Interview

Listen: Michael Gove's 'Whopper'

27 Jun 2013 at 22:55

From an interview I did with Michael Gove this afternoon. We had been discussing new school buildings, but I decided to end the interview on a lighter note and talk about George Osborne’s burger eating habits.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Coleen Nolan

Coleen Nolan discusses her autobiography UPFRONT AND PERSONAL.

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UK Politics

In the Case of The Bow Group v Iain Dale... Round 2

25 Jun 2013 at 23:33

I warn you now. Reading this blogpost may make you lose the will to live.

Back on 24 May I incurred the wrath of the Bow Group’s chairman Ben Harris-Quinney when I wrote this in my ConservativeHome Diary.

I’m not quite sure what has happened to the Bow Group. It seems to have disappeared up its own backside, putting out daily press releases which seem designed to undermine the Conservative Party leadership at every opportunity. I remember when it considered itself a pseudo think tank, coming up with worthy (but often very dull) policy proposals, some of which were even adopted by Tory governments. It’s a long time since that happened. The Bow Group has now come under the control of a self-publicist who goes by the name of Ben Harris-Quinney. He doubles as director of Conservative Grassroots. Press releases from the latter organisation are sent from Bow Group email addresses, thereby blurring the two organisations, which, I would have thought, have very different aims. Mr Harris-Quinney’s main aim seems to take the government to task for its stance on gay marriage and his main weapon is to persuade 30 rather elderly Tory constituency chairmen to deliver regular letters to the doorstep of Number 10. Quite how pictures of 30 elderly gentlemen standing outside the Prime Minister’s home is meant to further whatever aim Mr Harris-Quinney has, only he can explain. Former Bow Groupers are said to be horrified at what has happened to a once august and respected organisation.

Fairly harmless stuff for a diary column, you’d have thought, but views which reflect what a lot of people think if my email inbox is anything to go by. However, Mr Harris-Quinney threatened ConservativeHome with a libel suit if they didn’t take down the article immediately. Unfortunately for Mr Harris-Quinney, the editor of ConHome is made of strong stuff and told him effectively to get lost, but if he wished to respond by way of an article he would happily publish it. Mr H-Q (as he shall henceforth be known) supplied such an article, but following legal advice ConHome decided it couldn’t be published as it contained two libels against me – not fair comment, actual libels. Not my interpretation, a lawyer’s. He then persuaded The Commentator to publish the same article. When I gently (and Raheem Kassam will confirm it was ‘gently’) pointed out the legal advice which had been received, he decided to take it down. I assumed that would be the end of it. However, today I received a legal letter from the Bow Group’s lawyers, Speechly Bircham. It is so preposterous that it is worth reprinting in full.

We are instructed by the Council of the Bow Group, who have asked us to write to you and correct certain factual inaccuracies that appeared in your article on ConservativeHome on May 24, which we understand was repeated on your blog and which followed an earlier tweet in similar vein.Our clients also take issue with the tone and language of your article, which they believe goes beyond fair comment and the courtesies of political debate.

1. The Bow Group’s aims are to provide a forum for research and debate in the Conservative Party. It holds no collective view. To say that the Bow Group considers itself a “pseudo think tank” that comes up with "worthy or “dull” articles may be fair comment but to say that it is “disappearing up its own backside” is pretty offensive to the many distinguished members, officers and patrons of the Group, that include numerous former cabinet members.

2. You say that the Bow Group sends out “daily press releases which seem designed to undermine the Conservative leadership at every opportunity”. Even a cursory look at the Group’s website shows that neither he nor the Group send out “daily press releases”, whether critical of the government or not.

3. You also say that it has come under the “control” of a self-publicist called Ben Harris-Quinney. Mr Harris Quinney was elected chairman of the Group along with 10 members of the Council in 2012 under its normal electoral process which has been in place for decades.

4. You say the Bow Group is in decline. In fact, in recent years it has greatly expanded its membership and greatly expanded its followers on Facebook and Twitter.

5. The essence of your article appears to be that Mr Harris-Quinney has somehow hijacked the group in order to push a particular view in the same-sex marriage debate. Mr Harris-Quinney does indeed hold strong views on this issue, as we understand you do. He has written several articles and issued comment along those lines, which he is entitled to do, even under the auspices of the Group where it is clear that it is his personal view and not those of the Group collectively. Indeed, the Group has published comment and articles in favour of same sex marriage. It s also clear from the Group’s website that it has published articles and comments from a wide range of its members on numerous topics.

6. We understand from Mr Harris-Quinney that he had no role whatsoever in “persuading” either of the groups of Party Association officers to write and deliver letters of protest to the Prime Minister on the same sex marriage issue in February and May. He accompanied the first group in February, not the second, and was not a signatory to either letter. In any case he would not have done so in his capacity of Chairman of the Bow Group which had no formal involvement in either initiative.

We would therefore ask that you remove the inaccuracies in your article which remains published online at www.conservativehome.com and www.iaindale.com, and that you please bear these comments in mind when writing about the Bow Group in future,

Mr Michael Lingens, Senior Partner of this firm, is the author of this letter if you wish to discuss the matter further.

Yours faithfully
Speechly Bircham LLP

Here is the reply I have just sent to Mr Lingens, who I note from his biography is a corporate lawyer, rather than a libel lawyer.

Dear Sirs,

I am in receipt of your letter dated 25 June 2013. As a publisher of 15 years standing I think I am quite able to decide what constitutes ‘fair comment’, so my initial instinct is to refer you to the case of Arkell v Pressdram, but I am far too polite. Furthermore,I am assuming you have written this letter pro bono for your clients as I am sure the Bow Group’s membership would be rather perturbed to find their membership subscriptions being used for this purpose.

Let me take your points one by one. Your clients, you say, “take issue with the tone and language of your article”. May I respectfully suggest that your clients get over themselves and acquaint themselves with the definition of a diary column. It is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as: “a column in a newspaper or magazine giving news or gossip on a particular topic”. Diary columns are meant to be amusing, sometimes bitchy and often mischievous. Anyone reading a diary column reads it with all those things in mind. Apart from your clients, of course.

Your Point 1

It is interesting that you confirm that the Bow Group’s aims are to provide a forum for research and debate “in the Conservative Party”. That’s what I had thought too. However, it seems that the Bow Group is becoming the provisional wing of UKIP. Indeed, its media officer is a UKIP member and councillor. This week the Bow Group has been promoting the idea of an electoral pact with UKIP.

Yes, to say that the Bow Group is “disappearing up its own backside” is indeed offensive. It was meant to be. Furthermore, it is true, as evidenced by your clients hiring you to send me your ridiculous and totally unnecessary letter. What further evidence do I need to supply to back up this assertion? Any normal person or responsible organisation would have contacted me directly or picked up the phone. Instead your clients resorted to cowardice.

Your Point 2

When I wrote the diary column I had had at least three press releases in quick succession. Having now checked, I see that they come from Conservative Grassroots, but from the email address campaigns@bowgroup.org. Indeed, you are right, they weren’t daily. It was worse than that. I received three within two days. The subject headlines were as follows…

Cameron has lost the debate in the Conservative Party
No “loongate” investigation or SSM Amendment is insult to party members
Civil war in conservatism

It is interesting that your complaint is about the frequency of the press releases rather than to address my question, which is about appearing to consistently undermine the Conservative Party. May I respectfully suggest to your clients that by using the campaigns@bowgroup email address,, Mr Harris-Quinney is bringing the Bow Group into disrepute by associating it with the activities of Conservative Grassroots. I am astonished that the Bow Group council bows to his thirst for self-publicity in this way.

Your Point 3

I am well aware that Mr Harris-Quinney was elected chairman of the Bow Group. I have not suggested otherwise. Again, I note that you query the use of the word control, rather than the far more offensive “self-publicist”. I wonder why. Although Mr Harris-Quinney was indeed elected chairman, some seem to be taking issue with the method of his election and the conduct of his supporters. I trust you will be writing one of your imperious letters to the owner of the Blue Guerilla website, who published this comment on 28 May…

As much as I dislike Iain Dale I agree with him. I withdrew my membership of the Bow Group as soon as Ben Harris-Quinney became the Chairman as the way that his slate conducted themselves during the election period was appalling. They barred any member who did not support them from attending the AGM and over 50% of the members withdrew their support. I noted at a recent event that only 12 attendees came. In my day we managed to get over 100 people. Under Ben’s chairmanship they also held an event debating gay marriage where the police were called that the Spectator magazine covered.

A further anonymous commenter went further…

Ben Harris Quinney should not be lecturing Cameron on mandate for Gay Marriage. What little mandate he had at the Bow Group expired in October 2012. How can he justify not holding elections??? We are fast approaching June 2013!!!!

I make no comment on those allegations but they make any negative views I have expressed about Mr Harris-Quinney seem rather mild by comparison.

Your Point 4

You question my assertion that the Bow Group is in decline. I judge these things not just by Twitter followers, but by scale of influence. Compared to the 1970s or 1980s the Bow Group is a pale shadow of what it once was. I don’t know how many members it has compared to those times but if it is true that some of its events are attended by only 12 people. I stand to be corrected on this, but I am told that during the period Mr Harris-Quinney has chaired the Bow Group not a single Cabinet member has addressed a Bow Group meeting. I wonder why that is. Could it be because their views of the current leadership and mine coincide? Unfortunately it seems that this situation is unlikely to change in the near future because according to THIS page on the Bow Group website there are no more events planned for the rest of the year. For shame.

Your Point 5

Your interpretation of my article is just that – your interpretation. You used the work hijack. I didn’t. But if the cap fits. You assert that the Bow Group has no collective view. Perhaps it shouldn’t issue press releases on behalf of the Bow Group saying Ben Harris-Quinney thinks this or that, then. Presumably Mr Harris-Quinney should therefore be releasing press releases in his own name rather than that of the Bow Group, or Conservative Grassroots using a Bow Group email address.

Your Point 6

Of course Mr Harris-Quinney didn’t sign the letter. He isn’t a constituency chairman. Dear me. He attended the protest in February at Number 10. I assume he was there as he agreed with the letter’s contents or was he there just for the self-publicity? Case closed. Perhaps he didn’t attend the second one as it was the “other” Conservative Grassroots (the one with which he apparently also has legal issues). I lose track of all the people he is falling out with.

I shall be making no changes to either article. ConservativeHome took proper legal advice when Mr Harris-Quinney first contacted them on the day my diary column went live. Paul Goodman, the editor, emailed Mr Harris-Quinney saying…

Dear Ben,
I have taken specialist libel law advice, and the advice I’ve received is that the article is not actionable either by the Bow Group or yourself. However, in accordance with good practice, I’m very happy to offer you a right of reply with the same prominence. If you can send me a reply of up to 1000 words by 5pm this evening, we will run it first thing tomorrow morning – provided, of course, it is in good legal order.
Ever,
Paul

Clearly you agree with Mr Goodman’s view, otherwise you would no doubt have threatened me with a letter before action. And the fact that you haven’t makes me wonder what on earth the point of your letter was, because its effect has been to make your clients look fools.

You ask that I “bear these comments in mind when writing about the Bow Group in future.” I am in no need of your advice on what I should bear in mind when writing about the Bow Group.

As will be clear to you by now, all this letter has achieved is to bring the Bow Group further into disrepute. And if this letter has indeed been sanctioned by the Bow Group Council rather than Mr Harris-Quinney alone, that in itself speaks volumes.

Finally, I note that you are senior partner of your law firm. Could you give me any reason why I shouldn’t report you to the Solicitors Regulation Authority for breaching O(11.1), IB, IB and IB of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011? I look forward to a reply by close of play Friday.

in the circumstances I am making your letter and my reply public on my blog. As David Cameron once said, “sunlight is the best form of disinfectant”.

Yours faithfully,
Iain Dale

So there we are. Perhaps I should have indeed restricted my reply to two words. But if Mr H-Q wishes to be a prat, it takes more than two words to point out the error of his ways to him.

UPDATE

Miles Windsor, who seems to be a Bow Group bag carrier for B-HQ, is asserting on Twitter that I threatened to sue The Commentator if they published the article ConHome had turned down. As I say above, Raheem Kassam will verify that is certainly not the case. Here is the email I sent him on Monday 10 June.

Raheem
Just a word to the wise. The article by Miles Windsor was turned down by ConservativeHome because it contained several potential libels, not least against myself.

For the record I never threatened to out anyone and I have not published a book which blames women for rape. I did indeed point out that others might out hypocritical Conservative MPs if they voted against gay marriage and were found to have been having illicit affairs, but I made clear I would not do myself. I published a book by Nick Ross which did indeed talk about rape, but nowhere did he blame women for rape. Indeed he did just the opposite.

Unlike various members of the Bow Group, I don’t threaten libel action, I rely on an editor’s good nature and idea of fair play. I would be grateful if you would remove those allegations from Miles Windsor’s article as soon as possible. I also note with interest that nowhere in his article does he address the central point I made in my ConHome Diary that there are two organisations with the same name which seem intent on destroying each other.

All the best

Iain

Raheem replied “No problem Iain, thanks for the heads up.”. I left it there. Later that day the article was removed from The Commentator.

I trust Miles Windsor would now like to apologise for the lies he is spreading on Twitter. I suspect it will be a long wait!

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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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Books

Book Review: 'Goodfella' by Craig Bellamy

23 Jun 2013 at 15:41

Craig Bellamy is a player than opposing fans love to hate. It ought to be because he’s a bloody good player, but the real reason is that people think he’s just a bit of a nasty piece of work. It’s true. He can be, but this book shows there’s more to Craig Bellamy than the snarly pitbull he seems to present to us on regular occasions. ‘Goodfella’ is one of the best football autobiographies I have read in recent years. Bellamy’s true character really shines through the pages, and it’s not quite what you expect. He’s a man trying to cope with his demons, and there are plenty of them. He suffers from a chronic lack of self worth, he clearly suffers from depression and is a bit of a bastard to his family. Those are the three threads which permeate this excellently written book.

I just looked up his playing stats. The most interesting statistic is that he hadn’t ever played more than 93 games for any of the eight clubs he’s been with. Even so, and despite his chronic injury record, he has racked up 430 career appearances over 16 years, scoring 133 goals. He’s also scored 19 goals in 73 appearances for his beloved Wales.

Although Bellamy uses the book, like most autobiography writers, to settle a few scores and get his side of the story over, he’s very happy to admit his mistakes and failures. In fact, almost too willing. The reader wants to sometimes scream: “Mate, stop beating yourself up”. When Bellamy joined West Ham in 2008, we all looked forward to him striking up a prolific partnership with Dean Ashton, but it was not to be. Ashton got an injury which brought his career to a premature close and even when he was fit, Bellamy wasn’t. Indeed, I think they only appeared together once. What might have been…

Craig Bellamy’s best friend was Gary Speed. His shadow looms large over many a page in this book. Bellamy was devastated by his death. A man not given to tears, cried his eyes out for long afterwards. But in some ways it is clear that Speed’s death saved Bellamy from himself. He admits it. Sadly it didn’t save his marriage. He admits he was a complete bastard to his childhood sweetheart Claire, and failed to include her in any of the decisions he made about his career. His singleminded focus on football is to be lauded in many ways, but he seemed unable to mix his football life with his family life. In many ways he has been a great Dad to his three children, but he was a lousy husband.

Craig Bellamy is a better footballer than he will ever recognise himself. Since his early days at Norwich he has beguiled people with his trickery and outstanding goals. I’ve written elsewhere about his unfortunate departure from West Ham to Manchester City. I truly regret he didn’t stay at Upton Park for longer. He could have been a real West Ham great.

This season he will play a big part in Cardiff City’s first season in the Premier League. I wish him well. Apart from the first match of the season when West Ham entertain Cardiff at Upton Park. Fair’s fair.

‘Goodfella’ by Craig Bellamy is published in hardback at £18.99 and can be bought HERE

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Margaret Beckett & John Rentoul

Discussion on Tony Blair's speech on Britain's need to remain at the heart of Europe.

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Jerry Hayes

22 Jun 2013 at 20:28

If you want a friend in politics buy a dog.

Jerry Hayes, 22 Jun 2013

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Katie Price

Iain talks to model and novelist Katie Price about the 5th volume of her autobiography.

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Interview

Listen: Interview With Lady Antonia Fraser

22 Jun 2013 at 11:47

Yesterday I spent half an hour talking to renowned historian Lady Antonia Fraser about her superb new book on the 1832 Reform Act. It’s called PERILOUS QUESTION: THE DRAMA OF THE GREAT REFORM BILL 1832. And it really is a dramatic page turner. I don’t know much about this period of history so was keen to see if it would grab my interest. The way she describes the main character in the first two chapters really entices the reader to stick with it. We also talked about her views on the teaching of history and much more besides. I hope you enjoy it.

Listen HERE.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale interviews Ed Miliband about Mental Health policy

A 90 minute special on mental health policy, featuring a ten minute interview with Ed Miliband and many moving phone calls

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Diary

ConservativeHome Diary Week 11: Did Angela Merkel Bring a Change of Underwear to the G8?

21 Jun 2013 at 14:25

Whoever chose Lough Erne as the venue for the G8 should get some kind of honour. As a PR exercise it couldn’t be faulted. The countryside backdrops to all the interviews and press conferences were simply stunning. Less stunning, though, was the fact that David Cameron seemed to have a physical aversion to wearing a tie at any point during the event. Orders had clearly gone out from Number Ten that this was a ‘dress down’ G8, although it was rather difficult to tell whether Angela Merkel had got the message, as in all the pictures I saw she seemed to be wearing the same, tired old lime green jacket. I assume she brought a change of underwear.


Paul Goodman wrote a fascinating piece earlier in the week predicting the coming reshuffle will be dominated by promotions for women. I think he may well be right, and most of the names he mentions will really deserve their promotion. What a shame it is, though, that we still write articles about the relative merits of women MPs, as opposed to MPs in general. Perhaps it will ever be thus. But at the reshuffle there will be two female cabinet ministers who will retain their cabinet posts purely because of their gender, rather than the fact that they have been any good. Justine Greening has indulged in a long sulk since her unwanted move from Transport to International Development, while Maria Miller is so out of her depth, it would be kinder just to put her out of her misery. But that won’t happen, I suspect. It would be just too politically embarrassing to have a second successive reshuffle in which two female cabinet ministers were pitched overboard.


I’m really not quite sure why Stephen Twigg made his big speech on schools this week, because I am buggered if I am any wiser as to what Labour’s education policy really is. Is he in favour of free schools or against them? The answer seems to be both. And there was me thinking that sitting on the fence was the preserve of the ‘yellow peril’.


A political acquaintance of mine was wandering home the other night, minding his own business when he encountered a chap with a full Freddie Mercury moustache and a gold, tiger emblazoned jacket. He used the frankly legendary line: “Excuse me, I think you’re quite fit. Can I suck your c**k?” Somehow my friend’s incredibly British response of “I’m actually okay… but thank you…” didn’t seem to quite cut it… Amazing the disguises some MPs will use nowadays…


I’m all in favour of jailing people who break the law and are a danger to society, but this current political fetish for jailing bankers because – well, just because – is getting ridiculous. The Banking Commission, led by the marvellous Andrew Tyrie, has done some sterling work, but it seems to be suggesting that bankers should be jailed for being, er, reckless. Well, if that’s the criteria by which we decide whether to jail people, perhaps a good few politicians might be eligible for a quick sojourn in Wormwood Scrubs. Sometimes politicians should be careful what they wish for.


I see Dr Sarah Wollaston, rapidly becoming one of my favourite MP’s, is accusing David Cameron of reneging on the coalition promise of introducing ‘open primaries’ because they are more likely to result in the selection of ‘outspoken’ candidates. Try as I might, I just cannot think to whom she might be referring.


Something very odd happened on my LBC radio show on Wednesday. I found myself, as the former Tory candidate for North Norfolk, interviewing Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, about the former Conservative MP for North Norfolk, David Prior about the Care Quality Commission scandal. Whoever said things come in threes seems to have had a point. The CQC cover-up is a genuine scandal. The fact that anyone in a regulatory body feels it appropriate to hide incompetence and wrong-doing is worrying enough, but to actually bury a report because it makes their own organisation look bad? Monstrous. To his credit, Norman Lamb was as angry and incredulous as I was and is determined to get to the bottom of it. The CQC is lucky to have someone with David Prior’s managerial and health service experience as its new chairman. He made no effort to defend the organisations past errors and his assessment of its fitness for purpose was castigating. It was good to see such honesty from a public official. It’s all too rare.


My old chum Eric Pickles joined me in the studio on Wednesday evening to take calls from LBC listeners for an hour. He insisted on a hour, saying that Nick Clegg was a wimp only to do 30 minutes. He was in characteristically honest form as he told several listeners that their questions had nothing to do with him as he had devolved various policy areas down to local councils. Other politicians would have tried to fob them off with lovely sounding words which meant nothing. Pickles’s approach was direct and honest, something I think most people appreciate. He also gave a clear hint that within a few weeks he is going to announce a new policy on parking, which local councils certainly won’t like. From what I managed to glean, I/we pop into a shop for a few minutes, and are on a yellow line, we won’t get a ticket, and also local councils will be prevented from using parking tickets as a cash cow. About time too.

We are struggling for a title for the hour with Eric Pickles, and as we are looking at doing this once a month we are soliciting suggestions. “Phone Pickles” doesn’t really work in the same way that “Call Clegg” or “Balls’ Calls” does. How about “Tickle Pickles”? Perhaps you can do better…

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale & Lynnette Burrows fall out over Kissing in Public

Fireworks occur over whether two gay people should be allowed to kiss in public. Mrs Burrows thinks not!

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Interview

Interviewing Dylan Jones

19 Jun 2013 at 12:11

Last Friday I interviewed GQ editor Dylan Jones about his new book THE EIGHTIES: ONE DAY, ONE DECADE and also his work as long standing editor of the most excellent GQ MAGAZINE.

You can listen HERE.

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LBC97.3 Iain Talks to Peter Hitchens & Myles Dyer about Occupy London

LBC Discussion

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UK Politics

Why Is Cameron Talking up Arming Syrian Rebels When Parliament Would Vote Against It?

16 Jun 2013 at 18:02

I am far from being a pacifist. Indeed, I am a firm believer in intervention when there is a clear case that can be made. But whatever David Cameron says, that case cannot be made in Syria. It is a mystery to most people why Cameron is going out on a limb on Syria. It is not a country which is of great importance to the UK and yet the Prime Minister speaks as if it were. The murderous killings on both sides are truly horrific, and we are right to play a role in providing humanitarian aid, but to go further would be self defeating madness. At the start of the conflict it could have been argued that the rebels needed armed support because they didn’t have any. That is not the case now. Saudi Arabia is supplying all the weapons the rebels need. It is also now clear that even if we did supply them, they might well end up in very undesirable hands indeed. Some might say that is a risk worth taking if it would hasten the end of this bloody conflict. I do not.

Have we learned nothing from Iraq? In any conflict there is an end game. The only endgame here seems to be the end of the Assad regime. But what then? What comes afterwards? That’s the question Bush and Blair failed to answer in Iraq. They imagined democracy could be imposed and Iraq would live happily ever after. It was naive in the extreme. Surely we are not going to make the same mistake here?

It was a dreadful error for Obama to say that a red line would be crossed if chemical weapons were used. It invites the question, why are deaths due to chemical weapons worse than any others? So far more than 90,000 people have died. A few hundred may have been due to chemical weapons.

But Cameron has a much bigger political problem. If rumour is to be believed, despite his public gung-ho statements, William Hague is not the hawk on Syria he makes out. He is doing the Prime Minister’s bidding. In addition Cameron has a cabinet and a parliamentary party which are both deeply divided on the issue. At a guess I’d say both would be 70-30 or 60-40 against arming the Syrian rebels. Cameron must know that, so why on earth is he, at every opportunity, seeming to talk up the prospect? He has already committed himself to holding a parliamentary vote before any such decision is taken. We already know that Labour and the LibDems would vote against any such arming, so how does he think he could ever get a parliamentary majority?

It’s a bit of a mystery.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Photjournalist Paul Conroy

Paul Conroy talks about his terrible injuries from Syria and his work with Marie Colvin.

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Diary

ConservativeHome Diary Week 10: Tim Yeo is Beyond Hope (And Parody)

14 Jun 2013 at 14:58

When I wrote about Tim Yeo last week, I had no idea what the Sunday Times were about to unveil. The least Mr Yeo could do was stand down from his select committee. What I don’t understand is the lack of intervention by the Whips’ Office or Number Ten. Yeo can deny everything all he likes, but video doesn’t lie. There will be many consequences from this scandal, not just for Tim Yeo personally, but for Parliament in general. Can there really be anyone who can argue that Select Committee chairmen shouldn’t relinquish all outside interests, just as ministers have to? These are now paid offices. What I found most outrageous about the affair was the Mail on Sunday revelation that Yeo had written to Ed Davey complaining that Lord Deben (John Gummer to you and me) had outside interested which conflicted with his role as chair of the Committee on Climate Change. Yeo had some brass neck to do that given his long list of consultancies and directorships in the field of renewable energy. But then he always has had a brass neck, hasn’t he? Complaining about long haul flights, while at the same time flying to all four corners of the earth to play golf. Some people are beyond help. Or parody.
**********
It is safe to say that Brian Coleman is a larger than life character. He has for some time been the best known Conservative politician in North London – and the most argumentative. Last week he was expelled from the Conservative Party, having in May been found guilty of assault. Never knowingly uncontroversial, Coleman had served for many years on the GLA and Barnet council, recently as mayor. Last Thursday I saw on my Twitter feed that BBC Radio London had announced he was a guest on their Drivetime show. ‘Not for long’, I thought, as I texted Brian and asked him if he’d like to come on my LBC show instead – the lure being an audience several times the size of BBC London, despite them having a budget and resources at least 8 times the size of ours. Sure enough, the bait worked. The BBC were less than gruntled, but all’s fair in love and radio. I expected Coleman to show at least a little contrition. Did he feel he’s let down the Conservative Party and its activists? No. Did he owe them an apology? No. If the word ‘bouncebackability’ (Ok, OK, I know it’s not really a word) applies to anyone, it certainly applies to Brian Coleman. He intends to stand as an Independent in next year’s Barnet council elections, standing on ‘real’ Conservative values. There’s little doubt he will get masses of publicity and although he probably won’t win, it’s likely he will carve into the Conservative vote enabling someone else to. Mr Coleman’s ability to have an impact should never be ‘misunderestimated’.
**********
Why is the BBC so reluctant to discuss the real reason behind the protests in Turkey? The ostensible reason is the development of a green space, but it goes far deeper than that. The whole background to the protests is that a huge chunk of the Turkish population is extremely concerned by the attempts of the Erdogan government to proceed with the gradual islamification of Turkey. Those who wish Turkey to remain a country with a primarily western outlook are horrified by the raft of measures brought in over the past few years designed to passify islamists, and are now raising their voice in opposition. But this is barely being reported by the BBC. Why?
**********
It was interesting on Tuesday that Michael Gove sent out Liz Truss to sell his GCSE reforms to the media. The Trussette was furious at Nick Clegg’s intervention on childcare and needed to show her face in the TV and radio studios to rebuild her battered reputation, and rebuild it she most certainly did. She had a good story to tell and she told it well. Gove is rumoured to be rather remote from his ministerial team and is a very hands-off Secretary of State who ploughs his own furrow and leaves others to plough theirs. But in this case he spotted a colleague who needed a bit of support and gave it. His GCSE reforms have been welcomed by some very unusual sources – Diane Abbott and The Guardian being two. They seek to reintroduce some much needed rigour, and although the teaching unions have been spluttering (did we expect anything else?) I suspect they are reforms which Labour wouldn’t seek to reverse should they win the next election. Michael Gove may have made a few balls-ups along the way, but he’s proving to be the most radical Education Secretary for a generation. I hope he is left in the post to complete the job.
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One MP I think ought to be considered for promotion in the reshuffle is Jessica Lee, elected in 2010 for Erewash. She is currently Dominic Grieve’s PPS. She probably won’t thank me for saying this, but I first got to know Jessica 15 year ago when she worked for me at Politico’s, in the coffee bar. She makes a mean sandwich! Jessica is intelligent, savvy and sassy, and although her profile is not as high as the likes of some of her contemporaries, it ought to be. Of all the 2010 intake who appear on my radio show she is one of the best performers. She’s able to present the Conservative case with humour and without being rattled. She is clearly a loyalist but comes across as a human being rather than a political robot. The Conservatives need to use voices like Jessica is they are to appeal outside the metropolitan elite.
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So, the Express’s Patrick O’Flynn had made the jump from commentary to political activism and is intending to stand in the European elections for UKIP. Patrick is a nice guy and is quite a catch for Nigel Farage, but I wonder what guarantees he has been given by the UKIP leader. When pseudo-celebrities join political parties they usually expect immediate preferment and then become rather hacked off when it is not forthcoming. They also incur the wrath of party activists who tend to express their jealousy rather openly. Remember Adam Rickitt? Watch your back, Patrick.
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As some readers know, I run Biteback Publishing. In September we are publishing Damian McBride’s book POWER TRIP. Already people are talking of it as the political book of the year. I’d like to think it will be, but we’d better wait until the manuscript is actually delivered before we get carried away! Those who read Damian’s blog will know what a brilliant writer he is. People find it ironic I should be publishing the book considering that I was one of those who Damian and Derek Draper tried to smear all those years ago. Anyway, on Tuesday those breakfasting at London’s Corinthia Hotel would have seen the bizarre sight of Damian and I having breakfast with Michael Ashcroft. The good Lord owns 75% of my company and I thought he and Damian might get on rather well. And so it proved. I just sat back and listened to these two titans of political strategy chew the political cud. If the book proves to be half as fascinating as that particular conversation, it will be a very good read indeed.
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I am somewhat mystified by Peter Oborne’s renewed attack on Lord Ashcroft. Apparently the good Lord has an agenda against David Cameron. The evidence cited is the odd mischievous tweet. I am a great admirer of Peter Oborne. I think he is one of our best polemicists. But surely even he must realise that his own support for the Prime Minister appears to depend on which day of the week it is. One day Cameron can do no wrong, the next he is the biggest blunderer in Christendom. Oborne is to Cameron what Polly Toynbee was to Gordon Brown – a fair weather friend.
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Listen to Ed Miliband and his answer to most things is to tax or regulate them. I don’t know why I should be surprised. It’s the knee jerk reaction of every real leftie I know. I exclude Blairites from this admittedly gross generalisation, but it is a generalisation which has several grains of truth in it. Take the housing crisis, for example. The solution to a lack of housing is simple. Build more, and provide building companies with the incentives to do so. Where there is too much demand, increase the supply. It’s pretty basic economics. But what is Miliband’s answer? Not to address the root of the problem, but fiddle around the edges by making ridiculous suggestions about rent controls and regulating landlords. This country has a big enough problem in encouraging the private rental sector without putting further barriers to growth in its way.
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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Andrew Marr

Andrew Marr talks about his new book A HISTORY OF THE WORLD

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Books

Book Review: Harry's Game: Inside the Mind of Harry Redknapp by John Crace

10 Jun 2013 at 22:59

This is not a biography of Harry Redknapp. In fact having finished reading it, I am still not very sure what it is. What I do know is that it tells us very little about Redknapp that we didn’t know before. And that’s quite a failing in a book of more than 200 pages. It’s rather perplexing that the author can’t seem to make his mind up whether Harry is a wrong ‘un or just a bit of loveable rogue, with a gift for a media friendly soundbite. Often I’d find myself mentally screaming: "Just get off the ‘effing fence’.

For a book that rambles all over the place and never comes to a conclusion, it’s not unenjoyable. It didn’t bore me at all, which is odd because it never quite found its voice. The subtitle tells you you’re going to get inside the mind of Harry Redknapp. But the trouble is that if the book is to be believed there’s not a lot going on in his mind beyond an ability to charm the journalists off the trees. One thing we do learn, however, is that what Harry says one day, he is very good at contradicting the next. But didn’t we know that anyway?

We’re told he has his favourites and that if you’re not one of them you won’t get a game. But didn’t we know that? The England job saga is told at inexhaustible length – again not unentertainingly, but there was little we didn’t know before. Similarly with the court case.

The book leaves you with the feeling that the author wants to become Harry’s bessie mate, but every few pages he blows his chances.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Alistair Darling

Former Chancellor Alistair Darling discusses his book on the financial crisis.

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