Iain Dale presents LBC 97.3 Drivetime programme 4-8pm every weekday. He also blogs at www.iaindale.comFollow Iain on Twitter.

Iain Dale GraphicTonight I’ll be on Radio 4’s Any Questions.
It’s the fourth time I’ll have appeared on the programme, so you’d think I
would be used to it, but not a bit of it. It’s one of those programmes where
there’s a tremendous opportunity to make a complete idiot of yourself. I have a
real fear of opening my mouth and nothing coming out. It’s never happened yet,
but you never know. It’s a politician free zone tonight with my fellow guests
being an economist, a scientist and the head of the National Farmers Union. I
guess I am the light relief!

People always ask if we have any clue as to what
the questions are going to be, but no matter how many times I protest that the
first time we hear the question is when we are on air, people give you a
knowing look. In fact, of the six or seven questions asked, if you have half a
brain you can normally guess the subject area of three or four of them due to
the week's news. It doesn’t take Einstein to work out there will almost
certainly be a question on the detention of David Miranda, and also on the
fracking protests. But there’s always a googly that they like to throw at you –
something so unexpected that provokes a reaction similar to that of a gulping
goldfish. Each panellist is desperate to come out with the answer that makes
the audience laugh loudest but you have only a split second to formulate your
hopefully incisive and witty answer. It’s that question we all dread the most.


The stupidity of the fracking protesters in
Balcombe knows no bounds. The usual professional green activists, who we no
doubt fund through the benefits system, have gathered at a site where no
fracking is taking place, nor is it likely to. These are the same people who no
doubt pitched their tents at Greenham Common, supported Swampy and have hitched
their skirts to the great global warming swindle. If they think fracking is so
terrible, why haven’t they protested at the hundreds of other sites in the
country where it has been going on for years? I’ll tell you why. Because they
don’t give a damn about fracking. All they care about is rebelling against
society and attaching them to the latest leftist-green cause. They’re the true
watermelons – green on the outside, red on the inside. And Caroline Lucas is the
perfect exemplification of this. I’m all in favour of people’s right to
protest, but at least have the decency to have the vaguest idea what you’re
protesting about.


The resignation of UKIP’s chief executive after
only eight months in the job tells us a lot. It got a lot of media coverage,
which shows how far UKIP has come. If this had happened a year ago it would
have barely merited a line in the Daily Telegraph. But it also tells us UKIP is still
a ragtag and bobtail pressure group of well-intentioned and enthusiastic
amateurs. There’s a lot to be said for harnessing a revolutionary spirit and
appearing slightly disporganised, and you can get away with it when you are
recording a couple of per centage points in the polls. But when you’re in
double figures people’s expectations change. I like Nigel Farage and admire
him, but he continues to treat UKIP as his personal, private property and
despite protesting that he has let go the control he has traditionally exerted,
you get the feeling that he protesteth too much. UKIP’s biggest problem has
always been that it is nothing without Farage, but if he is to show true
leadership he has got to allow other people to get on the with the job. If, as
is rumoured, Neil Hamilton, takes over as chief executive, he’ll need to assert
himself very vigorously right from the start. I don’t envy him, or anyone else,
the job.


Talking of UKIP, I have been looking through
their MEP candidates. The challenge for UKIP MEPs is to actually last the
course of a parliament without being put in prison or defecting. So far, 20-30 per cent of their MEPs seem to do one or the other. There is quite a bit of scrapping
going on following the publication of the shortlists, and now those on the lists
are at the mercy of the UKIP membership who will cast their vote, so there's
lots of grievous self-promotion going on. What are we to make of the fact that
rent-a-gob Jon Gaunt didn’t even make it onto the shortlist, or indeed
outspoken columnist James Delingpole? But it is those who make it that bear a
bit of scrutiny.  Many are scratching their heads as to how Tory Europhile
turncoat Janice Atkinson (nee Small) is seen as the third most competent MEP
candidate behind Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. She spent years working for Tim
Yeo and was always seen as on the dripping wet side of the Tory Party, and yet
here she is, a dead cert to become a UKIP MEP. It’s a funny old world. She is
two places above Easteligh by-election candidate Diane James, widely considered
to be the best candidate UKIP has ever put forward.

In London, current incumbent Gerard Batten is
placed second on the shortlist behind Paul Oakley – Oakley is a former chairman
of the London Young Conservatives. Batten will not be happy.

Daily Express political commentator Patrick O'Flynn is top of
the Eastern shortlist and many believe rightly so. The man who helped
mastermind the paper's 'UK out of the EU' campaign is a solid and decent bloke
and would do UKIP proud.  Michael Heaver, a 23 year old, also
makes it onto the Eastern shortlist in fourth place. The feeling is he
should be placed higher as he is exactly what the party needs – a young, fresh
face, who is informed, intelligent and does very well with his radio and TV
appearances. The membership would be foolish not to back this lad.
Finally, will UKIP get a MEP in Scotland? In 2009, they got around five per cent of
the vote; to get an MEP in 2014 they need 10 per cent. The Tory vote is in a political
coma in Scotland. Could UKIP benefit in the year of the Scottish
independence referendum? The party is opposed to independence. Top of
the Scotland shortlist is the inimitable David Coburn. A born and bred
Scot, gay, and with the ability to give very good media and public speaking
performances, he is the best hope UKIP have of getting a MEP in Scotland,
though will Farage's recent troubles north of Hadrian's Wall provide him with a
It's now up to the membership to cast their votes. Closing date is the day
before the start of UKIP's Autumn Conference. The stringent assessment
programme has meant some good characters have made the shortlists, but will the
talent be enough to give a UKIP victory in the European Elections?


On Wednesday night I went onto the Broadland
District Council website to order a garden waste wheelie bin. Unbelievably,
there didn’t seem to be a way to do it online, so I emailed them to ask how I
could do it. I then got an autoreply which said they would do their best to
reply within ten working days – ie. two weeks. Well, thanks a lot for that. If
I answered emails after two weeks, my company would go down the pan. What gives
local councils the idea that they can treat their customers with such contempt? I
expressed my displeasure on Twitter, and to be fair, they responded by tweeting
that they are reviewing their ‘auto-replies’. Well, at least I have achieved
something. Still haven’t got an answer on the bin, though.