UK Politics

Eastleigh By-Election Gets Dirty

16 Feb 2013 at 15:48

By-elections bring out the worst in normally quite sane people. It’s all “my party right or wrong”. And today we have seen the Eastleigh by-election descend to the depths, courtesy of the Liberal Democrats. I don’t know why I am surprised. However, I am surprised by Stephen Tall, editor of LibDem Voice, who is normally one of the saner LibDems. Here is his contribution to the campaign today

Perhaps Stephen is unaware that three of Maria Hutchings’ children are autistic and I suspect the comment in the speech bubble above related to one of them. He might now feel rather ashamed of himself. But let’s just imagine that he isn’t. Following Nick Clegg’s comments about possibly sending his own son to a fee paying school, aren’t the LibDems making a rod for their own back in attacking Hutchings in this way? Nick Clegg has every right to make his own decision, and so does Maria Hutchings.

Autistic children are often very gifted, but they can also be very difficult, withdrawn and lack sociability. They have special needs, and very often the system cannot provide the education the child needs, if they are to make the most of themselves. Therefore parents have little choice but to look outside the state sector. That does not imply criticism of state schools, it is just a fact that the state system is ill equipped to be able to cope with every sort of special needs.

A child’s education, let alone one with special needs, ought not to be a matter for political controversy.

UPDATE: LibDem Blogger Mark Thompson takes a similar view to me HERE

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Mary Robinson

The former Irish President discusses her new memoirs.

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Jerry Hayes

16 Feb 2013 at 09:50

Sometimes it is very hard to be a Conservative. But like David Cameron I struggle on.

Jerry Hayes, 16 Feb 2013

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Alwyne Turner

Iain talks to Alwyne Turner about his book A CLASSLESS SOCIETY: BRITAIN IN THE 90s

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UK Politics

Why Rachel Frosh Is Right - Fascism IS Intrinsically Left Wing

15 Feb 2013 at 20:11

Over the last few weeks I have had several people ask if I intend to stand for Parliament again. No matter how often I say ‘no’ the message never quite seems to get through. I can use phrases like ’I’d rather stick needles in my eyes’ or ’I’d rather eat my own sick’, but still people don’t quite believe me. Well let me kill off any further speculation by repeating something I said in 2008. I believe Nazisim and Fascism to have far more in common with socialism than conservatism. I believe them to be intrinsically left wing ideologies.

The clue is the phrase ‘National Socialism’.

This is not an uncommon belief on the right, but it has cost Rachel Frosh (nee Joyce) both her job as Deputy Police Commissioner for Hertfordshire and her place on the Conservative Party Approved Candidates List. She retweeted someone who made the same point, and using the above graphic [You can see the offending tweet at The Commentator], and then her world fell apart. She mounted a spirited defence, invoking my blogpost from 2008 but the Conservative thought police were out in force and determined to do her in. Strangely they haven’t yet disciplined a Cabinet Minister who has said something far more offensive, but that’s another story. Can anyone seriously disagree with this, from my 2008 blogpost?

I can understand why those on the left don’t wish to be branded in the same political mindset as the BNP. Now they know how those of us on the right feel. But the fact remains that BNP beliefs DO have more in common with Socialism than with Conservatism – centralised command control, trade tariffs, state owned businesses … I could go on. I struggle to think of a single issue which joins the BNP and mainstream conservatism. The Nazis were called National Socialists for a reason. Fascism is invariably described as a creed of the right. It isn’t. As with the BNP, fascism has far more in common with the left, at least in political theoretical terms.

Rachel commented today…

“I was simply retweeting something in line with a widely held opinion about the roots of Nazism. Of course I was not calling all socialists Nazis. That a retweet should be allowed to be misrepresented and used against me such a way is a something that all right-headed individuals should openly reject.”

I feel incredibly sorry for Rachel. She has devoted many hours to working for the Tories and at the first hint of trouble, they suspend her from the Candidates List. I thank God that I resigned from it in June 2010 and can enjoy total freedom of speech without ever wondering if it will ruin my political career. Rachel Frosh deserves better. I don’t even know who the Vice Chairman in charge of Candidates is nowadays, but whoever made this appallingly intolerant decision should be hauled in by Grant Shapps for a dressing down.

Are you listening Grant?

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to James Graham, Writer of THIS HOUSE

James Graham talks about

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Random Thoughts

Who Will Next Face the Horse Heat?

15 Feb 2013 at 17:11

I was talking to a friend earlier, who has a loose association with the Contract Catering Industry. These are the people who supply schools, hospitals and the armed forces. We both agreed that those sectors might well be the next sectors to come under the scrutiny of the media over the horsemeat scandal. They are all under pressure to supply food at the cheapest cost possible and we all now know where that can lead. If it came out that ‘our boys’ were being given horsemeat to eat, well, you can imagine the reaction of the tabloids. This has now gone way beyond apportioning blame to either the manufacturers or the retailers.

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Video: Iain's Post Orwell Blog Awards 'Downfall' Video

Hilarious parody of Iain not winning the Orwell Blog Prize

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Books

Book Review: A Kick Against the Pricks by David Norris

15 Feb 2013 at 14:02

Let me from outset say that this is one of the best autobiographies I have read in recent years. It’s entertaining, witty, thought provoking, moving and well written. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Senator David Norris is an independent member of the Upper House of the Irish Parliament. He’s never held government office, but he has been a constant thorn in the side of successive Irish governments. I almost hesitate to say it, but for British readers, he is the Peter Tatchell of the Irish Republic. He, more than anyone, has been crucial to the struggle for gay equality in Ireland. Without his bravery and courage Ireland may have languished in the dark ages in this area. It hasn’t been an easy path. He details in the book some of the disgusting things which have been said to him, and the terrible things that some people have done to him over the years. But this is not a gay memoir. It is so much more than that. Norris, an Anglican, and someone with a great affection for this country, has been a campaigner for all sorts of issues related to more general human rights. He also takes us on a journey through an Ireland which we in Britain have lost sight of – the rural communities, the characters, the nooks and crannies of Old Dublin.

Until last year I had never heard of David Norris. It was only when a Northern Irish colleague at LBC, Declan Harvey, and I started discussing the Irish presidential election that he crossed my radar. At that moment Norris was ahead in the polls and was widely expected to win, and succeed Mary McAleese. But then the vicious Irish media intervened and printed details of a letter Norris had written to an Israeli court asking them to be lenient in sentencing his long time friend and love, Ezra, who stood accused of an offence involving sex with a minor. His campaign team largely deserted him and he felt he had no choice other than to leave the race. It was a decision he was later to regret and in his book he says he should never have made such a rash decision. He later reentered the race, but it was too late. He got 110,000 first preference votes, but the media had done their work. He is clearly very bitter about what they did to him and the book is littered with references to Leveson and the fact that Ireland needs something similar. The race ruined him financially.

Norris’s relationship with his Israel friend Ezra is certainly odd. They met 30 years ago and while Norris clearly fell in love, he was treated appallingly by his younger lover. Norris worshipped him, but all he got in return was hassle. His tale is one that many of us can relate to, but in the end you end up wanting to shake him out of it. After giving some very unhelpful media interviews which finally finished Norris’s campaign off, Ezra and Norris no longer speak. It was a sad end to what for one of them had been something very meaningful. Such are the vagaries of love.

A KICK AGAINST THE PRICKS was shortlisted for Political Biography of the Year at last week’s Political Book Awards. It didn’t win, but the judges rated it highly. David Norris was at the event but nobody told me. It is my only regret of the evening that I never got to meet him. I hope one day to rectify that, so I can tell him face to face that his book is one of the best I have read in recent years.

* A Kick Against The Pricks is published by Transworld Ireland in hardback at £20

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Iain interviews an emotional Suzanne Evans

Suzanne Evans reacts to her suspension by UKIP.

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Irish Senator David Norris

15 Feb 2013 at 07:53

It is ironic that those very persons and groups who used to decry people for being promiscuous now attack them for wanting to have recognised stable relationships.

Irish Senator David Norris, From his book A KICK AGAINST THE PRICKS

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Rosemary Doesn't Like Gay People Kissing

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UK Politics

Stand Up Mehdi Hasan, Future Leader of the Labour Party?

15 Feb 2013 at 06:51

I’ve never quite worked out how the Huffington Post survives in the UK. Millions of pounds have been chucked at it, and yet it’s a vanilla site with little ‘must-read’ element to it. Most of its comment pieces are PR puff and little else. Its news stories are ones that you can get elsewhere and it has now been reduced to running stories every day with the words ‘penis’, ‘breasts’ or ‘bum’ or other such titilating words in the headlines, seemingly merely to drive traffic. How desperate can you get? Here’s another one

I just noticed a link in my Twitter feed to an article with the headline.‘From Huhne to Eternity’ by Charmian Hughes, whoever she is. She’s written a whole article about how Chris Huhne kissed her when he was 14. Once. He then ‘got off’ with her best friend. Clearlry a bad ‘un then. This is the sort of rubbish we’re served up with day after day.

Since Chris Wimpress left any pretence at any form of balanced political coverage seems to have gone out the window. Mehdi Hasan, love him dearly as I do, has free reign to rampage with his interesting, but deeply unbalanced opinions. There is little counterbalance to his views at all apart from puff pieces from party politicians which no one apparently bothers to read. Mehdi’s latest article ‘On Iraq, the Hawks Were Wrong About Everything’ is a good example of the pieces he writes on HuffPo. Everyone else is wrong about everything. Mehdi is right about everything. Things aren’t generally as black and white as that. Take this extract…

It isn’t the size of our demonstration that those of us against the war should be proud of, it is our judgement. Our arguments and predictions turned out to be correct and those of our belligerent opponents were discredited.

Those aren’t the words of a commentator. They are the words of a player. The words of a politician. I make no complaint about that. Indeed I would love to see Mehdi in the House of Commons He’d shake the place up a bit and shake up the Labour Party. I have no idea if he has political ambitions, but I hope he does. He would be the Michael Gove of his age.

I remember in 2003 appearing on a platform with Michael Gove at the Tory conference. I had a go at him for always sniping from the sidelines in his Times columns. “Come on, Michael,” I said, “Get your hands dirty and stand for Parliament.” He smiled broadly and told me and the audience he wouldn’t be doing that as he couldn’t afford the pay cut. Within a year he was selected for the safe seat of Surrey Heath. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Mehdi was thinking of doing something similar. He might have to give up an income north of £200k to do it, but at least he might then have some power to wield, rather than having some influence at the margins. He’d probably be leader of the Labour Party within two parliaments. Now there’s a thought.

Five years ago no one outside Sky News and Channel 4 had heard of him. When he was appointed as Political Editor of the New Statesman back in 2009, most of us said Mehdi who? Within three years he had eclipsed most left of centre commentators and become the media go-to person for a left wing gob on a stick. Polly must have been seething.

Back in 2003, before he got into Parliament I predicted Nick Clegg would be LibDem leader. In 2008 I was the first to write that Ed Miliband would succeed Gordon Brown as Labour leader. I’m not predicting Mehdi Hasan will be leader of the Labour Party, but it wouldn’t surprise me if by 2025 he had done just that. If he sets his mind to it, he can certainly get near to the top. And I suspect when Mehdi sets himself a goal, he is relentless in achieving it.

Your temptation may be to send the headline of the this article to John Rentoul for his Question to Which the Answer is No series. I wouldn’t be in such a hurry to do that.

[cue the email from Mehdi saying "I can’t believe you’ve written that! It’s not in my mind at all!]

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Iain Helps Ken Dig Himself Deeper over Anti-Semitism

The interview that started off a troubled few days for Ken Livingstone.

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Interview

Listen: Rachel Reeves Repeats the Same Point 8 times in 80 Seconds

14 Feb 2013 at 23:28

I rather like Rachel Reeves. She’s got some original ideas and is clearly very clever. You don’t get to work at the Bank of England if you’re not. But tonight on my LBC show she gave a car crash of an interview on the 10p tax rate and the mansion tax. It bore all the hallmarks of someone defending a policy they had been told they must go out and defend, using a cribsheet from Party HQ saying "repeat after me, this is the point you must concentrate on. The interview lasted about 7 minutes, but she kept saying the same thing over and over again. I picked her up on it three times.

Have a listen to THIS. It’s 80 seconds long and she repeats the same point 8 times. I seem to remember Ed Miliband doing the same thing once. Just because your leader does it, it doesn’t mean you have to. It certainly didn’t go down well with my listeners.

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Iain talks to Charles Moore about Vol 2 of his Margaret Thatcher biography

Everything She Wants

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Anonymous Trade Unionist

14 Feb 2013 at 16:49

If he swallowed a sixpence, he would shit a corkscrew

Anonymous Trade Unionist, on Harold Wilson

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale interviews Ed Miliband about Mental Health policy

A 90 minute special on mental health policy, featuring a ten minute interview with Ed Miliband and many moving phone calls

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UK Politics

Ed Miliband on the 10p Tax Rate: Then & Now

14 Feb 2013 at 11:54

This is Ed Miliband making the case for abolishing the 10p tax rate in 2008.

“When you make a big set of changes in the tax system, some people do lose out. That is a matter of regret. Of course it is. But overall these changes make the tax system fairer.” (Source: IFS)

And this is what he has said this morning…

“We would tax houses worth over £2 million. And we would use the money to cut taxes for working people. We would put right a mistake made by Gordon Brown and the last Labour government. We would use the money raised by a mansion tax to reintroduce a lower 10 pence starting rate of tax, with the size of the band depending on the amount raised.

So in 2008 he reckons it made the tax system fairer when the 10p tax rate was abolished. Does that mean he’s proposing to make in more unfair now?

I am all in favour of a 10p tax band, which I reckon ought to apply for all earnings between £10,000 and £20,000 in an ideal world. But I have no idea how much that would cost, but it would undoubtedly be several billion pounds.[Update: Putting it up to £12,500 would cost £6.2 billion]. There are all sorts of ways this could be funded, but Ed Miliband has yet again decided on a soak the rich policy. All well and good, but in parts of London and the South East many people who own a £2 million house are not cash rich at all, and only live in such a house because it has been in their family for decades, and it is only down to the vagaries of property prices which have put them in that bracket.

Finally, I rather liked this tweet from Tom Harris MP, which tries to justify Ed Miliband’s change of heart…

BREAKING: Ed Miliband honoured collective cabinet responsibility in last govt. We’ll bring you more as this story develops five years ago.”

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Iain has a blazing row with George Galloway over Margaret Thatcher (Part 1)

TalkSport, August 2009

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