UK Politics

Saying Sorry Has to Mean Something

22 Feb 2013 at 14:29

We live in a society where ‘Sorry’ seems to be the easiest word. Apologies are demanded from public figure for the most minor transgression, preferably with tears. And if the apology is not forthcoming, the weight of the media descends. Politicians in recent years have thrown apologies around like confetti, thereby demeaning their value. Sometimes they have the desired effect and on other occasions they can rebound. I am still not sure whether Nick Clegg’s mea culpa over student fees did him any favours or not.

So when David Cameron visited Amritsar this week, on the final leg of his visit to India, everyone was agog to learn whether he would apologise on behalf of Britain for the massacre of 400 Sikhs in 1919. As it turned out, he called it a “deeply shameful event in British history” but didn’t use the ‘S’ word. But strangely the wrath of the Gods of Apology did not rain down on him. One local official, in charge of the memorial site said “He came here, he paid a tribute. It was more than an apology.” We talked about this on my LBC radio show later that evening and were deluged with calls from Sikhs and Indians, none of whom criticised Cameron’s reluctance to actually say sorry. Most of them said they felt it was ridiculous for a politician to apologise for something he himself had no control over and wasn’t even alive at the time. Wise people. Apologies should be contemporaneous. They must relate to recent events, be genuine and be full of genuine remorse and contrition. Only then can they really mean something.

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Personal

New Glasses, Possums?

22 Feb 2013 at 09:25

I’ve had to wear glasses ever since I was in my mid-twenties. I’m a bit short sighted so need them for driving and watching TV, but I don’t wear them all the time. This week I went for my annual eye test, and I had imagine my eyesight had got slightly worse. Instead I was told that I had become marginally less short-sighted. Result. Naturally, that proved to be just the excuse I needed to buy a new pair of glasses, which I needed, seeing as I sat on my last pair, and they have never been the same since. I normally make sure Simmo is with me when I buy new glasses to avoid situations like the last time when I was let loose inside an Opticians and bought a pair of glasses which, according to him, “Dame Edna would have been proud of”. Suffice to say I never wore them, and learned my lesson.

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Radio

It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter: No 2 - Dealing With a Shouty Guest

21 Feb 2013 at 23:16

Israel. Never touch the subject. That’s what one producer told me when I started presenting on LBC. I didn’t listen. It’s one of those issues which will fill the phone switchboard within minutes. It attracts zealots on both sides of the debate, but it can also attract some damn good calls too. The secret of handling the subject is to lay down the ground rules right from the start and make clear that you won’t tolerate anyone who wishes to take advantage of your good nature. It’s also impossible to satisfy both sides. Even when you think you have been as even handed as you can possibly be, there will always be those who think you have been unfair.

Earlier this evening I decided to cover George Galloway’s decision to walk out of a student debate in Oxford just because the other speaker was Israeli. I invited the other speaker on to the programme to explain what happened, and we also put out an invitation to George Galloway. He was busy, but he has agreed to come on my Sunday show soon and take questions from callers. In his absence I asked Yvonne Ridley. She couldn’t do it either but recommended someone called Roshan Salih (pictured). The interview turned out to be quite a memorable one with him taking a very aggressive stance right from the get-go. He clearly regarded himself as Galloway’s representative on earth and had learned a lot from George in how to shout down an interviewer, make spurious claims and when you can’t back them up, be downright belligerent.

I think it is a mistake for an interviewer to be downright rude to a guest and even when provoked descend to their level. I try my best to stay cool,but Mr Salih really tested my patience. I very nearly ended the interview at one point, but I am glad I didn’t, as I think that would have been a victory for him. I hope I challenged him in a reasonably polite way and exposed him for what he was. A clueless, anti-Israel bigot. As usual with all potential demagogues, he spent most of the time trying to put words in my mouth an attribute to me views I do not hold. I’d like to think he dug his own grave, but what an interviewer must accept is that what one listener will hear is very different from what another hears. I saw on Twitter that one regular listener felt I had been “monstered” by him, whereas the general consensus seemed to be that I had remained calm under fire and had dealt with him quite well. I haven’t yet listened back to it because I think I would need a cold shower afterwards, but if you’d like to judge for yourself you can listen HERE. The first section is an interview with Eylon Aslan-Levy, the student George Galloway was supposed to be debating with. The confrontation with Roshan Salih starts after 6 mins 45 secs.

Mr Salih is a former News Editor at Press TV. Who’d have thought. My producer told me afterwards he was very keen that I didn’t mention the fact. Can’t think why.

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UK Politics

The Tories Won't Admit It, But Ed Balls Secretly Impresses Them

21 Feb 2013 at 18:07

Ed Balls is the one Labour politician virtually every Tory loves to hate. He gets under their skin like no other. The very sight of him sends them into paroxysms of vitriol. He is also, it has to be said, not the most popular figure in the Labour Party. But despite all that, he has transformed himself from being chiefly seen as Gordon Brown’s chief henchman, into a politician who is both formidable and, in my opinion, rather impressive. Let me explain. Deep breath…

The transformation started back in 2010 when Balls stood for the party leadership. He soon realised that he had no chance of winning, yet instead of giving up he began to enjoy himself. And by the end of the campaign, most pundits came to the conclusion that he had run the best campaign of all the contenders. He and his advisers sat down and analysed his problems and came up with a strategy to reinvent him. It couldn’t be done overnight, it would take time, but the objective was to relaunch Ed Balls as a politician with a human touch. He was fed up with being regarded as someone who was as popular as a fart in a lift, even among his own colleagues. He knew he had to break free from Gordon Brown’s shadow and his reputation as an out and out bully, which had dogged him for years. So, together with his press adviser Alex Belardinelli, he launched a charm offensive. And for once it really was all charm and less of the offensive.

We got to learn that Ed is a great cook. He spoke of his love for Norwich City FC. He outed himself as someone who had overcome a stutter. He raised a lot of money for two charities by running the London marathon. He took piano lessons. He displayed a very well developed sense of humour in interviews, which thus far had not been let loose on an unsuspecting public. I even got him to play the piano live on air. The look of terror in his eyes was something to behold. His advisers were less than impressed by our surprise stunt, but I maintain to this day that it did his image the world of good.

In tandem with this, his political profile rose inexorably. When Alan Johnson resigned as Shadow Chancellor Ed Miliband felt he had to turn to Ed Balls, despite himself. He knew the risks, but had been impressed by Balls’ tenacity and doggedness. Miliband knew there would inevitably be stories about Balls wanting his job. he knew they looked at economic policy rather differently. It was, in some ways, a courageous appointment. Balls recognised that too, and in two years there have been very few occasions when opponents or journalists could detect and rift between them.

In short, since 2010 Ed Balls has become a politician on the front line of British politics. He’s respected and feared by the Conservatives. They try to pretend that he is their biggest asset. Some may really believe that, but for most it is pure bravado. He knows how to needle Tories, he knows which buttons to press to rile them and his attacks invariably hit home.

So, why am I writing this? Because I was incredulous when I read Anthony Seldon’s open letter in the New Statesman (read it in full HERE) which calls on Balls to fall on his sword and resign from the Shadow Cabinet. Seldon is a Biteback author and a brilliant contemporary historian, but on this, I think his views are entirely misplaced. Here is an extract…

I was not your headmaster, but as somebody who has written about you for many years it falls to me to say this: the time has come for you to fall on your sword. After 20 unbroken years at the heart of politics, you need a rest… You need to see more of life beyond the microworld of politics. Falling on one’s sword is never easy. However, quitting in the next few months until, say, 2017 would undoubtedly benefit your leader, your party, your wife and even yourself. Let me explain. Ed Miliband would be a much stronger leader without you. Forgive me, but you stop Ed breathing fresh air. With you close to him, his breath will always be stale and smell of a toxic brand… Without you, Labour could present itself as a clean party, free of the factionalism and brutalism that so tarnished it when Brown was boss and you were his consigliere. I know that you think you were really a very nice person all along, vulnerable with your own insecurities. Yet you need to redeem yourself and the atonement will never happen unless you disappear and return to public life with a fresh persona. The party would be more inclusive without you. Yvette would not say it to you but, like many women working in the same organi­sation as their husband, she would be freer to think and act without you in her hair. The greatest beneficiary would be you. You may not see it this way now but I know you will in hindsight. If Labour loses in 2015, you will be blamed and your career will be damaged beyond repair. If it wins, you would return to the front bench in 2017 a redeemed and respected figure. You might even one day become leader, your long-held ambition. Oh, and don’t believe that guff about “skipping a generation”. The public will tire of young leaders, though it doesn’t yet realise it. Others, including Ed Miliband, share responsibility for the Brown errors: you will earn praise for taking the hit. You are 46 this month. Your best years could lie ahead of you.

I’m not sure Ed and Anthony will be exchanging Christmas cards anytime soon! On the fact of it, Seldon says some things which might have some merit in them but he doesn’t consider the disbenefits of Balls falling on his sword, and they are many. Would Ed Miliband want a sore Ed Balls on the backbenches? Who would he replace him with?His brother? Therein lie more dangers than keeping Ed Balls in the job. I may not agree with many of his conclusions, but Ed Balls does know something about economics and is very capable of debating his points to good effect. He’s got a good political brain and isn’t afraid to mix it. He’s also a good lightning conductor for Ed Miliband. The media is more likely to stick the boot into him than go for the leader.

It is true that Ed Balls was damaged by his poor performance responding to George Osborne’s Autumn statement, but one bad performance cannot disguise the fact that Ed Balls would be in any objective observer’s list of Britain’s Top 10 Most Influential Politicians. Why on earth would someone in that list fall on their sword?

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Personal

Truth & Consequences: Five Decisions That Changed the Course of My Life

20 Feb 2013 at 00:50

Have you ever made a decision that has turned out to completely alter the course of your life? Without it, you know your life would have been completely different. I can’t remember why I was mulling this over today, but it occurred to me that there have been quite a lot of those in my life over the course of the last thirty years. If several of those decisions had gone a different way, I wouldn’t be writing this blog now. I might well be working on my Dad’s farm, teaching German, writing about insurance or perhaps even running the country! For want of anything better to do on the train home to Tunbridge Wells, here are a few of the decisions in my life, which have had consequences for the rest of it.

1972 – Won’t! Shan’t!

I was ten. I kept being taken by my parents to some private school in Cambridge to take exams. I didn’t really know what they were, but they turned out to be entrance exams. Apparently I passed. But I just couldn’t work out why my parents wanted me to go to a completely different school to my friends at Ashdon Primary School. So I put my foot down. I refused to go. As a consequence I ended up going to Saffron Walden County High School, the local comp. My mother had wanted me to go to private school as it would “help me get on in life”. She also suggested that I should hyphenate my second name and surname for the same reason. I never did work out whether she was being serious. Iain Campbell-Dale. Has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? Bet I’d be a Tory MP if I had taken her advice. Lol. Anyway, why was this such a crucial decision? Because had i gone to the private school, I doubt if I would have taken up German, which I did to great success at the County High, entirely due to the brilliant teaching of Mr [David] Lewis. I wouldn’t have studied German, I wouldn’t have gone to UEA, got involved in Norwich politics, then got a job in the House of Commons… and then… and then… and so it goes on.

1987 – Any Port in a Storm

I spent two years working in the House of Commons after leaving university in the summer of 1985. I was working for two Tory MPs, Patrick Thompson (Norwich North) and Robert Key (Salisbury). But after the 1987 election I decided I needed to make my way in the wide wide world and get a proper job. But before that I went to the States for a month to visit Mark Milosch, an American who had interned in our office a year earlier. He was studying for a Masters at the University of Michigan in the lovely town of Ann Arbor, just west of Detroit. We spent most of the time at his student digs but also spent 10 days travelling 3,000 miles around the States – out west to Utah via the Badlands and the Dakotas, south to Phoenix, across to Dallas (I insisted on visiting Southfork, much to Mark’s disgust), up to Memphis and back to Ann Arbor – all in a 15 year old Buick. It was the experience of a lifetime. As the time neared for me to return to England I started worrying about the fact I had no job to go to. I had applied to be PR Manager for the Hockey Association, but came second. “We think you’d be bored,” they said. I came second for a similar job with the Law Society. “We think you’d be bored,” they said. A pattern was developing. Anyway. a week before I came back I went to the university library and flicked through a copy of The Times, where I saw a job to be Public Affairs Manager for the British Ports Federation. They wanted someone to coordinate a lobbying campaign against something called the National Dock Labour Scheme. Never heard of it. Anyway, nothing ventured, nothing gained so I sent off my application, highlighting the fact that Patrick Thompson had been a PPS at the Department of Transport. That turned out to be a key reason why I got the job. I hadn’t the heart to tell them that I had never set foot inside the DoT, let alone knew nobody there. Hey ho. I beat 170 people to the job and thoroughly enjoyed my two years there, in which I did indeed (along with others) persuade Margaret Thatcher to get rid of the NDLS. Why was this life changing? Because the guy that hired me was Nicholas Finney. He and I then went on set up The Waterfront Partnership in 1990, and six years later he sacked me from it (we’ve made up since), meaning I started Politico’s Bookshop, leading to me doing a lot of radio and TV work and so on…

1990 – Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The abolition of the NDLS occurred in mid 1989 and I effectively did myself out of a job. I got a payoff of £7,000, which at the time I thought was a massive amount of money. It rather paled into insignificance when I later found out how much money some of my colleagues made from privatising the ports. I very nearly became Special Adviser to Norman Fowler, the Employment Secretary, who had been impressed with my work for the port employers. But he the went and resigned to spend more time with his family. They asked me if I’d be interested in working for Michael Howard, his successor. “No,” I said. “I don’t think we’d get on.” I could have been David Cameron…! I was then offered the job of Dame Shirley Porter’s re-election campaign manager. They wouldn’t pay me what I wanted so I declined. A narrow escape. I then had three interviews with Ian Greer Associates. I shall never forget a giant poodle walking into the room during one of the interviews. I was offered a post, but there was some instinct that told me it just wouldn’t work. Another narrow escape. The next job to come along was as a consultant at the giant PR firm Charles Barker. I was charmed into taking the job by Evie Soames, a doyen of the lobbying industry. Nick Herbert was her star employee at the time. I hated it. I hated being used as a pimp. Vauxhall Motors were a client. All they wanted to do was be photographed with the Transport Secretary Cecil Parkinson. Strangely arranging things like that didn’t give me a great deal of job satisfaction. I would sit at my desk bored out of my mind, willing the clock to get to 5pm. After two months of total frustration I quit. I had no job to go to and hadn’t got a clue what I would do. I rang the editor of Lloyd’s List, David Gilbertson, for some advice. “I’ve always fancied being a journalist,” I said. He invited me in and the upshot was two weeks of work experience. I took to it like a duck to water, and at the end of it, much to my astonishment he offered me a job as Insurance Correspondent, with the promise I could contribute to the diary column and write columns on politics. I bit his hand off, All went well, and I discovered I could write 1500 word columns on subjects I knew absolutely nothing about. Even by the time I had left I had still not worked out what Reinsurance was, but could quite happily churn out learned columns on it, and no one seemed to notice my complete ignorance. But eight months later, I was faced with a real quandary. My old boss at the Ports Federation, Nick Finney, rang me and asked if I would be interested in setting up a new specialist public affairs consultancy, based on transport issues and clients. To be honest I didn’t know what to do. I was enjoying my time at Lloyd’s List and was getting more and more confident in my writing and in my ability to get good stories for the paper. But I was being offered the prospect of a stake in a new business and quite a lot more money in salary. I must have changed my mind twenty times in a week. In the end I decided to leave the paper and join Nick. I spent six years building up that company, and it became quite successful, but in 1996 we had a massive falling out. I decided to resign, but before I could, I was sacked. I knew I had right on my side and I could probably have taken him to the cleaners in an employment tribunal, but I couldn’t stand the thought of months of acrimony. I left with a £20,000 payoff, when it should have been many times that. I ploughed the money into starting Politico’s, which opened its doors to the book-buying public in February 1997. But I often wonder where I would have ended up if I had stayed at Lloyd’s List. I certainly wouldn’t be running Biteback or be on LBC, that’s for sure.

1995 – Princess Diana Played Cupid

It was stunning. I had always loved Audis, but this Cabriolet, on the forecourt of Dovercourt St John’s Wood was simply magnificent. Six months old, four thousand miles on the clock, white leather seats. Turquoise. Every Essex boy’s dream. But why would someone sell it after only 4,000 miles? The salesman smiled. “It belonged to Princess Diana,” he said. “Yeah, right,” I replied. But it turned out to be true. Right place, right time. So I bought it. A few days later i had the roof down, shades on, and was driving around Trafalgar Square when a motorbike pulled up alongside me. The man on it had a camera in his hand. “Are you Diana’s new bloke then?” he shouted. I floored the accelerator. I had never been papped before. A couple of months later I was in a Compuserve chat forum – OK, I admit it, it was a gay forum – quite a novelty in those early days of the internet. I’ll spare you the gory details, but I had a one nighter with a nice chap who wasn’t into cars at all, but he said he had a friend who would love to see it – yes, and the car, haha. A week later he brought this friend to London from Tunbridge Wells and we met up at a bar called Kudos, long since gone. I think I had had a bad day because after having shown them my car I scarpered and didn’t invite them back for coffee (and that’s not a euphemism for ‘threesome’). But John (the car enthusiast) clearly had designs on something other than Vorsprung durch Technik, because he phoned later. It was clear that I had pulled without actually trying very hard. And seventeen years later we are still together, and now happily married. Sorry, Nadine, civil partnered. Silly me. But I wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t made that phone call. Would I have met and settled down with someone else or continued my somewhat slapperish lifestyle? Thank God for Simmo!

2003 – Wrong Place, Wrong Time

“So, Mr Dale,” said the chairwoman of Barnet Conservatives, “Is there anything about your private life, which might be an embarrassment to the Association?” I’d made a really good speech, answered the questions well and was feeling really confident. It was the first seat I had applied for and I wanted to win the selection. I made a spur of the moment decision. “Well, it’s not embarrassing to me, and I hope it won’t be embarrassing to you, but I should tell you I am gay.” I went on to make a joke and say it was probably more embarrassing for them that I was a West Ham supporter. Most of them laughed, but a couple sat there stony faced. But it seemed to have gone OK and it was as if a burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I left the building feeling quite confident. But the party agent ran out after me. “What the hell did you do that for?” he shrieked. “You’ve just lost several crucial votes.” I drove home feeling disconsolate, sure I hadn’t got through to the next round. But I had. Again, I gave a good speech and answered their questions well. I was confident of getting through to the final. But I didn’t make it. I needed two more votes. Had I got through to the final, chances are I would have made it, as I would have been up against two women, and in those days a man against two women would more often than not win. The eventual winner, Theresa Villiers is now in the cabinet.

Scroll forward a few months and I applied for North Norfolk, a LibDem marginal with a majority of 483. I was at the LibDem conference in Brighton and was taken aside by Lord Rennard. “You really don’t want to get North Norfolk, Iain,” he said, looking very serious. “Norman Lamb will get a 10,000 majority at the election.” I laughed and assured him I knew different. I genuinely thought I could win it. History proved him right, something he often reminds me. Had I taken notice of him and deliberately fluffed the North Norfolk selection I am pretty sure I would have got a seat I would win. Being selected for North Norfolk was one of the proudest moments of my life. Election night was one of the most devastating. But I had a great 18 months and really enjoyed it. But somehow it just wasn’t meant to be.

So, those are five decisions that affected the course of my life. Share some of yours in the comments. For the avoidance of doubt, I have no regrets about any of the above including North Norfolk!

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UK Politics

George Osborne Sets 'The Agenda'

19 Feb 2013 at 15:19

I don’t know how many of you watch ITV’s The Agenda, fronted by the excellent, and mischievous Tom Bradby, but if you don’t you ought to. He has four guests on a panel and they chat about four or five issues in the news. It usually includes a high profile politician. Cameron, Miliband and Clegg have all appeared on the programme, alongside journalists, actors and celebrities. It’s a good natured chat, heavy political point scoring is off the agenda, and the format gives a politician a chance to show that he or she is a member of the human race.

On last night’s edition, George Osborne made a rare media appearance alongside Rowan Pelling, Sir Christopher Meyer and Fiona Phillips. I have never understood why George Osborne doesn’t do more of this type of programme. Contrary to his image, he’s actually very personable and has a very good sense of humour. But we rarely see it because for whatever reason he is kept under wraps. The appointment of former Newsnight producer Thea Rodgers to handle his broadcast media caused many eyebrows to be raised at the time, but her influence is already being felt. Last night he came across as rather shy and a nice bloke. He even seemed to charm Fiona Phillips. However, it was in fact one of Osborne’s right hand men, Ramesh Chhabra, who was behind the decision of Osborne to appear on the show, arguing that the programme hit an untapped demographic.

It may be some time before George Osborne hosts ‘Have I got news for you’, but he seems to be far better at the chatty sort of programme than most observers thought he ever would be. I suspect that we’ll be seeing a lot more of the Chancellor in the months ahead if last night is anything to go by.

* The Agenda is on ITV every Monday night at 10.35am

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter: No 1

19 Feb 2013 at 08:23

If you’re in the media, people inevitably have opinions about you. Some good, some bad.. They’re rarely shades of grey. The praise tends to be OTT (“You’re simply the greatest presenter ever to appear on the radio”) as does the criticism (“You have the voice of John Major crossed with a sleeping pill” – I did actually get that one!). But some of the emails you get are just downright funny. So with this post I am starting an occasional series called ‘It Shouldn’t Happen to a Radio Presenter’. Here’s an email I got this morning, on my LBC email. What I find amusing is that this person actually spent time writing it and deciding to send it. An interesting state of mind…

DEAR IAIN
HAS ANYONE EVER REMARKED THAT YOUR EYES ARE ALMOST IDENTICAL TO THE EYES OF A WILD RAT,
I FIRST NOTICED THIS WHEN I SAW YOU ON SKY NEWS WITH JACQUI SMITH,
IT REALLY IS AMAZING!
REGARDS C

Note the use of capitals. I can, however, assure you it wasn’t written in green. I will leave it to others to decide on the state of my eyes.

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TV/Film/Theatre

'The New Normal' - Best US Sitcom Since 'Scrubs'

18 Feb 2013 at 22:25

Nowadays I very rarely watch any TV programme when it is actually shown. Sky Plus is my friend. Anyway, last night I was wondering what to watch and I remembered I had been recording a new American sitcom called The New Normal. It’s been hailed as the new Will & Grace, and is being shown on E4. I didn’t know any more than that. Frankly, I wasn’t expecting a lot as I just don’t find many US sitcoms that funny. Boy was I wrong. If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favour and give it a try, and don’t be put off by the fact that the plot is all about a thirty-something gay couple who want to have a child, a pay a woman to have one for them. It’s not as yukky as it sounds, believe me.

The undoubted star of the show is Ellen Barkin, who plays the glamorous grandmother of Goldie, the woman who is the surrogate mother. She has the looks of Krystal Carrington twenty years on, and the mouth of Joan Rivers. She has some laugh out loud lines that literally have you in paroxysms. She is so politically incorrect that she makes Jim Davidson look PC. Indeed, I doubt many of her lines would be allowed in a BBC sitcom script.

The two gay guys, Brian and David, play their roles well. Bryan is a little stereotypical in that he’s very camp, but quite lovable, whereas David is the sensible, straight looking one. David has a very Jewish mother who doesn’t get on with Brian, and who also delivers some fantastic lines.

I ended up watching all five episodes one after the other. I lost count of the times it made me laugh out loud, and there aren’t many programmes that do that. Unfortunately the first two episodes are no longer available on 4OD, but do try the others. Click HERE. The next new episode is on Thursday on E4 at 9pm

Enjoy.

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Policy

Why The Right Needs To Spread the Gospel of Low Taxes

18 Feb 2013 at 14:10

I have always believed that a low tax economy is always going to be more successful than a high tax one. We now seem to be in a period where all three main political parties seem quite happy to be entering a competition to see who can come up with the whackiest ideas for imposing new taxes on a population which is heartily sick of ever higher, more complicated taxes. Some have even bought the case for higher taxes, which, when you think about it, is hardly surprising. Why? Because there is virtually no one putting the case for simpler, lower taxes.

Even ConservativeHome’s Tim Montgomerie has today come out in favour a Mansion Tax. To say I am shocked is an understatement. Apparently imposing a Mansion Tax would demonstrate that the Conservative Party has moved on. Toby Young has defenestrated Tim’s arguments in a very strongly argued (and worded) blogpost HERE.

But this goes wider than whether you support a mansion tax or not. We now hear that the LibDems want a Mansion Tax Plus, which would levy a tax on anyone who owns multiple properties with a cumulative value of £2 million. Great idea. Let’s kill off the Buy to Let market in one stroke. Remarkably the LibDems now also believe that one’s cumulative wealth should also be taxed annually. Jewellery, cars, book collections, art. The taxman would be given the right to enter your home to see if you were on the fiddle. How very liberal.

Stamp duty is licensed robbery. Air Passenger Transport duty is a tax on the aspirational poor. Council tax has become totally unreasonable. Business rates are threatening the viability of all sorts of businesses. Inheritance tax is a tax on death and a pernicious form of double taxation and success. It acts as a punishment for not spending all your money while you are alive and disincentivises people from handing it down to their children.

Green taxes, fizzy drink taxes, obesity taxes. Will it never end? One day we really will wake up and find that it is just not worth getting out of bed. We already have high marginal tax rates. Let’s not kid ourselves, National Insurance is a tax in all but name. We now tax people who earn £34,370 or more at 40%, with NI being charged at 13% up to a £40,070 limit. So if you are earning between those two figures you are paying 53% of your income to the taxman. It was never meant to be like this.

Far from simplifying income tax, this government has overly complicated it. Few people could tell you how the system works. Gordon Brown’s tax code amounted to 10,000 pages. Great for accountants who make huge amounts of money out of those of us who simply can’t get to grips with it ourselves. Has it been reduced much over the last two and a half years? I’m not so sure, but I am sure someone will tell me.

Rich people should indeed be taxed fairly. I would happily see a reform of council tax with the bands adapted to reflect modern day property values, but if you tax the rich until the pips squeak, as Denis Healey delighted in doing, you suddenly find that the goose has flown away to lay the golden eggs elsewhere. I do not want to live in a society which thinks that the taxman can have my grandmother’s jewellery in his sights. How much tax do we actually think the rich should pay? More than 7% stamp duty on house purchases? Really? And then we expect a further £30,000 a year? This is madness. The top 1% of earners now pay nearly 26% of the total income tax take – that’s more than double what it was when Margaret Thatcher came to power. When will the left be satisfied? When it is over 30%? 40%? Higher?

I regard it as deeply immoral for the state to take more than 50% of anyone’s income. We are getting to a point where that will be seen as the norm.

On the plus side, It is a great thing that by 2015 anyone earning £10,000 or less will be taken out of the income tax system altogether, but what isn’t generally known is that anyone earning above £7605 will still be paying National Insurance. Wouldn’t it be better to rectify that anomaly rather than create a rather cumbersome 10p tax rate which will, according to Mr Miliband, only cover a £1,000 band. It may not be politically sexy, but it would be the right thing to do if we want to help the low paid.

People on the right need to start evangelising about the benefits of lower, simpler, flatter taxes, because we are in a political period where those arguments are largely going by the board. I’m not a tax flat earther who believes in no tax, but I am certainly of the view that individual tax payers are better at making informed spending decisions than the man in Whitehall is.

UPDATE 4.50pm: And as if on cue, the New Statesman now suggests a Land Value Tax.

Any others, while we’re at it?

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Lord Ashcroft

Michael Ashcroft talks about his new book HEROES OF THE SKIES

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Meeting Sir David Attenborough

18 Feb 2013 at 11:23

One of the great things about doing my job at LBC is that I get to meet and interview some of my all time heros. Today was one such day. Of course the challenge when interviewing them is not to go all gooey and just indulge in half an hour of fan worship. I always try to remember why I am there and to try to ask what I think the audience would ask, if they had the opportunity.

So this morning I interviewed Sir David Attenborough, predominantly about his series AFRICA, which is released this week as a DVD box set, I had half an hour with him, which was double what was originally on offer. This gave me the chance to ask about other things too. I don’t mind admitting I was quite nervous about the prospect of interviewing one of the greatest broadcasters of the last century. But we had 15 minutes together before the interview, which was a great ice-breaker. He was fascinated by the fact that I have two jobs and we both bemoaned the state of the publishing industry. Whenever I interview very famous people others seem to delight in telling me how difficult they can be, or that they speak in three word sentences. Well, I can honestly say that Sir David was a delight and I hope anyone listening to the interview will be as riveted as I was.

* Iain’s interview with Sir David Attenborough will be broadcast this Sunday at 11am on LBC 97.3. LBC is available on DAB, Sky Channel 0112, Virgin 973 or you can stream via lbc.co.uk

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Iain Interviews Gibraltar's Chief Minister

Fabian Picardo on Gib and Brexit

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