Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publications, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
I used to do a lot of speaking to local Conservative Associations, but until last Saturday I had only done one event – and that was in Witney. Well, when the PM asks, it’s a bit difficult to say no, isn’t it? I thought it was worth at least a knighthood but, hey, I understand that I have to join the queue.
Anyway, the one last weekend was for my local association in Tunbridge Wells, and it was great fun. Andrew Kennedy, the local agent, is another one who it’s difficult to say no to, so off I toddled to a magnificent house in Calverley Park, which is in the posh bit of Royal Tunbridge Wells – or RTW, as it is known locally.
I did a short speech, and then we opened it up to a discussion – and very spirited it was too. But in over an hour, the issue of Europe didn’t come up once. That’s something that would never have happened ten years ago.
Next week, shock horror, I’m doing another political fundraiser. Brace yourselves. It’s for Lynne Featherstone – yes, the Liberal Democrat MP. She’s a mate and did sterling work on equal marriage, so I’ve decided to do it – and hang the consequences. All I need now is to do one for a Labour and UKIP MP or candidate, and I will truly be able to say that I have been politically balanced.
Anyone seen Mo Ansar on TV lately? Nope, me neither. Job well done, there, I think.
Sometimes I despair of Conservative ministers, particularly those who are mute. One example is Helen Grant. I’ve had most ministers on my radio show at some point, but every time we invite her on, the DCMS press office refuse to put her up. Oh, she’s far too busy, they say.
Really? Too busy to comment on this outrageous FIFA report? Any Sinister of sport worth their salt would surely want to express their outrage. Not Helen. In fact, it’s quite difficult to think of a single thing she has ever said or done while in the post. This ought to be one of the most high profile junior ministerial posts. It’s one most MPs would almost kill for. It’s one where you can really make a difference, as Hugh Robertson so ably demonstrated. What’s the point of being in a job where your civil servants’ main task appears to be to keep you off the nation’s airwaves?
Isn’t it about time we heard from the Bow Group? They’ve been remarkably silent of late. One can but be thankful, I suppose.
I do sometimes wonder if the producers of the Daily Politics have a plan to keep me and Andrew Neil apart. Every time I go on the programme as their Guest of the Day it’s on a Tuesday – the one day of the week Andrew has off.
I quite like it in a way, because you get to stay for the whole hour and get more airtime, but I do love Andrew. He is by far and away the best interviewer on TV, and has such a huge breadth of knowledge. He has such a brilliant way of phrasing a question, so brilliant that my own producer on LBC sometimes says in my ear when I am interviewing a slippery politician “Do what Andrew Neil would do”.
Much as I would hate to lose him from the Daily Politics, it is a scandal he was never offered the main presenter’s job on Newsnight. He would have been brilliant, and totally owned the programme. Which is, of course, why he was never offered it.
Who are these ‘dark forces’ Ed Miliband seems so frightened of? Jason Cowley? Toby Helm? Patrick Wintour? I think we should be told.
So six days to go until the Rochester & Strood by-election – or Stroud as Ed Davey likes to call it. Now there was me thinking that the Prime Minister had promised to throw the kitchen sink at this by-election, and do what is now called “a Newark”. I have to say I see scant evidence of that having happened. The media have already decided it is a UKIP gain and, from the polls, it’s difficult to believe that any other result is a possibility.
Labour should hang their heads in collective shame that they haven’t put up a proper fight, though. Admittedly under different boundaries, this was a Labour constituency from 1997 to 2010. It is the kind of seat that Labour ought to be taking seriously if they want to win a majority. Mind you, it’s also a seat which the Conservatives need to win back in May 2015 if they want to form any kind of government. And my suspicion is that could well happen. And as for the LibDems? Yet another lost deposit, I suspect.
Sepp Blatter. Twat.
I hosted a business breakfast for LBC yesterday at which Richard Reed, the co-founder of Innocent Smoothies, was the guest speaker. I struggle to remember the context in which he related this anecdote, but it doesn’t really matter. He told of an eight year old girl who was flying on Qantas and decided to send a note to the pilot. It read something like this…
“Dear Captain, my name is Nicola and I am 8 years old. This is my first flight but I’m not scared. I like to watch the clouds go by. My mum says the crew is nice. I think your plane is good. Thanks for a nice flight. Don’t f**k up the landing. Luv Nicola.”
With that the audience clapped. I marched on stage, and said to Richard: “Make sure you don’t f**k up the Q&A now…”. Perhaps you had to be there…