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.

There is a growth industry in this country – and it is for very expensive lawyers to send out letters threatening to take people to court for libel.

Nick Cohen writes about this in this week’s Spectator. He’s been threatened by Carter Ruck for writing a thoroughly researched and reasoned criticism of Len McCluskey, the Unite leader. Carter Ruck will have known that Cohen hadn’t got a case to answer, but yet will none the less have charged their client a huge wodge of wonga for the pleasure.

Just so you know, they charge £550 an hour. I run a publishing company and I, too, have been on the receiving end of these letters from Carter Ruck, Schillings, Bindmans, and various others. What they do is chance their arm that you will be intimidated. They are the legal equivalent of a cold call to an old lady from a double glazing salesman – except far more intimidating.

I have a simple policy with these letters: write a three line ‘f**k off’ reply. I’ve been threatened by Fayed’s lawyers, lawyers for an IRA terrorist (quite how his reputation could have been threatened is a good question) and many others.

On not a single occasion has it gone to court. The secret is to be very robust indeed. I cannot, however, deny that these letters cause concern. They do. You have an empty feeling in the bottom of your stomach when you read them, but that’s what they play on. We need proper libel reform so that these lawyers are deprived of this blood money income. They are beneath scum.

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I must say that Harriet Harman displayed a fine pair at the State opening of Parliament. I’ve always been partial to shoulder pads, and hers were something to behold. It was as if Krystle Carrington or Alexis Carrington-Colby-Dexter had been reincarnated.

I was captivated – momentarily imagining a swimming pool fight between her and Theresa May. I interviewed Harriet later and, after the usual political sparring, I mentioned the shoulderpads. She laughed coquettishly, then said: “Well, it’s back to the Eighties. The Queen’s speech was back to Eighties, so I thought I’d dress like it.” And why not.

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A lot is being made of the fact that the ‘Yes’ campaign will be the one that proposes staying in the EU, now that the question has been decided. Apparently it gives the campaign an inbuilt advantage. Really? It didn’t quite work out like that in the Scottish referendum, did it? People supposedly like to vote for something positive. Really? I think people have brains – and vote for what they believe in.

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I’m sure you all imagine I will mention the Irish referendum on gay marriage. There. You were right.

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Ivan Massow could hardly be more of a joke if he tried. His “performance” on LBC with my colleague Shelagh Fogarty should have disqualified him from the race on its own.

He was asked a very simply question: “Why, when you say everyone should pay the living wage, have you advertised for a campaign assistant who will be paid the minimum wage?” He then fell to pieces. Earlier that morning Massow had sent me an email asking to meet, so that he could explain to me “one to one” what motivates him and his policy platform. Why would I waste my time? He’s a flake candidate with about as much chance of winning the Mayoralty as Screaming Lord Sutch would have.

A senior Tory asked me the other day why I didn’t put my name forward on the basis, that with my radio show I must be very well known in London. I explained that a) I’d be useless at it and b) I had no interest in elected politics any longer. I then thought for a minute, and told him that the only way I could be persuaded was if Massow was the only other option. And I was only half serious.

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The Tory London mayoral race isn’t exactly full of pizzazz and star quality at the moment, with the only two declared candidates, apart from Massow, being Stephen Greenhalgh and Andrew Boff. Some people regard the 2016 as a shoo-in for Labour. I do not. Yes, Labour gained a few seats at the election – but not enough to be wholly confident of winning the mayoral race. My Labour friends tell me they have a “Nightmayor” scenario, which is that the Tories pick Zac Goldsmith. “We might as well shut up shop if that happens, and our candidate is Sadiq Khan,” they said.

Labour’s candidate could indeed be Khan, or it could be Tessa Jowell – the current frontrunners. But would Zac be interested? I have no idea, but he’d be a very strong candidate and would have huge cross-party appeal. To win the London mayoralty you have to have this, which is why Labour would probably be wise to choose Tessa Jowell. It’s also why, whatever their qualities, neither Greenhalgh or Boff are viable Conservative candidates. Both are too unknown, and neither has star quality.

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A couple of weeks ago, I had Tulip Siddiq and Stephen Kinnock, two newly-elected Labour MPs, on my LBC show: both were highly impressive. In the middle of the show, I interviewed Mary Creagh, then a newly declared Labour leadership candidate.

Tell you what – it must have been a brilliant interview as both Kinnock and Siddiq have ended up endorsing Creagh’s campaign. They are two of only five Labour MPs who have done so. Perhaps Mary should come on every day…

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Derek Hatton has rejoined the Labour Party. Yay. Except that they intend to disbar him, explaining that they can’t possibly allow someone to join who has in the past stood against a Labour candidate. Like Ken Livingstone did, you mean, who is now on their National Executive? Utter hypocrisy.

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So the Liberal Democrats are threatening to ditch the Salisbury Convention and block all Government legislation that they don’t like, even if it has been included in the Conservative Manifesto. The Prime Minister should make clear it that this only needs to happen once ,and he will immediately create 200 new Tory peers. The LibDems claim that on 37 per cent of the vote he has no mandate. I’d argue that on eight per cent of the vote the LibDems have no mandate to ditch a major constitutional convention.

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Pink News carried a story yesterday beneath the headline “Vile ‘homophobe’ Tory Councillor goes on anti-gay rant at the Kremlin”. Who on earth could they be referring to? Imagine my shock and surprise when it turns out to be our Bow Group friend, Ben Harris-Quinney (for it is he). Yet despite not being a member of the Conservative Party, he was elected as a Conservative councillor on 7 May. I feel a complaint to the Party’s ethics committee coming on…

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