Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
So there I am, at the Roundhouse in Camden, shortlisted for Radio Presenter of the Year, thinking that I haven’t got a hope in hell of winning. I was up against Frank Skinner, Christian O’Connell, John Suchet and the unlikely sounding duo of Boogie & Dingo. Nope me, neither.
I won this award in 2013 – so I thought there was no way lightning could strike twice. But it did. You could have knocked me down with a feather. It’s easy to become blasé about awards, but winning one judged by your peers is something I am incredibly proud of. I’m not a trained broadcaster, interviewer or journalist, and I am sure that this sometimes shows, but I absolutely love what I do, and I hope that it shows. Four to seven pm on weekdays on LBC, since you ask. All over the country on digital radio, and FM in London!
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I write this article a few hours ahead of a sitdown interview with David Cameron. As a professional broadcaster (OK, semi-professional, if you prefer), such an opportunity is obviously something to look forward to. It doesn’t get much bigger than this for someone like me.
But I’m only too well aware that unless I conduct an aggressive, shouty interview I’ll be accused of giving my “Tory mate” a soft ride. It doesn’t really matter what I ask, or what the response is: some people only accept that you have conducted a proper interview with a politician if you accuse them of murdering their firstborn. OK, I exaggerate, but I am sure you can see my point. I have a more relaxed, chatty style. I reckon you get more out of people if you conduct a conversation with them, rather than an interrogation.
The trouble is that that approach works much better if you have a reasonable amount of time with the interviewee. I wanted 20 minutes. They’ve offered 10-12. I’ll probably be able to wangle 15. I’ll just ignore the person who keeps doing a wind-up sign. It’s amazing for how long you can pretend that you haven’t seen something. I’m a past master at that one. Anyway, by the time you read this, the interview will have been long gone. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it was brilliant!!!
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There’s increasing speculation about a post referendum reshuffle. For the purposes of this piece let’s assume a Remain win. How on earth does David Cameron bring the party together? All the talk at the moment is about how angry the he is with Priti Patel and Penny Mordaunt for their supposed flagrant disloyalty. John Whittingdale is said to have irritated Downing Street, too, along with Michael Gove and Boris Johnson.
But however irritated the Prime Minister may be, June 24th has to be seen as Year Zero. Any feuds which currently exist must be extinguished if the party is to come together. Chris Grayling is apparently back in Cameron’s good books for not going off the leash too much, and is tipped by commentators to retain his cabinet post.
I’m sure Michael Gove will be retained, hopefully in his current position, where he’s doing a brilliant job getting to grips with the criminal justice system. Boris, I guess, must be brought in to the full Cabinet, although there is still five weeks to go for him to talk himself out of a job. I’d have though DCLG was the most likely destination for him, but nothing would surprise me. OK, I take that back. Foreign Secretary would surprise me.
The Prime Minister doesn’t like sacking people and I don’t believe that there will be a huge clearout. I think Justine Greening is at risk, along with Theresa Villiers (who I think has done a very good job in Northern Ireland) and Whittingdale.
The latter two are on the right, and many on that side of the party would be very irritated to lose them from the cabinet unless they were replaced by people of similar views. I’m wondering if Liam Fox might be brought back in from the cold…stranger things have happened.
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You know a government is running out of ideas when a bill on driverless cars is one of the more noteworthy legislative proposals in the Queen’s Speech. Most of the legislation will inspire nothing more than a yawn from most people.
Apart, that is, from Michael Gove’s Prisons & Courts Bill. The Justice Secretary’s approach to prison reform is hugely refreshing. He absolute understands the need for rehabilitation to take on far greater importance than it does now. I hope he remains Justice Secretary for a very long time so he can oversee proper reforms.
It is ridiculous that at a time when recorded crime is at a 30 year low, we have a prison population that is at an all-time high. We need to think creatively about what to do about this, and learn from the experiences of other countries. Some of Gove’s ideas will be very hard for the right of the party to swallow, but in the end we have to answer a vital question: why can’t we punish people who commit crimes but aren’t a danger to society in ways other than sending them to prison?
Let’s put people in prison who pose a danger to the rest of us, and let’s make their sentences longer. But we ought to be able to find different ways of punishing less serious offenders. Short prison sentences only work if they can perform a ‘short, sharp shock’ type of deterrent.
We don’t do Gulags in this country, so it’s unlikely that a three month sojourn in a Category C prison will achieve much at all. The cost to the taxpayer of sending someone to prison for a short time far outweighs any benefit to society. I’m sure plenty of you will accuse me of being a wet lettuce liberal on prison reform, and you’d be right.