UK Politics

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

Discuss!

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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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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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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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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 has a Testy Encounter with a Member of the Fire Brigades Union

Iain takes Laurie Brightman to task over the Fire Strike.

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Attorney Drops Hain & Biteback Contempt Prosecution

17 May 2012 at 18:47

HAIN AND DALE WELCOMEVICTORY FOR FREE SPEECH AS NORTHERN IRELAND ATTORNEY GENERAL DROPS PROSECUTION FOR ’SCANDALISING’ JUDGE

After the decision today of the Northern Ireland Attorney General to drop his pending prosecution of the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Hain MP and the Managing Director of Biteback Publishing Iain Dale, they said in a joint statement:

’This is a victory for freedom of speech. In September we will be publishing the paperback edition of Outside In without changing in any way the section that gave offence to some in the Northern Ireland judiciary.

’We were fully prepared to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary and our lawyers were confident of the outcome. But, after the astonishing decision to bring the prosecution, we are delighted that common sense has prevailed and that taxpayers have been saved a great deal of money in legal fees. The Attorney General said in court today that “there is no public interest in pursuing this prosecution”. In our view there never has been and it should never have been brought.

’We have been deeply grateful for cross-party support from nearly 150 MPs and to David Davis MP and David Blunkett MP for leading on this. There is no doubt that the near unanimous condemnation of the planned prosecution demonstrates conclusively how preciously people guard individual liberty

‘We hope that this will mark the end of any ill-judged attempt in future to prosecute for the ancient offence of “scandalising a judge” and ask that the Government and the Supreme Court consider how it can be confined permanently to history.’

UPDATE

Following a report on today’s proceedings in the High Court in Belfast, in Herald.ie, which the following was said…

Mr Larkin said that having received the letter, he no longer believed there was a risk to public confidence in the administration of justice. The Attorney General told the court: “If the matter had been qualified or explained in the way it now has and only now has, these proceedings would not have been taken.”

Biteback Publishing Managing Director Iain Dale comments…

“Without wishing to get into a public slanging match with the Attorney General his comments, as reported, are wholly inconsistent with his decision to bring contempt proceedings. Peter Hain and I have repeatedly said at all times that we did not intend to, and do not believe we did, undermine the administration of justice in Northern Ireland. It is only after months of costs and public pressure to back down that the Attorney General has done so. All we have done today is to repeat the assurances that were given to the Attorney General right at the start of this unnecessary case. It is for him to answer for the tens of thousands of pounds he has wasted by bringing this case in the first place. In my opinion his actions have done far more to damage the reputation of the Northern Ireland justice system than anything Peter Hain says in his book OUTSIDE IN”

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Iain defends Chuka Umunna's Decision Not to Stand for Labour Leader

Caller was surprised

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List

Top Ten Things You'd Never Hear Theresa May Say

23 Apr 2012 at 18:49

10. I must get a new diary

9. . People say we’re the Nice Party

8. Oh, forget the ECHR, we’re an independent country, just put him on the plane (I presume I can’t say Sod)

7. I like a beard on a man

6. Brodie Clark is coming to dinner

5. Tonight Matthew, I’m going to sing What A Difference a Day Makes

4. Yes, you’re quite right, I should resign.

3. Stuff your Kitten heels, give me some hobnails

2. The Home Office is officially counting down the number of sleeps till Santa

1. Abu who?

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LBC 97.3: Iain finds Sajid Javid Unable to Answer a Question

Iain interviews Treasury Minister Sajid Javid

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UK Politics

BNP Candidate Gives Second Preference To...

20 Apr 2012 at 18:53

On Thursday night I presented my radio programme from the 24th floor of the Heron Tower, right in the heart of the City of London. It was the venue for the Sky News London mayoral debate. Little of note emerged from the debate with Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone and Brian Paddick seeming to go through the motions. After the main debate I had to interview the BNP candidate, Carlos Cortiglia. Mr Cortiglia has a very strong accent and hails from Uruguay. He is indeed a British citizen, but listening to him utter the phrase ‘British jobs for British workers’ inevitably raises a few eyebrows and sniggers.

In some ways he is clever choice by the BNP. He’s not the stereotypical BNP candidate by any means and has a good line in amiable banter. I asked him on air what his main policy was and he told me it was to improve the planning system. Er, right, that should get the voters flocking to the BNP.

Off air he tried to convince me that the BNP was a centrist party. He said some people think it’s extreme right, others say it is extreme left, so therefore it must be somewhere in the middle, making it is centrist party. “Good luck with that argument,” I said.

He then sought to convince me that he had some quite left wing views and quoted his devotion to public transport, and Ken Livingstone’s low fares policy as proof. “So who are you going to give your second preference to? I asked. Without blinking he said “Ken Livingstone.” Well knock me down with the proverbial feather. I suspect Ken wouldn’t welcome that particular endorsement.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale looks at TWIGHLIGHT & Teenage Obsessions

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

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UK Politics

Saturday Diary: A Chance for Nick Clegg to Put His Foot Down

7 Apr 2012 at 18:55

  • The government has got itself into yet another unholy tangle this week over secret courts and surveillance powers. I have never quite understood why it is that when opposition politicians get into power, they almost immediately become authoritarian and fans of increasing government powers. Take David Blunkett. When he was a left of centre firebrand in the 1980s and an opposition Labour MP in the 1990s he was a devout defender of civil liberties. And yet he went on to become the most authoritarian Home Secretary in living memory. In opposition David Cameron firmly opposed Labour’s proposals on pre trial detension for Terror suspects. He opposed Jacqui Smith’s plans to create a giant database containing details of every phone call we make, every text message we send, every website we visit and every email we send. And yet this week he made clear he intends to introduce a virtually identical scheme. All in the interests of national security, naturally. I am sure the Police and the security services have put up many arguments for increasing their powers, but it is the job of politicians to resist them, not meekly accept everything they ever say. I am fully in favour of surveillance by whatever means of terror suspects, But I will never accept that the State has a right to know who I am texting, which websites I visit or who I call. It is frankly nobody’s business but mine. The government’s plans mean that they will have all this information, although to be fair there would need to be a warrant issued to access the content. If this legislation were introduced in a country like China or Iran we would be the first to denounce it, as a limit of the freedom of the individual.

For Nick Clegg, this offers him a unique chance to put his foot down. If the Liberal Democrats can’t resist this sort of authoritarian legislation you have to ask what on earth they are there for. As a Conservative civil libertarian I could not possibly vote for these proposals. I wonder if Liberal Democrat MPs will have the courage of their convictions and not just say the same, but vote against it. If they don’t they will have lost any semblance of credibility that they still have

  • Ken Livingstone may have lost the London mayoral election this week. His contortions on tax have lost him the support of many of his own party workers. Several Labour activists have said to me they cannot bring themselves to campaign for a man they regard as a tax dodger. Having challenged Boris Johnson and the other candidates to release their tax returns he has failed to do the same himself. Livingstone relied on his control of the London Labour machine to get selected again as Labour’s mayoral candidate and he has relied on his cheeky chappy image to court popularity with the electorate. But if he is to overcome this latest blast of adverse publicity he’ll need more than that. Labour Party officials are tearing their hair out – or going on holiday. It was revealed this week that Labour’s general secretary, Iain McNicholl, is taking a two week skiing holiday slap bang in the middle of the local election campaign. Labour staffers are in uproar. All this is hugely relevant, because if Labour loses in the mayoral election and does badly in the local elections, there could be dire consequences for Labour leader Ed Miliband. Unlike the Tories, Labour is never good at stabbing their leaders in the front, but this time may be different.
  • This week I received my author copies of my new history of Norwich City. Any authors among you will know that feel of excitement when you see your book for the first time. It’s not quite akin to giving birth, but you know what I mean. The book NORWICH CITY: WHEN FOOTBALL WAS FOOTBALL is an illustrated history of the club from its formation right through until the UEFA Cup run in the mid 1990s. You’ll be reading more about it in the EDP in the next fortnight, and Canaries supporter Ed Balls will be reviewing it. And I will be signing copies in Jarrold’s in Norwich on 12 May, the day before City’s last game of the season.
  • On my LBC show on Thursday night I covered the issue of carers and why we, as society, don’t seem to value them in the way we should. There are six million of us who care for loved ones and yet for many people, they feel utterly isolated and on their own. Some are too proud to ask for help. Some don’t even know there is help available. The voluntary sector does a fantastic job in helping provide respite care. I well remember the superb work done by BREAK which I saw first hand when I fought the North Norfolk seat. I talked to a lady on the programme last night whose husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour only six months after they had met. She has spent the last nine years as a full time carer. She doesn’t regret a single moment, and yet she only gets about three hours a week of “me time”. Could any of us honestly say we could cope with such a life. But she’s driven by love for her husband, all the time knowing that their lives will never be what they had once both hoped for. Carers are the unsung heroes of our society and we should all do more to acknowledge that.
  • This article appears in today’s Eastern Daily Press.

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Former Footballer Leon McKenzie Discussions His Depression With Iain

An emotional discussion

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Where's Andy Coulson When You Need Him?

1 Apr 2012 at 18:57

“Where’s Andy Coulson when you need him “ joked one Tory MP to me yesterday. At least I think he was joking. Yes, it’s got that bad. Downing Street has, at times, seemed rudderless over the last ten days, as it has been buffeted by various political squalls, which, added together have led political commentators to dub the post budget period as the worst political week of David Cameron’s life. Since the last one, I suppose. But Andy Coulson would know what to do. He’d know how to get a recalcitrant press back on side. Just as importantly, he would have also spotted the dangers of the Granny Tax and ‘Pastygate’.

On the face of it, the row over VAT on pasties is a ridiculous little spat over nothing very much. After all, fish and chips already attract VAT. Why didn’t people complain about the imposition of VAT on Rotisserie chickens? Answer: Because they’re seen as a bit posh.

We all know that reality isn’t as important as perception, especially in the grubby world of knockabout party politics. And the perception has grown that too many of the Tory frontbench are from another world – a world without pasties but a world full of foie gras. But there’s another row on the horizon, the imposition of VAT on static caravans. I am told it will raise £40 million but will result in losses to the exchequer of £45 million. Seriously.

It’s all very well clearing up tax anomalies, but if you’re going to annoy hundreds of thousands of people and take in less money, is it really worth the aggro? Would George Osborne even know what a static caravan was, and what it was for? The impression given this week by the Chancellor was of someone out of touch, flailing around and of someone who really thought this was all rather beneath him.

Add to this the shambles in communications over the tanker drivers’ strike and the backwash from the party funding scandal and you have a toxic cocktail of political battles.

I yield to few in my admiration of Francis Maude, a man who has been at the centre of the drive to modernise and detoxify the Tory Party, but I think even he would have to admit that this week hasn’t been his finest hour.

At the beginning of the week he argued that the PM need not reveal who he had entertained at Downing Street on the basis that his donor tete a tetes were “kitchen suppers”. In an instant he reinforced the image of incredible poshness. After all, who uses the word ‘supper’ nowadays, apart from the Downton classes? And the very phrase belies an assumption that you have a kitchen large enough to entertain in.

This impression of otherworldliness cannot be allowed to take hold and Tory backbenchers are well aware of it. To allege that they are in insurrection mode might be overstating the case, but even loyalist MPs are concerned. They worry that the prospect of an outright victory at the next election is slipping away. They had just about come to terms with the fact that most of them hadn’t got jobs in government. Now they are worrying that they won’t have a job in Parliament after 2015.

A rebellious parliamentary party is something any Tory leader must avoid at all costs. Ask Margaret Thatcher. Ask John Major. Ask IDS. The consequences can be calamitous.

Since 2005 George Osborne has built up a reputation as a formidable political strategist. Tory MPs are now beginning to question this accolade. They point to the fact that he was a key advisor to William Hague, he was one of the people who briefed Iain Duncan Smith for PMQs. They remind you that he was Michael Howard’s election strategist and then performed the same task for David Cameron. On neither occasion did his campaigns bring ultimate victory. It was he, it is said, who insisted that the European Referendum vote in the House of Commons was whipped. And it was he who failed to spot the political dangers in alienating Britain’s pensioners over the so-called ‘Granny Tax’. The fact that on this issue he has right on his side isn’t relevant. The last thing you want on the evening of your budget is the Director Saga on the airwaves denouncing your plans and accusing you of raiding pensions. If there were a share market in ‘Osbornes’, it would have lost half its value over the last ten days.

The one saving grace for Cameron is that Ed Miliband keeps missing open goals. This week he appeared at a branch of Greggs alongside Ed Balls, where they proceeded to buy 8 sausage rolls. Not pasties, we note. Miliband looked like he had never visited such an establishment before.

Many Tories believe that if Miliband has Alastair Campbell on his team, the Tories would be in real trouble. They think back to the latter years of the Major government when Campbell skilfully mixed a potion of sleaze out of Tory sex scandals and general fat-cattery. The charge stuck and Major ever recovered. Miliband’s team need to constantly ask: “What would Alastair do?” and then get on and do it.

All governments go through tough mid term patches and it was inevitable this one would too. It was also inevitable that at the same time the Liberal Democrats would run for cover. And true to form they have. Watching Sarah Teather on Question Time on Thursday twice protest that she couldn’t comment on much because “I am a government minister” left most of the audience incredulous. The LibDems are behaving as egoists fighting their own corner, but perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. This has been historically true of a ‘factional’ party going right back to the days of the Whigs.

So, what should the Tories do? Firstly, they should acknowledge they have no one who seems to be able to deal newspapers in the way that Andy Coulson used to. His replacement, Craig Oliver, is adept at creating broadcasting opportunities, but many Tory MPs are frustrated that this ability doesn’t seem to transfer to the print media.

Secondly, the Prime Minister should bring forward his long awaited reshuffle. It is to Cameron’s credit that he doesn’t constantly chop and change his ministerial team, but it is self-evident that it needs freshening up. He needs to think very carefully who he promotes. People have had enough of the former special adviser clones. David Davis and Mark Pritchard were right this week when they called for the Tories to look more like the country which elects them – less of the posh gobs, more horny handed sons and daughters of toil. Expect to hear much more from the likes of Roads Minister, Mike Penning, Therese Coffey, Nick de Bois, Tracey Crouch, Alec Shelbrooke and Jessica Lee.

It is no coincidence that the very moment the PM’s closest strategic adviser Steve Hilton quits, is the very time things start to go wrong. Furthermore, David Cameron needs to clip the wings of Jeremy Heywood, who, it seems can do no wrong in his eyes. Heywood’s political antennae are not as acute as they could be but with the departure of Coulson and Hilton he reigns supreme in Downing Street. He now needs to be counterbalanced by a top level political appointment in the mould of Alastair Campbell – someone with a political brain who’s also a bit of a bruiser – and someone who won’t be afraid to say ‘No, Prime Minister’.

This government is at a turning point. It is crucial that the Prime Minister gets a grip. The next election can still be won, but the personnel decisions David Cameron makes in the next few months could well determine whether it will be.

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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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