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Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publications, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.

I suspect I am alone here, but I did feel a twinge of sympathy for Ed Balls this week after he forgot the surname of a man he had just spent the evening with at a Labour fundraising dinner, and who runs Labour’s Small Business Advisory Group.

I couldn’t believe it became such a huge story in the media. We’ve all done it, haven’t we? I was interviewing someone the other day, and I went to thank them at the end of the interview, but my mind drew a complete blank. Luckily, I had a screen in front of me with their name on.

But the serious point here is that we have such an unforgiving media nowadays, and that it isn’t willing to cut politicians any slack for even the slightest apparent gaffe. Balls laughed it off but, if I know him, he will have been distraught at the coverage his moment of forgetfulness generated.

You could say that it was typical of a Labour politician to treat business with such contempt and that it shows how much importance they place on business – but in Balls’s case, this just isn’t true. Unlike some of his colleagues, he actually understands how business operates and isn’t anti-business in any shape or form. Pity he can’t persuade some of his more zealous colleagues. Eh, Ed Miliband?

 

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After Lord Ashcroft’s poll in Scotland I think that I might have to return to my Scottish constituency predictions and revise them. His statistics were incredible and confirmed what all the other polls have been showing for some time – namely, that Labour is disintegrating and the SNP is on the march.

Even Wee Dougie (Alexander) would lose his seat on these figures, along with his Liberal Democrat namesake Danny (Alexander). Quite astonishing.

Of course, if May’s results are as these findings, it will be almost impossible for Labour to gain a majority in May, and the Conservatives are more likely to remain the largest party. Labour is now adopting the strategy of warning people in Scotland: “Vote SNP, get Cameron”.

This has the merit of being true – but I doubt whether it will cut through among the working class former supporters who have deserted Labour in droves since last September’s referendum. Jim Murphy must wonder what on earth he has let himself in for.

 

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Louise Casey’s report on child sexual abuse in Rotherham isn’t for the faint-hearted. It’s hard to know where to start analysing what went wrong there, but one thing is for sure: it is yet another example of councillors failing to hold their officers to account.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised, though. There are very few councillors who are in any way qualified to oversee child protection – or indeed many other things. That’s not to say there aren’t many qualified and competent councillors, but there are too many who no one would think of putting in charge of a whelk stall, let alone a Childrens’ Services Department of a local authority.

I have no hesitation in admitting that if I were put in that position I’d be totally out of my depth. There are also still too many people who think it’s wrong to point out that the vast majority of the perpetrators of these vile acts were from a Pakistani Muslim background.

I am sure that virtually every other Pakistani Muslim will be as horrified by that fact as the rest of us are.  But we can’t ignore it – and the trouble is that no one seems able to explain it, either. But let’s also make it clear that in virtually all the cases of historic child sex abuse currently being considered, white, middle class and upper class males seem to have been made up most of the perpetrators.

And let’s not beat around the bush. If this sort of thing has been uncovered in places like Rotherham, Luton, Oldham and Rochdale, you can bet your bottom dollar that it is going on in many other towns across the country too. This is surely only the tip of the iceberg.

 

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So, a Survation constituency poll in Sheffield, Hallam suggests that Nick Clegg may lose his seat to Labour. This ought to be of great concern to the Conservative Party, since it was a Tory seat not that long ago. Anyone remember Irvine Patnick? Surely it ought to be the Conservatives challenging here, not Labour? It’s a sign that the Tories’ problems in our big industrial cities are still there and haven’t been addressed properly.

 

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I was very sorry to hear of the death of Sir Martin Gilbert, one of the best historians of his generation. The great thing about being a historian is that you live on through your books. People will be reading his magnificent books on the Second World War and Winston Churchill in 200 years’ time. I’m not sure that many people will still be reading my collection of Bill Clinton jokes then…

 

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When I started presenting Drive on LBC nearly two years ago, I inherited an audience of around 300,000. I remember saying to my boss that my aim was to grow the audience to 500,000. Well, figures released yesterday show that my LBC Drivetime show now has an audience of around 525,000 in London.

It’s the highest Drivetime audience in LBC’s 40 year history, and my show has had the highest increase in audience of any show on the station. Any radio presenter is only as good as their last set of RAJAR audience figures, so forgive me for making the most of this moment.

And the great thing is that our national audience is building nicely. We’ve been on National DAB for nearly a year now, and last week LBC went on Freeview (Channel 732). There are so many platforms you can listen to radio on nowadays.

If I am at home I usually listen through my TV, which always sounds a bit odd, but I think a lot of people do that. It’s incredible how radio audiences continue to grow despite everything. Long may they continue.

 

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I’ve just published by seat by seat predictions as an eBook, which you can order for just £1.59. It was a commenter on this column (yes, I do read the comments!) who gave me the idea. You can download it from Politicos here.

78 comments for: Iain Dale: No, Balls isn’t anti-business. Indeed, he understands business.

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