General Election Predictions

General Election 2017 Seat by Seat Predictions: Predictions So Far...

19 Apr 2017 at 22:08

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Iain Hosts UKIP Leadership Debate

Between the four candidates

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UK Politics

A Few Election Thoughts...

19 Apr 2017 at 09:30

1. For the first time in seven years part of me wishes I was a candidate in this election. Exciting political times ahead. But I can’t/won’t be.
2. Watch out for an exciting announcement later today about something I’ll be doing for the next 8 weeks.
3. Virtually everyone I know who has always voted Labour says they’ll be voting LibDem.
4. Forget any thought of the election campaign starting in early May. It started today.
5. Watch out for the first ‘Jeremy Corbyn has had a day off’ story in the Daily Mail. Around May 14th, I’d say.
6. If Huw Edwards is assassinated anytime between now and June 8th, David Dimbleby will have made sure he has an alibi.
7. Will any broadcaster be brave enough to empty chair Theresa May if she fails to turn up to a leaders debate?
8. The LibDems have a massive opportunity in this election, but will Tim Farron blow it?
9. UKIP will do well to be seen as anything other than an irrelevance, which shows just how far they’ve fallen since 2015. How can they justify standing against MPs who voted for Brexit?
10. The most probably way for Theresa May to be defeated is if there is some sort of anti Tory alliance in 100 Tory marginals. It’ll never happen.
11. Can John Woodcock survive as a Labour candidate following his video today where he says he would never vote to put Jeremy Corbyn in Number Ten? I’d say the odds are against. I suspect it doesn’t matter as his seat will go Tory, just like it did in the landslide of 1983.
12. I’m mulling over whether to do my seat by seat prediction, like I did in 2010. Not sure….
13. Guess who had a holiday in Spain booked for 4-9 June. Immediately cancelled.

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LBC97.3 Iain Talks to Jason Beattie

The Mirror's political editor defends his story on George Osborne and the disabled parking bay.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: In Defence of Boris & What Will the Local Elections Bring For Jezza?

14 Apr 2017 at 14:33

Boris Johnson has copped a lot of flak this week, unfairly so in my opinion. The media, and indeed some of his colleagues, have been waiting for him to commit a diplomatic howler ever since he was appointed Foreign Secretary back in mid-July. I was certainly not a founder member of the Boris fan club, but one thing I do know is that he has a habit of outperforming people’s expectations. He did so as London mayor and I suspect he will do so in his current job. So far, he hasn’t put much of a foot wrong. I hear from Foreign Office sources that he reads his briefs, has much more of a command of detail than they had imagined and that he performs well with his counterparts in other countries. He has undoubtedly been marginalised in the Brexit negotiations but in his appearances in the House of Commons he has shown a mastery of his brief and has hardly put a foot wrong.
To criticise him for the fact that Germany and Italy vetoed his proposals on sanctions against Russia says more about them than it does Boris. I’m not a great fan of sanctions as they are often the political equivalent of virtue signalling, but in this case it was a perfectly sensible proposal.
*
I’m a great hoarder. I hate throwing things away. I cannot abide the thought of getting rid of books, but as I get older I know that at some point I’m going to have to. I’ve run out of bookcase space in the house and my partner certainly wouldn’t entertain the thought of building any more. I’ve always had this hankering to buy a Victorian rectory with a ready-made library, but I’m not sure that is ever going to happen. In my bedroom I’ve now got four columns of books stacked on the floor – all unread – which look as if they could topple over at any point. Probably in the middle of the night. I’m not sure I’m quite ready for Harriet Harman to fall on top of me…
*

In four weeks’ time we’ll be raking over the consequences of the local election results. Try as I might I can’t see how they can be anything other than bad news for Jeremy Corbyn, and that’s not me looking at things through blue tinted spectacles. All the signs are that Labour will lose heavily in Scotland. They’re on a 14% vote share there and it’s difficult to see them gaining control of any councils, let alone have a net gain in seats. There are 32 unitary councils in Scotland (with 1,223 councillors) and 22 in Wales (which have 1,264 councillors). In Scotland three quarters of the councils are under No Overall Control. Only 4 are controlled by Labour. The SNP is expected to make huge gains and increase the number of councils they control, and the number of councillors. The Tories will expect to increase their councillors too. Given the electoral system used, it’s difficult to guess by how many.
In England, there are 27 county councils up for election. These seats were last fought in 2013, which was a good year for Labour. Even traditionally Tory councils like Norfolk went to No Overall Control or Labour. Norfolk this year should see a Tory resurgence. Labour will spin that they’ve never done well in county council elections, but to lose seats in a mid-term Tory government is nothing other than a disaster. It’s expected they could lose more than 100 seats. I expect the Conservatives to remain broadly where they are or even to gain a few seats, with the LibDems doing the same. UKIP is defending 140 seats. Given their recent troubles I wonder if they might lose a high proportion of them.
There is also the Gorton by-election and some mayoral contests taking place on the same day.
*
The week after the local elections will be critical for Jeremy Corbyn. If the results are as I think they may well be, he’s going to come under huge pressure to step down and let someone else have a go. Labour MPs know another coup won’t succeed so it will all be up to Jezza. In the last there have been at least two occasions when he’s wanted to quit, but John McDonnell and Seumas Milne have put some lead into his pencil and he agreed to stay. Some commentators think things may be different this time. Wishful thinking I’d say. There is no way Corbyn will be allowed to quit until after September’s conference, because that’s when the left expects to get its leadership election rule changes through.
*

Former UKIP leader Diane James seems to think that someone owes her a seat in Parliament. She says she would only “accept” a Tory seat if it was a safe one. Seeing as she isn’t actually a Tory party member, I’d say she was whistling in the wind. She really doesn’t know how Conservative selections work, does she?

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Iain Dale at Drive: An ex-Cop reveals more about the Cyril Smith coverup

An LBC Drive exclusive

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Hitler, Hitler, Hitler

7 Apr 2017 at 13:23

Helen Szamuely, who died this week, wasn’t famous, but she should have been. She was a Brexiteer years before the word Eurosceptic was even invented. Her work in the broader Eurosceptic movement was vital to making the case for leaving the European Union. I first met her when I was running Politico’s. She loved to come in and shoot the breeze and discuss the latest ups and downs in the Westminster world. She loathed elected politicians and viewed them as a hindrance. Her perspective on the EU came from her own background, which she rarely spoke about. Born in Moscow and the daughter of an intellectual, she moved to this country as a child. Her English was faultless but there was always a trace of an accent. Freedom was her watchword, and it was the prism through which she saw everything. Her writing on Eastern Europe and Russia was incisive and ground-breaking, yet somehow she was never recognised for her work. Helen was a difficult character in some ways. Difficult to work with, she was an individualist who was certainly prone to the odd flounce. She succeeded me as editor of the Conservative History Journal but it has to be said that she and I had rather different interpretations of the word ‘deadline’! I shall miss her infectious laugh and cheeky nature. She loved a good gossip and although I hadn’t seen her much in recent years it was always good to catch up when we ran into each other. Peter North knew her far better than me and has written this marvellous tribute HERE [add link http://peterjnorth.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/helen-szamuely.html ]. My thoughts go to her daughter Katharine, who was devoted to Helen, who in turn was so proud of her offspring. I know it’s a cliché, but Helen will be greatly missed by all who knew her. And if the Eurosceptic movement awarded honours for contribution to the cause, Helen ought to be awarded a retrospective peerage.
*
Labour’s latest vote catching policy is to propose that all primary school children should get free school meals. It’s one of those motherhood and apple pie policies that is quite difficult to argue against. It is likely to cost £1.2 billion and will, according to the Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner, be funded by putting VAT onto private school fees. This policy was last proposed by Labour in the 1983 Labour manifesto, the most left wing in its history. I have no idea how many people who send a child to a private school is a Labour voter, but this policy ought to reduce that number to close to zero. It shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the type of people who send their kids to private schools. Yes, rich people do. But there are thousands of normal people who do so too, who scrimp and save in order to give their children the best education possible. Putting VAT on school fees will add between £2k and £6k to their bills. It may be the straw which breaks the camel’s back.
*

I’ve done quite a bit of coverage on my radio show this week of the Prime Minister’s trip to the Middle East, especially to Saudi Arabia. On Monday I interviewed a documentary maker called James Jones. He has made a film called ‘SAUDI ARABIA UNCOVERED’. I hadn’t seen it when I interviewed him but I watched it on Youtube on the train home that night. I so wish Theresa May had been able to watch it before she set foot in Riyadh. It’s certainly an eye-opener, especially about the way women are treated in the Kingdom. Have a watch. You’ll be horrified and tell all your friends about it.
*
I suspect Michael Howard has spent the week metaphorically kicking himself. Not known for his loose lips approach to interviews, he appeared to suggest that if Spain didn’t back off Gibraltar Theresa May might well decide to go to war, in the same way that Margaret Thatcher had over the Falklands. Well, that’s what his words were interpreted as saying. What he was trying to do was point out that May has the same level of resolve as Thatcher. I suspect as the words came out of his mouth he was thinking to himself “Hmmm, maybe I could have phrased that better…”. We’ve all done it. He may not be a member of the government, but as a former party leader his words are obviously taken very seriously. The reaction was totally over the top, but that’s the media world we live in. Misspeak in a live interview and repent at your leisure.
*

Not easy being a West Ham fan at the moment… A bit like being a Shadow Cabinet member…
*
I’ve known Ken Livingstone for many years. We agree on very little but I’ve always liked him, always enjoyed talking to him. He was a good colleague on LBC for many years. But he really has gone off the rails on anti-semitism. It’s as if he can’t help himself. Why is no one advising him to stop doing interviews which inevitably make things worse? Why didn’t Labour’s disciplinary panel make it a condition of his rather to lenient suspension that he mustn’t do any more interviews on the subject? Unfortunately Ken has developed a form of Tourettes on this issue and he simply cannot resist mentioning the word Hitler. In a 13 minute interview with me on Wednesday afternoon he mentioned Hitler twelve times. I know, because I could see people on Twitter counting the mentions as the interview progressed. Not a good place to be.

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Iain is Interviewed by Alex Foster of LibDem Voice

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Radio

Why I've Said Yes to Hosting the Morning Show on Radio X

1 Apr 2017 at 09:52

This wasn’t supposed to be announced until Monday but Radio Today seem to have got hold of it, so I thought I’d share some news with you.

As you know, I’ve been hosting LBC’s Drivetime Show for four years now. LBC is part of Global Radio, which owns several massive music radio stations including Capital, Heart, Smooth, Classic, and Radio X. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at music radio and now the opportunity has presented itself, well, I just couldn’t say no.

From a week on Monday I’ll be taking over the mid-morning show on Radio X, replacing Vernon Kay. Don’t worry, it finishes at 1, so I’ll still have time to prepare for my LBC show!

Global Radio’s Richard Park said, announcing the move: “Iain has been with Global for seven years now and we feel he needs a new challenge. Vernon has left big shoes to fill, but we feel Iain’s eclectic musical tastes will draw the listeners in and they’ll soon get used to his political links between the tunes. I’m sure the handover from Chris Moyles will become appointment to listen radio.”

I might not know my Arctic Monkeys from my elbow, but, given the times we live in, the controller of Radio X, Matt Deverson, has clearly decided it’s about time his audience got a mix of music and current affairs. In fact, it’s a naked attempt to steal listeners from James O’Brien. I mean, who wouldn’t switch to me on Radio X playing the latest from Sparks mixed with a comment on Jeremy Corbyn’s new rather natty tracksuit?

Now, just as Chris Moyles has Dominic Byne, Pippa Taylor and Dave Masterman as his studio crew, I’m in the process of putting my own team together in order to ensure we get the right sound for Radio X. So far I’ve recruited Timmy Mallet, H from Steps and Kay Burley. If that isn’t a winning team, I don’t know what is.

On my first show Matt’s kindly agreed to suspend the Radio X playlist so listeners can get to know my own musical tastes. So in the first hour I’ll be lining up these rather excellent tunes…

Listen to your Heart by Roxette
Forever Young by Alphaville
Just Drive by Alistair Griffin
An Enya megamix
and Miss You Nights by Cliff Richard

In the second hour we’ll be taking calls on Brexit interspersed with sixty years of Eurovision hits.

In the final hour, to ensure the success of my first show, I’m delighted that Theresa May will be joining me for sixty minutes of chat and commentary on the songs of Meat Loaf.

And should there be any listeners left by 1pm, normal service on Radio X will resume with Dan O’Connell.

It’s gonna be epic!

UPDATE: For the record, this was an April Fool. I can’t believe the number of people who tweeted their congratulations. Gullible is the word which springs to mind!

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Video: Iain Dale North Norfolk Campaign Video on Health Issues

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Amber & Boris, Sayeeda & Douglas & Keir Starmer's Mirror

31 Mar 2017 at 13:15

Listening to the BBC coverage of triggering Article 50 you’d think we were entering a period of national mourning. It started with the Today programme who relished interviewing anyone who had anything negative to say – and believe me, most of their carefully chosen guests did. In the section I listened to they did indeed have one pro Leave business guest. She was given all of two minutes to make her case. The five or six Remainers were left to witter on with hardly a challenge from the presenters. We’re going to have two years of this. The die is cast. Article 50 has been triggered; there is no going back, despite what some Remainers might cling onto. I had hoped that there would be a realisation from the likes of Nick Clegg and Hilary Benn that the thing to do now is unite behind Brexit and make the best of it. I suppose it was always a forlorn hope. Nick Clegg seems to have cast himself as ‘Remainer in Chief’ and has declared that the ‘phoney war is now over’ and Brexiteers must be held to account ‘for their false promises’. If he wishes to go to war with the British people over the way they voted, that’s up to him. We should admire people who stick to their principles, but we shouldn’t have any truck with politicians who fight the battles of the last war. Everyone’s attentions should now be directed to how we make a success of Brexit, or if you are of a less optimistic persuasion, make the best of a bad job.
*
It says a lot about the state of the British media that on the day before Article 50 was triggered all we could talk about were the respective legs of the PM and the Scottish First Minister. Who’d have thighed it.
*

I wonder when Kier Starmer looks himself in the mirror – and with that gelled hair, he must do so quite often – does he see the reflection of John Moore staring back at him?
*
A lot has been written about the rise in inflation in the last few weeks. Those who know nothing about economics appear to attribute it all to Brexit and the fall in the Pound. The truth is somewhat simpler. Since Brexit the price of oil has risen 60%, and that has now begun to come through in the inflation figures. If the rise in inflation was all down to Brexit the inflation rate would be far higher. In fact, it’s only 0.1% higher than Germany’s rate, and on a par with most of the rest of the main EU economies.
*

Alex Salmond is a genial cover. I host him every Wednesday afternoon for a half hour phone-in on LBC. He and Nicola Sturgeon are adamant that Scotland should have its own deal, given that Scotland voted 62-38 to Remain. I am sure Alex Salmond is sincere in that and genuinely believes the case he is making. Of course, I am sure that if Dumphries & Galloway or The Borders vote in a second Independence Referendum vote to remain in the UK he’d also allow them their own special deal to stay in the UK. And pigs might fly.
*
There were two new books out this week which may be of interest to ConHome readers. Sayeeda Warsi has written a book called THE ENEMY WITHIN, which is apparently how some people described her when she was a minister in the Cameron government. It’s certainly not a kiss and tell account of her time in government, instead it’s a thoughtful tome about the place of muslims in Britain today. It’s incredibly well researched (and heavily footnoted) and I hope it gets a much wider readership than just among muslims who are interested to read about the views of Britain’s first muslim cabinet minister. It deserves to. Douglas Carswell has also written a weighty tome called REBEL. It’s a call to arms to overthrow what he calls the Oligarchs and political interests that control our society. A powerful polemic, it ought to have a readership across the political spectrum. It’s certainly not a right-wing treatise; indeed, at times you think you’re reading the words of someone on the far left. Some of his recipes for dealing with out of control capitalism could emanate from the pen of Jeremy Corbyn. Indeed, if Corbyn has any sense he will read this book and adopt a lot of its conclusions. But as I say, the key phrase there is ‘if he has any sense’. No doubt he and his little helper Seumas Milne couldn’t bring themselves to read a single word of a book they would regard as being written by someone on the extreme right. And therein lies their problem. Carswell is far more in tune with the views of the ordinary Brit than they ever will be.
*

I like interviewing Amber Rudd, although I don’t do it that often. On Wednesday she was on my show talking about triggering Article 50. I asked her if she thought that people on both sides should moderate their language and stop the insults. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘they should’. I immediately retorted, ‘Well that’s enough about you and Boris.’ She giggled and said, ‘Well I rather let myself in for that one, didn’t I?’ Good on her. It’s a pity that more politicians don’t react in the same way rather than go all hoity toity.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Benjamin Cohen about Social Media Addiction

What constitutes an addiction to social media? Iain Dale, Benjamin Cohen and Siobhan Benita discuss.

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UK Politics

When Will Someone Hold Highways England to Account?

25 Mar 2017 at 12:56

Back in the 1990s the Major government embarked on a much heralded programme of hiving off government responsibilities into stand alone and stand apart agencies. The idea was to keep politics out of these agencies. Fears were expressed that they would become politically unaccountable and a law unto themselves. Twenty years on it looks like those fears have been realised.

Take the Highways Agency, which of course nominally comes under the remit of the Department of Transport. Ever since its inception in 1994 it has been riddled with incompetent managers, few visible leaders and a lack of strategy for the nation’s trunk road and motorway network. It has a multi-billion pound budget. Its transformation in 2015 from an agency into a government owned company, Highways England, seems to have made little difference. Like Transport for London its only goal in life seems to make it more difficult for the car driver. TFL clearly have a policy of introducing policies designed to encourage all drivers not to drive in central London, yet they don’t have the balls to admit it. How else can you explain the appalling situation along The Embankment and Upper Thames Street, or the fact that you now cannot turn left from the Embankment onto Westminster Bridge, leading to more congestion on Parliament Square as you now have to go around Parliament Square to come back onto Westminster Bridge. And to top it all, there’s now going to be a year of disruption on the bridge as separate cycle lanes are introduced. I digress, but Highways England seems to be determined to follow suit. How else can you explain the rank incompetence of closing the M3 out of London on random nights with little or no warning until you happen to get within a mile of the section that is closed off. And then you try to follow the diversion only to find out that it is so badly signed that you end up exactly where you started.

On Thursday night I drove from London to Norwich. Well, at least I tried to. Normally it takes me around two and a half hours. On Thursday it took the best part of four hours. Firstly, the overhead gantries on the M11 informed me that Junction 9 was closed. That’s the A11 junction. OK, I thought, I’ll go on to Duxford and take the A505 back onto the M11. I followed the diversion until it tried to make me head back south on the M11. Luckily I was born and brought up in that area so I knew that was ridiculous and found my way through Great Abington back onto the A11. Job done, I thought. I was wrong. On the A14 at Newmarket the gantries informed me that there was no access to the A11 north and the signs said “Find an Alternative Route”. So helpful of them. They put up those signs in the full knowledge that there isn’t an alternative route to Norwich unless you head 30 miles or so down the A14 and go via Ipswich.

When I got to the A11 turnoff I was pleased to see it was, in fact, open. I shouldn’t have been so pleased because a few miles on, at Red Lodge, the road was indeed closed and we were all diverted back heading for Newmarket. So in the end I had no alternative but to head to Ipswich and drive up the A140.

Now I totally understand that roads need repairing, but the default policy of the Highways Agency seems to be close them off completely rather than install traffic lights and leave one lane open. And they do it with little notice. I follow HighwaysEast on Twitter but I had seen no information about these roadworks. When I sent them a tweet asking them why not they said it was because they don’t tweet about roadworks, they only tweet about ongoing incidents. That’s the public sector for you. No idea about customer relations whatsoever.



We have reached a stage in this country where car drivers have become a persecuted minority in this country. When a government agency like the Highways Agency considers it more important to install yet more speed cameras in places where they are not needed rather than prioritise the efficiency of the road network you know you have a body that is ploughing its own furrow with little reference to its supposed political masters. This is exemplified by the fact that its senior management very rarely ever do interviews. There is no way to publicly hold them to account for their actions. They’re not even really accountable to Parliament, except, rather nominally, through government ministers.

This is why I always reject the very lazy, but populist, argument that we should take politics out of the NHS. The budget of the NHS makes the Highways Agency look rather irrelevant. But to suggest that the NHS shouldn’t be politically accountable would be to send the NHS down the route that the Highways Agency took.

It is high time the government took Highways England back under the control of ministers in Marsham Street.

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LBC 97.3 Book Club: Iain talks to Tia Sharp's Grandmother (Part 1)

Christine Bicknell and Tia's stepdad David Niles join Iain.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Terror in Westminster & Dreaming About Tim Shipman

24 Mar 2017 at 13:36

Steve Uncles is a name you probably won’t be familiar with. He has been a leading light in the English Democrats for a number of years, particularly in the south east, and has stood in a number of elections, including for Kent Police & Crime Commissioner and in the European Elections. He appeared on the late-lamented 18 Doughty Street several times and I always found him an amiable cove. Last week he was sentenced at Maidstone Court to 7 months in prison. His crime? To submit bogus election papers for elections in Kent in 2013. He put in papers for candidates called Rachel Stevens (who was lead singer for S Club 7) and Anna Cleves and other real people who had never agreed to stand. I do not diminish the importance of the crime, but seven months in prison? Really? What on earth is the point of sending someone to prison for that kind of offence? This is why our prisons are so full. Surely to God there are other ways of punishing people? OK, in all probability he’ll only serve three months, but what possible good can come of sending him to prison? No one can use the argument, well, he won’t do it again if he’s in prison, will he? Yet another example of how our sentencing guidelines need massive reform.
*
‘Prime Suspect 1973’. Not exactly ‘Life on Mars’, is it?
*

Presenting a radio show when a terror incident has just happened is like walking a tightrope. One word out of place and you could lose your job. And so it was that on Wednesday afternoon Shelagh Fogarty and I negotiated our way through the appalling events that took place just outside the Palace of Westminster. To be fair, we quickly had quite a few details almost from the start. That’s something unusual in these cases. Several times I have had to do a three hour radio broadcast of rolling news when we knew very few details at all. Keeping an audience engaged in those circumstances is one of the most difficult things you have to cope with as a live broadcaster. I remember when flight MH17 went down in Ukraine. Those were the only details we had. Speculate too much and it’s inappropriate. Say too little and repeat ad nauseum and you lose your audience. It’s in these situations, though, when a station like LBC comes into its own. We don’t have zillions of reporters, but we do have an increasing number of listeners who are only too willing to tell us what they have seen. It was heartbreaking to find out that the police officer guarding the mother of parliaments had lost his battle for life. The pictures of Tobias Ellwood administering CPR to the police officer will stay with me for a long while. Two heroes of our time.
*
Some people never know when to quit. Well, Jacqui Smith and I have quit the Sky News paper review. Hold the front page! I hear you say. For us both it was quite wrench as we have, we think, developed quite a good on-screen rapport, but sometimes you just have to do what you think is right, and we figured our time was rapidly coming to an end. Sky seem to want to shake up the people who are guests on their paper reviews and we could see the writing on the wall. Apparently there’s a new broom who thinks their viewers want to see more Corbynistas and Americans, and fewer Westminster and media insiders. Well, it’s a point of view, I suppose. One thing I have learned in observing and participating in these paper reviews is that you shouldn’t go on them if you have no personality and very little to say. Some of their more recent recruits appear afraid to articulate a coherent opinion on anything and stay firmly rooted to the fence. I’ll leave you to judge whether that makes better TV than the kind of good humoured, and yes, spiky, banter Jacqui and I indulge in. But I make no complaint. It’s Sky’s prerogative to change their guest personnel whenever they want to. I’ve enjoyed doing these paper reviews for 17 years but all good things come to an end. I know both Jacqui and I are going to miss Anna Botting, who I continue to regard as one of the great stars of British news TV. And what’s more, she’s as nice in person as she appears on screen.
*

I had a very strange dream the other night. It featured Tim Shipman (Sunday Times Political Editor) and I fighting off Chinese spies. What can it all mean?
*
I finish writing this diary on Thursday morning. I’ve just read Paul Waugh’s HuffPo morning email and I am not ashamed to say it moved me to tears. Journalism in this country gets a pounding sometimes but yesterday we saw it at its best – reporting the facts and sticking to them. Refusing the indulge in the mindless speculation perpetrated by the likes of Arron Banks and others on Twitter. We also saw the very best of the British people. People rushing to help their fellow citizens. An MP rushing towards danger in order to help the fallen policeman. I could go on. But there are five families grieving this morning. I cannot imagine what they are going through, and yes, I include the family of the terrorist attacker in that. How on earth can they come to terms with what he did? But most of all we think of the family of PC Keith Palmer. In their pain and grief, I hope will come to know that a whole nation is grieving with them for a man who will be remembered as a true British hero.

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Iain talks to Julie in Basildon about bad parenting

An emotional call.

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Media

Why Jacqui Smith and I Are Saying Good Bye to the Sky News Paper Review

22 Mar 2017 at 14:13

h/t to @Liarpoliticians for the video clip.

Last night on Sky News Jacqui Smith and I announced we were doing our last paper review. (CLIP above). Several of you have been in touch with both of us to ask why.

I started doing paper reviews on Sky around 17 years ago. Jacqui is a comparative ‘newbie’ having been doing them for around six years. I’ve had various on screen partners – first Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, then Zoe Williams and, for the last five or six years, Jacqui Smith. We usually do every other Wednesday night. Not too long ago we were told we had the highest ratings of any pairing (including Pierce & Maguire! and suggestions were made that we might like to do it every week. Given that I live in Tunbridge Wells, and not London, and Jacqui lives in Worcestershire we declined that offer as we have to stay the night in London or get home really late.

Late last year our bookings seemed to get a little lighter. Fair enough, we thought, as long as we’re getting one a month, that’s fine. However, last night’s was the first booking since early December, and the next one they offered us was in mid-May. Apparently, a new broom in senior management has decreed that there should be more Corbynistas and Americans on their paper reviews. Neither of us have any argument with that whatsoever. We’ve had a very good run and enjoyed it. We both love Anna Botting and it’s a shame we won’t be appearing with her again, but we both feel that it doesn’t really work for us if we’re only on once every other month with no certainty. On-screen partnerships don’t work when you have to spend a bit of time getting into the groove again. So we both came to the conclusion it was best for us to call it a day.

Broadcasting to a ‘grateful’ nation is a real privilege – no one has a divine right to go on doing it forever. We pulled the plug, not Sky, even though I have to say Sky’s actions hastened the decision. But we make absolutely no complaint. As we said in the clip above, we’ve been very grateful for the opportunity and we leave with only fond memories.

Anna Botting is one of Britain’s finest news broadcasters. She can turn her hand to anything, as you’ll see later this evening, when she hosts the News at Ten live from Mosul. She has an infectious personality and is one of the best things on Sky News. It was nice to do our final show with Steve Dixon, as he was one of the first presenters I ever did a paper review with – back in the days when I would be nervous as a kitten!

Jacqui and I have become firm friends as a result of doing the Sky press preview and we’re continuing our relationship by editing a two volume set of biographies of female MPs together, ‘The Honourable Ladies’, which will be published late next year. However, I’m sure we’d both like to continue our on-screen relationship, so if the editor of THIS MORNING is listening….

So thank you, Anna, thank you Sky. And thank you Jacqui! It’s been great fun!

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I'll Mourn His Victims, But No, I Won't Mourn Martin McGuinness

21 Mar 2017 at 09:11

Inam Bashir and John Jeffries. Two names you’ve probably never heard of. I knew their faces but not their names. They worked in a newsagents by South Quay DLR station on the Isle of Dogs. Each morning I’d call in to their little kiosk to buy my morning newspapers on the way to work. On 9 February 1996 I decided to drive to work in London’s Victoria so I didn’t see them that morning. I wouldn’t see them ever again.

At one minute past seven that same evening I was driving back to my flat just off Westferry Circus. I was driving past the Tower of London when I heard a muffled boom. I had no idea what it meant until I reached the underground roundabout at the top of the Isle of Dogs. Sirens were going. Police were everywhere. As I emerged into the daylight, only yards from my flat in Cascades – the building Prince Charles referred to as a ‘monstrous carbunkle’ – everything was being cordoned off. I wound down my window and shouted to a policeman: “What’s going on?”. He replied with one word: “Bomb”.

I managed to get into my building only seconds before the cordon came down.

I never saw Inam or John again. They were killed by the blast. Innocent men, no doubt with loving families. Killed. For what? Killed by IRA cowards. On the orders of IRA cowards. I have no idea whether Martin McGuinness gave the orders for that bomb to be planted. In a way it doesn’t really matter. We know that he approved and ordered dozens of other terror atrocities and clearly did nothing to prevent this one.

Yes, I hear all the blather today about how vital he was to the peace process, and in many ways he was. He adapted to government in a way no one could have predicted. I acknowledge all that.

But no, I won’t indulge in all the kind words being uttered about him today, often by the very same people who rejoiced in Margaret Thatcher’s passing.


I don’t mourn his passing. How could I when all I can do today is remember Inam Bashir and John Jeffries.

PS The man convicted of planting the bomb was released after only two years under Good Friday Agreement.

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