the interview and walked out. Option 2 was a non-starter. This was my big interview in my first Drivetime show and I couldn’t risk it going wrong. So I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and agreed to it on the basis that there were plenty of other things to discuss. I have to say I have never had anyone impose conditions on an interview before, and if it had been a politician I’d have told them to sling their hook, or asked it anyway. But in thee circumstances I reckoned if I took that approach I wouldn’t only jeopardise LBC’s relationship with Lambeth Palace, but other stations in the Global Radio group too. So criticise me if you like for giving in, but would you really have done anything different? What I did do, after the interview was played out, was to explain why I hadn’t asked about welfare benefits. It was the least I could do.

But it seems that the Archbishop did indeed want to clarify his views on welfare reform. Here is his latest Blogpost

I was also told that the interview could only be 3-4 minutes. Sod that for a game of soldiers, I thought to myself. And to her credit the press officer kept quiet and didn’t try to intervene after four minutes. But after 11 and a half minutes I thought I’d better stop.

The rest of the programme was relatively incident free. We did a lot on the Huhne/Pryce case including a great interview with Jonathan Aitken who described his journey in a prison van through London after he had been jailed. And we had a great last hour with Skills Minister Matt Hancock where we had a phone in on apprenticeships. The switchboard was jammed and he really seemed to enjoy it. I tweeted a picture of him and said how he seemed to be enjoying himself. He retweeted it and then added the hashtag #twank. After my previous four letter faux pas I decided to refrain from passing comment..

UPDATE: Some kind soul has uploaded my moment of shame to Audioboo. If you really have to listen, it’s HERE

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Radio

Join Me For Iain Dale at Drive From 4pm...

11 Mar 2013 at 10:17

Well, today’s the day. At 4pm I start my first Drivetime programme. Up to now I haven’t been nervous about it at all. After all, I’ve presented around 2,000 hours on the radio in the last two years, so I ought to be used to it. But let’s not pretend that this isn’t a show which will be under far ore scrutiny than my evening show. So when the light goes red at 3.59, I suspect I will have that slightly empty feeling in my stomach. But the smell of greasepaint, etc etc…

it’s a very busy news day today so we’re not going to be stuck for anything to talk about. Vicky Pryce/Chris Huhne., Abu Qatada, the Banking Commission, Apprenticeships, Liam Fox’s speech, and much more. We also have a bit of a coup in that I have an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury. I think it’s the first full radio interview he has done since his appointment. That will go out at 5pm.

We’ve also got classical musical chart topping guitarist Milos Karadaglic.

I’ll update this throughout the day once our running order becomes clearer.

You can listen to LBC in London on 97.3FM, on DAB in much of the rest of the country, via Sky Channel 0112, Virgin Media 973, via the LBC iPhone and iPad apps or stream live at lbc.co.k

UPDATE 11.39: Just finished the interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury. A couple of good lines in it, I think.
Top lawyer Mark Stephens booked to comment on Huhne/Pryce
Classical Guitarist Milos Karadaglic will be on from 6.45 to talk about his new chart topping album
Business & markets roundups at 5.30 and 6.30.
Apprenticeships from 7
Liam Fox confirmed for 6pm

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A Rather Too 'On Message' Priti Patel Refuses to Congratulate Jeremy Corbyn

Oh dear

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