Media

Political Interviewing: It Shouldn't Be About Confrontation & Newslines - We're Shortchanging the Public

10 Dec 2017 at 17:34

This is an article I wrote for the Saturday edition of the ‘i’ newspaper on Saturday. It was published HERE.

‘It’s all about you, isn’t it?’ wrote the rather angry listener who texted my LBC radio show. ‘How dare you question the Prime Minister like that!’ How dare I, indeed. And there was me thinking that I was doing my job.

Back in early October, Theresa May came to my studio to take calls from our listeners. It was her first interview after THAT speech. She was doing rather well until I asked the Prime Minister if she would now vote Leave if there were another referendum. She failed to give me an answer, so I pushed her.

And then pushed her again. And again.

Each time I did it politely, with no sense of haranguing. That part of the interview was analysed on virtually every political and news show in the country over the next 48 hours. Piers Morgan reckoned it was the best question anyone had ever asked any politician this year. Stroke my ego as it might, it did leave me thinking a lot about the state of political interviewing in this country.

Back in the 1980s prime ministers only ever gave four or five set piece interviews a year. They had a sense of occasion about them, and they each lasted between 30 minutes and an hour. The advent of twenty-four hour news channels changed all that. Tony Blair and David Cameron would be interviewed on radio or television virtually every day. The provision of news on the internet changed things even more. Ninety second clips are de rigueur and news producers assume their audiences have the attention span of a flea.

All this has fed into a ‘gotcha’ narrative where news organisations feel that if they haven’t skewered a politician in an interview, the interviewer has somehow failed. If there isn’t a ‘news line’ from an interview, what was the point of it? interviewing is not a contact sport, or at least it shouldn’t be. The idea that interviews should primarily be about eliciting information to educate and inform the viewer/listener is for the birds nowadays.

Yes, of course it’s about holding politicians to account, but to go into every interview and intend to score points, as so many interviewers (or their producers) seem to want to do, is to short-change the listener.

Nick Ferrari has a reputation as a dogged interviewer, but many of his most newsworthy interviews have come when he has allowed the politician to commit hara-kari, as Diane Abbott knows only too well. LBC’s Shelagh Fogarty has a unique talent of appearing to question in a softly-softly manner, but boy oh boy, if she feels she’s being played, watch her bare her teeth. And that’s how it should be.

Compare that to one famous interviewer told me recently, when he was about to interview a senior politician: “I’m going to give them the most aggressive interview they’ve ever had”. ‘Really?’ I thought. ‘Is that really the best way to go into an interview?’

It illustrated for me the different way we approach political interviews nowadays. I suppose it reflects Jeremy Paxman’s famous approach where before he would interview anyone he’d think to himself “why is this bastard lying to me?” I don’t believe that shouting at someone is likely to elicit anything meaningful from them. They just shut up shop and repeat political mantras.

Too many interviewers think it’s all about them. Social media has encouraged a cult of media personality. It seems that some interviewers want to be heroes in their own echo chamber. The reaction to my Theresa May interview was an interesting case-study. It certainly stroked my ego but it underlined to me my theory that a conversational approach works far better than a confrontational one.

I mourn the apparent death of the long-form political interview. I know from experience that if you interview a politician for three or four minutes you won’t get anything interesting out of them. They have two points they want to make and they will make them regardless of the question you ask.

If you interview a politician for more than ten minutes, eventually they run out of their pre-prepared lines and they are then forced to say something more interesting. David Frost was a master of this. Fern Britton got more out of Tony Blair in an hour-long interview than any of the ‘star’ political interviewers had managed in fifteen years. Nick Ferrari’s hour with Ed Miliband in the 2015 election was the best interview of the campaign.

Last week ITV announced three new hour-long interview programmes, albeit online only. I detect a growing, if niche, appetite for longer form interviews. Come back Robin Day, Brian Walden or Jonathan Dimbleby. These three interviewers were brilliant exponents of the genre. In today’s world, Andrew Neil is a master of it.

If it were my decision, I would make him the new editor and chief presenter of a revamped Newsnight. That won’t happen, of course.

What I’ve Been…

Reading
I’m a huge Gogglebox addict so I’ve been reading the DIARY OF TWO NOBODIES by Giles and Mary, the slightly quirky middle-aged couple who live in a cottage in Wiltshire. They really are as charming and odd as they appear on screen. I’m also reading is Tim Shipman’s FALL OUT. It is the sequel to ALL OUT WAR and covers the Brexit talks and the general election. It’s undoubtedly one of the political books of the year. I wish I had published it.

Podcasting
I’ve started a new weekly podcast with Jacqui Smith called FOR THE MANY, which is 45 minutes of political banter. We were inspired by excellent and hugely gossipy FORTUNATELY podcast by Jane Garvey and Fi Glover. I’ve also started listening to podcasts in the car on journeys to Norfolk, and have become rather addicted to the CHRIS MOYLES SHOW weekly podcast. Laugh out loud funny.

Listening to
I’ve turned into a massive radio geek since being on LBC and love discovering new shows and stations. My most recent discovery is HEART 80s, which does what it says on the tin. TOBY TARRANT’s early breakfast show on Radio X is a show I only get to listen to for the last half an hour, but it’s got that crucial quality in a radio show – you don’t want to switch off in case you miss something.

Watching
I rarely watch live TV nowadays. Netflix has become my new TV home and I can’t wait for the second series of THE CROWN. DESIGNATED SURVIVOR and SHOOTER have been my two most recent binges – both have an echo of ‘24’, which I still miss. I used to be a SKY NEWS addict, but increasingly find myself watching AL JAZEERA ENGLISH and CNN.

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ConHome Diary: Would You Like a '**** Jeremy Corbyn' T Shirt?

1 Dec 2017 at 13:18

Following his ill-judged retweets of three Britain First tweets, Donald Trump is now turning his ire onto Theresa May. He tweeted yesterday: “@Theresa_May don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive radical Islamic terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!”. Further evidence if we needed it of the President’s warped narcissism. The basic trouble is, the man has so little respect for the office he holds. Theresa May was absolutely right to call him out on his tweets. As Piers Morgan told me, either he tweeted them because he didn’t know who Britain First was or he knew exactly who they were. If it was the former he is an idiot. If it’s the latter it is a clear sign that he is Islamophobic. I’d say in either case it demonstrates that America has a president who provides succour to racists, Islamophobes and white supremicists. Furthermore, one of the videos has been proved to be a fake, and the perpetrator of violence in one of the others was sentenced to death for his actions. Tweeting three videos like this is clearly designed to cause division between muslims and the rest of the community. It’s meant to persuade Americans that because one radical muslim cleric deliberately smashes a statue of the Virgin Mary, then all muslims would approve of that. It’s just despicable that a man who holds the office of President should do this. We don’t solve the problems we have with radical Islam by playing into the hands of those who would do us damage.
Theresa May was quite right to call Trump’s action wrong. She could have gone further and called it words like ‘despicable’ and ‘contemptible’ but diplomatic niceties mean that she didn’t. At least she is someone who respects the office in President, but I suspect like most of us, she has little respect for the man.
Sajid Javid, a muslim himself, went much further than the Prime Minister, and I suspect he didn’t get any permission for his tweet.



I think he was entirely justified to go that little bit further. Good on him.
*
On Monday evening I took part in a panel in Norwich which sought to answer the question: “What does it mean to be English?” Former Labour minister John Denham, who now leads the Centre for English Identity at the University of Winchester was one of my co-interlocutors and did a far better job of answering the question than I did. Indeed, we agreed on so much (like believing in creating an English Parliament, for example) we nearly formed our own political party there and then. The event took place at the Forum in the centre of Norwich and there were around 120 people there. It was a very engaged audience who asked some quite challenging questions. However, I’m still not sure I answered the question very well…
*

Over the last months arch-remainers have made the point that Britain must agree to pay the EU what it owes in a divorce payment. On Wednesday evening the Telegraph’s Peter Foster revealed that the UK government and the European Commission had reached an agreement on this issue, and the UK had indeed agreed to pay a fee of somewhere between £35 billion and £45 billion. And what do those same arch-remainers say now? That the government has been totally humiliated!!! Typical. I’d love to have paid the wretched organisation nothing at all, but in the end, all negotiations are pragmatic compromises. However, before we all rush away with the thought that the trade negotiations will now be easy, I suspect the very opposite is true. Remember, any trade deal will have to be ratified by the national parliaments of all 27 member states. I still reckon no-deal is a distinct possibility. In which case, it must be made clear that the EU won’t be getting any money at all. I see Barnier is trying to make out the two things aren’t linked. If the government gives way on that, we might as well give away on everything else now.
*
I’m half way through reading Tim Shipman’s new book, FALL OUT. It carries on from his first book, ALL OUT WAR and is just as good. The level of detail is astonishing. It’s the sort of book I’d like to have written myself but know I couldn’t. It details the Brexit negotiations and the election campaign and finishes in October. I saw Tim on Tuesday and told him he would have to write a third, taking the story up to Brexit Day on 29 March 2019. He visibly blanched. I’d say it was his public duty. He can console himself by knowing that he will have written The Shipman Trilogy – the British equivalent of Robert Caro’s series of biographies of Lyndon Johnson. And I can’t give his books any higher praise than that.
*

That famous political philosopher Noel Gallagher is someone you might think would be rather impressed by Jeremy Corbyn. Not a bit of it. He’s given an interview to the NME in which he rather endearingly talks about the Labour leader. He says: “Fuck Jeremy Corbyn. He’s a Communist”. I think that would make a rather good selling T-Shirt, don’t you? Maybe one for CCHQ…

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ConHome Diary: The Housing Minister Should Be In The Cabinet & Why Brexiteers Need to Up Their Game in Exposing Remain Lies

24 Nov 2017 at 13:21

Well that wasn’t exactly a knicker-gripping budget, was it? In a week’s time if you asked people if they could remember one measure announced in a budget, the abolition of stamp duty for first time buyers for properties under £300k is probably all that they will remember. There were lots of itty-bitty minor measures and reform announced, but there was little coherence to the budget. Radical and bold it was not. The best thing you can say about this budget is that it hasn’t unravelled. That’s a pretty low bar for success.

The best budgets are ones that follow a vision or narrative. Nigel Lawson did that, and disagree with him though I did, so did Gordon Brown. So did George Osborne to an extent. I’m afraid Philip Hammond’s main vision was ‘how can I avoid a budget gaffe and how can I best keep my job’. There was very little, if anything, for the so-called ‘Just About Managings’. That was supposed to be the theme of this government’s domestic agenda, but so far as I can recall there wasn’t even a mention of it in the budget speech. You could argue that keeping alcohol duties static would help the JAMS, but if so, why not say it? Still at least he recoiled from cutting the VAT threshold for small businesses from £83k to £20k. This would have been a political disaster of epic proportions, and been a far worse error than his NI mistake last year proved to be. Thankfully he stepped back from the brink.

Philip Hammond was right to make housing the centrepiece of the budget. It’s just a pity that the measures he announced will do very little to address the real issue – which is lack of supply. He was looking through the wrong end of the housing telescope. Encouraging first time buyers is all very well, and many will be very encouraged by the cut in stamp duty. But he was undermined in the Red Book by the OBR who rightly pointed out that the cut will inevitably lead to a rise in house prices, thus not benefiting the first-time buyer but benefiting the vendor. What he needed to do was face up to the big housebuilders who are constantly trying to rig the housing market in their favour. What he also needed to do was encourage small and medium sized builders, many of whom have got out of housebuilding in the last few years, partly because the planning system mitigates against them. What we need is a Housing Minister who will trample over all the vested interests and do for housing what Michael Heseltine did with development corporations in the 1980s. I’m impressed by Alok Sharma, but he is relatively new to the job and will take time to gain political ‘weight’. The government should send a big signal and promote the Housing Minister to the rank of attending cabinet. This issue, more than most, could determine the outcome in a lot of marginal seats at the next election.
*
Every morning five or six emails pop into my inbox, each competing for my attention and telling me what’s happening in the political word. They include Matt Chorley’s Red Box email and Paul Waugh’s from the Huffington Post. The latest one is from Politico and is written by Jack Blanchard, and is well worth subscribing to. It has a lot more detail about the upcoming events of the day and which politicians are going to appear on the various political programmes. It’s become indispensable to my day and I highly recommend it.
*

One of the failures of those who support Brexit is to expose the lies of those who continue to bang the Remain drum. We keep being told that EU nationals are all going home. As I write this, Sky’s Adam Boulton is interviewing Theresa Villers and has asked her how we can build more houses if all the EU builders are leaving the country. Just for the record, a week ago the ONS announced that there are now 2.38 million EU nationals working in the UK, a rise of 112,000 on a year ago. Don’t believe me? Click on THIS [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/11/15/number-eu-nationals-working-britain-reaches-record-level-official/ ] link.

Over the last year we’ve also constantly been told that doctors and nurses from the EU are flooding out of the NHS and going back to their home nations. It’s become a narrative which has been accepted all across the media. My LBC colleague James O’Brien speaks of little else. And yet it’s total bollocks. It is a lie. The latest figures show that there are actually more EU doctors and nurses in the NHS a year on from the referendum than there were on June 23 2016. Just for the record, here are the figures:

Doctors in the NHS June 2016 – 9695
Doctors in the NHS June 2017 – 10136 (a rise of 4.5%)
Registrars 2016 June 2016 – 3190
Registrars June 2016 – 3215
Trainee doctors June 2016 – 779
Trainee doctors June 2017 – 950
Midwives June 2016 – 1220
Midwives June 2017 – 1247
Ambulance staff June 2016 – 250
Ambulance staff June 2017 – 386
Scientific, therapeutic, technical staff June 2016 – 6112
Scientific, therapeutic, technical staff June 2017 – 6957
Nurses and health visitors June 2016 – 20907
Nurses and health visitors June 2017 – 20618

So, yes a very slight decline of 1.38% in the number of nurses, but not overall statistically very significant. If you add all those figures up you find…

Total number of EU nationals in the NHS in June 2016 – 42,153
Total number of EU nationals in the NHS in June 2017 – 43,509

So, a 3.22% rise over a year. And in case you think I have made these figures up, they were quoted in The Spectator and come from NHS Digitial.
Similarly, people like Michael White tweet that the trade gap has widened since we voted to leave the EU. A simple look at ONS figures shows this is an utter lie.

2015 Q4-33681
2016 Q1-31169
2016 Q2-28440
2016 Q3-33034
2016 Q4-22812
2017 Q1-22256
2017 Q2-23182

We keep being told that it’s the Brexiteers who are guilty of telling ‘porkies’ with the red bus being cited constantly, but those who put the public case for Brexit need to be fully aware of the lies that are being told on the other side and be prepared to expose them whenever they are able to.

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Humour/Satire

Settling the Account - A Tale of Davis & Barnier

23 Nov 2017 at 21:22

I was sent this earlier today. No doubt it’s doing the rounds, but it has a few echoes of truth, doesn’t it?!

David Davis is at the golf club returning his locker key when Mr Barnier the membership secretary sees him.

“Hello Mr Davis”, says Mr Barnier. “I’m sorry to hear you are no longer renewing your club membership, if you would like to come to my office we can settle your account”.

“I have settled my bar bill” says Mr Davis..

“Ah yes Mr Davis”, says Mr Barnier, “but there are other matters that need settlement”

In Mr Barnier’s office Mr Davis explains that he has settled his bar bill so wonders what else he can possibly owe the Golf Club? “Well Mr Davis” begins Mr Barnier, “you did agree to buy one of our Club Jackets”.

“Yes” agrees Mr Davis “I did agree to buy a jacket but I haven’t received it yet”. “As soon as you supply the jacket I will send you a cheque for the full amount”.

“That will not be possible” explains Mr Barnier. “As you are no longer a club member you will not be entitled to buy one of our jackets”!

“But you still want me to pay for it” exclaims Mr Davis.

“Yes” says Mr Barnier, "That will be £500 for the jacket. “There is also your bar bill”.

“But I’ve already settled my bar bill” says Mr Davis.

“Yes” says Mr Barnier, “but as you can appreciate, we need to place our orders from the Brewery in advance to ensure our bar is properly stocked”.. “You regularly used to spend at least £50 a week in the bar so we have placed orders with the brewery accordingly for the coming year”. “You therefore owe us £2600 for the year”..

“Will you still allow me to have these drinks?” asks Mr Davis. “No of course not Mr Davis”. “You are no longer a club member!” says Mr Barnier.

“Next is your restaurant bill” continues Mr Barnier. “In the same manner we have to make arrangements in advance with our catering suppliers”. “Your average restaurant bill was in the order of £300 a month, so we’ll require payment of £3600 for the next year”.

“I don’t suppose you’ll be letting me have these meals either” asks Mr Davis.

“No, of course not” says an irritated Mr Barnier, “you are no longer a club member!”

“Then of course” Mr Barnier continues, “there are repairs to the clubhouse roof”.

“Clubhouse roof” exclaims Mr Davis, “What’s that got to do with me?”

“Well it still needs to be repaired and the builders are coming in next week”, your share of the bill is £2000".

“I see” says Mr Davis, “anything else?”.

“Now you mention it” says Mr Barnier, “there is Fred the Barman’s pension”. “We would like you to pay £5 a week towards Fred’s pension when he retires next month”. “He’s not well you know so I doubt we’ll need to ask you for payment for longer than about five years, so £1300 should do it”. “This brings your total bill to £10,000” says Mr Barnier.

“Let me get this straight” says Mr Davis, “you want me to pay £500 for a jacket you won’t let me have, £2600 for beverages you won’t let me drink and £3600 for food you won’t let me eat, all under a roof I won’t be allowed under and not served by a bloke who’s going to retire next month!”

“Yes, it’s all perfectly clear and quite reasonable” says Mr Barnier.

“Pxxs off!” says Mr Davis

Now we understand what Brexit is all about.

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ConHome Diary: Have we Got Leaking Whips & Why I Have Been in Prison

17 Nov 2017 at 12:28

At the weekend I went to prison. Luckily only for a couple of hours, but it was an experience nonetheless. The only time I’d been inside a prison before was to visit someone who was serving 25 years for murder. He wanted to write a book when he came out. For various reasons it never happened.
And so it was on Saturday that I visited a friend who had been sent to prison for a relatively short sentence. I have a policy when a friend is in trouble or falls on hard times – I stand by them. It’s what friends do. What I have found time and time again is that this is when people in trouble really find out who their friends are. Who are the real friends and who are the “friends”?
I well remember the day when I got a phone call from Channel 4 News telling me that Neil and Christine Hamilton were in Ilford ‘nick’ being questioned about a rape they were supposed to have committed. Would I go on their programme and talk about it? It was so preposterous as to be impossible to believe, so I went on the show. I then got quite a few calls telling me I shouldn’t do any more media on it because it could harm my political career. I politely told these well-meaning friends exactly where they could shove their advice.
Neil and Christine were (and are) good friends and I certainly wasn’t going to drop them the way many people did during the events of 1996-7.
Anyway, I digress. I arrived at the prison with a certain degree of trepidation. I suppose I was afraid that the conversation might be a bit stilted and that five months in this rather Victoria prison might have really changed my friend. I queued up in the waiting room along with, shall we say, all forms of human life, the majority of which seemed to be wearing track suit bottoms and answered to the name of Waynetta or kept shrieking “am I bovvered? Do I look bovvered?” It was the small kids who were running around that I felt sorry for. Poor little sods didn’t stand a chance.
My time soon arrived and I was led through three gates to the visiting room. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was led to a numbered table where my friend was waiting. It was all fairly informal with us sitting on a sofa and soft chair. The time flew by and two hours later it was time to leave.
I was glad I went. My friend seemed to really appreciate it. It had been a round trip of 300 miles or so but I am glad I took the time to do it. I know if it had been me, it would have meant a lot. And you know, there really was a feeling of there but for the grace of God go I. I don’t think I have ever done anything which could have merited going to prison, then again, in my opinion, nor had my friend. More of that another time, maybe.
*
I’ve got my iPhone on shuffle at the moment. I’m writing this to the dulcet tones of a Boney M Megamix. For younger readers they were a 1980s popular music neat combo whose biggest hit was a rather soothing song called Rivers of Babylon. It was ‘Daddy Cool’.
*

I don’t know what the Daily Telegraph thought it was trying to achieve by its front page showing mugshots of the 15 Brexit ‘Mutineers’. Still, at least they didn’t call them ‘collaborators’. That was left to the Daily Mail. Why is it that people who hold a minority view are demonised like this? Some of the female MPs named have received the most disgusting abuse on social media following this. Sarah Wollaston told me live on air that she hadn’t told anyone but her whip of her views on the Brexit Bill amendments so she could only conclude that the whips had deliberately leaked these 15 names to the Telegraph. She will never be able to prove it, but if it’s true, it’s a terrible state of affairs. Conversations with whips must remain confidential otherwise the whole system teeters on the verge of collapse.
*
The reaction to the first episode of my FOR THE MANY iTunes podcast, which I record with Jacqui Smith, has been very gratifying. It reached the top 25 overall iTunes chart and was number 3 in the News & Politics category, only beaten by Serial and the Radio 4 Friday night comedy, although how those two podcasts belong in the News & Politics category I don’t quite understand. If you haven’t subscribed, do give it a try. The second episode will be available early Monday morning.
*

It was good to see the PM on fine form in this week’s PMQs. She looked as if she was genuinely enjoying it – which is more than can be said for the Leader of the Opposition, who at one point called the Government benches ‘The Opposition’. It was a truly lamentable performance from Jeremy Corbyn. My LBC colleague James O’Brien, who I normally disagree with on most things, tweeted afterwards that he reckoned we’ve seen ‘Peak Corbyn’. I wonder if there’s something in that. As Tony Blair said, given the divisions which exist in the government and the bad press they’ve had in recent months you might expect Labour to be well ahead in the opinion polls. But still Theresa May is polling above 40%.
*
Philip Hammond faces an impossible task in next week’s budget. Expectations have been set so high that he cannot possibly meet them. So far we haven’t had many leaks about what to expect, and if his Treasury spinners have any sense they’ll leave it that way. If he can produce a couple of positive surprises on the day, all well and good, but otherwise it’s surely likely to be a steady-as-she-goes, tinkering budget. It’s not in the chancellor’s nature to be radical, but now I’ve said that he’ll probably go and abolish stamp duty or something which will have us all scratching our collective heads in utter astonishment. While we are on stamp duty, perhaps we should all acknowledge that it is basically a form of licensed robbery. The trouble is, if you raised the limit for first time buyers to £400k or so, you’d still need to recover the shortfall from elsewhere in the tax system. A Conservative chancellor cannot surely be seen to raise borrowing. That’s Labour’s job, and what a good job they are doing. I think in this week’s PMQs if you add the spending commitments made in Jeremy Corbyn’s six questions, you’d probably add a good £50 billion to the PSBR. Come the next election, this is going to a be a crucial battleground. The dividing lines are already there and they certainly shouldn’t be blurred in the budget.

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ConHome Diary: Not a Priti Week

10 Nov 2017 at 11:51

On a personal level it is always sad to see a political resignation. I’ve known Priti Patel for the best part of twenty years and she’s one of those people who by nature is an optimist. She always has a twinkle in her eye and is very good company. However, I’ve always thought that being a minister robbed her of her natural bubbliness. Whenever I interviewed her I could almost hear her thinking to herself: “I must stay on message, I must stay on message”. Back in September 2015 I wrote this:
“I really think some politicians are injected with some sort of serum before they go on the broadcast media, and that it turns normally sparkling, interesting people into complete drones whose only intention is to bore us to death about the “long-term economic plan” and “hard-working people”.
Step forward Priti Patel who is an exceptionally rabid addict of this serum. I’ve interviewed her seven or eight times, I suppose, and on each occasion I end the interview wanting to slit my wrists. If I feel like that, God only knows what the listener thinks.
And so it was on Saturday. She and Michael Fallon were doing the media rounds to comment on Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the Labour leadership contest, and both had clearly taken a strong dose. “Britain’s security is in danger,” they chirruped in unison. “So is the security of hard working families.”
Oh, pass the sick bucket.”
It’s ironic, I suppose that both Priti and Michael Fallon have now gone to meet their political maker. Ironic, but a terrible pity, and so avoidable. What on earth was she thinking? Any rookie Minister reads the Ministerial Code and knows that they have to obey it. Priti’s transgressions might have been survivable had she not told the PM on Monday that there were no further revelations to come. There were, and that meant she had to go.
Theresa May showed a bit of human compassion and allowed Priti to resign, but let’s face it, it was a sacking. I am told that the meeting in Downing Street lasted all of six minutes. The PM has never been one for small talk. It was an interview without coffee. Both women knew what the outcome must be.
While today Priti Patel’s political career lies in tatters, she should take comfort from the fact that it is possible to come back from this. She’ll never again be seen as a leadership contender, but it is perfectly possible for her to return to the front bench in the future. Liam Fox’s resignation in 2012 was in vaguely – very vaguely – similar circumstances and Priti can look at his example to see how to return to ministerial office.
In the meantime, I expect Priti to enter a period of relative silence until after Christmas, but after then I hope we see the return of the bubbly, effervescent character that ministerial office somewhat suppressed. If we do, she will be a player again.
*
So where does this leave Theresa May and he government? I don’t see that she or it are any weaker than they were a week or ten days ago. Indeed, it is possible to argue that she is in a slightly stronger position given Boris Johnson’s bad week. There is no plot to get rid of her, mainly because there is no obvious successor. Boris has had a dreadful few months and many people I speak to doubt he’d even get into the final two if there were any leadership contest. The big unknown, though, is how many letters Graham Brady has received calling for a vote of no-confidence in the PM. There needs to be 48 to trigger a vote. I suspect he has got 20-30. However, I doubt if there will be many more, despite some of the disgraceful anonymous briefing that is going on in the papers. Turkeys surely don’t vote for Christmas. Tory MPs need to know what if they continue to show this kind of disloyalty to the Prime Minister they can only help bring a general election closer. And if that happened, many of them would end up with a P45 courtesy of the electorate. And deservedly so.
*

Given the antics of Messrs Patel and Johnson, the sexual harassment scandal has moved to the inside pages from the front pages, unless you live in Wales where former Welsh government minister Carl Sargeant took his own life. The poor man hadn’t even been told what he had been accused of. I’m told Charlie Elphicke still remains ignorant of what is supposed to have done. On a basic human level, surely if someone is accused of committing a crime, or something highly distasteful, they surely ought to have a right to know what it is, even if the identity of the accuser isn’t disclosed. In Carl Sargeant’s case, his family have been robbed of a husband, son and father. They deserve some answers from the political establishment in Wales, and the First Minister Carwyn Jones – a transparently decent man – needs to examine his own conscience about how he handled this and what he said to the media in the immediate aftermath of Sargeant’s suspension.
*
If you like to listen to political podcasts I do hope you’ll give mine a try. It’s called FOR THE MANY and I’m doing it with former Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and the first episode will be available first thing on Monday morning. We’re going to cover political and media issues and have a good old gossip along the way. It will have the tone of our Sky News paper review partnership and will be recorded weekly on a Sunday evening. So do go to iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts and subscribe, so you automatically get it on your phone without having to remember to download! FOR THE MANY has a Facebook page and you can follow us on Twitter @ForTheManyPod.

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Iain talks to the stars of 'Handbagged'

Not easy interviewing Margaret Thatcher and the Queen. At the same time.

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Video

Watch: CNN Talk - Sutherland Springs & Guntrol

7 Nov 2017 at 12:18

This is a discussion on CNN Talk about the Sutherland Springs shootings and gun control.

I’m on CNN Talk every Friday and Monday at noon on CNN International. Or you can watch it on Facebook Live.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Michael Dobbs

Michael Dobbs discusses his writing career.

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Radio

For The Many - A New Weekly Podcast From LBC With Iain Dale & Jacqui Smith

4 Nov 2017 at 15:26

Back in March Jacqui Smith and I left the Sky News Paper Review, where we had established an on-screen partnership over five or six years. I covered the reasons for us leaving HERE. Since then, both of us have been inundated with people asking us when we’re coming back. It’s nice to be missed but on TV it’s not going to happen. However, we are editing a book of biographies of all the female MPs over the last hundred years, HONOURABLE LADIES and from November 20th we’re launching a new podcast, called "FOR THE MANY… We’re doing it with LBC and here’s what the blurb says…

For The Many is a one of a kind 30-minute podcast hosted by the political dream team who have become infamous for their onscreen partnership delivering the Sky News paper review. Containing a mixture of lively debate, analysis, banter and gossip Iain and Jacqui give their perspective on the ever-changing world of politics and media in a way only they could. With no guests or interruptions, expect clashes and arguments as the pair’s big personalities are let loose. The insightful weekly download is perfect for your Monday morning commute, so you can make sure you’re ahead of the game before you step in to the office. For The Many: Subscribe NOW on iTunes or where ever you get your podcasts and be the first to hear episode one on November 20th.

We really want to do conduct it in a very light style with lots of laughs, and it will very much reflect the rapport we built up on Sky. There are a lot of political podcasts out there at the moment and many of them very good indeed. I suppose if anything, we want to reflect the style of Jane Garvey and Fi Glover in the FORTUNATELY podcast. If you haven’t heard that, you’re missing out. We’ll usually record it on a Sunday evening so it will be available for the Monday morning commute. Initially we won’t have guests, it will just be us. I think the best podcasts are those that are simple and are not heavily produced. We’re using some unique software to record it, with me in my sitting room and Jacqui in hers – or maybe her caravan! We then upload it to a producer at LBC who tops and tails it before uploading it to iTunes and all the other podcast platforms. One thing we do want to do also is react to what our listeners want to talk about so we’ve created all sorts of ways of getting in touch with us.

Email: forthemany@global.com
Twitter: @ForTheManyPod
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ForTheManyPodcast/
Website: http://www.lbc.co.uk/radio/presenters/iain-dale/for-the-many-a-brand-new-lbc-podcast-coming-soon/

Please do follow us on Twitter and most important of all, we need to get as many podcast subscribers on iTunes as possible before we launch on November 20th. The more we get the more iTunes will promote us. So please do go to Podcasts on your phone (we’re also on Android too!) search for my name or Jacqui’s and it should come up. For some reason, if you search ‘For the Many’ it doesn’t…. There’s a three minute trailer for the podcast, just as a taster.

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Iain Clashes with Paul Mason on Newsnight

A very testy argument with Paul Mason on Newsnight just before the general election.

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UK Politics

Is Jeremy Corbyn a Reincarnation?

4 Nov 2017 at 14:31

Some friends of mine have just returned from a holiday in the Pyranees. They visited a prehistoric cave system, with stunning cave paintings inside. It was near Grotte de Niaux, south of Toulouse at the start of the Pyrenees before Andorra. They were looking at an exhibition and spotted these pictures. Look at the likeness of the man on the right to Jeremy Corbyn! He is only identified as M. Prevot. I wonder if Jezza has some French blood in him!

Spooky!

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Iain Interviews the Palestinian Ambassador

Manuel Hassassian comes into the LBC studio

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Diary

ConHome Diary: When Someone Sexually Harassed Me (Spoiler - It Wasn't An MP)

3 Nov 2017 at 13:34

There I was, minding my own business, when suddenly this man approached me. He stood in front of me and without so much as a by your leave, stuck his hand right down my trousers. Now, this happened a long time ago, and before you ask, no it wasn’t an MP. At least I don’t think it was. No, it happened in a gay bar called BRIEF ENCOUNTER in St Martin’s Lane. It’s no longer there. This was my first visit to an establishment of that nature. I was petrified. Would I be recognised? What if someone spread the word that I was, well, gay? It was 1990, after all. This bar was on two levels. On street level it was jam packed with drinkers, virtually all male. Downstairs it was darker and more of a pickup joint. Lots of furtive looks were exchanged. I just stood there, sipping on my vodka and orange, mildly fascinated by what was going on. And then it happened. I suppose it was a novel alternative to asking “do you come here often?”

Was I shocked? Undoubtedly. Did I feel violated? Well, mildly, I suppose, but I had placed myself in an environment where I suppose this sort of thing was almost par for the course. All I remember is removing the hand and saying (rather hilariously) “I don’t think so”. Had this happened in a work environment I would have no doubt felt differently and been completely horrified. Had it happened during the two and a half years I worked in Parliament it might have scarred me in ways I cannot now comprehend.

When I first worked as a researcher (OK, more of a glorified secretary) in the Commons back in 1985 to 1987 I was very naïve. I worked in the next office to Caroline Edmondson, who has hit the headlines this week with her allegations about Mark Garnier. At that point, I had girlfriends. I had a relationship with a Commons Secretary. I genuinely cared for her, but in the end, it was all a front. I knew I was gay but hadn’t ever acted on it. And didn’t do so until I was 28. And if that chance encounter hadn’t happened, I might well have become one of those pitiful men who get married and have children while knowing all along that their real sexual interest lies elsewhere. And believe me, there are a lot of them about.

So, what’s the point of this anecdote? I suppose it is to say that we all react in a very different way to forms of sexual harassment. For some, a mild touch on the knee is an outrageous breach of their personal space and can be something that’s deeply upsetting. For others they can brush it off without a second thought and just get on with their lives. Neither reaction is right or wrong. It just proves that we all have different reactions and deal with things differently.

The problem is that there are some men (and it’s usually men, it has to be said, although I do know of situations where women are the transgressors) who believe that if you approach ten women and signal that you’re after sex, one in ten will agree. If you have the skin of a rhino and can deal with rejection, you probably regard a one in ten hit rate as worth the risk.
I don’t believe men who work in parliament and are any more dangerous in this regard than men in any other workplace. What I do believe is that they are more likely to get away with it and face few consequences for their actions because the personnel systems aren’t in place to deal with such behaviour. No one wants to create a workplace where a man fears asking a woman out for fear of being accused of harassment, but we also can’t tolerate a work environment where women feel they might as well not bother reporting incidents of workplace harassment because it will be swept under the carpet.


On Monday night I was on the phone to a cabinet minister when my phone pinged. A friend had sent me the full unredacted spreadsheet to which Labour supporters have now attached the hashtag #TorySleaze36. It made for some strange reading. It certainly had some surprises on it, but there were quite a few names listed who for the life of me I couldn’t see had done anything wrong. Justin Tomlinson, for example, was listed as dating his researcher. Wow. What a scandal. Not. There were quite a few others who were no doubt furious to see themselves listed. But there are plenty of others who are in for a very difficult few days. There are even one or two who, if the allegations are made public and they have no answers, could be forced out of parliament altogether. The newspapers are becoming more daring by the day and have started to name quite a few of the 36, even if they only print their pictures and a very mild version of the allegations against them. Their problem is that very few of these allegations involve anything that’s illegal – they’re the sort of allegations which emerged in the 1990s after John Major’s ‘Back to Basics’ speech, and now the newspapers have the opportunity to print them, even if it’s only in a redacted form. Naturally some of the more enthusiastic Labour supporters on social media seem to think this sort of thing only happens in the Tory Party. It happens in all parties and in all walks of life. The allegations of rape, made by Labour activist Bex Bailey and the antics of Labour MP Jared O’Mara rather give the lie to that. Oh, and the cabinet minister I was talking to? I rang him back to tell him he didn’t feature on the list. There was no audible sigh of relief.
*
The Bank of England seem to be acting as the Provisional Wing of the Remain campaign. Their latest intervention predicts a loss of 75,000 jobs in financial services if there is no Brexit deal. It’s being so cheerful as keeps ‘em going. Still, at least they didn’t go as far as the deluded head of the London Stock Exchange, Xavier Rolet who reckoned 200,000 jobs would go. FACT: JP Morgan have announced that instead of the 4,000 jobs they threatened to move to Paris, fewer than 1,000 would now be created there. Same with UPS. Not 1,000. 250. And these aren’t jobs that will necessarily move. They’re creating new offices with new positions. The Bank of England report wasn’t actually all bad news. Tucked away were some paragraphs outlining the opportunities that Brexit offers. Strangely, these got hardly any coverage because the media is predominantly interested in reporting apocalyptic bad news rather than anything which points to any optimism about Brexit.


Most political resignations are intrinsically sad. Whatever the circumstances they are a tragedy for the person who’s resigning. One moment you’re one of the most important people in the country. The next, you’re, well, someone who used to be someone. I first met Michael Fallon in March 1983. I worked on his by-election campaign in Darlington. I was still at university and it was the first important election I had worked on. I’ve never been a close friend of his but have always felt a certain bond with him because of Darlington. I always thought he should have been promoted way before he was and I think he’s been a good minister wherever he has served. As I write this only a few hours after his resignation, I’m still not quite clear why he’s gone. Surely not just due to touching Julia Hartley-Brewer’s knee fifteen years ago. Whatever the reasons I hope that he doesn’t wallow in the sadness of what’s happened and that his personal journey over the next few months isn’t too difficult. Politicians are as human as the rest of us and at times like this we would do well to remember that.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Talks to Sir Tim Rice

Sir Tim talks about his life in theatre and offers his views on curren political issues

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