Diary

Attitude Column: The Trans Agenda Shows That The Fight For Equality Is Far From Over

17 Jun 2016 at 09:31

With the advent of equal marriage and all sorts of other pieces of gay friendly legislation it’s easy to reach the conclusion that the battles of the past are over. I think that’s a fairly complacent view when you look at issues that still remain over gay discrimination and bullying in schools and the workplace, but no one can deny that in the last twenty years, things have moved on apace.

But there is one section of the LGBT community which for understandable reasons feels very left behind, and very misunderstood.

It’s only in the last couple of years that transgender issues have been talked about in polite society without provoking a barrage of disgust, abuse and name-calling. I’m not pretending everything is perfect now, but all I know is that trans people can now be far more open about their lives and experiences than at any point in our history, and that’s got to be a good thing.

Straight people can usually understand what it must like to be gay and vice versa, but can any of us truly imagine what it must be like to know that you’ve actually been born with the wrong sexual organs? To live our lives in a way we know not to be natural to us. Can we imagine taking that decision to undergo sex reassignment surgery, knowing that there’s no going back? Ninety-nine point nine per cent of us have never had such thoughts cross our minds, yet for some it’s something that is the natural end to what can be a traumatic process.

The fact that soap operas are starting to introduce trans characters is a mark of how far things have come, with East Enders leading the way.

In the past three years I have held seven or eight-hour long radio phone-ins on transgender issues. Would I have been able to do that even ten years ago without attracting the sort of caller you’d rather not attract? Would trans people have even phoned in? When I first did this as a subject I did wonder whether we’d get a single call. I shouldn’t have worried. But listening to some of the experiences my listeners had gone through was both an education and very emotional.

The bravery displayed by many of them was astounding. I well remember ‘Nicola from Basildon’. ‘Hello, Nicola,’ I began. ‘What would you like to say?’ Nicola turned out to have, shall we say, a rather deep voice. At first it was disconcerting, but like my listeners I soon ignored the timbre of her voice and concentrated on what she was telling me. It was horrific to listen to – the everyday discrimination, the ridicule, the abuse, the piss-taking, all of which led to several suicide attempts.

We’ve even had in-depth discussions about children who have been born in the wrong sex and the parents’ reaction. At what age is it acceptable for gender reassignment treatment to start, for example? How on earth does a child, let alone a parent cope with these kind of issues? And these discussions have been held without anyone phoning in with abuse or condemnation. I’m not pretending there wasn’t any on social media, but twitter is the ideal refuge for bullies and cowards.

Making the transition in your teenage years or your twenties is one thing, but to do it when you’re of more advanced years is quite another. Ask Kellie Maloney. How on earth do you tell your friends and family? It makes coming out as gay seem comparatively easy.

Part of the reason I cover trans issues on my radio show is because it shows those who remain firmly in the trans closet that they are not alone. There are now many trans role models. Paris Lees has blazed a trail for many others – she’s now so mainstream (she’ll hate me for writing that!) that she’s been on Question Time not just once but twice. And there are plenty of others too.

Surely the priority for any society is to encourage everyone to be themselves. We are far from achieving that goal, especially if you are from a religious or ethnic minority background, but compared to even ten years ago we’re certainly making progress.

This article first appeared in Attitude Magazine

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WATCH: Very Sparky Interview With Nicky Morgan on George Osborne's 'Emergency' Budget

15 Jun 2016 at 21:32

If you like punchy interviews, you’ll like this one.

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Iain Takes on the Man who Egged Ed Miliband

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I Doff My Cap to Republic of Ireland Fans

14 Jun 2016 at 10:56

Football fans have taken a trashing in the last few days. But not Irish fans. Credit to fans of Republic of Ireland for paying tribute to the Northern Irish fan who died in an accident in France. This is what true football fans are like.



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Faisal Shinwari tells Iain why he jumped off Tower Bridge

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WATCH: Chris Grayling v Yvette Cooper on Brexit (60 mins)

13 Jun 2016 at 21:09

Today I hosted a one hour EU Referendum debate between Chris Grayling and Yvette Cooper. Later in the week we have the following for you on LBC

WEDNESDAY
4pm Phonein with Alex Salmond
5pm Live studio interview with George Osborne

THURSDAY
4pm One hour debate: Andrea Leadsom v Harriet Harman

FRIDAY
5pm Live studio interview with Sir John Major

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Iain clashes with Alex about Labour

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World Politics

A Few Thoughts on Orlando

13 Jun 2016 at 09:39

I don’t go to nightclubs. I can’t say I ever did very much in my youth. But everyone who goes for a night out expects to be safe, and expects to return home at the end of the evening. In Orlando on Saturday night fifty gay people lost their lives just because they made the fateful decision to go to the Pulse nightclub. Fifty three others are injured. It is the biggest loss of life in a single incident in America since 9/11. As the families of the dead grieve for their loved ones, the rest of us seek to find answers to seemingly unanswerable questions.

From what we know, the gunman deliberately chose a gay nightclub to attack. We don’t know how much his religion impacted on his decision, but we know he carried it out in the name of Daesh. It was a homophobic attack of massive proportions. No one is to blame, apart from Omar Mateen himself. Just because he was apparently repulsed by the sight of two men kissing, is no justification for his actions.

The incident again raises issues about American gun laws, but let’s face it, if the US didn’t act after Sandy Hook, nothing is going to change after Orlando. President Obama can talk as much as he likes, but without action, this sort of thing will be repeated.

The great fear now is that there will be copycat attacks. Pride takes place in London later this month. I hope the Met is already reviewing its security protocols. But however much security you deploy, whatever measures you take, a lone attacker always stands a good chance of getting through.

Tonight there are going to be vigils in Soho to remember the dead. This was an attack on America’s gay community and it is important that everyone recognises that it’s felt by every single gay man and woman the world over.

At times like this you often find out the mettle of our political leaders. Their reactions tell you an awful lot about them. Here’s Donald Trump…



I genuinely don’t know how any half intelligent person can support this man’s candidacy.

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Video: Speech to the Microsoft Politics & Technology Forum, Sydney

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Leave Sarah Alone & the Politics of Protest

12 Jun 2016 at 19:40

Sarah Wollaston’s defection from LEAVE to REMAIN has attracted much comment. When she joined LEAVE many were surprised as they had always considered her to be pro-EU. But she eloquently explained her reasons and the LEAVE camp were highly delighted. Some believe she was a REMAIN plant and was always going to defect. That is to insult her intelligence and it is a conspiracy theory too far. Her main reason for ‘re-ratting’ is because she says LEAVE are not telling the truth about the £350 million we sent to the EU each week. She complains about the way the NHS is being used in this argument. I have to say I do wonder why it’s taken her so long to act, given that this detail and argument have not changed in weeks. Nor has this one…


If Sarah Wollaston had criticised Vote Leave’s campaigning tactics and said she didn’t approve of what they were saying about the NHS, fair enough. She isn’t alone in that. But how can you defect to the other side over that one issue? If you believe Britain is ‘Better Off Out’, then that’s presumably for a variety of reasons. You want to protect our sovereignty. You don’t believe in an EU army. You never want to join the euro. I could go on. This is a referendum on a single question. It’s not like someone leaving a political party and joining another one.
But the LEAVE campaign would do well to leave Sarah alone and refrain from attacking her. It won’t gain them a single vote.
*
Another conspiracy theory was launched on the same day as Sarah Wollaston’s departure. And it concerns the government’s motivation for extending the deadline for voter registration. It goes something like this. They deliberately crashed the gov.uk website so they could then extend the deadline in order for hundreds of thousands of young people to vote, and because they are young, they automatically will vote REMAIN. I can sometimes forgive people being slightly paranoid and believing that everything is a conspiracy. Sometimes they might be right. However, I think we should ration conspiracy theories to one a day. More than that and you come across as a complete loon.
*

I do wonder, though, whether the government is leaving themselves open to a legal challenge over the deadline extension for voter registration. In order to do that a new law has had to be passed, and passed quickly. But in effect it is retrospective legislation, something which we don’t ever do. And the fact that there will be several hundred thousand people who register before this legislation has received Royal Assent, is legally highly questionable, I would have thought. Imagine if Remain wins the referendum by 250,000 votes. Just imagine.
*
The ITV debate with Nigel Farage and David Cameron, if you can call it that, was a complete damp squib. At least Sky’s had some spark to it. Downing Street’s demands on the format at ITV meant the programme was never going to sing. I think ITV was too desperate to get the gig that they just acceded to everything Number Ten wanted. Which of course meant we were all bored into submission. Nigel Farage wasn’t quite on top of his game and the Prime Minister just oozed charm. It was a much better performance than his appearance on Sky, which was at best lacklustre. The fact remains he should have agreed to at least one head to head debate, and it’s a disgrace he hasn’t. He told me he wouldn’t do a debate because he didn’t want a ‘Tory psychodrama’. Well I think that ship has well and truly sailed.
*

Well other broadcasters may not be doing head to head debates, but my programme certainly is. Last week we had IDS v Alex Salmond. On Monday we have Yvette Cooper v Chris Grayling. Thursday sees Andrea Leadsom take on Harriet Harman and on the Tuesday before the vote Nigel Farage will be taking on … well, we don’t know quite yet. Next Friday I have John Major on the show for half an hour. I’ve never interviewed him before so I’m looking forward to that.
*
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and I was very pleased to see on the Sunday Politics that they had copied our ‘Ask me Anything’ style of debate where we let politicians go at each other for five minutes without any interruption from the moderator. It’s very revealing when they question each other, and I suspect this format will now be here to stay.
*

Tony Blair is certainly getting his retaliation in first. He is adamant he did nothing wrong in taking this country to war in Iraq. In his latest interview, though, he launched quite a blistering attack on Jeremy Corbyn, calling him out for indulging in the ‘politics of protest’ rather than the politics of power. Labour supporters would do well to remember that Blair won three elections for them. Yet many of them regard him as a war criminal. It’s a funny old world.

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I'm Like a Sith, Says a Caller Responding to my Views on Syria

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WATCH: Interview With Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian Ambassador to the UK

6 Jun 2016 at 22:44

I think I’ve achieved the impossible. Last week I interviewed Mark Regev, the Israeli Ambassador and today I interviewed his Palestinian counterpart, Manuel Hassassian. Both Jews and Muslims appear to think I was fair and rigorous in both interviews. See, miracles do happen. Perhaps I should become a diplomat … or perhaps not.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Ann Clwyd

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 45: When a Listener Emails...

4 Jun 2016 at 11:06

Last night I made a new friend. Here is an email exchange with an LBC listener which started at around 10.50pm…

LISTENER: 1st time I have listened to your show & I was going to ring in to say that everything I have heard tonight was one sided for the Leave Campaign etc. But I think that you are probably the most obnoxious & Rude Radio Presenter I have ever listened to.I am going to complain to your station about your awful behaviour.Wont be listening to you again.
ME: Seeing as I didn’t even discuss the EU on my show today, good luck with that complaint.
LISTENER: I said tonight in my message,not just your show.I have been listening since I got in from Work at 5pm etc. I noticed that a different presenter took over at 10pm.So I thought I would listen in. But you were rude,obnoxious & condescending to virtually every caller.
ME: My show finished at 7. I did not discuss the EU. I’m intrigued by this because I actually pride myself in not being rude to callers. I take the view that if people take the trouble to pick up the phone the least you can do is give them a fair hearing. In the 5 hour we did Deepcut and in the 6 hour we did Hillary Clinton. I’m genuinely perplexed at how you have come to this conclusion as I don’t recall having a row with any caller apart from the man who thought Hillary shouldn’t be President because she couldn’t keep her man. And I took him on because he was being a dick.
LISTENER: Iain,I am so so sorry.I clicked email the show about an hour ago.The Presenter in Question is Nick Abbot & I just assumed that it was his email to receive. I have listened to you & Nick F etc for a month or so now. Having tired of talksport which I have been a listener for 10-12 years. I am a big fan & have enjoyed every show of yours that I have listened to.I am so embarrassed & apologize again.I will pop a tenner in the Help the Heroes box next time I’m out on your behalf.
ME: All refugees from talkSport are very welcome. We all make mistakes!
LISTENER: I am feeling so guilty m8.I still haven’t 100% got to know you all really well quite yet.But I do completely agree that you are extremely kind polite & understanding to everyone on your show & more importantly very entertaining.I think I saw you on Sky the other night etc.

I think the lesson here is that Nick Abbot’s humour was rather lost on my listener. He will soon come to realise that Nick is one the greatest ever radio hosts.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: A Comeback for Dr Fox & Where's Theresa?

3 Jun 2016 at 13:59

Last week I wrote that I thought Andrea Leadsom had been a star of the Leave campaign. Let me this week sing the praises of Liam Fox. In terms of putting the Leave case, he has been calm, assured and believable. He hasn’t indulged in stoking up ‘Project Fear’ and has been excellent in head to head debates. This won’t have gone unnoticed in Downing Street, who, when the referendum is over will surely be looking to unite the party. One way of doing so may be to bring Liam Fox back into the cabinet. I’d say this was a possibility rather than a probability. After all, the way he was treated last time may well mean he’d tell them to sling their collective hooks. For those who don’t remember, having been asked if he would like to return to government he was called by Downing Street – not by the PM himself – and offered a Minister of State job at the Foreign Office. Indeed, it was the same job he had held as a young MP in the early 1990s. A total insult.
*
On the Remain side, people are asking what on earth has happened to Ken Clarke? I expected him to be on the TV 24-7 during this campaign, but I’ve barely seen him. Same for Michael Heseltine. Aren’t these the big beasts of the jungle who are most respected by the electorate. I suppose it’s possible that they are being saved up for the last two weeks, but it’s most odd that they haven’t appeared much so far. And while I think of it, what on earth has happened to Theresa May? Totally invisible in this campaign. Very odd for one of the big three cabinet ministers and someone who aspires to lead the Conservative Party. Perhaps she thinks that it’s least said soonest mended. She may be right,
*

Is the country actually being governed at the moment? I only ask because I can’t actually remember reading a news story about anything else but Brexit in the last two weeks.
*
On Wednesday I did an hour long live interview with Mark Regev, the new Israeli Ambassador to London. I first interviewed him on the late lamented 18 Doughty Street in 2006. I wrote at the time: “Anyone who heard him would have been impressed, regardless of where they stand on the current dispute. Calm, honest and assured he answered every question put to him with a dignity and honesty unusual in Government spin doctors. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have a great future in Israeli politics.” I stand by every word. I may not agree with everything he says – it would be strange if I did – but if every Israeli spokesman had his capabilities, I suspect Israel might have a much better reputation in the world than it currently enjoys. He has a fascinating back story in that he arrived in Israel at the age of 22 to join the Socialist Zionist Movement. Latterly he was a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry and has spent the last eight years as Benjamin Netanyahu’s official spokesman. London is a plumb diplomatic posting and I suspect will be a stepping stone, either to the Ambassadorship in Washington or to going into Israeli politics. It wouldn’t at all surprise me to see Mr Regev reach the top of Israel’s greasy pole.

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WATCH: Mark Regev Interview

1 Jun 2016 at 21:49

Here’s my 30 minute interview with Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev. We covered a lot of ground!

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Video: Iain Dale spars with Polly Toynbee

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