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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.

Steve Uncles is a name you may not be familiar with. He has been a leading light in the English Democrats for a number of years, particularly in the South East, and has stood in a number of elections, including for Kent’s Police & Crime Commissioner and in the European Elections. He appeared on the late lamented 18 Doughty Street several times, and I always found him an amiable cove.

Last week, he was sentenced at Maidstone Court to seven months in prison. His crime? To submit bogus election papers for elections in Kent in 2013. He put them in for candidates called Rachel Stevens (who was lead singer for S Club 7) and Anna Cleves (get it?), and other real people who had never agreed to stand.

I do not diminish the importance of the crime, but seven months in prison? Really? What on earth is the point of sending someone to jail for that kind of offence? This is why our prisons are so full. Surely to God there are other ways of punishing people?

OK, in all probability he’ll only serve three months, but what possible good can come of sending him to jail?  Yet another example of how our sentencing guidelines need massive reform

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Prime Suspect 1973. Not exactly Life on Mars, is it?

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Presenting a radio show after a terror incident has just happened is like walking a tightrope. One word out of place. and you could lose your job. And so it was that on Wednesday afternoon Shelagh Fogarty and I negotiated our way through the appalling events that took place just outside the Palace of Westminster.

To be fair, we quickly had quite a few details almost from the start. That’s unusual in these cases.  Several times I have had to do a three hour radio broadcast of rolling news knowing very few details at all. Keeping an audience engaged in those circumstances is one of the most difficult things you have to cope with as a live broadcaster.

I remember when Flight MH17 went down in Ukraine. That was the only detail we had. Speculate too much, and it’s inappropriate. Say too little and repeat ad nauseum, and you lose your audience.

It’s in these situations, though, when a station like LBC comes into its own. We don’t have zillions of reporters, but we do have an increasing number of listeners who are only too willing to tell us what they have seen. It was heartbreaking to find out that a police officer guarding Parliament had lost his battle for life. The pictures of Tobias Ellwood administering CPR to the police officer will stay with me for a long while. Two heroes of our time.

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Some people never know when to quite – but, well, Jacqui Smith and I have quit the Sky News paper review. Hold the front page! I hear you say. For us both, it was quite wrench as we have, we think, developed quite a good on-screen rapport.  None the less, sometimes you just have to do what you think is right, and we figured that our time there was rapidly coming to an end.

Sky seems to want to shake up the people who are guests on their paper reviews, and we could see the writing on the wall. Apparently there’s a new broom who thinks their viewers want to see more Corbynistas and Americans, and fewer Westminster and media insiders. Well, it’s a point of view, I suppose.

One thing I have learned in observing and participating in these paper reviews is that you shouldn’t go on them if you have no personality and very little to say. Some of their more recent recruits appear afraid to articulate a coherent opinion on anything, and stay firmly rooted to the fence.  I’ll leave you to judge whether that makes better TV than the kind of good humoured, and yes, spiky, banter that  Jacqui and I indulge in.

But I make no complaint. It’s Sky’s prerogative to change their guest personnel whenever they want to. I’ve enjoyed doing these paper reviews for 17 years, but all good things come to an end. I know that both Jacqui and I are going to miss Anna Botting, who I continue to regard as one of the great stars of British news TV. And what’s more, she’s as nice in person as she appears on screen.

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I had a very strange dream the other night. It featured Tim Shipman (Sunday Times Political Editor) and I fighting off Chinese spies. What can it all mean?

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I finish writing this diary on Thursday morning. I’ve just read Paul Waugh’s Huffington Post morning email, and I am not ashamed to say it moved me to tears. Journalism in this country gets a pounding sometimes, but on Wednesday we saw it at its best – reporting the facts and sticking to them. Refusing the indulge in the mindless speculation perpetrated by the likes of Arron Banks and others on Twitter.

We also saw the very best of the British people. People rushing to help their fellow citizens. An MP running towards danger in order to help the fallen policeman. I could go on. But there are four lots of families grieving especially this morning. I cannot imagine what they are going through, and yes, I include the family of the terrorist attacker in that.

How on earth can they come to terms with what he did? But most of all, we think of the family of PC Keith Palmer. In their pain and grief, I hope they will come to know that a whole nation is grieving with them for a man who will be remembered as a true British hero.

48 comments for: Iain Dale: In which Tim Shipman and I fight off Chinese spies

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