Radio

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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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Mary Robinson

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Books

A Question of English

23 Apr 2013 at 08:56

Shame on Penguin’s Allen Lane imprint. My copy of Charles Moore’s biography of Margaret Thatcher arrived this morning. This is its cover. In many ways it is a wonderfully designed cover. It has a very velvety feel and the typography is superb. But I am afraid I am appalled that they have used the American spelling of ‘Authorized’ on the sub title. It’s certainly not what she would have wanted and it grates. Penguin ought to remember its British roots.

Happy St George’s Day, by the way! At least no one can americanise that!

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Video: Iain Interviews Lady Thatcher

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Diary

ConservativeHome Diary Week 2: People Watching & What Did Ed Miliband Say to Lord Ashcroft?

19 Apr 2013 at 21:23

One of the great pleasures in life is people watching. There’s nothing I like better than to sit in Central Lobby in Parliament and just watch the world go by. Just seeing who is meeting whom can be very educational. And so it was at St Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday. Who should I see Lord Ashcroft having a quiet word with? None other than the Labour leader Ed Miliband. I’ve been speculating on what they might have been talking about. “Hello Michael, might you replace Unite as our biggest donor?” Perhaps not. “Ed, I want to relaunch Labour Home, how about it?” Possible. Or perhaps “Michael, about your advice on Ed Balls, can I ask you…?” Got it in one, I’d say.


Talking of the good Lord, the venerable proprietor of this website has taken to Twitter. Yes, really. You can ‘follow’ him at @Lord Ashcroft. At the time of writing he has a rather paltry 999 followers, so come on chaps and chapesses, do your duty. Lord A certainly won’t be satisfied until he overtakes my 39,000 odd followers. And some of them are even quite normal. I was chatting to Michael (as I like to call him) at St Paul’s and trying to explain the concept of Follow Friday on Twitter. It was when I used the acronym ‘#ff’ that I realised I had gone too far. It was a bit of a Julian Clary moment… Anyway, I look forward to seeing who he #ff’s today. Blame it on me. Or the sunshine. Or the boogie.


Carol Thatcher has displeased Paul Dacre. Another thing in her favour then. It seems the Mail had paid her a large sum of money for an article post funeral. Sadly, she has refused to write it. The Mail is understandably somewhat piqued, given the number of articles it has paid her for in the past when she was on her financial uppers. Rumour is that M’Learnd Friend is being consulted.


On Tuesday night after I finished by LBC show I tootled off down to the House of Commons to pay my respects to Lady T at the chapel of St Mary’s Undercroft. I arrived at about 8.30, long after most MPs had been to pay their respects. It is a perfect place for silent contemplation. I spied Conor Burns sitting alone in the front row. My instinct was to say ‘hello’ and give him a bear hug. But just in time I stopped myself. There are some moments when people just want to be alone with their thoughts. So I sat there for 15 minutes or so thinking about how Lady Thatcher had affected the course of my life. I thought about all my Norfolk Tory friends who had asked me to say a prayer for them. So I did. Finally I go up to leave. I approached the coffin, said a silent thank you and then touched the coffin. And then choked up. I don’t think I was alone.


I always cry at funerals. But I didn’t on Wednesday. It was a wonderful service in so many ways, but strangely unemotional. Unless your name is George Osborne, of course. More of him in a moment. The only time my eyes moistened was when I heard the ‘three cheers’ and clapping as the coffin emerged from the cathedral. Otherwise, there was nothing in the service to really make the waterworks gush. I have every sympathy with George Osborne as I do have a tendency for the waterworks to commence at very inconvenient moments – usually when I am on the radio. Politicians are human too and I suspect something triggered off a painful memory for the chancellor. The disgusting reaction on Twitter had to be seen to be believed. My own lachrymose moment came later in the day. At the beginning of my LBC show we played a 6 minute ‘highlights of the day’ montage (It’s on my blog. Have a Kleenex at the ready, and by the end of it I was feeling very emotional. I then had to give a 4 minute monologue telling the listeners about my day. My voice was quivering with emotion, but the show had to go on, and so it did!


Talking again of ‘people watching’, I met a lot of old friends in the cathedral. The man sitting next to me turned out to be Simon Murray of Hutchison Whampoa, a man I did some PR work for when his company took over the Port of Felixstowe back in 1991. I hadn’t seen him for 22 years. On my other side was former IEA director general John Blundell and his wife. As I sat there Dame Shirley Bassey and June Whitfield walked past. My one jarring moment came when I said hello to Simon Weston and realised I was sat at least 30 rows in front of him. I’ve edited four books on Margaret Thatcher, while he fought for her. I was a bit embarrassed, to be honest.


In last week’s column I made a sniffy remark about books which are being published to cash in on Lady Thatcher’s memory. So you might think it odd – not to say hypocritical – that I’m about to bring out a book called MEMORIES OF MARGARET THATCHER: A PORTRAIT BY THOSE WHO KNEW HER BEST. It’s a heavily updated version of a book I published 13 years ago. I had so many emails and texts asking to do it, I thought why not? However to avoid any charge of cashing in, all royalties are being donated to the Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Apart from royalties, it’s unlikely to make anything because of its length. I’ve included many of the parliamentary tributes and solicited lots of new material. The Prime Minister has written a foreword. In the original edition, there were 80 essays. This one has more than double. It will be out in early May.


A final word on the funeral. A friend of mine, Deborah Slattery, who was a Tory agent in Norwich in the late 1980s, caught the 4am bus from Norwich so she could get to St Paul’s for 7am and book her place in the crowd. I recruited Deborah and her husband Mike into the Party in the 1987 election. They were stalwart party workers but got so disillusioned by John Major they drifted away from actively helping the party. They are two examples of people totally motivated by Margaret Thatcher but appalled by today’s political leadership – or lack of it. When David Cameron can attract the Slatterys back into active politics I’ll think he’s really making progress. I’m not holding my breath.

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Radio

Radio Discussion: The Thatcher Legacy

19 Apr 2013 at 00:26

A 28 minute discussion on the Voice of Russia about the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, chaired by Brendan Cole. Participants are Michael Cockerell, Peter Tatchell, Guardian Letters editor Nigel Willmott and me. It’s a rather good listen, I think. Peter Tatchell keeps calling me ‘rude’. As if.

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LBC 97.3 Book Club: Iain talks to Tia Sharp's Grandmother (Part 2)

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UK Politics

One For The Ladies

18 Apr 2013 at 16:19

At the Norfolk Show 30 year ago. Thirty years! God I feel old

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Video: Iain & Jeremy Nicholas Discuss Their West Ham Books

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Media

Why Is TV News So Obsessed With America?

18 Apr 2013 at 10:04

The Boston bombing was of course a big news story. But if it had occurred in Jakarta or Seoul, would it have even been reported at all? Similarly, if a fertiliser plant in Malaysia, rather than Texas, had blown up, would it have rated a mention on the BBC or Sky? Our news broadcasters are so obsessed with America that any minor incident involving a shooting or stabbing in a school merits blanket 24/7 coverage. Did you know that there was a major earthquake in Pakistan on Wednesday killing 24? What about the even bigger quake in Iran on Tuesday. Or the 24 Afghans who died in an attack on Tuesday? When was the last time you heard a news story about South America that wasn’t about President Kirchner and the Falklands? These stories should be covered properly by the BBC but they’re not. If you want good, all-encompassing world news you have to go to Al Jazeera English. Try it.

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Lady Thatcher's Funeral in Eight Minutes

17 Apr 2013 at 20:53

This is a 6 minute montage of LBC’s coverage of Lady Thatcher’s funeral. It’s a bit of a tear jerker. In fact, when I played it at the beginning of today’s show, I then had to do a four minute monologue on my experiences of the day, and I am afraid my voice quavered rather too much for the first minute!

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LBC Book Club: Best of 2012 (Part 2)

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What The Papers Say - Margaret Thatcher Edition

15 Apr 2013 at 00:22

If you click HERE you can listen to me presenting What the Papers Say. The whole progamme was devoted to coverage of the death of Margaret Thatcher, as you might imagine.

Hope you like the ending :)

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Interview

Interview With the Bookseller Magazine

12 Apr 2013 at 18:53

Published in this week’s Bookseller Magazine, article by Tom Tivnan.

Having stood as the Conservative candidate in Norfolk North in 2005 and been on the Tory shortlist in another handful of constituencies, Iain Dale is no stranger to giving speeches.

But the Biteback Publishing founder was perhaps not prepared for the reaction to his tub-thumping keynote speech at the Independent Publishers Guild conference in March. Dale hit out at big booksellers in general and W H Smith in particular for what he said were unfair practices, including taking marketing fees from publishers and “doing nothing in return”.

After the speech, it took Dale about 20 minutes to leave the room as fellow publishers chatted with him, and he has since been inundated by positive emails from the trade.

“I was slightly taken aback,” Dale says from Biteback’s 10th floor office with its stunning views across the Thames of the Houses of Parliament. “I wasn’t saying anything that people in the industry don’t know about. But I guess the positive reaction was because I came out and said it on a public platform.”

One entity that has not gotten in touch with Dale is WHS. “I am completely ambivalent if I sell WHS a single other book,” Dale shrugs. “Any organisation that misleads its customers deserves to be exposed [Dale accused the chain of selling places in its bestseller charts]. I know for a fact that our books come back in the boxes unopened. If you have paid a so-called marketing fee, then you expect the other party to deliver their side of the bargain.”

Politico’s

Dale originally entered the trade in 1997 when he founded Westminster-based political book store Politico’s. He started a publishing arm a year later but left the trade in 2004 largely to concentrate on politics—in addition to standing for Norfolk North, he ran David Davis’ 2005 Tory leadership bid (“neither of which were my finest hours”). He sold Politico’s online bookshop to Harriman House, the publishing business to Methuen, and closed the physical bookshop mostly due to Westminster’s enormous business rates.

He never intended to return to publishing, but started Biteback in 2009 because he thought that big publishers were avoiding non-celebrity political books. He is a “sucker for any political memoir, biography or diary”, and the Biteback list reflects this: new titles include Gillian Shephard’s now timely The Real Iron Lady; 5 Days in May, former Labour minister Andrew Adonis’ insider view at the collapsed Lib Dem/Labour talks after the last election; and long-time Tory MP and minister Brian Mawhinney’s memoir Just a Belfast Boy. Yet, there is scope for out of the ordinary political books. The Speaker of the House John Bercow, for example, will be writing two titles on the greatest tennis players of all time (Bercow was once Britain’s number one ranked junior tennis player).

Biteback expanded in 2011 by launching The Robson Press, Jeremy Robson’s celeb bio, humour and general non-fiction list. “In the end we couldn’t expand this business if it was just politics,” says Dale. “Jeremy is brilliant at publishing general books and this gives us the opportunity to publish whatever we want.”

A big venture this year was the Biteback Paddy Power Political Book Awards. The eight separate prizes were launched with a stellar cast of judges from the media and all sides of the political spectrum, such as Ann Widdecombe, Alastair Campbell and Sky’s chief political reporter Adam Boulton. The ceremony itself was a rare beast in an event’s first year: it made a profit.

The awards were not borne out of a wish to pat politics publishers on the back, but out of the necessity for publishers to diversify. “We had a meeting last year and thought, if in the doomsday scenario of high street collapse, how do we survive? New revenue streams like this are part of it.

“All publishers have to look to forming better relationships with individual customers, and by that I mean people not bookshops. We are going to have to reach out to people, to retail more. That’s not telling booksellers that we want to cut you out of the equation, but if they can’t sell the books, then we have to sell them, in part.”

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Challenges a Caller Who Thinks People Choose to be Gay

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Diary

ConservativeHome Diary Week 1: Cameron & Pritchard & Friends of Dorothy

12 Apr 2013 at 14:45

Each Friday I am writing a diary column for ConservativeHome. It’s posted there at 8.30, and will appear here around 2.30 the same day. I hope you enjoy it. Lovely graphic they’ve come up with, don’t you think? Makes me feel 30 again!

David Cameron seems to be embarking on a much-needed charm offensive with his backbenchers. On Wednesday, he made an appearance in the Stranger’s Dining Room and sat down with a dozen or so Conservative MPs. Keith Simpson entertained him by reading an extract from Gillian Shephard’s book The Real Iron Lady in which she recounts how Harold Macmillan loved to taunt Roy Jenkins about his so-called working class roots, saying: “us working class boys need to stick together, Roy”. Cameron seemed very cheery and relaxed, especially when he noticed Bill Cash couldn’t find a seat and had to plonk himself down at a nearby table.


The Cameron charm offensive continued later that night. After having spent the whole afternoon listening to the Thatcher tributes in the Commons and Lords, the Prime Minister did a rather unusual thing. He decided to repair to the Stranger’s Bar for a swift one. By all accounts it is the first time he has been seen in a Commons bar. By the time he got there, there were only a dozen people left supping. My spy says he downed a pint of Guinness, and spent most of the time being greased up to entertained by Tory MP Mark Pritchard. It was Pritchard who, during a leadership elections hustings at the 1922 Committee asked all the candidates about their drug-taking history, something leading Cameroons have never forgotten. Cameron was regaling Pritchard with stories from his CCO days when a visit from the Leaderene was greeted with total fear and terror. Bizarrely, they were also overheard talking about their favourite musicals. I have to say Mark Pritchard has never struck me as a Friend of Dorothy, but there you go! Oh, sorry, wrong musical. Apparently they were waxing lyrical about ‘Jersey Boys’. At least, I assume they were talking about the musical…


On Monday lunchtime, I was wandering through Charing Cross Station when I got a call from my LBC Producer, Matt. “There are rumours that Margaret Thatcher has died,” he said. “It’ll be another of those Twitter hoaxes,” I said. But instinct kicked in and I wondered if this time it might be for real. Three minutes later the news was officially confirmed. For a moment time stood still. I can be a little lachrymose on occasion. But journalistic professionalism kicked in and not a tear was shed, and I headed straight for LBC to prepare to go on air three hours later. As a broadcaster you want to be on air when these massive news stories break, but there was a part of me which wondered whether I could really do four hours and not become at all emotional.

Why on earth would I get emotional about the death of a politician, I can hear you asking? Well, Margaret Thatcher has been part of my life since I was 16 and first heard her speak. I’ve met her on quite a few occasions, each one of them memorable, and I have recounted several of them in an article on my blog. I’ve also written several books about her. Part of me is slightly uneasy about all the books which appear to be cashing in on someone’s death, but there can be no doubt that there is a tremendous appetite out there, particularly among young people, to find out more about Lady T’s life.


I was in the Daybreak Green Room on Tuesday morning and started talking to Robert Oxley from the Taypayer’s Alliance. He told me an interesting tale. He shares a flat with four other guys in their twenties. None of them have any interest in politics but they all sat down to watch Andrew Marr’s documentary about Margaret Thatcher on Monday night. So gripped were they, that they all decided to go to her funeral procession. She always did appeal to young people, in a way few politicians ever could.


The last time I spoke to Lady Thatcher was in January 2009 ,when I went to the Carlton Club for a drinks party hosted by Liam Fox. I was delighted to see Lady Thatcher arrive and looking absolutely fantastic. For a woman of eighty-three and supposedly in frail health, she looked stunning. I had a couple of minutes talking to her and told her it was 26 years to the day that I first met her at a reception for Conservative students at 10 Downing Street. “I think I remember that,’ she said. ‘It was so nice to see so many young people in the building. That didn’t happen very often.” We talked a little about newspapers and she said: “I never read them. I had Bernard to do it for me.” Everyone needs a Bernard…

As I left the Carlton Club, a thought struck me. If Lady T were in her heyday and had to take over as Prime Minister now, what would she do? If I had asked her, I know exactly what her reply would have been. ‘Restore sound money, dear,’ she would have said. And you know what? She’d have been dead right.


I am privileged to have been invited to the funeral on Wednesday. I’m not a religious person, but I shall say a silent prayer on behalf of all those Norfolk Conservatives who worshipped the ground she walked on. Ernie Horth, who was inspired to work for Norwich North Conservatives on behalf of the then MP, Patrick Thompson ,is one man I shall think of in St Paul’s. Former Tory agents Audrey Barker, Phyllis Reeve and Deborah Slattery will be remembering all their work to turn Norwich Blue in 1983 and 1987. I will think of my good friend Tim Quint, and remember the countless hours tramping the streets of Mile Cross in the 1983 election and uncovering hundreds of Tory voters, much to our delight. I think of Patrick Thompson who won Norwich North in 1983 and held it until 1997, and of John Powley who booted out John Barrett in Norwich South in 1983. The 1980s was a great decade to be a Tory in Norwich. And in Britain!


You’ve got to admire Independent candidates in elections. Most of them have to do everything themselves, with no campaign back-up at all. So when my doorbell rang at the weekend and our local Independent Kent County Council candidate asked for my vote, I thought I’d be nice to him. “I don’t want any more houses built in the village,” he proclaimed. “That’s a shame,” I replied. “I do, and preferably on that field over there,” I said. The field I just happen to own. Nothing like a bit of self-interest. Anyway, I thought I recognised him and sure enough, it turns out he used to be the ward committee of the local Tories. “I don’t like Greg Clark’s position on housing and that Nick Boles is a menace,” he said. Anyway, I sent him on his way thinking he was quite brave for standing at all. That is, until I had it pointed out to me later by a local Tory bigwig that he had tried to get selected as a Tory candidate in several wards and each time came bottom of the poll. Only after he had failed did he resign from the party and decide to stand as an indy. My admiration for him rather disappeared at that point.


Local Conservative Associations do wonders in raising money to keep their parties going. My own in Tunbridge Wells does a sterling job. Indeed, this week I could have attended a lunch with none other than Danny La Rue’s dressmaker, and her friend – a 75 year old drag queen. Strangely, I found a ‘subsequent’ engagement, although I gather the event was unusually well-attended. I wonder if the colonels of Tunbridge Wells were ‘disgusted’ or titillated.


This week marks the centenary of the New Statesman magazine. I suspect I am one of the few readers of this site who has a subscription to it, but it is sometimes rather a good read. The insane rantings of John Pilger are always good for a laugh, while David Blanchflower’s economic prognoses give all Conservatives a clear guide to what not to do to rescue the economy. And Laurie Penny is a must read, but only if you constantly wonder what it must be like to be obsessed with going on demonstrations. Anyway, in their centenary issue they have a debate feature titled “The Left Won the Twentieth Century”. Aside from the fact that it is grammatically impossible to ‘win’ a century, the whole proposition is preposterous. It might not have been were one experiencing Life on Mars in 1974, but looking at the century as a whole, surely it is the right that triumphed in the end? I contributed to this feature and made the point that in the end Socialism and Communism suffered a total defeat in the last quarter of the century. Can anyone really argue against that? After all, Tony Blair was, according to Margaret Thatcher, her greatest legacy. That says it all.


So the Liberal Democrat, I’m sorry, Independent, Police & Crime Commissioner for Kent, Ann Barnes, thinks she bears no responsibility for the shambolic appointment of her Youth Commissioner, Paris Brown. The way she hung this 17 year old out to dry was something to behold. I did a slightly testy interview with her on LBC on Tuesday and she swore blind that none of it was her fault. She also swore blind she hadn’t promised to pay all Paris Brown’s £15,000 salary out of her own. Funny that, as everyone else swears she did. £15k for a third of a week’s work. That really is nice work if you can get it. For a 17 year old to be on the annual equivalent of £45,000 is going some. I’m sure Kent council tax payers think it has been value for money so far. Not.


Each week in this column I’m going to recommend a website I think you all might be interested in. This week, it’s the blog of Andrew Kennedy. He’s Tory Party agent for the three constituencies of Tonbridge & Malling, Tunbridge Wells and Chatham & Aylesford. You might think that it would be rather dry, but it’s the very opposite. In a hugely entertaining manner, he describes the work, trials and tribulations of an agent, and the bizarre characters he deals with. I’m sure CCHQ would love him to shut it down, but he shines a light on a very important aspect of party campaigning. It’s also quite personal. This week he has been talking about how he deals with aspirant parliamentary candidates who are trying to ingratiate themselves with him, and also the duck which has a nest next to his narrow boat. The blog is called Voting & Boating and you can find it HERE.


That’s it for this week. I have written far more than I had intended and most future columns will be rather shorter than this. If you have anything vaguely amusing you think I might include in a future column, stick it on an email to iain@iaindale.com. Thanks for getting this far.

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LBC 97.3: Tom Swarbrick with an Amusing Take on Obama's Inauguration

LBC reporter Tom Swarbrick wonders which US President sounds like the Thunderbirds narrator. Prepare to be amused.

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