Rant

The LibDem MEP Who Tweeted "Al Qaeda 1 David Cameron 0"

17 Jan 2013 at 20:19

This is a tweet just sent out by Liberal Democrat MP Graham Watson.

What a disgusting thing to do. If you’d like to let him know what you think, tweet him @grahamwatsonmep.

I wonder whether LibDems will have the good grace to tell him how he has brought their party into disrepute.

UPDATE 9.35: RT @grahamwatsonmep I wish to apologise profusely for the insensitive tweet I issued earlier. I have taken it down.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Michael Dobbs

Michael Dobbs discusses his writing career.

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UK Politics

Miliband Whips Cameron at PMQs

16 Jan 2013 at 12:25

Well I hope the Prime Minister is on better form than that when he makes his big European speech on Friday. Ed Miliband whipped his sorry pink ass at PMQs today. He was funny, fluent and seemed in command of the House, which even his biggest supporters would acknowledge has not always been the case. David Cameron didn’t really seem up for the fight and his answers rather proved the point I have been trying to make regarding his speech on Friday. If you’ve got nothing definite to say, it’s probably best to say nothing.

I can so no feasible way David Cameron can gain anything from this speech, and his performance today underlined that. There’s nothing he can say which will appease a fairly large group of Tory backbenchers. And there’s nothing he can say which will persuade certain EU leaders to be more sympathetic to Britain’s position. Today he tried to get Ed Miliband to say what his approach would be. Miliband deftly dodged the bullet. All he needs to do is sit back and watch as yet again the Tory Party tears itself apart over this issue. Watch, and smirk.

Miliband 8
Cameron 4

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Richard Davenport-Hines

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UK Politics

We're to Blame for HMV, Not the Government

16 Jan 2013 at 09:41

A lot has been written about the demise of HMV and yes, it is indeed very sad whenever a well known name like HMV goes into administration. But people need to remember that administration does not necessarily mean bankruptcy. Nipper hasn’t barked his last bark quite yet. It will, however, be very difficult to find a buyer for the business, especially one which would keep the majority of the stores open. It’s one of those occasions where so-called ‘progress’ has led to this situation. I used to spend hundreds of pounds in HMV every year. To be honest I can’t remember the last time I went into an HMV shop. It’s yet another example of Amazon eating up the High Street. As a publisher, I now fear for the future of Waterstone’s (and yes, I’ll keep the comma). It’s undergone a major transformation in its business in the last eighteen months and you have to hope that this will see it through.

It has to be said that Chuka Umunna didn’t have the best of days yesterday. He toured the broadcast studios trying to blame the government for HMV’s woes. The government can indeed be blamed for many things, but HMV’s demise is not one of them. He got skewered by Andrew Neil who asked him when was the last time he had been to HMV. “Christmas,” replied Chuka. “What did you buy?” asked Andrew. “Er, nothing,” said Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary. Quite. Times move on. Just as Vinyl LP manufacturers had to adapt to the CD, the music retail business has to adapt to the internet. It was always going to be difficult for HMV and in a way it’s a surprise it lasted this long. And that’s the challenge for book retailers. We’ve seen the demise of Books etc, Borders and all the other book chains.Only Waterstone’s remains. And long may it remain so. But I wonder how many people will really follow Tim Shipman’s example…

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Iain interviews Germaine Greer

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Ken Clarke

16 Jan 2013 at 09:31

If you realise you’re doomed in Parliament you demand a referendum – that’s what the hangers and floggers used to do.

Ken Clarke, 16 Jan 2013

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Simon Mann

Former mercenary Simon Mann discusses his new book.

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UK Politics

The LibDem Flip-Flop on a European Referendum

15 Jan 2013 at 10:00

The hypocrisy of the LibDems can be truly astonishing. I suppose that is a statement of the bleeding obvious, but on Europe it is simply breathtaking. The way they are talking about David Cameron’s as yet unnannounced plans for a European referendum, you’d think he was announcing a slaughter of the first born. They seem to conveniently forget that until not that long ago, they were arguing in favour of a full In-Out referendum. Now it seems to me that if you were in favour of an In-Out referendum from 2005-2009, you ought to be now. The arguments in favour of one haven’t changed at all. Every LibDem should be challenged on this. Nick Clegg was challenged on this on the Today Programme this morning and wasn’t convincing in his answer. Listen HERE to his response.

Let’s remember his was what the last LibDem manifesto on Europe said…

The European Union has evolved significantly since the last public vote on membership over thirty years ago. Liberal Democrats therefore remain committed to an in/out referendum the next time a British government signs up for a fundamental change in the relationship between the UK and the EU.

Which, strangely enough is now Conservative policy, disavowed by the LibDems.

We all knew the LibDems’ support for a referendum a few years ago was only skin deep. At the time all they wanted was to embarrass the Conservatives and Labour. Now, all they are trying to do is score points off David Cameron. Shameless politics, and another reason why their support is going down the toilet.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale interviews Ed Miliband about Mental Health policy

A 90 minute special on mental health policy, featuring a ten minute interview with Ed Miliband and many moving phone calls

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Radio

Ignorance About Transsexualism Breeds Fear

15 Jan 2013 at 08:54

I was astonished to learn just before my programme went on air last night that The Observer had deleted Julie Burchill’s article (see previous post) from its website. Whatever one thought about it, it didn’t deserve that fate. By doing that The Observer has not only made a fool of itself, it has undermined the concept of freedom of expression. You can argue that they should never have published it in the first place, but all they have done now is give in to the mob. Toby Young has said it all in an excellent blogpost, and he has also republished Burchill’s article with her permission.

Anyway, last night covered this on my LBC show. I tried to move the debate on an instead of having Suzanne Moore or Julie Burchill on I asked what it must be like living as a transsexual in Britain today. To be honest I wondered if we were right to do this, as I was doubtful how many people would phone in. But I don’t like to shy away from tackling difficult and controversial subjects, so off we went. We spoke to Suzie Green first, who told us her story as the parent of a child who knew it had been born in the wrong body. Her daughter has recently taken part in Miss England. I ended the interview (8 minutes after I should have) but telling her that her daughter must go to bed every night thanking God that she was her mother. We then spoke to Dr James Barrett, a consultant surgeon and the country’s leading consultant on gender reassignment. It was then over to the callers and we had several moving calls from transsexuals who told us what they had gone through and what their lives were like. Liz in the North East was 52 and five years ago had had the op. She had clearly led a very traumatic life and was very lonely. Our final caller broke down as she described how she couldn’t talk to anyone and how lonely her life was.

There’s little doubt about it, we don’t understand enough about this issue and that’s why a lot of people are so abusive towards the trans community. Ignorance breeds fear. I had several disgusting emails during the course of the programme which demonstrated that fact only too well.

I doubt whether this subject has ever been covered before on LBC as an hour long phone in topic. I’m glad I did it. I certainly learned something and I hope my listeners did.

You can listen to the hour HERE on a free podcast.

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Media

Suzanne Moore, Julie Burchill, Lynne Featherstone & Transsexuals - Time For Some Perspective

13 Jan 2013 at 17:36

Let me say from the start, that I have never been a fan of Julie Burchill. I started one of her books once but didn’t last long. Puerile rubbish. I’ve always thought her writing to be ordinary in the extreme, and have struggled to understand why she appears to be so popular. The only conclusion I can come to is that she likes to shock. And she’s done it again today with her trenchant defence of her friend Suzanne Moore.

Just to bring you up to date, Suzanne Moore wrote an article in the New Statesman, headlined SEEING RED: THE POWER OF FEMALE ANGER. Well it wasn’t female anger that she provoked, it was transsexual anger. In the article, Suzanne wrote this…

Caitlin Moran’s bestselling How to Be a Woman is a brilliantly funny read because it is so warm and not really very angry towards men. We can all be dudes. But former Sex Pistol John Lydon’s chant , “anger is an energy”, is still my cri de coeur. The cliché is that female anger is always turned inwards rather than outwards into despair. We are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual. We are angry that men do not do enough. We are angry at work where we are underpaid and overlooked. This anger can be neatly channelled and outsourced to make someone a fat profit. Are your hormones okay? Do you need a nice bath? Some sex tips and an internet date? What if, contrary to Sex and the City, new shoes do not fill the hole in your soul? What if you aspire to another model of womanhood than the mute but beautifully groomed Kate Middleton? What if your anguish is not illogical but actually bloody spot on?

Did you spot her offence there? If it hadn’t been pointed out to me, I’m not sure I would have to be honest. For clarity, it was the bit about the Brazilian transsexual. Now I am not wholly familiar with what Brazilian transsexuals look like – I must watch more porn – but I am assuming she means they have a perfect hour glass body figure. But it sent the transgender community into orbit. They were offended. Offended, I say. Some of them were so offended that they deluged Suzanne Moore with threatening tweets. So threatening that they drove her off Twitter. Now I don’t know if you have ever met Suzanne Moore, but she is a woman not easily intimidated. But this vicious hate mob achieved their goal and silenced her purely because they had the temerity to be offended over what most reasonable people would have regarded as a fairly harmless comment. How they imagine it was an incitement to hate transsexuals, Christ alone knows.

Anyway, in with her size nines waded Julie Burchill. This is a woman who really does know how to offend. Here are a few choice excerpts from her provocatively headline (TRANSSEXUALS SHOULD CUT IT OUT) article in today’s Observer

I was incredulous to read that my friend was being monstered on Twitter, to the extent that she had quit it, for supposedly picking on a minority – transsexuals. Though I imagine it to be something akin to being savaged by a dead sheep, as Denis Healey had it of Geoffrey Howe, I nevertheless felt indignant that a woman of such style and substance should be driven from her chosen mode of time-wasting by a bunch of dicks in chicks’ clothing.

To my mind – I have given cool-headed consideration to the matter – a gaggle of transsexuals telling Suzanne Moore how to write looks a lot like how I’d imagine the Black and White Minstrels telling Usain Bolt how to run would look. That rude and ridic.

I must say that my only experience of the trans lobby thus far was hearing about the vile way they have persecuted another of my friends, the veteran women’s rights and anti-domestic violence activist Julie Bindel – picketing events where she is speaking about such minor issues as the rape of children and the trafficking of women just because she refuses to accept that their relationship with their phantom limb is the most pressing problem that women – real and imagined – are facing right now.
The reaction of the trans lobby reminded me very much of those wretched inner-city kids who shoot another inner-city kid dead in a fast-food shop for not showing them enough “respect”. Ignore the real enemy – they’re strong and will need real effort and organisation to fight. How much easier to lash out at those who are conveniently close to hand! But they’d rather argue over semantics. To be fair, after having one’s nuts taken off (see what I did there?) by endless decades in academia, it’s all most of them are fit to do. Educated beyond all common sense and honesty, it was a hoot to see the screaming mimis accuse Suze of white feminist privilege; it may have been this that made her finally respond in the subsequent salty language she employed to answer her Twitter critics: “People can just fuck off really. Cut their dicks off and be more feminist than me. Good for them.”

To have your cock cut off and then plead special privileges as women – above natural-born women, who don’t know the meaning of suffering, apparently – is a bit like the old definition of chutzpah: the boy who killed his parents and then asked the jury for clemency on the grounds he was an orphan.

There’s more, but you get the drift. Today numerous people have alleged that The Observer should be ashamed for publishing such a vicious and hate-filled diatribe. Others have likened it to Jan Moir’s article after Stephen Gateley died. People have been very, er, offended. That word again. Lynne Featherstone, the LibDem International Development Minister has even called for Julie Burchill to be sacked. Quite something for a government minister to do. Especially one from a party that has the temerity to include the word ‘Liberal’ in its title.

Why is it so difficult to understand the fact that both Moore and Burchill are polemical columnists. Offending this and that group is what they are kind of there to do. We all get offended by different things. Some offences are worse than others, but no one has yet been able to abolish to the right to be offended in this country. Yet. even the saintly Owen Jones has come under attack on Twitter for some sort of injudicious remark, and yet he was actually defending the transsexual community! What he tried to point out, as I understand it, was that there is a group of hard left transsexual activists who act like trolls and give the rest of the community a bad name. Essentially, he was saying what Julie Bindel, through bitter experience, has said for a long time, and what Julie Burchill described in a particularly graphic and OTT way.

Transsexuals have an absolute right to defend themselves and argue against anything Suzanne Moore has written. What they do not have the right to do is bully her off Twitter. They will no doubt start on Julie Burchill now, but if they do they will just add fuel to the slightly incendiary points she was trying to make. Protecting our freedom of speech is one of the most important things we should all do. It must be cherished, even when a columnist writes something which is bound to cause massive offence to some people. I get offended by things people write about me most days of the week. I usually hit back, sometimes i ignore it. But I don’t expect others to intervene and try to get the culprits banned or to drive them from Twitter or anywhere else.

So let’s keep this in perspective, and ask everyone to calm down.

I cant imagine what transsexual people go through. I don’t know any transsexual people to even be able to ask them. But I know enough to understand that it’s not just the sticks and stones which must be very painful. People fear what they do not know. Transsexual people put up with far worse, I suspect, than gay people ever have, and therefore we must have empathy and understanding. If people write what might be considered ignorant and offensive columns they should be highlighted and argued with, not viciously attacked and driven off the internet. The perpetrators of these attacks are no better, and I would argue worse, than the very people they find so offensive.

UPDATE: A very thought-provoking open letter to Suzanne Moore from @ParisLees can be read HERE

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Michael Fabricant MP

13 Jan 2013 at 17:09

“You learn something new everyday. “Blow job” is the same in Danish." #Borgen

Michael Fabricant MP, 13 Jan 2013

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Has a Testy Encounter With Anjem Choudary

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Another Danish TV Hit

13 Jan 2013 at 17:07

Get your Kleenex ready…

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Stan Collymore about Cyberbullying

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Books

Book Review by Alex Marsh - An Encounter With The Blogfather

12 Jan 2013 at 21:21

Excuse the self indulgence, but I’ve never read a book review of any of my books which “gets” what I was I was trying to achieve with a book like this one. It’s written by Alex Marsh, Professor or Public Policy at the University of Bristol, and originally appeared on his blog, Alex’s Archives HERE

To coincide with the relaunch of Iain Dale’s Diary, one of the most successful UK political blogs of all time, Biteback have published a selection of Iain Dale’s posts from the period 2004 to 2012 under the title The Blogfather. The majority of the posts come from Iain Dale’s Diary in its original incarnation, which shut up shop at the end of 2010. A smaller selection of posts come from Dale’s contributions at Dale&Co, the megablog he launched in July 2011 and contributed to until it was discontinued in December 2012.

One point worth clarifying is that, while I was a contributor at Dale&Co, I wouldn’t claim to know Iain Dale. Indeed, we’ve only met in person once. And that was a very brief conversation in a corridor at the Brighton Metropole hotel a few months ago, while waiting for the Liberal Democrat Voice Blog of the Year awards to kick off.

A second point is more of a confession on my part. I only started to engage regularly with the political blogosphere at the tail end of 2010, so I only encountered Iain Dale’s Diary in the last couple of months of its existence. The same applies to Tom Harris’s popular blog And another thing …

So that means I know Iain Dale’s original blog largely by reputation. I came to the vast majority of the material in this book for the first time. And I’ve motored through it over the course of the last three days.

Dale’s writing style means that the journey was a pleasure. The posts have an easy intimacy – someone sat next to you in the pub or the coffee bar sharing the day’s gossip – that is truly engaging. You come to feel like you know him well. Even though I’m sure in reality you don’t. And despite the easy style many of the posts can convey a point sharply or provoke genuine reflection.

There was pleasure simply in being reminded of some events in recent political history that had slipped my mind, particularly when Dale is in a position to offer a gloss on an incident or a nugget of information that would not have been gleaned from the mainstream press at the time. Dale’s account, from 2009, of his youthful role in the downfall of the Dock Labour Scheme was particularly intriguing. There were one or two occasions when I disagreed quite sharply with the argument being advanced, but not perhaps as often as I had anticipated, given that high on Dale’s list of political heroes are Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

The perspective from which the political posts speak clearly shifts over time. The earlier posts are the product of someone fully engaged with the Conservative party and an insider in the Westminster Village. The various instalments in the story of Dale’s ultimately unsuccessful attempts to enter Parliament as an MP unfold over a number of posts and a number of years. There is a sense of Dale moving from being close to the heart of the action in the Conservative party to being a still committed, but slightly more detached observer. This is in part because other activities and interests start to occupy more time. And it is in part because over the years, as the likelihood of be selected to fight a winnable Parliamentary seat diminished, Dale reconciled himself to the idea that his political ambitious are not going to be realised.

Dale is particular good in reflecting upon some of the obsessions of contemporary Westminster politics and the media circus that surrounds it. His comments on the obsession with youth are spot on. If those over 40 or 45 years of age are considered too old to commence a political career, which seems increasingly to be the case, then politics is depriving itself of immense stocks of wisdom and experience. Similarly, his posts following David Laws’ resignation highlight the dangers of driving anyone with any sort of hinterland away from the public eye. Politics will be – is being – diminished if straight and straight-laced, monogamous, non-transgressors are the only people considered suitable for public office. It seems to me that if someone has been, since their teens, routinely managing their public and private persona simply in order to avoid any whiff of scandal and in search of political preferment then they are, almost by definition, rather odd. And if they don’t do that – and risk being pilloried by the press – then they are all too frequently driven to hypocrisy.

Dale makes some acute predictions over the course of the years. For example, he identifying early that Nick Clegg was a likely leader of the Liberal Democrats. He was early to call the seriousness of the financial crisis. He was relatively early to speculate about the frailties and failings of Gordon Brown. Subsequent memoirs from members of the Labour inner circle have laid out the problems in sometimes gruesome detail. But Dale is to be commended for including a selection of posts that indicate his success rate in political prognostication was rather less than 100%. Occasionally he was wide of the mark. Reading the runes is a hazardous business. And making those predictions public even more so.

I’ve no idea how well the balance of this selection of posts reflects the balance of the material covered in the blog, but it was considerably more personal than I had anticipated. Dale is at times searingly honest about personal issues or in laying out his feelings in response to events as they unfold. Sometimes that response is joy, occasionally it is anger – which he himself describes as “volcanic” – but more often than not it is sadness or grief. There is considerable lachrymosity. There is a sense of wistfulness – for times past and the passing of time – about many of the posts.

Reading the blog posts in book form offers a different type of experience to reading them online. For one thing it is not interactive or hyperlinked and you do not have access to the comments thread. But for another thing themes and obsessions emerge more clearly than when reading in daily bitesize instalments.

Dale’s support for West Ham United is well-known. As his tendency to get into the odd spat. But it is also clear that he is very conscious of his formative influences – in childhood, at University, via international travel during youth. His devotion to Margaret Thatcher, Audis and dogs (but not necessarily in that order) emerges clearly. He is a huge fan of Cliff Richard and Abba. He is scathing about the performance of frontline policing and not much more impressed with customer service at a number of well-known retailers and service providers. But he will give praise where he feels praise is due, including to political opponents. He is consistent in advocating and defending a position on personal liberty, equality and anti-discrimination that perhaps sits uncomfortably with the direction in which the contemporary Conservative party appears to be heading. This links to a concern about tendencies in the media to play the man rather than the ball when it comes to politics. A focus on problems and policies, rather than ad hominem attacks would be welcome. His stance on the need reassert the paramount importance of integrity and probity among politicians is admirable. It was an established theme of his writing that increased in salience in the aftermath of the expenses scandal. And he is a great one for lists.

One further recurrent theme is Dale’s admiration for Richard Nixon’s book In the arena. I have to confess this is a book that I’ve never come across before. But I will definitely be checking it out.

This book provides an enjoyable overview of Dale’s blogging to date. It will be interesting to see how the new incarnation of Iain Dale’s Diary evolves. I didn’t follow it last time. But I will certainly be doing so this time around.

You can buy THE BLOGFATHER at Politicos.co.uk or Amazon. It’s also available now as a eBook

Alex Marsh’s blog is HERE.

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Video: Iain Interviews John Penrose MP

From the Class of 2005 series on 18 Doughty Street

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