Book Review: Roy Jenkins - A Well Rounded Life by John Campbell

27 Sep 2015 at 23:47

It’s taken me several months to read this magnificent authorised biography of Roy Jenkins. I thought I knew all there was to know about the man whose tenure as Home Secretary heralded the so-called ‘permissive society’ and went on to lead the SDP, but I was wrong. My bedtimes are no longer things I look forward to as much, now I have completed this wonderful journey which lasted 750 pages. Some say it’s not worth publishing books of that length any longer, as we all have the attention span of a flea. How very wrong. This book has something to savour on virtually every page, whether John Campbell is relating a childhood take or yet another falling out with Dr David Owen.

John Campbell has written biographies of Ted Heath and Margaret Thatcher, but neither of those touches the quality of his latest tome. He is clearly an admirer of Jenkins, but a not uncritical one, as the chapters on the SDP illustrate. He brings his subject to life in a way few would have thought possible, and doesn’t hesitate to include passages which Jenkins, were he still alive, would have found acutely embarrassing.

Like most others I was quite shocked at the extent of Jenkins’ philandering, which he clearly thought quite normal. It makes one wonder how it was kept out of the press, as it was clearly known to many at the time. His wife, Jennifer, seemed to accept it or if she didn’t she treated it with some degree of resignation. It’s not even in the category of ‘what the eye doesn’t see won’t hurt you’. Some of his various conquests even joined the Jenkins’ for regular dinners. Caroline Gilmour, wife of Iain, seems to have been ‘the one’ Jenkins was truly in love with. Even this didn’t phase the ever tolerant Jennifer, who seemed to adopt the line of ‘great men have needs’…

No book is perfect, but this one comes pretty close. I suppose we could have done without the constant references to the details of the numerous book review Jenkins wrote, and a tighter edit could have reduced the page count by 100 pages possibly, but that is to carp unnecessarily.

I don’t know how many copies this book has sold. I suspect not what it should have done, but it ought to go down in the pantheons of political biography as one of the very best. Whoever John Campbell chooses as his next subject will be very lucky indeed.



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LBC 97.3: Iain talks to Lady Antonia Fraser

Lady Antonia Fraser discusses her new book PERILOUS QUESTION, about the 1832 Reform Act.

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ConHome Diary: The Truth About Me, Michael Ashcroft, Isabel Oakeshott & THAT Book!

25 Sep 2015 at 09:45

Well, this week certainly has not been dull. And as with any roller coaster ride, it’s had its highs, its lows, and I’m still a bit dazed. I published and was then damned!

Some of you will say, “serves you right, you shouldn’t publish books that question anything about David Cameron or his government”. To that, I say ‘bollocks’.

I run a non-partisan publishing company which publishes current affairs books across the political spectrum. This week I’ve been accused of being a Tory lackey and at the same time totally disloyal for publishing a biography of the prime minister which dares to offer the odd criticism and private revelation.

I got a bit annoyed on Sunday night when I realised that neither the Sky News or BBC newspaper reviews were covering the Daily Mail’s front page with the first extracts from CALL ME DAVE. They always get frit when faced with a contentious story like so-called ‘piggate’. The lawyers go into a frenzy and the editors will always play safe. It’s a shame that the paper reviewers on the two channels didn’t question it. It’s happened to me before and on one occasion I told the producer that we were supposed to be previewing ALL the papers and if we weren’t allowed to even mention a particular story I’d refuse to go on altogether.

I don’t like being censored. And this comes to the crux of the matter on whether the ‘piggate’ story – an anecdote in CALL ME DAVE that caused such a global sensation it almost broke the internet – should have been printed at all. I am still in no doubt it was right to keep it in the book. Whether it would have made the credibility threshold for a newspaper is a side-issue. This is a book, not a newspaper. When I first read it in the manuscript I certainly noticed it was only single-sourced, but the authors were entirely upfront about that. Contrary to much of the sloppy reporting of the story, it was never presented as fact. I was comfortable with the way it was written up and, more to the point, so were the lawyers.
What would the reaction have been had I insisted it were taken out? Had anyone found out, I’d have been accused of censoring something and protecting my so-called ‘Tory mates’. You’d think from the reaction, that Michael and Isabel, aided and abetted by me, had accused the prime minister of murder, or something. It is no more than a tale of student high jinxs, and the authors leave readers to judge for themselves whether it happened or not.

The sight of a former News of the World political editor getting on his high horse amused me greatly. Look in the bloody mirror, mate. The irony seemed to be lost on him.
And you see, I am a great believer that a publisher’s role is to publish, not write the books. I have published many books which say all sorts of things I disagree with, even loathe and abhor. But I am a publisher not a censor.

If something is libellous I will intervene. If I think a fact is wrong, I’ll question it. If I genuinely think something has been misinterpreted, again, I will question an author about it. But a biography has to be a full account of someone’s life, warts and all. That’s what CALL ME DAVE is. The fact that the Daily Mail has chosen to publish more or less only the critical bits is not something I or Michael Ashcroft or Isabel Oakeshott have control of.

This book is a serious work. It is certainly far more than its serializable parts, as those who bother to read the whole 600 pages will no doubt confirm. I guarantee now that several of the reviews will commence with words like these: “I was expecting this book to be full of tabloid trash. Yes, the bits in the Daily Mail are in the book, but it’s a really balanced account of the prime minister’s life.” That’s certainly what the reviews ought to say.
The other thing that has royally pissed me off this week is that this is some sort of vanity publishing exercise subsidised by Michael Ashcroft. Let me lay that one to rest too. Michael has exactly the same terms as any other of our authors. Same royalties. Same terms and conditions. There has been no subsidy to Biteback Publishing. Not a penny. The only difference is that he is giving his royalties to military charities.

Some people have even been to look at our Companies House accounts and, shock horror, discovered that in our first few years we made financial losses. Name me a publishing company that hasn’t. This, apparently, was further evidence that we were just an Ashcroft toy, given that he has invested a seven figure sum in the company. What a pity these people have no idea how business works. This money is not a gift. It is not a subsidy, it is an investment which he expects to recoup. It is now close on two and a half years since he put a penny into Biteback. We were profitable in the last financial year, and we will be in this one too. Michael Ashcroft has got where he is today, not by being a charity, but by investing in businesses he thinks have a good chance of making a profit. I like to think that we are repaying that faith.

Michael is a perfect investor. On not a single occasion has he sought to either influence the direction of the business or dictate whether I publish a book or not. Never have I even consulted him over whether I should commission a book. Indeed, I’ve on several occasions published books by his sworn enemies – Denis MacShane’s ‘Prison Diaries’ being one. The only occasion I can recall when I felt I had to ask his views on something was when Peter Hain and I were being sued by the Attorney General of Northern Ireland. This could have potentially cost the company a lot of money and ended up with Peter and me in prison. While the prospect of visiting us in the Maze amused him no end, he had no hesitation in endorsing my strategy to fight this outrageous case, and in the end we won.

I realise that people have a certain view of how business operates and how a relationship between a businessman and someone like me must operate. As ever, the truth is stranger than fiction. I’m sure people imagine he pulls my every string, with me performing the role of a puppy dog puppet. These people don’t know me very well, and they don’t know Michael.
The first time I met Michael was back in 2003 when he had written a book, DIRTY POLITICS, DIRTY TIMES, on his battles with The Times newspaper. He called me in to read the manuscript and ask what I thought. I was locked in his boardroom for two hours. “Jesus, I thought, what am I going to say if I think it’s total crap?” It wasn’t, but if it had been I’d have told him. When I had finished reading it he asked for my comments. “Two thing,” I said. The first was a minor detail but then I said: “The bit about Tom Baldwin taking cocaine… Your lawyers will tell you to take it out. If you do, you’re not the man I think you are.” He looked me straight in the eye, smiled, and said: “I think you and I are going to get along Mr Dale.” And we have. Famously.
As a publisher I don’t normally give details of print runs for books that I publish, partly because it’s a mug’s game. You never get it right and you virtually always print too many or too few. But in the case of CALL ME DAVE, I’m going to make an exception and give a big ‘fuck you’ gesture with my middle finger to all those who wittered on Twitter about it being in the remainder bins on Day One. Most political biographies do well if they sell 5,000 copies. Some, whisper it, don’t even make it into four figures. But I knew with a serialisation in the Mail, this book was destined to do somewhat better. Our biggest selling book to date was Damian McBride’s. We did an initial print run on that of 5,000 copies but had to reprint on the day of publication such was the demand. In the end it has sold around 24,000 copies in hardback, paperback and eBook. Anyway, back to CALL ME DAVE. My initial intention was to print 6,000 copies and see how it went. But on the first day of the Mail serialisation I doubled it to 12,000. Over the week the orders from bookshops and other outlets (including one major supermarket chain) have flooded in – and I mean, flooded – with the result that on Wednesday morning I counted up the pre-orders which totalled a massive 33,000. So I took a deep breath and told my colleagues to order an initial print run of 35,000. That’s three and a half times more than our previous biggest print run for a book. I don’t believe for a minute all will be sold because all books are subjected to a rate of returns, but 10,000 of these are firm sale, so that’s not a bad start.

An early sign of whether a book is going to do well is to look at the Amazon sales rankings. It’s actually quite rare for any political book to make it into the Amazon Top 100, let alone the top 20. By Tuesday morning the book was at Number 12. This is competing with bestselling novels and cookbooks. Biteback has only twice had books in the top 20 before. Anthony Seldon’s officially approved CAMERON AT TEN peaked, I believe at around 92. Hey ho. Amazon use algorithms to guess how many they’re going to sell of a book pre-publication. Sometimes it panics me because they order huge amounts, and I think to myself “they’ll never sell that many.” But they do. So that’s another 4,000 sold then…
One other amusement for me were the tweets that reckoned I was only publishing this book because I once worked for David Davis and I loathed David Cameron. Oh dear. I’ve never once published a book because of any supposed political agenda I might have. I have no agenda whatsoever with this book except for it to sell as many copies as possible – just like any other book.

David Cameron came up to North Norfolk for a day when I was a candidate there. We maintained good relations during the leadership contest. If we’re in the same room we always have a very jovial chat. Four years ago he rang me to ask if I would go and speak to his patrons club. He rang me the next morning and we had a twenty minute chat. The thought that he and I are enemies is laughable. I am sure there are people in Number Ten who are not exactly gruntled at the events of this week, but I would be very surprised if they, or the prime minister broke off diplomatic relations. They’re bigger than that.



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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to James Cracknell & Beverley Turner

James Cracknell and his wife Beverley Turner talk about their new book.

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LibDem Politics

The Top 50 Liberal Democrats 2015

22 Sep 2015 at 14:04

Each year I convene three panels to compile lists of the Top 50 Liberal Democrats, the Top 100 People on the Left and the Top 100 People on the Right. Each list is published to coincide with the three party conferences. This is the eighth year I’ve been doing this, and a cursory look down the lists for 2007 shows how politics changes so quickly.

There are 19 new entries in this year’s Liberal Democrat list, many of them close allies of the new party leader Tim Farron. The LibDem wipeout in May made this almost inevitable, although the changes are largely due to former MPs dropping off the list altogether rather than an amazng amount of new talent forcing its way onto the list.

Nick Clegg has only dropped three places, which may come as a bit of a surprise, but this list is all about influence, and it cannot be denied that Clegg will have an enduring influence over the LibDems, but also in the country. He’s a bit like John Major in that he rations his public pronouncements so everyone pays attention when he decides to hold forth.

One of the big risers in this list is the leader of the Welsh LibDems, Kirsty Williams. The deputy leadership of the party was offered to her but she decided to concentrate on fighting the 2016 Welsh Assembly elections. Even if those don’t go well, and they probably won’t, she’s one of the next generation of LibDem stars.

Many of the LibDem old guard are on the decline. Paddy Ashdown, for instance, has to fall this year even though he remains immensely popular. Vince Cable seems to have opted out of frontline politics and to have become a commentator, while Danny Alexander plummets 36 places and appears to have completely disappeared from view.

Tim Farron’s challenge is to ensure that this time next year I still think it is worthwhile compiling a list of the Top 50 Liberal Democrats, because in all honesty you have to wonder if, after the May local, Welsh, Scottish and London mayoral elections, they will be in any way electorally relevant.

1. (+4) Tim Farron
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Leader of the Liberal Democrats. It’s his job to lead them back from eight MPs to the position they were in 2010.

2. (+28) Sal Brinton
President of the Liberal Democrats

3. (+5) Norman Lamb
Health Spokesman
The Health Spokesman lost to Tim Farron in the leadership election, but still has a lot to offer the party.

4. (-3) Nick Clegg
Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats
The former Leader of the Liberal Democrats may not be Deputy Prime Minister any more, but he’s still an MP and a powerful voice behind the scenes.

5. (+20) Jim Wallace
Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords
A key party powerbroker and given the strength of the LibDems in the Lords, he could, it may be argued, be the most powerful LibDem politician in the land nowadays.

6. (+15) Kirsty Williams
Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
Hugely impressive, she is said to have turned down the chance to be the party’s new deputy leader. Will she stand for Westminster in 2020?

7. (+22) Willie Rennie
_Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
Rennie has a thankless jb and must be dreading the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. The LibDems face wipeout.

8. (NEW) Greg Mulholland
Chair of the Parliamentary Campaigns Team
Highest new entry, and one of only 8 LibDem MPs. A key early supporter of Tim Farron and very much in the same mould.

9. (-2) Lynne Featherstone
Lib Dem Peer-nominee & Spokesperson on Energy & Climate Change
Popular with activists, a stellar record as a minister on issues like gay marriage and FGM. Not sure the DECC portfolio will be a natural home for her, though.

10. (NEW) Ben Rich
Interim Chief of Staff to Tim Farron, Farron leadership campaign director
Will play a key role as Tim Farron’s closest adviser. He has the ability to tell Farron when he’s being a bit of a dick. His organisational abilities will be key.

11. (NEW) Jo Foster
Former special adviser to Nick Clegg, key role in Farron leadership campaign
Jo Foster is another close friend of Tim Farron and has in the past served the party well on the communications front. But can she be persuaded to join Team Farron in a permanent capacity?

12. (NEW) James Palumbo
Lib Dem Peer & major donor
Palumbo’s influence and personality have become every more important. He is one of the few donors to remain true to the LibDems. When he calls LibDems pick up the phone very quickly.

13. (+9) Lord Newby
Lib Dem Chief Whip in the House of Lords
Newby is the power behind Jim Wallace’s throne in the House of Lords.

14. (+26) Caroline Pidgeon AM
Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London
Bright, funny, sassy, intelligent, she is by far the best candidate for London mayor the LibDems have ever had. But she’s in for a tonking and knows it.

15. (+24) Tom Brake
Lib Dem Chief Whip
It comes to something when the LibDem Commons chief whip is rated as less important than the one in the Lords. Brake is popular in the party, if somewhat charismatically challenged.

16. (NEW) Baroness Kate Parminter
Lib Dem Deputy Leader in the Lords
One half of a LibDem power couple (married to Clegg donor/adviser Neil Sherlock) she is a popular member of the LibDem House of Lords leadership team. She also shadows DEFRA.

17. (+10) Baroness Susan Kramer
Lib Dem Peer & Economics Spokesman
Was seen as a good minister at the Department of Transport and will have a high profile in her new economics portfolio. Her public persona belies and wickedly cheeky sense of humour.

18. (-15) Paddy Ashdown
Former Lib Dem leader
Ashdown took one for the team by taking on the role in the last parliament as director of the LibDem general election campaign, where he proved a great leader of the troops. He will never entirely take a back seat, but is likely to speak out more on world affairs.

19. (-8) Sir Vincent Cable
Former Lib Dem Business Secretary
Whither Vince? He refused a peerage so people are asking what level of involvement will he continue to have. Could play a major role in realigning the left, as a bridge between LibDems and moderate Labour supporters.

20. (+6) Duncan Brack
Vice Chair Lib Dem Policy Committee, role in Farron leadership campaign
A popular LibDem backroom boy, who would make a great addition to the LibDem benches in the Lords. A former SPAD to Chris Huhne, he is an original thinker whose talents needs to be used to best effect.

21. (NEW) Catherine Bearder
Member of the European Parliament

22. (-18) David Laws
Former LibDem Schools Minister

23. (+1) Mark Pack
Editor, LibDem Newswire

24. (NEW) Ros Scott
Lib Dem Peer & former party president

25. (-7) Simon Hughes
Former deputy leader of the Lib Dems

26. (-13) Alastair Carmichael
Former Scottish Secretary, MP for Orkney & Shetland

27. (-18) Jo Swinson
Former Business minister

28. (NEW) Neil Fawcett
_Deputy Chair of Federal Executive, key role in Farron leadership campaign _

29. (NEW) Dorothy Thornhill
LibDem mayor of Watford, new peer

30. (+11) Caron Lindsay
Co-editor of LibDem Voice

31. (-1) Tim Gordon
Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats

32. (NEW) Lindsay Northover
peer, former DFID minister, spokesperson on International Development

33. (NEW) Hilary Stephenson
Director of Elections

34. (-18) Julian Huppert
Former Lib Dem MP for Cambridge

35. (-25) Ed Davey
Former Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change

36. (-1) Sir Ming Campbell
_Former leader of the LibDems

37. (-4) Stephen Tall
- Blogger, former Editor, Lib Dem Voice

38. (-36) Danny Alexander
Former Chief Secretary to the Treasury

39. (-33) Jonathan Oates
Former Director of Communications to Nick Clegg, new peer

40. (NEW) John Pugh
MP for Southport, Education spokesperson

41. (NEW) Austin Rathe
Head of Membership Services, Lib Dem HQ

42. (NEW) Mark Williams
_Lib Dems’ only Welsh MP, vice-chairman of the parliamentary campaigns team

43. (NEW) Jane Bonham-Carter
LibDem Culture Spokeswoman in the House of Lords

44. (NEW) James Gurling
Chair, Campaigns and Communications Committee

45. (-11) Gerald Vernon-Jackson
Head of the LibDems on the LGA

46. (NEW) Sarah Ludford
LibDem Peer, former MEP

47. (NEW) David Howarth
Former MP for Cambridge, role in Farron leadership campaign

48. (-3) Maajid Nawaz
Director of the Quilliam Foundation, former LibDem PPC

49. (-) Keith House
Leader, Eastleigh Council

50. (NEW) Merel Hussein-Ece
Lib Dem peer, spokesperson on equalities



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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Margaret Thatcher about the Royal Wedding

Lady Thatcher talks about what she expects from the Royal Wedding.

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 37: Six Years on LBC - But It's Not About Me...

20 Sep 2015 at 17:22

Six years ago this week I broadcast my first show on LBC. Five years ago today I started my first daily show. It’s the most wonderful privilege and the best job I have ever had, in part due to the the people I work with but mainly due to the people who take the time to call in and have a bit of a chat with me. Some make me laugh, some teach me things, some make me angry, some make me cry. There is literally never a dull moment.

Thanks to Jonathan Richards​ and Richard Park for giving me the opportunity in the first place and seeing the potential in me that no one else had. Thanks to James Rea​ for sticking with me and promoting me first to the Sunday morning show and then to Drive, and then giving me the opportunity to present some fantastic OBs and one off specials. James has taken LBC to a place I suspect few thought possible a few years ago. We’ve gone national, have 1.5 million listeners and are now heading for two million.

But it’s the people behind the glass who have made me what I am, especially Matt Harris, who was my first ever producer and then was reunited with me when I moved to Drive. He’s a rare talent and I am so lucky to work with him. He has a first rate political brain and if I ask an incisive question in an interview which skewers a politician, the odds are that he whispered it in my ear. He more than anyone has moulded me into the broadcaster I am today. Yes, it’s his fault.

Jagruti Dave​ and Axel Kacoutié​ form the rest of our current Drive team, and it really is that – a team. They are two very special people. Laura Marshall​ is someone I still miss, and was with me in the final year of the evening show and the first year on Drive and she knew exactly what made me tick. We had quite a few tears together on the evening show, but in a good way! The incomparable Louise Birt​ and Carl McQueen​ were the driving forces behind the Sunday show, and Carl also produced the evening show in the early days. We had a lot of fun. Louise taught me a huge amount about using my voice and I still remember her behind the glass screaming at me just as I was about to go on air; “Remember, BIG BOLLOCKS”! It always worked. Rebekah Walker​ and Caroline Allen​ were also with me on the evening show for all too short a time in each case and they were a pleasure to work with.

Then there are others behind the scenes that few know about. Chris Lowrie​ did my first audition and has always taken a real interest in developing me as a broadcaster and been a massive support. He’s leaving LBC after 27 years in October. Everyone will miss him, as he’s such an enthusiast for all that we do, and makes great imaging!

We’re now far more than just a radio station nowadays and many of our shows are made into TV shows now that we have an all singing and all dancing multimedia studio. Adrian Sherling​ and Neil Brennan​ have transformed our online offerings and they are brilliant at ‘marketing’ my show’s wares on social media, assuming I give them the ammunition in the first place!

The other great thing about working at somewhere like LBC is that you meet and get to work with a lot of rising talent. It doesn’t get much better than having a reporting team with people like Tom Swarbrick​ (who has lost count of the awards he has won!) our political editor Theo Usherwood and Drivetime reporter Simon Conway​, who tomorrow starts a new role on the new Radio X.

I know this is becoming a bit of roll call, but when I think about it, there are so many important parts to what we do. The Global radio newsroom team, led by the lovely Vicky Etchells​, and our regional teams led by John Cushing provide an excellent service, and for many of our listeners the most important person on the station is Jay-Louise Grover​ (Knight) or Christopher Golds​. And they wouldn’t be wrong!

I say all this because most people don’t understand what goes into making three hours of radio every day. All they hear is the voice behind the microphone and they judge everything on that. It’s the person behind that voice who gets all the plaudits or wins the awards yet it’s the people behind the scenes who often cop the flak if something goes wrong.

So, six years and counting. I’ve got a long way to catch up with James O’Brien and Nick Ferrarri, but if I am still on air on LBC in another six years’ time, I shall be absolutely delighted!



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Iain has a blazing row with George Galloway over Margaret Thatcher (Part 1)

TalkSport, August 2009

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Random Thoughts

Attitude Column: Why Nightclubs Are Closing

20 Sep 2015 at 09:31

I’ve never been a great frequenter of bars or nightclubs, gay or otherwise. I don’t know what it is about nightclubs but I can’t actually think of a visit to one I have enjoyed. Don’t get me wrong, I like to strut my funky stuff (oh yeah) with the best of them, but spending an evening with hundreds of other people without being able to talk to them because of the noise is not my idea of fun.

I don’t, and never have had, the body to take my shirt off in public, and that now seems almost obligatory in some gay dance establishments, so spending a few hours ogling others while keeping firmly fully clothed is something I’d rather not do. There are websites for that kind of entertainment. And then you get charged an entrance fee and for the pleasure you get treated like a piece of meat by the security, before you’re then fleeced by the pretty boy bar staff who charge you the price of a bottle of vodka for a shot. OK, I exaggerate to make a point.

So when I read that over the last ten years half of UK nightclubs – gay and straight – have shut their doors, I can’t say I’m that surprised. But it’s not just down to footfall declining, it’s the fact that business rates have crippled them. Exorbitant rents have in many cases doubled as greedy landlords try to extort every last penny out of businesses that are on their knees. More and more duties and costs are imposed on nightclubs and bars by local authorities who seek to absolve themselves of any kind of responsibility for anything in local areas.
Nightclubs have always been shaky business prospects financially, and it’s a small minority that survive in the long term and survive the fickle tastes of the twinky British public. One year and nightclub is the big ‘in’ thing. Crowds of people queue to get through its doors, and then the next year, for no discernible reason the very same establishment falls out of favour and it’s the new nightclub on the block that is attracting the custom. It’s always been that way, I suppose. You’re either ‘in’ with the ‘in’ crowd or you’re not.

In London the problem has been highlighted by the closure of several long established gay venues – not just nightclubs but several popular bars too. Brighton and Manchester have also faced similar issues, but it is in London where the issue is coming to a head. Earlier this year the New Statesman reported the closure of a dozen gay venues including The Coleherne, the Man Bar and most famous of all, Madam JoJos, which had been going for 50 years. Now some of these 12 will have closed because they were frankly rather shit and hadn’t kept up with the times, but others have been forced out due to the attitudes of rapacious landlords who want to sell the freehold to a building or redevelop it. The future of the iconic Royal Vauxhall Tavern is now under threat because the freehold ownership has changed. But this isn’t just happening in central London. The George & Dragon bar in Greenwich is also under threat because of a rent hike. It’s happening everywhere.

But there is another reason why gay bars and nightclubs are finding footfall reducing. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, gay bars were really the only safe places gay men could meet to find love, or, whisper it, sex. If you didn’t fancy a visit to your local public toilets or cruising ground, it was actually quite difficult to meet other guys to get up to what guys like to get up to. Gaydar, Grindr and the rest have totally changed that. No longer do you have to dress up, boogie to Kylie or waste extortionate amounts of money bribing someone to sleep with you by buying them a Pernod & Black, you just flip open your phone, and there it is. Sex (and sometimes even love) on offer.

Make no mistake, this trend will be difficult to reverse, but in the end it’s up to nightclubs and bars to come up with an ‘offer’ that attracts new custom.

This article first appeard in the October issue of Attitude Magazine


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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale's Sunday Debate: Leveson

Mark Lewis, Professor Stephen Barnet and Jim Fitzpatrick MP debate the imminent Leveson Report.

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ConHome Diary: Have the Corbyistas Learnt From the Cybernats?

18 Sep 2015 at 17:33

I really think some politicians are injected with some sort of serum before they go on the broadcast media, and that this serum turns normally sparkling, interesting people into complete drones whose only thought is to bore us to death about the long term economic plan and hard-working people. Step forward Priti Patel, who is an unusually rabid addict of this serum. I’ve interviewed her seven or eight times, I suppose, and on each occasion I end the interview wanting to slit my wrists. If I feel like that, God only knows what the listener thinks. And so it was on Saturday. She and Michael Fallon were doing the media rounds commenting on Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the Labour leadership contest, and both had clearly taken a strong injection of the serum. “Britain’s security is in danger,” they chirruped in unison. “So is the security of hard working families.” Oh pass the sick bucket. Both statements might have the benefit of being true, but the timing was all wrong. They should have shown a generosity of spirit like the Prime Minister did at PMQs and congratulated him and saying that while there were major divides between a Corbyn-led Labour Party and themselves this was not the time to air them. This was Corbyn’s moment and he should enjoy it. They would have got far more kudos from listeners and viewers than coming out with pre-prepared bitchy sounding soundbites. It’s all very well trying to define your opponent from Day One, but doing it in the way they did it made people not only ignore the point they were trying to make, it raised the spectre of the ‘nasty party’ once more.
Having put the idea of running for the Labour leadership into Jeremy Corbyn’s head, it was interesting to see him adopting an LBC radio phone-in format for his first PMQs. But it kind of worked for him. Having endured a torrid time, largely of his own making, at the hands of a foaming media, it enabled journalists to talk about something other than him not singing the national anthem. The trouble for Labour, was that Corbyn’s new style of PMQs also worked for the Prime Minister. It made it easier for him. With Corbyn asking six different questions, it means there were no follow-ups and no forensic interrogation. I suspect Corbyn will use this tactic from time to time rather than do it every week.

Blatant book plug coming up: I enjoy talent spotting. I like helping young people fulfil their potential. Sometimes you see someone who you think have the potential to really make it in their given field. Five years ago we took on a young graduate as an intern at Total Politics. He was brilliant. Unfortunately we had no full time role to offer him when he completed his internship. I then advertised for a PA and he applied. Tempted though I was to give him the job I thought he’d get bored and I advised him to look elsewhere. I then recommended him for a job at LBC as an Assistant Producer. He quickly rose through the ranks and was soon on air as one of the reporters. After three years he moved on to ITV News in Scotland, the job he’s still in. Earlier this year he approached me with a book idea. A retrospective on the Scottish referendum plus looking at how it all affected the general election and the SNP landslide. It was a good proposal, but I wondered how such a book would sell outside Scotland. I asked for a sample chapter. It blew me away. He has the writing style of Damian Mcbride, by which I mean the ability to tell a political story in the style of writing a thriller. When I received the full manuscript in late July, I can honestly say it was one of the best I have ever read from a first time author. It is, to coin a new word, unputdownable. The book is called PROJECT FEAR. The author is Joe Pike. I promise you if you buy it, you will love it.
Last year the Cybernats were on the rampage, abusing anyone on social media who had the temerity to criticise the whole notion of Scottish independence. The hard left in England has clearly learned a lot from them. Utter even the mildest criticism of the messiah that is Jeremy Corbyn and expect to experience the wrath of Hades on Twitter. Quote his words and attempt to scrutinise them and you’ll be accused of bullying or being a right-wing stooge. Comment on his appearance, even when you’re only trying to offer some helpful advice, and you’ll be trampled under the weight of a thousand tweets. Host a radio phone-in asking if he should have sung the national anthem and you’re shameful. It’s a sign of things to come. Some of us are not so easily put off though.

Caroline Pidgeon has been selected as the London mayoral candidate for the Liberal Democrats. In case you missed it. Just trying to help.
I’ve never been a great fan of Tony Abbott, but you’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel sorry for him. Like his two predecessors as Prime Minister he’s been unceremoniously dumped by his own party, get this, they did it four days before he would have served long enough in office to become entitled to a lifetime annual pension of $250,000. And what’s more, in his place they’ve elected a man who has already led their party and was an ignominious failure. Malcolm Turnbull may be a man of many talents, but uniting a team is certainly not one of them. He may be marginally more electorally popular than Abbott, but they would have done far better to have gone for the deputy leader and foreign minister Julie Bishop.



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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Amanda Prowse

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 36: When a Politician Insists on Sticking to a Script (Yes, You Priti Patel!)

12 Sep 2015 at 18:42

I love interviewing people. I even love interviewing politicians. I usually manage to get them to say interesting things. But there are some politicians who, no matter how hard you try, are always going to stick to a script that has been drilled into them by a party spin doctor. They’ll trot out the usual well worn phrases until you as the interviewer, to say nothing of the listener, are quite prepared to slit your wrists to put yourself out of your misery.

I’ve interviewed Priti Patel on several occasions and each time it’s the same. “Long term economic plan”. “Hardworking people” and countless other approved soundbites. Today i thought it might be different. Silly me. She came on to react to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership win. Right from the off she was in full soundbite mode. “Puts the security of our country in danger.” “A danger to hard-working people”. And so it went on. She repeated each soundbite at least four times, just to make sure. I could have asked her how her summer holidays had been and she would have told me that Jeremy Corbyn would put the security of hard-working people’s summer holidays in danger. I soon lost the will to live and asked why she hadn’t congratulated Corbyn on his massive win. “It’s not for me to do that, I’m here to talk about the danger of his blah blah blah.” I reminded her that it might be considered good manners. Off she went again. It was as if she had been programmed to say something and she couldn’t possibly deviate from it without getting a bollocking from Number Ten.

In the end she came across as rude and a bit of a clone. When you meet Priti Patel, most people are charmed. She’s funny, got a wicked twinkle in her eye and is very entertaining. But put a microphone in front of her and she becomes a robot politician. And that’s why Number Ten put her up for these interviews, just as they did during the election campaign. They know she can stick to a stick without deviation or hesitation. Mind you, there’s a bit too much repetition!

Anyway, make up your own mind if I have been too tough on Priti. I’d rather not be, as I count her a friend. But I am afraid that when I am doing my job, friendship is left at the studio door.



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Video: 18 Doughty Street's Greatest Hits

18 Doughty Street's final programme with Iain Dale & Zoe Anne Phillips

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 35: Staying Classy When Saying Goodbye

12 Sep 2015 at 09:00

Every radio presenter knows that at some point, they will leave their radio station. Some see it coming. Some don’t. Some get to broadcast a final show to say goodbye, others don’t.

Today XFM’s breakfast show host Jon Holmes broadcast his final show for the station. His goodbye, I think, was a model. It wasn’t a total goodbye as he will be the weekend breakfast show host of the all new Radio X which replaces XFM a little later this month, but even so I think the way he did it is a lesson to any radio presenter who has to say goodbye to an audience they have built up over a period of time.

We can all think of examples of presenters who seem to think they are more important than the station that has seen fit to employ them, and embark on self indulgent rants about how awfully they’ve been treated. Dave Lee Travis is the obvious one that comes to mind, when he resigned from Radio 1 “live on air” back in 1993. But there have been plenty of others.

Professionalism takes many forms, but staying classy to the end is one way to demonstrate it.

I doff my presenter cap to Jon Holmes. He’s a class act and I look forward to listening to his new Radio X show.



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Tom Swarbrick's News That Nearly Was

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ConHome Diary: Herding the Tory Mayoral Cats

11 Sep 2015 at 14:12

Herding cats is probably the best way of describing it. After hosting a Labour leadership debate and a Labour London mayoral hustings I expected the Conservative mayoral hustings to be a slightly more sedate affair. Boy was I wrong. It was spiky, tetchy and much more argumentative than I had thought it would be. At times, I felt I was on the verge of losing control. It was partly my fault because my natural inclination is not to intervene and let them slug it out, but when four male voices all talk at the same time, it doesn’t make good radio, even if those watching it online might find it entertaining. It all started when Andrew Boff responded to an accusation by Zac Goldsmith that he was wanting to subsidise the cab industry. Andrew said something like, “No, I’m a proper Tory, I don’t believe in subsidies, unlike some.” “So Zac’s not a proper Tory then, is that what you’re saying?” And so it went on.
As the presenter of a debate like this it’s sometimes easy to judge the outcome wrongly, but my honest view is that Syed Kamall edged it. He stayed calm but was intelligent, showed some good humorous moments and displayed an understanding of policy, even if his proposal for a referendum on Heathrow unravelled rather badly. I felt that Stephen Greenhalgh never really sparked and although displaying competence, wasn’t really able to show us that his agenda would be any different to the current mayor’s. Andrew Boff was, well, Andrew Boff – full of sometimes cutting one liners and at times very funny, and with some interesting policy ideas, but you never really got the feeling he himself believes he can win.
Zac Goldsmith is the clear frontrunner in this race, but his performance in our debate was frankly all over the place. He’d better hope that Lynton Crosby doesn’t watch it on playback, because if that happens Zac can expect an interview without coffee. Zac has this endearing quality for an interviewer where he not only speaks his mind but often ruminates about policy live on air but without having any detail or backup to his ideas. Great for headlines, but a campaign strategist’s nightmare. Last night he dropped the bombshell that he would massively expand the congestion zone. Excuse me?!!! I pushed him and pushed him but it appeared to be something he had dreamed up on the spur of the moment but then couldn’t give any detail as to which parts of London the zone would be expanded to. On its own, that could be an election losing gaffe. And then at the end someone texted in to ask the candidates what he biggest donation they had received was. Andrew Boff said it was 2p. Stephen Greenhalgh said his family firm had donated £50,000 and Zac Goldsmith said he was about to receive an unspecified donation from his mother and cracked a joke about being a mummy’s boy. Twitter then sprang into action and a minute or two later I was able to reveal to Zac that his mother had donated £50,000 and it turned out it had been registered in the Register of Members’ Interests back on July 31. Being evasive on donations, especially when they come from your mother doesn’t look or sound good.

There are still three weeks of this campaign to go. Zac Goldsmith remains the red hot favourite, but a few more performances like that and people will start to question his front runner status. Judging by last night Syed Kamall is his nearest competitor and he will have taken heart from his own performance.

Knowing Zac, he will realise this wasn’t his finest hour and do something about it. He should take comfort from the fact that Boris Johnson put in far worse performances in the run-up to the 2008 selection, and still pulled through with relative ease.
Today Labour announces their candidate for London mayor. They have six contenders but everyone believes it’s between Tessa Jowell and Sadiq Khan. The question is who all these new Labour members and supporters will back. Sadiq Kahn is said to have the London Labour Party in his pocket and has good organisation, and that counts for a lot, but Tessa Jowell has ran a rather good campaign, full of ideas and may well appeal to the new members as a sort of ‘Mother London’ figure. But many of these new supporters have joined to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, so it may be Diane Abbott who puts in a better than expected show on first preferences. I may live to regret this but my prediction is that this will be the order of votes on the first ballot – 1. Khan 2. Jowell 3. Abbott 4. Lammy 5. Wolmar 6. Thomas. But it may well be that Tessa Jowell comes through to win at the end on second, third, fourth and fifth preferences. I reckon it’s too close to call.

Four months on from the election and it’s only now that the Intelligence & Security Committee’s members have only just been confirmed. The four Conservative members are Michael Ancram, Keith Simpson, Dominic Grieve and Alan Duncan. It’s likely that one of them will be elected chair of the committee, but which of them can attract the most support from the five opposition members? Seeing as three of them are personal friends of mine, forgive me if I don’t pass judgement, but one prediction I will make is that this committee will have a profile during this parliament which it hasn’t had previously. So whoever wins the chairmanship is going to be someone who will be in great demand by our broadcasters.
The longer a government stays in power, the more enemies Number Ten will make. Having treated Liam Fox incredibly badly by trying to reshuffle him back into government in a junior Foreign office role, Number Ten have now compounded their idiocy by snubbing Liam Fox as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee. I haven’t spoken to him but if he was furious it would be very understandable. As a former defence secretary, he would in theory have a better claim than a former Attorney General or former Dfid minister. What was it Lyndon Johnson used to say about tents and pissing? Number Ten has forgotten a basic rule of politics, and I suspect will come to live to regret it.

This week I convened panels to rank the Top 50 LibDems (no jokes please) and the Top 100 People on the Right, which will be published during the party conferences. Next week it’s the Top 100 People on the Left, which may have rather a lot of new entries depending on what happens when the result is announced on Saturday. I’ll be broadcasting a special programme on LBC from 1pm on Saturday to react to the result. I warn you now though. Owen Jones and Polly Toynbee are the two guests booked so far. And there will be more. In the same vein. Wish me well.



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LBC Parliament: With Hilary Devey, Peter Tatchell & Melanie Philips

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UK Politics

WATCH: The LBC Conservative London Mayoral Debate

9 Sep 2015 at 22:29

Spiky, tetchy, revealing. And a lot more.



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