UK Politics

The Implications of Eastleigh - Crunchtime for Cameron and Clegg as Miliband Escapes Scrutiny

27 Feb 2013 at 10:23

I can’t remember a by-election which was so hard fought and was more difficult to call than this one, apart, possibly from Crewe & Nantwich. However, in that one there was no national overhang on a particular party, and there was a definite feeling of Tory momentum. There isn’t in Eastleigh, despite the constituency being flooded with Tory activists and MPs. With the background of the Chris Huhne/Vicky Pryce court case and the media scrum over Lord Rennard, and only a 4,000 majority to overcome. the Tories should be walking this by-election. But they’re not. Question marks over the candidate and the rise of UKIP have both influenced a stalling of the Tory campaign, with the latter proving particularly significant. It would be ironic indeed if UKIP were to be largely responsible for the election of a europhile Liberal Democrat. If that happens, the consequences for David Cameron could be seismic. The media would interpret it as further proof that Cameron can’t win an overall majority in 2015. What will be the reaction of Tory backbenchers and the wider Tory Party? They will be like a dog with a Peter Bone…

For the Liberal Democrats the result is no less important. If they win they will be encouraged to think they can avoid the wipeout most of thing they will suffer in 2015. It will indeed have been a triumph to win in these circumstances, although they would have UKIP to thank, rather than their own very mediocre candidate. But they have fought a good ground war and may yet reap the reward. If they don’t win, the vultures could well start circling around Nick Clegg. Party activists are already horrified by his handling of the Rennard affair. A loss in Eastleigh could provoke open calls for Clegg to go – and not just from Lembit Opik.

Labour has escaped the spotlight in the by-election, which is very odd. They used to have a solid vote in Eastleigh and the demographics indicate that they could have done a lot better here. When John O’Farrell was selected, I wondered if it had been a masterstroke, but in reality he has been a bit of a disaster. Playing the fool does not win votes. The LibDems have squeezed the Labour vote since 1992 to a point where it is only 10%, and it is unlikely they will improve on that tomorrow. Labour need to do much better to break through in the south of England to win in 2015. They will never win a seat like this, but their vote ought to be going up by quite a lot. Miliband will probably escape much scrutiny whatever happens on Thursday, but unfairly.

UKIP will be kicking themselves. John Rentoul thinks they will come second, which is a very brave prediction. If they do, they will wonder what if. What would have happened if Nigel Farage had stood himself? He might as well have done as he seems to be permanently in the constituency. It seems certain they will poll well over 20%, which almost certainly will cost the Tories a much needed win.

So far as I can see, very few people have made a prediction about the result tomorrow, so let me break ranks and call it for the LibDems on the basis that UKIP’s performance has made a Tory victory all the more difficult. A portent of things to come, maybe, with massive possible consequences for David Cameron’s leadership of the Conservative Party.

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LBC at 40: Iain talks to Brian Hayes

LBC veteran Brian Hayes talks to Iain about his time at the station.

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Dogs

Grooming a Schnauzer

26 Feb 2013 at 22:30

Every six weeks or so our Miniature Schnauzer, Bubba, has to go to a dog groomer in Heathfield to have his hair cut. It’s a bit of a trauma for the poor little lad. For one thing he always throws up on the journey, although never on the return He’s otherwise very well behaved, but he doesn’t like travelling very much. I don’t know what lotions they put on him while they are grooming him, but whatever it is acts as canine viagra to Dude, our Jack Russell. He usually spends the rest of the day trying to shag Bubba senseless. It’s quite comical to watch, as Bubba isn’t having any of it. He clearly takes after his father…

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Iain talks to Julie in Basildon about bad parenting

An emotional call.

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Radio

A Good News Story About Care Homes

26 Feb 2013 at 22:16

We talked about care homes on my programme tonight, Figures from the Alzheimers Society show that 80% of people in care homes are suffering from dementia. That really is a quite incredible statistic. Many people are scared of going into a care home and in some ways you can understand why. We are fed a diet of stories in our newspapers about lack of care, lack of cleanliness, bullying and total neglect. Never do we hear of all those who actually have good experiences of care homes. Well we put that right tonight on the show and we have loads of calls from people whose parents or grandparents had had excellent experiences. There are some very good care homes out there and Carers UK have some excellent advice on how to tell the good from the bad.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale looks at TWIGHLIGHT & Teenage Obsessions

Are teenage obsessions healthy? Iain Dale interviews his sister Tracey and 13 year old Philly and talks to teenagers waiting for the Premiere of Twighlight who were camping out in Leicester Square.

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UK Politics

Assuming Guilt

25 Feb 2013 at 13:12

We live in a society where we automatically assume guilt. Yes, we hear the caveat “innocent until proven guilty”, but how many of us really believe it? We all assume that Cardinal Keith O’Brien is guilty of acting inappropriately with four young men because our overall impression is that they’re all at it in the Catholic Church. Most people no doubt take it for granted that despite his denials Chris Rennard is guilty as charged. There’s more than one woman so it must be true. But the fact is that in both cases, we don’t actually know. But all the talking heads speak with a certainty which is misplaced. Rennard’s denials are repeated by media commentators in a tone of voice which implies “well he would say that, wouldn’t he”.

It may well be that both men are guilty as charged, but don’t they both deserve a fair hearing? Believe me, the nastier part of me hopes that O’Brien gets all that’s coming to him after his terrible comments about homosexuality, and latterly gay marriage. That’s my heart speaking. But my head tells me things may not be as simple as they seem. In the Rennard case, because I know him, and because I like him, my heart wants him to be innocent of the charges laid against him. My head says the facts, as they have been presented to us, look pretty damning.

I think back to the Cash for Peerages scandal a few years ago. That was another case where many of us assumed that there was no smoke without fire and that Lord Levy, Ruth (can’t remember her surname) and various others must be guilty. We assumed guilt without knowing the facts. The trouble was that the facts, in the end, didn’t stack up and no charges were laid. But even so, many still believed those who weren’t charged to be guilty. Nothing will dissuade them that there was an establishment stitch-up.

So I am not going to assume Cardinal O’Brien is guilty, any more than I automatically assume Lord Rennard actually did what he is alleged to have done. So if I tweet anything that indicates the opposite, feel free to call me a hypocrite. Let’s see what the facts tell us.

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My Tribute to Gordon Aikman

Gordon Aikman was the husband of a good friend of mine, Joe Pike. He died from MND. This is my tribute to him.

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UK Politics

Clegg Statement Just Makes Things Worse

24 Feb 2013 at 19:58

Nick Clegg has just made things a whole lot worse for himself and his party. It’s all very well being indignant, but it’s quite difficult when you haven’t actually got much to be indignant about. Fraser Nelson rightly questions why on earth he has brought Danny Alexander into the whole farrago.

Clegg needed only have said that Rennard was formally confronted, and denied the allegations (as he does now). This is an odd form of crisis management. And it gives the Rennard imbroglio the air of a fast-spreading scandal. There’s nothing that Fleet St likes more.

And Sir Christopher Meyer makes perhaps the most important point of all.

Indeed.

Nick Clegg’s full statement is on LibDem Voice

UPDATE: Lembit Opik has just been on Sky News, no doubt to a collective groan from the LibDem fraternity. He as putting on his serious face and trying to be statesmanlike. He did in fact make a very valid point, which I would challenge any LibDem reading this to answer.

I don’t want to hear all the emotion from Clegg, I don’t want to hear how angry he is. Why did he say at the beginning of the week that he knew nothing about it? If he did know all about it, why were we told that he didn’t?

UPDATE 2: Two tweets from Another Angry Woman…

UPDATE 3: And in this continuing car crash, Danny Alexander add his twopennyworth and muddies these murky waters even further.

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Iain interviews Fern Britton

Fern Britton talks about mental illness and excessive homework

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UK Politics

Is It Time For Another Nick Clegg 'I'm Sorry' Video?

24 Feb 2013 at 17:54

The last thing any political party wants in the week before an election are the weekend papers to be full of headlines about a scandal. It’s bad enough for the LibDems that the Vicky Pryce/Chris Huhne trial recommences in the morning, but to have headlines about how they have seemingly mismanaged allegations of sexual impropriety is the ultimate nightmare for LibDem strategists. The only consolation is that if the LibDems lose in Eastleigh on Thursday, at least they have a viable explanation.

Let me start by making a declaration of interest: I count Chris Rennard as a friend, so forgive me if I don’t want to discuss the detail of the allegations against him in this blogpost.

When I heard that LibDems were saying that Nick Clegg had known nothing about these allegations, it didn’t surprise me. After all, no one in the LibDems admitted to knowing anything about Charles Kennedy’s drinking. They still deny to this day that anyone in the Liberal leadership knew about the rumours of Cyril Smith’s predilection for little boys, yet it was common gossip at the time, as a book I am publishing later in the year will verify. Ignorance is the defence of the deluded. Bearing in mind that three of Nick Clegg’s senior staffers, Jonny Oates, Alison Suttie and Matthew Hannay knew of the detail of these allegations, are we seriously supposed to believe that none of them saw fit to tell Clegg? Oates is Chief of Staff. Alison Suttie was his deputy and Matthew Hannay, a key and trusted member of his staff and they all knew about the allegations. If none of them told their boss they are not doing their jobs properly,

This has been a classic case of terrible crisis management. The worst thing you can do in a crisis is react like this. Clegg is about to admit that he did in fact know something, although we don’t yet know what. Yet Vince Cable and Jeremy Browne have gone on TV this morning saying they knew nothing and nor did their leader.

I’ve been around political parties long enough to know how political gossip works. And let’s not kid ourselves these issues are confined to the Liberal Democrats. There are sexual predators in positions of power in all political parties. But from a voter’s point of view, this is the latest in a line of scandals to affect the LibDems which may led people to think that they are disproportionately affected by this kind of thing.

Nick Clegg said he was very disappointed in Chris Huhne. Tonight, a lot of people may well feel disappointed in Nick Clegg.

Call Clegg with Nick Ferrari this week should be interesting!

Can we expect another version of the I’m Sorry video?

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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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Radio

Tom Swarbrick's 'The News That Nearly Was'

24 Feb 2013 at 16:20

I work with some brilliant young people, both at Biteback and LBC. Two of the brightest and most talented at LBC are my Sunday show producer Carl McQueen and reporter Tom Swarbrick. Tom’s about to be assigned to Nick Ferrari’s Breakfast Show, but over the last six months he has produced some brilliantly funny packages for my Sunday show. Our remit on Sundays is to get the big name interviews (today we had Sir David Attenborough and Ofsted’s Sir Michael Wilshaw), reflect the news agenda, but also to have a bit of fun. I like to think the Sunday show has a little of the flavour of the old 5 Live Sunday Service, which I had the honour of occasionally co-presenting alongside Fi Glover and Charlie Whelan when Andrew Pierce was away.

Anyway, today Carl asked Tom Swarbrick to put together an amusing package for our 11.45 slot, and boy did he deliver. He called it “The News That Nearly Was” and it certainly doffs his cap to Chris Morris’s “The Day Today”. It is only 3mins 40 secs long, but prepare to have a smile – he also helps Michael Fabricant to answer his own question: why is a b*** job not called a suck job? Heavy stuff. Listen HERE.

I reckon we should see if he can do this every week, don’t you?

And if that doesn’t satisfy your thirst for more Swarbers (as he is known) here he is on US presidential inauguration oratory

Oh, and we also had Sir David Attenborough on the show today. Click HERE too listen. Forgive the idiotic opening question…

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Iain Hosts a Discussion on Suicide After Clarke Carlisle Tries to Take His Own Life

An emotional discussion

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UK Politics

The Loss of AAA is a Mild National Humiliation - Now Let's Get Serious About Generating Growth & Cutting Spending

23 Feb 2013 at 17:06

There’s been a lot of hypocritical comment since it was announced Britain’s credit rating had been downgraded from AAA to AA1. With a few exceptions people on the right are making out there’s nothing to see and people should move along and these credit ratings Johnnies don’t really know what they’re talking about, and people on the left are rejoicing furiously at the Chancellor’s discomfort. Both attitudes are pretty unedifying.

To any Tories who can’t see what the issue is, just imagine if this had happened if Labour were in power. Just imagine what George Osborne would now be saying. That in itself ought to give some people pause for thought. But not a bit of it. They rest on the laurel that the markets had seen this coming and had already discounted it. In theory that’s a fair point, but it avoids the political embarrassment that it brings to a Chancellor whose whole economic strategy was built on our AAA status being maintained. Interestingly when I interviewed Ed Balls a few weeks ago he didn’t seem at all bothered by the prospect of our status being diminished. Indeed today he told Today…

I have always said… that you should not set your policy by the credit ratings agencies. They have got things wrong in the past.

David Blanchflower took a similar view when I interviewed him recently. I rather disagree with them. I regard it as a slight national humiliation. I console myself that it happened to the French a year ago. Why do I think this? Well it’s quite simple. In1967 when the Pound was devalued, our credit status remained AAA. During the strikes of the 1970s and the Winter of discontent it remained unchanged. After Black Wednesday in 1992, no one even speculated about our credit rating, and even in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 banking crisis there was no move. However, having said that, only Germany and Canada, of the major economies, now have a AAA rating, so I suppose that needs to be born in mind.

Economically it may not have much effect, but if it further weakens the value of the pound, sucks in imports and inflation, that would be a very serious matter indeed.

Having said all that, it is quite clear that the real reason for the downgrade is that our structural debt is not being cut. Indeed, it is rising. It’s all very well for George Osborne to trot out the old chestnut that the deficit has been cut by 25%, but he’s been saying that for at least a year. I would have expected that cut to have reached 40% by now. The only way the structural deficit will be cut is when we have made far more serious inroads into the PSBR. What we need now is a serious attempt to rein in government spending and an even more serious attempt to inject some growth into the economy. Our national spending now tops £700 billion. I’m afraid to say, and this will be unpalatable to anyone left of me, that government spending needs to be reduced not by the odd billion, but by £100 billion or more. We simply cannot afford to maintain expenditure at current levels if the structural deficit is to be attacked properly.

In terms of going for growth, let’s not make the same kind of mistakes that Tony Barber made in the early 1970s and fuel an inflationary boom. Tax cuts can certainly inject growth into the economy and may generate higher tax revenues, but what we need is for people to spend money on goods and services made in the UK. the last things we need is to suck in a load of white goods imports and cars. Apart from benefiting retailers, how would that help the rest of the economy?

Most commentators have just commented on the headline of the AAA cut. Very few seem to have actually read what Moody’s actually said. It’s worth doing so HERE. Their message is clear and it is one which is both sensible and direct. Redouble efforts to deal with your debt and concentrate on creating the economic conditions for renewed growth. It will take time, much more time, to recover than in previous recessions and people need to be prepared for that.

Finally, let’s turn to how this affects George Osborne. He’s appeared on the broadcast media today giving out the message of ‘steady as she goes’ and that this doesn’t affect the Government’s economic strategy, and indeed, it reinforces it. That’s all fine and dandy but surely not even George Osborne’s biggest fan can deny that this has damaged him politically. This is what the 2010 Conservative manifesto said…

We will safeguard britain’s credit rating with a credible plan to eliminate the bulk of the structural deficit over a Parliament.”

Others have provided examples of many occasions when the Chancellor has emphasised the importance of retaining our AAA status so I won’t repeat them all here, It simply treats us all as idiots to pretend that the politics of the economy haven’t now changed. They have, and I suspect the budget George Osborne delivers next month may well be rather different to the Draft Budget currently sitting in the Chancellor’s In Tray. He needs to achieve three things in the next budget…

1. To retain the confidence of the international markets, sustain the value of the Pound and keep interest rates low
2. Make proper inroads into both the budget deficit and structural debt
3. Announce new measures to achieve quick, but lasting and non-inflationary economic growth

The big question is, can this be done in time for people to notice any difference by May 2015, the date of the next election? I can’t be alone in habouring major doubts.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Lord Ashcroft

Michael Ashcroft talks about his new book HEROES OF THE SKIES

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On My LBC 97.3 Sunday Show Tomorrow From 10am...

23 Feb 2013 at 15:14

We have a corker of show tomorrow (producer Carl McQueen is very proud of himself), so I thought I’d give you the rundown…

10-11am Interview and your calls to HM Chief Inspector of Schools Sir Michael Wilshaw.
11-1130am Interview with Sir David Attenborough
1130-12 Olly Mann looks ahead to the next 7 days & names his Communicator of the Week
1145 Tom Swarbrick on political bandwagons
12-1230 Sunday debate: How important is Britain’s burgeoning relationship with India? Guests: Lord Bilamoria, Pavani Reddy, Rajesh Agrawal & Mary Honeyball MEP
12.30 Tony Russell talks about his new book ‘Commons People’
1245-1 Secret Lives with Mary Honeyball MEP

  • You can find LBC on DAB in much of the country, or listen on Sky TV Channel 0112, Virgin Media 973, via the LBC iPhone or iPad app or online at LBC.co.uk

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LBC 97.3: Iain talks to GQ editor Dylan Jones

Dylan Jones talks about his new book about the 1980s and what it's like editing GQ

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Medway Conservative councillor Rupert Turpin

23 Feb 2013 at 11:35

There are two things I don’t like about you, both of your faces.

Medway Conservative councillor Rupert Turpin, to his Labour opponent, 22 Feb 2013

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Iain Dale interviews LBC legend Brian Hayes

On LBC's 40th birthday

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