DALE Iain Krieg illustration square

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

They seek him here, they seek him there, they seek him everybloodywhere. He is the Scarlet Pimpernel of this election campaign. For someone who is without doubt the second best known Conservative in the country, Boris Johnson has been more or less invisible in the election campaign nationally.

Yes, he’s been supporting candidates in London, and a few outside, but he’s been far from the national battlefront, which is odd for someone who is supposed to be a huge electoral asset for the Conservatives. Perhaps he is going to be weaponised in the last fortnight. One can but hope.

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Nick Clegg will have achieved at least one thing before he and the yellow peril are consigned to electoral oblivion (or not, as the case may be). He’s come out with the quote of the campaign so far.

At his manifesto launch in some bordello in Battersea, he made the case for the Liberal Democrats continuing in coalition with one of the two main parties by declaring that they would ‘add heart to a Conservative government and a brain to a Labour one’. Boom boom. I asked Harriet Harman about this and she reckoned that they might insert an appendix, but that’d be about it.

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It’s great to see Nick Robinson back on the News at Ten, giving his insights into the election campaign. Top journalist and top bloke.

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This is the first election for 32 years in which I haven’t been out on the doorknocker canvassing. I kind of miss it. It’s the best way to take the temperature of the electorate, and much better than studying polls.

So if I can’t do it, the next best thing is to interrogate people who do. I was speaking to a friend over the weekend who has been out in around a dozen Conservative marginal in London and Essex, and what he had to say was quite revealing. In one or two areas, he reckons the Labour vote has almost entirely disappeared to UKIP, and that it is very difficult to find firm Labour pledges, even in areas where you’d expect to find them.

Now my friend is an experienced canvasser, and isn’t given to flights of fancy about canvass returns, but he thinks the some of the polls are going to be confounded on election night. I remember having a similar experience in 1992.

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I don’t like doing aggressive interviews as I generally think that they don’t shed much light. However, in this election campaign I have released my inner Paxman a little more often than I normally do.

One of the main accusations against Labour is they are full of uncosted manifesto promises. It’s a charge that has been made against them in every General Election that I can remember. The boot is on the other foot this time – since no Conservative politician seems to be able to explain where this sudden £8 billion extra for the NHS is going to come from, or where the £12 billion of welfare cuts are going to fall.

The answers seem to be that “we can afford it through economic growth” and “it will all become clear in the spending review”. Oh, well that’s alright then. They’d never let Labour get away with such evasive and pathetic answers. And I am afraid that as an interviewer I won’t let Conservative representatives get away with it either, as Eric Pickles, Priti Patel and Michael Gove have recently discovered.

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I thought that the Greens and UKIP both made a big mistake by publishing very detailed manifestos with all sorts of unnecessary policies. What they should have done is just said, “Look, you know and we know we’re not going to form a government – so here are three things we believe in and here is our vision for the country.”

I don’t care what UKIP’s policy is on regarding VAT on tampons, or whether the Greens want to extend this benefit or that. And, frankly, nor do most people. All they need to know is that UKIP wants to leave the EU and curb immigration and that the Greens want to be nice to the environment and animals.

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With that in mind, if you went down Clapham High Street, and asked people what each party stands for and what their main policy offer is in this election, I suspect people would say that the Conservatives want to extend the right to buy, Labour want to axe non doms, UKIP want to limit immigration and the Greens want to curb climate change.

But what of the LibDems? Can anyone really articulate a single well-known policy they have at this election? OK, people reading this site might be able to have a good stab at it, but I suspect the good people on Clapham High Street might have more difficulty.

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When I got an email from the London Press Club to say that I had been shortlisted in their annual awards I got very excited. I knew that my LBC colleague Nick Ferrari had won Broadcaster of the Year last year at the same awards, so I thought, wow, that’s quite an accolade.

However, I hadn’t been shortlisted for Broadcaster of the Year, I had been shortlisted for Blog of the Year. Shurely shome mishtake. I scratched my head in bemusement.

As you will know, my blogging since 2010 has been intermittent to say the least, although admittedly as the election approaches I have tried to up my game a bit. But even I would be hard-pressed to say that my blogging output has been as high profile or maybe as influential as it was between 2005 and 2010. But hey, I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I have been shortlisted for an award, I adopt a split personality. Of course I want to win. I’d be inhuman if I didn’t. But there’s also a big part of me that thinks: “No, please let it be someone else”, as the thought of making a duff acceptance speech fills me with horror.

I was up against Sarah Ditum and David Hepworth. For some reason I kind of guessed I was going to win. I’ve no idea why – call it instinct, I suppose. Sorry if that sounds arrogant: it isn’t meant to be, since there have been plenty of occasions when I have been shortlisted and guessed I wasn’t going to win. And I was right then too!

So what does it all mean? Well, it has made me think about what I do with my blog and whether I should try to up my game a bit. I’m going to try. I will never go back to the good old days when I blogged several times a day, but I’m going to try to blog a bit more often. But I’ll only do it when I have got something to say.

After all, Twitter has taken over the kind of short-form blogging I used to do. My articles are generally nowadays a lot longer than they used to be on the old blog. I’m sure there is a happy medium somewhere.

91 comments for: Iain Dale: The Tory election campaign. Where oh where is Boris?

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