A Tribute to James Herbert

21 Mar 2013 at 10:02

James Herbert was one of the greatest British novelists of recent times. His death on Wednesday robs us of a truly talented writer. I first started reading his horror novels as a teenager. The Rats and The Fog were masterpieces of their genre. He never really got the recognition he deserved while he was alive so it is good to see the obituaries pay tribute upon his passing at the comparatively young age of 69. He sold more than 42 million books during his career.

I interviewed him last year on my Book Club radio show and was rather shocked by his appearance. It sometimes happens that when you meet a childhood hero, you’re a little disappointed, and I don’t mind admitting that this was the case here, but he was clearly quite ill. At times it was a difficult interview. You can listen to it HERE

For those of you not familiar with his books, here’s a short excerpt from his Wikipedia entry…

His first two books, The Rats and The Fog, are disaster novels with man-eating giant black rats in the first and an accidentally released chemical weapon in the second. Herbert wrote three sequels to The Rats; Lair deals with a second outbreak of the mutants, this time in the countryside around Epping Forest rather than in the first book’s London slums; in Domain, a nuclear war means that the rats have become the dominant species in a devastated city. The third sequel, the graphic novel The City, is an adventure set in the post-nuclear future. With his third novel, the ghost story The Survivor, Herbert used supernatural horror rather than the science fiction horror of his first two books. In Shrine, he explored his Roman Catholic heritage with the story of an apparent miracle which turns out to be something much more sinister. Haunted, the story of a sceptical paranormal investigator taunted by malicious ghosts, began life as a screenplay for the BBC, though this was not the screenplay used in the eventual film version. Its sequel was The Ghosts of Sleath. Others of Herbert’s books, such as Moon, Sepulchre and Portent, are structured as thrillers, and include espionage and detective story elements along with the supernatural. The Jonah is in large part the story of a police investigation, albeit by a policeman whose life is overshadowed by a supernatural presence. The Spear deals with a neo-Nazi cult in Britain and an international conspiracy which includes a right-wing US general and an arms dealer.

I don’t mind admitting that I got far more sex education from James Herbert’s books than I ever did from my parents or my school. And it seems I am not alone. Labour MP Tom Harris tweets

Sad to hear of the death of James Herbert. I recall that certain pages of his books were very well-thumbed by me and school friends.

And Professor Phil Cowley says…

I remember a maths class with that book passed, repeatedly, under the desks. Still don’t know much about algebra.

That gym scene in The Fog is still etched on my mind!



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Mark Regev Interview

Iain interviews the Israeli Ambassador to London

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UK Politics

Shock Horror! I'm a Right Wing Libertarian!

20 Mar 2013 at 23:10

My Political Views
I am a right social libertarian
Right: 4.78, Libertarian: 3.99

Political Spectrum Quiz

As if I was in any doubt… My LBC producer Matt, who is the son of a Labour politician, thinks I am heading to defect to New Labour. This might give him pause for thought.

My Foreign Policy Views
Score: 3.67

Political Spectrum Quiz

My Culture War Stance
Score: -2.01

Political Spectrum Quiz



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Iain Dale asks: Why is the Media so fascinated by Islam

Why the media divides and rules

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A Political Geek's Wet Dream - Coming to you Soon on CD

20 Mar 2013 at 09:21

Later this year, my company Biteback Publishing, will be publishing a mammoth CD Box Set of Great Parliamentary Speeches, 1978-2013 – thirty five years of great parliamentary oratory. It will also hopefully be available as a download on iTunes, and we’re also contemplating an accompanying DVD and book. We’re putting together the running list at the moment and would like to solicit ideas of what should be included. I’m particularly keen to have suggestions since 1997.

We also hope to include some exchanges from various PMQs over the years. Again, please do suggest any magic moments you think we should consider including.

Leave your suggestions in the comments, or drop me an email.



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Iain Dale & Shelagh Fogarty's General Election Night Show

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UK Politics

Budget Preview: Don't Expect Anything Radical

20 Mar 2013 at 07:37

Let me predict the headline the Chancellor would like to see in tomorrow’s Daily Mail…


It’s a measure which has the double attraction of keeping the LibDems happy and giving his own activists something to trumpet on the doorstep. What’s not to like. He can go down as the Chancellor who has taken millions out of income tax. Bear in mind that the personal allowance was £6,475 when the Coalition came to power. However, if this is the only tax cut in this budget it will be a travesty.

Politicians and pundits on all sides of the debate are in agreement that this, to coin a phrase, really does need to be a budget for growth, and if that is to be achieved three things needs to be done. There need to be immediate tax cuts – not just ones which filter through over a period of months and years. Government spending needs to be readjusted and redirected towards capital projects, and in addition total government spending needs to be cut further in order to give the markets confidence that the government is still committed to both deficit and debt reduction.

I think we can all confidently predict that the planned fuel duty rise will be cancelled yet again. If he were sensible, George Osborne would just cancel all planned future rises and have done with it, but the political gain from being able to stand up every budget and be the friend of the motorist will no doubt prove to irresistible.

I’d also like to see a commitment to simplifying the tax code. It now runs to 17,000 pages – longer even than when Gordon Brown was Chancellor. No wonder no one understands it. It’s the most complex tax code in the western world and it’s not too much to expect to ask a Conservative chancellor to live up to his manifesto commitment and simplify it.

Something which the Chancellor won’t do, but is long overdue is to extend the threshold of the 40p tax band. Its scope has more or less doubled in the last few years and it’s a scandal that someone earning more than £32,011 will be paying 40p in the pound from this April. It’s a stealth tax Gordon Brown would have been proud of but didn’t dream of implementing.. In his last year as PM the 40p band started at £37,400. Does anyone seriously think that the 40p tax rate shouldn’t start at somewhere north of £60k or £70k? Our tax bands are getting very out of kilter with earning realities.

Mark Littlewood of the IEA has suggested that the deficit can never be brought under control unless welfare spending is slashed. I agree. And this is where reform of the 40p tax band comes in. Why not increase this to, say £40,000 in the first instance and then have a blanket rule that anyone in that band is not entitled to a single welfare benefit? OK, the figures may have to be altered (I don’t have access to the Treasury forecasting model) but surely it is a good principle that people paying a higher rate of tax shouldn’t be entitled to welfare benefits. At least, in any normal tax system and in a society with normal moral values that ought to be the case. The trouble is we have built a society where even people on £50k a year think they have entitlements. I’ve always believed that welfare benefits should go to those who really need it. They should be a form of safety net rather than an automatic right. This is where Gordon Brown’s system of tax credits has been so insidious. It needs to be dismantled and the government should be quite open about the need to do it and do it quickly. Universal Credit goes some way towards achieving this aim, but not the whole way.

The trouble is, virtually none of this will happen. Political considerations will rule these measures out as too radical and ones which would frighten the electoral horses. And that’s why the years of austerity will last for so much longer than they really needed to.



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Martin from Horsham Lays Into the PM

Martin has an epic rant about the way the Tories fought the election. Hilarious stuff

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Is This The Day Oliver Letwin Effectively Shut Down This Blog?

18 Mar 2013 at 22:52

As Catherine Tate’s ‘Nan’ might say: “What a fucking liberty”.

David Cameron was once a daily reader of my blog. Whether he reads it now, I have no idea. If he does, it might not be for much longer. Why? Because if what I read is even 50% correct, I may well be forced to close down this blog for fear of being sued by some vexatious nutter who knows he can do it on a whim because I would be forced to pay his or her costs. And to think, I only restarted it less than three months ago.

It seems to me that blogs may well come under the remit of this new form of regulation despite a Number 10 spokeswoman saying the exact opposite. Paul Waugh tweeted this earlier…

PM’s political spkswmn: @guidofawkes wd not be caught by new internet curbs cos doesn’t hv staff + is “more gossip related than newsrelated”

Except Guido does have staff – Harry Cole and Alex Wickham. I have an assistant, Grant Tucker. Does this Downing Street spokeswoman seriously believe that Guido Fawkes’s site, or mine, for that matter aren’t news related? Guido often breaks news stories. I used to on my old blog. But even in this new incarnation, much of what I write is commenting on the news. I don’t make money out of my blog, but it is all part of Brand Dale. Without it I wouldn’t do all the media stuff I do, so on that basis I could be said to make money out of it. Guido clearly does.

Well, let’s look at what the proposed Royal Charter actually says…

It says:

b) “relevant publisher” means a person (other than a broadcaster) who publishes in the United Kingdom:

i.) a newspaper or magazine containing news-related material, or

ii.) a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper or magazine);

b) “relevant publisher” means a person (other than a broadcaster) who publishes in the United Kingdom:

i.) a newspaper or magazine containing news-related material, or

ii.) a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper or magazine);

Well from that wording I think my blog would certainly fall under the remit. And it stinks. I did not vote Conservative at the last election for a Conservative Prime Minister to inhibit my freedom of speech, and that’s the effect of this. I know I will feel inhibited. I know I wouldn’t take any risks. I couldn’t afford to. Perhaps I should write something, print it out and then just read it on the radio.

Keith Flett put it all in an historical context on Twitter…

Similar to the Stamped/Unstamped press of 1830s; You’ll find out if your blog has too much news when a judge fines you.

Well I for one couldn’t risk that. I am not prepared to risk my or my family’s financial future in this way. Because if I don’t sign up and I am successfully sued, a Judge would award exemplary damages against me. As Archbishop Cranmer tweeted…

Basically, if you say something somebody doesn’t like, they’ll report you. And then you get to pay their costs even if they lose.

This is madness. All that will do is encourage people with a grudge to make a complaint in the full knowledge that they will never be held responsible for what they are doing. Clearly there is still time for this hastily written Royal Charter to be amended, but as it stands I certainly wouldn’t sign up to be regulated and would seriously have to either shut own the blog or make it so anodyne as to make it not worth reading. Or I could go and blog for the Telegraph or another MSM outlet. But why should I have to?

What a depressing thought. Hacked Off have a lot to answer for, for it is they who have driven this ridiculous agenda. A group of jumped up, rich celebrities who pretend to be fighting the cause of Milly Dowler, the McCanns and Christopher Jefferies, but in reality are only concerned with covering their own backs and doing their best to ensure that tabloid newspapers can never again put them on the front pages.

Word on the street is that the major newspaper groups are furious at not even having been consulted before the three party leaders came up with their grubby little deal. It may be that they all reject it and the government has to start again from scratch, but I am not at all sure that will be the outcome.

Very few of the voting public care about this issue. Very few would even consider changing their vote over it. I might well be the exception.

Am I bovvered?



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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Gets a Scoop From Owen Paterson

Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary addresses the horse meat scandal and tells Iain it could contain products "injurious to human health"

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Mark Wallace

18 Mar 2013 at 14:33

Whatever your view on #Leveson, politicians all trying to claim credit is about as productive as urinating into a Dyson hand dryer.

Mark Wallace, 18 Mar 2013



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Iain interviews Jeremy Paxman

About Litter, Trump and Corbyn

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Confused of Tunbridge Wells

18 Mar 2013 at 12:05

Sophy Ridge reports that a deal on press regulation was struck in the early hours of the morning. Present, she says, were Ed Miliband. Oliver Letwin, and four members of Hack Off. If that is true, just watch it unravel this afternoon. Tory MPs don’t trust Oliver Letwin’s backbone one iota. Nice guy, and all that, bit not someone to go into the jungle with. The deal that has been agreed remains unclear but it seems that there is some sort of statutory underpinning to it. David Cameron is saying that the Labour Party has moved some distance from its original position. That may be, but so has he. It’s no good saying it’s just a tad of statutory underpinning. It either is or it isn’t. Just has you can’t be a tad pregnant, you either have statutory underpinning or you don’t.

I don’t mind admitting I am finding it hard to get my head round this. Why? Because all the commentators and pundits I trust are far too partisan from one perspective or the other. So if I can’t trust the words of the politicians or the commentators, where do I get the facts so I can make up my mind what in reality this deal means?

Confused of Tunbridge Wells.

UPDATE: Tory MP Tracey Crouch has just tweete: "I hate going to bed a loyalist and then wake up a rebel #pressregulation

So it’s clear who she thinks has triumphed.



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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Gets Emotional About Grief

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World Politics

Cyprus: Could There Now be a Run on Spanish, Italian & Greek Banks?

17 Mar 2013 at 21:02

Well if I lived in Spain. Greece or Italy, do you know what I would be doing tomorrow? Trotting off down to my local bank and withdrawing all my savings and then either stuffing it under my mattress, putting it into a German bank, or buying property or gold with it.

Future historians may look back on today and decide it was the day which marked the beginning of the end for the euro, or the European banking system. I could hardly believe my ears when I heard last night that the Cypriots were being forced to levy money from savings accounts by Brussels. Even if you ignore the fact that it is totally unfair on people who have saved up money for their retirements (or other purposes) and they have already paid tax on it, it is surely economically stupid too. The only conclusion will be that savers in other countries will take the hint and launch a stampede on their own banks. Frankly, if they don’t they will be acting irrationally. It might not happen tomorrow or next week, but the next time there is any future crisis with the euro, you can bet your bottom euro it will happen.

Thank God we are not part of it. And that may well turn out to be Gordon Brown’s biggest legacy.



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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Simon Callow

Simon Callow talks about his new book on Charles Dickens.

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My First Week on Iain Dale at Drive

16 Mar 2013 at 18:53

Radio listeners are a very conservative bunch. They are fairly resistant to change. Whenever a programme director makes a change to a schedule he or she knows there will be howls of disapproval. I remember the furore that was caused when Jeni Barnett left LBC after her contract wasn’t renewed a couple of years ago. She had a very loyal band of listeners who were outraged at her removal from the afternoon show. Months later they were still making their feelings felt. There’s one certainty for radio presenters – nothing is forever. We all know that at some point the game will be up and our face will no longer fit. It can happen after a bad set of listening figures (RAJARS), or even a good set. Sometimes, to the outside world, or indeed the inside world, there can seem to be no rhyme nor reason.

Last Monday I took over LBC’s Drivetime show from the legendary James Whale. Yesterday I completed my first week in the chair, so I thought I’d write a bit about what the experience has been like. Taking over from a radio legend was never going to be easy. James has a very loyal fan base, and rightly so. He is a phenomenon – a wonderfully eloquent and forceful broadcaster. He’s been very kind to me since I have been at LBC and no one will ever hear me say a bad word about him. I regard him as a friend and I hope he feels the same way.

During the period between the announcement that James’s contract hadn’t been renewed and me taking over, suffice to say Twitter went wild with people bemoaning the change. I understand that. But I can’t say it was pleasant to read. Apparently I had stabbed James in the back by agreeing to take over the show. Total, utter rubbish.

Name me a presenter who wouldn’t say yes when offered a Drivetime show. If anyone ever did, they frankly didn’t deserve to be on the radio. I loved doing my evening show, and I miss it, but had I said no to Drivetime two things would have happened. I’d have spent the rest of my career wondering what would have happened if I had taken it, and as sure as night follows day, I’d never have been offered it again – or anything else, I imagine.

The thing is, whenever you take over a show, it means someone else has to make way. One day it will happen to me. I won’t like it. but that’s life. Last year, when I took over the Sunday morning show it meant the departure of two friends of mine – Andrew Pierce and Kevin Maguire. I didn’t look forward to making those phone calls, any more than I looked forward to phoning James Whale a fortnight ago. But I made those phone calls because I wanted them to hear that I was their replacement directly from me. There were no hard feelings on the part of any of them, because they all know that this happens in the industry we work in. I hope whoever takes over from me when I eventually get canned will do the same, and I have the same reaction!

So how has the last week been? Well, hugely challenging, hugely enjoyable and very, very different. For one thing, it’s now a four hour show, whereas my previous shows have all been three hours long. Most people think that presenting a radio show must be a piece of cake. After all, what can be so difficult about sitting in front of a microphone for a few hours, listening and talking? I can see why people think that, but if only it were that simple. A Drivetime show is far more pacey and bitty than a leisurely evening show. You have to hit news/travel junctions on time. People expect it. They want their travel at quarter past, not 17 minutes past. There are far more adverts, so you sometimes only have 8 or 9 minutes a quarter, so interviews and phone calls have to be much, much tighter.

All in all, you have to concentrate much more and that makes it incredibly tiring, At least this didn’t come as a total shock, as I have stood in for Nick Ferrari on his breakfast show a few times, and the same disciplines apply. On Monday, when I got home at 9.15pm, I sat down to watch TV but immediately fell asleep and didn’t wake for a couple of hours.

Monday’s show turned out to be rather different from the norm as it was dominated by the Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce sentencing. I love shows with breaking news as the adrenaline really flows. It really tests you as a broadcaster as you’re flying by the seat of your pants. OK, on this, I knew the story inside out, but on other occasions I have had to handle stories about which I knew next to nothing, Emerging from that knowing you did well, is one of the best feelings you can have in broadcasting. Because of the Breaking News we had to delay our broadcast of a 12 minute interview with the new Archbishop of Canterbury, which was a pity, but it still made some headlines the next day, over his comments on bankers’ bonuses. It also made headlines for other reasons, which you can read about HERE! Monday went well, but I knew I hadn’t quite found my voice yet.

Tuesday’s show got off to a dodgy start when I was interviewing Ann Widdecombe in Rome about the Papal Election. She had a very dodgy mobile signal, and it all went downhill from there. The rest of the show was fine, but being me I beat myself up about the first hour, which was definitely not up to scratch. Even though the other three hours were fine, I started to wonder if I was ever going to enjoy this as much as my evening show. All presenters, I suspect, have moments of self doubt, and this was mine. But I soon got over it. I looked back to the hour we did on Dementia Care. Actor Keith Allen came in for the last 15 minutes, ostensibly to talk about his new film VINYL, but he ended up talking incredibly movingly about caring for his father, who suffers from Dementia.

Wednesday was Pope day, and again all our plans went out the window as we reverted to breaking news mode. And I think we did brilliant job, even if i say so myself. I think we made it all very accessible, fun and had some great people commentating on what was going on. Former Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay had been on my evening show a few weeks before and he described himself as an ‘Amateur Pope Watcher’. Well, he turned out to be a revelation. And then somehow we managed to combine the subjects of the election of a new Pope and Minimum Alcohol Pricing in our last hour. Somehow it seemed to work.

So far so good. But it was interesting to note that people were still coming out with the view that my somewhat laid back style of presenting couldn’t possibly work in a Drivetime show and that it was bound to be a disaster, Two words. Eddie Mair. Just because a presenter doesn’t shout at interviewees or callers, or interrupt all the time, doesn’t mean they can’t present a Drivetime show. I certainly agree you have to make it more pacey, but I like to presume I have been asked to do this show because of my style rather than despite it.

On Thursday I felt I was getting used to it all and that everything started to feel much more smooth. We had full switchboards of callers for every hour of the programme, even though we spent an hour on Leveson and press regulation – a subject which usually sends tumbleweed across a phone-in switchboard. The last hour was exactly what I want the 7pm hour to be like. We had former Intelligence Officer Charles Shoebridge and a cousin on President Assad in the studio talking about whether we and the French should arm Syrian rebels. We were flooded with calls and I genuinely believe we did something other stations would struggle to do. In the previous hour we had former Dragon’s Den star James Caan taking calls from small business owners. I reckon it was cracking radio.

Friday came and I was really keen to finish the week on a high note. We really don’t want to make the show all about heavy politics. Human interest stories have to be at the core of any phone-in programme and ours is now different. But this is especially true on a Friday. No one wants heavy politics at 6 or 7 o’clock on a Friday night. In the first two hours we covered the School Places story and HS2, and also had a quick chat with actress Niamh Cusack about the new play she is in, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’. But at 6 we turned to the Eric Joyce story and I made the slightly tongue in cheek proposal that we should all have Alcohol licences, without which we wouldn’t be allowed to purchase alcohol. It went down a storm with the audience.

In the middle of the hour we got David Starkey on to talk about the Black Death pit unearthed by the Crossrail project. I also asked him about the fact that he have always had a problem with alcohol in this country. “Yes,” he said. “We have always been a nation of pissheads”. He’s a radio broadcaster’s dream interviewee.[Listen to the interview HERE] Then at 7 we played bits of politicians trying to speak foreign languages, sparked off by Boris’s heroics speaking French that lunchtime. The reaction was massive with people calling in keen to display their own linguistic prowess. And then at 730 we had half an hour with John Barrowman and his sister Carole, talking about their new book BONE QUILL.

I will admit, on Friday I did something different. When I used to write my Telegraph column, I started off by writing it how I thought a column ought to be written. But I was never happy with what I had written. Only when I let myself be me was I happy with the resulting copy. And on Friday I let myself be myself. I did my silly little asides and all the rest. I stopped presenting in a style I thought befitted a Drivetime presenter. In short, I feel I found my voice.

As I said above, change is never easy, especially for a radio audience. Callers will always be at the heart of what we do at Drivetime. We are a phone-in station, after all. But we also want to reflect the priorities of Londoners. We’ve introduced two business and markets slots at 5.30 and 6.30. We’ve introduced regular arts/culture slots. Our 7 o’clock hours will invariably have a studio guest who will take calls from listeners. There will be other innovations too over the coming months.

I know not everyone will like change. Inevitably there will be some who will never be reconciled to it, but I have to say I am heartened by those who have been in touch to say they have enjoyed the first week. Let’s hope the second week goes even better.

And if you haven’t managed to listen this week, give us a try next week!



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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Jack Straw

Jack Straw talks about his newly published memoirs, LAST MAN STANDING

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Dogging in Tunbridge Wells

16 Mar 2013 at 17:14

How to spend a Saturday afternoon dogging in Tunbridge Wells... on Twitpic

This is how I spent Saturday afternoon. Me, Bubba, and some much needed zzzzzzs.



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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Talks to John Barrowman

John Barrowman talks to Iain's callers about gay equality, bullying and homosexual rights in other countries.

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