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Diary

Con Home Diary: Tebbit Names His Preferred Successor to Cameron

20 Jun 2014 at 14:06

The Prime Minister’s pledge to have a third of his government replete with female ministers by the time of the next election is looking rather unlikely to be met. Seven government departments still have no female ministers whatsoever. He may well put that right in the forthcoming reshuffle, but are there really enough women on the Tory benches to put straight into government? Well, here’s a list of lady Tory backbenchers who I’d say would make excellent ministers, and these are off the top of my head without consulting a list, so apologies if I have missed any out…
Nicola Blackwood, Margot James, Charlotte Leslie, Sarah Newton, Caroline Nokes, Tracey Crouch, Caroline Dinenage, Penny Mordaunt & Priti Patel. I would have included Sarah Wollaston but she secured the Health Select Committee chairmanship this week.
Actually, I have now consulted the whole list of Tory MPs, and even if you include the ones I have missed out, there aren’t many more once you take into account that several are standing down (Jessica Lee, Laura Sandys, Lorraine Fulbrooke).
There’s Angie Bray, Fiona Bruce, Therese Coffee, Jackie Doyle-Price, Pauline Latham, Rebecca Harris, Mary Macleod, Anne-Marie Morris, Heather Wheeler and Sheryll Murray.
All these are from the 2010 intake. I have to say that there are only a couple of female Tory MPs who I wouldn’t let near Ministerial office, and you’d be hard pushed to say the same about the male 2010 entrants.
Of the pre 2010 women, one suspects that if they haven’t made it now they never will. Sorry Nadine.
It seems to me the PM has an almost impossible task if he is to keep all parts of the party happy. He will make yet more enemies by sacking maybe 15-20 junior ministers. So will be for the chop? When you actually look through the list department by department it’s not easy to come up with a list of automatic dead meat. I hesitate to put the black spot on anyone, mainly because I know a lot of them, but I think anyone who has been in the same department in a junior position is likely to be in trouble. Cameron allies Greg Barker and Ed Vaizey fall into that category, as do Alan Duncan, Damian Green and James Brokenshire .
I can’t see much case for Cameron retaining the services of the old warhorse John Hayes, who was reportedly saved from the axe by his mentor IDS at the time of the last reshuffle.
And you know what? The more I look down the list I reckon virtually every junior minister has cause to be nervous with the exception of those who were appointed at the last reshuffle. Even the likes of Greg Clark, Hugh Robertson and Nick Hurd – all perfectly good and competent ministers – may get the odd nervous twitch on reshuffle day. It’s a cruel game.
*
Imagine the outcry in The Sun or Mail if David Cameron had toddled off to Rio to watch all of England’s World Cup group games. He would be accused of abandoning ship, ignoring the crisis in Iraq and much more besides. But that’s exactly what Angela Merkel has done. She’s even gallivanting in the German team’s dressing room, having selfies taken with half naked German footballers. Lucky her. Just goes to show how supine the German press is. Given the choice, I think I’d have ours.
*

Rising Tory star and Women’s Minister Nicky Morgan came into my studio this week to do a phone-in with my listeners. She may be new at facing the media but she didn’t put a foot wrong. I led her into temptation but she was having none of it. I wonder if she had listened to Harriet Harman who was in the day before telling us that Ed Miliband ‘was right to pose with The Sun and right to apologise for it.’ I accused her of getting into a “contortion”, but she seemed impervious to the thought that she was effectively advocating having your cake and eating it. The following day, while I was presenting DRIVE, I was told on Twitter that our Harman phone-in was the subject of a serious debate on the PM programme on Radio 4. So, one drivetime show discussing another. One day the media will truly eat itself.
*
You may want to switch your radios on today at 7.30pm and tune them into LBC (we on DAB all over the country now). We will be playing out an interview I did with Lord Tebbit a couple of weeks ago in which he gives his tip for the next leader of the Conservative Party. Without giving the game away, I suspect this nugget will feature as a major news story in Saturday’s newspapers. (That’s a hint to lobby journalists. You may want to listen!).
*

Loving the World Cup, although I am getting fed up with 5 Live’s constant advertising of itself. If I hear “5 Live, Home of the World Cup” or “5 Live, the World Cup Station” again I won’t be responsible for my actions. It’s not just the station promos – you expect those, it’s the presenters and commentators uttering the words every three minutes that is so unutterably irritating. They’ve clearly been ordered to mention those phrases every time they mention the World Cup, but for the listener it just makes you want to switch off. OK, we all have slogans we use – on LBC we describe ourselves as ‘leading Britain’s conversation’ but most of us say it a couple of times an hour, which I’d have thought is acceptable. I haven’t counted but “Home of the World Cup” is something you hear at least every 5 minutes on 5 Live. It is also factually incorrect.
*
So farewell then Jeremy Paxman. You will be missed.
*

And a fond farewell to Ben Brogan, late of the Telegraph. He was axed yesterday along with a dozen or so other Telegraph journos in a day of the long knives at Telegraph Towers. Frankly I am mystified by what is going on at the newspaper. They seem to be axing anyone with journalistic experience and bringing in a load of cheaper kids. And you know what they say, you can’t win a newspaper circulation war with kids. Ben Brogan is one of the best political commentators around and they are frankly barking mad to part with him. I suspect it will only be a matter of hours before he has a new job. Tell you what, though. I’m going to miss his early morning email.

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LBC: The Best of the Iain Dale Show 2012

Listen to some moving clips from a programme on rape, hosted by Iain in November.

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Personal

There Are No Words

17 Jun 2014 at 21:39

I’ve felt very sad today. A friend of mine, Joe Pike, moved to Scotland not that long ago. I was sad to see him go, but it was the right move for him. I saw him a couple of months ago when he was in London on a flying visit. He’d met someone who he hoped to build a future with. Yesterday I heard via a mutual friend that his life had been turned upside down as his new partner had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease, and it’s terminal. I texted him to send a massive virtual hug. It was all I could offer. What on earth does one say in these circumstances?

Joe texted me back a link to an article his partner had written for a Scottish newspaper. I read it on the train to London this morning and couldn’t hold back the tears. Goodness knows what my fellow passengers on the 8.04 to Charing Cross were thinking. You can read Gordon Aikman’s article HERE but here’s an extract…

I cut to the chase: “What is the prognosis? How long will I live?”

Hesitant, he prefixes his answer with “everybody is different” and “it is difficult to predict”. He then wells up before admitting that we are talking “just a few years”.

My head is a mess. I stand up, walk across to the window, run my hands through my hair and stare out into the middle distance. My mind goes blank. I don’t know what do. I’m 29 years old and I have just been given a death sentence.

…Now I have a new outlook on life. I’ve reassessed my priorities. While I am powerless to the disease that is taking over my body, I am now more in control of how I spend my days than ever before. I don’t do anything that I do not value or enjoy. That is exciting, liberating, empowering.

When a clock is ticking down above your head, every moment becomes precious. I now live from day to day, week to week. I don’t get too far ahead of myself: who knows how long I will be able to walk, feed myself and breathe unaided?

In many ways I am lucky. I at least have time to spend with those I love; to do some of the things that I’d always planned. Trying to pack a lifetime of dreams and aspirations into a few months is far from easy, but it’s a chance most people don’t get. I’m catching up with old friends, travelling, and spending time with my family in Fife, especially my baby nephew Murray.

Of course, there’s much I won’t be able to do. I would have loved to have got married and start a family of my own. But to dwell on the impossible brings no joy, best focus on the possible.

The hardest thing of all is knowing that not only will this journey be tough for me, but also for those I love and care about the most. Seeing their tears and hearing their voices crack is painful, and it’s all because of me.

I have been told I am likely to be in a wheelchair by Christmas.

I’m brutally honest about what’s happened to me not because I want pity or to be treated differently. I just want to do my bit while I still can. Yes, MND has changed my life, but I refuse to let it become my life. Even in adversity, you can find positivity. After all, MND is neither cruel nor unfair, but a question to which there is as yet no answer. A disease for which there is as yet no cure. We can and we must find it.

If Gordon’s story has affected you like it has me and thousands of others, please do make a donation on his JustGiving page HERE He’s raised an unbelievable £28,000 so far.

Life really can be a bitch.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Is Made to Cry by Sue in Twickenham

During a discussion about living with an alcoholic, Iain is moved to tears by a caller. The call lasted more than 20 minutes - very unusual in talk radio.

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News Story

ConHome Diary: My Tips For The Cabinet Reshuffle & Lots Of Other Lovely Diarytastic Stuff

13 Jun 2014 at 13:56

It’s a pretty safe bet that if the European and local elections, and of course Newark, had been disasters for the Conservatives the reshuffle would have happened by now. The fact that is hasn’t says a lot. It was rumoured that it might take place next week, although James Landale thinks it may be delayed until July until the next EU Commission president has been sorted out. Why is that relevant? Because it might have an impact on whom we appoint to be our next European Commissioner. More on that in a moment.

Whenever the reshuffle comes it needs to be radical. There is no point in tinkering. Cameron needs to make some eye-catching promotions, and maybe also some eye-catching sackings. This is his team for the election and he needs to promote some new, energetic, media friendly faces to what is starting to look like a slightly jaded cabinet. I’d say Esther McVey, Mike Penning, Nicky Morgan (who already attends cabinet as Minister for Women), Michael Fallon and Greg Hands were the most likely tips for promotion to the top table. Hands seems destined to replace Sir George Young, at least if you listen to supporters of George Osborne. I don’t imagine Andrew Mitchell can come back due to his impending libel case, but Liam Fox will hope that the time is ripe.

The black spot seems to have already been put on Andrew Lansley, but the identity of the other three casualties is less certain. Both Patrick McLoughlin and Eric Pickles are rumoured to be sitting slightly nervously by their phones, but surely the Prime Minister couldn’t get rid of both his ‘bits of rough’, could he? He’d be mad to do so as both are not only competent but also thoroughly nice. Niceness is not a prerequisite to be a minister, but it helps. We’re told that Chris Grayling and Owen Paterson are out of favour, but there would be a revolution on the right if either of those two were dispatched to political Siberia. Justine Greening is the one I would throw overboard, purely for her complete disinterest in the department she runs, but can Cameron afford to lose another woman from the Cabinet, even if he replaces her with another. Of the Ministers who attend Cabinet who aren’t full members, David Willetts are Francis Maude could be dropped without too much backdraft, although both have done perfectly good jobs. They are long enough in the political tooth to realise that it would be nothing personal and these things happen. I think.

Until the events of the last week I would have said you were mad if you thought Michael Gove would leave the Department of Education. I’m less sure now, although quite where he would go, I’m not sure. Leader of the House? I can’t see it personally, but stranger things have happened. Ask Geoffrey Howe.

Could William Hague retire? If he doesn’t it will mean that the top three jobs in the main offices of state will have had the same incumbents for the full five year term. I doubt whether this has ever happened before in our political history.

So all in all, David Cameron has a nightmare ahead of him. And he knows it. Very few reshuffles please everyone and this one certainly won’t. Assuming it hasn’t happened by this time next week I might look at some of the lower ranks.
*
There is still much speculation about the identity of our next European Commissioner. Whoever it is is unlikely to be named until the identity of the new European Commission President is known. The British government is very keen that whoever we choose as our commissioner should get one of the top economic portfolios. I am told by someone who knows about these things that this is far more likely to happen if we send another woman to Brussels. Here’s an idea… Why not think about nominating Theresa Villiers for the role? She was an MEP for a number of years and knows the Brussels machine. She’s solid on reform and dry as dust on economic issues. Just a thought.
*

Many moons ago I worked in the ports industry. It seems the PM has made an enemy of the entire British ports industry, apart from the Port of Liverpool. On a visit there this week he said this in a speech: “I think there’s some major investments going on in Liverpool that will make a big difference. I’ve just seen for myself at the Port of Liverpool the new container terminal and also what’s happening in terms of passenger ships. Those two things together are really important in terms of re-balancing the economy. On the passenger ships it means that cruises can start here in Liverpool with all the iconic brilliance of the city on show to people who want to go on a cruise ship. “Much more importantly the expansion of the Port of Liverpool being able to take the biggest container ships in the world, the ones that go through the widened Panama Canal – this is a massive re-balancing of the economy because instead of goods being imported in Southampton or Tilbury and then shipped on road and rail up to the North West, you know the North West will be the hub.” This has gone down like a whore in a nunnery with executive at Southampton, Tilbury and Felixstowe, as you can imagine. In fact they are spitting blood. They can hardly believe the PM is so badly informed and has effectively put in jeopardy some of the huge amounts of inward investment that is being placed on the east and south coasts. Bearing in mind Thurrock and Southampton are marginals, it’s a crass mistake to make. Possibly not on the scale of Ed Miliband in Swindon, but not far off. If I were still a ports lobbyist I think I’d have just picked up two or three new clients. Of course this is mostly down to the interfering, meddling hands of Michael Heseltine. It was he who got the government to put £15 million into improving port facilities in Liverpool. After the hundreds of millions wasted on that port in the 1960s, 70s and 80s you’d have thought Heseltine might not want to pour good money after bad. But then he’s always been profligate with public money. A lion never changes its spots. Or something like that. I’ve never understood why Tory governments pour millions into Liverpool. Maybe it’s a guilt thing. It can’t be for political gain, can it?
*
Gordon Brown has risen from the political grave this week. For some unfathomable reason he chose to accept an invitation to make an address to the Parliamentary Press Gallery. He scowled his way through questions after making a speech on Scottish independence in which he managed to annoy both David Cameron and Alistair Darling. He also made a similar speech at the LSE. So what’s he up to? The Sun’s Kevin Schofield suggested he wanted to be Scotland’s first Labour Prime Minister. Frankly, if the Scots are mad enough to go their own way, they and Gordon Brown will deserve each other.

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Video: Iain & Yasmin Alibhai Brown cross-examine Mark Oaten

18 Doughty Street Crosstalk

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Tribute

A Tribute to Andy Wilson

11 Jun 2014 at 08:42

I don’t know who it was who said that ‘only the good die young’, but they certainly had a point. Only two months ago I wrote about my friend Corinne de Souza, who died from cancer at the age of 58. Well yesterday I attended the funeral of another friend who also fell victim to that same dreaded disease at the age of 54.

Andy Wilson is not someone many of you will know, but to me and many others he was a total inspiration. I first met Andy back in 2006 when I had the idea of launching Total Politics magazine. I went to see Michael Ashcroft to see if he would back it. He was very enthusiastic and suggested I took the idea further with the man who handled many of his investments. His name was Andy Wilson. Right from the off, Andy became a confidant and a business guru, but also quickly became a friend. But more than anything else he was an enthusiast. He didn’t come from the world of politics or publishing but was fascinated by both. He was a man of ideas and positivity. He understood a company balance sheet like no one else I have ever met, and was able to explain basic accounting issues in a way that even an accounting ignoramus like me could easily understand.

Above all, Andy was a people person. He understood the power of motivation and certainly knew what motivated me. He had the power to make you feel good about what you were doing, even in difficult times. And believe me, when you launch a political magazine at the beginning of a recession, there are difficult times to go through. Even when I had difficult news to impart to him, I would always leave the room feeling much better than when I went in, and there aren’t many people I can say that about.

We didn’t always agree – that would have been odd, but in eight years of a business relationship we never had a cross word. We could be totally straight with each other without either of us taking exception to what the other was saying. He taught me more about running a business than anyone else in my career and I will always remain profoundly grateful for his guidance and inspiration.

His brother in law Damian Thornton gave the most fantastic eulogy yesterday and nothing I can say can improve on what he said. Andy bore his illness with the most tremendous courage and fortitude. He worked for as long as he could., but when he didn’t come to the Political Book Awards in March I knew things must be bad. I never talked to him about what he was going through as I decided that he probably had enough people asking how he was. And I knew if I did ask him and he told me the truth I would become too emotional, and he could do without that.

I mentioned the Political Book Awards. Everyone thinks that event was my brainchild. It wasn’t. It was Andy’s. And next year I want to name an award after him. He was a lover of books and in his eulogy yesterday we learned that on a family holiday at the age of 14. Andy polished off 15 books in 14 days. I would always send him every single book published by Biteback. Every so often he’d send me an email saying “loved that book” or “mystified as to why you took that one on”, and he’d also come up with ideas as to authors we might approach. But it was always done in a spirit of helpfulness. He was always optimistic and positive.

It is largely thanks to Andy that Biteback is now a profitable company. It took us longer than I would have liked to get there, but I do know that without Andy we wouldn’t have got there at all. I’m just so sorry that he didn’t live to see us achieve what he was always confident we could. In my moments of doubt he would take me aside and tell me how well we were doing and success would come.

He also knew how important my broadcasting is to me. I remember telling him LBC had offered me a permanent show, back in August 2010. I explained to him that I had had two dreams in life. One to be an MP and another to have my own radio show. Well the first dream had been extinguished and I really wanted to see if I could live the second. I felt I needed Andy’s and Michael’s blessing as it would effectively mean taking on the equivalent of two full time jobs. They didn’t hesitate to give their approval and I shall remain forever grateful to them both, as it would have been perfectly understandable if they felt that it would have been too much.

This tribute has already become far longer than I had intended, but that’s because there is so much I wanted to say about Andy. I can’t begin to understand how his wife Emma and their three children are coping. But they know from the turnout at the funeral yesterday the level of love and admiration there was for Andy. He was just the most kind, generous, most empathetic man you’re ever likely to meet. As an illustration of that, three years ago John and I were thinking of buying a house in Norfolk, but we couldn’t get a mortgage on it because of the fact it was of non standard construction. We didn’t need a massive mortgage so it was incredibly frustrating to see it slipping through our hands. I was sounding off about this to Andy one day and he immediately offered to lend us the money himself, personally. I was totally bowled over. In the end we didn’t win the auction so it didn’t happen, but I will never forget what he was prepared to do.

I still can’t believe that I won’t see him again. But when I think of him, I will always think of him with his infectious grin. Andy, what a very special man you were. Are. I don’t think you could have possibly comprehended what a massive hole you would leave in the lives of all who knew you. Rest easy, my friend.

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale Hosts a Phone in Dealing With Grief

A month after his mother died, Iain asks why we find bereavement so difficult.

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Humour/Satire

Possibly the Best Photo Caption Ever

8 Jun 2014 at 10:48

Unless, of course, you can do better…

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LBC Book Club: Iain talks to Amanda Prowse

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

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Diary

ConHome Diary: The Ten Bills in Prime Minister Dale's Queen's Speech

6 Jun 2014 at 14:11

It comes to something when the measure in the Queen’s Speech which grabs most headlines is a 5p plastic bag tax. Back in the 1980s and 1990s there would be between 18 and 23 bills in the Gracious speech. In this one there were eleven. Now, don’t get me wrong, I rather like the fact that there is less legislation. I certainly don’t want legislation for legislation’s sake, but the trouble with this Queen’s Speech was that it gave the impression of a government which is tinkering around the edges rather than getting to grips with some of big issues facing the country.
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Given the results of the European elections I still cannot quite understand why there wasn’t a government bill to legislate on a European Referendum in 2017. Ah, say the Tory politicians, this is a Coalition Queen’s Speech, and the LibDems would never agree to it. Well bloody put them on the spot then. Make a big song and dance of it, and force them to publicly veto it. It’s called politics.
*

This has not been a good week for David Cameron’s euro-diplomacy. It looks more and more likely that Britain’s arch-nemesis Jean Claude Juncker will become the new President of the European Commission. If so, I am pretty sure which box my vote will go in in 2017. His appointment will give plenty of ammunition to UKIP who persist in claiming that Cameron won’t be able to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the EU. After all, if he can’t stop Juncker climbing to power, how on earth will he persuade his fellow EU leaders to give in on anything major. There is now more than a small chance that if he wins the election he could bring forward the In/Out vote and carry it out on the terms of our current membership. Serve the EU right if he did.
*
On Tuesday I have the honour of doing a half hour long interview with Norman Tebbit, one of my political heroes. I have met him on a couple of occasions before and have always been struck by his wonderful sense of humour and glorious wit. He came in to talk about his new children’s novel which is about a disabled boy and his relationship with a golden Labrador called Ben, but naturally he strayed onto present day politics and his memories of the 1980s. I won’t give away too much but he did anoint a future leader of the Conservative Party during the interview, and it was a surprising name. I suspect when the interview is broadcast at 7.30pm on LBC in two Fridays time, it will grab a couple of headlines.
*

By the way, if you’re doing nothing better at 7.30pm this evening (Friday 6th), do listen to LBC as I’m interviewing the redoubtable Baroness Trumpington. And next week at 7.30 John Campbell talks about his biography of Roy Jenkins.
*
I was interested to see that SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson was bitterly complaining that there was no mention in the Queen’s Speech to devolve tax raising powers to Scotland. I’d say that tweet betrayed his deep insecurity about the result of the independence referendum. After all, if Scotland votes for independence there would be no need to for such a massive shift in powers anyway. But imagine if the Queen had mentioned it. He’d no doubt have complained about interference by the Westminster government in advance of the referendum. With the Nats you just can’t win.
*

This week a Nigerian lady called Afusat Saliu was deported back to Nigeria along with her two small daughters. She had fought deportation on the grounds that she feared she would be killed by Boko Harem (she had converted to Christianity from Islam) and that her daughters could well be subjected to female genital mutilation. She had been forced to undergo it by her family before she came to this country. Appeal after appeal was made to the Home Secretary and to Norman Baker the LibDem Home Office Minister. The appeals came to nothing and on Wednesday she was sent back to Nigeria. The LibDems make a big deal out of the fact that they have been behind moves to stop this barbaric practice, yet one of their senior ministers has been complicit in sending to little girls back to Nigeria to be potentially brutalised. One can only hope the ministers are right and the mother’s fears prove misplaced. I certainly wouldn’t want to be in Norman Baker’s shoes if events turn out differently. Lynne Featherstone will have his balls for souvenirs.
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Hurrah! Tower Hamlets have completed their election count, which according them was carried out in an exemplary fashion and other councils would do well to copy them. Lol. This week there has been an interesting development. Andy Erlam, who stood for the council under the Red Flag Anti-Corruption Party, has launched an election petition in the High Court. If successful the whole mayoral election could be re-run. Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman consistently refuses to come on my radio show to be held to account. Instead, last week he offered himself to another LBC show … hosted by his good friend and tummy-tickler in chief, Ken Livingstone. Ken’s co-presenter David Mellor made a valiant attempt at pinning Rahman down, but he left the studio unscathed as at every point Ken would intervene with a comment like “Oh it must be terrible for you, Lutfur, all these people smearing you.” “Oh yes, it is,” replied the mayor. Would I have been any more successful? Rahman’s cowardliness means we’ll probably never know.
*

As readers of my old blog will know, there’s nothing I like more than a list. So here are my Top Ten Bills Which Weren’t in the Queen’s Speech But Should Have Been.
1. Police Commissioners (Abolition of, Especially in Kent) Bill
2. Increase in the 40% tax threshold to £75,000 Bill
3. Liberal Democrats (Abolition of) Bill
4. European Referendum (on 5 May 2016) Bill
5. Church of England (Disestablishment of) Bill
6. Inheritance Tax (Abolition of) Bill
7. Ed Miliband (Endangered Species Protection Of) Bill
8. Amazon.com Inc (Force them to pay tax) Bill
9. Joanna Lumley (Listed status) Bill
10. The eBook (Elimination of VAT) Bill

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LBC 97.3: Iain Dale talks to Olivia Newton-John

Olivia Newton John discusses her new cook book and her career in entertainment.

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Travel

D Day Remembered - A Trip to the Normandy Beaches

5 Jun 2014 at 10:45

My Dad turns 85 in October. He was nine when the Second World War broke out. For him, the war defined his whole life. He was 15 when it ended. To this day he devours every programme he can watch about it. His TV is permanently tuned to the History Channel or the Discovery Channel.

Back in 1994 I took my father to visit the Normandy Beaches, a couple of weeks before the 50th anniversary of D Day. My friend Daniel Forrester from Washington joined us with his father Ed, together with my uncle, Steve Kiddy and a dear family friend, Dennis Nicholls. We stayed in Dennis’s son’s lovely little rustic cottage about twenty miles inland. It was one of the best holidays of my life – full of emotion, some great banter with the French who seemed to want to thank us personally for what our countrymen had done to liberate them in 1944 and it was great to spend 5 days with my Dad, a man who normally hates holidays and hasn’t got a lot of time for ‘abroad’.

Twenty years on, I watch the TV news pictures of the preparations for the D Day Commemorations and become rather wistful, remembering that wonderful week. Daniel’s Dad Ed is no longer with us, nor is Dennis Nicholls, who was such an important part of the events of those seven days. I can’t put into words what happened that week but all who were there know how special it was. It was part ‘Last of the Summer Wine’, part school trip,

except the roles were reversed, with Daniel and I being the teachers and the old boys becoming the kinds. I remember being in a restaurant one evening and my Dad was complaining about the ‘foreign muck’ on his plate. ’You’ll sit there until you eat it,’ I remember telling him rather sternly. And do you know what? He did, and he enjoyed it. He became a bit of a hit with French waitresses I seem to remember, and on a visit to a cafe at Juno Beach, I saw him dancing with one of them. There was certainly life in the old dog then, and there still is!

The week was full of emotion as we visited the five beaches where those brave soldiers and sailors landed. We visited the wonderfully well kept cemeteries and never failed to get a little emotional, as we paid our respects to those who had fallen. We even went to a German war cemetery. I had expected my father to refuse to set foot in the grounds, but strangely it affected him more than it did the rest of us. I have rarely seen my Dad cry, but he had tears running down his cheeks.

The one moment I remember more than any other was the moment I stood before a grave with the name Ian Dale on it. I remember that moment as if it were yesterday. Like virtually other family in the country, mine lost several members during both world wars. It’s in weeks like this that we remember their sacrifice so the rest of us could live in peace and freedom.

Ed, Dennis, wherever you are now, I bet you’re both chuckling as you remember that wonderful week in Normandy twenty years ago. And you’ll also be smiling as you see the tears running down my face as I type this and Daniel reads it.

Daniel and I don’t see each other very often. He’s a successful author and entrepreneur living in New Jersey with his wife and two children. We may not see each other very often. He may not be a relation, but to me he is like a brother and will always be a soulmate.

If you’d like to see all the photos from our 1994 trip, click HERE . Here’s my favourite picture of my Dad, taken on that trip.

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Iain Takes on the Man who Egged Ed Miliband

Iain has a testy encounter with Dean Porter, who that day had egged Ed Miliband.

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UK Politics

Could the EU block an In/Out Referendum in Britain?

2 Jun 2014 at 21:57

I was alerted to a fascinating (and very badly written) ePetition tonight. It concerns the EU’s apparent future ability to ban a UK Government from holding a referendum in 2017. Here’s the text…

Full and open disclosure on EU Qualified majority voting and it’s effect on a 2017 EU referendum

Responsible department: Cabinet Office

If the PM is trying to say we can have a referendum vote in 2017 which is after our full transition into the European Unions qualified majority voting(QMV) system then this can be refused under EU law and is something that will never happen. The people of the united kingdom have a right to know this before the campaigns for the 2015 General Elections. after which time we will have lost control of our nation and sovereignty to the european union. We want it explained to the people of this nation in no uncertain terms and the information duly released to ALL forms of media and public statements made to avoid any confusion during the 2015 General elections.

I have to say this is a new one on me. Can anyone shed any light on what it asserts, or is it a load of bollocks? If it’s true then what price David Cameron’s ability to renegotiate the terms of our membership? After the Juncker debacle, I’d say they were already looking shaky. If he can’t prevent the appointment of the most Federalist politician in Europe, I don’t hold out much hope of him achieving much else.

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Attitude Column: What's So Wrong With Porn?

2 Jun 2014 at 12:32

Let me pose a question to you. If straight men enjoy watching lesbian porn, is it not reasonable to assume that straight women enjoy watching gay men go at it on their BluRay screens? You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But try as I might among my female friends and workmates I can’t find a single one who finds the thought of watching male-on-male action in the least bit arousing. Maybe they’re all lying and are too embarrassed to admit it. The reason I say that is because apparently an increasing number of women are ordering gay porn DVDs by mail order. I can’t think they are buying them for their husbands, but you never know!

Interestingly, more and more people are prepared to be very open about their habitual viewing on onanistic porn. Porn has become part of people’s everyday lives in a way it wasn’t even ten years ago. Back in the day, anyone found viewing porn, whether it was a smutty magazine or a sitting in the back row of the local porn cinema, would have meant a profound moment of shame for the perpetrator. Nowadays, if you were found looking at Readers’ Wives or Zipper it would barely raise a titter.

The reason for this is undoubtedly the proliferation of online porn. Older generations are able to access whatever version of porn turns them on, at the press of a button. They don’t even have to pay for it any longer. It’s anonymous, and with the advent of smart phones and tablets, available when and where people want it. The same of course, goes for younger generations, but the difference is that online porn forms a part of people’s lives from a very early age. Smart phones and tablets have ‘normalised’ porn in ways which are not altogether healthy.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a very liberal attitude towards porn. I certainly don’t regard it as exploitative, which is what feminists have long argued. To me, the greatest power a woman has is over her own body. If she wants to sell access to it, far being exploited, she is empowering herself. Just as men are.

But the prevalence of porn in schools should concern all of us. Not just what could be termed as ‘normal’ porn, but the sort which would make even liberal minded people like me turn pink at the gills. In short, 14 year olds are increasingly coming to believe that violence and sex are innately linked because that’s what they see on their smart phones. I remember talking to a mother on my radio show whose 14 year old son was addicted to porn and quite happily admitted it. Being a good mother she had had a calm, reasoned discussion with him about it and he agreed it was becoming a problem, not least for the number of sheets his mother had to keep washing. But how many parents would actually sit down with a child and talk about porn addiction with them? Very few.

This does not mean I think we should return to a puritanical society where erections were not allowed to be shown on film, as was the case in this country until about twenty years ago. Far from it. Adults who wish to watch porn should be allowed to do so without undue interference from the state. Where porn is concerned, an Englishman’s or Englishwoman’s smartphone is their castle.

We’re told that watching porn is proof that the person who’s watching it doesn’t have an adequate sex life or a good and fulfilling relationship. I’ve never bought into that argument. Some people have higher sex drives than others. Better to watch porn and use it as an outlet for a high sex drive, than cheat on a partner. Isn’t that the adult way of looking at it?

The transformation of the porn industry in recent years has stemmed from ‘reality porn’, where people film themselves indulging in various sexual acts and then upload the footage on free access sites which are free to view for the end user. In the end, this could spell the end of professionally produced porn films as fewer and fewer people are prepared to pay £20 for a porn DVD or £10 a month for a porn website subscription. Monkey spanking has never been cheaper!

_This article first appeared in the June issue of Attitude Magazine.

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I Never Thought I Would Be a Second Hand Car Dealer...

1 Jun 2014 at 16:07

‘Ere, John, got a new motor? Well, since you ask, I do have one for sale, or rather my partner does. Check out the details on Ebay or Autotrader. It’s a rather magnificent Mercedes ML350 4×4. It’s very competitively priced and available for sale right now. It’s a 2011 model on a ‘60’ plate and has done 53,000 miles. A word from Simmo…

One previous owner to myself having been Mercedes Benz HQ. I have owned and enjoyed this car for the last three years, during which time it has been 100% reliable. Always maintained by my local Mercedes dealership and therefore has complete MB service history. The car is finished in Lazurite Blue which took me quite some time to track down and has the Mercedes Artico black leather and suede interior. The condition of the car both inside and out is excellent and remains quite literally looking as good as new. A pleasure to drive and very easy to park with both front and rear parking sensors. Fantastic music system that has a 6 cd multichanger, ipod connection and radio. The car also has built in Bluetooth for mobile phone connection. Air Conditioning is standard. The 7 speed automatic gearbox is incredibly smooth and has paddle shifts on the steering wheel should you wish to manually change using the tiptronic feature. The car is obviously great in all seasons with the four wheel drive and high visibility driving position. The seats are incredibly comfortable and adjust in all directions electronically.

Those of you who know me know how much Simmo cares for his cars. He is very good at buying and keeping them but less good at selling them. So with this one I am giving him a gentle shove…

If you’re interested, email me using the Contact button above.

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