Diary

ConHome Diary: Labour Shows Again That It Has Given Up on Winning Elections

4 Mar 2016 at 13:45

Ben Gummer is a very good MP according to many friends of mine. I rather admired him for standing in a seat which is never going to be ‘safe’. He won Ipswich in 2010 by a majority of just over two thousand. Most predicted he would lose the seat to Labour in 2015, but he confounded everyone by increasing his majority to more than 3,700. That’s about as good as it gets in Ipswich. Assiduous locally, he’s also now a minister in the Department of Health, where he is spoken of in glowing terms. But like his Dad, he has a complete blind spot over Europe. On twitter this week he’s been advocating the IN case but mainly by tweeting the usual Project Fear guff. I gently chided him and suggested he might use some positive arguments for a change. Back came a rather pompous reply, so I told him to grow up. He didn’t like that and said I was being very rude. Well, maybe, but if the best any politician on either side of the debate can do is to insult our intelligence and treat us like children, many be they need to be shocked out of their complacency. Project Fear scare tactics may turn out to win the day in the end, but it will be a very sad day for our politics.
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So this week Labour announced that Yanis Varoufakis had been appointed to advise Labour on economic policy and John McDonnell said that winning elections isn’t the most important thing for Labour – creating a social movement is. At least we now know that they’re not serious about winning an election. As if we didn’t before.
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One of my LBC producer colleagues opined to me a couple of weeks ago that it was impossible to support the LEAVE campaign because of the people who were representing them in the media. “They look completely unhinged,” was the remark which hit home. Two weeks on, I wonder if minds are changing on that front. Serious people have now come out to support LEAVE and most of them don’t have flapping white coats or stary eyes. This sort of thing is important. People advocating major change have to be both believable and likeable. That’s why Alan Johnson and Ken Clarke are such powerful advocates for the REMAIN side of the argument. Even if you’re not on their side in party politics, the chances are that you like them and find them believable. LEAVE now have Gisela Stuart, Boris, Gove, Kate Hoey, Michael Howard, Priti Patel, DD and many more. They could still do with a few more, though.
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Kudos to IDS and Priti Patel who have had the balls to stand up to Number Ten and insist that they should receive exactly the same level of support on the EU issue as other government ministers. It is a constitutional outrage that Sir Jeremy Heywood should issue an edit telling civil servants to provide no support or information to government ministers who are supporting LEAVE. He’s overreached himself and it was good to see Bernard Jenkin’s select committee holding the Cabinet Secretary to account. Sir Jeremy put in a typical oily performance and emerged relatively unscathed, but he need be under no illusion that his every action will now come under great scrutiny, and rightly so.
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Assuming the REMAIN side wins, attention will then turn to David Cameron’s next reshuffle, and what he will do with Boris Johnson. In theory he would be within his rights to completely ignore the soon to be ex Mayor of London, but I suspect a job will be found. But which one? Foreign Secretary is certainly out. Northern Ireland might have a certain appeal for the crueller minds in Downing Street, but I suspect they will come up with a suitably middling position which Boris wouldn’t like but would find difficult to turn down. Transport, comes to mind.
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I wonder if the BBC has overreached itself. No I’m not talking about the sacking of Tony Blackburn, I’m talking about the fact that they have hired Wembley Arena to host a Referendum debate and Q&A session in mid June. They haven’t got any star speakers lined up, and it’s difficult to imagine how this whole event would work. Why on earth hire an arena that holds 12,000 people when about ten of them would get to ask a question? I’m hearing that neither side of the debate is keen on this event and would be reluctant to put up their star people. So instead of Boris v Dave, it’s likely to be more like Ken v Liam.
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Gavin Barwell is one of the nicest MPs in Parliament. I can’t think he has any enemies at all. Normally I’d think that was not necessarily a good thing. If you haven’t got enemies, generally you can’t be very effective, but that’s not the case with Gavin. Like Ben Gummer, he won a marginal seat in 2010 and increased his majority in 2015. He’s now written a book about how he did it, which if you’re fighting a marginal seat next time around you really ought to read. It’s called HOW TO WIN A MARGINAL SEAT and is out in a couple of weeks. Preorder it HERE [insert link https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/how-to-win-a-marginal-seat ].
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Rather like the Labour Party, the US Republicans seem to be going through a seemingly neverending nightmare. Although numerically the presidential nomination isn’t yet sewn up for Donald Trump, it’s looking increasingly likely. His popularity is another sign of people’s dissatisfaction with the political elites, although given his wealth it’s nonsense to suggest that he comes from anything other than an ‘elite’. Marco Rubio seems to have vacated the ‘challenger’ position to the somewhat bizarre Ted Cruz. If Rubio can’t even win his home state of Florida in ten days’ time then his campaign is toast. So it really does look like Trump v Clinton. It’ll be some spectacle to watch, but I wonder what it will do to the Republican Party. Perhaps they will finally realise they need to appeal to the whole country and not just a narrow section of it.

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Why Religion Needs to Adapt to a Changing Society

27 Feb 2016 at 19:18

Even when I was a campanologist (no sniggering at the back), ringing the bells at our village church, I didn’t believe in God. Ok, I was only a teenager, and I was only ringing the bells each Sunday as the lesser of two evils. It was that or being a choirboy. You’ll understand why I chose Plain Bob Minor.

I had a typical rural upbringing. I lived in a quiet north Essex village near Saffron Walden, went to the local C of E Primary School, my mother did the church flowers once a month to keep up with the Jones’s, and every so often we’d be dragged along to the Sunday morning service to take Holy Communion. I hated the wafer thin fake bread and loathed the red wine even more.

I remember sitting there willing the hour away. I quite liked the hymns, but I just couldn’t get my head around reciting a whole lot of religious doggerel worshipping some supreme being. By that stage I didn’t believe in Father Christmas or fairies at the bottom of the garden. My father rarely came to church, but on one occasion that he ventured there I remember the vicar saying rather sarcastically how nice it was to see him there. He snapped back: “I don’t need to attend church every Sunday to prove my Christian credentials, I do that every day of the week.”

There are two sorts of Christians – those whose entire life and philosophy is governed by strict adherence to scripture, and those who try to live their life by what they think Jesus Christ would have done, or would have wanted. And this brings me (at long last!) to my point.

The Anglican Church, of which the Church of England is the leading player, is split asunder on the issue of homosexuality. Just recently the leaders of the Anglican Church voted to sanction the US Episcopal Church for its liberal stance on homosexuality in general and gay marriage in particular. It was a murky decision which some felt that their valued they hold vital to Christian empathy and inclusion were sacrificed on the altar of what Bishop Stephen Lowe called the “altar of false unity for Anglican Communion.”

If marriage is such a great institution – and it is – why is it that some of the more recidivist members of various religions find it so wrong that gay people want to access its benefits too. How does my being married to a man, threaten or undermine anyone else’s marriage or relationship?

Some Christians cling on to the fact that the Old Testament is quite clear about the evils of homosexuality. But it’s also clear about the evils of eating shellfish, the evils of wearing mixed fibres, and that the best way to deal with adulterous women was to stone them. However, depending on which translation you read, the New Testament barely mentions homosexuality. Just as importantly, if a ‘New’ New Testament was written today, does anyone seriously think that there would be any condemnation of homosexuality at all?

Those Christians would do well to actually study the life and beliefs of Jesus Christ himself. I may not believe in God, but I do believe Christ existed. And from what I know he would be one of the last people to condemn anyone who found true love. And even if he still abided by the belief than ‘man shall not lie with man’ he would be compassionate and empathetic to those men who did. Or do. He certainly wouldn’t want anyone publicly shamed, stoned or thrown off the top of a building.

I’m afraid there is no way of keeping the Anglican Church united. Women bishops started the fragmentation. Gay vicars and gay marriage is likely to lead to a schism. The dogmatic and recidivist views of the African Anglican Churches will never reconcile with the increasingly liberal attitudes displayed by many in the leadership of the Church of England or the US Episcopal Church.

Chris Bryant, the Labour MP and formerly an ordained Priest, has decided that enough is enough and he has quit the church. Many other gay and lesbian Christians believe that fighting the fight from within is still the best way forward. Time will tell who is right.

This article first appeared in the April edition of ATTITUDE Magazine

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ConHome Diary: How Does Boris Get Away With It & Is Dave More Wilson Than Macmillan?

26 Feb 2016 at 14:11

Listening to the Prime Minister last Friday night, when he announced his EU deal, there’s no doubt that he talked a good game. He did it again on Marr and he did it again in the Commons on Monday. Whatever you think of the content of what he said, he’s at his best when his back is against the wall. In many ways David Cameron is a lucky Prime Minister, although some say it’s because he makes his own luck. Tony Blair was the same, and in this way he really is an heir to Blair. Untroubled by deep convictions, both Blair and Cameron have the ability to move effortlessly from policy to policy and give the impression that each one is the most important one in their armoury. Pundits have often compared David Cameron to Harold Macmillan. I’m beginning to think it’s another Harold that he most resembles – Harold Wilson.
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Just how does he get away with it? At least he was wearing a suit and had a haircut, but could Boris Johnson’s statement outside his house on Sunday night have been any more rambling and incoherent? Did no one think to say, “Boris, at least have some notes”? And yet he did get away with it and continues to. The media seems to give him a free pass and adapt the attitude of “Boris will be Boris”. That will change the moment he becomes Tory leader, assuming that eventuality ever comes to pass. They built him up, then they will bring him down.
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Let’s for a moment examine Boris’s stance on the EU, assuming of course it remains what it appeared to be on Sunday. At no point has he actually said the words: “I want to leave the EU”. His position appears to be that we should vote LEAVE on the basis that it would then mean we (but he means ‘he’) could then be in a much more powerful position to launch a much more meaningful renegotiation. Unfortunately that ship has already sailed on two counts. It is specifically ruled out (at the suggestion of Belgium), which means a LEAVE result means just that. In fact it was something various politicians (including David Davis) suggested a long time ago – just have the referendum and then launch the renegotiation. David Cameron thought he knew better.
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The fact is that Boris, at his own admission has never been an ‘Outer’. I have lost count of the people who have told me of conversations with Boris – even in the last few weeks – where he has made clear he has never supported leaving the EU. I suspect many of these instances are about to be catalogued publicly by people who feel Boris has said what he has purely to further his own political career. I’m afraid it is a conclusion that is hard to avoid. His strategy is predicated on a LEAVE vote coming to pass on June 23rd. David Cameron resigns the next day (and he’d surely have to), and Boris, having quasi-led the LEAVE campaign to victory becomes leader almost by acclamation. Except it might not quite work out that way. Would he get the support of enough Tory MPs, and to what extent would David Cameron copy his political godfather Michael Howard, and rig the rules to be unfavourable to Boris. Maybe there would be a two year long leadership campaign, giving him enough time to make the mother of all gaffes!
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It’s not been a good few days for Sajid Javid. Potential future leaders should show leadership. He hasn’t. He’s done the exact opposite. He’s ignored his true beliefs and rowed in behind the Prime Minister’s position. He then wrote a truly pathetic paen for a Sunday newspaper explaining that while he was supporting the prime minister he believes we should never have joined the EU. Well thanks for that insight. One wonders what the Prime Minister was able to say to Sajid Javid that persuaded him, which failed to persuade Michael Gove. Perhaps it went something like this: “Support me Sajid, keep your nose clean and you’ll be at the top of my list to replace George as Chancellor when I make him Foreign Secretary in the next reshuffle.”
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What none of the newspapers have picked up on is that the cabinet is stuffed full of MPs who will support the REMAIN campaign. In the parliamentary party around the split between so-called ‘Remainiacs’ and ‘Outer’s is roughly 50-50. In the Cabinet it’s more like 80-20 in favour of REMAIN.
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Michael Gove probably hasn’t enjoyed the last week. His articulation of why he couldn’t support the Prime Minister was the best exposition yet of why Britain should leave the EU. It’s a decision he clearly agonised over but he has displayed leadership and no one seems to hold it against him. I predict a bandwagon is about to roll. And on the side will be a poster which says MICHAEL GOVE FOR LEADER.
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People of my vintage have grown up with Tony Blackburn. For fifty years he has been on the radio and whether you like or loathe his cheesy style I think it’s universally agreed that he is brilliant at what he does. On Wednesday night Tony Blackburn announced he had been sacked by the BBC from all his various radio shows on the network, including those on Radio 2, BBC Radio London and Radio Berkshire. Why? Well, read Tony Blackburn’s statement for yourself and see whether you the BBC are justified in what they have done. His sacking was a tool to draw attention away from the Dame Janet Smith report which was published yesterday morning. Its main conclusion was that BBC managers and head honchos knew nothing of Jimmy Savile’s activities and although floor managers and producers were aware of what was going on, they failed to alert managers. I say bollocks to that. It’s quite clear to any sane person that managers must have known, but they chose not to confront the issue. So it turns out that Dame Janet absolves the BBC of any corporate culpability. I find that an astonishing conclusion.

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ConHome Diary: The LibDems Who Are Voting Out & The Exit of Tim Montgomerie

19 Feb 2016 at 13:26

On Newsnight Evan Davis called Tim Montgomerie “the most well-known Tory who isn’t an MP”. So his resignation as a Tory Party member is news, no matter what some might say. The editor of this site has described it as akin to ending a marriage. What Tim’s critics need to understand is that no one resigns from a political party without serious thought and deliberation. Tim quitting is no flight of fancy. He will have agonised about it for a long time. Successful political parties are big tent coalitions. Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party was just that. The likes of John Carlisle and Harvey Proctor could happily coexist in a party with people like Jim Lester or Stephen Dorrell. There is a certain intolerance in today’s Conservative Party which didn’t exist in previous times. If you don’t sign up to the Cameron/Osborne project you are ignored, briefed against or ridiculed. There are plenty of MPs who will attest to that. There will be few tears shed in Downing Street or Crosby HQ about Tim’s departure. Indeed, I suspect champagne corks will have popped. The turbulent priest has got rid of himself. There are few people in Conservative Politics who can look in the mirror and say “well, I may have gone, but look at my legacy”. Tim can justifiably do that. He was the inspiration behind the Centre for Social Justice, and of course without him, this website would not exist. He’s had his failures, but he has learned from them. In some ways Tim is a bit of a dreamer and an individualist, more comfortable ploughing his own furrow rather than operating as part of a team. He recognised that early on. He and I are polar opposites in how we operate. He’s a man of ideas, I’m not. He likes nothing better than to develop innovative policy – I’m better at marketing the policy. But to one extent or another, in the five years leading up to the 2010 election he and I became the ‘go to’ Tory gob on a stick for the broadcast media. I bowed out from that role after 2010 but if anything Tim’s reputation as a Conservative commentator burst into a new era after 2010. Barely a week went past without an appearance on Newsnight. Who will they go to now? I suspect the lazy producer will still book Tim when he is back in the country, partly because it’s difficult to think of anyone else who knows the party like he does. There’s a gap in the market now for a top class Tory pundit. But who is there to fill it?
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Potential prime ministers need leaders, not followers. The fact that we won’t find out until today which side of the EU argument Boris Johnson will fall down on says a lot. We all know that he’s not a genuine Eurosceptic, so for him to continue to flirt with the LEAVE campaign tells us much about his political calculation. I still think he will ally himself to the Prime Minister in the end, but let’s assume he doesn’t. Does anyone believe it would be out of genuine political conviction? Of course not. He will have calculated that if he becomes the de facto public face of the LEAVE campaign and on June 23rd the LEAVE side wins the referendum, it would lead to the resignation of David Cameron and hi becoming party leader by acclamation. He may be right. But it would make Frank Underwood and Francis Urquhart look like amateurs. Some people may think that wouldn’t be a bad thing. I think it would stink.
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As I have said before, I think this so-called EU renegotiation is a rather pathetic attempt to hoodwink the British people into thinking something has really changed. There is nothing in it that is of any real importance. If there had been, the negotiations would have stalled at the first fence. I’ve come to the conclusion that the EU is unreformable. Look at how the Prime Minister’s child benefit changes have been completely watered down. They are now a very poor reflection of the sentiments uttered by the Prime Minister in the Bloomberg speech or as written in the Conservative manifesto. People see through these things.
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A substantial part of the electorate is undecided on the EU issue. How will they make up their minds? Will Project Fear win the day? Who will influence their decisions? Surely in the end people feel in their gut that Britain should either be an independent country or part of Europe? I suspect that it isn’t the likes of Boris Johnson or David Cameron who will influence the debate, it is people’s family and friends who will be more of an influence. They in turn will be influenced by people they respect. It won’t be the likes of Emma Thompson or Michael Caine who influence the debate, it will be moderate, normal people. As I have said before, the LEAVE campaign’s problem is that it appears to be full of people who would look quite at home at a John Redwood leadership campaign launch (that’s a comment for people of a certain vintage). John Redwood is a very great man and I bow to no one in my admiration of him, but on both sides of the argument the campaigns need to think very hard about who they put up in front of camera. This is where the REMAIN camp have an advantage. They can wheel out people-friendly spokespeople like Ken Clarke and Alan Johnson. I’m afraid that whatever their merits might otherwise be, Peter Bone and Jacob Rees-Mogg don’t quite cut it. My column last week was given a headline which was totally misleading. It said that I was making the case for David Davis to lead the ‘Out’ campaign. I actually did nothing of the sort, but I think we can all agree that he much more of a cross-party appeal than many of the people appearing on our TV screens for the Outers at the moment.
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I was asking some of my younger colleagues at LBC the other day how they would vote in the referendum. To my surprise, several of them revealed themselves as Outers. I was tickled that two of them were LibDem supporters. I was going to say ‘there’s always one’, but in this case there were two. Fancy that, two LibDems in the same room.
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Earlier this week I interviewed the man who tried to smuggle an Afghan girl into this country from the Calais Jungle camp. You may remember the story. When we were offered the opportunity we were told he’d be accompanied by the musician Alex James. The news hook was that they were both going to Calais this weekend and Alex would perform an impromptu concert for the migrants. I’m not a fan of Blur, but Alex James is quite an interesting person, so I was looking forward to it. So as the 4.45 break loomed I trailed them both by saying “In a moment we’ll be talking to the man who tried to smuggle an Afghan child into the country and one of the country’s top music stars, Alex James from Blur.” There turned out to be a problem. The musician was indeed Alex James, but I soon realised he wasn’t the Alex James we had assumed was! What to do?! Well, the show had to go on. They both came into the studio, and I just carried on. I actually thought it was very funny, and could well have been part of the plot for Alan Partridge’s Mid Morning Matters. Aha!

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ConHome Diary: Zac Needs To Get Pumped Up

12 Feb 2016 at 13:36

The EU Referendum campaign continues albeit with the Prime Minister still rigging things in his favour. He still feels free to opine on the issue and yet bans any minister who takes a different view from speaking. His ridiculously pathetic attempt to scare us into believing that the Calais Jungle would suddenly become the Folkestone jungle was quite a sight to behold. Good for the French in immediately making clear they wouldn’t seek to rip up the bilateral arrangement, which has absolutely bugger all to do with the EU. The mayor of Calais was no doubt doing her nut.
The latest scare story comes not from Cameron but from Hilary Benn, who yesterday tried to make out that Vladimir Putin would be secretly rather pleased if we left the EU. You’ve got to laugh. As if Putin would give a toss either way.
There is a view that if the Prime Minister recommends we stay in (and let’s face it, he’s not going to do anything else) then that’s game, set and match for the ‘In’ campaign. I take a different view. If you have the political establishment, big business, the BBC, the Church and the beautiful people all advocating one thing, don’t be surprised if the people do the exact opposite. We’ve become a suspicious bunch and far less deferential to those supposedly know better than us.
There is still the leadership problem. Those speaking out in favour of leaving still resemble people attending a John Redwood leadership campaign launch. Where are those who can articulate why we should leave without frothing at the mouth and their eyes resembling the aftermath of a Ketamin intake?
Well, there have been two significant developments in the last few days. First David Davis gave a lengthy ‘death by powerpoint’ lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in which he carefully went through all the positive reasons for leaving, and scotching many of the scare stories. It was immediately interpreted as a bid to lead the ‘LEAVE’ campaign. Whether it was or not (and I genuinely don’t know), they could do far worse.
Secondly, Sarah Wollaston, previously a self-confessed Europhile, wrote a brilliant article on Wednesday’s Times articulating why she had decided we now had to leave. She describes Cameron’s EU deal as a “threadbare offering” and asks “What use are “emergency breaks” when the driver has no control or “red cards” that have no credible chance of being deployed?” She concludes: “If they are to have any hope of persuading the undecideds, the leave campaigns must settle their differences and inspire. We need a clear blueprint for Britain working alongside the EU in a constructive new partnership. We would join as the world’s fifth largest economy, not isolated but confident, outward-looking and open for business.”
And this is the challenge for the ‘LEAVE’ campaign. Unite, inform, inspire. Are they up for the challenge?
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When you’re in a campaign you need to want to win it. You need to look as if you want to win it. You need to have all guns blazing. Radiate optimism. Inspire your campaign workers. At the moment Zac Goldsmith is doing none of these. He looks as if he’d rather be anywhere else but doing what he’s doing. It appears that being in a bathtub with Mrs Brown would be preferable to sitting in a studio answering questions on his vision for London. David Cameron needs to give Zac a lesson on how to appear being ‘pumped up’.
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The common consensus is that Sadiq Khan is having the better of the campaign so far. But all is not lost by any stretch. Assuming Zac discovers his Mojo, he also has a powerful ally. Don’t laugh but his name is George Galloway. Galloway knows he won’t win, but he can inflict some significant damage on Sadiq Khan in some of the inner London Boroughs. I am told that his supporters are encouraging voters just to use their first preference vote, and leave the rest of the ballot paper blank. Neither of the main two candidates is likely to win on the first ballot. If enough Galloway supporters don’t use their second or even third preferences for Sadiq, that could let Zac through the back door. Stranger things have happened.
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In March I am publishing David Laws’ book on the history of the coalition. It’s imaginatively titled ‘Coalition’. I finished reading the unedited manuscript recently. I know I’m the publisher and I am biased, but it certainly doesn’t disappoint. There is one politician who comes out of it very badly indeed and won’t be a happy bunny. Such a tease…
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If you’ve never listened to the Alex Salmond Phone-in (Wednesday at 4 on LBC) you’re missing a treat. This week Mr S couldn’t remember his salary as First Minister and was challenged to a fight on air by a certain Mr William Wallace of Brentwood. Och aye, we even bring back people from the dead on LBC. It’s no doubt part of the reason David Mellor and Ken Livingstone have a show! Just my little joke. I actually think their Saturday morning show is one of the best shows on the station. It ought not to work but it really does. Tune in Saturday mornings from 10 and judge for yourself. Class bantz.

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Why the PM Is Pushing Me Towards the Brexit

5 Feb 2016 at 14:33

Like many of you, I guess, I haven’t yet decided on which way to vote in the EU Referendum. David Camerson’s so-called deal isn’t helping me make up my mind. Frankly, if you go into a renegotiation asking for very little, you can expect to receive even less.

The Prime Minister made four demands, three of which weren’t actually demands at all. They were a statement of the bleedin’ obvious – motherhood and apple pie demands. He wanted a legal block on ever closer union. Totally meaningless. The British Parliament has that already in that it can decide whether to ratify a new treaty or not. The only real bone of contention was on in-work benefits.

The PM is heralding a four year brake on in work benefits as some sort of triumph. In reality it is nothing of the sort. It’s more of a handbrake U turn, as migrant workers will be able to gradually reclaim the very same in work benefits they were supposed to be banned from receiving in the first place.

The PM has caved in on the issue of paying child benefit to migrant worker’s children who still live in their home country. On what planet can any sensible person believe it is right to pay British benefits to children in foreign countries? In his manifesto the PM promised to put a stop to it, but in this deal today these benefits will continue to be paid. Good luck in selling that one to a sceptical electorate, prime minister.

This is a deal with one priority in mind – holding a referendum as early as possible, ideally on 23 June. Why? Because the longer it’s delayed the more likely the political agenda is to be dominated by a further migrant and refugee crisis over the summer months.

At the EU summit in two weeks’ time this sword will held over the head of his fellow 28 EU leaders. The message will be “drop me in it now, and fail to agree terms, and I cannot guarantee a Stay vote in the UK referendum.”

So what we have here is a cynical manipulation of the British public. The trouble is, people are going to see it for what it is. I desperately want both sides in this referendum to give me a positive reason to vote for one way or the other. So far, all I hear is cynicism, threats and exaggerations. What we should be getting are facts, vision and hope.
If anything, the events of this week have pushed me further to considering a vote to leave the EU, partly because I am increasingly of the view that meaningful reform of the EU is impossible.

Will 28 countries ever agree on anything? The refugee crisis is a good example. If the EU can’t put measures in place to alleviate this crisis, what on earth is it for?
It’s all very well to introduce a Red card system where national parliaments can club together to veto a new proposal from the European Commission. And it sounds reasonable until you find out that the orange card system has only ever been used twice. What the British people want is surely their own Parliament to be able to veto new proposals which disadvantage our country.

And when the Prime Minister says he has got a concession for non Eurozone members to be able to argue against measures taken by Eurozone countries if they feel they are disadvantaged by them, all well and good. They can put their case but there’s no mechanism for it to go beyond protests.

So I believe we, the British people, are being hoodwinked by the Prime Minister and it’s our fault if we fall for it. If Conservative MPs fall for it too, so be it. The trouble is we have an opposition hardly worthy of the name. Virtually the whole of the British political establishment is in hoc to the EU and is blinkered to the consequences. It says it all that in a profoundly Eurosceptic party only 5 out of 30 cabinet ministers are likely to vote to leave the EU.

I am a Europe loving Europsceptic. There’s not an Anti-European bone in my body. I speak relatively fluent German. I’ve lived in Europe. My uncle died so Europe could be freed.
I believe in cooperation between European countries. What I don’t believe in and can’t support is an unreformable monolith that is undemocratic and democratically unaccountable. If I am to vote to remain in the EU I need a lot more than a bit of tinkering around the edges by a Prime Minister who should be leading public opinion rather than vainly attempting to follow it. What a sad state of affairs.

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VIDEO: World Cancer Day: How Cancer Has Affected Me

4 Feb 2016 at 13:44

World Cancer Day: Iain Dale's Story

Today is World Cancer Day and LBC is proudly supporting Cancer Research UK Watch Iain share his story and donate now to show your support #ADayToUnite

Posted by LBC on Thursday, 4 February 2016

This is a video to mark World Cancer Day. I was asked to record something which reflected how cancer had impacted on me and my family. I spoke about my Godmother, Eleanor Daniels, who sadly died in 2007. She may not have been a blood relative, but to us she was. She was a major influence on me and my two sisters, Tracey Hunter and Sheena Dale and was my mother’s lifelong best friend from childhood. We all still miss her hugely.

In the last few weeks a friend of mine lost his mother to cancer. A close friend of mine and John’s has been diagnosed with breast cancer. And this week the father of a work colleague has had an operation to remove cancer. It affects all of us. If you can make a donation to fight cancer, please do so. Nowadays, if some cancers are caught early, they can be caught in time.

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LBC97.3 Iain Talks to Dr David Starkey

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WATCH: My Response to David Cameron's "Renegotiation" (Or Hoodwinking the British People)

2 Feb 2016 at 18:35

My response to David Cameron’s EU “renegotiation”.

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Iain Hosts a Discussion on Whether Psychics Are Genuine

Fascinating discussion

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A Visit to the Brilliant Ebbsfleet Academy & The Difference a Good Head Teacher Can Make

28 Jan 2016 at 09:41

When I was a parliamentary candidate I used to enjoy visiting local schools. I always learned something. Of course academies that time were a mere glint in Andrew Adonis’s eye. On Wednesday I visited an academy for the first time. It came about following an invitation from one of my LBC listeners who calls in regularly and takes me to task for some of my views on education policy. It turned out that Alison in Sydenham was also head of the Ebbsfleet Academy, which is just off the M25 near Gravesend. Four years ago it was a failing school. Those parents who cared about their children’s education didn’t want to send their kids there and the schools exam results were a joke. Seventeen per cent would get 5 GCSEs or more. The school then became an academy, changed its name, brought in a new head, and the rest, as they say was history. Last summer 54% of their pupils got 5 GCSEs or more including Maths and English. This year they expect to get more than 60%. It’s a remarkable turnaround. It’s been done through inspirational leadership, an almost total replacement of the teaching staff, and imposing rules and discipline. I have never seen such a clean and tidy school. Even all the classrooms were tidy.

All the classes I visited were full of eager to learn kids with seemingly few discipline problems. Many of the yeargroup classes were split into two – boys in one classroom, girls in another. I was quite surprised to see this, but it’s something that both girls and boys seem to like and think is a good idea. Virtually all the teachers were under 30 and many recruited from the TeachFirst programme. Going round the school, the head knew the name of every single pupil she encountered, and had words of encouragement for all of them. In one of the breaks I sat down with six or seven pupils who told me about their experiences of how their school had been transformed. It was truly inspirational. The school is in an area where 42% of the pupils qualify for the pupil premium. Some of them come from very challenging backgrounds. One of the great things Alison Colwell has brought to the school is a real sense of encouraging her pupils to aspire to be better. I asked the seven kids what they wanted to do when they left school. They all gave aspirational answers – law, accountancy, computer technology. Alison later told me that she asked that question to a group of girls when she first arrived at the school. They all wanted to work in nail bars. Nothing wrong with nailbars, but the point was that they had never really considered anything else.

The school is now attracting more and more kids from the local area and is about to start a sixth form. The local community can now be justly proud of it. It just shows how important leadership is for a school. They’ve got the right head teacher at the right time. If this academy is a representative example of the genre, then those schools who are about to convert have nothing to fear. In fact, they should embrace their future. Change is never easy, but it can be very rewarding, as the Ebbsfleet Academy has discovered.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale discusses Transsexualism

Following the controversial article in the Observer by Julie Burchill, Iain discusses what it's like to be a member of the transgender community in the UK today.

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Cecil Parkinson 1931-2016: An Obituary & Personal Memories

25 Jan 2016 at 15:22

Iain pays tribute to one of his political mentors

Cecil Parkinson, who died today at the age of 84, belonged, albeit fleetingly, to that unfortunate group of politicians known as ex future Prime Ministers. At the peak of his political powers in mid 1983 he was seen as a natural successor should Margaret Thatcher have fallen under the proverbial bus. But it was not to be. His affair with his secretary Sara Keays led to his resignation from the Cabinet and four years in the political wilderness.

Cecil Edward Parkinson was born in 1931 and grew up in the Lancashire railway town of Carnforth.. A chartered accountant by profession, and a partner in West< Wake & Price from 1961 to 1971, he made his name – and money – in the building world in the 1960s through his company Parkinson Hart Securities. Parkinson was a genial, suave, tall man, whose matinee idol looks could reduce Tory ladies of a certain age to jelly. He married Ann Jarvis in 1957 and together they raised three daughters.

Parkinson was first elected to Parliament at a 1970 by-election in Enfield West, following the death of the Chancellor, Iain Macleod. In the dying days of the 1970-74 Heath Government he became a junior whip, but it was with the election of Margaret Thatcher to the Conservative Party leadership which sparked his political rise. He specialised in trade policy in the Opposition period from 1976 to 1979 and became Minister of State for Trade in the first Thatcher administration. But it was his sudden promotion to become Chairman of the Conservative Party, replacing the octogenarian Lord Thorneycroft, in 1981 where he made his name.

By common consent he proved to be one of the most outstanding Conservative Party Chairmen of the late twentieth century. He reformed Conservative Central Office, recruiting several leading businessmen to play key roles in the marketing and organisation of the Party. Christopher Lawson was recruited from Mars to become director marketing and Parkinson oversaw the introduction of targeted direct mail campaigns to both recruit new members and raise money.

In April 1982, at the suggestion of Norman Tebbit, Parkinson became a key member of Margaret Thatcher’s five man Falklands War Cabinet. Tebbit felt that Thatcher needed some support in case the more dove like Francis Pym and Willie Whitelaw lost their collective nerve. He was highly successful in presenting the Government’s case during the three month conflict and his political stock was certainly on the rise.

During the following twelve months Parkinson was hardly off the nation’s TV screens attacking the newly formed SDP/Liberal Alliance and the unilateralist policy of Michael Foot’s Labour Party. June 10th 1983 should have been the happiest day of Cecil Parkinson’s life. In the early hours it became clear that the Conservative Party was heading for the biggest electoral landslide in its history. As architect of that victory Parkinson’s political career was at its summit.

In the early hours of that morning he told the Prime Minister that he had been having a long term affair with his secretary, Sara Keays, who was about to have his baby. Thatcher had planned to appoint Parkinson Foreign Secretary later that day thereby sending out the signal that he was her chosen heir. Instead she sent him to Trade & Industry. Four months later, in the middle of the Conservative Party’s annual conference, he was forced to resign after The Times printed Sara Keays’ allegations that Parkinson had promised to marry her, then reneged on the promise. Some commentators felt it deeply ironic that Parkinson resigned because he had decided to stay with his wife rather than leave her for his mistress.

Although Parkinson had only spent four months at the DTI he managed to privatise British Telecom and introduce changes to the way the Stock Exchange operated, known as the City’s ‘Big Bang’. These changes helped the London Stock Exchange maintain its competitive position against Frankfurt, New York and Hong Kong.

During his period out of the Cabinet Parkinson never hid his desire to return to the front of the political stage. This was not a sign of naked ambition or careerism, more of a desire to wipe the epithet “disgraced” from his name. He often said to friends that he was fed up with being described as the “disgraced former Tory Party Chairman” and the only way to rid himself of that description was to come back. But when he did return to the Cabinet in June 1987 he was never quite the same. Somehow the political spark had been extinguished. While he was a competent Energy Secretary, the complexities of electricity privatisation appeared too much for him and led to a sideways move to Transport, rather than the Treasury which he had long coveted.

When Margaret Thatcher fell in November 1990 Parkinson decided to leave too. He was genuinely sick to his stomach at the way his parliamentary colleagues had treated his political protector. This was graphically demonstrated during the last meeting of the Thatcher Cabinet. As she was reading out a prepared statement about her future she continually broke down in tears. It was all too much for Parkinson who blurted out to the Lord Chancellor, who was sitting beside her: “For God’s Sake James you bloody read it”

Parkinson’s contempt for Thatcher’s successor John Major was never easily hidden and his deservedly poorly reviewed 1992 memoirs, Right at the Centre, leave the reader with the distinct feeling that although he considered himself to be a key member of the Thatcherite vanguard, he had never quite achieved what he set out to.

He left parliament at the 1992 General Election and immediately went to the House of Lords as Lord Parkinson of Carnforth. This, however, was not the end of his political career. He became the founding Chairman of Conservative Way Forward, a ginger group committed to keeping the Thatcherite flame alive, and in 1998 Parkinson experienced a year long Indian Summer when William Hague brought him back into frontline politics as Party Chairman. It was not a happy year as he fought continual battles with the Party’s Chief Executive Archie Norman MP, whose McKinseyite approach to reforming the Party and Conservative Central Office proved to be something of a disaster.

He is survived by his wife Ann and their three daughters, and his daughter Flora, by Sara Keays.

I have many personal memories of Cecil. I first met him in January 1983 when I attended a reception at Number Ten as Chairman of the University of East Anglia Conservative students. 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!

One of my main memories of running UEA Tories was a meeting we held in 1985 with Cecil Parkinson as guest speaker. He was slowly being rehabiliated after his 1983 resignation and we expected a big crowd in Lecture Theatre 1. Little did I know that when we walked in it was full to overflowing, with 900 students.

He got a standing ovation, which I was a little surprised at, as UEA was a very left wing university in those days. In fact, his reception was so good that it provoked the socialist workers’ crowd who tried to invade the stage. They failed at that due to the skilful work of members of the UEA Rugby Society, so then the eggs started coming in. None of them hit Cecil. They all hit Ann, his wife, and me. My new suit was ruined. Cecil was furious and shouted “which little lefty rat threw that at my wife?” The rest of the audience cheered and turned on the egg throwers who left without further incident. What a great meeting! Cecil loved it!

My next encounters with Cecil came in 1990, when he was Transport Secretary. In early 199 I was working for a public relations company called Charles Barker. I had been recruited to beef up their lobbying efforts. I truth I hated it. I was a fish out of water, and left after only three months. One of my clients was Vauxhall, and they wanted to meet Cecil Parkinson and show off their new electric car. I kept asking them what they wanted from him in terms of policy but they hadn’t got a clue. All they were interested in was a few pictures of him driving their new product and shaking hands with their chief executive. It was at that point I knew I could get no satisfaction working as a pimp, because that’s what lobbying really was in those days – matchmaking without consummation.

At the time, I was good friends with Cecil’s Special Advisor, a redoubtable lady called Elizabeth Buchanan. She had previously worked for Paul Channon and later became a private secretary to the Prince of Wales and Margaret Thatcher. Anyway, we sat together in the audience in Blackpool (I think) to listen to his party conference speech. Cecil had never been a great platform speaker, and this year was no different. He plodded through his speech but the audience wasn’t really that interested. At the end, Elizabeth grabbed my arm and whispered: “We must lead a standing ovation”. I dutifully got to my feet and applauded like mad. Unfortunately we were the only two who did. It was mortifyingly embarrassing.

In 2004 he and Ann came up to North Norfolk to speak at a fundraiser for my campaign. He arrived very late, having driven the wrong way down the M11. But he was in fine form.

At one point, many years ago (in 1996 I think) I approached him to ask if he would cooperate with a biography I planned to write about him. He thought about it very seriously, but in the end he decided not to because he knew that all anyone would be interested in was the real story of his affair with Sara Keays. It’s a book I would have loved to have written, as I believe his contribution to the Thatcher project has never really been told.

Despite his personal flaws, Cecil Parkinson was a towering political figure. I remain of the view that in different circumstances he could easily have succeeded Margaret Thatcher. Having said that, I am not sure he would necessarily have been a great Prime Minister. But I will always regard him as one of the nicest people I have met in British politics.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to West Ham Co-Chair David Gold

Iain & David Gold talk about the politics of football.

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