UK Politics

My Predictions for 2018

31 Dec 2017 at 09:00

I don’t know why, but last year I didn’t do any predictions for 2017, which was probably just as well, as I doubt any of them would have come true. Here are my predictive offerings for 2018.

1. There won’t be a general election in 2018.
2. Theresa May will still be Prime Minister on 31 December 2018.
3. The US and North Korea will engage in military action against each other this year.
4. Michel Barnier is sidelined by Jean Claude Juncker in the Brexit negotiations.
5. ITV commissions a further series of ‘After the News’.
6. Theresa May will conduct a reshuffle before the end of January, which will involve either Boris Johnson or Philip Hammond (or both) moving jobs.
7. Donald Trump will lose control of both Houses of Congress in the November midterm elections.
8. England will reach at least the semi-finals of the World Cup.
9. George Galloway is allowed to rejoin the Labour Party.
10. Russia Today loses its OfCom operating licence and is forced to shut down in the UK. Russia shuts down BBC transmissions in Russia in retaliation.

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Iain interviews Fern Britton

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WATCH: CNN Talk Review of the Year

26 Dec 2017 at 09:49

The CNN Talk crew take a look back on the big stories of 2017.

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IOSH channel, October 2009

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Media

My Top 200 Tweeters of 2017

17 Dec 2017 at 11:15

Each new year I compile a list of people whose tweets I have most enjoyed during the previous 12 months. I follow about 2600 people on Twitter, which is far too many to be honest, but I whenever I try to cull the number I end up giving up because it’s so difficult. Anyway, these are the ones who have entertained, informed, educated, annoyed and, most of all, made me laugh most this year. It’s not meant to be a list of best Twitter feeds on the internet – it’s just the ones I particularly enjoy. I usually do a top 100 but I have found it impossible to cull to 100, so this year I’ve expanded the list to 150. I’ve also added 50 news feeds on Twitter which I follow.

If I follow you but you’re not on the list, don’t feel bad. There’s always next year! The fact that I follow you means I find you interesting! So, in no particular order…

PRINT JOURNALISTS (25)

@MrTCHarris – Former Labour MP, Telegraph columnist
@MatthewSyed – Times Journalist
@PickardJE – Jim Pickard, FT political journalist
@BenGlaze – Mirror political reporter
@AsaBenn – Brexit Commissioning Editor, The Telegraph
@ChrisDeerin – Journalist, Scottish Daily Mail
@ShippersUnbound – Political Editor, Sunday Times
@ZoesqWilliams – Columnist, the Guardian
@JohnRentoul – Columnist, Independent on Sunday
@Y_Alibhai – Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, The ‘I’ Newspaper
@GrantTucker – My former PA & Diary Reporter for The Times
@DavidWooding – Political Editor, Sun on Sunday
@SamCoatesTimes – Deputy Political Editor, The Times
@OwenJones84 – Guardian columnist
@DAaronovitch – Columnist – The Times
@LiamHalligan – Columnist, The Telegraph (NEW)
@PMDFoster – Europe Correspondent, The Telegraph (NEW)
@ChristopherHope – Chief Political Correspondent (NEW)
@DanBloom1 – Political reporter, The Mirror (NEW)
@MK1969 – Matt Kelly, Editor, The New European (NEW)
@Steve_Hawkes – Deputy Political Editor, The Sun (NEW)
@TNewtondunn – Political Editor, The Sun (NEW)
@MattChorley – Editor, Times Red Box (NEW)
@IainMartin1 – Times columnist & Editor, ReactionLife (NEW)
@MrHarryCole – Political Correspondent, The Sun (NEW)

TV JOURNALISTS (17)

@RobBurl – Rob Burley, Editor, Andrew Marr Show
@AFNeil – BBC presenter
@PiersMorgan – Presenter, GMB
@MichaelLCrick – Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News
@KayBurley – Sky News presenter
@BethRigby – Political Correspondent, Sky News
@Susannareid100 – Presenter, GMB
@AdamBoulton – Sky News presenter
@FaisalIslam – Political Editor, Sky News
@DMcCaffreySKY – Ireland correspondent, Sky News
@AlStewITN – Presenter, ITN
@AmolRajan – Media Editor, BBC (NEW)
@Jess Brammar – Acting Editor, Newsnight (NEW)
@Maitlis – Emily Maitlis, Presenter, Newsnight (NEW)
@SkyNewsNiall – Naill Paterson, Sky News (NEW)
@HattMarris84 – My ex producer on LBC, Producer, Newsnight
@BBCLauraK – BBC Political Editor
@EmmaBarnett – Radio & TV presenter

ONLINE JOURNALISTS (12)

@StephenKB – Stephen Bush, New Statesman
@PaulWaugh – Editor, Huffington Post UK
@FleetStreetFox – Susie Boniface
@GuidoFawkes – Editor in Chief, Guido Fawkes blog
@Dizzy_Thinks – Phil Hendren
@Montie – Editor, Unherd.com
@OwenJBennett – HuffPo political correspondent
@MarkDiStef – Media & Politics reporter, Buzzfeed (NEW)
@Jack_Blanchard – Editor, Politico London Playbook (NEW)
@JimWaterson – Political Editor, Buzzfeed UK (NEW)
@DarrenGrimes_ – Deputy Editor, Brexit Central (NEW)
@Isaby – Jonathan Isaby, Brexit Central (NEW)

POLITICS (28)

@JamesCleverly – Conservative MP (NEW)
@Jacob_Rees_Mogg – Conservative MP (NEW)
@BimAfolami – Conservative MP (NEW)
@Anna_Soubry – Conservative MP
@MichaelGove – Conservative MP
@ArronBanks – Chairman, Leave.eu
@HeidiAllen75 – Conservative MP
@JessPhillips – Labour MP
@Suzanne Evans1 – Deputy Chairman, UKIP
@LordAshcroft – Businessman & philanthropist
@Jacqui_Smith1 – Former Labour Home Secretary
@Andrew_Kennedy – Conservative Party Agent in Kent
@NadineDorriesMP – Conservative MP
@NichStarling – Former LibDem leader on Broadland District Council
@Edwina_Currie – Former Conservative MP
@ThereseCoffey – Conservative MP
@Tracey_Crouch – Conservative MP
@LiarPoliticians – Anti politics tweeter
@NSoames – Conservative MP (NEW)
@RuthDavidsonMSP – Leader, Scottish Conservatives
@CampbellClaret – Alastair Campbell
@CraigOliver100 – Former No 10 Head of Comms (NEW)
@AyeshaHazarika – Political commentator & Comedian (NEW)
@MattZarb – Former Head of Press for Jeremy Corbyn (NEW)
@NickTimothy – Former No 10 Chief of Staff (NEW)
@JReynoldsMP – Labour MP (NEW)
@NickdeBois – Former Conservative MP (NEW)
@Sarah_Hayward – Former Labour Leader, Camden Council (NEW)
@DavidMills73 – Former Labour SPAD & TV producer (NEW)

RADIO (32)

@TobyTarrant – Radio X presenter (NEW)
@Pipskin – Radio X producer, the Chris Moyles show (NEW)
@StephenNolan – 5 Live presenter
@ShelaghFogarty – LBC presenter
@JaneGarvey1 – Presenter, Woman’s Hour, Radio 4
@JuliaHB1 – Former afternoon presenter, LBC
@FiFiGlover – Listening Project, Radio 4
@RobinLustig – Former Presenter, The World Tonight, Radio 4
@StanCollymore – Radio host
@TheJeremyVine – Presenter, Radio 2
@NewsChambers – Richard Chambers, Newstalk, Dublin (NEW)
@NickyAACampbell – 5 Live presenter
@Tweeter_Anita – Presenter, Any Answers, Radio 4
@DuncanBarkes – Late show presenter, BBC London
@JohnMyersTeam – Radio guru
@DavidLloydRadio – Radio guru
@PaulEaston – Radio consultant
@IainLee – Radio presenter, talkRadio
@TheoUsherwood – Political Editor, LBC
@Jags_dave – Jagruti Dave, My Drivetime producer, LBC
@Vicky_Gardiner – Victoria Gardiner, My Drivetime producer, LBC
@EleanorWalshy – LBC producer
@JamesCridland – Radio commentator
@Matt – Matt Deegan, Radio guru (NEW)
@Sherls – Online editor, LBC
@B1Lou – Louise Birt, Managing Editor, BBC Radio Essex
@EdwardAdoo – BBC Radio presenter (NEW)
@ChrisGolds – LBC London News drivetime presenter (NEW)
@SimonMarksFSN – Head of Feature Story News, Washington (NEW)
@ChrisMasonBBC – Political Reporter, BBC (NEW)
@IanCollinsUK – LBC presenter (NEW)
@JamesRea – LBC Managing Editor (NEW)

SPORT (10)

@HenryWinter – Football journalist, The Times
@LeeClayton_ – Sports editor, Daily Mail
@ClareBalding – BBC & BT Sport presenter
@JimmyBullard – Ex footballer
@BoringMilner – Spoof James Milner account
@Trevor8Sinclair – Ex West Ham winger
@ArchieRT1 – German football journalist
@MyWHUFC – Nigel Kahn, West Ham fan
@WestHamFootball – Sean Whetstone, West Ham fan
@SamInkersoleTM – Football journalist, The Mirror

COMEDY (7)

@TFLN – Texts from last night
@_YouHadOneJob1 – Comedy account poking fun at people who fail at the one job they had to do
@RoyCropperNot – Spoof Roy Cropper sayings
@AwkwardGrindr – Cringeworthy moments from Grindr
@2010LeeHurst – Comedian
@GeoffNorcott – Comedian (NEW)
@Maomentum_ – Momentum parody

MISCELLANEOUS (16)

@PaulwrBlanchard – PRconsultant & Presenter, Media Masters podcast
@Lance Forman – Purveyor of the finest smoked salmon
@WMaryBeard – Classics academic & author
@AdamLake – Public Affairs Specialist
@Brit_Battleaxe – Christine Hamilton
@JamesWharton – Author of OUT IN THE ARMY
@GylesB1 – Gyles Brandreth
@Bishmanchester – David Walker, Bishop of Manchester
@StirringTrouble – Aleksander Nekrassov
@MarkFoxNews – Mark Fox, BSA (NEW)
@LouisXMichael – From Gogglebox (NEW)
@TheGayChrist (NEW)
@AlistairGriffin – Singer/Songwriter
@Martinradio – LBC listener
@Amazing Nature – Nature is Amazing
@Reporterboy – Giles Dilnot

UK NEWS SOURCES (35)

@PA – Press Association
@LBC – LBC Radio
@LBC Breaking – Breaking news from LBC
@LBCLondonNews
@BBCNews
@BBCBreaking
@BBCPolitics
@SkyNews
@SkyNewsBreaking
@Itvnews
@Channel4news
@Newstatesman
@Spectator
@Standardnews
@TotalPolitics
@HuffPoUK
@FT
@FTWestminster
@GuardianNews
@BuzzfeedUK
@BuzzfeedUKPol
@BBCNewsnight
@EDP24
@Pressgazette
@CCHQPress
@LabourPress
@LibDemPress
@ParlyApp – News from Parliament
@TelegraphNews
@TheTimes
@Independent

WORLDWIDE NEWS SOURCES (15)

@CNN
@CNNI – CNN International
@FoxNews
@ABC
@NBCNews
@CBSNews
@TheHill
@MSNBC
@Huffingtonpost
@Slate
@ViceNews
@politico
@AJEnglish – Al Jazeera English
@DerSpiegel
@ZDFHeute
@Tagesschau – ARD News (Germany)
@ABCNews – ABC Australia
@SMH – Sydney Morning Herald
@RTE
@RTENewsnow
@NewstalkFM – Dublin
@NewstalkZB – New Zealand

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Iain interviews Jeremy Paxman

About Litter, Trump and Corbyn

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Weebles Wobble But They Don't Fall Down

15 Dec 2017 at 14:16

It’s difficult to know what the consequences of Wednesday evening’s government defeat in the Commons will be. It certainly undermines Theresa May as she goes into the next stage of negotiations and probably means that an agreement needs to be reached a little earlier than before in order to allow time for all the parliamentary processes to be conducted. The European Commission will be licking their lips. Guy Verhofstadt’s glee on twitter was barf-inducing. However, these things are rarely as significant as they appear in the immediate aftermath.
The whole process proves what I said on the Andrew Marr Show was right. “OMG, you called the PM a weeble,” texted a friend in Number Ten. And it’s true I did. It was meant as a compliment! Those of you of a middle-aged vintage will recall the 1970s children’s toy which was promoted in an advert by a little ditty which went “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.” Let’s face it, even her most loyal supporter would admit that the Prime Minister has had her odd wobbly moment since April. But no one has yet managed to floor her. She may wobble but she always comes back to surprise her critics. Her resilience is astounding. Last Friday, she was again mistress of all she surveyed, having managed to get the DUP and her cabinet onside. She pulled victory from last Monday’s jaw of defeat. But as ever, this week has been a long time in politics and she headed off to Brussels yesterday knowing that her EU colleagues would again consider her to be in a weaker position than the last time they saw her.
*
The eleven Conservative rebels will be very conscious of what they did on Wednesday night and won’t be allowed to forget it. I’d like to think that all eleven of them did what they did for the best of reasons. They say they did it to ‘take back control’ and promote the interests of Parliament against the executive. I’m all in favour of the Executive losing some of its grip on the law-making process and ordinarily I’d support any move to do that. However, the suspicion remains that this was less about the interests of parliament, more about an underhand means of trying to scupper Brexit. Hardline Brexiteers will certainly accuse the ‘eleven’ of that. I guess we’ll never know the truth.
*

Another measure the government seem keen on is to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600. This is parliamentary madness. I presume in the end this will come to a Commons vote at some point and I just can’t see turkeys voting for Christmas. However, if they do they must do it on the condition that the government reduces the number of ministers, something they have so far refused to commit to. If you get rid of 8.3% of MPs, surely you ought to be obliged to reduce the number of ministers by the same percentage, otherwise the Executive is able to tighten its grip on the parliamentary process. If it happened, there would be eight fewer ministers. The question is: would anyone notice?
*
Steve Baker really does have a fine head of hair, doesn’t he? Not that I am at all jealous. Never let it be said.
*

As you read this I’ll be in Brussels for the EU summit. We’re doing CNN Talk (on CNN International at noon) from the Commission building and then I’ll be doing my LBC show from there. It’s my first visit to Brussels since the early 1990s, when I thought it would be a good idea to go and see what it was like. I remember attending a meeting of the European Parliament’s transport committee and having all my anti-EU prejudices confirmed. It was total chaos. You had lobbyists sitting in amongst the MPs and chatting to them as the committee proceedings went on. I remember coming back to London and hoping beyond hope that my work wouldn’t take me to Brussels ever again. Well, I’ve lasted 27 years, and hopefully this visit will be my second and last. I’m sure Brussels feels the same.
*
Last Saturday I wrote an article in the ‘I’ Newspaper about the declining art of political interviewing. You can read it “HERE”:https://inews.co.uk/opinion/columnists/iain-dale-weve-lost-the-art-of-the-political-interview/ ]. It seems to have caused quite a stir with several journalists getting in touch to ask what I thought of their interviewing style! I deliberately didn’t name many names, apart from praising Andrew Neil, who I regard as the best interviewer in the world of political broadcast journalism. Jeremy Paxman was none too pleased and got in touch to say he had never said he had in his mind while interviewing a politician the phrase “why is this bastard lying to me?” He said he was quoting someone else.
*

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Iain interviews Lucy Hughes-Hallett

Author of The Pike

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Books

Keith Simpson's Christmas Reading List

12 Dec 2017 at 15:09

By Keith Simpson MP

Over the past few weeks as the EU (Withdrawal) Bill grinds its way slowly through the Chamber of the House of Commons it has been noticeable that many MPs take refuge in the library to read and to sleep. This litany will continue for many, many months.

Christmas is a time to catch up on reading and to spot purchases for family and friends. Once again this is a personal list of books, mainly politics, history and war – the latter a good antidote for Brexit.

David Laws was a Liberal Democrat minister in the Coalition government and has already published a well received book Coalition. Now he has edited his diaries which give a perceptive and amusing account of life as a minister – Coalition Diaries 2012-2015 (Biteback).

Bernard Donoughue was head of the policy unit in No 10 under both Wilson and Callaghan and a decade ago published two volumes of diaries. Under Blair in the Lords he served as a junior MAFF minister for two years and his Westminster Diary Volumes 1 and 2 show not only his old Labour sympathies but his love of the arts and the turf.

It has taken Gordon Brown seven years to write his memoirs which attempt to explain his political ambition but sit oddly with all the other accounts of his emotional instability as Chancellor and Prime Minister – Gordon Brown My Life, Our Times (Bodley Head).

The Times has been publishing guides to the House of Commons since the 1880s and they have expanded beyond a statistical listing of candidates and constituencies. The Times Guide to the House of Commons 2017 is rather thin fare and at an outrageous price.

The General Election is now months ago, and we have seen several books written which combine gossip and facts to explain what happened. Tim Ross and Tom McTague Betting The House The Inside Story of the 2017 Election (Biteback) does just that.

Tim Shipman had already established his journalistic reputation with All Out War The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class. Now he has written a further volume Fall Out A Year of Political Mayhem (William Collins) which makes for depressing reading for the political establishment. Shipman has increased his book sales by not providing an index so ambitious people have to buy it.

Oliver Letwin is a national treasure and like David Willetts a serious thinker and political practitioner. In the Coalition government he was Cameron’s “odd job man” and general fixer. Letwin hasn’t written a traditional biography; but he mixes his political experience with narrating the challenges faced in Hearts and Minds The Battle for the Conservative Party from Thatcher to the Present (Biteback).

Robert Peston is a marmite journalist and can annoy many people but he is a stimulating journalist and for those wanting to stretch the little grey cells then WTF (Hodder and Stoughton) is for them.

This autumn we have seen two books published on Churchill and the crisis of May 1940. The most substantial and readable is by the author Nicholas Shakespeare Six Minutes in May How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister (Harvill Secker). Shakespeare goes back to original sources and is very critical of Churchill and the Norway Campaign.

Coinciding with the film of the same title is the screen writer Anthony McCarten’s Darkest Hour How Churchill Brought Us Back from the Brink (Penguin) in which he proposes that Churchill did not rule out some form of Peace agreement with Hitler; but only after the defeat of an invasion.

Churchill‘s political career barely survived the Gallipoli Campaign and was one of the factors which made people reluctant to support him in May 1940. Barry Gough has written a fascinating study Churchill and Fisher: Titans at the Admiralty (Seaforth Publishing) which shows that Fisher was close to being deranged.

David Cannadine has written some superbly stimulating books on British history and his Victorious Century The United Kingdom 1800-1906 (Allen Lane) ranks with the best.

A provocative and rather tendentious analysis is offered by the Labour MP Chris Bryant Entitled A Critical History of the British Aristocracy (Doubleday) which at times has touches of Monty Python about the script.

David Kynaston has written a multi-volume history of the Bank of England and he has now edited the volumes and compressed them into one massive item Till Times Last Sand A History of the Bank of England 1694-2013 (Bloomsbury).

Recently we have seen two members of May’s Cabinet resigning and there could be more at a later date. In Fighters and Quitters Great Political Resignations (Biteback). Theo Barcley writes an overview of modern political resignations from those who jumped to those who were pushed.

Chris Skidmore, a Cabinet Office Minister, is a well-respected historian of the fifteenth century and has now brought together the archival and archaeological research into Richard III Brother, Protector, King (Weidenfeld & Nicolson).

Based upon limited archival and literary sources Miranda Kaufmann has written a fascinating study of a number of Black Tudors The Untold Story (One World). There was prejudice but in a different way and we underestimate the widespread movements of people across Europe and Africa.

Ulysses S Grant’s reputation has swung from Civil War criticism and then adulation to the same a century later. His time as President has come in for a lot of criticism but Charles W Calhoun has attempted to write a judicious account of The Presidency of Ulysses S Grant in the excellent series published by the University Press of Kansas.

Images of British troops and civilians in the Second World War frequently refer to the importance of a cup of tea. The cultural, commercial and historical aspects is well covered in Erika Rappaport A Thirst for Empire How Tea Shaped the World (Princeton University Press).

One for Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. In 1932-33 nearly four million Ukrainians died of a starvation due to Stalin’s policy. Anne Applebaum has written extensively on Stalin‘s Russia and in Red Famine Stalin’s War on Ukraine (Allen Lane) documents the politics and the immense human suffering. Not a book one suspects that is on V Putin’s reading list.

Thomas Weber wrote a fascinating book on Hitler’s First World War experiences and his soldiering in the List Regiment. Now he documents Hitler’s radical right wing politics and early days in the tiny Nazi Party in Becoming Hitler The Making of a Nazi (OUP).

The massive three or four volume Victorian biographies are rarely seen these days but Stephen Kotkin is past his half way mark in the first two volumes of a massive life and times biography of Stalin. The first volume was published last year and now we can read Stalin Waiting for Hitler 1928-1946 (Allen Lane).

Simon Heffer is an independently minded Conservative journalist and commentator and author of several fine books. He has written an excellent book on the British experience of the late nineteenth century The Age of Decadence Britain 1880-1914 (Random House).

In the Second World War Gibraltar was very vulnerable to Franco’s Spain and Hitler’s’ Germany. It was a crucial fortress and listening post and much of its population was evacuated to Britain. Nicholas Rankin examines this in Defending the Rock How Gibraltar Defeated Hitler (Faber & Faber).

It could be argued that the Second World War was the BBC’s finest hour – it informed and entertained the Empire and was a crucial link with the population of the occupied territories. Edward Stourton is a well respected BBC journalist and has written an informative and wonderfully entertaining book in Auntie’s War The BBC During the Second World War (Doubleday).

Christopher Mallaby is an old style British mandarin whose memoir Living the Cold War Memoirs of a British Diplomat (Amberley Publishing) are of a different world but well written, incisive and amusing. Another diplomat of that era is Patrick R H Wright and he has used his diaries in Behind Diplomatic Lines Relations With Ministers (Biteback).

Michael Burleigh is both an historian and journalist and much of his latter work is meant to be provocative and to make one think. In The Best of Times, The Worst of Times A History of Now (Macmillan) he ranges across contemporary politics and conflict.

Nicky Morgan, former Cameron Cabinet minister “let go” by Mrs May, Chair of the Treasury Select Committee and leading Remainer. A former Education minister she feels strongly about the subject which she writes about in Taught Not Caught Educating for the 20th Century Character (John Catt Educational).

Despite great political experience and a fine mind David Willetts never made it to the Cabinet. A pamphleteer and author he is struck by the need to redefine the role and structure of our universities, not least Oxford and Cambridge, and his thoughts are laid out in A University Education (OUP)).

The impact and role of the internet and social media is the great game danger today, and David Patrikarakos in War in 140 Characters How Social Media is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century (Basic Books ) isn’t Karl von Clausewitz but jolly stimulating.

Despite maintaining limited British military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan the conflicts that lasted a decade are almost forgotten history. But it is important to look back on the decisions made and the mistakes perpetuated and this is what Theo Farrel does in Unwinnable Britain’s War in Afghanistan 2001-2014 (Bodley Head).

Lawrence Freedman has been a distinguished historian of conflict and adviser to government, not least to Tony Blair. In The Future of War A History (Allen Lane) he attempts to bring together his writing and thoughts which is a useful bluffer’s guide but offers little for the future.

Niall Fergusson is a formidable historian whose research and thinking is both stimulating and provocative. One doesn’t have to be totally convinced of his arguments not to admire The Square and the Tower Networks, Hierarchies and the Struggle for Global Power (Allen Lane).

A book based on editing and recycling previous volumes, James Owen’s The Times Great Letters A Century of Notable Correspondence (Times Books) is a good standby for long Brexit debates.

For those of us who, despite the temptations of Amazon still love to browse in secondhand bookshops then Shaun Bythell The Diary of a Bookseller (Profile Books) is a must. He is the owner of a second hand bookshop in Wigtown and his diary entries cover the usual list of eccentric, annoying, delightful and bloody awful browsers.

I have always loved the cynical Vichy Police officer, Captain Renault, played by Claude Rains in the film Casablanca – “round up the usual suspects” could be the motto of the whips. For those who want to read about the making and aftermath then We’ll Always Have Casablanca The Life, Legend and After Life of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie (Faber & Faber) is a must for Boxing Day.

The doyen of the Press Gallery and Parliamentary Sketch Writers must be the Daily Mail’s Quentin Letts. Acerbic and amusing his Patronising Bastards How the Elites Betrayed Britain (Constable) will delight Brexiteers and enrage Remainers.

Finally, a wonderful stocking filler for the Labour PLP is the tongue in cheek The Unofficial Jeremy Corbyn Annual 2018 (Portico). Happy memories of the Beano and the Eagle!

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Alwyne Turner

Iain talks to Alwyne Turner about his book A CLASSLESS SOCIETY: BRITAIN IN THE 90s

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Political Interviewing: It Shouldn't Be About Confrontation & Newslines - We're Shortchanging the Public

10 Dec 2017 at 17:34

This is an article I wrote for the Saturday edition of the ‘i’ newspaper on Saturday. It was published HERE.

‘It’s all about you, isn’t it?’ wrote the rather angry listener who texted my LBC radio show. ‘How dare you question the Prime Minister like that!’ How dare I, indeed. And there was me thinking that I was doing my job.

Back in early October, Theresa May came to my studio to take calls from our listeners. It was her first interview after THAT speech. She was doing rather well until I asked the Prime Minister if she would now vote Leave if there were another referendum. She failed to give me an answer, so I pushed her.

And then pushed her again. And again.

Each time I did it politely, with no sense of haranguing. That part of the interview was analysed on virtually every political and news show in the country over the next 48 hours. Piers Morgan reckoned it was the best question anyone had ever asked any politician this year. Stroke my ego as it might, it did leave me thinking a lot about the state of political interviewing in this country.

Back in the 1980s prime ministers only ever gave four or five set piece interviews a year. They had a sense of occasion about them, and they each lasted between 30 minutes and an hour. The advent of twenty-four hour news channels changed all that. Tony Blair and David Cameron would be interviewed on radio or television virtually every day. The provision of news on the internet changed things even more. Ninety second clips are de rigueur and news producers assume their audiences have the attention span of a flea.

All this has fed into a ‘gotcha’ narrative where news organisations feel that if they haven’t skewered a politician in an interview, the interviewer has somehow failed. If there isn’t a ‘news line’ from an interview, what was the point of it? interviewing is not a contact sport, or at least it shouldn’t be. The idea that interviews should primarily be about eliciting information to educate and inform the viewer/listener is for the birds nowadays.

Yes, of course it’s about holding politicians to account, but to go into every interview and intend to score points, as so many interviewers (or their producers) seem to want to do, is to short-change the listener.

Nick Ferrari has a reputation as a dogged interviewer, but many of his most newsworthy interviews have come when he has allowed the politician to commit hara-kari, as Diane Abbott knows only too well. LBC’s Shelagh Fogarty has a unique talent of appearing to question in a softly-softly manner, but boy oh boy, if she feels she’s being played, watch her bare her teeth. And that’s how it should be.

Compare that to one famous interviewer told me recently, when he was about to interview a senior politician: “I’m going to give them the most aggressive interview they’ve ever had”. ‘Really?’ I thought. ‘Is that really the best way to go into an interview?’

It illustrated for me the different way we approach political interviews nowadays. I suppose it reflects Jeremy Paxman’s famous approach where before he would interview anyone he’d think to himself “why is this bastard lying to me?” I don’t believe that shouting at someone is likely to elicit anything meaningful from them. They just shut up shop and repeat political mantras.

Too many interviewers think it’s all about them. Social media has encouraged a cult of media personality. It seems that some interviewers want to be heroes in their own echo chamber. The reaction to my Theresa May interview was an interesting case-study. It certainly stroked my ego but it underlined to me my theory that a conversational approach works far better than a confrontational one.

I mourn the apparent death of the long-form political interview. I know from experience that if you interview a politician for three or four minutes you won’t get anything interesting out of them. They have two points they want to make and they will make them regardless of the question you ask.

If you interview a politician for more than ten minutes, eventually they run out of their pre-prepared lines and they are then forced to say something more interesting. David Frost was a master of this. Fern Britton got more out of Tony Blair in an hour-long interview than any of the ‘star’ political interviewers had managed in fifteen years. Nick Ferrari’s hour with Ed Miliband in the 2015 election was the best interview of the campaign.

Last week ITV announced three new hour-long interview programmes, albeit online only. I detect a growing, if niche, appetite for longer form interviews. Come back Robin Day, Brian Walden or Jonathan Dimbleby. These three interviewers were brilliant exponents of the genre. In today’s world, Andrew Neil is a master of it.

If it were my decision, I would make him the new editor and chief presenter of a revamped Newsnight. That won’t happen, of course.

What I’ve Been…

Reading
I’m a huge Gogglebox addict so I’ve been reading the DIARY OF TWO NOBODIES by Giles and Mary, the slightly quirky middle-aged couple who live in a cottage in Wiltshire. They really are as charming and odd as they appear on screen. I’m also reading is Tim Shipman’s FALL OUT. It is the sequel to ALL OUT WAR and covers the Brexit talks and the general election. It’s undoubtedly one of the political books of the year. I wish I had published it.

Podcasting
I’ve started a new weekly podcast with Jacqui Smith called FOR THE MANY, which is 45 minutes of political banter. We were inspired by excellent and hugely gossipy FORTUNATELY podcast by Jane Garvey and Fi Glover. I’ve also started listening to podcasts in the car on journeys to Norfolk, and have become rather addicted to the CHRIS MOYLES SHOW weekly podcast. Laugh out loud funny.

Listening to
I’ve turned into a massive radio geek since being on LBC and love discovering new shows and stations. My most recent discovery is HEART 80s, which does what it says on the tin. TOBY TARRANT’s early breakfast show on Radio X is a show I only get to listen to for the last half an hour, but it’s got that crucial quality in a radio show – you don’t want to switch off in case you miss something.

Watching
I rarely watch live TV nowadays. Netflix has become my new TV home and I can’t wait for the second series of THE CROWN. DESIGNATED SURVIVOR and SHOOTER have been my two most recent binges – both have an echo of ‘24’, which I still miss. I used to be a SKY NEWS addict, but increasingly find myself watching AL JAZEERA ENGLISH and CNN.

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Iain Dale talks to Sir David Attenborough

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Would You Like a '**** Jeremy Corbyn' T Shirt?

1 Dec 2017 at 13:18

Following his ill-judged retweets of three Britain First tweets, Donald Trump is now turning his ire onto Theresa May. He tweeted yesterday: “@Theresa_May don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive radical Islamic terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!”. Further evidence if we needed it of the President’s warped narcissism. The basic trouble is, the man has so little respect for the office he holds. Theresa May was absolutely right to call him out on his tweets. As Piers Morgan told me, either he tweeted them because he didn’t know who Britain First was or he knew exactly who they were. If it was the former he is an idiot. If it’s the latter it is a clear sign that he is Islamophobic. I’d say in either case it demonstrates that America has a president who provides succour to racists, Islamophobes and white supremicists. Furthermore, one of the videos has been proved to be a fake, and the perpetrator of violence in one of the others was sentenced to death for his actions. Tweeting three videos like this is clearly designed to cause division between muslims and the rest of the community. It’s meant to persuade Americans that because one radical muslim cleric deliberately smashes a statue of the Virgin Mary, then all muslims would approve of that. It’s just despicable that a man who holds the office of President should do this. We don’t solve the problems we have with radical Islam by playing into the hands of those who would do us damage.
Theresa May was quite right to call Trump’s action wrong. She could have gone further and called it words like ‘despicable’ and ‘contemptible’ but diplomatic niceties mean that she didn’t. At least she is someone who respects the office in President, but I suspect like most of us, she has little respect for the man.
Sajid Javid, a muslim himself, went much further than the Prime Minister, and I suspect he didn’t get any permission for his tweet.



I think he was entirely justified to go that little bit further. Good on him.
*
On Monday evening I took part in a panel in Norwich which sought to answer the question: “What does it mean to be English?” Former Labour minister John Denham, who now leads the Centre for English Identity at the University of Winchester was one of my co-interlocutors and did a far better job of answering the question than I did. Indeed, we agreed on so much (like believing in creating an English Parliament, for example) we nearly formed our own political party there and then. The event took place at the Forum in the centre of Norwich and there were around 120 people there. It was a very engaged audience who asked some quite challenging questions. However, I’m still not sure I answered the question very well…
*

Over the last months arch-remainers have made the point that Britain must agree to pay the EU what it owes in a divorce payment. On Wednesday evening the Telegraph’s Peter Foster revealed that the UK government and the European Commission had reached an agreement on this issue, and the UK had indeed agreed to pay a fee of somewhere between £35 billion and £45 billion. And what do those same arch-remainers say now? That the government has been totally humiliated!!! Typical. I’d love to have paid the wretched organisation nothing at all, but in the end, all negotiations are pragmatic compromises. However, before we all rush away with the thought that the trade negotiations will now be easy, I suspect the very opposite is true. Remember, any trade deal will have to be ratified by the national parliaments of all 27 member states. I still reckon no-deal is a distinct possibility. In which case, it must be made clear that the EU won’t be getting any money at all. I see Barnier is trying to make out the two things aren’t linked. If the government gives way on that, we might as well give away on everything else now.
*
I’m half way through reading Tim Shipman’s new book, FALL OUT. It carries on from his first book, ALL OUT WAR and is just as good. The level of detail is astonishing. It’s the sort of book I’d like to have written myself but know I couldn’t. It details the Brexit negotiations and the election campaign and finishes in October. I saw Tim on Tuesday and told him he would have to write a third, taking the story up to Brexit Day on 29 March 2019. He visibly blanched. I’d say it was his public duty. He can console himself by knowing that he will have written The Shipman Trilogy – the British equivalent of Robert Caro’s series of biographies of Lyndon Johnson. And I can’t give his books any higher praise than that.
*

That famous political philosopher Noel Gallagher is someone you might think would be rather impressed by Jeremy Corbyn. Not a bit of it. He’s given an interview to the NME in which he rather endearingly talks about the Labour leader. He says: “Fuck Jeremy Corbyn. He’s a Communist”. I think that would make a rather good selling T-Shirt, don’t you? Maybe one for CCHQ…

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Video: Interview about Patick Mercer on Sky News

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Diary

ConHome Diary: The Housing Minister Should Be In The Cabinet & Why Brexiteers Need to Up Their Game in Exposing Remain Lies

24 Nov 2017 at 13:21

Well that wasn’t exactly a knicker-gripping budget, was it? In a week’s time if you asked people if they could remember one measure announced in a budget, the abolition of stamp duty for first time buyers for properties under £300k is probably all that they will remember. There were lots of itty-bitty minor measures and reform announced, but there was little coherence to the budget. Radical and bold it was not. The best thing you can say about this budget is that it hasn’t unravelled. That’s a pretty low bar for success.

The best budgets are ones that follow a vision or narrative. Nigel Lawson did that, and disagree with him though I did, so did Gordon Brown. So did George Osborne to an extent. I’m afraid Philip Hammond’s main vision was ‘how can I avoid a budget gaffe and how can I best keep my job’. There was very little, if anything, for the so-called ‘Just About Managings’. That was supposed to be the theme of this government’s domestic agenda, but so far as I can recall there wasn’t even a mention of it in the budget speech. You could argue that keeping alcohol duties static would help the JAMS, but if so, why not say it? Still at least he recoiled from cutting the VAT threshold for small businesses from £83k to £20k. This would have been a political disaster of epic proportions, and been a far worse error than his NI mistake last year proved to be. Thankfully he stepped back from the brink.

Philip Hammond was right to make housing the centrepiece of the budget. It’s just a pity that the measures he announced will do very little to address the real issue – which is lack of supply. He was looking through the wrong end of the housing telescope. Encouraging first time buyers is all very well, and many will be very encouraged by the cut in stamp duty. But he was undermined in the Red Book by the OBR who rightly pointed out that the cut will inevitably lead to a rise in house prices, thus not benefiting the first-time buyer but benefiting the vendor. What he needed to do was face up to the big housebuilders who are constantly trying to rig the housing market in their favour. What he also needed to do was encourage small and medium sized builders, many of whom have got out of housebuilding in the last few years, partly because the planning system mitigates against them. What we need is a Housing Minister who will trample over all the vested interests and do for housing what Michael Heseltine did with development corporations in the 1980s. I’m impressed by Alok Sharma, but he is relatively new to the job and will take time to gain political ‘weight’. The government should send a big signal and promote the Housing Minister to the rank of attending cabinet. This issue, more than most, could determine the outcome in a lot of marginal seats at the next election.
*
Every morning five or six emails pop into my inbox, each competing for my attention and telling me what’s happening in the political word. They include Matt Chorley’s Red Box email and Paul Waugh’s from the Huffington Post. The latest one is from Politico and is written by Jack Blanchard, and is well worth subscribing to. It has a lot more detail about the upcoming events of the day and which politicians are going to appear on the various political programmes. It’s become indispensable to my day and I highly recommend it.
*

One of the failures of those who support Brexit is to expose the lies of those who continue to bang the Remain drum. We keep being told that EU nationals are all going home. As I write this, Sky’s Adam Boulton is interviewing Theresa Villers and has asked her how we can build more houses if all the EU builders are leaving the country. Just for the record, a week ago the ONS announced that there are now 2.38 million EU nationals working in the UK, a rise of 112,000 on a year ago. Don’t believe me? Click on THIS [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/11/15/number-eu-nationals-working-britain-reaches-record-level-official/ ] link.

Over the last year we’ve also constantly been told that doctors and nurses from the EU are flooding out of the NHS and going back to their home nations. It’s become a narrative which has been accepted all across the media. My LBC colleague James O’Brien speaks of little else. And yet it’s total bollocks. It is a lie. The latest figures show that there are actually more EU doctors and nurses in the NHS a year on from the referendum than there were on June 23 2016. Just for the record, here are the figures:

Doctors in the NHS June 2016 – 9695
Doctors in the NHS June 2017 – 10136 (a rise of 4.5%)
Registrars 2016 June 2016 – 3190
Registrars June 2016 – 3215
Trainee doctors June 2016 – 779
Trainee doctors June 2017 – 950
Midwives June 2016 – 1220
Midwives June 2017 – 1247
Ambulance staff June 2016 – 250
Ambulance staff June 2017 – 386
Scientific, therapeutic, technical staff June 2016 – 6112
Scientific, therapeutic, technical staff June 2017 – 6957
Nurses and health visitors June 2016 – 20907
Nurses and health visitors June 2017 – 20618

So, yes a very slight decline of 1.38% in the number of nurses, but not overall statistically very significant. If you add all those figures up you find…

Total number of EU nationals in the NHS in June 2016 – 42,153
Total number of EU nationals in the NHS in June 2017 – 43,509

So, a 3.22% rise over a year. And in case you think I have made these figures up, they were quoted in The Spectator and come from NHS Digitial.
Similarly, people like Michael White tweet that the trade gap has widened since we voted to leave the EU. A simple look at ONS figures shows this is an utter lie.

2015 Q4-33681
2016 Q1-31169
2016 Q2-28440
2016 Q3-33034
2016 Q4-22812
2017 Q1-22256
2017 Q2-23182

We keep being told that it’s the Brexiteers who are guilty of telling ‘porkies’ with the red bus being cited constantly, but those who put the public case for Brexit need to be fully aware of the lies that are being told on the other side and be prepared to expose them whenever they are able to.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Alastair Campbell

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Humour/Satire

Settling the Account - A Tale of Davis & Barnier

23 Nov 2017 at 21:22

I was sent this earlier today. No doubt it’s doing the rounds, but it has a few echoes of truth, doesn’t it?!

David Davis is at the golf club returning his locker key when Mr Barnier the membership secretary sees him.

“Hello Mr Davis”, says Mr Barnier. “I’m sorry to hear you are no longer renewing your club membership, if you would like to come to my office we can settle your account”.

“I have settled my bar bill” says Mr Davis..

“Ah yes Mr Davis”, says Mr Barnier, “but there are other matters that need settlement”

In Mr Barnier’s office Mr Davis explains that he has settled his bar bill so wonders what else he can possibly owe the Golf Club? “Well Mr Davis” begins Mr Barnier, “you did agree to buy one of our Club Jackets”.

“Yes” agrees Mr Davis “I did agree to buy a jacket but I haven’t received it yet”. “As soon as you supply the jacket I will send you a cheque for the full amount”.

“That will not be possible” explains Mr Barnier. “As you are no longer a club member you will not be entitled to buy one of our jackets”!

“But you still want me to pay for it” exclaims Mr Davis.

“Yes” says Mr Barnier, "That will be £500 for the jacket. “There is also your bar bill”.

“But I’ve already settled my bar bill” says Mr Davis.

“Yes” says Mr Barnier, “but as you can appreciate, we need to place our orders from the Brewery in advance to ensure our bar is properly stocked”.. “You regularly used to spend at least £50 a week in the bar so we have placed orders with the brewery accordingly for the coming year”. “You therefore owe us £2600 for the year”..

“Will you still allow me to have these drinks?” asks Mr Davis. “No of course not Mr Davis”. “You are no longer a club member!” says Mr Barnier.

“Next is your restaurant bill” continues Mr Barnier. “In the same manner we have to make arrangements in advance with our catering suppliers”. “Your average restaurant bill was in the order of £300 a month, so we’ll require payment of £3600 for the next year”.

“I don’t suppose you’ll be letting me have these meals either” asks Mr Davis.

“No, of course not” says an irritated Mr Barnier, “you are no longer a club member!”

“Then of course” Mr Barnier continues, “there are repairs to the clubhouse roof”.

“Clubhouse roof” exclaims Mr Davis, “What’s that got to do with me?”

“Well it still needs to be repaired and the builders are coming in next week”, your share of the bill is £2000".

“I see” says Mr Davis, “anything else?”.

“Now you mention it” says Mr Barnier, “there is Fred the Barman’s pension”. “We would like you to pay £5 a week towards Fred’s pension when he retires next month”. “He’s not well you know so I doubt we’ll need to ask you for payment for longer than about five years, so £1300 should do it”. “This brings your total bill to £10,000” says Mr Barnier.

“Let me get this straight” says Mr Davis, “you want me to pay £500 for a jacket you won’t let me have, £2600 for beverages you won’t let me drink and £3600 for food you won’t let me eat, all under a roof I won’t be allowed under and not served by a bloke who’s going to retire next month!”

“Yes, it’s all perfectly clear and quite reasonable” says Mr Barnier.

“Pxxs off!” says Mr Davis

Now we understand what Brexit is all about.

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Iain Has a Go at Tory Voter Who Voted for Corbyn

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Have we Got Leaking Whips & Why I Have Been in Prison

17 Nov 2017 at 12:28

At the weekend I went to prison. Luckily only for a couple of hours, but it was an experience nonetheless. The only time I’d been inside a prison before was to visit someone who was serving 25 years for murder. He wanted to write a book when he came out. For various reasons it never happened.
And so it was on Saturday that I visited a friend who had been sent to prison for a relatively short sentence. I have a policy when a friend is in trouble or falls on hard times – I stand by them. It’s what friends do. What I have found time and time again is that this is when people in trouble really find out who their friends are. Who are the real friends and who are the “friends”?
I well remember the day when I got a phone call from Channel 4 News telling me that Neil and Christine Hamilton were in Ilford ‘nick’ being questioned about a rape they were supposed to have committed. Would I go on their programme and talk about it? It was so preposterous as to be impossible to believe, so I went on the show. I then got quite a few calls telling me I shouldn’t do any more media on it because it could harm my political career. I politely told these well-meaning friends exactly where they could shove their advice.
Neil and Christine were (and are) good friends and I certainly wasn’t going to drop them the way many people did during the events of 1996-7.
Anyway, I digress. I arrived at the prison with a certain degree of trepidation. I suppose I was afraid that the conversation might be a bit stilted and that five months in this rather Victoria prison might have really changed my friend. I queued up in the waiting room along with, shall we say, all forms of human life, the majority of which seemed to be wearing track suit bottoms and answered to the name of Waynetta or kept shrieking “am I bovvered? Do I look bovvered?” It was the small kids who were running around that I felt sorry for. Poor little sods didn’t stand a chance.
My time soon arrived and I was led through three gates to the visiting room. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was led to a numbered table where my friend was waiting. It was all fairly informal with us sitting on a sofa and soft chair. The time flew by and two hours later it was time to leave.
I was glad I went. My friend seemed to really appreciate it. It had been a round trip of 300 miles or so but I am glad I took the time to do it. I know if it had been me, it would have meant a lot. And you know, there really was a feeling of there but for the grace of God go I. I don’t think I have ever done anything which could have merited going to prison, then again, in my opinion, nor had my friend. More of that another time, maybe.
*
I’ve got my iPhone on shuffle at the moment. I’m writing this to the dulcet tones of a Boney M Megamix. For younger readers they were a 1980s popular music neat combo whose biggest hit was a rather soothing song called Rivers of Babylon. It was ‘Daddy Cool’.
*

I don’t know what the Daily Telegraph thought it was trying to achieve by its front page showing mugshots of the 15 Brexit ‘Mutineers’. Still, at least they didn’t call them ‘collaborators’. That was left to the Daily Mail. Why is it that people who hold a minority view are demonised like this? Some of the female MPs named have received the most disgusting abuse on social media following this. Sarah Wollaston told me live on air that she hadn’t told anyone but her whip of her views on the Brexit Bill amendments so she could only conclude that the whips had deliberately leaked these 15 names to the Telegraph. She will never be able to prove it, but if it’s true, it’s a terrible state of affairs. Conversations with whips must remain confidential otherwise the whole system teeters on the verge of collapse.
*
The reaction to the first episode of my FOR THE MANY iTunes podcast, which I record with Jacqui Smith, has been very gratifying. It reached the top 25 overall iTunes chart and was number 3 in the News & Politics category, only beaten by Serial and the Radio 4 Friday night comedy, although how those two podcasts belong in the News & Politics category I don’t quite understand. If you haven’t subscribed, do give it a try. The second episode will be available early Monday morning.
*

It was good to see the PM on fine form in this week’s PMQs. She looked as if she was genuinely enjoying it – which is more than can be said for the Leader of the Opposition, who at one point called the Government benches ‘The Opposition’. It was a truly lamentable performance from Jeremy Corbyn. My LBC colleague James O’Brien, who I normally disagree with on most things, tweeted afterwards that he reckoned we’ve seen ‘Peak Corbyn’. I wonder if there’s something in that. As Tony Blair said, given the divisions which exist in the government and the bad press they’ve had in recent months you might expect Labour to be well ahead in the opinion polls. But still Theresa May is polling above 40%.
*
Philip Hammond faces an impossible task in next week’s budget. Expectations have been set so high that he cannot possibly meet them. So far we haven’t had many leaks about what to expect, and if his Treasury spinners have any sense they’ll leave it that way. If he can produce a couple of positive surprises on the day, all well and good, but otherwise it’s surely likely to be a steady-as-she-goes, tinkering budget. It’s not in the chancellor’s nature to be radical, but now I’ve said that he’ll probably go and abolish stamp duty or something which will have us all scratching our collective heads in utter astonishment. While we are on stamp duty, perhaps we should all acknowledge that it is basically a form of licensed robbery. The trouble is, if you raised the limit for first time buyers to £400k or so, you’d still need to recover the shortfall from elsewhere in the tax system. A Conservative chancellor cannot surely be seen to raise borrowing. That’s Labour’s job, and what a good job they are doing. I think in this week’s PMQs if you add the spending commitments made in Jeremy Corbyn’s six questions, you’d probably add a good £50 billion to the PSBR. Come the next election, this is going to a be a crucial battleground. The dividing lines are already there and they certainly shouldn’t be blurred in the budget.

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Iain's interview with post-Strictly Ed Balls

Ed in post Strictly form

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