Tribute

Interviewing Joan Rivers

4 Sep 2014 at 20:02

I’m so sad to hear of the death of Joan Rivers. I saw her do a stand-up show in the 1990s but in October 2012 I had the honour of interviewing her on LBC. We decided it might be safest to pre-record (!) but she was absolutely charming. I don’t mind admitting I was petrified. Little old me interviewing a comic legend. Who’d have thought? I needn’t have worried. My strategy of letting Joan be Joan worked liked a treat. I just teed up the lines for her and off she went.

Do have a listen to the interview. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Click HERE to listen

Joan Rivers blazed a trail for female comedians both in the US and the UK. I found her humour cheek-achingly funny. Yes, she could be cruel and acid tongued and I think that kind of humour came as a shock to a lot of Americans who were more used to the likes of Bob Hope.

She was also multi-talented. She wasn’t just a stand-up comedian, she could turn her hand to a lot of other things. You don’t get to report from the red carpet at the Oscars if you’re not good. She was also a great talk-show host. She knew that in that format, it wasn’t all about her.

Joan Rivers is a legend, and that legend will live on through her humour.

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Video: Iain & Yasmin Alibhai Brown debate new media

Sunday AM with Andrew Marr

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Travel

Two Days in Belgium

3 Sep 2014 at 23:43

Twenty years ago I took my father on a trip to the Normandy beaches, along with several other family and friends. It was a couple of weeks before the 50th anniversary of D-Day was commemorated. I am not exaggerating when I say it was one of the most memorable and enjoyable weeks of my life. You see my father was born in 1929 and his formative early teenage years were spent during the war. Even now, he is at his happiest when he’s recounting stories from the war. He rebuilds wartime jeeps and military vehicles. He loves going to air shows. He’s not interested in Channel 4. His Channel of choice is the History Channel. He would drive my mother to distraction by watching a war film with the volume turned right up. Back in 2010 I took him on a Battlefields Tour to Arnhem. Again, it was a really memorable trip and it was he who made all the friends, while I looked on and just felt contented that I had given something back to the Dad who has given me so much.

A few weeks ago I decided to research a member of my family who was killed in the First World War. He was my grandmother’s brother, so therefore my Great Uncle, and my father’s uncle. His name was Clifford Norden. And that’s all I knew. The internet is a wonderful thing and within minutes I had found out that he was killed in action in Belgium on October 31 1918, only 11 days before the end of the war. He was only 19 years old. Before too long I had found out where he was buried and had even found a picture of his grave. I then went onto the National Archives website. It’s amazing the detail you can find if you look hard enough. I was hooked. I couldn’t understand why none of us had done this before. I spoke to my Dad about him and then one of my sisters told me we actually had his WW1 medals at home. OK, I said, let’s take Dad and go and pay our respects to him – something we should have frankly done decades ago.

And so it was that on Monday morning, nine of us set out in two cars headed for Dover. Me, my father, my sister Sheena and my goddaughter Zoe in one car, and Tracey and her partner Peter, her two daughters Issy and Ophelia together with Issy’s boyfriend Matt in the other. The advantage of having an 85 year old father who can’t walk very far is that you can be on the ferry first, and drive off first too. And a mere hour and a quarter later we arrived in Kortrijk. And then it all went wrong. I had booked five rooms in the D-Hotel in Kortrijk through Expedia. The rather snotty receptionist informed me they had no booking and they were full. Not my problem, I said. It’s yours. Here are the confirmation numbers. She was having none of it. Eventually she said they did have four rooms but they were suites so we’d have to pay extra. Not a chance, I said. She displayed not an ounce of humility or apology. She just shrugged her shoulders. I told her I’d like to see the manager. She’s on holiday she said. Well who’s in charge then, I asked, slowly becoming very exasperated. Another shrug of the shoulders. Meanwhile Sheena went in search of someone else who might actually be able to help. Believe it or not, it was the barman. To cut a long story short he said, absolutely fine, clearly we’ve made a mistake, you will have five rooms at the price you originally booked them at. Later I learned they had a glitsch in their systems. All the receptionist had to do was be slightly apologetic and try to make amends, but it was beyond her. And to cap it all, when we left she tried to overcharge us (while chewing gum) by around 150 Euros. Despite all that it was a very good hotel, even if they did try too hard to be quirky. All the rooms were different. One of them didn’t even have a separate bathroom. There was a massive bath in the middle of the room, along with the toilet. Not for the faint-hearted.

Anyway, by this time it was almost 4pm, so we headed off to Harlebeke, about ten miles away, to find the British cemetery. And there it was. The grave we had travelled many hours to find. Like all graves in cemeteries run by the Comonwealth War Graves Commission, it was beautifully kept. However, I was strangely unmoved. I’m usually quite emotional on these occasions, but this failed to move me at all. I half jokingly said to Tracey that she should do a service – after all she is qualified funeral celebrant! We signed the visitors book and left, all feeling slightly underwhelmed. We came to the conclusion that after the hotel checking in experience perhaps we weren’t in the right frame of mind, so we decided to come back the next morning with some flowers and Tracey would do a reading.

Our next stop was Ypres, where we wanted to see the Last Post performed at the Menin Gate. We wandered around Ypres for a bit beforehand, with my Dad on his scooter. We had a quick meal in the square and then headed back to the Menin Gate, which for those who don’t know is a memorial to the thousands of troops who had marched past the spot on their way to the front. Each evening at 8pm the Last Post is played.

There were hundreds of people there and at 8pm everyone went silent as the ceremony begun. I was a bit annoyed we hadn’t got there earlier as my Dad couldn’t see a lot. My niece Issy became very emotional when the trumpeters started playing the Last Post. When it had all finished my sister Sheena, never one to hold back, asked the four old boys carrying the flags if they would have their picture taken with my Dad. They formed a guard of honour around him and we all clicked away. My Dad isn’t one to get very emotional, but I could see that he was quite overwhelmed. Sheena then asked the trumpeters to do the same and he had a good old chat with them too. Totally in his element. I said afterwards to Tracey (I think) that if we never did anything for the rest of the trip, it was worth it just to experience that. As we got in the car Dad clasped my hand and said “I don’t know how much this whole thing has cost, but that was fantastic.” And with that we went back to the hotel for a drink in the bar, and so ended Day 1.

The next morning proved to be very disappointing weatherwise. Lots of drizzle. So we went back to Harlebeke where Sheena placed a flower on Clifford Norden’s grave and Tracey read Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier.

IF I should die, think only this of me;
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

We then went to Paschendaele where one of the most bloody battles of WW1 was fought. Looking at the countryside it was almost impossible to imagine what had happened there. We stopped at the Canadian war memorial, when I spotted some Belgian soldiers approaching. Sheena being Sheena went up to them and asked if they would have their photo taken with my Dad. One of them asked what we were doing there. My Dad explained about his Uncle Clifford and the soldier replied “Great respect, sir”. More moist eyes. My nieces were revelling in trying the soldiers helmets on!

From there we headed to Tyne Cot, which is the largest British cemetery anywhere in the world. Again, it was beautifully kept. However, I have to say it was a disgrace that there were few facilities for the disabled. My Dad couldn’t get to part of the memorial where all the names were written on the wall because there were steps and no ramp. Indeed the entrance was a very long walk and when you get to it, again there was no ramp, merely a series of steps. Bearing in mind the majority of visitors are likely to be relatively elderly, it does seem something the Commonwealth War Graves Commission ought to look at.

It was only a short drive to Langemark which is home to the biggest German cemetery in Belgium. 35,000 soldiers were buried there in a series of mass graves. It was a strange place with some very dark statues, and stones in the earth to mark the mass graves. Huge oak trees covered them. I remember studying the significance of the ‘deutsche Eiche’ in my German literature classes. Apparently Hitler visited this cemetery in 1942.

We finished our trip by going back to Ypres for lunch, at the need of which my father grabbed the waitress and gave her a kiss. You can’t keep an old dog down.So after filling Dad’s scooter basket with Belgian chocolates we headed back to Calais to get the ferry back. Shame my SatNav let us down and the journey took half an hour longer than it should have. But if it hadn’t gone wrong we wouldn’t have driven through Wormhout, which has to be the most English looking town in the whole of France.

It may have been a very short hop over the channel but it was worth every minute, just to see the look on our father’s face. I think another trip to Normandy might be in order before too long. Or maybe you have an alternative suggestion as to where we should take him next!

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LBC 97.3 Book Club: Iain talks to Calder Walton

Calder Walton discusses how the intelligence services operated at the end of Empire.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: The Day I Said No to Douglas Carswell

29 Aug 2014 at 14:40

Having been on holiday all week in Norfolk I am finding it slightly difficult to think of what to write about this week, so bear with me.
*
I am given to understand that while on his summer holidays in France, labour leader Ed Miliband has sprouted facial hair. How I would love it if he retained it. He would be the first party leader since Keir Hardie to sport a beard. Or am I wrong?
*

There, that wasn’t a bad starter for ten, was it? Beat that Atticus!
*
To be serious for a moment, the Rotherham child abuse scandal is almost too awful to behold. More than 1,400 children were abused and yet no police officer, social worker, council official or politician did anything about it. No one can explain why, and yet no one has accepted responsibility. The truth is, no one person is responsible, but the buck ought to stop with someone. The public expects heads to roll, but few have. Meanwhile, everyone tip-toes around the fact that the perpetrators were virtually all from one racial and religious grouping – Pakistani muslims. Some on the left are using this as an excuse as to why no one came forward. Apparently they couldn’t bring themselves to because they feared they would be dubbed ‘racist’. I doubt that very much. Perhaps we should all listen to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who has been very strong on this. “White experts and officers have for too long been reluctant to confront serious offences committed by black and Asian people. Such extreme tolerance is the result of specious morality, that credo that says investigating such crimes would encourage racism or enrage community activists and leaders, or, worse, make the professionals appear racist. So, instead of saving children who were being gang raped, drugged, assaulted, threatened and terrorised, they chose to protect rapists, abusers, traffickers and drug dealers. And themselves… Yes, racists will have further ammunition after this report. Blame those who did what they did, not those who are brave and just enough to expose them. I will always fight for the rights of minorities. But I will not defend the indefensible.” Think on her wise words.
*

If I knew an agony aunt, this is what I’d be writing:
“Dear Deirdre,
A good friend of mine has asked me to speak at a small political fundraiser to raise money for their forthcoming general election campaign. This presents me with a moral dilemma. Why? Because the politician concerned is a member of a political party I don’t support. However, the party I am most likely to support at the election doesn’t stand an earthly of being elected in that constituency. So should I do this for my friend?
Love Iain
*
Bloody hell, no one’s resigned from the Foreign Office this week. Put out the flags!
*

I hate to say I told you so, but I always said the Police & Crime Commissioners would prove to be a disaster. Second rate people, often failed politicians, in a job for which they have little aptitude for or knowledge of. What could possibly go wrong? Ann Barnes in Kent is the best example of an incompetent egotist, whose thirst for publicity has made her a complete laughing stock in the county. In the West Midlands there has been a by-election which cost the taxpayer £3.5 million and attracted a turnout of 9%. That works out at £20 a vote. They don’t even pay that in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets! And now we have the example of Sean Wright in South Yorkshire. First he oversaw the Cliff Richard debacle, and now he won’t resign over the child abuse scandal in Rotherham. PCCs may have been introduced for all the right reasons, but they have largely proved themselves to be a shambles. And a costly one at that.
*
So in the year to March immigration was up to 243,000. How ‘s that promise going, Prime Minister? Apparently Nick Clegg wants to take students out of the immigration figures. Amazing. I can finally agree with him on something! I have never understood why students are counted as immigrants when they are nothing of the sort. Similarly, why are students counted as ‘unemployed’ just because they are available for work but haven’t got any. Er, they are students. It’s one of those great mysteries of our time. We are told that there are still 800,000 young people unemployed when actually there are nothing of the sort.
*

Boris for Uxbridge, eh? Now there’s a shock. I’m sure he’ll be selected, possibly because no one else will bother applying. But I’d love to be a fly on the wall at the selection meeting when he explains how his airports policy would make thousands of his constituents unemployed, and when he explains the wonders of HS2 to his constituents who will be badly affected by it. He’s a Teflon politician, but I just wonder if this really is the right constituency for him.
*
Right, back to the holiday. Until next week, amigos.
*

Trust Douglas Carswell to bring me back from my holiday with a judder! I struggle to work out whether his defection will be a flash in the pan or being of more long term significance. Whatever one thinks about what he is done, he has shown courage and principle by resigning his seat to fight a by-election. I can’t think of anyone else who has done that in recent history. Carswell may be seen as a maverick in some ways but he also has a profound belief in the power of people to change things, as evidenced by his superb book, which I had the pleasure of publishing, called THE END OF POLITICS.
I first met Douglas in the mid 1990s when he applied for a job as a lobbyist at the company I was deputy MD of at the time. He didn’t strike me as a people person and I didn’t give him the job. I’ve often wondered how his future might have been different had I done so. Hardly at all, I should imagine. He is a man of great determination. I regard most defectors as chancers, but not Douglas. He’s a one off in so many ways. I suspect he will stand a very good chance of winning the by-election and the Conservative Party machine needs to work out a strategy of fighting him. If I were them I’d run a ‘more in sorry than anger’ type campaign and try to kill him with kindness. But frankly, whatever approach they take, I’m not sure I can see it working.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Sandi Toksvig

Sandi Toksvig discusses her new book HEROINES & HARRIDANS

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Video

The Ice Box Challenge Has Run Its Course

26 Aug 2014 at 13:24

This more or less sums up my response to the Ice Box challenge. When it started I thought it was fun, and it was. It raised awareness of Motor Neurone Disease and that is a good thing. But it’s gone on too long now. So enough already. And yes I have donated.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Hosts a Phone in on Male Attitues to Rape

Is rape something only a woman can understand? WARNING: Listeners may find some of the content upsetting.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Mayoroplane

22 Aug 2014 at 14:25

If each part of this diary column had its own headline, this one would be titled ‘Mayoroplane’. Back in 2008 in those halcyon days when Boris was a virgin mayor of London, he attracted his very own stalker. At every public event, or mayor’s questiontime, the same man would appear, muttering in a rather nasal tone. Boris could never quite make out what he was saying, but every utterance began with the words ‘when I was mayor’. Yes, it was Red Ken himself. Eventually Ken realised he was making a bit of a dick of embarrassing himself and decided to absent himself from encounters with Boris, presumably on the grounds he came across as a bit of a saddo.

So imagine the scene, the entire Johnson clan board their Easyjet flight heading for their summer holiday earlier this week. Finally Boris can relax and stop thinking about the speech he’s going to give to Uxbridge Conservatives in a few weeks. The only thought in his head is the fact that he’s forgotten to pack the Factor 42 suncream. He’s sat in his slightly too small seat – no business class on this flight to the sunshine, looking out the window, leaving Marina to sort out the children. And then… And then… he hears this slightly nasal tone shout out ‘Hello Boris!!!’. He turns round and standing in the aisle in the man who he vanquished twice, yes, it’s Ken Livingstone. It turns out they’re on the same flight, heading to the same Mediterranean island for some sun, sea and, er, probably Sangria. ‘Joy of joys,’ thinks Boris as he mutters some pleasantries before summoning the air steward and ordering a triple vodka. I made that bit up. But these rest is true. Talk about a small world…

I wonder if they are in the same hotel. It would make a great fly on the wall documentary. When Boris met Ken in Magaluf. Hardly bears thinking about.


In 1978 I did my ‘O’ Levels. I got three ‘B’s and 3 ‘C’s. I failed Biology with a ‘D’ and Physics with a ‘U’. Both my parents and I were delighted. Today I’d be considered a failure. Go figure.


Today’s my last day at work before a two week holiday starts. I do love my work but I am very much looking forward to some time to myself. Whether I will be able to completely switch off is a moot point. I have to finish compiling and editing our Guide to the Election and will still be writing this column. I’m spending the first week at our house in Norfolk, but on Monday week I am taking my father, my sisters and their families to Belgium for two days. No, don’t laugh. Recently I found out where the grave of our Great Uncle is. He was killed, at the age of 19, ten days before the end of the First World War. We’re going to pay our respects. A strange way to spend part of your summer holiday, but I’m immensely looking forward to it. I used to go across the channel by car every year, but haven’t been for nearly 20 years. One thing I’m keen to witness is the Last Post being played at the Menin Gate at Ypres, which they do every day at 8pm. I’m sure there won’t be a dry eye in the Dale clan.

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LBC Book Club: Pam Ayres

Pam Ayres discusses her autobiography THE NECESSARY APTITUDE

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Books

Roger Lewis: "Lezzos all have big chins ... And Iain Dale is a C**t"

21 Aug 2014 at 16:45

Remember THIS blogpost from a week ago when I revealed I had decided to withdraw a book publishing contract from a man called Roger Lewis because of a homophobic review he had written for The Spectator?

Just to remind you what he wrote in a review of a biography of Dusty Springfield…

“Call me a crazy old physiognomist, but my theory is that you can always spot a lesbian by her big thrusting chin. Celebrity Eskimo Sandi Toksvig, Ellen DeGeneres, Jodie Foster, Clare Balding, Vita Sackville-West, God love them: there’s a touch of Desperate Dan in the jaw-bone area, no doubt the better to go bobbing for apples.”

Well if ever I had any doubts about that decision, (Which to be fair I haven’t) they have been well and truly dispelled today. Mr Lewis has written this on the Madame Arcati blog

“I wrote a perfectly fine piece on Dusty Springfield, inter alia making the joke that lezzos all have big chins the better to go bobbing for apples – and this cunt Iain Dale, a man of whom I had never previously heard, comes out of the woodwork accusing me of all sorts! And me the biographer of Charles Hawtrey and the world expert on camp comics! What I hate about the man is his egotistical desire to be morally superior – no sense of humour, hence of proportion, like those Welsh language fanatics I always poke fun at and who foam at the mouth when teased.”

This wretched excuse for a man is also trying to claim that even though he hadn’t actually signed a contract with us we should still pay him his advance and compensate him for lost sales. I can assure you he won’t be getting a penny out of me. Ever.

I don’t think I need to comment any further, do you?

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale's Tribute to Sir Simon Milton

Sir Simon Milton's death saddened the whole of London. Iain pays tribute to him.

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Personal

Attitude Column: Vanity, Vanity, All Is Vanity

20 Aug 2014 at 21:43

OK, I admit it. I am as vain as the next man. And let’s face it, nowadays men are probably just as vain as women, and in many cases even more so. Whether it’s about our hair, skin, beard trim, or the way our pubes look, we care. Not just care, but care obsessively in many cases. And if the gay stereotype means anything, gay men care just that little bit more than their straight friends. We like to look our best. It’s not about looking good to pick up our next shag, we just like to be admired. Having said that, at the age of 52, it becomes slightly more difficult, unless one is trying to attract the type of man who likes to whisper ‘Daddy’ into your ear.

Trouble is, I can’t actually remember the last time I had a ‘good hair’ day, largely because I haven’t really got enough of it any longer to notice. It’s either fallen out, been shaved down to a number two (that’s a clipper number before your mind goes down a more scatological route), and what has left has gone a rather bracing shade of silver. Believe it or not, I used to have a very full head of brown, slightly curly locks. If I could change one part of the ageing process, it would be to have a glorious head of hair again. When it started going grey in my late thirties I experimented with dying it, but frankly it looked ridiculous so I let nature take its course. But an email I received recently gave me a slight pause for thought.

It came from a leading hair transplant clinic and believe it or not they were offering me a free hair transplant (worth up to £25k, no less) if I would agree to endorse their services in adverts and in columns like this. I did go so far as to check out this wasn’t the equivalent of a Nigerian “You’ve been left £5 million in a will” scam, but they were very reputable and some quite well known people had indeed been treated by them. But my reply was fairly swift and to the point: “Thanks, but not for me.” Perhaps I am not quite as vain as I (or you) thought, after all. The trouble is, I know my own reaction when I see people who try desperately to cover up their hair loss or have transplants. Some are more successful than others but the ones who aren’t successful look frankly ridiculous. I’m not going to name names, but we all know who we’re talking about. In essence, I’d rather be ridiculed for a natural baldy look, than a hair transplant which didn’t go quite to plan.

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. Which is why many men over the age of thirty have invested in a nose and ear hair clipper. Yuk, I can hear the twinks among you saying. Well, don’t worry mates, it’ll come to you all soon enough too. Get to the age of 30, or 40 if you’re lucky, and random hairs start springing out all over the place. Then they multiply. All over the place. This is massively unfair. After all, women have to wait until the menopause to experience anything similar.

Personal grooming for men is now big business in the UK. Whether it’s skin cream, moisturising lotions or grooming kits, more and more of us view these things as part of our daily ablutions. And whether we’re gay or straight we’re not afraid to tell other people about our grooming habits. Even 20 years ago, if a man admitted to using moisturiser everyone would automatically think it was an incredibly camp thing to do. No longer. But we still haven’t reached a time when men wearing even light make-up is considered socially acceptable. Whenever I go on TV, they cake it on. Sky News even have a blow torch instrument which I gather is nicknamed the ‘blow job’. I know I look far better when I am ‘powdered up’ and frankly I’d keep it on all day if it were up to me. But in 2014, that’s still one step too far!

This article first appeared in the August issue of Attitude Magazine

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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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UK Politics

The BBC's 'Ting Tong' Hypocrisy - I Won't Defend Janice Atkinson But the BBC Need to Answer Questions

19 Aug 2014 at 08:00

Well I never thought I’d see the day when I’d feel sorry for Janice Atkinson. And it still hasn’t happened.

However, the hypocrisy of the BBC never ceases to amaze. Yesterday BBC South East were outraged, outraged I tell you, by UKIP MEP Janice Atkinson calling the Thai wife of one of her party members “Ting Tong from somewhere”. They had recorded her saying it in an unguarded moment off camera. THIS article then appeared on the BBC website and is now all over social media.

Nowhere does the BBC acknowledge in the article that the term originated from …cue drum roll … a BBC TV comedy. So how is it acceptable for it to be used to make fun of Thai transsexuals on LITTLE BRITAIN, and yet when a UKIP politician uses it, the BBC goes into an orgy of attacking UKIP. They even produced Professor Tim Luckhurst on camera to allege that, well, if one of them says it, it’s likely they’d all say it. I ask you.

I point this out not to defend Janice Atkinson (I never like turncoats), who is in many ways a rather ridiculous character, but to point out the BBC’s downright chicanery and double standards. It is the BBC Comedy Department who need to be held to account here for their blatant racism, not just the idiot politician who saw fit to quote them.

It was Janice Atkinson, you will remember, who gave a journalist the finger and told them to eff off during the European Election campaign. I remember when she defected to UKIP and they took her on as their Director of Communications I told Nigel Farage he could expect trouble from her. I didn’t quite realise what a good prediction that was. I wonder how many people expect her to last the full five year term as a UKIP MEP.

When she was in the Tory Party Atkinson (who was then known as Janice Small) was Tim Yeo’s press officer, espousing the virtues of more European integration. But at least she recognised that people didn’t much like her. After failing to get nominated for a Tory marginal in Kent she asked the local party agent: “Why don’t people warm to me?” I think we can now all see why.

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Iain has a blazing row with George Galloway over Margaret Thatcher (Part 2)

TalkSport, August 2009

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UK Politics

This Is What I Wrote About Julian Assange 4 Years Ago ... Every Word Of it Remains True Today

18 Aug 2014 at 20:12

Four and a half years ago, in December 2010, I was asked by the Mail on Sunday to write a column on Julian Assange. When it appeared I was traduced and slagged off by his many supporters. How could I not understand what a hero he is, I was asked? Very easily, as it happens. Anyway, four and a half years on I am rather proud that every word I wrote then has stood the test of time very well. Read for yourself. (The original can be found HERE)

Over the past five years I, along with thousands of other bloggers, have played a small part in holding the mainstream media and politicians to account.

I’ve tried to encourage public authorities to be more transparent and open about what they do, and often caused them a few headaches when they’ve refused.

So you might think I would be a cheerleader for WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange and his self-styled mission to expose what goes on at the heart of government.

You’d be wrong. Far from being a 21st Century hero, I have come to regard Assange as a dictatorial charlatan whose real agenda is not the furtherance of greater transparency, but the furtherance of Julian Assange and his anti-American agenda.

His ego seems to be without equal and he’s now reached the dangerous point of believing his own publicity. So much so that some of his staunchest supporters, such as the Guardian journalist Nick Davies, have cut off contact with him.

WikiLeaks started off as a noble cause. It sought to shine light into the nooks and crannies of public life which had up until now remained closed off to us mere mortals.
Whistleblowing is often uncomfortable, yet WikiLeaks provided a forum for the powerful to be brought to book.

In journalistic terms, there was a point to it, as their work on scientology and the Trafigura scandal concerning the dumping of toxic waste in Africa showed.

But its ethics and operations are now coming under serious scrutiny, and rightly so.

Whenever anyone – journalist, or otherwise – reveals confidential information there has to be a point to it. By releasing three million random documents, illegally obtained from U.S. government computers, WikiLeaks put paid to its reputation in one fell swoop.

Had Assange and his cohorts sorted through the documents and filtered out those with a genuine public interest, he could have been seen as a modern-day hero.

But he released everything in the name of so-called transparency. He did it because he could – the prerogative of every dictator in history.

Assange is currently fighting efforts to extradite him to Sweden, where he is accused of sexually assaulting two women. It is alleged he raped one of them.

Yet during the past couple of weeks, celebrities including Jemima Khan and Bianca Jagger have stood alongside Leftist journalists such as John Pilger and Tariq Ali, and film director Ken Loach to denounce what they view as a ‘politically motivated show trial’.

But the authorities are not trying to extradite Assange over freedom of expression – they’re trying to extradite him over alleged rape.

For the Left to base their defence of him on ‘fairness’, ‘censorship’ and ‘suspicious timing’ is not only misleading but also very unfair on the women who have come forward with the allegations.

Could you imagine any other scenario where liberals, socialists and other members of the Left would be so cavalier with an allegation as serious as rape? Remember all those headlines about rape anonymity just a few short months ago?

Their hypocrisy stinks. It’s as if they are saying that Assange’s WikiLeaks work trumps any legal charges levelled at him.

The charges of sexual assault against Assange should be fully investigated. For anyone to say otherwise implies that the women are lying and that alleged rape is a trifling charge. It’s not.

Nobody knows if he did it, and that’s why he needs to be extradited and face exactly the same legal process that you or I would face in similar circumstances. The God of WikiLeaks gives the appearance of believing he is above the law. He is not.

Perhaps some of Assange’s defenders have more sinister motivations. Perhaps they are pro-Assange as he and his organisation have become virulently anti-American.
Some people might have more sympathy with him if he ever released any documents from China, or North Korea, or the mafia-controlled state of Russia.

Assange may be a public hero to some. But it is stupid and illogical to absolve him of all alleged criminal activities just because of his work.

A man can do commendable work, but be of bad character. And it is high time we stop judging Assange for his public deeds when, at the moment, it is his private life on trial.
We must ensure the separation of powers prevails. This most controversial of men must be judged by the law, not politics.

Assange has been quick to point the finger at dark forces within the Pentagon or the CIA for his arrest, yet the head of WikiLeaks in Sweden appears to be more sensible.

He says: ‘Let the police find out what actually happened. Of course, the enemies of WikiLeaks may try to use this, but it begins with the two women and Julian. It is not the CIA sending a woman in a short skirt.’

You’d have thought that The Guardian would be the first newspaper to support the concept that he should be judged under the rule of law.

Its journalists are normally the first to assume that men who face court on rape charges are guilty. And yet here, they’ve done a volte-face. Why? Because it would be deeply embarrassing for them if the source of virtually every Guardian front page for the past month turned out to be guilty.

And I say that with no presumption that he is.

It is also deeply ironic also that the newspaper which has been campaigning to bring David Cameron’s media supremo Andy Coulson to book for his alleged role in the News of the World phone hacking affair is the very same one which has no compunction in revealing nuggets of gossip and information to the world obtained illegally by WikiLeaks.

What’s different in the two cases? In the News of the World case, 99 per cent of the illegally obtained, hacked information was prurient gossip with no public interest. In the case of WikiLeaks, 99 per cent of the illegally obtained, hacked information was prurient gossip with no public interest.

But there is one sinister difference. In the WikiLeaks case, lives and national security have been put at risk. But we shouldn’t be surprised. Assange proved he was out of control in August when he demanded $700,000 from Amnesty International which had politely asked him to ensure WikiLeaks did not publish names of Afghan civilians who might then be targeted by the Taliban. Some called it blackmail.

It is, I suppose, possible to argue that every piece of government information should be made publicly available, but anyone who really believes that hasn’t given a thought to the anarchic consequences which would follow. Surely national security, at the very least, has to be a consideration?

Julian Assange purports to believe in total openness – except when it comes to himself.

He delights in asking politicians what they have got to hide. We might ask Mr Assange the same.

There is little in this issue that is about high principle. It is about political motivation and one man’s desire to be treated as a demi-god.

Assange is not a terrorist, as the increasingly ridiculous Sarah Palin suggests. But he is a narcissist and would-be demagogue.

If he was half the man he purports to be, he’d voluntarily get on a flight to Stockholm tomorrow and submit himself to Swedish justice.

If he’s as innocent as he says he is, what has he got to fear?

p.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Shazbot & Why Mark Simmonds is a Moron

15 Aug 2014 at 14:25

Every summer it’s the same. David Cameron disappears on holiday and Nick Clegg then does the same. Do their diary secretaries not talk to each other? The clue is in Clegg’s job title of Deputy Prime Minister. When the PM is away he should deputise. But he never does, because he chooses to go away at the same time. Just when he had an opportunity to shine and lead Britain’s policy over Iraq, he flunks it and buggers off to Spain. Maybe he’s just given up already.
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I’ve never met Mark Simmonds but honestly, what a moron. Does he seriously think that anyone will have any sympathy for his apparent plight of not being able to survive on £120,000 a year? I ask you. I have some sympathy with his complaint that a parliamentary lifestyle doesn’t really mix with a family life. But my sympathy is tempered by the fact that he must surely have known this before he applied to be a candidate. And if he didn’t, he’s even more of a moron than he appears. Does Mr Simmonds realise how he comes across to a family of four who exist on £30,000 a year? And we wonder why people think politicians are out of touch.
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The response of the government to developments in Northern Iraq has been little short of pathetic. Compared to David Cameron’s robust stance on Syria, his administration now risks being seen as even more lily-livered than France. At least France has committed itself to supplying arms to the Kurds, so they can defend themselves against ISIS. What have we done? Ah yes, we’ve supplied a couple of helicopters full of bottled water and lanterns. Well woopadedoo. Yes, there is a terrible humanitarian crisis, and we should play a full role in alleviating the suffering of all those who have been forced to leave their homes. But this is dealing with the symptom, not the problem. The problem is that Iraq is a failed state and doesn’t have a functioning government. There is a power vacuum and some terrible people are intent on filling that vacuum. They have to be stopped otherwise the people of Iraq will face a very bleak future indeed. We must support and augment US military strikes against ISIS with strikes of our own. That’s not warmongering. It’s not adopting a neo con stance. It’s being hard-nosed and realistic. The only way to rid Iraq of ISIS is to stand up to them and ensure they understand that if they don’t stop their torture and murders, they will be blown to bits.
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I see the BBC has started referring to ISIS and IS, i.e. the Islamic State. There is no such thing as the Islamic State and we need to pray to Allah that there never will be. At least not in the form that ISIS intend. Because if we allow it to happen, we shall reap what we sow.
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I’ve got a book coming out in September titled THE NHS: THINGS THAT NEED TO BE SAID. I got the proofs back from the publishers, Elliott & Thompson a couple of days ago. I expected them to query a lot of what I had written, or for there to be lots of typos and grammatical errors. I was pleasantly surprised to find only four queries and three typos. I wish all my Biteback authors delivered such clean manuscripts!
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Shazbot.
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My views on the list of new peers are probably best kept to myself. While there are several good people on the list in general it reinforces the view of many that it’s all about cronyism and dosh. Of course donating to a political party shouldn’t exclude you from getting an honour, but the number of party donors (from all parties) who are getting peerages is beyond all reason. Yet another argument for an elected House of Lords. I’m very pleased to see Sir Stuart Rose become a peer – exactly the sort of person who will make a difference in the Upper House. Karren Brady is a very talented woman but does anyone seriously suppose she’s going to turn up very much? I doubt it. A vote on Clause 2, subsection 3 of the HS2 Bill, or a seat in the directors’ box at West Ham v Liverpool. I know which I’d choose, and I know which she would too. Conservative whips be warned. I could go on. But I won’t.
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