The Greatest Sporting Night of My Life

6 Aug 2012 at 16:40

I never thought I could attend a sporting occasion which surpassed the 2006 FA Cup Final. And then along came this year’s Championship Playoff Final. Last night I attended the evening session of the athletics at the Olympic Stadium. Well, we all know what happened. It proved to be the greatest night in the history of British athletics. And I was there. I still find it difficult to believe that the lottery of Olympic ticket applications gave me one of the most wonderful sporting experiences of my life, and one I doubt will ever be surpassed. Even if West Ham won the Champions League, I am not sure it would rank alongside. OK, I lie.

Like everyone else, I applied for tickets many months ago. I went through all the sports and decided that it was really only the athletics I was interested in. Knowing what I know now I’d happily have had tickets for the gymnastics or cycling, but in the event I only applied for tickets on two nights – last night and tonight. I went for Category A tickets rather than AA, as I thought the AA ones would be hugely popular. I waited, and waited. And waited. I heard nothing, so assumed that like hundreds of thousands of others, I had been unlucky. C’est la vie.

But then, three months later I opened a credit card statement for a card I hardly ever use (Visa!) and saw that £590 had been debited. WTF! And then I saw My joy was unconfined. Scroll forward to yesterday.

I decided to take my 13 year old niece, Philly, with me, as I knew it would an experience she would never forget. We set off from Tonbridge around 2pm, arriving at London Bridge 40 minutes later to change to the Jubilee Line. We decided to get off at West Ham and walk for 25 minutes along the so-called Greenway to Stratford. It proved to be quite an experience with street performers and the Gamesmakers entertaining us along the way. The Olympic Park itself had the feeling of a county show. There was plenty to see and plenty to do as we waited for the gates to the stadium to open at 5pm. We gave up on the queue for the Olympic shop and instead sampled some of the food on offer. I did think £16.60 for two hot dogs, a coke and a Fanta was a bit much, but you expect that at big events like this, I suppose.

The great thing about the day thus far was the fact that you could smile at and talk to complete strangers without them thinking you were weird or a pervert.

And so the moment came. The moment when we finally got to look inside the Olympic Stadium, the place I hope will be the future home of West Ham United FC. The place I will go every other Saturday afternoon. Would I be disappointed. Would I look in horror at the distance from the seats to the pitch? What would the acoustics be like? All these questions were about to be answered.

Climbing the steps into the stadium and looking in for the first time takes your breath away. Yes, it really is that impressive. But it is much smaller than you think. TV pictures make any football ground and pitch look bigger than they really are. I was sitting at the end opposite the Olympic flame towards the back of the lower tier. The view was fantastic. Unless I wanted to see the long jump, which was off to one side. I could also see that the grass in the middle was only about half the size of a football pitch and once it was enlarged the view would be even better. But what about if you’re in the Upper Tier Row Z. Well, I went and had a look again, fully prepared to be horrified. I wasn’t. The view was far better than the view I had from high up in the Blackpool end at Wembley in the playoff final. I’d even go so far as to say that I’d be quite happy for my season ticket to be there. Unless you have been inside the Stadium, you just cannot comment on it. But that doesn’t stop people from making reference to binoculars and the like. Karren Brady was right. The views from every seat in the stadium are not just acceptable, they are outstanding. I could also see how they could put in retractable seating to make the pitch closer to the crowd. No doubt I will get crucified by West Ham traditionalists for saying this, but anyone who doesn’t think this move ought to be crucial to West Ham’s future is the football equivalent of a Luddite. My heart says ‘stay with what we know’, but my head tells me something very different. Trust me, when you have seen it for yourself you will know what I mean.

Towards the end of the evening, just before Jessica Ennis’s medal ceremony the crowd starting singing along with All You Need Is Love. It was spine-tingling. For a moment I imagined 60,000 Hammers fans belting out I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.’ I got quite emotional at the thought.

Would West Ham fill 60,000 seats for each home game? No. But as long as we are in the Premier League I’d be very surprised if the attendance ever fell below 40,000. And for games against Man U, Man C, Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea we’d be full. That’s one third of home league games, just for the record.

There’s little I can add to the athletics that hasn’t already been said. It was a privilege to watch it. Not just Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah, but also Greg Rutherford winning the Long Jump. In fact the whole evening was a delight. I had never been to an Athletics event before but I do think I will go to one again after this. It’s a shame that events like the Long Jump and Discus seem to play second fiddle to the track, and I felt very sorry for Greg Rutherford in a way. He was about to do his final jump, when Jessica Ennis appeared alongside him on the track doing her lap of honour. He fluffed his jump, but in the end it didn’t matter.

Mo Farah’s run was astonishing. 25 times he ran straight in front of us, and it was right in front of us that he made his move. I have never heard such a cacophony of noise that accompanied him down the home straight. We were all shrieking our heads off. No one can tell me that that kind of support doesn’t spur an athlete on to even faster times. I guess our medal haul is proof of that.

We all felt rather cheated that we didn’t get to witness the medal ceremonies for Farah and Rutherford, but the evening closed with Jessica Ennis receiving her gold. Hearing the national anthem belted out by such a crowd was something all of us there are never likely to forget. It was a great night to be British.

The great thing about the whole day was that everything worked. And it’s not often you can say that in this country. Even getting home on the Javelin train proved to be fairly easy. The Gamesmakers and stewards were fabulous – pleasant, smiling and approachable. And they even tried to entertain queuing crowds. I hope the government does two things to reward them – create a British Olympic Medal and then do what Sydney did in 1996 and organise a parade through the centre of London. These volunteers have made these games memorable in a way no one could have predicted. Yes, it has been all about athletic achievement, but for those in the crowd they made the Olympic experience a very different one, and one which those of us have witnessed it will not forget for a very long while.



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Top Ten Ways the Olympic Ceremony Would've Been Different If It Had Been Organised by Aidan Burley

29 Jul 2012 at 18:36

10. Alf Garnett and Vera Lynn dance the Charleston, while the crowd is showered with food stamps and Bird’s custard.

9. Twenty minutes of BUPA nurses jumping up and down on beds

8. Czech athletes ordered to remove blue wellies and replace them with shiny jackboots

7. Kenneth Branagh begins the ceremony – dressed as Enoch Powell

6. The Chimneys can stay, as long as children are sent up them

5. The return of the Black & White Minstrel show

4. Suffragettes made to clean up the stadium afterwards

3. Marchers have to comply with a rule that required straight leg lift above the horizontal.

2. Muhammed Ali replaced by Melanie Phillips

1. Jim Davidson to light the Olympic flame



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Let's Reward the Olympic Volunteers With a Medal Too

29 Jul 2012 at 16:46

The Olympics are only three days old but one thing that has already shone through is the extraordinary job being done by the 70,000 or so volunteers who are ensuring that people enjoy the Olympic experience. And I am not just talking about those at the Olympic stadium. The thousands of volunteers who are on the streets of London in their fluorescent vests, who don’t wait to be approached, they approach members of the public and visitors to London to check they know where they are going. Same thing on the transport system. I experienced it first hand returning from the opening ceremony. All the volunteers were so incredibly cheerful, and many of them had been in post for more than twelve hours.

On my LBC show this morning I had an idea. It’s not often that happens, so bear with me. My idea was that everyone who volunteered for these games should be recognised by the award of a British Olympic Medal, or even the British Empire Medal. It would mean a lot to those who have volunteered and give them a memento of their work which they could look at with pride in the years ahead, and be a focal point for them to explain to their children in years to come what they did in 2012.

I put it to the Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd, and he seemed to think it was a good idea and he was already in discussions with LOCOG about how to recognise the tremendous effort of the volunteers. Let’s hope it happens.



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Aidan Burley Was So Very Wrong

28 Jul 2012 at 18:38

I’ve just finished watching the Olympic Opening ceremony on Sky Plus, as last night I had to watch the pictures without sound, while I was hosting LBC’s Olympic opening ceremony programme. Why no sound? Well, because the BBC had the broadcasting rights, we were not allowed to be in the stadium or give a running commentary. Instead we had to describe anything after they happened, not while it happened. I have to say it was the most challenging programme I have ever hosted. We were on the balcony of the MWB Sky Bar which overlooks the Olympic Stadium and the entrance to the Olympic Park. It got particularly interesting just as I was about to start at 7 when the technicals all went awry and I had to start dry, with no intro, no jingle and no news bulletin. The perils of outside broadcasts, eh! And then after twenty minutes the heavens opened and I found myself broadcasting with a very moist back and sitting in a puddle of water. Not nice.

OK, so what did I make of it all? Was it, as the Tory MP Aidan Burley put it, a load of leftie, multicultural rubbish? Or did it represent Britain at its finest?

It was certainly a spectacle, and overall it reminded me of a giant West End musical. I kept thinking ‘Les Mis’ during the Industrial Revolution scenes. Musically, I thought it was fantastic, especially in the early part. The music montage bit later on was absolutely superb. It held my attention and I enjoyed the passage through various aspects of our more ancient and then contemporary history. You could quibble with some of the things Danny Boyle chose to depict, but that’s what it would be – a quibble. Overall it hung together and at times it was visually astonishing.

I had my reservations about the whole thing beforehand. I thought it might be buttock –clenchingly embarrassing, but my fears were misplaced. It was quite the reverse. OK, I thought the NHS section was a bit odd and went on too long, but if that’s my worst complaint, it’s a very minor one. Actually, strike that. It isn’t my worst complaint. That accolade goes to Sir Paul McCartney. Dreadful. Awful. Out of tune. Leave the stage. Now. Having said that, I’ve never liked him or his music.

Last night I speculated on his well this would travel internationally. Bearing in mind there was a worldwide audience of more then 1 billion it seemed a little odd to include some very esoteric Uk-centric references. For a UK audience there was something for everyone, but would people in Seoul, or Delhi or Singapore have understood references to Michel Fish or GOSH? Perhaps it didn’t matter. No doubt tomorrow papers will report how the world viewed it.

Something which many people probably didn’t know is that US TV didn’t carry it live. I was bombarded by emails from people listening to LBC in the USA complaining that NBC weren’t showing it until 00.30 our time.

So as you can see, I certainly don’t agree with Aidan Burley’s analysis or opinion. But that’s all he offered – an opinion. The way the world has descended on him you’d have thought he’d suggested a slaughter of the first born. Yes, after his previous misdemeanor (the Nazi salute) you might think he’d be more careful in venturing to offer controversial views via Twitter. We do actually have free speech in this country and it’s not yet against the law to offend people. Burley may be a fool, but that’s all.

Anyway, I really enjoyed it and it got the Olympics off to a cracking start. Now let’s collect a record haul of medals!

And perhaps Aidan Burley can get a life.



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Tim Yeo Is The Unacceptable Face of Conservatism

24 Jul 2012 at 18:39

There’s a bitter row going on between George Osborne and Ed Davey about the level of subsidy given to renewable energy and wind turbines in particular The chairman of the Energy & Climate Change Select Committee, Tim Yeo, has waded in and attacked the Chancellor for wanting to rediuce subsidies to the wind farm sector by 25%. I am sure his motives are pure and that he is thinkin entirely of the plant. However, Yeo’s colleague on the Conservative benches, Christopher Heaton-Harris is less sure. Yesterday afternoon, heaton-Harris tweeted this…

“Unsurprised by Tim Yeo’s comments. I’m sure he’s genuinely worried about the subsidies 4 green jobs, esp as he holds so many of them himself”

I suspect Mr Heaton-Harris has by now received a stern phone call from his whip ordering him to delete the said tweet.

I have always found Tim Yeo’s interest in climate change and green issues a tad hypocritical bearing in mind the amount of time he spends flying round the world playing golf. But it appears it goes deeper than that. Yesterday I dug out his entry in the latest Register of Member’s Interests. I print it below.

I haven’t bothered to add up all his outside earning from companies associated with energy renewables but it must be in excess of £90,000. Just what does he do for these companies? How does he justify his £300-£400 hourly rate?

To be fair to Mr Yeo, and I like to be, as you know, he fully declares all his outside earnings and he was elected as chairman of this committee when his colleagues knew full well what his outside interests were.

But I am afraid it still stinks.

I interviewed Labour MP Barry Gardiner on my programme about this last night. He’s a member of Yeo’s committee and seemed entirely relaxed about it. He said that Yeo had offered to withdraw from questioning when this subject came up in front of the committee. The committee didn’t accept his offer.

My Yeo has done nothing wrong. Under the rules he is perfectly within his rights to do this.

But it seems to be a massive error of judgement on his part to think that he can both take the money and remain as chairman of this committee. And let’s not forget, he gets an extra sum from the taxpayer for chairing the committee too!

James Delingpole has just challenged his Twitter followers to name a more loathsome Tory MP. At the time I said he had set an impossible challenge, although I have now thought of two rivals (I’ll keep them to myself). But if Tim Yeo stands down at the next election it won’t be a moment too soon.

Tim Yeo: Member’s interests

Extract from the register of members’ interests

1. Remunerated directorships

ITI Energy Limited; suppliers of gasification equipment.

AFC Energy; company developing alkaline fuel cell technology. Address: Unit 71.4 Dunsfold Park, Stovolds Hill, Cranleigh, Surrey, GU6 8TB. Undertake duties as Chair, run board meetings and keep in touch with senior management.

Received payment of £3,750, 9 May 2011. Hours: 11 hrs. (Registered 14 June 2011)

Received payment of £3,750, 13 June 2011. Hours: 12 hrs. (Registered 3 September 2011)

Received payment of £3,750, 11 July 2011. Hours: 11 hrs. (Registered 3 September 2011)

Received payment of £3,750, 22 August 2011. Hours: 11 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2011)

Received payment of £3,750, 12 September 2011. Hours: 10 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2011)

Received payment of £3,750, 7 October 2011. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 17 November 2011)

Received payment of £5,000, 14 November 2011. Hours: 10 hrs. (Registered 13 December 2011)

Received payment of £5,000, 13 December 2011. Hours: 12 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2012)

Received payment of £5,000, 10 January 2012. Hours: 9 hrs. (Registered 9 February 2012)

Received payment of £3,350, 8 February 2012. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 13 March 2012)

Received payment of £990, 29 February 2012. Hours: 2 hrs. (Registered 13 March 2012)

Groupe Eurotunnel SA (non-executive) (of which Eurotunnel plc is a wholly owned subsidiary); company managing the Channel Tunnel. Address: Cheriton Parc, Cheriton High Street, Folkestone, Kent, CT19 4QS. My duties as a non-executive director include attendance at meetings of the Board and of the Environment and Safety Committee and advising senior management on a range of issues.

Received payment of £3,622.57, 9 May 2011. Hours: 6 hrs. (Registered 14 June 2011)

Received payment of £3,569.33, 31 May 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 14 June 2011)

Received payment of £7,238.97, 28 July 2011. Hours: 11 hrs. (Registered 3 September 2011)

Received payment of £6,440.62, 12 September 2011. Hours: 16 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2011)

Received payment of £4,245.20, 14 October 2011. Hours: 4 hrs. (Registered 17 November 2011)

Received payment of £3,526.97, 21 November 2011. Hours: 4 hrs. (Registered 13 December 2011)

Received payment of £6,885.38, 31 January 2012. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 9 February 2012)I

Received payment of £4,649.09, 9 February 2012. Hours: 4 hrs. (Registered 13 March 2012)

Eco City Vehicles plc, Hemming House, Hemming Street, London, E1 5BL; distributes and services London taxis. Duties include chairing board meetings and keeping in touch with senior management.

Received payment of £3,333.33, 23 May 2011. Hours: 9 hrs. (Registered 14 June 2011)

Received payment of £3,333.33, 22 June 2011. Hours: 9 hrs. (Registered 3 September 2011)

Received payment of £3,333.33, 22 July 2011. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 3 September 2011)

Received payment of £3,333.33, 22 August 2011. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2011)

Received payment of £3,333.33, 22 September 2011. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2011)

Received payment of £3,333.33, 24 October 2011. Hours: 6 hrs. (Registered 17 November 2011)

Chairman of TMO Renewables Limited, 40 Alan Turing Road, Surrey Research Park, Guilford, Surrey GU2 7YF. The company is developing and supplying technology for second generation biofuels. My duties involve chairing board meetings and keeping in touch with senior management.

Received payment of £1,666.73, 25 May 2011. Hours: 4 hrs. (Registered 14 June 2011)

Received payment of £4,166.66, 27 May 2011. Hours: 11 hrs. (Registered 14 June 2011)

Received payment of £1,666.73, 24 June 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 3 September 2011)

Received payment of £4,166.66, 27 June 2011. Hours: 14 hrs. (Registered 3 September 2011)

Received payment of £4,166.66, 22 July 2011. Hours: 13 hrs. (Registered 3 September 2011)

Received payment of £1,666.53, 25 July 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 3 September 2011)

Received payment of £4,166.66, 22 August 2011. Hours: 14 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2011)

Received payment of £1,666.73, 25 August 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2011)

Received payment of £4,166.66, 22 September 2011. Hours: 14 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2011)

Received payment of £1,666.73, 23 September 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2011)

Received payment of £4,166, 23 October 2011. Hours: 13 hrs. (Registered 17 November 2011)

Received payment of £1,666.73, 25 October 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 17 November 2011)

Received payment of £4,166, 24 November 2011. Hours: 13 hrs. (Registered 13 December 2011)

Received payment of £1,666.73, 25 November 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 13 December 2011)

Received payment of £1,666.73, 12 December 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2012)

Received payment of £4,166.66, 22 December 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2012)

Received payment of £4,166.66, 24 January 2012. Hours: 12 hrs. (Registered 9 February 2012)

Received payment of £1,666.53, 25 January 2012. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 9 February 2012)

Received payment of £1,666.73, 24 February 2012. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 13 March 2012)

Received payment of £4,166.66, 24 February 2012. Hours: 15 hrs. (Registered 13 March 2012)

2. Remunerated employment, office, profession etc

Occasional articles for Country Life magazine.

Management consultant giving advice on strategy and business to Regenesis Ltd, Coptoak House, 216 Blackberry Lane, Limpley Stoke, Bath, BA2 7FE; a California-based company which develops, manufactures and markets advanced technologies for the restoration or remediation of natural resources.

Member of Advisory Board of Oxinia (August 2008-September 2009); a group of recruitment consultants and head-hunters.

Payments from Forum Invest SA; organisers of international conferences. Address: 19, Sold. Gheorghe Matac Street, 020314, Bucharest 2, Romania:

Adviser to Edulink Consultants; providers of education services in Dubai and Uganda. Address: PO Box 500697, Dubai, UAE. I advise on the running of Victoria University, Kampala, where I am Chair of the University Council, including advice on academic standards, marketing and the development of the curriculum.

Payment of £7,494. Hours: 16 hrs. (Registered 3 September 2011)

Payment of £9,994. Hours: 27 hrs. (Registered 17 November 2011)

Payment of £9,994 on 23 January 2012. Hours: 19 hrs. (Registered 9 February 2012)

9. Registrable shareholdings

(a) Anacol Holdings Ltd.; a family investment company.

(a) (b) AFC Energy (share option).

(a) Eco City Vehicles plc.

(a) Group Eurotunnel SA



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I've Reshuffled Cameron's Cabinet So He Doesn't Have To

19 Jul 2012 at 18:41

It is much to David Cameron’s credit that he is not a reshuffle addict. The fact is, he hates them. So it is little surprise that his first major reshuffle, predicted for early September, is much anticipated and is the subject of much speculation. Had it not been for Jeremy Hunt’s little local difficulties, the reshuffle might well have happened in May, and were it not for the Olympics, it might well be happening this week.

Watching the antics of some of the 2010 intake you’d think it would be happening today. So desperate are some of them for their phone to ring and be appointed junior minister for paperclips, they are almost self-combusting in their keenness to be handed a ministerial red box. But most of them will be very disappointed, especially if they are the proud owners of a pair of testicles. According to ConservativeHome, there may be only three male MPs who are promoted. Why? Because by the end of this Parliament David Cameron is committed to 33% of his ministers being female. Nick Clegg wasn’t foolish enough to make that commitment.

Let’s start at the top and look at the Conservative members of the Cabinet and analyse who might make way for some fresh meat. Here are the ministers at risk of ejection…

Ken Clarke, by very dint of his age, is certainly at risk. He has also been at the centre of one or two departmental cockups and seems out of kilter with the Prime Minister’s views on sentencing and prison conditions. Sir George Young has done a perfectly good job as Leader of the House but there would be few cries of protest if he were to be asked to make way. Caroline Spelman is a nice woman but it is fair to say she hasn’t ripped up many trees, so to speak, at Defra. Her sex may save her, but she has few people who will jump to her aid if she is axed. Jeremy Hunt – another member of the ex future leaders of the Conservative Party club – may just survive, but is almost certain to be moved from his current post. Cheryl Gillan is tipped to be replaced by David Jones, but it is difficult to see why. She is popular, has done a good job, and Cameron can hardly afford to lose three women from his cabinet. I tip her to survive. Lord Strathclyde is popular but seems to have been in the job for years. He’s also out of kilter with the party leadership on Lords reform and Cameron may want someone more reliable in the job. Step forward Lord Howard…

Sayeeda Warsi is on everyone’s list for demotion and I fear it may well come true and that she will be offered some sort of sop – Ambassador to Pakistan or Minister of State for something not very important. It’s a great shame that she has been so shackled in her current job, as she could have made a real difference if she had been allowed to. But if she goes, then so must her co chairman and Cameron best friend Andrew Feldman. I rather like him, but appointing your best friend to such a job is just not right.

Choosing a new party chairman is no easy task for the Prime Minister. As an election draws near the job needs a big hitter, someone who has a good sense of political strategy and is respected by the media. The name often touted for the job by political journalists is Grant Shapps. He would certainly be a good choice as someone who is very good at getting on the media, but as an election strategist? The jury is out on that one. Many remember the Ealing Southall By Election. I do think he will get the job, but personally I’d put him in a ‘difficult to sell’ policy job. Another possibility would be Andrew Mitchell, who was keen to be David Davis’s party chairman had he won the leadership. Many moons ago he was Vice Chairman in charge of candidates. Some are suggesting either Jeremy Hunt or Michael Gove for the job. Ridiculous. Hunt in particular is not hard enough and is not a political strategist. My own choice for Party chairman would be Michael Fallon but I don’t see that as likely.

Francis Maude is another who may be seen by some to be past his sell by date, but he has been quietly effective in his job so far and it would be a mistake to move him in my opinion.

So, here are my tips for outright ejection – Sir George Young, Ken Clarke, Caroline Spelman, Sayeeda Warsi, Lord Strathclyde.

I think it is also fair to say that two more on the ‘At Risk Register’ would be Patrick McLoughlin and Andrew Lansley. Patrick McLoughlin has been Tory chief whip since December 2005 – a long stint by anyone’s measure. At the 1922 Committee on Wednesday David Cameron seemed to give him the football club chairman’s vote of confidence – at least, that was how it was interpreted by many in the room. Personally, I see no reason to make a change in chief whip. McLoughlin has done the job well, and it is difficult to see a natural successor. Some have mentioned Andrew Mitchell for the job and in some ways you can see why. He is a former whip and is seen by some as a bit of a bruiser. But right for the job now? I think not. Right for the job in a minority government? Maybe.

I expect Andrew Lansley to remain in the cabinet, either as Leader of the House or remaining in his current job. To move him would be seen as an admission of failure. The only way I think he would leave the cabinet is if he asked to, or if Cameron decided to gift the whole department to the LibDems, something I suggested a year ago and which Fraser Nelson has written about recently too.

Let’s now turn to those who are as safe as houses in their current jobs. There has been some silly season speculation about Hague and Osborne doing a job swap. It won’t happen for many reasons but the main one would be William Hague’s refusal to leave the Foreign Office. This will be his last job in government and he has no interest in any other job. And to move Osborne would send all the wrong signals, especially to the money markets. Osborne is there for the long term whether people like it or not. But he needs to concentrate on his job as Chancellor. Any political strategy work needs to be passed on to someone else – preferably a powerful new Conservative Party Chairman. Osborne’s reputation as a political strategist has always been overblown, but many believe he has been found out in recent months.

Others I do not expect to be moved include Philip Hammond, IDS, Owen Paterson, Eric Pickles, Michael Gove and Theresa May. Hammond has only been in the job for nine months, it’s difficult to see where you would move Pickles to, Michael Gove needs to stay at Education to cement his reforms, and Theresa May has done nothing to merit a demotion. She heads a basket case of a department and needs more time to sort it out. The Guardian reckons Michael Gove will go to the Home Office and be replaced by Liz Truss. That would be bonkers on two counts. Gove is not in tune with current Home Office policy – he is not exactly a libertarian. And secondly, who in their right mind would promote someone who isn’t even a minister to the Cabinet? That way madness lies. If May does get moved I suspect it would be to Justice.

I expect Justine Greening to be moved sideways, so she is removed from having to preside over any U turn on airport capacity. She would make a good replacement for Jeremy Hunt at Culture, Media & Choirboys.

Andrew Mitchell has made clear he’d like to remain at International Development but I think he may well find himself in a new job, possibly Transport but more likely at the Department of Business.

So, assuming we have five cabinet jobs to fill, who will get the nod? The natural thing to do is to trawl the Ministers of State. Here goes…

David Lidington, Alan Duncan, Damian Green, Nick Herbert, Mark Hoban, David Willetts (already attends Cabinet), Mark Prisk, John Hayes, Greg Clark, Nick Gibb, Simon Burns, Chris Grayling, Greg Barker, Charles Hendry, James Paice, Grant Shapps, Hugo Swire, Theresa Villiers.

Only one woman in that list, Theresa Villiers. The obvious thing to do would be to promote her to the Cabinet in the Department of Transport, although she is as anti Heathrow as the current incumbent. But she is also a lawyer and is therefore a candidate to replace Ken Clarke as Justice Secretary.

Of the rest of that list Greg Clark and Nick Herbert are the two most touted names for promotion. Herbert is a strong candidate for Justice Secretary as he already has a role in that department. David Willetts has done a very difficult job well, but the standout name to me is Chris Grayling. He could easily slot into the Transport job, having done it for a period in opposition.

If raw ability played any part in this – and it often doesn’t – Damian Green would certainly be joining Chris Grayling at the Cabinet table, but for whatever reason David Cameron is said to be suspicious of him. Possibly because of his long term association with David Davis. One name I would put in the mix for promotion is Cabinet Office minister Mark Harper. Tory MPs may not like the policy he has been promoting, but he has performed with assurance and panache, both at the Despatch Box and in the media. He’s been batting on a difficult wicket, and hasn’t shown any signs of getting bowled out. That counts for a lot in politics.

But where are all these extra women going to come from? If we look further down the ministerial ranks among the Parliamentary Under-Secretaries we find the following: Maria Miller, Chloe Smith, and Anne Milton. Well, I suppose Maria Miller might find her day has come, but after her recent TV performance I think we can safely assume Chloe Smith’s hasn’t.

So could David Cameron REALLY promote any female members of the 2010 intake straight into the Cabinet? Frankly, I think he’d be mad if he did, but if so, here are the leading candidates…

Anna Soubry, Louise Mensch, Nicky Morgan, Andrea Leadsom, Liz Truss, Harriet Baldwin, Margot James.

I wouldn’t appoint any of them, not because they’re not good, they are. But many politicians have suffered from early over-promotion. Remember John Moore? Theresa May was promoted to the Shadow Cabinet far too early in the late 1990s and the same thing happened to Theresa Villiers back in 2005. All of them should be made junior ministers this time and then their performance assessed in a year’s time.

Of course, to make room for new blood in the lower ministerial ranks, Cameron will have to get rid of some Ministers of State and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries. Speculation suggests that the following are at risk…

Gerald Howarth, Peter Luff, Stephen O’Brien, Jonathan Djanogly, Crispin Blunt, John Randall, Charles Hendry, Michael Fabricant, James Paice, Nick Gibb, Bob Neil, Angela Watkinson and Bill Wiggin

There will be many eager beavers in the 2010 intake wanting to replace them, but the ones in prime position to do so will be the more junior members of the Government Whips office. Shailesh Vara, Greg Hands, Philip Dunne, Mark Francois and Brooks Newmark will stake their claims.

Of course it’s not only the 2010 intake who will be pushing their claims. There are around 25-30 Conservative MPs who thought they would be ministers, but instead, their positions went to Liberal Democrats. People like Eleanor Laing, Ben Wallace, Keith Simpson, Rob Wilson, Adam Afriyie, David Burrowes, Mark Simmonds, Andrew Selous & Stephen Hammond could all expect preferment, but I suspect only a couple of them will get it.

In the lower ranks, there will be around 15-20 new entrants to ministerial office or the whips office from the Conservative benches if my calculations are anywhere near correct. Here are my top tips…

Gavin Barwell, Nicola Blackwood, Nicholas Boles, Tobias Ellwood, Anna Soubry, Nicky Morgan, Claire Perry, David Rutley, Andrea Leadsom, Liz Truss, Sajid Javid, John Glen, Harriet Baldwin, Margot James, Matthew Hancock & Edward Timpson

A week ago, I’d have added Jesse Norman, Angie Bray, Nadhim Zahawi and Conor Burns to that list.

We also have to think about how Nick Clegg might reshuffle his ministers. In the Cabinet he has Ed Davey, Vince Cable, Danny Alexander and Michael Moore. My tips are for Jo Swinson to replace Michael Moore and Davis Laws to replace Vince Cable, who I think may well ask to stand down to position himself for the post-coalition LibDems. Lower down the ranks Sarah Teather hasn’t exactly covered herself in glory. The trouble for the LibDems is that they don’t have a huge wealth of talent on their backbenches, and most LibDems will be wanting to concentrate on trying to hold their seats. But expect Norman Lamb to become a Minister of State and Julian Huppert to be one of the new LibDem ministers, possibly alongside Duncan Hames and Stephen Williams.

So, as with most other commentators, I suspect I’ll be wildly out, but here’s my predicted post reshuffle lineup.

Prime Minister David Cameron

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

Chancellor George Osborne

Foreign Secretary William Hague

Home Secretary Theresa May

Secretary of State for Justice Theresa Villiers or Nick Herbert

Secretary of State for Defence Phillip Hammond

Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling

Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport Justine Greening

Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change Ed Davey

Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove

Secretary of State for Health David Laws

Secretary of State for Work & Pensions Iain Duncan Smith

Secretary of State for Business Andrew Mitchell

Secretary of State for Communities & Loc Govt Eric Pickles

Secretary of State for the Environment Maria Miller

Secretary of State for International Develt Jeremy Hunt

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson

Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan

Secretary of State for Scotland Jo Swinson

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander

Leader of the House of Lords Lord Howard

Leader of the House of Commons Andrew Lansley

Chairman of the Conservative Party Grant Shapps

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude

Head of Policy Oliver Letwin

Minister of State for Universities David Willetts

Chief Whip Patrick McLoughlin

Attorney General Dominic Grieve




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Video: Iain Comments on the One Way US Extradition Treaty

Sky News paper review

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North Norfolk Holiday Diary: Day 3

14 Jul 2012 at 18:42

Getting older has never really bothered me. Being 30 or 40 meant nothing. There was no mental anguish, no depression at the passing of my youth. So why is it that reaching the age of 50 this weekend feels something of a milestone?

Last week I tweeted about how I was feeling and ended the tweet with the hashtag #midlifecrisis. It was gently pointed out to me that the age of 50 was a little way past ‘midlife’. Thanks for that.

The thing is, it’s got nothing to do with my own mortality, which, by the way, I don’t measure in years left. I count the number of World Cups I’ll still live to witness. At least six or seven I hope. No, even though my own mother’s death last month made me think a little more about lifespans, reaching 50 doesn’t make me think I’m on the way out. But it is salutary to think that I may only have a decade of my working life left. Indeed, there aren’t many radio presenters left who are over 60, although come to think of it, there aren’t that many over 50 either. Luckily publishing is somewhat less discriminating age-wise.

Landmark birthdays inevitably make one rather reflective, and lately I have been doing a hell of a lot of reflecting, thinking about what I have achieved in my life and what I have failed in. And then thinking about what I want to do in the next decade of my life. Charles Clarke said to me recently that every decade in his life had been better than the last one and that he has really enjoyed his sixth decade. I hope he’s right, as I fully intend to follow his lead.

I read somewhere a few days about a woman who has written a list of 50 things her husband should do in his fifties. And there’s even a book that tells me 50 things I should do in the next twelve months. So far I have resisted temptation, and haven’t bought it. But knowing me I will soon relent but then ignore its advice.

People seem to be very willing to offer me their own ‘helpful’ advice. “You can’t wear jeans after you’re 50,” said one friend, with an evil glint in her eye. “I expect you’ll be buying a flash car,” said another. Well, sorry to disappoint, but I went out yesterday and deliberately bought three new pairs of jeans, and I already have a car that’s quite flash enough!

Quite frankly, despite the fact I have been reflecting on reaching 50, I don’t expect an awful lot to change in my life, apart from wanting to have a little more downtime. With two full time jobs this is not an easy thing to achieve, but I am giving up the London flat and will now travel home each night. And I will work a little more from home. Well, that’s the intention.

I am now half way through a fortnight’s holiday. Well, when I say holiday, I use the word in its loosest term. For the first two days, despite having an Out of Office message on my email, everyone at my publishing company kept bombarding me with queries, most of which could have been easily answered when I was actually at work the previous week. I really am now trying only to look at email once a day. It’s like coming off crack cocaine. Well, not that I know how that feels, but I genuinely have email pangs. Sad, really. Perhaps that should be something else to change in my fifties – stop thinking the world ends if I can’t access my Blackberry every five minutes.

We’re renting a lovely house in Brancaster at the moment. Rather than have a big party in London, to which I would have to invite scores of people I didn’t really want to, we decided to be very low key and have family to stay, along with assorted friends. I would have given anything for my mother to have been alive to be with us, but I’m sure she will be watching over us as we all go paddling in the sea. She loved the Norfolk coast, and whenever I would walk along a Norfolk beach I would phone her so she could hear the waves. There’s nothing quite like the Norfolk coastline. I remember when I was at university in the mid 1980s and was going through a tough time emotionally, I would often drive up to Mundesley at midnight and walk along the beach alone with my thoughts. Somehow the crashing of the waves helped. One night at 1am I encountered a university friend on the beach doing exactly the same thing!

Yesterday was a bit of a washout holidaywise. It started raining mid afternoon so a trip down to the beach with the dogs didn’t seem a very good idea. John went into Norwich for what seemed like hours to buy some stuff for tonight. Somehow he and Pepi Simpson managed to contrive to spend two hours in the Macro Cash & Carry. While they were out my family start to arrive. They seemed rather impressed with the house. Nobody could be bothered to cook so we ordered Fish & Chips from the Ship pub just down the road. And our minds now start to the events of tonight. I am told I am going to get a lot of surprises. I have spied a PA system. Do you think John has booked Bjorn Again????



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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Bob Marshall-Andrews

Former Labour MP Bob Marshall-Andrews discusses his autobiography.

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North Norfolk Holiday Diary: Day 2

13 Jul 2012 at 18:44

That really was just about a perfect day. We woke to bright sunshine, and that’s how it stayed all day, and boy did we make the most of it.

Our dogs, Dude & Bubba are just one year old and have never been let of the lead. At home we have a lot of foxes on our land and the thought of them entering into a fight with a fox doesn’t bear thinking about. Anyway, we – or rather I – decided it was about time to give them a bit of freedom, so, feeling very nervous, we let them off the lead into the garden of our holiday home. It’s not all fenced in, so disaster could have struck, but actually, they behaved perfectly. Dude even learned to fetch a ball and drop it back at my feet. Progress indeed.

Later in the morning my LBC colleague Lucy (James O’Brien’s producer) and her husband Alistair came over with their dog Oscar. The three dogs spent some time sniffing each other out (a lovely image there for you) before we descended on Brancaster beach. Even though it was fabulous weather there weren’t that many holiday makers around, so we were soon able to let the dogs off the lead. The trouble with Dude & Bubba is that they think everybody is a new friend, so they immediately run up to every adult and child and expect to be made a fuss of, not realising that not everybody is a ‘doggy’ person. They had a fine old time playing with a boxer and both even went for a paddle. It really was a perfect hour.

Back at the house, preparations for my birthday party at the weekend proceed apace. The marquee people came and an erection was soon under way. Matron! Pepi and Keith Simpson arrived to deliver what seemed to be a massive amount of cheese and order vast amounts of glasses and alcohol. Keith and I decided to talk about books while all this was going on.

And the evening was spent slobbing with dogs asleep on laps. Now that’s what I call a perfect, do very little, holiday day.



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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Paul McKenna

Paul McKenna talks about his new book HYPNOTIC GASTRIC BAND, and about hypnosis.

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My Top 50 Favourite Tweeters

13 Jul 2012 at 18:43

I follow about 1,000 people on Twitter, an picking a Top 50 was almost impossible. In the end I decided that one of the main criteria would be to pick ones that made me smile, entertained me and informed me. I did think about not ranking them, but what’s the fun in that, and you know how I like my lists! You will see a lot of surprising choices in this list – people you would think I wouldn’t rate at all. But that’s the thing about Twitter. It challenges your preconceptions about people.

1. @TomHarrisMP

Tom Harris is the Labour MP for Glasgow South and the man who wrote one of the most brilliant blogs in the history of Christendom. He has a very dry and ironic sense of humour, which he deploys in most of his tweets. He’s not afraid to criticise his own party and challenges a lot of key orthodoxies. Consistently entertaining, he’s also the author of WHY I AM RIGHT & EVERYONE ELSE IS WRONG, a collection of his blogposts.

2. @Smithjj62

Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has become a good friend of mine over the last couple of years. People seem to like our double act on Sky News and I have learned that Jacqui has a very well developed sense of humour, which from time to time descends into the gutter. She’s a great defender of the Blairite legacy and interacts which her followers in a way most politicos don’t.

3. @NadineDorriesMP

Nadine is the ultimate Marmite politician, but come what may she says what she thinks and that’s why she has such a following. She doesn’t seem to have a brake mechanism, which makes you want to read everything she tweets in case you miss something. She also displays a certain vulnerability which even those who detest her politics have come to respect.

4. @PeterWatt123

Peter Watt made the headlines when Gordon Brown sacked him as General Secretary of the Labour Party back in 2007. Since then he has become Labour’s voice of sweet reason. His articles are consistently brilliant and the warmth of his personality comes across in everything he tweets.

5. @TheJamesWhale

James Whale only joined Twitter around six months ago but he’s taken to it like a duck to water. Never knowingly undercontroversial he tells it how he sees it, no matter what the consequences. Hugely entertaining, just like LBC drivetime show.

6. @CampbellClaret

Another person you either love or hate. Personally, I have huge respect for him and love his diaries. He and I share a lot of personality traits and I see myself in a lot of what he tweets. I love his Burnley obsession and his openness about depression. And despite his blind Labour loyalty, he is also a superb observer of the political scene.

7. @PaulWaugh

Usually first with breaking political news, he can also be very cheeky in is political observations on Twitter. Has singlehandedly turned round the fortunes of PoliticsHome and the House Magazine. And a bloody nice bloke.

8. @Joey7Barton

Comes across on Twitter as a very different person to the one you see on a football field. Eloquent and with a good observational eye, he also delights in commenting on political and news events, often to good effect.

9. @StephenNolan

The best talk show host in the country, he love to interact with his followers. Not afraid to tell it like it is, Nolan is another radio personality who attracts loyalty and hatred in equal amounts.

10. @Brit_Battleaxe

I am responsible for getting Christine Hamilton on Twitter, so blame me. Lord i knew not what I did! Seriously, her personality shines through on Twitter and she had taken to the medium like a duck to water.

11. @KerriSackville

Kerri is the bestselling author of WHEN MY HUSBAND DOES THE DISHES & THE LITTLE BOOK OF ANXIETY. She’s Australian and has a brilliantly acerbic sense of humour.

12. @TobyHarnden

Toby is the Daily Mail’s Washington Correspondent and is one of my main sources for comment on foreign news. But he also tweets about personal things. He’s a best selling author too.

13. @GuidoFawkes

Politicians follow Guido for fear of not knowing what is being said about their colleagues – and them. Difficult to match what he does on his blog, but he’s a must follow for all Westminster watchers.

14. @ZoeqsWilliams

Zoe and I agree on very little, as is apparent from our Sky News paper reviews, but we get on very well together and her tweets are always filled with humour and mischief. She’s a fully paid up guardianista, but don’t let that put you off.

15. @50ShadesofShit

A spoof of 50 Shades of Grey and utterly hilarious. And filthy. Very filthy.

16. @JohnPrescott

I would never have believed that John Prescott would take to any form of social media, but how wrong I was. If you ignore the partisan Labour tweets, he shows a real human side and a warmth which never really came across when he was in frontline politics.

17. @SallyBercow

The Nadine Dorries of the left, Sally has no embarrassment threshhold and is totally cavalier in what she tweets. Consistently controversial and entertaining, she is much more vulnerable and sensitive than she lets on.

18. @PiersMorgan

Often unintentionally hilarious, Piers is undoubtedly owner of the largest ego on Twitter – and there’s a lot of competition for that accolade. But he’s fun and isn’t afraid of interacting with his followers.

19. @TheOllyMann

Half of the Answer Me This podcast team, he’s also a regular on my Sunday show on LBC. He has the kind of moonface which always seems to be smiling, and exudes goodwill to all people.

20. @TimMontgomerie

A must read if you want to keep up to date with goings on in the Conservative Party. Often controversial and always opinionated – exactly what you want on Twitter…

21. @JohnRentoul

Uber Blairite commentator of the Independent on Sunday. Always got something interesting to say and deserves a place in this list if only for his series of Questions to Which the Answer Is No.

22. @NickdeBois

Independent minded Tory MP for Enfield North. Not afraid to go against the grain and has a great senseof humour.

23. @ShippersUnbound

One of my favourite political journalists, always has a pithy comment to make and takes himself none too seriously.

24. @JuliaHB1

My LBC colleague only joined Twitter recently but has taken to it like the proverbial duck. Prone to gutter tweets, which endears her to me no end.

25. @KatyScholes

Who? She works for me at Biteback Publishing (or @Bitebackpub, as she would tell me). Uberlesbian, mind like a sewer and very, very funny. Her Indian Diary on this blog was one of the funniest things I have ever published.

26. @ReporterBoy

Giles Dilnot is a funny guy. Seriously funny. Looks like a geek, talks like a dream. You’ll know him from the Daily Politics and 5 Live Up All Night.

27. @Donal_Blaney

Donal is the nearest thing we have in this country to a Fox News commentator. Lover of all things American and hater of all things socialist.

28. @ShelaghFogarty

Lovely, nice, good natured and a good friend. And above all a classy broadcaster.

29. @AFNeil

One of the nicest broadcasters around, and so plugged in politically you want to devour every juciy nugget he offers on his Twitter feed.

30. @NickyAACampbell

His book on his adoption remains one of the best books I have ever read. I love his sense of humour on and off air.

31. @ChrisBryantMP

You might be surprised by me picking him in this list, but he knows how to keep his Twitter followers entertained and isn’t afraid to offend. Isn’t quite so keen to admit hwn he’s wrong, but who is?

32. @Tracey_Crouch

Another independent minded MP who tells it how it is onTwitter. She’s brilliant at the personal stuff too.

33. @Get_Mummy_A-Gin

Twitter feed of a very bad mother. Laugh out loud hilarious, she probably speaks for most mothers… What a terrible thought!

34. @Conor_BurnsMP

Loves to drop Margaret Thatcher’s name at every opportunity, which is alone a good enough reason to be included in this list. Good at avoiding his Twitter feed being just a political PR machine.

35. @MehdiRHasan

No one does Twitter spats like my old sparring partner and we love him for it. Just wind him up and let him go. It’s hugely entertaining, I promise.

36. @GabyHinsliff

The yummy mummy of political journalism, Gaby has thrived by going freelance and moving out of London. She can be acerbic and very humorous as well as entertaining us with anecdotes from her family life.

37. @StellaCreasey

Feisty Labour MP. A good example to other MPs as to how to use Twitter.

38. @SteveHiltonGuru

If you want political advice, the Guru is your man. And he’s always right. Always. Since he left, look what has happened to Dave!

39. @BigBigBen

Outspoken Northern born 6’6 hunk, former Tory, and now living in Spain. Hilarious tweets when he is pissed!

40. @NotBig_Sam

If Sam Allardyce tweeted, this is how it would be. Very funny spoof account. And filty with it.

41. @Corrie_Corfield

Radio 4 announcer who doesn’t tweet like one. Ever.

42. @DavidGoldWHU

The very polite and totally interactive joint chairman of the world’s greatest football team.

43. @TobyPerkinsMP

A newly elected Labour MP, he is one of the few politicians to offer a real personality on Twitter. Yes, he can be partisan but happily tweets about non political stuff too.

44. @TheJamesMax

Another of my LBC colleagues, James Max is at home defending bankers or talking about his dog Barney. Always happy to offer an opinion, he loves Twitter and is only marginally less prolific than Stan Collymore.

45. @MrJamesOB

James O’Brien and I agree on virtually nothing, so I like to read his tweets to know what I should disagree with. He is a fellow LBC presenter and does a fine line in humour too. Quite funny for a lefty.

46. @WMaryBeard

I first met Mary Beard on Any Questions and despite her leftist feminist stances I became a fan. A brilliant writer and historian she is an original, and she has a great personality which comes across well on Twitter.

47. @NotCardinalSeanBrady

Hilarious spoof account which pokes fun at the Irish Catholic church.

48. @OwenJones84

Highly entertaining cheeky chappy lefty who can rarely see any good in anyone on the right. Revels in the image he has created for himself, and always enjoyable in a Twitter spat with his many enemies.

49. @Tom_Watson

Murdoch’s nemesis has become someone impossible to ignore on social media. Possibly the most prolific political tweeter. Doesn’t just tweet politics and is willing to talk about all sorts of personal issues.

50. @StanCollymore

Prolific, and wiilling to stand up to those who racially abuse him. A complex character, but a brilliant football pundit.



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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Geoffrey Robertson QC

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My Wonderful Day at Wembley

24 May 2012 at 18:45

Oh West Ham we love you. Despte you making us tear our hair out, despite you being the most wonderful but frustrating team, we still come back for more. And today showed both sides of West Ham, but who cares? We are Premier League, I say we are Premier League! And there were many times today when I thought that wasn’t going to to happen. And if were honest, we could so easily have lost today. You could say that class showed in the end, and you might have a point, but at times in this game, Blackpool were all over us, especially the middle period of the second half. At times they cut through our defence like butter, but we survived. Indeed, shortly after Carlton Cole’s opener, Vaz Te had a good chance to put us two up. His shot went slightly wide of the post. If that had gone in, I suspect we’d have chalked up another hatful. But credit to Blackpool, they fought and fought and they nearly did us over.

My day started at my parents’ home at Ashdon, near Saffron Walden. I got up and instantly felt nervous. Four of us were going – my Blackpool supporting Dad and another friend of his, Dennis Peach, who’s also a Blackpool supporter – and a Hammers supporting schoolfriend of mine, John Bidwell. We’d booked a car to pick us up at 10. It turned out to be a Skoda. Great. Just what I always wanted to travel to Wembley in. And the driver decided to go the scenic route. Even greater. We had arranged to meet some other friends under the Bobby Moore statue at 11.45. It soon became clear that would be an ambitious target. Not only had we got a driver whose familiarity with SatNav proved illusory, but he hadn’t got a clue where to go when we actually had the Wembley Arc in our sights. My Dad is 82 so I needed to get as close to the stadium as possible as he’s not so sharp on his pins. Eventually we got there, and my bloodpressure was racing. I managed not to quite tell the driver what I thought, sorely tempted though I was. Manners won out in the end.

We slowly made our way up to the statue, my Dad having to climb countless steps to do so. We then made our way up to the Club Wembley area- thankfully via escalators. My Dad hadn’t been to Wembley since 1948 and his eyes were on stalks. I had only been to a concert in the new Wembey. Before we went into the Arc restaurant to eat, we took a peek at tthe pitch. It looked perfect. I have to say the food wasn’t worth the price, but it was nice to be able to relax before going to our seats. We decided to forego the half time drinks and stay in our seats. We were about the only ones to do so! Most of the people near us weren’t even back for the Blackpool goal. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The first twenty minutes didn’t see a single free kick given. Blackpool probably had the better of that period, mainly because we weren’t getting stuck in. Indeed, I don’t recall a single West Ham shot, while Blackpool had a couple of good chances. I began to get nervous, mainly because we normally start so strongly. Nothing was happening in midfield and we just couldn’t get our passing game together. But we started to improve and had a succession of corners. Cole started to impose himself on the game and it was he who scored the opener after a wonderfully flighted ball into the box which Cole chested down and volleyed into the net. It reminded me a little of David Platt’s goal against Belgium in the 1990 World Cup. A few minutes later Vaz Te slid the ball wide when it looked easier to score. Half time. 10. We were feeling slightly lucky to be ahead.

By this time West Ham fans were in full voice. Even in the Blackpool end, where I was, there were loads of West Ham fans. What a shame (and a scandal) it was that there were so many empty seats in the Blackpool end. That should never happen again.

Only three minutes into the second half and Cole gave the ball on the half way line and Thomas Ince (so of Paul) ran into the penalty area and slotted the ball home diagonally past Rob Green. Terrible defending. Ince got loads of boos, which I thought was a bit off. It’s not justified to visit the sins of the father on his son, but there you go. This started a purple patch for Blackpool and they could easily have had a couple more goals. But they didn’t and that’s the main thing. We weathered a prolonged storm and it was only when we reached the 70th minute that we gradually got back into it. I looked at the clock.Eighty One minutes. “If we get one now, we’ll win this,” I thought to mysef, having previously been convinced that Blackpool were going to win through. Julien Faubert hit a screamer of a volley which hit the bar. Come on You Irons, And then he did it. Ricardo Vaz Te hit a rebound high into the net and that was it. Apart from a very marginal penalty appeal, Blackpool never looked like scoring. We did the professional thing and kept the ball well. Eventually, after a totally unjusified 4 minutes of injury time the whistle went, and the party started. Winning promotion via the playoffs probably means more than automatic promotion. Neither Reading nor Southampton had a party like ours in full view of a national TV audience, let alone in front of 78,000 people. It really did feel like winning the cup. Carlton Cole reacted like he won the lottery – and perhaps he has. It clearly meant a lot to him. After the presentations, he led the jollifications on the pitch. Onne slightly jarring note was the way Ricardo Vaz Te didn’t join in and headed straight down the tunnel on his own. I’m not quite sure what to read into that. The other players stayed on the pitch for a good 20 minutes after he disappeared.

By this stage I had shouted myself hoarse, which is not a good thing when you have to present a three hour radio show in the morning. Anyway, we went back to the resturant for a few drinks and a bit more food before I managed to have a very loud disagreement with a Jobsworh Wembley steward who wouldn’t let us eave the stadium on the same level as the Bobby Moore statue. I explained that I couldn’t expect my 82 year old Dad to walk up two lots of very long stairs again. He still wouldn’t open the door and let us out, so I am afraid the Dale temper was on full display. An unpleasant end to a fantastic Wembley experience. We eventually got to the waiting car and I waived off my Dad and his friends back to Essex, while I queued for the tube to get into central London.

And of course there are now so many questions. What effect will our promotion have on our planned Olympic Stadium move? Which players will leave? Who will Sam want to sign? How much are season tickets going to rise to? All those questions are for the next few weeks. For now, let’s bask in the glory of today and revel in the victory. But let’s also empathise with Blackpool. They have the makings of a really good team. They play great football and they gave us a real game today.



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Iain Interview BBC Head of News James Harding About BBC Restructuring

A bit testy at times

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