Interview With Gorkana on Radio & the Election

11 Apr 2015 at 20:58

This is an interview I did a month ago with Gorkana. It’s only just been published on their website, so forgive the tight-lippedness about LBC’s election coverage, as I wasn’t in a position to say anything at the time this was done.

In the first of our Election 2015 special interviews, we speak to Iain Dale, the Drivetime show presenter on LBC Radio, on the importance of broadcast during the campaign, the dangers of ad hominem attacks on politicians and why PRs should avoid a scattergun approach when pitching to the station.

By way of background, tell us about your role at LBC and the remit of your show.
I have been presenting LBC’s Drivetime show for two years now. It’s a four hour show from 4-8pm every weekday. Our remit is to cover the big news stories of the day, and take phone calls from listeners on those stories. We interrogate those in power, and like to think we make the news as well as report it.

Is there anything you can tell us about the kind of content you will be running over the course of the General Election campaign?
I can’t reveal too much at the moment, but LBC has made its name on its political coverage in the last two years so you can be sure that we will be at the very centre of the election campaign. We also have very big plans for election night itself and will give the BBC a run for their money!

How can PRs be of help during this time?
We’ll always be looking for something different, that no one else will be covering. Don’t scattergun us with releases. Respect our format and respect the fact that although we are a newstalk station all the daytime shows have their clear differences.

We are told that the electorate is more disengaged than ever, and yet LBC – with a very political slant – has made a big impact since becoming a national broadcaster in January 2014. What do you put this down to?
It is true that voters seem to be disengaged from party politics, but not politics in general. They relate to issues rather than parties. They are fed up with the way party politicians present themselves and their beliefs. They see them as all the same, even if that accusation is rather unfair. Politicians seem remote from people’s daily lives, but our phone-ins give people the opportunity to give their views and put politicians on the spot.

How have communications around politics changed since the last General Election?
Social media is far more important than in 2010. Twitter will matter in a way it didn’t in 2010. This won’t be the ‘internet’ election – TV will still be far more important, but the internet will help UKIP and the Greens in a way that it won’t the other parties.

In the age of social media, what kind of role can radio broadcasting play in a General Election campaign?
People turn to the radio for breaking news. But our role goes far wider than that. We’re best equipped to do the reaction to the debates. We can be far more nimble than TV and especially on LBC we’re quite willing to throw out plans and start again if the need demands it. Radio is a far more intimate medium and politicians can easily be lulled into a false sense of security. They have longer to explain themselves, especially on LBC and that can lead to the unexpected happening.

What do you see as being the defining issues during the upcoming campaign?
Elections usually come down to the economy, but I think in this election Labour will try to make the future of the NHS the centrepiece of its campaign. I think general dissatisfaction with politicians and the political process will come to the fore during the campaign and any party leader who manages to tap into that is likely to be successful.

How prominent and effective do you think negative campaigning will be?
I think this will be the dirtiest campaign in living memory between the main two parties. Subtle negative campaigning can work but the voter has to buy into it. The Tory Demon Eyes campaign didn’t work in 1997 because no one really saw Blair as the devil. The Tories will portray Miliband as Neil Kinnock reincarnated and Labour will concentrate on a class based campaign. The electorate will be appalled and that’s where the three other parties may well gain support as the campaign progresses.

Is there a danger that increased and ad hominem media scrutiny on politicians dehumanises them and homogenises the political message?
The media really needs to examine its own role in the continuing decline of respect for politicians. Clearly it is the politicians who are mostly to blame but interviewers who go into interviews with the attitude of “why is this bastard lying to me” do themselves and the whole body politic a real disservice. Scrutiny is important but good manners cost nothing in an interviewer.

There’s every likelihood that should there be a decisive winner at the election, they will have in and around 35% of the total vote. Is it time to change the voting system to better reflect our splintered politics?
I think the result of the election will indeed lead to calls for electoral reform, but the trouble is no one has yet come up with a system of PR that really maintains the same kind of constituency relationship MPs and their constituents currently have. But if Labour and the LibDems form a coalition, that may be the LibDem price.

Will fixed-term parliaments remain? Are you in favour of them?
I used to run the Campaign for Fixed Term Parliaments so in principle, yes. However, I think they should be for 4, not 5 years. I don’t think it is democratic for a Prime Minister to call an election at a time of his own choosing, which inevitably means at the point he is most likely to win.

Do you think broadcasters should be able to nail their colours to the mast – as in US – or is it important during an election campaign to be balanced?
I think balance in public service broadcasters is important, but I see no problem at all with commercial broadcasters taking an editorial line, just as newspapers do. However, current Ofcom rules prevent this, so you’ll find LBC adhering strictly to a non partisan stance!

What outcome do you think the country will wake-up to on May 8?
It’s incredibly difficult to predict, but I’ll put my neck on the line and predict that neither of the two largest parties will be able to form a coalition unless they can persuade two other parties to take part. Labour’s biggest nightmare is losing a shed load of seats to the SNP in Scotland and the Tories nightmare is that UKIP hold the balance of power with 5-10 seats. At the moment I think Labour and the Tories will both be on around 280-290 seats, with the LibDems on 20-25. Polls predict the SNP may have up to 45 seats (up from 6!) but I would treat these predictions with extreme caution.

Looking ahead, who are your MPs to watch for the 2020 General Election?
My five Labour stars of the next five years are Chuka Umunna, Stella Creasey, Liz Kendall, Lucy Powell and Owen Smith. On the Tory side I’d pick Nicky Morgan, Sajid Javid, Esther McVey (if she holds on to her seat), Zac Goldsmith and Claire Perry. On the LibDem side, well it depends how many of them are left, but expect Norman Lamb and Julian Huppert to be key players.

Iain was speaking to Gorkana’s Ronan George



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LBC 97.3 Book Club: Iain talks to Fern Britton

Fern Britton talks about her novel 'The Holiday Home' and her TV career

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ConHome Diary: The Pathetic Al Murray

11 Apr 2015 at 09:14

Michael Fallon exudes ‘bottom’. Well, you know what I mean. His article in The Times yesterday filleted the SNP and its leader Nicola Sturgeon and contained a bitterly personal attack on Ed Miliband. He should be used more. He sticks the knife in without appearing to do so, which is a rare talent in any politician. He’s one of the party’s best media performers but is chronically under-deployed.
Nicola Sturgeon is on the verge of overplaying her hand. She’s acting like she already has 50 MPs. Well, there are still 27 days to go, and who’s to say she won’t wipe the floor, but from the way she’s talking you’d think it was she alone that will decide who becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Her performance in the ITV debate was impressive. Her performance in the STV debate less so. And in the BBC Scotland debate in Aberdeen she was not at her best. However, I am greatly looking forward to next Thursday’s so-called ‘Challenger Debate’ where I suspect she and the other three will gang up on Ed Miliband. It should be quite an evening, and one which is an important one for the Leader of the Opposition. He can’t let himself be boxed in by Sturgeon, who will make every effort to get him to commit to some sort of post – election deal. Quite why Ed Miliband has agreed to take part in this debate is a question only he and his advisers can answer. He has everything to lose and very little to gain.

I’m beginning to develop a healthy dislike for Al Murray, the self-styled pub landlord. He’s beginning to get delusions of political grandeur. The Oxford educated, Islington-dwelling man of the people has taken umbrage to something Nigel Farage has written in his book THE PURPLE REVOLUTION. Diddums. Nigel reckoned that Murray may have already exceeded his election expenses by the amount of money he had spent on advertising his comedy tour, and therefore wouldn’t be able to stand in South Thanet. Murray reckons that is libel. No mate, it’s an opinion, which may or may not be correct. That’s what political debate is all about. For Murray to threaten legal action demonstrates how shallow he really is. He should grow up, and save his money, because he knows as well as anyone that if he actually went to court he’d look a complete idiot. Not that he needs much help in that regard. I always thought comedians were supposed to be funny. He’s developing into a pub bore, and should bore off back to Islington.
So Joey Essex has done more interviews with the Prime Minister this year than I have. In fact, I haven’t done any. Something I said?

One of the most common refrains you hear from people is that politicians are all the same and there is very little difference between Labour and the Conservatives so what’s the point in voting. People who say that are guilty of very lazy thought. As every day of this campaign passes, the differences become more stark. This week we had Ed Miliband’s announcement on Non Doms. Then there’s Europe. There’s the mansion tax. I could go on. On virtually every subject you care to think of there’s a difference. The trouble is most people don’t go looking. They turn into ‘Sheeple’ and follow the herd who believe that politicians are the same. It makes me mad.
Ruth Davidson has turned into a political star in the last year. Her performance in the independence referendum campaign impressed people of all parties, and now she has risen to the occasion again with two excellent performances in the Scottish TV leader debates. The Scottish Tories are lucky to have her. I suspect they will get a little bit of a poll bounce after those debates, but will it actually lead to any more Tory seats in Scotland? Even a gain of one would be considered a bit of a triumph. I wonder if at some point Ruth may well tire of the Scottish political scene and enter the Westminster fray. There were rumours that she might throw her hat into the ring for Kensington, but that came too early. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if she stood for Westminster in 2020, though. She’s even being talked about as a future leadership contender.

I wonder how many constituencies will be holding their counts on Friday morning rather than overnight. I guarantee that is about to become a story as electoral registration officers try to lake the lazy way out. Last time many of them were forced into retreat and change their plans, and I hope the same happens this time.
I’m sure every candidate standing in the election will have a host of funny anecdotes to tell after the election. One of my favourite stories from the 1983 election came when I was standing on a doorstep in Norwich North and I asked a voter who she was thinking of voting for. “I’ve got half a mind to vote for the SDP Liberal Alliance,” she mused. “Half a mind is all you need to vote for that lot,” I responded quick as a flash. The result? A door slammed in my face. Made me laugh though!



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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Talks to John Barrowman

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UK Politics

It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 24: Hosting an Election Debate

10 Apr 2015 at 11:26

Last night’s LBC Women Leaders’ Debate debate took a lot of planning. It all started back in February when my producer Jagruti Dave sidled up to me and said ’wouldn’t it be a good idea to do a women’s debate during the general election campaign’, seeing as all the other debates would probably only involve men. Well, it hasn’t quite turned out like that as there were three women involved in the debate last week, but that didn’t negate the idea at all. It had never been done before on radio and I thought if we could come up with a new format it would be something which could form a key part of the election campaign.

Anyway, we put the idea to our colleagues and they said ‘go with it’. The original idea was to involve seven female political leaders including Nicola Sturgeon, Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood and to hold it in Edinburgh, but for reasons I won’t bore you with it couldn’t happen. So we then decided to do it with representatives from the four main parties and do it in our brand new, and very glitzy, studios in Leicester Square. Ofcom have classed the Conservatives, Labour, LibDems and UKIP as major parties so they all had to be included. If we included one of the smaller parties, we’d have had to include them all. In any case, they are only four guest mics in the new studio.

So, we then thought about who to invite. Ideally we wanted to have the most senior female politician in each party and that’s by and large what we ended up with. It’s true that Theresa May outranks Nicky Morgan, but Nicky has the equalities and women’s brief. Suzanne Evans was due to take part, as UKIP’s most senior woman, but she had lost her voice and was replaced by the very impressive Diane James, who is an MEP, the UKIP justice spokeswoman and did so well in the Eastleigh by-election. I don’t think anyone would argue that Harriet Harman and Lynne Featherstone aren’t the most senior female politicians in their parties.

Then came the format. I was very keen for it not to be question after question after question. So I came up with the idea that the participants should all be allowed to quiz each other. I’d seen it happen in an American Primary debate many years ago and it worked brilliantly. We called it ‘Ask Me Anything’, where one of the candidates would be quizzed by the other three for five minutes. So we dotted these four sessions throughout the hour and a half and it worked really well, apart from the fact that unlike the callers all four of the candidates have trouble asking concise questions! We did ask them to pre-prepare their questions and let us have sight of them so that we could avoid duplication. Anyway, the consensus afterwards was that this format worked really well and brought something new to the genre of election debates.

Obviously, holding this debate in a radio studio meant that we couldn’t have a live audience, apart from the people listening or watching via the website, so then we had to decide how to pose questions. We set up a page on the LBC website for people to email in questions and loads did. We then phoned them back to arrange a time for them to come on. We did have one or two campaigns try to push their particular causes, but this programme was for ordinary people to ask their questions, not organised campaigns.

The day itself didn’t get off to a good start when we learned that Suzanne Evans had lost her voice. Luckily her UKIP colleague Diane James was available to step in. I’m not quite sure what we’d have done had she not been available. And then in the early afternoon a member of Harriet Harman’s staff phoned to say that Harriet was under the weather and she had gone home to have a rest. Could things get any worse? Anyway, half an hour later a phone call came to say that Harriet would definitley be joining us. She was a real trooper and was clearly suffering a bit, but I thought she did incredibly well all things considering.

So what’s it like hosting a debate like this? Funnily enough, I wasn’t at all nervous. I was confident we had dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s in our preparation and I knew what I wanted to achieve. The fact that I was also hosting my normal show for three hours before the debate started meant that I didn’t really have any time to get nervous. It helped that we covered three topics which provoked some very spiky calls. I also gave our regular caller Cuban Tony a good going over, which was particularly enjoyable.

I had decided that my role should be an incidental one. I am fed up with debate moderators who insert themselves into the format too much because for many of them it will be the highlight of their careers. I thought the moderator of the STV debate on Monday fell into that trap. He seemed to talk almost as much as the politicians. I adopted a very simple rule: allow the candidates to speak and allow them to challenge each other. Only intervene when there’s a reason to, to challenge and press for a more direct answer. I haven’t watched the whole thing back yet, but I hope I achieved that. Presenters of these type of shows should realise they are merely facilitators. It’s not all about them.

Was the whole thin tokenistic? Clearly some people will have thought it was. After all, if we do a women’s debate, why not do a men’s debate. or a gay debate, or an ethnic minority debate? Why not indeed. The whole point is that these debates have traditionally been between men, and men only. I certainly didn’t want to host a debate just on women-only issues as I do think that would be tokenistic. Sure we’d include a couple of questions with a female tinge to them, but otherwisewe wanted to fill the debate with mainstream questions from across the range of subjects you’d expect, and a couple you may not. I think we did that. We started off with Islamic extremism, we covered defence and foreign policy too unlike any of the other debates. And just as I suspected, the dynamic was very different. It may have been nothing to do with the fact the particpants were all female, it may have to been to do with the fact it was in a studio and no studio audience. Whatever the reason was, the dynamic was different and it worked. Several media commentators and journalists confirmed that afterwards.

Overall, I think there were more spicy moments in this than I thought there might have been. The media pickup has centred on Nicky Morgan’s defence of Michael Fallon, Harriet Harman refusing to rule out a rise in fuel duty and Diane James’s praise of Vladimir Putin.

This piece in the Mirror is good, except for the bit about me having a face for radio :).

I have to say, for the Mirror to say that makes me very proud. They haven’t exactly been fans of mine in the past.

A lot of people put in a huge amount of effort into this event, not least my two producers Jagruti Dave and Matt Harris. If this debate is considered a success it really is down to them. And thanks to James Rea and Tom Cheal for believing in the idea and supporting it.

You can watch the whole debate here. Scroll in 4 mins 50 to avoid the adverts.



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LBC 97.3 Phone in on Children with Downs Syndrome

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UK Politics

WATCH: The LBC Women Leaders' Debate

9 Apr 2015 at 23:04

Scroll in four minutes to miss the adverts…

This is what a proper debate looks like. Even the Daily Mirror agrees. They’ve just published an article headlined: “7 things we learnt from the LBC Radio all-women General Election debate”. Here are their conclusions…

LBC Radio hosted a debate between four of the most prominent women politicians. Around the table were Tory Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, Labour’s Harriet Harman, Lib Dem Lynn Featherstone and Ukip’s Diane James – and it was, at times, a pretty fiery debate.

It had an interesting format, a good level of debate, and a selection of voices you don’t often hear up against each other.

Here’s the 7 most interesting things we learned.

The “Ask Me Anything” sections were a brilliant idea

The internet is often accused of dumbing down political debate but the inclusion of an AMA – Ask Me Anything – section in the radio debate was a great innovation from LBC, possibly taking a cue from the Reddit threads where anybody gets to ask somebody anything. During the course of the 90 minute show, they had four sections where each of the candidates were asked one question from the other three women in the debate. It made for compelling listening, as everybody got the chance to try and focus on what they think is the weakness of their opponent’s campaigns. It was genuinely interesting to listen both to the way the politicians answered, but also to think about the choice of question by their rivals.

Nicky Morgan thinks Ed Miliband “stabbed his brother in the back”

As we understand it, Ed Miliband openly stood for election against his elder brother, and leadership of the Labour Party isn’t a hereditary title. But Nicky Morgan tonight repeated Michael Fallon’s smear that Ed stabbed his brother in the back. Earlier today Ed Miliband said that Fallon had “demeaned himself” with the personal attack.

Suzanne Evans could be Ukip’s first woman leader

Well, that’s what Diane James said anyway. Which was pretty kind of her given that she was only on the show because Suzanne had lost her voice and couldn’t do it.

Nobody mentioned tampons

No, seriously. Tampons are a political issue. Specifically the fact that VAT is levied on them. We’ve calculated that women spend around £114 on tampons each year, and there would be a big saving if they weren’t taxed.

Iain Dale is good at this
He’d probably admit himself that he has a face for radio, but Iain Dale made a good case that next time round they should let him run one of the TV debates.

Diane James admires Vladimir Putin

The Ukip foreign affairs spokesperson said she admired the Russian leader for “standing up for his country” and being “very nationalistic.” Harriet Harman chimed in, noting “You could say that about Idi Amin.” But Diane went on to point out that Putin’s “issues” in Ukraine were all the fault of the EU – which gives him and Ukip some common ground.

Lynn Featherstone favours all-women shortlists

…but her party don’t. She said she thought Labour did “a great thing” bringing in all women shortlists. She added, somewhat disappointedly: “I’ve always been wildly off message in my party, because I thought they made a huge leap forward…I’ve been trying to persuade my party to do that.”



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Video: Speech to the Microsoft Politics & Technology Forum, Sydney

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UKIP Politics

Future Leaders Series 2: Who Will Succeed Nigel Farage?

6 Apr 2015 at 21:51

This is the second in a series looking at the runners and riders in post-election leadership contests. You can read my article about the runners and riders in a post election LibDem leadership contest HERE. I’ll be looking at the other two parties over the next few weeks, but now it’s UKIP’s turn.

Nigel Farage has already made clear that if he loses South Thanet he will stand down as party leader. He thinks his position would be untenable, and he hasn’t given himself any wiggle room. Some will say this could well mean the end of UKIP, as it is still seen as a bit of a one man band. That’s a little unfair because over the last 18 months several other leading lights in UKIP have made the grade and appear often in the media. Some are more recognisable than others, but even so it is less likely now that UKIP would implode without Farage. In a potential UKIP leadership contest there is genuinely no front-runner. It really could be any one of half a dozen or so contenders.


A postal ballot of all paid up members of the Party shall elect The Party Leader. The Leader’s term of office shall run for four years. This term may be extended by the NEC passing a motion by a two-thirds majority to enable the Leader to stay in post in order to fight a General Election or European Election.

A leadership election shall be called in the event of the Party Leader’s death, incapacity or resignation; on the passing of a vote of no confidence in the Party Leader by the NEC if this is endorsed by an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Party; and on the Party Leader’s completion of his term of office.

Persons wishing to seek election to the post of Party Leader shall pay to the Party funds a deposit equivalent to that demanded of candidates in elections to the UK Parliament, such deposit being returned to the candidate only if the said candidate obtain a percentage of the votes case similar to that required for return of deposit in UK Parliamentary elections. Nominations for the post of Party Leader shall require the signature of a proposer and 50 assentors, all paid-up full members of the Party who are not subject to disciplinary action, drawn from at least 10 different constituency associations or branches. They must be submitted in writing to the Party Secretary within the time specified by him. A Party Leader wishing to resign must communicate this decision in writing to the Party Chairman, who must then summon an emergency meeting of the NEC.

If there is only one valid nomination for the post of Party Leader the candidate nominated shall be declared Party Leader without the need for a ballot. Any contested election for the leadership shall be decided by a simple majority of the votes cast. Those eligible to vote shall be paid-up members of the Party 14 days before the last date for the receipt of ballot papers.

When a vacancy in the leadership occurs due to the Party Leader’s death, incapacity or resignation the election procedure shall be initiated by the Party Secretary.


If Nigel Farage resigns after May 7th, these are the most likely leadership candidates…

Age: 49
Political Record: MEP for East of England 2015-
Likely to Stand: 85%
For: Knows how to work the media, kept his distance from Farage without being seen as an opponent,
Against: Ridiculed over his idea of a turnover tax, a little uncharismatic, would be seen as UKIP’s John Major to Farage’s Thatcher
Verdict: A serious candidate
Odds: 8/1

Age: Unknown
Political Record: Former Merton councillor, Parliamentary candidate in Shrewsbury & Atcham 2015, Former UKIP Communities Spokesman, now Deputy Chairman
Likely to Stand: 70%
For: UKIP’s best media performer behind Farage, seen as the thinking person’s UKIP leadership probable, on the party’s sensible wing, one of the party’s few thinkers
Against: Maybe too Tory for the party’s northern powerbase for 2020, non-elected status may be a disadvantage
Verdict: If the party want someone who’s the opposite to Farage in almost every way, Suzanne Evans should win. But her lack of elected status may count her out.
Odds: 10/1

Age: 38
Political Record: MEP for the North West of England since 2009, Deputy Leader of UKIP since 2010.
Likely to Stand: 100%
For: Authentic northern voice and perspective, effective media performer, appeal to Labour voters, built a powerful election machine in the north with an eye to 2020
Against: Hasn’t built the national profile he ought to have given his position as Farage’s deputy, not tested under fire
Verdict: Given the fact that UKIP is likely to come second to Labour in most of their northern stronghholds, and become the main opposition to Labour, Paul Nuttall will be a very strong candidate, but how genuinly popular is he within the party? Does he have enough supporters in the right places?
Odds: 6/1

Age: 43
Political Record: MP for Clacton since 2005
Likely to Stand: 20%
For: Clever, knows his own mind, willing to think the unthinkable, knows his own weaknesses and abilities
Against: Doesn’t want the job, odd appearance, would lack the support of Faragistas
Verdict: Unlikely to stand and would hate the job. But he may be UKIP’s only MP and may come under a lot of pressure.
Odds: 25/1

Age: 55
Political Record: Fought Easleigh by-election, MEP for South East England 2014-,
Likely to Stand: 25%
For: Seen as a good media performer, fought a good by-election, like Suzanne Evans she’s seen as the acceptable face of UKIP
Against: Carer for an ill relative it may come at the wrong time for her, slightly chippy and doesn’t suffer fools gladly
Verdict: She’s almost ruled herself out of a contest but left herself some wriggle room in a recent interview. She needs to develop some charisma and smile more if she is to win people to her cause.
Odds: 33/1

Age: 48
Political Record: MEP for the North West since 2014, candidate in Stockport
Likely to Stand: 50%
For: Bright, personable, not afraid to disagree publicly with Nigel Farage, good speaker
Against: Slightly inexperienced, only been involved with the party for five years, seen as a moderniser
Verdict: Could pitch himself as the David Cameron of UKIP i.e. a moderniser who would ditch the party’s authoritarian right tendencies. Could be a dark horse.
Odds: 25/1


In some ways none of these candidates can ever match up to the charisma of Nigel Farage – all could pitch themselved as an antidote to what came before. Each is likely to be more inclusive and less dictatorial. Who will win? It’s very hard to say. Paul Nuttall ought to be the favourite, but in theory any of the others could overtake him. I’ve always rated Suzanne Evans and Diane James, but could they command the grassroots support to mount a serious challenge to Nuttall? Patrick O’Flynn has had a huge amount of publicity in the last eighteen months but hasn’t captured many UKIP hearts, and in the end that counts for a lot.

If it were me, I’d go for Suzanne Evans.



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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Interviews Lord Owen, Col Richard Kemp and Lord Malloch Brown about Mali & Algeria

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Labour Politics

Who Would be in A Miliband Cabinet After May 7th?

6 Apr 2015 at 13:01

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to look at a few post-election scenarios in terms of possible cabinet line-ups and who might stand in any of the various leadership contests the election result might throw up. I’ve already covered…

Who would be in a Cameron Cabinet?
Who will succeed Nick Clegg?

Let’s look at who will be in a Miliband Cabinet if Ed Miliband becomes Prime Minister. I’m going to compile it on the premise that Miliband is running either a majority or minority administration, with no coalition partner. The first thing to say is that Ed Miliband has far more room for manouevre than any of his Labour predecessors, all of whom under Labour Party rules were obliged to appoint their entire Shadow Cabinet to become Cabinet Ministers. Tony Blair finessed this rule slightly, but his first Cabinet was almost entirely made of of his previous Shadow Cabinet. Ed Miliband managed to persuade his colleagues and party to abandon this rule so he has a completely free hand. In theory. In practice, if he doesn’t win an outright majority his hands will be somewhat tied.

Ed Miliband has three key decisions to make. Does he make Harriet Harman Deputy Prime Minister or not, does he keep Ed Balls as Chancellor, and who to appoint as Foreign Secretary in the event of Douglas Alexander losing his seat? These three decisions could well define his premiership.

If Harriet Harman doesn’t get the job Gordon Brown so famously denied her, there will be tears at bedtime. I can’t imagine she could accept another job, unless it was Fotreign Secretary. If Ed Miliband leads a minority government I predict he will indeed appoint Harriet as Deputy Prime Minister. If he has a majority I think he may feel feel strong enough to decide not to and appoint a Labour elder statesman like Alan Johnson to the role. Similarly, Ed Balls will retain his Treasury role in a minority administration. The only way he would lose it is if Labour went into coalition with the LibDems and Vince Cable laid claim to the role. The appointment of Foreign Secretary is trickier. If Douglas Alexander loses his seat it’s actually quite difficult to see who would be nominated for the role. Could it be Ed Balls? It would kill two birds with one stone, I suppose.

Ed Miliband is perfectly able to wield a knife. Although I expect most of his cabinet appointments to replicate his existing shadow cabinet, he will be keen to promote one or two loyalists. Emma Reynolds may be one, Lucy Powell another. And will he find room for Liz Kendall? Or possibly even Tom Watson…

So, here goes…

Chancellor of the Exchequer: Ed Balls
Deputy Prime Minister: Harriet Harman
Foreign Secretary: Yvette Cooper
Home Secretary: Alan Johnson
Business Secretary: Chuka Umunna
Education Secretary: Tristram Hunt
Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Chris Leslie
Work & Pensions Secretary: Rachel Reeves
Transport Secretary: Michael Dugher
Leader of the House of Commons: Angela Eagle
Defence Secretary: Vernon Coaker
Justice Secretary: Sadiq Khan
Energy & Climate Change Secretary: Caroline Flint
Culture Secretary: Gloria de Piero
Health Secretary: Andy Burnham
Local Government & Communities Secretary: Hilary Benn
International Development: Mary Creagh
Leader of the House of Lords: Peter Hain
Minister for the Cabinet Office: Lord Stewart Wood
Chief Whip: Rosie Winterton
Defra Secretary: Maria Eagle
Scottish Secretary: Whichever Labour MP is left
Welsh Secretary: Owen Smith
Northern Ireland Secretary: Ivan Lewis

Part of me thinks Ed Miliband will be rather more daring than that and take a few risks. He may also bring back one or two more greybeards to give the cabinet some experience and ballast. Alan Johnson and Peter Hain are the two most likely but there could be a couple of others.


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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Simon Mann

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Want to 'Be Your Own Politician'?

5 Apr 2015 at 17:11

During the next month of over-familiar political sound-bites and opinion-slinging some fresh perspectives from outside politics could be a refreshing antidote, especially if those perspectives come someone informed and politically active rather than yet another armchair critic.

This week, Biteback are publishing “ Be Your Own Politician” by Paul Twivy who started life writing comedy with the likes of Ian Hislop and Chris Tarrant, became one of the most colourful figures in British advertising, set up marketing at the BBC and ended up working with the last 3 UK Prime Ministers on their big initiatives to develop a new partnership between Citizens and Government.

He has co-founded ground-breaking social action campaigns including TimeBank, Change the World for a Fiver, The Big Lunch and Your Square Mile and spent 25 years advising Comic Relief. He also helped to lead the ill-fated but important “Big Society” initiative having also worked on some of Gordon Brown’s preceding initiatives on the “Good Society”.

Paul argues that in an age where people can interrogate most companies and products on-line as well as elsewhere, Government still remains largely remote and inscrutable. He suggests that politics needs to move beyond left and right, which for many are no longer the dividing lines, just as Green should no longer be a party but rather a universal strategy. He argues powerfully for the need to ‘re-dimensionalise’ politics and make it much more participative.

In practical terms, his ideas include a North of England and a Midlands Assembly; English-only sessions in UK Parliament, not an English Parliament; a merging of MSP’s and Scottish Members of Parliament into one body of representatives who sit in both UK and Scottish Parliament; citizens’ juries on key policy issues; involving coal-face workers in improving public services e.g. nurses, porters, cleaners and technicians in the NHS, which has seen transformative results in some American hospitals.

He also argues for frequent referenda on local issues as in the Swiss Cantons, using digital technology including voting at Bank ATMs; much further devolution of power to local government; education about the international impact of mayors on cities followed by the election of many more UK city mayors; and breaking down all tax bills to precise figures at a household level so that people know what they pay and become more engaged in the value and priority of public services.

If you want to think about a post-Election landscape of politics-not-as-usual then “Be Your Own Politician” is a provocative and ideas-packed place to start.

Buy the book from Biteback for £8.49 or from Amazon for £9.99.


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LBC to Host Women Polical Leaders Debate on Thursday Evening

5 Apr 2015 at 00:01

Four of the most senior female politicians in Britain have signed up to a live election debate on LBC.

Nicky Morgan for the Conservatives, Labour’s Harriet Harman, Lynne Featherstone representing the Liberal Democrats and UKIP’s Suzanne Evans will clash on Thursday April 9 at 7pm.

Chaired by Iain Dale, the 90-minute showdown will be broadcast from LBC’s brand-new high definition studios.

The first all-female broadcast debate of the election will cover the key issues of the moment and include questions from LBC’s audience.

The format also includes a strand called ’Ask Me Anything’ with each politician given the chance to quiz their rivals on any election issue.

James Rea, managing editor, LBC said: “For the next few weeks, the voters are in charge. LBC is putting them at the heart of the debate and I’m delighted that some of Britain’s leading female politicians have taken up the challenge.”

Harman said: "Women’s voices need to be heard in this election and this LBC women political leaders debate will be a big part of that.”

Morgan said: "Nine million women didn’t vote at the last election. I hope the four of us can use this debate to persuade them that voting can change things.”
Featherstone said: “The Lib Dems have made a real difference to women’s lives and I look forward to being quizzed on what we have achieved.”

Evans said: “It’s brilliant that LBC are holding this debate for women political leaders. I’m looking forward to it hugely.”

Last year, LBC successfully staged the first historic debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage on Britain’s relationship with Europe.

The women leaders’ clash will be fully visual and interactive and made available to other broadcasters.

LBC has turbo-charged its political programming in the run up to May 7 to include a daily ‘Election Call’ with senior politicians where listeners can question them on their policies and pledges.

In the final two weeks of the campaign, breakfast presenter Nick Ferrari will hit the road in the LBC Battle Bus broadcasting live from the battleground seats that will decide the future of the country.

About LBC:

LBC (Leading Britain’s Conversation) is Britain’s only national news talk radio station. It tackles the big issues of the day, with intelligent, informed and provocative opinion from guests, listeners and presenters, including Nick Ferrari, James O’Brien, Shelagh Fogarty, Iain Dale, Ken Livingstone, David Mellor, Beverley Turner and Tom Swarbrick. LBC made history with ‘Call Clegg’, as the world’s only radio station with a Deputy Prime Minister as a host. Nick Clegg’s show, ‘Ask Boris’ and ‘Phone Farage’ allow the audience to hold politicians and people in authority to account. In March LBC hosted the first leaders debate on Britain’s future in Europe between Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party. LBC reaches 1.3 million people across the UK, and Nick Ferrari hosts London’s number one commercial radio breakfast show by market share. LBC is available on DAB digital radio, online at, through mobile apps, Sky Digital Channel 0112, Virgin Media Channel 973, Freeview channel 732 and on 97.3FM in London.

Media enquiries:

John Chittenden on 020 7054 8843 or at



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LibDem Politics

Future Leaders Series 1: Who Will Succeed Nick Clegg?

4 Apr 2015 at 19:56

This is the first in a series looking at the runners and riders in post-election leadership contests. I’ll be looking at the other three parties over the next few weeks. This is the first election after which there could be scenarios where all four party leaders are replaced within months. I’d say the LibDems are the party most likely to see an immediate change. Unless the Libdems get more than 40 seats and renew a coalition with the Conservatives, I can’t see many scenarios which involve Nick Clegg staying on. In addition, it’s entirely possible that he could lose his Sheffield Hallam seat. If he does, it’s very difficult for him to lead the LibDems in any coaltion negotiations. Who would do that is a matter for speculation since his deputy isn’t even standing again. I would imagine Vince Cable would lay claim to doing this, as the senior MP left, but it could be very messy indeed. The LibDems haven’t, so far as I know, got any mechanism for electing a leader very quickly, so it may be that their MPs have to elect a temporary parlimentary leader pending a proper leadership election.


The Liberal Democrat members elect the United Kingdom Liberal Democrat Leader and the Members of Parliament elect the Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader. Under the federal constitution of the Liberal Democrats the leader is required to be a member of the House of Commons. In the event that the leader dies, resigns or loses his or her seat in Parliament, the deputy leader serves as interim leader until a leadership election takes place. Liberal Democrat leadership elections use the Alternative Vote system, the single-winner version of the Single Transferable Vote, assuming there are more than two candidates.


The runners and rides in such a leadership election will clearly depend on who is re-elected on May 7th. From the current crop of MPs, these are the ones I expect to consider standing…

Age: 71 (72 on 9 May)
Constituency: MP for Twickenham since 1997
Ministerial Office: Secretary of State for Business 2010-15
For: Popular among LibDem members, seen as the keeper of the LibDem flame in government, hugely ambitious
Against: Age (declined to stand in 2007 because he said he was too old), hangdog demeanour, ego.
Verdict: If he decides to stand (and he will, won’t he?) he will be seen as the man to beat, but his opponents will point to his age and make compariosn to the last time the LibDems selected an ageing statesman as leader.
Odds: 6/1

Age: 57
Constituency: MP for North Norfolk since 2001, which he won at the third time of asking
Majority: 11,626
Ministerial Office: PPS to Nick Clegg, Minister for Post Office Reform, Minister for Social Care
For: Seen as hugely competent, proven constituency campaigner, on the sensible wing of the LibDems, good record as a minister, likeable
Against: Seen as close to Clegg’s style of Orange Book politics, slightly Eurosceptic.
Verdict: His best chance is if the LibDems are more or less wiped out. Liked by virtually everyone, he would be a unifying figure, if not very exciting. However, he’s tenacious and isn’t easily shaken in the face of adversity. Exudes competence, but it would take a lot for the left of the LibDems to support him.
Odds: 8/1

Age: 44
Constituency: Westmorland & Lonsdale
Majority: 12,264
Ministerial Office: None
For: Charismatic, popular with activists, good turn of phrase, hits the conference g-spot, well connected with local parties
Against: Lack of top flight experience, refusal to accept ministerial office, unpopular with senior colleagues, seen as disloyal and too ambitious
Verdict: For Vince Cable to accuse Tim Farron of being presumptuous in his ambition says a lot about how OTT Tim Farron is seen to have gone in setting out his stall for a post Clegg environment. However, there’s nothing wrong with ambition in a politician, it’s just how you channel it. His two years as party president means that he’s plugged into all the local parties. His best chance will come if the LibDems get under 20 seats.
Odds: 5/1

Age: 42
Constituency: MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey since 2005
Majority: 8,765
Ministerial Office: Chief Secretary to the Treasury 2010-15
For: Successful tenure as Chief Secretary, increasingly high media profile, high priest of Orange Bookery
Against: Highly likely to lose his seat, seen as too close to George Osborne, too close to Nick Clegg, unfairly viewed as slightly aloof, high priest of Organge Bookery
Verdict: Alexander’s best chance of succeeding Nick Clegg is if the LibDems retain most of their seats and Nick Clegg decides half way through the next Parliament he has had enough. The chances of either happening are slight. His main challenge is to hold his seat. If he does so, he will undoubtedly be a candidate for the succession. A losing one.
Odds: 20/1

Age: 35
Constituency: MP for East Dunbartonshire since 2005
Majority: 2,184
Ministerial Office: Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Business
For: Bright, chirpy, media friendly, popular with activists
Against: Almost certain to lose her seat, few know what she really believes in
Verdict: If the LibDems wanted to signal a shift to the next generation, Jo Swinson could be a good option. But sadly, this is almost academic as this higly popular politician is virtually certain to be drowned in the SNP surge.
Odds: 33/1

Age: 49
Constituency: MP for Kingston & Surbiton since 1992
Majority: 7,560
Ministerial Office: Minister at the Department of Business 2010-2013, Secretary of State of Energy & Climate Change 2013-15
For: Solid, dependable, has appeal across the party, a uniting force
Against: Unexciting and perhaps a little boring, overseen a pro-nuclear energy policy, seen as insufficiently green by some LibDems
Verdict: He declared his candidacy on my LBC show recently, much to my surprise, and he would be a strong candidate. At the moment I’d say he was the third favourite behind Cable & Farron, although the betting markets have Norman Lamb ahead of him. He needs a bit of a charisma injection, but if he can get some high profile support, he could pull through.
Odds: 7/1

Age: 49
Constituency: MP for Thornbury & Yate since 2010, LibDem MP for Northavon 1997-2010
Majority: 7,116
Ministerial Office: Minister for Pensions 2010-15
For: Solid, clever, able to get his head round seemingly impossible policy issues
Against: Never escaped his policy wonk image, one trick pensions pony, unfairly seen as boring and a plodder
Verdict: Steve Webb is said to be far more ambitious than he lets on and although some may be surprised if he stands for the leadership, he could emerge as the candidate of the left and if Tim Farron implodes, Webb could be a very serious contender.
Odds: 20/1

Age: 49
Constituency: MP for Yeovil since 2001
Majority: 13,036
Ministerial Office: Chief Secretary to the Treasury May 2010, Minister of State for Schools 2013-15
For: Clever, media friendly, sensible
Against: The expenses scandal, perhaps too cerebral, not seen as a ‘man of the people’.
Verdict: If it hadn’t been for his resignation as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, I’d venture to say that he would have been the best performing LibDem Cabinet Minister and in an ideal position to succeed Nick Clegg. But it wasn’t to be. I’d be astonished if he was a candidate but the possibility is there, so he belongs on this list. If it were up to me, he’d be on eo fthe favourites.
Odds: 25/1

Age: 63
Constituency: MP for Bermondsey & Old Southwark since 1983
Majority: 8,530
Ministerial Office: Minister of State for Justice 2014-15
For: Popular in the party, especially on the left, adapted to ministerial office better than most thought he would, effective on the media
Against: Serial failure as a leadership candidate, too disorganised, a little holier than thou, maybe a unifying force after an apocalypse
Verdict: He might be tempted to run again in the event of an apocalypse, despite his age. That’s assuming he holds his seat. He would be fishing in the same lake as Tim Farron and Steve Webb. His biggest appeal would be as a unity candidate.
Odds: 25/1


I can’t see there being any other candidates beyond this select group. So who would win? I still think Vince Cable and Tim Farron are the two favourites, with Ed Davey and Norman Lamb. In any election you have to bear in mind the electoral system and the electorate, which in this case are LibDem members, all 44,000 of them. They are significantly to the left of the LibDem Parliamentary Party, and this is yet another reason why Cable and Farron must be considered favourites. In my view, if Vince Cable runs, he wins. If he doesn’t Tim Farron wins, unless during the campaign he self combusts. That would leave room for Ed Davey or Norman Lamb to come from behind.

If I were a LibDem, I’d vote for Norman Lamb. Not sure he’d welcome my endorsement though!



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ConHome Diary: I Must Learn to be Biased Towards the Liberal Democrats

3 Apr 2015 at 14:31

‘David Cameron was the clear winner in last night’s debate. He clearly showed the difference between the Conservative long term economic plan and the chaos that would ensue if Alex Salmond put Ed Miliband into Downing Street. Only with a Conservative government can hard working families be sure that their taxes won’t rise and that we will pay down the deficit.’
Now obviously I am writing this before the debate has actually taken place, but I can absolutely ensure you that those words above, or a version of them, will feature in all the post-match spin and press releases. Because they all do. Always. Five times a day, like all other journalists and commentators, I get a CCHQ press release into my inbox. I have almost got to the wrist-slitting stage. Why? Because it’s the same boring message. Over and over again. If we were in Germany it would be called the Goebbelsprinzip. Say it often enough and they will come to believe it. The trouble is, it is being said so often, ad nauseam, in every single wretched interview that people have stopped listening. It’s not as if the phrase ‘long term economic plan’ is snappy. It isn’t. You can be ‘on message’ without repeating the same mantras word for word.

I got a blue tick on twitter last week. For some reason I was ridiculously pleased by it. I still don’t really know why. Because I am an egotistical knob?
Wednesday was April Fool’s Day, and as usual I did my best to hook a few people in. I wrote on my blog…

“It’s being officially announced later this morning, but I wanted my esteemed readers to be the first to know, that I am being raised to the peerage to replace Michael Ashcroft in the House of Lords. It’s a great honour and I am very grateful to Michael for resigning his seat and allowing me to take his place. I’m told it was a close run thing between me and Tim Montgomerie, but I’m told the Prime Minister so enjoys Tim’s almost nightly appearances on Newsnight that I got the nod. I have chosen Lord Dale of Leicester Square as my title and I want to make clear that joining the House of Lords will have no impact on my LBC show, although it will be retitled Lord Dale at Drive. Listeners will not be obliged to call me Lord Dale. Sir will do.”

What I have found in recent years is that many people only read the first few lines of a blogpost before they move onto something else so if you make something half believable in the first couple of lines, they fall for it hook line and sinker. The rest of the post was very clearly a windup, but even so, many people were taken in, including my LBC colleague Beverley Turner. Mind you, this doesn’t really compare to my April Fool in April 2010 when I made out that returning officers were going on strike to protest about being made to work on election night. (Read it HERE. So successful was this that the Government’s Media Monitoring Unit sent it all round Whitehall, believing it to be true. The Ministry of Justice began taking calls, and the Justice Secretary Jack Straw’s Spad protested that I had mentioned him in the blogpost without even having had the politeness to talk to him. Read about the aftermath HERE. Oh well, it made me happy anyway. And then there was the time I said I’d be running for mayor of London. Oh how we laughed.
This election will be the first for 36 years that I haven’t been able to campaign in. It will be the first time since 1979 that I won’t be donning a rosette or knocking on a single door. I’m not even putting a posterboard in my garden. No doubt some of you will be outraged, but seeing as I am talking about the election on the radio and co-presenting LBC’s election night extravaganza I just don’t think it’s appropriate to be an active participant in this election. I know that sounds a bit po-faced, but there you go. Mind you, it doesn’t stop my listeners from accusing me of bias towards the Conservatives. Or Labour. Or UKIP. “Why don’t you just have done with it and come out as a UKIP supporter,” is a regular taunt on Twitter. “You’re such a lefty Liberal, you must so in love with Ed Miliband,” is another. “You always give your Tory mates such an easy time,” is another one. I have never worked out why, but no one ever accuses me of being biased towards the Liberal Democrats. I really must try harder.

This election needs an injection of excitement. It needs a Prescott punch. Or a Mrs Duffy. Or a Sharron Storer. Something. Anything. Most people I speak to inside the beltway reckon they are a tad bored by the election campaign, and it’s only been going four days. Or three months depending on your perspective. I have to say that I haven’t contracted my usual bout of election fever yet. Call me old fashioned but I hanker after the days of pasting electoral rolls onto canvass cards, and typing up the NCRs. If you’re under 40 you probably have no idea what I am banging on about. But that sort of thing added to the whole election experience. Computerisation of elections has taken a lot of the fun away for people with a slightly OCD attitude to canvass returns and the Get Out the Vote operation. Those were the days.
Each day in this campaign LBC is doing an Election Call phone-in with a leading politician. So far this week we’ve had Sadiq Khan, Patrick O’Flynn, Michael Gove and Nick Clegg taking calls from listeners. As a presenter, though, you’re always aware that political parties encourage their own members to call in and ask “So, Mr Gove, would you like to tell us more about your riveting long-term economic plan?” Or “Mr Khan, isn’t it true that David Cameron will introduce a law forcing Labour voters to eat their first born?” Obviously we have people sifting the calls before people get on air, but you can never be 100% certain that the caller isn’t a party stooge. I well remember back in 1992 when I was working on the Tory campaign in Norwich North for the then MP Patrick Thompson, he was due to do an hour long phone-in on Radio Norfolk. Unbeknown to him, his agent Deborah Slattery, and I had already cooked up a plan to ensure that he bettered his Labour opponent Dr Ian Gibson. In short, every single call that got on air on that phone-in came from Tory Campaign Headquarters. And it worked like a dream. Needs must, and all that. We won that seat by 266 votes. Of course, it couldn’t happen now. You couldn’t phone from the same phone because of Caller ID, and in any case we never put people straight on air. They are phoned back. Withheld numbers automatically raise suspicions. So in short, don’t even think of trying to do what we did in 1992. It won’t work!

I’d love to do a comparative study of the number of professional party agents that have been appointed by each party in individual constituencies in this election. I suspect it’s under half what it was in 1992 and probably a quarter of the number that were employed in 1979. In legal terms, the job of agent is probably far more onerous than it was a quarter of a century ago, and yet complete amateurs are expected to get it right first time. Good luck to all the agents in this election. Some of them are going to need a lot of it.



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