Gossip

The Mystery of Michael Portillo's Continuing Conservative Party Membership

25 Jan 2013 at 21:43

I think Michael Portillo had a rush to the brain on ‘This Week’ last night. He denied absolutely that he was still a member of the Conservative Party.

How very odd then that a senior party source maintains his membership is still active and that he diligently renews it every year by direct debit.

#justsaying

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Iain interviews John Campbell about Roy Jenkins

John Campbell's biography of Roy Jenkins is one of the best books of the year

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Michelle Obama

25 Jan 2013 at 16:23

We all believe that no one who serves our country should have to fight for a job once they return home.

Michelle Obama, 1 Jan 2013

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UK Politics

Why I am Falling Out of Love With Politics

25 Jan 2013 at 15:40

Last night I watched the second half of Question Time and then This Week. Midway through this week I began to realise how little political to-ing and fro-ing means to me any longer. I tweeted that maybe I was seeing politics and politicians in a similar way to the general public for the first time. I suppose it’s been a process that has been going on for two years, ever since I decided to abandon any future attempts to get into Parliament.

I think doing my LBC show has also been an influence. Watching Question Time I wanted to throw something at the screen. And it wasn’t just Ben Bradshaw’s constant hypocrisy that got me going. The journalist, Angela Epstein, who I can’t say had ever come across my radar before, was just vacuous in the extreme. Nothing worth saying at all. Ian Hislop did his usual playing to the audience, Anna Soubry was just plain irritating, constantly appearing to talk down to the audience without actually meaning to, and Ming Campbell did his best to be above the fray but it didn’t quite work. But the reason this programme has gone down hill is that its host, David Dimbleby seems increasingly to think the programme is all about him. It isn’t. And his constant attempts to mirror a tabloid journalist and paint all politicians in a negative light are becoming just plain tiresome.

This Week wasn’t much better. Alan Johnson spent the whole programme trying to avoid taking a position on anything. He ought to be reminded that’s what he’s there to do. Portillo sat there loftily, talking down to us and subliminally assuring us that he knows best about everything. Even when his powers of prediction were exposed as risible by Andrew Neil, he didn’t even have the good grace to admit he had been totally wrong. He just sneered at Cameron, as he usually does. Neil Hamilton’s film was risible and the ensuing debate with Shirley Williams was mind numbing.

Laura Kuenssberg was the only bright spot in 45 minutes of utter tedium. At the end of it, I just thought to myself that maybe the reason I grew so irritated by both programmes was because I just don’t appreciate politics in the way that I used to. Maybe others in the Westminster Village still think these programmes rule the political roost and are captivated by them. I no longer am. But it’s not just them. I watch PMQs and I find the level of debate, if you can call it that, embarrassing. I watch political interviews with cabinet and shadow cabinet ministers and despair of the vacuity of the questions and answers. Perhaps I now understand what most voters think of the same things.

It’s also the standard of political journalism and comment that turns me off. Take this morning’s comments about the fact that David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson spent some of last night in a Swiss pizza restaurant. Here’s the Mirror’s James Lyons…

And there were plenty more like that. Are people seriously saying that politicians should hide themselves away in their hotel rooms? I suppose James Lyons would have then made a fuss about the room service bill. Just imagine if they had been out in a posh Davos restaurant.

Our public life is being corrupted by a permanent sneer and cynical outlook by those who report on it. Yes, to some extent it’s the fault of those who serve in public life. The trouble is that the way politics is now reported in the print and broadcast media, it’s a wonder anyone wants to go into it. And this is why increasingly we will get a political class made up of geeks and obsessives. Normal people, people who actually want to do good, will turn their efforts elsewhere, and who can blame them?

I look at some of my friends who got elected in 2010 and wonder what’s happened to them. Several of them are so far up their own arses that they don’t even bother to reply to text messages any longer. Now that one or two have becomes ministers they’re so very important (at least in their own eyes) that they forget about those who helped them get there.

I remarked to someone a few weeks ago that in 25 years of being involved in politics, I could probably count on the fingers of two hands the number of real friends I have made in the political arena. That perhaps says just as much about me as it does others, but It just shows how transient political relationships can be. People befriend you when they think you can be useful to them. As soon as you can’t, they drop you like a stone. Perhaps I have done it myself. I’d like to think not, but I can’t look myself in the mirror and say it categorically hasn’t happened.

Politics is like a drug. It’s very difficult to pull yourself away from something which is capable of giving you the equivalent of a massive adrenaline rush. I suspect I will never lose an interest in politics. But I know now that I am falling out of love with it.

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Rosemary Doesn't Like Gay People Kissing

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Poll

Poll Result: How You Voted on an In/Out Referendum

23 Jan 2013 at 22:43

Earlier today I asked in a previous pot (scroll down) how you would vote if there were an In/Out Euro Referendum tomorrow. OK, I know there isn’t, but I wanted to test the temperature of my readers. More than 800 of you have voted. Here’s the result…

Stay in 22%
Leave 75%
Don’t know 3%

I also asked your voting intentions…

Conservative 52%, Labour 11%, LibDem 5%, UKIP 23%, Others 9%

I can’t quite believe that UKIP figure. I suspect someone somewhere in UKIP directed people to the poll. I doubt very much whether 23% of my regular readers vote UKIP, but you never know. We also did a similar poll on my LBC show and it too came out with a similar result, 80-20.

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Two Women Tell Iain About Finding Their Real Fathers

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Media

Why Are We So Obsessed By Non-News From America? What About the Rest of the World?

23 Jan 2013 at 17:28

Last night, while I was broadcasting my LBC show, I noticed a Sky News flash come up on Twitter.

The thought occurred to me that it is doubtful whether any news organisation woud even cover it if it had happened in a country other than the US? Shooting in school. No one dead. hardly earth-shattering, is it? But it’s like bad weather. We get lengthy reports on terrrible snowfalls on the East Coast of America which would never even make it to a planning meeting if they had happened anywhere else. Just because the main broadcasters have camera crews and reporters in the States, it doesn’t mean that everything that happens is necessarily a story for a UK audience. What about the terrible floods in Jakarta? Why do we have endless coverage of US elections, even midterms, when elections in most other countries barely get a mention? I could go on.

Al Jazeera English puts our news organisations to shame with its coverage of news around the world. If you’ve never watched it, give it a try. It does exactly the sort of thing the BBC should do, used to do, but doesn’t any longer. It’s such a shame. I read that Sky are opening a new bureau in Los Angeles. Their Washington Correspondent, Greg Milham, is moving to the West Coast to head it up. I’m sure they will do a great job, but what about having a bureau in Rio? Just a thought.

I’m not having a go at the BBC, before anyone says it. It’s the same with all UK broadcasters. If you compare the coverage of world events on German TV to what we get, you will see what I mean. Newspapers are going the same way. The World News sections seem to be getting smaller with every year that passes.

End of moan.

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Iain interviews Lucy Hughes-Hallett

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Poll

Poll: In/Out European Referendum - How Would You Vote?

23 Jan 2013 at 13:48

We just took a snap In-Out Referendum poll in the Biteback office and we voted 6-5 to stay in! So I thought I would test the opinions of my blog readers and Twitter followers. So, take this two question poll and I will publish the result later.

Click HERE to register your vote.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Ann Clwyd

Iain and Labour MP Ann Clywd discuss their experiences of nursing failings and take calls from listeners.

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UK Politics

Will Labour's Eurosceptics Persuade Ed Miliband to Change His Referendum Stance?

23 Jan 2013 at 12:30

Watching Caroline Flint on the Daily Politics earlier, you can see one thing David Cameron has achieved with his Europe speech. He has put Labour on the back foot. Despite having known what was in the speech for several days, they clearly haven’t worked out a line to take. If I was a Labour MP I’d find that pretty unforgivable. Flint was left to hang out to dry and had nothing to say. She ducked the “are you in favour of an In-Out referendum question”, indicating that it hadn’t been discussed in Shadow Cabinet. Bearing what came later in PMQs one has to ask if Ed Miliband was making policy on the hoof.

The initial reaction to the speech within the Conservative Party appears to have been fairly positive, with even the usual suspects supporting what he has said. Admittedly I haven’t heard from the likes of Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine, but they represent a very small minority of thinking within the modern day Conservative Party.

But before we all get carried away, let’s look at what David Cameron has actually promised. The two headline promises are to negotiate the deletion of the ‘Ever Closer Union’ provision from European treaties and to promise an In-Out referendum by the end of 2017, after having renegotiated various terms of our membership. All that is contingent on the Conservatives winning an outright victory at the next election. And I wonder how many of us would put money on them actually doing that. The question I have to ask is this: why wait until after the election to legislate for a referendum. Why not do it before the election, because not to do so plays right into UKIP’s hands. Nigel Farage will spend the next few years sowing seeds of doubt in the minds of the electorate as to whether the PM will actually deliver on his promise. He will cite Cameron’s apparent ratting on a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty (he didn’t, of course, but the nuances in this debate are too subtle) as evidence that no one can be sure that the PM will keep his promise. I am surprised that the likes of Bill Cash and Mark Pritchard haven’t made more of this.

Last week I thought Ed Miliband wiped the floor with David Cameron at PMQs. This week I am afraid it was very different. Ed Miliband was all over the place. He asked the same question four times and David Cameron answered it clearly. Yet Miliband kept on bowling at the same losing wicket. And by the end of his questions we had no clue as to what Miliband’s own position actually is. He did have the good grace to say “No, we don’t want an In-Out referendum,” I suppose. He may live to regret that. Labour MPs seemed to gasp when he said that. But Miliband gave no clue as to whether he wanted any sort of renegotiation at all. This is something that will allow the Conservatives to paint him as a Brussels lackey. In terms of marks out of ten I would give Cameron 7 and Miliband 5. (Last week it was Cameron 4 and Miliband 8).

It will be very interesting now to watch the reaction of Labour’s Eurosceptics, because, believe it or not, there are quite a lot of them. Jack Straw is one example. I suspect he will be horrified by Miliband’s performance today. I wonder whether Straw and other Labour MPs will make their views heard and try to change Miliband’s mind on a referendum.

I don’t know whether Cameron will live to regret the events of today. It’s probably put paid to any leadership chatter, so as a short term fix it has done its job. But what if the other 26 EU Countries are resolute in resisting any form of renegotiation. The German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, has already said Germany will not allow Britain to “cherry pick” and Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister has been banging on about obeying the rules of the club. Cameron’s tactics are clearly designed to say to them “Come on, help me out here guys, I’ve got to go back with something.” The trouble is, I doubt whether it is possible to give Cameron enough to satisfy the Bill Cash tendency.

The big question is whether the electorate can really get excited about this issue. It’s possible that over the next four years voters will get very bored and wonder why Conservative politicians are banging on about an issue that they regard as on the fringe. The challenge for David Cameron is to ensure that doesn’t happen and explain why qa lot of time and effort should be expended on this issue rather than the economy, jobs and public services.

UPDATE: Interesting commentary from Lord Ashcroft HERE

For most voters, including those who will need to vote Conservative for the first time if we are to have any hope of a majority, Europe barely registers on their list of concerns. The principal benefit of our referendum policy is not that it gives our campaign a headline; it is that it allows us to put the issue to rest and move the conversation on to what the voters want to discuss. Europe is important and we have a clear view about it. That does not mean we should allow it to top our agenda, or look as though it does. Few things would please Ed Miliband more. Tories must remember that we can only get what we want once we win an election. The more we talk about changing our relationship with Europe, the less likely it is to happen.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Mary Robinson

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Personal

Michael Winner - Rude, Insufferable & Totally Magnificent

21 Jan 2013 at 23:28

Michael Winner, I think we can all agree, was a real character. I first met him a couple of years ago when he came into LBC to do an hour long interview with me about his latest book. As he shuffled into the studio looking as if he was about to kark it, I had this feeling of dread that this might be the most difficult hour I’d ever experience on radio. But as soon as the red light went on, the old showman turned on the magic and we had an absolutely fascinating chat about his life in films, food and literature.

My second encounter was less pleasurable. You see Michael was a bully. I’m not insulting a dead man by saying that. He would happily admit it himself. He rang up a young female member of my staff one day berating her for something he felt she should have done to publicise his book but hadn’t. He topped it off by calling her a c**t. She was naturally very upset so I banned him from speaking to any female member of staff. In fact I got so angry about I sent him one of my infamous ‘special’ emails. The gist of it was that I had met bullies like him before and in me he had met his match. His response was to ring me up and invite me to lunch. He was possibly the most unpredictable person I ever met. We were going to have lunch at my favourite restaurant, The Delaunay but sadly before we could he was taken ill, and never really recovered.

Michael would like to be remembered for his film work or as a pre-eminent restaurant critic. I suspect, however, that it will be two other things he will be remembered for. Firstly his work with the Police Memorial Trust which he started after the death of WPC Yvonne Fletcher. He raised huge amounts of money and deserves huge credit for raising the profile of the issue of police officers who die in service. And the second thing? For the phrase ‘Calm down dear’, possibly one of the most annoying, yet effective, slogans ever coined in the world of TV advertising.

At LBC we shall remember him fondly for his firm policy of putting down the phone if he wasn’t put on air within 20 seconds of being called for a pre-arranged interview.

He truly was a one off.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Clare Balding

Clare Balding talks about her book MY FAMILY & OTHER ANIMALS

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Diary

Who Do You Think You are Kidding, Mrs Merkel?

21 Jan 2013 at 12:13

Someone told me a good yarn yesterday (I have no idea how true it is) about our beloved Prime Minister and his relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Apparently the two of them aren’t beyond taking the piss out of each other. It all started, apparently, while they were watching a live England v Germany football match together. Anyway, the two were taking a walk in the Chequers countryside one Sunday afternoon and came to the top of a hill overlooking the Buckinghamshire countryside. They stared silently in wonderment at the scene before them. “To think, Angela,” said Cameron. “If things had turned out differently, this could have all been yours.” Merkel’s immediate reply isn’t recorded. But on her return to Germany, she apparently sent her friend Dave a box set of ’Dad’s Army’ DVDs. I’m told Merkel herself is a huge fan of Midsomer Murders, and last Christmas Cameron sent her the complete series box set for her enjoyment. What a shame the DVDs didn’t contain German subtitles.

I read on Twitter yesterday that Merkel things Cameron is very charming, but has a tendency to behave like a naughty nephew. Just as well she doesn’t have pigtails.

  • If this has appeared before, apologies, but it was new to me!

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Tom Bower

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Rant

If The Tories Ditch Dave They're Finished for 2015

20 Jan 2013 at 21:21

So if Isabel Oakeshott is right, and she very often is, there are 55 Tory MPs who are quite seriously considering the possibility of deposing David Cameron. As young people on Twitter might say – WTF? Are they stark staring mad? Because, let’s face it, deposing a sitting Prime Minister worked so well in 1990, didn’t it? It took the Tory Party fifteen years to recover from committing regicide, and now they want to do it again.

Someone once called the Tories the ‘Stupid Party’. It’s easy to understand why. It was also once said that loyalty was the Tory Party’s secret weapon. Clearly whoever said that had never met some of the boneheads who think this is a good idea. The amusing thing is that a high proportion of those who want rid of Cameron voted for him back in 2005. Yes Nadine, I mean you. And you Stewart, Chris etc etc. I could go on. But before I do, let’s read what Isabel Oakshott writes in today’s Sunday Times.

An increasing number of backbenchers are privately discussing the possibility of attempting to unseat the prime minister before the poll in 2015 if the party continues to trail in the polls. While there is no immediate threat to his position, a well-placed source said that up to 17 MPs had now written letters of “no confidence”, and there are rumours that at least one list of MPs willing to back a coup is being gathered. One source claimed a “rebel reserve” was being gathered, comprised of MPs ready to write simultaneously to Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 backbench committee, if the position of the party in the polls looks so desperate that a change of leader becomes urgent. The group, said to number about 55, would also act if Cameron refused to go after a general election defeat. Their names are said to be held by a co-ordinating MP who has obtained firm pledges from them to act at the same time. The tactic of sending the letters simultaneously would enable the target of 46 needed to trigger a ballot to be reached straightaway.

I could probably name most of these MPs but perhaps I’d better not. Although it might be fun to see the fallout. The simple truth is that the Conservative Party and David Cameron will live or die together. Any talk of a leadership challenge is self indulgent political wankery. And it must stop. If they ditch Cameron they will deserve the electoral oblivion which would no doubt await. I mean, who do they think would come to the rescue? Boris? Dream on. George Osborne. Oh please. Michael Gove? No way. And who else is there? Just go through the Cabinet and imagine each one of them on the doorstep of Number Ten doing their ‘Where there is discord speech’. See what I mean? And if supporters of Liam Fox or anyone else think their man is capable of a mother of all political comebacks they need to take a reality pill.

David Davis said back in October that any talk of a leadership contest was “plain daft”. He continued…

“We are in the middle of a national crisis in economic terms. It is not a time for introspection.”

Cameron wasn’t just for 2010. He was for 2015 too. If he loses, fine, don’t waste time in getting rid of him. But that moment can’t come until May 2015. And if they try it before, let’s just relish the wrath the electoral Gods will rain down on them.

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Iain plays umpire in Brooks Newmark v Alexander Nekrassoc

Seconds out...

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