Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
A UKIP candidate for the Greater London Assembly, David Kurten, seems to have got himself into a bit of trouble. He’s number two on the UKIP list behind Peter Whittle and ahead of Suzanne Evans. I’ve been sent an email he has sent out to UKIP members pleading for one of them to let him use a London address to get on the electoral roll. If he isn’t on the electoral roll in one of the 32 London Boroughs he can’t stand. You’d have thought both he and his party might have been aware of that when he put himself forward. The other explanation is that the party leadership were so desperate to relegate Evans down the list they would have accepted anyone. Anyway, here’s the email from Mr Kurten:
If you can help me out that would be great: I need to be on the electoral register in Greater London for the Assembly elections. Currently I’m living in Surrey at the campus of the school I work with, so I need to move or find someone who would let me register at their address until I move into London. I have my flat here in Weybridge till 31st March so ideally I don’t want to move until then, but that’s too late in terms of nomination eligibility.
So, if you know of anyone in Greater London who would let me go on the electoral register at their address and pick up a few bits of mail for me, or of anyone who has a not too expensive spare room in SW or Central London I can rent short term from February to May and use as a pied-à-terre, please let me know.
Thanks and see you soon, Best wishes,
I put this to UKIP and this was the response I received:
‘Mr Kurten took up his new short term job which came with accommodation in August, previous to that he lived in Peckham. He will be moving back to London full time when the contract finishes. Realising that he was temporarily 5 miles outside the GLA area he was looking for a short term solution. He has already been advised that a postal address is not good enough.’
I suspect the Electoral Commission and the other parties will be taking a more than passing interest in Mr Kurten’s living arrangements.
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Loyalty to a friend is an admirable quality, but Nick Boles’s article in defence of Andrew Feldman on ConHome yesterday was quite extraordinary. He accused the media and others of conducting a ‘witch hunt’ against the Chairman of the Conservative Party, Andrew Feldman. There is no such witch hunt. Legitimate questions are being asked about what he knew and when he knew it, and the answers he has provided beg more questions than they answer. There used to be a time when the Chairman of the Conservative Party was a politician who appeared on the media more times than any other cabinet minister. Andrew Feldman, so far as I am aware, hasn’t done a single interview since this scandal broke. Indeed, I cannot recall ever seeing him doing a TV interview. It’s his prerogative not to allow himself to be held to account in the way every other politician does, but all it achieves is for everyone to speculate on why he refuses all invitations to be interviewed.
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On Monday I interviewed Donal Blaney from the Young Britons’ Foundation about the Tory Party bullying scandal. It was an interview I knew I would get stick for, whatever I asked. I’ve known Donal for ten years or so, and spoken, or conducted media training sessions at several YBF conferences and events. I think YBF is an excellent organisation and has carried out the sort of function in training young Conservative activists that the party ought to have been doing itself.
After the interview I was assailed on Twitter by one or two people and in one or two articles for not declaring an interest. It was something I could have done, admittedly, but only if I wasn’t confident in the total professionalism of the interview. I defy anyone to think of anything I would have asked in that interview had the circumstances been different and I had never met Donal Blaney before in my life. I asked all the questions I think any other interviewer would have asked.
My trouble is that because I adopt a David Frost style to this sort of interview, rather than a Jeremy Paxman one, I always leave myself open to a charge of conducting ‘soft’ interviews. I can certainly do those type of shouty ‘why are you lying to me’ type of interviews, but in this case it just wasn’t appropriate. After all, we all know the tragic background to why the interview was being conducted in the first place.
The second reason I didn’t declare an interest is because if I had, I’d probably have to do it three or four times during every programme. I know people. My contacts book is partly why LBC employ me. Should I declare before every interview with David Davis that I once worked for him and he is a personal friend? Should I declare before every interview with former Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay that I once employed his daughter as editor of Total Politics? Should I declare before interviewing Liam Fox that he’s invited me to his New Year drinks?
I could go on. At length. I’m in no different position to every other interviewer. Whether it’s Andrew Neil, Jeremy Vine or Nick Ferrari, or me, we all have social contacts and have good friends in the political world that we interview from time to time. None of us allow that to cloud or influence what we ask. It’s called being professional.
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My grandmother would never use the word ‘Fart’. She would use the word ‘Trump’. She was born in 1894 and was so ahead of her time.