UK Politics

The UKIP Labour Phenomenon

5 May 2013 at 10:08

I was wandering down Green Street, E13, (outside West Ham’s stadium) when someone came up to me and said: “You’re Iain Dale, aren’t you?” After telling me he was an LBC listener he then told me he was a Labour voter, but liked my show. He then proceeded to tell me why, as a habitual Labour voter he was now supporting UKIP. There was nothing unusual in his reasoning, but he ended up by saying…

I’m UKIP Labour. There’s a lot of us about.

It was the first time I had heard anyone describe themselves as ‘UKIP Labour’ before, but I think it is, and will be, a growing phenomenon. Thursday demonstrated that UKIP are attracting votes from not only Labour but also the Liberal Democrats. In West Sussex the LibDems lost eight seats to UKIP. Believe it or not there are quite a few Eurosceptic LibDems. I remember that from my time in North Norfolk.

Ed Miliband has reasons to be rather disappointed by Labour’s performance on Thursday. UKIP cost Labour dozens of gains, especially in the south. Miliband will now need to work out a strategy to prevent that happening in a general election. Expect Labour to support an In-Out referendum and to toughen up its immigration rhetoric.

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4 May 2013 at 09:22

A very clever video advertising the new Abba museum in Stockholm.

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ConservativeHome Diary Week 4: Some Well Meant Advice for John Hayes & Justine Greening

3 May 2013 at 22:41

So, with county council elections only five days away, it was good to see Croydon Conservatives spending last Saturday campaigning in neighbouring Surrey and helping their neighbouring Conservatives do as well as they possibly could. What’s that I hear you saying? They weren’t campaigning at all? They were sitting on their fat arses holding a one day conference at a hotel five miles from the Surrey border? Surely not. But it gets better. Not only that, but one of the party’s vice chairmen, Alok Sharma MP, was one of the speakers, alongside local MP Gavin Barwell, MEP Charles Tannock and Tim Montgomerie, late of this parish. The conference was all about Britain’s relationship with Europe and how to defeat the UKIP threat. May I respectfully suggest that this conference, vital, though I am sure it is, might have been better timed if it had taken place a few weeks later? One thing is for sure, it would never have happened when Sir Anthony Garner was running the party organisation. You may remember that period. It was when the Conservative Party used to win elections.


Are there no depths to which some people won’t lower themselves? Yesterday I was alerted to the fact that somebody had put a Thatcher funeral Order of Service on eBay. They had put a reserve of £77 on it. Simply appalling.


Mr Matthew Bellend, the Independent on Sunday’s rather useless diarist, is becoming a tad tiresome. You may recall from last week’s diary that he seemed bemused by the fact that I had paid my respects to Lady Thatcher while her coffin lay in St Mary’s Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster. It’s taken him three works to work out that I have a parliamentary pass. Apparently he now thinks that is a big scandal, and is set to reveal all on Sunday. Had he actually done what any credible journalist would do and picked up the phone and asked me, I’d have happily told him. For like many people in politics I help an MP out from time to time by doing bits of research and contribute ideas for the odd speech. It’s something I have done for many years and it’s set out for all to see in the Register of Interests. I don’t get paid. I don’t cost the taxpayer anything. There’s nothing in it for me. I’d like to describe it as a bit of public service, but clearly, as I didn’t go to Eton, that wouldn’t be right, would it? So go on Mr Bellend, do your worst. I’d find it all rather amusing if it wasn’t so pathetic.

Update: Mr Bellend has finally found my number and phoned me. He now thinks that because I have bought a house in Keith Simpson’s constituency that I have ambitions to stand there. What a joke of journalist this man is. Had he bothered to do any research at all, he would know I have said I will never, ever, stand for Parliament again.


I had Sadiq Khan on my LBC Drivetime show the other day talking about Governor Grayling’s new spartan prison regime. Khan was all in favour of it. Quite right, he said. Tough on crime etc. Now there’s one politician who’s not going to be outdone on the right. I ended the interview by asking him how he thought Labour would do in the local elections. Much sucking of teeth followed. ‘It’s going to be very difficult for us, Iain’. ‘Why so?’ I gently enquired. ‘Well, do you know, I didn’t realise this but if you put all those county councils together, it covers the area of more than 250 MPs?’ I thought for a second and replied ‘ Yes, Sadiq, it’s many of them in the south of England that you’re going to need to beat at the next election, if you’re to win the next election.’ The thought hadn’t really occurred to him. It seems to me that Labour campaigners are going to need to familiarise themselves with the likes of Kent, Essex and Hertfordshire rather than spend their time in the northern strongholds. I’ve never understood why it’s so criminal for the Tories to have so few seats in north, yet Labour get a free pass on their almost total lack of seat south of line between the Wash and Bristol.


I am most amused by the suggestions in any of the newspapers that David Cameron is being dragged to the right, as if legislating for a European referendum as if in some way a right wing thing. A majority of LibDems support the idea of such a referendum and in my book it’s a politically mainstream thing to do. Which is why I am astonished Nick Clegg has already said he won’t support such legislation. He’s fallen into a very big trap indeed. And it’s one only Ed Miliband can spring him from. If the LibDems want to be painted as not supporting a referendum, that’s their affair, but if I were Ed Miliband I wouldn’t want to go into the election campaign while having scuppered such legislation.


As well as the papers suggesting that Cameron is being dragged to the right (Europe, cancelling aid to South Africa, taking away TVs from prisoners etc) the papers all seem to mention John Hayes as the architect of this trend. Naturally I cannot possibly bring myself to believe that Mr Hayes himself has briefed such newspapers, because that would be rather improper for a senior parliamentary adviser to the prime minister, wouldn’t it? But if he has, he wouldn’t be doing anything different to any other member of a political court. There’s nothing like telling people, especially journalists, how important you are. The thing is, you can indeed become important, but only when others have worked it out for themselves rather than constantly being reminded of it. David Cameron is said to be amused by John Hayes. I can understand why. He’s good company and an arch parliamentary gossip. He tells a good yarn. But anyone at the Downing Street court who is suspected of opening their gobs to the papers too often will do well to remind themselves that what the Prime Minister giveth, the Prime Minister can easily take away.


One Conservative MP, who for these purposes had better remain nameless (yes, I know, I know, I am wimping out) – let’s call him Rupert – was spied in Portcullis House on Wednesday. “Ah, Rupert,” said a colleague. “Not out on the county council election election trail?” “No,” said Rupert, I am giving my county council candidates exactly the same level of support that they gave me in the general election – which is none at all.” Strangely, Portcullis House was rather well populated with Tory MPs on Wednesday.


Is Justine Greening still alive? It’s just that she seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth in much the same way as Oliver Letwin did in 2001. She’s becoming the scarlet pimpernel of the Tory Party. They seek her here, they seek her there, they seek her everybloodywhere. She seems to be indulging in a year long flounce, having been moved from Transport to International Development last year. This week she decided, quite rightly, to end aid our £19 million a year to South Africa. For some reasons our fellow G20 member (yes, we give aid to a fellow G20 country – unbelievable) got the arseache and accused Greening of being rude by not giving them advance warning. But instead of coming out fighting and giving her side of the story she retreated to her bunker and left it to someone to issue off the record briefings. Much more of this kind of amateur-night behaviour and Miss Greening may find herself replaced yet again. I wonder if it has yet occurred to her that if the PM had left her at Transport she would have had to resign over the West Coast rail franchise debacle. What a pity we now have an International Development Secretary who clearly hates the job, while her predecessor, who was very good at it and thoroughly enjoyed it, languishes on the backbenches. I wonder if I am alone in thinking that at the next reshuffle the PM might do very well to restore Andrew Mitchell to his old job.

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Interview: My Life!

2 May 2013 at 11:01

Here’s 30 minute interview I did yesterday with student journalist “Tommy Wathen”http://tommywathen.co.uk/. We talk about my education (!), how I got into politics and radio presenting, and also my love of West Ham. It was actually quite therapeutic!

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1 May 2013 at 14:12

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Why Do We Give Aid to a Fellow G20 Member?

1 May 2013 at 07:33

The increasingly hapless Justine Greening, who has largely disappeared off the political radar since her unwanted move from Transport to International Development, seems to have inadvertently upset the South Africans. She has announced that Britain’s aid to the country will cease from 2015. Judging from the reaction of South Africa and her Labour opposite number Ivan Lewis, you’d think she had suggested that in addition there should be a slaughter of the first born in Cape Town. While there seems to have been a cock up in the communication of this decision to the South Africans (she says they knew all about it and welcomed it – they say the opposite) can anyone really support giving development aid to a fellow member of the G20? As usual in these cases, the facts go out of the window and raw emotion takes over. Perhaps Ivan Lewis doesn’t actually know that he is bursting several blood vessels over a mere £19 million.

I am sure there are areas of dire poverty in South Africa that could do with £19 million. Perhaps Ivan Lewis might like to justify why the South Africans should get that money rather than the Labour client states of Glasgow, Liverpool or Manchester – cities that have been kept in dire poverty by Labour governments over the years, yet inexplicably still come back and vote for them. (And yes I know Glasgow went SNP in recent years, but you get my point).

So over the top has Ivan Lewis gone, that he has said our withdrawal of aid reminds South Africa of our role during the Apartheid years. Perhaps I should send him a copy of Robin Renwick’s book so he can inform himself better. Renwick was our ambassador in South Africa during many of the Thatcher years and for the first time tells the true story of Margaret Thatcher’s role in trying to persuade the South Africans to release Nelson Mandela and end Apartheid.

The truth is we should be giving aid to the very poorest countries, not fellow members of the G20. This is how international aid gets a bad name. It needs proper direction, and although hr department might have been clumsy in the handling of the announcement, the fact is that Justine Greening has done the right thing. The fact that Ivan Lewis is whipping up a storm in a tea-cup will do him and Labour no good politically at all.

I feel we might discuss this on my show this afternoon.

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The Real Winners on Thursday Could be the LibDems

28 Apr 2013 at 22:57

I’ve been thinking about the local elections and I have come to a rather surprising conclusion.

It seems to me that the Tories are frit. Frit of UKIP. The fact that they have put up more than 1730 candidates tells its own story. In a sense, even if none of those candidates does any campaigning at all, they will all get a couple of hundred votes or more. Now the fact is, in most county councils, the LibDems are in second place, with Labour trailing a poor third. Despite this, the conventional wisdom is that Labour will do very well on Thursday. No one quantifies what ‘well’ means. With 2500 seats up for grabs, you’d think a gain of at least 3-400 seats must be the minimum which Labour must aim for.

So if UKIP does well and scores around 10-15% of the vote, it is reasonable to assume that the bulk of these votes will come from disgruntled Conservatives. Which might well mean that the LibDems do disproportionately well assuming their vote doesn’t entirely collapse. There is little evidence from council by-elections that this will happen. Their vote has held up very well bearing in mind their terrible polling results.

So I wonder whether they really will lose the 150 seats they are projected to. I can imagine a scenario, where, thanks to UKIP they might not lose very many at all.

The real winners on Thursday will be the ’Don’t votes’. If turnout is much above 25-30% I will be very surprised. And the losers? If the Conservatives restrict their losses to 300 that would be regarded as acceptable by most Tories. But if they lose more than 500 I suspect there will be much muttering. And we can all imagine what the muttering will be about. Leopards don’t change their spots and Tory MPs clearly haven’t changed the habits of a lifetime.

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President Obama Being Funny

28 Apr 2013 at 10:17

This is Barack Obama speaking at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Why on earth do we have nothing similar here? It’s an opportunity for the President to poke fun at himself, and boy does he grasp it with both hands. George W Bush was superb at these events too.

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ConservativeHome Diary Week 3: Theresa May & Little Miss Popular

26 Apr 2013 at 22:20

I’ve never seen Theresa May as a political risk taker, but she certainly seem to be placing all her chips on red in her bid to rid us of the turbulent priest, Abu Qatada. As far as her political reputation goes it really is s*** or bust. If, in the end, he is plonked in steerage on an easyjet flight to Amman she becomes Boris Johnson’s new rival. If in two years’ time he’s still milking the British taxpayer and the legal aid system, it’ll be ‘Knock knock’ – ‘Who’s there?’ – ‘Theresa’ – ‘Theresa who?’ ‘That’s politics’. That joke ever reads as well as it sounds, does it? Ms May’s main weakness in the Tory leadership stakes is that she isn’t clubbable, in the way that Liam Fox is – and I’m not talking about seals. Ask yourself this. Who are her parliamentary acolytes? She’s been in Parliament since 1997 and it is still difficult to name any ‘May-ites’. Perhaps they are operating under the radar, but I doubt it. But as a certain Iron Lady would testify, you don’t have to be Little Miss Popular to be elected Tory leader. You have to be in the right place at the right time. In February 1975, Mrs T demolished Chancellor Denis Healey in a Finance Bill Committee, in the week before the leadership ballot. It made Tory MPs sit up and take notice. Mrs May is doing the same.


I really shouldn’t rise to the bait but there’s something about dickhead diary columnists that make me see red. Yes, yes, I know I am also a diary columnist, but some of my colleagues fail to see that a successful diary column should be whimsical and amusing rather than just plain nasty. Clearly that hasn’t got through to the Independent on Sunday’s Matthew Bell-end. Until this week I hadn’t ever heard of him, but at about 10pm on Sunday someone on twitter alerted me to a snide little piece he had written about me paying my respect to Lady Thatcher in the Commons crypt. How very dare I, he spluttered. After all, journalists weren’t allowed in. How on earth had I got in when other, plainly more respectable journalists, hadn’t? He had emailed me and I had had the temerity not to reply. Indeed he had. And indeed I hadn’t. But if the little pipsqueak had done what any other credible journalist would have done and actually picked up a phone and called me, he might have discovered that his email had, rather appropriately, gone into my junk folder so I hadn’t actually seen it. So I saw red and gave him my response on twitter. I will leave to your imagination which two words the response contained. His response was telling: “Scored a direct hit by pointing out he was the only hack to get into the crypt. Over-reactions like that make it all worth it.” Any normal hack might have thought – “good on him, he got in and the rest of us didn’t.” Anyway, I think I’ve given enough publicity to a diary columnist who probably has far fewer readers than this column does! Oh, and you want to know how I got in? I’d love to tell you, but I’d have to shoot you.


I think I have driven my colleagues at Biteback Publishing to distraction this week over the New edition of MEMORIES OF MARGARET THATCHER: A PORTRAIT BY THOSE WHO KNEW HER BEST. The original edition in 2000 contained essays by 85 people and ran to about 80,000 words. Since Lady T’s death I have been beavering away and collecting new material. The book went to print yesterday with, er, 215 entries and it runs to 195,000 words. It is fair to say it will be a bit of a doorstop of a book. It’s also got 24 pages of pictures too. The thing is, whenever you met the Lady there was always an anecdote to tell. It’s a funny thing for me to say, but it’s a really good ‘loo book’. You don’t want to read it all in one go – you dip in and out of it. A friend who is in her twenties has read it and said “Well I learned more about her than I ever would by reading a full scale biography”. And that’s kind of the point. It’s a book which concentrates on Margaret Thatcher’s personality and character, and if you don’t understand those, no amount of wider reading will ever work. It’s being published on 2 May and all royalties are going to the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, the nice people who look after www.margaretthatcher.org


I listen to about 10 minutes of the Today Programme each day. It’s all I can stand. Yesterday I heard an interesting little snippet, though. Apparently Broadland is the least violent place in the United Kingdom. That’s a bit of a relief seeing as I am in the process of buying a house there. I immediately texted the local MP, my good friend Keith Simpson, who is on a Commonwealth War Graves trip to Turkey to tell him the good news. He is a military historian and I expected to get a reply along the lines of “Well, it’s like the Russian front in 1941…” but instead my phone pinged and I read “Suspect your new house is now worth more.” Keep it quiet, though. Wouldn’t want the vendors to know…


The story of the local elections may well not concern the performance of either of the two main parties. No. It may be how well UKIP do and how disastrously the LibDems do. UKIP, I believe, have put up marginally more candidates than the LibDems but how many of them will actually win? Perhaps the other question will be what impact UKIP has on the ability of Tory candidates to retain their seats. Perversely a good UKIP performance could actually boost the ability of LibDem councillors to unexpectedly retain their seats. Well it will certainly keep Messers Rallings and Thrasher at the University of Plymouth in business.


There’s no doubt about it, Nigel Farage is on a roll. This week he turned up like a fish out of water at the monthly Parliamentary Press Gallery lunch. I wasn’t there but I am told he put in a typically barnstorming performance and had the assembled journalistic brethren eating out of his hands. Simon Hoggart wrote afterwards: "Had he had talks with Tory MPs about cutting deals? “I have had discussions with many people in pubs all over Westminster, many of which I can remember!” There is something infectious about Farage [insert joke here] but I wonder whether he is peaking too early. His main aim must surely be to win next year’s European elections, something he has told me he is confident will happen. But in order to bring that about he needs to start selecting euro candidates who can take some of the weight off his shoulders. UKIP still gives the impression of being a one man band, and until it broadens its appeal it will only ever be seen as a rather shouty party on the fringe.


The Prime Minister held a Downing Street reception this week for leading members of Conservative Future. Never had the famous old house reeked so much of cheap cologne and zit cream. DC certainly got a little carried away in his speech to the assembled throng of nineteen year old know-it-alls. ‘Today we have Conservative Future at the heart of government here in Downing Street. To think 20 years ago we would not have had the Young Conservatives here because of the reputation they use to have’. The PM really should check his facts. It wasn’t the YCs who had a bad reputation, it was the Federation of Conservative Students, and as I recount in Memories of Margaret Thatcher I recount how I attended an FCS reception in Downing Street in January 1983. It was two years later that the infamous Loughborough conference took place, where certain members saw fit to rampage through corridors of the student residences and bash doors down. Some time later FCS was disbanded by the then party chairman Norman Tebbit. And guess which member of FCS was tasked with putting it all back together again? One J Bercow. Yes, at that time he was more right wing than Tebbit. Whatever happened?

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter: No 7 - Beware of Breaking News on Twitter

23 Apr 2013 at 20:21

I love a breaking news story. The adrenaline flows. You never know what’s going to happen next. It’s the biggest challenge a talk radio presenter can face – especially when it concerns a subject you have less than a passing acquaintance with. One thing is for sure, as a radio presenter, breaking news gives you a tremendous opportunity to make a complete berk of yourself.

When I am in the studio I have my laptop open in front of me. I have Tweetdeck open, both to be able to see people tweeting into the programme, but also to follow news events. For example, today I saw that former Labour General Secretary Jim Mortimer had died, so I mentioned it briefly on air. In real breaking news situations Twitter can, as a presenter, be your best friend, During the London riots and the Egyptian revolution I was able to report things to my listeners far more quickly than if I had relied on the normal news sources – Reuters, AP, PA etc. But as well as being your best friend, Twitter can be your worst enemy. Take tonight as an example.

I can’t remember the time (around 615, I think) but I noticed a tweet from the AP feed which read….

BREAKING: Two explosions in the White House. Barack Obama said to be injured.

Wow. Big story. If it were true. I looked at my Sky News screen. Nothing. I couldn’t see any other tweet referring to it. I have a rule of thumb that I won’t announce anything on air unless I have double sourced it on Twitter. But boy was I tempted. But a sixth sense kicked in and told me to bide my time. I clicked onto the AP feed and it looked fine. But there was something which set alarm bells ringing. Thank goodness, because a couple of minutes later I saw a tweet which explained the AP feed had been hacked. As I wrote this, it’s been suspended.

So I wasn’t taken in, but the American stock market was. It plummeted in the minute after that tweet was sent. So Wall Street turns out to be more gullible than me. This time.

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