Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publications, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
Appearing on The Andrew Marr Show is always fun, and so it was last Sunday. The previous time I reviewed the papers on it, earlier in the year, my co-reviewer was the actress Sheila Hancock. Suffice it to says that we didn’t get on.
Last Sunday, my paper reviewing partner was Stephanie Flanders. As it was the one before the Autumn Statement it was clear that there would be a lot of economically-related stories to talk about. And let’s face it, economics is not one of my main strengths – as evidenced by my disgraceful grade E at A Level.
My excuse was that it was the first time my school had taught the course. And I’m sticking to that excuse like a limpet. We didn’t get off to a good start when I said “million” instead of “billion”, but I think I escaped further ignominy after that.
After the show, all the guests are invited to breakfast, which in this case was quite a bizarre experience. George Osborne skedaddled, but Stephanie stayed, along with Marr, Joss Stone and Ed Balls. I have to say listening to Balls discussing the finer points of the Mansion Tax with Joss is something which will stay with me for a long time.
Thus wasn’t an Autumn Statement: it was a budget – a pre-election one at that. It was a politically clever one, too. Not only did Osborne pull a rabbit out of the hat with his Stamp Duty reforms; he shot Labour’s Mansion Tax fox at the same time – although you would never know that from Balls’s reaction. When I spoke to the latter he was positively salivating at the prospect of hitting the rich with two new taxes! Once a socialist, always a socialist.
One man who was very grouchy on Wednesday was Vince Cable – not that there’s anything new in that. I’ve done a couple of dozen of interviews with him over the years, and can honestly say I have never got anything out of him. I remember doing a 90 minute interview with him for Total Politics a few years ago: nothing apart from machine politician answers. I just couldn’t get under his skin at all.
On the day of the Autumn Statement, it was different. I had heard he was refusing to let his civil servants talk to the Treasury about planning further cuts after the election, so I put that to him – and off he went. Extraordinary. It transpired later that he had had a row with Danny Alexander in cabinet over a silly letter that he had written to the OBR. Ferrets in a sack.
And what about Nick Clegg boycotting the Statement because he doesn’t think being pictured sitting alongside Osborne and Cameron does his image any good? Pathetic child. He should realise the dye is cast now, and there’s b*gger all he can do to change anyone’s perception of him. I’ve always thought of him as quite a courageous politician, but I’m rapidly revising that view now. He should look at the example of Alexander who was quite happy to be filmed coming out of Number 11 with the Chancellor.
We carried out a listener poll on economic competence on my show on Wednesday. By a margin of 71-29 per cent my listeners reckon that Ed Miliband and Balls would do better running the economy than Cameron and Osborne. And I get accused of spouting Tory propaganda to my listeners. Well, if I am doing that, it seems I am pretty useless at it!
I’m typing this on an iPad – so apologies for typos which the ConservativeHome team miss. (And ours too – Ed.) My Lenovo laptop screen went white on Wednesday, and this for the second time – so it can’t be used. I’m the first to complain about bad customer service experiences, so let me give praise where praise is due, and say that Lenovo have been brilliant in getting it sorted as quick as possible. So many thanks to Stuart in their customer services team who hasn’t left a stone unturned in helping me through the sorry situation.
Revenge is a dish best served cold. John Bercow seems to have taken that quite literally when he released a letter he had received concerning an allegation of rape against Mark Pritchard, the Conservative MP. I’m sure that Pritchard telling him back in 2011 “You’re not f*ck*ng royalty, Mr Speaker” had absolutely nothing to do with the latter’s decision to release the letter. It’s just that I can’t recall a letter like that ever being publicly released before. Astonishing chain of events, if true.
Twenty four points and in fifth place after 14 games. It’s a happy time for West Ham fans. Last Saturday, for reasons I won’t bore you with, I got to sit in the Directors Box for the first time. Indeed, I got to sit in the front row, in the seat normally occupied by the posterior of Sir Trevor Brooking.
I took great pleasure not only from that, but from the fact that I was sitting in a better seat that Russell Brand, who was at the end of the row behind. At half time, they asked if I’d like to be introduced to Brand. I declined. I may be many things but unlike him, I’m not a hypocrite. I keep thinking that as a fellow Hammer I should cut him some slack. But the feeling soon goes away.