Humour/Satire

A Look Back on 2012

31 Dec 2011 at 18:45

As we look back on 2012 it is with some trepidation that we look ahead to 2013. Who could have foreseen the momentous events which changed our world over the last twelve months? It’s not just Britain which has changed, but the whole world order. The collapse of the Euro led to the completely unforeseen destruction of the American economy following the hidden exposure of US banks to the European, in particular, the French, banks. The Chicago riots in September led to outbreaks of violence all over the US which mirrored those in Paris and Madrid earlier in the year in everything but the scale of wanton destruction. The rest of the world watched in horror as former French President Sarkozy was dragged from his retirement home by a lynch mob and kicked within an inch of his life. Ironically it was a passing off duty SAS member who stepped in to save his life. The British tabloids had a field day with headlines such as The Sun’s BRITAIN SAVES FRENCH PRESIDENT (AND IT’S NOT EVEN FROM A GERMAN).

Having looked set for a second term, US President Barack Obama went down to a humiliating defeat to President Sarah Palin, who had been a last minute draftee at the Republican Convention. She doesn’t take office for another three weeks, but already, her appointment of Secretary of State Schwarzenegger and Vice President Larry Hagman look set to mire her presidency in controversy.

At home, Britain’s £100 billion bailout of the Republic of Ireland was approved by the Dail, as was the Act of Union, under which Ireland reverted its currency back to the Pound and ceded foreign and defence policy to the United Kingdom Parliament after 90 years of full independence. In return the United Kingdom agreed to let Ireland represent it at the Eurovision Song Contest.

In domestic politics, Nick Clegg was overthrown as LibDem leader but allowed to remain in the Cabinet by the Prime Minister. The new LibDem leader, Chris Huhne, gave a moving acceptance speech from his cell in Wormwood Scrubs. Meanwhile the Labour leader David Miliband continued to make progress in rebuilding his party from the mess in which it had been left by his brother, Ed, whose decision to resign in February and take up the position of Lecturer in Quasi-Socialist Studies at the University of Luton was described at the time by the leading (sic) leftwing commentator Laurie Penny as “a body blow to the feminist agenda”. Indeed.

Yesterday’s release of the 1982 cabinet papers have understandably led today’s news agenda. The fact that Margaret Thatcher came within an inch of using nuclear weapons against Argentina during the Falklands War came as a shock not just to historians, but also surviving members of her cabinet. “I’d have resigned if I had known,” said Michael Heseltine. “It would have saved all that bother later.”

In sport, the 2012 Olympics went off without incident, but there was a disappointing medal haul from British participants, with only 72 year old Mrs Enid Rankin winning a bronze in the new Olympic sport of synchronised stairlift racing. Manchester City swept all before them to win the Premier League, the FA Cup, and the League Cup and ended the season selling Carlos Tevez to Scunthorpe United for £2.50 and a box of Tetley teabags. England again flattered to deceive at Euro 2012 in the Ukraine, going out in the group stages. Fabio Capello’ successor was named as Mr Sid Higginbottom, manager of non league side Neasdon United. But it wasn’t all gloom and doom in British sport. Andrew Flintoff came out of retirement to lead England to victory in the All England Beer Drinking Test series.

2012 was the year that publishers started to abandon hardback books with eBooks outselling hardbacks for the first time. The BBC pulled out of televising all live sport and announced that the money saved would be pumped into yet more reality TV shows – the latest being “The Jesus Factor”, hosted by Ann Widdecombe. But it was good news for the X Factor as Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole returned to rescue the show. “It were a reet laff the laast time and I’m looin fowod to getin’ stook in agen, way aye man,” commented Miss Cole. Meanwhile, Channel 5 was still reeling from the controversy caused by Sally Bercow’s second appearance in the Big Brother House, after it was discovered she had smuggled in her husband, the Speaker of the House of Commons, into the house in her suitcase. Conservative MP Keith Simpson described it as a “constitutional outrage” and demanded the return of Parliament.

And in Norfolk, defections to the Conservatives on the County Council continued apace with the entire LibDem group crossing the floor. “If we are going down, we might as well have a taste of power before we do,” said their group leader, having taken advice from local MP Simon Wright. The first Police Commissioner election in Norfolk was won by Mrs Doris Bonkers, the UKIP candidate from Watton. Her campaign slogan “Deport all criminals to Suffolk” proved remarkably effective.

And finally, Norwich City ended the season in a UEFA Cup spot after they won their last ten matches, including a remarkable 7-0 thrashing of champions elect Manchester City in which Grant Holt scored a double hat­-trick in 20 minutes. The celebrations were slightly marred by the sight of Delia Smith jumping into the team bath after the match while screaming ‘Let’s be ‘Avin youse’.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Michael Winner

From the LBC Book Club on 20 December 2010, Michael Winner spends an hour talking to Iain about his life and relationships with the rich and famous.

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UK Politics

Twelve Predictions For 2012

30 Dec 2011 at 18:48

OK, here’s the ten predictions I made last New Year’s Eve in my Eastern Daily Press column. Let’s see how many I got right…

Norwich City make the play-offs but fail to win promotion WRONG Norman Lamb becomes a Minister in a government reshuffle WRONG Several Norfolk councils enter talks to combine back office functions RIGHT The British people say no to AV – as does Norfolk RIGHT Two Norfolk MPs become government ministers RIGHT A Norfolk person wins a reality TV show WRONG (I THINK!) Nick Clegg survives a LibDem leadership coup WRONG David Laws wins back a Cabinet place WRONG Labour stage a massive comeback in the 2011 Norfolk council elections WRONG Bruce Forsyth finally gets a knighthood RIGHT

So, not a very good performance. In 2010 I got 7 out of 10 right. Let’s see if I can do better this year…

1. Boris Johnson will win the London mayoral election

2. Vince Cable will leave the Cabinet

3. At least one country will leave the euro

4. Simon Cowell returns to the X Factor and invites Cheryl Cole to join him

5. West Ham will be promoted

6. Sarkozy loses the French presidency

7. Obama beats Romney to win a second term

8. John Humphrys leaves the Today Programme

9. The Independent becomes Britain’s first free national newspaper

10. England fail to proceed beyond the group stages at Euro 2012

11. Sam Allardyce succeeds Fabio Capello as England manager

12. Britain wins fewer gold medals at the Olympics than it did in Beijing

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Iain Says No to a Second Referendum

And takes on a caller....

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TV/Film/Theatre

The Fast Show Is Back. Which Is Nice

27 Dec 2011 at 18:50

I am a huge fan of the FAST SHOW. It was, in my humble opinion, one of the funniest sketch shows ever to grace our TV screens. So when I heard it was returning, I was very excited. That was until I heard it was only going to be online. ‘Bound to be rubbish’, I thought. Anyway, it was only yesterday that I remarked to my partner that I hadn’t seen anything about the FAST SHOW episodes on the internet. ‘Oh’, they’re all on the Fosters Youtube channel,’ he said. Which was nice. So I just watched them all. All six of them. Suits you, sir. And they didn’t disappoint. Many of the old characters are back, and they introduce a few new ones, including an ancient Jazz singer with dementia. Making fun of dementia is something which could easily go wrong, but this kind of works. I’ll get my coat.

Indeed, watching these six episodes was very much like making love to a beautiful woman.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Is Made to Cry by Sue in Twickenham

During a discussion about living with an alcoholic, Iain is moved to tears by a caller. The call lasted more than 20 minutes - very unusual in talk radio.

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UK Politics

What Should I Do With My Money?

18 Dec 2011 at 18:51

Perhaps even by writing this blospost I will be accused of scaremongering, but I don’t think I am alone in wondering about the consequences of a banking collapse.

Back in 2005, when I was a parliamentary candidate, I remember walking down Cromer High Street on a Friday afternoon with 16 pence in my pocket. My credit cards were maxed out. My overdraft was at its limit and I had used up all my savings. In short, I wasn’t far way from hitting rock bottom. How on earth had I got myself into this position? One thing I did know, I would never allow it to happen again. After the election, I sold our cottage in Norfolk and used the profit (thank God there was a profit!) to pay off all my debts. I quickly got myself back on my feet and between then and now have built up some savings. Not a huge amount, but enough to make use of if a rainy day ever approached.

The banking crisis of 2008 shattered many people’s confidence in the whole financial system. Regulation had failed, and as far as I can see, little has changed to improve it. I don’t want more regulation, I want better regulation.

The euro crisis has brought back bitter memories of 2008. It seems to me that the sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone could indeed herald a second banking crisis, which in Europe could be far more badly hit than three years ago. Why? Because of a domino effect. It is argued that British banks are slightly insulated by this, but I wonder how many people really believe this. We may be located a few more dominos down the track than France or Germany, but does anyone seriously doubt our banks would esape unscathed?

Alistair Darling promised that anyone with savings of up to £85,000 would have their savings protected. But how firm would that guarantee be in the future? Can we rely on it? Of course, that only refers to savings in a deposit account – not a business account. If a major bank went under, businesses would be decimated.

I bank with Lloyds TSB. I don’t have any accounts with European banks. If I had, I would now be closing them and moving my money. I have no idea how many people are thinking in the same way, but if they’re not, ought they to be? It’s the great unspoken subject at the moment. It’s like the Fawlty Towers sketch – Don’t mention the war. I did, but I think I got away with it. We don’t talk about our money in polite society. It’s not the way we British do things. Well I do want to talk about it, because like most people, I suspect, I am beginning to get a little nervous.

There is a part of me that wonders if my money wouldn’t be safer under my mattress. Pauline Neville-Jones, when she was on the Murnaghan programme on Sky News this morning, reckons that it is entirely possible that if there was a collapse of several banks, the rest would just shup up shop – shut their doors and prevent people from withdrawing money. If you read Alistair Darling’s book, Back From the Brink, you’ll know how close we came to that point in 2008. The cashpoints were hours away from having the plug pulled. The government is said to be making contingency plans for civil unrest in the event of a banking collapse.

So I ask again. What should people do, who have a modest amount of savings? Trust the government guarantee? Or something else? Buy gold? Buy something else? Withdraw it and stick it in a safe?

Perhaps Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, should dispense some wise advice on this subject. Because I am buggered if I know what to do.

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Iain interviews Jeffrey Archer

Jeffrey Archer talks about the Clifton Chronicles

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Personal

A Tribute to Gary Speed & A Plea on Depression

27 Nov 2011 at 18:55

Yesterday I read a heartfelt article by Stan Collymore about his ongoing battle with depression. Last night I watched a documentary called ‘We Need to Talk About Dad’ about a family coming to terms with the fact that the father had hit the mother over the head with an axe – an apparent spontaneous act, which he can’t explain to this day.

About half an hour ago I heard about the death of Welsh team manager Gary Speed. Apparently he has taken his own life. I’ve never met Gary Speed and I therefore find my own reaction to the news a little strange. I feel absolutely devastated by it. Here is a man who, on the face of it, has everything. Just like Stan Collymore. Just like the father in the documentary. And yet behind closed doors none of us know what goes on. We don’t know what we are capable of. We don’t know what others are capable of. How could someone, no matter what pressures they are under, do what Gary Speed has done? How could he do it to his wife. To his two teenage sons? It’s too early to analyse. It’s too early to even understand. But it’s not too early to think. To mull. To try to come to terms with something that is so shocking it almost defies logic.

I am sure we all send our heartfelt condolences to Gary Speed’s family. We pay tribute to his wonderful record as a professional footballer, and we think of the fans of the clubs he played for, who will be shocked, appalled and devastated by his death at such a young age.

We don’t know exactly what caused Gary to take the ultimate step, but it may well be depression. Some people, to this day, not only think depression is something invented by people of weak minds, I hope they will think again. Think about German goalkeeper Robert Enke. Think about Stan Collymore’s ongoing battles. Read Alastair Campbell’s diaries. We all need to try to understand more about depression.

RIP Gary Speed. You were a hero to many. While the manner of your passing doesn’t befit the career you enjoyed, you leave with our respect, admiration and sympathy.

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Iain Attacks the BBC Over the Dame Janet Smith Report

Iain takes Dame Janet to task over the BBC's culpability for Jimmy Savile.

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UK Politics

Sally's Vibrator & a Weeping Ed Balls

22 Nov 2011 at 18:57

Lord Justice Leveson could do worse than read the latest issue of Total Politics magazine. Well, I would say that, wouldn’t I, as I publish it, But I think the reaction to two interviews in the magazine demonstrates what is wrong with today’s media. Now in some ways, I shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds me, as we have had some great coverage in the last 24 hours. Who wouldn’t kill for so many mentions all over the media? But when you look at the subject of that coverage you do wonder about the priorities of some of today’s media – and I don’t just mean of the red top variety.

This month’s issue contains two long interviews, one with Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and one (by me) with Sally Bercow. Both know how to g’give good interview’ and both did so in this case. But in Ed Balls’s case it was quite a meaty interview. lots of good stuff about his job, lots about economic policy, but what did all the press pick up on? Yup, the fact that he sometimes cries during an episode of Antiques roadshow. In a similar vein, the only thing reported from the Sally Bercow interview was her reply to my ‘quickfire round’ question as to what her favourtie gadget was. She informed me, giggling away, that it was her vibrator. I asked if that was on or off the record and she she told me it was on the record. Well you can’t blame a boy for keeping it in. So to speak.

Of course those two things were always going to be reported. But to the exclusion of everything else in the interviews? There was so much more.

It strikes me that we get the media we deserve, and I am not surprised that this happened. As an interviewer you kind of recognise the game. But that doesn’t mean that I have to like it. Oh for the day when newspapers actually report a new idea or policy rather than immediately leap on an ill judged joke or a gaffe. I can but dream.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Margaret Thatcher about the Royal Wedding

Lady Thatcher talks about what she expects from the Royal Wedding.

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UK Politics

Complaints Over Labour PPC Selection in Thurrock

13 Nov 2011 at 19:01

It doesn’t matter what party you’re in, you like to see fair play in Parliamentary selections. Especially when there are two people you know in the contest. Over the last few weeks, candidates have been vying to be selected as the PPC for Thurrock. One of the candidates is Polly Billington, a close aide to Ed Miliband and someone who is a friend. Another of the potential candidates is Sarah Mackinlay, daughter of Andrew, the independent minded Labour MP, who retired as MP for Thurrock at the last election. Sarah worked for me as editor of Total Politics for a year, and I went to her wedding, so I know her well. Yesterday, the Constituency Labour Party met to shortlist three candidates to put forward to a general meeting.

Today I received an email from a Labour Party insider who was not at the meeting, but clearly knows Sarah well. This is what s(he) reports.

I am writing to let you know what has happened in the Thurrock Labour selection procedure in which you may have been aware Sarah Mackinlay was competing. The long and the short of it is that yesterday she was excluded from the Labour shortlist in Thurrock by a small cabal of bitter, twisted and supremely mediocre local party officials. The motivation for this is I believe twofold. Firstly, (given your experience this will not surprise you) some harbour a twenty-year old grudge against her father and secondly, it is an attempt to clear the path for Polly Billington (Ed Milliband advisor). Just two candidates have been shortlisted – Polly and a woman from Croydon – Ann Marie Walters (who set foot in the constituency for the first time yesterday appparently). In my relatively long experience this is without precedent – two candidates for a marginal seat like Thurrock! I have known Sarah Mackinlay for a long time. She has her faults but I could name several dozen Labour MPs who she is better than (you might be able to do the same from your side of the House). She is not a Stepford politician – of which there are a swarm. I know for a fact that whilst she didn’t give the performance of her life at the shortlisting meeting, she did easily enough to deserve to be put before the members. We’ve seen what happens when constituencies feel they have had someone imposed on them. Sarah had been working hard and had a body of support (yes part of it built on her father’s reputation – but a chunk directly for her). I think the Thurrock Labour Party is heading for a blood bath and the only beneficiary will be the incumbent. Of course I realise that in a Party political sense this is none of your concern – indeed you would be quite entitled to revel in it. But on a personal level I would hope you agree it is an outrage. I know that many complaints have already been made to the regional secretary of the Labour Party and people who have not supported Sarah are incensed by the unfairness of it. It threatens to render whichever of the two surviving candidates toxic unless there is some kind of intervention to rectify the injustice. This can’t be good for politics wherever you sit.

On the face of it there seems some very odd goings on here. As I say, I know both Polly and Sarah, but I am sure Polly would want to win fairly and not want any local party members to feel that they were being stitched up by the centre. Experience shows where that can lead.

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Iain has a blazing row with George Galloway over Margaret Thatcher (Part 1)

TalkSport, August 2009

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Media

Why Does the BBC Need Two Commentary Teams At The Same Match?

10 Nov 2011 at 18:52

Whenever I deign to say anything remotely critical about the BBC I am accused of all sorts of things. People say, ah, well if you hate it so much, why do you appear so much on it? As if there was some unspoken compact that in order to be invited onto a BBC show you have to be duly reverential. Well, that may explain why I have never been on This Week or Question Time I suppose (!), but it will never stop me calling it as I see it.

I applaud the BBC for recognising that it has to make cuts, just like any other publicly funded body. Some of the cuts are very painful indeed – those to BBC local radio, for example. Some are misdirected – those to BBC local radio, for example! Others are fully justified. But there is scope for the BBC to go further. It’s too late to revisit the move of BBC Sport and Radio 5 Live to Manchester. It’s happened. But that shouldn’t stop us questioning why Radio 5 Live presenters are ferried backwards and forwards from London to Manchester most days. Of course, it is up to any broadcaster where they base themselves, but surely it is up to them to pay for their travel to their workplace. But I am told that Rachel Burden is the only 5 Live mainstream presenter to make the move to Manchester permanent. A 5 Live insider tells me that one daytime presenter flies up four days out of five. Richard Bacon regales us with his trials and tribulations on the Virgin West Coast line most days. Peter Allen travels up from his home near Cambridge. All this is a great waste of licence fee payers money. [UPDATE: A senior member of the 5 Live management team assures me that presenteers do in fact pay for their own travel].

I discovered another example today. Driving home from doing a book signing I searched my DAB radio in my car [show off – Ed] and found the Reading v West Ham game on BBC Radio London. I then discovered it was also on Radio 5 Live Sports Extra. But each station had its own two man commentary team, no doubt with a team of sound engineers too. In addition 5 Live had their own match reporter. I didn’t discover if BBC Radio Berkshire had a third team of commentators but it wouldn’t surprise me. Why in God’s name couldn’t both stations take the same commentary feed? I tweeted about this earlier and while most people agreed with me, some reckoned that the BBC London commentary would be biassed in West Ham’s favour so you had to have an impartial commentary on Sports Extra. Bollocks. Even if the BBC London commentary were biassed (which it isn’t) surely in this day and age we should be able to get single commentary, giving an impartial commentary on all aspects of the game, which can be heard on any of the BBC’s radio outlets. I don’t know how much a BBC football pundit gets paid, or indeed how much a commentator is paid, but I suspect that by having one commentary team at today’s game instead of two there would have been a saving of several thousand pounds. Multiply that over a season and that would pay the salaries of several dozen of the journalists currently being sacked all over BBC local radio.

The lesson here is that however many savings an organisation makes, more can always be found.

UPDATE: Martin Lipton of The Mirror informs me that the BBC sent 12 people to cover the Euro 2012 draw in Kiev last week.

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LBC Parliament: With Hilary Devey, Peter Tatchell & Melanie Philips

The LBC Parliament is broadcast every Thursday from 7-8pm

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UK Politics

Theresa's Something of the Night Moment?

9 Nov 2011 at 19:02

I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. This is the Home Office, after all. The most dysfunctional government department of all, and that’s saying something. And it seems very little has changed since the days of Charles Clarke, John Reid, Jacqui Smith and Alan Johnson. The best thing one can say is that Theresa May was able to keep a lid on it for the best part of eighteen months. She even gained a reputation as a safe pair of hands and was talked of as a potential leader in waiting. But CatGate and the current scandal surrounding the UK Borders Agency have put paid to that. I imagine Ken Clarke has a wry smile on his face at the moment.

Theresa May is very clear about what happened, and her story had better remain consistent. But Brodie Clark seems equally clear. The one thing we can be sure of is this. They cannot both be right, Theresa May’s saving grace is that the chief executive of the Borders Agency backs up her story. But this does have whiffs of the Michael Howard/Derek Lewis debacle of the mid 1990s. And we all know how that ended – with Ann Widdecombe making her ‘Something of the Night’ speech and ruining Michael Howard’s leadership bid. So could there be a similar ending to this sorry tale? And if so who will be Theresa May’s Ann Widdecombe?

Well, if journalistic rumour is to be believed, it could possibly be Immigration Minister Damian Green. I’ve been told by two journalistic sources that people close to Theresa May were briefing against him over the weekend. Bad move. I imagine the briefing will have gone along the lines of “well, this is all down too Damian, you know – not on top of his brief – lets his civil servants get away with murder – Theresa then has to clear up the mess – not the first time, you know.”

The trouble is, every political journalist worth his salt knows that Theresa May has an iron grip on her ministers and nothing goes out of the Home Office without her say so. Both Lynne Featherstone and former Security Minister Pauline Neville-Jones have semi publicly complained about Theresa May’s interraction with her ministers in the past.

If these ‘off the record’ briefings have indeed happened, then if these ‘People Who Live In the Dark’ would be well advised to desist. They do their boss no favours. Indeed, they make her position more precarious than it actually need be.

In general, I think Theresa May has done a decent job. But she has a formidable opponent in Yvette Cooper, who will be keen to claim a political scalp. She should not underestimate her. Cooper has a lot of friends in the Westminster media. May doesn’t. Indeed, her weakness as a politician is that she hasn’t got a political ‘suport group’ to come to her aid in times of political crisis.

My instinct is that Theresa May will come through this because she has right on her side. She took decisive action when she discovered what was going on and that is a good thing in a politician. Some of the more hilarious attacks on the Labour benches on her stewardship of the Home Office fail to do damage because everyone knows what happened at the Home Office under the Blair and Brown governments.

But all this ilustrates the need for root and branch reform, not only in the UK Borders Agency, but the Home Office too. Both organisations have appeared dysfunctional for some time now. The shame is that this root and branch reform appears not to have got started eighteen months into this government.

Politicians always need to turn threats into opportunities. If she plays this right, Theresa May has the chance to turn a crisis into an opportunity – and that is to emerge as a stronger figure and a major player in the Cameron coalition. But she’d better be right, and be able to prove that Brodie Clark is wrong. If she can do that, she will transform the way she is viewed by many Tory backbenchers.

  • UPDATE: Theresa May’s special advisor has been on the phone to deny absolutely that any briefings against Damian Green have taken place.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale interviews Simon Weston

On Remembrance Sunday Iain Dale asks Simon Weston how he marks the day, and at the end they discuss Falklands War hero Ian Dale, who was killed on the Sir Galahad.

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Radio

Would a 'Good News' Radio Programme Ever Work?

4 Nov 2011 at 19:03

Tonight I carried out an experiment on my LBC show. I think like many people, I am often frustrated that the news agenda is remorselessly negative. Bad news is news, good news is advertising seems to be the mantra on most newsdesks. Just read the Daily Mail if you don’t believe me. I have never believed that to be true. I think people like a bit of balance in their news and there are times when you need a little light among the shade. After this week’s gloomy Eurozone news I thought I’d take the plunge and conduct a Good News Hour.

To be honest I was a bit nervous about doing it. My gut instinct was that it would work, but the nightmare would be not to get a single phone call. I may like the sound of my own voice, but for an hour?!

Anyway, as luck would have it there was a great story about a flashmob on a train to Watford breaking out into song, singing a Bill Withers song and at the same time, a man called Adam King proposed to his girlfriend. So that got us off to a good start. I had already got LBC newsreader Holly Ford to record a “Good News” news bulletin, which worked well, apart from when we first tried to lay it out we just got the music and no words. Nick Abbot, who follows me, reckoned it was comic genius to have a news bulletin with no words, until he realised it was actually a mistake.

As it turned out we had absolutely loads of calls, texts and emails from people who wanted to relate something good which had happened to them. I had a quick chat with my team after the show and we reckon in future it should be a brisk 30 minutes where we do a Good News Bulletin, relates on or two good news stories from the week and take a few calls. We’ll see. If you heard it, what did you think?

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Find Out if Iain Could Persuade Jim in Eltham to Become Gay

Amazing

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