LBC to Host Women Polical Leaders Debate on Thursday Evening

5 Apr 2015 at 00:01

Four of the most senior female politicians in Britain have signed up to a live election debate on LBC.

Nicky Morgan for the Conservatives, Labour’s Harriet Harman, Lynne Featherstone representing the Liberal Democrats and UKIP’s Suzanne Evans will clash on Thursday April 9 at 7pm.

Chaired by Iain Dale, the 90-minute showdown will be broadcast from LBC’s brand-new high definition studios.

The first all-female broadcast debate of the election will cover the key issues of the moment and include questions from LBC’s audience.

The format also includes a strand called ’Ask Me Anything’ with each politician given the chance to quiz their rivals on any election issue.

James Rea, managing editor, LBC said: “For the next few weeks, the voters are in charge. LBC is putting them at the heart of the debate and I’m delighted that some of Britain’s leading female politicians have taken up the challenge.”

Harman said: "Women’s voices need to be heard in this election and this LBC women political leaders debate will be a big part of that.”

Morgan said: "Nine million women didn’t vote at the last election. I hope the four of us can use this debate to persuade them that voting can change things.”
Featherstone said: “The Lib Dems have made a real difference to women’s lives and I look forward to being quizzed on what we have achieved.”

Evans said: “It’s brilliant that LBC are holding this debate for women political leaders. I’m looking forward to it hugely.”

Last year, LBC successfully staged the first historic debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage on Britain’s relationship with Europe.

The women leaders’ clash will be fully visual and interactive and made available to other broadcasters.

LBC has turbo-charged its political programming in the run up to May 7 to include a daily ‘Election Call’ with senior politicians where listeners can question them on their policies and pledges.

In the final two weeks of the campaign, breakfast presenter Nick Ferrari will hit the road in the LBC Battle Bus broadcasting live from the battleground seats that will decide the future of the country.

About LBC:

LBC (Leading Britain’s Conversation) is Britain’s only national news talk radio station. It tackles the big issues of the day, with intelligent, informed and provocative opinion from guests, listeners and presenters, including Nick Ferrari, James O’Brien, Shelagh Fogarty, Iain Dale, Ken Livingstone, David Mellor, Beverley Turner and Tom Swarbrick. LBC made history with ‘Call Clegg’, as the world’s only radio station with a Deputy Prime Minister as a host. Nick Clegg’s show, ‘Ask Boris’ and ‘Phone Farage’ allow the audience to hold politicians and people in authority to account. In March LBC hosted the first leaders debate on Britain’s future in Europe between Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party. LBC reaches 1.3 million people across the UK, and Nick Ferrari hosts London’s number one commercial radio breakfast show by market share. LBC is available on DAB digital radio, online at, through mobile apps, Sky Digital Channel 0112, Virgin Media Channel 973, Freeview channel 732 and on 97.3FM in London.

Media enquiries:

John Chittenden on 020 7054 8843 or at



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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Talks to Sir Tim Rice

Sir Tim talks about his life in theatre and offers his views on curren political issues

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LibDem Politics

Future Leaders Series 1: Who Will Succeed Nick Clegg?

4 Apr 2015 at 19:56

This is the first in a series looking at the runners and riders in post-election leadership contests. I’ll be looking at the other three parties over the next few weeks. This is the first election after which there could be scenarios where all four party leaders are replaced within months. I’d say the LibDems are the party most likely to see an immediate change. Unless the Libdems get more than 40 seats and renew a coalition with the Conservatives, I can’t see many scenarios which involve Nick Clegg staying on. In addition, it’s entirely possible that he could lose his Sheffield Hallam seat. If he does, it’s very difficult for him to lead the LibDems in any coaltion negotiations. Who would do that is a matter for speculation since his deputy isn’t even standing again. I would imagine Vince Cable would lay claim to doing this, as the senior MP left, but it could be very messy indeed. The LibDems haven’t, so far as I know, got any mechanism for electing a leader very quickly, so it may be that their MPs have to elect a temporary parlimentary leader pending a proper leadership election.


The Liberal Democrat members elect the United Kingdom Liberal Democrat Leader and the Members of Parliament elect the Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader. Under the federal constitution of the Liberal Democrats the leader is required to be a member of the House of Commons. In the event that the leader dies, resigns or loses his or her seat in Parliament, the deputy leader serves as interim leader until a leadership election takes place. Liberal Democrat leadership elections use the Alternative Vote system, the single-winner version of the Single Transferable Vote, assuming there are more than two candidates.


The runners and rides in such a leadership election will clearly depend on who is re-elected on May 7th. From the current crop of MPs, these are the ones I expect to consider standing…

Age: 71 (72 on 9 May)
Constituency: MP for Twickenham since 1997
Ministerial Office: Secretary of State for Business 2010-15
For: Popular among LibDem members, seen as the keeper of the LibDem flame in government, hugely ambitious
Against: Age (declined to stand in 2007 because he said he was too old), hangdog demeanour, ego.
Verdict: If he decides to stand (and he will, won’t he?) he will be seen as the man to beat, but his opponents will point to his age and make compariosn to the last time the LibDems selected an ageing statesman as leader.
Odds: 6/1

Age: 57
Constituency: MP for North Norfolk since 2001, which he won at the third time of asking
Majority: 11,626
Ministerial Office: PPS to Nick Clegg, Minister for Post Office Reform, Minister for Social Care
For: Seen as hugely competent, proven constituency campaigner, on the sensible wing of the LibDems, good record as a minister, likeable
Against: Seen as close to Clegg’s style of Orange Book politics, slightly Eurosceptic.
Verdict: His best chance is if the LibDems are more or less wiped out. Liked by virtually everyone, he would be a unifying figure, if not very exciting. However, he’s tenacious and isn’t easily shaken in the face of adversity. Exudes competence, but it would take a lot for the left of the LibDems to support him.
Odds: 8/1

Age: 44
Constituency: Westmorland & Lonsdale
Majority: 12,264
Ministerial Office: None
For: Charismatic, popular with activists, good turn of phrase, hits the conference g-spot, well connected with local parties
Against: Lack of top flight experience, refusal to accept ministerial office, unpopular with senior colleagues, seen as disloyal and too ambitious
Verdict: For Vince Cable to accuse Tim Farron of being presumptuous in his ambition says a lot about how OTT Tim Farron is seen to have gone in setting out his stall for a post Clegg environment. However, there’s nothing wrong with ambition in a politician, it’s just how you channel it. His two years as party president means that he’s plugged into all the local parties. His best chance will come if the LibDems get under 20 seats.
Odds: 5/1

Age: 42
Constituency: MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey since 2005
Majority: 8,765
Ministerial Office: Chief Secretary to the Treasury 2010-15
For: Successful tenure as Chief Secretary, increasingly high media profile, high priest of Orange Bookery
Against: Highly likely to lose his seat, seen as too close to George Osborne, too close to Nick Clegg, unfairly viewed as slightly aloof, high priest of Organge Bookery
Verdict: Alexander’s best chance of succeeding Nick Clegg is if the LibDems retain most of their seats and Nick Clegg decides half way through the next Parliament he has had enough. The chances of either happening are slight. His main challenge is to hold his seat. If he does so, he will undoubtedly be a candidate for the succession. A losing one.
Odds: 20/1

Age: 35
Constituency: MP for East Dunbartonshire since 2005
Majority: 2,184
Ministerial Office: Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Business
For: Bright, chirpy, media friendly, popular with activists
Against: Almost certain to lose her seat, few know what she really believes in
Verdict: If the LibDems wanted to signal a shift to the next generation, Jo Swinson could be a good option. But sadly, this is almost academic as this higly popular politician is virtually certain to be drowned in the SNP surge.
Odds: 33/1

Age: 49
Constituency: MP for Kingston & Surbiton since 1992
Majority: 7,560
Ministerial Office: Minister at the Department of Business 2010-2013, Secretary of State of Energy & Climate Change 2013-15
For: Solid, dependable, has appeal across the party, a uniting force
Against: Unexciting and perhaps a little boring, overseen a pro-nuclear energy policy, seen as insufficiently green by some LibDems
Verdict: He declared his candidacy on my LBC show recently, much to my surprise, and he would be a strong candidate. At the moment I’d say he was the third favourite behind Cable & Farron, although the betting markets have Norman Lamb ahead of him. He needs a bit of a charisma injection, but if he can get some high profile support, he could pull through.
Odds: 7/1

Age: 49
Constituency: MP for Thornbury & Yate since 2010, LibDem MP for Northavon 1997-2010
Majority: 7,116
Ministerial Office: Minister for Pensions 2010-15
For: Solid, clever, able to get his head round seemingly impossible policy issues
Against: Never escaped his policy wonk image, one trick pensions pony, unfairly seen as boring and a plodder
Verdict: Steve Webb is said to be far more ambitious than he lets on and although some may be surprised if he stands for the leadership, he could emerge as the candidate of the left and if Tim Farron implodes, Webb could be a very serious contender.
Odds: 20/1

Age: 49
Constituency: MP for Yeovil since 2001
Majority: 13,036
Ministerial Office: Chief Secretary to the Treasury May 2010, Minister of State for Schools 2013-15
For: Clever, media friendly, sensible
Against: The expenses scandal, perhaps too cerebral, not seen as a ‘man of the people’.
Verdict: If it hadn’t been for his resignation as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, I’d venture to say that he would have been the best performing LibDem Cabinet Minister and in an ideal position to succeed Nick Clegg. But it wasn’t to be. I’d be astonished if he was a candidate but the possibility is there, so he belongs on this list. If it were up to me, he’d be on eo fthe favourites.
Odds: 25/1

Age: 63
Constituency: MP for Bermondsey & Old Southwark since 1983
Majority: 8,530
Ministerial Office: Minister of State for Justice 2014-15
For: Popular in the party, especially on the left, adapted to ministerial office better than most thought he would, effective on the media
Against: Serial failure as a leadership candidate, too disorganised, a little holier than thou, maybe a unifying force after an apocalypse
Verdict: He might be tempted to run again in the event of an apocalypse, despite his age. That’s assuming he holds his seat. He would be fishing in the same lake as Tim Farron and Steve Webb. His biggest appeal would be as a unity candidate.
Odds: 25/1


I can’t see there being any other candidates beyond this select group. So who would win? I still think Vince Cable and Tim Farron are the two favourites, with Ed Davey and Norman Lamb. In any election you have to bear in mind the electoral system and the electorate, which in this case are LibDem members, all 44,000 of them. They are significantly to the left of the LibDem Parliamentary Party, and this is yet another reason why Cable and Farron must be considered favourites. In my view, if Vince Cable runs, he wins. If he doesn’t Tim Farron wins, unless during the campaign he self combusts. That would leave room for Ed Davey or Norman Lamb to come from behind.

If I were a LibDem, I’d vote for Norman Lamb. Not sure he’d welcome my endorsement though!



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Tom Swarbrick's News That Nearly Was

From my LBC Sunday show. Prepare to laugh.

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ConHome Diary: I Must Learn to be Biased Towards the Liberal Democrats

3 Apr 2015 at 14:31

‘David Cameron was the clear winner in last night’s debate. He clearly showed the difference between the Conservative long term economic plan and the chaos that would ensue if Alex Salmond put Ed Miliband into Downing Street. Only with a Conservative government can hard working families be sure that their taxes won’t rise and that we will pay down the deficit.’
Now obviously I am writing this before the debate has actually taken place, but I can absolutely ensure you that those words above, or a version of them, will feature in all the post-match spin and press releases. Because they all do. Always. Five times a day, like all other journalists and commentators, I get a CCHQ press release into my inbox. I have almost got to the wrist-slitting stage. Why? Because it’s the same boring message. Over and over again. If we were in Germany it would be called the Goebbelsprinzip. Say it often enough and they will come to believe it. The trouble is, it is being said so often, ad nauseam, in every single wretched interview that people have stopped listening. It’s not as if the phrase ‘long term economic plan’ is snappy. It isn’t. You can be ‘on message’ without repeating the same mantras word for word.

I got a blue tick on twitter last week. For some reason I was ridiculously pleased by it. I still don’t really know why. Because I am an egotistical knob?
Wednesday was April Fool’s Day, and as usual I did my best to hook a few people in. I wrote on my blog…

“It’s being officially announced later this morning, but I wanted my esteemed readers to be the first to know, that I am being raised to the peerage to replace Michael Ashcroft in the House of Lords. It’s a great honour and I am very grateful to Michael for resigning his seat and allowing me to take his place. I’m told it was a close run thing between me and Tim Montgomerie, but I’m told the Prime Minister so enjoys Tim’s almost nightly appearances on Newsnight that I got the nod. I have chosen Lord Dale of Leicester Square as my title and I want to make clear that joining the House of Lords will have no impact on my LBC show, although it will be retitled Lord Dale at Drive. Listeners will not be obliged to call me Lord Dale. Sir will do.”

What I have found in recent years is that many people only read the first few lines of a blogpost before they move onto something else so if you make something half believable in the first couple of lines, they fall for it hook line and sinker. The rest of the post was very clearly a windup, but even so, many people were taken in, including my LBC colleague Beverley Turner. Mind you, this doesn’t really compare to my April Fool in April 2010 when I made out that returning officers were going on strike to protest about being made to work on election night. (Read it HERE. So successful was this that the Government’s Media Monitoring Unit sent it all round Whitehall, believing it to be true. The Ministry of Justice began taking calls, and the Justice Secretary Jack Straw’s Spad protested that I had mentioned him in the blogpost without even having had the politeness to talk to him. Read about the aftermath HERE. Oh well, it made me happy anyway. And then there was the time I said I’d be running for mayor of London. Oh how we laughed.
This election will be the first for 36 years that I haven’t been able to campaign in. It will be the first time since 1979 that I won’t be donning a rosette or knocking on a single door. I’m not even putting a posterboard in my garden. No doubt some of you will be outraged, but seeing as I am talking about the election on the radio and co-presenting LBC’s election night extravaganza I just don’t think it’s appropriate to be an active participant in this election. I know that sounds a bit po-faced, but there you go. Mind you, it doesn’t stop my listeners from accusing me of bias towards the Conservatives. Or Labour. Or UKIP. “Why don’t you just have done with it and come out as a UKIP supporter,” is a regular taunt on Twitter. “You’re such a lefty Liberal, you must so in love with Ed Miliband,” is another. “You always give your Tory mates such an easy time,” is another one. I have never worked out why, but no one ever accuses me of being biased towards the Liberal Democrats. I really must try harder.

This election needs an injection of excitement. It needs a Prescott punch. Or a Mrs Duffy. Or a Sharron Storer. Something. Anything. Most people I speak to inside the beltway reckon they are a tad bored by the election campaign, and it’s only been going four days. Or three months depending on your perspective. I have to say that I haven’t contracted my usual bout of election fever yet. Call me old fashioned but I hanker after the days of pasting electoral rolls onto canvass cards, and typing up the NCRs. If you’re under 40 you probably have no idea what I am banging on about. But that sort of thing added to the whole election experience. Computerisation of elections has taken a lot of the fun away for people with a slightly OCD attitude to canvass returns and the Get Out the Vote operation. Those were the days.
Each day in this campaign LBC is doing an Election Call phone-in with a leading politician. So far this week we’ve had Sadiq Khan, Patrick O’Flynn, Michael Gove and Nick Clegg taking calls from listeners. As a presenter, though, you’re always aware that political parties encourage their own members to call in and ask “So, Mr Gove, would you like to tell us more about your riveting long-term economic plan?” Or “Mr Khan, isn’t it true that David Cameron will introduce a law forcing Labour voters to eat their first born?” Obviously we have people sifting the calls before people get on air, but you can never be 100% certain that the caller isn’t a party stooge. I well remember back in 1992 when I was working on the Tory campaign in Norwich North for the then MP Patrick Thompson, he was due to do an hour long phone-in on Radio Norfolk. Unbeknown to him, his agent Deborah Slattery, and I had already cooked up a plan to ensure that he bettered his Labour opponent Dr Ian Gibson. In short, every single call that got on air on that phone-in came from Tory Campaign Headquarters. And it worked like a dream. Needs must, and all that. We won that seat by 266 votes. Of course, it couldn’t happen now. You couldn’t phone from the same phone because of Caller ID, and in any case we never put people straight on air. They are phoned back. Withheld numbers automatically raise suspicions. So in short, don’t even think of trying to do what we did in 1992. It won’t work!

I’d love to do a comparative study of the number of professional party agents that have been appointed by each party in individual constituencies in this election. I suspect it’s under half what it was in 1992 and probably a quarter of the number that were employed in 1979. In legal terms, the job of agent is probably far more onerous than it was a quarter of a century ago, and yet complete amateurs are expected to get it right first time. Good luck to all the agents in this election. Some of them are going to need a lot of it.



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Tory MP Heidi Allen Goes Totally Off Message...


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Iain Dale to Replace Lord Ashcroft in the House of Lords

1 Apr 2015 at 07:00

It’s being officially announced later this morning, but I wanted my esteemed readers to be the first to know, that I am being raised to the peerage to replace Michael Ashcroft in the House of Lords. It’s a great honour and I am very grateful to Michael for resigning his seat and allowing me to take his place. I’m told it was a close run thing between me and Tim Montgomerie, but I’m told the Prime Minister so enjoys Tim’s almost nightly appearances on Newsnight that I got the nod.

I have chosen Lord Dale of Leicester Square as my title and I want to make clear that joining the House of Lords will have no impact on my LBC show, although it will be retitled Lord Dale at Drive. Listeners will not be obliged to call me Lord Dale. Sir will do.

The Prime Minister has kindly agreed that I can miss any votes that take place between 4 and 8pm for the time being, although discussions are ongoing about allowing me to vote remotely from the brand spanking new LBC studio. Apparently adding one more button to the several thousand already being installed won’t cause too much inconvenience.

Once the appointment has been ratified by the House of Lords Appointments Commission (which could take some time…) I will be introduced into the Lords by Christmas 2018. I will be introduced by Ray Allan and Lord Charles. I intend to sit between Baroness Trumpington and Lord Camberwick Green.

I reject as totally untrue the rumour that my elevation to the peerage is any way linked to the forthcoming publication by Biteback Publishing of my next book “David Cameron: Hero, Adonis, Possibly the Best Prime Minister in the History of Prime Ministers”.

Meanwhile I shall make preparations to avoid being caught up in another Channel 4 secret camera sting.

I thank you in advance for your sincere congratulations.

UPDATE: April fool!



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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Lady Pamela Hicks

Iain talks to Lady Pamela Hicks, daughter of Lord Louis Mountbatten, talks about her new book, DAUGHTER OF EMPIRE

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Guest Post

Football Mad: The Story of Mental Illness & Suicide in the Beautiful Game

30 Mar 2015 at 09:20

NOTE FROM IAIN: This is an article written for my West Ham Till I Die blog by one its readers whose pen name is ‘Iron Liddy’. She has written several articles for the site before, but none which has attracted the level of interest or comment that this one has. When you have finished reading the piece below, click HERE and read through the more than 300 comments. By dint of her writing this article ‘Iron Liddy’ has allowed other West Ham fans to open up about their own experiences of depression. She should be very proud. By copying the article here, I hope to bring it to a wider audience.

Guest Post by Iron Liddy

When I look back at the past two seasons as a West Ham fan in years to come sadly the word that will define them for me will be ‘abuse.’ I feel as though my senses have been battered by an incessant stream of vitriol aimed at our owners; our manager; some of our players, one in particular; and at fellow fans.

I looked at Carlton Cole’s face as he sat on the sofa on Goals on Sunday last weekend and I saw a very unhappy man. His mouth was smiling but his eyes weren’t; his time at West Ham has extinguished some of the spark in of one of the sweetest, funniest men in the game. Football’s Mr Nice Guy was forced to sit there and admit that he has been fined £40,000 for losing his temper and retaliating in kind to an abusive tweet from an opposition fan. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Although he is a favourite among many West Ham fans he has also had to endure constant criticism and abuse from other factions of our fan base and beyond. You really hope that the love that he receives from his supporters helps to cushion the pain of the virtual blows that he’s subjected to on social media; a subject which brings me on to our most vilified player in the past couple of years, Kevin Nolan.

In his recent interview with Dave Evans in the Newham Recorder Kevin said:

“It has been a tough couple of months ….. people talking about me and saying things about me, it has been hard, I am not going to deny it, but the only thing I have ever known is playing football. That is the only thing I can do now. I have got nothing to prove to anyone. I have done a lot in my career and a lot of what has been said has been unfair, but that’s life I suppose.”

Anybody who regularly follows West Ham’s fortunes will know that Kevin Nolan’s response to the vicious and personal abuse he has been subjected to for months on end is an understatement. For somebody not in the public eye it’s difficult to comprehend what it must be like to be exposed to a daily barrage of abusive and crass criticism. As a woman I also feel for his wife and try to imagine how upset I would be at having to watch my husband endure such hatred and venom simply for trying to do his job; not to mention the stress of trying to ensure that it didn’t reach the ears and eyes of my children.

Nolan went on to say:

“I’ve come to the stage in my career with all the negativity surrounding me and I have just taken it on the chin. It’s water off a duck’s back for me. Sometimes it hurts of course, but I’ve got a fantastic family, fantastic support system and not just with family and friends but also within the club.”

So Kevin is still smiling and still coping, at least he seems to be. Anyway, isn’t he fair game for all the critics and abusers given his dream job and huge salary? Maybe, maybe not. A popular consensus seems to be that professional footballers, as well as other people in the public eye, are exempt from the consideration afforded to ‘regular’ people. It’s as if a proportion of society considers that their wealth and celebrity makes them somehow immune from the frailties of the human condition and that they can either just absorb or repel any abuse without it affecting their mental and physical wellbeing.

As the cruelty and contempt that they have had to tolerate reaches its height both Carlton Cole and Kevin Nolan have also arrived at a stage in their careers as professional footballers where they need to take stock and ask themselves the question “what next?” It sounds like a lovely problem to have doesn’t it? All that money in the bank, not too many medals granted, but scrapbooks filled with memories of a job that most people can only dream of, what have they got to worry about? In fact they are probably at a very vulnerable stage of their lives and you can only hope that they have the mental strength and support networks that will enable them to navigate it successfully as they continue to deflect the scorn and bile that is heaped upon them every day.

For the majority of these relatively still young men football has been the only way of life that they’ve known since they were children; it defines them as human beings and shapes their self-worth and self-identity. When they come to the end of their footballing career they are in danger of losing so much more than a big income and the chance to play football in front of thousands of people. Unfortunately no amount of money, fame or privilege can protect mentally vulnerable people from the irrationality and despair of depression and mental illness; conditions which are exacerbated by external circumstances and the stresses of abuse and criticism.

A few weeks ago Clarke Carlisle, the former Burnley and QPR defender and one-time Chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, left hospital following his second suicide attempt.

He told The Sun newspaper that he had been left severely depressed by the end of his football career, financial problems and the loss of a TV punditry role. Seeing death as the only escape from his despair Carlisle stepped in front of a lorry on the A64 on the 22nd of December and hoped for oblivion. As it turned out he survived the impact and was airlifted to Leeds General Infirmary suffering from cuts, bruises, internal bleeding, a broken rib and shattered left knee. On Christmas Day 2014 he was admitted as an in-patient to a psychiatric unit in Harrogate before his release in January this year.

Carlisle’s battle with depression has been well documented in the media and in 2013 he made a poignant semi-autobiographical documentary for BBC3 called ‘Football’s Suicide Secret’; which told the story of his final season before retirement – a season which, like much of his playing career, was marked by periodic bouts of depression. His first suicide attempt came at the age of 21, just as his team Queens Park Rangers had been promoted to the Premier League. Here was a young professional footballer apparently approaching the zenith of his career and about to enjoy the prestige, accolades and wealth that entails, when he decided to take his own life with a handful of pills on a shabby park bench. In an article that Carlisle wrote for the BBC in 2013 he said:

“Everyone else thought I’d made it, that I had the dream life. And I did. I was a 21-year-old professional footballer for QPR and the England Under-21s. I had a nice flat, a nice car and a loving family. My irrational mind had made me think suicide was a rational action though. So I went to a park near my home in Acton armed with lots of painkillers and thought “I’m going to take all these pills and kill myself, because I’m no use to anyone”. I’d just suffered a severe knee injury and had convinced myself that without football people would see me for what I really was, which was nothing. I sat on a bench in that park, washed the pills down with a can of beer, and waited for it to happen. In the end I was incredibly lucky, because my girlfriend found me and I was rushed to hospital in time to have my stomach pumped. I survived and didn’t tell another soul about the incident for years and didn’t ask for any help. I just locked this suicide attempt away in Pandora’s Box.”

The film also highlighted the tragic and shocking death of former Premier League and Welsh international player Gary Speed. Despite his glittering playing career and his recent appointment as Manager of the Wales team Speed’s wife Louise found his lifeless body hanging in the garage of their luxury home in November 2011. At the inquest into his death the coroner reached a narrative verdict but stated that cause of death was by “self suspension.”

On the morning of his death he had appeared full of smiles as a guest on the BBC One TV programme Football Focus, with presenter Dan Walker later describing 42 year old Speed as being in "fine form.” After the programme finished Speed joined former Newcastle United team-mate and friend Alan Shearer to watch their old club play against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Although he never discussed any possible mental health issues with anyone, he had told Shearer that the pressure of management had put some strain on his marriage and that he and Louise had argued the night before his death. Four days before he hanged himself he had also texted Louise about the possibility of suicide, but he dismissed such an action because of the importance of his wife and two children. At the inquest his mother Carole Speed described him as a “glass half-empty person.”

During his documentary Clarke Carlisle spoke to Speed’s sister Lesley and she said that if somebody had asked her whether Gary was suffering from depression before that, she would have said absolutely not. She went on to say:

“He hid it from us and it stopped him asking for help ….. we were just so sad that we couldn’t help him through….. that’s a huge regret that I didn’t get him to one side and say ‘is everything alright?’”

Carlisle commented:

“I know only too well that most depressives are great actors who can put on a different persona, a facade. What you need to be able to do is open up, yet the cruelty of the illness is that it won’t let you.”

Speed’s sister Lesley also made the telling point that now that she knows more about the condition she knows that people suffering from depression are not just fighting an illness but also dealing with the stigma that comes with it. During a short interview for the film, Aidy Boothroyd, Carlisle’s manager at Northampton, reinforced the view that depression and mental illness are not something that you admit to in professional football. He said that he had tried to protect his player by telling the team and the press that Carlisle was suffering from flu when depression had forced him to miss work.

Carlisle spoke to other young footballers about their experiences with depression, including Simon Jordan, Lee Hendrie and Leon McKenzie and he tried to show that depression, just like a physical illness, can strike even those who have found their dream jobs and adulation. While it may not always be helpful to view depression as something triggered by circumstances, there is no doubt that a footballer’s career cycle contains plenty of triggers. Carlisle investigated the effect of that first rejection with a visit to an academy full of young players who hadn’t begun to consider that they might not hit the big time; and also looked at how injuries and defeats can drag a player down and what awaits them after retirement.

As my research continued I was shocked at the prevalence of suicide and attempted suicide within the professional game. No doubt most football fans are aware of the tragic case of Justin Fashanu, Britain’s first million pound black footballer and the first professional footballer in Britain to openly ‘come out’ and admit he was gay. His courage drew many admirers among the wider audience, but some observers said it was less appreciated in parts of the football world. He suffered both homophobic and racist abuse during his time as a player, with even his own manager, Brian Clough, labelling him “a bloody poof” His personal torment took its toll professionally and his promising football career had already nose-dived by the time he came out in 1990. Fashanu embarked on a new career coaching the US football team Maryland Mania but in 1998 he fled back to England amid allegations of sexual abuse by a 17 year old youth. On the morning of 3rd May he was found hanged in a deserted lock-up garage he had broken into in Shoreditch, London, he was 37. Fashanu’s suicide note denied the charges, claiming that the act was consensual and that he was being blackmailed by his accuser.

Whatever the truth of those allegations, Justin’s suicide was a culmination of a lifetime of rejection. That rejection began when he was given up by his parents as a child and placed in a Barnardo’s Children’s Home. It was compounded by the racist jibes he suffered on the football pitch, and by the homophobic abuse inflicted on him at Nottingham Forest by his manager Brian Clough.

A more recent high profile case is that of the former national German goalkeeper Robert Enke. On 10th November 2009 32 year old Enke committed suicide when he stood in front of a regional express train at a level crossing. In this highly emotive video Robert’s widow Teresa Enke describes how the pressure of being a professional footballer contributed to Robert’s depression and death. She says:

“Sport will always be important but you should always see the human being behind the sports person, you shouldn’t just reduce them to a performance. It’s nice if he performs well but you should respect that people make mistakes. I wish there was more understanding of [being] a professional sports person.”

Sadly self-awareness is no guarantee of protection from the effects of mental illness. Another former German professional footballer committed suicide in July 2014 after a long battle with depression. Andreas Biermann, who started his career at Hertha Berlin, took his own life after struggling against the illness for five years. The 33-year-old last played for FSV Spandauer Kickers, based in Berlin and he had published a book called ‘Depression: Red Card’ where he discussed his struggle. Biermann had initially revealed that he was suffering from the illness after the death of Robert Enke and he had previously tried to take his own life on three occasions.

You might be forgiven for thinking that suicide within professional football is a relatively modern phenomenon due to media pressure and the added stress from the abuse inflicted by fans via social media. You may also think that suicide has never touched West Ham. Sadly neither is true.

This list of professional and ex-professional footballers and managers who felt driven to take their own lives makes very sad and shocking reading. Footballers who committed suicide

Among them you will find Syd King, Thames Ironworks’ and West Ham’s star full back from 1899 – 1903; who went on to become West Ham’s manager, a position he held for 30 years from 1902 until 1932.

Syd King was considered one of the best full backs in the Southern League and he recorded 16 appearances in Thames Ironworks’ first season in the Southern League Division One in 1899, also making seven appearances in the FA Cup that year, an impressive run that ended in a 1-2 home defeat against arch-rivals Millwall Athletic. In 1900 he was retained as a member of the squad after the club’s transition to West Ham United, and continued to play for them until 1903, recording 59 league and 7 FA Cup appearances in total.

At the start of his last season as a player he was appointed club secretary, although he was already considered to be a ‘manager’ of the club. His tenure at West Ham included our election to the football league in 1919 and in 1923 he took West Ham to the FA Cup Final for the first time, losing to Bolton Wanderers but also assuring our place in the top division finishing as Division Two runners up. An edition of the local newspaper East Ham Echo proclaimed in 1923 that:

“Syd King is West Ham and West Ham is Syd King.”

Following promotion King implemented a period of consolidation for West Ham in the First Division, the highlight of which was the 1926-1927 season when West Ham finished in 6th place in Division One. This performance was not equalled by the Hammers until the 1958-1959 season during Ted Fenton’s tenure. This consistency was partly made possible when King signed players who went on to become West Ham legends and record holders, as well as England internationals, including Jimmy Ruffell, Ted Hufton and Vic Watson.

Syd King was appointed a shareholder of West Ham United in 1931 but the team was relegated in the 1931-32 season back to Division Two. On 5th November 1932 West Ham lost their ninth game of the next season, against Bradford Park Avenue, and at the same day’s board meeting, according to one board member, during the discussion of the team King was “drunk and insubordinate.” It was no secret that King ‘liked a drink’ but he had already appeased the board many times over the issue. On the following day they announced that:

“It was unanimously decided that until further notice C. Paynter be given sole control of players and that E. S. King be notified accordingly.”

It was also suggested by the board, but never confirmed, that King had been syphoning off West Ham funds for himself. He was suspended for three months without pay and also banned from entering the Boleyn Ground. Following a board meeting on 3rd January 1933 his contract was terminated permanently, and he was given an ex-gratia payment of £3 a week.

Although comparatively rich for an ex-player working in football, King’s reputation and career were in tatters. Within a month of the sacking he sadly committed suicide by drinking alcohol mixed with a corrosive liquid. The inquest into his death declared that he had taken his life ‘while of unsound mind’, and had been suffering from persecution delusions. According to his son his depression had begun when West Ham were relegated in the summer of 1932, and that his paranoia had followed on from that.

In his book ‘At Home With The Hammers’ (1960) Ted Fenton, West Ham United player (1932-46) and manager (1950-61) wrote:

“The boss at West Ham was Syd King, an outsize, larger-than-life character with close-cropped grey hair and a flowing moustache. He was a personality plus man, a man with flair. Awe struck, I would tip-toe past his office but invariably he would spot me. “Boy,” he would shout. “Get me two bottles of Bass.” Down to the Boleyn pub on the corner I would go on my errand and when I got back to the office Syd King would flip me a two-shilling piece for my trouble."

Isn’t it sad and unthinkable that a man with such a big personality and who had achieved so much at West Ham felt compelled to take his own life when he lost the support of the board and consequently his position? It really highlights the fact that nobody is immune from depression, even those with long and successful careers.

Given the stigma that often comes with mental illness, it’s perhaps no surprise that footballers and managers who suffer from depression often do their utmost to hide it instead of asking for help; and there are undoubtedly current and former professional players and managers still suffering in silence today.

In 2013 Football Association chairman David Bernstein admitted that the issue of mental illness in the sport has been “badly neglected in the past.” He said:

“This is not something that’s been high on my agenda – maybe it should have been higher.”

A spokesman insisted that the FA regards the issue as "vitally important” and Scott Field, the FA’s head of media relations, said:

“The mental well-being of players, managers and indeed all participants in football is vitally important to the FA, from grassroots to the professional game.”

He said that the FA had helped to produce a handbook for professional players tackling the subject of mental illness, as well as organising awareness workshops for coaches in 2011. The FA has also provided financial backing to the Sporting Chance Clinic, which treats sportsmen with behavioural problems.

Let’s hope that they’re taking it as seriously as they say. The latest suicide statistics reveal a disproportionate rise in the number of male suicides. In the UK, the male suicide rate is approximately three and a half times higher than the female suicide rate and the highest rate of male suicide in the UK is in the 40-44 age group.

The circumstances behind the depression and suicides of these professional footballers and managers are as varied as their careers but the one thing they all have in common is that their status within the professional game didn’t protect them from their mental torment; they were just human beings with the same vulnerabilities as the man on the street. In fact they may be more vulnerable than the average man on the street. FIFPro, the World Footballers’ Association, conducted an international study into the extent of Mental Illness in Professional Football More than 300 current and former professional players and six national unions participated. The first paragraph of the report’s conclusion states:

“The results of our study show that mental illness seems to occur among former professional footballers more often than in current players and more often than in other populations. Consequently, mental illness among former professional footballers cannot be underestimated and should be a subject of interest for all stakeholders in football. Attention to career planning in an early stage of a football career might significantly help to prepare the post-sport life period and to avoid potential problems after retirement (Alfermann 2007).”

If you’ve reached the end of this article then you’re obviously a thinking West Ham fan and probably not prone to outbursts of personal abuse where only professional criticism is required. You’re probably also already cognisant of the issues surrounding depression and mental illness and understand the fragilities of all human beings, including professional footballers, and how unwarranted and spiteful personal attacks on a player or manager could contribute into pushing a vulnerable person over the edge. The point I’m trying to make probably won’t reach those who could benefit from it the most. Those who won’t read have no advantage over those who can’t; so there’s little hope of educating either.

I’m not suggesting that professional footballers and managers should be wrapped in cotton wool and that they shouldn’t have to bear professional criticism but I wish all football fans would stop to think of the words of German goalkeeper Robert Enke’s widow the next time that they feel compelled to write an abusive comment and ask themselves if it’s really necessary or fair and to consider the impact it could have on a mentally vulnerable person struggling to cope with a barrage of abuse.

“Sport will always be important but you should always see the human being behind the sports person, you shouldn’t just reduce them to a performance. It’s nice if he performs well but you should respect that people make mistakes. I wish there was more understanding of [being] a professional sports person.”



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Video: Iain "persuades" Ed Balls to play the piano

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UK Politics

Tales from an Edinburgh Taxi

29 Mar 2015 at 22:51

I was in a taxi in Edinburgh this morning, and got talking to the driver, as you do. “Who are you going to vote for,” I asked after a while.

“I’ve always voted Labour, but I don’t think I’m going to this time,” he replied.

“I imagine it’ll be the SNP then,” I suggested.

“Never, ever. No, I think Cameron has done a good job in turning round the economy, so I might go for him.”

“Well I wasn’t expecting that,” I said. “Which constituency do you live in?”

“Gordon Brown’s.”


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Iain Talks to Labour MP John Woodock About His Depression

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Should I Go To A&E For Something That Is Neither an Accident Nor an Emergency?

28 Mar 2015 at 11:54

I’m in Edinburgh this weekend to attend a wedding. I’m in a very nice hotel and they let me check in early. So far so good.

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I had to have an unexpected operation. It all went well, but every day I have to go to my doctors to have the wound dressed. I will spare you further detail. But it’s a very simple two minute procedure, but it’s important it’s done every day to keep it clean, allow it to heal properly and avoid any risk of infection.

Obviously I can’t go to a doctor’s surgery in Edinburgh on a weekend, I mean God forbid they should open when people want to use them. So I just googled “NHS walk-in centres” and couldn’t really find anything. Odd, I thought. Anyway, I eventually located a minor injuries unit at the Western General Hospital. On their website they say “Clinic staff treat adults and children over one-year-old for a wide range of injuries, including minor cuts and burns, infections and stings, suspected sprains and small bone breaks (from shoulder to fingers and knee to toes).” Excellent, I thought, that’ll do. So I called them and told them what I needed done. “No, we don’t do that. You’ll have to go to A&E”. I protested that this was neither an accident, nor an emergency, that any nurse could do the procedure, that I had even brought the dressing with me, but they were having none of it. “We don’t have any walk in centres, you’ll have to go to A&E”. And there’s only one A&E in Edinburgh, the Royal Infirmary.

So this is my dilemma. I’m not sure I can face A&E two days running and potentially having to wait four hours and then miss the wedding, but on the other hand, if I don’t go I risk the wound getting infected. And for the (English) NHS that would involve more treatment over a longer period of time.

So far I have praised the NHS to the hilt for the hospital treatment I have had and the care provided my both GP surgeries I go to in London and in Tunbridge Wells. But today, I feel frustrated.

It’s so clear what the answer is, as well.

UPDATE: So, an hour later, I’ve phoned NHS 24, which is the equivalent to 111 in Scotland. Very nice, helpful lady. She suggested I go to the minor injuries unit at the Western General (see above). I explained I had already phoned them and they wouldn’t see me. She then phoned them and they said they would see me, but they couldn’t pack the wound because they don’t have any dressings. This is a hospital we’re talking about here.

I then phoned three private GP clinics, none of whom could help either. They either didn’t have the staff on to do this sort of thing, or they refused to see me without a formal GP referral, despite me explaining quite clearly what needed to be done.

If I go to A&E now, I miss the wedding, which I have come all this way for. If I don’t I risk infection. Thank you NHS. Thank you very much.



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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 23: The Power of Talk Radio

27 Mar 2015 at 22:54

This morning, I got a call from a journalist asking me to explain the power and influence of Talk Radio for an article he was writing. I explained that people’s stereotypical views of people who phone in are just wrong. It’s not just white van men or cabbies who phone in. Depending how you set up a subject, you get the calls you deserve.

Well, today on my show we discussed a survey which shows for the first time in history under 50% of the British public support the death penalty. In 1986 the figure was 74%. I expected some pretty vitriolic calls seeing as I asked my audience if the findings of this survey demonstrated that Britain was becoming a much more civilised, liberal nation. We had some great calls, and then I took this one from Stephanie Slater, who phoned in to tell us what happened to her at the hands of Michael Sams. You may remember the case. A few minutes later, Shirley came on the line who told me about her brother who murdered her other brother.

These two calls demonstrate the power of talk radio in a way that I never could.



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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 22: When A Caller Turns the Question Back onto the Presenter

27 Mar 2015 at 22:47

Today on my LBC show I tackled quite a difficult subject – why 100,000 students are funding their degree by going on the game or selling various ‘services’ in the sex industry.
This is a call I took from Dave, who shall we say, did very well in turning my questions back on me. It’s one of the funniest calls of my career on LBC and it ends with him offering me a modelling contract.

So have a listen!


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Charles in Enfield & Iain Go Head to Head Over McDonnell & Corbyn

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ConHome Diary: When Answering a Straight Question Can Work

27 Mar 2015 at 14:34

Those of you of a certain vintage will remember Sir Anthony Garner, the formidable Director of Campaigning in Central Office in the 1980s. I am very sad to tell you that he has died. I remember attending a Saturday campaigning seminar at CCO in Smith Square back in 1986. Sir Anthony has invited me to give a presentation about how Norwich North, where I was working, was pioneering the use of targeted Direct Mail. So there I was, in front of all the party’s leading agents and campaigning bigwigs, essentially telling them how to do their job. Direct Mail seems a bit old hat nowadays, but, believe me, in those days it was cutting edge stuff. Sir Anthony was genuinely feared and respected in equal quantity. In those days I suppose I had ambitions of working in the campaigns department at CCO and when Sir Anthony told me I had done very well and “done myself a lot of good” it genuinely meant a lot. Thirty years on the professional side of the party has become a husk of what it used to be. The number of professionally trained agents is pitiful. Their decline since 1992 has been shameful. It also coincides with the period when the Conservative Party has failed to win a single election. Funny that. Sir Anthony’s son Chris tells me there will be a Memorial Service for the great man after the election. I will let you know details when I have them.
Simon Jenkins is an archetypal member of the establishment. He is a former editor of The Times. As a prime example of ‘the great and the good’ he moves smoothly from one public appointment to another with graceless ease. He pops up on our TV screens to impart his wisdom on whatever subject he has a view on, even when he has apparently very little expertise on it. He’s eloquent and oftentimes very interesting, but I’m afraid I found his appearance on Newsnight, up against Admiral Lord West of Spithead excruciating. He was there to talk about increased funding for the defence of the Falkland Islands. To be honest, his views were all over the place and Alan West wiped the floor with his Guardianista views on defence spending. When Jenkins said “Frankly I’d spend next to nothing on defence,” my jaw almost hit the floor. What a cock. Surely maintaining the nation’s defences is the first priority of any government, whatever colour? A lot is talked about the NATO recommended defence spending level of 2% of GDP. It is frankly astonishing that we have a Conservative government which can’t even commit to this, despite it being agreed at the recent NATO summit in Wales. In 2016 our spending will fall below that level. It’s a cause for national shame and embarrassment. We’re happy to commit to 0.7% of GDP being spent on international aid, something I should say I fully agree with, but we can’t make that kind of commitment to defence spending. No wonder we won’t have an operational aircraft carrier until 2020. If the Argentinians did decide to launch an attack on the Falklands an aircraft carrier would be necessary to retake the islands. I know that. You know that. And so, no doubt does the Argentinian military.

This week I was introduced to the delights of by the man himself, Liam Fox. I was having a gossip with him in his Commons office (which is massive, by the way!) when I noticed some business cards with the website address written on the front. It turns out to be a Youtube Channel here Liam records one minute videos on any subject which takes his fancy – local to his constituency or of national importance. I picked up on the business cards and said “I’m not sure if I were you I’d want to be known as One Minute Fox,” raising a double entendre-tastic eyebrow. “No, indeed,” he replied without blinking. “My wife says I’m boasting.” B’dum tish.
Enough has been written about the Prime Minister’s blurt-out this week, so I won’t detain you long. There are some people, believe it or not, who genuinely think it was all part of a cunning plan and that James Landale was encouraged to ask the question. What utter bollocks. Landale got himself a first class scoop and that’s all there is to it. He asked a question and the PM answered it rather more directly than Landale expected him to, and then compounded it by speculating about his successor. Unprecedented. When I heard about it I thought Cameron had taken leave of his senses. My LBC listeners took a rather different view. “He was asked a question and he answered it. Isn’t that what we want of politicians?” seemed to be the general consensus. Lucky generals win wars. Perhaps lucky politicians win elections, and you have to say that Cameron is a politician who sometimes rides his luck. What I think he should do now, though, is to make very clear that he will serve a completely full term and stay as Prime Minister until the day of the 2020 election, rather than hand over mid- term to someone else. The party could still hold a leadership election, maybe in the autumn of 2019 and the winner would become party leader designate. This would mirror the American system in some ways. There might, however, be a constitutional reason as to why this would be impossible. If a new leader was elected, even as a designate, wouldn’t the Queen have to immediately invite that person to immediately become prime minister. Perhaps greater constitutional brains than mine might give some thought to that.

Nice kitchen, by the way, Prime Minister.
Nigel Farage’s book, THE PURPLE REVOLUTION is threatening to become a bestseller and my company, Biteback, is about to press the button on a second reprint. Twelve thousand copies of it have flown out of our warehouse near Oxford and thousands more have been downloaded as an eBook. Could it overtake Damian McBride’s book as our best ever seller? I wouldn’t bet against it. Like Damian’s book, it benefits from being a bloody good read.

I see overtly aspirant LibDem leadership wannabe Vince Cable has fraternally been laying into overtly aspirant LibDem leadership Tim Farron. Vince has never been one for self-awareness. The thing is, neither of them realise that out there in the wider world, no one gives a monkey’s arse about either of them and their ambitions. One thing I will say for Farron, though, is that he is a very likeable chap, even if the “I’m a blunt northerner who tells it like it is” act wears a bit thin from time to time. By way of contract, Vince Cable is the most disliked member of the whole cabinet, including by his own side. He’s not as cheerful as he looks, you know.



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