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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.

On Wednesday evening, I chaired a session at the Jewish Book Festival at King’s Place, which is also home to the Guardian. The guest was Malcolm Rifkind who was there to talk about his memoir, Power and Pragmatism, which I published last summer.

I was delighted that the event was moved to the big theatre because 250 people had bought tickets. They were a really engaged audience, and asked really good questions. I think they were surprised at how funny Malcolm was. To me, he is one of the great political speakers of our times, yet he’s never really got the credit he deserves for his ability to make brilliant speeches with no notes, on whatever subject he’s speaking on.

I remember watching him make a speech in the Commons when he was Transport Secretary on some very technical aspect of policy, which most ministers would have read out word for word. Not once did he look down at his notes, and he proceeded to make the house laugh – which isn’t easy when you’re talking about ports privatisation or some such policy.

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Over the past fortnight or so, I have done something that I should have done years ago, and switched my energy provider. I switched to a new entrant to the market called Octopus Energy. It predicts that I will save more than £850 over a year.

Part me thinks, well, I’ll believe that when I see it, but I am very impressed with them so far. I tweeted that I had switched, and within an hour both the Chief Executive and their main Twitter feed had replied, and said that they hoped I would be pleased with their service. You’d never get that from Npower or EDF, would you?

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So it seems it’s now impossible for Theresa May to trigger Article 50 at the European Summit next week, given that the Lords has passed an amendment which will now ping back to the Commons.

So mid-March is now the most likely date for Article 50 to be triggered. It’s immaterial now whether the Lords should have done this- they have, so we need to see what happens next. Assuming that the Commons pongs the amendment back, you have to assume that the Lords will back down.

In the unlikely event that they don’t, and the ping-pong continues, I suppose it’s possible that the end of March deadline could be missed. This seemed to be recognised in May’s remarks at PMQs this week, when she said she “plans” to trigger Article 50 by the end of March, and also used the phrase “It is my intention to”

That’s a bit different to saying “I will”. Nuance maybe – but possibly significant too. I keep being told that the March 31 deadline was chosen because, were Article 50 to be moved after that, the Lisbon Treaty says the only way we would then be allowed to leave is if 14 members of the Council of Ministers vote to allow us to.

I have yet been unable to discover whether this is an urban myth or not. Those that claim that it would happen have so far been able to give me any proof. Can anyone here do any better? And if this all goes terribly wrong and we end up in a 1910-type situation, would Theresa May then be forced to create a hundred or so new peers? Lord Dale of Ashdon in the county of Essex has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?!? Ha ha.

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The speech that Donald Trump gave to Congress this week is the one tht he should have given at his inauguration. There were lots of things in it that I disagreed with, but it was almost statesmanlike in its delivery. Perhaps he should use autocue a little more often.

One thing though. He promised to create an Office to Support the Victims of Crime by Immigrants. At least that’s what I thought he said. And indeed he did. The proof is here. Jawdropping.

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I’ve got a new book project on the go. Jacqui Smith and I are going to co-edit a two-volume set of books marking the hundredth anniversary of the first woman to be elected to the Commons.

Since then, 456 women have been elected. In the present day Commons there are 455 male MPs, which just goes to show how the chamber is still very male-dominated. The first volume will contain biographies of the 168 women elected between 1918 and 1996. The second one will contain profiles of the 288 female MPs elected since 1997.

It’s a massive project, and we are now contacting potential authors for the various biographical profiles. These will also be women, too. The books have a very Ronseal title – The Honourable Ladies.

72 comments for: Iain Dale: How other EU countries can stop us leaving. Or so I’m told.

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