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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Video: Iain Snogs Jacqui Smith under the Sky News Mistletoe

Sky News

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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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Iain Interview BBC Head of News James Harding About BBC Restructuring

A bit testy at times

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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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Britain Decides: LBC Election Night highlights

Iain Dale & Shelagh Fogarty present LBC's election night coverage.

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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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Iain Shows Why Tony Blair Is Not a War Criminal


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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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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Gets Emotional About Grief

In a half hour discussion on dealing with long term grief, callers get very emotional and Iain has his moments too.

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Labour Politics

Corbyn 'Fly on the Wall' Illustrates Problem With Seumas Milne's Broadcast Media Strategy

1 Jun 2016 at 09:00

Vice News have been given privileged access to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and the result is this thirty minute documentary. It’s presented by self-confessed Labour Party member and Corbyn supporter Ben Ferguson. It’s all fairly harmless stuff but ultimately tells us little that we didn’t know before, apart from one thing. It tells us an awful lot about Seumus Milne’s media priorities.

If you’re going to grant this kind of access, why would you give it to a little watched website? This film may get several hundred thousand views, but I doubt whether many of them will be floating voters. Most of them will the kind of people who think Jeremy Corbyn represents the second coming. Or they will be professional Corbyn watchers like me. Surely it would have been better to let a proper journalist in – someone like Michael Cockerell – who would have done the job properly.

Ben Ferguson seems like a nice guy, and it’s a perfectly watchable film but he doesn’t ask Corbyn a single searching question which would force Corbyn to provide an answer he hasn’t given several times before. We learn little about Corby as a human being, what motivates him, how he deals with the frustrations of the job. We do get to meet his wife, and we get to know his hapless events officer, Gavin. I suspect poor Gavin will cringe a little when he watches this. “The best way to get Jeremy out is to let him fail in his own time,” was one of his more memorable comments. With friends like these…

We knew that the Corbyn camp operated under a siege mentality, and this was certainly confirmed through his little anti-BBC rant towards the end. Indeed, it seems he and his entire team believe the media is out to get them. That’s why they operate in a bunker, only to peep out occasionally when a friendly journalist promises not to be too nasty.

Seumas Milne has a lot to answer for. It is he who is intent on not allowing Jeremy Corbyn out of the bunker any more than he has to. When he was a backbench MP I would interview Jeremy Corbyn at least once a month, sometimes more. He loved coming into the LBC studio and was a regular guest on my late, lamented Parliament Hour. He knew he would always get a fair hearing and fair treatment. Since Jeremy Corbyn has been leader not only have I not interviewed him once, I don’t think he has ever appeared on LBC – a station which he always regarded as a friend. And it’s not for want of trying.

John McDonnell only ever agreed to appear on Ken Livingstone’s show, and now that that’s gone, I don’t suppose he will talk to any of the rest of us. Our experience is not unique. The thing is, a regular Phone Jeremy programme would do him the world of good, but in Seumas Milne’s world, LBC is no doubt considered a proto-fascist organisation and all part of the capitalist conspiracy. Back in reality, all we want to do is quiz leading politicians on their views and allow our callers to put their questions direct. You’d have thought Jeremy Corbyn would find that “a different way to do politics”.

There will come a time when Jeremy Corbyn’s team realises that it needs to deal with the broadcast media in a very different way. How long it will take is anyone’s guess.



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Iain Confronts Sajid Javid About Tweet

It's called a skewering...

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LISTEN: Gyles Brandreth on the 'Stairway to Heaven'

31 May 2016 at 09:05

My first appearances on LBC were on Gyles Brandreth’s Sunday afternoon arts and culture programme. One of his features was a sort of Desert Islands Discs or This is Your Life feature called ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Well, one week instead of Gyles interviewing a guest, I interviewed him. It was the first interview I had ever done on LBC. I think you’ll find it very entertaining.



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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Olivia Newton-John

Olivia Newton John discusses her new cook book and her career in entertainment.

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LISTEN: Counting Chickens - Great Election Night Moments

30 May 2016 at 22:19

Back in 2001 I was an occasional presenter, with Fi Glover and Charlie Whelan, of Radio 5 Live’s ‘Sunday Service’ programme. I just discovered this recording on an old computer. It’s a documentary I made, which was broadcast on election night in June 2001. It’s a programme about election nights past and great moments that we all remember.

Excuse the background hiss. I promise I didn’t record it off medium wave.



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LBC Book Club: Iain talk to Brian Barwell

Iain talks to the former FA chief executive about his new book on the relationship between television and football.

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The Self Indulgence of Some Tory MPs

29 May 2016 at 16:50

All political parties go through spasms, but the Conservative Party seems to suffer from them more than most. It is about to have another one.

It was inevitable that the EU Referendum campaign would divide the party. With 143 Tory MPs defying their leader and supporting Brexit, divisions don’t come much bigger than that. Even so, it was possible to think that both sides could respect that the other had deeply held views. It was possible to think that there could have been a calm debate, lacking in personal insults. OK, maybe it wasn’t.

Instead, Project Fear from both sides has meant that the personal insults from each side have increased as the weeks have dragged on. I won’t bother to list the insults here as I am sure we can all recall them.

But today it’s reached a different level. MPs Andrew Bridgen and Nadine Dorries have called for David Cameron to be overthrown whatever the result of the referendum. Yes, you read that right. The political titans Andrew Bridgen and Nadine Dorries think they know better than the people who voted for David Cameron last May. The irony is that Nadine Dorries actually voted for David Cameron to be Tory leader back in 2005. Indeed, most of the more swivel-eyed Eurosceptics on the Tory backbenches did the same, believing that his Eurosceptic credentials were greater than those of David Davis. They always did have such impeccable judgement.

These two MPs are wallowing in their own self-indulgence in the full knowledge that saying something like this will guarantee them acres of media coverage. Nadine even shared with us that she’s already sent a letter to Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee. She was, however, rather coy about its contents. How funny is that?

Iain Duncan Smith is surely right when he says that everyone should concern themselves with campaigning in the referendum rather than trying to undermine the democratically elected Prime Minister of this country. Any sensible politician should be able to deflect speculation about post-referendum leadership issues. It’s hardly rocket science.

What these two MPs have done is totally undermine the Vote Leave campaign by deflecting discussion onto David Cameron’s (or Boris Johnson’s) future. That’s what will be on tomorrow’s newspaper front pages and what will headline the Today Programme. They’ve given every media outlet an excuse to ignore the issue of the day for the Leave campaign and instead indulge in leadership speculation. Well done guys!

I suppose at least Bridgen and Dorries have the bollocks to say all this on the record, unlike the anonymous Tory MP who is quoted in today’s Sunday Times…

“I don’t want to stab the Prime Minister in the back. I want to stab him in the front so I can see the expression on his face. You’d have to twist the knife, though, because we want it back for Osborne.”

Certifiably insane. Did that MP get off on appearing important to Tim Shipman? Why would you give the media that kind of ammunition if you had any semblance of a brain?

Priti Patel’s comments about some people being “too rich” to care about immigration were also unwise in the extreme. She didn’t name Cameron and Osborne and will no doubt deny she had them in mind, but it’s quite clear to anyone what she meant. And she’s no backbencher, she attends Cabinet. For now.

This referendum is a once in a lifetime event. There are many people for Eurosceptics to blame if it all goes wrong and Remain win by a narrow majority. The leaders of the Leave campaign may be blamed for many strategic mistakes and decisions – not least the decision not to unite with Grassroots Out – but those who indulge in post referendum leadership fantasy will also have blood on their hands and won’t easily be forgiven by many of their colleagues.

On June 24th the leadership issue ought to be quite settled. If Remain win, Cameron wins and stays. If Leave win, Cameron will resign. Yes, there will be deep wounds to heal in either scenario, but if the Prime Minister is on the winning side it is difficult to think the electorate would understand a leadership spill (as the Australian’s delightfully call it).

Having said that, there is part of me that thinks that Cameron’s way out of this may be to do a John Major and put himself up for re-election by his parliamentary party. If he did, I have little doubt he’d win with a bigger majority than John Major had.



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Voice of Russia: Debate on Margaret Thatcher's Legacy

With Iain Dale, Michael Cockerell, Peter Tatchell and Nigel Wilmott. It's sparky!

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The Ups And Downs of Life

29 May 2016 at 14:30

In December last year I wrote about the Greatest Experiences of My Life, which you can read HERE. It was a rather nice article to write. Anyway, life is all about ups and downs, so I thought it only right to write about things that haven’t been so great in my life. I suspect there are a few things here that most people will be able to relate to. So, in no particular order, here are some of the Worst Experiences of My Life…

Mum’s death
I don’t think anyone gets over the death of a parent. My Mum died four years ago and life has never been the same. I so miss phoning her after I go on Sky News. She’d always tell me I’d been brilliant, even when I hadn’t, because she genuinely thought I was! She gave me everything and without her I would be nothing. I still tear up more or less every time I think of her. I know how proud of me she was, but I know I often let her down.

Failing Physics
When I was at school it was always intended I would follow my Dad into farming. To do that I needed to go to agricultural college, and therefore needed to do some Science ‘O’ Levels. Big mistake. I got a D in Biology, but Physics proved to be my nemisis. I just couldn’t understand anything. And I mean anything. I even had extra lessons with my teacher Mr Fitton. I ended up with a U – ungraded. And that was being generous. Whenever I passed Mr Fitton in the corridor after that he’d just look at me, shake his head and walk on. Apparently I was his only failure in 20 years of teaching.

Brighton seafront
I think most people know what happened there. It was September 2013 and I was accompanying Damian McBride to a TV appointment. A protester kept getting in the TV shot. I intervened to pull him away. We fell over. His Jack Russell bit him. Later that day, while I was broadcasting, the Police came for me and I ended up with a Police caution for assault even though, unlike the protester I hadn’t thrown a punch or even kicked out. Nevertheless, I’m officially an idiot.

Losing North Norfolk
I was so proud to have been selected to fight the 2005 election in North Norfolk. I genuinely thought I could win it, even though I was warned what I was up against. I know I fought a textbook campaign and couldn’t have done more, but I knew in the February, three months before the election, I was going to lose. I spent an afternoon canvassing in the coastal village of Overstrand – a village which should have been strong Tory territory. Every house I knocked on said they really wanted to vote for me but that nice Norman Lamb was such a good MP. Game over. On the night I lost by 10,000 votes. I expected to lose, but the margin was a total shock.

Failing to be selected in Bracknell & East Surrey
After the disaster of losing in 2005 I decided to have one more go at trying to be an MP. I took two years out of selections when I started Total Politics as I didn’t feel I could do that and be a candidate. However, in mid 2009 I applied for a few seats. Bracknell was the one I felt ideally suited to and I really felt I could do it. I was up against 6 others in the final, which was an open primary. I made a good speech and answered questions well. But when it got down to three I felt I wouldn’t make it. The safe option was a local GP, Philip Lee, and the risky option was Rory Stewart. I was somewhere in the middle. I was gutted to miss out. I only had one more chance – East Surrey, which is very near where I live in Tunbridge Wells. I was expected to win, or come close. In the end I came last of 6 as I made a disastrous speech. And that was it. I made the decision there and then that I wouldn’t be trying again, and after the 2010 election came off the Tory candidates list. It’s a decision I thought I might come to regret. But I haven’t.

Being diagnosed with diabetes
During the 2005 general election campaign I joined Keith Simpson in Aylsham Marketplace one Saturday morning. They had a mobile diabetes diagnosis unit there, so Keith and I were tested. My blood sugars were very high. I didn’t think a lot about it as I had just eaten a burger. Two years later I diagnosed myself. I had numbness in my legs and I was constantly thirsty, and would have to get up every night to have a pee. My GP confirmed it. And I’ve struggled with it ever since.

Car crash on my 20th birthday
I was driving with my sisters to a local pub to celebrate my birthday in my orange Ford Cortina Mk III. I approached a bend and found a white transit van on my side of the road. It was in the days before compulsory seatbelts. I hit it head on at 50 mph. How we weren’t all killed I just don’t know. One of my sisters was screaming, mainly because her front teeth had been knocked out when the front of her head collided with the back of my other sister’s head. I had gripped the steering wheel so tight it was totally mangled. I ran to a local house to call 999. I was in total control until my father arrived on the scene, when I broke down completely. Once the ambulance had taken my sisters away he led me to his car and then made me drive. It was the best thing he could have done.

Being sacked from Waterfront
In 1990 I started a transport based lobbying company with a former boss. It went well, but in 1996 we had a big falling out. I won’t go into the details, except to say that he now admits I was in the right. I made up my mind to leave, but had to get my ducks in a row first. I did just that and then went on holiday to the US for two weeks. I had decided to resign the day after I got back, but he beat me to it. A letter effectively sacking me was already waiting for me. It led to six months of unemployment while I put together a business plan to start Politico’s.

Not being able to sell my Walthamstow flat
I bought a two bedroom flat in Walthamstow in 1988, mainly because I felt if I didn’t get on the housing ladder then it would be too late. I paid £58k for it, with a £54k mortgage. Those were the days! Unfortunately the mortgage company failed to pick up that it suffered from subsidence. I tried to repeatedly sell it, but at the survey stage all the buyers pulled out. I moved out after 6 years but it took another four to sell it – for, yes, you guessed it, £58k. I must be the only person never to have made money out of property in the 1980s/1990s. I looked on Zoopla the other day and they valued the same flat at £274,000.

Having my car stolen
This happened in Walthamstow. It was a company car – a Ford Orion Ghia something or other. It was incredibly fast and had a little computer. I walked out of my door one morning and it had gone. Disappeared. I had a lot of trouble with cars living there, with people smashing the windows or keying the car. It was one of the reasons I decided I had to move.

Ingrowing hair
I woke up one morning and there was a lump, the size of half a tennis ball, just bellow my tummy button. And it hurt. I couldn’t put trousers on. I had to put trakkie bottoms on and wandered round to the doctors surgery in the next door road. They refused to let me see a doctor as i wasn’t registered there and hadn’t got an appointment. In the end I had to effectively flash at them. They sent me to A&E and it turned out to be an ingrowing hair which had gone septic. They stuck a syringe in it and drained it of gunk. Yuk. Very painful.

Pitchfork through my foot
I was seven years old and was helping my Dad spread hay around one of the cattleyards using a pitchfork. Somehow I contrived to stick it right through my big toe. Right through. I wasn’t sure whether I should pull it out. I suppose I must have done. I remember standing in the kitchen with my mother bathing it. I don’t remember crying or going to hospital, but I suppose I must have done.

Being Stalked
When I had my blog I ended up being harrassed and stalked by someone who shall remain nameless for these purposes. One evening he phoned me 40 times. He threatened to come round to my house. He denies to this day he stalked or harrassed me, but I know how I felt at the time and to me it was stalking.

Having to sack people
Telling someone they no longer have a job is a terrible thing to have to do. I have had to do it five or six times in my life and it never gets easier. Once I actually even shed a tear while doing it. However much you tell yourself you’re doing the right thing, it’s always traumatic and you always question your decision.

Gio dieing
In 1997 John and I got a lovely Jack Russell puppy called Gio from Battersea Dogs Home. He meant the world to us. But in 2008 his health took a turn for the worse. He wasn’t able to exercise much because he had broken two of his leg joints and wasn’t allowed to run, so he had bulked up. One night he had a stroke by the back door. I knew something was wrong when a friend of mine collected me from the station rather than John. “It’s Gio,” he said. When I got home he was still by the back door, eyes open, but expressionless. We comforted him as much as we could but when the vet came we both knew what had to be done. It’s one of the few times in my life when I have genuinely howled. The grief we both felt was unbearable.

Gio being run over
Talking of Gio, I remember the time I took him for a walk round the local park and as we emerged from the park I was day dreaming and I suddenly heard a car approaching. I looked round and Gio was quite a few steps behind me on his extendable lead. It happened in slow motion. I screamed his name but I heard a thump. Gio then emerged from the other side of the car and sat down holding his paw up, which was bloodied. I scooped him up and ran home. We took him to the vet and luckily he hadn’t been badly injured – just his foot. I was a wreck.

Seeing Eleanor for the last time
Eleanor was my Godmother. She wasn’t my mother’s blood sister, but she might as well have been. She was an integral part of our childhood and we loved her dearly. She suddenly got cancer and my sister told me I needed to visit her in hospital to say goodbye. We all spent two hours with her telling her how much we loved her and how wondeful she had been to us. She kept whispering to us not to get upset. She had come to terms with her imminent death. I remember kissing her goodbye, then turning back at the door to look at her one last time, and then going back to kiss her again. She was a very remarkable woman.

Coming out to my family
Anyone who’s been through this knows how hard it can be. For me it was even worse. I was 40. Everyone said that they would know and it wouldn’t come as a surprise. Suffice to say it did. I just wish I had had the courage to do it in my teens or twenties, but things were so different in those days. And that’s as much detail as you’re going to get!

Being on the Irish HIGNFY
What could possibly go wrong. It was around 2007 and I got invited to Dublin to appear on a rough equivalent of ‘Have I Got News For You’. An English Tory blogger against four Irish comedians with a live theatre audience. What could possibly go wrong? I found out I wasn’t as funny as I thought I was.

Presenting LBC’s Olympic Opening ceremony show
What should have been the highlight of my broadcasting career so far, became a nightmare. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Our vantage point was supposedly overlooking the Olympic Park. Well, if you walked along the end of the balcony and craned your neck you could just about see the Olympic Stadium. Just as I was about to go on air the line went down. The newsreader talked into packages which weren’t there. The opening bed music didn’t fire. But the show had to go on. It started to rain. We had a Gazebo but it leaked. Onto my head. Down my back. While I was live on air. Jo Phillips was my co-broadcaster. She and I got a cab home afterwards and sat in silence for most of the journey. Until I warned the cab driver (Addison Lee, since you ask) that he needed to slow down as there was a roundabout up ahead. He turned round and called me a “motherfucking cunt”. Nice. I got him fired the next day.

Going across the channel in a force 9 gale
It was April 1977 and we were heading to Germany on a school exchange trip. We got the ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland. As the voyage continued, the wind got worse and so did the waves. Virtually everyone was heaving. We didn’t have cabins, so I decided that it was probably best to lie down on the floor by a row of seats. Big mistake. After a few minutes I heard the sound of someone about to throw up. They did. And it landed within an inch of my head. Well that set me off. I’ve never been a good sailor since.

It was 2009 and Carol Thatcher had used the word ‘golliwog’ on the One Show. I went on the Today Programme and tried to explain that people of her generation might use that word without meaning to be racist. I thought I’d done quite well. Derek Draper, who had just started the Labour List blog then took me to task and said I must be racist too. Unbeknown to me this smear was dreamt up in Downing Street by Damian McBride and Draper. A few weeks later, after an FOI request, the truth came out and McBride resigned. There was a happy ending, though. Damian wrote me a letter of apology and I ended up publishing his book, POWER TRIP. It became the biggest selling book pubished by Biteback.

Being bullied at school
I was always taller than other boys and you’d have thought that would protect me from bullies. But I never liked physical confrontation and so would allow myself to be bullied. At primary school it was Robin Brice. At secondary school it was Michael Owen. No, not that one. It was pretty tame stuff, but it was horrible at the time.

Jane Grey
Jane Grey was in my German class at secondary school. She was a bit of a loner and very academic. A lot of the kids enjoyed taking the mickey out of her. I remember one day someone posted up the details of a mixed doubles tennis tournament. I looked to see who I was paired with and it was Jane Grey. Ever one to play to the crowd I shrieked: “Oh, no look who I’ve got, Jane Grey!” Guess who was standing behind me. I was mortified.

David Steel
In 1986 I was working for Conservative MP for Norwich North, Patrick Thompson. We had a business group who paid £35 a year to attend a lunch at the House of Commons with a government minister speaking. I had done amarketing leaflet to encourage other business to join the group. Unfortunately I used the phrase “with direct access to government ministers”. One Tuesday David Steel, leader of the Liberals, rang Patrick to tell him he would be raising this leaflet with Margaret Thatcher in PMQs that afternoon. He immediately went to see Mrs T. He told her what had happened. “I see,” she said. “Don’t worry about it Patrick. I’ll deal with that little twerp”. She meant Steel, not me. And indeed she did.

Shaking hands with the IRA
I was standing outside the Tv studios at 4 Millbank when I encountered a PR agent I knew called Wendy Bailey. We chatted for a moment, then said intriduced me to the man she was with. “Do you know Patrick?” she asked. “No I don’t,” I said and shook his hand. “Nice to meet you.” It was only a minute later after I had left them that I realised I had just shaken hands with the Brighton bomber, Patrick Magee. I felt as if I need a shower. I texted Wendy to tell her exactly what I thought of what had just happened.

Archbishop of Cunterbury
It was March 2013. It was my first day presenting LBC Drive. The Archbishop of Canterbury was my big name interview on my first programme but it had to be a prerecord. that day he had been reported as being highly critical of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms. As I walked into the studio the first thing he said, without even saying ‘hello’, was “No questions on welfare reform”. I was rather taken aback. No politician had ever laid down any preconditions. When I came to introduce the item, I said… “Earlier today, I met the Archbishop of Camterbury…”. Well, that was what I was supposed to say. I actually said, live on air, “Earlier today, I met the Archbishop of Cunterbury…”. I genuinely thought no one had noticed. It made page 4 of the next day’s Daily Telegraph. Served him right though, for being a bit of a c…. naughty archbishop.



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