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.

The Labour Party conference was an odd experience, but I suspect next year’s will be even odder. Out with the smart-suited 20-something men; In with the Trots. That’s if Jeremy Corbyn survives that long. My own view is that he will, but it was astonishing that more or less every single Labour MP I talked to was totally dismissive of their leader.

Even on air. Lord Falconer wouldn’t even say that he expected Corbyn to be the next Prime Minister, let alone a good one – and he’s the Shadow Justice Secretary.

Justice for Jeremy, that’s what I say. Any new leader deserves a bedding-in period and the benefit of the doubt, but Corbyn isn’t being afforded that by his parliamentary colleagues. It’s all very well to talk about “the new politics”, but it’s very difficult when you aren’t able to explain what that means beyond putting off difficult and dividing policy decisions.

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Well, the “kinder, gentler” politics didn’t last long. Tom Watson, the pugnacious new Deputy Leader of the party, gave a rumbustious closing speech to the conference in the slot previously inhabited by Harriet Harman and, before her, John Prescott.

He reserved a lot of his ire for the Liberal Democrats. Well, you can’t really blame him, can you? He was forced into an apology: “I did go too far though when I compared the Lib Dems to a Banarama tribute band. Some people were angry, and I accept that I crossed the line. What I said was demeaning, unjustified and wrong. Siobhan, Sara, Keren – I should never have compared your tribute acts to that useless bunch of lying sell-outs, the Lib Dems and I’m sorry.”

Boom, boom. He then had a go at the Conservatives, imploring his comrades to “kick the nasty Tories down the road where they belong”. But in a kind and gentle way. Obvs.

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I’m told that Craig Oliver has been noticed wandering about Number Ten oinking. What’s that all about then?

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Can there be anything more irresponsible that an aspiring Prime Minister telling our country’s potential enemies that there aren’t any circumstances in which he would press the nuclear button? Doing so undermines the whole thesis of our nuclear deterrent.

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Some of you will have seen a rather public spat between me and Louise Mensch on twitter a few days ago. I’ve taken a lot of criticism over Lord Ashcroft’s book “Call Me Dave”, not least on this site last week – and I can take it.

But when Louise Mensch tries to take the moral high ground, I’m afraid I just have to laugh. I’ve always been a defender of hers, but she has developed a habit of becoming completely obsessed by various causes. Last week, it was trying to make me apologise for something I had no intention of apologising for.

I am evil, so is Isabel Oakeshott, and of course we had led the noble Lord Ashcroft astray and it was all rather a disgrace. Well, it’s a point of view, I suppose. Her tweets became ever more regular and ever more unhinged. In the end I got fed up of reading her bile and poison, and blocked her. And still she continued, apparently. She’s still at it for all I know. Or care.

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During the Labour Conference, I dropped into the News International reception. It was an event devoid of a single Shadow Cabinet member. Except the Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary, Owen Smith. Make of that what you will. I pointed this out to him and he roared with laughter. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. He’s one to watch.

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I also ran into my old friend Tony Gallagher at the same reception. He is the new editor of the Sun. “You’ve been nasty to one of my columnists, I see,” he greeted me. “Yes,” I said. “Now that you’ve got rid of Katy Hopkins, you could do us all a favour and do the same with Louise Mensch.” I laughed as I said it, but Tony didn’t really bite. He was far keener on discussing the merits of our mutual football team, West Ham United. A wise man.

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Later this year I’ll be publishing a biography of Jeremy Corbyn, written by Rosa Prince, the top political journalist. I haven’t dared ask about his university antics…

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It’s taken me several months to read a magnificent authorised biography of Roy Jenkins by John Campbell. I thought I knew all there was to know about the man whose tenure as Home Secretary heralded the so-called ‘permissive society’ and went on to lead the SDP, but I was wrong.

My bedtimes are no longer things I look forward to as much, now I have completed this wonderful journey, which lasts 750 pages Some say it’s not worth publishing books of that length any longer, as we all have the attention span of a flea. How very wrong. This book has something to savour on virtually every page, whether Campbell is relating a Jenkins childhood tale or yet another falling out with David Owen.

Campbell has written biographies of Ted Heath and Margaret Thatcher, but neither of these touches the quality of his latest tome. He is clearly an admirer of Jenkins, but a not uncritical one, as the chapters on the SDP illustrate. He brings his subject to life in a way that few would have thought possible, and doesn’t hesitate to include passages which Jenkins, were he still alive, would have found acutely embarrassing.

Like some other readers, I was quite shocked at the extent of Jenkins’ philandering, which he clearly thought quite normal. It makes one wonder how it was kept out of the press, as it was clearly known to many at the time.

His wife, Jennifer, seemed to accept it or, if she didn’t, treated it with a degree of resignation. It wasn’t even in the category of ‘what the eye doesn’t see won’t hurt you’. Some of his various conquests even joined the Jenkins’ for regular dinners. Caroline Gilmour, wife of Iain, seems to have been ‘the one’ Jenkins was truly in love with. Even this didn’t phase the ever-tolerant Jennifer, who seems to have adopted the line of ‘great men have needs’…

No book is perfect, but this one comes pretty close. I suppose we could have done without the constant references to the details of the numerous book review Jenkins wrote, and a tighter edit could have reduced the page count by 100 pages, possibly, but that is to carp unnecessarily.

I don’t know how many copies this book has sold. I suspect not as many as it should have done, but it deserves to go down in the pantheons of political biography as one of the very best. Whoever Campbell chooses as his next subject will be very lucky indeed.

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Dammit. I said last week that all publishers get print runs wrong for any book they publish. I have printed 35,000 copies and, as of Wednesday night, we have now sold 34,678, leaving fewer than 300 left. Call Me Dave goes on sale in shops on Monday, so it looks as if I might have to order a reprint pretty quickly.

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I hear that an edict has gone out to Conservative ministers that if any of them attend the launch of the book on Monday week their career prospects might take a nosedive. Indeed, Number Ten has tried to ensure that few Tory MPs attend the event, and has scheduled the English Votes for English laws to be debated in the Commons that night. Just as I predicted they would when the date was set several months ago. Predictable. And petty.

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If you’re in Manchester on Sunday evening, do pop along to the Liberty fringe meeting at 5.30pm in Manchester Central. Shami Chakrabarti will be chairing a Question Time-style panel featuring Dominic Grieve, Peter Oborne and myself. I keep telling Shami human rights is not exactly my area of expertise, but she can be very persuasive. So if you want to hear me make a fool of myself, be my guest.

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