UK Politics

Archbishop Softens Line on Gay Marriage

12 Mar 2013 at 10:43

Several of the papers have picked up my interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday, but they have concentrated on what he said about bankers’ bonuses. I think they missed the main story, and that was on gay marriage. It seemed to me that His Grace really softened his previously hard line on gay issues and gay marriage. Being an evangelical and heavily under the influence of Holy Trinity Brompton, he has never appeared to be especially engaged in these issues, and if he has been, it has been in a wholly negative way. Here’s what he had to say…

ID: You said once that you’re always averse to the language of exclusion and what we’re called to do is love in the same way as Jesus Christ loves us, how do you reconcile that with the church’s attitude on gay marriage?
JW: I think that the problem with the gay marriage proposals is that they don’t actually include people equally, it’s called equal marriage, but the proposals in the Bill don’t do that. I think that where there is… I mean I know plenty of gay couples whose relationships are an example to plenty of other people and that’s something that’s very important, I’m not saying that gay relationships are in some way… you know that the love that there is is less than the love there is between straight couples, that would be a completely absurd thing to say. And civil partnership is a pretty… I understand why people want that to be strengthened and made more dignified, somehow more honourable in a good way. It’s not the same as marriage…

ID: But if it could be made to work in a way that’s acceptable to the church you would be open to discussions on that?
JW: We are always open to discussions, we’ve been open to discussion, we’re discussing at the moment. The historic teaching of the church around the world, and this is where I remember that I’ve got 80 million people round the world who are Anglicans, not just the one million in this country, has been that marriage in the traditional sense is between a man and woman for life. And it’s such a radical change to change that I think we need to find ways of affirming the value of the love that is in other relationships without taking away from the value of marriage as an institution.

I think that is a significant softening of his position.

You can listen to the audio HERE

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter: No 5 - Turbulent Priests

11 Mar 2013 at 21:16

And yes it’s true, I did say it. As someone tweeted…

Not many people can claim to have said that on their first day in a new job. Good work!

Hey ho. At least it gave people a laugh, I suppose. I thought I had rescued it and corrected myself having only said the ‘cu’ bit. But apparently not. Some might say that there was something going on in my subconscious because the interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury had not quite gone according to plan. I had to pre-record it this morning and we had intended to put it out as our main interview at 5pm, but that was scuppered by the Huhne/Pryce sentencing. In the end we broadcast it at 5.45 (you can hear some of it HERE)

But that wasn’t the problem. I walked into the studio and said hello to the Archbishop and his press officer. After the initial pleasantries I was suddenly told that there were to be no questions on the Bishops’ letter to the Sunday Telegraph on welfare cuts. “Not even one,” I asked. “No, we’ve said what we have got to say,” said His Grace. Now, put yourself in my position. What would you have done? Essentially there were three options…

1. Agree to it
2. Say no and refuse to conduct the interview
3. Slip a question in anyway

Although it was not said directly, I was pretty sure that if I had taken option 3 they would have stopped the interview and walked out. Option 2 was a non-starter. This was my big interview in my first Drivetime show and I couldn’t risk it going wrong. So I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and agreed to it on the basis that there were plenty of other things to discuss. I have to say I have never had anyone impose conditions on an interview before, and if it had been a politician I’d have told them to sling their hook, or asked it anyway. But in thee circumstances I reckoned if I took that approach I wouldn’t only jeopardise LBC’s relationship with Lambeth Palace, but other stations in the Global Radio group too. So criticise me if you like for giving in, but would you really have done anything different? What I did do, after the interview was played out, was to explain why I hadn’t asked about welfare benefits. It was the least I could do.

But it seems that the Archbishop did indeed want to clarify his views on welfare reform. Here is his latest Blogpost

I was also told that the interview could only be 3-4 minutes. Sod that for a game of soldiers, I thought to myself. And to her credit the press officer kept quiet and didn’t try to intervene after four minutes. But after 11 and a half minutes I thought I’d better stop.

The rest of the programme was relatively incident free. We did a lot on the Huhne/Pryce case including a great interview with Jonathan Aitken who described his journey in a prison van through London after he had been jailed. And we had a great last hour with Skills Minister Matt Hancock where we had a phone in on apprenticeships. The switchboard was jammed and he really seemed to enjoy it. I tweeted a picture of him and said how he seemed to be enjoying himself. He retweeted it and then added the hashtag #twank. After my previous four letter faux pas I decided to refrain from passing comment..

UPDATE: Some kind soul has uploaded my moment of shame to Audioboo. If you really have to listen, it’s HERE

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Join Me For Iain Dale at Drive From 4pm...

11 Mar 2013 at 10:17

Well, today’s the day. At 4pm I start my first Drivetime programme. Up to now I haven’t been nervous about it at all. After all, I’ve presented around 2,000 hours on the radio in the last two years, so I ought to be used to it. But let’s not pretend that this isn’t a show which will be under far ore scrutiny than my evening show. So when the light goes red at 3.59, I suspect I will have that slightly empty feeling in my stomach. But the smell of greasepaint, etc etc…

it’s a very busy news day today so we’re not going to be stuck for anything to talk about. Vicky Pryce/Chris Huhne., Abu Qatada, the Banking Commission, Apprenticeships, Liam Fox’s speech, and much more. We also have a bit of a coup in that I have an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury. I think it’s the first full radio interview he has done since his appointment. That will go out at 5pm.

We’ve also got classical musical chart topping guitarist Milos Karadaglic.

I’ll update this throughout the day once our running order becomes clearer.

You can listen to LBC in London on 97.3FM, on DAB in much of the rest of the country, via Sky Channel 0112, Virgin Media 973, via the LBC iPhone and iPad apps or stream live at lbc.co.k

UPDATE 11.39: Just finished the interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury. A couple of good lines in it, I think.
Top lawyer Mark Stephens booked to comment on Huhne/Pryce
Classical Guitarist Milos Karadaglic will be on from 6.45 to talk about his new chart topping album
Business & markets roundups at 5.30 and 6.30.
Apprenticeships from 7
Liam Fox confirmed for 6pm

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A Difficult Mothering Sunday

10 Mar 2013 at 20:45

Those who lose loved ones dread ‘firsts’. The first birthday without them. The first anniversary of their death. The first Christmas. Today was the first Mother’s Day my sisters and I have spent without our beloved mother, Jane. She died on June 9th last year. Not a day goes by without her entering my thoughts. The tears are streaming as I write this. Esther Rantzen recently said she would give ten years of her life for ten more minutes with her husband Desmond. I know exactly how she feels. There’s a special bind between a mother and a son and there have been so many occasions over the last nine months when I would have given anything to be able to pick up the phone and talk to her about things that had happened.

I still can’t quite come to terms with the fact that she’s gone. I want to be able to ring her after my first Drivetime show tomorrow and for her to tell me how brilliantly I have done, even if I haven’t. But I won’t be able to. I want her to come and stay in our new house in Norfolk, somewhere she loved. But she can’t. I’d love to have a faith which allowed me to really believe that her spirit lives on and she is watching over me. But I don’t.

So to those of you whose mothers are still with us, cherish them. If you haven’t spoken to your mother today, it’s not too late. Pick up the phone. Tell her you love her, even if you find that sort of thing difficult. One day it may be too late.

I was lucky. My mum knew how much I loved her. I told her repeatedly. My sisters and I count ourselves as blessed that we had her for a mother. No child could have ever wished for a better mother. And today we remember her with so much love and warmth.

Now, where’s that Kleenex?

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UK Politics

Jo Shaw: A Principled Resignation

10 Mar 2013 at 18:55

This morning on my LBC Sunday morning show (only two of those left – sob) I interviewed Jo Shaw. Who? I hear you cry. Well until this morning she was LibDem parliamentary candidate for Holborn & St Pancras. This evening she isn’t. She isn’t even a party member any longer.

You see Jo Shaw has had the courage to stick up for her principles. She has run a LibDem campaign designed to persuade their MPs to vote against secret courts. It must have been galling for her to discover that only seven LibDem MPs had the courage of her principles. So this morning she quit her party in disgust, and she did it with style during a speech to her party’s Spring conference.

I remain profoundly uncomfortable with the idea of secret courts. The concept seems to go against the very idea of open and transparent British justice. Secret courts seem to be to be the property of dictators and despots. What is it about politicians that the most devoted civil libertarians in opposition, seem to be quite happy to impose the most draconianly authoritarian of measures when in government? As David Davis said earlier…

Clegg’s position on secret courts is about most unprincipled thing I have ever seen. Gladstone must be spinning in his grave

Quite. So when I interviewed Jo Shaw I was rather sorry for her. Years of campaigning for her party have been for nothing. It took some guts to do what she did today. And she should be proud of herself.

UPDATE: Caron Lindsay has a good take on Jo Shaw’s resignation HERE

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UK Politics

May the Force be With Theresa?

9 Mar 2013 at 21:43

It’s a mark of how much trouble Number Ten is in that a speech like one Theresa May gave this afternoon at the ConservativeHome conference is automatically interpreted as a bold leadership bid. Back in November Tim Montgomerie asked her to close his Victory 2015 conference. Unless he’s a soothsayer he couldn’t possibly have imagined that the planets would have come together in such perfect leadership harmony. Why does it suddenly feel a tad like 1989?

So what’s in it? Is David Cameron in danger? Clearly not. Not yet. Nick Boles was spot on in this morning’s Times when he said…

“The overwhelming majority of my fellow MPs understand that David Cameron’s leadership and a record of governing responsibly offers us the best chance of persuading the voters to give us an overall majority in 2015, but a few malcontents — most of them sitting on big majorities — seem willing to risk letting Labour back in by indulging their ideological obsessions. I just wish they would listen to those MPs elected in 2010 in very marginal seats who want them to shut up.

“People who voted for UKIP at Eastleigh think of themselves as more left wing than Conservative, so what a great success that was. We shouldn’t try to compete on the right with them. It is clear that some more noisy [Tory MPs] have been trying to peddle their own agenda and I suspect some have a malign desire to destabilise David Cameron and George Osborne. But I sense there are a lot of sensible people thinking, ‘I went to Eastleigh and I didn’t recognise the party I thought I had been elected to’ .”

Well that was a good bitch-slap to Grant Shapps.

I doubt if many Tories could say they were 100% happy with David Cameron, but that’s par for the course with any Tory leader. I don’t detect any great move against Cameron even though there are certainly rumblings among the usual suspects on the authoritarian right. They will probably get louder after what will be a disaster in the May county council elections, and the Number Ten machine (if it can be called that) needs to get its ducks in a row to anticipate what might happen.

Up until now, Cameron hasn’t really faced any meaningful leadership chatter, partly because the Party have been happy to tolerate a leader who they thought would bring them electoral success, even though they knew he treated his own party with an air of disdain. But there seems to be a growing narrative that Cameron can’t win an overall majority at the next election. Today’s Ashcroft poll which shows only 7% of Tories believing in a majority plays into that. This is very dangerous for Cameron’s leadership.

His saving grace has always been the lack of an alternative. One right wing friend of mine puts it like this…

Davis too lazy, Gove too odd/Scottish, Hague too bald/unsound, Osborne c**t, Fox finished, Villiers useless, Greening unstable, Hammond charisma-bypass, Hunt goggle-eyed, Boris is Fabricant without the common sense and as reliable as a Reliant Robin, May risible.

Cutting. I will resist the temptation to analyse each of those conclusions, you will be disappointed to hear, but I do think that the next leader of the Conservative Party is possibly not even in the Cabinet, or even a Minister yet. However, let’s turn to Mrs May.

Matthew D’Ancona writes in tomorrow’s Telegraph that it will be the Cabinet which decides Cameron’s fate.

What we are observing now is not a full-blown oligarchic mutiny but a loosening of the ties of loyalty: behaviour that does not presuppose certain electoral defeat in 2015 but presumes its likelihood. Some of this conduct is ideological: ensuring that differences of opinion with the pilot are recorded in the black box before the plane crashes… I do not believe for a second that either Hammond or May is preparing for a leadership race before the election. But each is trying on for size the vestments of the dauphin, strutting a little more, displaying a little more independence and public confidence.

I have no idea whether Theresa May is on manoeuvres or not. It wouldn’t be unknown for senior politicians to fly kites and this may well be what’s happening at the moment. And perhaps with good reason. Many Tories think that she has been quite a success in the Home Office, a department which has been notoriously difficult to handle. Indeed, in opposition she rarely put a foot wrong. Ah, you say, but what about the ‘Nasty Party’ incident at the 2003 party conference? To some this means she should be permanently disqualified from leading the party, to others she was a Cameroon before David Cameron. She identified the problem which has bedevilled the Conservative Party, and I believe still does. People just don’t like it. As Party Chairman she built on work already started by David Davis to recruit more female candidates. She realised that Tory candidates were rather too white, male and middle class. David Cameron may have implemented the A List but it was an idea firmly rooted in Theresa May’s legacy as party chairman.

But Theresa May suffers from two possibly fatal flaws. Firstly, she hasn’t got a natural constituency in Parliament. There aren’t a whole host of MPs known as ‘Mayans’, who are ready to install phonelines at the first available opportunity. On the other hand, she has few enemies, and as David Davis could testify, that’s quite important. But secondly, and possibly more importantly, apart from being a moderniser, no one has the slightest idea what she believes in. That’s why today’s speech at the ConservativeHome conference was important. It’s the first time Theresa May has allowed us into her mind. Her supporters, were we to know who they were, would no doubt tell us that few people knew what Margaret Thatcher believed in before she was elected leader in 1974.

Theresa May knows that if she has leadership ambitions, she will need to appeal to the Tory right. Cynics will no doubt point to her apparent willingness for Britain to withdraw from the ECHR as evidence of that. It smacks of Cameron’s populist move in 2005 to promise to withdraw the Tories from the EPP. He knew it wouldn’t be quite as simple as that, but it shored up the Eurosceptic vote at the expense of David Davis. The same boneheads who believed Cameron will no doubt fall for Theresa May’s wheeze.

I rather like Theresa May. Apart from her excellent fashion sense and her taste in cars (she and her very nice husband Philip are fellow Audi lovers), I like the fact that after 15 years in Parliament she has decided to step forward and assert herself rather than just obey the latest leader she has served under. I have no idea what the consequences are, but let’s face it, it’s about time Boris Johnson had some competition in the next Tory leader stakes.

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Feel Good Video of the Day No 1

9 Mar 2013 at 14:06

Make sure you watch this till the very last second. I defy you not to roar with laughter.

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Paddy Ashdown

9 Mar 2013 at 13:32

I’m sure that you, like me, have often told children and grandchildren that it’s not the winning that matters, it’s the taking part. Well let me let you into a little secret. That’s bollocks.

Paddy Ashdown, addressing the LibDem conference in Brighton, 9 Mar 2013

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Will the Media Now Take UKIP Seriously?

8 Mar 2013 at 17:39

George W Bush’s greatest political asset was that his opponents, especially in Europe, continually underestimated him. Nigel Farage enjoys the same advantage. His enemies view him as a spiv who, in the end, will be found out. It’s very lazy thinking.

The news that Farage has had dinner with Rupert Murdoch is a clear sign that Ukip and its leader have climbed the next step on the political path to respectability and to being taken seriously. Next stop, brunch with Alan Rusbridger. Or possibly not.

Farage is one of the wiliest tacticians in modern-day politics. He has almost single-handedly transformed a rag, tag and bobtail party into an effective political campaigning force. Slowly but surely, it is losing the image of being the BNP in blazers, full of older men who were disgusted and hailed from Tunbridge Wells. It now has the largest and most active youth movement in British politics, and it is slowly but surely becoming feminised. Its last two byelection candidates have been very impressive women, who should now be taking on a much wider role in the party.

Farage has enemies – many of whom have been fellow MEPs who have defected. Today’s Guardian contains allegations of financial impropriety by former Ukip MEPs Nikki Sinclaire and Marta Andreasen. I suspect Farage will dismiss them with a wave of the hand and without further thought.

Politicians on the left and right don’t seem to understand that Ukip is on the march. Eastleigh was no one-off. They are the new Liberal Democrats, in that they have become the dustbin of British politics. By that I mean that they are now receiving the protest votes that used to go to the Lib Dems. Labour and the Lib Dems continue to assume that Ukip supporters are almost always disaffected Conservatives. That has never been true, and Lord Ashcroft’s post-Eastleigh poll proved it. If Ukip can mobilise the anti-politics vote that seems to be growing every day it could make very fast progress indeed. I have no hesitation in predicting that it will come at least second in the 2014 European elections, and there’s a distinct possibility that it could even top the poll.

But that is more than a year away. Between now and then, Nigel Farage needs to achieve several things. He needs to encourage the media to interview Ukip representatives other than himself. He should make his Eastleigh candidate, Diane James, deputy party leader. A full slate of county council candidates needs to be fielded, and they need to poll well, and finally he needs to ensure that his party’s European candidate selection procedures are overhauled to ensure that the number of flaky candidates is reduced next time out.

One thing is sure. If Farage screws up in any way at all, he will be jumped on by the media. He and his party are about to be scrutinised like never before. He needs to make a gradual transformation from the bloke in the pub that’s the life and soul of the party to become a wise old owl who people feel they can trust. No one is suggesting that Ukip can become a party of government, but it needs to start looking like a party which can be trusted with the levers of power. The media will then take it more seriously, broadcasters will give it more airtime, and in 10 years’ time, who knows?

_*This article originally appeared on Comment is Free

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Guardian Media Podcast

8 Mar 2013 at 10:15

Yesterday I was a guest on the Guardian Media Podcast with John Plunkett, Roy Greenslade and Matt Deegan. I talk about blogging and my new LBC Drivetime show.

You can listen by clicking HERE. My bit starts at 8 mins 45 and finished at 19 mins 30.

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