Radio

It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter: No 6 - Reluctant Guests

9 Apr 2013 at 21:48

I’m afraid I indulged in a bit of Twitter bullying this evening. There’s nothing I hate more than some idiot know-it-all PR idiot being rude to one the team who produce my Drivetime show. In our first hour tonight we covered the resignation of the Kent Youth Police & Crime Commissioner Paris Brown. “Let’s get Ann Barnes, the actual PCC Commissioner on,” I said as I made my way down to the studio at five to four. “Tell her we’ll take her any time up to 8,” I suggested to my producer Laura.

Half an hour later Laura came down in a break and said “You’ll never believe it, but the press officer put the phone down on me.” Apparently speaking to London’s biggest commercial radio network wasn’t much of a priority for Mr Howard Cox. People often don’t realise that if you speak to LBC you also stand a good chance of appearing in the news bulletins of the Capital, Gold, Heart, Classic FM and XFM networks – 19 million possible listeners. In any case, LBC can be heard in half of Kent.

“We’ll see about that,” I said to Laura. “Watch this…” And so began a Twitter campaign over an hour designed to shame Mrs Barnes into coming on. At one point her press people tried a new tack and told us she was too tired. Having got up at 5,45 today that wasn’t an argument I was likely to entertain. Anyway, at 6pm, they finally relented, and they pleaded with us to stop tweeting. Shaming by Twitter had worked.

So at 6.50 (15 minutes later than they said) Ann Barnes graced our airwaves. It was a slightly testy encounter as you will hear if you click HERE. It lasts around seven minutes.

I didn’t make any reference to the difficulties we had had in the interview, but Mrs Barnes may reflect on the fact that her press advisers did her no good today.

Share:

6 comments

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_alastair-campbell-c-avalon-web

LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Alastair Campbell

Alastair Campbell talks about his final volume of diaries BURDEN OF POWER

Listen now

UK Politics

The Indefatigability of George Galloway

9 Apr 2013 at 09:03

By and large I avoided Twitter yesterday, but when I broadcast I always have it on in front of me as it’s a great resource for ‘breaking news’ stories. I decided to block anyone who appeared in my timeline who was gratuitously insulting Margaret Thatcher. I have no objection to people criticising her, it’s the vile personal abuse I cannot abide. And actually there wasn’t that much yesterday – not that I saw anyway.

But let me reserve a special mention for the semi-tragic comedic figure that is known as George Galloway. This is what he tweeted on hearing of her death.

Tramp the dirt down

And to think he leads a party which is called RESPECT. He has apparently also accused her of befriending murderous dictators. Oh the irony. Look in the mirror George, as we salute your indefatigability.

Tosser.

Share:

19 comments

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_lbclogo

LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Amanda Prowse

Novelist Amanda Prowse talks about her new book CLOVER'S CHILD and much else besides!

Listen now

UK Politics

Another Margaret Thatcher Memory

9 Apr 2013 at 07:55

Back in 2009 I wrote this piece for the New Statesman, which was a collection of recollections about where people were the moment they heard Margaret Thatcher had resigned as Prime Minister.

The night before Margaret Thatcher’s resignation, I remember having had rows with two Tory MPs who owed their seats to Margaret Thatcher, yet intended to switch their votes away from her in the second ballot. I went home to my dingy flat in Walthamstow feeling angry and let down – almost tearful. Watching the news, my left wing flatmate came home and started crowing about what trouble Mrs T was in. I’m not prone to physical violence, but I was tempted to hit him. By the time Newsnight finished I had realized she was finished.

The next morning, I was at my desk in Grosvenor Gardens (I had just set up a lobbying company) when I heard the news on the radio. The world stood still for a moment. I wasn’t surprised that she had stepped down, but it was still a shock. Only a few days before my three year old niece, Emma, had asked: “Uncle Iain, is it possible for a man to be Prime Minister?” We were about to find out.
I don’t mind admit I could barely talk and that my eyes were moist. It really was the end of an era. A candle went out that day. The woman who had inspired my interest in politics, saved the country from trade union control and done so much to win the cold war, had gone. Forever. Politics for me would never be quite the same.

Yesterday, I was walking through Charing Cross Station when I got a call from my LBC producer, Matt, telling me the news of her death. Time stood still for a second.

  • The photo above was taken at a dinner I organised in April 2002 at The Savoy to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Politico’s Bookstore. It was quite an evening, and took place three weeks after she suffered a series of minor strokes. She wasn’t allowed to make a speech, and I was told on no account was I to let her get to a microphone. The photo to the left shows I failed. A second after this was taken, I had my arm around her waist, pulling her away. Her speech consisted of these few words.

Thank you for that tremendous reception. It’s the kind of reception only an ex Prime Minister can get!

Even many lefties were on their feet cheering her. Liam Fox described it as “one of those great political evenings you remember for years.” I certainly did. I sat next to her for ninety minutes. Sadly, I didn’t keep a contemporaneous note of what we talked about. I do remember during a speech by Bernard Ingham, when he was telling a particularly colourful anecdote, she leaned over and whispered in my ear…

That man has a very good imagination!

Share:

2 comments

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_alg

LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Interviews Lord Owen, Col Richard Kemp and Lord Malloch Brown about Mali & Algeria

Three interviews on the current situation in North Africa.

Listen now

Personal

Memories of Margaret Thatcher

8 Apr 2013 at 14:46

Margaret Thatcher is the reason I became actively involved in politics. She inspired me, as a sixteen year old, to join the Conservative Party and do my bit to help revive Britain. One of the tasks of today’s political leaders is to provide a lead, to inspire, to motivate. Margaret Thatcher was able to do that in a way few politicians in this country have been able to emulate. My first tentative footstep into the political arena was to set up a Conservative organization in 1982 at the very left-wing University of East Anglia. Only a few months later followed my first encounter with Margaret Thatcher when she invited the chairmen of the various University Conservative Associations to a reception at Number Ten.

For a country boy like me, it was unbelievable to have been invited and it was something I had been looking forward to for months. Just to climb those stairs, with the portraits of all past Prime Ministers on the walls was worth the trip on its own. And there at the top of the stairs was the Prime Minister. She had obviously perfected the art of welcoming people to receptions and as she shook you by the hand and wished you a good evening, she moved you on into the room without you even knowing she was doing it. Most of the Cabinet were there – I remember discussing with Cecil Parkinson the number of free running shoes he had been sent after a recent profile had announced to the world that he was a keen runner. He offered me a pair but it turned out his feet were much smaller than mine! We were constantly plied with wine and I made a mental note to stop at two glasses. But after the second glass was emptied I felt rather self-conscious without a glass in my hand so grabbed another. Just as the Prime Minister walked by I took a sip. All I remember is my stomach heaving and me thinking that I was about to throw up at the Prime Minister’s feet, thus ending a glorious political career which had hardly got off the ground. Luckily I managed to control my stomach and all was well. It turned out that it was whisky in the glass, rather than white wine.

Later in the evening, as I was talking to my local MP, Alan Haselhurst, the division bell sounded. Although there were at least 40 MPs there, none made a move to leave to go and vote over the road in the House of Commons. Mrs Thatcher started to look rather irritated and was obviously none too impressed. In the end she walked to the middle of the room, took off one of her shoes and banged it on the floor. There was instance silence. The Prime Minister then spoke. ‘Would all Conservative MPs kindly leave the building immediately,’ she instructed. ‘And the rest of us will stay and enjoy ourselves!’ Naturally we all laughed uproariously, enjoying the sight of the MPs trooping out of the room in a somewhat sheepish manner.

After I graduated I went to work at the House of Commons as a researcher for a Norfolk Member of Parliament. He was not a particularly well known MP and never courted publicity. He had a marginal seat and devoted himself to his constituency rather than join the rent-a-quote mob. It served him well as he held his seat for the next two elections. If ever there was an MP less likely to be involved in sleaze it was him. But one day, a careless error by me left him open to charges of dirty dealing. We ran a businessmen’s club in the constituency, called The Westminster Circle. It served two purposes – one to keep the MP in touch with local businesses, and secondly to raise a little money for the very poor constituency association. For £100 a year business people joined and were given a dinner in the House of Commons, usually addressed by a Cabinet Minister, and another dinner in the constituency, addressed by a more junior Minister. These clubs were common in all parties up and down the country. But in a publicity leaflet designed to attract new members I had used the phrase ‘with direct access to government ministers’. By this I had meant that they would be able to meet and speak to a government minister at the dinner. In those pre ‘cash for questions’ days we were all rather innocent. But it proved to be my undoing – and very nearly my employer’s.

Early one Tuesday afternoon he found out that at that day’s Prime Minister’s Question Time, the Liberal leader, David Steel, would raise this subject with the Prime Minister. He immediately went to see her in her office behind the Speaker’s Chair. He must have been quaking in his boots but he later told me she had been brilliant. She sat him down, offered him a coffee and heard him out. She did not disguise her dislike for Steel and thought it typical of him to operate in this manner. She told him she would let Steel have both barrels, and of course she did! He returned to the Office after PM’s Question Time and related the events of the day to me. I had been completely oblivious, which was just as well as I would no doubt have been having a premonition of what a P45 looks like.

A few months later I was having lunch with a couple of Tory MPs in the Members’ Cafeteria. We had just finished our lunch when in walked Mrs T and her entourage. She grabbed a tray and chose a light lunch of Welsh Rarebit. Unfortunately, as we had finished, I did not have cause to hang around too much longer so left the room, cursing that we had decided to have an early lunch. A few minutes later I realised I had left some papers and magazines on the table in the cafeteria and returned to retrieve them. As luck would have it, the Thatcher group had sat themselves at the table we had been sitting at and Mrs T had her elbow plonked on my papers. I decided to summon up the courage and interrupt them to ask for my papers. Just as I had started I looked down at the pile of papers and to my horror saw that my copy of the new issue of Private Eye was on the top of them and the front cover had a particularly nasty photo of Denis Thatcher. Mrs Thatcher cottoned on to what I wanted, removed her elbow and gazed down at the offending magazine. My heart stopped. ‘Oh, Private Eye, Denis loves it,’ she gushed. To my eternal shame, I just picked it up, along with the rest of the papers, made my excuses and left. What a wimp.

In 1995 I took an American friend, Daniel Forrester, to the T E Utley Young Journalist of the Year awards at the Reform Club. Lady Thatcher had been invited to present the awards. She treated us to a half hour impromptu speech on political issues of the moment, which seemed to go by in about five minutes – quite an achievement as her entire audience had to remain standing throughout. After she had finished Daniel whispered to me: ‘I have to meet her, what should I do?’ Knowing of her penchant for strapping 6 feet tall dark haired American men I encouraged him to go and introduce himself. He suddenly got cold feet so eventually I dragged him over to where she was talking to several of the award winners. In typically American style he launched into a sycophantic introduction which immediately attracted her attention. ‘Mrs Thatcher,’ he began. I kicked him. ‘Er, Lady Thatcher,’ he hurriedly corrected himself, ‘May I say how much our country misses your leadership….’ and he continued in that vain for a few seconds. While he was speaking, the diminutive figure of the Iron Lady (for she is much smaller in height than most people imagine) stared up at him, her eyes never leaving his. When he had finally finished having his say, Lady Thatcher hardly paused for breath. ‘Your President, President Clinton.’ She paused, heightening the drama for our American friend. ‘He is a great communicator.’ Up came the forefinger, almost prodding Daniel’s chest. Then in a particularly contemptuous tone, came the pièce de résistance. ‘The trouble is, he has absolutely nothing to communicate.’ With that she was away. It was almost a flounce. Daniel eventually came down from whichever cloud he had been on – probably nine – and said, ‘I’ll remember that for the rest of my life’ – and as a well-known critic of Bill Clinton, has been dining out on it ever since.

Another encounter came at a retirement party for ITN’s much missed political editor Michael Brunson. My friend Alan Duncan, the Tory MP for Rutland, started a conversation with her and she suddenly asked where Denis had disappeared off to as they had to leave for a dinner. Being of diminutive stature, and me being over six feet tall he asked me to scan the room. Both of them looked at me expectantly. To my horror I spied Denis on the other side of the room talking to Michael Heseltine. I summoned up all the courage at my disposal and explained where he was. Lady Thatcher’s eyes became even bluer than normal and she exclaimed:‘Denis and I are having dinner with Cap Weinberger tonight. I think he’s rather more important than THAT man, don’t you?! If Denis isn’t over here within one minute I shall go over and stare at them.’ Luckily for Michael Heseltine, she didn’t have to.
Early in 2005 I invited Lady Thatcher to come to a fundraising party to raise money for my campaign as Conservative candidate in North Norfolk. To my delight she accepted and on a cold March evening turned up on time to work a room of fifty friends and political acquaintances. And boy did she work! She was particularly pleased to meet the teenagers present, including one with a particularly eye catching piece of metal face jewelry. My task for the evening was to guide Lady T around the room so she could meet everyone. It was a thankless task. The Iron Lady decided where she was going and no amount of me tugging at her elbow was going to persuade her otherwise!

And then, in November 2005 I launched my book, Margaret Thatcher: A Tribute in Words & Pictures, at a function in the City of London, kindly hosted by the Corporation of London. Lady Thatcher agreed to attend and made a point of speaking to everyone in the room while she was there. Especially poignant for me, was the sight of her having a protracted chat with my two nieces, Isabella and Ophelia Hunter, who were then aged ten and six. It was a very touching moment as they posed for pictures. It brought back a memory from 1988, when my cousin Nicola’s daughter Emma – then an infant – asked her mother: ‘Mummy, can a man be Prime Minister?’ She soon found out that the answer was no. …

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 absolutely stunning. I had a couple of minutes talking to her and told her it was twenty-six 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.

Like others I’m devastated by her death. I spoke to Keith Simpson MP earlier. He described her death as the end of an era. He was right.

What memories! What a woman! What a Prime Minister!

Share:

7 comments

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_watch

Video: Iain & Yasmin Alibhai Brown cross-examine Douglas Murray

18 Doughty Street Crosstalk: It gets rather angry...

Listen now

Media

Good Luck to Tim Montgomerie of The Times!

6 Apr 2013 at 21:44

This weekend marks the end of an era.Tim Montgomerie leaves ConservativeHome and starts a new job as Comment Editor of The Times.

Tim launched ConHome (as we now refer to it endearingly) back in 2005. Almost from Day One it acquired a degree of influence over the inner workings and machinations of the Conservative Party. It was instrumental in ensuring that party members retained a vote in the leadership election. Over the years Tim has developed the site into something that has become a must read for elected politicians, party members, opponents and journalists. Cabinet ministers know that they need to treat ConHome with the same level of seriousness that they do a national newspaper. Tim has become the ‘go-to’ pundit for the broadcast media, sometimes much to the irritation of the party hierarchy.

ConservativeHome blazed a trail for the group blog. It took the other parties some years to catch up, and some would argue they never have. The likes of LabourList, Left Foot Forward and LibDem Voice have never been able to attract more than a fraction of ConHome’s readership or influence. To an extent this has been because none of them have had a front man with the media saviness of Tim Montgomerie. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he has been able to play the media like a violin. He knows what causes controversy and he knows what kind of surveys will garner media headlines. In short he has built up the site to become something that simply cannot be ignored. So important did it become that a few years ago Michael Ashcroft decided to buy it. Some thought that would signal its inevitable decline, but they underestimated both Ashcroft and Montgomerie. Ashcroft knew full well that any sign of editorial influence could fatally damage the site and Montgomerie was never someone who would give up that editorial independence. There have been countless occasions when I have read a Tim Montgomerie editorial and thought ‘hmmm, I bet Michael disagrees with that’. And that’’s exactly how the relationship should be between proprietor and editor. And I don’t see this changing now that Paul Goodman is taking over.

So as Tim leaves I want to pay tribute to him for what he has achieved. he really has left a lasting legacy and he will not be an easy act to follow. I really hope he enjoys his new role at The Times and that he won’t miss the smell of the greasepaint too much!

I have written the odd thing for ConHome over the years but Paul Goodman has asked me to become a regular columnist. I have no formal affiliation with the Conservative Party any longer and have made clear that I don’t want to write a partisanly Tory column. So instead Paul has agreed that I will write a political diary column, which will appear on the site each Friday morning. I think they’re going to call it Iain Dale’s Friday Diary. It is intended to be a little satirical and humorous and will look at all aspects of politics.

Share:

1 comment

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_lbclogo

Iain Talks to Mango Groove's Claire Johnston About Nelson Mandela

Part of a Nelson Mandela special programme

Listen now

Personal

Call Me Old Fashioned...

6 Apr 2013 at 17:45

Buying a property is never a straightforward business. Something always seems to go wrong. A link in the chain breaks, there’s a planning issue or the mortgage company won’t come up with the goods. We’re in the middle of buying a house in Lamas, in north Norfolk, and last Sunday we went to see it again, partly to remind ourselves what it looked like seeing as it’s more than two months since our offer was accepted.

Luckily, we still loved it and can’t wait to move in. The chain seems to have formed itself and we are hopeful we can complete in May at the very latest. But my partner John seems determined that we should be able to furnish the house as soon as we get it. His bidding for sofas and tables on eBay is getting more frenetic as each week passes. We now have a dining room table and a sofa is also on the way. Goodness knows what else. He’s the sort of person who thinks nothing of buying a car on eBay. Perhaps I am a less trusting person, but I like to see and touch what I am going to buy before I actual part with my money. Call me old fashioned. OK, I’m old fashioned.

Share:

1 comment

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_lbclogo

Iain has a Testy Encounter with a Member of the Fire Brigades Union

Iain takes Laurie Brightman to task over the Fire Strike.

Listen now

Media

What's in a Label?

6 Apr 2013 at 13:50

I’m sure the general reaction to what I am about to write will be ‘get over yourself’, or worse, but in the words of the Beautiful South, I’ll carry on regardless!

Have you noticed that many people in public life, no matter what they have gone on to do, will never escape what made them famous in the first place. I don’t know if it’s sheer laziness on the part of journalists and producers, but Jacqui Smith is always described as “former Labour Home Secretary”. I suspect if she went on to win a Nobel Prize for Literature, Sky News would still introduce her on the paper review as “former Labour Home Secretary”.

I gave up my then political blog in December 2010. I haven’t been a member of the Tory Party for two years, yet I am still constantly described by people as “Tory Blogger Iain Dale” even in stories related to my job at LBC. To be fair, Sky now caption me as LBC Radio Presenter’, but the BBC usually insist on using the term ‘Conservative Political Commentator’. I find this perplexing. Why do pundits on the right always have to have the word ‘Conservative’ attached to them, whereas left wing pundits like Kevin Maguire and Owen Jones don’t have the word ‘Labour’ used? Owen will protest that he is not ‘of’ the Labour Party – maybe not, but he and Kevin are doubtless fully paid up Labour members. I decided to quit Tory Party membership when I became a regular LBC presenter, and I think most people who listen to my show will know what I do not push a Tory agenda in any way shape or form.

I’ve given up making a big deal out of it because I know that I will have the phrase ‘Tory Blogger’ hung around my neck until the day I die. Mind you, I have certainly been called worse.

Share:

2 comments

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_bookshe_f

LBC Book Club: Best of 2012 (Part 1)

Part 1 of 2. With Jack Straw, Lady Pamela Hicks, Peter Hennessy and President Mary Robinson.

Listen now

Rant

Yet Again the Law is an Ass

6 Apr 2013 at 09:05

Apologies for quoting another story from the Mirror, but this really does take some swallowing.

Last year I was banned from driving for six months. I didn’t mention it at the time because I was rather ashamed of it. I had had four speeding convictions, three times for exceeding a 30mph limit by between 4 and 8 mph, and one for doing 85mph on the M1. That made 12 points, and we all know what points mean… I didn’t contest it. I deserved to be punished. It caused massive inconvenience because it was at the time my mother was dying but I had to live with it.

Today I read on the Mirror website that Newcastle United midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa was caught doing 110mph and driving without insurance. He got a 49 day driving ban.

Could someone explain to me why I got six months and he got 49 days?

Share:

4 comments

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_bookshe_f

LBC Book Club: Best of 2012 (Part 1)

Part 1 of 2. With Jack Straw, Lady Pamela Hicks, Peter Hennessy and President Mary Robinson.

Listen now

Radio

James Beattie Defends His Osborne Story

5 Apr 2013 at 23:43

Below you will see my little rant about the Daily Mirror’s Jason Beattie’s story about George Osborne and the disabled parking bay. I invited him on to my LBC Drivetime show today and to his credit he accepted. Here’s a six minute excerpt from the interview where he explains why he ran the story.

Share:

7 comments

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_lbclogo

LBC 97.3: Iain takes James Purnell to Task

James Purnell is the former cabinet minister and now the Director of Strategy and Digital at the BBC. He is very uncomfortable talking about his £295,000 salary (more than twice what Maria Miller gets as Culture Secretary) and is unable to tell us how much the BBC’s move to Salford cost. Well, at that salary you wouldn’t expect him to be a details man, would you?

Listen now

UK Politics

Marta Andreassen Continue to Ingratiate herself With Kent Tories - But Can She be Selected?

5 Apr 2013 at 20:46

How heartwarming to see newly defected MEP Marta Andreassen on the stump with Kent Conservatives yesterday, as reported on Andrew Kennedy’s excellent blog. Anyone would think there was a European selection in the offing. Perish the thought.

Of course, to be a Euro candidate in 2014 you actually have to be on the electoral register in the United Kingdom. So far as I understand Ms Andreassen is a resident of Barcelona, which, last time I looked was quite a few hundred miles from the White Cliffs. She will of course want to reassure her South East constituents that she does indeed reside in this country and has been on the electoral role for the last four years. For if she can’t do that, how could the Tories possibly select her?

I have been trying to work out where Ms Andreassen appeared on the UK electoral register in 2009. I was told a scurrilous story, which I won’t repeat here until I can test its veracity with the then UKIP leader Lord Pearson. But if anyone has access to 192.com’s electoral register history they could possibly help me out. I ask only for reasons of openness and transparency of course. I like to be helpful.

Share:

2 comments

Sign up via Facebook or Twitter to comment.

Small_lord-david-owen

LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to David Owen & Ruth Winstone

Ruth Winstone talks about EVENTS DEAR BOY EVENTS and David Owen discusses EUROPE RESTRICTURED.

Listen now