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

The London mayoral campaign continues apace, but I feel something has changed during the last few weeks. The polls have shown Sadiq Khan quite a way ahead of Zac Goldsmith, although the latest one in the Evening Standard shows the gap narrowing. It seems to me this campaign is mirroring last year’s general election campaign, and that by polling day the contest may be very close indeed.

Of course, it will all come down in the end to second and third preferences. Khan remains well ahead on these, according to the polls, so Zac’s campaign still has a lot of work to do. But you just get the feeling that he is now up for the fight in a way he didn’t seem to be a few weeks ago. You may recall that I wrote that he needed to show a bit of fire in his belly, and stop looking so depressed in media appearances. Winning elections is often about the candidate having a bit of fire in his belly.

And more recently, Zac has indeed looked much more ‘pumped up’, to coin a phrase, and this has given his supporters a much-needed boost. There are a lot of undecided first preferences out there to be had – and a load of undecided second ones too. I sense that the Zac campaign has its strategy worked out. It may not involve loud ‘look at me proclamations’ – but a lot is going on under the radar, just as it was doing last May.

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So Dan Jarvis has made a speech. A big speech. The speech potential party leaders make. I like him. He’s a man of integrity, and may be just what Labour need. However, there were elements of this speech which were too crowd-pleasing. He came out with that old canard about important decisions being taken out of the hands of politicians. What a load of bollocks.

This all started with the ‘agency’ programme under John Major’s government, and has continued apace ever since. We are now told by politicians of all parties that we must ‘take the politics out of the NHS’, for instance. Why on earth would we do that? I don’t want to give power to a bunch of unelected bureaucrats who are accountable to no one. Look at what’s happened to the Highways Agency. It’s a complete law unto itself.

We elect politicians for a reason – to make decisions and choices on our behalf. If they get it wrong and we don’t like what they do, we can chuck them out and elect a new bunch. Agencies simply hoard power and try to make their independence from politicians a virtue. I can’t think of a single one that has performed better as an independent body than it did under political control. The lamentable Border Agency is a good case in point.

So when you hear a politician such as Jarvis trying to divest themselves of power, understand that it is all for cosmetic PR reasons. In reality, it never leads to better government.

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Stuart Ramsay of Sky News deserves to win broadcast journalist of the year for his investigation into Daesh – and the fact that he has obtained the details of 22,000 of its fighters.

It’s a massive story which should have been on the front page of all newspapers and led all broadcast news bulletins. Unfortunately, viewers and readers were short-changed because of journalistic jealousies. The Times put it on their front page, but you had to turn to page two to find out it was a Sky News original story. The Daily Mail put it on page six.

Scandalously, it didn’t even merit a mention on the BBC website – even under that most annoying of phrases, ‘the BBC has learned’. Inter-media competition and rivalry is all very well, but this story is a potential game-changer in the fight against Daesh terrorism.

That means it’s news – whoever the originator is. Some editors should look themselves in the mirror and consider what they’re in this game for. Surely it should be for their readers, listeners or viewers. Rather than for their own insecurities or vanities.

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Can it be too long before Suzanne Evans looks Nigel Farage in the eye and tells him that he stuff his party where the sun don’t shine? She’s been sacked from yet another position by him and yet continues to take it on the chin. Quite why she puts up with it is anyone’s guess.

In a similar vein, Farage called Douglas Carswell “an irrelevance” this week. How can UKIP’s only MP be an irrelevance? I like and admire Farage. I’ve published his books. I’d count him as a friend. But his behaviour towards Suzanne Evans, Douglas Carswell and others is quite outrageous.

I suspect that after the referendum things will come to a head. Could it be a matter of months before we see both Suzanne Evans and Douglas Carswell back in the Conservative Party?

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David Cameron’s announcement that he intends to stand at the next election is a welcome one. The trend for former Prime Ministers to stand down from parliament immediately is a regrettable one. Parliament needs their experience – and you never know when the call might come again. I hear that Tony Blair regrets standing down and thinks he could have made a comeback at some point. If that’s the case, you have to give thanks to God that Gordon Brown stood down when he did.

 

97 comments for: Iain Dale: We’re told that we must take politics out of the NHS. But why on earth would we want to do that?

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