Twenty Four Hours

7 Mar 2013 at 18:48

This is my very odd life at the moment. Today has been the oddest for a long time. It’s panned out like this…

1am Arrive at Crowne Plaza, Chipping Norton, which turns out not to be in Chipping Norton. Hence it took an hour to find.
8am File my Eastern Daily Press column
930am Substitute for Vince Cable delivering the keynote speech at the Independent Publishers Guild conference in Chipping Norton
12pm Collect Ebay purchase of a Parliament picture signed by Major’s cabinet from Henley on Thames
2pm Record piece for tonight’s Newsnight on Bonnie Tyler’s Eurovision song
4pm Record this week’s Guardian Media Podcast with John Plunkett
5pm Record promos for my new LBC Drivetime programme
7pm Present my last LBC evening show
10pm Drive home to Tunbridge Wells

It’s a funny life, but I love it :)


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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Brenda about Dementia

Iain takes a very moving call from Brenda in Chelmsford about how she coped with her husband's dementia.

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The Threats and Opportunities Facing Independent Publishers

7 Mar 2013 at 15:59

This morning I gave the keynote speech to 300 independent publishers at the annual conference of the Independent Publishers Guild, at a hotel near Chipping Norton. I was a late substitute for Vince Cable. It turned out to be quite an event. I wouldn’t normally publish the entire text of a speech on here, but after the reaction of people there, I thought it would be useful to do so. Afterwards people collared an kept thanking me for having the courage to say what had to be said. They were referring to the passages on W H Smith and Amazon. If you don’t want to wade through the whole thing, click HERE for a summary of what the book industry media are reporting. I suspect I have become public enemy one at W H Smith, but read on, and you will discover why…

Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe that originally Vince Cable was due to speak to you in this slot. I apologise profusely that you’ve got me. I believe this conference is taking place in David Cameron’s constituency; indeed his home is just up the road. I don’t know if he has declared the area a Liberal Democrat Free Zone or not, but I will try to emulate Mr Cable’s customary cheery personality and joie de vivre. Or not, as the case may be. I understand he has a subsequent engagement and is spending the day undermining the Prime Minister

Back in 1997 I did something mad. I took my first steps into the book trade. My partner and I opened up a specialist political book store in the heart of Westminster called Politico’s. It became a political haven and soon established itself as a meeting and event space, visited by Cabinet ministers and casual book buyers alike.

This was a time when the publishing industry and bookselling were flying high. The days when ex cabinet ministers were getting 6 figure advances for their memoirs. I enjoyed my time as a bookseller and it taught me a lot, but in 2004, after 7 years, a massive rent hike forced us to close shop and go online. Two years later I sold the online shop to Harriman House, only to buy it back last year but I’ll talk about that later.

Then I attempted to become a Conservative MP which I will readily admit was not my greatest triumph! Thankfully my ventures into blogging, broadcasting and business have been somewhat more successful. But my passion for books led me to return to the industry in 2009, when I set up my own publishing house Biteback Publishing specialising in political and current affairs titles.

Now that I’ve been running Biteback for 4 years I have re-discovered just what a bonkers industry publishing really is – and how much it has changed in the last decade.
Which other industry discounts its bestsellers rather than books that don’t sell? To coin a phrase, it’s the economics of the madhouse. Don’t even get me started on sale or return! From its structures to its pricing policy, the publishing market is an utterly unique industry. And you know, frankly, in some ways we only have ourselves to blame for the fact that the leading booksellers seem to have us over a barrel. Well, let me qualify that. It’s actually the big publishing conglomerates who are to blame for the parlous state some smaller publishers find themselves in.

It is the likes of Penguin, HarperCollins, Macmillan and the others who have introduced discounting policies which have led to bestsellers being sold at a loss. What kind of market is it where a small independent bookseller goes down to Sainsbury’s and loads up his shopping cart because he can buy the books more cheaply from Sainsbury’s than he can from the publisher? What kind of market is it where the two main wholesales are generally given lower discounts than Amazon?

It means that smaller bookshops can’t afford to sell bestsellers. OK, you might say that it means they can have a much wider range of books for sale and they can build their own local niches. But new titles and bestsellers ought to be making up a large part of a small bookshop’s turnover. No wonder they are going out of business at the rate of several every week.

Publishing is no different to any other industry – it is having to adapt to a changing world.

Just 5 years ago no one had ever heard of a Kindle never mind owned one. Now for every 100 physical books Amazon sell, they sell 114 e-books. Waterstones sales are on the decline and all the other chains have disappeard. Amazon’s sales have grown exponentially. For too long Waterstones failed to grasp what was happening and they failed to adapt to the online revolution. Instead of attempting to understand this, it simply charged huge prices to publishers to out their books its window or on its tables, and filled the shop with stationary.

Since its takeover in 2011 by Alexander Mamut it is beginning to correct the failings of the past. James Daunt has come in, and has made some radical changes. Scrapping the 3 for 2 offers, incorporating more cafes, introducing click and collect, and most controversially changing its buying policy to reduce returns. To say I’m not a fan of the new buying policy would be an understatement, but in some ways I understand it. Instead of ordering 800 copies of a new title, they now order 100 or 200 or fewer. Whereas a few years ago they would place the order months before publication, which helped us decide print runs, now the order is sometimes not placed until AFTER publication. Fewer risks are being taken, and by their own admission they have become reactive rather than proactive.

I could give you countless examples of why I’m not a fan, but I’ll give you just one. I published last year a book called Muckraker which was a biography of the first tabloid journalist WT Stead. That book got glowing lead reviews in nearly every single national newspaper and would later go on to win Political Biography of the Year at the Political Book Awards, yet Waterstones agreed to take on only 49 copies. It had sold several hundred copies on Amazon before it had even reached the shelves of Waterstones!
Overnight, some publishers’ turnover with Waterstone’s was cut by one third, without any warning at all. The one positive long term effect of this will be to cut returns and that has to be a good thing. In 2011 we had £15,000 of returns from Waterstone’s. Last year we had £900.

I remember ten years ago I created astonishment in the book trade when I proposed the abolition of Sale or Return. Well, now I reckon I was 10 years ahead of my time. The day is coming when we will the end of it. Booksellers have the freedom to their knowledge and expertise to decide which books they really think they can sell. I’d happily forego a bit more margin if books were sold on a firm sale basis. Yes, it would cut print runs initially, and might take some time to bed down, but in the long run we’re deluding ourselves if we think Sale or Return is a good thing or can survive indefinitely. But no one small publisher will ever break out and impose firm sale by themselves. It’s something which the industry needs to agree on, ideally in cooperation with booksellers.

Waterstones simply has to survive. It is now the only national high street bookseller or bookselling chain. It would be a tragedy if it went the same way as Borders, HMV and the others. But as publishers we’d be mad if we didn’t plan for a post Waterstone’s environment. We need to think of far more innovative ways to get our books to market and market them directly to book buyers. Yes, I am afraid that all publishers are going to have to become booksellers.

Waterstones have to work out a way of avoiding just becoming a shop front for Amazon. The number of people who go into Waterstones, write down the ISBN and then go home and buy the book from Amazon is growing all the time. I have no idea what can be done about it, but that is the challenge facing all bricks and mortar booksellers.
The relationship between publishers and booksellers should be a harmonious one; after all we both rely on each other to survive. But increasingly for many years it has become a battle to even get our books into the stores, especially for independent publishers. Then when you do get books in, you face the prospect of massive returns. Of all the booksellers the worst culprit has to be WH Smith, who seem to be very willing to take publishers money and sell no books in return.

Whenever I have done business with W H Smith they demand a large ”marketing fee” – some might call it the book trade industry equivalent of protection money – to place our books in their stores. A few months later we get between 75% and 90% of our books returned in boxes that have never been opened! WH Smith has become nothing more than an exorbitantly priced warehouse for books, or as I have heard many people refer to them as “a lending library”.

Its business practices are wrong and it is no friend of small independent publishers. What serious, ethical company allows big publishers to buy a place on their bestselling books chart? And that’s what they do. And by doing it they deliberately mislead their customers. The customers assume it really is chart of their bestselling books, when it is actually nothing of the sort. Many will say I am mad to break the conspiracy of silence on these business practices, which have gone on for years. We all know they are going on. Quite frankly I have reached a point where I am totally ambivalent about doing business with WH Smith ever again. After hearing this, they probably think the same about doing business with me, but quite frankly, my dears, I don’t give a damn.

Now to the elephant in the room, Amazon. They have transformed the booktrade more than any other, sometimes for the good and sometimes not. Their colossal size means they have a monopoly over internet bookselling. You can’t blame them. They are brilliant at what they do. They sell books cheaper than anyone else and are totally reliable. You order a book from them and you KNOW it will arrive when they say it is going to. Things very rarely go wrong.

And they do give smaller publishers like us a choice. Never let it be said they don’t. And the choice is sell your books to us at 60% discount, or we won’t take any of them at all. They are able to do it because we, individually, aren’t strong enough to say no, and because the competition rules allow them to. I wouldn’t mind if they actually paid any tax on the profits they make at our expense. But that’s another story.

To tackle the Behemoth that is Amazon the big publishers have started to merge. The Random House/Penguin merger happened for many reasons, but one of the main was to have some clout against Amazon, and rumour has it Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins will go the same way.

So the question we are left with is this: Is Amazon unassailable? The answer is absolutely not.

We are currently experiencing a kickback in this country. Not just on books, but on all retail practices. When it was revealed that Starbucks were avoiding taxation, they experienced retaliation from their customers who shopped elsewhere, they were forced to cave in and pay some tax. This proved that even the biggest global conglomerates, will never be as powerful as the buying public. From the horsemeat scandal which rocked the supermarkets, to the tax fiasco of Starbucks and Amazon, people are starting to question their own buying habits, and ask themselves who they can really trust. Independent bookshops before Christmas experienced a real upturn in trade from people who had previously been Amazon customers. The challenge now is to keep them.

I believe that we independent publishers operate by good business practice and this is our chance for us to say this is who we are. This is what we do. This is why you should buy from us. Let’s not kid ourselves, we can’t compete on price with Amazon and we should be honest about that. But we need to make it clear to our customers what they get from shopping with an independent publisher.

There are many reasons why Amazon has failed to become a publisher itself, despite many low profile attempts. Firstly, bookshops are unwilling to stock books published by a company which has systematically tried to destroy them. Secondly, they are crap at presentation. If you want to browse for books, you very rarely go to Amazon. Thirdly, despite their huge size they do not understand the publishing industry – we are not simply printers.

However we are living in an age where people are increasingly choosing to self-publish, where agents themselves are turning into publishers. If we independent publishers are going to survive against this onslaught of challenges we need to show what we can provide. What value we add to the publishing experience. In many ways we are better equipped than the big publishers to deal with the changing market, and showing both authors and customers what we offer. Small independent publishers don’t have numerous committees and layers of management, we can make decisions fast. Most importantly with a small team you can adapt quickly to the changing market.

Our size means we offer authors a personal yet professional service. Unlike big publishers our authors can get to know our staff, they are able to communicate with everyone from the MD to the publicity assistant. I’ve lost count of the bigger name authors we now attract in part because they are fed up with being taken for granted by the bigger publishers. But there’s another reason smaller, independent publishers are attracting authors with bigger names. It’s because the big publishers now rarely publish books they think will sell fewer than 10,000 copies. This is a real opportunity for all of us in this room. As a consequence, agents are having to accept smaller advances and more realistic high discount terms.

Yes, even literary agents, who generally seem to love living in the last century, even literary agents are having to recognise that the terms of trade have changed. Smaller publishers are able to play hardball with agents, in a way we never could before. And boy does it feel good. Publishing really has to be a partnership between agent and author, with the author now taking more of the risk by accepting that the days of big advances have gone.

This personal experience should also extend to our customers. Although the book industry itself is huge and diverse, we independent publishers generally have quite specific areas of interest. This means that we are able to build communities focussing around that particular subject. By providing customers with the content and information they want you build a stronger more loyal relationship with them.

To use a personal example, as I mentioned I bought back my old online store last year. It aims to collect the widest selection of political titles all into one easily navigated site – not just our own but from other publishers too. We fulfil our own books, Gardners do the rest.

It has created a community of political book lovers who interact with the site and tell us what books they would like to see on there. Key for us as a publisher it has brought our target audience to us and we are able to substantially discount our own books and still make a decent profit by becoming booksellers in our own right. This is just one way that I have attempted to exploit the niche and build better relationships with our customers. In today’s fast paced market you can’t simply sit back and wait for customers, you need to go out there and find them yourselves.

Also as we are more specialist than the Big Four we are very familiar with our audience, it means we can better market a book directly at that target audience. Moreover for the author they can also be directly involved with marketing ideas and plans because of the personal nature. Meaning they learn how to create promotional opportunities themselves. We instruct all of our authors on how to market their books themselves on social media. So much so that Edwina Currie, whose second volume of diaries we published, started trolling her enemies on her first day on Twitter.

Our small team at Biteback have also managed to build up personal relationships with all the leading national newspaper literary editors. Not only does this ensure we can punch above our weight when it comes to coverage of a book, it has allowed us to become a serious player when it comes to serialising a book.

Independent publishers should not be afraid to try different things. When even traditional dinosaur-like literary agents are changing and beginning to diversify, we should also be trying our hand at different things. I suppose if this was a farming conference I’d be calling this diversification. But in truth it is important that we diversify what we do. Let’s offer e-book only publications, or even stage some events. Just last month I put on the Political Book Awards, it had been 6 months in the making and it wasn’t easy. It meant a lot of the staff at Biteback had to do things they had never done before but it was a huge success both in terms of publicity but also financially. Now we are going to embark on staging more events from literary lunches to meet the author events, anyway to get closer to our target audience. So don’t be scared to step outside your comfort zone, some of the best ideas come from thinking outside the box.

Remember there are always different ways to get a book to market, other than the traditional bookstore or Amazon. Big publishers have been hit hardest by the change in Waterstones buying policy because their books are so general they rely on impulse purchases. This is where we independent publishers are able to hold our ground, by discovering new ways to get our material to the customer. The best and most obvious way is via social media. It is fatal mistake for any publisher not to have a website, Facebook page and Twitter account. You need to make yourselves known to your audience, interact with them, and engage with what they want.

There are some wonderful examples of entrepreneurial enterprise in our industry. Look at what Andrew Franklin has achieved at Profile – or Robert Topping with his fantastic Ely bookshop. But for entrepreneurs to succeed, they need access to capital. Biteback is a four years old this year, and it will have taken us four years to make a profit. Publishing is not a fast-buck industry. Some might say it’s often not even a slow buck industry, but there you go. I make no bones about it. If we had borrowed money from the banks whe we started, they would have closed us down by now. But because we had a financial backer, Lord Ashcroft who understood the industry, kew what we wanted to achieve and had confidence in us to do so. I like to think we are repaying his confidence, but what about all those companies and individuals who don’t have kind of backer we do? It’s a major problem that our financial sector, unlike that in Germany or America, only has its sights set on the short term. I know the IPG holds Meet the Investor evenings, bringing the publishing trade together with potential investors. It’s a great initiative which other sectors would do well to copy.

The next few years are going to continue to be tough for us small independent publishers. I don’t believe the doomsday prophets who claim it is the end of independent publishers and the physical book. We need to restate exactly what publishing is all about. It is so much more than simply printing books. So we need to create those communities, we need to try new things, we need to embrace e-books. But most importantly our customers need to be at the heart of everything we do. If we do that, the story of the independent publisher will be one of not only survival but growth.


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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Sandi Toksvig

Sandi Toksvig discusses her new book HEROINES & HARRIDANS

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Anonymous Radio Presenter

6 Mar 2013 at 20:01

Essentially all [Radio presenter] Talent is insecure, paranoid and delusional. If they’re not when they start, the system will ensure they become so. Treat them as you would a confused elderly relative: with kindness and care. After all, you sent them nuts.

Anonymous Radio Presenter, 6 Mar 2013



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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Geoffrey Robertson QC

Geoffrey Robertson talks about his new book on Stephen Ward.

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Me and Diabetes: Becoming an Ambassador for Diabetes UK

6 Mar 2013 at 10:59

Don’t laugh but I have finally made it as a cover boy! Back in January Diabetes UK asked if I would become an Ambassador for them and they asked me to be interviewed for their magazine BALANCE. And this cover is the result! I guess I really ought to be some new pictures done, as this was my official LBC photo, done back in November 2009! I don’t mind admitting, I struggle to control my diabetes and my diet. My weight has now been fairly constant for a few years, but I know I need to lose more. I want to buy a rowing machine, as I hate running, but will I have the self discipline to use if often enough? We’ll soon find out. To find out more about Diabetes UK, click HERE Anyway, here’s the article which appears in the March edition of BALANCE.

Before his nightly show with London station LBC, Iain admits to often grabbing a 10-minute nap but says his tiredness is more due to his hectic lifestyle than the Type 2 diabetes he was diagnosed with five years ago. “When I go to LBC four nights a week after working at my publishing company all day I have to have a lie down,” he confesses. “This morning
I was up at 4.30am to be interviewed on ITV’s Daybreak about the vote on gay marriage, I was on air with LBC until 10pm and didn’t get to bed until 2am. I have Fridays and Saturdays off, but my producer will often ring me at home,” Iain adds, “so it’s rare I switch off from work altogether.”

Following the Commons vote, Iain was delighted that MPs backed the bill to allow everyone, regardless of sexuality, the right to marry in England and Wales. “It’s not about gay marriage, it’s equal marriage,” he says. “That is all gay people are asking for. Huge strides forward have been made on gay rights issues in recent years and this legislation will
be welcomed by thousands. If we believe in stable relationships and equality of opportunity, then I see no reason not to introduce it. To those who are against it, it’s quite simple, don’t marry a homosexual!” Iain didn’t ‘come out’ until 2003, when he became the first Conservative candidate to tell the selection panel he was gay. “I had never made an issue about my sexuality but decided to be upfront about it as I didn’t want to live a lie. I told my parents first as I didn’t want them reading about it in The Telegraph.”

If Iain hadn’t gone into the media he would have liked to have been a politician. After graduating with a degree in German in 1985, he was research assistant to the Conservative MP,
Patrick Thompson. In 2005 he stood in the General Election as Conservative candidate for Norfolk North, but lost to Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb. However, he decided to give up on his political ambitions in 2010, mainly because he ran out of money, he says, but the edge was taken off his disappointment when he landed a dream job of hosting the
evening show at London radio station LBC. ““I always had two ambitions – to be an MP or have my own radio show – so I am happy I achieved at least one. It might sound trite, but I
really think this is what I was put on this earth to do. I normally have the attention span of a flea, but I still really enjoy the work. I was hired because I know a lot about politics but we talk about lots of different things on the show and it can be quite emotional,” Iain explains. “After my mother died last year we ran a show on bereavement and I broke down on air. I was embarrassed at the time, but I think listeners are more able to open up to you, if you can share something of yourself."

Having diabetes has never been an issue for Iain and after having classic symptoms for a couple of years his diagnosis was hardly a shock. “I was always thirsty and having to get up in the night to go to the loo, so when the GP told me I had diabetes I wasn’t at all surprised,” Iain recalls. “She told me it shouldn’t impact too much on my life if I made some lifestyle changes and took all the right medication, so I wasn’t too concerned. Other people were more worried, but one of my friends was diagnosed with MS and another with cancer, so I count myself lucky.”

Although 50-year-old Iain has lost two stone since his diagnosis, he admits there is still plenty of room for improvement. “The worst thing the doctor said is that I should still be able to eat the things I like, as all the things I like are bad for me! I have got better. At one time I was drinking three litres of Fanta a day, but I have switched to mineral water and I love crisps but now I eat the baked variety.”

Iain thinks there are a lot of misconceptions about diabetes. He has written about it on his former blog, Iain Dale’s Diary, which closed in July 2011, and he hopes to create better
understanding of the condition in a proposed new role as ambassador for Diabetes UK. Iain thinks people with diabetes need more positive support from the government. “At the moment the approach is to lecture people into what might happen to them if they don’t follow government advice, but I think it would be better to demonstrate the benefits of following a healthy lifestyle by giving people examples of how people have successfully controlled their diabetes.”

As far as practising what he preaches, and leading a healthy lifestyle goes, Iain tries to incorporate exercise into his daily routine, but is realistic about what he can achieve, given his hectic schedule. “I used to play golf once a week but gave that up about two years ago. My life is so busy I find it hard to make the time, though in the summer I often hop on a ‘Boris’ bike to ride the two miles between my publishing company and the LBC studios.” And – as far as eating food that is off limits goes – his philosophy is simple, “It’s ok to have a little of what you fancy – just don’t eat the whole packet!”

Quick fire…

What three things would you abolish from diabetes life?
A nagging partner, a nagging GP or nurse and blood tests! I have a dreadful sweet tooth and hate being told I can’t have things and they can never find a vein and end up having to put the needle in the back of my hand.

What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with diabetes?
Don’t think you’re going to die and make changes gradually. There can be a tendency for people to be a bit zealous when they are diagnosed, and to try and give everything up all at once. But people have to realise this a long-term condition and they have to change a little at a time.

Has diabetes brought anything positive to your life?
I would say having diabetes have given me more knowledge about what I eat. I now look at the sugar, fat and carbohydrate content of the food I buy and have changed my diet quite a lot. I have lost about two stone since I was diagnosed and try and make healthy choices most of the time then I go and spoil it all by eating a load of chocolate biscuits!

What’s the strangest myth you have heard about diabetes?
I thought it was a joke when someone told me you were entitled to free Viagra on the NHS if you have diabetes, but then I found out it was true! I haven’t had to use it yet, though.

What’s the most and least healthy food in your fridge?
Melon and Leerdammer cheese.



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Video: Iain & Yasmin Alibhai Brown crossexamine Martin Bell

18 Doughty Street: Crosstalk, 2007

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LBC 97.3: End of an Era - Beginning of a New One: I'm Moving to Drivetime

5 Mar 2013 at 15:55

As a radio presenter you always get nervous when contract renewal time comes round, and I am no different. I’ve had very good Rajars (audience figures, for the uninitiated) and feel that both my evening shows and Sunday shows have done well in attracting a bit of a new audience to LBC. But you never know. Radio can be a cruel industry. If your face no longer fits, out you go. So when James Rea, the Managing Editor of LBC opened the meeting by saying: “I think you have taken the evening show as far as you can,” you can imagine that my heart slightly sank. Surely he wasn’t going to fire me, was he?

Well no, he wasn’t. Quite the contrary. He then asked me to be the new presenter of LBC’s Drivetime show – and not only that, he wants the show to be four hours long instead of three. So to cut a long story short, this Thursday will be my last evening show, and next Monday I start presenting Drive from 4-8pm every weeknight. I will continue to present the Sunday morning show for the next three weeks, but that too will then get a new, as yet unannounced, presenter. LBC legend Clive Bull will be presenting the evening show, from 8-10 in future.

I’m thrilled to be given this opportunity and hopefully I can build on what James Whale has achieved in his four years on the show. I’m really sad to see James go as he has been fantastic to me and become a good friend since I joined LBC in September 2010. We have a very different style, but I have learned so much from him. He is one of the iconic broadcasters of the last three decades and I hope we see him back on the radio before too long.

Any change in presenter is always difficult and James has a huge following, so I am well aware that I have big shoes to fill. All I ask is that those who are understandably lamenting James’s departure all over Twitter and elsewhere will have the good grace to give me a fair chance.

I will really miss the evening show, especially doing some of the more emotional subjects which you can’t really do in the Drivetime slot. I’ll also miss the 9pm hours, although I am taking the book club with me.

The new Drivetime show will gradually transform into something a little different. Phone-ins will remain at its core, but we want to introduce more business and culture spots into it, as well as some big name guests who will take calls from listeners. If you have never listened before, do give it a try! I start this Monday at 4pm.

Here’s the press release put out by Global Radio this afternoon…

LBC 97.3 to refresh weekday evening schedule

Global Radio’s LBC 97.3 is today announcing a new look to its weekday evening schedule. From Monday 11th March, political heavyweight Iain Dale moves from the evening show to host the coveted weekday Drivetime programme (Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm), while Clive Bull, one of LBC 97.3’s longest-serving presenters, returns to weekday evenings on the station (Monday to Thursday, 8pm to 10pm).

The announcement comes as the station enjoys its highest ever audience figures, with 1.3 million people* now tuning in across the UK every week.

Iain Dale has replaced James Whale who has left the station.

Iain Dale said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to have been asked to present LBC 97.3’s Drivetime show, after two and a half years with the station. These are big shoes to fill. The new show is going to be a real mix of the big stories and interviews, but the constant thread throughout will be our callers. They’re the ones with the stories, as I know from my evening show. I want the Drivetime show to both lead and reflect London’s agenda and the priorities of Londoners. I can’t wait to get started.”

James Rea, LBC 97.3’s Managing Editor said: “LBC 97.3 has always been home to some of the country’s best broadcasters and I know that Iain and Clive will help drive the station forward in this, our 40th birthday year.”

LBC 97.3 broadcasts in Greater London on 97.3 FM and across the UK on digital and online at



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Iain Dale talks to Mary Beard

Professor Mary Beard talks about the book of her blog ALL IN A DON'S DAY

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UK Politics

Ever Wondered Why In These Times of Austerity...

5 Mar 2013 at 00:08

In case you haven’t visited it before, there is a brilliant new blog by Conservative Agent Andrew Kennedy. He is the agent for my home constituency of Tunbridge Wells. He’s just written a “blogpost”: headlined ‘Ever Wondered Why…’. He writes…

‘In these times of austerity…’

1. Why a young family on a below average wage pay additional taxes so my wealthy in-laws can have a free TV licence, winter fuel allowance and ‘free’ bus travel?
2. Why do my wealthy in-laws have to donate the value of these benefits to their Church because the state doesn’t allow them to return the value of the Exchequer?
3. Why the British state runs a broadcasting company and taxes people to watch it, regardless of whether they do so or not?
4. Why so many hard working families are bringing up children in cramped and unsuitable accommodation whilst down the road a single retired pensioner lives alone in two or three bedroom social housing, with his/her rent being subsidised through the taxes paid by the over-crowded family along the street who cannot afford to move?
5. Why people think taxpayers, many poorer than them, should subsidise their parents care / nursing home bills so they can inherit their property?
6. Why do I pay additional tax to subsidise my brother and sister-in-law’s child benefit, when my brother-in-law earns four times what I do?
7. Why, if we can charge tourists for the food they buy in the shops, can we not charge them for the treatment they receive in our hospitals?
8. Why do we pay stamp duty when we sell a home which has been paid for out of taxed income?
9. Why is the newly introduced benefit cap of £500 pw still higher than the average working-family earns in Chatham ?
10. Why does the government think higher tobacco tax reduces the desire to smoke, but does not think the same applies to income tax’s effect on the desire to work hard.

Quite simply brilliant. Make sure you bookmark his blog.



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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Tony Benn

Iain talks to Tony Benn about his final volume of diaries.

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Jerry Hayes

3 Mar 2013 at 19:33

We really could learn an awful lot about campaigning from the Lib Dems. Alright they play really dirty and are about as trustworthy as a Peter Mandelson mortgage application, but they do know how to make politics fun. That is why they attract so many more young people.

Jerry Hayes, trying to explain falling Tory Party membership, 3 Mar 2013



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Iain interviews Tory Leadership Candidate Andrea Leadsom

At this stage she looked like a contender...

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Random Thoughts

Cardinal Keith O'Brien: Time to Forgive & Let Him Find His Inner Peace

3 Mar 2013 at 18:58

This is the statement just released by Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

In recent days certain allegations which have been made against me have become public. Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them. However, I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal. To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness. To the Catholic Church and people of Scotland, I also apologise. I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.

Who’d have thought? I will be far more Christian in my response to the Cardinal than he has been to the hundreds of thousands of gay people he has offended with his bigoted, homophobic remarks down the years. It is an interesting psychological phenomenon for someone to be so hateful against a group of people which he knew in his heart he belonged to. It was a special form of self-loathing. However, I have a degree of sympathy with his position. He grew up at a time when to admit to be homosexual was shameful. It wasn’t only his church that told him it was a sin, so did society. He wouldn’t have anyone to relate to, to discuss it with. He would have had to deal with it on his own. And occasionally, it would get the better of him. We can all, surely, show some empathy.

However, it still doesn’t explain some of more lurid statements he has made down the years about the so-called wickedness of homosexuality. He didn’t have to support gay marriage, but to describe it a a threat to world peace and liken it to some form of slavery, was perhaps going just a little far. In May 2005 he told members of the Scottish Parliament that homosexuals were “captives of sexual aberrations”, comparing homosexuals to prisoners in Saughton jail. In December 2011 he said

The empirical evidence is clear, same-sex relationships are demonstrably harmful to the medical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of those involved, no compassionate society should ever enact legislation to facilitate or promote such relationships, we have failed those who struggle with same-sex attraction and wider society by our actions.”

By all accounts the Cardinal is actually a very nice man, The Independent reports…

“He’s very kind, very pastoral, a very good priest,” says a London-based Catholic journalist, who recalls how, at the end of a meeting, he insisted on driving her editor to the station to catch her train. According to John Haldane, Professor of philosophy at St Andrews University, his hardline image is sharply at odds with his character: “He is actually a very sociable, jovial man… he says everything with a smile, and should not be mistaken for some dour harbinger of doom.”

No gay man or woman should rejoice in Cardinal O’Brien’s downfall and fall from grace. If we do, we become no better than him. I hope he comes to terms with his sexuality and the events of the past few weeks. It must have taken some courage to admit to his past in this manner and he will detest the public ridicule that will no doubt come his way in certain parts of the Scottish media. As they say in Church circles ‘May inner peace be upon him’.



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